If I wrote Donald Trump as a character, he would never fly outside of overt satire. “He’s too one-dimensional, too absurdly over the top, too poorly conceived. But worst of all, he’s just a trope. In fact, you threw every major supervillain trope but one together and called it done.”
You’d be right, too.
First trope: he thinks he’s the hero. But usually the villain has a rationale for thinking so that makes sense. Like Magneto, out to save the mutants from the humans. But Trump is no Magneto. Trump isn’t that well thought out of a character. More like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, Trump thinks he’s the hero simply because he is himself. But Mr. Burns is a satirical character, representing greed and the blindness of old money to the daily concerns of the poor and the workers and the middle class. A serious character in a serious story needs to have more to him, and Trump doesn’t.
Trump is a sore loser AND an ungracious winner, which is both a villain trope and a bully trope. Fine, plenty of villains are bullies and vice-versa. There’s nothing too wrong with giving a villain both of these traits; they’re common enough in the real world among assholes. The only real problem is just throwing them willy-nilly in with the rest of the package of tropes without any real justification. Why is Trump a sore loser and an ungracious winner? Because he was raised a spoiled rich brat and has never known being denied everything he ever wanted? That doesn’t wash – Trump HAS been denied things he wants. He has lost properties and yachts and control of businesses because of corporate bankruptcies forced by runaway, mismanaged debt. He began his business life by blowing a million dollar loan and having to appeal to his dad to pull strings to get him tens of millions of dollars in credit, which credit line he promptly maxed out, requiring his dad to give him millions more to bail him out. He’s had opportunity to learn, but apparently hasn’t learned from any of his forty-plus years of experiencing denial and defeat. It’s just not a credible backstory for the character. It’s poor writing.
His self-absorbed egotism and lack of empathy, again, aren’t unbelievable in and of themselves. They’re just so over the top, so glaring. Cartoonish, even. Like reacting to the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11 by saying he now has the tallest building in the city. Who the hell would be THAT bereft of humanity? Outside of satire, nobody is going to buy that. Especially if this Trump character is supposed to be a savvy villain. Would Lex Luthor be stupid enough to say something that obviously self-absorbed, even if he believed it? In private, maybe. But TO A JOURNALIST IN A TAPED INTERVIEW? Too cartoonish, outside of maybe a one-shot comic issue where there’s no time for any subtlety or nuance at all.
He’s frequently driven by anger and mocks others for inborn characteristics like disability or physical appearance. SERIOUSLY, COME ON. Those are traits of nameless thug characters, not of big bosses. To be a believable major villain, they have to have some shred of self-control. They can’t just be lashing out randomly every time they don’t like someone. Plus it doesn’t really fit well with the ‘believes he’s the hero’ trope. Again, that trope requires at least a veneer of self-control that this ridiculous Trump character so obviously lacks.
But somehow, he harbors grudges, often for years, over setbacks both minor and major. If he’s so out of control he can’t help but mock a reporter for having a withered arm or resurrect a twenty-year-old feud with an actress over an entirely unconnected matter, how the hell is he focused enough to hold on to all these long-term grudges and plot revenge?
And on top of all that, he’s also blind to major portions of reality. He imagines himself winning when he’s losing. He calls abject business failures – by the way, bankrupting casinos during a gambling industry boom? Failing to sell VODKA, STEAKS, AND FOOTBALL in the United States? Who’s going to believe that shit? – victories. He thinks he’s suave and professional when all he has to do is watch his own interviews to see differently. He thinks he’s an opinion leader when he constantly changes his opinion on every position he’s ever taken.
It’s all too much. Way, way too much. All this isn’t needed to establish a character as a villain, unless he’s deliberately written to be a campy parody. And it’s not even subtle enough for that. There’s a point where the reader says, “this is all too crude and clumsy. It’s not interesting. It’s a mere catalog of assholery. This writer should have just written a listicle entitled “Ten Ways To Be A Total Prick” because I’m not buying the character AT ALL.
And after all that, what is this villain’s nefarious plan? To become the President of the United States and… not do the job. That’s it. To hand the whole job to the Vice President and travel around the country being a cheerleader, giving rah-rah speeches. Really. That’s the big revenge.
