Ghosts and character smack-worthiness

The book I’m reading right now is a ghost story. (It isn’t the MG horror I mentioned before. That’ll probably be next.) It’s not a kids’ book.

It’s a ghost story where the main character is a doctor who doesn’t believe in ghosts, which is fine. It’s probably best to have an MC for a ghost story who starts out not believing in ghosts. But it frustrates me as I’m reading the book (I’m about 4/5 of the way through), how he still won’t even consider the possibility of a ghost even with a lot of evidence and other explanations ruled out. It’s good that he needs to be convinced, but if he insults the victims by questioning their sanity (in the face of other witnesses and evidence) before admitting there might be something supernatural going on makes me want to reach inside the book and whack him upside the head.

In most cases, I don’t think it’s a good idea to make your reader want to smack your main character. I don’t like it here, but it’s excusable partly because it’s late in the book. I don’t think many people will stop reading when they’ve already read this far, though they might not recommend the book to others. And partly because it’s consistent with what the main character is like throughout the book. That much is good.

Have you ever wanted to smack the character in a book you’re reading? Do you think it can be a good thing sometimes?

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Can’t Buy Me Time

So now that I’ve finished NaNoWriMo, I’m preparing for Christmas. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t pay a lot of attention to holidays in general. I get my Christmas shopping done online in less than an hour and don’t give much more thought to it until Christmas eve.
There isn’t a lot of Christmas music I really like, and most of what I do like is the kind of thing I’d listen to any time of year. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a perfect example. The few Christmas songs that I like but don’t listen to any time of year are just enough to listen to on Christmas eve, that one hour I spend Christmas shopping, and maybe one other hour sometime in December.

The past couple years, I looked at my wish list (which I send to anyone likely to get me a gift), and think this isn’t the stuff I really want. Pretty much, all the things I badly want can’t be bought with money. At or near the top of that list would be time. Dear Santa, I want about four more hours in each day without anything additional I’d be obligated to do with that time. Yeah, that’d be nice.

This reminds me of a song:
“I don’t care too much for money. Money can’t buy me love.” -The Beatles

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Oh the horror

I finally got around to updating my NaNoWriMo2011 badge to show that I’m a winner instead of just a participant. You’d think I’d be eager to show it off.

NaNoWriMo gives new meaning to “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Than again, it’s more like one of those dreams that switches plotlines and settings without much explaination.

At the beginning of November, I was thinking I might get closer to horror in this story than I’ve ever written before. It probably had something to do with the mood I was in as I was beginning my story after midnight on halloween. Well, nothing in my story actually ended up getting anywhere near horror, unless you’re really really scared of platypuses trying to take over the world. (The characters in my story argue about whether the correct plural is platypuses or platypi. I was happy to discover afterwards on the wikipedia page for it, that there is no universally accepted correct plural, but it says that “platypi” is incorrect.) There was a little bit near the beginning of this year’s story which lead me to think it might go near horror/comedy, but it didn’t happen. At least the horror part didn’t. Whatever else I write always comes with some “/comedy” or at least bizarre silliness.

There’s a set of books on my list of books to read that is middle grade horror. Yes, horror stories written for 9-12 year olds. It’s The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney. From what it sounds like, this isn’t on the level of goosebumps either. I didn’t know there was a horror genre (beyond the level of goosebumps creepiness) for middle grade readers until I heard of these books. I want to read them, not because I want to write horror, but because I want to see how well he pulls it off. Also, because, if he pulls it off well, there will likely be aspects of that kind of thing which I would be interested in using even though I’ll probably never write horror.
Anticipating reading this, I’m expecting one of three things 1) It’s isn’t really scary, 2) I wouldn’t think it appropriate for its intended audience because of being too violent/gory/disturbing, or 3) He actually pulls it off well. I do think it’s possible to have a true horror story written for middle grade readers and be well done for its audience, and if that’s the case, it would probably be far better (at least in my mind) than most horror for adults. It wouldn’t be easy to write. That’s why I want to read it and possibly take influence if he does do it well.

Do you think it possible to have horror that’s appropriate for a middle grade audience?
I’d also be interested in hearing what anyone who has already read any of Delaney’s books thinks of them.

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a few assorted uncertainties

Often a phrase or a fragment of a song will go through my head, and I am unsure whether it is a song I have heard before or if it is a song that wants me to write it. I fear if it is the latter, that even if I put the words on paper, no one will ever hear it or care to play the music.

