Monthly Archives: September 2011

Torquemada’s Tale

On the Post-a-Day site, the author at one point challenged people to write in a certain way that is normally considered ‘bad from.’ This tale is in the same form. Comment below if you can figure out what is wrong with it.

Screaming was performed by the prisoners as tongs that were hot were applied by inquisitors with experience. Walking was done along the path by the Head Inquisitor, and smiling happened upon his lips. Nods were given to this torturer or that as along his way meandering occurred.

“God, me free please set!” was cried by one victim as burning of his toes with pokers that redly glowed were applied there upon. “Nothing wrong is what I have done!”

A smile of cruelty was formed upon Torquemada’s countenance, and leaning forward he did do. “Shutting of your mouth will occur,” was said by him, “unless confessing to the crimes for which accused you have been you wish to do?”

Sobbing tears of sorrow and pain were wrung forth from the prisoner’s eyes like rain would be falling from the sky in spring.

Waited for a moment did Torquemada before shaking his head occurred. “No?” was asked by himself, and then did shrugging happen with his shoulders. “Very well then, more applying of the tortures will you do,” was ordered by him to the apprentice torturer. Nodding was done by that worthy, and the gathering up of a whip could be noticed to happen.

A loud screaming from the victim’s mouth was heard behind him as walking away was done by the head inquisitor. Other victims to see he had more of that day.

“Has any recanting of witchcraft been done by this one?” was asked of another junior inquisitor by the leader.

Shaking of the junior inquisitor’s head occurred as, “No sir, afraid not am I,” was said by  him.

Looking at the latest victim was done closely by Torquemada. “Aware of her identity I am,” was said by him. “The daughter of a neighbor she is, and wanted her for my own has been done by me for quite some time now. You will be having her brought to my room.”

“Yes sir,” was said by the junior inquisitor.

Hands rubbing together was done and lecherous thoughts were thought by Torquemada. Plans were made in his head. Having her tonight he would be, oh yes. Definitely having her tonight he would be. A good day was it suddenly, and smiling he was as walking he did down the corridor towards his room.

——-

Dear lord that was hard.

See what I did there? The torture was all yours, gentle reader. All yours.

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TBC joins Post-A-Day

In preparation for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’m joining the Post-A-Day program. Expect lots of flash fiction and slightly longer stories in the coming days as a result. Muahahaha.

 

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The Rule of Neat

If I ever sit down and write my own personal ‘Rules for Writers’ (which will be kind of like Rules for the Overlord, but with fewer minions) one of the rules I want to be sure to put in there is what I like to call ‘The Rule of Neat’.

The Rule of Neat is simple: Why is [detail, plot point, device] in my story? If the answer is ‘because it’s neat’ then please go back and either remove or revise that element. Something very much like this rule (although not precisely the same) is embodied in the idea of ‘kill your darlings’ — it’s very often the passages of which we are the most fond that are the most cliched and unnecessary. In fact, the first novel I ever finished (and the one I will one day finish rewriting, I promise) was so guilty of this that it’s a primary reason I tore the damn thing apart and put a lot more work into world-building for the second go. There was so many points in that story that I couldn’t justify other than because I thought they were neat scenes that the whole mess failed on virtually every level.

If you’ve ever read the rough drafts for Star Wars, Episode IV (they are kind of like reading a train wreck honestly — terrible and fascinating and you can’t quite look away) there are some fantastic examples of this. Obi Wan Kenobi (or someone in the same role) has a scene where Kenobi punctuates his argument by revealing to the young hero that one of his arms is a cybernetic limb because he lost his real arm in ‘the war.’ This scene is really just excreble, and it’s in the first five versions of the script. The sixth version made it to film, and it’s only in the sixth version that Lucas cuts this dog. Lucas never quite lost his fascination with having people lose hands and limbs, but it was much more powerful when saved for Luke in Empire Strikes Back. It means something when it happens to Luke. Having Obi Wan reveal it as a done deal has no power whatsoever.

There’s nothing wrong with an important scene also being ‘neat.’ Steven Brust has a terrific footnote in one of his novels where he explains that all writing is ultimately the writer saying ‘let me show you something cool’ and that a reader’s enjoyment of said writing will ultimately hinge on whether or not they agree and to what extent. People absolutely should share the stuff they think is neat — but my personal feeling is that if that’s the only reason it’s there, the warning bells should go off. ‘Neat’ can also be incredibly self-indulgent and nonsensical. ‘Neat’ can also include memes and inside jokes that are wonderfully insightful to a small group of people but will seem contrived, odd or just downright idiotic to most readers. ‘Neat’ has the ability to stare down reason, logic and common sense and say ‘I don’t care if it makes no sense for Neo to be able to control machines outside of the Matrix. It’s neat!’

No. Just…no.

The Rule of Neat segues nicely into Forgetting to Ask A Five-Year-Old, since very often someone who picks at the logical elements of a story will quickly zero in on the stuff that’s only there because the author thinks X is really damn cool.

And of course, the Rule of Neat won’t save you from having such a justification but simply being completely wrong. (See: George Lucas. See: Jar-Jar Binks. See:Virtually Everything George Lucas Has Done In The Last Two Decades.)

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New Feature: The Unseen

There By Candlelight, in an attempt to distract people from the wildly fluctuating look of the site, is proud to present a new feature: The Unseen.

The Unseen is a collection of stories set in the world of novels Jennifer and I (or both of us at once) are writing, but these stories exist only for background and will not actually appear in the novel itself. See The Unseen for more details.

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Flowchart of Awesome

A Flowchart provided by the SF Signal, who clearly have mad chart skills.
A Flowchart provided by the SF Signal, who clearly have mad chart skills.

You may have already encountered the above making its arounds on the internet, but if you haven’t, click through above: it’s well worth a look. This breakdown of NPRs popular top 100 list of science fiction and fantasy should cure any ‘I don’t know what to read next’ questions you might be harboring, and if you’ve already read all of them? Congratulations!

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Bummer

I loved the new page theme, but when Mike mentioned it didn’t save pages, I knew it had to go. Alas and alack.

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Bad Boys

Let’s face it: girls like bad boys.

I imagine it drives men nuts, right? It’s the old cliche: they try to do everything right, try to be polite, treat a girl well — and what happens? The girl runs off with some asshole with a fancy car who’s going to sleep around on her and expects her to clean his toilet. The phrase ‘nice guys finish last’ is a cliche for a very good reason: apparently it happens. A lot. Make jokes about girls with daddy issues all you like, but no one’s denying that bad boys don’t seem to have much trouble catching the girl — or the attention of the audience. Look at how Draco Malfoy is depicted in the Harry Potter novels (hint: it’s not flattering,) and then look at how many stories are out there utterly romanticizing the hell out of him anyway (hint: a lot.)

Mike and I sometimes have our personal shorthand for certain phenomena in writing and entertainment, and this one we like to call the Alex Effect (after Alex from A Clockwork Orange.) It’s a simple premise: a character can be as thoroughly nasty and evil as you could possibly want, but as long as they’re charming, witty and crack the occasional joke, the audience will love them anyway. They can even dispense with the jokes as long as the they’re driven by some horrible wrong done to them or come from an underdog background before they began their mad crime spree (Magneto, I’m looking at you.)

Seriously, what is wrong with our species?

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