What’s the missing trope, you ask?
Trump isn’t a casual killer.
As far as we know.
It’s about writing hard science fiction when you’re not a scientist, which is a lot of what I do, so I speak from experience. If you write or read science fiction I think you’ll like it. 🙂
We love to read (I feel safe including everyone — who comes to a blog to NOT read?).
Writers love to write — or at least, love-hate. Editing is sometimes a chore, but really it’s going over the rough of the story we want to tell and smoothing it into the best version of the story we can produce. So writers are almost always all about some good editing.
Proofreeding, though, is sort of the proverbeeall red-headed stepchild. Nobuddy likes to poofread.
But if you dun’t want too lokk slily, proofreading is vtal.
…are a big part of being a science fiction writer. Of being a writer in general, really. Some nonfiction writers might be exceptions — a writer of specialized technical texts, maybe, for example — but even most nonfiction writers are doing the same thing that fiction writers and poets are doing: writing things that are meaningful to their readers.
That means being observant and making connections between the real world and what’s in your imagination. It’s a tired, old, often mocked cliche to say that writers are always writing even when they’re not writing.
But it’s kinda true. I think being a writer has got a lot in common with being a standup comedian — feel free to correct me, because I’ve never been a standup comedian. But both professions live by imagination and by inviting the reader or listener to think about how weird commonplace things we do are if you look at them with an outsider’s eyes, or how mundane things are even though we think they’re weird.
That’s what the tweet at the head of the story is about. It popped into my head, this expression we take for granted and how it might look through the eyes of my grown little ones (1 toddler, 1 kindergarten age). To them, “device” will be more common vocabulary. If you buy an ebook on Amazon, it may ask you which “device” you want it sent to, if you have multiple “devices.” More and more of us do, even if we’re relatively poor — a computer and internet connection is vital to my work, and to the classes my wife and I take, so we have a desktop PC. I have a Christmas gift laptop (thanks, Mom & Hal!). I thought of that example because I read ebooks on my phone — another “device.” When your phone or tablet gets an updated OS, the prompt tells you there’s a new OS version available for your “device.”
The word “device” has still got the old wider sense of a mechanical or electronic doohickey, hoobajoob, thingamajig, whatever you like to call such things. It still has the old sense of plan, scheme, or trick. But those older senses that are still much in the mind of a Gen-Xer like me will be overshadowed by the repetition of the word “device” in the sense of the smartphone, tablet, or other computerized whatsis.
To my post-millennial kidlets, “left to their own devices” will inherently suggest something different than it does to me. We like to call that sort of thing “the generation gap” — or at least, my generation did, inspired by the Cold War nomenclature of “the missile gap.”
If you’re too young to get that one without referring to Wikipedia, that’s cool. We like to mock each other for being different sometimes, but I’m not doing that. That’s more the wheelhouse of some comedians. I’m being a writer, and for us, and for the more thoughtful face of the standup comedy genre, it’s about finding the differences between the past, the present, and the future that may come, and spinning a yarn to entertain, and to invite us all to have a good think together.
[This post first appeared on my Patreon Page on 3/27/16 — they saw it three days before it appeared here. Everyone who supports me on Patreon, even for a single buck per month, sees nearly every blog post three days early. PLUS patrons get a FREE .pdf, .epub, or .mobi ebook copy of every new ebook I publish or old story I substantially revise and re-release, THIRTY DAYS before non-patrons get to see it. It’s free for patrons even if I charge for it elsewhere. I think that’s a pretty good deal, and it helps my family and I a hell of a lot. Last month our family van broke down, and Patreon paid for the power steering pump it needed — without those pledges, we’d have had to slog to the grocery store on foot until we could beg or borrow that money, if we’d been able to at all. And our funds available for food are limited — my wife stretches what would be a budget for a constantly thin pantry into something approaching comfortable, with plenty of good fresh fruit and veg for our two youngest (turning 3 and 5 over the next 30-odd days — my, time flies) with the magic of coupons and sale-chasing. That takes a working vehicle to do; it’s very difficult if you’re limited to the store you can walk to, and you are limited to the amount you can carry home on your back in the event that a markdown or amazing deal allows stocking up on normally-expensive staples and toiletries.
