Page Chewing

Friday Conversation | EP 96: Exploring the Art and Impact of Prose in Storytelling w/ AP Canavan, Janny Wurts, Carl D. Albert, Susana Imaginário & Jarrod

December 08, 2023 Steve Season 1 Episode 96
Page Chewing
Friday Conversation | EP 96: Exploring the Art and Impact of Prose in Storytelling w/ AP Canavan, Janny Wurts, Carl D. Albert, Susana Imaginário & Jarrod
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered why some authors make you feel every heartbeat of their characters while others leave you cold? Or why you're drawn to certain books, even if they flout every writing rule in the book? Unravel these mysteries and more in a captivating conversation about the art of prose. We're joined by our eloquent guests - Susana Imaginário, Janny Wurts, AP Canavan, Jarrod, and Carl D Albert, as we dissect the power of exposition, description, dialogue, and other vital elements in storytelling. We discuss how these components shape our perception of characters, events, and even the world.

We explore a thought-provoking journey through the labyrinth of prose, from crafting a distinct voice to the importance of breaking writing rules in order to create a unique expression. You'll discover the profound impact of culture and interpretation on prose, and the role of language and word choice in shaping narratives. Our guests also share insights from their personal experiences, providing fresh perspectives on writing rules, individuality in writing, and the power of language. We also pay homage to the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien, exploring the lasting impact of his use of prose on the fantasy genre.

The conversation doesn't end there - we delve into a fascinating discussion on the influence of culture on prose, the potential pitfalls of linear thinking, and the significance of reading and analyzing literature. We also touch on how language shapes our perception of news, and how to effectively use tools and techniques in writing. We're thrilled to share this journey with you and invite you to join our vibrant community on pagechewing.com. Tune in to this enlightening episode and experience a renewed appreciation for the power and beauty of prose in storytelling.

Find our guests:

AP Canavan: https://www.youtube.com/@ACriticalDragon/featured

Janny Wurts: https://paravia.com/JannyWurts/index.php

Susan Imaginario: https://susanaimaginario.com/index.html

Jarrod: https://www.youtube.com/@thefantasythinker

Carl D. Albert: https://carldalbert.wpcomstaging.com/

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Speaker 1:

Hello friends and welcome to the Friday conversation, episode 97, I think 97. So today we're going to be talking about pros and we'll have some. We have some wonderful guests today to talk about it and hopefully help a knucklehead like me understand what pros is, or you know a little bit more about it. So, susanna, will you start us off with introductions?

Speaker 2:

Hello, my name is Susanna Imaginario. I'm a writer and I run the YouTube channel called Den of the Weird. It's been very neglected lately, but hopefully more videos next year.

Speaker 1:

And Jenny.

Speaker 3:

I'm Jenny Wirtz. I'm a long time admirer of AP Canavan's wit and the intensity of his insights, so I'm an author and an illustrator. Here to sit at his feet and learn and share in the conversation.

Speaker 1:

And AP.

Speaker 4:

Hi, I'm AP. My YouTube channel is a critical dragon and I have spent a long time studying authors like Jenny Wirtz to learn all of this stuff, because I love fantasy writing. So a lot of what I talk about is how authors tell stories, the effects that they create in us.

Speaker 1:

And Jared.

Speaker 5:

I'm Jared, ceo of the fantasy thinker YouTube channel, and I am a student of prose. I love, love to look at it, love to study it and love to listen to these folks talk about it.

Speaker 1:

Awesome, and Carl.

Speaker 6:

I am Carl D Albert, one of the lucky few who bullied AP into editing his book, and very excited to be here to talk about prose. Love talking it.

Speaker 1:

I can confirm that Carl is a big bully. Don't let him fool you.

Speaker 6:

That's true, I have a sweet baby face. But once you meet me in person, oh man, it's on.

Speaker 1:

Watch out. So to start off with AP, when someone says prose or like a knucklehead like me, a doorknob like me, how would you describe prose to someone who's not familiar with the process?

Speaker 4:

In essence, prose is everything that's on the page. It is the writing. On the page, the highest story is being told, and you would have elements of exposition, which description, action, scenes, all of that sort of stuff, as well as dialogue. All of that adds together is the prose. This is how, in novels, in the written form, the story is being communicated to us, and so it is the most basic, yet some of the most complicated aspects of what writing does, what narrative does, why we, as readers, take these small symbols on a page and the author has weaved them in such a way that it creates an entire world and these emotions and these characters and this story in our mind.

Speaker 4:

That is what prose is, and there is no one style, there is no one way of doing it, there is no simple. Here is the formula for telling a story. Here is a formula for telling a fantasy story. None of that really applies, because every story is unique and every author, through their word choice, through the structure of their sentences, their paragraphs, through the rhythm of the sentences, through all of these different elements, they have a unique voice that creates these stories. So, in essence, prose is the most basic, fundamental aspect of writing, and yet it is one of the most complicated, nuanced and wonderful aspects of writing to actually investigate and to find out about, because it is almost infinite in variety.

Speaker 1:

When you're looking at a piece of work at a page, in prose on a page, what do you look for to determine? Not necessarily is it good or bad, but well done or not. So well done.

Speaker 4:

Well, for a start, stories are told to audiences. So if it's a YA novel, yes, you can have great prose in YA novels, but how you're looking at it, how you're assessing it, you always have to take into account who the audience is, because that audience is going to have a different presumed sort of register or level of diction or literacy or level of interest, and so it's always a balance between the actual stuff on the page and who it's intended for. If you're going into an evaluation of it, and then one of the things that always captures my attention is not necessarily that things aren't grammatically correct, but things communicate well to the reader, and so word choice, grammar is an element of it. The rhythm of the sentence, whether or not there's a blend of. Is this five pages of one giant paragraph all describing one thing, because the author was apparently unaware that may be breaking it up, and yet we all know of examples where an author has very deliberately extended the length of a paragraph to create the effect in the reader of oh my God. This is going on longer and longer and longer. That when authors know how to use the words on the page to create effects, when they understand what those effects are.

Speaker 4:

That is the thing that is so impressive the start of Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That whole section runs on and on and on in these paired descriptions and it almost extends too far. But the whole point of that was what Dickens was trying to do. He was trying to evoke that effect, Whereas another author might go. Well, I'm just going to do this and you can almost hear the intentionality behind it. When an author is not paying attention to things because contradictions creep in or unexpected or contrasting effects are being created accidentally, and that's what you pay attention to the careful deployment of the language to create specific effects. And when authors do it well, it's just wonderful.

Speaker 1:

So I'm going to ask that question. I want to hog all the questions.

Speaker 4:

Well, Johnny, what I just said about prose, how much of that would you agree with or how much would you disagree with? Because we don't always agree on everything.

Speaker 3:

Well, I would agree with everything that you said, but to me, working with prose splits it into two or three different parts, because prose is layered. One is the choice of words, and you're using a choice of words to create a mood, a setting or an emotion in addition to what the words are communicating. So you can choose words to add to what the words are actually saying. You can also force more focus or less focus on the part of the reader. If you want them to spin through something quickly, you would choose one kind of language. If you want them to really focus in and dig into it, you would use another kind of language.

Speaker 3:

You mentioned AP, the rhythm and the sound of the sentence. That can be used in favor also, particularly if the story is being narrated or read aloud. But many readers narrate the story to themselves in their mind, so the rhythm of the words also can create a word, an atmosphere or sound effects. So there's many aspects to a word choice that would go into how the prose would shape, and there are a lot of tools at the author's disposal if they want to use them. Many authors may not use all of the full spectrum of what they can, and some authors will use all of it. It's very much an individual choice.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, because from that we can talk about surface level information, the literal meaning of the words on the page, communicating information to the reader. But then you have subtext and context, because the connotations of various words can shift and change depending on the context in which they are placed. And then you have the subtext and you bring in elements of either additional connotations that we would understand by it or what one character is thinking or looking at. So a character entering a room and what they see in the room and what they notice, first, that this is what the author is telling us, the narrator has narrated in the scene, because it's focalized through the character. That reveals something about character, because if a different character had gone into the same room they wouldn't have listed or seen the same elements in the same way.

Speaker 4:

And so all of these different elements of choice that an author has and deploys, they all lend themselves to the shaping of the language used to explain it to the reader. And because of that, that's why it is such a joy to see authors deploy all of these different techniques, to see the cleverness of what they can come up with to make me look at a despicable character but enjoy reading the scenes that this despicable character is in, or seeing the flaws of when someone is lying to someone else without the actual language saying he lied. But because of how it's been described, because of the situation, I as a reader can intuit and understand that this character is actually lying, that that's all communicated, and there are so many different techniques, as you point out, but that's what gets communicated to us and it's wonderful.

Speaker 6:

I think something you're alluding to that for me personally is one of the most impactful aspects of prose styles the way that it can evoke character voice beyond even just individual author's voice.

Speaker 6:

But the fact you think of someone like Joe Abercrombie, someone who immediately comes to mind as the actual prose he employs, directly reflects the mind of the character that you're in and that if you have, say, a less educated or just a more kind of everyday person, they may speak in shorter sentences.

Speaker 6:

Their vocabulary may be more limited.

Speaker 6:

If you have someone who's like, say, corrupt in the lasin, they may be very long-winded and very colorful in the way that they describe everything, and you can get a sense of humor of the character out of the prose and how they describe things, how they view the world, what they notice.

Speaker 6:

I think all of this ties into prose and is something that I think is really important for authors to consider, even down to less character-driven, debatably, prose styles Like if you were to write in the un-nicient third person, where you have the potential to hop around, it's still there is a voice you're using that speaks to the world and to the characters and their emotional states. If they are particularly stressed, you might write more staccato sentences or actually the anxiety is often written as long ramblings, and I think about how I just reread the haunting of Hill House and Shirley Jackson loves run-on sentences as a way to evoke the anxiety and the paranoia and the mental illness of the main character, and it really helps you feel what the character's feeling and become that much more immersed and fall that much deeper into the verisimilitude of the work.

Speaker 5:

And AP. Can't you also use prose in different ways to put forth different what you're describing differently, like? For instance, we've been talking a lot about characters, but you can also use prose in different ways to evoke setting and also use it in a different way to move the plot forward as well in other aspects of storytelling the conflict and everything else.

Speaker 4:

Why are you asking me when there's a bunch of authors in the chat? They're the professional writers.

Speaker 3:

I think you have a spectrum of choice. If you're writing a beach read, you would say the character popped food in his mouth. That's flipping a stone across the surface, it's not saying a damn thing except somebody was eating, and it's very casual and you can skim it. But if you say this character shoveled food into his mouth, that's saying something about the character. Now, if you step back again and you want a three-layered attack on this character, you would say in the omniscient mode he shoveled food in his mouth, which was not his usual habit. How much you packed into just taking a bite of food? So you have to know, like AP said, who your audience is and whether you're writing a beach read and you're striking for a chicklet tone that people can throw their own imagination on top of and they really don't care much about the character, they just want to see what happens. Or you can really dig down and put many layers in.

Speaker 3:

And AP mentioned subtext. And there's one very glaring subtext we have not mentioned yet, and that is no matter what sentence the author writes with however much intention, the subtext of the reader enters into that. And so there's always that unpredictable element where the author may intend One thing, the reader may carry it away because of their own particular mindset that they bring to that story and their own particular experience and their own particular emotional mood. So it's quite complex, if you actually break it down, what can happen when you put a simple sentence on a page.

Speaker 5:

And, as writers, how much complexity or how much subtlety do you want to throw into those what you're writing, and do you do that based upon what kind of audience you're going for?

Speaker 2:

Yes, sorry, I'm almost distracted with so much information. I am loving the conversation. Ap. I've been a fan for quite a while. Really loved your latest video about Loki. Thank you so much because I could not believe when one day just turned on YouTube and everyone was saying Loki, the god of storytelling, I was like how did you take that from the series? So thank you so much for explaining what I could never do so well, I tried, but it just was a rant and I never published. So anyway, moving on, I really love your advice and end of views.

Speaker 2:

As an exophonic writer, I love the English language and I guess it doesn't come naturally to me because, of course, it's not my native language. So I really I studied prose in depth. It's a constant study. I read a lot in different genres. I write a lot.

Speaker 2:

Before I published I experimented so much. I tried to copy certain authors' voices, styles, everything, and I don't know if it is because English is not my native language. I always, just in a few paragraphs I went back to my voice Some authors talk about. The hardest thing is to find their voice and their style. That was not a problem. It was always back in default and it was trying to understand how to make it work in English, because I'm Portuguese and we have a different style of storytelling and I write what I guess it could be close to. I call it slipstream, but it could be close to magic realism or what people normally. So I'm always trying to find that, as you were saying, that context between the lines, that nuance trying to convey impression to the reader and, like Jenny said, sometimes it completely fires. I don't know how they interpret things. Have you ever read?

Speaker 3:

M John Harrison. No, you might want to look that one up, definitely you might want to look that one up for your style of writing, to really look at somebody who can absolutely do mind-bending things with prose. He's awesome.

Speaker 2:

These days my new book. I'm just trying to get things across as little confusion as possible.

Speaker 4:

I would definitely second reading. M John Harrison Make is a fantastic weird fiction slipstream writer, and one of the things that I think you actually have an advantage on, susanna, is coming from an external perspective to English. Sometimes you get that different view of this is the assumption that a lot of native speakers are making. They always do this, and yet you can actually see it, you understand how it's being manipulated in a way because you have that outside view, the external view of the language, whereas a lot of us, we forget a lot of the basics that we were taught in school Because you just use it all the time and so you make all of these assumptions, and so sometimes I think people who have English as a second language are almost better at spotting grammatical errors and constructions in.

