Guest post: Point of view and language by Naomi Aoki

As a Romance Writer, my preferred method of crafting stories is to write them in third-person limited/dual point of view. I like being able to convey both sides of the story as a relationship between the two main characters develops. Occasionally one of the secondary characters will get a word in and give their opinion on proceedings, but there needs to be a darn good reason for them doing so – or they are just too damn noisy.

In saying that, my characters can get rather vocal while I’m drafting, shouting out their wishes and desires until I write it down, sometimes it’s even contrary to how I thought the story should go… but it is their story to tell… and I’m getting side-tracked.

But, in my current WIP, my preferred method of storytelling is not the one I’m using. Instead it’s being written in third-person/single point of view, for two reasons.

Firstly, I like to challenge myself to try different ways of writing something, because if you aren’t learning through making mistakes, your writing won’t improve – can’t.
Secondly, it’s the only way this story could be told, effectively. It’s definitely a challenge and throwing up questions about how I handle all sorts of issues within the story narrative that might not have been thought of if I’d continued with a dual point of view.

So why? And how is it challenging?

The why is easy, or at least for me – and other writers may have chosen to stick with dual point of view or even switched to first-person narrative – with the story being a historical romance set between two people of vastly different cultures and around an often over looked conflict. I suppose being bookended by the Boer War and World War I, it is easily done, but it is also interesting in that during the short duration of The Boxer Rebellion in 1900, nations who would soon be fighting against each other, fought alongside each other on Chinese soil… then again European Nations, probably not that surprising and I’m getting side-tracked again. I didn’t think I could do the Chinese side of the story justice if I tried to write it in dual point of view, and so made the decision to write the story from the point of view of the British character.

And the how… well let’s just say it would be rude to assume everyone in the world spoke English or had universal translators at hand. So, the challenge was how to show the reactions, the beliefs and the cultural situation of the Chinese character without doing just that and to also show the developing relationship between the two main characters.

I mean, he could remain silent, the British character being constantly confused or through the wishy-washy- hand-wavy ways of giving a small insight into what is happening with their interactions. Again, I didn’t want to do that. It felt like I would be either trying to white-wash the whole thing or come across very dismissive of the Chinese character.
Instead I chose to incorporate the Chinese Language – Mandarin – into the story, whenever he couldn’t express something with the limited English he did know. I never thought when I decided to learn Chinese four years ago that I would be using it to write love scenes… but I have and I think the story is richer for it.

What it has meant is that I now have a draft manuscript littered with Chinese sentences I need to double check the grammar for or hunt out better ways of expressing it; sentences in brackets waiting to be translated and ones which I’ve put into it, but forgot to put the English translation beside it and I can’t remember exactly how I wanted to word it in English. Whoops. Sometimes I end up spending hours translating from one language to the other… minutes that flow past quick because it’s a lot of fun doing it or at least to me it is.

Naomi Aoki would love to runaway to Japan or China and live there for a few years… but she can’t. Instead she goes there in her books, hoping to drag the reader into a world they’ve never been to before. Historical. Contemporary. Time offers no constraint to the stories she writes, happily dabbling in both so long as there is a happy ending.
Find her on Twitter and Pinterest

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The Black Cat (1934)

The Black Cat
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Peter Ruric “suggest by” a story by Edgar Allen Poe
(number 266)

Content warning: animal killed off screen

So this film is basically what Manos the Hands of Fate wanted to be. It’s the same kind of ‘you’re stranded in the wilderness and you have to take shelter in this weird ass house’ storyline. And the people who live in the house just happen to be involved in some dark doings.

You know you’re in for fun when both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are in it.

This movie is exactly what you’re expecting it to be. It actually gave me really big flashbacks to when the Incredibly Strange Film Festival used to be a thing at the Paramount Theatre in Wellington. This is just the kind of weird old movie they’d have dug out and screened.

