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2015 Epiphany Stress and writing

Posted by Brandy Potter on January 7, 2016 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

This year has brought so many personal upswings and down swings that it has been so hard for me to focus on my writing. In fact the amount of stress that has come my way good or bad has basically made it nearly impossible for me to focus on any project that involves creativity. It has gotten so bad that I have often wondered how do authors handle stressful times where their creativity is stifled if not in fact entirely blocked. Even sitting here writing this blog is becoming a bit difficult.

 

I went to our good friend Google to see if I could in fact see if there were interviews form those of my favorites who were still with us for advice. Most of them say the same bloody thing… keep writing.

 

I too have shouted that particular moniker from the rafters for an entire year. But when everything you write turns to scheit and makes no sense or is nothing that you would even WANT to put your name to, how does that work? Are there little snippets of shining gold in the pile of manure that is generated when I do that? No.. it’s all crap.

So what does one do when one has life coming in and saying “Try meditating it away now fool”…..

I took a break. A sincere break, dropped my stories, dropped characters all of it…

Stop gasping and waggling your fingers at me…

 

For the sake of their development I had to. That is not to say I didn’t focus on writing, I did. I just focused more on techniques, networking and the business. The stuff NONE of us wants to deal with but that is inevitable… Nora Roberts summed all of our feelings up on this in an interview on Book Browse : “ all the extra stuff that isn’t actual writing – can be difficult simply because most of us who write prefer to sit down and do just that. Traveling can be stressful, inconvenient and tiring. The writing is a joy, even when it is not going particularly well. The simple fact that you are lucky enough to have a job you love can’t be beat. The days when you can’t wait to get to the keyboard are the best. You can sit there and work in your pajamas. It doesn’t get much better than that!” (https://www.bookbrowse.com/author_interviews/full/index.cfm/author_number/296/nora-roberts)

 

But I took the time to learn about these things; to explore different avenues; attend writing seminars; reading and reviewing books; research publishers I like etc. I did all of this to determine where I want my career to go and what I want from my writing. In this way, I was still cultivating my harvest of stories and characters and not leaving them flying in limbo without a rope… but I eliminated HUGE stress on Monday and so my perspective is changing……

 

….. and you know I have come to a conclusion…

 

All I want out of life is to make enough money writing that I don’t have to do anything else to provide for my daughter. I don’t need to be Nora or Stephen or J.R.R. or Jane. I just need to be able to have a career that is sustainable enough to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our back. That eliminates the stress of perfection in my writing.. back to writing what I want to read not what I think will sell.

And finally, I need to stop caring about my “day job” cause it’s not my “real job” and get “a job” where I can leave it at the door and wrap my fictional creations around me and obtain the career that I really want.

so what epiphanies did you have this year?

 

The Big 4 Debate: Violence, Sex, Sexuality, and Cussing in writing

Posted by Brandy Potter on June 9, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)


Disclaimer:

This is discussion is about technical points of writing. I am using biblical references. I do not profess to be or not to be Christian. I will not confirm my belief or disbelief in any of the religious text that follows. I am not here to offend anyone. I am not telling you what to believe. I will state a position and give biblical quotes and historical facts to defend it.

As you well know from the diversity of Christian faiths; The Bible can mean things to different people and therefore from a theological and scholarly point of view it is a subjective text that is up for interpretation. All quotes used are interpreted to my point of view and taken from a scholarly position.

The King James Version of The Bible is used for all quotes so they may not read exactly the same as how you know them. Keep in mind as you read.

This not a religious debate.


Should Violence, Sex, Sexuality and Cussing be used in Writing

 

Prologue

Should these four concepts be included in writing and if they are how much?

The thing is there are 3 things that I feel a public figure should never discuss: sports, politics and religion. Unless of course they relate to the person’s public persona (i.e. an athlete, a senator or the Pope) So please understand that I am treading in waters that I am not comfortable being in. However, you can’t have this debate without choosing a religious trek. Without revealing too much of my lifestyle, political or religious preferences, I am going to attempt to tackle this debate. I am going to use arguments that I have heard so often between my fellow authors and reviewers alike.

However, against my better judgment,  I am going to approach this from a Christian perspective because that is the viewpoint I have heard from the most. I also happen to know my way around The Bible fairly well.

As a reader, I have nothing against books like 50 Shades of Grey, or the borderline erotica that occurs in many romance novels. I personally don’t like to read them. Further when reading a thriller a violent act that is just way over the top can seriously disturb me and I will stop reading.

Stereotypes make me angry too; like the Asian that is either brilliant or can’t speak English. The mindless militant German that marches everywhere you tell him to go. If there is an exorbitant amount of anything including long drawn out descriptions that have NOTHING to do with the character or story development I hate it; this includes the big 4.

