Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Swearing in YA Fiction

I was reading a forum thread today.  It was the first page of a debate thread.  And being that it is a Christian forum, everyone on there agreed swearing is bad in YA fiction.

Is swearing bad, then?  Is it just inherently evil, or does it not really matter?  My immediate reaction might be something along the lines of "Well, it's what the writer means it as."

But is that true?  If I don't really mean what I say when I take God's name in vain, does that excuse me?

If they're empty words, why is there a taboo on them in Christian culture?  Do you see the point in holding up a meaningless tradition?

If they're just words, I may as well expand my vocabulary!  If I don't mean anything by them, how can they harm?

But do I really mean something?  Maybe, maybe not.  A lot of teens  (and adults) spout out words they might not even understand just for the sake of it.  But they're expressions, are they not?  For some, swearing is just another adjective.  For others, they say it in anger, surprise, or even happiness.  They're expressing their feelings.

So is expressing your feelings - even when you're using swear words - okay?  Here's a key point though.  I'm not using a swear word for basically no reason - I'm using it to express myself.  And so it does mean something to me . . .

Of course, it may just be a habit I got stuck onto.

So is swearing really bad?  The Bible says using God's name in vain is bad, but what about the other words?  The words that aren't using God's name in vain?  The f-word, the s-word?

We might find them vulgar, as Christians.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Our own beliefs should come out far stronger than what the world excepts.  Our beliefs should be more powerful to us individually.  Philippians 4:8 validates our shunning of those two words for us personally.

And so as a writer, it partially depends on what your own moral standard is.

But going back to this forum.  One member said:
"If you need a character to cuss:

1.  Make up swear phrases.
2.  Simply write "Billy cursed."

Do you agree with this?

I don't.  Why?  Because making up your own swear words is just a pathetic excuse to make yourself feel "unguilty".  I'm sorry, but I have to be blunt.  What's the difference between using the phrase: "Oh my god" and "By the King's beard."?

The king in the second phrase is referring to a god-like presence in whatever fantasy world writers may be writing in.  But there's no difference.  Using God's name in vain, only switching the official title?  Think about that a while.

Moving on to number two then.  I feel uncomfortable with this too.  If someone - maybe an impressionable young kid, reads that his hero curses, then by all means, that should mean he is allowed to do so too . . .

Even if original intentions are not so, indirect and even subconscious messages can be transmit through the page.  I know what "Billy" is saying.  And covering up the word with "Billy cursed" is only an excuse to hide what the character is saying.  Just write the word if that's what you're trying to say.

Or would you feel guilty . . . ?

I don't like swearing in my fiction - or anything that I read.  But what's the point of trying to hide it when I know it's there?

C.S. Lewis swore.  Or maybe he just used it in his books to give a more authentic feel to the characters.  Whatever the case, he didn't use it in the Chronicles of Narnia.  It's a family friendly series.  I have no wish to put profanity in children's stories - but covering it up with "he swore"?  There's no difference.

If a kid gets the wrong idea from a curse word, it's your responsibility.  You may not be able to fix it - but you could have prevented it.  It affects.  Words affect.

And that is why words are so powerful.  They can create emotion.  And they can create mistakes.  If you have swear words, even in foreign languages, show that it is wrong.

Show that swearing, no matter the random string of letters - but that the meaning of it - is wrong.

What's your opinion on swear words?  Are they inherently evil?  Do you not mind "he swore" so much?  What about other words?  Would you replace a swear word with "rats!"?  Also, what do you think about the words that mean different things in different places?  In America, bloody is an acceptable word.  In the United Kingdom and other British affiliated nations however, "bloody" is offensive.

Is masking what you mean by using other words acceptable?  Even if your meaning is the same?  For an evil character, this is sometimes a question you may be faced with, even just for the sake of authenticity.

And also, what - in your mind - is the difference between using God's name in vain, as in "Good God!" and exclamations of surprise or other emotions?

- R

Monday, January 27, 2014

Save Jonathan Park!

Jonathan Park is in trouble!

Jonathan Park is an awesome Christian radio drama.  But the series is in a crisis - because last year a business partner with the series folded, and with it seemingly went the hope of Jonathan Park ever returning to the 'waves.

But recently a new chance came up for the Roys - the family who created, wrote, and directed the series.  They were offered a chance to buy back the rights of Jonathan Park.  This could mean a lot.

But that chance to get back the full rights is costly.  And they don't just have the capital sitting around.  So Mr. Roy started a crowdfunding option.  100,000 dollars is a lofty goal - but who said anything is impossible with God on our side?

Jonathan Park is an invaluable endeavor.  The series aired all over.  And now they need our help to bring back Jonathan Park.

It's time to Save Jonathan Park!

The crowdfunding host is fundable -
But you can also just search for and it will send you straight there.

Learn more about the Jonathan Park series here -
And visit the group (lead by Mr. Roy and his wife) website who will be buying the rights -

~Robert T

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Don't Have The Patience For Writing

What if I don't have the patience to write?

Patience for writing.  This is something I have been asked before.  Truth is, you don't need patience.

You don't need, even, devotion.  Even inspiration.  Just interest.

That's all.  If you're interested in writing, you can write a novel.  Now I can't promise you'll hit the New York Times bestseller's list, but if you want to write a novel, you can write a novel.  To make a career out of it, you need to have an intense devotion to it.

