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The Pecman

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  1. Yeah, that pretty much sums up the benefits of both. But each also has some major limitations. The 3rd-person POV (point of view) has the drawback of making it harder for the author to get his readers to empathize with the main hero(or heroes), because you're experience the story and the drama from a distance, like watching a movie. In a nutshell, the third-person experience is somewhat more "detached" emotionally. But the 1st-person POV has the drawback that the plot details have to be revealed to your lead character before the reader will know it. If something happens "offscreen," neither your lead character nor your audience can know about it in advance. (And it's generally considered poor form to try to alter back and forth between 1st person and 3rd. I say, stick with one and find a way to make it work.) I think there are pros and cons to each POV, and the choice is more appropriate for some situations than others. I also think that 3rd person is more difficult for beginners. Going with 1st person is simpler, since the writer is essentially assuming the role of the lead character and telling his or her own story, like a diary. The best examples of the need for 1st person POV would be, first, the detective story, where every clue is discovered by the narrator as they happen. Another good one is the "fish out of water" story, where your lead character is plunged into a very foreign situation, like another country or place, and the reader shares the new experiences the character encounters. And Graeme elsewhere is correct: the (seldom-used) 2nd person POV is one in which the reader himself becomes the lead character. "You walk over and open the door. Much to your surprise, it's your long-lost lover, who sweeps you up in his arms..." To me, like writing in present tense, 2nd person POV is way too "showy" and obvious to me, like the writer is trying too hard to impress critics. I think it's one of those techniques that gets in the way of good storytelling, but there are always exceptions.
  2. No, all of them were straight except for Scott Thompson. Scott was (and is) a very talented actor, and he's popped up in a few character parts since then. One of his best was as the (very gay) harried assistant for "Hank Kingsley" on the early-1990s The Larry Sanders Show/.
  3. There was a hilarious sketch on the old late-1980s Kids in the Hall TV series from the 1980s, where aliens were kidnapping humans and probing them. One alien turns to the other and says, "you know, we've been abducting these Earth creatures for years and anally probing them, but so far, all we've discovered is that 10% of the male humans seem to enjoy it." Brought down the house, especially when they cut to the smiling face of one of the (unconcious) humans in the background.
  4. Hey, at 36 chapters, I was just glad the damned thing is finally done! :p Again, I'm not saying it's classic literature, but the story had some charm to it, and I appreciated that the author did at least try some interesting choices for character direction. When I think about it, it's rare for me to read any gay romance stories that have both good and bad characters who happen to be gay. Usually, it's the straight guys beating up gay guys, and this story at least avoided that cliche. Heck, the main villain (if you can call him that) was another gay kid, albeit a confused, manipulative one.
  5. And just to update this thread, Dom just completed the finale for Desert Dropping, which is now up on his website (as of mid-March 2006). I still say the story could benefit from some tightening here and there, but the characters are fairly genuine, and the author presents a fairly complex story with some unusual (albeit frustrating) twists. I particularly liked the shadings of the characters, where they not only change over a period of time, some do a dramatic 180-degree turn -- both good and bad. The ending neatly ties everything up, and there's some very entertaining surprises on the way. Highly recommended!
  6. Not a bad story, but this is an urban legend that's been kicking around for many years, like "alligators in the sewars," or "guy wakes up after being unconcious for many hours, and he's in a bathtub filled with ice, and some of his internal organs have been surgically removed." Do a Google search, and you'll see that the incident never really happened. It's a cool story, but reality it ain't. In this case, fiction is stranger than truth.
  7. No, no. Chapter 4 is not necessarily too choppy and disjointed. From where I sit, it just sets up what's going to happen in the next chapter. But Chapter 5 better be damned good. You've set up a bunch of pivotal elements, and you're going to have to resolve at least one of them: 1) Bran is on the verge of telling somebody about himself. 2) his brother is still in the dark. 3) he's going to hit on (and/or hook up with) somebody in the band. So to me, it's not bad at all. Keep going!