I remember going to see an old Vincent Price horror there one year (which felt very similar), I must’ve been a student or just out of university. It was House on Haunted Hill and it was a bit more on the batty side than Black Cat was. But I loved the feeling of going to the theatre and seeing some of my similarly geeky friends, or seeing people way cooler than me, or just seeing a whole lot of people in for some schlocky good times. The screenings were often big on audience participation with people throwing out one liners or cheering and booing. It was a big thrill if you made a joke and other people laughed at it, although not all the one liners were particularly witty.

I suspect this film would be more enjoyable with some friends and some drinks, as it is it’s a pretty stock standard horror with a satan worshipping cult and a narrow escape for our lead couple. There’s some grisly bits, some gore but nothing compared to a horror movie made today.

Does it make me love the people? Sure, although they’re all so two dimensional. Joan and Peter are our heroes and we’re rooting for them. Gotta love Bela Lugosi as well.

Bechdel test: There’s Joan and Karen and although a few of the unnamed women in white kidnap Joan, we never see them talk to each other.

Best line:

Peter: this is a very tricky house, you know. The kind of place where I’d like to have company.

Joan: what happened last night? Did I do anything silly?
Peter: Silly? how could you do anything that wasn’t entirely lovely?

State of Mind: I mean, this was fine. It didn’t blow my mind, but I might be tempted to grab a couple of friends and some drinks and watch it again for the laughs. Probably I’d choose House on Haunted Hill instead just because it had a higher rate of WTF-ery going on.

Watched movie count

Guest post: Never Say Never by Darusha Wehm

Ten years ago I wrote the book that would become Self Made, the first in the Andersson Dexter cyberpunk detective series. Ten years is a long time as a writer. Ten years is also a long time when you’re writing about near future technology*. Things change. I change. It’s the way of things.

After Self Made, I wrote two more books in that series, the third of which was published in 2012. That’s five years ago. Not as long as ten, but still a lifetime as a writer. In those five years, I’ve had readers ask when the next book will be out. I’d always answered, “I don’t have any plans for another one, but never say never.”

It’s not that I was tired of those characters, or the subgenre, or the story. It was more like I thought I’d gone everywhere that I wanted to in that world. I thought the interesting part of their story was done, and we all just needed to carry on.

But the last year has been… interesting. I was in between projects and feeling at a loose end as a writer, and also thinking a lot about the toll that resistance and protest can take on people. At some point in there I remembered that trying to make a lasting change on the world was where I’d left those characters in the Dex series. And maybe the work they were embarking on was more interesting that I’d really thought.

Reader, I wrote that next book.

I was right to say never say never. The world had changed; I had changed, and come to a place as a writer and human where I did want to go back and revisit those old, familiar faces. I enjoyed coming to that world with new skills and ideas, new understanding about those characters and new understanding about myself.

I’ve always said of my old work that if I wrote it now I’d do it differently, but that I have no desire to go back and change it. And one of the joys of returning to this old series was being able to write that work and those people the way I do it now, without losing what made the older books what they are.

* I’m honoured to have had the unique experience of trading copies of my books (in which I describe characters with implanted chips in their hands that do things like unlock their apartments) in exchange for receiving a chip implanted in my own hand just like the ones I wrote about.

Darusha writes speculative fiction and poetry as M. Darusha Wehm and mainstream work as Darusha Wehm, and is the author of ten published novels, several poems and many short stories. Originally from Canada, Darusha currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after spending the past several years sailing around the Pacific.

Previously Reciprocity by Lee Murray

Guest Post – Reciprocity by Lee Murray

Imagine a writer, hunched and shrunken at their desk, toiling alone in the semi-darkness, the ground around their feet littered with balled up yellow legal paper. It’s not so hard to conjure because, at its core, writing is a solitary business. Words on a page. Pages into chapters. Eventually, our industrious scribe has the first draft of a short story, or a series of poems, or even a full-length book. They emerge, sallow and blinking, into the light.

