I saw a question about writing without being offensive in a Facebook writer’s group today and thought I’d share some of my thoughts here. I was a lot gentler in the group. The (paraphrased) question was:
“How do you write a character who stands against Christianity without being offensive to readers?”
For the purposes of this discussion, replace the word “Christianity” with any topic you think might be a land mine.
You win some, you lose some, as the saying goes. Just as I was ramping back up on work on Necromancer Ascending, my ancient MSI laptop finally gave up the ghost. I’m talking brick territory.
It had been giving me problems, on and off, for the last year or so. A few months ago, I disassembled it and gave it a thorough cleaning (I’ve worked on and maintained PCs for more than 30 years, so this wasn’t a risky activity for me). Then, over the 4th of July weekend, it went into a continuous reboot cycle and finally died. It doesn’t even POST. The slight burning smell isn’t a great sign either…
If you’re observant, and you take a close look at the dates on these blog articles, you’ll see something disturbing. It’s been nearly an entire year since my last post. So, what’s been going on that has kept me so busy? More importantly, what the heck is the deal with Necromancer Ascending!?
Binary in fiction is often laughable to an engineer like me. You’ve all seen the same scenes I have. A scientific research facility gets a signal from outer space. After several try/fail cycles, one of the junior scientists has a Eureka! moment.
“Eureka! It’s binary!” the scientist says. [At least, I hope not. I really hope the writer does a better job than that. But, you get the idea.]
Within hours (or even minutes), the engineer translates the entire message to perfection (with images and blueprints even!) and we understand the message being sent by the alien civilization. We can then march off and build our new teleportation device, space ship, poverty-fixing widget, or, perhaps, merely learn the meaning of life.
Only one problem. Binary, in a vacuum, doesn’t simply translate directly to English words. Trust me…it doesn’t even do it in a Roomba. (Ba-dump-tis)
The upshot is this: You cannot simply translate binary to English (or any other language) without additional information.
Let’s find out why and how to fix it so that your scientist can at least appear to know what they’re talking about.
Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know that I periodically gather questions people ask on Twitter with an eye toward writing a larger response here. Some questions simply require more space or finesse than 280 characters will allow.
This isn’t one of them. But I’m going to do it anyway, because it has been too damned long since you friendly folks have heard from me!
As you can see from the first sentence, the question of the day is, “What is a dangling participle?”
You’ve been writing for days, months, years, perhaps decades. You have a few pages or paragraphs under your belt. Or, perhaps, you have partially finished manuscripts collecting dust somewhere. But, you just can’t bring yourself to use the word writer. Are you still an aspiring writer?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. You’re wrong. Misguided. Lacking a certain amount of self-confidence and a personal sense of authority and ownership. But, you’re not alone.
Let’s talk about a few of the things that might be holding you back from using the W-word.
Have you ever reached a point where the thought of opening Scrivener (or your document editor of choice) filled you with not only dread, but disgust? Have you ever stared at your laptop and silently uttered the words, “I just can’t even…”? It may not have had anything to do with lack of inspiration! It’s just that you couldn’t bring yourself to take another slog through your work-in-progress. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, I’m going to show you how to beat writer’s block in 30 minutes.
Every once in a while, an aspiring author reaches out to me to ask how I did it. How did I manage to accomplish the seemingly Herculean task of becoming a published author of a series of bestselling novels? While the voices of these authors are different, the sense of incredulity and exasperation are all the same. I can tell, through inference, that they’ve asked this question before of countless other authors. I suspect they’ve also received the very same answer I give them. But, it’s an answer they don’t like.
To become an author, you write, write, then write some more. And when you feel as if you can’t write another single blessed word, write two instead.
“Yes, yes,” they say. “We’ve heard that a million times! But how did you do it?”
I received a truly unexpected honor this morning. Jonathan Brill, Head of Global Writer Relations for Quora, reached out to me to inform me I’ve been named as one of their Top Writers for 2018.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the site, Quora is a question-and-answer site where anyone can sign up, post a question, and wait for answers to start rolling in. The awesome thing is that many of the people who are waiting to answer these questions are leaders in their industry, so the answers tend to be authoritative.
I’ve been writing on Quora for about a year now, mostly on topics involving software engineering and computer programming. What makes this honor that much more meaningful to me is that the answers I write to various questions are upvoted or downvoted by my peers in software engineering around the world.