Cheeseburger Gothic

Friday writing blog: Voice.

Posted November 6, 2009 by John Birmingham
But first some housecleaning. I have updated the blog roll to the left as per everyone's requests of a few weeks back, although I have left some of the older inactive links in place. I simply cannot bring myself to delete kitten heel for instance.

Also I had an e-mail from Fairfax the other day telling me they'll be a few tweaks to the blogging format over the weekend. It won't go anywhere near addressing all the issues we raised but it's a start. I think the first thing they're looking at doing is changing the number of comments that can be viewed in the thread to save people having to click through multiple screens to get to the end of the discussion. At least that's what it looked like from the e-mail. I guess we'll see.

So, on to today's topic.

Voice.

I wanted to talk mostly about voice today, because it's an issue that came up in the comment thread of a previous writing blog. A couple of people weren't entirely sure what voice was, and others didn't know and how to find their own voice. So we'll start with voice first.

Perhaps a little personal history to illustrate. I wrote Leviathan to escape the gravitational pull of Felafel. In many ways Leviathan was a return to first principles for me. For 10 years before I wrote Felafel I had written feature stories for magazines, i.e. nonfiction. There were certain magazines such as the Independent Monthly which had a very formal, very old-fashioned 'house style'. Although the articles were all bylined there was very little difference between the in the forms of expression they used. A Helen Garner article would read very much like a Peter Robb article or even one of my articles. That was not an ironclad rule, especially where I was concerned, but it was a general principle. We wrote in a formal 'high' style which you can see reproduced in any number of British or American magazines currently available. The New Yorker is the obvious example.

At the same time as I was writing for the Independent, I was also filing copy of Penthouse, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Inside Sport, Wisden and occasionally for the broadsheet newspapers and their weekend supplements. Again the copy I submitted to each magazine was subtly different depending on the house style. Good Weekend for instance was very similar in style to the Independent, in that generally speaking it did not allow for any great rhetorical flourishes of slanguage, swearing, neologisms and so on. That doesn't mean the stories were boring. Some great writers worked on that supplement and produced some quite beautiful pieces of work, but they did so with very plain and simple rhetoric.

Rolling Stone on the other hand was a different matter. Rolling Stone was the magazine where Hunter S. Thompson came to prominence. It was the magazine with PJ O'Rourke published some of his earlier, funnier political pieces. It was not a magazine afraid of correspondents with strong individual voices. In fact so strong were some of those voices, such as Thompson's, that you can hear them echoing through the copy of a generation of writers who followed them.

If we look at a couple of quotes from Thompson and O'Rourke we can begin to see just how striking the sound of their voices on the page could be, compared to more conventional journalists.

Thompson: “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

O’Rourke: “After all, what is your host’s purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they’d simply have sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi.”

In these two short bits of text we do not find every point of difference between two writers who otherwise share many points of commonality, but we do find two very different voices. In Thompson’s case he speaks from the black shriveled heart of a true believer turned cynic. His writing often lands on the page like hammer blows pounding his chosen target to a bloody pulp. To do that he chooses his words like a boxer chooses his blows, comparing good men to dogs, presenting us with the alien almost inhuman environment of “a long plastic hallway” populated not by business people or television executives but by “thieves” and “pimps”. His words are harsh because the thoughts he wishes to express are harsh.

The O’Rourke quote on the other hand comes from a piece about hosting a dinner party in his first edition of collected works, Republican Party Reptile. In that particular piece O’Rourke achieves his comedic effect by writing in the very refined, almost prissy style of a 1920s guide to etiquette. You can hear him in your head as you read and he sounds like someone wearing a cravat and nursing a frosted martini. That is the form he has chosen; the content however is subversive of the form; positing a moral universe in which cravat wearing ethics teachers drop pants at the first opportunity and snort cocaine off hooker’s boobs. (Incidentally, that distancing effect, a rapid wrenching away of meaning and subtext from the formal text creates an immediate sense of tension which is resolved when the reader laughs. It is one of the basic techniques of comedic writing.)

Given that magazines have different house styles, but that authors also have their own styles, how do we resolve the question that then arises; which style takes primacy?

There is no easy way to answer this, but being brutal about it, it’s a question of power. If the magazine has commissioned the writer the chances are they are buying that writers byline as much as they are his or her copy. In that sense even if they have a house style they will be willing to allow the writer a degree of freedom on the page, possibly total freedom depending on who they have commissioned. You don’t pay PJ O’Rourke to write stock standard op-ed political columns, for instance. You pay him to write jokes, his very particular brand of jokes.

This question arises for me on a regular basis, because of the features I write for The Monthly. Writing for them feels very much like writing for the old Independent Monthly to me. The house style is formal and literate. It should be possible to take a paragraph from one story and compare it to a paragraph from another story without being able to tell who wrote which piece. The author’s voice is impersonal. On the other hand, if you look hard enough in each piece, particularly the long feature articles written by senior correspondents, you will occasionally see small stylistic flourishes which set them apart from each other.

For instance in this month's edition you will find interviews with Mr. Flinthart and Mr. Bedak, both of which appear in a 3000 word feature written by me about the future of the National Party. At one point in the story they are referred to as Flinthart of Tasmania, and Bedak of Book Book. This sort of faux classic Boys Own adventure phraseology is something I’ll throw into a story every now and then just to break up the atmosphere if it’s all feeling a bit formal and learned. There is a similar small ironic distance between the form of the words and the intent of the author as I mentioned in the O’Rourke extract above. Thompson does something similar quite often when he uses biblical turns of phrase in his work. Indeed somewhere in one of his collections he talks about always keeping a Bible nearby him for inspiration when he writes.

Voice is then something which can be amplified or turned down. You’ll find my voice at its loudest and often most unpleasant in my blogs for Fairfax. Because blogging is almost conversational form of writing, it makes sense that the voice of the blog author should sound almost like spoken word. It doesn’t have to be, of course. A blog can be written as formally as a PhD thesis. But mostly they are not, mostly they sound like the writer is talking to you. Their voice comes through clearly.

In a previous writing blog somebody, possibly Jennicki, asked how difficult it is to switch from one form of writing to another. From Blunt Instrument to The Monthly.

With practice it’s not that difficult at all. It’s akin to switching between languages. It all depends on how fluent you are. If you’re still at the learning stage it can be very difficult indeed, but if you have been speaking a dozen languages, or writing in half a dozen voices all your life you can switch between them without any conscious effort at all.

So, the final question. How do you find your voice?

The same way you found your real voice when you were learning to speak, slowly at first, awkwardly, while making lots of mistakes, some of them quite embarrassing.

In a sense you shouldn’t go looking for your voice, you should just let it come to you. In the same way that our accents and our manner of speaking are largely determined by the home in which we learn to speak, your written voice will be determined by those places in which you dwell when you were learning to write. You will find your voice through listening to the voices of those writers and authors you most admire. Does this mean you will imitate them slavishly? If you are a teenage would-be author, almost certainly. But that will pass. And the more you read, the more influences you allow to play upon your own style, the richer and more interesting it will probably be.

107 Responses to ‘Friday writing blog: Voice.’

DrYobbo has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
I think one of the hardest things for any writer - published and credentialled or otherwise - is stepping outside their own voice (or at least the voice they're most comfortable in) and working in another. That's one of the talents that differentiates the handy writers from the very good ones. I don't really have it, not enough to carry off (say) a 600 page technothriller. It'd inevitably descend into unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women not in their league.

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FKNHVK mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2009
O'coursa if ya got a FKN distintiv style ya find FKN CLWNS Immitating ya AWSM voice all OVa the Place like a telletubby in an old bridesmades dress at 5pm in the carpark at flemington on cup day

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Allan Dunbar mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
So when are you going to start teaching?

I found this interesting because it's not something I've ever thought about when reading my own work. I think when I edit my own writing, be it an essay or work of fiction, I look for consistency in the tone and language - which is the same thing as voice, I think. It's good to be able to put a name and concept to it.

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Sweet Jane Says has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
Voice does not change with genre. Mood, tone, and other literary elements change with genre. Voice is a writer's soul; everything else is cosmetic.

J.

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beeso asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Bloody good piece. I was wondering how much rewriting and editing you'd do for the blogs. Looking back just then i think the bits i've written the best are the ones i've done in my mind for a fair bit first before writing. They sound the most how i think i should sound.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
"...and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."

And we are all poorer for the lack of him.

Very interesting stuff JB. Thankyou again. As a mug punter, I was all content content content and had given very little thought to voice. I do like 80 cent words and cheesy alliteration, but hadn't considered the effect it had on a hypothetical reader, except of course blinding him / her with my genious.

Dr. Yobbo- "snip ...unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women... snip " What's not to love? I'd like to see more of this in my impossibly dry & impenatrable Marine Legislation.

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Havock puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
Ok so it was worth the wait , you missing the deadline and all that. I'm on the iPhone so a longer piece od probable diatribe shall have to wait. But!, that's extremely interesting espesh the language ref you make. Theb take it a whole order of magnitude up and layer in not just characters and their voice but pace as well...... I wonder how many writers cut their wrists! I'll say it and you might want to frame it.

Nice piece

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Medway asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Damn... My actual voice is one of those that is always spoken over and ignored half the time, and occasionally trails off into randomness.

*writes on hand "Find your voice you pansy"*

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Naut asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
I have been conscious of voice but never realised the depth of its importance.

Great post Birmo, you definately had your thinky, edumacating voice in there!

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damian asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Just one thing with the list - you might want to add a link that works for the new Blunty:

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/blog/blunt-instrument

I suggest keeping the old one too, though.

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Chaz asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Noice, and thought provoking. The question is what voice do us struggling wannabe's Havock, Meself, Jenn etc speak in? our Own? or some verdamn uitlander from Cape Town?

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Flinthart mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2009
One of the very few pieces of advice I will readily give to new authors is worth repeating here. Read shit.

I mean it.

When you read shit like L Ron Hubbard or Matthew Reilly or Jackie Collins, the 'voice' of the author is cracked, and weak, and the things you notice most are the horrible affectations and errors. Hubbard taught me that exclamation points do NOT belong outside dialogue. He also taught me that a page full of single-clause sentences is an experience, for the reader, not unlike being repeatedly bashed in the head with a nerf bat.

You see what I mean? You read shit, you can learn what NOT to write, and it doesn't interfere with your own development. You're just getting a quick primer in avoiding certain mistakes.

On the other hand... I read "Crime and Punishment" in a single 36-hour frenzy back when I was just starting to write. Dostoyevsky's voice was so damned compelling, even in translation, that I could hardly bear to put the book down long enough to eat.

For two weeks afterwards, everything I wrote came out like bad Dostoyevsky. Because a powerful voice is not easily emulated, and a poor emulation is a pitiful thing indeed.

So: read crap, and enjoy it. That way, you'll understand all the better what makes the really good stuff so amazing - and you'll have a chance of getting there for yourself.

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Medway swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
I noticed something along these lines the other day while I was reading a book called "Myst: the book of Atrus" (Rand and Robyn Miller). It's one of my favourite books and it has a very soft and delicate voice to it.

And when John mentioned about his loud and obnoxious voice in Blunty, I agreed.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
"I wrote Leviathan to escape the gravitational pull of Felafel. "

Hows that worked out for you?

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Actually CHAZ raises ..lets call it a though in the head and thats very dangerous territory for me on what Dirk and JB have said.

So here goes my interpretation.

With commercial non fictional works I suspect its far easier to change the tone, based on both the article and the demographic the publication is pitched at. Thats Skill based or perhaps having some longevity in the game, for commercial non fictional pieces of proses it's also I suspect a required talent if you wish to prosper.

But for Fictional work, the reader identifies with the authors style of writing, be it loud, blunt, eloquent or tech laden. Its here in the fictional arena I think, that a consistent level of voice is not only a requirement, certainly if its serialized works, but because its very natural perhaps somewhat easier to maintain.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
oooooaaahhh.

Juicy stuff.

I remember reading something about the code monkeys in WW2...the morse code people, that is, the tap tap tap clickety click folk, and how they'd spy and intercept each other's codes.

this being a German/French/English thing.

And the people who were doing the spying became very adept at recognizing voices that were done in code.

I'm sure it was morse code because I remember being absolutely intrigued that people could have a distinct voice and style and be recognizable through FKN code, of all things.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Zing.

1 to Barnesm

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
DAM, I'm gunna go OFF topic here JB ref THE MONTHLY Article. Smashed the fkn nail into the piece of timber with a sledge hammer. FK, it aint rocket science....yet they manage to fuck it up at every turn, being from the BUSH I will call it, they want, what the city folk want and in most cases already have by the bucket load.

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virty would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
my voice broke when i was 11 .... neva came back.

pretty fkn obvious huh

then this insane 60's rock scene hijacked a christian classical upbringing to the dark side. not that the dark side is evil mind you but it does ratfark many a decent artiste.

- many parallels with musical expression do scribblers have, with theme and variation appearing to be the key providing you stay within a firm set of ground rules / guidelines such as vocal development, do re me ect

problem being there's always an exception to any discipline that blows all the text books way.

e.g. a old uni mate, ross bolleter threw the fundamentals of harmony away, much to prof tunleys dismay, and is now (well purports to be) one of australia's most prominent avantgarde composers and indie improvisation gurus.

he plays brubeck and granger with pnash and style but he blatantly stole that from yours truly ;)

trouble is he can't make any fkn money outta his love and mastery of the contemporary stuff so he lugs away in a bar 6 nights week playing covers.

develope and maintain the voice ? follow your dream ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am05yZehlAM

methinks it all comes down to agents (no, we're not recommending harry m at all), havin' a marketable product and the eternal fkn $ these days unless you go indie, but what do i know, hey. pz.v.

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Catty mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2009
What about the people with a voice, but nothing worthwhile to say? What do we do? It's depressing. I'd give up writing altogether if it weren't for Andrew Bolt - I figure if he can earn a living from writing, I sure as hell should be able to.

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simon bedak puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
At NIDA Playwrights Studio nearly 20 years ago, we had to submit wk in hard copy for criticism. Two-hander, three hander scenes. My wonderful tutors Ken Healy & Terry Clarke would place a ruler in the character name columns and expect to be able to tell the diffferent characters from the way they spoke.

I know it's not what you meant by voice JB and all, but for those interested in dialogue (particularly from an ex-cattleman comet still orbiting the Felafel pulsar), this literal bent on your kindly shared thoughts might ssit as an interesting footnote. SB

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Simon..good call. EXCEPT the bit about KINDLY SHARED THOUGHTS..We built his fkn GOLD PLATED FKN HOVERCRAFT so the fkr was due to ante up or be fkn capped i reckon...he used the excuse CARMA...well ..whatever. But I must admit, it is good.

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Right on , Flinthart. I couldn't agree more. When peeps start rubbishing great writing (from lit and genre), I just want to point them in the direction of crap so they appreciate the difference. But, you get called a snob unfortunately.

May I indulge myself and add Ayn Rand, the writer I love to hate (on oh so many levels) ?

A narrative voice you could set concrete with.

JB- Thx. I agree- when are you gonna teach ? nonsense that "those who can't ,teach". I never believed that.

Voice is a great subject to think about because it's endless. You could discuss it forever and never run out of voices to analyse,praise, learn something from.

It was very interesting to read what you said about the less obvious individual voices of contributors to 'The Monthly' because it made me think that being forced to write within those confines is very good for developing a voice. I think it makes you hungrier.

About Blunty for a sec- it's funny, I don't think of that voice as "loud and obnoxious". But I can definitely hear a very flamboyant character in it- kind of 1970's; that free way people had back then. Loose but tight- makes no sense, but, you know, thats what I got. I just love that free voice. To me it sounds more like a cool, self-assured, iconoclast coming through. Actually, I can hear a lot of different writing forms in it, as though you read very widely. I don't know if you do read especially widely, but it sounds in your blog as if you do.

But that's just my opinion.

I mention this because it makes me more conscious of how a voice is the primary thing readers are identifying with (or, not) so it better be one readers can live with for 300 pp. A voice can get too anything- too rigid; too gentle; too obnoxious, and endlessly so. The "obnoxious" style can make you switch off because you feel like all you're listening to Kyle. May God help us.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
No, Simon, that stuck in my head last time you said it.

I was about to bring it up but you know, the Dog Walking Hour and all.

When I was at some QWC thing years ago, Tara from Curtis-Browne said that voice was the big thing they looked for when they were reading a manuscript. And that even if the writer hadn't quite nailed it in the first chapter, if they could hear 'the voice' and it held you, they'd persist with reading the MS.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
Which reminds me, occasionally I'll like something an author has written so I'll go to the next thing but they've lost their voice.

Its really strange. And sometimes the third thing that comes out is even worse.

Not that I end up reading the third thing...just skimming in the bookstore.

I wonder how much pure panic there is that makes an author lose confidence in a second novel.

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Abigail asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Yes Quokka, Tara makes a good point. That is what they look for, but it makes me ask myself (and anyone else)- How the bejesus do some fiction authors get published when they are really, really bad? The only answer I can come up with is the publishers concur on "strong, consistent voice" , perhaps a tired old godforsaken soy milk drinking, lavender honey of a whining screech of a voice, but it seems to spell Best Seller. Bizarre. Chaps, this know because I attend two book groups and the crap we read but it seems to appeal.

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simon bedak asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
quokka, if you wanna hear a fucking voice, this week on the writing show on ABC-RN Don Walker was reading his yarn 'Shot'. Mate, I was being evicted, had a car full of memories heading to the tip, down a potential $2m on where we thought we were a month or so ago, and it was so fucking true, I had to pull over and just listen. I was amazed and, somehow cleaner for having been able to believe.

Oddly, I had a similar conversation off-handedly with me old next door neighbour Bruce who's a fucking successful movie director type. I've no interest in writing for film because its solving things with an economy of available objects in theatre that I dig. Anyhow, I asked him that seeing he had to read a metric fuckload of scripts daily, how could he tell the good one from the bad and how long did it take? Bruce reckoned two pages. Said, TOO MUCH DIALOGUE and not enough allowing the camera to tell the story - how about you and a theatre script?

I confessed quokka that I'd drop them in the bin after a single page if I saw an adverb in a stage direction.

Say, Tara's a cute name. Was she hot?

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sparty asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
very interesting- just realised that i read alot of fiction authors for "their voice" and when they lose it on a particular book (Dreamcatcher Stephen King?, John Lecarre The Night Porter?)I tend to hate the book.....

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hughesy has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
Marketing Abigail, marketing.

Dan Brown's DaVinci Code is a gold plated text book on what to avoid when writing. Runaway world wide best seller. Go figure.

It's paractically comedy it's so bad. Runaway best seller in this case can only mean that there are millions of suckers born every minute.

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
I like the 'voice' of Blunty but I wonder if people sometimes don't 'get' it. Certainly there's a strong representation of overly earnest posters since the NT migration who haven't quite picked up the overarching tone. And I've certainly found that people have misread the tone of stuff I've written on my own blog which, while about a million miles from Blunty, borrows the same hyperbolic rantiferous slash-and-burn approach to whatever issue has been invented as the reason for rantation this time by. I've been asked by people who know me IRL whether those opinions are mine and whether I hold to them or would be held to them.

Tara is a cute name. Except the way the Seppos pronounce it which makes it sound like Terror, something you'd declare war on if you were so inclined.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Hee - when I dipped into this earlier for a moment and flicked through, I caught myself working out whether you meant Hunter Thompson of Jim Thompson :)

Myself, I still haven't dealt with the fact the world lost HST during the GWB years. I'd say that 10,000 GWB's are not worth one HST, except it's likely the value of the former is negative so it's not really a fair equation.

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damian would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Yobbo - for a long time I misheard the line "She had a mind full of tyranny and terror" in the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song "Do you love me?" as "Tunry-and-turn" for similar accent related reasons, and he's bloody Australian.

And even notable for doing what I often call an Australian-accented version of "blues".

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
I liked her. She seemed like a 'don't fuck with me' kind of a girl.

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Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
Hughesy- Yes, quite so. I see how marketing is responsible for the success; they push and push. But I also wonder what makes them say in the first place, " The Da Vinci Code hey? this is a masterpiece, let's give this a big spin" ? Yet, they might also publish something far better. I don't understand their standards at all

Dr Yobbo- I know precisely what you mean about people not 'getting' tone anymore- the audience dont get each other, either (not always like that, of course). I would argue that it works both ways and the problems are: we no longer understand each other's subtler signals so well, and I put that down to the reliance upon emoticons; deep PC anxiety about offending so we are faster to take offence; lack of exposure to a wide lexicon of styles/ irony. I mean, I contribute to Blunty and Geek regularly and sometimes I am very earnest but I absolutely 'get' what is happening, it's just me feeling serious about an issue sometimes and not conforming to the mood going on around me because I don't feel like it. So it might be like that for some other people.

But occasional contributors who criticise certain articles, and blog such as Blunty *in the way they do* I think , wow, are you just not aware of your surroundings? Makes me want to tell them, for the love of all things kind and merciful,stop reading, one day it's going to kill you stone dead.

Remember when we used to 'get it' (voice) ?

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Orin is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Oh and Havock - want a great example of voice - finish reading Transmetropolitan.

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Medway reckons...

Posted November 6, 2009
@Hughsey: it's funny. Every time I hear "#1 Best seller" I always look at it in confusion because it's like one of those words you repeat over and over in your head and you just lose meaning of the whole thing in the first place and wonder "Am I even saying it right? Beast Sallah... Bist Sellaw... Beef Salad..."

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Flinthart - I agree with a proviso. You still have to read some good stuff. Otherwise, you won't know what it's like, and if you read enough shit, you won't even remember that writing something that isn't shit is even possible.

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DrYobbo has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
90% of everything is crap, and it's usually the 90% that's most popular. The highest rating show on TV is Two And A Half men for fuck's sake, scripted by morons, watched by fuckwits who can accept the prevailing concept of a fat, faded clown in a bowling shirt shagging a bunch of women he shouldn't even be allowed to share a lift with. The top 40 singles charts are full of unexpurgated arse, most Hollywood blockbusters are cretinous rubbish... I guess it's not that surprising that poorly construed but brilliantly marketed books are just as successful as other similar forms of art/entertainment are.

I'd add to Flinthart's good points about reading crap (so long as you can recognise it as such) - write crap. You have to write a lot of crap to find your own voice. There's handwritten manuscripts of mine in drawers and folders which are lame attempts at co-opting the voice of Ian Fleming or Len Deighton or Freddy Forsyth. Writing in someone else's voice is often about as natural as having David Strassman's hand up your arse trying to operate your mouth, while he gargles a bottle of water.

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virty asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
hmmm the ha'penny hasn't dropped ha' it (well maybe catty is on it)

each to their own, it'd be a pretty borin' place if we all wrote the same way with the same "voice" wouldn't it now.

i briefly referred to him today over at that godforsaken place

- grab a copy of alexander buzo's "i don't want to sound incredulous but i can't believe it" some shit hot illustrated non fiction about tautology (penguin 1982)

- love the parting words from bob ellis quote "he was sued by david hill, and then re-befriended"

well worth the effort ladies and gentlemen, he graces about a foot or so my book shelves with wonderful memories.

gotta fly. pz.v.

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DrYobbo would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Virty, Buzo's handy tome 'Kiwese' is still my ready reckoner for translating the local vernacular into the Queen's Australian English for communication purposes.

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jennicki swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
Loved this. I always look forward to getting up and reading these posts on Friday mornings.

And this PJ O'Rourke is now on my "must read" list.