“I’ve finished my manuscript!!”
“Really? That’s so great. Go you!”
“I’m going to fire it off to Big-Five & Co Publishers, right now.”
We try not to cringe. “Um sorry, no, it’s not publishable yet.”
They frown. “Of course, it is. I spent all of November on it. I got an excellence in [insert high school writing course] and I’ve done all this hard work!”
“You’re absolutely sure there are no plot holes, character inconsistencies, and you haven’t tied everything up with an unsatisfying act of god ending?”
“Not that I can see. And anyway, it won’t matter if I decide to self-publish, will it?”

Since of late their only sustenance has been a diet of coffee and Tim Tams and the state of their fingernails suggests a severe lack of Vitamin D, we ignore the implication that self-published works don’t matter, and say gently, “Even if the traditional route isn’t for you, your name will be on the cover. Surely, you’ll want to be able to stand behind the work? You’ll want it to be the very best it can be?”
Their face falls, shoulders slump, and they nod. “Well, what am I supposed to do then? I spent all my holidays working on this. It’s not like I can afford thousands of dollars for editing.”
We try not to splutter, because commissioning editors have lives too, and slush piles that have been waiting so long they have melted into lakes. So when an editor comes across work with structural issues, a surfeit of exclamation marks, annoying TAB indents, space bar-spacebar-spacebar-spacebar, it’s hardly surprising that they might bypass those works in favour of titles with less onerous editing requirements.”

Of course, it’s possible our determined writer has a story which is destined to be bigger than Hobbits. Possible, but unlikely. These days, if writers want their work to stand out in the squizillions of titles out there, they can’t afford not to get it edited. Still, living in self-inflicted solitude for the last [month/year/decade], our writer is a fragile creature – in fact, they look set to burst into tears at any minute, so we must tread carefully.

“Maybe you could join a writing community?” we suggest.
Our would-be writer fiddles with a paperclip. “Ugh, people!” they wail.
“Do you want to improve your writing or not?”
Quiet mumbling.
“Look, it doesn’t have to be a major professional group, although there are some fantastic societies out there, all running amazing programmes for their members. Informative, educational, current. There’s the HWA, SpecFicNZ, AHWA…”
The writer rolls their eyes.
“Okay, so start small with a writing buddy, or a few local writers who meet over coffee, or sign up to an online writers’ network. People who are writing in your genre—”
“But I’m not ready for anyone to read my writing yet!”
We smile.
“Sure, you could decide to join to get your work critiqued or mentored. You might tap into the group’s knowledge of markets and publishers and what that weird ‘option’ clause is all about. You could also meet at the bar on a Friday evening and moan about the lack of funding opportunities for [insert your genre here]. All excellent reasons for joining a group, but there’s something else. Another reason for joining…”
Our imaginary writer taps their foot. They’ve been sequestered for some time, and their patience is wearing thin.
“Because you’ll be able to reciprocate,” we say.
“What?”
“Look, lots of writers join groups in order to get their work critiqued, but they forget the other side of the equation. Reciprocating in kind. Because reading, and critiquing other work in your genre is one of the quickest ways to improve your skills.”
Our writer’s forehead wrinkles dubiously.
“Think about it,” we say, warming to our theme, “if you can recognise a gaping plot hole, a character inconsistency, a weird POV switch, tense and tension issues, adverbs ad nauseum, or a lame ending that wouldn’t convince a six-year-old in someone else’s writing, and if you can suggest fixes for those issues, then you’ll have gained valuable techniques for polishing your own work.”
Our writer’s eyes grow wide. “I get to read other people’s work before anyone else has seen it?”
“Yes, and you—”
“Point out all the flaws? Pick it to pieces?”
“Well, that’s not exactly—”
“And mark it up with red pen?”
:You’re missing the point: at the end of it, you’ll have a whole heap of skills you can apply to editing your own manuscript, and, if you’ve taken care not to stomp all over someone’s else’s baby – being sure to commend, recommend and trying not to offend ‒ then there’s a chance you’ll come out of it with a bunch of supportive like-minded writer colleagues, who’ll be just as invested in your book as you are, and can help you to promote it on release day.”
Our writer giggles. They haven’t slept in a while. “That sounds like a good idea.”
“So, you’ll join a writers’ group?”
“Yes, but later; I’m due for another Tim Tam.” Then they disappear in a puff of blue smoke.

