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bear by san

July 2015

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bear by san

She spent thirty nights on a county cot, and she's regarded with fear to this day.

agentobscura has an interesting ramble on a bunch of topics, including author branding, over here.

This is something I think about a lot, actually, because I write different subgenres under the same name. And I really don't want to alienate my audience, because, as previously mentioned, the cat yells at me if she doesn't get fed. (I named her after the Queen of Connaught for a reason. Let's just leave it at that.)

On the other hand, it's not like there's any reason in the world to do this gig if one isn't having fun. And fun, for me, includes the ability to mix it up, to do something a little different every time. While I respect the richness of worldbuilding that writers can develop through an open-ended series in one setting, I'm not sure I could do that. (Which is why the Promethean Age stuff makes me so happy. I get to write a series... and I can go anywhere in the world! And play with the same characters if I want to--or introduce totally different ones.

Stroke of genius. If I do say so myself.

So what I try for is a consistency of tone. The narrative style varies, of course--Jenny's hard-boiled voice would be utterly wrong for The Stratford Man, say--but generally whatever I write will have certain elements in common. For example, it's generally emotionally fraught, and I'm as concerned with the character's internal lives as with the "plot." My characters aren't necessarily people you'd want to be stuck in an elevator with (although some of them are truly decent human beings--and some of the decentest do really terrible things. [Matthew, anybody?])

But they have pasts, and they have problems and lives outside the story. They've made big mistakes.

And many of them have pets.

Because pets are nice. (1)

Anyway, I write to be read, and I do want to give my readership what they want. (I want a readership that wants to be challenged, too. *g* It's like any relationship. We all walk in with our own demands, and then the things we're willing to negotiate on.) And of course you can't please everyone, as an artist.

So I think what we do is play to our strengths, shore up the weaknesses, and trust the people who are most in sympathy with our work to find it and love it. And those people--the ones who love it--are the ones who matter. They're the ones I'm writing to.

The ones who think I'm okay for a long plane flight, well, if I can scoop a few of them in to the rabid-reader circle by kicking them right in the squids, that's really nice. But as an artist, as a brand, what I have to be concerned with is the people who already have a bulletproof kink installed that I can hit, reliably, every time. (Tough girls. Personal honor, coupled with divided loyalties--there's a conflict I could read about (and write about) forever. Desperation stands. Refusing the gate. There's a scene in Scardown in which Jenny refuses an illegal order that is one of my favorite things I've ever written. I wrote it when I was halfway through Hammered, and I knew I was working toward it for a book and a half. Man, that bit hits all my kinks.)

Which is why, actually, I'm not overly concerned with bad reviews, especially when it becomes plain that what the reviewer didn't like about the book are the things I loved. Sorry, guys; I may love you as people, but if you don't have the right buttons factory installed, I will never be able to push them, and there's just no use in trying. Much like that Bonnie Raitt song says--

Which is not to say that I don't care what people think. Of course I care what people think. But I'm not going to sell beer to people who like soda pop; so I'd better concentrate on selling the best beer I possibly can to people who already like beer.

Or, to put it another way, 80% of the love comes from 20% of the readers. 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the readers.

These are not overlapping sets.

And this goes for every writer, I think. Figure out what you're good at, and become brilliant at it. Accept that you will not be brilliant at everything. Accept also that this does not excuse you from trying.




(1) Actually, that leads into a nice little digression on writing believable animals. Most writers... kind of suck at this. The thing is, animals are individuals. They have their own personalities and quirks and agendas. There's no such thing as a cat, any more than there's such a thing as a chair. It's this chair, right here, the one I'm sitting in with the scuffed plastic arms and the worn plaid nylon seat. It's that cat, up there, with the slightly sardonic expression concealed behind a veil of innocence.

***

Comments

Writing a story with a cat who is just a cat is as inexcusable as writing a story with a male lead who is just the male lead, or a female who is just a dame. People do it all the time, but I don't generally read those books.

absolutely.

and horses are not just bicycles.
...they aren't?

Damn, no wonder my tires kept going flat after a fresh shoeing!



Hee. Whiskey only shies when it suits him. But yeah, his personality is based on Stallions I Have Known.

...and oddly enough, a saddlebroke Percheron gelding, name of Mouser, who got his moniker because you didn't need barn cats to keep his stall clear of vermin.

He hated them. Hated 'em, Jake. WHAM!

You should see what a Perchy foot can do to a mouse.

Actually, you probably shouldn't.
...yanno, it would never even occur to me to write a scene with a horse taking a shit in it.

It would be like mentioning that the horse was breathing.

Getting pissed on by a mare, though...

...some of those girls *aim.*
...okay, that's just cool. *g*
Some little sparrow-type bird does this also, except that it's not her who gets to choose. Boy-bird observes his girl-bird having it away with some other boy; once the business is done, he comes down and harasses the poor girl (for values of 'harass' that are v sharp and uncomfortable) until pfui!, out comes the matter at hand, and then he replaces it with his own.
Then there are the dozens, if not hundreds, of interesting horsy ailments that always seem to come up at the most inopportune times, have the most improbable names, and even if they are treatable and not eventually fatal, seem to leave the horse on the disabled list for indeterminable (or interminable) periods of time.

Then there's the issue of horses with Bad Gaits. Even riding one with a good smooth distance gait, like a Walking Horse, is not the same as a ride in a car, or even on a bicycle.
Simon, the dog in my household, would would like to convey his thanks for your insistence that animals aren't interchangeable. Of course, his methods of distinguishing the cats in the house are a little less visually-oriented than yours and mine are, but still--They Are Not the Same Cat. He would also like to note that he is not the same as all other dogs. Also, it's been a while since he got a new bone with nummy bits on it, but that's not your job to fix, and he'll be taking it up with the relevant authorities.

Simon is a good dog.

Also, writing animals is good practice for writing aliens.
He will be delighted to hear you think so.
I really liked Jenny Casey’s concern for her cat; so many characters go off adventuring and leave everything behind, but not her.
I have this bad habit of sticking my protagonists with disabilities, pets, dayjobs, children, ailing parents or siblings....

Why should they have it easy just because they are in a fantasy novel?

(Anonymous)

Branding

lol You're on a roll this week. Thanks for yet another excellent post on some of the more layered issues facing a working writer. I'm all for branding, but it's an elusive beast since so often what we see as our brands, the reader see something completely different.

This writing gig is a lot more complicated than most people think.

Tam
Figure out what you're good at, and become brilliant at it. Accept that you will not be brilliant at everything. Accept also that this does not excuse you from trying.

If I knew you better, I'd blow you a kiss for that.
Well, how about a handshake? *g*
Deal. *handshake* :-)

Eve gets it...

Raise your fist, sistah!

Thank you

It's nice when a stranger's blog helps another stranger out, isn't it? When you said "Figure out what you're good at, and become brilliant at it. Accept that you will not be brilliant at everything. Accept also that this does not excuse you from trying" . . .that helped a lot. Because in my heart I do want to be brilliant at all sorts of writing . . .I love it so much. But you are right. I can't let the fact that I'm not brilliant at everything stop me from trying.

By the way, your blog sold a book. I will be picking up one of your's this week because I enjoy reading your blog. :-)

Re: Thank you

Well, thank *you.*

And hey, any way I can help. *g* It's what this thing is here for. Well, that and the narcissism, but we're working on that.