Speaker 2:

That I am completely oblivious to Capturing nuance.

Speaker 3:

The non-native speakers absolutely cannot hurry over any sentence and they tend to ring every sentence down to its basics and they don't miss a thing. I'm always left in awe. Yes, I am absolutely.

Speaker 2:

We have to.

Speaker 4:

But, johnny, the example that you gave earlier someone popping food in their mouth if you had and just to talk about different levels of prose a very surface and direct way of doing it, he picked at his food nervously. And because the nervously is there, it makes it clear and unambiguous to the reader that that's why it's happening. But if you just had he picked at his food, why was he picking at his food? Why that choice of picking? Why not just eating the food? And picking conveys that certain sense of being very selective or not being hungry or just, and there's a reason for it and, depending on the type of story, it's word, choices like that and even excisions like removing the nervously, removing that.

Speaker 3:

Now, yeah, now you're guessing. Now you've added a layer of mystery to that character where you're trying to get the insight. Why are they picking at their food? Are they habitually a picky eater? Are they nervous? Are they scared? Are they I mean, there are 100 reasons why you might pick at your food Are they sick? And so what you don't say can become just as important as what you do say.

Speaker 4:

And by placing. And the thing is, one of the things we always forget, particularly when we do close readings and analysis of passages, is these passages they occur in a context in the work and so he picked at his food. That is going to be very different if it was in the context of someone awaiting a decision on something and you suddenly, because you know the context of where they are when they are picking at their food, you can understand why they are nervous because they're awaiting this decision. Or he was picking at his food because earlier on, or this is now he's sitting in his in-laws house and it's a Thanksgiving dinner, but he didn't know that he was going here and he'd already eaten a whole load of food beforehand, so he's trying to pick at the meal. That suddenly, the context of where it occurs is hugely important, and Hemingway was a master at this by implying meaning rather than dictating it to you or spelling it all out.

Speaker 4:

And yet we find, with a lot of very commercial beach reads, that those stories are told to us very directly and quite often the complexity or the sophistication or the mystery of it is in the complexity of plot, of how things, information being hidden and suddenly revealed, whereas for books that are meant to be enjoyed at your leisure, in the quiet solitude of reading, quite often there's complexity built into the language itself, and that's so when we talk about prose it's so difficult because you're talking about an entire range of expression for all of these different purposes. Although you can make general statements like, oh well, the prose is how the author is communicating the narrative to the reader, but that is so general and the purpose each time and the effect each time can be so radically different that we talk about the pacing of fight sequences. And in a fight sequence they exchanged blows, the swords flashed, and each time you can have these short, little, tiny sentences of very quick action. And because it's lots of little sentences, the reading pace, how we move through it as a reader, where we get complete sentence, complete sentence and we feel this building up of speed of motion. And if an author is wanting us to slow down and take things in much longer sentences, maybe with multiple clauses, to slow everything down and controlling the speed that we go through.

Speaker 4:

And yet that's not the only way to control or write a fight sequence, but it's a standard technique and when you're aware of that, it adds to the understanding of not just the words but how the words are being conveyed to us, why they are in the order they are in, why the author has chosen this particular order, this particular sequence, this particular structure and every single element if the author is paying attention to it and is doing it very deliberately every single element adds to and builds our understanding of the story. And to try and have very general conversations about the prose, when you're talking about such radically different approaches for different effects, it's sometimes almost overwhelming.

Speaker 6:

I'm feeling that right now, just beginning to talk about it is like God, where do you even go? Because prose is everything. Everything in writing is prose, I mean in the genre of prose, right, the medium of prose, I guess you would say. And it drives me nuts. I mean, that's really the number one reason. It drives me nuts, ap, how you've ranted about this on your channel so many times, and it always rings true to me that it's like people who are like oh, I don't care about prose, I'm sorry, that's bullshit. You do care about prose. You maybe don't care if a prose is lyrical or not, but everyone cares about prose. Like it is everything.

Speaker 6:

It's the method through which you are taking in the story and which the storyteller is telling you the story, and so even there's a range within relatively straightforward what we might even call like popcorn, like Janney, or Beatrice, like Janney has mentioned. How descriptive are they? Like some, you could say, mainstream authors are very descriptive in their environments, very straightforward, but they describe every room in detail. Certainly, you see this lesson less as years go by and it seems people more and more just want action, action, action. How much dialogue is there versus how much is shown, versus how much is told Like how do they describe the character's appearances? Do they describe the character's appearances or is it just, oh, the tall guy, and then this guy is hot and dark and this woman is a waif and whatever? Just like generic, very broad descriptors? There's a whole range to be had and it impacts everything.

Speaker 3:

If you wanna see an absolute master of writing, you can read it fast. You can skim it, beach read. Read Dick Francis, who was a champion jockey. He was a news writer after Down racing, horse racing. He uses a total whittled down economy of language. The sentences are very short, they're very direct, but a selection of words is so precise. He can build a character in a half a sentence. He can build a setting in less than. It's just so economical and it's all through his word choice. And he doesn't write complicated and he doesn't use big language, he's not pretentious, but there's no question that that read. You can read through it like blazing saddles and the way he sets those words on the page. You have a crystal clear impression of what he's saying, probably from his experience as a news writer.

Speaker 4:

And I actually think his wife helped him an awful lot.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I've heard that too but it's his name. Unfortunately that's on the books, but yeah, I've followed his work since he was just barely starting practically, and what an example of economical prose.

Speaker 4:

And that's the beauty of all of these different styles, because you know, some would say for a fantasy novel you must write this way and you go. Well, that's clearly absolute hogwash because depending on the story that you're telling, that the Dickensian feel of Scott Lynch's the Lies of Locke Lamora wouldn't work, taking that prose style and applying it to Stephen Erickson's the Melasin Book of the Fallen or Johnny's Wars of Lights and Shadow, because it wouldn't fit with the setting, this tone, the style of what's going on. But it fits perfectly with that sort of Dickensian version of Florence or Venice, kind of Venetian feel, setting that Lynch created. But when you think of how Johnny uses language in the Wars of Lights and Shadow, like it's this wondrously complex layered language that is very, very specific. And then you can contrast that again to Erickson's approach in Melasin or even Esselmont's. Because Erickson and Esselmont, even though they're writing in the same world, they share a lot of the same characters. They are different authors, they write in different styles and the voices are different.

Speaker 4:

And each time we look at this and when people say, oh, good writing is, it's so reductive because I get so frustrated with this when people have these prescriptive notions of good writing. Good writing. You shouldn't use adjectives and adverbs. Good writing they start coming up with these things. You shouldn't use unnecessary language. You go, everyone agrees with that, because if the language is unnecessary then it shouldn't be there. The clue is in the word unnecessary, and people giving that advice about writing should understand the meaning of the word unnecessary.

Speaker 4:

That term is overused and you go yes, because well, what's the correct number of usages of that term? Then please Explain to me. You've said it's overused in this novel and it's used six times in a novel of 115,000 words. Please explain to me what the correct number would be for that. Or is this a word that has you picked up on? Because we do this as readers all the time something we notice, something usually quite early on in a novel and it sticks out and from that point on we will notice every single instance of it. And one of the great things about modern technology when you have an e-text of something, you can do a search and you go. Well, this word occurred eight times across an entire novel, whereas the word soared in a fantasy novel. Oh, look, that occurred 157 times. Why is that not being overused? And it's? Oh well, it was necessary. But yes, so was the other word, it was necessary.

Speaker 3:

I think the guys who are running around going should this, should that, should that, and flinging all these rules around. I'm sorry, but it either shows their age or their level of ignorance, because they were looking for one thing and they had another thing and, instead of stopping to appreciate the other thing, they passed judgment on it and, in so doing, they stuck their finger in their own eye.

Speaker 6:

I think also it should be mentioned. There's a lot of money to be made by prescribing writing rules. I mean anywhere you go, that's Really.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I could make money at this.

Speaker 6:

Hahaha, shocker, I know, and beyond that, I think. Often when writers are being prescriptive, it speaks to a level of insecurity about their own writing, I think, and often talking about the things they feel they struggle with or that they have been criticized about doing in the past. Like I know, stephen King is big on the no adverbs rule and he explicitly has used adverbs and if you read his book on writing talks about it and how he's done it and he's been called out for it, or even on the idea of writing be treed pros. Similarly, he's faced with that criticism a lot and in terms in turn, some of I think the ways he tries to describe good writing reflects his own, at least at the time of the writing of on writing Tunnel vision, you could choose to go through life with tunnel vision and say anything outside my little tunnel is bad writing and you miss the spectrum of choice that could give you a full range of expression.

Speaker 3:

You can live your life that way if you want to run around with a single-eyed telescope and see the world through that. I personally enjoy multitudes of styles. I like the individual voice. I read for that and I'm thrilled when I find it. But when you have pressures of commercial fiction which comes up all the time, that's a choice every writer and author and storyteller has to make. Are you going to choose to throw your voice under a blanket and make it so bland that every mediocre reader in the world can read it, or are you gonna do something strikingly original and it may not be the next massive bestseller, but you've contributed something that's worthwhile to you. So it's a choice. It's always a choice. Do you keep your individual edges or do you sand them off? And some people truly resent it when you sand off or don't sand off the edges to suit them. So who are you writing for? They're gonna die and be gone. You're gonna die and be gone. What's gonna last?

Speaker 5:

That's a great point. It's one of the reasons I started this channel. I did because I wanted to expand my horizons and read more stuff and get exposure to more things, and it's great to do that.

Speaker 6:

You never know what's gonna connect with readers too, like there definitely are people with very distinct styles who have found their success. It's one of those, just like it's part of the luck of it, all right, and certainly some of the luck is made by these corporations marketing the crap out of your books. But I think, yeah, there's room. There's room to really be unique. I mean there should be, and thankfully self publishing is adding even more room in that regard.

Speaker 2:

I realized early on that if I followed every rule that I came across, I wouldn't be able to write anything or it would just be so dull that I couldn't even try. So I abandoned the rules early on and I studied them and then I realized, well, I will need adverbs and adjectives at some point and I will need short and long sentences and I will split infinitives, which I don't know why people hate them so much. And yeah, so I realized I knew that my writing would not appeal to everyone and you would be jarring, but I loved playing with it Like you were talking before. I love, when I have an awkward scene, to purposely use awkward language to make the reader stumble and just starting to feel uncomfortable reading. And I want you know fight scenes always fast-clipped bang, bang, bang and less than I want again to jar the reader. Then I can put like a sentence, a paragraph length sentence.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, if the reader is in the, if the character is in the introspective, moody mood, let's say, I use purple language, which is something that I usually don't. I try to keep it simple but I love to explore when the occasion calls for it. I love all those aspects of writing. I love writing as much as I love reading, and when I started talking to other writers, it was always the don't do this, don't do that, don't, don't, don't, don't, don't cut. There's this word again. It was so frustrating. So, yeah, it's just the next word.

Speaker 4:

And Susie, I completely agree with you. One of the points that you made early on. What you just said there was you first learned the rules and I think that is key. So when people simplify it to don't use adjectives and don't use adverbs, you go. That's not actually the rule. It's don't overuse them, don't use them as a crutch for your writing. If you can express it in a more eloquent or a cleverer way, use that way because it's more interesting. That is the rule. You have to be aware of it because it's not don't ever use them. That would be ridiculous and redundant for the vast majority of writing.

Speaker 4:

But it's knowing that sometimes, when you look at your writing, even just highlighting it, and go right, is there a way that I can describe he picked nervously at his food? Do I need the nervously there? Is that adding something or is that just spelling it out when it's unnecessary to spell it out? Is it more interesting for the reader to wonder about why he's picking at his food, that he ran quickly? What other way would he be running? Can he run slowly, you go? Well, actually running slowly would have been far more. He ran slowly, you go. It's someone who is running but slowing themselves out. There's an inherent contradiction to it. When you use the words that way, they become far more interesting. But he ran quickly. You go. You don't need the quick. He ran works just as well.

Speaker 4:

It's not about not using them, it's knowing why a lot of these rules were created in the first place, which is people sometimes particularly when they are starting out as writers overusing things, leaning on them as a crutch. When we talk about Campbell's the Hero's Journey, or in screenplay writing the save of the cat, which owes a lot to Campbell's Hero's Journey, or we talk about Frey Tag's Pyramid and all of these different narrative structures and different narrative approaches to structuring and organizing the flow of the story, those were never meant to be prescriptive. It was never meant to be. This is how you tell a story. This is how other people have done it. There's a general framework that a lot of these things fall into. So knowing about it, understanding why certain things work the way that they do, allows you to be able to break that rule to create something unique. But knowing what the effect is when you break it, knowing when to break it and when to adhere to it, that is the skill and craft of writing, not just an endless following of this checklist, because that drains the life and the passion and the joy out of what is on the page.