And I’m rambling. Hope you’ll consider heading over to Patreon to pitch in. And if you don’t, I’m still very happy to have you here reading — you help me, too. At the very least seeing new hits on my blog every day gives me a little boost as a writer. Hey, someone is paying attention! Yay!
I’ll end this now, before this “little” note on the end becomes longer than the actual post.]
(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on the 21st. Become a patron and see posts early, get FREE ebooks before anyone else can get them, and help me on my quest to feed a family of five with my dreams!)
For a little while now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of going back and editing some of my oldest stories. I generally still like those stories from my earliest days of self-publishing — an immense five years ago, has it really been so little time? It seems like ages.
It’s exactly because it seems like ages that I want to create some revamped editions of those stories. Five years isn’t all that long ago, but it was only seven years ago that I decided it might be fun to take up writing for my own enjoyment again and only six years ago that I decided — okay, my wife persuaded me over my own self-conscious and self-deprecating protests — that I might want to write stories to share with other people, and maybe even sell a few.
I used to write in grade school, imitations of science fiction stories found in libraries and the steady stream of paperbacks my father devoured. But after placing only (!) third in a short story contest in my smallish school, I decided I must not be cut out for writing — I had absorbed, from somewhere, the idea that writing was a talent and not a skill, and I didn’t have it. I wrote a few short stories in my teens and twenties, for my eyes only. Still convinced that, though fun, I just didn’t have the talent to write good ones. The thought of writing disappeared from my horizon until my late thirties, when it finally sank through my thick skull — I think the credit goes to Stephen King’s On Writing, which my wife brought home for me from a thrift store — that writing was a skill, like any art, and takes practice and time for the skill to develop.
And so I started filling notebooks with my own writing and reading the stories I loved with an eye toward what made them fun and interesting to read.
Those early self-published works were published while my skills were still new, and they show it. Are they still good? I hope so — at the least, I think the concepts are sound and the basics of story are there. But after writing a hundred and something short stories and making my way through an English fiction writing MA (I’m in the final course of my program as I write this) I think my writing has evolved significantly in the last few years. And I think any writer who passes through the first five years of writing with the intent to be published does the same — the early years of developing any skill are the years of greatest growth.
Now here’s the bit that’s important to you if you are interested in writing and especially if you have enjoyed some of my stories:
I’m planning on writing a few posts along the way as I revise, and I’m planning on publishing new editions with the old text included after the new text for anyone who would like to compare and contrast.
I think it will be an interesting look into how a writer evolves, for you and certainly for me.
I’d love to have the old and new text side by side for easy comparison, but there are a few factors in the way, so one after another it will have to be. 1: my primary self-publishing outlet, Smashwords, doesn’t like columnar formatting. 2: even if I could finangle side-by-side columns they would look like hell on any device you’d read an ebook on, short of maybe a 40″ monitor. 3: my stories tend to lengthen with editing despite the fat I cut, and the comparison columns would soon be out of sync anyway.
But why, exactly, is any of that important?
Because as my patrons (if you’re not, I’m talking to you in the next paragraph, and this one is short, so I’ll be right with you), I’ll treat new editions of old stories exactly like new stories. You will see them on Patreon a minimum of 30 days before they appear anywhere else, and you will get a free copy in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI regardless of what I charge for the new edition elsewhere. This one I’m tackling first, “In Real Life”, is priced at $1.99.
Even if you’re not one of my Patreon patrons, you may not have read the original, and may find it best to wait and get the new and old editions together — and if by chance you bought the original ebook, once the new edition is released you *should* be able to download the new version from the original vendor you purchased it from. If not, let me know and I’ll hook you up after the patron-exclusive 30 days ends — you’re on the honor system; please be kind to this writer who needs every penny he earns to keep his 20 year old minivan running and the lights on at home.
Also, the story may get longer — at least three readers have told me that they’d love for it to be longer, maybe to reveal what happens next after the ending. Now, “tell us what happens next” is sometimes the bane of the short story writers — I, like many others, like an open-ended ending that invites the reader to imagine the possibilities beyond the end of the story — but sometimes it’s actually a good idea. I’m thinking particularly of “Isolation”, the title story of my Isolation and Other Stories collection, which ended after what became the first third of the story in the original draft. My wife read it and said, as near as I can remember, “hell no, you can’t end it there. It needs more.”
