Shorthand Settings and Rainbow Abuse

This week’s guest post is from Sarah Ellender, one of The T Party’s longest-standing members. Sarah’s recently resumed work on a novel, provisionally titled Blue Shift, about “a delivery girl with suicidal tendencies, urban vampires, a lot of aliens and a trail of missing females”. She took a break to ponder how visual language relates to the written kind. Sarah blogs at sarahellender.wordpress.com.

Styles of visual language, just like the written, land on the page freighted with context. We’ve all been absorbing it all our lives.Writers use styles of language to help set time and place for readers, according to the rule of “show, don’t tell”.

It’s particularly handy for flash fiction, where you don’t have the word count to lovingly describe the setting. So, I could write:

“What ho, old bean,” said Freddie, making somewhat free with the brandy and s.

and you could guess I’m setting my story in 20-30s Wannabe Wodehouse Way, Clichéville.

Similarly, a graphic designer can do this:

Choosing a typeface and a drawing style appropriate to the book’s period is a bit like writing your narrative in the voice of the viewpoint character, complete with idiom and vocabulary appropriate to the time and place.

I *love* the kawaii Yo! Sushi menus to an unreasonable degree. They are beautifully clear and easy to read, they take the potential intimidation factor out of the vast array of Japanese food on offer, and they manage to be friendly and fun without belting you over the head with it in a way that makes you want to throttle the waiters (I’m looking at you, TGIF). You can get a sense of it here, but the online menu isn’t a patch on the real thing.

I like the visual language they use, walking in cute on the right side of cliché. Similarly, in writing, we’re told to go easy on the “pushbutton words“, to be sparing with the obviously manipulative.

Another (kind-of related) tool designers have at their disposal is pattern recognition. The human brain is so good at it that you can put two dots and a line on a page in the right way and we see a face. This gives a vast potential for elegant, stylised and stripped-down designs. So what, in the name of ink and pixels, were the designers for the London 2012 Olympics thinking? The whole thing seems to be a world of wrong in so many ways.

Let’s explore this together. Are you ready for a Rorschach test? Let’s begin.

This is the Olympic logo. What do you see here?

a) The number 2012.
b) A private recreational act of the type “insert tab a into slot b”.
c) Er – *ominous pause* – a pretty butterfly.
d) I have no idea, but it’s ugly and jagged and it’s making my eyes hurt.

What is this?

a) Awww. It’s Wenlock, a cute little one-eyed monster and mascot of the Olympics.
b) Um. Does it come from Ann Summers?
c) Er – *ominous pause* – a pretty butterfly.
d) It’s looking at me. IT’S LOOKING AT ME!

The designers of the Olympic website have come up with a story to explain the existence and appearance of Wenlock and its co-mascot. If you didn’t answer a) to both questions above, you might want to have a bucket handy. Prepare yourself for extensive rainbow abuse.

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The Next Thing

Gaie Sebold, secret Santa

This month’s featured T Party member is Gaie Sebold, who’s just sold her novel, Babylon Steel, to Solaris Books – along with an option on its sequel. Great news! Just one problem: the sequel doesn’t actually exist. Yet. Here’s how Gaie’s getting on with “that difficult second book”, from her blog at gaiesebold.weebly.com.

Have, for some years, moaned about inadvisability of writing sequel before first book has sold. Have shaken portentous finger at friends who contemplated such folly. Have sternly turned back on beloved characters and carefully constructed worlds due to fear that first book will Never Sell, and writing sequel therefore clearly an exercise in futility. Nonetheless have longed for chance to revisit favourite characters like dieter longing for chocolate.

Then, Lovely Publisher buys book (wheee! OK am obviously not over purely childish excitement at this yet) and Expresses Interest in sequel.

Sequel! At last! Have already written outline, well, two paragraphs. Still, more than had when began first book. No problem. Can revisit beloved characters and put them through even more misery! Can explore dodgy byways and vice-riddled taverns! Can develop new and interesting vices with which to riddle said taverns!

Leap joyously for ancient laptop and hit keys with such vigour that down arrow key leaps into air like spawning salmon and disappears under bed.