Speaker 4:

If it's written to some bland, generic, overly specific rule set that has a checklist along the side and it's oh, we are now 3.5 minutes into this film. Therefore, I need a joke here and it's going to lead into an action sequence here, because the audience is getting a bit restless. Our action sequence is going to be X minutes long and then at the end of that we want X number of minutes of a character scene to build up to that. As soon as you reduce it down to that, it becomes mechanical. I think we see this a lot in modern cinema, some of these action movies that we watch. You see the beats that are so clear that you can almost set your watch by them and you go right. Well, I can sneak out of the cinema now to go to the bathroom, because I know I'm not going to miss anything important, because it's just going to be the shooting sequence and that's going to go on for 3.5 minutes. I have enough time to go to the bathroom.

Speaker 2:

I don't know, it's funny that you mentioned this. I just finished reading Save the Cat to learn. Maybe try my look at script writing. I found it. I guess it's a bit dated, but I was like this is still dull. I can't write like this. I almost gave up at the point where the author was pretty much dead. Screw me Memento. I love Memento, but apparently it didn't fit the rules at all. I was like, okay, should I continue or not? I figured I should finish it just to learn the basics and then I'll know what to do.

Speaker 2:

If you just decide to pitch the rules.

Speaker 3:

It isn't about the rules, it's about controlling the focus. It's controlling the focus of where you want the reader to invest the attention. If you look at Harry Potter and JK Rowling, she uses adverbs everywhere. Everybody's doing this angrily, or everybody's doing this huffily or whatever. She's very free that way, but she's throwing the focus on something very different. So you breeze right past those adverbs. You don't even care, because what is of value on the page is not that she's conveying an emotion. Very economically, she wants your focus on something else. If you overuse an adverbs, usually it's because you're too lazy to find a verb that would say the same thing better, and sometimes you can't, and so how much color do you want to put into the focus? If you say the guy picks it as food, that conveys one thing. But if you say he picked it as food, like a dissection, you just threw a dart into a target and the cliches it was something other, and now you've stopped the reader cold and you've forced the focus on that particular gesture.

Speaker 4:

And if you think of the TV show Dexter, it would be the sort of Dexter dissected his steak. That would be wonderfully evocative for that character in that moment In the opening sequence, for that they had him cooking food and then sitting and eating it, but using that descriptor, he dissected his steak. It's arresting and you have that almost dissonance of that's not how you're meant to eat steak or that's not how you cut up, you don't dissect it. It becomes cold and clinical and almost sinister. And that gets conveyed because of that word choice, because it isn't. He cut up his steak, that's bland, he cut up his steak hungrily. And that's the word choice is so imperative because that is the thing that is communicating meaning and I know he shredded his steak.

Speaker 5:

There you go.

Speaker 6:

I was going to say if you're a Hannibal Lecter, you're definitely dissecting your steak.

Speaker 4:

But it's very unfashionable in academic circles to talk about meaning and intention behind writing, because death of the author and it's all about letting the story stand for itself and what is flowing from the story. But death of the author doesn't mean ignore the fact that the author existed. It means that the author's intent and what we can discern by building up our understanding doesn't override what we personally take away. It's another point of view and it's a point of view quite often that is very illuminating and understanding that literature is a communication by an author through the figure of a narrator or the concept of a narratorial point of view to create this text. That's what's being communicated into the mind of a recipient the narrator, the reader and the reader is deep decoding and understanding. So you have this flow and communication of information and concepts and ideas and emotions and descriptions. Everything flows to the reader, but it's up to the reader then to actively decode it, and that means there can be a failure to communicate on the author's part or there can be a failure to understand on the reader's part. There's two people involved in this process, but we are so quick to dismiss authors and authorial intent and yet so quick to put the blame when we don't understand something. I'm a great reader. I didn't understand this. Clearly the author did something wrong. You go. Well, when you were reading it, were you watching TV and playing on your phone at the same time? Were you paying attention? But we never like to blame ourselves as reader.

Speaker 4:

And reading, reading, literacy, reading, fluency, the narrative this is a never-ending journey and education. No one ever gets to a point where they go no, I know everything. It never happens. The continuing education, where we are constantly learning and relearning because times change, techniques change, audiences change. Things that were originally innovative have now become genre staples or have even become cliches. Things that were cliches that fell out of fashion suddenly now, 30, 40, 50 years later, have come back into vogue because they had disappeared for so long. Now they appear new, and even what we know about it? We can be reading something and go wow, I have never seen someone do this before. This is amazing. They are so clever to have thought this thing up and someone goes haven't you read so-and-so? They were doing exactly the same thing 40 years ago, 50 years ago, 70 years ago, 120 years ago. We are limited by our own experience and knowledge and education and learning. We are limited by that, but that's part of the joy of the exploration of literature.

Speaker 3:

What did somebody say? The work is only as original as the source of inspiration was obscure.

Speaker 2:

That's a great line.

Speaker 6:

So this is an open question. We have talked a lot about different types of prose and intentionality and character voice. I want to dig a little bit into what is often referred to as lyrical prose, which I have not yet read Wars of Light and Shadow, but as I understand it has very lyrical prose. Pat Rothfuss is someone who is often quoted as having lyrical prose, guy Gabriel Kay, and so I was wondering for you all, how do you define more lyrical, more elegant, more somewhat derogatorily referred to as purple prose? How would you define lyrical prose and what effect do you think it has on a story?

Speaker 3:

It sings to you, it absolutely sings to you. It takes a word and it pries more out of that word because of the word that's next to it. So it evokes your imagination. It evokes something beyond the straightforward, narrow interpretation of what that word is. It steps outside the envelope just that much. It twists your perception of reality just that little bit further. So it forces you to see the world from a different angle. And I hate the word purple prose because it doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't tell me anything about how that author used the words on the page.

Speaker 4:

And lyrical prose and purple prose are not as synonymous in any way, because Purple prose I say purple is deliberate.

Speaker 4:

With purple prose, it's overwrought. And yet when you're looking at something, if you can see the deliberation with which it has been created and crafted, then it's not overwrought, it's wrought. It's doing the thing that it was meant to do. We look at Lovecraft and Lovecraft has incredibly elevated, exaggerated, hyperbolic, strange language. But sometimes that was actually necessary to convey the madness and the despair and the horror that that language is used very effectively to create that. So it's not really as much purple as it is extremely deliberate to create that effect. And then people say, oh, but you could create the same effect if you just changed it to this and you go. It's not the same effect, it might be a similar effect. And we need to be careful with that sort of equation that we run. And when it comes to lyrical prose, lyricism, the poetry, the song of writing, guy Gabriel Kaye, the opening of Togana, when you look at that prologue, so much is contained and implied by the language and how the language is flowing. It evokes a sense of time and place and attitude and tone and atmosphere, all because of the crafting of this language. And it's poetic, not poetic in a. There once was a girl from Nantucket. Like all of these things. It's the understanding of the use of the correct word and image to convey more than just the one thing, to convey multiple things, to build to multiple things. And the lyricism is this beautiful flow to the language where you're carried along by it and it's almost like the author has snuck up behind you and is sticking all of these meanings into the back of your head without you knowing where they are coming from. So the author never tells you in this beautiful lyrical writing that just flows oh, this is this thing. It's like no, no, no. You just instinctively know and you sometimes stop and go. How did I know that? And if you go back through it, how did I know this was going to end up in a fight? We know when you're people, when we are driving, and you're driving on a highway or on a motorway and you're driving along and you suddenly you'll spot a car and you'll go. That car is going to pull into my lane without indicating and they're going to do it really, really soon. And within a second or two seconds that car suddenly veers into your lane. You go. How did you know that? And it's because your brain is picking up on all of these little tiny signals and you're not aware. If you had to explain to someone how you knew that car was going to suddenly veer into your lane, you'd sort of go. I don't know, I just knew A lot of lyrical prose and a lot of really good writing.

Speaker 4:

Does that? It communicates these things in a way that it sneaks the meaning into the back of our brain without us noticing that. It went in there and we read through these sequences where two people are talking and you go, you start feeling tense. You know why am I feeling tense?

Speaker 4:

And then the scene erupts in violence. And when we go back through the paragraph, when we go back through the passage or the section, we suddenly see that the language has shifted and there's these occasional violent words being used, or words that were perfectly fitting in their context, but in another meaning. Another use of them would be something violent. And then the number of instances of those types of words occurring builds and builds and builds. And suddenly you go, subconsciously you have been reading that, even though these things were, it was a battle of width. And you go oh yeah, you know, but the word battle, we know, has that connotation of violence. So it's little things like that all the way through. Then, suddenly, when violence erupts, it doesn't feel like it comes out of nowhere. It can still be unexpected, it can still surprise you, but it feels that it is perfectly placed and it's because we have been primed, subconsciously or unconsciously, by these word choices.

Speaker 4:

And so when people talk about purple prose or lyrical prose, it's this need to define things and stick them in boxes, as if, now that I have defined it, I no longer it's in this box. It's nice, neat and tidy, I don't have to think about it anymore, because that's the thing. And yet so much of what I try to explain is that these boxes, these labels, these tags that we put on things are only ever the barest starting point of understanding them. They are not the end point, because it's too complex to just oh well, it's just this thing and plunk it in a box. It's a shorthand, and that shorthand refers to this vast gulf that is full of meaning and contradictions and competing interests and nuance, and so that's how I feel about it. Lyricism in writing is the evocation of the beauty and poetry of writing.

Speaker 3:

There's a spectrum to it also. Other people are talking about lyrical prose. I never hear them discuss the spectrum of it. You know you can say lyrical prose and you can refer to Crowley or Winner's Tale by Mark Halperin. You know where you get very, very literary, on the end of the very literary spectrum. Then you can step into McKillop, who's absolutely gorgeous. She doesn't write violence but it's so poetically beautiful and evocative the way she tells a story and her themes are very, very deep. And then there's the lyrical prose that's a bit more workman-like. That you see Ellen Kushner used, that you see Barbara Hambly used, that you see Carol Berg used, where they're using it to build atmosphere and character and they can very economically place you in a scene and then characterize the action and the people in very, very lyrical terms. Another one that does that very well is Martha Wells.

Speaker 3:

So it isn't only Guy Gabriel Kay and it isn't and then you get the extremely controlled tokenist prose where he leans very heavily on very English words and he avoids the Latinate words. So he's using very basic Norse and Anglo-Saxon prose to tell that story and it flavors it and I wonder how many readers read through that and actually notice that he's avoiding the Latinate influence as much as he can and it gives that weight to that story, that mythic quality to that story. That's very, very different from what you read elsewhere. So the spectrum of lyrical prose is huge but people don't often bother to separate out what is the lyricism trying to do? Is it more workman-like or is it more literary or more like M John Harrison, where it's more slipstream? Depends what kind of story you're telling.

Speaker 6:

I think I was just going to say that I think kind of a subtopic related to a lot of what y'all have been talking about that hits for me and why I find myself drawn often to writers I view as more lyrical.

Speaker 6:

So this, what I'm about to say, is slightly reductive, I think. But music for me is almost like a motion made sound. It evokes things that are not always easily definable. It makes you feel things that are not always easily definable and similarly I feel like when I often think of lyrical prose, I think of trying to evoke that musicality and through the use of metaphor and rhythm and very specific word choice, you're doing more than just saying someone is anxious or even just feeling dread. It often is the only way to really explore on the page very complex emotions that I think people have a hard time, that maybe we don't even have specific words for, but that we all have experience with the complexities of grief and the way that you can be angry and happy at the same time, or the ways that love can hurt us but fill us with strength too, and I think it speaks to often some of the inner complexities of our humanity in a way that more straightforward prose does not.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, it's one of the things that keeps coming up as we discuss Wars in Light and Shadow is how we're looking back at things and seeing some of the prose and seeing some of the information that was conveyed to us that we might not have consciously seen at the time, but later on we recognize what we read earlier as something that was a multi-layered facet of what was written earlier and that keeps continually coming up as we have the discussions about the Wars of Light and Shadow series. And that's that extra level I think that you guys were talking about.

Speaker 4:

Well, and Johnny, you had mentioned, you know, tolkien's avoidance of a lot of the Latin, at the end of the day, going to more Anglo-Saxons. And you know that's part of what I think Le Guin was talking about in From Elfland to the Kipsy, Because, again, she wasn't saying you must write a certain way to evoke the fantastic. And you know Le Guin was, was so convinced of the importance of language to convey these things. And shifting a register or even shifting the lexicon to something that is slightly moral fashion, is going to create an effect. And you know, shifting into the more Germanic rooted language, because we use so many Latin forms in English that English does not exist without Latin form. There is no such thing as pure English. It's this language that went around and mugged other languages for grammar and vocabulary, and that's what English is. But by shifting the focus of it into a particular register of it, it creates an effect. And that use of the focus and use of the Germanic, the Anglo-Saxon rooted language, does give, say, the Lord of the Rings, a certain epic, mythic Germanic field to it, which is very different when we read works that lean into the Latinate, that have that romance, beauty to the language, because it flows with a different form and again it brings us full circle to this whole concept of the prose.

Speaker 4:

Is the thing on the page, it's how this information is being conveyed to the reader. And word choice, how the words are being put together. That is, in essence, the ball game of writing, because choosing he was happy Okay, you've just told someone he was happy, he flushed with excitement, okay, so you've told them that. But when something is narrativized and we experience vicariously what the character is feeling, you're no longer saying he was happy or she was flushed with excitement. You're making the reader imagine being happy or being flushed with excitement and trying to convey part of that emotion to them. And that makes the work far more emotive, far more powerful to create these connections. And yet that's only one way of doing it.