Is your Monthly article with Simon and Dirk available yet?

(Doc, a bit harsh on Two and a Half Men. I mean it's not brilliant or anything, but the writers throw in some pretty funny lines in most episodes I've seen)

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Abigail puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
Doc Yobbo : "Write some crap" Indeed, following instructions here is all I can say. I've just written 4 pages of shite.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2009
Great article. I'm not sure I have much to add.

I would agree that "finding" one's voice can be difficult. Sometimes I suspect academic training does not help in this respect. When I left grad school in 2001 I figured it would only take me a year or two to break into fiction. After all, everyone told me that I was a good writer. I never had trouble getting published in the past (granted, at the very lowest levels).

Turns out that over the six years of my life as a security guard (the Uniguard Era) I had to completely relearn how to write. My initial pieces sounded very much like my grad school papers on Ancient Rome. Great if I am telling a story about a bunch of historians trying to purchase lost texts from book collectors in the first century AD (Turtledove, I might add, already wrote that one). Not so good for other types of stories.

I've noticed that it is especially difficult for academics who try their hand at fiction writing to find a voice they are comfortable with. Academic writers are trained to write in a distant voice where they never fully commit to a point of view. They often struggle with this when they try to transition.

And just on a personal note, I found that when I first wrote dialogue for characters, they all sounded like yours truly. Bedak alludes to the importance of creating distinctive voices for each of your characters in his comments on play writing.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph is spot on with his point about academic writing. It kills any individual voice you may have had. Does it on purpose too.

I'll pop back in here l8r in the weekend to pick up a few of these points. Gotta get to cricket now.

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 7, 2009
May I gloat? In cyberspace noone's going stop me anyway...

Have been writing a short novel (about 80pp) over the last 12 months while I've been home.

Just slammed draft 2 down on the table, baby.

Stayed up all night getting it finished , "1 year, 1 year, 1 year..." (sorry, stealing from Karl Lagerfeld and twisting it around a little) Another few months outta do it.

Style: Lit fic.

Voice : Very F***ING EXCITED, BABY.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
And oh, just btw- sorry, too tired to remember to say this-

JB, you don't know how this last few weeks of the writingblog has benefitted me, you really truly don't. I've come back again and again looking at what you say about applying yourself and don't worry too much if you write shite just go through it, etc etc, and all of everyone's comments and I want to say huge thanks so much to you JB -and to everyone who responds- for keeping each other writing. But I musn't get too emo, there's some peeps here who'd call you a "pantywaist" for Far Less. (Ohh, I mean that in a kind way:)

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
http://thingsboganslike.wordpress.com/the-full-list/

Dr. Yobbo some of us like bogans, and would pay good money (in bookstores and cinema) to see much more of them.

Tramp stamps most particularly.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
I suspect in the fiction arena, creating voice assisted by character creation. This may be a character based on an individual or purely one you have made up, either way, defining who they are and attributed I suspect helps. Then as you progress and become familiar with the characters, speaking in their voice...Should theoretically become easier.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
I still think though, that Voice and style are completely different. You may get into your characters voice, this might temper what is defined as your style, but style will override the characters voice, sufficiently to identify, but not kill off the characters voice. If that makes sense.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 7, 2009
Before I retire.. Murph- what you said was interesting- about 'the academy' and how it ruins the immediacy ,for all time in some cases. Especially if you major in Lit. (yep).

For one thing, it's you against the great voices and don't they let you know it. Very intimidating.

Iris Murdoch is a classic example to illustrate what you're saying. I'm not a fan for precisely the reasons you're talking about. She had a background in moral philosophy and gee, you couldn't forget that when you read her stuff. At some point the lecturn would come out , you're in an echoy hall, you're taking notes...

Robert Dessaix is another example, except I like him a lot and thats why I'm bringing him in. (He taught Russian Lit at ANU years ago) He has a distant, some would say pompous voice, but it's very effective and affecting (as far as I'm concerned) because of the subject matter.You know, he's SO controlled in his voice, yet he's talking about the most emotional of things and because of that tension it gets in. So, even if you can't kill the academic voice ,you can use it well enough if you're not afraid to use it as part of your style and in fact it can be a great style.But that's true only for the minority, I guess.

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virty puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
re: abigloating.

what doc yob said .....yeah .... in the beginning there was

"unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women"

party time or in W.A.speak ((((it's show time))))

lets get vocal, backing courtesy of sugarhill

i say hip hop da hippie da hippie

to da hip hip hop, ah you dont stop

da rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped da boogie MAN

to da rhythm of da boogie, funk dat beat boy

ferkin' mother of mary it's too early for this dudes fkt.

there's a few milk crates of homebrew kickassmulebubbystuff we call champers in the cellar, is by definition bopperstyle alcopop with a "lot'o'voice".

anyone got a straw ? No? lets see now, there's all these garden hose end pieces with the reserve bucket bong in a box in the basement .......

pz.v.

commiserations on the "fine", like you know, it's just like virtual & his art of motorcycle travel, there's always another juicy corner or two or three after the one you've just hooked into. i.e. life is an endless parade of tight corners (read phrases)

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NataliatheRussianSpy puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
Awesomeness-ness Birms. The observations you made in regard to O'Rourkes has helped me to pinpoint what I have been trying to achieve lately. Over time I have absorbed that style of writing but had not consciously defined it's parameters. You see I used to write skewering but obvious articles about songs I hated but recently wrote a satirical piece in which the voice was that of a hallucinating defense lawyer. I was pretending to defend when in fact I was lampooning the practice of lip-syncing. Mucho gratifying.

QUOKKA: Your comment about the morse code I found most intriguing! Though I may not comment much here anymore I am always lurking and you crack me up Aunty!

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Abigail reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
Virty-

I'm pretty tired should be asleeep, a bit wired, so perhaps am a bit stupid a present. But were you calling me "abigloating" and having some kind of go at me because I mentioned some work I just finished? (or were you merely picking up my own jokey way of saying it?) Sorry if I'm taking it the wrong way and it's difficult to read it's true intent ; it was a fairly obscure comment you made ; I'm really not sure.

If it was a sling of some kind, I'm going to call you on it and say it's unfair and it does a blog no favours at all,and I won't participate in a club. Again, sorry if I've misread it; it really was obscure, but I have no way of knowing the truth if I don't raise it here, seeing as I don't know you in any other context.

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robW has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
What a nice, quick essay and criticism. It reminded me of the "voice" in essays written by Anthony Burgess for the LONDON TIMES back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Well done and kudos to you.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
Abigail, I have a minor in English Lit so I know some of what you allude to with Lit majors. My observation of English Majors is that they seem to excrete words with the same pain that might accompany passing shards of glass during a bowel movement.

I tell my students and peers in creative writing classes this.

The First Draft is Crap.

That gives you permission to write without thinking too much about how pretty it is. You can fix that later and in the meantime, maybe one finds their voice in the process.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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DrYobbo is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
Agree with Murph, the first draft IS crap, even when it's not. Otherwise you'll end up sitting there fretting over coming up with THE solution to the particular problem you've run into in plot development or characterization. And also that academic writing - whether in the humanities or in the passionless factuality of the sciences - is not of much use for creative writing other than practice in putting one word after the other and ploughing through wordcount. AND his Fort Hood piece was very well judged as well. Dammit, agreeing with Murph three times in a paragraph isn't sitting well with me, I'm going for a lie down.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
Dr Yobbo, I find I get hung up on plot and character issues all the time. That usually happens when I'm about one-half to two-thirds of the way through the draft. Sometimes it will take me years to figure out just what is wrong with something.

While we are at it, I'd add that voice also applies to teaching, especially if you are in a field where lecture is the primary means of delivering course material.

Often the urge among academics is to stand there and give a stilted, distant, very emotionless lecture. However, the best lecturers tend to be very much like stage performers. They watch the students/audience to gauge their understanding and their reaction to the material. Sometimes the best instructors will change their delivery method (their voice) to get the students reengaged with the material.

An example. I was giving a pretty dry lecture on Augustus at the start of the Roman Empire in my Western Civ One class. Worse yet, I was using my grad school notes from 1998 which means I had not really had a chance to put my own spin on them yet.

I came across a bit where the notes stated that Augustus was pretty hard on writers who criticized him. The notes stated that this made writers of the era very cautious.

That bored the students and I was losing them. No wonder since I had just gone over the Julian and the Treason Laws.

So I switched it up. I said, "Imagine there is a website on the Roman Internet called Rate My Princeps dot com," spoofing RateMyProfessors, which college professors dread for some reason.

"Now imagine writing all those nasty things you wanted to say about Augustus in much the same way I know you all will about yours truly."

They got a chuckle out of that because they know about the site. They can imagine Augustus surfing along one night after a hard day rebuilding Rome into marble and seeing an entry that says he is a big fat poopeyhead who is no fun at all. They can see him throwing the mouse against the screen and ordering the Praetorian Guard to follow him to the Gaius Dorkus Maximus.

I believe PNB uses similiar tactics in switching things up while he teaches.

As for Hasan, Puma remarked at my blog that the entry seemed a bit out of character. It isn't really.

Why would we punish everyone for the actions of one man? If it were some nutty Southern Baptist from Alabama, we wouldn't throw all people from Alabama out of the Army, nor the Baptists for that matter.

Hasan made the mistake, not the entire Islamic community.

And maybe, just maybe, nearly three years of teaching history is changing me just a notch. I have to concentrate on more than just science fiction, technology and matters military these days. It is possible that I'm slowly being corrupted by my profession.

It could also be, given what I have been dealing with over the last year, that my desire to make the keyboard bounce under my fingertips with anger is not what it was. It seems I have better things to do with my time.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
Huzzah for Abigail and her just completed first draft.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
Abi-G, I didnt read V's comment as a smackdown.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
Thx JB, much appreciated.

And re Virtycomm- ok, I guess I wasn't sure, hard to know when we don't know each other's personalities. But it's alright. Forgotten as of now.

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Sweet Jane Says mutters...

Posted November 7, 2009
They were complex, driven and skilled; their voice remained clear even in code, but peace would leave the best silent.

J.

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virty puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
not a malicious bone in my scrimshandered bod AB, ta for tha backup birmingham, tumultuous apologies and KOW TOWS on this parched bare earth if you feel sorely or taken back (many people do).

selfish contra bass word-smithing, it'll be my demise one fine day, some c***s gonna go me a cropper in real time.

you call it obscure, i prefer cryptic most just say it's fkn bullshit. each to their own .... voice.

isn't imagery a goddam wonderful thang?

should see what we do to wee kiddies (especially in eurythmy workshops, shoppin' malls & on public transport, riotous fun indeed)

- if i may divulge a little, in the beginning (no, not of the thread, but of the BT birthing process) my raves and hissyfits @ blunty were such that only birmingham had the ..... lets say savvy for want of a meatier word ..... to understand even slightly what the fk i was on about. comments in here like "but what will we do about virty" re the transition from BT to NT were commonplace.

pre transition was like ... this guy (me)is an stark starin' ravin' fkn idiot .. and in fact was often publicly admonished as such, but in this business you gotta be thick skinned, if you dish it up be prepared to have it thrown right back at you which is the quintessential blunt instrument take.

with a little persistence and education plus the help of like minded contributors taking the piss i've built some floor space and with due thanks to that gothic yungersack birmingham i have a seat in da house.

sweet dreams.

chocostout time.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
Tsk tsk.

These little contretemps and misunderstandings are getting terribly wordy.

In future, out of consideration for the fact that its the weekend and some of us have trouble following, much less thinking clearly, I'd be grateful if you could keep it simple.

ie. 'Gerbil up your arse, Virty?' or similar, which requires a simple yes/no/FKU type response.

If the response is 'yes' then you offer to find and attach the nearest vacuum hose so that the creature can scurry out and off into the wilds of Darling Harbor to seek shelter and trauma counseling among it's own kind, and if its 'No' then we're all good, Yes?

I for one am willing to vouch for Virty's character...well actually the less said about that the better but we do take the same shoe and dress size so when the annual Cheese Cutters Ball clocks around its a cinch to find something suitably glitzy in Virty's expansive wardrobe which more than suits the occasion. Its saved me a fortune in ballgowns and sequined heels.

Oh and well done on the second draft, Abigail. Must admit I posted here early this am before we took off to Bogan Ville so didn't hear a word y'all said. Nice work.

I myself have a first draft on the old PC which I work hard to ignore.

I leave the windows unlocked in the hope that junkies will steal it and save me the bother of looking at it again but what can I say, they're picky bastards around here and no respecting junkie will truck with any machine that's infested with Windows Millenium.

Sigh.

Is it naptime now? It feels like naptime.

Bogans. They're exhausting. We saw bogans on boats (i.e. Jet skis) and I will have you know that EVERYTHING they said in that link above about bogans and petrol is absolutely true.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 7, 2009
Virty, Virty, Virty! thanks a lot.Allow me to flatter you wildly to make up for any miscommunication.

At 7 am agfter literlly no sleep getting this thing finsihed and elated I was, I saw yours and I thought, "is this guy having a sling at me because I'm saying aloud that I completed a draft? wtf?", It was just the wording and my suspicion of the internet. But I always feel it's best to air those questions- not like a sledgehammer,politely, and get it sorted. Like I said , I really wasn't sure, because I'm fairly new here and thought I might have been getting rolled, Roysten Vasey style. But as soon as JB replied I knew he'd have read into it properly so I forgot all about it. You'll like me Virty because I know what Eurythmy is. Bet you didn't expect an ex steiner person to sneak up on you. (I said "ex") You can be my latest best friend if you like.

Q.- thanks so much and I am very happy to learn that you can share shoes and dresses with Virtual. I trust the dresses are returned to you 'unharmed'.

First draft, well there should be a term for us draft makers so we sound Very Important. Let us know if you get further with it, huh. :)

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virty mumbles...

Posted November 7, 2009
all your cups still in the cupboard macropods? no Q bar gold free entry till you drop dead key rings for you me dear.

speakin' of irritatin' animals, this fkn scrub turkey down the bottom gully behind the dam is about to go to god fkt. like he's must be on steroids AND crystal meth or sumptin', he ain't built a goddam nest, is a fkn ten story tower with aircon!. the blue tongues and goannas can't even work it out.

maybe the trusty mule'l sort it. pz.v.

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damian asserts...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph: "My observation of English Majors is that they seem to excrete words with the same pain that might accompany passing shards of glass during a bowel movement."

I did a double major in English, and I attest the truth of Murph's words here. One day I hope to develop enough scar tissue to write easily again.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
Damian...lol..Come with me for a while and I guarantee to fkn undo all the word...

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
ooops...try, ALL THAT FKN WORK!

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damian reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
HVK, we're talking HE here, are we?

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damian mutters...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph, I am glad to see what you've written here and in your own blog in the last couple of days. Given what may come, what is indeed likely to come, it's nice to see an intelligent conservative drawing the line between truth and falsehood honestly and correctly.

You ask, is your profession changing you. I don't claim to have answers along those lines, but I do think that it's the duty of an academic in any field to pursue the truth, regardless of faith or feeling. There is always a very great distance between what any theory of the world says what should be and what is indeed the case. Ideologues will insist that distance is small and for their version of the world inconsequential, while any true scholar will insist upon that distance being an interesting object of study in its own right. For my part, I like Terry Pratchett's rule - that it's okay until you starting thinking of people as things, after that point you become a monster. But that's just basic humanism and has been with us, as a more or less central theme of our Western culture since the 15th century or so.

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 8, 2009
Damian, with Hasan, it is simply common sense. It is impractical to purge all the muslims even if we wanted to and more to the point, the purge would be more damaging than anything Hasan might have done.

Besides, his biggest mistake is that he did that in Texas. He is lucky he did it on an Army installation. I suspect if he had been off post and tried that then he would, as Ron White said, "go to the front of the line," with regard to the death penalty.

The Army will probably give him life at Fort Leavenworth.

Sorry to hear about your writing affliction. One might try some Preparation H as a remedy (do they even have that outside of the US?).

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 8, 2009
Murph - no idea about Preparation H. I do know the more directly named Anusol is popular here. That's a product where there is simply no doubt about its purpose.

As for a literary equivalent, if one exists and whether it's legal in countries who are signatories to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs - these are all questions for another time.

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Abe ducks in to say...

Posted November 8, 2009
Nice one JB. Most of my writing for work is pretty technical and formal, almost but not quite academic in style, whereas my uni essays are, by definition, academic, so my range of voice is somewhat constrained in the writing I HAVE to do. This is the reason for my blogging - to let my flippant and cynical sides have a voice too.

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virty would have you know...

Posted November 8, 2009
how very a.l.tenno of you AB, gives one definite goosebumps or those thingmejigs when your approaching menopause and anthroposophic thinkys to ponder this fine sund'y morn tra - la, rack of lamb = lack of ram (overheard on abc nat. at 3.00 am, semi conscious but still rendered a loud WTF) and

"at the foot of thy crags, O sea!

but the tender grace of a day that is dead

will never come back to me."

slings:

- both birmingham and i had/has an arm in one for way too fkn long

- the intrepid mule is fairly partial to experimenting with them in the breville from hell, with fruit, much suga & ice

- preferred method for hurling shurikens @ these fkn scrub turkeys

- bollocks do this in a wayward wind when playing pirate

- prusik knots have a habit of losing them and their load at anything over a hundred feet hence the term "geronimo" (think carving up a mega wall at fairy bower and the leg rope breaks)

pz & ta.v. (blows sweet nothings at all and sundry)

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Quokka asserts...

Posted November 8, 2009
Virty I had two of the FKN mongrel birds taken away before finally I managed to break someone's spirit at the EPA and they gave me some useful advice.

Brush Turkeys require 90% shade canopy in order to keep their mound at a stable temperature. You know those little holes in the side of their snouts? Temperature gauges, which is why you see them head down and arse up in their shit pile so often.

If you do some selective pruning in the tree above their mound then they can't keep it at the 36C required to incubate the devil's spawn housed within.

Get thee to Bunnings. All that you need is a brush cutter.

hasn't stopped the MFs roosting in the neighbour's nut tree but at least they're mounding elsewhere and there's less destruction in the garden. Albeit there's considerably less shade, too, but I added an extra two AC units in the recent renovation so we can endure a bit more heat.

Brush turkeys 10: Environment Nil.

Stupid FKN birds.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2009
Yay Virty,I get it. I offically get it. You referred to Alfred the Lord. See, once upon a time I'd have seen the a.l. tenno bit by itself and not had a clue what you meant, but now I see you're cleverly cryptic, I'm going to have loads of fun. Aww, how sweet, you're trying to help me out ...But Anthroposophy on an empty stomach? I don't think so, baby.

I was once attached to PNB; we had drinks planned, serious kinds of drinks. He Offered. But since my suggestion of Stones Green Ginger Wine in Oaklands, (yes, it really was that classy) his silent has been significant. So Virty, what do you say? Some Rescue Remedy in a fairy dell with the other tomtens?

Oh, and :

The languages, especially the dead,

The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,

The arts, at least all such as could be said

To be the most remote from common use,

In all these he was much and deeply read...

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted November 8, 2009
I was wondering if people switch off writers' voices because they're so seduced by daily language?

I can see how this is the case for teenage readers ; very few coping skills re., diversity. (Murph, so true about needing a lit teacher who makes people feel, or they're simply not going to engage). But scarily, there's all of this corporate speak now and some people , especially professionals, seem completely at ease with it.

Example- I asked this guy what his wife did. The guy is a political cartoonist so irony is his thing. But with No Such Irony , he replied: "She's a nurse but she's working on a (project) so she's **crunching mortality data** "

And then there's Don Watson:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/31/1067566083688.html

It makes me wonder if this ghastly trend further damages people's ability to cope with written expression? Or will it encourage a renaissance?

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 8, 2009
I should explain that better. I think Sweet Jane said it aptly - that voice is the writer's soul. But I was thinking , more and more do readers expect a more constrained one? Do people really want you to "be yourself" as a writer. Reading critics is what makes em think about all this. They don't like emotion or god forbid any trace of sentimentality; they don't like anything other than "tight, well considered writing" and you're not allowed to be too expressive, put plainly. The closer you are to the template Don Watson describes,(critically ,I may add) then the better it is. Some vicious critic in The Guardian (name forgotten- Brent??) makes me fear writing lest I commit one of the several sins on his list, especially about voice. Thats really what I was getting at in previous post.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2009
In fact, on the question of voice as soul, I rest my case with this platinum-standard example:

Since 2006, The Cookie Monster has been saying , and I quote:

"Cookies are only a sometimes food"

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NBlob mutters...

Posted November 8, 2009
OMFG Abigail, are you teling us that The Cookie Monster sold out to the slouchbiking food police?

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Abigail asserts...

Posted November 8, 2009
What is this thing called a slouch bike? I keep hearing it from you lot.

But. Yes. Yes, he did.

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Bangar is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
Abigail, a slouch bike is recumbent bike. One of those low slung things you don't see but feel as it passes underneath your wheels. Slouchy was a foolish slouch biker who inspired a Blunty and then was even more foolish enough to appear at said Blunty.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted November 9, 2009
Abigail.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recumbent_bicycle

Surest symptom of a holier than thou, leaf & twig muncher.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 9, 2009
OK. I've caught up.

NatV - thanks. I lurk in guilty silence at a few blogs around here, but I still feel like I've gatecrashed the whole gig somewhat. Speaking of which, NwBob where's your link? Stealth mode? Troll Proof Wire Fence?

And Bedes - I've been wondering why you were so quiet. That's rough. Keep us posted hey. And I'll watch for the Don Walker book. I found it on RN but the IMAC wasn't in the mood to play it and I was a bit too sleepy to push it.

Hughesy, if you're out there I'd like your input on what you think happens when a writer seems to 'choke' and lose it in their second or third book. As an agent you must have seen a lot of it, I'm sure I recall you saying something (one of your links) about how the slush piles are full of published author's second and third attempts. And I remember listening to an editor speaking at the QWC about how much effort an editor will make to 'save' a known author's manuscript and make it readable. She offered an example of an author's work before and after editing and I couldn't believe that they'd bother with such a rancid pile of rat droppings.

I know I'm obsessing but when you've read something that is really good - and then the author can never recapture that - it just makes me wonder 'WTF happened? Where did the magic go?'

It makes me wonder if there is something inherently toxic about fame; I suspect lots of good writers don't have the temperament to live in the public eye (and I'm not saying that as a bad thing - just maybe that the current tendency to demand an author be a circus performer is not a healthy thing) or else if maybe its some sort of destructive perfectionism. They sit at their desk and crumple at the thought of how they can live up to the success of their previous effort. Or maybe its the thought of having to do the three ring publicity circus with the next one. I know if it was me it'd be 'Fuck that.'

Still, it baffles me. They had a voice. Where the hell did it go? What silenced it?

I like reading memoirs and bios, because I want to know what makes people tick. And often what they leave unsaid says volumes. I read a memoir by Carrie Fisher and I thought it captured what it was like to live with bi-polar. And then in borders, I saw her most recent effort and I just thought 'Yikes! What were they thinking printing this?'

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virty mumbles...

Posted November 9, 2009
now look at what happens when casey falls off on the fkn PRACTICE LAP.

- macropods, no sweat, we ain't about to have tree sitters camped on the boundary for six months (friar tuck and his queens english band of feriles is bad enough) so after the moto GP & a half barrel of saxon style schwarzbier we fired up the bates, hooked up a dozer blade & exercised our right to some extreme gardening.

http://cache.wists.com/thumbnails/6/ef/6ef9e513f576ba407353e0f1dba98493-orig

- AB's empty stomachs and babys in the same line of questioning and all within seven words .... speechless ....

as is green ginger wine, what with all those fkn ger-nomies down in canberra. which is presumably why the brief flotsam & burgasome with PNB left you with that pussy in the well sorta feelin'.

pz.v.