Get a page in and frown. Not sure what doing, actually. Look at two paragraphs of outline. Remember all stuff must get in from previous book in order for current book to make any sort of sense.

Go back to scene. Rewrite first paragraph as is pants, and boring.

Repeat.

Repeat another 8 or so times.

Manage to stop rewriting first paragraph long enough to finish first three pages, trying not to infodump all over page, but suspect am failing. Read result.

Argh. Have started sequel not with high drama or low comedy or discovery of mutilated corpse, but with characters sitting around having what is, basically, long and dull committee meeting. And not in even slightly comic or murderous way.

Dear Goddess, have obviously been hopelessly corrupted by day job and will never write gripping word ever again. Publisher will hate me. Will be driven out into street with Manuscript of Shame in arms like fallen woman in Victorian melodrama. Will become victim of second novel syndrome (even though sequel would be fifth actual novel have written, but logic helpless in face of self-flagellation) and laughing stock of entire world. Well, bit of entire world that ever hears of me in the first place, anyway. Characters glaring at me, drawing rude doodles on company notepads, muttering about not even getting any sandwiches and passing notes under table.

Retire hurt to watch Buffy DVDs and remind self how entirely brilliant Joss Wheedon is. Feel even more useless. Fall into bed and pull pillow over head to block out voices of characters still stuck in meeting and now definitely annoyed.

Wake up next morning and open document with trepidation. Characters still there, with arms folded, glaring at walls and refusing to look at me.

Move stuff around, trim dialogue, etc. Scene, however, still boring.

Decide to abandon scene for now, start next one and hope inspiration will fall on head.

Characters leap up with obvious relief, shove each other out of way in haste to leave meeting, go to bar and start fight.

While on train for work staring zombie-like out of window, realise that is no reason on earth or elsewhere why first scene has to be first scene. Can start with fight. Can break all information in meeting up into smaller bits and scatter around other scenes like garnish on plate of sandwiches. Can do anything, doesn’t matter, because…is first draft. Is not set in stone. Is not even set in ink. Will have to be changed several zillion times between now and final draft anyway. Of course, still don’t know what am doing, already have too many new characters and only about 5 paragraphs of actual plot, but hey. Have chance to write sequel! Wheee!

A Rude Reading by K.D. Grace

The Initiation of Ms Holly - front coverT party member K. D. Grace invites you to a reading of the “best and rudest” bits from her latest novel, The Initiation of Ms. Holly. Come along to Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium (Unit 4 253 Portobello Rd  –  entrance on Lancaster Rd) on Friday the 26th November between 6:30 and 8:30pm for an evening of hot story-telling, free cupcakes and bubbly.

The event is free, but please email portobello@sh-womenstore.com to book your place. Sh! say: “True to our female-focused ethos, we ask that men are accompanied by a female friend.” For more details and directions see the event notice or visit the Sh! website (but perhaps not on your work computer).

November’s press mentions

Congratulations to Gaie Sebold, whose novel Babylon Steel (to be published by Solaris Books) is mentioned in the new issue of Locus magazine!

Congratulations also to David Gullen, whose story “Fade” is mentioned in this great review of PS Publishing’s Catastrophia anthology, edited by Allen Ashley.

And last but not least, K.D. Grace’s book The Initiation of Ms Holly picked up praise over on the Erotica For All blog.

Sale! New book deal for K.D. Grace

Congratulations to T Party member and erotic novelist K.D. Grace, whose next novel The Pet Shop will be published in the UK by Xcite Books next October, with a January 2012 pub date for the US and Canada!

K.D. was also recently a guest on the The Erotic Mind podcast, chatting about her book The Initiation of Ms Holly and other things sensual. The first half of the show can be found here; the second part’s here.

Julia Knight aims for second Epic award

Congratulations to Julia Knight, whose fantasy romance novel Love is My Sin has been nominated in the fantasy romance category of the EPIC eBook Awards!

Last year, Julia won that category with her book Ilfayne’s Bane – the prequel to Love Is My Sin. (Both books are published by Samhain Publishing.) Can she make it the double? Fingers crossed for the announcement at EPICon 2011, which will be held in March next year.