Writing the threads of my reality

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

I've found another interesting blog, by one Barry Eisler. Apparently he's famous, or something. One of his thriller books has been made into a movie that was probably never released on this side of the Atlantic.

I will say without a shadow of a doubt that I dislike modern thrillers. I just don't find them particularly appealing; the interplay of suspence and action that seems so widespread in them is wasted on me, probably because I find the characters to be one-dimensional. That's my taste, of course. I'm not the target audience for such books after all.

Why subscribe to Mr. Eisler's blog then? It's very simple, really - he is a good writer. He writes with style, clarity, and a great deal of passion on his blog, and that is something to be appreciated and valued.

I'll probably never be sold on thrillers in general, but if I'm in a book shop and I happen to see his work, I'll certainly recommend it to people I know who'd like it.

Male and Female

I sometimes wonder how to write believeable characters in books. I'd consider characterisation as being one of my strong points in my work, but like every aspiring author, I do struggle with some aspects of it.

The Novel has two main characters; one male, one female. I've written them in very specific ways, and I know where they are alike and where they are very different. But the biggest problem I have is, predictably, with sex.

Books typically characterise men and women in very different ways when it comes to sex. The virgin-whore paradigm, for example - historical romances make enormous use of it in their characterisation of the heroine, who is almost universally chaste until her encounter with the hero. Those romances get a pass because that's just how it was, back then, but even modern characterisations of women seem to follow the same path - and it's just so boring. Why reduce one half of human sexuality to something so trite and uninteresting? Where are the shades of grey?

Men are frequently characterised as biological whores, their hormones driving them to sleep with the attractive females regardless of whether it's a good idea or not. This is so very, very dull as well, and does men a great disservice - as if they are not rational, not capable of being governed by their heads and not their privates. Am I the only one who thinks this charactetisation is just plain stupid? We are meant to believe that these men are also intelligent and sane enough to save the world or captain a ship or have made millions on their own... No. I don't think so.

I'm playing with a little subversion of these characterisations right now for my main characters. I have a leading lady who views sex as a weakness, and is easily powerful enough to have her opinion respected. She is like a man, neither virgin nor whore, where her sexuality is a tiny and irrelevant part of her life. My leading gentleman is a lover and a worshipper of women, who has sex out of adoration. He is like a woman in that he places a higher value on emotional attachments than the mere physical act.

I could spend hours thinking through the facets of their characters, discovering new nuances and reflections that change how they react in tiny ways. I might make a few alterations as time goes by, but I will never return to the silly clichés that infect so many other well-woven stories. My characters deserve better than that.

The animals went in two by two

Ah, creationism. Creationists, I should say - they are a strange and byzantine species, full of nuances and expressions that would puzzle the average homo sapien. I adore them, and their almost-childlike view of the world.

Noah's Ark is an interesting story. God takes umbrage at the world of man, and decides to destroy it all except for the few that please him. And so his chosen take the animals that will survive and carry them into the Ark, and after forty days and nights of global flooding to wash away the wickedness, Noah is left to repopulate the world.

Interesting does not equal true, however, for the accepted value of true associated with historical events - meaning that these things actually happened, and the story of the Flood is factual. There's nothing to show that it is. There's any number of problems that arise if we even assume the most basic facts, and then extrapolate the likely effects; for example, let's say there was a global flood that lasted for forty days and nights. There isn't enough water on earth to flood the whole world, forty days of flooding is enough to destroy a good chunk of all life on earth, and if it happened, all evidence of it was magically removed from the geological record.

But people still believe it's real, like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Their bible is so important to their faith that if even one part of it isn't true, none of it is. The details of the story are made more important than the morals or lessons contained within it. That is the real tragedy of creationism; its proponents remain forever childlike, trapped in a parody of faith because they can't let themselves see the wood for the trees.

I still smile at their antics, and try to be gentle with them as I would with a child. Creationists are not inherently bad, or stupid, or misguided, although some would label them as such. They need time and space to honestly examine their faith and the book they hold so dear, and the constant battering of science isn't doing them any favours.

What does all this have to do with me? Nothing, really. I don't know any creationists. Being a predominatly Catholic country with a very lax attitude to bible literalism, Ireland doesn't seem to have enough of them to be organised. But I find the concept fascinating, like an adult who still believes in Santa Claus.

And the holidays are past

I'm back again after the holidays.

I like to take a break over Christmas. It gives me time to relax and recover from the year gone by. I didn't have any real holiday in 2009 during the summer; blame that on my work ethic if you will.

I've made some New Year's resolutions, as always. The first, to finish the Novel and start querying. The second, to learn how to play the piano. The third, to finally get into shape and exercise more.

I'm not making any others for the time being. Three very hard ones are more than enough. Of the three, the Novel will be the hardest, I think. I'm not looking forward to having my work put on trial, even if the eventual aim is to get it out and on the shelves.

Learning how to play the piano is a little challenging. I'm playing "The Music of the Night" at the moment. It's a matter of connecting what I know the piece should sound like with the notations on the page - no trivial task, of course, when you have to decode each section first. A friend has told me that I'm doing very well for someone who's never played before, which is certainly very encouraging. I'm planning to try a little bit of the start of "Clair de Lune" once I get more confidence.

Sigh. Honestly, I'm talking to myself. I'm sure there's a point to all this, but I probably won't be able to find it without the help of a therapist.

Is it obvious that, in the face of a hopeful new year, I am more hopeless than ever?

No. Hopeless or not, I have to have some kind of faith in my writing, because otherwise I would not write at all - and that is as likely to happen as the sun going backwards around the earth. I am a weaver of stories, good or bad, and especially when I'm talking to myself.

So. Another year. What would Brenda say?

This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.
She will always be my hero.