Being a Better Writer: The Value of Fiction

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had a shift at work Monday(I’m still playing catch-up on a small pile of debt incurred during my knee injury and trying to be able to make rent this month, so I’m working more shifts than normal) which, as expected, put this post behind the clock. Thankfully, looking at my daily views, it seems that many of you don’t mind—a large number of you have just been checking on Tuesday rather than on Monday, which is sad as far as my ability to get these posts up on Monday is concerned, but otherwise isn’t a bother.

So … today’s topic … This is one that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. Years, actually. But I wasn’t positive if I wanted it to be a Being a Better Writer post or just a random post until recently. I can’t recall quite what the context of it was, but there was a forum post on a site I was browsing that made me immediately turn to my topic list and write down “Learning by Example – Value of Fiction.”

Now, for some, this post is going to seem somewhat … Well, perhaps obvious is the best way to put it. But the odd thing is, for some it won’t.

See, I once had a fellow student in one of my creative writing classes who could not understand why we were bothering to read stories that ‘hadn’t happened.’ They were incredibly incensed by it (for the record, none of us, including the professor, could determine what they had expected otherwise from a course in creative writing), constantly complained about the books we read, and even, if memory serves, flat-out refused to do the writing assignments because ‘it wasn’t real, therefore it was of no worth.’

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and seen more of the world, I’ve come to find that this student was not alone in sharing this opinion. There are a lot of people out there that do not see the value of reading anything that is a work of fiction and hold it to be of no merit. Why? The answer is, when boiled and distilled down, because a work of fiction isn’t something “real.” Therefore, not being “real,” it has no place in the real world.

Now, obviously I disagree. But, naturally, this disagreement doesn’t start or end with “Well, you’re wrong.” Crud, there’s a reason I put “real” in the last paragraph in quotes. Because fiction isn’t simply something that’s “not real.” In fact, simply thinking of it as such shows a lack of understanding of what fiction is.

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Happy Independence Day!

Yup, I’m an American. And that means that once a year, when July 4th rolls around, I freaking love it.

Okay, yes, I know it’s tomorrow. But back home, when I was younger, it was a multi-day celebration (I believe it’s up to a week of events, now).

Anyway, long, roundabout way of saying no Being a Better Writer post today or tomorrow. It’s the 4th! Go light some fireworks, set up some boom. Do not light a forest on fire, though. Play responsibly, people! But if you’re American (or just want to celebrate the date of American Independence since we celebrate with lots of boom), have some fun! Get the grill out! Read a ridiculous pulp adventure! Whatever!

Oh, speaking of reading, though … Did you know that the Nominations for The Dragon Awards close in just 21 days, not counting today? That’s right, three weeks from today, the nomination period will be over! Which means that you’ve only got three weeks to check out all the different nominations you can make, form your own list, and hit submit! Don’t forget, whatever you nominate did have to release during the July 1st 2016 to June 30th, 2017 period though. After all, this award is for the new stuff released in the last year.

So, you’ve got three weeks to finalize your nominations! Get to it!

And enjoy your 4th of July. I’ll see you all later this week.

Extra! Extra! Breaking News!

Hey readers! I’ve got two items of good news for you today!

The first? Well, you know that collection of short stories I wrote? You know, the one Unusual Eventscalled Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection on account of most of the stories not really being that short?

That one? You know it? Good. Because it’s just experienced a price drop! Yup, that’s right. Unusual Events is now a year and a half old, which means that it has reached the vaunted status of “VETERAN.”

Fancy words, really, but what they mean is that you can now pick up Unusual Events for only $5.99! Those of you who have been waiting for this day to arrive, it is here! Click the link above there, or the cover on the right, to go right to the page and pick up your own copy!

Unimpressed? I’d ask what you’re doing here, but you’re the master of your own destiny, not I. Anyway, time for that second announcement! Patrons! Those of you who donate monthly to help ensure that I can keep writing Being a Better Writer! June’s Patreon reward is up, and it’s a retrospective on Dead Silver! Ooooh! Peer into the mad mind of an author!

You won’t go mad. I promise. And you’ll see some fun stuff. If you liked Dead Silver, and want to learn more about what went into its creation, hit that link!

All right, that’s it for now! Over and out, people!

My Thoughts on Wonder Woman

So, as usual, I’m not going to really give much away. Actually, I’ll give away as little as possible, because my recommendation with Wonder Woman is that you should definitely go see it if you’re a fan of comic-book films.

Seriously. Wonder Woman is a good DC movie. And good movie in general. Really good.

How good? This film is up to Marvel standards. That good.