Sometimes the reader is right. “In Real Life” might need more. Or it might not. We’ll see. But like I said before, my drafts tend to grow during editing — just as, in the old saying, stories grow with the telling.
No matter how it goes, it should be fun.
Please don’t remind me that those are famous last words — let’s end on a high note.
(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on 24 February. Patrons — even if all they can spare is one thin dollar per month — see my posts first. They also get to see the stories I publish 30 days in advance, plus a FREE .pdf copy, even if I charge for the ebook everywhere else! So you should totally pledge. Seriously. I’m not making a hell of a lot of money doing this (yet!) and the budget is thin, thin, thin — you can see all its ribs, the poor thing. Make my budget happier. Happy, financially secure writers write more writing. Word.)
…so I can put it together better.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but I’m wrapping up an MA in English with a fiction writing concentration. I know, I know — what a huge surprise. It sort of made sense, and the bit of the financial aid that doesn’t go to paying for tuition and books goes toward keeping a roof over our (there are 5 of us stuffed into this little trailer) heads so we have a place to store the computer that I tend to school and work on.
So, in any event, it has been a good ride, and I think my writing is considerably better for the experience.
For my thesis, I am putting together a new collection, and I was working on a story that is part of it.
It was a good story. I liked it. My fellow students and professor liked it. And one of them suggested something (kicking myself — I should have thought of it! See the value of having someone to critique you? Not yet? Read on.) good.
Loosely paraphrased: “good story — but why not start where the action is?”
But how many times have I seen that very basic advice in the blogs and similar from writers and editors and readers?
Tons. (Lesson along the way: there’s a big difference between hearing or reading advice and actually taking it OMG I HAVE THE SUDDEN URGE TO CALL MYSELF NAMES) You probably have too. Now, not every story needs to start in the middle of the action. And “action” is a flexible concept. There’s no combat in my story, and we usually think “someone needs to be trying to kill someone” when we think action. There’s a big expedition to somewhere long-lost and mysterious in this story, and instead of having two scenes of lead-in with their own minor conflicts, I chopped them out and relocated them later in the story. So the “action” is just the characters departing from their origin and launching themselves into the unknown. But it’s more interesting than a slow lead-in, by a long shot. Then the structure cried out for another prelude scene buried later in the story, so I wrote one. And that made the characters, situations, the whole damn world of the story a richer and more interesting place.
The moral of this little story isn’t “always, always, always start in the middle of some form of action.” There are wonderful stories that don’t start that way, and maybe you’ve written and/or read some of them. Great.
The moral is, “don’t be afraid to chop up your story and rearrange the bits to see if it’s better off.” We have word processors. We can cut, copy, and paste. We can save multiple revisions in their own handy little folders. We can print if we want and rearrange pages, scribble all over the thing. Some of us (not me — spend money? I don’t have much of that stuff!) even have cool writer-in-mind software that lets us take a story apart digitally and rearrange it at will just to see how it looks.
Look, we’re creative people. Not just those of us that write fiction, but those of us who read it, too. Relatively few of us humans even read fiction. I think it takes a creative spark to read it and love it enough to come back for more without the whip of a teacher behind us and the carrot of a diploma in front of us. Something like a third of us humans never read a work of fiction again after the required reading of whatever level of education we have is behind us. Another third read “rarely.” That’s roughly what I recall, and I’m probably being optimistic about the numbers.
So being creative people, when we create something, we don’t want to change it. We want to think we have it right the first time, that our initial conception is the right one. We’re tempted to make small changes, not big ones. Not even just to see.
Make some big changes. Maybe you’ll waste some time, but you’ll be playing with something you like anyway — and that’s not a bad thing at all if you’re one to voluntarily sit down and write a story. No matter what you do with that story. Even if you write fiction only for yourself in a locked journal with instructions in your will to burn it after you die, even if you “just” write a little fanfic here and there to share with your friends or on a fan forum, even if you never mean to publish a damn thing.
Because sometimes those experiments with big changes pay off.