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NataliatheRussianSpy is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
QUOKKA: The adorable Nowhere Bob can be found here: http://desthpicable.blogspot.com/ I'm certain your readership and comments would not go unwelcome amongst the fraternity.

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NataliatheRussianSpy ducks in to say...

Posted November 9, 2009
OH and BIRMO: Cos I was late to the party when you orginally asked for writing questions for Friday's column I will post this question here in case you missed it.

I noticed that in WW you kept physical descriptions of some of the characters to a minimum. Can you give me some background on your reasoning for this? I quite liked not knowing and deciding for myself. I get the shits with writers telling me ‘her hair was the colour of bottled honey’ before I even know who she is character-wise.

At other times physical descriptions are cleverly woven into the either the action or dialogue (eg. 'Bla Bla' said So-and-So whilst rubbing his weathered face)

Would you please discuss your processes in relation to this area of writing.

Cheers NatV

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nat, we might just do this a stand alone topic on character, I reckon. Maybe for this Friday.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
So that's what this mule of yours is, Virty.

And Nat - thanks.

RE: your question, I read an article a while back about Jane Austen's writing and it was essentially 'What does Elizabeth Bennett look like?'

Nobody knows. There are so few physical descriptions of her and yet she's one of Austen's strongest and best loved characters.

And whoever wrote the article was saying that the strength of her writing lay in the fact that she drew character, and behaviour, and how characters interface with each other and within various dramatic settings. And because she'd been an acute observer of personalities in her own life, she was able to reproduce them on the page.

The most obnoxious characters resonate with us because we've all met one.

i.e. I read a psych paper which postulated that Mrs. Bennett was pretty much textbook Histrionic Personality Disorder.

However the thing that captivated me wasn't so much that Austen had nailed the character type - but she'd captured how the people in the environment respond to that kind of personality. Everything from irritation, frustration, and attempts to change it (Elizabeth) to resignation, mockery and defeat (Mr. Bennett ) disgust and confusion (The Darcy circle) to the way that some of the daughters manipulated their mother's weaknesses in order to achieve their own ends. And then there was the social circle that indulged the behaviour.

Twenty five years ago when I was studying lit at JCU I could never have imagined myself putting Austen up for discussion but having gone back over it now that I'm in middle age, I think she really was an astute observer of human nature and human interaction.

I know that there's shows and books here that some of us love to hate (Charlie Harper and Twilight being the obvious targets - and Australian soap i.e Home and Away being my greatest irritant) but whenever something like that becomes ridiculously popular I end up being intrigued because I want to understand what they've hooked into. The writers must have tapped into something. Because there they are, giggling all the way to the bank.

If I could do that, I'd sell my soul up the river to the highest bidder. Count on it.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 9, 2009
Virty- LOL. You don't miss a trick.

Slouchbikers- thx Bangar and Mr Nowhere Somewhere. Oh I know those things because they proliferate in Canberra. Talk about acute loss of dignity.

Quokka- interesting. Later.

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NataliatheRussianSpy asserts...

Posted November 9, 2009
QUOKKA: Yes Mrs Jennings in Sense and Sensibility gets varying reactions to her gossiping silliness as well. I always wondered how Austen managed to get her characterisation so spot on when in fact she led a very solitary life. I'm presently doing up a book review for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters...a mash up novel that incorporates common sea monster tropes...bit of Steampunk here, bit of piracy there...some Lovecraftian horror thrown in for good measure. It's an absolute riot of a read! The guy from Quirk books who threw it together managed to maintain the elegance of Austen's style...even when the the subject matter became decidedly inelegant eg. Colonel Brandon's face is afflicted with tentacles and when Marianne finally marries him the quote goes: She found, in the event, that his face was not the only region of his physiognomy that could be described as multi-appendaged, and she found the fact to carry with it certain marital satisfactions. Tentacle PORN!!!!! HA!

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Quokka reckons...

Posted November 9, 2009
So that's where JB's tentacle porn references come from.

I just assumed it was better not to ask...

I've read that Jane Austen's mother was the inspiration for the Mrs. Bennett character and, having a few nuts weighing down the branches of my own family tree, was probably the reason why she required copious quantities of peace, quiet and solitude in her adult life.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
Aunty Q, I don't know why I'm not on the usual suspects list.

I think either- the content I talk about is pretty domestic, rather than Murph & NatV's more broad appeal, or perhaps it's a hold over from a tiff JB & I had around the time of his not getting a Booker? Who knows. Either way I'm about & I post about once every 6 weeks.

Depending on which machine I log on with, I usually have my link in my name - blue has a live link, grey doesn't.

Thank's for the response Nat, I was away at (more) pointless Govvie training.

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NataliatheRussianSpy would have you know...

Posted November 9, 2009
I'm not sure that's where it came from but when I read that passage it reminded me of a particular Blunty entry...

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NataliatheRussianSpy puts forth...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nowhere it was my pleasure. It's a wonder you haven't fainted at all this bonnet discussion!

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nat don't worry about the menfolk, they're all off reading Georgette Heyer when they think we aren't looking.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 9, 2009
Yes well ladies, it wasn't until about the 1920s that Domestic lit. became women's reading material. Before that, men read a lot of domestic lit. In a study iof what men were reading during the first world war, Jane Austen was a big fave on the front line.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
was not

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nowhere Bob- you're psychic! your comment appeared the second I posted mine, thereby putting a spin on what I just said.

lol

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Elena has opinions thus...

Posted November 9, 2009
Thanks for this post on voice, JB.

Part of the reason I started blogging was to flesh out my own voice, and I find while it's helped with my non-fiction writing, I think fiction voice takes longer to cultivate.

And while I agree that reading and imitating writers you admire will help develop your own voice, it's a long and frustrating process. I found that of all the writers I admire, there are some that are easier to imitate than others.

For example, it's much more comfortable for me to slip into a Miranda July type 'voice', but having read your work, JB, I realised my words could never pack the same punch: I just don't have it in me :P

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 9, 2009
Well you may not have my voice in you, but you have your own, Elena.

As for the rest of you, what's all this Jane Austen rubbish doing in my blog?

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted November 9, 2009
Jane Austen? where ? (psst, quokka, nat v, umm, we have some serious petticoat issues to delete)

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NataliatheRussianSpy reckons...

Posted November 10, 2009
Yeah...but...but I also mentioned pirates, Lovecraft and tentacle porn in the same breath as Jane. Surely that counts!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted November 10, 2009
works for me baby

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 10, 2009
Tell, you what Bob, because you had to wait so long for a listing, why don't you enjoy the amenities of the executive suite for a coupla days. On the house. Just, er, take it easy on the room service, okay? We fly a lot of it in from Europe.

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savo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 10, 2009
I feel whole again

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 11, 2009
Your hospitality overwealms me Sir. I feel a bit Dad & Dave standing here in engineers overalls & laceup boots surrounded by this Euro luxury. The Italian Marble & Slovakian Crystal is intimidating and check this out some goose has put 2 toilets in here.

If you'll excuse me, the Bunnies are calling me from the spa deck.

*Ziiiiiiip, flumpf. thump.thump*

Wooo_hoo

*Splash*

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Respond to 'Friday writing blog: Voice.'

Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.

Posted October 23, 2009 by John Birmingham
Sifting through the comments to last week's inaugural Friday writing blog I found a couple of questions that I thought went well together. Some of you asked about how much planning goes into a manuscript, a few touched on other matters of preparation such as research, and Jennicki and Girlclumsy amongst others wanted to know where ideas came from and what you did with them once you had one of the little fuckers. For me these all related questions.

A common mistake of the baby author is lightbulb fascination. The big cartoon lightbulb goes on over their heads with a big cartoon flash and Eureka! -- they've got it. The idea for the Great American/Australian/what ever novel. Unfortunately so bright and blinding is the light thrown out by the big cartoon lightbulb that they are blinded to everything else. Rushing to the desk they start pounding the keyboard, still blinking and half blind, tripping over the furniture, knocking over the desk toys and last nights half empty moth-filled glass of wine. They type for hours, maybe for days, in a flurry of excitement because of this great idea they've had for a book.

And then...

And then...

Nothing. The words stop flowing. The idea which seemed so brilliant and so close to fruition, suddenly seems vague and almost impossible to grasp as it retreats and retreats for ever out of reach. What the hell happened?

I'll tell you what happened. You exploded out of the blocks and sprinted away as though you were running 100 m race, when in fact what you had signed up for was a year-long ultramarathon, a brutal, grueling and unrelenting endurance race that is as much about attrition as it is about skill or willpower.

To deliver a manuscript for a 160,000 word novel (Falafel was 47,000, Weapons was 155,000, Without Warning was 200,000) you need to plan for at least a year's work. And that's if you are a full-time writer with goldplated hovercraft and an army of Playboy bunnies to massage your aching shoulders and pop peeled grapes into your mouth while you hammer away at the keyboard. As a part timer, squeezing in whatever writing you can, when you can... Man, I don't even want to think about that.

So what does planning and preparation involve?

Unfortunately that can mean different things to different people. Not everybody storyboards their manuscript like a movie. I have done it with Designated Targets, after having got myself into all sorts of trouble with Weapons of Choice because I charged into it exactly as I described above. Weapons was based on a great idea that came to me in the library one day when I was avoiding work on Leviathan by flicking through Matthew Reilly's Ice Station. Time travel meets technothriller. What's not to love? And that was pretty much it for planning and prep.

With Targets I took six weeks to methodically lay out the plot from the first page to the last. Each chapter was broken down into its POV elements and summarized in note form long before I wrote the first page of the book. So on day one I could tell you what was going to happen in the second section of Chapter 37. Or at least that was the plan. What happened of course is that the characters took over. If they are good characters they will do that. For instance in weapons, Dan and Julie were never supposed to get together. They were just characters who met on the page early in the book and hit it off. They hit it off so well that their unexpected relationship became a significant narrative arc through the entire trilogy.

You cannot plan for serendipity. If your characters come alive in your imagination they will do what they damn well please and you will have the devil's own job getting them to stick to the plan.

Does that matter?

No, as long as they do not diverge so far from the main line of your story arc that they pull everyone else off course as well. When you are writing genre fiction in particular you need to have at least some idea of where you were going, and where you intend to end up on the last page. It will happen, if your story develops a life of its own, that subplots and characters develop under their own steam. But you need to maintain some level of control. There are plenty of books which got away from their authors. I'm not going to name any of them, but I'm sure you can think of one or two you've read that would have been a lot better had the editors and publishers been a little harsher with the blue pencil.

I am mindful that in advising you to put some effort into plotting out your story before you write it I am flying in the face of the established practice of some very successful authors. Garth Nix in particular has given me exactly the opposite advice, saying that the sacrifice of spontaneity and the loss of the magic of happenstance involved when you storyboard an entire manuscript is just not worth it. But both Garth and I are published writers of long experience. Most of you are not. So I'm telling you, you are much more likely to finish your first book if you invest some time in figuring out what the hell you're going to write before you write it. It's not easy and there are some elements of every plot which can only be worked out in the writing. Only when you have created and immersed yourself in your imagined world will you understand it well enough to be able to say with true certainty how the world and the characters in it will react to certain developments. That's why a plan for a manuscript must necessarily be looser and more free-form than, say, the blueprints for a warp engine.

That's planning. How is preparation different?

I guess it's the difference between drawing up the plans for D-Day and actually gathering the resources, the men and matériel, building the landing craft and troop transports, manufacturing the weapons, training the personnel, raising the capital to pay for the whole fucking thing, and, well, do you get the idea?

Preparing to write a book like Leviathan was not that much different from preparing to write Weapons of Choice, even though they are very different products. For both I spent months reading and taking notes, just as though I was preparing to write a PhD. I gathered my references. I did my interviews. I tracked down the relevant experts and talked through everything I did not understand about the topics I was about to pretend I knew all about. Are you writing an alternate history set during the hundred years war? Then my friend, you have some very long and tiring days ahead of you in the library as you become an expert on the hundred years war, on the people who fought it, on the technology they used, on the institutions and the states and the personalities involved. And of the vast amount of knowledge you acquire about this topic only the smallest fraction will actually appear in print. The rest will sit like the frame of a soaring high-rise, hidden away, while it supports the great weight and stresses you will load onto it.

But preparation can go even further than that. If you are setting your story in a purely imaginary realm you have taken on the difficult task of getting the reader to believe in something they know not to be true. We call this the suspension of disbelief, and we commonly make the mistake of assuming the suspension is the work of the reader. But it's not, it's the work of the author. Your characters must stay in character, which means you must know all about them before you start writing their story. That is why so many authors write long, detailed biographies of the characters before they set the first line of their novel down on paper. Genre authors and literary authors all do this. But genre authors have another demand on them. Not only must they invent characters, they must build worlds.

But that is a topic for another day.

Finally, I see that I have said very little about where ideas come from. Well they don't come from sitting around scratching your arse, staring into the middle distance. They come from thinking, and reading, and watching television, and movies, and conversation, and magazines, and ditzing around on the Web, but mostly they come from thinking. Not just consuming media passively, but from watching, listening, and reading actively, critically, but most of all imaginatively. This is something that writers do all the time. Pretty much every minute of every day without even be conscious of it. And it relates to planning and preparation because thinking, actively, critically engaging with media and ideas in all the forms is where the idea for your next story is coming from.

98 Responses to ‘Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.’

Havock ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2009
Nice one!...very interesting as always

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Miranda Freeman would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Sound advice! And all this time I thought my sporadic writing blocks were due to too much gin over the course of the week. Plan happy is the way to go then.

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Orin mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
Pratchett used to say, when it came to the question of "where do ideas come from" that one "shouldn't ask the tightrope walker where his balance comes from when he's on the tightrope".

Orin's rules of writing non-fiction.

(1) Find somewhere quiet.

(2) Apply arse to chair.

(3) Don't give yourself excuses to miss deadlines.

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Sylmobile swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 23, 2009
Damn it! I will prove you wrong Mr. Birmingham.

I will provide clear evidence that arse scratching is the ultimate ideas generator!! Now, let's see, where will I start on my thesis?

*sits back in chair, scratches arse, and dissolves into a day dream*

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girlclumsy reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
Thanks, JB. I'm really enjoying these posts.

A question with ideas though - I definitely agree with the interacting and engaging with media, and I like to think I do a fair bit of that. But how do you work out which ones are worth pursuing? I've tried some things and then end up ditching them as duds...

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Chaz has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
I find that last paragraph very true.

An advantage I feel I have is that I'm used to creating biogs for characters from my RPG design days.

But then i fall down because I'm a crap typist.

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
As a part timer, squeezing in whatever writing you can, when you can… Man, I don’t even want to think about that.

YOU GOD DAM BLOODY GIRL!.......yeah..fkn persistance

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Naut reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
So where does the room full of monkeys with typewriters fit in?

I mentioned sometime ago when you ask for feedback on the future of the cheeseburger, that I would love to see some of your preparation documents. Character bios, sketches of locations or any kind of storyboarding you have done. Not only would it be useful for prospective writers, it would also be downright interesting!

Kind of like the chapter that was your last post.

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Claudia puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
Nice one JB.

How do you know when to stop editing and changing? How do you know when the refining process and the wordsmithing is over? I guess your editors do that....I can change and adjust and add and delete forever...I've got 4 unfinished blogs 'cos I can't quite "get it right". maybe that just means I'm shite. Or I need more practice.

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damian mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
I kinda like the idea of taking an old, manual typewriter to some remote location without electricity (I'd say the beach, but I'd prefer to avoid the increased risk of rust in my nice 1940s Imperial).

I once fantasised about coding that way. Type -> scan -> OCR -> copy -> paste -> build -> compile -> link -> test. Pointless, but in a mildly satisfying way. Never actually did it, of course but I'd be impressed by anyone who did (though also worry slightly for their sanity).

I've actually considered writing stuff longhand, but I think the motor control has faded and the muscles have atrophied...

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Medway is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
Certainly something I wanted to hear, Birmingham.

I was already thinking that waiting for some ninny with a hammer that says "ACME INSPIRATIONAL TOOL" to bonk me on the head was a bad habit.

Now to work on "I am Claine"...

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savo is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
See, it is art, planning process excecution deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.

Shit, John a couple of decent lesbution scenes and parental angst and the next novel will be literature.

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KFD has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
Great post but I can't help wondering why so many writers feel compelled to write about writing? I am dabbling myself btw so the advice is valuable and encouraging. 9 to 5 I work in I.T. by comparison, nobody ever writes at such a personal level about how to be an I.T. dude... or maybe I'm just not that well read. Or I was too busy imagining and not paying attention.. which I now know is a good thing anyway.

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Orin reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
I’ve actually considered writing stuff longhand, but I think the motor control has faded and the muscles have atrophied…

Neal Stephenson writes longhand - which, when you consider the size of some of his books, is pretty hardcore.

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Andrew would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Wow I couldn't have read this at a better time. I have two ideas on the go and was struggling with how to approach it. Cheers JB.

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
KFD, I'm doing the friday writin' blogs purely as a karmic thing. It can't all be about the bucks.

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Ian Kath mutters...

Posted October 23, 2009
Thanks, just as I was starting to consider doing something I'll forget all about it. That save me years of angst.

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Abigail mutters...

Posted October 23, 2009
Just picking up on KFd's comment as well :

JB- I thought a similar thing - not about why writers write about writing (there's a sentence) - but it crossed my mind that it'd be awful to see you tire yourself out doing so, considering your weekly output/ obligations. But , so long as you choose you do it, you'll never bore me on the subject. It's just fascinating.

(btw- a few yrs ago on ABC Radio National there was a fab series of talks by many different writers talking about their writing process).

If I can put a more self-centred question to you for later consideration (and if you don't ever get to it, that's fine!!) :

As far as the cognitive side goes, I feel like I'm on the right track, just reading what you've said today. For example,absorbing lots of information and staying awake to what's going on around me- tick; i like to do that anyhow. Letting ideas go around in my mind -tick, Plotting things out before it's on paper yes- A LOT, but ...that brings me to my problem: I get loads of ideas and I know what the story is about - ie on a deeper level what it's about, and conceptually I understand what I'm trying to do and I sort of know how to write ; I just can't seem to get a PLOT going- the "superficial" part in a way but its the thing that makes people read a story or not!! Major problem , yes???!!!

Help!! JB? anyone? Be savage. It's not I lack a feeling of freedom in myself, but I just freeze when it comes to the thought of developing a character and just the playful whimsy it takes to turn an intellectual idea or an emotion into , you know - A STORY!! WHERE THINGS HAPPEN!!

I feel so terribly frustrated by it because I feel like I understand where it can go, on an intellectual level and emotionally , but h.t.f does one just have a whole story inside them ? Is this the great unanswerble question? Do I just accept that w/o that natural attribute it will never happen - ie are there peope who naturally have a story sitting there in their heads and others who simply don't ? I knew this person who could write prolifically because a story would come out , but it was the crappest writing on other levels so it didn't seme a fair universe to me- still I SO envied the ability.

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jennicki asserts...

Posted October 23, 2009
Oh my god. Thank you so much for this. I should so print these out, highlight key passages and tape them to my mirror to read over as I get ready every morning.

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Moko mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
Scratch ur arse long enough something will pop out, guaranteed. Just wanna hope an idea is the first.

Sorry, had to get that off my consciousness.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
Double plus excellant. Good stuff JB, I've read lots of ritin' advice, but not from someone who's Kung Fu I admire as much.

"doing the friday writin’ blogs purely as a karmic thing"

I had the Karmic Repo man around the other day. Net cost $800 and my Hilux off the road for a week.

I hate that.

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Timmo ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2009
[i]Neal Stephenson writes longhand - which, when you consider the size of some of his books, is pretty hardcore.[/i]

Wow, that is some serious scribbling... I just picked up Anathem the other day (it's joined the pile of books-in-waiting) and it is a hefty tome - around 1000 pages at a guess. I hope he doesn't suffer from writer's cramp...

I'm also picturing one of those oft-seen movie scenes of a longhand manuscript sailing away on the breeze. Surely in this day and age, the availability of backup copies would make doing it via electronic media worthwhile...

...although I guess scan and/or OCR, or photocopying is a backup option of sorts?

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Orin asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
Timmo - good link on Stephenson writing using fountain pen:

www.inkygirl.com/neal-stephenson-writing-and-editing-with-a-fountain-pen/

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
Here is a method I use which is sort of a compromise between the massive step by step outline and going without an outline at all.

CLOCK is an outline format which can be effective at generating a workable plot. It is a very slightly modified version of a method put forward by James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure.

C=Concept

L=Lead

O=Objective or Objectives

C=Conflict or Conflicts

K=Knockout

The Concept is a general statement which describes the story you intend to tell boiled down into a few sentences. It is difficult to start if one is not entirely certain of their concept.

The Lead is the hook, the carrot which entices readers to start and continue reading your story. One example of a lead is to place a dead body in the first scene. Most readers will continue to read in order to discover how the person died. One cliché of this concept is the saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The Objective or multiple objectives is the desire of the protagonist, who is the lead character in the story. A standard story engine is driven by human need and desire. Understanding what the lead character’s objectives are will determine the next stage of story development.

The Conflict or multiple conflicts are the fuel for the story. They challenge the character and in Western Literary tradition they represent the difference between fiction and non-fiction. A conflict against an antagonist gives the protagonist an opportunity to grow, to change, to come to a realization.

The Knockout is the summation of your story, a way to leave the reader feeling as if they have completed the story.

It is worth pointing out that among more recent writers there is a desire to move away from this model to a vague, undefined story structure which often leaves matters of plot unresolved. Further, some writers feel that plot is a burdensome restraining device and work without any concern for the conventions of plot.

The above is from a handout we use where I teach in the Alternate History seminar to get students started if they are planning a fiction project. I've also talked about this method in the creative writing class I take over and over again with Terri Lowry where I teach.

When I use this method I find that the Knockout is often vaguely defined or not at all. I like to allow for the characters to make their own choices, just as Birmo did with Dan and Julia as the AoT trilogy evolved.

I think the above gives you maximum flexibility while retaining at least some structure.

As for the rest of the article, I concur with everything Birmo has said. Research is especially important for alternate history projects.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Michael Adams ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2009
This is brilliant.

Up there with the most instructive, illuminating and encouraging passages in King's On Writing. It'd be great to see this make its way into the international creative-writing world wordsphere.

What you've described is what the great actors talk about when they research a character obsessively, or when David Fincher dresses the Zodiac set with 1970s newspaper piled 20-deep. The "vibe" permeates, creating the person or the place, beyond what's on the screen or page.

Hats off, JB, for putting it so honestly but encouragingly.

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damian mutters...

Posted October 24, 2009
The thing about longhand is that, unless you have someone else do your typing, you're guaranteed to revise your text at least once, before the material is committed to file.

Timmo, OCR is no good for handwriting, but gray-scale images compress quite nicely and storage is cheap, so yes digitisation is very suitable for backing stuff up.

But I think most of us could not really write much without a keyboard these days (adventures in speech recognition notwithstanding). I certainly can't write as fast as I can type, but maybe that's the point - some resistance from the medium that slows you down and forces spending more time thinking.