  8. I just stumbled onto this novel the other day in Nifty's "Relationships" section, and was initially turned-off by the fact that it has damn near 100 chapters. Usually, that's the kiss of death for me. Much to my surprise, this is a remarkable little story. Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't necessarily consider it a brilliant literary triumph, but the author manages to avoid all the usual problems that make me crazy. Each chapter moves the story along at a brisk pace, and it held my interest throughout. The story is deceptively simple: a high school senior falls in love with his best friend, but the friend opts to marry his longtime girlfriend instead. The senior goes off to college, plays football, has a series of relationships (some brief, some emotionally intense), and ultimately graduates and moves to California. The story is fairly sweeping, moving across 20 years from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. Religion, monogomy, morality, and romance all figure very prominantly in the story. Unlike most so-called "serials," this one actually has some fairly real drama in almost every chapter. While the sexual content is fairly high, this isn't done at the expense of the story. About my only criticism is that the author has a fairly economical style -- no frilly prose, not much of an attempt to create mood with description and so on. But I was struck by how honest the story felt, and how real the characters acted. In particular, the characters are often fairly complex, wrestling with the all-too-human problems we've all experienced. I'd recommend this one very highly. And a postscript: I discovered much to my chagrin that it was already in BEST OF NIFTY. And very deservedly so. The author shows remarkable progress, particularly by chapter 57 or so.
  9. I just stumbled over this one on Nifty tonight, and thought it had some potential. The author has some odd habits -- most notably a tendency to have lots and lots of one-sentence paragraphs, and mixing 1st and 3rd person POV's, which makes me nuts -- but I thought it was nonetheless an entertaining tale that has some good moments. Wayward People definitely has some heavy soap-opera overtones: the intellectual high school loner who's secretly gay, his upright religious family, an anti-gay town preacher (with secrets of his own), a mysterious exchange student from Canada with a messy past, the prom king/jock who makes our hero's life miserable, etc. But I thought with some editing and rewriting, there's the core of a good idea here. And by god, the thing is never boring (at least, not to me). Check it out here: http://nifty.nisusnet.com/nifty/gay/highsc...wayward-people/ and see if you agree.
  10. Dude, you're doing the right thing. Getting a decent uninterruptible power supply is the cheapest insurance you can get for stuff like this. I have a 2KW APC box on my main computer in my office, plus a bigger one in my downstairs recording studio, and we have little APC battery backups on all the other computers in the house. Most of those will only keep the things running for 10 minutes or so, but you figure that's more than enough to cover the little power bumps that happen from time-to-time. Still, when we got hit by the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, I was in my office at the time, working on my computer, on-line to the Net and listening to the radio, when the house started shaking. One minute later, after I picked myself up from off the ground, the only light in my entire house was from the few monitors backed up by UPS's! Without those, it would've been a lot harder to crawl out of the rubble. BTW, if you're running a generator for your stuff, be sure to get a regulated output for it, and make sure the output voltage is "sine-wave clean." This is a lot better for audio and computer gear.
  11. Yeah, I agree. I think there's a way to criticize something and be rude (ala Simon Cowell), and there's a way to criticize something in a positive way. I think one of the ways for an editor to do the latter is to suggest a solution. One of my big concerns is "dangling plot threads," where a writer introduces a character or a situation, then never resolves it later on. Another is dialog that doesn't sound right for the situation; that can usually be worked out just by speaking it out loud. And I agree, young writers (as the Wicked Witch one said) "have to be treated del-i-cate-ly." At the same time, it does neither the writer nor the editor any good if you're beating around the bush. If there's a problem, just say it, get over it, fix it, and move on. It ain't that big a deal.
  12. Yeah, TELL me about it. I'm usually so crushed and bone-tired by the time I get home from work, I barely have enough time to check my email, pay the bills, eat dinner, then collapse in my bed... only to wake up 6-7 hours later and do it all over again. Most of the books on writing that I've read advise that you're better off trying to do just no more than double-spaced pages a day -- maybe 500-600 words or so. They advise, don't try to do more than that, and you can finish a first-draft novel in about six months, which is a reasonable pace. Unfortunately, this advice doesn't seem to work for me; I'm better off when I have an uninterrupted 6-7 hours and can try to crank through an entire 5000+ word chapter. And like many people, I can only write when I'm really in the mood, and it's hard to get to that point for me these days. Very cool! I think you're making the right decision, Zot, and I bet your story will be better for it. One suggestion that might help is for you to go back and quickly re-read the previous chapters and note any possibly-dangling plot or character elements that haven't yet been taken care of. (I had to do that twice with my own novels, and it helped me immensely.) I suspect by the time you list all these details, you'll have more than enough material for an extra chapter right there. I'd like to see you find a way to incorporate the drama class into this; for example, maybe they wind up doing some kind of school play that involves Justin. Maybe something goes terribly wrong in a performance; maybe he forgets his lines or gets stage fright, or a light comes crashing down on the stage and hits somebody, or narrowly misses somebody. Or maybe Justin gets overwhelmed with the crowd and discovers that he enjoys being an actor, once he hears the laughter and applause, and it changes his personality a little. There's a lotta different ways you can go here -- the sky's the limit.
