The Importance of Editing: In Conversation with Andrew Macrae

If you want to talk about editing, and maybe on the theme of pretension. We were talking to Andrew Macrae, the author of Truck Song. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard of it, I hadn’t either.

The book, he said, was written as part of his PhD, and they deemed it publishable and he passed or however that works. And then he couldn’t get it published, because he wasn’t trying to sell to academics.

He had written the early version with degraded english, where words were spelt wrong or something. He was talking about his changing this, making the book a little more publishable. It got published, so obviously it worked.

The thing he was talking about was character voice, he thought that the ‘degraded’ English was vital to the voice of the character. This was the reason he didn’t want to change it. But he changed it largely by his own volition. He said that a publisher was mildly interested in the degraded version, so he chose to edit it on his own.

He saw that his vision of the novel had problems and though he was thinking of his vision of indispensable, he was willing to try other thing. What he said was that when he edited the book, he found that the voice was still there. He found that the changes worked and, clearly made his book more publishable.

This isn’t intended as a lecture on how anyone’s vision is wrong and you have to change it to make things more publishable or anything like that. This is a case study, on the importance of editing and how if you are editing your own work, you need to take a step back from it.

My personal experience is that I find taking a step back from my work very difficult.

Experimental Fiction and Non-Fiction Workshop Hosted by Luke Horton

I’ll be honest, I often feel like Luke has an interest in pretentious books but also, it’s probably time for me to admit that he probably doesn’t. I mean him no offence by thinking this, he is one of my favourite teachers.

One of the reasons I like being in Luke’s class is also one of the reasons I greatly enjoyed the workshop is the regular, small writing exercises. Great fun to write, usually, but hearing other people’s work so often is the best thing about studying a writing course.

I do not read widely, I read very narrowly and I tend not to have an interest in books outside of this narrow scope, regardless of who recommends them or who talks about them.

I think that in his classes and in particular in his workshop on experimental writing, Luke does a great job of interesting me in books that I absolutely will never read. This is one of the problems with me as a person, though.

That’s the thing, the workshop itself is a great example of his interests, in part, but also a great example of his passion in the sorts of books he is interested in. Now, he will bring up a book and mention that it is literary and I stop and I think ‘isn’t literary writing supposed to be pretentious’.

Again, no aspersions. I don’t intend to be mean here, I am just not good at getting my point across. My point, I think, is that I like Luke and even though I don’t have any interest in most of the books he talks about, his talking about them is interesting.

Luke brings a great sense of passion to his teaching, is what I’m getting at in a way that will meet a word limit.

So I had this idea

For ages I had the idea to write a story usingte Pathfinder rule system but I always thought it would come across urealistic. Every sonoften the characters would just magically get better at everything, in hindsight this seems silly, but it was the concern I had.

While staying with my dad last week I had my Pathfinder campaign on the brain and, instead of the school work I should have been doing, I started writing some characters going through the first quest in the campaign I’ve been running. In three days I wrote something like 11000 words of this story.

I think I might put it up here once some editing has been done on it.

Some Background

So, some background on my current project? Might as well. Currently I’m working on a science-fiction story about Dannielle Davidson-Adams (always use her entire name), who has travelled to the space station called Ta’Naric and is about to have her fun ruined by the Earth government and also the station being attacked by more aliens.

An amusing thought

So yeah, haven’t posted for a while, whatever. I had a thought that amused me recently about a project that I’m working on. When I started I described it as space lesbian fighting and it is now about an asexual pacifist.

Interactive Fiction that I made

So I mentioned a little while ago that I had been inspired to write interactive fiction and claimed I would post something if I finished it. Since claiming such it turns out that the project I started is going to be massive, so I figured I’d post the first chunk and update it whenever I finish another part. So here it is: Locked In. If anyone can be arsed it would also be nice to get some feedback or info if anyone notices anything that could be changed to improve. If anyone is interesting it is made with a freeware program called Twine.