KFD, presumably you've come across the BOFH, or perhaps you remember alt.sysadmin.recovery on usenet. More seriously I'd recommend Limoncelli and Hogan, The Practice of Network and System Administration, which perhaps is not as introspective as this sort of thread, but has a lot of answers to similar questions posed in the IT realm. Some of Eric Raymond's writing is quite introspective along those lines, but be prepared to disagree with a lot of what the fellow has to say. Likewise Stallman, now I think about it.

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jennicki asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
I just want to say that I have my bachelor's degree is in Creative Writing, and several semesters of my time plus an outrageous amount of money have nothing on the two writing posts JB's put up here, for free.

Seriously.

John, if your schedule ever allows for it you should definitely teach a class at your local university every semester ala Paul Boylan.

I wish I'd read this stuff five years ago. I would've been so much farther along in my writing.

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Abigail puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
To Murph-

Thanks for CLOCK.

I know you weren't addressing your coment to me personally, but I found it very, very useful.

Without stating it explicitly, you've made me see what I resist (jn the same way I resist talking abolut new technologies) : I don't like thinking mechanistically; I like to think the story is going to 'feel' its way onto the page w/o robotic method , but the reality is, it won't; you've got to be a bit robotic and "how to" to get it there. The guide you've set out is actually very good- like a long ladder and each part of the sequence takes you to the next plot point (which is what I can't naturally do)

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Carolyn Cordon is gonna tell you...

Posted October 24, 2009
Great stuff here JB. You've given us more in this one blog than we might get in a library of tomes.

And Murph - I just love that CLOCK idea - I think I'll run with that for my current WIP

And to everyone else - if you get a great idea at 2.00am for godsake get up and write the damned thing down. You will not remember it in the morning!

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Sweet Jane Says puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
Good god, people, it's different for every published writer. And you, Birmingham, why do you close your eyes to the real US and insist upon making every American character white?

J.

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Sweet Jane Says puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
You people want to be writers? Get two cats.

J.

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Sweet Jane Says puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
Trivia: Che Guevara was Irish. Patrick Lynch (of County Galway), an emigrant to Argentina, was an ancestor of Che Guevara.

Open your eyes.

J.

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2009
kudos on the karma thingy birmingham.

we're most definitely old school including the 2b lead pencil applied to just about anything you can scribble on.

even toy with a slateboard and chalk at times.

music notation is the same.

for some reason it feels better, brain appreciates it too but most prob'ly senility or altersack disease.

we do use chainsaws (the axe works better on foxes) for the totems.

with rhyme, or anything deemed top shelf i goferit with a fountain pen or quill dipped in whatever leftovers are floating around. (a thumbnail dipped in tar :)

all my uni assignments, every fkn one of them was a handjob.

pz.v.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2009
William Burroughs' 'Word of advice for the young' had a great line that I'll always remember, even if I've never actually followed the advice: "Do not proffer sympathy to the mentally ill - it is a bottomless pit". I guess it's the same principle as "Do not feed the troll" in a usenet and/or web based forum context. Thus, a rule that everyone feels ought to be adhered to, but which most people ignore at some stage or other :)

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2009
Sweet Jane-

"You people want to be writers? get 2 cats" WTF?

Are you just joking around or are you one of those people they talk about who likes to hang around on the internet determined to make people feel bad about themselves? If so, why would you want to do that?

Unless you either explain that it's your sense of humor, or you are willing to apologise for trying to be cruel to people for wanting to write, I'm going to completely blank you every time I see your comments, because I dislike sadism and Im not buying in.This is a forum for writing, I believe.

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Orin reckons...

Posted October 24, 2009
Actually one of the best pieces of writing advice I've got through this site was from Hughesy. It should be required reading for anyone with dreams of making it as a writer. Here is the link.

http://annettehughes.blogspot.com/2009/01/who-needs-agent.html

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Bangar mutters...

Posted October 24, 2009
Abigail, Jane is our pet troll, so feed at caution. It's mostly harmless, generally off topic (yet to read any of JB's books obviously unable to operate a library card) and occasionally entertaining and useful.

PS everyone pretty much takes your approach as it cannot explain it's sad existence and persistence.

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KFD asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
Feel better now. Karma is a good thing to feed. Y'all have a great thing going here. Been following Blunty since reading WW recently (just had to take WW to the cash register at the bookshop I picked it up in after reading the subheading). Looking fwd to AA too.

Decided that writing about writing is a good thing. Most people have their own style and approach but I think most writers grow from reading about how others do it...

It's not a self indulgent thing either. If it helps to get more people to write something meaningful in an interesting and readable way, that's gotta be good.

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted October 24, 2009
"Wow gee, my cousin's dog was an Irish setter so I guess that makes me Irish too!"

No. Irish people come from Ireland.

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Orin would have you know...

Posted October 24, 2009
Birmo, is link spam enough of a problem on this blog that posts that contain links (I have two in this thread that have yet to appear as I type this) don't turn up? I'm getting to the point where I'm sorta thinking that I won't post links in future because by the time you are able to moderate, the conversation has long since moved on.

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damian mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin - it's not consistent. I have got links up, and I've lost comments not containing links or rude words as far as I recall. I'm assuming some programming Cletus behind it all.

Last week I couldn't spell Bayesian algorithm, now I are, erm...

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Murphy mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail and Carolyn, glad you liked that. Keep in mind, it isn't my tool per se. I didn't invent it. I only modified what James Scott Bell had in Plot and Structure.

As for books on writing, Bell would be a good place to start. I'll have some other suggestions later. Unfortunately I have to go earn fifty bucks listening to people tell me how to run my college classroom for two hours.

Sigh. The things I whore myself out for.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Orin puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
Damian - it is an approval thing rather than a spam script - and it blocks all hyperlinks.

If you are logged on with the account/browser that you used to submit the comment, you can see the comment (but no one else can until it is approved). That's why it looks like some are auto-approved.

If you log on with a different browser, you won't be able to see the comment.

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Orin mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
It is probably also why no-one has really mentioned it - unless you regularly browse the site from multiple computers in a short amount of time, you won't notice that your comment containing the hyperlink hasn't turned up for other people as you can still see it (you'll probably just assume that people are ignoring you ;-).

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Abigail mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Bangar & Damian-

Ohhhh, I seee. I get you, thanks.

Murph & JB-

Last night I was thinking about research and how you use it in a story and I wanted to ask something- just a open-ended question really:

With regard to research, you'd really have to watch how much was going into the book, wouldn't you, so that it didn't read like "and here now is all of my mind blowing knowledge of hot air balloons during the French Revolution period"- d'you know wot i min?

lol- Maybe I just want to say that so I can criticise the practise because it drives me insane.

But then again, there's Moby Dick where there are full chapters on the whaling industry and it works because the book is so epic it can carry it.

I am asking how do you guys feel about research as a story device? I mean, say you do miles of reading on a specific thing, do you then feel "I have to put all of that in because it took me so frigging long to read it" or do you maybe use three facts of a possible 300?

But anyone , please, jump in a answer- it was just that JB and Murph brought it up.

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 25, 2009
as the name implies.

word.

press.

discriminatory and unprincipled modbots are abhorrent.

what we need is .... here WP Fk this link over.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMYrz_3pfgs&feature=related

pz.v.

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Abigail puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
oops- I should expand a little on the Moby Dick example:

Another reason it seems to work is because the actual story is very simple (but runs deep), so it can afford to work as an expansive, vivid portrayal of life on a whaling boat- almost as a relief from Ahab's obsessionality. But if the story moves along at a faster pace, then elements like staying true to the real world must be a lot harder to collapse into the rest- yes?

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, in the case I'm thinking about, someone else had responded to my post with a link in it within a few minutes. This doesn't contradict the approval process you mention, though. Mind you, it was a link rather than a bare URL and I wonder if that made a difference.

Abigail, I share your interest in this issue with research and the temptation to put too much in the end result. When you consciously pare your writing down in order that it does not contain anything unnecessary, how far can you go? A certain amount of explanation is usually required to carry the reader. That leaves you with the "show don't tell" injunction, or rather the various tools writers have to infodump upon the reader what is essential for the plot.

Some writers can be very clumsy with this, even widely read, published bestseller authors. Some feel that having a character other than the narrator tell counts as showing. For example, two soldiers have a casual conversation while pissing in the snow, which improbably results in their explaining exactly who they are and what they are doing in whatever place they are in, optionally also including something about the history of the place and/or their military unit.

Most good writers are more subtle, however, and more or less successful at slipping the necessary information in. What interests me is the process of withholding, rather than dumping, necessary information. What's the absolute minimum we can get away with revealing? The classical detective fiction writers are the masters of this, where the reader is given a promise that they are given exactly enough information they need to identify the murderer themselves (actually both Christie and Conan Doyle broke this promise repeatedly, as I recall, resorting to all sorts of bizarre tidbits that the reader could not possibly have known to come up with the wished-for surprise twist).

I think the important take-home point here is 1) do the research; but 2) don't get/feel too precious about it.

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Murphy mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, whether it is fiction or non fiction, you always have to make a judgement call on how much research gets into print. With fiction, perhaps the best analogy is the iceberg example.

On the printed page of any bit of fiction readers probably only see five to twenty percent of the world the Writer has created. The Magic comes from that unwritten eighty percent that is research. And not just traditional research on institutions, history, events, whatever but research into the characters you have created, the worlds they live in and how they'll react to them.

It would be impossible to explain everything that is driving a given character or situation. As one of the research assistants I can tell you that there is plenty that never sees print yet it informs how the characters behave. That research makes them authentic to the reader.

And it is the little things that do the job.

"Its' fucking jammed, Sergeant," the Private said.

The Sergeant took the Private's M-16, slapped the mag, pulled the charging handle and looked into the chamber. A bent round flicked past his nose. He released the handle, tapped the forward assist and pointed the weapon down range.

A squeeze of the trigger rewarded him with a satisfying pop. He safed the weapon and handed it back to the Private.

"Didn't you learn anything in basic?" he asked. "I'm not going to have time to hold your hand, wipe your ass and help you breathe when we get into the Sandbox."

"Sorry, Sergeant."

A writer could probably cut and crop that a bit and Birmo does when I give him a chunk like the above. Sometimes he refines it, other times he leaves it about like I've got it above. Other vets read that and go, "Yeah, SPORTS. Slap, pull, observe, release, tap, squeeze. I remember that."

And bammo, Birmo's got the veteran reader following along.

The problem is that the civilian reader goes, "Wow. Did I really need to read all of that?"

It is a balancing act and there is no right answer for it.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Good stuff Murph & all.

Many many moons I did some "writing for the mass media" subjects at uni. Something that has stuck with me for 15 + years was discussed in a writing for radio lecture.

Say it out loud & bold.

"This 38 calibre pistol which I hold in my right hand is loaded."

Stupid & clumsy eh? Why?

It was a lesson in what you can trust the reader/audience to assume and what they don't need to be explicity told.

I suspect (not having Birmo or Murphs cred to know) that there are strong paralells between radio scripts & a novel's content.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin: 'Birmo, is link spam enough of a problem on this blog that posts that contain links (I have two in this thread that have yet to appear as I type this) don’t turn up?'

It is, actually. You guys dont see it because i never let it get to the threads, but there is a heap of link spam in my own trap. I do clean it out a couple of times a day, usually. Yesterday was different cos I was away all day.

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Sweet Jane Says has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, your link to Hughes was visible and readable.

J.

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Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 25, 2009
Murph and Damian-

Your wise words very much appreciated. Too tired/busy to write properly now but I've read both comments thoroughly and found myself nodding my head about a lot of things you both said.

I don't know if you're familair with Elmore Leonard , but gee can that guy "show, don't tell" -he's like a sentence savant.

Orin- thx as well for putting up the "hughesy" link on writing.

JB- what's so good about this idea of yours -apart from your words of wisdom and everyone else's experiences- is having "somewhere to go" to discuss writing w/o putting anyone to sleep. I do have one friend who is a published writer but the very last thing she wants to do is talk about it (it's like a bad luck thing for her and fair enough), consequently I get very lonely as far as writing is concerned, so I for one am very excited to see this dynamic little corner of the blogoverse spring up. Thanks again.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
JB, do you have days, where you find that you are not happy with what you have written. do you push on, thinking you will come back to it and improve..or do you cut your losses and head for a different scene

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sibeen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 25, 2009
Isn't there an intosuctory course, "Writing for Enginners - a guide for the socially inept"?

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Orin ducks in to say...

Posted October 25, 2009
If you've got time to write but you aren't happy with what you've written, you should keep writing anyway. Just write something else.

How often do you find time to sit down and write rather than having to arse about doing something else? Don't waste the time. If you can push through and write something golden, you'll come back to that the next time the words are coming out like a slurry of sewerage. You've heard Birmo talk about writing muscles? Well not giving up when it all looks like shit is part of building them up.

If you arse off today, you're likely to arse off in future. Take a break, but don't give yourself an excuse to bail.

Apply arse to chair.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Does anyone mind if I ask a nosey question?

What genre do you guys work in ? ie fiction/ non/ blog/ lit fic/ genre fic/ (What have I missed?) Backgrounds in writing? I'm just curious to know what people are drawn to but if you don't feel like saying, that's fine.

I write lit. fiction (now there's a laugh, I mean, I try to write it) as well as essays and poetry. I used to to be a very small-time peanuts "song writer" (elevating myself beyond my talents there) for a couple of bands I was friends with in the early 80s and my only claim to fame (which I dont care about , it is just a good story) is that when I was 20 I wrote some lyrics and left them sitting on the table ,lost them, wondered where, forgot about them. A few years later they turned up on the radio coming out of the mouth of the lead singer of a band (who were friends of my band friends I was sharing a house with and who often came around) who made a great deal of money on them. I just thought "hey! thats my lyrics!!!"

Not suggesting the lyrics were anything spectacular- this person was a much better song writer, take my word for it, (and far more successful than me) and he added verses which it needed- but I always felt , you know...damn that! So, after that happened, for reasons I can't articulate, I lost a lot of writing confidence for quite a few years and it's really only in the last couple of years that I've returned to it. (apart from dry, boring old academic writing which I had to do for years at uni but I don't count that especially apart from the discipline it instills) Anyone else? What do you like to write? how long you been doing it?

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Orin puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
I write textbooks, which isn't really a genre. Writing textbooks isn't as exciting as writing fiction. On the other hand I do get regularly paid enough to support my family off my books.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, I'll give you some links of the ferals who frequent here.

What do they write..well all sorts of stuff to be honest. From Just blogging about..anything, to short stories, some published. most not..(laughs), most would like too. I'm not going to say killing is a theme...but EXPLODIE GOODNESS as it get referred to is WICKED!.

If you take a stroll down the links on the left of JB's page you will come across they crews sites. Mos like me, put up their stiff on their blogs. And then there is the mini Burger of JB's as well. Thats submitted stuff from us or and others...some good shit. Have a cruise around..but its FICTION with a significant Military / action bent!.

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin.. reckon you are right..I just kept at it today. Its funny actually, because it was the continuation of the HILL scene from Intense and I have not written anything on that section now for some months. I suspect part of it was getting back into the grove with the scenes and the characters and I simply have to push through.. to re familiarise myself and get IN CHARACTER with them again.

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El Coqui is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
My problem is that I am writing in a second language and at times, I get two wordy. By example, this is the opening scene of the story that I am working on.

***

“Shit, Steve, help me turn this goddamn turkey towards the river,” Elizabeth Tricozzi shouted as she steeled herself. She knew that regardless of whatever they did, they were going to crash. Even if all the alarms blaring on her ears, the tattletales’ red lights that flooded her instrument panel and the fast approaching hard ground were not enough of a clue. Since her first day of rotary flight school at Rucker, she been inculcated with the idea that there had never been such a thing as a gliding helicopter and had learned to always keep an eye out for emergency landing sites. So with her copilot help, she continued to fight the controls to keep them upright, and moving in the general direction of the only clearing they could reach as their Chinook threatened to shake itself apart. It was not on her nature to give up easily and she fought the controls, all the way down, hoping for a soft landing spot. However, as the ground reached for them with a decisive finality, the aviator last coherent thought were for her husband and children before the crash impact and darkness engulfed her.

***

And that was me trying to be brief.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, "What do you like to write?"

Speculative horsehs!t is my speciality.

As with others here I may daydream of being as fantasticly wealthy & powerful as Birmo as a consequence of my failed mental-state and the frippery & inanity it creates, but in reality it's only for my own entertainment. The day someone pays for my brand of dribble must herald the last days of a corrupt culture. EG: What does Race Car spell backwards?

But just because it's onanism at it's worse, I still want my ideas to escape into the meme pool @ large, which means the will, skill & patience to craft sentances & hew paragraphs. Not saying I have any of the above, just recognising the need.

Of us all it's Orin whom I think about most. Us Fiction freaks can just kill of an idea, charachter or scene if it aint working. The Man requires Orin's material to cover X,Y and Z.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 25, 2009
Havock, what Orin said. I have days where I look at my finished copy and think, what shit. Usually when I'm doing non fic, but sometimes with novels too. He's right. You just hunker down and punch through. If you are a writer, you write, whether it's working for you or not. It's a bit like being a bowler, particularly a fast bowler. Sometimes you are the speed, it's just streaming through you, and sometimes you're no better than a very pedestrian medium paced workhorse. But you still have to run up and bowl no matter what.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
Totally second Orin and Birmo. Pointless, pretentious crap written down beats the Humble Revealed Word of God not written down. The only way to make it happen is to sit down and do it. That's precisely the bit that's missing for me, and I make no excuses at all.

Abigail - as for genre stuff? What I *want* to write is somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Joseph Conrad. What I *can* actually write is probably different again, but since what I am in fact writing right now is nothing at all, so you might not want to attribute that "wise" tag to my advice :).

FWIW I wrote songs too in the 80s. But whoever remembers me would most likely do so for covering Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen songs, and (very remotely) possibly for my punk influenced covers of Gram Parsons and others. Mostly the Story Bridge Bomb Shelter Bar, but a few other locations (4ZZZ occupation for instance) come to mind.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, Havock, NowhereBob (I love that name btw, lots of character)

Thanks! That helps me make sense of things a bit. :)

Orin- to write a text book means you're clever and certainly moreso than me, and christ knows the world needs more smart people who are contributing hugely to peoples' education. And besides, you can always try other forms of writing some day if you feel like it.and writing's writing, doesn't matter what really, if it's your own composition.

Havock- thx for your help. I just went and had a look in "mini burger"- a bit of girlclumsy and Dr Yobbo- WOW!! That's terribly exciting to discover. Can anyone submit "fanfiction" or is it a closed thing? (Hvk you seem to know the ropes around here so i ask you:) I take it fanfic is just a name for words by unpublished writers.

NowhereBob-"Spec Horseshit"? I won't hear of it sir! To feel you are creating something, gee you know, that's the most important thing in the world (I mean thing, as opposed to the people we care about).

Although my own leanings (ie what I can do sort of kind of) are toward the literary, I just like all kinds of writing and I'l look forward to reading soemthing of yours if you offer it some day.

Best, Abs.

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Abigail reckons...

Posted October 25, 2009
Damien-

Well, maybe this: just write one sentence. (but I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I hope that didn't sound bossy)

Why wouldn't your advice have given me something? It did. just because you're not putting something on a page at present doesn't mean you don't have something intelligent to say and god knows Im used to doing all of this in a vacuum until two weeks ago when I became aware of this Friday writers' blog, so thoughts on the subject hold legion benefits for me.

Conrad/ Chandler, two of the best writers there were. I know their style, so I know what you're talking about.

What you *can write will just develop and develop.I'd venture that's true of all writers.

Oh, btw- interesting you wrote songs then too!- great fun, is it not? Im not familiar with 'Story Bridge Bar'- I was in Sydney and I've not heard of that place at all.

About just accepting it isn't all going to meet your dreams and pushing on anyway- I have to add my voice to the consensus view.

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, the mini burger primarily relates to FAN fic from JB's novels, Having said that, the Intense pieces I posted are up and relate in no way to FAN FIC, its more a case of Persons from here...tuckerised i guess in my writings and the final thing is..ITS NOT MINE, the Mini Burger that is. Its JB's. His decision alone.

How it works. well post what you write and then the big god like, I dont break my arm boss will will either post it or not i guess, or e/mail the man and have a chat.

The rest of the crew of sorts, more like a gather of ratbags ferals and some educated boffins gather Tues / Thur at the Blunt Instrument and Fri, with his writing blog, any day here abouts and saturday at the GEEK. All on tags here on the left side at the top.

hope that helps anyways!.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Miss A, there are some of my bits & pieces over @ the miniburger.

For me miniburger fan-fic comes from those who enjoyed JB's novels and want to flex their writing muscles. Without the effort required to create a world from scratch.

Caution; much of it will be inpenetrable without having read (at least) WW and the AoT trilogy.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted October 25, 2009
Oh and another thing.

Intel has been brining me disturbing reports about the Arch Anti-Birmo, a certain Mr Earls(SFX thunder & dramatic organ chords)

Sources indicate that he is becoming even more shevelled & couth, while our Glorious Leader continues in a the opposite directions.

While recieving a low veracity score on the admiralty scale, rumours & scuttlebutt persist that the next Candoo Campbell Erection is to be the Nick Earls Bikeway. Not only daily funneling more wan vegan slouchers into our fine megapolis, but lauding a hack & perpetuating a myth, while disregarding the contributions our Dear Leader has made to the literary wellbeing of the community and ignoring his selfless public service providing accomodation for polymath Playboy Bunnies.

This is intollerable. Something Must Be Done.

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Annette mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
This is really helpful and I've passed the url along to other interested parties. Thank you.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 26, 2009
NBob. Indeed.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 26, 2009
Chin up. Mebbe there's a Birmingham Effluent Treatment Plant on the way.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 26, 2009
ER...said by one half of a duo that routinely christens Wankerisms with much more appropriate titles.

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Sweet Jane Says mumbles...

Posted October 26, 2009
You know, if I were to create an alter-ego to switch into in order to protect my hard drives - it would be so obvious what it would be. So, so, obvious...

J.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 26, 2009
Jane, if you chose to double your ego I'm sure there'd be an eager army of exterminators to volunteer to take it out.

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Lobes puts forth...

Posted October 26, 2009
Not obvious enough. Is this you speaking or your alter ego?

Hmm "protect my hard drives" suggests its your OCD speaking

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Sweet Jane Says mumbles...

Posted October 26, 2009
Only I can end "Jane." And the only thing it suggests is a change of careers.

J.

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Crashguy puts forth...

Posted October 26, 2009
JB, I just wanted to say thanks for this Friday blog. I've really been enjoying reading it.

That is all. Move along please.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 26, 2009
Me too, Crash guy.

I have another question for that growing list, JB. When you get to discussing productivity, I'd like to know what's a reasonable word count to aim for per week.

If you're working on that 12 month commitment timetable.

I imagine that you'd have to break it down into planning, structure, writing, and then editing.

When you think its ready for a test read, should you send it off to an agency, or what?

I was at a seminar at the QWC a few years back and there was a woman there from Curtis Browne, Tara someone, I think - and her suggestion was get it proofread independently before the agent sees it.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 26, 2009
Actually Hughesy, if you're out there, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 26, 2009
Good questions, Q. And worth a stand alone thread. The Tara of whom you speak has repped for me once or twice. She's the goods. And she's right about getting it independently assessed. But more of that later.

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jp mumbles...