Am I going to spoil it for you? No. You will see some fantastic acting by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine both. You will see some excellent scenes of camaraderie between the cast, some great scenery shots, and some awesome realism.

Yes, realism. In a comic book movie. One of the things I did enjoy about this movie was that people and clothes got torn up and dirtied up … unlike a lot of films where characters just somehow stay looking perfect through the whole thing.

The fight scenes are also quite good. They could have been better, actually, and this is one of my criticisms. One of the early trailers actually showed a single-shot fight scene that, for whatever reason, was cut into a number of cuts in the final movie, which took away from it.

But even with those minor criticisms, the movie was just great. Good characters, awesome action, nice story … Like I said, it felt like a Marvel movie.

Do yourself a favor and just go see it. It’s great.

Oh, and as a side note: If Colony ever becomes a film or a show, Anna versus anyone else would end up looking a bit like Wonder Woman versus regular folks in this film. A dangerous, very capable Amazon.

Where Amazon Can Improve for Authors and Readers

Well this post has been a long time in coming.

No, seriously. We’re currently on Topic List IX, right? This post was a considered topic back on topic list VIII. Or maybe it was VII. I only started keeping track of carry-over topics with list number IX.

Point being, this one’s had a while to stew. It wasn’t a proper topic for Being a Better Writer, which meant that it needed to get it’s own posting on a day that wasn’t Monday, and so … well, after a few months of looking for time, here we are.

So, to the task at hand, then: Where Amazon can improve. I’ll warn you now, if you’re one of those readers that bears a solid dislike, or a powerful grudge against Amazon for some reason, this probably isn’t going to be the post for you. Likewise if you’re one of those convinced that the rise of Amazon will be the downfall of all that is holy about books and the publishing industry. See, while no company is perfect, from my perspective Amazon’s entrance into the publishing industry, along with its associated push in favor of ebooks and a more open publishing sphere, is a good one. Not perfect, but good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and that’s where today’s post comes in. See, I’ve been published on Amazon for several years now, and while I do like their service … it’s not perfect. No, far from it. There’s actually quite a bit of room for improvement, quite a few flaws that really could be fixed up to make Amazon’s publishing—and specifically, their Kindle service—not only more appealing, but easier and simpler to use. And I worry that since Amazon has entered a position of dominance as far as indie publishing goes, they’re simply going to do what they have been doing—which is rest on their laurels—rather than really looking to improve their service on both ends. Because as a platform that I sell my products on, I want my readers to have the very best experience. And if Amazon doesn’t improve, well, that leaves it open for someone else to sneak in offering services and advantages that, quite honestly, Amazon should have added years ago.

Right, enough beating around the bush. To put it plainly and simply, Amazon has stagnated. The only reason that they’re still on top is that no one else has come along offering anything better in large enough quantities to entice Amazon’s authors and clientele away. But the truth is, it’s only a matter of time until that does happen. Anyone who’s used Amazon’s Kindle service has undoubtedly looked at it and thought “You know, this would be so much better if …” and inevitably, the someone who thinks that is going to be in a position to do something about it and create something better. At which point a lot of authors might jump ship to the newer, better service.

Customers, too, because what you’re about to look at is not just a collection of what improvements Amazon needs to make for authors. No, customers need improvements as well … and Amazon isn’t delivering them. Again, they’re resting on their laurels, content for the time being to simply do little or nothing to improve their service. And that needs to change.

So, let’s talk about customer improvements first to Amazon’s Kindle and Self-Publishing services. What needs to be improved that’s fallen drastically by the wayside?

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Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic

Oh boy. I woke up this morning to see this article on the front page of r/books, and you  know … I’ve never fisked anything … but this piece couldn’t be ignored. For those not in the know, a “fisking” is when someone replies point by point to the salient points of an article, offering a piece by piece rebuttal. I’ll let you read the original article first, so you can get it in your mind, but it’s just part of the continuing—You know what? You be the judge. Read the article, then check this rebuttal.

The quoted article bits are both quoted and italicized. My responses are the normal text.

So, let’s get started.

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A Fantastic Quote Concerning Shame Culture

This thought-provoking quote was brought to my attention this last Sunday at one of the LDS General Conference sessions, where it was quoted from a 2016 New York Times article on “Shame Culture.” I’m sharing it because of its insightful look into why the current “shaming” trend doesn’t work, and isn’t a basis for a stable society. Just thought-provoking.

“In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. … [In the shame culture,] moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion. …

“… Everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along. …”

“The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.”

         —David Brooks, “The Shame Culture,” New York Times, Mar. 15, 2016