Speaker 2:

It's funny that you mentioned Lord of the Rings and the avoidance of Latin terms, because I've read it in Portuguese years and years ago and never read it in English, and I remember not being impressed. I found the prose very awkward and dull and I couldn't see the plus at the time. Why people love it so much. Because it didn't work for me and I've been wanting to read it in English ever since. And now I wonder if it wasn't just a bad translation. I don't know if it was bad, but if it was just very hard to translate to make it enjoyable. If you were avoiding all those words in terms, I really couldn't have to go and read it.

Speaker 4:

But if you think in, obviously you would know this for Portuguese. But obviously in English, if something has harsh consonants and is leaning into the, so Greshnak as the name of an orc, the harshness, the sound of that word, how would you translate that into Portuguese? Is there a similar sort of root system in Portuguese where the actual sounds are conveying harshness, because it's going to be different language to language?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it would be more like a home home, not a hush home we have, it's just different sounds to convey exactly the same things.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think, Lord of the Rings translated into Chinese.

Speaker 6:

I think, continuing the topic of Lord of the Rings and Grandpa Tolkien and just his control of prose and the way it can be used to evoke different feelings. I mean, he didn't even write in the same prose style throughout the whole thing. It's the Rite of the Rhoherum that he wrote in verse to deliberately to evoke those classic heroic poems. And so you have the room to completely change within a page, within a single page, the way you're telling your story and it can have a profound impact on the reader. It can just fundamentally change the way that they are engaging and feeling with the work.

Speaker 3:

Well, you talk about how Tolkien depicted action in the Hobbit. I mean, you read that book and you look at, you take apart what he actually did. The main character, the Hobbit, got knocked out for the entire battle of five armies. You did not see the big, epic battle. You saw the lead up to it and you saw the follow up. But if you think about it, how awkward would it have been to have tried to write that scene with the scope and punch from that Hobbit's point of view, if he had been conscious? He made some very elegant decisions in how he told his stories, but break the rules you know for a fantasy, an epic fantasy writer, to skip the big battle and not show it. Are you kidding me? And yet you don't see the reviewers tearing down the Hobbit because Tolkien skipped the big battle. But try writing another modern epic and do the same thing and watch the flames come down when stars rain on your head. So how elegantly the man wrote that nobody even notices that he skipped the big battle.

Speaker 6:

Or the, you know, frodo fails right, Like there's all these very, even in the present day, very subversive aspects to his stories that I think are often looked over and that the imitators somehow completely missed, which is one of the things that continuously blows me away. I mean, thankfully, fantasy has evolved a lot and even at the time, you know, for decades you've had works that have gone beyond. But it's certainly, yeah, striking how in many ways subversive it's totally subversive.

Speaker 3:

I mean, frankly, when I read it the first time and I read it years later I hated Frodo. He's such an arrogant asshole. He treats everybody around him terribly. So did his father or his adoptive father, Bilbo. I mean, it was the secondary characters that made that story, but the main character was blind to them, so he was in a way poking holes in an entire aristocratic way of life. But it goes down like butter. Most people don't notice that they're reading that, but without Sam the whole story falls apart.

Speaker 6:

That's definitely true. I do think he I don't know I think he was very fond of Frodo, but it certainly is an interesting he treated his flaws gently.

Speaker 3:

But Frodo's effect on the characters around him. If you were sympathizing with who he was with, the flaws are very apparent Sam is definitely the most sympathetic character, to be sure, I think. I stepped on something sacred, because AP suddenly got really quiet.

Speaker 6:

Not just that, he disappeared, we made him retreat. He's gone back to the area. There he is. Did I step on something sacred?

Speaker 3:

My computer wouldn't have been fearful. We were saying you had to leave the room because I pissed you off so badly.

Speaker 4:

The importance of Tolkien on fantasy and how often his work is misunderstood. But it gets reinterpreted. Every time there's a cultural shift. But Tolkien was writing in a much older form of fantasy. He was writing 19th century prose, romance, as a style, which that wasn't how the rest of the literary fields were moving. Now, from our perspective, we see different things in the book. We interpret things in a very different way than maybe Tolkien had intended them.

Speaker 4:

The violence in the Lord of the Rings is very muted, very heroic, very action heroic.

Speaker 4:

We're not focusing on the violence of it and yet the repercussions of what happens on those journeys, the psychological realism of that, is actually quite devastating.

Speaker 4:

It seems to draw a lot on Tolkien's experience in the war and seeing other soldiers suffer from shell shock, ptsd.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, conveying all of these different things, like Tolkien and the women, you know, is a huge topic, because Tolkien's use of female characters, how he described them, how he placed them, you know, is a very old fashioned view from today's standards and he certainly doesn't do justice to a lot of these amazing characters that he created.

Speaker 4:

And yet they have served as inspirations for other authors to go on and create amazing characters but also to highlight this deficiency in the genre and you know this goes into the prose discussion as well. The language used to describe the female characters in Lord of the Rings is very soft, poetic, gentle language, whereas the language used to describe the male characters A is a lot more detailed and physical but is emphasizing an entirely different aspect of physicality and psychology, because Tolkien viewed men and women very differently, from a position that seems very old fashioned from today, but that's reflected in the language choices, reflected in how he crafted those sentences and it's part of the nature of that 19th century prose romance style that he was using that is heavily influenced by the old style epics that focus very heavily on masculine and male stories and male adventures.

Speaker 3:

Yep, I don't spend my time picking Tolkien apart for that, because I've read enough books from those times. That's the way they wrote back then. That's just the way they live. That's what they believe. That's what they to me, what was most significant?

Speaker 3:

There were two things that were most significant about Tolkien. Where he absolutely smashed the glass was he wrote his own myth. Up until then, you could read Greek myths, you could read fairy tales, you could read, but nobody wrote their own world, wrote their own mythos, wrote their own, and that smashed the glass. That opened the door wide to you could create any world you wanted. It wasn't done before that. I mean Austen happened to write Eilandia, but it didn't smash the glass quite the same way that Tolkien did. So that, to me, is his most significant contribution to fantasy is that he opened the gates to inventing other realities in a fantasy setting. That wasn't science fiction.

Speaker 3:

The second thing he did that impressed me the most was he wrote this incredible story and it's a powerful story, and he drew on all of the major archetypes that we're so familiar with the Aragorn character, the king that's going mad, that redeems himself.

Speaker 3:

The big battle, the epic, the whole epic feel, the bringing forward of the epic scope of the Cala Valla into prose form that was accessible for a person like me to read, because I wasn't going to be reading the Cala Valla at that age sorry, it was over my head and then he threw in things next to these archetypes, like the ants, like the hobbits, that were just so different. And I realized after I finished the book the archetypes were made. He made them feel new. They weren't new. He was writing the same old, same old things that had been done dozens and dozens of times before. And if you look at his antecedents dozens and dozens of times he borrowed from everything else too. It was that he put the original things and the archetypes together in such a way that they felt brand new, and there's a magic to that that I believe he earned his place in history, and I don't care what the modern lens throws over his work. The merit of what he did stands as a monument. I don't think he's going anywhere.

Speaker 4:

We can recognize, we all recognize the importance of certain works in shaping genres and it just means, I think, sometimes that modern audiences, particularly because a lot of them, have come to know Tolkien's story through Jackson's adaptation, rather than the novels that Tolkien wrote, the books that he wrote, and in a lot of respects they have a very different focus. Jackson's films are focused on action and telling this story and drawing on the emotion that Tolkien created. But Tolkien's works are much more complex than Jackson's films and they do different things. And that's where you can see the same story, using the same characters, can be told in very different ways to create different effects. And that's all about how the story is being told, which, in what we're discussing, is in writing, how you tell the story. You can take exactly the same characters, exactly the same beats, exactly the same setup, but how you render it on the page is going to shape it and can make it unique, can make it engaging and interesting and fascinating, whereas if you aren't careful with it, it can feel bland and generic and tired.

Speaker 4:

And one of those hideous words that I love, tropey, oh, dear God, I wish that one was just removed from the English language. People should no longer be allowed to complain about. Oh well, this book's really tropey, stop it. But you can take and we see that all the time, you can take a very reductive pairing away of the nuance. Think of what Campbell did to create that structure of the hero with the thousand faces. Looked at all of these folk tales, all of these legends, all of these fairy stories and trimmed away everything that made them unique, made them the actual story, just to try and find the patterns. And you go, and that's a useful exercise, but it's reductive because now you're no longer looking at the thing, you're looking at these. You've stripped away the flesh and the skin and the hair and everything. That is the thing, and and.

Speaker 3:

You stripped the prose, right, you stripped the prose to arrive at a trope.

Speaker 4:

You've stripped the prose, you've removed the magic and what Campbell did was he ended up with the skeletons.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, I hate the word too, but yeah.

Speaker 4:

Sometimes people mistake the skeleton for the thing and you go no think of a person. Yes, their skeleton is part of it and their physicality is part of it, but their mind is part of it, and all of those things together are what make the story.

Speaker 6:

I also think I mean I don't want to continue to be too far off-sophic, but Campbell's the Hero's Journey, while definitely being reductive, also speaks to storytelling in such broad language that it's almost meaningless at times. Or it can be applied so broadly I don't even know that it's a skeleton. It's like just these insanely broad, widely interpretable ideas that are ultimately the meaningless because there's no specificity to them. Despite his avowal there, I mean some aspects I think to the structure he proposes are more specific than others. I hope this isn't offending anyone when I say this, but it's similar to the idea of astrology, where it's easy to find your personality in whatever astrological sign you're under, because they're broad enough topics right.

Speaker 6:

And I find the same thing is true of the Hero's Journey. And somehow we got even more reductive after that, getting back to Save the Cat, which just takes the Hero's Journey and makes it even dumber. You can't even get me started as someone who works in the entertainment industry if I could burn one book and I'm not a pro book burning, but if I could burn one book it would be Save the Cat. I'm just so tired of hearing about it.

Speaker 2:

I was not impressed. I was not impressed at all.

Speaker 6:

It's so reductive and so prescriptive and just facile, and I am You've stripped the culture out of it. Yes.

Speaker 3:

I mean when you think of how much culture and if storytelling is the language of dream that defines a culture, it does. If you just stripped all the culture out, what have you got? Nothing You've taken away. You've sucked all the color out of it. You've sucked all the nuance out of it. You've sucked all the delight out of it. You've sucked all the discovery out of it.

Speaker 4:

You've You've got your pre-packaged. You've sucked the wonder out of it. You've got your pre-packaged TV dinner.

Speaker 3:

What have you got?

Speaker 4:

You've sticking the microwave, that's the narrative form of that it's. We can replicate this a million times and sell it a million times. Yeah, but I mean Spam. Johnny, you just mentioned culture. The culture is a fascinating aspect.

Speaker 3:

You've created spam, particularly when it comes to writing.

Speaker 4:

Think of the experience. He sneaked into the room or he snuck into the room and, depending on where you are in the world, nicked will sound wrong and snuck will sound right and vice versa. All because of the language we grew up with and the little artifact of that aspect of dialect. And something that could be considered old fashioned in the US might be considered slightly more modern in the UK or what other part of the world that we're talking about. Sorry, I am speaking about English prose here and the English language.

Speaker 4:

But culture adds a phenomenal set of reader biases and understandings and complexities. Because sometimes I think when we look at literature and we talk about the Western canon as if it's homogenous across all English-speaking people, and yet how we grew up, where we grew up, shifts our interpretation. So authors can be as careful as they want in how they create something, but readers, when they come to it, we come to it with our own set of assumptions and our own knowledge and experience and our own bias. And if you grew up in Northern Ireland in a particular community, how you feel about the British soldiers might be very different if you grew up in Northern Ireland in a different community. So when you see something like that written about or depicted. Depending on which community and what your experiences were growing up, you can react emotionally and viscerally in very different ways, and that's just a little tiny example from where I am from and you extrapolate that out to the complexity of the world and all of these different.

Speaker 4:

Having recently moved to the US, I go, oh yeah, american culture, as if it's this homogenous culture. And yet anyone living in America is going what are you talking about American culture? No, that's too simplified. And I go yes, it is. So when you talk about prose, remember you're talking about something that's enormously complex and the points that you're making are too simplified.

Speaker 3:

The whole cultural layer adds attention to it and it can also add an alienation to it. When you write a prose but you add a different cultural layer, you can alienate your reader and put them completely in a fish out of water situation, simply by turning the cultural lens to something that's unfamiliar. So, prose encompasses just one facet. When you add all the other things that make us varied, individualistic human beings, now we've got a very deep well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was one of the things. I was completely blind to it, like my first book, when I sent it off to the editor and chicken back saying, well, is this supposed to be English, UK or English American? And I was like, well, UK, because I had all the use in place and I was living in UK at the time and I thought I was writing in English English. Now it turns out it was a lot of the spelling was American, and so I had to decide exactly what I was going to do. On top of the strangeness of it all, because my chain was saying it's, I wasn't able to leave my Portuguese background, culture and mindset into the book, which I think in some aspects it helps. But that's what I was so focused on, just trying to write in English, that I didn't realize that I was mixing, you know, UK and US. So I had to decide. In the end we agreed that it would be with UK spelling but punctuated in US, because I couldn't deal with the commas. Yeah, we speak about alienate yeah, you speak about alienation.

Speaker 3:

It's like trying to be so I think I'm going to be stuck for a while. It's like trying to be an American reader and read Neil Gaiman American gods. It didn't work, you know, trying to make that mesh with what my perceptions were, it was very alienating. So yeah, trying to cross a cultural barrier where there's just that little bit of a twist.

