Rabbits, Ducks and Rampant thoughts.

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Bentley hamlet. The duck pond is just visible, to the right of the last building, on the nearside of the road

This evening I took a stroll to an adjacent village to feed the ducks on the pond.

A pleasant, relaxing outing; one that allows my writers mind to relax, to take a break from its normal state, which is one of constant overdrive of complex inventiveness.

I walked to this small village which contains, seven houses, one which is a converted chapel and two farms. To be absolutely accurate, I should call it a hamlet rather than a village.

This hamlet is only one and a half miles from my own home and the walk is along a quite country road. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on the hamlets pond.

Near the rear of the pond is a wooden bench of the type often found in public parks. It was donated by a group of women, I’m uncertain who, but their names are etched into a plaque on the rear of the seat. I thank them.

It is a tranquil spot, idyllic even.

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On my walk to the hamlet, I watched wild rabbits scurry into the dense undergrowth of bracken and bramble, dive headlong under hedgerows as my approach disturbed their grazing. Birds sung evensong, apart from the swifts and swallows which hunted on the wing, darting to and fro, seeking out their prey in a wondrous acrobatic aerial display.

I often walk, choosing various routes, partly as exercise, partly as relaxation and partly to wonder at the sheer variety of nature that is, so to speak, right on my doorstep. It is something I enjoy immensely.

This evening was no different until I saw a small rabbit, white tail bobbing as it ran down a steep bank, dodging the saplings, looking for somewhere to hide from my presence. Uncontrollably my mind took this as a prompt!

How would a body look rolling down that bank? “Imagine pushing it with your foot” it said, “watch it turn over and over as it falls”.

“Hey…what about this? running from zombies, or a mad axe murderer. Think about scrambling up the bank, slipping back into their gasp”.

I fought NOT to think of such things, pushed them to the back of my mind. Luckily, looking up, I caught sight of a Buzzard circling above the woodland. This stayed those musings…for a time.

2-ducks-on-a-pond-vaswaith-elengwinSoon, I was at the pond, sitting on the bench, watching a raft of ducks as they squabbled over the dried bread and old cake I casually tossed into the pond.

But my muse would not be quieted. “How deep is that water?” it asked. “Look, look a body is floating to the surface”. It was not; it is too heavily weighted to rise!

I shook my head to clear these notions. It worked, momentarily.

You see, the cottage opposite the pond has a small window, through which a pale yellow light was shining.

My mind spoke out again, “That is a lover’s hideaway. Two lost souls finding solace and love, a future together after all the turmoil and pain they have suffered”.

Sometimes I cannot control my own mind. It seeks inspiration and finds creative fertility of its own accord. Many times this is visual, like on this evenings stroll. Other times a voice, a sound, a few overheard words, sends it spiraling out of control.

I count this, most times, as a blessing and I am grateful to have this gift; but other times I regard it as a curse, as I did this night.

That’s all I have for you just now.

Goodnight, Paul.

 

© Paul White 2016

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Feel free to visit my website, take a look around, you may be surprised at what I get up to!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Why I am talking art on a writing blog.

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I have, at last, found enough time to catch my breath and write a new, long overdue post for this blog.

You see, I have had a busy start to this year.

First was the publication, in January, of my first children’s book, The Rabbit Joke, which is designed primarily as a ‘read to me‘ book.

A book for parents or older siblings, to read to the younger ones. The Rabbit Joke lends itself to being read to groups in schools and kindergartens too.

The Rabbit Joke is an outsized, hardcover, fully illustrated, perfect bound, landscape book, from https://www.peecho.com/print/en/263512

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In February, I released ‘Life in the War Zone’ a collection of stories, based on true accounts, of what life is like living between warring factions in an area of conflict.

Life in the War Zone takes a serious, no holds barred look at the devastation and trauma of life in the battlefields of the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Lebanon and El Salvador.

Ebooks are available direct from me, via my website. http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

Paperbacks from Amazon.

