Tidbit Thursday, 3/13/14

Hello, all!  The weather has finally started to warm up, and I am actually just about to dash off – Brandon Sanderson is in town, and I have a copy of A Memory of Light that needs signing!

The prompt for this week is “Awakening.”  Enjoy!


“What are you?”

“That’s a fairly direct question.  You’re the one who lent me your lap.”

“I didn’t know you were awake.”

“That seems quite obvious, though as to why you’re mistaken… you’ve got weird eyes.”

“You know, the same could be said of you.  About the eyes, I mean.”

Tidbit Thursday, 2/27/14

Hello, all my lovely folks!  The fact that I got my tax return and my paycheck is impeded only by the fact that rent is due in two days.  Bleh.

The prompt for this week is straight from Kate: “Machine.”  Enjoy!


“You’re… asking for my services?”

“Yes.  This surprises you.”

“Ah… not precisely.  You’re an angel.  I got the impression that your kind was more…”

“Mechanical? Emotionless?”

“I was going to say frigid, but that works.”

Tidbit Thursday, 2/6/14

Hello, all!  All things progress, as all things must… except when it’s this cold out.  Bleh.

The tidbit for this week is “Unwilling.”  Enjoy!


“You understand what happens if you don’t pick, right?”

He lowered his head, and in the perch where he stood, halfway between death and transcendence, he thought.  Of what was to be gained if he kept fighting, even after his death.  Of what would happen to those he loved if he made his final refusal.  It was that thought which made him smile.

“I understand.  I still decline.”

There was silence, as if waiting for another voice to interject, but nothing came of it.  In moments, he dissolved.  He would never be seen again by anyone in this world.

Tidbit Thursday, 1/23/13

Hello, all you wonderful people!  In recent news, Kate just put the first draft of the third book of the Cinereal Series into my hands for a first read-through and suggestions.  Also in recent news, I still hate adding tags to these posts.

The tidbit for this week is “Dread.” Enjoy!


What was this place?  It was too quiet, too still.  That hush spoke volumes of dread to clench his heart in his chest.  Something slithered under the surface, whispering in soft hisses of what he would like to do, if someone but gave a whisper of a voice to devour.  He wanted to run, but did not know in what direction death did not lie.  He wondered if this was a form of karma, a last wish that those he had trapped and killed with fire had visited back upon him.

Tidbit Thursday, 1/16/14

Howdy, internet folks!  Still trying to get used to the new job, but otherwise, things proceed apace!

This week’s tidbit is “Underworld”.  Enjoy!


Even in those darkest and most dangerous of times, there were still those who fought and struggled. Their magic was weak against the avatars of destruction, and their bodies made of chalk against forms hardened by eternity itself, yet their wills were sharpened by what should have broken them. The choice was laid before them to struggle forward against an invariable, overwhelming tide or to lie down and let it sweep them away.

The people of Underworld are not given to easy deaths. My life has taught me more than enough about that.

- The Red Book, page 47

Tidbit Thursday, 1/9/14

Hello, everyone!  I’ve been busy with both Christmas things and matters of a new job, but it’s Tidbit time again!

Today’s Tidbit is “Blazes.”  Enjoy!


“Where in blazes have you landed us?” To either side, molten rock rippled downward like a staircase, flickers of orange and red burning even in the deepest pools of torment.  If she looked too long, she felt sure that some of those coals were eyes looking back at her.

Her sister grimaced.  “Right where you asked me to land you.  This is the Valley of the Fallen Fires, the home of the Devil God of Kovin.”

Tidbit Tuesday, 12/17/13

Hello again, everyone!  As always, another week brings new insights into writing.  Also, I still hate adding tags to these posts.

That said, this week’s prompt is #85: “End.”  Enjoy!


“You seem to be mistaken about a few things, so I will educate you, all-knowing wierm.  There is no happiness without despair, no reason without insanity.  We cannot break our fates, and they will not save us, either.  Our choices matter so little we should choke on them.  My eyes are not gold, and there are no happy endings to our stories, any of them.  I can live with all of it, even when I die.”

The dragon watching him tittered, a nervous sound.  It coughed, wiping blood from its mouth.  “Your eyes… aren’t gold.”

Why We Must Deconstruct Our Own Work

In Part 1 and Part 2 we took a look at what happened in Oz and why it’s just so dratted sad.  Essentailly, Oz suffers from a fourth wall blindness.  Everything takes place solely in the story, and it is not at all self aware of it’s own attitude.  The writers are fully immersed in Oscar’s story.  And you know, that’s understandable.  That’s why in these articles, I usually bash the story and not the writers.  It’s their job to be in that story.