  13. That's the silliest thing I've ever heard! I've never had a publisher tell me to write something longer because they needed to add extra pages! I think this is a fruitless exercise, and the result should be obvious. To me, what makes sense is to just write something and make it as long as it needs to be, and no longer. I can see the sense in writing long and then going back and paring it down to get rid of the deadwood, but not vice-versa. As far as a dependency on adverbs and speech tags: I don't think any writing text advises to get rid of all of them. Just use them sparingly (like that one, right there). There's also a way to use other kinds of description to communicate the same idea: "And how do you suppose we'll do that?" he said sarcastically. vs. He raised an eyebrow and gave me a wary glance. "And how do you suppose we'll do that?" or "Ha!" he said with a snort. "And how do you suppose we'll do that?" All three communicate the same idea, but only the first uses an adverb, and it's clear to me it's the weakest of the three. Most of the books on writing I've read stress that just taking out excessive adverbs and modifiers isn't enough; you then have to beef up the sentences with stronger verbs and better construction in lieu of the adverbs. And sometimes, an adverb is OK to use, particularly when the sentence is ambiguous without it. If a character is being sarcastic, the reader needs some clues to that effect, either from prior behavior, or his or her attitude during the conversation. Otherwise, the reader will get confused, and that's the last thing you want.
  14. Actually, that won't work. The estimated power of a direct lightning strike can go well over 1,000,000 watts, with an unbelievable current. This is enough to physically jump over a conventional ground and still make contact. In other words: there is no real guaranteed protection against a direct lightning strike. If it's a minor strike, yes, lightning rods and grounds can help, but not if 100% of the full force of the lightning hits a building or object. (I know this because I have some electrical engineering background, plus I grew up in Tampa, FL, otherwise known as "the lightning capital of North America.") About all you can do to protect yourself and your equipment is to stay indoors and unplug any essential electronic gear from the AC outlets.
  15. This is a dynamite discussion! I agree with many of the points above, except to agree that it's important for an editor to be honest, but also provide comments in a way that's both helpful and tactful. That having been said, I think occasionally saying to the author, "hey! This sucks! You can do better than this!" is not necessarily a bad thing. And the other key is pointing out concept, character, and plot flaws while at the same time helping the writer come up with solutions to make everything work. I've had good and bad experiences editing for other people. In some cases, my advice was mostly ignored, and I opted out of working with that person and wished them well. In others, they took most of my suggestions, but sulked because I had inadvertantly hurt their feelings. In yet another, I had a falling-out with an author (who knows who he is), because he started preaching the gospel to me in email, telling me that "all gay people are inherently immoral." I couldn't handle dealing with what was, essentially a self-loathing gay man who was married, but lived vicarously through the lives of his teenaged characters, who jumped into bed with each other about every five minutes. So you run into a lotta weirdos on the Net. And I have no problem dealing with editors myself. I've had to develop a fairly thick skin as a non-fiction writer and journalist, dealing with magazine editors for many years. I had some good experiences, though, even when they started out badly; for example, I submitted a story to one technical magazine in the late 1980s, and it came in way too long and the editor was sorely pissed about it. I convinced him to publish it as two separate articles, and wound up getting paid twice as a result! So good things can result from harsh critics. Codey brings up a good point, in that the editor doesn't have a right to force a writer to change his or her story. If people did that to me, I'd mull over what they had to say, but if it didn't work, I'd tell them why and would stand my ground. Other times, it forced me to re-think my approach, and I wound up going in a different direction, but still one I never would have come up with on my own. So even a suggestion that doesn't work can sometimes be useful. I think my best editing experience was with Keith Morissette, because we shared a lot of similar opinions about writing, and we were both totally brutal in pointing out flaws in each other's work. I'm really grateful for Keith because of his skill and his honesty, along with the fact that he's a really talented writer (who I dearly wish would write more).
  16. Hey, screw that. My first novel was 120,000 words, and I cranked out the first draft in a month (while working a horrendous full-time job)! My second was 170,000 words, but that DID take six months. On the other hand, time and word length don't mean squat. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingburd was written in a few months, isn't all that long, yet it's the only book Harper Lee ever wrote -- one of the greatest novels written in the last 40 years, IMHO. I think I've read it five or six times. And Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is immensely-long book (over 1000 pages for the paperback edition), took the author years to write it by hand, and that's the only book she ever wrote, too. I think a lot of budding authors are daunted by the task of writing a novel. But the reality is that writing a novel isn't like climbing a single massive mountain; it's more like climbing a lot of little ones. When you break a novel down into individual chapters, it's not that big a deal -- to me, anyway. But I've read a half-dozen books designed to help budding writers complete their novels, so apparently, enough people think it's hard to warrant doing books on that subject. Still, think of this one has just a first draft. I think there's ways you can expand on your last two chapters of Yankee, and amplify and take care of some of the plot threads left at the end. You've got the core of a terrific story, though, and your main character of Justin is a fascinating guy.