However, as an author I often feel stifled. When I am writing a book like Venomous Lives which is about glam rock in the 80’s, a world populated by notorious and infamous drug addicts, sex fiends and tools it is hard to come to a “clean” version of the story. The type of people my characters represent are rockers. They played hard, fought hard and rocked hard and they had sex, drugs and rock and roll by the metric ton almost every day of their lives. I find that I will write a scene that flows freely and completely and then I censor it to appease others to the point where it loses its power.   

I feel that too many people get overly offended and really want to place too many restrictions on artists in general. Look do I think ratings for films are okay, absolutely. Authors have YA books. But don’t pick up a book about the mafia or Venomous Lives and expect it not to have some of these things. I don’t read typical romance novels. Sure I read Nora Roberts, I love her, and she can have some steamy scenes but nothing that makes me feel like I need a shower afterward.

And these are all creative differences. Not all of us are Christian, nor are all of us monotheistic. Some of us aren’t -istic at all (Brandyism sorry). Our religious and moral make up dictates the style we have. Therefore, not every book is written for everyone to read. Oh sure that is our dream but let’s get real shall we?

I recently read a blog that stated that all books with the big four in them in any form were “evil” and that we have had enough evil. The blog then called on “writers of goodness” to write only about truth, integrity and probity among many other things. All amiable traits that deserve literary representation.

However if there is not a villain or evil in the world how can integrity shine? I mean Captain America is GREAT, but how boring would life be if we were all Captain America. (Not to mention there wouldn’t be a Hulk and let’s face it Batman’s existence would be highly questionable) To quote Darkness from the movie Legend, “… What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all... We are brothers eternal!”

Oh the cries of anger and pain I hear from many of you are echoing in my ears … hold steady… don’t panic... just breathe ;)

Theoretically in an ideal world evil and misfortune would not exist. Everyone would be happy and whole and complete. There wouldn’t be war or hunger or suffering. But would we be complete? Would we really be happy? Would we even know what happy meant? Without evil and misfortune to illustrate what makes us happy, how would we. How can the good survive that? Seriously, have you watched The Stepford Wives? How BORING would that existence be? In the Invention of Lying how free was Ricky Gervais’ character when he learned to lie? We are also going against our instincts and make up to “turn the other cheek” to submit and be “good” all of the time.
Does it not say in Ecclesiastes 3:1:

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There is a time for EVERYTHING. There is more to life than black and white, there are shades of grey, brilliant reds, cool blues, deep purples etc. If we are all goodness and light all the time how would we see them? And hey just a comical argument all that light would make us all go bananas didn’t you see Insomnia?

Nothing is totally good, nor is anything totally evil. Jeffery Dahmer was a loving son and an activist. Bundy was a charmer, had relationships with many people and was highly intelligent. Ridgeway was a wonderful husband and a hard worker. And to quote Lord Darkness again, “We are all animals, my lady.”

Are violence, cussing, sex and sexuality appropriate in writing? I don’t know if I have the specific answer to that but I can present my point of view.

Violence/War

Some stories need violence or sex or what have you. I do not like gratuitous measures of any of it. I try to read them as I write and decide does this REALLY need to be here? Does the story make sense without it? If it does make sense without it then I take it out. If it doesn't but is too much I edit.

When I saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the scene with her guardian and the rape was too much. I am reading to the book now though and I can tell you it is like a page. And it is needed because the character's internal struggle whilst it is happening is critical to understanding her.

The way I see it you are supposed to wait to "hear god" yes? If that is the case and your muse (I know odd to bring up the pagan concept in this discussion) sends you hurdling into a direction, is it not him speaking to or guiding you? And when you question the righteousness of what you are creating, do you question as the thought comes into your mind or after you write it and then read it with your personal values? As for the question at hand, surely God is against war and violence?

Yet we have wars. So when is it right to go to war... let me give you a few HISTORICAL examples of wars that were fought for religious, theological, social, political  or empirical reasons :

  1. The Reconquista
  2. The 1st - 7th Crusade
  3. The Wendish, Northern, German, Albigensian, & Aragonese Crusades
  4. The 30 years War
  5. French Revolution
  6. American Revolution
  7. Trail of Tears and Rebellions due the Indian Removal Act leading to the EXTINCTION of several tribes
  8. Cromwell's Wars in England and Irleand
  9. United States Civil war
  10. World War I & II
  11. Wounded knee
  12. Battle of little Big horn
  13. War of the Roses

The list goes on and on. Hitler was a mad man. But if Hitler was wrong for the attempted annihilation of several cultures then why wasn’t Andrew Jackson or the leaders of the French revolution?

It depends on the characters (person's) conviction and point of view...

Look at the Albino in The DaVinci code. He felt he was right. He felt he was protecting his god (religion). Any king, pope or monk that executed "heretics" felt they were protecting their religion (Henry VIII and Mary I, and it was over doctrine not religion). Jackson and Cromwell felt they were protecting their countries (and as a Cherokee , a Scott and an Iris woman, that took a LOT of pain to give them that I tell you).