USA https://www.amazon.com/Life-War-Zone-collection-personal/dp/1542338700  

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-War-Zone-collection-personal/dp/1542338700

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Also during February, I published a ‘Coffee Table’ book called ICONIC, or to give it its full title, Iconic – Legends of music immortalised in art.

Iconic is an 8 x 8 inch, hardcover, perfect bound, glossy, book, containing a number of my own artworks, portraits of some of the most well-loved musical talent ever known, such as David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis and many more.

With each portrait is an abridged biography of each artist, covering their life and times. https://www.peecho.com/checkout/14716200169619823/279042

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March saw the publication of The Pussers Cook Book.

This became an instant hit and an Amazon bestseller. It is still, as I write this over a month after the books launch, at number three in its Amazon category.

The Pussers Cook Book details twenty-two of the best loved dishes, served on Royal Naval ships circa 1960’s to 1980’s. Along with the recipes, there are plenty of jokes and tall stories, some legendary myths are also dispelled!

You do not have to be a sailor to enjoy the Pussers Cook Book. It makes the perfect gift for a freind or loved one.

Paperbacks from Amazon. goo.gl/eTwfWN  

Hardcover from my printers.  www.peecho.com/print/en/282666

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You will see by this, why my time this year has been at a premium.

Now, I have touched on art, as in the title of this post, by mentioning my tribute to the great musicians in the book, ICONIC. Which clearly shows the link between writing, books and art.

As do all those millions of books with illustrations, photographs, pictures and images inside. Let alone the amazing and wonderful artistry shown by many book cover designers.

In that respect, books and art are almost inseparable, and never exclusive.


But there is more…

Art has always been a ‘go to‘ place for me, when I need to rest my mind from concentrating on writing. Whilst my form of art, digital painting, is still a creative discipline, it is creative in a totally differing way to the mindful concentration needed for writing.

In that respect, I find creating digital art relaxing, even ‘freeing up‘ the subconscious mind to continue its own creative endeavours, whilst I take my consciousness on a holiday of colour and form.

The problem arises, much as it does when writing, or I should say, when one has finished writing and has published their book.

Who will see it, who will read it, who will buy it?

It is all well and dandy to have a book, three books, ten? Sitting on the shelves getting dusty and covered in cobwebs. What we want, what we need is someone (Many someones) to come along and actually read our words.

The same is true of art. What is the point of creating wonderful, thought provoking, stimulating images if they are simply going to be stored as a digital code on a memory stick. If they are never going to be made onto a canvass, or a poster, or even printed onto a tee-shirt or coffee mug?

Both of those scenarios are, in my humble opinion, a total waste of time, effort and creative energy.

So…what to do about it all?

I have done a few things, in between launching and promoting my books! And I am unashamedly promoting them here. After all, why should I not?

Firstly, I have made a Facebook page to help direct people to my works.

The main site is my artwork website, where you can browse through a selection of works albums and find links to the other places my work is available. https://goo.gl/pyPI7i

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I have a compilation of distorted portraits I call my ‘Boggle Eyes’ collection available on Fine Art America. There are additional collections to be added to this site soon. https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/11-paul-white/shop

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I have a couple of designs with Threadless and shall slowly add to these as I create new work for that site.  https://paulwhiteart.threadless.com

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Finally, I have a few pieces of art, more graphic design oriented, on a site called Redbubble. https://www.redbubble.com/people/DesignPeeJay/shop?asc=u

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If you are an art lover and would like to support my endeavours in this field you can help by becoming a patron, at patreon. As an artist’s Patron you will receive an range of benefits in return for your ongoing support. https://www.patreon.com/paulwhite

That is why I am talking about art on a writing blog.

Thanks for reading this…if you have read this far!

I will be back to posting my normal Ramblings from now on.

Cheers, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

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Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.

For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is short respite.

