Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Post Mortem: Death of a Barbarian, pt II

Pity the poor Trooper, out there prepping Lee Lee's Valise for Black Friday and possible movie-stardom, but who took some time to critique my Taylon Doon story. Thanks to Darcy, who also read it. And anyone else who read it, if anyone. It's not clear to me from the WordPress reports.

Trooper gave some great feedback; as a voracious reader, he knows writing like I know biting.

Writing in that style is not as easy as it is cracked up to be. A real pulp writer who wrote great stuff like Robert Howard or John Norman are people with a lot of talent who decide to write in that genre. That's not to say you don't have a lot of talent, but I think it tends in a much more modern post ironic way while the novel you were attempting requires belief in the conventions not a tongue in check bow to it. Someone like Raymond Fiest or SM Stirling or Harry Turtledove writes in a more sedate version of this style, as there are very very few writers who could pull off a full blown saga in the style you were attempting to use.

Hmmm. I really wasn't trying to be "post-ironic" but I suppose I can't exactly help that. I wasn't exactly trying to mimic Howard or Norman because it's hard enough to write in one's own style under the gun.

But what certainly happened was that as I created the story, I had trouble seeing how I was going to get the reader to understand what was going on. Taylon, as a barbarian, by necessity doesn't know what's going on. Doc has a better idea and I figured that using Taylon as a contrast, Doc could let the reader in on what was going on as he learned.

The other way to go would've been to go from Taylon's POV or a neutral 3P but that felt too limited. On the other hand, it directly led to what Troop observed next:

I think the problem was you were describing action rather than just plunging in. You were Robert Altman instead of John Ford. You wouldn't be corny if you weren't afraid to be corny if you know what I mean. Less is more in the action genre. Don't describe, just do.

Yes, I had this problem a lot. The subsequent action scenes were more immediate, but I suspect the problem comes from wanting to keep a little mystery.

That's easy for me to say I have always wanted to write but have never had the time. Although the rise of alternative historical fiction has given me so many ideas that I think my head would explode.

Well, I join Troop's readers in encouraging to take it up as a serious avocation.


  1. You're welcome, of course. Interesting critique from Trooper. :)

    I join you in encouraging him to write more. I don't comment a lot over there, but I read quite a bit, and he has great style. Seems sort of effortless, too.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Thanks guys. I am dropping in snippets of what I was thinking about. It has been percolating for a while and is a in the tough guy genre sort of like the Sopranos only the way it really is not dressed up for TV. Chase did some of that but sort of sanitized a little. The only time he really showed it was with Feech LaManna the crazy old guy from prison who just beat the shit out of the lawn guy because he wanted his route. And when Paulie Walnuts smothered his mother's best friend to steal money from under her mattress.

  3. I would love to write a western or a science fiction alternative history story but that will take a lot more research. So the mob story will flow a lot easier.

  4. The barbarian stories are really hard to write because you don't want to just write cliched dreck. So you have to plan it out a little. It is really not as easy as it seems.

  5. Well, I did a lot of planning, but it was interesting that I was hampered by the nanowrimo "don't start writing until Nov 1".

    When I go into writing mode, the ideas start coming and I like start working on 'em. Back in the day I'd have a couple stories and a novel going at the same time.


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