Posted October 26, 2009
Here's my 2 cents:

"Thinking" is a very underrated past-time. And I'm not just talking about when I zone out when someone's talking, thinking about an interesting way to kill. I find a change of pace and or location is good: going for a walk, the movies, the beach, cooking, etc. Actually, cooking for me is the most meditative thing I can do -- the one time where, if I want to, I can quieten the thinking mode and concentrate on the food. Usually some good ideas emerge out of that clarity.

Re writing discipline, I wrote my non-fiction book and first two novels while still holding down a real job at a newspaper. Subsequent 3 were written at home as a full-time novelist and it took the first of those to settle into a loose routine that works for me: I start each day at a local cafe for a couple hours, do a couple hours at home, then if it's a nice day a couple hour's writing/planing by hand in a beer garden in some pub (Hav, Naut, you've seen said pub). Evenings are editing, researching, emailing, and when the deadline's looming, writing. I do something, eg write/make notes/read, every day of the year.

Re planning, I always know my major story beats and the ending (at least the FEEL of the ending) and I'll do all this, and my research, by hand in notebooks. With FOX HUNT I made about 100 pages of notes, and mapped out my action scenes. PATRIOT ACT had a similar amount of notes and I structured like a mo fo. BLOOD OIL was minimal as it was written with pure fury -- deadlines, anger of my character, and my own (eg, what's the world gong to be like when we have Bible Spice and John McBush in the White House?) all driving it along. I think of these notes as rehearsal: when I write I don't need to refer to them, it's just the place where I ironed things out for the real run at it. (Oh, and these notebooks and papers can then be donated to libraries and such as a tax offset.)

All that said, I wrote my first teen novel last summer over a couple weeks, with no planning at all. That's been my fav writing experience. As Birmo pointed out, there's no right way to tackle a novel and experience certainly helps -- I waste hardly any words these days (eg stuff that gets edited out), and I've never been more than a 10% waster from the get go. You just have persevere, and blindly believe that you can do it time and time again. I'm freaked out with each new book (can I do it again? will it be better?) and it takes the first 100-150 pages for me to lose those nerves and settle in. And, when you're in the zone, and typing like mad, and storylines come together and characters do things you didn't see coming a week ago... that's the magic. That's the rush that reminds me why this is a fun gig.

Apart from a couple short stories per year, I can't bring myself to write anything else for anyone else -- not even regular blogs for my own site -- writing the novels is work enough. That's why Birmo is the king.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 26, 2009
Ooh this is good. thanks JP.

I found it very reassuring, what you said about nerves. I want to go back to a manuscript I wrote about 4 years ago and it just flowed. Needs work and teasing out and putting together but I'm scared to touch it in case I screw up The Flow.

I had so much fun with it at the time but now it's a bit like looking back at an old love affair and wondering if you can rekindle the spark (And I'm not known as a sentimental romantic) or nope, Its Dead, Dave.

JB at the very end of your list, I'd like to hear your thoughts on dealing with agents and publishers, too. I often listen to radio national and if I'm around I like to catch the book show. A while back I heard a few publishing types speaking about new authors and the publisher (think it was someone from Hachette) was very dismissive about first time authors selling the film rights to their stories. She seemed to think they should take whatever they get ($500 and lucky to get it was the figure she quoted) but when I was at the QWC I'm sure Tara said something about trying to wrangle a good deal for the author if film rights were an option and she was disappointed if she couldn't get them a good deal on that, if the book would obviously translate to a good movie.

Anyway, it put my shackles up a bit.

I can't think of a lot of examples off the top of my head - frankly, after doing the rounds of Sydney Harbor yesterday in all that rain and swell I still feel like I'm on the Balmain Ferry - up, down, sideways, lurch - and then more of the same on the plane home - but there's things like Melena Marchetta's 'Looking for Alibrandi' and 'Mao's Last Dancer' (OK I know that's autobiographical but it was just beautiful).

I'd hate to think that those writers only got a measly $500 for the film rights.

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Orin ducks in to say...

Posted October 26, 2009
Hughesy has a service mentioned on her blog where she will go over a manuscript and offer realistic feedback from the perspective of someone who worked as an agent.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 26, 2009
Ta. I'll check it out.

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jp would have you know...

Posted October 27, 2009
Like book advances, unless the film option has gone to auction with two or more peeps bidding each other up, the option $'s won't be huge. I'm sure $500 was a figure of speech though - $5k is more like the ballpark average of a low figure for Aus film.

Whatever an author gets for film rights up front they keep, no matter if the film is made or not, and the buyer usually has the rights for 2 or 3 years and then they revert back to the author. If the film does get made, the author gets a percentage of the production budget, usually 3%.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 27, 2009
That's better.

The radio national interviewer sounded a bit aghast too and she said 'so what's the incentive for the author to write the kind of story that will make a good movie?' and the response was 'The increase in book sales.'

Thanks JP.

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Sweet Jane Says ducks in to say...

Posted October 27, 2009
Did you get a cat?

J.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 27, 2009
Cools, JP cleared that up for you quokka...gunna say. 500.00 and thats IT. NO WAY. to low for starters and yeah..its an options gig and term to either pre production, adaptation ( script prep ) or whatever the hell else is agreed to.

JP.. YEAH...THAT! is a good pub, perfect for that and or a stagger home...at least for you.

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jennicki mumbles...

Posted October 28, 2009
Writing question:

How do you protect people while simultaneously writing them into your stories?

Basically making a real person into a character--how do you know what details to change and keep in order to both preserve and protect the identity of real people in your stories?

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Orin asserts...

Posted October 28, 2009
Change the name and one detail - for example if you said "Diction was of paramount importance to Andrew" no one would figure out you were talking about Havock.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 28, 2009
I'm finding myself in a place I suspect JB you have already been. Dan blacks death. At the moment I have just finished a section where, Havock & Jolls cleared out the guns line attacking the other two sections, , thats described only from Als perspective and shows no detail on WHAT and how the action of H & J took place.

If I was now to describe it, from H's POV, it would by the time line be in the past and I'm leaning towards NOT describing it from that POV. The reader may well not like that, so I am thinking, it might be better to have another party, arrive on scene and the sort of PIECE together the action, like describing their thought process and they figure out the basics.

I suspect it NOT done to now go back, especially with an action scene that could have been a core component, although I have done it with other scenes, thats only to build the story line and slowly allow the reader to see a bigger picture start to emerge...

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jennicki is gonna tell you...

Posted October 28, 2009
ROTFLMAO, Orin.

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Neil has opinions thus...

Posted November 4, 2009
I've never understood the need for writers to get all their fact straight. Seriously, who cares as long as its a good read. If I want facts I'll read non fiction.

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Wereviking swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 4, 2009
The old chestnut I swear by is that the trick of writing is to write. Editing comes later. This does not preclude planning, by any stretch of the imagination. I think some time writing essays and working with words on a professional level is also extremely beneficial, but obviously not the rule for all. The couch is also your best friend and your enemy. You must know when laying down your head is helpful and when it is a crutch.

Zephyr -- a superhero webcomic in prose

http://wereviking.wordpress.com

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Theo. Bennett mutters...

Posted November 4, 2009
Oh yes, JB. Orgasmic sense, written as you know you know it.

I'd not dare do other than share jenicki's salvation. Thank you.

But Neil, I've considered your thought for a millisecond, and decided I'd much much rather Shakespeare had known how to disguise Loyola by first quoting "the facts".

And the research sweat and travail of Arthur Hailey whose novels - including 'Wheels', 'Hotel', 'Airport', all stand up topically and today.

Then there's Tom Clancy's blockbusters that have firm foundation of research and facts.

Not to forget the splendid C19th novelists of Russia, Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Latin America - and a couple homegrown too.

But, of course, writing a 4,000 word flam from "pure" imagination is a facile wank. Like making a 6'00" video drama without a script.

A much easier toss.

- tdb

.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 4, 2009
Theo- I don't know. I mean, certainly that's true about the part of research in a lot of lit we like (try saying that after 2 bottles of red wine).But it can get in the way and especially if they get a detail a little bit wrong.

I didn't take what Neil said as a deep criticism of the practise, myself.I guess it means it doessn';t matter iof the whole thing is some made up stuff. I never carfe either. Sometimes research in a book reads like research and it can be clumsy and boring, so I don't think there's an absolute here.

I think I said elsewhere on this blog, Hermann Melville could do it; a famous Australian female writer who specialises in blockbusters which sometimes get made into mini- series , cannot.

I know a few brilliant people who can indeed improvise a great 6 min vid drama; savants; its there in their heads. doesn't mean its wank. Again, nothing's absolutely the case when it comes to creativity. Anyway, my view, I guess.

Great book on where your cultural tastes come from which I'd direct anybody to called 'Let's Talk About Love: Journey To the End of Taste' by Carl Wilson, a Canadian music critic who analysed his hatred of Celine Dion's music. Excellent read. Covers what you're saying really.

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Ngarmada mutters...

Posted February 11, 2010
"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."

Albert Einstein

Touche John.

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Respond to 'Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.'

Some answers to questions from Friday's writing blog.

Posted October 21, 2009 by John Birmingham
Got a pretty good response to the idea of running a regular writing blog and I've clipped quite a few of the questions and discussion ideas into a separate file to run as standalone threads in the future. There were a couple of you who asked questions, however, which I reckon I could deal with briefly.

Medway sort of turned the blog topic back in on itself by asking what is writer's block. He wasn't sure how to tell the difference between a genuine lack of inspiration and just being a bit of a lazy knob. I guess the difference is sweating blood. Those of you who've done any kind of academic writing will recognize the signs of laziness. You have an assignment or an essay due and all of a sudden daytime television becomes immeasurably more fascinating than it was just last week, the apartment needs cleaning, your toenails need clipping, anything, please God anything other than sitting down and actually doing the work you've been assigned. That's procrastination. When you do it on purpose with the full knowledge of what you doing, it's laziness.

Writers block is something different. It's when you desperately want to write, and you don't get distracted you don't watch TV you don't put on music you don't fuck around on the net you don't restump the house -- you just sit staring at the screen sweating bullets of blood from your forehead because Nothing Is Coming. Well, sorry, that's wrong: one thing is coming. Your fucking deadline. It's rushing towards you like a black tsunami of doom and the terrible world ending roar of it is making your inability to think of anything worth writing all the worse, like some sort of evil feedback loop.

Hope that clears a few things up, Medders.

Kieran asked whether I try and get around occasional creative blockages by writing out of sequence, a suggestion his girlfriend made to him. Sometimes I do. One of the nice things about writing multithreaded narratives is that when one isn't working for you you can abandon it for a short time and pick up one of the other threads. It happens occasionally that a character or story arc will simply stop engaging us. Often the best way to deal with it is just to walk away for a short time. That's as true of any job as it is of writing. Sometimes you just need to step away from the desk even if it's only for a quick cigarette break. And of course if you're not intent of dying from lung cancer one way of stepping away from a story is to just work on another story. I thoroughly recommend this technique.

Since we're on the topic of writer's block, and there's weeks worth of other questions to answer, I might finish up with a few more suggestions for how to get around it.

Sometimes it helps if you change the point of view from which the scene is being narrated. You can do this even in a first-person POV story, even if your narrator is the only person in the scene. If it's just not working for you, try switching to a third person POV. If you have multiple characters in the scene switch to a minor character and try writing it from their point of view, or switch to an antagonist and do the same thing. You'll be surprised how often that frees up an imaginative logjam.

Sometimes you just need to rush the thing like a bull at a gate. This can be particularly so when writing nonfiction. You paint yourself into a corner, or at least convince yourself that's what you've done. If you just can't come up with a form of words to get your idea onto the screen in good order, step away from the screen. Grab a notepad and pen, walk out of the room, sit down somewhere else and work old school for just a few minutes. Ask yourself "what the fuck am I actually trying to say". Then without worrying about spelling and syntax, grammar, the ugliness of what you're writing or any of that shit, just write in longhand as quickly as you can every thought that comes into your mind about what ever topic you're writing about. Fill the page, take a minute or two to have a break, then go back to the computer with your scrawled, virtually unreadable page of notes, and type them up. Then spend the next 15 minutes turning them into readable paragraphs.

Finally, here's a little trick I use in the most desperate of straits. Take yourself off to the nearest bookshop and have a look at some of the worthless crap that has made it into publication, and tell yourself if losers like Birmingham can do it, so can I.

91 Responses to ‘Some answers to questions from Friday's writing blog.’

Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
This is so much more fun than cleaning the dead cockroaches out of the pantry.

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Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot reckons...

Posted October 21, 2009
Great tips, I especially the last one. Not that you write crap of course, just another of your jokes, but some people do get utter rubbish published. Ah, must be the joys of the agent's couch.

Hard to believe that you suffer from writer's block. Your sheer prolific writing nature and of course genius too have certainly inspired me. And even inspired me to write about you as a writing inspiration! It looks as if you've learnt how to deal with writer's block when it does strike so thanks for sharing your tips with us.

I say a big YES to the regular writing blog and a hip hip hooray to you for penning it for us and keeping us on our toes:)

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beeso would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
I'd just like to add a small story that sort of furthers what birmo is saying here, about braking the zone. I did a bit of public speaking in my youth and particularly liked the writing for it I always wrote longhand and then transcribed to palmcards in full, even though i rarely used them. I turned up to a rostrum event thinking that there would be ah um a rostrum so i had no palmcards. No. So in the hour that i had before i spoke i rewrote the speech onto palmcards, but in small grabs, like triggers. When i came to speak i had a vastly different one to what i had turned up with and it went on tangents during talking as well, because i wasn't wedded to my notes. One of the best speeches i ever did. I wonder if i should try editing longer blog posts this way, or setting them out way first before i jump on the machine.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted October 21, 2009
"black tsunami of doom"

Sooo been there.

Good thinks, thanks JB.

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El Coqui is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
JB:

Thanks for the laugh as I struggle with another story.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 21, 2009
OK, I know I said I'd do that yesterday but I went to the movies instead. And then The Bloke started whining about toothache and I became convinced he's got a peridontal abscess (I've temped in a dental clinic. I know how to pick it)

And then I started to obsess that this is going to fuck over our long weekend in Sydney and dinner at Longrain.

See? I understand this procrastination thing.

Its simple. If you really want to ramp it up, add neurosis. It really sparks things up.

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Medway asserts...

Posted October 21, 2009
Yay for name recognition!

That does give an accurate description on my big piece that I have. The amount of times I've sat down in front of it, reviewed it, made notes of what I want to rehash, and attempted to figure out where I want to go with it has frustrated me to no end. I guess it's fortunate that I don't have any actual deadlines (except death or senility, whichever comes first), just a desire to get to 250 pages.

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SJPONeill is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
Good stuff, cheers, keep it coming...

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted October 21, 2009
funny your last para..I have numerous times gone.." shit...does that work or is this the right way"..NFI. Then grab abook off the shelf and have a read..AHHH, thats how its done again...

I just need to be able to FKN replicate it on god dam paper!..

Yours, Coyle and eric L Harry get a thumping on that stuff some days

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
Question..this may apply less and less I suspect the more you write.

Have you ever writen a scene and then thought..SHITE..I reckon I have read that or its ....very similar. then had to modify it!

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
Wow John, I think it's amazing that you're doing this! Thx for putting the time in.

To all you suggested:

Yep, yep and yep. Point taken.

It's funny, when you mentioned two things, ie, getting tired of one strand of the story so you leave it alone for a while, and secondly, looking at badly written books and feeling encouraged by that (LOL): when I saw those things, I put the two together in my mind. Since I've been writing quite a lot in the last couple of years, I have started to be able to tell when a writer has lost the plot or they've laboured the point, or whatever it is. I mean, I don't do it on purpose and I'm not sniffing down my nose at any writer while doing so, I just start recognising funny little things about the process (rather than the story).Don't people find, you just start develop this critical faculty and you don't even feel it happening?

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Abigail reckons...

Posted October 21, 2009
oh, ps- about the difference between procrastinating and getting a complete block: yes, it is good to get an expereinced writer's definition of the difference between the two, because, via the evil that is the right hemisphere, you can *believe* it is the latter; it feels like a block, when in fact, it's just avoidance. Gotta face the truth. Harsh, but true.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Abigail I suspect that sometimes an author takes great pleasure in killing off a character or feeding them to the scorpions for exactly that reason.

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Allan Dunbar mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
I hope you're going to do a blog on nuts and bolts stuff like planning and shit. I like to write and I rarely have writers block, but I think my biggest issue is I get an idea and just start writing. I do that to explore the idea a bit, but sometimes I think I need to do that, then go to a whiteboard and just plan the hell out of it.

I don't write multi-POV narratives most of the time, I write single POV. However, when you write a multi-POV, do you plot out the story, then section off blocks that each character will tell? Or do you have a story worked out for each character before you start writing?

Seriously though, it's great to read this kind of thing, a real insight. Thanks. :)

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Hum...I"d like to know how much you have to actually get out there and sell yourself.

I saw an author at the WF recently and if she got any more Chipper I swear to God someone was gonna toss something at her. Probably me. And if I wasn't wearing lace ups it might've been a shoe.

I was seriously tempted to ask her if she'd double dosed on her medication that day.

And you could see that it was putting people off.

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Steven Danno swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
The grim spectre of the deadline looms large in our collective unconsciousness, black tsunami of doom indeed. We turn ourselves inside out and all give knowingly grave nods when the term is mentioned. I would like to know if anyone has actually missed a deadline? Or one that uhh actually mattered because they were too drunk too stoned too selfish too disorganised too fucked in the head...if this is the case you need to wonder whether they are in the right gig. Deadlines are the procrastinator's friend. But I bet there are some doozies all the same? I missed a Devo concert once for all of the above reasons, arrived after the encore had finished wrote the review anyway. No great loss on reflection.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
" too drunk too stoned too selfish too disorganised too fucked in the head..."

Hey, I resemble that remark!

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Medway asserts...

Posted October 21, 2009
NowhereBob: An example to us all

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Orin would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
I saw this posted the other day, the Turkey City Lexicon - some good advice in it for writers:

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/

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jp mutters...

Posted October 21, 2009
While in the bookstore we can go to the "Big L" Lit section to see what real writing pain looks like.

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Chas Dean has opinions thus...

Posted October 21, 2009
Birmo - no need to put yourself down re the final par. My motivation? Two words.

Paranormal. Fiction.

I gotta be able to produce a more worthy effort than the "I can has hot vampire sexings" horde. Seriously.

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Chaz has opinions thus...

Posted October 21, 2009
Nothing better to make you feel more upbeat than to check out the fantasy sections. The amount of crap there is amazing, along with all the trek and WofW novels.

Yeah have to agree though that Manchester bloke is a real loser.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
Wow. I actually cleaned the FKN pantry. Progress.

WhadidImiss?

And where's Doc Yobbo?

Spam Trap gobble him up?

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Lobes reckons...

Posted October 21, 2009
Chaz, I'll put my hand up as a closet HALO lit fan.

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Lobes, damn I was hoping to unload my copies on someone!!

Quokka, cleaned the pantry? Where to roaches complaining?

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Chas: " gotta be able to produce a more worthy effort than the “I can has hot vampire sexings” horde. Seriously"

I can has hot vampire sexings? that's hilarious.

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
God it's like you just held a big mirror up to me. I really needed to read this post, especially at this point in my life.

Thank you.

You should save these blog posts and turn them into a collection for a book, sort of like Stephen King's "On Writing."

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
On something.

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Enjoy Medway would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
On ya mum.

Waitaminute...

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sparty ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2009
off topic but new Stephen King has damn fin US cover (uk one is rubbsih) reminds me of when we were all talking about the cover for WW

http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/books/SS.EMS/JacketCoverLarge900x430.jpg

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2009
Ahoy JB I can't seem to get a post up this morning and I had an absolute CORKER of a suggestion. I have to head out and am almightily pissed off with the NT that they have lost 1. my BRILLIANT suggestion and 2. the post an hour later that My Brilliant Suggestion has been devoured by the spam trap.

This is bullshit. I lose at least one comment on each of these threads. I was sitting there cackling with my own genius this morning, The Bloke was keen to see what I was gurgling evilly about - and naught.

They are never gonna fix this, are they?

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
Does the spam trap perhaps have a special snapping trap door for anyone that mentions Oversized Bronzed Genitalia?

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
the thing that pisses me off is that when I've got something good to toss out there and it vanishes, we all miss out on the 'sparks' that fly when the sharks circle around the chum, so to speak.

My suggestion involved replacing the bust with a 6m full length naked bronze statue, and I felt that it should speak. On the hour, every hour, it should bellow THIS IS SPARTA! Just to remind the shop owners that it's there.

And what happens when you'd prefer an organic garden patch.

I'm not playing anymore. this is no fun.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2009
I have fairfax spam, and its somehow dodged the filter that I created to junk it and appeared in my inbox. I emailed them last time and said that I don't want any more so clearly they aren't listening.

I don't know if its connected to the problem but on the days that they issue me with spam I can't seem to get my posts up.

I suspect its nothing technical, just Spite.

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MickH mutters...

Posted October 22, 2009
off topic but.....

Z O M B I E S !!!!!

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/your-brisbane/zombies-plan-weekend-invasion-20091019-h467.html

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2009
gotta agree with ya quaks, i reckon all burga's should/ could/ must post to NT(numbnuts publications) in CAPS LOCK (see amanda farking palmers my space blurb or twits on this one) for at least three months to giv'em a taste of true spartan hegemony hereby renamed burgamony.

Q. is WTF to do about numbnuts incorporated ... send 'em a spartan horse read: virtual metamorphic machine code :)

pz.v.

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Lobes puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2009
"Q. is WTF to do about numbnuts incorporated"

Its very fucking simple. NT will start listening pretty damn quick if we bring our displeasure to the site sponsors:

Tandberg

Neural.com.au

Mozo

CreditWorld

MyCareer

Newcastle Airport

eCertIT.com.au

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Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2009
Of course Im not advocating this. My opinion is we should let JB work things out internally. But if and when it becomes obvious NT are just not gonna play along its pretty easy to panic the herd with a few choice emails and blog posts.

Seriously though NT, what sort of mug punters do you think you're dealing with? We bought down an Austereo program we could take your pissy little site in our sleep.

You will learn to do things the way we like it or we will teach you. Because THIS IS FKN SPARTA!!!!

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
Exactly.

And if they'd posted my suggestion when I got in from Dog Walkies at 7am there would be a huge crowd in Brunswick clamoring for my idea of having a 6m bust of the Dude, naked and glistening in bronze, bellowing at hourly intervals 'THIS IS SPARTA!'

My only disappointment now, apart from getting junked, is that I didn't make the suggestion that they turn it into a tasteful and engaging water feature as well.

The days when my brain is asleep they print me instantly.

the days when I'm firing with mischief I end up in the shit box.

I really do think they have a special Quokka Quarantine Enclosure, some days.

Now if you'll excuse me I have errands to run. And tomorrow, a plain to catch.

If any of you Sydney folk care to comment on What's Good at Longrain, The Bloke is keen for some tips. We're off there for dinner on the weekend. Still pissed off I missed out on the food festival. Next year I think we should all crash it.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2009
Bust? I'm brain dead. Full length naked statue.

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virty asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
check FKN simple.

bringing about displeasure ..... turn CAPS LOCK ON .....

loading metamorphic source code ..... sending .....

now.

SHIT

error message

says:

"enter correct security code"

"exceeded the character count for today"

"we're logically pissed off so"

they're not listening muriel

pz.v.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
none of the last two posts have made it up and I just sent a SHORT third one to NT. Its driving me FKN Nuts. I know stuff takes time, but in all honesty..I have not seen much progress, its fkn cumbersome to shift through the posts and now its taken a real fkn likening to MY FKN POSTS and gobled the fkrs up.Its either that or somebody does not like what I had to say about NT. ITS FKN HIGH TIME THE MUPPETS FKN DID SOMETHING..weeks, fkn weeks have gone by now and jack fkn shit has surfaced.