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Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

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After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

Paul White.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steamy windows (All about the writers muse)

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    I was silently musing, as is my bent, when a certain thought kept returning. No matter how many times I dismissed the notion it would not leave me alone; eventually waking me in the early hours with its persistent nagging.

    I guess all writers, at least those of us who are serious about our craft, have such occasions?

    Personally, I find the only way to rid such daemons is to submit to their will, writing about whatever it is which plagues the mind.

    When I say write, I mean exactly and precisely that. I mean scribble the thoughts down in any way, shape, or form possible. Be it in a note book, a journal, incorporate the idea into your current novel, or do as I am now doing, write it as a blog post.

    As one writes the thoughts begin to unravel, they start to form strings of coherent meanings and possibilities. Unlike the tangled mass of haphazard notions previously running amok in the brain.

    As now, many threads appear, each one a possible tale or the premise of another book. This post is but one of those threads, others will follow.

    I already have a new short story to tell from these very words and shall write a draft as soon as I can, as soon as I finish this.

    I think of it, each idea, each notion, much like a kettle on the hob. The kettle is full, the gas burning brightly beneath. Slowly, as the water heats it begins to move, agitations growing as the temperature increases, until inevitably, the water comes to a galloping boil.

    This is the moment the lid starts to rattle, the whistle screams, steam escapes to fill the kitchen and condense on the windowpanes causing rivulets of water to run down and form puddles on the sills.

    That is how the muse builds up inside of us, the writers and authors. The note pads and keyboards are our lids and whistles. Our editors and proof-readers the rivulets and window panes.

    It is not until we have wafted away the steam, opened the said windows, letting fresh air circulate, can we finally put everything together and make that nice pot of tea.

    Of course, that is all a writer’s metaphorical whimsy. But I guess you get my gist?

    Now I sit at the kitchen table, drinking such tea and reading a book. Possibly your book, the one which you wrote as when your conceptual kettle boiled.

    Now all I need is a sweet biscuit to dunk…but that really is another story altogether!

    Happy daze, Paul.

    Why not read some of my short stories at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

When drinking beer is good for writing books.

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Like most writers I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration.

Generally, I am not actively seeking out any particular stimulus for any particular reason. It is simply that as a writer part of my mind has become conditioned, has reached a high level of sensitivity to my surroundings and the nuances of everyday events than the average person.

I see creativeness, find revelation and muse in simple things. Things which many, if not most, would pass-by without paying it/them any attention.

For me many of these occurrences of mind wind-up becoming a story or part of a larger plot. Some form the basis of a character or their characteristics, such as gait or speech.

The results of such musings are not always formed or acted upon in the instant; many mature (or fester) within my mind for long periods before oozing onto the page, or become a work, or part of a work of art.

As an instant and an explanation take today’s shopping trip. A simple journey to a local store to pick up a few basic necessities such as fresh milk and bread.

I was walking towards the rear of the store where, as with most shops, the bakery is located. I happened to pass along the isle where the beers and wines are kept as I headed towards the bread.

Glancing at the stock on the shelving as I passed I noticed the names and labels on the bottled beers, the handcrafted, small brewery beers.

I am not certain about the United States, but here in Britain these small ‘Micro-breweries’ have seen a massive upshot in sales as they produce wonderful tasting beers with some of the finest ingredients. This results in a wondrous array of amazingly tasty ales, stouts, porters and beers. All, without doubt, superior to anything the massive multi-conglomerate, mega commercial breweries can achieve.

However, regardless to how good any individual beer may be, the result is a highly competitive market. Excellent for the consumer and lovers of fine ale, like myself! But it poses a problem for the breweries.

Question: How do they make their beer stand out from the crowd?

Answer: Give your ale an amazing, funny, rude or otherwise outstanding name and a label to match.

So…as I was scanning the shelves I started to read the names. Some made me chuckle, others puzzled me to the extent I had to pick up a bottle and read the back label.