Speaker 3:

It adds attention to it, that's just. You know you're not. You've gone down the rabbit hole. It's not quite the world you're familiar with anymore, but isn't that a good thing sometimes? Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 5:

It opened up your horizons. I just finished CA Poppies, an Indian writer, writing in English about Indian history and it was very eye-opening and really took me a while to get used to his style and stuff and all the vernacular he was using. But you know, when I got to the end I was just very glad I read it because it really expanded everything that I had, Everything that I had previously been exposed to.

Speaker 6:

I think American Gods is such an interesting book's reference for what we're talking about, janie, because I think that the alienation was part of. What I love about that book is because it really doesn't, on some levels, feel American, despite the fact it's all about Americana and that alien aspect to it is I don't know. I guess I struck that note.

Speaker 3:

On purpose, I know it, but it was very alienating to read it.

Speaker 6:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think that's often a way you can use language to evoke I mean to talk about fantasy magic, because I mean assuming your goal with magic is to make it seem otherworldly or anything but to find the ways in which your prose can in some ways alienate the audience, whether by describing something indescribable or something being paradoxical. Often that's, I think, a very keen way of evoking that, if not wonder just that alien, the unknown of magic.

Speaker 2:

Well, but I can't tell. It's just From my perspective exactly. It's one of the things I can tell. It baffles me, like the other day when we were talking Jared, the sci-fi network, and you asked what a jumper was. It's amazing how our Americans don't know so many of English terms, and vice versa. But, from what I understand, if we have to know all the terms, I grew up listening to American movies. That's why I think I know all the American slang. But then I moved to the UK talking to English people, so I just created this mash and to me it's all English. But you do seem to make a fuss. I'm completely oblivious to it.

Speaker 4:

It is weird when we talk about a jumper, or do you mean a sweater? That's what I'm saying.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I was like a jumper.

Speaker 4:

You know, I was like that's a sweater. In America they talk about a waistcoat as a vest, and that's not what a vest is in the UK. So even simple terms that shouldn't be complicated, depending on where the reader is situated, depending on where your listener or your narratee is, it can radically shift your understanding of the scene. And one of the issues with writing is that the author is never there sitting beside you to explain what things meant. And with live conversations I can say to them and people go what do you mean by that? And you have that opportunity to expand on it, to explain, to go. Oh sorry, I made a mistake, I meant to switch those things around. What I was talking about was this thing you have that response time, but when it comes to writing, once it's published and out there, you can't take a magical red pen and go out and shift things around. And so there's always going to be that element of the individual reader having an individual reading. But that individual reading is not necessarily going to be a particularly valid reading. They could have misunderstood a whole lot of this and it could be due to any number of different factors, but with writing, with what is on the page. That's why it's so imperative and I think this is one of the things that people can flit by oversimplifying it should be clear what is being communicated. If, in the instance, that part of what is being communicated is a level of ambiguity, that ambiguity should be clearly communicated.

Speaker 4:

It's when accidental ambiguity is in the text that's the problem. When obfuscation is used as a trick, that can be annoying, but it can also work really well. It goes back to this knowing the effects, knowing why people came up with these rules and what the rules were meant to delineate, I'm going yes, right now that I understand that it's the effect that I want to create. So I'm going to use the writing in this way to do this In the clearest possible way to create the effect I want. And clear as possible does not mean the fewest number of words.

Speaker 4:

It does not mean that you remove or strip away all ambiguity, because implication you can clearly imply something without spelling it out, and implication quite often is far more powerful and far more evocative than spelling it out or telling the reader. And in filmic terms, you don't show the monster, because what the viewer imagines in those shadows is going to be a million times scarier than anything that you can create. And so if you show the monster, then you've limited it, you've paired it down, you've made it mundane in a lot of respects, but if it's left just at the corner of the eye, if it's left in the shadows, what is being evoked there is far more powerful, and Hemingway talked about this. Give the reader the necessary information to fully understand the tip of the iceberg, to see that shape, because then the reader will intuit and get the implication of everything under the water that you have not sketched in. Hemingway cut so much and relied on implication, relied on symbolism, relied on the connotation and the sequencing and how things were done to create the emotion and the impact.

Speaker 6:

That's the way that subtext can often just evoke so much more emotion to a text, or just the implication it can be so much more powerful than just like a direct reading.

Speaker 6:

You know, we recently finished, on the Patreon kind of group, read the Darkness that Comes Before by Arscott Baker, and there was a character I did not see this coming, who I read as falling somewhere on the spectrum of queerness and having same-sex attraction, which I did not expect at all.

Speaker 6:

And it's not made explicit, but the prose to me made it very obvious, talking about lots of things being like thick and throbbing and a lot of worm imagery and, needless to say, like you look for it, and it adds so many layers to this character's relationship with particularly the men around him and the way he interacts with them and the way he views himself and his masculinity and the way that then affects how he interacts with everyone in the world, and it just added a whole. I couldn't give less of a shit about this character before this and then suddenly it was like, oh, I see what Baker is doing here and it's suddenly so much richer than what I was initially suspecting this character was, and it's all there in the implication and all there in the prose and the specific word choice that it can just add so much with just very little too, but very powerful word choices.

Speaker 5:

That's what Janie always tells us in our discussions. It's all there, he's just gonna look for it.

Speaker 3:

Have you guys seen that reinterpretation of Jekyll and Hyde?

Speaker 6:

I've heard about it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that was how possibly the author wrote one story in the way that society interprets it today is totally different than what they intended. Fascinating shift in perception. Well, I've. I don't know if you read that essay.

Speaker 4:

But there've been so many different interpretations of Jekyll and Hyde and the different lenses applied that this was one of the key texts that we studied years, three years.

Speaker 5:

No, but one of my favorite readings of Jekyll and.

Speaker 4:

Hyde is with Twitford Clear Lens, where it's about the hidden life of being a homosexual man at that time, and that is that's what I was referring to.

Speaker 3:

It's fascinating because, there's.

Speaker 4:

If you take that lens and you start interpreting the events that way, everything takes that slant and it makes perfect sense. But it's a bit like reading Dracula and applying an Anglo-Irish colonial lens onto Stoker's Dracula, because suddenly the events take on a completely different symbolic meaning. And you know the fact that Van Helsing Helsing English and he's coming from the East to the West and you start seeing movements of characters even from East to West as the movement of characters from England to Ireland and you start shifting things around and so now we're talking about the subtext of perspective, cultural perspective that totally can change a story and turn it upside down.

Speaker 4:

It's so fascinating because there are different lenses that we can apply actively, apply to texts that can radically shift our understanding and interpretation of them, that quite often texts are not just oh well, it was a story about this thing and you go right now, think about it in the abstract. And as soon as you do that, as soon as you take that step back from the literal interpretation of what is on the page to thinking about the concepts that are being evoked, what these movements of things are, what it speaks to in a more general sense, that's where work can take on this multitude of meanings and incredibly powerful resonances we talked earlier.

Speaker 3:

And without changing a single word of the prose not one single word of the prose you can have multi-faceted interpretations.

Speaker 4:

If we talk about how Frodo and Sam's journey and going through mortar was evoking a sense of the trenches of World War I and the PTSD suffered by the soldiers, like you can read those sections and go, yeah, let's go read Wilfred Owen's poetry or any of that poetry from that time and you can see the connection between these things.

Speaker 4:

And yet we're not changing what Tolkien wrote. We're not changing the context of what Tolkien wrote or any of the words on the page, but now we're thinking about their journey as this terrible march and the psychological effect on soldiers and what they experienced. So when Frodo arrives back in the shower and he arrives home, you can never return home. He returns changed, with a war wound that never heals until he has to flee, and that takes on that completely different meaning when we think about it in terms of the World Wars, when we think about it in terms of soldiers returning from war, even if we're not talking about the war that Tolkien experienced or his son experienced that, we can understand that and we map that on. And suddenly that sequence takes on a completely different meaning because it's exploring the concept, the abstract, and we're not changing Tolkien's words, but we're understanding it differently and it's creating a resonance and interpretation.

Speaker 2:

So I have a question that is well, it's kind of related to some we talked about 10 minutes ago. It's about the relationship between prose and genre. To what extent are they connected or they limit each other? Like, would you write a trailer with lyrical prose or a horror novel with just very succinct language, without delving into any psychological or environmental descriptions? Could it work? I mean, would it be pleasurable for the reader? I'm using these two genders because I've genders that I don't read a lot in, so I don't have a lot of examples. To what extent do you have to kind of stick? Not even if you don't follow the rules, you still have to use a certain type of prose.

Speaker 4:

I don't think that you do.

Speaker 2:

You're the reader.

Speaker 4:

I think there are. And again, it all depends on the type of narrative. You want to write a heroic fantasy novel? You go right, I'm writing a heroic fantasy novel set in a secondary world. Well, could I do it in very modern American vernacular? And you go yeah, you can, because you set it up that way and you can have using very modern American vernacular. You could write a secondary world, but the effect that you're creating you know your readers are going to find initially discomforting because it's going contrary to their expectations. But if you create that as the consistent pattern, then you can use different characters and it can use different modern dialects that you would then use to differentiate different cultures. That it all depends on how you set it up.

Speaker 4:

You can the Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman. That's not written in overwrought Gothic style and yet it is very clearly a Gothic horror story, gothic ghost story, and yet there's an entire psychological reading of it where you read it almost as science fiction. If you're writing a space opera, then you might have an expectation about certain technological, metallic language being used to evoke it. Or you could do what George Lucas did and create a space opera that is, a fantasy story set in space that Star Wars owes far more to fantasy than it does to science fiction. But you can write military fiction and you look at the difference between the short timers, first person present tense narration from Joker's perspective and you compare that to Flashman Radically different styles. It's not the style that dictates it, it's the intention behind it and what you're trying to achieve. You could tell this.

Speaker 3:

I think it has to do with the degree of separation. It depends what kind of horror you're writing. If you write something in very modern vernacular to either American culture or UK culture or whatever culture, but you're sticking close to this world, you're narrowing the degree of separation. So the people that are reading it are gonna bring the baggage from these times straight into that story. And if you're using that as an effect that you want to bring that baggage from today's because you wanna play with that, you wanna work with that, then you would narrow the degree of separation. But if you wanna take them out of this world, you wanna separate the separation and you would avoid the modern vernacular because of the baggage that it brings with it.

Speaker 3:

So if I'm reading an epic fantasy and it's taking place in an other worldly setting and somebody says that the war just escalated, oops, nope, bam, you just popped the balloon because that degree of separation was blown away. So I think as the author you use the language to manipulate your reader's headspace into whatever degree of separation on that spectrum that you want to create. So can you write horror in the modern vernacular People do all the time you gotta realize you're bringing with it all of the political baggage, all of the cultural baggage, all of these times baggage right into the story, and so you better be prepared to use that to advantage, I think it.

Speaker 6:

I mean, I guess the conversation really has to be, really has to involve where does genre begin and where does audience end? How are we defining them? How strict are we being? I feel like the prose you were using. You need to be deliberate about what readership you want. I feel like that's what's ultimately more important. There are absolutely a bunch of people who write epic fantasies that read modern-day Americans In fact, I think that's more popular than it's maybe ever been and you just have to know what audience you're going for and what they're going to expect and accept. There are certain styles.

Speaker 4:

I think that we come to associate, say, with genres or subgenres, if someone said they were writing a detective noir and in your head you suddenly create that sort of hard-bitten alcoholic Because the detective noir is going off in your head.

Speaker 4:

But you go, right, I'm going to write a detective noir, but I'm setting it in a fantasy world, like Glenn Cook did. And suddenly that, well, where do you go with that? And you go, well, it's a detective, I'm going to follow certain patterns of that, but it's going to be in a fantasy world. They're going to be fantasy creatures.

Speaker 6:

No, no, it's garag which is the story of that. Is that Black?

Speaker 4:

Company when you think of I hadn't heard of it, that's cool. If you were writing oh, I'm going to write an urban fantasy, and you go, oh well, I'm going to have to use the modern day for that. You go, why Set it in 19th century London? And if you set it in 19th century London, you go well, it's going to be urban because it's 19th century London. It's going to be, but I want to evoke 19th century London. So suddenly that's going to shift my approach to the language. Even though I'm writing urban fantasy or paranormal romance set in 19th century London. The link between language and story is apparent, but not necessarily between language and genre or subgenre. I don't think that link is as strong. It's more the narrative within it and what is appropriate for that story. Well, those would be my thoughts. I could be wrong. I'm not an author.

Speaker 3:

Some of them have thrown it into the blender. I mean, if you ever read Elizabeth Baer's Blood and Iron, she sets it in modern day university, but she blends in all of these mythic and folk ballads and all of the characters from mythic, whales, mythic, scotland mythic, and she throws it all in the blender and it works very well. So what kind of an effect are you going to want to create? Which is clay?

Speaker 6:

Yep, there's the modern recent I think it's the most recent kind of widely released translation of Beowulf, where the woman who translated it, her goal was basically to make it as like readable as possible for a modern audience. Cause you know, that's the common criticism here about Beowulf and like all these old poems, is like it's impossible to understand, it's impossible to get into it, to immerse yourself in it, and so I think, like the first word is yo, and, and, and.

Speaker 3:

You just oh, oh, oh.

Speaker 5:

Oh for that piece migraines please. Yo Grendel oh man.

