Posts Tagged ‘Caustic Salts’

Reader Guesses, Coloring Our Expectations

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Marie Brennan, author of a series of historical-fantasy novels and a bunch of short stories, including multiple ones in my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, had a really neat post on the SFWA website a few weeks ago about audience expectations and reactions in terms of theories or guesses about plot twists or revelations.

She talks about how those reader guesses can change over the course of experiencing a work; how the author or the plot sometimes does meet the theory or otherwise react to it, and how we writers when reading may experience that more acutely than most audience members.

I really like her concept of “third-order (plot) answers”:

A lot of mysteries have an obvious culprit, and then a character who is, if you know your narrative conventions, the obvious alternative to the obvious culprit. I like mysteries that go one step further.

That’s what I try to do in my plots too.  My story “Of Casting Pits and Caustic Salts” (published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly) had several plots twists.  An older story of mine didn’t seem to have been very good at hiding who the culprit was, so with “Salts,” I tried especially hard to offer multiple culprits for each event of unknown cause.

Not so much an obvious culprit and an obvious alternate, as Brennan explains, but two or even more possible culprits. And multiple possible reasons why those culprits might have done that thing. “Salts” is a spy story, so the twists were important.  And to me, because character is always the key, the characters’ possible motivations for perhaps having done those twist events were even more important.

So I think the idea of reader expectations and theorizing of culprits is very important for us writers to consider as we craft the story. We want the reader to enjoy the read–I’m with Brennan in that the best plot twists are the ones you see coming half a second before the reveal. We need to make those twists engaging beforehand, yet still surprising once they happen.

At ReaderCon This Weekend

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I will be at ReaderCon, the literary spec-fic con held in Boston, this weekend.

I’ll be giving a reading of my own fiction Sat. at 11:30 AM.  I haven’t dicided yet which of my recent publications  to read from–“Very Strange Weird” in the recent Space and Time, “The Halberdier, by Moonlight” forthcoming in On Spec, which I read at Balticon, and possibly “Of Casting Pits and Caustic Salts,” in the current Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

There is also a Beneath Ceaseless Skies reading Sat. afternoon at 2:30 PM.  It will include writers such as Mike DeLuca, Margaret Ronald, Matt Kressel, and more.

And as always, there will be great stuff in the dealer’s room and lots of cool panels.  One I’m really looking forward to is Liz Hand’s lecture on Tolkien elements in black metal, the Viking-influenced very dark-themed metal which is mostly from Norway and Sweden.  My metal tastes run more toward the technical side (Meshuggah, coincidently also from Sweden), but I am familiar with the black metal bands and their heavy Tolkien influence.

And, also as always, I will be in the pub rather frequently. :)  If you see me there or in the halls, or at my reading or the BCS reading, feel free to say hello!

Giant Beetles, Spies, Sabotage…

Friday, July 8th, 2011

…and what happens after your mentor is killed.

My story “Of Casting Pits and Caustic Salts” is now live in the e-zine Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  It’s about a lady spy, in a land where giant insects are the beasts of burden, who must complete her sabotage mission after something happens to her mentor.

It’s the first of my “literary adventure fantasy” stories to see print.  Readers familiar with my ethos for Beneath Ceaseless Skies know that I see no reason why stories set in fantastical worlds can’t convey just as much about the human condition as literary stories set in the “real” world.  Giant beetles are awesome, and surviving after your mentor is gone is a very human struggle.

It’s also my first story to appear in an e-zine.  Ironic, isn’t it, for a guy who publishes an e-zine and says that online magazines are the future of short fiction. :)  I’m happy to be appearing online, where readers will be able to find the story for free and at their convenience.  I’m also happy to be appearing in HFQ, a stalwart semi-pro zine offering adventure fantasy short fiction for free online.

So check out HFQ and  “Of Casting Pits and Caustic Salts”.