What these beers names and labels had achieved was similar to that of a great book cover and title. It made me pick it up and read the back cover ‘blurb’.

That got me thinking.

Now, when I say thinking I do not mean structured concentration. I mean a million flitting thoughts running amok through my mind. That is how I think, that is how my brain tackles incoming stimuli!

I cannot even start list the number of various factors involved with such geometric thinking. Unless your cognitive neural pathways and patterns operate on a similar basis to my own, you could not begin to conceive the process.

I shall however share this one with you. Simply because if I did not this entire post would be irrelevant!

Many of the aforementioned beers had wondrous names. Names I am sure would make amazing book titles, or at least part titles.

Maybe you are seeking that catalyst, that idea for a title to your current work in progress? Then why not take a look at this list?

They sound like possible names for novels to me, even though they are names of twenty of those beers I passed on that stores shelves!

What do you think? Please let me know as I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject; that is as soon as I have finished this bottle of Pale Ale!

 

UNDERCURRENT

AXE EDGE

13 GUNS

PRESSURE DROP

HARDKNOTT

BEARHUG

MONK LUST

GOOSE ISLAND

DEAD PONY

SHNOODLEPIP

DOUBLE MAXIM

SCHIEHALLION

DUCK DUCK GOOZE

SPITFIRE

SNECK LIFTER

STREAKING THE QUAD

EFFINGUUD

CRAZY IVAN

BADONK-A-DUNKEL

DARK BLACKMIST

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Cheers!

Running on empty

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A simple title, but one containing much truth. How many time have you sat and started to write, or at least tried to scribble out some rudimentary sentences, when your energy is not there?

No, this is NOT a post about writer’s block.

This is a post about being drained. Being drained mentally, physically, intellectually, when even the most basic concepts evade simple thought. All of which can be emotionally exhausting.

I know. I have been there, as I suspect have you.

This is the bane, the curse of a writer’s life. This is our penance for shutting ourselves away for hours upon hours, for living our lives with one foot in the fantasy world of fiction, of sharing our days, even our dreams, with fictitious characters, those illusory, invisibles who inhabit our secret worlds, worlds which we never divulge to the others, at least, not until we are certain that they are ready to be revealed.

Considering this, it comes as no surprise that stress and anxiety often effect our temperament. We are, after all, artists and creatives. As such, why should our general disposition be any different to that of the most prima-donna of actors, or a highly volatile chef?

What is more, unlike the actor or chef, who have a surrounding cast or brigade onto whom they can cast their wrath and vent their spleen, we, the solitary, the secluded and oft isolated writer only have our keyboards and, maybe, a cat or dog. Neither of which deserve to suffer the brunt of our derision.

Now, that brings me to where my head is today, to what stimulated me to start writing on this particular topic.

YOU.

Yes, you.

Of course I am using that term as a general. What I mean is that I am ‘connected’, my social media is up and running, notifications, messages, hangouts, emails, chat and whatsupps and talktomes and haveyouseens are flashing and popping up every Nano-second, calling out my name, vying for my attention, from just about every social media platform that has been created.

Like you, as an author, an independent, self-published writer, I want to sell my books (hint!). Not having millions of pounds in my bank account means I do not have the wherewithal to pay for Saatchi & Saatchi to advertise and market my books. I do not have the distribution power of WH Smiths, Barnes & Nobel, Waterstones or indeed Walmart and Amazon.

I am one man, not a corporate host of many. As such my reach and capabilities are somewhat limited to what is physically possible. I have limits I cannot exceed alone.

To try and combat this disproportion, my being of David to the conglomerates Goliath, I have spread myself widely over this wonderful, glorious and most obnoxious of modern invention, the internet. I have, often with much reserve, spread myself over the world wide web by way of social media platforms in an attempt to attract at least one person who will purchase at least one of my books, who will read my words, share my fantasy and, hopefully, enjoy that netherworld I created.

Perhaps they may even return, buy another one of my books and re-join my journey? Maybe.

