I Sound A Bit Hipster Here

Top Hat for Some ReasonI don’t have very much to say this week. I’m in a top-brain sort of mood. That’s what I call it when my brain refuses to function on a creative level and instead adopts a distant thoughtfulness about everything. As if I exist only to process the parts of the world I happen to encounter and then file it away somewhere.

It’s like my thoughts are only coming from the crown of my head. Not the front, like when I’m problem solving. And not the back of my brain, that chunk of my head at the base of my cranium that flares bright when I’m envisioning a new scene, or character, or dialogue.

Nope. It’s a top-of-head sort of week. Little spark. Lots of contemplating.

There was a death in my family recently and I was in New Jersey for the wake and funeral last week. That’s why I didn’t post anything. The death was natural and expected, so it wasn’t a hugely traumatic thing. And it has been weeks now since the actual news came, the weather pushed back the services. But it is definitely possible that I am still meditative over that.

Or maybe it’s because we had a weekend of sun and warm temperatures and now it’s dipping below freezing and multiple snow storms are expected. It’s hard to describe how nice it is to walk around this city and realize that it is waking up from the icy rings that are choking off every block. The sun was up, everything was dripping, you could hear melting all around. The side-walks were opening up and the streets were two lanes again and it was like Spring might actually be on its way. It was nice. But now: freezing cold and more snow predicted. That puts a halt to a lot of my thoughts.

It’s possible my brain is just resting. Or pausing. Like it’s intermission or something. It thinks the curtain has dropped for the time being and I can stop acting like someone I’m not, stop entertaining, stop trying to solve problems and just take a load off and stare into space.

It’s possible it’s all of these things or none of these things, but I’m just in a very still mood inside my head this week.

And, thus, not much exists to write about.

Zombies, Genre, and Marketing

Zombies, Genre, and MarketingThe Walking Dead returned to TV this past Sunday and I have found myself with zombies on the brain yet again.

Actually, it’s not zombies I’ve been thinking about, it’s how a zombie is defined and what genres you can fit them into.

A few months ago I brought in some outside help to do a little marketing for me, and these people have been throwing ads up on Facebook using images such as this one:

Gross ZombieThe outside marketing help didn’t really bother to look at my writing, they just heard the word zombie and ran with it. Most fans who have seen these ads have mentioned that they didn’t picture Hector, Nyx, Gary, or the others to look like the fellow shown above. And I agree. That, quite frankly, is not my kind of zombie.

The rotted things in my books are capable of thought, well some of them are, and while they are rotted, they lack the squishiness of a corpse. I never got the feeling that Lun-Yis’s face was oozing goo. My bad guys have more of a leathery feel to them, possibly an offshoot of how old they are.

On the other hand, the ad with the above fellow in it is doing very well, assuming that the goal is to acquire Likes on Facebook (whether that makes sense as a goal is another discussion).

But following on the heels of all these new Facebook Likes comes worry, something I always feel when I use the zombie angle to market my books. Are my zombies real zombies? Oddly the premise of my books is, in some ways, the complete inverse of this question. My enigmatic undead have been around forever, since the dawn of sentient thought, and it’s been mentioned that humans catching glimpses of my characters is what gave rise to zombie stories in the first place.

And yet, these characters aren’t walking corpses. They’re entities of pure energy capable of taking on physical form, and some of them have rotted away for various reasons. Am I allowed to market them as zombies?

I don’t know. And for the most part I don’t care. Once I reach that point in my head I take a deep breath and remind myself that the marketing is not the story. The poster is not the movie. The cover is not the book.

When I think about storytelling, I think about an old wizened person holding sway over a crowd of people. Maybe before bed by a campfire. Maybe to pass the time while the winter lumbers on outside. Maybe to keep a royal court entertained.

I don’t think about genre or marketing. I don’t go on to imagine one of the people around the campfire raising their hand and telling the wizened elder that they aren’t allowed to have fast zombies.

I just imagine the storyteller doing their job of riveting everyone’s attention, and the crowd doing their part by investing in the story, and everyone just being thankful that they aren’t outside in a blizzard. It is from that mental place that I do my best storytelling, and for that reason I often put the brakes on when I begin to mull too much about genre.

Still…I look at that picture from the ad up above and all I can think is, “That’s not my kind of zombie.”


Writing Poorly on Purpose

Writing Wrong on PurposeMost writers I know spend a lot of time worrying about the quality of their work. Will it resonate with readers? Does it get across the proper emotions? Is it as good as other writing I’ve read?

However, a possible new character in my current urban fantasy series has reminded me of a writing exercise that takes the complete opposite stance and allows writers to relax about their craft and breathe a little.

See, I’m toying with the idea of having a character who is both a prolific writer and a terrible one. They would be the author of many emails, or whatever passes for emails in my world of the undead, and yet be quite awful at composing said emails.

And if I put these emails in front of my characters, actually write them out onto the pages of my book, that means that I would get the opportunity to write poorly on purpose.

This, I can assure you, is a writing exercise that will turn your brain inside out. As I’ve mentioned, so much energy and worry gets put into whether or not you are writing well. But taking the opposite approach and trying to write poorly can provide a healthy change of pace, because you have to write poorly, but do it well.

Get it?

I mean you can’t just slap away at the keyboard and be done with it because the result would be a completely unbelievable string of writing. Oh no, you have to think about what you know concerning the art of writing and, more to the point, what this character doesn’t know about writing. You have to figure out where he or she is lacking because a complete lack of readability would just be dismissed as uninteresting or unbelievable. This writing has to be bad but think its good. It has to be read but not be loved. It has to get processed but still make you cringe.

You have to figure out where this character goes wrongs. Do they use clunky phrasing? Awful metaphors? Too too too many adverbs? Do they sound dumb? If so, in what way? Trouble getting to the point? Bad sense of humor? Inflated view of themselves? Over-reliance on one writing trick?

The exercise at once allows you to relax, after all the goal is to write poorly, while also requiring you to focus in on your strengths as a writer and what good writing means to you so that you can effectively subvert all of that and produce bad writing.

In the end, as a matter of fact, writing poorly can turn out to be one of the most challenging things a writer can do.

I told you it would turn your brain inside out.