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2009
this is what was uploaded approx 10 am & 10.47 am ...... 'n as far as crook cooks are concerned, there ain't that fkn much to "bring about NT displeasure" now is there?

first post

/ dusting off the TTS (see below)

"yeah, they threw us out of leons motorcycle shop on brunswick st in 1971 for getting sidecars airborn (chair wheel only), doin' road tests down the main st on the rear wheel and using the tram tracks illegally. now theres a story i'd forgotten about ... we modified a set of rims off an old single side valve excelsior (or was that a rudge?) to run on the track. a bit hairy at the junctions and we never worked out how to stop successfully from memory.

dem war thar dayz my friends

- now about this sparta thangy y'r all 'et up ab'urt, like turn up the CAPS LOCK why dontchas!. you of course all realize that adolf baby idolized this pack of thugs ("terrorism" doesn't even describe some of their activities), apart from ephors (like a magistrate) murdering most offspring that didn't have a big dick or looked a little undernourished, hitler implemented his ethnic cleansing program and race superiority regime on spartan military ethos.

- thats not to say that sparta was a breeding ground for spart'oles and oligarchs, although coming into contact with the current version of this mentality would have you thinking WTF have we not learned anything from B.C./ A.D. or the more PC " B.C.E./C.E" age - documented attrocities (read heodorus philetas, the grimorie of al azif .. for those interested search: The Necronomicon: The Book of Dead Names)

If you've ever been to greece you'll appreciate the statue concept much better & besides, i'd rather the coast road from patra to argos (like mega triple esses) than brunswick st anyday :)

pz.v.

*TTS you wish "

RICGED

(i did edit this when they threw it back at me with the word count)

then:

"/ about to go all out FKN CAPS LOCK

BAH & corporate BS .... ok, put a bit of grunt & spittle into the last post & besides only havin' had one lonely fkn stove top coffee by 10.47 am GRRRRRR, this damn BOX, surrounded by some type of 19th century un-colour highlight AND be-bottomed by this idiot random security code BS, THE THANGY (for want of a better expression) made a logical decision about how many fkn words were in the box. like you ain't anywhere near the money OR the fkn box fellas.

319 words my perfectly manicured phhhhhts.

So:

text was saved (in notetab) TFC, but edited it online (in this box) and blew 20 words off the dialogue.

re-enter security code (which doesn't seem to want to be there for some reason .... in logical denial already?)

press enter.

NIX

more fkn blood-y-red words of wonder.

SO

pasted all to ms word which re-affirmed a word count of 258 ... err HELL0000000 ALREADY, IN NO UNCERTAIN CAPS LOCK SPEAK.

Wanna pay for another anger management program mr NT fairfax?

but knowing the powers that be and birminghams uncanny (read tinny) knack (or should that be bollocks) for dragging dead stuff up from around the place it is perhaps being rebirthed as I again press the futility button of digital privation.

V."

BOODAY

go figure.

gotta do a runner into town and p/u some aldi flash sticks, probably all gone by now :( AND 'TIS ALL YOUR FKN FAULT NT!!!!! BAH

V

p.s. apologizes about the invasion of burger web space but WTF already

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
just put this one up.

Dear ED, or BOSS man or whomever hpping to wish..that they be in charge there at the Ntional Times. You should I guess be aware that recently the weekdy posts were migrated so masterfully from the Brissy times to NT, I am told this reside in the great city of Melbourne, populated almost exclusively with legends. Now, I have never been one to jump up and down, throw rocks or berate people in a manner, not meeting my high status and education. BUT, I would like to bring to your attention the issue of the wandering replies from commentors. It does sem that there might be a slight chance some have gone missing. Whilst I would never ever believe its the resuly of people or systems within your great organisation and i almost without doubt caused by the sender, I would be greatly appreciative if you could take time out of your very busy schedule to take a wander around the NO FIT FOR PRINT in tray that you might have and perhaps release some...just to keep the minions happy. If you could do that, you would be a dear....

Yours Faithfully

Master & Commander of the FKN Legions that are gunna cap ya arse if this continues.

MR HAVOCK

Respond to this comment

Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
Back from buying paint and catfood and just look at the uproar.

Nice suggestion Virty BUT I CAN'T BE FUCKED even going to look at the FKR any more today. I've got a lotta little pissy errands to run and appointments today and I just don't have time for the BS.

BTW JB I go the same BS the other day with the miscount of words, so I edited it and hit 'reload security code' to get rid of the mystery vowels/could be consonants/who FKN knows - and it kept replacing my sec code with a little box with a ? inside.

No security card.

Just the Joker's Symbol.

Where's Batman when that sucker turns up, eh?

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 22, 2009
quokka..its doen THAT to me as well..I jumped out. lost me comments and tor me fkn hair out. Good things PC's costs money or I would hve Blew the FKN thing up

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
Yep.

I've got the shits with it so much I can't be arsed even going back there to see what everyone else has to say. It's just too provoking knowing that there'll be something I want to latch onto and respond to and no FKN point given that the GD thing is just hitting the eject button on me today.

I'm off to the hairdresser so that someone else can remove my hair, safely.

I'll be back when my mullet has been restored to order.

Meanwhile, all, good luck with the mongrels. I'm sick of 'em.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,26245412-952,00.html

Urk.

I'm not a big fan of warfare but this is one sick bastard. JB, you know about this FWIT?

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2009
well I just checked NT, that pot hich is bove me here was the last one i put up and its not yet mde it to NT post site... I guess its spam trapped as well n its got zero reason to be...FKRS

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
2.59 PM post..attempt number 4 now...

this is it.

I'm thinking that the BRONZE stat may well not last more than a night...we are talking about BRUNSWICK afterall.. If it does go missing I suggest they look for it attached to a bonnet or with the head modified to wobble around and mounted on a dashboard..thru a windscreen.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
Cannot believe that..it went up straight away...WTF is going on!

Respond to this comment

Lobes mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
Wow I think this thread sets a new record for "FKNs"

Respond to this comment

Lobes asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
At least you guys have a chance to vent here (and virty go for it, dont worry about the Burgerspace its probably better you flock here than twitter like what happened on Tuesday).

The ones I feel sorry for are the commenters who are unaware of CBG or just wandered across Blunty and then got bounced the same way. They'll try once, maybe twice before they give up and never come back. Keep trying though you guys. I cant even register an account :-(

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 22, 2009
Lobes, that's what worries me.

I know when I first started reading this blog it was just so obvious that the core group here knew each other really well and there were all sorts of 'in' jokes that I didn't get and it felt a little daunting, the idea of joining in, because it seemed like this elite group of witty friends who knew each other really well...I was a bit loathe to just 'push in'.

So many people who write - and write well - just don't have the sort of confidence that is going to see them through the kind of rejection that we froth about here. They'll try once, or twice, or a few times, and then get pissed off - or wonder why they aren't making it to the 'elite' list - and they won't come back. They don't necessarily know about Cheeseburger and if our steady griping about how FKN useless the format is keep getting spammed, then the nubies might think its just them. And that sucks.

This can't be good for business, JB.

I feel for you, being caught in the middle of all this and with only one good arm to smack them with.

Keep up with the bag work and fill the boxing glove with cement. It looks like you're gonna need it for this battle.

Respond to this comment

Havock mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
Lobes... Lol ya might be fkn right. Can't get account... Fk me. Anywonder ya wasn't happy, took two login attempts from me phone early a m .

Quokka.....never fkn give up. At least not fkn yet. Blood from the cretins first. They'l get it right sooner or later. I just hope for my keyboards sake it's fkn sooner

Respond to this comment

Quokka mutters...

Posted October 22, 2009
I'm off to Sydney for three days Hav, so I had better things to do than fight with those mongrels today.

I still don't have much in the way of faith that Fairfax have any real interest in improving the format. This has just been bad, today. 53 comments, on what should have been a fun little sparring match for all. That's just crazy. I wonder what it would've been if we'd all managed to get our comments up and actually get a fully charged conversation going?

I really don't think that Fairfax understand the magic of the blog, that its about the sparks that fly when we all rub up against each other.

And as for the FKN spam...Jesus.

Evidence that they just don't FKN listen.

Respond to this comment

Lobes mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
Hmmm, If I was JB I would consider leaving the comments thread open on his next Blunty link here at the Burger.

The problem he faces is that on Monday with the Jess Watson thread there was a mass exodus of comments about the topic to Twitter. I probably only read 20 comments about Ms Watson on Blunty itself but literally dozens and dozens on twitter from the usual suspects (Doc Yobbo, Nautilis, Albion LD, Beeso etc). Mr Stu suggests it was in the realm of 300 but who really knows, it went on for the whole day which proves how a well maintained comment thread can hook people in. It didnt happen with the Sparta/Brunswick thread because despite our love of that movie its basically a non issue that nobody here would have heard about had Guru-Bob not delivered. With the next Jess Watson-esque thread of widespread interest the exodus is going to turn into a flood.

Part of the problem is JB has developed a fan base of extremely tech-savvy followers who have taken to using a whole variety of social media. At any one time he is being followed on Twitter, Facebook, Fairfax, The 'Burger, A variety of Blogs some of which are linked on the left and no shortage of emails as well. This has left him open to commenters choosing to bypass Fairfax (notably the only ones in that list providing hard currency for JB) in favour of the other worlds of the Birmoverse. But pursuing this strategy was the right move IMHO as the internet is pretty ephemereal and todays blog can be yesterdays Friendster or tomorrows Twitter. Better to cast ones net wide in the search for followers. I mean lets face it imagine if he relied SOLELY on Fairfax. How fukd would that be? For him and us.

What the Watson twitter thread demonstrated is that commenters will flock to the most convenient way of expressing their point. At the moment its far and away twitter though (as I suggested above) I think the 'Burger could give it a good run for its money.

If the aggravation from Quokka, Hav, Virty et al is any indication then at some point JB is going to start losing followers because of this. Not necessarily the aforesaid (who are all longtermers) but the less dedicated who also cant get a fair go from NT and just wander off not to return.

What JB has to decide is whom does he want to keep most happy. Fairfax who pay him $$$ and provide him this national exposure (albeit hamhanded) or the followers who essentially put him there. Thats not to suggest he should walk away from Fairfax but maybe try and mitigate the damage by running an open comments thread on the Burger or elsewhere. At least on the Burger he would have some control over the input and be able to quantify what hes missing out on wheras on twitter its gone man and his claim to have inspired comments there is on shakier ground.

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Lobes asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
And if you havnt guessed already I am finding the drama and conflict this move to NT has provoked quite the most interesting thing about JBs blogging at the moment, LoL.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2009
Lobes I would imagine that there's something in the Devil's contract that disallows leaving the link from here to Blunty open to comments. Otherwise I'm sure JB would have done it long ago.

You're right, though. When people get pissed off they vote with their feet and even I was tempted to climb aboard the Twitter Train the other day.

I'm still scratching my head in amazement at the idiocy of Fairfax. Its the most profound stupidity to take a product, change it, piss off the consumers, and be utterly, rigidly, unapologetic - and SLOW - about fixing it.

I started off thinking that someone in there had an agenda and they simply wanted to add JB as another columnist but now I'm not so sure. I really do think that they are just behind the times, they don't get it, and those articles that you see about how they can't think into the future are just totally on the mark.

I just can't figure out if it's someone in marketing, who seriously needs to be replaced by someone with a better understanding of What The People Want, or if its one of the conservative old dinosaurs in the place that's holding them back by withholding funds and being unwilling to embrace new forms of communication.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
Could be both. Idiocy, I have found, is all too frequently a top down process.

They know they can't stand without support so they find even bigger idiots to prop them up.

Respond to this comment

Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
I'm just so pissed off my comment didn't get up at 7am. You have no idea the LOATHING I have for FKN boutique shops. Must get The Bloke to drop in some time and testify to how dangerous I become when forced to go FKN shopping.

Don't mind if its paint or taps or fittings but all that stinky girly shit makes me nose run.

Grrr. and Grrrr again.

Respond to this comment

virty would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
mission accomplished (8gig stick for $20) thats what you get when you own a fkn bargain hunting aldi addicted mule. it's a decent old run from the chateaux and back and thank fkn christ there wasn't any diesel in the middle of them roundabouts hereabouts. like it's been 8 months since i've been able to ride even.

seein' as todays NT thread count is sufferin' slightly am gonna repost the above garbage (no peanut gall. comments please) again. the main comment split into 2 just to maim their addled word/ character count. methinks it's a character count which includes goddam everythang. might even edit out the FKN's & the html for 'em. like it all worked yesterday, maybe it's something about t'ursd'y ... themistocles ? thelma? george thoroughgood? NA ... it's gotta be thucydides.

lata lata alligata's

p.s. having pigged out at most eating houses in downtown sydney i only got one thang to say kwaka, the barrenjoey. go for the chilli crab with starched apron, a set of sterling silver crab cutlery and the biggest finger bowl you've ever seen this side of the strezleki track. (the cottage point inn is pretty kewl as well but you gotta take the sea plane from rose bay if ya gonna sample ALL THE GOODIES.

the prawn and double garlic pizzas are to die for at Bar Reggio (cnr of crown and stanley) and for lata i think the "top of the cross" has just reopened .... excellent martinis. the taxi club does a cheap but yummy brekkie. cheers. v. 'tis way after beer o'clock.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2009
Thanks Virty. We are staying at The Rocks.

I'll google it.

The bloke is standing behind me drooling over the concept of Chilli Crab and trying to get the FKN cat off the washing machine. I suspect we're all out of betadine. This will not end well.

I'm allergic to seafood (I'm dreading the day I ever sit down to eat with you lot and am humiliatingly exposed as an enthusiastic Tofu and Snow Pea Consumer) so he only gets to eat the real stuff when we go out/away.

Where's JB? Spam Trap?

Respond to this comment

uberVU - social comments puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2009
Social comments and analytics for this post...

This post was mentioned on Twitter by missamanda: on writing: "...and tell yourself if losers like Birmingham can do it, so can I." AMEN LOSER! ;) RT @JohnBirmingham: http://bit.ly/2aclfn...

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virty mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
i'd stick the fkn cat IN the washer, select spin.

you got a wringer?

na don't go there.

we got too many fkn predatory ferals up here to appreciate domestics AND it's fox fkn season.

- post re-uploaded X 2 but numbnuts didn't like it .. sec code "APPEST" then "PASIES"

pz.v.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 22, 2009
http://www.catmax.com.au/photo-gallery.php

All ferals are a menace, they don't deserve to be tortured because FWTS brought them here though.

Ours are contained (see above)in the house and special built enclosure (done by above company, they were gonna put our enclosure on their site but its not up yet that I can see) and are not at liberty to roam about.

Did I hear something about a feral camel derailing a train in the NT or SA the other day?

We've got feral deer in Brisbane. They ringbark the trees. Serious problem out in the western suburbs. Another reason never to live at Kenmore

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2009
Re. open comment thread here, I'm thinking about it. Somebody other than twitter may as well get the traffic.

Respond to this comment

virty ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2009
hey presto. it worked ... a bit of SHOVE IT technology?

now it's got me AND the mule wonderin' if 'twas doggone persistence, tinny bollocks AKA birmingham, lobes- ious threats, drooling, HAVOCKness + CAPS LOCK or the demise of don lane (by god how i loathed that yank)

hey ... 'ow about the wheels >>>> google munch WITH an umlout.

anyone got an alcoholmeter? can't find ours anywhere. this

15 month old chocolate stout must be 10 - 12%. bloody rocket fuel. better go crack another one. cheers.v.

Respond to this comment

Lobes would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
Yeah think about it JB. Wouldnt necessarily be my first option if I was in your boots but I'd definitely have it in the mix.

Thing is you want to direct as much traffic as you can to Fairfax because despite their chronic retardation they are paying after all. But if there develops an exodus to Twitter then really its probably too late and you should have had the burger thread open already.

I guess what Im trying to say is pick your battles carefully.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2009
yeah, lobes is right, can;t shut the gate..cant open a new one either,,just let. BAD fkn case of balancing. Hope is they get their collective shit together. We AINT BAILED YET!...and they can bank on worse sprays yet if they don't get their collective shit together..not that my opinion is THAT persuasive..but HEY..better out than in sometimes.

Respond to this comment

Mayhem would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2009
Touch wood. I haven't had any trouble today, even though most of my comments were ridiculously off topic (fun but). I have twice on other days (but both blunty) had the issue with over the word count, which suggests to me that somethings out of whack with the counter thingy. I watch it and it flat out lies. Maybe it's daylight savings that's stuffed it?

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
http://www.mf2fm.com/vicky/venues/review.php?venue=00601

Something you're not telling us Virty Dear?

Gaaaarn. You're among friends here.

Found this review of the Taxi Club by Vicki's Transvestite Review.

Sunday Brekky looking good.

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Steven Danno puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
I like the idea of a bellowing naked statue. I trust the statue would be rendered in fine detail complete with rampant member, not because I really would want to see that but could be guaranteed to enrage the lesbians. A water feature could be imagined that operates intermittently in umm manly spurts and timed to coinicide with the vocalisations...THIS IS SPARTA ...UHH UHH UHH .

Also I find the idea of Newcastle Airport stirring itself to intervene as a displeased sponsor of NT surreal and disturbing. Can imagine the NT trolls syaing "Oh shit weve really done it this time Newcastle Airport is on the move"

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Question.

Regarding writing, that is (sorry to interrupt the flow everyone).

I know you've addressed external factors already, such as child wrangling while working from home.

But what about internal distractions? How do you block out issues that are bugging you personally when you're writing?

For example, how do you flip that "off" switch when you're dealing with Blunty/NT issues all day that upset and frustrate you, and you still have columns and a chapter to write? How do you get yourself to calm down and focus on your project?

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virty is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
"Something you’re not telling us Virty Dear?"

NA...NEVA,

caf is downstairs so your relatively safe apart from the used condoms stuck to the floor, well at least it was on ground level the last time i went awol down south, brekkie on flinders st around 6-7 'ish/ sunup is a total hoot.

forgot to mention the Q bar on oxford, used to be one of my regular pitstops, good for the 2 - 3 am nightcap (pretty x'y tho') they had this industrial alien thing happening add the odd roller skating waitress (there's a funny story there) and woo hoo, i'll see if i can find the automatic entry - we don't cue - Q membership key ring. pz.v.

Respond to this comment

Medway reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
@jenniki: I blog about personal things. I find some of the best drivel that I come up with is because of something so piss poor as making an ass out of myself in front of a girl I'm interested in.

Respond to this comment

Medway puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
Mind you, I keep those hidden away from the most public of eyes. The stories that come out, though, they're up for browsing.

Respond to this comment

Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 23, 2009
I don't know if anyone will see my post now, but if I don't see any replies in the next few days, I'll assume October 22nd is a long, long time ago already.

If it's not too much bother, would anyone be kind enough to explain (in the language of a kindergarten reader book, level one) what all this means about:

1/. A spam trap and people getting caught in it

2/. An open thread is... ? and what are its virtues and implications?

3/. People reading comments on Twitter but can't access them on BT site? how come/ does it matter? (those q's are linked to q. 2 ,I guess). I won't use Twitter ,but does that mean if I want to follow JB discussions and responses , most of replies are actually on Twitter? Or is it al linked to FB anyway? (in which case, I'm getting comments, as I use that social media).

4/. Any comment I've made, either here or at Geek /Blunty blogs has appeared, but it sounds like something weird technical thing is happening which is annoying people. No matter, Im a loyal reader;can't kill me with a stick

But I feel out of the loop and I'd like to understand.

Thanks, Abi.

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jennicki ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2009
Medway: I will check your blog out, thanks!

Abigail:

1. A spam trap is basically the purgatory between when you hit "send" on your comment and when it's actually posted. It's just hanging out there in cyberspace, probably marked as "spam"--much like your spam mailbox on a personal email account--ignored as junk mail.

2. An open thread is basically a coversation where anyone can join in, like this one here at jb's blog. As for virtues...I'm sorry I have to leave in a few minutes so I don't have much time to expound on it beyond adding that in a conversation, the more the merrier!

3. JB does a good job of keeping up with his "birmoverse"--that is, keeping up with all of his accounts--blog, Blunty, The Geek, Facebook and Twitter.

What they've been talking about recently is that due to the problems with NT's Blunty, the regular commenters have taken their converstion thread from Blunty and are now having those discusssions on Twitter, which takes away from Blunty.

So the flow of conversation has been derailed, basically, and if you're not on Twitter or following the reguars on Twitter, and then right now you are missing some of the "meat" of the Blunty thread.

But, NT and JB are working on that.

4. It's good that your comments are all going through! For some reason other people are not able to see their comments due to the spamn trap and that's what's causing the frustration.

I hope this helps, I've gotta go now!

Jen :D

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Ah-ha! Thanks a lot, Jenn.

I know my questions were tiresome ones and I'm glad someone had the patience to answer them. Before you clarified the above it was like I was in Spain only I couldn't speak Spanish and everyone was saying what sounded like : " This whole discussion forum is falling to bits because of cyber-IT- technical-computery thingys" But apparently not. It's funny that some of it goes to Twitter - what's the point? It's 140 character replies! How silly. But I'm so 10 years ago.

Respond to this comment

Lobes mutters...

Posted October 24, 2009
Jennicki pretty much nailed it.

Some expansion. You dont have to join twitter to read the comments there - but it helps.

None of the worlds in the birmoverse are particularly linked together. You will have to search out for the conversations you want to be part of - Hint: look for commenter names ie; Jennicki, Dr Yobbo, Havock etc. They are all posting in multiple worlds, Twitter. Geek, Burger etc. Facebooks a bit different as its a gated community and many people use proper names rather than the handles they use elsewhere.

As has been stated repeatedly, most of this fuss is caused by NT being several steps behind the rest of the worlds. Its causing much aggravation as you can see.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted October 24, 2009
lobes-

Thanks for taking the time to answer as well.

I don't know what it mens that NT is behind the rst of the weorlds but I *thin* that must mean, NT could link every comment thread together. For example, say John posted a blog topic to BT/NT (I guess they're the same thing, or employ identical conventions) then presently, NT doesn't allow an open comment thread so you have to go to NT site to see the comments, OR you can go to Twitter but you can't see one "room" from the other. At Facebook, we see all of John's updates, but I guess the replies are from FB peeps only; we don't see Twitter replies/comments on FB.

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virty asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
re: q.1.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODshB09FQ8w

says it all, WITH vikings

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Lobes is gonna tell you...

Posted October 24, 2009
Yes more or less. You will also not see NT/BT updates on Facebook. JB runs a program on his computer that will update Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. It will not work on NT/BT or here though. He needs to do those updates separately.

The basic problem is NT uses some cheap, poorly designed and implemented technology to run its blog site. It does not work very well and makes it difficult for people to leave comment. Like most media groups Fairfax has been clobbered by the IT revolution and is losing readership share and advertising revenue to the internet. They can't develop NT any further as this would cost money they cant afford to spend. The irony is by using such behind the times tech they are driving punters away and further contributing to their own demise.

Unfortunately for Fairfax they still believe in a Top-Down power relationship where they hold all the cards and commenters like you and I are expendable. They believe if they lose one or two of us it doesnt really matter. What they dont understand is that some power has shifted to us. If we so desire we can make things difficult for Fairfax by leaving critical comments on their blogs and elsewhere, running a boycott campaign against their site sponsors or in extreme circumstances running a DDOS against their servers (loosely - hacking their site and crashing it).