Yet to get to that point, where someone may actually want to own a copy of your work, a copy of that book you have spent all your spare time writing, for the past two years, means that you have to talk and communicate with thousands. You have to build relationships, acquaintances and associations. You have to make connexions and affiliations, create rapport, bonds and liaisons.

For the greater part this works fine. There may be the odd and occasional idiot you come in contact with, but that is no different to the ‘real world’, the meat space that we inhabit in natural form. At rare times you might encounter some who take pleasure in belittling others purely because they derive some sick pleasure from doing so. But you can turn a blind eye to these, block, delete, report and so on. Again this is only a digital interpretation of today’s world. One only has to watch a single new bulletin to make that simple comparison.

Yet it is those you choose to communicate with, those you classify as ‘friends’ who can flick that switch and send you plummeting into the deep pit of depression. A simple word, a throw away sentence, a wrongly worded, or indeed wrongly interpreted text, can combine with the isolation, the frustrations and become that final once of pressure that sends you spiralling into darkness, or rage or both.

This is where things get bad!

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Once you are there, at the base of that gloomy depression of despondency, it all becomes a vicious circle of seemingly hopeless misery. Each time you type out a word it is wrong, you have nothing to say, nothing to add, you cannot think of anything to write, nothing at all. The last chapter you wrote is crap, I mean total, pathetic, amateur crap with a capitol ‘c’.

What on earth were you thinking about. Best scrap it, delete it…in fact why not delete everything? It’s all crap anyway and you know it. You will never make it as a writer. You are pathetic, your writing is woeful, ridiculous and nobody will ever want to read it anyway, so you are just wasting your time.

Now you have ‘writers block’ on top of everything.

Have you been there?

I have.

You sit and stare at the keyboard, the walls, the window. Your head is pounding, not with a headache, not yet anyway, but with frustration. You are trying to think, inspiration, a plot, nothing works, nothings coming. That is what hurts. You can’t even read Facebook. Your eyes wont focus on the screen.

Your teeth are clenched. Those words keep flashing in your mind.  How dare she say that. What a senseless dickhead he really is. How come so many liked my cartoon of the dog and the Vicar, but all I got for that insight was one like and a truck full of insults and derision.

The truth is that YOU are making too much of it all.

You have taken your exhaustion and converted it to emotions…not the shrewdest move you could have made.

All the mental, physical, creative and intellectual output has drained you. Each and every event surrounding you seems enhanced, seems far greater than it is. You need to rest from writing, let your mind relax a little, slow it down…schuush….rest.

We lone writers do not have a gauge to tell us when we are getting low on that energy. We do not have an entourage to bounce our frustrations off. We do not have a colleague to share annoyances or vexations with.

We just have us (and, possibly, that cat or dog!)

But we need to learn how charged we are, we need to know when we have used our stock of vigour and are eating into pure emotion.

We need to know when we are running on empty.

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Thank you for reading.

Please visit my author page and take a look at my books.

Paul 🙂

 

F**k your writing. Or…(an essay regarding the use of expletives and profane language in fictional writings)

 

In polite, or politically correct circles one may refer to it as the ‘F word’.

This word first became a public literary issue after it was use in a major novel, Norma Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948.

Only, it was NOT.

Mailer’s publisher prevailed upon him to change this expletive; this four-lettered, description of sex, to ‘Fug’, so that it did not offend readers.

Given the fact that the book is about men during a war, ‘Fug’ occurred an awful lot of times!

The result was a backlash, a cluster of criticism and discussion in literary circles. This gave rise to the anecdote about Tallulah Bancroft saying to Mailer, “Oh, you’re the man who can’t spell that word”.

 

However, times change.

Nowadays the F-word has lost much of its ability to shock. Far fewer people are now offended by its inclusion in a book or, for that matter, in conversation. Still, authors often debate the role of ‘racy-talk’ in literature.

How much is too much? When have you gone too far, or not far enough?

