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bear by san

March 2017



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twain & tesla

don't let the vengeance of heaven begin

Poppy posted this today. For those of you who have read Carnival, I swear upon my life I have never seen that tomb carving before.

One of the things I am finally really internalizing as a writer is that part of what makes a book good is the Cool Shit. Which is to say, really really good books are in fact usually full of awesome. (Many completely disposable books are also full of awesome. Awesome alone does not a literary masterpiece make. It does, however, get people to read the damned things.)

Now, I'm not a proponent of the three-act structure, or scene-and-sequel, or any of the prescriptivist Ways Of Writing Commercial Fiction. Of course, what I write is commercial fiction, in that it's intended for a general audience. But I firmly believe that that does not mean it has to be hackwork, or predictable, or consolatory, or crap. So when I say "full of awesome," what I mean is that one of the ways that fiction is entertaining is by being full of cool, inventive, amazing things.

This is especially true of fantasy and SF novels. We even have a term for it. We are, as far as I know, the only genre that does have a term for it. We call it Sensawunda. Sensawunda, of course (say it out loud, with an American accent) is just another way of saying "cool shit."

Or, if you prefer, full of awesome.

See, I think often when we are young innocent writerses, we write stuff that is full of awesome. And then we grow up, and try to be taken seriously, and become very concerned with other stuff.

But here's the thing about full of awesome. Full of awesome will make readers read your books. Full of awesome will make them keep reading your books while you figure out how the hell to write, and become a literary mastermind.

And then you will be Terry Pratchett.


Think about that for a minute, and then get back to me.

Progress notes for 23 January 2007


New Words:  804
Total Words: 36,687
Words for the Year: 38,124
Pages: 176
Deadline: Sometime in June or July, I'm guessing
Reason for stopping: quota

Stimulants:  shiraz
Exercise: geocaching: fell on my butt three times, too.
Songs mutilated: none
Mammalian assistance: The cat is demanding recompense for me being out all day
Mail: nomail

Darling du Jour: His face gave away nothing, but Rien was still holding his hand.
Mean Things: meeting the 'rents

There's always one more quirk in the character: Rien can get her back up about things like you would not believe. Also, she found the theme.
Other writing-related work: none
Books in progress: Phyllis Ann Karr, The Arthurian Companion; Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels including the fallen angels; J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring;
The Internet is full of Things:  if you haven't already seen this: sam clemens on the literary offenses of james fenimore cooper


Yep, I really like the full of awesome school of thought...
Yes. The full of awesome is the shiny that keeps me writing a book (or jiggering a short-story).

Although I'm not sure my sensawunda (including the definition of awe that people should step back from) is entirely in tune with the rest of the world's :)
full of awesome

Is this another name for what Steven Brust calls the Cool Stuff theory of literature? Because I like theories like that.

Pretty much, yes.
...damnit, my brain has rotted.

That particular carving? There are about eight of them; I don't *think* the Metairie is the original, but I may be wrong. It has been copied several times, and for good reason; it's beautiful.

Ha! Wikipedia to the rescue: Angel of Grief she is.


::bambi eyes::

I can be Terry Pratchett?
But it sounds sooo much better with an Aussie accent.
Try it...

G'day mate, I'm gonna head down to grab some fair dinkum and find me some sensawunda.


If Cool Shit were a literary movement, it is the one movement I would wholeheartedly embrace. I espouse it regularly whenever anybody asks me for writing advice.
Yum Terry Pratchett have big house nice car stop
For me, the full of awesome is the part where I read over what I just wrote and giggle to myself because I have no idea where it came from but man, it was a great idea.

Like Unseelie fairy godmothers. You KNOW Angelina Jolie has one of these.
Dunno. I read early Pratchett not so much for sensawunda as for the Funny, though I suppose maybe that can also be accounted as Cool Stuff. I think Pratchett's triumph was that he didn't lose the Funny as he grew into a literary mastermind.

Pratchett is unusual in staying within the same constraints and growing so much inside them. I can think of few writers who achieved anything analogous - Dorothy L. Sayers is one, but with considerably less output. That is, I can think of writers whose last book was better than their first; I can think of writers who kept the same quality throughout a long series with the same world or characters (Agatha Christie, say). I can't think of many other worlds sustained for more than a few books that didn't go sharply downhill.
Funny is Cool Stuff. One of the many things that can be Cool Stuff.

Weird. I was just thinking about this sort of thing this morning, myself. I've been trying to figure out why some authors have "staying power" and other don't. I think maybe this whole sensawunda thing might be a big part of it.
Isn't it odd?
Very broadly:

If you have sensawunda and nothing else, no one will remember you.

If you have everything else and no sensawunda, no one will notice you.
I like that!
I wonder, do you think William Shakespeare considered himself a commercial or a literary artist? (talking of someone whose work is full of awesome)

Good point, well made. Must remember.
Will? Commercial.

Ben? Literary and bitter.

Kit? Slumming.