In their eyes they were right. They felt justified. However,  in historical perception some were vilified and some were made heroes. Why?

It is HISTORICAL judgments that shape our view of these events. And HISTORY that decides the righteous not god. Make no mistake we have no idea WHAT judgments, if any exist, were placed upon any of those mentioned by a higher power we believe in if that exists. We can assume based upon our own faiths, but which one of us is right? Me? You? That guy reading this in Muskogee? Or the one in Cairo, or Kathmandu, or Bangladesh? Who knows...

The question you need to ask yourself is what creates or perpetuates violence? Passion, rage, crime, money, psychosis, zealotry (Religious or otherwise). Then you need to ask yourself which one of these would it take for your character to use violence? That is the question you need to look into. Motive.

So what can you as an author do to decide how much if any violence you put in your book? Here are some things to keep in mind.

1
)  What is the purpose of your story?

Is it a story of a child who triumphs over abuse? I am currently reading “Honest Illusions” by Nora Roberts. For the majority of the book you hear that the hero has been abused. You hear descriptions of scars. As a child he describes it to a point but using a child’s perspective. Things are missed, skipped, glossed over or simply alluded to. In a book like “Bastard Out of Carolina” or “The Burning Bed” you HAVE to hear the abuse as it is happening then. It is the driving force of the character and why they make the choices that they make. If the focus of the story is not on the abuse then the abuse doesn’t need to be detailed

Is it a serial killer story? I feel that for serial killer stories you have to have a certain amount of violence at least in the description of the crime. However, this can be tastefully done without the gore. I just finished a book called “The Bride Collector” by Ted Dekker. In this book a serial killer is collecting brides for god, drilling holes in their feet and draining their blood. However, the killer doe sit lovingly, which we see as one killing is told from his perspective. It doesn’t show you the actual act of drilling or the victim’s reaction to it until the end of the book when the hero/detective is there. Yet when the bodies are discovered the killer has cleaned up the gore so it’s not there. Tasteful. Things like Hostel or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are just gore to be gore and that is not appealing to many.

Is it a rape or a murder story? Again, unless it is happening in the moment you can tell the story in flash backs. If you know anything about psychology then you know that a victim will only remember so much they will likely block out the actual rape. They will see a face or hear a voice. If they witnessed the murder (or are the ghost of the victim) they won’t remember the actual act. They might remember a metallic smell or someone standing over the body. It is selective memory and it is the brain’s way of coping with trauma. A perfect example of this is The General’s Daughter. You never ever see the whole “gang rape” that happened to the murder victim. You never see the murder until the murderer is talking about it. You see glimpses here and there and you piece it together and in that way you aren’t horrifying the audience. Last House on the Left is an example of overwhelming the audience. In fact in the latest incarnation the 1st moments of the movie so graphically and correctly done that I can’t watch it.

2)  Don’t have a gloom and doom character
No one and I do mean no one has such a terrible life that nothing good happens. They may see life that way but it’s not true. If nothing good ever happens to them in the story then when they are killed or kill themselves, the audience doesn’t find it horrific, they see it as the character’s release from suffering. The same is true for torture. You can’t have a victim tortured the whole book and expect the audience to be shocked and appalled when they die.

Look, I knew Kurt Cobain was going to kill himself, I listened to his lyrics anyone who truly listened knew. But he had good things in his life, Francis for one, and he talked about that and hoped for the future so that made his death tragic. Michael Starr or Jeff Conway on the other hand, had nothing but their habits. I hoped they’d come out of it but I was just sort of like meh saw that coming after they died. Think about real life. When someone with a terminal illness dies, we say that at least they aren’t suffering anymore. The same is true in a story. If your characters have nothing to live for then no one is going to care if they die. Now, they could have had nothing to live for to begin with and then find something in the story, but there has to be something positive in their lives, even your bad guys.

3)  You have to have positive to negate the negative.If you have a rape scene, you have to have a consensual loving sex scene. If you have a horrible abusive marriage, you have to have a positive one. Some great examples of this are “Heartbeat” or “Secrets” by Danielle Steel. The hero in the first is borderline suicidal and that teeters on his kids that he hardly sees until he meets the heroine. In Secrets, Jane is abused by her husband but then has a wonderful relationship with Zack. And even in my own book Venomous Lives, Juliet has a great relationship with one husband and a horrible one with the other

4)  Violence against women and children
Be careful with this one. Having strong females doesn’t negate the violence. You have to have justice for the violence. In Venomous Lives Juliet is faced with spousal abuse. She doesn’t take it lying down but she also gets justice. If the woman gets beaten and there is no justice or point to it; it is there for shock value and as a victim of domestic violence I would find that offensive. Children too. In Bastard Out of Carolina Bone gets away from her abuser and finds a good home, but never gets justice. The book has been deemed shocking and horrific and met with a lot of criticism. That isn’t to say everyone gets justice they don’t but you have to give the women and children something.

