Tag Archive: artists


The Shock Factor!

Nudity. Graphic violence. Rape. Sex. Mass killings. Pedophilia. Extremely harsh language. Dark humor.

No, this isn’t a list of my favorite things, just a few examples of what we see in movies, read in books and hear in music. It’s an undeniable fact that the shock factor is a good way to get butts in seats, books off of shelves and music churning through headphones. It’s certainly not unusual to be shocked, appalled, disgusted, and mad as hell at an author, or rather at what an author writes.

But how far is too far?

How much is too much?

And are writers allowed a “get out of jail free” card for the actions of their characters? After all, if their main character is a murderer, the reader shouldn’t be surprised when that character slams a dull pencil into his disabled mother’s eye…right? If one of the characters in a book is a drug addict, then the reader has no right to be upset with that character is willing to give up their body to everyone they pass in a dirty alley in exchange for drugs…right? Neither does the reader have a right to be upset if the author chooses to go into great detail when describing how that character earns their drugs.

Where is the dividing line between sensationalism and true art when it comes to writing? There’s always been a debate about whether or not paintings of nude people is art or pornography, but I want to put the focus on writing.

I remember back in ’09 that I read a book by Samuel R. Delany called “Hogg.” If you know anything about the book, then you know it’s become extremely well known for its depictions of gay sex, incest, murder, and a full laundry list of taboo subjects. I honestly couldn’t make it through the book. It really wasn’t that I couldn’t stomach the content, just that I couldn’t grasp the story. It might be one of those books you have to stick with in order to fully enjoy, but to me it simply got too repetitive. So did Mr. Delany write “Hogg” because he truly had a story in his head, or did he write it to give people and critics something to talk about? Were his book sales dipping and he needed a way to inject some adrenaline back into his career using any unsavory means necessary?

I can’t help but wonder if I were to write the next “50 Shades of Grey” if that would get publishers and agents interested in me. Interested not because of the story, but because of the subject matter and the potential dollar signs. We all know that the publishing industry is a business, and just like any other business money is most often the biggest factor when deciding whether to go left, right or stay in the same position.

I realize that I’ve posed several questions here and I have yet to provide you with a concrete answer as to whether or not I think the shock factor should be justified or vilified. In some cases, I think going for the reader’s throat is a good way to make them aware, get them talking about things that they’d much rather sweep under their tidy societal rug. I also think going after the reader’s throat can at times be a cheap and lazy trick to keep them interested, to move the story along when you’ve run out of ideas. Cheap and lazy, but still effective.

It’s also quite possible that the author had no idea that they were writing material that might be considered shocking. What makes you uncomfortable might not even make them bat an eye, and what they find disgusting you might call everyday life. So it’s only really shocking if you aren’t familiar with it.

What’s the most shocking thing that you’ve ever read and why was it so jarring to you?

Next post: Writing for fans you don’t yet have. Good idea, or waste of time? 

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King Con

So this past weekend I attended my second Denver Comic Con. Aside from the absolute insane lines, I had another fantastic time. I actually met J. August Richards from “Angel” and the upcoming “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and showed him my driver’s license to prove that my last name is Gunn like the character he played on “Angel.” There was also a panel with Greg Weisman, Khary Payton, Christopher Johnson, Phil LaMarr and the indefatigable Dee Bradley Baker, all of whom worked on one of my favorite shows, “Young Justice.” Kelly Hu was also there to share how winning a beauty contest was the most life-changing event that could’ve happened to her. It was really nice to feel all of that energy, passion, excitement and that sense of community with other fans in the audience. I’m not one to spaz out about meeting celebrities or public figures, but there is something to be said about someone who enjoys what they do so intensely and are willing to take time out of their busy schedule to meet with the hundreds and thousands of people who appreciate all that they do.