So is that all I learned? Nah. I learned a lesson I have to learn over and over again, each time a little better — I hope. I’m a hyperactive person, and I’m distractible. I may or may not meet the definition of ADD or ADHD — whatever I am, hyperactive is what they called it when I was a little tyke in rural Wisconsin in the ’70s. I’m impatient as all hell. I really want stories to come out great just the way I first conceive them. And it has taken practice and experience to get to the point where I’m willing to take my time, even sit on a story for days or weeks until I have fresh eyes to take it out and fiddle with it to see if I can make it better. To get to the point where I have found some balance between the humility it takes to listen to advice and/or consider writing a story a different way, and the ego it takes to say, “hey, this is my world, and I think it’s interesting. Come look at it.”
If I can do it, you probably can too.
(This post originally appeared on my Patreon page on 17 February 2016. My patrons see blog posts three days before anyone else — and when I publish a new ebook, they get that THIRTY days ahead PLUS they get a FREE .pdf copy EVEN IF I CHARGE FOR IT ELSEWHERE. On top of that, they get my sincere thankyous as a grateful author — priceless, yes? Totally. See you there.)
There are a lot of potential reasons to unpublish an ebook once you’re set it free. Maybe you published in haste and realized you actually still had a TON of editing and proofreading left undone and it will take AGES to slog through it and do it right. Maybe you’ve had second thoughts and you’d rather wait a while before getting your name and work out there for reasons of your own. Maybe you just don’t like the story anymore, or it picked up a 1-star review you HATE (they happen to everyone, go look at some bestsellers’ reviews and you’ll find 1-star reviews) or…
Maybe, like me, after a few years of self-publishing you decided to read one of your earliest stories and after a couple of pages you thought, oh man, there’s a good concept here and maybe a decent story but man, Years-Ago-Me just didn’t understand that this one wasn’t quite ready for the big time.
And maybe, like me, your first impulse – whatever your reasons – is to rush to wherever you’ve self-published your story and YANK THAT SUCKER FAST PLEASE DON’T LOOK EVERYONE STAAAHHHHHP READING!
But hold on.
Take your cursor/pointer/whatever off the UNPUBLISH link.
Push the mouse away. Gently.
Take a deep breath.
One thing I’ve learned in the last few years of self publishing my own work: if you make a decision in a hurry, you’ll probably regret it later.
So let’s talk about why unpublishing MIGHT be the answer, but is PROBABLY NOT.
MOST OF US HATE OUR WORK SOMETIMES
For, at a guess, most of us, we both love and hate our own writing. We write away with great abandon and then come back and realize THIS little bit is a hoary old cliché we picked up from television when we were in grade school and THAT is a plot hole and THIS OTHER is a character acting totally out of character and THIS YET ANOTHER part is just awkward as all get-out. If we proof and edit with a will, and especially if we have a first reader or two experienced in evaluating stories (or an editor to work with, you lucky duck) we catch most of it. But as I pointed out in my post about plot holes, something always slips through. Even if nothing slips through, someone will think your awesome perfect story isn’t awesome or perfect at all, because people have opinions about stuff like fiction and how it should be done – which often translates to their particular preferences (remember the Puppies kerfluffle? Mostly people confusing their preferences with the ‘right’ way to write and sell a SF&F story – even authors). The very concept of perfection is an illusion outside of narrowly-defined specialized circumstances. You can spell a word perfectly – most of the time, unless you’re talking about color/colour or draft/draught in which the difference is merely regional and has nothing to do with ‘perfect’ or ‘correct’ – but you can’t write a perfect story. Can’t be done. You can only write an excellent story.
And yes, you can keep on making changes if you want, but BE CAREFUL WITH THAT. You can find yourself fiddling with one story forever – we’re imaginative types, we writers, and can always think up a different way to tell the same story, write the same scene, word the same sentence. There’s a point in rewriting when you’re only making things different, not better – and you might even be making things worse. There’s a point where you have to decide to either trunk it, or to let the story go out into the world as it is. You’ll get better at knowing when that is the more you write. It’s subjective. Sorry about that, but that’s reality on this one.