5)  Killing a character to save the book
I killed a character in my book. I did it not to save the book but because it was a catalyst for something else. I know that some live by the adage if the book is dragging kill a main character. That is stupid. Why would you kill a main character just to save the book? And please just once let me read a detective novel where the love interest doesn’t die in their arms and then the detective type person goes all Lethal Weapon on everyone.

Sexuality

Now let us address sexuality. Many feel that if you have an alternative life style you are depraved and horrible. The person who engages in BDSM in the novel is always the murderer or the murder victim. And some say that he or she had it coming.  Many make the hooker the victim; or the John the pathetic sinner beyond redemption.

Paul says in Romans several things:

  • "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!"
  • "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things"
  • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 
  • “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

Translation: Judge not lest ye be judged

If we believe that whatever god we believe in creates us all; if he creates someone who loves a member of the same sex than who are we to judge? If someone doesn’t identify with their own body so much that they want to become the opposite sex, what business is it of ours? And if the “sinner” accepts the “truth” at the end they will be forgiven no matter the sin. Yes? The only sin that is unforgivable to a god in a religion that believes in sin is non-belief, yes?

  • Matthew 26:28 states, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
  • Ephisians 1:7 states: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”
  • Acts 10:43 states: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Also you would think the way that some people behave that alternative lifestyles are the worse sin known to man. But even the so called “deadly sins” are forgiven. They are stated in Proverbs 6:16-19 as:

“There are six things the lord hates seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue,  hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

Wait those aren’t the deadly sins. But they are, there is no passage that specifically states anything is a deadly sin. Did you know that? However according to Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century, the seven deadly sins that at most people know are as follows: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth.

I do not see alternative lifestyles in there. I don’t see homosexuality or BDSM or any of that. Lust is all inclusive and that means heterosexual extramarital relations as well. So that’s rather like the pot calling the kettle and thus not a valid argument to this discussion.

 So… No matter whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan or even just a humanist we are supposed to live and let live. If you are uncomfortable, then put the book down, change the channel and let the appropriate authority judge them.

And absolutely do not stereotype them. This is a disgusting practice reminiscent of racism of old. Why not make the hooker the hero/detective. That would be original? Or the sadomasochist the helpful neighbor? Some people that are highly intelligent and successful engage in alternative sexuality.

I
f you are going to portray an alternative lifestyle in your writing you have to research it. If you can’t stomach that, then don’t write it. Period. Do you know the difference between a transgender and a transvestite? If you say who cares then don’t write about either. Gay men don’t always have a “wife and a husband” in other words one isn’t always more feminine or masculine than the other. I have known beautiful fashionable lesbian couples where both are clearly feminine. I know bi-sexual couples that have committed relationships with 1 outside member. I know people in open marriages that have definitive rules and violations are considered cheating. BDSM folks aren’t all leather and straps and they don’t all have tattoos and piercings. Not everyone with tattoos or other such body modifications has an alternative lifestyle beyond that. Not all drag queens are gay. I have a BDSM character in one of my books and I have a BDSM friend helping me along with questions and such. There isn’t much of that lifestyle in the book, but what there is will be accurate.

Unfortunately the alternative lifestyles have distinct stereotypes that are way over played. That’s not to say they can’t so for comic relief as is The Birdcage or To Wong Foo or that you can’t have eccentric characters because they do exist. But lesbians are often women who dress in flannel and look like men. Homosexual men are often so limp-wristed they may as well be Gumby. Practitioners of BDSM are either too subservient or too over bearing. People who have open relationships and multiple partners are loose and have no morality. Or worse that anything goes and the partners have no boundaries.  People who are transgender being freaks (think Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs).  Drag Queens so over the top that the “Too Wong Foo” crowd would have disowned them and Ru Paul would have voted them off of Drag Race. Bi-Sexuals ostracized for having sex with the opposite sex.

Too often I see people with alternative stereotypes misrepresented by these stereotypes. Or worse, portrayed as sexual deviants and therefore are the killers, or justifiable victims. The truth is that they are regular people. They can be cops, housewives, CEOS. They could be your neighbor, your pastor, your family. You would never know unless they told you. You can’t identify them by sight.

Sexuality is not a trait. It’s not a personality flaw. Write a character; make them whole, then decide on their sexuality or alternative lifestyle. Don’t let the lifestyle dictate the person.

Sex

“Let’s talk about sex baby, Let’s talk about you and me, Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.” Salt and Peppa had a catchy tune there don’t you think? But so many people treat this subject like it is the plague. Young Adult and children’s books aside…

Sex is good and to not engage in sex is a sin. It is a fact. The bible never ever says the act of sex itself is bad.

