Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reading and Writing (with a nod to Arithmatic)

First the Arithmetic nod; does anyone know a good reference for writing textbooks or reference books? A mathematician asked me to co-author. Meaning he wants to do the math, and wants me to do everything else from the non-math content to finding a publisher. Since most of what I've read on non-fiction indicates platform is king and god, and the mathematician has multiple (New Jersey large) school districts salivating over the idea of using the hypothetical book, the platform is solid enough I'm willing to give it a go IF I can find a good reference for writing reference.

That said, I've been having a problem reading lately. Formerly, the storyteller in me would consistently be telling more stories based on what I read. Sometimes those stories were fan-fic-esque, other times they were just inspired by the original. At any rate, I enjoyed the story as written, then riffed off of it.

Lately, however, I've been noticing a different pattern in myself. As I read, I'm actively noticing writing techniques. Foreshadowed twists are no longer surprising. Deus-ex-machina were never my favorite, but now I look on them as completely unsatisfying. Flat prose is no longer compensated for by originality, character or plot. Flat characters annoy me more than they used to. Lack of plot can still be excused on a first read, but I don't reread or recommend plotless books. Excessive political or other viewpoint evangelism is more annoying than it ever was.

I worry that I'm becoming a snob. More than that, I worry that what used to be one of my favorite hobbies is now rapidly becoming more a chore than a relief and release. I'm also worried that the few authors I could count on for a solid book with all the things I'm looking for and none of the things I'm avoiding are dead, dying, or succumbing to age.

Still and all, I enjoyed Vorpal Blade, and I'm generally enjoying Earth. I just noticed the flaws in each more than I would have five years ago. Or did I just notice myself noticing?

Meh. Either way, I'm off to write a bit, followed by going off to some conference with the aforementioned mathematician.


  1. I feel ya. After I started writing movie scripts, and played around with directing, I started to see these things in movies. I'd question why a camera was placed at a certain angle, or why a certain scene needed to be included in the movie. AND just like you, I now know most twists before they happen. Because there are a few basic kinds of movie structures, and once you know them then there aren't many surprises anymore.

  2. You'd think that would improve my taste in entertainment, but it really hasn't. It's like on learning about nutrition, I realized that I could eat cardboard and be healthy, OR take vitamins, eat junk and be healthy, and my body didn't much care either way, as long as it got its vitamins and calories.

    In the case of books, I'm not looking for surprises any longer, I'm looking for stuff that's executed well, or stuff that is to my taste. For example, I'm a Leonidas junkie - anything that resembles Thermopylae will keep me entertained at least a little bit.

    Movie wise, I'm also susceptible to eye candy. It's like the line-level prose of visual media.