OH GOD I JUST FOUND A TYPO ON THE FIRST PAGE WAIT THERES ANOTHER AND ANOTHER NUKE THE STORY FROM ORBIT IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE
Whoa, be cool. Yeah, I freak out a little if I realize I have a typo, especially right on the first page. That makes it worse, somehow. And it happens even to those of us who have regular access to pro proofers and editors – at least, it does on rare occasion. For writers in circumstances similar to mine (no money to speak of, remember?), pro proofing and editing isn’t practical. Or even possible. I sweat the economic impact of ordering twenty-five bucks worth of pizza maybe once every other month, so how the hell could I justify the cost of hiring a professional to look over a short story – especially when there are four other people in the house with an equal claim on every penny? If you’re in that boat, typos will happen to you a bit more often – the more work you devote to ferreting them out, the less it will happen but it will always be more than it is in 90% of stuff that passes through a traditional publisher.
What I’m saying is, don’t panic. Read through your story. Open it in your favorite word processing software and blow it way up until it fills the screen side to side and focuses on only a few lines at a time, and proof it with care. That helps in finding typos, way more than I thought was possible when I first gave it a try. Or print a copy and go over it slowly, red pen in hand. Fix all the typos you can find. Then submit your new typo-freeish copy as a new version. Make a little effort to let your readers know you cleaned it up. Tell ’em on Facebook, Twitter, your author site, whichever place(s) folks are paying attention to you. Let them know you’ve fixed your typo-ing ways and mean to do better going forward. If you really mean it and put the work in to publish the cleanest copy you possibly can, they’ll notice the difference. They may not say so, but they will. And new readers will come away with a better impression of you.
BOTTOM LINE: IT IS EASIER AND FASTER TO SUBMIT A NEW VERSION THAN UNPUBLISH ALTOGETHER
If you take your time and think about it, you might still come to the conclusion that you want that story gone. Unpublishing is your call, in the end. But be aware – it’s more likely to be a big fat pain in your butt than submitting a new version. There are a few horror stories [like this one] about the hassles of unpublishing. That’s because the self-publishing system is set up to facilitate the submission of new versions of the text and/or cover art, and it’s NOT set up to facilitate taking a story down. Yes, your dashboard at Smashwords or whatever may have a handy-dandy UNPUBLISH link right there to use. And THEY may take it out of their catalog instantly or reasonably close to instantly. But while a fresh version of the text may be automatically accepted by iTunes and Barnes & Noble and so on and so forth, a takedown may not be. An order to unpublish seems to be much more likely to go ignored, and then you have to email or call that publisher, which will tell you to talk to support wherever you self-published, which will either tell you to go back to that publisher or alternately tell you they’ll try sending the request (REQUEST? IT’S NOT A REQUEST DAMMIT I TOLD YOU TO TAKE THE STORY DOWN) again and please wait at least three weeks to see if it worked… UGH WHAT A PAIN IN THE BUTT NOW I HAVE TO MAKE A NOTE ON MY CALENDAR TO EMAIL YOU BOZOS AGAIN TO SEE IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED THIS TIME WHY DIDN’T I JUST SUBMIT A REVISED TEXT MAYBE THAT’S WHAT I’LL DO OH WAIT IT’S UNPUBLISHED AND NOW THEY SAY I CAN’T JUST REPUBLISH IT AGAIN DO I PICK A NEW TITLE FOR IT OR WHAT I LIKED THE OLD TITLE AND WHAT WILL MY READERS THINK IF THEY BUY WHAT THEY THINK IS A NEW STORY BUT IT’S JUST AN OLD ONE GUSSIED UP A BIT HELLO MORE 1-STAR REVIEWS OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE
And that’s why my advice to you, with all respect, is: if you want to unpublish a story for whatever reason, you’re better off fixing what you feel is wrong with it and submitting the corrections as a new version. Even if it’s radically different than the old. There’s precedent in traditional publishing – remember a little story titled Ender’s Game? Before it was a classic novel of the SF genre and a movie, it was a short story and it changed quite a lot between short story and novel. If Mr. Card can do it, so can you.
(This post originally appeared on my Patreon, on 30 January 2016. You can see the post there, or see why I’m on Patreon (hint: I FIGURED OUT WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP YAAAY BUT OH MONEY YEAH I DON’T HAVE MUCH OF THAT STUFF) by clicking appropriately. Here or there, thanks for reading.)