In the Old Testament it says that celibacy is a sin because man was not made to be celibate. Admittedly it says that you should be married first and many of us don’t marry first. If that is your position then don’t have extra marital sex in your story. The Bible says that sex is bad if you abuse it. It also says having sex is glorifying god if used for the reason for its creation. It does list lust among the seven deadly sins, but that can be interpreted to mean desire alone. With the exception of adultery it isn’t in the Ten Commandments. And hey, if you aren’t married you can’t commit adultery right? I know I am arguing a technicality.

Know what, the bible has some of the most titillating lines of erotica I have ever read. Song of Solomon ring a bell? Let me just list a few quotes, shall I?

  • Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. 
  • Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.
  • My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.
  • I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh's chariots (that one makes my blood boil and not in a good way)
  • While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance

We are all sexual beings. We have all had sex or seen sex. We know about it, talk about it, and think about it, do it. The majority of women compare notes and experiences, men do too. The manor that we compare is different. Some of us are blunt and honest, say it like it is. Some of us are subtle and shy. Still there are something’s about sex that makes us all go “ewwwww” like an elementary school kid. There are things we can do as authors that can curb the general ickiness of it.

1)  It’s all in the approach
There are basically three ways to write a sex scene. You can approach it as an action scene. You can make it a scene about how it feels or both. There is no in between. If you want to a more metaphorical, approach it from the feeling side. If you want it to be more technical approach from the physical side. Personally, I find that the hybrid model seems to work the best for allusions and fade to blacks which is my personal preference. Don’t get me wrong I have go all the way scenes when needed but that’s a different topic.

2)  Long flowery words for the primal urge
Ok the next two are going to seem contradictory and perhaps should be in the same category but I separated them for a reason. There are only so many ways to represent the human body parts. Big long SAT words are not the way to go. Once I actually read a novel that used the word eggplant to describe something that absolutely should not ever be remotely described that way.  And then there are the people who say things like
“His turgid tumescence pressed into the dewy folds of her efflorescent humectation.”  Ok he inserted tab a into slot b is hardly romantic but that wording just makes me go hmmmmmm (Now I am trying desperately not to break out in the C&C Music factory song but I think it’s inevitable)

3)  We are not OB/GYN’s (well most of us)
For as much as we don’t like tumescence, We don’t want to hear that the estrogen began to flow from her whatever gland releasing endorphins that made her body have small rhythmic convulsions while the testosterone in his system caused his semen to be simultaneously released into her uterus causing them both to … ok Shut the _____ up.. Just stop. That is horrible. Enough said… find the middle of the road.

4)  Sex is like a story or a song
Songs and stories have a progression. It has a beginning, middle containing conflict, climax and an end; or like a song.. Verse, chorus, bridge, end. You have to have a rhythm to it, a plot. It has to make sense and flow like a catchy tune or a well written story. Ironically, or perhaps not, fight scenes are like that too but I digress.

5)  Porn does not a romance make
Do I really have to illiterate on this? Yes? Ok then here goes. Porn, like Facebook, is not real life. Here is the synopsis of every porn film ever:  People say the dumbest things and then other people trust them to do disgusting things to them. No woman wants to hear or have done to her what is being in those movies. Men supposedly dream of a woman that will do all of those things. But I tell you she had better not do them before they get married or even after because he will just have instant whore vibe on. This is not always true of course, but even many of my alternative lifestyle friends are like ummm yeah no. So don’t look to porn, look to real life. Look to your characters. In Venomous Lives, one couple is insanely passionate. And while I had them make love in several PLACES it never was like a porn film. It was what their relationship was like (Furthermore my scenes are never ever that explicit).

6)  More than Sex
Sex in a book should read like the best night of sex you ever had in your life. The romance, the kissing, the foreplay, the cuddling the sleeping the morning after. You can’t just have them have sex and be done, that goes back to number 5. If you have a main character has a one night stand, allude to it. You never ever describe it. It makes it gratuitous and stupid. It is the motivation. It is the undercurrent. IT is the sub text. It shows the personality of not just the characters but the relationship between them.

 7)  Real sex reads like a sitcom
People laugh during sex. Funny things happen. People fall off of beds. They spill wine. Their kids walk in. Write that. Use that.

8.)  See no, hear no, write no
Treat it like it’s just another scene. Because it is. If you are a moral person, you will handle it with the care it needs. You can absolutely fade to black. You never have to say more than, “He kissed her gently, took her hand and lead her to the bedroom.” The audience will know what happened. But if you want to put the scene in and make it steamy then treat it like it is just another scene. Then there is no evil.