Interactive fiction

So I’ve been sick for a little while, a fairly regular occurrence at this point, and I’ve been stuck at home for a little over a week. I was reading some interactive fiction, starting with a game called Alter Ego, by Peter Favaro, where you simulate playing through someone’s entire life. There are some issues, the main one being of choice, but if you’ve ever tried to write interactive fiction they are quite minor, in that they would require a lot more writing. The other’s I’ve played, and even bought, are Choice of Robots by Kevin Gold, in which you play a robot builder and have a profound impact on the course of history, and Neighbourhood Necromancer by Gavin Inglis, which is exactly what it sounds like.

I was considering reviewing them, but the problem with doing so is the need to play through multiple times to try the different story tracks, I might write about them anyway, but I have yet to decide. But the reason this is relevant is that going through these stories has inspired me to write some interactive fiction of my own, which I will post when I get anything finished.

Regularity

So clearly I haven’t added anything for a while, mainly because I didn’t get around to it, or didn’t get anything done, or whatever. I think I need to admit once more that regularity, especially with a blog, is just not something that interests me overly. Except that that isn’t really the case, so once more I will make the empty promise to post more often. I don’t know about regularly, but I will do it every so often, when there’s something I want to post. I will be posting whatever I want, whenever I want, so I’ll see how that goes. Thank you if you have had patience, and if you have not then there are no hard feelings.

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Seven

A/N: I was intending to get this done yesterday, or even earlier, but alas it was not to be. I probably won’t get much up this week, at least not as much as I was intending, as I have been alternating between playing Fable 3 and watching the Addams Family TV show. Just thought I’d mention it.

Astrid’s heart was beating so hard and fast that she could hear nothing and was almost worried that it would burst from her ribcage. She could feel the energy pouring from her as flames crawled up and down her body, barely even warm. And her teeth hurt.

She had no idea where the crossbow bolt had come from, or why the Corrupted had proceeded to laugh. All she knew was that she had just killed one of the Corrupted and had a knife up to her hands buried in another.

Taking a deep breath she saw from the corner of her eye the armour of flame that covered her flare just before it poured through her knife and into the Corrupted. With a cry she jerked her hand back from a sudden intense heat. Her knife had melted the wound in the creature closed, though the flames sprouting from it indicated the cauterizing would do little good.

She turned in the direction the bolt had come from just in time to be bull rushed by another of the Corrupted. It’s shoulder caught her in the gut and she was lifted from her feet.

The world slowed down about her again and, with as deep a breath as she could manage in a heartbeat, she brought her hands together to send another gout of fire after the Corrupted who had hit her.

It tried to swerve and dodge but its mad dash at her had given it too much moment and it was engulfed, screaming, in the wash of bright flame.

Astrid twisted her head as far as she could to try to work out what she was going to hit and saw the edge of the forest approaching a bit too quickly for comfort. She did her best to turn around so that she could hit with her hands and feet but was only about half way through the manoeuvre when she struck. The tree, which didn’t seem quite so much like a tree up close, yielded, stumbling backward.

It felt like a tree, looked like a tree, but then the Thorn opened their glowing green eyes and considered Astrid. No expression showed on the nearly featureless face as they considered her, then gently set her on her feet, and ran away.

More than one of the apparent trees opened glowing green eyes and sprinted in the direction of the Corrupted, most brandishing some sort of wooden weapon. In total close to twenty Thorns charged past Astrid to join the fray. Though to say they joined the fight would be to understate matters somewhat. They ended the fight. Three of the Corrupted remained and were taken by surprise by the band of Thorns.

Astrid, unhurriedly, returned to the battleground to find Pykah and Ceric sharing a foul smelling pipe, Kahotlo nowhere to be seen, and Cyn crouched by a building not far away, white light coursing from her hands into a familiar looking prone shape.

Her heart sped up and without meaning to she bolted over to the healer. She didn’t actually notice the slowed world until it returned to its correct pace. She had been right, it was Dalylia lying there, blood leaking from the back of her head.

Cyn turned her unsettling pure white eyes on Astrid and smiled perfectly white teeth from pale lips. “She will be alright, no need for worry,” the woman reassured Astrid in her cracked, quiet voice. “Quite brave this one, or perhaps foolhardy.”

Kahotlo dissolved out of the night and peered over the woman’s shoulder. “Foolish perhaps,” he suggested, in an almost neutral tone. “She did not believe in magic. Perhaps she does now.” Regardless of his words he waited with Astrid as the healer worked.