Well, of course they did: they were imaginary.

Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning writer and editor of fantasy, science fiction, and horror (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows). Her recent works include the Taine McKenna military thriller series, and Hounds of the Underworld (Raw Dog Screaming Press) a supernatural crime-noir co-written with Dan Rabarts. She lives with her family in New Zealand, where she conjures up stories from an office overlooking a cow paddock.

Hounds of the Underworld: https://www.amazon.com/Hounds-Underworld-Path-Dan-Rabarts/dp/1935738968

Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day
Directed by Harold Ramis
Written by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin based on a story by Danny Rubin
(number 267)

I’m sure I must have, at some point seem a bunch of this movie. Like, it used to be on TV a lot in the nineties. I’m sure I’ve seen the start of it anyway. But I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing. I seen a whole lot of media that riffs off this though. The most notable being the Mystery Spot episode of Supernatural.

Phil is your typical eighties yuppie, wanting everything to be about him, wanting to be noticed, and bored with the cutesy human interest story. Honestly? He’s not that bad. Sure he’s a little impatient with people but on the scale of garbage people he’s not particularly evil. I think if this got made again it’d probably have him being quite a lot grosser or unforgivable. But as it is, I guess it’s meant to be pretty gentle all round.

It’s pretty fun to watch him learn things about the town and the people in it. The way he tries out a few things: drinking, seducing women, dressing up in cowboy outfits, dying, etc.

He has enough days repeated that he learns how to play the piano really well. That’s kind of a horror movie thing right? He must’ve had thousands of that same day. According to this website he was stuck there for over eight years doing the same day over again, but it was initially meant to be ten thousand years which is pretty intense. A bit too many days, a bit much on the horror side.

Does it make me love the people? Sure. Rita is a sweetheart and Phil learns to do good deeds and get out of his trap. I dunno if there’s enough screentime for any of the others to really get to know them. In terms of loving the human condition it does make you think about what you would do if you were stuck in that situation. Learning a musical instrument does seem like an excellent use of time. I reckon I’d read lots and lots of books as well. I could get through this whole 500 list in one day!

Bechdel test: No, Andie Macdowell’s Rita and in fact, all the other women, only talk to Phil.

Best line:
Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.

State of Mind: totally fine, enjoyable Romantic Comedy with a bit of a sci fi twist. Pretty fun! I may even watch it again on a sick day or something. Watching this movie did give me a whole lot of nostalgia for the various comedies I watched on network TV with my family in the nineties. Things like Joe Vs the Volcano and Ghostbusters and Four Weddings, which all have this same kind of cynical veneer over a very sweet and gentle heart.

Watched movie count

Writing posts

So I’m aware this blog has lately been just movie reviews and the odd craft update. I’m planning to take my fiction a little more seriously and have already started putting short fiction out for consideration in publications. I’m also seriously considering getting into self publishing my work. Taking things more seriously has meant me going to a few conferences this year and meeting some amazing writers.

I recently wrapped up another month of writing like crazy. I did NaNoWriMo, which is my second time officially competing in November, but I have also done a couple of ‘camp Nano’s where you do it ‘off season’. It’s good fun and it works for me to have that incentive. Now I have one short novella to finish up and then a world of editing before me. So not a ton of time to craft blog posts or indeed watch many of my 500 list movies.

But, some of my amazing writer friends have books coming out soon, or have books already on the market which you might be interested in. So I’ve decided that for the next few months I’ll have some guest posts on the blog. The specifications for content I’ve given the authors is pretty vague: around 1000 words, about writing, or your creative process, something you’ve learned or anything really.

Anyway dear readers, I hope that you enjoy what’s to come!

Related: if you’re an author and would like to participate please get in touch, I have a pretty great line up, but if I can push this out another month or so I’m happy to.