Speaker 3:

I think some of those old mythic poems are taught to kids too, too young they should save them for later, because you can't appreciate what they are.

Speaker 4:

I'm glad that something of that exists. It isn't too mightiest At that time, but, but my tears, my tears shouldn't dictate everyone else's enjoyment or what they can get out of it, and that makes it more accessible for other people than fine. But yeah, for me, oh no, but oh God, but.

Speaker 6:

Peter.

Speaker 4:

Jackson.

Speaker 3:

Beowulf.

Speaker 4:

His stories are rewritten and told all the time and they like as a child I had children's versions of Greek myths and then I read more adult versions of the same myths and then later on was reading translations of the actual myths and you know all of the differences between that, the different things that they emphasized or de-emphasized, and then the cultural context of things that, yeah, you do miss. Like why do they call the sea the whale road? They're like no, there's a whole background to the Kennings that you know you would need to explain to someone for them to understand why it was done that way. But it isn't the lack of ability to understand that when they said whale road they meant the sea. That was apparent. But we don't get the full understanding of why it is called that. And it's the same when we read anything that sometimes people say oh, you must read this other thing before you read that, otherwise you won't understand it. You go no, you'll understand it, but what you take away from it will be different because you don't have the other context.

Speaker 4:

But yeah, language shapes our understanding of events. We see this in the news all the time. You can watch, depending on which news channel you watch or which newspaper you read, they can all report on exactly the same story using, hopefully, exactly the same facts. But the narrative that they create, because of the language they use, because of the emphasis they put on certain information and how they de-emphasize other information, the specific language choices they make, the framing they make, you actually end up with different narratives.

Speaker 4:

And it is one of the easiest ways to teach what narrative does is to take a modern day contentious story and look at a bunch of different newspaper articles all reporting the same story. Put them all up together and go look at how these different authors now they're journalists, they are journalists and that type of writer but look at how these authors are creating a specific narrative and hopefully they will be all factually accurate. We hope that. But that shows you how the language and how the arrangement of these words on the page can change the meaning and understanding of an event, and it's an incredibly simple way to do it. One of the reasons why I don't do it on YouTube is because if I picked a new story, people would react to the content of the new story and maybe the political thing going on, rather than paying attention to the narrative analysis that you can extract from it. They'd be more upset about the politics being discussed, but it's an incredibly useful tool.

Speaker 5:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I always encouraged people to, especially in terms of politics, to go and read what the opposition or what the people they've considered the opposition is printing about the same events from their sides, just to get a little bit of perspective. Because yeah, it's hilarious, not really, it's quite sad, but yeah, it's very easy to just stay on one corner, follow that feed and just get the same narrative. But then when you shift and you see the same event portrayed from the other side and you're like let's try and figure this one out. Is that why that type of slant on news?

Speaker 1:

is more popular than it was before Because it does tell a story, whether it makes us angry or it makes us agree, or it creates some kind of a conversation from us. Instead of just hearing about the cat that got stuck in the tree, we hear about how evil the cat owner is or whatever it is. I think I mean news is supposed to report.

Speaker 2:

And now pretty much every article from the clickbait title is just to get a reaction, to get an emotional reaction from the reader, to get and yeah, it's never neutral. No, it's not.

Speaker 3:

It's back to the baseline statement that says the least trustworthy person in the room is the one with the most agenda. In order to be trustworthy, completely trustworthy, you have to have no agenda at all. And so now the narrative is being tuned to tell you what to think, not just tell you what happened. Bear of any emotional content, bear of any opinion they bring in the time to think. Bear of any opinion, they bring in the talking heads who all have the news. So that's a shift.

Speaker 3:

I've seen in my lifetime the power of prose, you see, yeah, telling people what to think and using it to manipulate and control what the narrative becomes and what they take away from it. So, and they're definitely not trustworthy when they have an agenda, and the more apparent the agenda, the less trustworthy the reporting. So I've tended to revert to reading legal briefs because that doesn't have the emotional content over the top. You can't even listen to the weather anymore without seeing the emotional content to get you hyped up and worried. Or you don't just get the facts, you get all the things that are gonna scare you or whatever.

Speaker 5:

Every little rainstorm is an event.

Speaker 3:

You got it, and so just in the last probably two decades, I've seen the reporting of weather go completely wonkers, to the point where I listen to NOAA and nothing else, because it's too emotionally laden. You can't sort what you need to do.

Speaker 2:

They name every storm. I don't know they're gonna run out on names so far. I live in Ireland and it's like almost a storm a week, the names of the storms is different.

Speaker 3:

It's just very weather. The names of the storms is based on how powerful the wind are, so there's a reason for that. But they must have lowered the thresholds because, seriously, it's a new name if you think, as a sailor no, they haven't lowered the threshold because those wind speeds are absolute.

Speaker 3:

The Beaufort scale determines that, and that's the same scale they've been measuring by for as long as I've been alive. But it doesn't matter, because the way they report the news and the way they show the pictures of other disasters that look like that and other things that might happen, not what's actually happening, not giving you a range of what would happen, depending what time the storm strikes, whatever it's literally laden with emotional narrative to keep you riveted, to keep you from changing the channel, to keep you from walking away, instead of just delivering the facts which would enable you to make the right decisions and, again, part of this is commercialization of everything.

Speaker 3:

You get all this other garbage and you had let's say, three channels and they went right.

Speaker 4:

This one's gonna focus on this, this one's gonna focus on that. But you had a very limited number of channels. With the explosion of cable TV and 24-hour news, how do you fill 24 hours? And you go right. Well, here's the major news story of the day. There's five minutes on the R done, but we have 55 minutes on the R to fill up then. So you start filling it up with editorial and you start tuning into a specific audience to go that's the demographic we want, and we can then sell our channel to advertisers to market to that demographic and then, added to that, once someone does that and becomes successful, then someone else goes well, I'm gonna do it, but I can't capture the same demographic, so I'm gonna have to apply to a different one.

Speaker 4:

And then, when we add in modern technology, we're now, if you think 50 years ago, if you were living in Ireland or you were living in England, the chance of you knowing about something that was happening in Australia or in South Africa or in China. Unless it was some spectacularly big world-shaping event, you didn't hear about it. You had your local newspaper, you might have the regional newspaper, the national newspaper, you maybe even had an international newspaper, but for the most part you were focused in where you lived. And now we live in a global world. So if there's a storm in Japan, we hear about it. If there is a volcano going off, we hear about it.

Speaker 4:

If there was a terrible tragedy somewhere, that we hear about it. And suddenly now our news is full of these disasters from all over the world. And these disasters always occurred, but we didn't know about them because our news was focused on. Well, this is what happened today, and Mrs McGinnis lost her cat and it's been fine, hurrah. But now we get stories from all over the world. That's how news can create the content it needs to keep us watching, to sell the advertising space.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, it also didn't help the larger corporations buying out all the local news stations so that it's all underrated.

Speaker 4:

But we can talk about the publishing industry and how there are fewer publishers despite the fact there being a lot of imprints. But I think that shapes a lot of that's the way of everything, yeah, of how these things happen. That again, it's our awareness of it. Like I said earlier about when you notice something once, suddenly you become more aware of it and you start looking for it. That, now that this attention economy is so fundamental to all of these big media companies, how do you keep people's attention? Elevate the emotion, elevate the drama, heighten the tension, escalate everything and you go and eventually we're going to get to a stage where we have now, which is this film did moderately OK at the box office. This film was an absolute disaster because nothing can be moderately disappointing anymore. It has to be the worst, it can no longer be. Oh well, I was pleasantly surprised. It was amazing. It's a one star or a five star. No other stars exist. Everything has become hyperbole.

Speaker 3:

Everything has become We've already seen that that's called algorithm.

Speaker 4:

Those would be my rumbling thoughts on this.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, what is algorithm doing to prose? That's what's got me terrified? Oh yep, sucking the juice right out of it. How do we regard imagination in this global society? We say we felt good, but yeah, I know, I caught the irony.

Speaker 1:

Speaking of character names and naming storms, a couple of weeks ago we talked about characters and we were discussing how to make a character compelling or to catch your attention quickly, just very early on. What are some ways to do that? To capture the reader's attention when you describe a character, when the character makes their entrance? Open question.

Speaker 3:

Well, there's the old so-called rule of thumb that you'll hear Ray Feist quote all the time. You give him something familiar, something physical and something that's a wild card because that individuates. So three points to define a character on the page quickly. But if you go for rules, that's one way of doing it. I think describing how a character goes about doing routine things says a lot about them. If you take how they handle everyday things, like any given woman on the street and you dump the contents of her purse out on a table, that's going to tell you a great deal about what she values and what she doesn't. So it's knowing which details to pick to make that individual stand three-dimensional. Do they pop food in their mouth or do they pick at their food, or do they shovel food in their mouth or do they dissect their steak? I mean that's all the ways that you would use one simple gesture to characterize a character, and they all say everything about that individual's state of mind and the way they handle their life, what their viewpoint is at that given moment.

Speaker 1:

When you have a side character that will have a small part overall in the story. Do you purposefully downplay their descriptives or do you purposely give them less attention on the page? To not, or does it matter?

Speaker 2:

Well, that depends on why. Is he there In the first place? Is he a foil to the main character? Is he there to convey some information? Is he there to be killed? The next chapter. You have to consider all those things and I try to plan these things but it never works. And those many others who managed to stick to the plan. But I've had characters that I created them to become important later on and they just end up fading away. I decided I have no use for them, and others that are there just to decorate the plots ended up becoming almost main characters later on. So there's always some. Keep your options open. So always what I say. But it depends on the character.

Speaker 3:

It depends on the point of view that you're depicting the character from entirely, because the voice of the narrative if you're reading a men's thriller and a female character walks in, what is that man going to notice about that female character?

Speaker 3:

Even if she's a nobody, there's certain things that the male gaze is going to note. If a woman walks into the room and another woman views her, how that woman's sexual orientation or what is the Ganola Conchi? She's going to notice this very elegant person in a very fancy evening dress and too much jewelry to run away from anything and high heels that are going to kill her on a sidewalk. So it all depends on the lens that you're depicting that character through. So your spear carriers or your character that's not going to be important to the plot can walk through the room and still be an individual. But it depends on the lens of the narrative that you're viewing them through, because the same person could walk through a thriller or an epic fantasy or mystery and would be presented in a totally different way depending on the viewpoint character seeing it or the omniscient viewpoint. What does the author want you to see?

Speaker 4:

And again, you can think about it in terms of starting with vocalization, vocalization through a character. So if you have someone who doesn't have an awful lot of money and they meet someone who is a high powered attorney and they'll go, this person is very, very rich. How they perceive that person, they might see in terms of the difference in their socioeconomic status and the fact that this high powered lawyer she's wearing very chic clothes, very expensive clothes, she drives a very expensive car. And then you have a scene where it's a billionaire has hired this lawyer and she walks in but the billionaire might see again the difference in their socioeconomic status, but in this instance it's seeing her much lower. Oh, she's wearing off the rack designer clothes. That suddenly it takes on a completely different connotation and that radically shifts your perception of the character. So if you apply that logic then to the narrator, what the narrator is doing the narrator is not always a person, but it's sort of perspective. What an author can use the narrator to do is focus your attention and create that narrative norm, the level that we are at, and whether or not this character deviates from that norm, whether they are higher than it, whether they are lower than it that they establish a narrative level and then the degrees and separation from this can make a character very, very distinct and we can be completely unaware that we've assumed a particular stance within a narrative.

Speaker 4:

But if you think of so many of the D&D inspired texts, they're a half-elf. Well, what's the other half? Oh well, clearly human. So the point of view is, assuming a human norm, they're a half-orc. Well, what's the other half? Well, clearly human. Again, it's the deviation from the norm. That's the thing that sets them apart and we see this play out time and time again.

Speaker 4:

If it's the same set and it's Sherlock Holmes and Watson and they are sitting in a gentleman's club with their brandy and their pipes and an elegant woman walks in the shock of a woman intruding into the gentleman's club should be the thing that is being looked at Like. Irene Adler strides in as if she owns the place. That suddenly tells you so much about her as a character, because she's invading this very private man's area as if she hasn't a care in the world. So it tells us so much about Irene Adler, or at least what she's portraying. And these are all techniques that authors use. They are aware of the assumed perspective that we have and can play with, that can conform to it, can defy it, can subvert it, and it all depends on the effect that this author wants to achieve with that character or that scene, or how they want us to feel.

Speaker 3:

Congruency or opposition. You're either striking for congruency where how is this character the same as what you expect, or how are they completely different? Where's the wild card? So it goes the same way. You would build atmosphere, or build mood, or build setting Congruency or opposition to how your character feels in that moment, johnny, you. These are just prose tools.

Speaker 5:

And depending on how the reader reacts to those clues and those words, Johnny, if I used your terminology all my videos would be incredibly short.

Speaker 2:

But we can never OK. One last question for me is like how can you, or to what degree, or what tricks, what tools do you have I guess that's a better way to put it To kind of make sure, or to at least try your best, so the reader understands what you're trying to say, or what the character is trying to do, or what the character is trying to do, what you're trying to say, the story you're trying to tell. What tools, at any given point, can you use to help clarify things?

