Any artist with any longevity is bound to look back on their past works with some trepidation.
We are all fallible meat robots with cobbled together wetware wired to faulty sensory apparatus. Even if you’re more prone to spiritualism (however you wish to define it) the truth that we are all little tiny slivers of experience trying to make sense of a universe more vast and unknowable than we like to acknowledge.
One of the ways humans deal with change, either in ourselves or our world, is by simply not noticing it. If we were slightly more bigoted in our past, we downplay it. If we denied an obvious truth, we pretend like we never did. The past is mostly an abstraction. It’s easy to just ignore it. It’s easy to revise.
Being an artist is a little different in that you leave reflections of who you are for the whole world to see.… Read the rest “Who We Were”
The best way to write something interesting is to have a narrative voice that is interesting because everything in a story is an expression of that voice. The characters, the plot, the style, these are all elements that come from voice. And the best voice is found when you realize that your narrator is a character. Perhaps the most important character in your story.
This is obvious if you’re writing in first person, where you are using the perspective of one particular character to color the narration. A big part of the appeal of this approach is the simulation of intimacy and point of view that comes from using first person narration.
Yes, I said simulation of intimacy. Storytelling is always a simulation attempting to evoke something in the audience, but that’s a topic for another day.
But even in third person, there’s a narrator.… Read the rest “The Narrator’s Opinion”
Who would win in a fight between Superman and the Hulk?
Short answer: The writer decides.
Long answer: It’s a complicated question. Is Superman holding back? Where are they fighting? What are they fighting about? Does Hulk’s amazing strength and resilience overcome the many other powers Superman has? Are either fighting at full strength? Are they really trying to win? And a whole list of questions that all still boil down to this:
The writer decides.
To paraphrase a recent Tweet I read from comics legend Kurt Busiek: Writers aren’t referees. It’s not simply their job to weigh all the factors and provide the appropriate outcome.
The goal of writing isn’t to be real. The goal of writing is to be engaging. And often, being engaging is avoiding reality. Even in non-fantastical settings, most stories don’t set out to give you the obvious answer.… Read the rest “Reality Ensues”
There’s an old saying. Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
As a professional creative sort, I run across a lot of professional creative sorts. I also run across a lot of people who want to be creative. There are plenty of reasons to not exercise creativity. As a professional creator, I am intimately aware of all of them. Every writer I’ve met has wrestled with self-doubt and procrastination and distraction, and we’re supposed to be good at this. So I get it. I can’t tackle every obstacle in a simple blog post, but I can pick one.
Let’s talk about bad art. Specifically, let’s talk about the fear of creating bad art.
The terrorizing possibility that someone might create bad art can be crippling. It’s understandable. Even before the internet, there was no shortage of people to tell an artist they sucked.… Read the rest “Bad Art & The Bad Artists Who Make It”
There was always someone who thought they had it figured it out. They all had the same cocksure smile, the same glint of forbidden knowledge behind their eyes, as they came knocking on my door. This newest visitor was no different.
He wore a leather jacket and had a face full of piercings. His hair was shorn short on one side, but long enough everywhere else to fall into his eyes. A goatee completed the look, and I imagined he thought himself a real edgy soul.
He appraised me. Mandrake the Magician T-shirt, cargo shorts, tattered bathrobe, sneakers. He smirked. I ignored that. He’d figure it out.
I took a sip of my Irish coffee in my favorite “Ketumati is for Lovers” mug. “Something I can do for you?”
“I’m here to learn,” he said.
“Who says I’m here to teach?”… Read the rest “An Endless Search”
Steve had always dreamt of finding lost pirate treasure. There was something enticing about the notion of discovering something lost and forgotten in the ocean. Romantic in a way that few things were.
It was why he’d taken up scuba diving in the first place. He knew that salvage was serious business, and you didn’t just stumble into lost artifacts by going for a swim. He didn’t dive in hopes of getting rich and famous. He dove for his love of it. If he should happen to get rich and famous while he was at it, he wasn’t going to complain.
He was already rich, but like most people, he wouldn’t have minded being richer. He blamed his lower class upbringing for that, but he also knew that was a just-so-story for perfectly normal behavior. It was human nature to want more.… Read the rest “The Stuff of Legends”
“Eat lead, master race,” Charlie quipped as he pumped three shots into the fuhrer’s chest, another between Hitler’s eyes for good measure.
Hitler’s corpse fell across his desk, dead before he really knew what hit him. Sometimes, Charlie let the fuhrer twist in the wind a little before killing him. Now he usually just shot him. Charlie poured himself some of Hitler’s tea and drank a sip, which he did not like. The fuhrer put too much milk in it. Then Charlie pushed a button on his watch and blinked away.
On the street below, he stuck his hands in his pockets and walked away.
“Nice night,” said a woman strolling beside him. He recognized her as a fellow time traveler. The walkman clipped to her belt gave it away.
“Nicer than it was,” he said as the ambulances came screaming down the road past them.… Read the rest “The Better Tomorrows”
An ode to Valentine’s Day, Cosmic Horror Style. Hope you enjoy it, Action Force.
They sing my praises. Oh, how they sing. Their words drift from the cliffs overlooking the angry sea, swallowed up by the crashing waves, sinking to the unexplored depths, where the sleeping city waits. Where I wait, mostly forgotten, but never completely. There will always be those who remember, those I touch in their dreams, those who can hear my whispers.
They think they love me, but the truth is that they have no choice but to adore me, those that find me. It is in their nature, and while I pity them for it, I find no love in it. At the bottom of the sea, in the cold darkness, I hear their cries of worship. And I only feel more alone.
It is a terrible loneliness I carry across eternity.… Read the rest “THAT WHICH MAY ETERNAL LOVE”
MONSTER RUN, the Chinese language movie based on my novel, MONSTER, is currently streaming on Netflix. Probably worth checking out if you’re the kind of person that would drop in on this site. And if you’re a new visitor drawn here by whatever strange forces of fate compelled you to visit an unfamiliar author’s website, you can feel free to check it out as well. I won’t stand in your way.
I’ve been a professional novelist for 16 years now, an aspiring novelist for another 13 years before that. Yes, I’ve been writing, professionally or otherwise, for nearly 30 years now. Which is pretty crazy when I pause to think about it. Fortunately, I don’t do that very often.
When first pursuing this career, I had simple aspirations. Write stories. Get paid for them. Hopefully earn enough that I didn’t starve.… Read the rest “A. LEE’S STRANGE CHINESE MOVIE ADVENTURE”
I hate when characters think in books.
Let me clarify.
I hate when the writer stops the story dead in its tracks so a character can think. It doesn’t really matter what thee character thinks about. It’s usually plot or conflict or character. But, jeepers, it is boring having a character just think for pages at a time.
Sometimes, it isn’t even a character thinking. Sometimes, it’s just the narrator stopping the story to explain something. That’s just as dull.
Characters in books will have think, and narrators will have to explain sometimes. It’s not these moments that I find dull. One of the great things about novels is that they allow the reader to experience a story on so many levels at once. One of those levels is the thoughts and feelings of the characters. This is such a potent tool that movies created voiceover in jealous imitation.… Read the rest “(Don’t) Just Think About It”