But it’s also, their job to be above their story, too.  To be aware of the things their story is saying, beyond just the scripted words and actions.  Writers need to be self-aware of their work.  This is why we studied books and stories like “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” in school – so we could see examples of authors who knew exactly what the hell they were saying in the spaces between the lines.


Maybe a little more thought to it than this, but you get the idea.

Oz, and movies/books like it is why we need to deconstruct our own work.  I like to think that if the creators had realized what kind of movie they were actually making, they would have taken it in a different direction.  They would have said “Shit son, that’s not what we want to say.” and maybe actually turned the wicked witch angle on it’s head and put her on Glinda’s side.  Or Oscar would have actually realized what he’d done and sincerely apologized (recall, he never said “I’m sorry”, only acknowledged that it wasn’t Theodora’s fault) before he got the kiss from Glinda.

Just like Riddick, there were so many other options, just as awesome and exciting, and still with the fun(??) plot twists of “is he dead!?  Did he really leave!?” which could have saved the narrative of this movie.  But it’s like no one saw the problem… and that’s a problem.

I understand.  It’s scary to look at your work with the same eye that you would use in your English classes and really dig into what your subconscious has thrown in there.  You might find something you don’t like – such as an internalized romanticizing of rape, or that everyone who dies just happens to be female or male, or that all your villains are black, or fat, or disfigured, or asian, or that you’ve inadvertanly implied through the entire arc of your plot that all women besides your main, strong female character, are idiots, or crazy, or illogical.

It happens.  I found every single one of those in The Athele Series at some point.  Some of it is what you mean to say but not how you meant to say it. (Morgan intentionally disdains other women… but I didn’t mean to imply that the others who show up in the story aren’t of worth!).  Some of it is pure lazy writing or tunnel vision on my own words (Um, no, I most certainly did not mean to not have that woman not fight her rapist. That line about inevitability was not meant to be read that way!!).  Some of it is just assumption (no.  the man doesn’t always have to die to throw things into chaos, duh.) and some of it is just how you read the books before the one you wrote (you know, the bad guys in real life are often shockingly plain.)

The point is that you won’t know until you look.  Finding these things in your writing does not make you a bad person, nor does accidentally writing them, over and over.  That’s not what makes a bad writer.  Writing without mind, assuming that your words will come across exactly as you meant them to every single person from so many walks of life… that makes a bad writer.

Find a friend who can read from a standpoint entirely different from yours, who is practiced at reading mindfully.  I have two major ones (not including Michael), and they have pointed all of the above scenarios out to me, and discussed at length whether it’s a function of the story, or an unfortunate mistake in implication.  Write mini dissertations as to the deeper meaning of your work, your main character’s mind-set, your villain’s features and motivation.  Not only will it show you what your story is saying in the subtext, it will make for a stronger story.  Condense scenes and plots into one or two sentences.  Several times, focusing on different elements.

Have you done this?  Have you ever found distressing things hidden in the subtext of your writing?  What was the worst one?

Oz, Part 2

In Part one we discussed how Oz fails at making anything not about it’s protagonist.  It’s not just that everything the women do is focused or affected by Oscar though.  The worst part for me was the absolute fawning over Oscar’s womanizing.

In the beginning, Oscar decieves three women.  The ‘magician’s assistant’ the strongman’s assistant (off screen), and the girl he let get away.  He’s shown to be playing with the two assistants, and actually cares for the other girl, enough to let her go.



Because then he shouts, as the Tornado is sucking him in “I can be good!  I can change!  Just give me a chance!!”

And then he gets to Oz and he seduces Theodora with no intention on following through, first thing.

Great change there, bud.

It somehow manages to get worse.  Oscar’s seduction of Theodora was inelegant at best, but ok, sure, maybe she was taken in.  I’ll accept it.  But it just never lets up on that tangent.  Evanora uses his deception as a base to trick Theodora into the apple (I’ll give this to the creators, the little nods to Fairy Tales were nice).  Then, when Theodora realizes that she’s been tricked and misled, her sister is the evil one, is the one that was hurting the people she professed in the beginning to care so much for… she decides to hate Oscar some more?

Priority issues.

Excuse me, what?  Ok, sure I’d still be mad at the misleading bastard, but wouldn’t burning all the love out of you mean you no longer had loyalty to your sister who just fucked you over and turned you into a horrible creature?  I mean, shit, this was the part of the movie where even my mother, who doesn’t automatically deconstruct these movies like I do, went “Wait.  What just happened?” and I had to admit that I had no idea.