Do you write? I’m sorry to be the one telling you this, but your plot has holes. Even if you don’t write, I’m sure you’ve noticed the holes lurking in what you read and watch.
You can’t avoid them; they’re as sticky as death and taxes.
And suddenly, with that, I sense a million teachers and writers of writing cry out in anguish at this great disturbance in the authorial Force.
Hold on a minute. I’m not telling everyone that plot holes are good, fine, or even okay. Lazy writers who sighed in relief at the pronouncement that plot holes can’t be resisted, tense up again.
Plot holes are not things you should be leaving in writing – for the page or for the screen – if you can help it. You’re supposed to be looking for them and carefully stapling them shut as unobtrusively and believably as possible. That is your job as a crafter of fine writing.
What I’m telling you is that no matter how carefully you (and your editor(s)) work to find and repair plot holes, they are there. Even if you’re certain they’re not. In fact, some of the plot holes people find aren’t actually there.
Because that’s how human brains work. We sense patterns and we reflexively look for holes in them. Plots are patterns, and holes are… well, they’re holes. For millions of years our ancestors lived and died, and we still do, by our sense of pattern. The grasses of the African plains represent a pattern, and a lion stalking through them creates a hole in the pattern, a hole that moves and will eat you if you don’t notice it. The ones who were best at noticing were best at living long enough to reproduce and transport their genes into the future. The hole in the pattern in the environment that represents a fish or a deer or a rabbit or a bird or a bird’s nest filled with yummy nutritious eggs (mention sponsored by the S.A. Barton Really Likes Eggs For Breakfast And Sometimes Other Meals Too Because They’re Delicious Foundation) represents the ability not to starve, and obviously organisms that eat are better at reproducing at those that do not.
We still work that way. Misinterpreting the patterns of traffic or war or politics or finance or law can make or break a life sometimes.
We’re all about patterns. Patterns are life, and stories are patterns. We love to create them because we’re geared to appreciate them. And we love to look for the holes in them.
People even find plot holes that don’t exist in real life. Some people are certain that breaking a mirror causes bad luck, and they can explain what they’ve observed that ‘proves’ this. Others just know that the movements of the planets influence your personality and choices. There are a plethora of theories that explain the significance of number sequences in determining world events, of bumps on your head to your place in society, of the impossibility of landing on the moon, of skyscrapers constructed to collapse straight down rather than falling like dominoes collapsing straight down, even the impossibility of the Earth being a shape other than flat.
So you’re written your story. You, and perhaps some beta readers and/or editorial types have gone over them, helped you find plot holes you missed in your own process of writing and rewriting and polishing, and you’re pretty sure you’ve smoothed the holes all over.
Someone will think of something you didn’t think of. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”
Someone will see something that isn’t there at all. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”
Someone will decide that the world of your story itself should be different, or that Character X really wouldn’t do that. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”
So, if you write, do your best. Take plot holes seriously, and kill them when you find them. Mount their heads on the wall if it pleases you. But don’t obsess. If you do, you’ll start to see holes that aren’t there, and you’ll never escape the cries of “Hey, I found a plot hole!” no matter how hard you try.
So, I’ve had a presence over at Patreon for a few months now. I’ve written about how it wasn’t quite clicking for me, and what I’ve changed to make it better (please check it out, link opens in new tab) over there in more detail, but I also wanted to address it here. Because, after all, this is my site and my blog and it seemed sort of important.
My first goal as a writer is to write things that people will enjoy reading, and maybe inspire some thoughtfulness along the way.
But tied for first is my ambition to make a career out of this writing thing. A career that can support my family and me. So, crowdfunding. Patreon seemed like a better choice than others since my focus is on the long term, not a short-term project that you might see on Kickstarter or its various cousins.
My revised approach to Patreon, I think, is more interesting and more rewarding to my supporters than the old approach. The picture at the head of this post contains the core of it — show the people who support me there my work first. Even my posts here will appear there before they appear here.
I hope some of you who read here will support me there. Trust me, every penny counts. I wouldn’t be living in a trailer instead of a nice house if it didn’t.