Okay, before we get stuck with just this one word, let us consider the vast and rich palette of risqué words available and to clarify their ‘technical’ differences. Once we can differentiate between profanities, obscenities, curses and the like, it should be easier to determine how, why and if we should use them.

 

PROFANITY

Is often used to denote an objectionable word. ‘Profanity’ literally means words that are proscribed profane – that is words described by religious doctrine. ‘Proscribed’, in this context means ‘forbidden by written order’, such as, in Judeo-Christian tradition, taking the Lords name in vain (that is, not in Prayer).

“For the love of God, stop complaining” or “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing”.

 

CURSES

These call upon a deity, or fate, to cause harm in a visitation.

(Mild) “Damn this zipper”.

(Strong) “God Damn her”.

‘Damned’ is to be condemned to Hell.

‘Hell’ can also be a curse, “Go to Hell”, or a mild profanity, as in “Oh, Hell, the rivers polluted again!”

 

SWEAR WORDS

To swear literally means to take an oath, or to proclaim an oath.

Now, for anyone uncertain about oaths, (married folk take note!) An oath is a resolution or promise which calls upon a deity’s assistance in carrying it out. (Think about how many are in your marriage now!).

Examples: “God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again” or simpler, “By God I’ll show you”

You can swear to bear witness, as in “I swear, you are the best cook in this town”

 

OBSCENITIES

These are words that denote something disgusting or morally abhorrent. (Often connoting sex). The F-word is considered to be one of the most objectionable, along with the C-word.

The relatively modern inclusion of adding the prefix ‘Mother’ often ups-the-ante!

Non, or less objectionable variants of the present participle form of the F-word, beside ‘Fugging!’ include, Fecking, Freaking, flipping and fricking.

To be totally honest, I have no idea why the letter ‘U’ seems to be so ‘flaming’ important!

‘Screw’ is accepted as of the milder and therefore more acceptable terms. Please note, both the F-word and ‘screw’ are used not just used to literally describe intercourse, but to connote ‘Taking advantage of’.

“That Garage screwed me out of £300 for unnecessary repairs”

Generally, words referring to both male and female pelvic areas are considered obscenities.

 

VULGERISMS

I Like this one because this word, this term, covers a lot of bases. If it is crude, objectionable and falls outside the aforementioned categories, you have a vulgarism!

‘Bitch’, ‘Son of a Bitch’, ‘Bastard’, ‘Jackass/Ass, Asshole’ and even ‘Crap’ fall under this heading.

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Now…whether use should use, or not use, any (or all) of the above?

The literary world is somewhat divided around the use of spicy talk, which should not be surprising as our readers are as equally split.

Take two ‘Tough-Guy’ authors, Lee Child and Tom Clancy. Lee does not use any profanities in his writing. Most readers do not notice this. Whereas Tom’s books are littered with profanities…and he certainly sells a lot of copies!

Some readers may be turned off by even one, single, solitary curse word…possible? Maybe. But what is certain is that no-one will buy your books purely because you use raw language. (Although at one time, years ago, they may have well done so).

Does all this mean your safest path is to use no raw language at all?

Writing is a journey and all journeys involve some form of risk. History proves that some writers achieved success, or at least notoriety, because they shunned propriety. Harry Caulfield’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was shocking in its era and may still be so to young teenagers today.

As you write, look for a balance with what you feel comfortable writing, what you, as the narrator feels is right within your style for this book and what suits the characters and the story you are creating.

What may be right for one piece of work maybe wrong for another.

 

Okay…Why ‘TO USE’

We humans get angry. We crave precise expression and there is something about cursing and using vulgar language that works for us as a release valve for our emotions.

Who has not, at some time, experienced a moment when a string of expletives has not felt exquisitely sublime rolling off your tongue?

The same is so for your fictional characters. Be true, be honest to them. Let them have their voice.

