25 April 2012

Striking a Pose

Ever looked at cover art and wondered... just wondered.

I know I've often frowned at the sight of a woman in chain mail bikini standing on a snow dusted mountain.  Especially when I've read the book and she never wears amour, let alone in snow. I mean what kind of protection is that - her midriff is unprotected, and metal is a really bad idea in snow, as is all that exposed skin.  (yes, I thinking fantasy here).

But to be honest while I've looked with raised eyebrows at the dress, location, and appearance of the characters, I've never thought much about their poses (not unless they are truly odd), maybe because I'm so used to seeing weird poses in fashion mags, but Jim C. Hines has clearly thought about the covers - he even posted some pictures on his blog.

He says, "A while back, we had a discussion on the blog about the cover art for my princess novels. For the most part, I really like these covers, but they’re not perfect.
Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. I opted for the latter, in part because it helped me to understand it better. I expected posing like Danielle to feel a little weird and unnatural. I did not expect immediate, physical pain from trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do the hip thing she’s got going on. I recruited my wife to take the pictures, which she kindly did with a minimum of laughter."

The covers and poses in questions:

Jim concludes: "In all seriousness, I spent the rest of last night with pain running through most of my back. Even the pose in The Shape of Desire, which first struck me as rather low-key, is difficult to imitate and feels really forced. Trying to launch my chest and buttocks in two different directions a la Vicious Grace? Just ow.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being sexual. I can totally see Snow from the princess books flaunting her stuff, for example. But posing like these characters drives home exactly what’s being emphasized and what’s not.
My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.
Guys, you should try it sometime. Get someone who won’t laugh at you too much to try to help you match these poses. The physical challenge is far more enlightening than anything I could say. (Wardrobe changes are optional.)"

17 April 2012

The Dreaded Writing Loop

The dreaded writing loop is not quite like the spiral of doom, but they're close cousins, kissing cousins even.

The loop:

I know horrific isn't it. This version courtesy of Hyperbole & a half.

Ilona Andrews posited another equally debilitating and nasty variant:

I'm not sure which version best describes my writing style, probably some kind of awful blend of the two of them... or possibly both running simultaneously through my brain. Ahhhhhhh

10 April 2012

Here be dragons

As writers we're forever reading advice to improve our craft (that and it's a great way to procrastinate putting pen to paper). Elspeth Antonelli does a great piece at Blood-red Pencil, turning that advice on its head :)

There are many pieces of writerly advice. One I read warned Don't Fill Your Plot Holes with Dragons and made excellent points about realistic and unrealistic ways to deal with plot holes.

Just for fun, though, think of the advantages of using dragons.

Your character needs to be in a different location. Don't worry about climbing into a car or taking a train. Call a dragon.

Your main character is in danger with no way out. After cursing at yourself for writing yourself into a corner, remember your friendly dragon. Let him appear and scare the skin off of whatever is imperiling your character.

It's a cold night and your character is freezing. Hello, dragon! A bit of fire, if you please. Problem solved.

Your character has a deep secret, which you alluded to many times, but never actually figured out what it is. Solution? He has a pet dragon.

The dialogue drags. Talk about the dragon.

You discover your main character is, in fact, rather hum-drum. No one with a dragon is hum-drum.

Your main character needs a sidekick. How cool would a dragon sidekick be?

Your plot needs more conflict. The dragon can turn nasty.

Best of all?

Your main character is stuck in a deep hole. Oh, dragon??

03 April 2012

Writing those tricky scenes

Warning - Risqué content. If you're offended by sexual content please skip to another blog post.

Okay, if you still reading be prepared to chuckle - at least that's what I did when I read this post "On the subject of penises ...

As a writer, some scenes are just harder (oo er) too write than others. Here one authors talks about his trouble getting a love scene on the page, in a way that doesn't throw the reader out the the story by having them laugh at an inappropriate moment. The source of his difficulty - describing an erect penis.

Here are some snippets that reveal his dilemma ... 

"There are some literary subjects that have become total clichés and
attempting to describe an erect penis is one.