These are things you largely could not do with a newspaper but are mere keystrokes away on the internet. But Fairfax just dont get it, probably because most of their management are leftovers from when print journalism was their dominant business model. They really need to do themselves a favour and go through and clean out all their current management and editorial teams and replace them with people who understand the new dynamic of the internet.

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virty has opinions thus...

Posted October 24, 2009
hey wtf ... virty relegated to the burger spam trap?

now ya see it next ya don't.

DE JA FKN VU already.

bin a while since we was black listed on a forum.

at least i'm surely t'inkin' it was in 'ere somewheres. & it 'aint drug fkt paranoia. it might be the 12% choco stout fallabout but i doubt it.

only explanation is that young b'rgr goth fella is REAL BUSY he be'n agin' vikings and one eyed python spam links.

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virty mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
merde ... it's reappeared.

just like that.

there IS a forum fairy after all.

pz.v.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 26, 2009
Nope Virty, you're not seeing things.

Every now and then I go back to read a thread from the beginning (usually when someone's picked up a conversation and I can't figure out how it started) and I see something that I Swear to Dog wasn't there before.

Thanks for the eating out in Sydney tips. Ate so much on the first day (longrain, guylan cafe, food markets at The Rocks) that I had trouble with the buttons on my jeans. So decided to forgo the Bar Reggio. Next time. The Bloke is still salivating at the thought of what's on offer at the Barrenjoey too.

Sydney was a nuthouse. We stayed at the Siebel at The Rocks and while we were napping on Sat arvo one of those big river cruise party boats (The Lady Rose) pulled in to eject a few unruly partygoers. The whole friggin boat was completely out of control and about thirty minutes after they'd managed to get the boat away from the wildly masturbating and convulsing blonde they'd dumped on the wharf, the boat reappeared, escorted by water police and the maritime safety authority to eject the whole FKN lot of them.

We had a great view of the fun from our hotel room and it looked like a riot was about to start up but thankfully one of the funsters jumped into the water and tried to dodge the MSA boat so that turned the whole thing into a clown show. Which diverted attention from the bunch that were jumping up and down on that car wreck in the centre of the roundabout. They were somersaulting off it and into the path of oncoming traffic like they had no awareness it was there.

Looked like the entire boatload was off their faces on some sort of nasty aggro party drug.

Wow, and I thought the ferals in my neighbourhood were something else. What an eye opener.

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fknvirty asserts...

Posted October 26, 2009
LOFL fkn 'ell the siebel huh, used to have a very sexy nouveau piano bar downstairs, stingy martinis tho'.

- park bench with SMH or discarded soapbox in the domain is more my style. pz.v.

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted October 26, 2009
Thanks for further clarifying things, Lobes. (I only just backtracked and saw your reply. I'm kept busy following all the JB blog threads -there are several. I don't think I'd find time to pick up another blogverse at this rate :)

Yes, gee, that's terribly short-sighted of Fairfax. It's a bit business -oriented for me to fully grasp - you know, there's 1000 questions I could ask, but I get the major issue now.

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Abigail reckons...

Posted October 26, 2009
PS- I think I'm going to have to sign up to Twitter so I have the choice to follow the rest of comments (as jennicki points out). Am I transformimg into a cheeseburger comments addict?? I am, aren't I??? Oh no!!!!!!

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Phantom puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2009
That last part is so true. Not that JB writes crap, far from it, but I get more inspiration from a really bad published novel than anything else.

Yeah, Stephanie Meyer, I'm looking at YOU.

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Respond to 'Some answers to questions from Friday's writing blog.'

Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.

Posted October 7, 2009 by John Birmingham
I noticed a small off-topic discussion break out in one of the 'Answers' threads below about whether in future I should be writing books with the same multiple POV structure used in AOT and Without Warning. I think I mentioned that both my Australian and US publishers were very keen for me to develop a single character who could then be set up in a franchise series of books.

I do have a great character I developed years ago for this very purpose and kinda stoked the idea, however I also really like huge multi-threaded narratives, especially for thrillers. I think it was Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising which first got me into that particular format, at least with military thrillers. Stephen King of course used the same structure in a few of his horror titles, most notably The Stand.

With two more books to finish in the current series it's not a decision I have to make quickly, but I would be interested in hearing everyone's opinions at this early stage.

For me, technically, the challenge of single point-of-view novels is that the reader can only know what the single protagonist knows. Whereas I've always had the luxury of setting things up out of view of my characters, simply by shifting POV into another character. That is a great luxury as a writer and not one I would give up easily.

88 Responses to ‘Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.’

Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
I love reading stories written from a different point of view. I think they offer up the potential to see the things that one character is entirely unable to see about themselves and if you've got a character who is kind of 'off balance' it gives you the chance to walk in their shoes and see how distorted their world view is and how, often, they sink their own ships through their own defects.

In psychology they speak of 'Blind spots' - how there's always something about yourself or someone close to you that is hidden.

Multiple points of view give you the chance to explore those and you get a richness and a depth of layers that is missing from a single perspective.

Oh, and did you know that the BCC library doesn't hold a copy of Leviathan?

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Miche would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Good Morning JB,

From my perspective as a reader I enjoy investing emotionally into one character for the length of the book and beyond. Most of my favorite books are so because I like/love the characters. While I know the plot is important and the explody goodness is mandatory, if the characters don't interest me the book is never read again. In books that have multiple POV I will skip/skim characters that don't interest me to read more of the characters that do.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I've also noticed its a common criticism in movie reviews, that one character seems to be the focus of all the attention and other characters are not explored in any depth. So you get these glimpses into an interesting but unexplored character which leave the watcher feeling like they've never gotten the chance to see what makes them tick. They only get one perspective.

So if you want something to be made into a film that's likely to impress David And Margaret, (I am being facetious) you need layers.

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SirPhil is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
I like the idea of about 3 - 4 threads, like how Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn work. You have your Hero, you have the heroes support (CIA, FBI, Whitehouse) and then you have a couple of bad guy perspectives (AGAIN can possibly be CIA, FBI Whitehouse or Terrorists etc)

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
*Chants*

Multi thread

Multi thread

Multi thread!

If WW had been the all singing all dancing Kaitlyn Show I wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much as I did. Ditto AoT.

"Whereas I’ve always had the luxury of setting things up out of view of my characters, simply by shifting POV into another character." The theatre level action that I enjoy so much would be intolerably dry without the "Bejewelled bug caught in gum on whatsiswhosits boot" dirt level exlpodey goodness - and if you stuck to a single character you'd never get this balance. What does that ivory tower egghead General Murphy know about rubf*cking the ground under fire?

*runs away cackling maniacly*

Aunty Q, Coolum (Sunshine Coast) Library has a copy that looks like it's done about a million hard miles, but at least it has a copy.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
Ta, NwBob.

I'm still waiting for the revised edition to come out so I can purchase it from Avid.

Is that happening or is that another one of my wishful thinking type flights of fancy?

I felt it was my civic duty to point out to JB that the BCC library system is failing him.

And, more to the point, ME.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Tell ya publishers to Kiss ya fury rump. Multi is just that. A single character book, only that you have several single characters all rolled into the book is all.

TC and Red Storm Rising did it for me, its possibly the most consumed book I have..AFTER AoT of course.

But gumps above have touched it already. It lets so much more action or romance or whatever you wish be able to be dragged into the mix. I am much , much more a fan of the Multiheaded hydra, jugger author ensemble book than a dinky singled headed, bland bit of publisher wanted diatribe.

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yankeedog would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Depends. While I like books with multiple points of view, if a book covers, say, the actions of a single unit or group, then I don't have a problem with a single POV. I'd go back to Coyle's 'Team Yankee' as a good example of single POV-the team didn't have much knowledge of what was going on on a grand-strategic level, just what was happening in their given area of operations.

There's a good, non-committal answer for you. Any time I can not help, let me know.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
Depends on the character.

One issue that I have observed in the AoT and Without Warning projects is that certain characters are either highly popular or deeply disliked by the readership.

Forex, I know that Julia Duffy is popular with many (though personally, I have never warmed to her myself). Conversely, I know there has been some criticism of Caitlin in the Without Warning series.

The danger of a single character is that you might narrow the tent you operate the show out of. With a multi character system, you give readers the opportunity to skim some sections while concentrating on others.

The great strength of multiple POV is the ability to paint on a very large canvas. The problem is that you sacrifice character development for that large stage.

Conversely, the great strength of a single POV is that you can spend a lot of your time focusing on creating a dynamic, enduring character.

If I were writing a novel myself, my preference would be to do a single POV. That said, I do not think AoT lends itself to this, mainly due to precedent set by the original trilogy.

My two cents. I'm onboard no matter which way you go.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
Have to agreee wiff ya YD, team Yankee is possibly one of the best sml team, POV books hat I have read, certainly within he Mil Fiction range at least. Coyle did that very well, but I noticed that it was a stand alone.

Yet within the other books, Sword Point, Bright star and my FAV The Ten Thousand, which IMHO is the best of the lot. He keeps the team small, the scale is not overly large and follows his charactrs through. Thats possibly one a the great balances, he still manages to keep yo up to speed Theater wise on whats going on, even larger than that on occasion.

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Chaz mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
JB, look in large, world (maybe multiverse?) spanning novels i think multiple threads work best. However single POV or small cast novels work well esp in a limited locale.

If you write a single POV or small cast novel within a wider event you are likely to get disatsifaction from readers who want to know more, which will of course mean more work for you and less time playing Xbox live.

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Lobes has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi thread, I dont find claudine or celeste or whatever her name is (the spy in WW) that attractive or grippping a character. Focusing on but one person takes the risk of alienating people who cant/wont empathise with the protagonist.

I prefer the idea that we're all in this together (as in real life). You write such scenarios well so why not make the most of it.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
Lobes..it was caitlen, catland or whatever her name was. ..yeah, i didnt identify really well with her. the scenes were good, but i fear the rest of the attraction by some people relates o it bein in frog central. not for me. gimmea multi's jb.

chaz..he sucks at xbox...wont go on line for fear of getting pawned...AGAIN..pussie

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beeso puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
I think the multi thread approach definitely suits the layered approach that your writing follows.

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DrYobbo mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Meh, they're just trying to make you into Matt Reilly. Cynical wankers. And who drives a fkn DeLorean anyway. What a choad.

I reckon single POV novels work best as first person, but that's a personal opinion.

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Brian reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi-thread. And Multi POV. Its a useful exposition tool. Sweeping scope narrowed down to nuts and bolts single scope action. It also allows limited backstory. If you have single POV - you have to do a lot of backstory with it, you also end up with more spear carriers.

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DNABeast mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
I like single POV stories a lot.

If I haven't bonded with the character I get lost with the names and have to rely on various location and character cues to figure out if 'this is the same girl who collapsed during "the event" or if it's the beautiful journalist from the past'.

And of course, if I have bonded with them you can be sure that they'll die, tragically and pointlessly. Just like in real life.

(You're a Monster! :P )

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jennicki mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
Personally I think I would enjoy a single POV with Caitlin.

That being said, I think the multi-thread works best with stories like WW. The Wave was a worldwide event and it would've crippled the story if the perspective was limited to one person in one part of the world. I wanted to know how it affected the survivors in the US, and how it impacted the rest of the world, and I think the only way you can really reveal that to readers is through the use of multiple character perspectives.

And I can't imagine it's easy at all to write an expansive thriller with multiple characters and story archs, knowing when to run with it and when to rein them in.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
I know I am just a simple, ol' country lawyer, but I just don't understand why you can't do both, John. You can organize a book so that it has a dominant central character focused on a central stand-alone plot line AND have peripheral story lines featuring peripheral (although robust [think Stavros in WW]) characters that augment the novel but can be severed from it to support a screenplay. I really don't see why that isn't doable for someone of your proclivities.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
I'm sorry; did I say screenplay? I meant series of novels.

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Albion Love Den (Blue Box) reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I'm on the single POV band-wagon too, but with multi-thread approach to give context to what's happening with the main character.

As a nice addition, while single POV restricts what ground you can cover, it possibly provides exponentionally more entry points for fan-fic options?

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
I prefer the multi-thread format, especially with the expansive scope of your premises in AOT and WW. For a single character POV I'd wanna see one of the Quiet Room operatives as the star.

Or perhaps a new character called Able Seaman Haddock? Just sayin'.

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Naut mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
I have a gen Y attention span in a gen X brain. So multi-thread suits me. Maybe even multi-threads all in the same paragraph.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Therbs, NAUT, ya on the TEAM. this other bunch of lets do single POV shite need taking out back nd swinging across the effin TOW BAR!...

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jennicki mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Havock, wouldn't you love a single POV if the character was, oh let's say, Kate Beckinsale in a fkn PONYTAIL?

LOL

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MickH would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
I can't see why you can't do both. You have am ain character sure but why can't you go to the POV of secondary characters too. Take Dan Brown's latest Novel. We have the POV of Langdon, but you also have the POV of the antagonist and another secondary character as well. Seems to work so far.

I'm enjoying this one so far, except for a gaff of using a mobile phone in an RF free area.

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aaron ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
i like both formats but probably prefer the multi character the best. i find with single characters, as much as i like them, i start having trouble suspending my disbelief - just how many near death adventures can this person have before they say 'fuck it, i am working for the council' it can also get repetitive.

with multi POV, you get multiple angles and a wider world to explore (and more meat for sequels). for example I have had just as much fun on this blog discussing the side stories like that of Ali Moerterpo in AOT on this blog as i have reading the actual novels.

I think if JB's publishers want a dedicated franchise, wouldnt a 'This is an Axis of Time universe novel' do just as well as a character?

having said that, i am sure birmo's single pov character would have all the requisite explodey goodness

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Jen...if she has FA on or is in DENIM jeans..FK YES!....

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
actually..just the ponytail will do.lol

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
You could do both. Imagine a novel filled with clones of The Rhino.

(jokes to the side, Alastair Reynolds House of Suns does the multiple perspectives with clones thing)

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simon bedak would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Greetings all from Macca's, Wagga Wagga.

Call me old fashioned, but 1st pers narrative from a diarised present-tense is easier to bung on stage. then again, I'm in Bernard Levin's camp that all novels should have an index. Then again, JG Ballard's attempt to write a story using just a Index was just as good.

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lostatlunch ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
multi threads... all the big stars of all the books get a ample pages to get a story out... although all of them have other interesting stories in their back stories. I would be disappointed if there was only one major cast member, I did not really get the Caitlin angle but the crew of the Aussie Rules rocked my boat... in AOT, I liked the Harry portions more than the Lonesome Jones bits.. I would have loved to have seen more of Willett & Habibi... I felt they were squeezed out in order to only deliver a monolith.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
Okay, you're old fashioned, you wine drinking, play-writing, footy tipping contest hosting, cattle breeding bastard. You're fucking old fashioned.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Bedes - is first person P.O.V. easier to cover when you get a gig doing audiobooks? You know, with that radio voice of yours?

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
Therbs, ireckon we would call bedes's notes as a " Rotund Rumble"

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Dr Y;funny i was thinking something similar of course Mr Reilly is younger and allegedly more photogenic than the Scribe.

Squire B:bloody country yokels...

Therbs: could you imagine him doing most of the voices? it would be a scream.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
http://www.matthewreilly.com/authorbio.html

Chaz, if so I don't think his photo on his bio is evidence of this.

He looks bloody miserable.

At least JB can master teh appropriate author images of 'cranky' 'sleepy' and 'giggly'.

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DrYobbo asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
Am loving Aaron's idea of Jason Bourne or Jack Ryan (or even Our Cait) surviving one scrape too many and going 'Fuck this for a game of soldiers, I'm gonna fuck off and be a fucken stop and go man instead.'

Bedes, you're old school. You've been retro since back in the DAY.

It worries me that H wants to have the seksi times with a disembodied ponytail, and nothing else.

IMO the 'Universe' idea would probably be just as much a moneyspinner for the publishers as a Cait Monroe spinoff series, or whatever they have in mind.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
Dunno Dr. Yobbo,

If you had nasty enough ptsd I think you'd go ballistic with the stop and go sign and mash a soccer mum's SWAT vehicle into scrap metal.

For lack of a better weapon, I was tempted to take my rubber kick board to a few of them just yesterday in the car park at the local pool.

5km p/h in the toddler zone?

Nup. Hyperspeed for those overcaffeinated bitches.

I think Caitlin would need a job that offered less in the way of temptation towards violence.

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Abe would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Please register my vote for multiple POV.

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Allan Dunbar reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I think its a matter of greed. When you do something as momentous as you did in WW or AoT you want to see what is going on everywhere because they are earthshaking events.

That's not to say you couldn't tell the same story from a single character POV, but you might not be able to show events all over the world. You could mention them, but its not the same as having a character experience them.

I enjoy both types of novels and I would certainly buy a single character book if JB wrote it, but the sequels would depend on whether or not it worked. :)

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
"I would certainly buy a single character book if JB wrote it" Nice one Allan, look up the definition of solidarity sometime- we had better than 80% punching the Multistrand chad. [Joking]

"...events all over the world. You could mention them, but its not the same as having a character experience them." JB's thinking immersive VR as you type. Reccomend Barnes "Mother of All Storms" for (largely)interesting VR playout.

Lord Blarkon, Sir, multiple Rhino's is just too much for one small bear to bear.

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Guy is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Definitely the multiple POV. JB the best thing about AOT and WW is the way you've created credible worlds with lots of lovely big picture detail. Single or small group POV stories inevitably have less information about what's happening worldwide. There was nothing wrong with Coyle's writing in Team Yankee but Red Storm Rising was much more interesting and enjoyable because we got to see what was going on away from the POV of a few junior grunts.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you would do a fine job if you caved into the pressure to write a series of single character books but I strongly suspect that the finished product would be altogether less satisying than the material you have produced thus far.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
GUY..you also left out that the BAND OF BROTHERS WOULD BE SERIOUSLY PISSED!....

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Guy would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Heaven forbid!

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Thisa is something I have thought about

It is much easier to empathise/indentify and establish depth with single character

Multiples characters each need their individual identities clearly defined. I must admit to finding the multiple POVs hard going in WW: it was like "Who's eyes am I seeing through now?"

My ideal is a single protagonist who is kick ass enough to survive in the hostile environment of a John Birmingham novel, gets around a lot but needs to have stuff explained to him by lots of other characters, (ie a big dumb guy but likeable and admirable). Lee Childs Jack Reacher character springs to mind.

So overall I agree with PNB: "dominant central character focused on a central stand-alone plot line AND have peripheral story lines".

Anyone here ever read Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand faces"? I'm struggling through it at the mo', it's very relevant to this debate.

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savo reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
multi POV.

need I say more?

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simon bedak asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
Well if it's the Abe multi-player version that gets the nod, perhaps have the PageMaker monkey run different threads in different colours so an idiot like me can follow it more easily.

To be frank from the playwright pov, I find it's hard enough working with simple dialogue only to reflect characters without having the cunts all sound largely the same.

I know this'd probably translate across as more of a style thing than a substance thing with multi-pov's off the pages, but the fucker'd be the spoken language of the characters, and even their fucking thoughts, would have to be even more marked than on stage.

On the boards, some drunken poofter or over talented bimbo can say the chatter and do the work and differentiate in the audience's mind, one page liberated butterfly among a seething mass of cockroaches. The next night, they can be a moth, or a budgie, or whatever floats their boat.

But flat off the page?

Fucking hell. Better you than me. To make it rock, you'd need a way to train/direct the reader to be your actor/s.

Find a way, to have the reader want to change that every-page reading voice that peels through from odd-to-even-odd-page-thru. What a job.

Annoyingly good test one of my tutors use to inflict on me was to cover the names of the characters in the margins and if he couldn't tell who was who just from the chatter on the page, he'd say it was shit and make me do it again.

But within your medium? Nup. As I saym, fucking better you than me Birmo.

Then again, an e-book with character avatars might assist. Oops, unless I don't really exist, that's a bit self-referential.

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zeniph mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
love all the main characters - kolhammer, duffy, prince harry

probably love even more the bit players that fill in the gaps - the temp soldiers scoping out japanese occupied island with the hidden planes, the US guys at guantanamo bay (stavros?)

but most of all I love the world(s) they all exist in and all the concepts and tech that allows them to exist. so yaay massive multi-threaded

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
quokka - "If you had nasty enough ptsd I think you’d go ballistic with the stop and go sign and mash a soccer mum’s SWAT vehicle into scrap metal."

You say that like it's a bad thing?

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girlclumsy mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Apologies if this has already been said, but could you try a single-character book as a one-off experiment? Just to see how it goes.

As you say, you have luxuries with multi-POV, but maybe the challenge of a single thread might give you some awesome SPARTA self-pride. ;)

But thn, I have no idea. You write 'em, I'll read 'em.

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Moko mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Sounds like a reasonable pepsi challenge for Mr Birmingham. Keep ya on ya toes and all that.

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Bangar asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
As has all ready been said (partly) you'll have two worlds (plus a universe perhaps) to play in. I enjoy the multi POV, but no reason not test the waters of a single character. As you've said there are holes in the story you could fill.

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mckinneytexas would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi, definitely. Single character, franchise novels in which the same person has an endless series of improbable adventures, endlessly dodging bullets and saving the day, taxes the thinking audience as well as the author. It is good marketing, up to a point, since the theory is that a market is captured, waiting breathlessly for the next book.

But it ceases to be about ideas and more about the central character. What makes JB's books so worthwhile is the thought that goes into, first, the POD, and then the impact on a range of characters in different, and at times, antagonistic, situations.

As a loyal Burger, I would buy and read all of JB's "Spiff, the Spaceman" novels, but I would mainly reread and compare them to AoT and WW/AA/??.

It is a rare single character that can consistently deliver--Flashman comes to mind, but then only because Fraser had a series of 19th century actual events to drop his character into as a witness/silent catalyst, etc.

JB has the chops to push back on this point and, IMHO, he should. Clancey's Red Storm Rising was a good book, one of Clancy's better books, actually, and it didn't involve Jack Ryan peeling off his shirt to reveal the blue suit with the red and yellow lettering.

I may have mentioned this point some years back (Jesus, it has been years now, hasn't it?): stay with what you know and do best. Left to your own devices and tendencies, you've kicked out a great series that really does beg for more and you have another in progress. You are susceptible, as any thinking person would be, to 'theme fatigue' after three books or so. Limiting yourself to a single character--or worse yet, contracting to write 3-5 books about the same person--could prove problematical.

But, if you must, "The Adventures of Tex McKinney, Civil Trial Lawyer" has a nice ring to it.

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Lobes has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
There are some very good comments in this thread advocating for either direction. However I still think multi-threads are the more suitable for story telling on this scale (ie global event)

Of course factor in all the regulars here are used to reading crazy multi-threaded threads on a daily basis right 'here' and of course they will lean that way for stories as well.

Cannot get PNBs comment out of my head. Visualising a giant chicken approaching the bar a la futurama

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robW is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Tex makes several good points, but the awful truth here is that for an analysis to be useful it should be comprehensive rather than anecdotal. I'm sure the analysis would show that the POV types would fall in clusters rather than monolithic styles: compare Michener's HAWAII and THE SOURCE, Wouk's THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, and of course, Clancy's RED STORM RISING. At one end of the continuum is Clancy: his RED STORM chapters are more like what we would call short treatments. At the other end is Michener, whose SOURCE chapters are stories complete within themselves, stitched together within a central story. While each is structurally similar, they all fall differently under the “seven basic plots” and the “seven basic needs.”