Moreover, if you want your stories to be realistic about the settings, battlefields, bars and domestic disharmony, well-written raw language will bring your characters to life, give them a heartbeat and authenticity.

 

HOW TO USE

Spicy language generally works best when it’s used sparingly, or at least in moderation. That way, you preserve the element of the unexpected, which can be a pressure-reliever for both character and reader. Aside from conveying anger or frustration, raw talk can also be humorous, in that it reveals how a character truly feels about something.

Take this line for an instance: “I ate another doughnut”.

Compare it with: “I ate another goddamned doughnut”.

You instantly get a clue about this character and her relationship with doughnuts.

You may have one character who habitually uses profanity, in contrast to others who don’t. That, in itself, is a good individualiser.

If you, yourself, are not too familiar with foul language a problem can occur when used wrongly, or as often happens with inexperienced writers, it is thrown in will-nilly. If it is used it MUST sound real. If you are uncertain try visiting areas where this language is commonly used, construction sites, wharves, military establishments and prisons for example. Grab a coffee in a nearby café at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the clientele’s conversations!

However, a word of warning. Even if, say a group of Miners, use an expletive every other word, it is unnecessary for you to make your own characters speak exactly that way. Just as when using dialects and accents, you have to use raw-talk wisely. This helps keep the reader grounded in your imaginary world and avoids the pitfalls of over-use/over doing it.

Consider your characters, employ common sense.

A hospital Matron, wearing a starched linin apron, may not utter a single un-PC word in public, but she may let loose a barrage in the principal’s office over a dispute, or howl out a string of profanities during sexual fulfilment.

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How NOT to USE

I mentioned some writers, Norman Mailer and Tom Clancy who chose to include bad-language into their works, but they pale into insignificance, almost, when it comes to literary genius. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, knew how to spice-up his writings and attract an audience in doing so.

He wrote the mother of all literary cuss-outs. (Cuss is simply a variant of Curse), in King Lear; but interestingly there is no profanity or obscenity as we know it, merely terrifically imaginative vulgarisms, delivered with passion. Here it is, the Earl of Kent preparing to thrash the crap out of Goneril’s loathsome lackey, Oswald:

KENT (TO OSWALD): “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch, one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition”.

Knowing the historical references helps; for example, “broken meats” means leftover table scraps. But even without that, we can luxuriate in the rant. This is a beautiful speech for many reasons: It’s forceful, it’s unique, it covers many aspects of insult, it clearly communicates one character’s contempt of another, and—important for many in Shakespeare’s audience—it avoids serious curses and obscenities.

It’s a shining example of how a writer can invent insults way more entertaining than those found in the standard lexicon.

You can do it by brainstorming aspects of your characters and their circumstances:

“He was as appealing as a baboon’s butt”.

“You are the worst thing to happen to the world since call waiting”.

“May you be condemned to an eternity of weak coffee, warm gin and a driveway paved with roofing nails”.

By now, I think you will agree that it’s useful to explore—and perhaps even challenge—your own comfort zone.

Certainly if it is not you, it won’t ring true. But whether you decide to write common curses and vulgarisms into your work or not, your characters do need a verbal pressure valve. Do not use tacky asterisks to replace vowels. Just have fun with the process and remember that a ‘fug’ by any other name might sound remarkably original.

 

NOTE.

If your novel purports to reflect real life, then they must include profanity, if the life they reflect includes the use of profanities.

Let’s get real folks, you may have grown up in an era when books and movies were censored, but do you really think that in the Old West, cowboy’s actually said “You no-good-so-and-so” before drawing their six-shooters and blowing holes in one another?

Did the troops, dug into their fox-holes during WWII always speak in to each other in such a decorous manner?

I think not!

Some popular entertainment admittedly goes OTT in drenching dialogue in profanity, Such as in the opening sequences of ‘Born on the 4th of July’, but that is an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

So, why do people swear?

This will not cover any new territory. I expect that every angle regarding this has been covered in about every bar in every corner of the world!