I left feeling encouraged, inspired, sad (because the con was over) and rejuvenated. While geeks and nerds usually keep to themselves and stay in their shells, we all seem to come alive at events like Comic Con where we’re around our kind and around people who understand why we get so excited about characters who are drawn and come alive on a page or characters we see on our television screens who are involved in lives of fantasy and science fiction. While we know these characters and scenarios are fiction, the devotion and passion that goes into bringing it all to life is something that just resonates with “the true believers.” It made me want to share more about what I’m writing and working on and who I am, especially the Q&A session with Nelson Ellis.

Nelson Ellis is the actor who’s probably best known for playing Lafayette on “True Blood.” During his panel, Nelson was as open and honest as anyone could be, very raw, very real. He told us about how his parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of him playing a gay man, but that he did it despite that. As I sat in the audience watching and laughing with him, it was clear that I was watching a true actor who was just as comfortable fully becoming another character as he was with fully not only becoming himself, but exposing his true self. And exposing his true self to complete strangers.

The entire weekend rekindled something inside of me that I’ve allowed to diminish over the past few months. That sense of being raw and being open with people. I’m already writing out my pains, scars, fears and fantasies through my stories and sharing them with the world, so why shouldn’t I keep doing that with the real me? I might not become a household name anytime soon, but I definitely want to be known as a writer who clearly enjoys his work, hardships and all, and isn’t afraid of sharing the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly with his readers. Besides, who knows where I’ll end up, what I’ll end up writing and who I’ll end up writing it with.

I see now that Comic Con isn’t just a convention, it’s a sort of revival.

Take care out there

 

SO I’M PRACTICALLY DONE WITH MY SECOND NOVEL!! There are just a few more passages that I have to go back and add, but for the most part it’s complete. I finished it up last night and looked back and couldn’t believe how much I’d written. I guess I was simply determined to stop at a good place. Afterwards I sat and felt…moved. It was like saying goodbye to a guest that frustrated you, made you mad, made you laugh, taught you things about yourself and showed you what you were capable of. Sometimes I feel like writing is simply another way of expressing yourself and other times I feel like it’s about discovering different parts of yourself. But the thing about it is that you don’t know what you’ve discovered until it’s all done and the final emotions and thoughts wash over you.

Creation

          Discovery

                   Accomplishment

                              Joy

                                        Sadness

                                                  Excitement

I’m gonna let it cool for a few days before I jump back in and put the finishing touches on it. Now that that project if FINALLY wrapped up, I can turn my attention to my neglected literary baby, Dark On The Rock. While I’ll still be writing about superheroes, Dark On The Rock doesn’t stick so closely to the rules and circumstances of our reality and I can allow myself more room creatively not to try so hard to make it so realistic.

I read a quote recently that said something along the lines of would I still write if I didn’t make any money from writing or never had my work published/read. I think the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. Although it would be nice to share my work with other people and get paid to do it, I think I’d be just as satisfied knowing that I had written something that changed my life if not anyone else’s. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that there are people in this world who don’t like to or feel that they can’t use their creative abilities or think that they don’t have any creative talent. But then again I’ve been writing since a very young age, so it’s hard for me to imagine myself as a non-creative individual, at least in the sense of artistic creativity.

While I’m both relieved that I finished the novel and sad to leave my character and their world for a while, I am excited about embarking on other adventures. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Take care out there.

How do you feel once you’ve finished a writing project? Overjoyed? Relieved? Pensive? Ready to start your next project?

Some authors can write the beginning of a book, short story or chapter off of the cuff. They like to see where the story goes without drawing a map to the final destination. I’ve done this myself a time or two, but I find that my work comes out best if I write my ideas out, look at them and arrange them into a story. No matter what school of thought you subscribe to, sitting down to write a map of where you intend to go with your story does have its advantages.

I like to write my stories a bit like TV shows, where each chapter is an episode and each book can be considered a season. In TV shows, the writers always get together and have a writers meeting to discuss where they are in the season, what the next episode is going to be about, which characters and what story lines will be included in the episode and how the episode they’re currently writing will impact the future of the show. I like to do the same thing whenever I outline the next chapter of a novel or a short story.

