What I said and how I said it

You’re never going to be understood by everyone all of the time, let’s just get that out of the way right now. And of the ones that understand you, only about half of them are going to like what you say, if you’re lucky. And of those people, only a fraction are ever going to be bothered to let you know what they think about what you have to say. So, of everyone who could possibly ever leave you a review of your writing, only one half of one half of a fraction of a percent will ever do it. Don’t bother checking that math. I’m pretty sure it’s right.

Trust me. I’m a writer.

 

See? They wouldn't have made a t-shirt if it wasn't true.

See? They wouldn’t have made a t-shirt if it wasn’t true.

 

So, my point is that I’m grateful for every review I get. I never comment on any of them. It’s your review and you have every right to express your opinion about my work. After all, I released it to the public with the very expectation that some would love it, some would hate it and most would be somewhere in between (hopefully more on the love side, of course). And if you haven’t had a chance to post your review of my books yet, then PLEASE DO! Check out the links on the sidebar of my Home Page and get to it, people! Pretty please?

Seriously. Do it. Even if you hated it, please leave a review. I’m remarkably level-headed about this. It’s my career, after all. I need to know what people really think, not some white-washed “that’s nice, Dan” crap. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just what you liked, what you didn’t and would you buy another book by this author. That’s it!

And, if you did leave a review already, then double check to make sure it’s still there. Sometimes Amazon takes down reviews because they find out that – HORROR OF HORRORS – a reviewer has actually had some sort of contact with the author. If you think that’s messed up, then I invite you to sign this petition. I did. Amazon’s current policy, as well intentioned as it is to remove flame reviews and bogus inflated reviews, only succeeds in removing honest reviews from loyal fans and does nothing to stop the disgusting practice of purchasing reviews because some people have more money than self-respect, which is the real problem.

 

"Look World! I'm a writer!"

“Look World! I’m a writer!”

 

But while I’m on the topic of reviews, I will take the opportunity to expand on a point one reviewer raised in one of my Goodreads reviews. She seemed to like the book, mind you, so it wasn’t a bad review, just a “meh” one. She said the one thing that distracted her was my use of the “modern voice” in a fantasy setting. I fully respect her tastes and understand that my narrative voice isn’t for everyone, so I have no problem with her review. Her observation does, however, raise a point that has always bothered me about fantasy literature; the rather odd choices made by many fantasy authors in terms of exactly what narrative voice they use.

Most fantasy authors that I’ve read like to use a late 19th century American or Victorian voice for most narration and then throw in a smattering of Elizabethan terms during dialog to achieve some sort of pseudo-medieval… errrm… sound, I guess? And this is somehow supposed to be the “authentic” fantasy voice? I’m not sure why this is so or how it got started (might be a fascinating thesis paper for all you English Literature students not reading this blog) but it isn’t at all an actual medieval voice. First of all, such a voice would be called “Middle English” and second of all it’s utterly impenetrable. Have you ever read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in it’s original text? I have. It’s a foreign fucking language.

So, to me the use of narrative voice for fantasy books has always seemed to be up to the author’s whim. This is as it should be. It’s a fantasy world, after all. It isn’t historical fiction. Even if it was, a reader couldn’t read an authentic voice from classical/dark/medieval ages. We can barely read texts from Shakespeare’s day. Know why we can read texts from Shakespeare’s day and not before? It’s because he invented the language we speak today. It’s called “Modern English.” OK, maybe he didn’t invent it, but he was the first author of his generation (that I know of, anyway – literature was never my focus) to write how people actually talked.

After him, you can largely trace the great writers of following generations because they also bothered to write how people actually lived and spoke in their own times. In our current generation, it’s impossible for me to say for certain at this point. Maybe that’s too difficult a task to accomplish for your own generation. Maybe that’s a question for the ages. But, if I could switch mediums simply to illustrate a point, I might say Quentin Tarantino would be a good example in film/screenwriting. But, please, don’t tell him I compared him to Shakespeare. His head is big enough as it is.

 

I mean, look at the size of that thing. His melon is dangerously over-inflated.

I mean, look at the size of that thing. His melon is dangerously over-inflated.

 

In his writing, we see an honest approach to conveying how people in our everyday lives live and speak. Even if these people are heroes and villains of extraordinary proportions, they still engage in the same common struggles and conversations as the rest of us. Hitmen discuss the vagaries of human relationships, a man and a woman deflect sexual tension by talking about the price of a milkshake, etc. Great authors, in my opinion, invite everyone into their writing by mirroring the way they perceive the people around them talking and acting everyday. It’s the people who are alive you have to talk to, not the dead ones.

I guess that’s one reason why I chose such a “modern voice” for my Grant Scotland novels. Another reason was simply as an homage to noir detective novels. I realize it won’t be a voice everyone will be drawn to, but I’m hoping it will help more people, authors and readers alike, realize that there is no “authentic” fantasy voice. The only authentic voice is your own.

 

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4 thoughts on “What I said and how I said it

  1. I always appreciate a modern voice in novels–especially in fantasy ones. Unless it is crucial to the world building, I want a story’s voice to be familiar (or at least as familiar as is appropriate) so that I can instead focus on the story it is conveying. Nowadays, we only read Shakespeare in English class, and his voice is the main barrier that stands between students and understanding and enjoying his plays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have long suspected I was lucky in my experience with high school English teachers. I had not one, but TWO extremely gifted men who broke down Shakespeare’s language and showed us how it equated to our “modern” English – because it’s the same, of course. The only meaningful difference is the context. Once that bridge was crossed, all of Shakespeare’s work opened up before us and all of cinema and current literature took on new meaning. Everything from “Jaws” to “The Sound and the Fury” immediately wove themselves into a tapestry larger than our lives and also just a bit too small to cover the constantly changing experience of our society and culture. I hope you can find someone to teach it to you like that, but if you can’t, the important thing will always be your voice. No one writes with Shakespeare’s voice, but everyone understands his lesson of speaking with the real language of the day. One that speaks not just to our time, but for all time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The approach my teachers have taken has always been analysis-focused. I’ve come to love Shakespeare for his command of metaphors and symbolism. I would love to have a teacher break down the language; without that lens to see the text through, Shakespeare’s writing feels antiquated in my mind. However, his understanding of human emotions and passions has always struck me as universal and timeless.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Then you’ve got the better part of it. Understanding “To be or not to be” as the ancestor of modern self-help ideas of “being and becoming” is of lesser value – although definitely worthwhile for pure personal enrichment purposes. 😉 But understanding how he told everyone what was going to happen at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet and yet everyone STILL STAYED AND WATCHED?!?!? I mean… come on. How the…? When you figure out how to hook your audience that well, let me know, will ya?

    Like

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