People swear because the majority of profanity is emotionally charged. It can express anger, fear, sadness, joy, despair, frustration, ignorance, racism, homophobia, ageism, violence, sexism and all the other ‘isms’ and ‘tions’ you can name.

Occasionally a swear word can encompass all the above in a single word. That one word can grab people’s attention like no other when timed appropriately and, let us face it, very few things are quite as entertaining as listening to a person who has raised profanity to an art form.

You may disagree with those statements. I do not give a flying F**k…see what I mean!

When read that you do so as if I had written the word in full. Even though I ‘bleeped’ it out your mind supplied the details. Now your reaction was either positive or negative, depending on your personal personality. But you reacted.

Like I mentioned above, nothing ground breaking. Just a prelude to the answer you are seeking.

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‘Should YOU use profanity in YOUR writing?’

Writing is a process which takes pieces of ourselves and puts it ‘out-there’ for the world to see. It does not matter if you are writing literary fiction or genre fiction. Every character, setting, plot and sub-plot reveals a little about who we, as writers, are.

I doubt, very much, if a single day passes without you worrying about what you are writing.

(read that again if you wish, I’ll wait).

You see, every word we scribe invites judgment, criticism, commentary and, perhaps introspection. When we write something which surprises us, we often, most times, question where it came from.

That is because that we writers are a real self-conscious group. We are half scared to death of rejection! But if we filtered every word, considered the perception of each sentence through, say our Mothers, or Fathers, minds we would write nothing. Nothing at all.

What we have, what is so special, so personal is that little bit of ourselves that we add to the mix. Some reveals itself in plot, some in character, but most in the voice, in the narration, in our storytelling. That is where much of our fears lie, in revealing too much of ourselves, exposing our innermost to that ridicule and rejection.

BUT…if you do not add that to the mix the reader will smell you coming from a mile away. You will small like a fake, read like a fake and be discarded as a fake.

So, how does that answer the question about using profanities in your writing?

CONSIDERATIONS

As a writer you need to be true to yourself. You need to be true to your characters and voice. But don’t forget the other people you need to be true to:

Your Audience/Genre – If you forget who your audience is, for a single sentence or word, you will have lost them. If your audience demands a lack of profanity, then you had better not allow profanity to slip into your work. Not unless you are OK with alienating the very people you are trying to reach.

Your Editor – Your editor wants you to succeed. Your editor wants you…needs you…to sell books. You ignore your editor’s advice at your own peril.

Yourself – I know I have said this before, but I repeat it here for a different reason. If profanity is something that you are personally uncomfortable with then you will sound fake if you try to use it, regardless of the character in question. In fact, if a lack of profanity is one of your defining personal characteristics, then your characters will sound fake if you use it. Because, after all, your characters are nothing more than an extension of yourself. An audience can smell a fake a mile away. Be true to yourself, whether that means using profanity or avoiding it.

I am not going to tell you the world is going to smell like roses after you write something that raises people’s eyebrows. Especially if those eyebrows belong to people who are closely related to you, or who travel in social groups that are important to you. But you did not become a writer to fit in, did you?

I hope not.

Your writing has a chance to entertain, move, and bring people together.

It has a chance to shine a light on topics you care about in ways other writers have not.

It also has a chance to alienate you.

There is a chance your writing will be considered so offensive that society wants nothing to do with you. It is doubtful it will ever get that bad! but writing is taking a risk. Every time you put pen to paper you are stripping down and getting naked in front of the world.

There is never going to be a time where you do not question, at least once, “should I have written that?”

Recently I have read plentiful cursing in Stephen King novels, Nora Roberts books, and even (very sparingly) in John Grisham stories.

I have seen the use of cursing in both genre fiction and literary fiction. In some books just a little and in some a fair amount.

So, in full and final answer to the question… You are a writer. Welcome aboard the crazy train!

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© Paul White 2016


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