9)  Will they? Won’t they? No it’s SHOULD they?
Know what I hate. Authors who throw antagonists into the sack for sexual tension. That’s not sexual tension, that’s ridiculous. I have spent the larger part of 12 years arguing with someone, and despising their very name. I KNOW I will NEVER end up in bed with him… ever. And I know characters won’t either. That’s like Hermione and Malfoy having an affair at the end of the Harry Potter books. If you just throw the enemies in bed and then especially if you do that and then never have them sleep together again it’s like huh? And authors do that all the time. My generation is screaming Moonlighing. No, they built the characters affection up first. You saw it in their interactions away from each other. You knew the attraction was there. But even if two characters seem to have a desire for each other that doesn’t mean they should be together. Back to Moonlighting, how bad did that show suck after David and Maddy slept together?

10)  Too much like the Tudor Family or Too much like the Cleaver family for your story?
Think about your genre, your setting, your plot. Will the sex scene move the plot forward? Would subtlety better serve? Could you get away with suggestions? Are your characters being true to themselves? For example, you are writing a fast paced spy flick. You need a sex scene because that is what James Bond does damn it. Ok so in this instance you don’t want a long drawn out scene. On the other hand if you have spent the entire book building the sexual tension and the reader gets two sentences of the entire act with no fade to black, that’s it, done. They may hang you by your toes. On the other hand if you suddenly have a sex scene with no purpose you will fall prey to the joke my sister and I have during movies, “Welp there it is the pointless un needed sex scene time to get a drink and come back.”

Questionable Language

Cussing isn’t specifically addressed. Nowhere. It says don’t use perverted and angry words and not to curse people, but that’s the “may god strike you down if you don’t …” types of curses. Still I agree that cussing is rude regardless and iisn’t something that should riddle the story without purpose. Still if you are reading a crime novel and the criminal comes across like Ned Flanders you will lose your readers. Unless of course you are a YA writer I which case you can’t go much past damn and even that is questionable.

You have to write believable characters. Cops sailors and blue collar workers swear. When they don’t they are seen to be different. So having a dockworker who doesn’t swear might make him stand out. Venomous Lives has cuss words. Rockers cuss. I cuss so it’s natural to me. However, I try to use other words or even have them pause and use ellipses to cover their swear words when possible. Or I say she screamed a stream of expletives at him that would have made a sailor blush. There are ways around it. At the same time when every other word is an F-bomb then you sound juvenile. Just be prepared. It seems to me that an F-bomb is more offending to reviewers than every incestuous scene between the Lanister twins in the entire series of Game of Thrones books put together in one long scene.

Conclusion

So we have reached the end, our friend the end to steal from Jim Morrison. And what have we learned class?

So are cussing, sex, sexuality, and violence right. When done properly sure. Should you do it? I can’t answer that. The answer is meh ….. It’s subjective. It is subjective to your point of view, to your beliefs, to your story but most importantly to your characters.

I have 5 books 1 written never published, 3 in the works and Venomous Lives.

There is not only violence but Sex, drugs, alcoholism, cussing and spousal abuse in Venomous Lives. It is a book about rock and roll. One character is redeemed, one is tarnished beyond repair. It is the old can't judge a book by the cover lesson, I suppose, but it the book doesn’t work without them.

The unpublished book is fantasy, there are sword fights and yes a necromancer. It doesn't work without them.

One book in the works is a crime romance. One is a mafia themed romance and one is a semi-autobiographical work. Violence and such will appear in these books.

So in closing I feel that Obi Wan Kenobi bridges this topic well, "You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

 

DISCLAIMER: Post discussion must remain strictly to the topic: The Big 4 in Writing. Everything else will be deleted.

 


Upcoming events

Posted by Brandy Potter on May 13, 2014 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

It is going to be an exciting month for me, for Written By, for Rude But Not GInger and most importantly for Venomous Lives and the book currently under the working title "The Ties that DIvide" (I loved it at first but I am beginning to hate it good thing a title is the LAST thing a book needs ;))

Right so what is going on you might ask... well I will tell you......

First and foremost I have been asked to present a Video for Authors presentation for Promo Day 2014 by Jo Linsdell She is an amazing mountain of knowledge for me and has been one of the three or four people who can jump start me when I am in a rut. I am incredibly honored to be asked.

Promo day has a WEALTH of knowledge and strengths available for you to tap into and get info from. There are many presenters, many different topics, it is going to be a hellova place to be that Saturday. I know I am going to be there. The link to the website is above and you can find links on all of the presenters pages as well. Or click below. I want to iterate again how incredibly honored I am to be participating!



She and I will be doing an interview together on Saturday, at 4pm EST to promote it. I was thinking about doing a Google+ hangout or Facebook wall chat on the day, but I will have to double check with Jo.

Written By..... is also going to launch it's 1st full issue around that day. We will include reviews of several books just to mention a few, Jo's new book The Box; Virginia Jennings' The Alien MInd; and a few new authors works.

I want to let everyone know that Liz and I disscussed it and, especially for new authors, if the review is not going to be favorable, we are going to let you know first. We want to give you honest feedback but we don't want to be the bad review on your record either.

