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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

write what you want

As often happens on social media I found myself ranting a little over a shared post. Though in this case it was not a post about politics, racism, homophobia or anything else on the worthy scale of things to rant about. But the picture below…

This is I admit a mildly insular subject to rant about but all the same, I have a firm opinion on the subject and I find the whole premise of the post offensive because I believe the post is based on a false premise. Readers like what adds to the story, a good prologue or epilogue or flashback can do just that.

This kind of 'advice' is patronising at best and based on the concept that there is some golden formula to writing. There isn't. Never has been. Never will be…

A writer should write what they want to write, how they want to write it. Readers do not want carbon copy books exactly like any other book they have read. They should write for an audience sure, but make that audience themselves first.
A good writer tells the story they would want to read. They explore the story and their characters, how they wish to explore them, and if you are lucky you'll then take the reader along with you.

One of the strangest reactions I got to Cider Lane from a friend was,

'There is hardly any dialogue, I prefer to read lots of dialogue, but I loved the novel anyway.'

The last bit was kind of the point I was aiming for in my opinion.
I wrote the book that I wanted to, the way I wanted to, people love it or hate it, but it was mine, and that's really what matters.

It follows no formula, no 'you must write like this.' (occasionally it treats grammar that way too but that's an actual error and one I am in the process of fixing for a new edition).

It flits between the male and female POV characters telling the story from both sides, letting you in the minds of both main characters as they misunderstand each other because that's the only way it could be told. Well by me at any rate.
If it follows any formula, it's my own and none I have intentions of following in another novel. Because I want my readers to have a different experience with every book. Because every book is a different experience.

It just tells the story how it wanted to be told in my soul.
If readers wanted the formula, they would never read fight club or the strange case of the dog in the night-time, or rain man, or lord of the rings for that matter, which became a formula but followed none itself.

And there in lays my 'firm opinion' on writing preludes and epilogues (Cider Lane has neither, but that’s beside the point). As well as for that matter on flashbacks, which I used a lot, though not as straight flashbacks exactly. My advice, should it be sought, would be to ignore all these 'golden formula' advice posts and write your story your own way.

Of course it should probably be noted I am not exactly a bestselling author, so what my opinion is worth here is another matter…

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

American politics, a view from outside the ranch

Having finally at least reached the point where equality between straight and gay was given in that most basic of things, the right to marry the one you love, the GOP in individual states is trying to drag the world back several decades.

Meanwhile, America is a nation, oft claiming to be the greatest country in the world, which has fallen through the cracks.

The Republican party, which often seems to be somewhat to the right of the BNP a British party almost universally derided, seems bound towards an ever increasing sprint to the far right, mixed with an equal desire to bring forth the rapture in their religious further.

Trying to understand American politics as a Brit is a complex business. Not only does it require getting your head around complexities like the difference between primaries and caucuses. Pac's. Super Pac's. The never ending polls. You also have to get your head around some very basic things about the American body politic that is a struggle to comprehend from this side of the Atlantic.
Image result for trump cruzEven though Donald, the builder, Trump seems a candidate of ridiculed, he also seems odds on to receive their nomination. The most worrying thing about this is not that Trump seems to be a  credible candidate, but that compared to his nearest rival Cruz he is the most palatable. Cruz is so right wing, and so mired in the evangelical religious further of the Republican party that he makes Trump a moderate in many ways.
The Democratic party on the other hand is… well… its party favoured candidate Mrs Clinton is further to the right than the Grantham grocer's daughter who sat in number ten over here back in the 80's. And she gets accused of been too Liberal? While Mr Sanders is a centre-left candidate, who would fit in most social democrat governments in Europe, just.
So we have a left wing party that’s mostly to the right of European ethos, and a right-wing party that’s slightly to the right of the extreme right. And the word Liberal is equitable to goat strangler.
In the last 20 years, the poor have, well stayed where they are. The rich have gotten considerably richer and the middle class have slumped in the wrong direction heading towards the poor while blaming that same poor for their problems. 
Image result for hilary sanders"if we were not paying wealth fare…" seems to be a rallying cry. Rather than the more obvious "If only the hyper-rich paid a little more…"  Could this be anything to do with the hyper rich owning 9/10ths of the media?
America is at least not unique in this, it is a trend across the western world, it is however seemingly more pronounced in the US.
The strange thing, however, as an outsider looking in, is the strange way in which the core of Americans seems to view the world.
The word Liberal appears to inspire vitriol and hate that is unsurpassed. This from a nation founded by liberals, which was the poster child for liberal democracy. It now equates liberalism as a poor man's communism along with socialist.
The utter hatred for the concept of Medicare is also something utterly unfathomable to a European. The idea that what determines if you live or die in the US is the size of your bank account and if you have the insurance or not is beyond unfathomable in fact. There is this strange concept of not wanting to pay for other people's healthcare, yet all the figures for universal health care show that the average American with health insurance would pay less in health taxes than they do for medical insurance now. 
Image result for liberal devilOn that subject I have a friend in the States, who is 18 years old, going through her second set of cancer treatments. If she were British, all she would be worrying about would be staying alive to get past her cancer and marry her boyfriend. Instead, she is caught in a cycle of debt she cannot pay, loans she cannot get to pay hospital bills she cannot afford. Trying to work in between treatments and soldier on regardless.
In an effort to do so she is even crowdfunding to try and raise money for her treatment. Crowdfunding, the internet's way of paying for new board games, books and independent movies, it not a way for anyone to try and pay the bills to stay alive.
From the outside looking in American politics is a war,  its principal warriors the vain and self-obsessed, the foolish and the ill-educated. Its generals the vested self-interest of the status quo. Turning the poor and middle classes upon each other while they sit back and bask in delight at the madness.
The worrying thing is whoever wins the next war starts the day after in Americas obsession with the next cycle of elections.
While the winner will camp out in a white house hamstrung by Congress.
And the rest of the world looks on wondering in hope if the least worst candidate will win because the only one that makes any sense has no real chance.

I love my American friends, and individually they are lovely people. Collectively the nation looks intent on selling out its democracy to the highest bidder while they dream their American dream.  

note. to give to Jianna the girl i mentioned in the post please use the following link