The wound on the back of Dalylia’s head closed quickly, but it took almost an entire, agonising minute for the Lythaz girl to open her eyes. She looked about in confusion until her eyes focused on Astrid.

Dalylia sat bolt upright, or tried, and then tipped over the other way and stayed where she was. She mumbled something in Lythaz, then switched to Engulian. “Why am I not dead?”

Cyn’s entire head seemed to wrinkle when she smiled down at Dalylia. “That would be my doing, dear,” she admitted, pride in her voice. “I am a healer you know.”

“Best in Riverside,” Kahotlo added, melting back into the darkness before Cyn could give him a dark look. Cyn and Ceric had been the only mages in Riverside before the barge arrived.

Dalylia nodded, a very small movement. “What happened to those… Corrupted, were they called?”

Cyn gave Astrid a look before she answered. “The children killed most of them, then some Thorns showed up and got the rest.”

“Thorns?” Dalylia seemed to be getting more confused.

The smell heralded Ceric’s arrival. He handed the pipe to Cyn, who stood with an audible creak and took a long draw. In her absence Ceric explained. “Thorns are magical tree people or some such, mostly they protect us from the Corrupted, but sometimes something like this happnens… happens and us mages have to deal with it.” He shrugged and accepted the pipe from Cyn.

“Get over here, young man,” the old healer called to Pykah, who seemed to have passed out on the ground.

Pykah groaned but got up and approached. “She hit her head and she can’t get up, take her…” she shifted her attention to Dalylia, “where are you staying, dear?”

“The Riverside Inn,” Dalylia admitted.

“Take her there. And Astrid, you go with her and watch over her, make sure you wake her up every hour or so. If her pupils stay dilated, don’t shrink, or she won’t wake up, get me. Got it?”

“Wake her once an hour, if her pupils don’t shrink or she doesn’t wake, get you,” Astrid parroted, mostly out of habit.

The woman nodded and took another long drag on the pipe. Astrid was surprised when no ‘get to it’ was forthcoming. The woman just watched as Pykah hoisted Dalylia into his arms.

The Riverside Inn was not only the largest inn but also the furthest from where the fight had taken place. This did not mean it was far away, only a few minutes’ walk.

Captain Arnette and a man who was clearly closely related to her were the sole occupants of the taproom when Astrid and Pykah entered with Dalylia. The captain raised her eyebrows mildly in the trio’s direction. “She lived?”

“Cyn was right there,” Pykah replied in a tone that indicated he would have shrugged were he not carrying an unconscious girl at that moment.

“What happened?” the man with Arnette asked.

“The kids killed a few Corrupted and then a whole lot of Thorns showed up,” Pykah replied with a shrug.

“Kids?”

Pykah jerked his head in Astrid’s direction. “Her and my brother killed a couple each, I got one and the mages hall was predictably very little use.”

Astrid looked at her feet, she had been hoping not to get too much credit for the fight. She had been hoping not to get a mention at all, hoping to slip by unnoticed and go about her business quietly tomorrow.

Instead she got appraising looks from Arnette and the man she was with. “I suppose this makes us lucky you came, dear,” Arnette pointed out. “Why did you come here?”

Astrid supposed this was as good a chance as any to get started. “I’m looking for my half-sister, Cauri Hunter, she came up this way about ten years ago.”

“Ten years ago, and you expect to find her still?” Arnette asked, a smirk on her lips that was not at Astrid’s expense.

“She came here to work.”

“She went to the Castle,” the man informed Astrid.

Arnette gave him a dark look, like he had ruined the joke. “One of the many things we got from our father is a perfect memory,” the woman informed Astrid. “She stayed here in Lakeside for close to two years before travelling with Ferleye’s caravan up to the Castle.” She nodded to the man.

“I have not seen her since,” Ferleye admitted.

Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

I watched the film the first time when it came out in the cinema in Australia. The first film is one of my all time favourites, though its standing in my mind has decreased significantly since I started reading the books (a series I will review when I manage to get a hold of the last audiobook, as in next march) but I still like the film a fair amount. This instalment, not so much.