I’m currently working on finishing up my second novel. My first attempt at writing a novel is actually going to be the third novel in the series. I was halfway through when I realized that my characters have a backstory that I had yet to fully explore in order to do the novel and the series justice. At first I thought I could do that with just one novel, but it turned out that I actually needed two. In order to figure out the backstories of my characters, I had to get to know them. In order to do that, I had to sit down and “interview” them, see who they were before I met them, what they liked, who their family was, what clothes they liked to wear and what kind of music they listened to. Outlining is a great way to not only discover every facet of your story, but to also figure out who your characters are.

I admit that there is a thrill to simply diving into a story to see where it will take me. The act of raw creation brings a certain sense of urgency and an unpolished refinement that you just can’t get when you outline. Rather than sitting down and interviewing your characters, you allow them to possess you and tell the story purely from their point of view. It’s a bit like listening to the elegance of orchestral music versus the unbridled ferocity of heavy metal. One is very structured, very outlined and the other is undiluted and restrained. Yet both have their target audiences.

So when it comes to the question of outlining, I think it’s best to try your hand at both. If you’re used to outlining, you might want to try writing a poem to exercise those creative mental muscles. Poetry is another one of those raw forms of creation. Rarely do you hear of a poet, rapper, MC, musician or singer who outlines their material. Often they have the music, the verse or the song inside of them and they simply sit down and let it out, allowing it to write itself as they go. After the muse has passed, they go back and clean it up, much like a writer edits their work. If you’re more used to writing off of the cuff and would like to outline more, a suggestion to make the transition is to write out character histories or make up a character and write out their backstory. This will allow your mind to focus, discover and think before putting pen to pad or finger to key.

Take care out there.

Which do you prefer? Outlining or writing off of the cuff? Any particular reason why?  

Why I Write What I Write

 

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I fell in love with fiction and fantasy. But I do remember there was an allure in exploring possibilities and impossibilities. Maybe it was growing up in Alabama where nothing ever happened that drove me to immerse myself in worlds where adventure was a part of everyday life, magic occurred as naturally as the wind and traveling in a spaceship was a standard practice. Reality was too bland, too boring for me, and reading was an escape from that. But reading fantasy was like dreaming while still awake. I guess fantasy and sci-fi were my Inception.

I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I’ve always been a daydreamer. I think you’d probably have to visit me in a psychiatric ward if it weren’t for a creative outlet like writing. And maybe that’s all that writers, artists, poets and other creative types are, functioning psychotics. Rather than allowing our insanity to consume us and drive us insane, we channel it and work with it to creative something…more, something beyond what we see and experience in everyday life.

I know that the world we live in holds much splendor and wonder, but sometimes all of that magnificence needs to be magnified times a thousand. I don’t want to travel in an airplane, I want to lift my arms and fly under my own will. I don’t want to simply travel to different states and nations, I want to travel to different dimensions. I want to live in the worlds I see in games like Final Fantasy, see what it would be like to have actual superpowers and have a vampire for a roommate.

For a while now I’ve been on a superhero kick. There’s just something about exploring the idea of how having superpowers changes who you are, either in a small way or a big way. Would the world be a better place if Captain America really existed? How different would the world be if it had a Captain Japan or a Captain Africa? What if the Avengers were villains instead of heroes? What if there was one person with the power to solve all of the world’s problems but they decided not to? I hope to write comic book scripts as well as novels someday, and maybe even a video game script or two. Even though I’m not up to date on the latest happenings in the comic book/graphic novel world, I’ll always be a proud comic book nerd.

When it comes to fantasy, I’m enamored with the idea of creating a new world, new rules, new races, new technology and new ideas. I believe that fantasy and sci-fi are the purest forms of creation. The genres force authors to dig deep, unravel thoughts and ideas that they’ve had since they were old enough to comprehend in order to make manifest a new universe where those thoughts and ideas don’t mean a thing. I have one idea for a fantasy story that’s been in my head for years. I dabble with it every now and then, and I’m just now starting to feel “old” enough to make an honest effort of writing it. If I do, I think I’ll have to pull  a George R.R. Martin and spend a few years on it.