And then to top it all off, at the very end, when Oscar has sent the sisters running, and Evanora is defeated by Glinda, and hooray!  Just as Theodora is flying off on her broom, he says, all solemn like “I know this evil wasn’t of your own making…” and is all extending the olive branch of peace.  When it was his deception that hurt her, and his running off that set her off, and his duplicity with seducing her and then being all happy with Glinda that made it so easy for Evanora to fuck with her sister.  Evanora provided Theodora the apple, but Oscar might as well have hand fed it to her.

And at the end, he has the audacity to say “This evil was not of your own making”?!

What.  The.  Fuck.  

Damn right it wasn’t of her making!  It was yours!  And there is nothing to indicate he takes responsibility for it.  In essence, Oscar pulls the same shit (after promising to change, no less), but instead of learning his lesson, he’s rewarded.  

In character, yes, Oscar doesn’t know why exactly Theodora turned.  And neither does Glinda.  Which is probably why she gives him the traditional Hero’s Journey kiss at the end (fuck my life -.-) instead of telling him to fuck off when he invites her into a back room.

But just like Riddick, we’re not talking about the characters while they are in plot.  We are talking about them in a meta fashion – a magnifying glass through the fourth wall.  Oscar in the end, is a terrible character not only for what he does, but for what he doesn’t do.  Who is he at the end that he wasn’t at the beginning?  What growth does he actually demonstrate?  Worst of all, what does Oscar’s absolute lack of punishment for his deception of Theodora, thus creating a terrible villain for Oz to deal with later, and indeed, even being rewarded for his vanquishing of the villain he made say?

Nothing good, I hope we can all agree.

Now, you could try to argue this from the point that the movie was actually a warning about warring over a man.

Wait.  No, you can’t.  Because Oscar won, the day was saved, and the protagonist got the girl and learned that he was stronger than he ever believed.

Why?  Because he’s the good guy.  Duh.

Did this annoy you as much as it did me?  Sorry about all the cursing, but this is seriously skewed, and I figured it could benefit from a little strong language.  Part 3 will discuss what we can do with this amazing lack of self awareness in the story.

Oz the Great and Powerful


You all know something?  I would really like to get back to the happy rainbows of “this is how you can write better!” stuff.  And I still do that occasionally, and I will do it more once I settle into a better routine with my new job (working 50 hours a week is way more tolerable when you’re getting paid reasonably for it).  But what brings me to the blog (again) today is another “this is how you DON’T write” thing.

So I watched Oz the great and powerful the other day.  Beautiful visual effects, and it was kind of fun.  Dialogue a little clunky and on the surface it just seemed like the story itself was in need of less clumsy trying to shove the mythos of the Wizard of Oz into something which fit the vision of the writers.  And on the surface, all the women were powerful.  I mean, Theodora, Glinda and Evanora, had super powers basically, and were fighting each other for control of a kingdom.  Not too bad of a premise, I guess.

The point is that you could tell they were trying.  Really, someone was trying to make a woman power movie, I think.  They just completely failed to dig deep enough into their own work to realize that instead of lifting the women in their work up, they were chipping away at their foundations and reducing them to being all about the male protagonist.

It starts out promising enough – Glinda poisons father to make a grab for the throne, Evanora her out, take control for herself with Theodora as her right hand.  Cool.  Daughter wanted power, Advisor wanted good for the people, sister wanted good for the sister.  That’s fine.  Even after the big “surprising” reveal that Glinda is actually the good one, we *could* have been ok.  Glenda wants good for her people, Evanora wants throne, Theodora wants good for the people and is mislead by sister.  We’re still ok – they all want things which are higher causes, or for their own personal gain.

Except the protagonist, Oscar, is then thrown in.  Now, Theodora wants Oscar.  Evanora wants Oscar to kill Glinda.  Glinda wants Oscar to save the world and realize himself.  Suddenly, these three women who had their own thoughts and causes want…Oscar.

Well then.

Let’s address the prophecy right now.  “He’ll come and save us all!  That’s why they all suddenly focus on him.  Of course they do!”  Fuck that noise.  I work with prophecy in my own books.  Prophecy used right is seen all over the fantasy world.  Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Just like magic, Prophecy can’t be used as the engine in the story.  It can be a tool, or fuel, or a cog in the machine, but it can’t be everything or it comes off as sad and dues ex machinaish.

One could try to argue that Oscar was the tool, and the women were merely using him.  If the movie had been from the perspective of the women, that would have been more believable, but Oscar was firmly the protagonist, first of all.  Second, Glinda is very purposefully trying to get him to understand his potential, not realize her vision of saving Oz.

It keeps going.  I had to split this post into three parts, so Part 2 will be out… soonish.  For now, what are your thoughts?  Did you have this problem with Oz?