"I am writing a sex scene and my hero is now crossing the room while
fully erect.  So, basically, his stiff dick is bobbing like a demented
conductors baton as he crosses the room ... however, one cannot simply
write, 'He crossed the room, his stiff dick bobbing like ... ' and so
forth.  Well, one could if one was writing that sort of scene (and one
was half plastered).

"To write anything referring to his 'turgid manhood' is also somewhat
tacky.  Hell, just the term 'manhood' to describe the penis strikes me
as idiotic.  A dick is no more one's 'manhood' than a hymen is one's
'maidenhood.'  'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood
pointing the way' sounds somewhat he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog.
'Sit, Hard Manhood ... good boy.'

"Just describing the state of erection is tough.  It is a simple matter
of erectile flesh and hydraulics, but damnably difficult to put into
terms romantic.  'His penis, reacting to his viewing her naked flesh,
achieved satisfactory erection, proving good vascular response and
socio/psychological adjustment."  Oh, yeah ... baby, baby.

"And then there is the matter of size, shape, color and texture.  Well,
he's the hero ... I suppose it should be heroic, but somewhat shy of
practical joke size.  Shape, now, there's another difficulty ... as well
as color and texture.  Hell, let's face it ... a dick is a fairly funny
looking, if not downright ugly, piece of equipment.  Veins, bumps,
ridges and all that; a color that never matches the sheets, much less
the surrounding flesh (or any flesh, for that matter); an overall look
of a plum precariously balanced on a badly whittled rod.  Let's not even
mention it and simply stick to the concept of a literary description of
my hero approaching the heroine.

"Okay, he's naked and fully aroused ... does he stride?  Stalk?  Strut?
Strikes me as a situation that calls for something more than 'walk,' but
something less than 'bound.'  I could have the silly sod moonwalk across
the floor, but the resulting mental image ... damn, too late!  Oh, well
.. another round of therapy.  And what does the erect penis actually do
while he crosses the floor?  Does it bounce against his belly, producing
it's own applause?  Does it wave about in some sort of vague response to
his stride?  Would it be feasible if I simply had him hang a towel from
the damn thing and skip the entire description?

"And what about the heroine?  She is languidly reclining on the bed ...
and doing her level best to not bust a gut laughing, I suspect.  Should
she stare?  Gasp?  Giggle?  Ogle?  Chant 'boingy, boingy, boingy' as he
approaches or whistle the 'Elephant Walk' in time to the swaying?  This
is suppose to be a moment of strong passion and deep emotions ... but a
bouncing, throbbing, column of manhood slowly moonwalking forward ...
damn, gotta stop that image ... strutting towards her cannot be what
every woman dreams of in her fevered imagination.  I want this scene to
be equally stirring to both men and women, but fear that this is

 Some of the comments are pretty good too, including this one from the poster himself...

"Okay, this is the first time -- the very first time -- that I have found
my quirky sense of humor turned against me.  Last night, I shut my computer
down, put the birds to bed, moved all the various cat people into the back
of the house (so the birds could actually sleep) and took a warm shower.
Dian, as usual, had already showered and I noticed she had used a little
Maja (an incredible perfume, I really recommend it to anyone who can find
it).  Hot diggity, I knew what that meant and so did Squeeker.  By the time
I left the bathroom, Squeeker was happily leading the way like a oddly
placed periscope on the sub of my body.  I opened the bedroom door and Dian
was simply laying back on the bed, smiling.  I grinned back and started
across the room.

"And she started chanting 'Boingy, boingy, boingy' and broke up laughing."
Sailor Jim drains his drink and requests a second.  "Now, I have as good a
sense of humor as the next guy, even if the next guy happens to be Groucho
Marx, himself, but ... well, let's just say that it was a deflating moment
and leave the curtain drawn on the rest of the evening."


(He takes a deep swallow of his second drink and mumbles, "Nor did it help
matters when she commented, through her tears of laughter, that she finally
understood the phrase 'hoisted on his own petard!' ")
I struggle writing the more intimate moments myself, but I don't think I'm ever going to be able to start without thinking about this post :)
(full post in link at top).