  17. And you know, all I'll do is just be my usual obnoxious self. :) No, seriously -- I'm always very much aware how tough it is to accept criticism of your work as a writer. Some people react to it very emotionally, as if you just called their mother a whore, and that they wore dirty socks; others recognize you're only discussing printed words on the page, and they take it objectively. And it's hard to take criticism, too, because many of us put raw emotion down in our writing. The first story I wrote was a real rollercoaster for me, and I wore my heart on my sleeve for the whole thing. So I have nothing but sympathy for people who put so much of themselves on the line for their writing. Anyway, I'll try to be nice. :twisted:
  18. I want to like Desert Dropping, but Dom's writing drives me crazy for two different reasons: 1) his stories tend to drag out for a long period of time, and I feel they could benefit from some editing, just to compress the action (and get to the point faster) and 2) DD is a good example of a story that is almost all dialog, with very little description or setting. In other words, we know very little about how the characters or locations look, feel, or smell. I find that very frustrating, because I'm convinced the story would be much better with these added details. That having been said, I confess I have kept up with the story, and I like the complexity of the narrator (Rory) and his friend Seth. (Although I also kind of wince at the use of very unusual names, which is one of the famous "don't do this" cliches.) Still, it's frustrating to see a story go on for 31 chapters when I feel it could've been just as good (or better) at half that. [but then, I'm also a guy who felt like the recent King Kong remake was about an hour too long, too.] And Dom's stories have held my interest, which is the most important thing. I think Dom's latest story, Trust, is off to a good start. He avoids several of the above mistakes, and I feel like it's a lot more visual than his other stories. You can read that one here: http://domluka.gayauthors.org/trust/index.html
  19. I wanted to like this story, but once again, the author leans on the amateur trick of alternating points of view! That kills me, because there's a terrific idea for a story at the core of this thing. If Grasshopper could rewrite the story in 3rd person, I'd be able to actually go through every chapter without wincing. But without that, I feel like the kid in The Exorcist getting holy water tossed on her: "it burns! Arrrrgh, it burns!" Very disappointing. But in spite of that, I much prefer this Western tale's overall message to that of Brokeback Mountain.
  20. Change can be a good thing. Throughout the 1970s, I was really active as a science-fiction and comic book fan, and published all kinds of small-circulation fanzines, participated in geeky conventions, and all that kind of crap. Now, I can look back on that burst of creative activity and realize, what I was really doing was trying to submerge my social life. In other words, I was doing all that crap to avoid admitting to myself that I was gay, and going out and getting laid and having relationships -- which is what I should've been doing. Sometimes, we set up things in our life that are little more than distractions to keep us from addressing the real things that are important: friends, family, social life, relationships, having a decent career. I think it's important to try to maintain some kind of a balance between all of these, but that's something with which I struggle every day -- unsuccessfully! Best of luck to you in getting your priorities addressed. And I hope all the changes are for the better.
  21. Well, I've told a few friends at work I was put off by the film's overwhelmingly negative tone, and I also think the film is very poorly edited. On the positive side, I'd say it's very well-photographed, and the art direction goes a long way to emphasize the bleak, stark homes, streets, and buildings of small Western towns during this period. But the script is suckaroonie. (That's a technical term, meaning, "it sucks.") Really, when you throwaway all the gloss, what you have is a one-note film that says, "gee, gay people sure have to suffer a lot, especially when society won't let them be who they really are." And that pisses me off. Shit, towards the end of the two cowboys' relationship, it's the fucking 1980s, for chrissakes! You can't tell me by then they can't just divorce their wives, hook up together and move to a more gay-friendly town. Maybe this is a simplistic ending, but it's far more satisfying than what we have here. On the other hand: I'm troubled by Gene Shalit's review. He obviously didn't get the film at all, and he's 100% wrong in much of what he says. No way did I ever get the impression that Jake Gyllenhaal's character was "a sexual predator." He's just a horny 20 year-old guy who's thinking with his gonads, as many people that age do. I think it's fair to say that Gyllenhaal's character was maybe 50/50 in terms of being gay, while Heath Ledger was more 90/10 (only 10% gay). Maybe if Heath had never met Jake, he might not have ever had the chance to act on that 10% that was part of him. Last comment: I think the main reason some gay people are reacting positively to Brokeback is simply because at least it's one very visible film about gay relationships. Even those who, like me, find fault with the film have to confess that having some kind of award-winning presence in the media is better than being invisible. But this is not the kind of movie that's gonna make young, impressionable gay teenagers want to come out of the closet and be happy with who they are.
