Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Well, duh

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
Orson Scott Card
Non-fiction 140 pages
Writer's Digest Books, 2001

 Ever read something so obvious that you go, “Well, duh?” Maybe you reacted that way because the information was so right, so intuitive, and so self-evident that you thought you already knew it. Perhaps you did, or perhaps the information arrived so naturally that you failed to realize you received a lesson. That’s how this book works.

Card begins with an explanation of what constitutes science fiction or fantasy, and the differences between the two genres. On the surface, it seems obvious, but there’s more to it when you look a little deeper. Readers may not care what genre they’re reading, but it’s important for authors to know what genre they’re writing. This is especially true now that mixed genres are becoming popular. However, mixing genres is not the same as muddling genres. Muddling results in genre pollution. For example, I can’t think of anything vaguely scientific about zombies, yet there they are muddling up the science fiction genre.

Authors also need to know the difference between genres in order to set, and follow, the rules pertaining to the worlds they create and write about. Knowing how starships travel, or how magic is worked, brings credibility to stories, even if the information is never mentioned in the story. This principal applies to other elements of a story as well. When an author knows his character’s background, the history of the story’s milieu, etc., then his story is more believable, even if this information is not shared with readers.

There are four story types, Card maintains. These are: milieu, idea, character, and event types. Authors need to know the differences between each type, and must be certain that the type they start a story with, is the same as the type with which it ends. Otherwise readers are baffled and disappointed.
Story worlds should be built with exposition techniques that don’t interrupt story action. Card uses another author’s story to explain how effective and unobtrusive exposition is accomplished.

The final quarter of the book addresses a writer’s lifestyle and business practices. Although Card offers good advice, similar advice is available in other writing how-to books. Some of the information is outdated and fails to address the rapid changes occurring in the publishing industry. But don’t let that stop you from reading an otherwise excellent book.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Understand digital prepress

Real World Print Production with Adobe Creative Suite Applications
Claudia McCue
Nonfiction 352 pages
Peachpit Press. 2009

When there’s a lot at stake and it’s got to be right, a little know-how goes a long way. I wrote “Graphics Essentials for Small Offices” to help beginners learn the basics of design. Claudia McCue takes the process much further. The digital revolution has simplified designers’ prepress tasks in many ways, but there are still numerous gotchas that they need to be aware of. Too many books treat the graphics applications they discuss as if their solutions can be poured, like breakfast cereal, straight from the box. McCue knows better. She knows the pre-digital history of graphics, the challenges designers used to face preparing work for print, and the challenges that remain. This book provides the knowledge that designers need to guide their work process toward problem free print outcomes. This book covers a lot, but it really excels in providing the kind of knowledge designers get on the job rather than in art school.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

An eSolution for Book Sellers

I recently attended a writer’s summit where several authors predicted that physical bookstores would soon face extinction. Some also predicted that eBooks would soon replace printed books. I am more doubtful about the second prediction than I am about the first, however eBooks are gaining momentum, and unless brick and mortar book stores have an easy way to sell them, their business will surely suffer.

Why should it matter? If eBooks are quickly and cheaply obtainable online, then who cares if book stores go the way of the dinosaurs? Well, some people do care. People are already complaining about having to read some of their books on a Kindle and others on a Nook. Additionally, if several large vendors dominate the market, consumers will have less influence on prices, and possibly fewer choices of reading matter.

Book stores serve social purposes. They provide places for authors to meet their readers and autograph their books (eAutographs?). They also provide meeting places for book clubs, and their well-read personnel help readers make informed purchasing decisions.

But there is a simple solution. If eBook publishers agreed to adopt a standard file format, and if an eBook licensing clearinghouse were created, then readers would be able to buy eBooks published by Amazon for their Nooks. Independent book sellers would be able to provide eBooks for every variety of eReader. Libraries and individuals could easily lend their books, and free markets would thrive.

The alternative future, in which a few large corporations control access to books, is not an option. Taken to extremes, a literary dark age would result. An impartial clearinghouse would assure that information remain broadly accessible, and a standard eBook format, like feet and meters, miles and kilometers, would assure a level playing field.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at A Taste of Colorado

Denver celebrates Labor Day Weekend with “A Taste of Colorado.” There is always a variety of food to sample, and handcrafts to yearn for. This year, swing band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy appeared on the main stage Friday night. During their 90 minute performance, they played older numbers including “You & Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight” and “Go Daddy-O,” as well as numbers from their new CD, including “The Jumpin’ Jive” and “Reefer Man.” The crowd went nuts.

In a world full of guitar bands, it’s nice when a band uses brass to kick your ass. Besides they look great in their zoot suits.

Check out their web page for more about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What’s wrong with this picture

As a child, when I left a theatre, I often thought about the movie and mentally gave it an alternate ending. The habit hasn’t completely left me, but it’s taken a new direction. I think about the characters and why they did the things they did. Doing so keeps the movie alive for me.

It’s said that fiction depends on suspending disbelief. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Movies seem to depend on meeting expectations. When you see a movie like, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” you expect special effects. When you see a movie like, “Salt,” you expect stunts.

Both movies deliver what’s expected. But they don’t give you anything to think about afterward. The action works, just as it’s supposed to, but both movies fail to justify the behavior of one of its main characters. People don’t just do things for no reason … except in the movies. Action movies in particular.

Action movies squeeze a basketful of thrills into ninety minutes, often at the expense of character development. The result is that the characters may be heroic, but the audience doesn’t know what motivates them. However, motivation matters, and makes a movie memorable. The movies that really stick are the ones that develop their characters. Characters without motivations are gone as soon as you step out of a dark theatre into the light of day. Hollywood may want it that way, but I don’t.