Speaker 3:

Beta readers. You get a beta reader. This is how I do it, because I'm writing incredibly clear. When I finished a series finishing a very, very complex series and what I wanted to know was from my beta readers was, when they read the scene, what foot did they come down on? What emotion did they feel when that scene finished? What conclusions did they draw from that scene? How did they feel about what they'd read and were they bored? And if they came down on the right foot, they felt the right emotion. They got the comprehension out of that scene that I wanted and they weren't bored. If they said I'm bored, I didn't say what bored you. I went in and cut it. I made those choices but knowing that they came out the rabbit hole roughly in the groove that I wanted them to land, that told me what I had to adjust, if anything. So sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees and four extra viewpoints helps you to fine tune it If it needs fine tuning. Sometimes it didn't.

Speaker 5:

That's fascinating.

Speaker 3:

So, yeah, I didn't want the nitty gritty detail. I just wanted to know did they come down on the right foot after? Were they wondering about the right things? Did they misinterpret the right things? Did they draw the right conclusions? Did I have them in the emotional box to shoot down the next marble alley? Because if they were off that box then it was going to deviate from there.

Speaker 4:

I think it's very hard to narrow down into what tools to use for certain situations Because, again, all of the tools of writing are going to be more or less appropriate for all of the different situations Word choice, word order, sentence order, paragraph structure, the flow of paragraphs, the variation of type of information, whether it is description or dialogue or action, how they are alternating through or moving through in a chapter, if there are different points of view, and whether or not too many of the two similar points of view are clumped together or are they dispersed. And trying to narrow it down, there are so many techniques and it all depends on and again, the effect that you're trying to create or the particular issue, that you're looking at a section and go. I don't know why this isn't working and all I can say is, if you ever find a section where something isn't working here, as Johnny says, you can get someone else to look at it, because quite often they will see something that your eye keeps skipping over, because you have all of this additional information in the back of your head that you keep plugging into the hole that's there and the other person doesn't have that. They'll look at it and go I have no idea what this means and you go. Oh right, ok, I need to make that clear. Asking someone else is always an incredibly useful exercise, but the other way of doing it is going through that editing process of going back through.

Speaker 4:

What is this, what is this sentence trying to say? What is this paragraph trying to say? What is this page trying to say, and how much of that is being affected? Having a box of and again, I don't like checklists, but am I striking the right tone? Is the atmosphere the right atmosphere? What are the different things? And looking through a section to go, are any of these standing out that they are wrong? That you analyze what's there and go, are any of these things standing out that they don't fit? What is it that I'm trying to say and how can I convey that? Because it's not coming across.

Speaker 3:

I think I had a playwright who'd give me some very, very valuable information very early on in my career and he said in every sentence that you write in your book, you need to understand what is at stake. What is at stake for your characters, what do they stand to lose? And if you understand that, then you can look at all of the sentences on either side of that and say am I building the atmosphere towards what is at stake, either by synchronicity or opposition? Does this descriptive detail add to the tension of this character and characterize in the direction that I'm going with that what's at stake? Or is it detracting, is it extraneous because it's not building? Throw out what doesn't arrow in towards what is at stake?

Speaker 3:

The other thing that I think is incredibly valuable advice is Stephen King saying you should spend as much time reading as you do writing. Because if you've read thousands and thousands and thousands of books, instinctively you're gonna reach for the right tone and atmosphere to build that scene that you wanna build. But if you never read and you're one of these writers that say I don't wanna be influenced by anything, you're not gonna have a very big toolbox to draw from, you're not gonna have even your own sense of. I like this, the way this scene developed, that this writer did and I disliked the way that writer did.

Speaker 3:

When you have thousands of books at your disposal or millions I mean the number of books, I can't even count how many I've read over my lifetime You're gonna automatically have a richer lexicon to draw on and it will become your own, because your own contour is gonna pluck out the threads that you need. You're not gonna interpret somebody else's style. You're not gonna pick that up, because your experience is gonna level that and rub it out. Your own individual preferences are gonna bring forward what you need, but not if you never read. So to me, the writers who say I never read, I don't wanna be influenced or I don't wanna they've just shut the door on all of the richness that the human race has to bring to bear to sharpen your own expertise.

Speaker 3:

So I would read anything and everything, across genres, across cultures. I don't care what it is, that is just going to hone my style.

Speaker 4:

You can't avoid inspiration and make it more individual and not less, because every TV show every film. Everything goes into your brain and swirls around there and, of course, the people that created those things. They were influenced by other things and we live in that. It's what you do with the ingredients, it's what you do with all of these things. It's not about oh, so-and-so did that story. I'm just gonna copy it Because you don't copy it.

Speaker 3:

But sometimes you sit down and you say I'm gonna write this character and he's gonna die. Okay, he's gonna die in the scene. Now, across decades of reading, which books do I remember from 30 years ago where a character death really marked me? How did that writer do it? How did they do that? And there will be more than one character death across decades. That's going to stand out.

Speaker 3:

And so you've just added depth to the choices that you can make on the page to write that scene so that it really hits the reader hard and it gives them a gut punch. And you can't do that if you don't read for decades. You don't have that toolbox. So, yeah, I can remember character deaths that made me cry at six. I can remember horror stories that's scary and TV shows that scare the crap out of me at 11. And I couldn't sleep for weeks and had nightmares haunting of Hill House. You know when that skeleton falls in the acid. Oh my God wrecked me as a kid. So you add depth to your experience and you add real life depth to your experience also.

Speaker 3:

What made this particular loss of a person? What made you grieve the most? What lasted? What gave you that empty feeling that you couldn't fill and you pour that on the page. Vinnie DeFait said you wanna be an artist in science fiction and fantasy or you wanna be a public figure? You wanna create something? Then you may as well imagine that you're gonna walk into Grand Central Station and drop your drawers because that's how deep you got a pair to the bone to pull out the things that make your fiction memorable. You gotta expose yourself. Your characters are not you, but there's a facet to them.

Speaker 4:

For anyone listening to this, johnny is not saying that she goes streaking in public, exposing your soul, exposing your soul who you are as a person, not anything illegal.

Speaker 2:

I got it. I got it. I do find it very these days. I think again I'm gonna blame social media and to some extent like to bring Loki example again. Did they actually watch the show or they just, oh, it's like this in the comics, so obviously that was what the show was trying to do and that's it, and that nothing else gets true. You have a completely different story, but it does not get true, and I find that so frustrating sometimes. And all these videos of oh this can be explained, We'll make any more.

Speaker 1:

I'm sorry, I'm not gonna stop stop.

Speaker 2:

I was talking about yours specifically, but there's, I see a lot of these videos that I don't think they are using the like. Again, back to the series. I don't digress. Whoever created all those videos, you know, calling Loki the God of Stories. They were not based on a TV show. They was not based on what they seemed. They were not explaining what they seemed they were. They were using what they seemed to explain their theory, as they understood, of how they have read it before in the comics and I see I get a little bit wind up because I've had bad experiences with Marvel fans.

Speaker 2:

Let's not go there. But it's this rigidity of thoughts, that's. It's all very good. As a reader, I do that. I try to guess what was the author intent, but I always keep my mind open as well and I understand that that is my opinion and have a discussion about it and it's all great. But now it's this create these groups with this kind of almost an ideology, these dogmas that? No, this is our interpreter. This is how it is, and why are you watching?

Speaker 2:

this stuff, because I'm trying to If you're own and turn. And Trump says this is bullshit. I'm trying to Hit the off button. Change the channel. I need to sell books. I need to understand how to. I need to find my audience.

Speaker 4:

I think there is an issue with a lot of modern reading and readers, and it's the focus on reading as consumption rather than reading. So it's have you bought the latest book? Have you read what happened in the latest book? Okay, move on to the next one. And yeah, turning literature into content, content, content Another aspect I think linked to it, and I could be wrong, but I think, in terms of education, for the last 30 odd years, we've moved away from the deeper reading of text towards a very superficial parsing of information in a text and we have trained an entire generation for surface level, skim reading to extract what are the salient points.

Speaker 4:

You've got that. Now move on Without abstract thought, linking them to other things where we used to go right, you're gonna read this book and we'll work out, we'll discuss what it's all about and all these different elements. We're gonna read this book, do the same thing. Now we're going to link the two of them together. That the focus now is oh, you've read this section, answer these questions. Okay, moving on, and you never look at it again that we've cut and atrophied our ability to think about different things in different ways.

Speaker 4:

And so, with the Loki example, yeah, there's this great comic book story where he becomes the God of stories and he's in the library and he has the book and he can write the thing and make it happen. And they looked at the TV show and went oh, it must be that, because there is no one where he sits down in a throne and becomes a giant cosmic tree. But if they're trying to evoke Loki as God of story, why go with Yidrassil as the image? Why not go with a giant library being formed? Why not have the throne sit there and all of that? And why single out a completely different character to be the character who is associated with fiction? That do you see how none of this adds up to what they did in the show. But the linearity and rigidity of thinking of I've seen this thing and this is in some way similar must be the same, and I think we see more and more and more of that, exactly when people were reading one of the.

Speaker 3:

It's the heyday of the multiple voice test.

Speaker 4:

And they went oh well, this is clearly his commentary on American capitalism. Well, why did you assume American capitalism? Well, well, that's clearly what it is. Not British capitalism, not capitalism from any other part of the world. Why is this associated specifically with America? Oh well, because of this thing. Well, that's interesting. But again, is that, are they that thing? Or was that an inspiration that set off the story?

Speaker 4:

But a lot of the other imagery is actually more about this period of time and this way of acting. Oh well, I don't know about those things. Yeah, there's the big thing our ignorance now of the fact that other things exist. It's not that we are aware.

Speaker 4:

Obviously, we don't know everything per se, we cannot know everything, but we've stopped being aware of the things that we don't know and therefore, when we see a point of connection, instead of sort of going, oh well, I get, this is how I'm interpreting it, it's changed from that to that's what it is, you know.

Speaker 4:

No, no, no, this is how I am interpreting it, this is how I see it, based on the frame of reference and knowledge and experience I had. That's how I am seeing this time interpreting it that way. But that has changed now to no, that's what the thing is. I have identified it. It is now that and that's a very limited, rigid, specific way of looking at the world that denies the existence of fluidity of interpretation and multiplicity of interpretation, and it's very surface level and a very shallow way of reading texts that ignores what we were talking about earlier, about taking that step back and seeing the more abstract notions, the more generalized notions about how we can interpret it in different arenas or use different critical lenses. That is now something that we don't teach early on.

Speaker 1:

Hmm.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, since that, it's lost.

Speaker 1:

You mentioned.

Speaker 3:

The advent of the multiple choice test.

Speaker 1:

It's come up a couple of times about the different content or videos in YouTube with writing advice. What are some? What's some advice that just makes your blood boil when you're here. Some of these people suggest Sure, don't tell.

Speaker 2:

Hmm, Really really hate that one.

Speaker 3:

Well, there's the suicidal one. They always say is this story needed an editor? And Gary the editor who edited that story is going never buy that person if they ever submit me a book, not to say some stories don't clearly need an editor but usually the people you see stumping this.

Speaker 4:

I'm not clear what they're talking about.

Speaker 3:

What they really mean is that this story should have been written to my taste in a lot of ways usually what I'm reading.

Speaker 4:

We all have tastes and preferences. I'm not immune to this and quite often in videos where I'm looking at prologue or looking at writing, I try to step back from what I like and I try to talk about what they are doing in the passage that I am looking at and I can talk about how this is actually like. I like this technique and it has nothing to do with whether or not I enjoyed the book or whether or not I enjoy reading that author's work. What I'm looking at is the techniques, how they did it. I will sometimes say like I really like that or this isn't one of my favorite techniques for people to use, but what I'm not doing is saying this is bad, don't do this. Naughty, naughty writer should not do this Because, again, depending on audience, depending on type, depending on what that particular narrative was doing. An example of this would be Terry Goodkin's Wizard's First World. I am not a fan of Terry Goodkin's sort of truth series. I don't enjoy how he writes. But in that prologue he starts with a twisted, odd looking vine and you go. Well, there's your hook for the reader. Something strange that's happening. People give that at writing advice all the time Start with a hook and you go an odd looking vine was strangling a tree. You're like, oh wow, there is something odd here. There's my hook. And then someone will say, oh yeah, but who cares about plants? Right, you're mistaking your preference for the thing. It's clearly, clearly that that is a hook because it's an odd looking vine.

Speaker 4:

And then Goodkin does something that I personally really, really dislike, which is he has this huge exposition dump, this info dump about all this backstory, about the character. And it's like in a D&D campaign where someone says I am a new character, I was, and they just tell you their entire history. You go right, we're meant to be pretending that we have just met and you're basically saying you walked up to me and then just told me your entire backstory. That's not how people think me. But and Goodkin does this I don't think it's a particularly good technique, but it's an incredibly concise technique for a lot of fantasy readers who want that backstory very, very quickly in two, three paragraphs. It gets them up to speed, they get through it very quickly, they feel acclimated to the story and then they move on. And I think it is. I don't think it's particularly good writing, but it works for the audience it was intended for. I think there are other ways that Goodkin could have done it. That would have been far more satisfying, not only for the audience it was intended for but for other people like me who object to that particular technique, that he could have pleased both sets of readers just by integrating the information more.