  22. All excellent points! Yeah, I'd think after five years of having very few friends and being ostracized, the kid would be cynical, angry, and have a very sharp tongue. Maybe to cover up his own security, he's become a distant, insulting kind of guy who pushes away anybody who tries to become his friend. I like your idea, Blue. Everything you cited adds up to a story I'd really like to read. If you ever choose to write a story like this, let me know and I'll be glad to assist behind-the-scenes and provide some ideas and feedback. Sometimes, even an editor needs editing! :)
  23. I agree with Blue's first comment above. I think this is too much a "oh, woe is me!" kind of story, wallowing in self-pity. I fell like slapping the kid and saying, "shit, man! Stand up for yourself! Don't let 'em get you down." Hell, I'd tell him to take some self-defense lessons and stop getting beaten up, and maybe change schools if people are harrassing him. I also find it unbelievable that after five years, his childhood friend finally comes to his senses and approaches him with an apology. I might believe five or six months, but not five years. And I also had a problem with the writer's difficulty with English (I assume he's French Canadian, and I sympathize with the difficulties of dealing with a foreign language). There's some clumsy sentence structure and odd usage here and there that I think could've been fixed by careful editing and a few rewrites. All that having been said, I think there's a core of a good idea in the story, but I don't care for its approach. I think there's a way to do a story like this where the narrator doesn't have to be so much of a victim and has a little more self-respect, maybe even find a few friends. Hell, I would've preferred it if the guy had run away a couple of times or at least found some way to knock some sense into his parents to accept him. What's presented in the story is too simplistic and convenient for me (example: what school would allow a locker to be painted pink for FIVE YEARS?) Life is a lot more complicated than this, and I think good fiction has to reflect that.
  24. I'll throw my two cents in only because nobody else has raised this point yet. Brokeback Mountain is not a very good movie, nor is it a great movie. I think it's a very sad, tragic, depressing movie, and not the kind of film I'd like to see twice. Nobody wins, everybody loses, and I'm not even sure anybody learns anything from their lessons about life. I also found the ending (after the death of one of the characters, whose name I'll omit for those who haven't yet seen the film) to be long and boring and terribly drawn-out -- at least 15 minutes longer than it needed to be. As far as I'm concerned, the only newspaper columnist who has the right take on Brokeback is noted bisexual gossip writer Liz Smith, who pointed out how negative, violent, and bleak the movie is. I found the film to have a lot more in common with The Last Picture Show, another film about the lives of sad, hopeless people in a sad, hopeless small western town. My second nitpick with the film is technical: the moment the first sex scene ended, I turned to my longtime partner and said, "well, this movie was definitely written and directed by straight people." No two guys instantly have anal sex in 1 minute without any prep, foreplay, lube or nothin' -- unless it's a prison rape scene. And the guy on the bottom is gonna make a helluva lotta noise. I found this to be totally, ridiculously unbelievable. Lastly, I had a big problem with the whole flashback thing (again, I'll omit the details) involving one of the character's death. My problem with it is that it was presented in a very ambiguous, blurry, non-specific way, almost to where we weren't sure what we were seeing. Was this supposed to be fact? Was it how another character imagined the death? Was it in reference to the previous deaths mentioned earlier in the film? To me, without a specific close-up of the dead character, it feels very muddled and confused. (Critic Roger Ebert, who I often agree with, cited the same thing at the end of his review.) The bottom line is, this ain't a movie that's gonna make straight people like or understand gay people more. It might make them feel sorry for us, or wonder how "tortured" and "anguished" we are in a straight world. But I don't see a lot of positive things about it. It's a total downer. 1982's Making Love is more my idea of a decent gay movie, and it still has its share of sex, romance, drama, conflict, and emotion. I think it's a much more powerful film, but undoubtedly Brokeback is going to make much more money. And I'll predict right now it'll win at least Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and (I hope) get Jake Gyllenhaal a statue for Best Supporting Actor. (Some support! Sheesh!)
  25. Just a quick update on this story: Oprah just had the guy back on her show in late January and excoriated him for lying to her about the book's truthfulness. His publisher announced they'll be giving refunds to anyone who bought the book directly from the publisher (but not from book dealers), and somebody just filed a class-action fraud suit against the author and the publisher. I think this is much ado about nothing, but it just shows to go ya, how people get so nuts about this stuff. Ironically, sales on the book went sharply up after the recent publicity, but I suspect the author's new book won't do nearly as well.
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