Rude But Not Ginger, while a personal project is also going to launch. Each of us will publish a blog and at least 1 if not two top ten lists will be going up on YouTube.

The Ties That Divide, while in essentials will remain the same story, is getting a facelift. I wanted to try a 1st person narrative and I started it as such. However, it is not as funny as my work normally is with all of it's sarcasm, it was not flowing for me and I was forcing the book. I walked away from writing for the last 3 months because of personal issues, but mainly because both The Ties That Divide and And They Lived have been a forced staccato that was beginning to chafe a bit. I was passionate about the ideas, but something just wasn't working. For Ties it happens to be the 1st person. I tried it. I didn't like it. It is not for me. So.... Ties is back on the assembly line. I will get that finished before I touch And They Lived again. I havent quite figured out whether the block there is a personal loss I suffered this year or something in the story itself.

Most exciting................

After some long research and lots of listening hours I have decided to record the audio book of Venomous Lives myself. There are two paths to the process, I can read it myself and have a few BAD (or in two cases non-existant) accents (which is bothering me) OR I can have auditions and get some voice over folks in. In the spirit of Indyism that is me, I have found a site where actors go to build their resumes called The Voice Acting Alliance (I will tell you that as of the time of this post their website is having some issues so if you have trouble you can hit up their Facebook page too). I wanted to get some feedback on this.

I hope you are as exctited as I am. Last year was very trying personally and I hope that I can get back to my enthusiasm and my muses!

I hope you all have a GREAT day today and that you come out and see all of us on May 31!

What does my story need????

Posted by Brandy Potter on July 9, 2013 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Ok so you have begun to write……. great…. Or you maybe one of those people that want a written guide on what to write before you write.......... 

What are the most important things to any writing project? If you MUST have a list….. then…..

 

  1. Plot – Now I find that this is very closely linked to all of the elements that follow. However the plot is what is happening in your story. There has to be a conflict internal or external. Internal conflict can be something like a commitment phobe falls in love. Or grief etc…. External would be a mystery to solve, or a way to save a lover or to plan a crime. The list goes on and on. There should also be an end to the conflict one way or another at the end of the novel or series.

     A plot can be a simple or complex as you want it. However I find that when writing for an adult audience a simple plot requires complex characters to hold interest. However that is just my opinion and we all know about those

  2. Character – To me this is the meat and potatoes of the story. Characters drive many if not all of my stories (the Mafia work being the exception at this point). But if your plot is your meat and potatoes a simple bio and description may be enough. Back stories can complicate things but they make for interesting reading… again opinion….

  3. Setting – WHEN is something taking place? WHERE is it taking place? This is what is meant by setting. Where meaning what city, town, country not necessarily the settings of individual scenes. For example, if you want to have someone speaking or dressing in Victorian fashion, you probably don't want to have the story take place in Elizabethan times. I was going to use modern times in that sentence but my best friend Liz will say that Steam punk IS Victorian and IS modern. SO out of respect.. but I digress…..

    Ok so the time is right but where are they…. A story about the French revolution can hardly take place in China... Right now I know you are saying Brandy.. this is obvious but you would be surprised at how many people try to do these things… seriously. 

    Oh and one other thing that myself and other history nuts find INCREDIBLY annoying… if you are going to write historical fiction (defined as any fiction set in a specific time in the past, i.e. the 80's) DO YOUR RESEARCH! Read a story from someone asking for me to give an opinion and I couldn't get past the first three paragraphs…. Why? It was set in Scotland in the late 1600's with Charles I as king…. In fact during the time it was set Charles II was on the throne and since my great great grandmother's maiden name was HYDE (Charles' sister in law Anne Hyde married to James II of England (VII of Scotland) and yes we are very distant relatives) I was more than well aware of the historical faux pa… Another story by another author had a "King of Germany" who's family had been kings in Germany for centuries.. . oops digressing again.. you get the point….

  4. Writing style – Are you descriptive ie Steven King or dialog/action driven ie David Eddings….. Translation do you describe every little thing in extensive detail or do you allow the details to be filled in as the plot develops…. Are you going to write in 1st, 3rd or the almost impossible second person? What dialog are you going use? Are you going to write in prose or poetry? Is this going to be a screenplay, a script, a novel, a short story, a graphic novel, a comic book? Is this fiction or non fiction? Etc Etc

Now all of that being relayed; understand 1 thing…. As I said in my 1st blog post…. Write the story you want to read… write for yourself. All of these 'technicalities' will work themselves out as the story flows. If not then you can always edit later….. Just Write!

Start Writing

Posted by Brandy Potter on January 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (2)

So you want to write……



Great!



So….. How do you get started? Well the standard answer is that you just do and while that may seem to be over simplistic it is the way that you start.



So many people say to me “I want to write a book about xyz, but how do I know it will sell.”



