Monday, March 18, 2019

It had to happen...I diagree with Jeffe.

"I don't think so. Name a piece of writing advice you do not agree with and explain why."

Go read Jeffe's post from yesterday. 

My entire counter-argument is this: I hate the boring parts when I'm reading. It will often make me put down a book. 

I kid, Actually, the only part that normally makes me crazy is the redundancies. If I read fifteen pages of a book and al that happens during those pages comes down to," We are far from home, walking through the mountains and I miss home" You cold cut about fourteen pages. Sometimes it's setting the mood and sometimes it's just too damned long.

Here's a piece of writing advice that I USUALLY disagree with. "Consider the feelings of the reader."

Nope. Not a chance. I start worrying about whether or not I'm hurting someone's feelings, especially as a horror writer, and I'm doomed. My first rule has always been write the story that you want to read. I can't write what Dan wants to read. I'm not Dan and would never presume to know his desires, even if he wrote them down on paper for me. I most assuredly can't write a book for Sarah, either. I'm not her. I write for me. To entertain me. To examine the issues that bother me. 

I can only write for me, and hope that what I write entertains others.

So, yesterday I was at the Writers Coffeehouse New England. About every three or four months, me and Christopher Golden try to host a gathering of writers at all levels of achievement in the industry. the entire point of this is to meet our peers, and, if we can, to offer a little advice. We are not alone in this. It's not about the two of us offering a Q and A session. It's about having open discussions about the things that writers are working on getting to understand better. We are not there to preach so much as we are there to facilitate and occasionally learn a few things ourselves. 

This is always done at either a library or a bookstore. This time around it was done at a great place called AN UNLIKELY STORY in Plainville Massachusetts. A delightful store owned by the creator of the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series the amazing Jeff Kinney. What a wonderful store and what a spectacular staff. I can't thank them enough for having us.

We were joined by a lot of authors, including Hillary Monahan among others.

Hillary is always at the cutting edge for me. She is wise, she is sharp, she is direct and she is talented. She also brought up something that I, as a guy, almost never consider. That is trigger warnings. 

Okay, let me get this out there right now: I don't normally care about trigger warnings. I write horror, My usual philosophy is, if I make you uncomfortable, I'm doing my job. You may rest assured that the comment is normally meant with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I write about a lot of dark subjects, but as a rule I very seldom get graphic. If I lead you to the scene the right way I don't need to get explicit and I prefer it that way.

However, after giving Hillary a copy of BOOMTOWN to read if she so desires, I also listened to her words. She often puts a foreword in her books, a warning about the sort of stuff that will be encountered in the books, because in this day and age it's far too easy to trigger someone. 

On teh off chance that you;'e not familiar with the term, triggering a person comes down to making them remember something traumatic that has happened in their past. Again, I don't usually consider this.

Here's the thing: BOOMTOWN is a weird western. I set it in a fictitious version of the western expansion and at the end of the American Civil War. Things tended to get very ugly historically speaking, and I did not flinch from them in the book. There are Native Americans being done wrong, women being done wrong, ex-slaves being done wrong. Hell, there are just plain a lot of people being done wrong, because it was a genuinely ugly time in American history, no matter how much we might want to pretty it up. Any crimes committed against those poor, innocent settlers back in the day were very likely earned. Not necessarily by that group of settlers, but certainly by others.  The things that were done to Native American women by Caucasian men during those times were horrific and "justified" in the eye of those very same men because the women they were dealing with were considered savages who were only possibly better than animals. Here's one to consider: if the things done to those women had been done to livestock, the men responsible would have been hanged.

So, that said, I make mention of several sexual acts of savagery. Rape, that is, and worse. I do not take my time to get graphic with these scenarios, but they are mentioned. I felt I'd done enough as I didn't handle them "on screen" as it were. Still....

I gave it a bit of thought abd decided to add a foreword in this one case. As a rule, I don't mention rape, etc when I'm writing, the idea is to write an escape, not to make someone suffer. 

This one time, I'm aking an exception, I make mention of dark deeds, the sort that, unfortunately happene back then and still happens today. If I lose a few sales and manage not to cause someone any trauma in the process, I'm okay with that.

here, for your perusal, my one exception:

Warning Shots

I don’t normally give a warning on my books. I write horror and dark fantasy. I usually assume that is enough of a warning. I mean, seriously, if you come to a horror novel with the notion that you aren’t going to be made uneasy at some point, you’re maybe reading the wrong horror.

There are exceptions to every rule. There are scenes in BOOMTOWN that involve violence against children and sexual assault. In the case of the latter, it is mentioned but none of the scenes are “on screen” as it were. That’s deliberate. I don’t believe that sexual assault should ever be taken lightly and I certainly have no desire to stimulate any fantasies. The point in the story is simply that, sadly, in both the past and the present these sorts of assaults happen. They are not, I believe, truly sexual in nature. They’re a dominance play, a power trip and a way to make someone suffer.  I find them loathsome.

That said, it’s best to remember, even when you write horror, that some horrors hit too close to home. As this is a western, you can expect shoot-em-ups. As this is a book with monsters, you can expect fangs. As this is a novel that, as I feel all books do, investigates the human condition in one form or another, there are human monsters, too. I mostly avoid sex in my novels. I make mention of it, but there’s no reason for gratuity in these cases. Not for me, at least.

That said I want readers to be warned: there is mention of rape in these pages, and mention of children being hurt. I step into taboo areas, because I write about dark things, many of which make me uncomfortable, too. So, no surprises here, not when they might cause genuine pain rather than a chance to tell a tale.

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