On the other hand, the motivation of the authors themselves was entirely different. Clancy and Michener were businessmen who were more interested in publishing franchises driven by invisible galley slaves writing for them. Wouk and King, on the other hand, are incorrigible writers, and no one can pry the pen out of their hands.

But wait, there's more. Look a Clive Cussler, back when he still had a day job as a copy writer for an advertising agency in Denver and was just starting to develop his central character, Dirk Pitt. The list could go on and on.

I end by suggesting that in your prolific free time you take a look at a long out-of-print book by an English academic, Jerry Palmer. One is THRILLERS: GENESIS AND STRUCTURE OF A POPULAR GENRE and the other is POTBOILERS.

Whatever you end up doing, I hope you continue to enjoy writing yourself and don't end up with hired penmen in your basement cranking out formula books.

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robW is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
Did something happen here? The conversation froze.

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joe mutters...

Posted October 8, 2009
Whatever you write, I will probably end up giving it a read, and let you know how I thought it went.

Is it true you are rewriting/have rewritten Leviathan? It really didn't flow so well but had plenty of "awesome" in it regardless.

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joe swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 8, 2009
How would you do that in single-perspective I wonder?

An immortal Cockroach being from the future come to take notes for a thesis?

Fly(roach) on the wall?

:)

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 8, 2009
Hum, JB, re: the current NT conversation...there is something about being asked to justify a group's raison d'etre that never fails to give me flashbacks to boarding school.

I was front and centre of a couple of activities that got banned.

One of course was the karate club - which didn't stop me training outside of school and going on to black belt, and the other, oddly enough, was the Rowing Club.

The headmistress had a fairly conservative agenda of these activities being 'unladylike'. Which, in 1980, she was never going to come out point blank and state.

I never did figure out what she had against rowing until I had a client who coached rowing at a rival girls' school. She explained that our headmistress hated rowing because it gave girls big arms and shoulders and made us appear intimidating to the boys. (yep. GRRRRRAAAAAHHH) And since our school churned out a good number of girl -on girl partnerships I don't think she wanted to add to the Unmarried Stats.

As you may or may not have noticed on meeting me, the girth of my shoulders is in fact, greater than that of my hips...yup, sorry GC but I am in fact a size larger up top becoz of my tender leanings towards rebelling against authority figures...

My point being that I don't think I have a lot to add to the cause of Fairfax V. Cheeseburger, today.

I'm getting far too many flashbacks to 'Well, tell us why this activity is important to you and if you can justify it's importance, we will allow it to continue.'

Sorry, but over and above the scent of Spam I smell Hidden Agenda.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 8, 2009
Then again maybe she was just worried I'd end up in some hell hole working as a jelly wrestler.

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Brian has opinions thus...

Posted October 8, 2009
Yaaay! Score! I lost a post on the NT thread . . . . .

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El Coqui is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
I had used multi as well as single POVs on my stories. Which is best depends on what tale are you trying to tell.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 8, 2009
Welcome to the Spam Trap, Brian.

I hope you packed the cat shit.

They love that stuff in there.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
I say, I seem to have run aground on one of those spamfiltering shoals as well. Not that I need much excuse to sit around and wait for the tide of course. Beer anyone?

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Brian has opinions thus...

Posted October 8, 2009
Well . . . .looks like I've got interesting company. I reckon it was when I mentioned 'Quokka' . . . .and then . . . Melbourne Storm. I was looking for triggers . .

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aaron would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
you know what dr yobbo, if i get the time i will write a fan fic about - one of the jb's characters chucking in to become a council lifer. that would be hilarious!

another thing about multi threads i've noticed is that they are like The Beatles White Album - everyone has a different opinion of what the best bits are.

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Quokka mutters...

Posted October 8, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooKaCbMvaZ0

Attention GirlClumsy if you are out there, you might want to check out Harry Connick in his Pot Calling The Kettle Black attire.

Sorry for the hijack all but if the NT had their shit together, I could chuck it in there.

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sparty reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
"handling multiple characters / threads" = skill set John Birmingham. enuff said.

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sparty would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
How the hell do you create a account on that bloody thing? doe sit only accept Oz postcodes? (which i have tried..)

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damian asserts...

Posted October 8, 2009
Ooh, the tide came in. Now adrift, champagne?

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NBlob reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
Damian, I appear to have found a simmilar sand bar a few hundred yards upstream this afternoon.

Holy bat-spoor JB - The Love In has arrived! 91 comments of pure pant-moistening adoration.

What impresses me the most is the capacity to steer "blunty’s main battle tank" like a maestro fiddles his stradavariwhatsit.

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2009
Ah, the Spam Trap.

It swallows us all.

And spits up the the tentacle porn of BigBillyBlowOff.

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damian would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
NBob, on first glance that looked like stradivariwurst, a vaguely compelling prospect. I think it would go very well indeed with this nice Western Australian Cabernet Merlot.

As for the love in - I think the best aspect of blunty is the ironic distance.

Now I am imagining a Blondie song called 'Ironic'. Interteshamuality an' all that.

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
sparty: doe sit only accept Oz postcodes?

Yes, according to Birmo it does indeed need an Aus postcode. It didn't like my Cambridgeshire UK one at all.

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savo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 8, 2009
I don't know if this has been mentioned previously, but without multiple points of view like we had in AoT, we can't has such an utter act of bastardery perpetrated on us like "Our Scribe" did with Dan Black.

Without such a spread of characters we can't have a heavy emotional investment shattered in such a way. If there is only the one major character, the emotional investment is only really in that one character and it's a bit pointless killing off the franchise.

So, again multiple POV please.

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savo ducks in to say...

Posted October 8, 2009
“The Adventures of Tex McKinney, Civil Trial Lawyer” ... Even my wife says she'll read that book.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
Senator McKinney is correct. The Flashman novels are da schnitzel.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2009
Joe, yes, I am rewriting Leviathan. Folding the 3rd and 4th chapters into each other, and adding a chapter on the city's aesthetic history.

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 8, 2009
Sparty, MattK had the same issue. Used a local post code. Mine actually 4171 Bulimba, Qld.

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Scott is gonna tell you...

Posted October 9, 2009
Multi Pov please! The types of books you write wouldn't work in single pov. Anyway it is limiting, just look at Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan could only go so far.

Your books are set on a planetary scale and readers like me get the shits with authors who create large events like the wave and sending a fleet back in time and then leave out the jucey details.

Besides multi pov allows for higher bodycount, as above there is only a limited number of times person x can escape from plot device y.

Thanks for the graight books!

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 9, 2009
The Bloke (He Who Could Not Give A Rat's Nad's about Blogging - but who reads your books) wishes to register his vote for multi POV.

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Lobes mutters...

Posted October 9, 2009
After counting the votes I've got multi-thread beating single-POV 23-7

I didnt count fence sitters like Chaz, Jennicki and Blarkon. Also left off a few others who I couldnt work out what they were saying (but nothing new there)

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted October 9, 2009
Lobes, what are you purple monkey dishwasher saying?

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damian mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2009
Lobes, you could probably count me as more your Joseph Conrad, many stories in one but layered to come through a single 1st person narrator right at the top level sort of guy. But don't count that as an actual vote - I'm more "meh whatever" on how Birmo chooses to write, he seems to do both styles pretty well.

Mind you, there's the danger that any 1st person narrator character Birmo comes up with would be the same one from Tassie Babes, in improbable disguises. The really interesting project would be where he consciously invents a character with a voice very different to his own, and shows us the world of the novel through that voice. Quite a challenge, that - possibly not a timely one. And I don't think Birmo's quite finished what he started in the multi-threaded story space.

And sorry Birmo, I only realised halway through that I was basically addressing you in the 3rd person. Too lazy and tipsy to go back and fix it just now ;)

NFknBob, all I can say to you at this point, is "potatoes".

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damian mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2009
Ray - along the Tom Clancy line, I recall quite clearly from the movie version of Patriot Games, when they're in the operations centre during the raid on the terrorist camp, how unpleasant it makes some of the CIA agents/analysts look. Well, specifically the dude who quite superfluously pipes up with "That's a kill". Not sure if it's meant to draw attention to the modern professional's dispassionate regard for violence, but whatever it is that didn't work for me.

Interestingly a box of books from my teenage years came back into my possession recently, including a stack of Cussler's novels. I will probably have to reread a couple to see if I still hate him ;)

Now Geoffry Jenkins - there's a good thriller writer.

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mckinneytexas puts forth...

Posted October 9, 2009
John, per Lobes, the vote it is in.

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SJPONeill has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2009
Sorry, I'm late...multi-POV works better for me in stories on the scale of AoT and WW...as above Tom Clancy got it right in Red Storm Rising then totally lost me for about 10 years because I could not get into Jack Ryan...the down side of multi-POV is that they can be so broad that they become difficult to screw into a single coherent movie as a follow-up project (PJ got so lucky with LOTR that it actually worked). Other good examples on a multi approach include Larry Bond's Red Phoenix, Cauldron and Vortex; Mark Berent's Vietnam series; and Barret Tillman's The Sixth Battle. 633 Squadron, Charlie Mike, and The Eagle Has Landed are great examples of the single POV way and 2 of those 3 are also great movies...

FKN Damian - I binned all my Cusslers years ago but have now reacquired most of them, having found that I now quite enjoy them as non-challenging entertainment; ditto for the Jack Ryan's - probably a sign that I've chilled out a bit over the years and no longer expect everything I read to be 110% accurate and realistic - probably why I can enjoy Matthew Reilly as well...

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Respond to 'Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.'

Even more answers.

Posted October 5, 2009 by John Birmingham
Springfield Fats asked in the Ivan thread how much scenario planning went into the AOT series. I guess the short answer is bugger all into Weapons of Choice, and rather too much into the other two books. Designated Targets in particular was plotted out scene by scene, against a huge white board full of branching consequences for every single plot point. I dialed it back significantly for Final Impact. And I must admit there were some scenarios I should have spent more time investigating, but I didn't. The middle east for instance was an arena in which very little on screen action took place, and I've often wondered about whether or not it'd be cool to set a spinoff series there. But then on the other hand NBob did raise a whole Indonesian storyline which all took place of the page. Again there's a lot you could do there.

I think that Guy identifies the narrative sweet spot however, in his comment about the European theater being the most interesting because of the Soviet takeover. I don't know how many of you read Steve Stirling's Draka series but the second book which was set in an alternate occupied Europe was quite amazing in terms of world building. If I was going to go back to the AOT at novel length I would probably do it in Europe 10 years after the end of the war. Something like an old Cold War espionage novel except in a Transition universe.

Having said that, McKinney's point about the Zone being another mother lode of narrative potential is also true. (By the way MacSpeech Dictate would like to call McKinney 'bikini'). When I was writing the novels I always found the sections set in the zone to be the most entertaining to write, with the possible exception of the New York scenes, simply because of all the concentrated points of divergence you have in the San Fernando Valley.

42 Responses to ‘Even more answers.’

Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
The Quiet Room is surely another sweet spot/mother lode.

Come on, John. Just commit to doing a fourth book picking up where you left off in the third. Nothing fancy. Nothing requiring extraordinary effort beyond the usual extraordinary effort it takes to write a novel. Hell, this one will damn well write itself.

Come on, John. Just say yes. You know you want to.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
Europe 10 years on from the emergency as a follow on whilst interesting, I think would simply be the cold war brought forward on the time line. Unless of course as background the US and Russia have already gone AT IT somewhere else on the planet.

The one that always held great appeal to me and has been the content of numerous day dream session was pre the emergence, the Middle east. You touch just briefly on Damascus and ME previous battles and to be honest I find it fascinating. THAT or the ME post the AoT series holds vast potential. OK, there is vast potential all over…but that’s my fantasy thread if I could wave the wand.

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB...oh he wants too i reckon, just hes being a girl and not making up his mind, like an effin girl

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
I suspected the same, but didn't want to be the first to mention it because I harbor hope that a character will be named after me - one that is tall, good looking and athletic.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
The other reason I would like to see the AoT Prequel come out is the TECH. I’m willing to wager the Boss has thought about this. In the AoT series we see 21C go up against WW2 era ear, we have all marvelled at the oh so sexy kit but its relatively one sided.

Now just sit back an imagine 21C gear and like!, the terrorist and 21C kit, Syrian armoured units and 21C kit go off all over the page. The chance to dream up more shite as well that not fully included, expand on what countries are doing, play with he political landscape some more….DAM!, the possibilities are FKN endless and just about give me a H@RD ON ! thinking about it!

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB my spouse is the JB fiction reader and he frequently tells me that one day JB is going to put a Quokka in his story and it will die a horrible, horrible, nasty death.

And he, The Bloke, will laugh his head off.

And PNB, I do not think it at all wise to make such a wish in the same post where JB has said 'Bikini' - unless you want your character to be a long legged cross dresser who hangs out at The Sportsman on Sunday nights wearing string shirts and sipping Long Island Iced Tea.

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Tarl asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB - remember, we saw a fanfic with Havock & Rhino being major characters.

I almost broke a rib reading it. That could happen to you :-)

Personally, I'd like to see a prequel or perhaps post-quel in the world the fleet came from. Seeing how that world is put together would be pretty interesting - and how they react to a fleet disappearing off the coast of Indonesia.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
Shut up! Shut up all of you! Just stick to the script! "4th book." "4th book." "4th book." You risk frightening the man with fancy talk of "prequel" and "postquel." Stick to the script.

Quokka: I'm not afraid.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB.. ( in best YODA VOICE)....you should be....you should BE!

Quokka, whats the name for a book that comes out mid stride of the series...Interruptous..????

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Depends what kind of bikini you've got on the cover, Hav.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
The books appeals, or the series I should say. Was in its WHAT IF and the blending of tech, the consequences, yeah and the characters as well.

But Like I said before, I will say it again. If we go down the path of T55/70’s running own the Fulda GAP, we simply have another Nato V RUSSIA type scenario.

You could do a whole mini series on HRH Harry and his daring do exploits…. An his just as dashing and daring do partner HAVOCK!. That would sell bucket loads of copies…

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Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
'Marching Through Georgia'

That was the interesting one.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
As in "Life Partner"

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Tarl puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
Brian - disagree. Marching Through Georgia was a fairly standard war/battle story, with minor traces of world building underneath it. The scary one was Under the Yoke, where an entire slaveholding society was described in credible detail from both top and bottom.

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Chaz reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
I still think we should have a prequel, I will be willing to take one for the team and do the indepth research in France (as long as I can claim it against tax)!

JB BTW lunch was ok, not inspiring (just to make you feel better), should have gone to Rockpool

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
I bags the Middle east and TESTING of wepons characteristics......er...EFFECTS!

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
The question is: Would an Author who puts down, dare i say it, such a great series ( THREE) of books, who had such a gapping effin holes waiting to be filled in ( prequel), would they be called a girls blouse, sook, sisy, wimp, if they DID NOT DO A PREQUEL!...thats the sixty five million dollar question. After all, was it not the collective voice..PLUS MINE, that managed to slap own the cretins at NT and get some shite down...hey..hey!..was it not. So I'm thinking we shoudl belt the living verbal crap outta JB until he commits to the PREQUEL!.

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Chaz reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
H considering the Scribes enfeebled state (after being smacked around by a young girl), I can't say that it'd be too much of a challenge.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
I have yet to see results from this so called Bitch Slapping at the NT.

Suspect our complaints re: the format are about as bothersome to them as a gnat on an elephants arse.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
Tarl. Depends on what I found interesting about it. :))

It was a Staligrad set-up.

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savo has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Ladies and Gents, there is still plenty of room in the Mini-burger for you to expand on your favourite parts of AoT. Haddock, have you been holding anything back?

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Chaz asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Savo, hmm got to dig up 'Dien Bien Phu II' if I can find it.

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
oh, they're bothersome quokka. i've made myself very unpopular in some qtrs by insisting they be followed up.

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SJPONeill mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
I think the prequel will (let's use positive words here like it is going to happen and NEXT!!) rock and the concept excites me almost as much as it does Havock (scary in its own right)...was listening to the Beeb yesterday on my way back from Cosford and there was serious talk about Tony Blair becoming president of Europe so maybe the alternate universe is already here?

A 50/60s sequel to AoT (as opposed to Cold War as there might not be a Cold War) would be interesting (but not as much as the prequel) as it might provide an opportunity to 'learn' the lessons for the future...maybe the Allies will have a breather and then deal to Uncle Joe Stalin much like Dean koontz did in Lightning? Maybe the western nations won't go down the whole nationalisation, east of Suez path and secure the Middle East for ourselves; maybe Tahiti will nuke France before anyone in the Champs d'Elysee has ever heard of Mururoa; maybe the OSS will support Ho Chi Minh, the French will get arsed out of IndoChina (all in favour of an alternate universe that hammers France, raise your hands), the Vietnam wars will never occur and the space programme doesn't stop after Apollo? maybe David Lange (Google is your friend) sticks it to the French after Rainbow Warrier....

But I still think that the prequel would be better...

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
SJP that's the first good laugh I've had all day. Thanks.

And Savvo, who are you calling a Lady?

JB gotta admit that after sifting through some of the comments at the Courier Mail website today I have some sympathy for the spam trap at the NT. At the Courier Mail Website, no one can hear you scream....yaaaaaaargh...scary shit.

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sibeen asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Jesus, he's not Frank Herbert, you know. His kids arn't old eneough to be writing novels as yet.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Quokka. Yeah, if you take a peek around other NEWS sites and so forth, you can see that we tend to get away with a fuckload more than all the others. Thats a pretty big shift for the NT munters to get their head around. I suspect also its a pretty big shock on top of that, to have not only the author, but pretty much all the posters go POSTAL on their collective arses as well. Being told what you have is shit does not go down well with most people.

the smart ones look and listen and adapt, time will tell of course, but we have a very unique crew that comments, toss in the author and I reckon the have struggled with the whole ensemble going off at them somehow.

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Guy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Well I'm still hoping for a new AOT novel and I think JB is absolutely right that concentrating on Europe 10 years into a new cold war would be the way to go. Instead of East Germany we get the hideously evil state of southern France - to keep Mr SJPONeill happy it could even get nuked!

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sibeen is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
we get the hideously evil state of southern France

So things haven't changed in this universe then?

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
WTF...cheese eatin surrender monkeys..WTF..EFFIN HELL FK FRANCE..JFW..if he even goes near fkn france I'll cap his arse

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Yes Hav.

I must remember to save them a little something from the kitty litter box as a gesture of my appreciation for all that they've done so far.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
quokka..not much..just some. THATS me doing my good deed for the day. As for the french think..well stomp, cap. rip tear crash and fkn burn the bastards

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sparty ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
interetsing that most research went into "Weapons of choice" for me that was the one with teh biggest pay off and the one where I ddint know what would happen. By final impact events were kind of limite dby cause and effect, particulary cause of nukes - so I'm very intrigued by the book idea of a alt his world where Mahahtten project failed.

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Matthew K is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
savo: "there is still plenty of room in the Mini-burger for you to expand on your favourite parts of AoT."

Actually I'm interested to see that there I'm not the only one still stuck on AoT, I thought you all had moved on to WW.

I do have a half finished AoT fanfic...

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Damaso asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
It must be an interesting position to be in to have so many options in terms of what to write and so very little time! I agree with Paul, we want to see whether or not a Sherman crashes into the Kremlin or a T55 into the White House.

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Vallon Davis would have you know...

Posted October 6, 2009
I think that there should be a stand alone book that could serve as an added conclusion for the first three books, where we can find out what happened to other characters that were in the first two books, but were left out in the third, would include all the material that you originally wanted to include but had to cut (like the face off between Lonesome and contemporary Marine Generals), and parts set in other areas that were mentioned but not expanded on or not really concluded (the uprisings in the Middle East, the growing Civil War in the Soviet Union, Soviet Occupation further than where they went on the original time line, dealing with the killer of Anderson and Myizaki). As for the next trilogy, it can pick up some ten or fifteen years later, where the Soviets are fighting a war of attrition in China and Vietnam; where a large number of Russian troops are fighting a Dien Ben Phu type battle, and Zukhov is sent from the Civil War in the Soviet Union to command the forces there, but his helicopter is shot down and he is listed as missing in action to the Kremlin, but it was actually a reuse as he uses it as a way to defect to the Rebel Russian Forces who are growing in numbers and gaining more territory from those forces loyal to Stalin.

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mckinneytexas has opinions thus...

Posted October 6, 2009
The AoT-verse is a broad canvas. OTOH, JB's got to follow his advisers' leads, the question being whether he does it in real time or a point of departure yet to be announced. Maybe the WW is the vehicle for an extended story line . . .

Should he go back to AoT at some point (his advisers should give this some serious thought), it needs to be at a point when he is really on fire with an idea. Writing a book because you have to leads to the Turtledove syndrome (book after freaking book, yet not a single story to be told).

Under the Yoke was Stirling's second in the Draka series. Like AoT, the Draka series was one that could and should have been continued, but apparently, there are contractual differences and whatnot that keep that from happening. I think JB's situation is different. Burgers may recall, reading between JB's lines, that a bit of AoT fatigue had set in while he was grinding out the last of Final Impact. I suspect there is a lingering sense of "Jesus, when is this going to be over?" bouncing around in John's head. In time, maybe after he can learn to say 'no' to every commission that comes his way and learn to pace himself a bit better, he will have an epiphany and come up with 'the great story line' for another AoT trilogy. Until then, though, John should follow his current leads, probably for a couple of years anyway, until he can look at AoT with a totally fresh and enthusiastic view.

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Damaso mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
This has probably been mentioned but what about a collection of short stories set in the AoT universe?

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NukemHill mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2009
Damaso, I had exactly the same thought. Even more interesting would be if he mixed in some fan-fic (if it's good enough, and gets solid editorial support). That'd be fun.

I hadn't realized until now that there was such an active interest in the AoT storyline. Like I said in an earlier thread--I'm picking up Designated Targets on the way home tonight. I'm absolutely looking forward to it. If possible, my appetite's been whetted even more by reading all of these comments.

And John? Nukem Hill will either be a sub driver, or a post-apocalyptic cowboy. Your choice. ;-) Either way, he's randy as hell, and dies a horrifying death.

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Guy has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2009
The short story option was taken quite successfully by Steve Stirling with the 'Drakas' collection (including one story by Harry Turtledove) and I have no doubt it would work well enough with the AOT. However it would not be a real sustitute for a new novel by JB - or better still a new series of novels.

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Barry asserts...

Posted June 15, 2015
Great to see the Skyhawks get a showing in Final Impact. One of the finest cheep attack aircraft produced.

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted June 15, 2015
Does this thread really date from October 2009? Barry, I love a considered response.

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Respond to 'Even more answers.'

More Ivan answers.

Posted October 5, 2009 by John Birmingham
Springfield Fats asked in the Ivan thread how much scenario planning went into the AOT series. I guess the short answer is bugger all in Weapons of Choice, and rather too much in the other two books. Designated Targets in particular was plotted out scene by scene, against a huge white board full of branching consequences for every single plot point. I dialed it back significantly for Final Impact. And I must admit it was some scenarios which I should have spent more time investigating, but I didn't. The middle east for instance was an arena in which very little on screen action took place, and I've often wondered about whether or not it'd be cool to set a spinoff series there. But then on the other hand NBob did raise a whole Indonesian storyline which all took place of the page. Again there's a whole spinoff series you could do there.

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