Monthly Archives: July 2012

Tales of the Dim Knight

So I read Tales of the Dim Knight on the recommendation of a writer friend. We’d been talking about superhero prose and the lack of Christian superhero work. I’d already read Leaper (my review here) and that was it. But because I still read a lot of superhero prose, I wanted to read it.

*Spoiler alert*

Written by husband and wife team of Adam and Andrea Graham, the 338 page book is about 100 pages too long. While there are a lot of really cool concepts, ideas and scenes, it lacks a real cohesive story. Yeah, there’s the story thread of the wife threatening to leave the husband—the hero of the story (he finds some alien symbiotic tube that gives him pretty much any power he wants)—but it isn’t consistent and is dropped and forgotten often when the hero runs off to do this one thing or that. There are random events that have little or no relevancy to the overall story. In fact, I’m not really sure what the overall story IS.

The writing itself isn’t bad. In fact, it’s easy to read and moves along nicely. I don’t recall many typos or errors until the very last pages. It just doesn’t say anything. I kept trying to figure out what it was about…but in the end, it’s just about a guy who finds an alien that lets him do anything…it just sort of meanders along.

To make matters worse, the photo and bio of the Grahams make me think they are people I’d like to meet and know. But it felt like there was a story they wanted to tell, but couldn’t figure out how to do it and had more fun making stuff up for the superhero to do—most of which wasn’t connected.

It reads more like it should have been a series of short stories all set in the Dim Knight’s world. Except that the book had sequential chapter numbering, that’s what it felt like. Maybe that hint is in the title, too. “Tales” of the Dim Knight. IF that was the case, then present it as such and not as a novel. In fact, as I type, I think an editor should have suggested that to them. They then could have had the subplots running throughout each of the short stories and it wouldn’t have been bothersome. Except the buying public often doesn’t want to buy anthologies…unless they’re edited by George R.R. Martin.

This is one of those books that’s hard to recommend. If you’re just looking for superhero books…skip it. If you’re looking for Christian superheroes, then you should read it because there aren’t very many choices. But buy it off the sale table if you can find it.

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Control the Language!

At writer conferences, fledgling writers are always looking for the magic bean, the “secret” that published writers have and they don’t know yet. And while they know in their heart that no such thing exists, they still search for it.

The proof is in the question I am asked more than any other question: what do I need to do to break in? Many of them are convinced that they have a super-original concept or story idea that if they can just get an editor to read it, they could sell it. While they may have that one in a million idea (all of us writers like to tell ourselves that!), the chances are more likely they don’t. That’s not to suggest it isn’t a good or salable idea.

I’ve read stories after the writers have communicated to me they want to spend their life writing and selling…only to discover they don’t know the difference between there/their/they’re or it’s/its, they can’t get their subjects and their verbs to agree, or they simply can’t compose a sentence (I almost wrote “they can’t get there subjects and verbs to agreed,” but was afraid I’d get some snarky comment about how even I couldn’t do it!)

Every writer makes typos and simple errors. Editors know that and understand it. But there’s a big difference between typos and lack of ability to control the language.

If you’re one of those who struggle with grammar, never fear! The beauty is that it can be learned. As many have heard me say here before, it’s all about practice, practice, practice. As a writer, you’ve got to write every day, but you’ also need to read every day. And read good stuff, too. I’ve said before that I believe we pick up a lot by osmosis, so be sure you’re absorbing good stuff.

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Mess’em Up!

One of the things I’ve noticed over time in teaching character at Full Sail University, at Writers Conferences and at other assorted writer functions where I read and give feedback or otherwise comments on a writer’s work, is that writers are often afraid to mess with or mess up their protagonists. And while I haven’t made any sort of exhaustive study, I think this stems from writers falling in love with the characters we create.

That’s not to suggest we shouldn’t like them. I think one of those aspects of good characters that is often overlooked is that we want audiences to like our heroes or protagonists. But when you, as the author, fall too deeply in love with your own creation, you don’t want to do anything to “mess” with them.

And yet, my rallying cry to writers has always been “mess’em up!”

Readers aren’t interested in perfect or near perfect characters. They don’t want to read about characters who have perfect lives. Oh sure, there’s often some fairy tale sort of aspect involved, but even those characters—the good/interesting ones, that is—are messed up in some way.

So…it’s our job as writers to mess’em up.

This can come in assorted ways. You can mess them up emotionally—that’s always interesting. We like to watch characters like Monk, or Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. And even though he isn’t the “hero,” Hannibal Lecter is one messed’up dude and we can’t help but be interested in the story surrounding him.

You can mess them up physically; physical handicaps or deformities—while it may not exactly be politically correct to say so—are things that draw our curiosity and interest. We want to see how a character like this overcomes his challenges…and then be thankful for our own blessings.

Regardless of what you decide to do with your protagonist, you’ve got to give them some challenges to overcome. And not just as your story. The plot of your story should present a challenge, of course, but if your character has an additional personal something they must overcome WHILE overcoming the obstacle your story has presented, we’ll be far more interested to see what they do.

Now…go mess up your characters!

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