The truth is you don’t and the odds are it won’t. Discouraging I know but it is in fact the truth. Publishers do not take risks on unknown unrepresented authors and agents do not usually take unsolicited materials. How does one break in you may ask, well it takes a lot of persistence and a TON of luck. I myself have written three novels and only have one published by a small company. I do not write to sell books. I write to write and that is the truth of it.

If one sets out into writing to sell books they may as well go to the Harlequin website and look up what books they are looking for. Hell, Harlequin even gives you a formula for how they want their books written.

The key to writing is that you write what you think you need to write. Now, I have not ventured into the world of non fiction far enough to give a good dissertation as to how to write it. What I can tell you is that if you think the world needs a book about how to change the carburetor in a ’67 Chevy, and then write it. This blog will deal primarily with fiction and so you can take things that work for you out of it I will be very pleased if you do.

However, the key to getting started with writing fiction is simple. Write a story that you will enjoy reading again and again. After all the best books are those that you find yourself reading more than once, not the ones that you read once and never pick up again. For me that includes descriptive writers that use witty dialog and strong characters. For others it will be something else.

Here is an example: The author of the current world famous sparkly vampire series had a dream about two people in a meadow and wanted to write the story of how they got there. That translated into 4 more books. The author of the most famous wizard series came up with the idea on a train and most of the world knows that the famous ring trekking novels came about to explain a language that the author had made up.

So you can get an idea from a novel from anywhere. Venomous Lives, my current published work, came to me after coming across some letters that were written between myself and a friend of mine in the 8th grade where we talk about our childhood crushes on hair metal bands and our admiration of people like Lita Ford and Vixen. I took that idea and created a story that to this day intrigues me. If I hadn’t written it, I would have bought it.


Ok so that’s how you get an idea Brandy, I already have an idea. How do I start?

Well Venomous lives started with the first scene… I wrote that and then outlined the rest… most authors out line and I do typically as well at the beginning of a project. Here is the problem with outlines for me…… I write them and RARELY stick to them. As the story develops most of my original Ideas don’t make sense for the characters that I have developed…. Venomous lives developed chronologically because the 1st scene was the scene that drew me in. a girl looking at the posters on her wall… how she felt why she loved the bands etc….

Now my current two projects and other novels are very different in their conceptuality….. I am working on a murder mystery and a mafia book. Both with strong female characters and their families or friends. Chick lit if you will seems to be my forte… here is how I got started…

Sci-Fi Fantasy – I love the fantasy genre. Unfortunately for me, I finished this 3 year labor of love right about the time that the wizard movie and the ring quest movies were coming out in theatres... this meant the genre was over run with new authors… how did I start.. Well I wanted strong female characters... the genre is over run with knights and wizards etc but strong woman are almost unheard of. So, I started figuring out what the races would be, what the structure of the rulers of the world would be and the map… then I created the characters and wrote scenes as they came to me, no real order of things. It works though. The books makes its way around to my sci-fi friends every couple of years and they all say I should re type it (as the original got lost in move) and submit it.

Mafia book – this is scene driven. I dreamed (cliché I know) about a scene in the book and now I am writing the story that will bring that scene about. The first thing I did, I pulled out my writing journal and wrote that scene. Hand written... Raw but it is where this book is headed.

Murder mystery – Again a concept… wanted to have a certain character murder another frame another and I am going for how to prove that. I know the ending. I created characters to bring about that ending… How did I start? I wrote an outline… I am trying very hard to follow it, because it makes logical sense to the ending I want but the characters are dictating other things. There are also scenes that come up in my head that I write in my journal that may eventually make it in, but now I am rewriting b/c I am eliminating a main character in that book that appears in the Mafia book (made more sense for them to be there)


So…. As you can see. The best way to start writing is to write. write your concept/scene/character description what have you and then create a word for them/it to live in that make sense… you have to start though.. You can’t say I want to write a book about this dream I had and then never put pen to paper. When you have the dream….write it down. Once you do that, you will find it easy to begin and never mind about what will sell. If you do that you never will.



Hope this helps and happy writing!

 

BLOG!!!!

Posted by Brandy Potter on January 14, 2013 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

HEY YOU GUYS!

Sorry Goonies on the brain..

Ok So here is my newest idea.....

I have a TON of people asking for help with their writing. In order to assist with this, I am going to start a weekly blog about Writing begining on Sunday 1/20/2013. These blogs will include things that are "industry/School" taught and the things I actually do.

I invite everyone who wants to write to come by and read and comment!

 

New works

Posted by Brandy Potter on January 14, 2013 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi all!

Long time no see! Well I am currently working on 3 projects...

1) Work continues on the Cynthia Lennon screen play.

2) Still working and halfway finished with what has a working title of The Ties that Bind... that title, being too cliche will change but for now that is the Murder mystery.

3) Working on what has a working title of And they Lived.... (chapter titles are gonna reflect the title you'll see good concept) This is a much darker piece for me. More violent and less plucky comic relief.


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