Speaker 4:

So when people say there's only one way to do things, or you must do this thing, that frequently is either so bland and generic, it's worthless, or so specific, it's more tied into their personal preferences. But the one thing that drives me nuts if someone is giving writing advice about writing fiction and writing novels and all of their examples are from film and TV and you go, what are you doing If you do realize that film and TV are different media, they have different techniques, they tell stories in different ways and, yes, you can learn from them, but you learn by analogy, you learn from aspects of it. There are completely different techniques that you can use in literature. And if you are giving writing advice and all of your examples illustrating your point about good writing are coming from film and TV, instead of a very short extract where you can show someone how it works in writing. Those are the types of writing videos that I roll my eyes and turn off and unsubscribe from the channel.

Speaker 3:

Films and TV are visual media. It's not the same game.

Speaker 5:

Oh, yeah, totally different so.

Speaker 3:

I don't know how they can say this is how you learn to write is to watch films and TV. What's interesting about it?

Speaker 4:

is you go right by analogy, if I want to talk about naturalistic dialogue versus formal dialogue, and you can play a clip of a Shakespearean exchange in that heavily formal thing and you play a clip of, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie and you go, so you can illustrate the difference. I can understand doing that, but I wouldn't say I'm gonna teach you about naturalistic dialogue in fiction and then use and you go.

Speaker 3:

There's no such thing. Naturalistic dialogue is the most boring thing in the world because people don't talk in a straight line anyway.

Speaker 4:

Creating the impression of dialogue that seems very similitudinous or mimetic. You go right, then we're talking about something, but it's not naturalistic because that's not how any of us speak. But if I'm teaching about writing, I might use a couple of clips to illustrate a point, but then you would have to go to the actual writing so that you can show how it works on a page, because it's no longer about do you get the rough concept? You've communicated the rough concept. Now you need the specifics, and so many writing channels use film and TV to an extent that I worry that they don't read.

Speaker 3:

Why would you be looking at a writing channel to learn how to write anyway, when you got a thousand books in your local library that show you how to do it?

Speaker 1:

The video's only 10 minutes, though, jenny. I can like everything in 10 minutes.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you have to move your ass and actually read a book. I guess I mean a lot of the modern shortcuts, going to Wikipedia instead of actually doing the research. It's another world and I kind of never put my foot further than one toe in the door and said, nope, not for me. I still prefer digging into research the old fashioned way Either hands on experience and learn how to do it, or get a book that was written by an expert who really knows how to do it far beyond my own level of expertise, and then figure what I need out of that.

Speaker 5:

That's another one of those advice things that write what you know, as if you can never do research or never you know.

Speaker 4:

There goes my story that, oh sorry.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, how dull that would be. No, no, no, I was just digressing. But yeah, despite what you know, I mean especially when people are in fantasy how can you know? About orcs or dragons or aliens.

Speaker 4:

I know I hear things. Susanna, are you telling me that you don't?

Speaker 6:

know about dragons you never studied actual dragons and learned all about.

Speaker 4:

Oh I, this is great.

Speaker 2:

I've never seen the dragon ever.

Speaker 5:

Oh, I watch a critical dragon.

Speaker 4:

But it's confusing writing something with a level of authenticity and only writing what is in your own experience. Because writing about loss okay, I might never have had a pet horse die, that you know while we were on a trek across the country, but I may have had in my life a loss of something of that magnitude. So writing from that perspective, writing about what I know, which is that type of loss, then that scene that I have created you imbue with that loss. That that's writing what you know. But people have again this very superficial, literal interpretation of it which is, oh well, you can only write about these things then. And no, that's not quite what it means, but yeah, no.

Speaker 3:

It's a problem with the internet. It's just like assholes. Everybody has an opinion and, if you know, if you let that like the tide roll over you every day, it's gonna suck all the juice out of what you want to do. There has to be some kind of building your own barriers and your own walls to buffer that so that you can listen to your own compass, because otherwise you'll just get an undated with everybody else's shoulds and shoulds and you won't be able to hear your own voice.

Speaker 3:

I don't like the internet's habit of throwing a review in my face. Before I've ever cracked a book open and looked at the first page of the prose myself, because that would have told me directly from my gut am I gonna like this book or not. Just the quality of the prose from page or two or three is gonna speak to me. But reading and review is gonna give me somebody's predigested opinion and it's already gonna color my view of when I opened that book. So I try not to read reviews before I step into a work because I don't want to know what other people thought of it. I'll join in the conversation after I've read it and formed my own, but that's increasingly rare these days. I know readers now who won't buy a book unless they read all the reviews and figure out ahead of time whether it's quote worth their time. How do you know? You just took somebody else's pre-chewed experiences, like eating food that they already ate. All the guts are gone out of it.

Speaker 2:

No, exactly, I agree entirely, and it's awful to say because as authors, we need reviews. But as a reader, I don't go and read reviews. Maybe sometimes, after reading the book, I go and see what other people talk about.

Speaker 4:

Quite often I like a lot of reviews even before I've read something or even after I've read something to see how someone else responded to it. But most of the reviews are not only from people I know. I know untrust, I know who they are, I know what their opinion on certain things is, I know what their taste is. Therefore, there's a level of trust and understanding there about where they are coming from in their review. And the second thing is their reviews will very rarely be about I like this thing or I like that thing or I didn't like this, or the reviews are academic reviews. It's a different style. It's not a consumer five-star reading about how they felt about the book. It's an actual critical review of the text and for me personally, that's the thing that I like and I trust. But and I know not everyone does that People like different styles of review, which is absolutely fine. But for me, so many reviews now are, they're not reviews. They're what how I felt about a book, not what the book was.

Speaker 4:

And I always feel if you're going to review a book, the book is the focus, not how you felt about it. That's an aspect that you can bring in. But if you're reviewing a book, the focus should be on the book, not on how you felt, because then the focus is on you, not the book, and it's as simple as that. So that's, those are the yeah, but most people. That's because I'm the center of the universe. Most people can't separate that.

Speaker 3:

It's all about how they felt.

Speaker 2:

Or how they feel about the author. That's another one.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, everything revolves around me. So of course, yeah, speaking of readers and reviews and the time, just whenever we get together, the time flies. But before we go on it to ask for advice for readers like me who feel like they miss out on prose sometimes or miss small details, we just don't notice because we aren't as familiar with that. What tips would you give to readers to catch those small things? What can we do to appreciate the text and to read it in more? In some ways? Does that make sense? Open question.

Speaker 2:

Slowly, slower, and just pay attention to each word. Well, that's what I do, but I can't read fast, so that's just too much.

Speaker 3:

I think there's an art to see, an art to setting aside your filters and your barriers in order to really extract saying on the page slow down is the first step, but the second step is don't be afraid to feel it. You have to drop your inhibitions about getting emotional and let the story carry you into territory that it might be a little more uncomfortable for you than the way you handled emotional content in real life, and really you have nothing to lose. It's just you and your room in the book. Nobody's gonna judge you for how you let yourself feel when you're reading something. But I find often, particularly with male readers, they're really afraid to get emotional and let the book get emotional and make them feel they have an inhibition about really stepping into those deeper waters and letting go. So it's about slowing down, but it's also that ability to let go and cast loose and let the story carry you, even when it might be uncomfortable, because nobody's judging you.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I think when you're reading something, it's like slowing down is also looking at the words and saying what is that telling me? And so you look at those words and say what are those words telling me? And so you slow down, you say, all right, it's telling me this. Now you go on to the next section and say what is that telling me and how does that relate to what I was already told? And it's just a process of reading that you can get what it's telling you out of that and you'll get more and more practice at that the more you read and it'll be automatic. It'll come automatically as you do it more and more.

Speaker 4:

One of the things that I would suggest is practicing close reading, particularly poetry analysis taking. It's very easy to do for no money at all. You don't have to pay for a course or anything, but as you experience on it. You can almost guaranteed find on YouTube or at all these, someone who is doing a complete analysis of Shakespearean poetry, or you could look at the metaphysical poets or any type of poetry, famous poems and what you do is you look at the poem. Quite often you can see all of these poems for free. Look at the poem, try to analyze it, try to construct what it's about, what meaning you're getting from it, why you get that meaning, and then go and watch a couple of different people talking about it, and usually it takes a bit of time, but they'll go through it and you go right, how close was I? Oh, I was way off. They all were consistent in that, okay. And then you try it again with another one and another one, and the more you practice this, the better you get at A being accurate in understanding what is in front of you. B you expand your vocabulary because you're looking. Poetry is some of the densest form of writing in terms of emotion and information being conveyed to the reader. And if you can get good at understanding and dissecting poetry and breaking poetry down, then prose in novels becomes so much easier, because it's not no, it's not that it's not complex, but it is not necessarily as complex as some of this poetry. And so by practicing poetry analysis which you can do for free, you can find for free, you can check your answers for free the more you practice, that, I think, aids in an aspect of expanding your reading, expanding your recovery, expanding your ability to note these things as you read automatically.

Speaker 4:

No one thinks, the first time they get into a car, that driving is simple and straightforward. There's like, oh well, I have to watch this and I'm meant to be watching that, and oh, my speed. And oh, I'm changing gear, and it's a million and one things. How does anyone ever do this? Fast forward 10 years and they're driving with one hand out the window and, you know, laying back and having a conversation, and then their phones going and I'm like, oh, I must do. Suddenly driving has become really easy. There's so many other things the driver is doing automatically and that's what people forget. It starts out difficult where you're juggling all of these things, where you're thinking about them consciously where you're having to make notes. But if you practice enough, it becomes automatic. It becomes something that you just your eye notes as it travels along the page.

Speaker 1:

Good advice. Yeah, lots of great poetry out there too. It feels like it's overlooked because of everything available now to read, but there's some great poets out there.

Speaker 3:

There's some great song lyrics too, that would do the same thing. So take your favorite song. Why is it your favorite song? What is it doing? What are those words?

Speaker 4:

If you take away the music, what are the words? I has taught Taylor Swift lyrics, because they're incredibly well-wrought that they again. It's about this lyricism, about this complexity, about linking it to decoding what is there, and it's all an aspect of it. So taking something you're more familiar with like song lyrics is, as Johnny said, perfect way to do it. If you don't wanna do Elizabethan sonnets or something like that, but finding poetry, complex, image-rich poetry, that's a technique and a bit of advice I would give you.

Speaker 5:

Do you edit poetry? Questions too. Do you find a?

Speaker 1:

lot of poetry reflections being missed, but I have friends who are poets and I've picked them often.

Speaker 4:

They recommend things for me to read, so I follow their advice. Poetry is not my area of expertise, but it's incredibly rich and fulfilling and I enjoy being a reader of poetry.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for hanging out so long that the time just flies by and before you know it it's almost three hours in. But thanks everyone for listening. And Susanna, will you give us an outro please?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm usually based chewing and sorry, it's almost midnight here, brain is gone and on X as chronodendron. My books are available everywhere. The first one in the series is called Weird Gods. I can't miss it and I've really enjoyed this talk. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1:

I hope you can make it, and Jenny.

Speaker 3:

Thank you for having us, steve, thank you for hosting these. It's a huge, huge endeavor that you've done and you're really contributing to the community and to the field, and it's always a pleasure to be here with AP and Jared. I follow your channel and, susanna, I'll have to check yours out as well. So I'm an author and I'm an illustrator and I'm easy to find. I'm everywhere. My name is exactly as spelled here. Do a search, you'll come up with it and I really enjoy these talks because, obviously, reading and this genre and the books are one of the great loves of my life. So thank you all for sharing and thank you, steve, for making this possible and thank you, ap, for lending your expertise.

Speaker 1:

Yes, definitely. Thank you, Jenny and Jared.

Speaker 5:

Thank you, steve, and thank you for your kind words, Jenny. You can find me on my channel at the Fantasy Thinker on YouTube and I also hang around page doing four and a lot.

Speaker 4:

I just want to thank everyone for such a fascinating and interesting fun conversation and to say if you disagree with any of my points, it's absolutely fine. I'm not an expert and I do not rule as God of stories what people are allowed to do. But and here's a fascinating book John Gardner has a great book on writing and I was looking for some of the reviews of it and people were saying this person is so obnoxious, what do they know about writing. But if you disagree with that point, it helps you formulate your counter argument and that'll help you shore up your point better, and so listening to people you disagree with can be incredibly useful. So thank you so much for the conversation, everyone, and thank you for challenging a number of my ideas, because it's through these conversations, it's through discussions, that we learn from each other. So thank you.

Speaker 1:

I was waiting for you to say if you disagreed with anything I said, you're wrong.

Speaker 4:

I'm always saying a good word. I'm always saying a good word.

Speaker 1:

I was waiting for that.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, no, you really appreciate your time and everyone's time.

Speaker 1:

I can be found on page2ingcom as with Jared, he's a Brett's a blog on page2ing as well and join our forums if you'd like to join us anytime. We have a nice little friendly community there and really fortunate to have them around so awesome. Well, everyone have a great weekend and we will talk soon.

Speaker 5:

Yay.

Speaker 1:

If I can find the button.

Art of Prose in Writing
Crafting Nuanced Prose
The Complexity and Impact of Prose
Debate on Writing Rules and Individuality
Breaking Writing Rules
Exploring Lyrical Prose in Writing
Power of Prose and Language Choice
Tolkien's Influence on Fantasy Writing
The Influence of Culture on Prose
The Power of Language and Interpretation
The Relationship Between Prose and Genre
Language and Narrative in News Reporting
Characterization and Narrative Perspective
Tools and Techniques for Effective Writing
Limitations of Linear Thinking and Writing
Reading and Reviewing Books Challenge
Reading and Analyzing Literature
Expressing Gratitude and Encouraging Open Dialogue