Monthly Archives: April 2015

Why Not Cookies, Coffee, and Maize?

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… or, Why exotic modern foods are out of place in most herofi or highfy.

The first reason to avoid artifacts of our post-renaissance worldwide culture is atmosphere. If you want your reader to immerse in your medievalesque world, don’t keep swatting them in the face with things that don’t feel medieval. If you want a feel of the Orient, don’t bring in New World stuff and if you want a Mesoamerican ambiance, keep European stuff out of the mix.

Particularly, I recall objecting to characters eating cinnamon cookies in a northern mountain culture, in a ms I critted for a workshop. The author’s attitude was that they were technologically possible, so why not? My objection was that “cookies” were unnecessarily shoving 21st century America into a world so alien it didn’t have dogs or horses. The cookies weren’t necessary to the plot. They were merely cosmetic, and in this case the wrong cosmetics. I mean, in the same village, you might as well serve tamales or have the children play basketball.

They’re just as atmospherically wrong, though technologically possible. They’re just not technologically plausible.

“Cookie” is a specifically American and modern (last couple of centuries) word. “Sweet biscuits” or “sugarcakes” could have served the same purpose without swatting the reader out of immersion.

But are they technologically possible? Read the rest of this entry

Exotic Pet Ban: Delete Your Pets

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The traditional term among writers is often “murder your darlings.” This phrase is not always understood and does repel by its overly dramatic word choice. These days we delete files, unlike the old days when the technical term and the code command was to “kill” a file.

What you are looking for, in order to change or delete, are words, phrases, scenes, characters, or subplots that are too brilliant, too clever, too glow-in-the-dark, so that they don’t fit into the prose or story organically. They stick out like that cupboard door left open at eye height. In revision, you need to close the door.

These are often hard to see for yourself, especially after several revisions. You become work-blind to them. You can best find them by watching your own reactions.
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