The reality is that I am a fairly massive fan of the whole franchise, the books are definitely close to the top of my list, the first film is one of my favourites and I even really like the tv series. But How to Train Your Dragon 2 just didn’t click for me, for a few reasons.

The first reason I didn’t enjoy it overall (though I enjoyed it far more upon watching it again) is that it is a very close retread of the first movie. It has a giant dragon, an unreasonable enemy, and Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless save the day after having learnt some sort of lesson.

But the main problem I had with it was the ending. Upon rewatching it I was expecting to spend the whole time struggling not to skip anything, and it turned out not to be the way of things, but then I got to the end. Though I probably should have said so earlier, I will say now that there are spoilers in this review. Toothless is buried in ice, as is Hiccup, and then boom, another hitherto unseen ability.

So basically deus ex machina.

There is a scene earlier in the film where Hiccup’s mother, Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett) shows Hiccup an ability that he didn’t know Toothless had, and it worked fine, the reason it worked fine? Structure. This is a film with a very long first act, and so, during the establishing of the world that comes with the first act, finding out something new and pointedly useful is not unreasonable. But at the very last second? Less so.

This is an ability that is sprung on us at the last second because presumably the writers of the film couldn’t come up with a better way to have the heroes succeed. The very purpose of Hiccup is that he deals with things thoughtfully rather than violently and really there should have been a bit more effort put into this aspect of the character and the creation of an ending based on such abilities. That is how the first movie and all the books do it.

The least of my issues with the film is Drago Bludvist (voiced by Djimon Hounsou), who doesn’t exist. Imagine, if you will, the same film without Drago Bludvist. All the actions he undertakes were instead undertaken by the alpha dragon under its own initiative and the film makes more sense. I have also heard the complaint that it’s a bit shit to have the only non-white character being the bad guy but I don’t really have an opinion on that.

But all that isn’t to say that there is nothing good about the film, there is, or I wouldn’t have been riveted for most of it (this time). I’ll admit that I was mostly rewatching the film to avoid doing school work, but that doesn’t negate my enjoyment of it.

Firstly the relationship between Hiccup and Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) is actually really good. They are people who happen to be romantically involved. There are no grand gestures or romantic monologues or any of that shit that usually makes romance nauseating for me. They are people. There are a few specific details about their interactions that really sell the whole deal without forcing the matter at all. First is that they chill together, they are casual and relaxed and they tease and joke. Next is the way they lean into kisses, if you watch it closely (I did because I was about to write this) you see that they both lean into it any time they kiss. Last is something I didn’t notice the first time at all, which is that near the start of the film Astrid idly braids little bits of Hiccup’s hair, and those braids stay there the entire film.

Then there is the whole first act digression with Hiccup’s mother, Valka, though perhaps digression is the wrong word. The portrayal of Hiccup’s mother, half wild, is actually quite well executed. If she had been younger I wouldn’t quite buy it, but because she was already a mother (though who knows what age that was) and therefore, theoretically, a woman (adult) when she disappeared it makes sense for her to not be too far gone even if a fair amount of time has passed. But the mannerisms, like the unusual fluidity of motion, almost perpetual crouch, and tendency for tentative eye contact are all things that someone would likely pick up if they stayed away from humans for long enough.

The single thing about Drago Bludvist that I liked was his backstory and how it contrasted with Hiccup’s. I expect that the point of the character (and the reason why he exists at all perhaps) is a contrast to Hiccup. They come from similar places and have similar fascinations. They are both obsessed with dragons and both fought with dragons for a long time. But Bludvist went down the other path. Though I don’t like the character, I do appreciate this contrast.

It’s really about this point where I get turned off the movie, end of the second act, when (really major spoiler) Stoic (voiced by Gerard Butler) dies. I didn’t mind what happened, but it’s what happens next that I dislike, as mentioned above.

Really, I don’t dislike the movie, but I don’t like it all that much either (I know that sounds contradictory). I would recommend watching it, honestly, but I wouldn’t recommend it with much enthusiasm. If you’re a fan of the franchise and haven’t seen it yet (for whatever reason) you definitely should, but keep your expectations low, and maybe you’ll enjoy it more for that, which is why I think I liked it more the second time.