Often in a moment of decision, there is a weight of importance. And I wonder is the choice I face really vital or is the weight an illusion?
Either way, I am too often indecisive, and I wish I wasn’t. (My current story I’m writing happens to be about someone who is also indecisive.)

And another little struggle:
I am not ashamed to be a follower of Jesus, but I wonder sometimes how appropriate it is to discuss my faith on this blog. Sometimes it seems hard to express a feeling without being explicit about my faith. At the same time, I don’t think the audience which seeks to hear about God and Jesus is the audience I’m looking for.

On a similar note, I am not entirely clear about who the audience for my blog is or should be. I’ve heard that writers should write their blog to the same audience that their books are written for, that we’re supposed to use a blog to gain readers. I have my doubts that that would be effective for me, mainly because my blog averages 1 view per day according to WordPress. I don’t have much of any audience at the moment.

In any case- hello there, audience (whoever and however few of you there may be). I’m grateful to all of you who visit this site and I’m grateful for any comments you post here. I do hope whoever visits here gets something beneficial out of it.

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Popular things which have no appeal for me (and vice versa)

(I was thinking about posting this as a facebook note since it isn’t all that relevant to my blog, but I haven’t posted here in awhile. Maybe I could still have a chance at that ‘postaweek’ goal. [shrug])

Coffee: All my friends seems to like it. Even those who don’t drink it like the smell. I happen to think it both smells and tastes gross.

Getting drunk: Yeah, puking until you pass out sounds like a lot of fun. Then once you build up a resistance and can get drunk without puking, you do stupid things you don’t even remember afterwards.

Tatoos: A lot of money and pain to have a picture permanently stuck on your body. This one I really don’t understand…

TV: I don’t want to waste my time watching a story and tainting my imagination when I could be reading a story and building up my imagination.

No offense to those who do enjoy these things…
Now a couple things that I really like which aren’t very popular:

Roguelike games: A strain of computer games which tend to date back to the 80s and have ASCII graphics. In case you don’t know, ASCII graphics aren’t really graphics at all. They’re just the characters you can make with any normal keyboard arranged into pictures or symbols.

Christian Heavy Metal: Of course heavy metal has a reputation for being ‘of the devil’, but in the words of Larry Norman, “Why Should the Devil Have all the good Music?” Fortunately, this seems to be gaining popularity these days.

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Why Haven’t I Been Blogging

I had fully intended on blogging at least once a week this year (and after). I had also fully intended on getting one story ready to send & sent to agents, and do a full rewrite of my other story. Since both have been slacking recently, I have decided to not worry about blogging, because actually working on my stories is higher priority. It’ll be easier to revive one thing at a time, so I’ll revive my writing and revising first and come back to blogging later.

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I was thinking I’ll have to choose between not writing as much as I want to or not hanging out with friends as much as I want to. That stinks, but oh well. Recently, I’ve not been writing as much as I want to. I’m going to change that because I want to get published and to do that I need to start sending my work to agents, and to do that I need to get my stories in a condition to show my best writing to the agents I query.

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Learning To Read Like a Writer

(This post began as a comment on this post, but ended up long enough to be a post of its own.)

Writers talk about reading like a writer, analyzing the work of others for plot structure and character development, etc, to improve their craft. Though I’m trying to learn to be a good writer and improve my craft, I have yet to learn to ‘read like a writer’ and analyze the writing to learn from it. I decided I’d find a really good book and re-read it, trying to read like a writer. I don’t think I could ever read a book analytically the first time through. That kinda seems hypocritical in a way: distancing myself from a story I’m reading to analyze it when I’m supposed to be writing stories which draw the reader in. It just doesn’t seem right.

I read some people talk about analyzing the books that don’t draw them in and get them caught up in the story, but I don’t think those books would be worth analyzing. Besides, I get caught up in stories easily. There are occational times as I’m reading when I find something in the story hard to believe (which is a sign of bad writing), but even then I can almost always forgive the writer and get back into the story pretty easily. Another mentioned analyzing the books that “hit it big”. Humph. I don’t care about books that hit it big. I care about books that hit me big.

Anyway, I’ve pretty much decided on Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson to reread for this purpose (and probably The Chestnut King -the book that comes after it, but I haven’t finished reading it the first time yet). Recently, I also read Ender’s Shadow, which turned out to be unexpectedly good (getting a rare 5/5 rating from me on Goodreads.com), but it isn’t in my genre. Maybe I’ll reread it later, but I wanted to start with something in my genre.

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