Friday, 20 February 2015

Rape In Fiction

In my last post I criticised Prince Of Thorns for cruelty and rape which I didn't think was necessary for the story, and - in fact - damaged it. But my mind wouldn't leave it there. I tend to dwell. And I worried that I was being hypocritical.

There is a reference to rape in my first novel. I had pondered it a few times, worried about it, contemplated removing the reference. I can't help but revisit things and question their significance and relevance and whether they are justified or not. It’s one of the reasons I included the question as to whether Turner was anti-Welsh in my FAQ (my conclusion: no; it would have been a strange attitude for anyone to accuse me of; although I hate nationalism, I’ve lived in Wales since the 20th century and spent nearly half my life here.)

Over time I have pondered whether I should remove the reference to rape from Turner. Easily done, since it's only a few lines. Many readers might not even notice it, since it's a passing reference during one of the villain's speeches, an ominous scene that leads up to a torture (which also isn't shown). I don't think it's ever been mentioned in a review of Turner.

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Review: Prince Of Thorns


Prince of Thorns
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



I had heard about this novel's nasty teenage protagonist, Jorg, and bought the book because (as a writer myself) I was specifically interested in how a novelist could create any sympathy for an unpleasant protagonist; or, rather, whether they could succeed in this.

Well, the nastiest references to acts are near the start, when we casually discover that the protagonist raped, then burnt women alive. I almost put the book down at that point, but I wanted to know how, if at all, the writer would try and redeem Jorg. Well, he doesn't really. You can't. What happens is that so much occurs quickly that later events just swamp out the first few pages. Also, later explanations imply diminished responsibility for Jorg. None of that convinced me though. After finishing the novel I think it would have been better without those extra nasty references at the start. My dislike of the protagonist for that was never overcome, and the acts were beyond what was required to establish the antihero. I know that the author was partly inspired by A Clockwork Orange, but that doesn't mean that the worst parts needed to be emulated.

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Finding Formats


We all know how to find words and phrases in a document: but have you ever wanted to find all items in a document that are underlined, for example? Or a particular word, but only when it is not in bold? It turns out you can do that easily in Word. I needed to track down all words in italics today, to check that usage matched my style guide, and it was surprisingly easy. If you want to know how to do it then there's a quick way here, and more options here. It's a handy tip for finding instances of formatting in long documents, particularly for enhancing consistency.
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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Words And Names


What are words? Just combinations of letters or sounds that have shared meaning. Or, in some cases such as a name, perhaps no other meaning than "this is what we call this individual item/person". In a logical world there would be no restrictions on names, because language is truly democratic and owned by all. However, we do not live in a logical world: companies and governments work together to restrict certain combinations for reasons of profit or control. Newspeak began a long time prior to 1984.

I got thinking about this when some friends told me last night that parents were not allowed to name their child Nutella. It's a silly name, but then again why should names be as bland as Charles or Brad? Although I'm not overkeen on names like Fifi Trixibelle or Satchel, at least the name is an outright admittance of difference, not some attempt to just choose from a limited pot out of fear of breaking with convention.

When I created characters and NPCs in role-playing games I rolled letter dice and used them to come up with names. But more and more words are getting legal restrictions, for example due to being registered as trademarks. Even words which weren't created by a company can be trademarked and restricted. Apple is a good example. Surely the trademark people should have said, “Apple? Sorry, that’s a real thing. You can’t trademark it for yourselves. Why not choose Apel? Apfruit? Drangus? There are limitless possibilities to make up words and combine them, why do you want to steal a word made by others?" Nah, that would be too sensible. So companies continue to steal from our language store. Please can I trademark the word glass? Memory? Candy? Of course.

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