As much as I love brazen, in-your-face fantasy and fiction, I also love the subtle nuances of a fiction or thriller. These are the kinds of stories that can keep me up at night wondering if the events and characters pressed between the pages of a book could actually exist. Movies like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy make us believe that there could be a real life Bruce Wayne out there somewhere. While  characters like the Joker and Bane may not exist, the characteristics of those characters most certainly do. That is the type of fiction that I hold closest to my heart, the kind that really makes you sit down and examine your life, the world you live in and how you fit in it.

Fiction, sometimes it’s closer to the truth than reality itself.

Take care out there.

What are some of your favorite genres and why? 

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my serial DARK ON THE ROCK on JukePop Serials! Vote for it if you like it, and be sure to check back this Friday for Episode Three.

Back to Basics

 

Writers not only have to be writers, but business people as well if we’re serious about making  a career out of our passion. We spend time learning about the publishing industry, how to market ourselves, where to find the best critique group for our level of skill, finding agents and more. All of this can be very exciting and fresh, but it can also make us forget why we set out to become a published author in the first place.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been slacking in my writing. I’ve still been working on my writing career, I just haven’t been working on the very thing that will support that career: my writing. I’ve been reading articles, trying to find software to create my own cover for my JukePop Serials story (any suggestions would be welcome) and writing to pay the bills.

Last night I had a small mental breakdown. I was reading an article about how poor publishing is worse than not being published at all. I realize that we need to know what we may be getting in to it before we get in to it and I appreciate the knowledge. But one thing I didn’t appreciate was the way it made me feel, like attempting to become a published author is one of the most risky and foolish decisions a person could choose to do with their life. In the time it takes to write a novel, find an agent, find a publisher, get a book deal and finally see your book on shelves is roughly the same amount of time it takes to finish medical school or earn a PhD. I realize that becoming a medical doctor takes time and money where becoming a published author only takes time and luck. But sometimes it seems as though it’s smarter and less painful to simply follow a different passion, a more sensible passion.

So why do writers do it? Why do we put ourselves through the rejection, pain, setbacks and pitfalls of the journey to authorhood?  Why do we keep faith in our hearts that one day we’ll join the ranks of other successful authors even though we know what’s waiting for us out there? Why?

I asked myself all of these questions last night, wondering if maybe I should focus on another career goal and put writing on the back burner for a few years. At 27 I feel as if I should stop dreaming and wake up and join the real world. But then I remembered how blessed I am. I remembered when I first discovered that I loved to write. I remembered how there is nothing more in this world I’d rather do then tell stories, explore, examine and imagine.

I remembered the magic of writing.    

I don’t want to look at my life ten years from now and wish that I’d kept pursing my first passion. Something could happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. But I won’t be there to experience that something if I don’t keep going and keep believing that whatever or Whoever brought me this far isn’t done with me yet, that my journey could be nothing like the horror stories I’ve read. Times are different, my path is different and my circumstances may not be the same.

Almost anyone can be a doctor, graphic designer, business owner or any other practical job. And I’m not demeaning those occupations whatsoever. But not everyone can be a writer, world weaver, yarn spinner, storyteller. Or journey is a different one, with different obstacles and frustrations. And there’s also a different joy and satisfaction associated with what we do. I believe that writing is  the closest I’ll come to finding out what it’s like to bring life into this world.

So not only will I stay in the game, I’ll do my damndest to change the game and win the game. And I hope to see you at the finish line.

Take care out there.

Artists have to be some of the bravest and most vulnerable people on Earth. To go on stage and perform a poem, showcase your artwork, sing an original song or allow someone to read your work takes great courage. It’s akin to undressing your soul and allowing others to gaze upon your naked spiritual flesh, every scar, every burn, every curve, every freckle, mole, wrinkle, stretch mark, every part of yourself. They are the brave and the bold, fighting for our freedom to be more than human. And I am proud to be among their ranks.