But if you just want to write as a hobby or for leisurely fun, you should have no problem with silly "patience".  And patience to write is also something you will learn over time if you do want to make a life out of writing.  All in time, of course (and a lot of patience!  Oh, wait . . .).

 But there's more to patience than just that, right?  Yes.

Determination.  Persistence.  You might not need the patience to write, but you need the determination.  If you don't have it, get it.  Force it on yourself.  Discipline yourself.  And if you want to write regularly, set up a schedule that you will follow.

If you want to consistently write every day, try the 100 for 100 on the Go Teen Writers website.  You write 100 words a day for 100 days.  And of course if you want to keep going that day, write more than a hundred words.  The point is not to get a lot done, but to get it done consistently.

If there is anything in writing you need more than anything else, it's determination.  This is all writing really is;

10% skill, 90% persistence idiocy.

An exaggeration, of course.  But the point is brought across.  And if you don't have the persistence, that's something you can train yourself to have.  Do writing challenges - and tell your friends you're doing them.  That will put some heavy-handed pressure on you to actually finish them.

In the end though, your determination will take energy out of you.  Writing is like a seesaw.  It's a give and take.  The more energy you put in it, the less you'll have to put into others things.  But of course there are the many rewards of writing it will give back to you.

Have any of you ever run out of patience with writing?  I know I certainly have.  How have you mastered this trial?  Brute determination or taking a rest, or both?

Robert T.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


It's been done in the Hobbit, it's been done in Robinson Crusoe.  But those were books written decades - even centuries in the latter case - ago.  Both of them infodumped from the start.  Both of them are wildly popular.  But now things have changed.  Infodumping now is a curse.

The patience of readers (and writers) alike has dwindled considerably just in the last fifty years, and therefore the art has changed.  New genres have arisen - just think of thrillers - that would hardly be possible if they were not so fast paced.

Every sentence of a novel must matter in some way, but novels in general must be faster.  I enjoy a longer novel once in a while, but it bores the soul out of you eventually.

And so there is at least one inevitable truth in writing:  You must keep up the pace.

Especially in the first chapter, something meaningful has to happen.  Okay, so maybe you've done that.  And this is where a lot of new writers really scuttle themselves.  Let's look at it from an outline perspective.

-MC's village burned down by raiders.  Family killed.  Inciting Incident.
-MC's backstory told about him being a prince/magician.

Not only is that horribly cliche, it's infodumping.  The process of stopping everything else in the story and telling a block of info - whatever this info may be.  Whether it be about the world in which the characters live in (most commonly for Speculative Fiction), about a particular character, or general backstory, what specifies infodumping is that plot, character development, and all else is halted for this information to be given.

This is always, always bad.

And it doesn't just have to be at the beginning.  Infodumps are bad everywhere.  I caught myself in one of my own novels nearly infodumping the backstories of two new characters.  Thankfully, I was still in the outlining stages and it was easy to refocus that scene.

But besides backstory, character, or world infodumps, there are a few more . . .

The: "As You Know" infodumps.

Just as in narration, infodumps can easily be used in dialogue.  But its still just as bad - it stops everything else to explain.  To tell, not to show).  And therefore, they must be done away.  The most common of these dialogue infodumps is the "As You Know" loophole.  There's a no-brained insensibility to have one character explain to the other character what they both already know (and they know the others know) just for the benefit of the reader.

Of course, there's even a loophole around that.  To bring in a character who doesn't know the As You Know (whatever subject it is), and so it makes sense.

But it's lazy.  The reader might get the point, but as writers, we're not just supposed to get the message through, we're supposed to do it in a unique and intriguing way.

Give little hints every few pages and let the reader find out the information for him- or her- self.  This brings the reader's mind into the book.  And once in the book, it's not easy to get out.

Getting rid of infodumps therefore not only keeps the pace of the story steady, it lets the reader engage himself into the story.

Robert T.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Plans

My planning for 2014 has begun.  Setting goals is a good way to, at the least, make yourself feel extremely guilty if you don't get anything done.  And that is precisely why I've set up some of my own goals.  What's life without guilt, eh?

- Aside from completing this year of school - and then starting another - I'm going to be taking a Clep Test for college; Western Civilization 1.  Oh the joy of that thought.
- I will learn how to cut my hair and shave.  ;)
- Blog more frequently after I revamp this place - again.
- Introduce to the world the new genre of Suavebuckling!  Hahaw.  Which is sadly nothing but a fancy name.
- Finish the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum, therein completing Heart of a Hero (temporary title, of course).
- Outline and write a children's short story.  Possibly write more in that story-world, depending on how I like it.
- Possibly write a novel considerably longer than anything I have ever written before by out 40k words.  But I'm not confident about this.  Depending on how everything else in life goes, I'll outline this in late spring or early summer, and possibly start writing in August.
- Edit Heart of a Hero like crazy.
- Compete in both Church and Homeschool volleyball teams I'm in.

Sound a little weak for a year plan?  It probably is, but speed-writing is most definitely not my style.  I'm not the kind of guy who can sit down and in four months have a 100k first draft, along with the printings on the keyboard a little more worn.  I also fumble through between going from completed project to promising new first draft quite a bit.

But, I do have at least two other major things stored for 2014.  Two things that will keep me busy each week, consistently.

And that's the worst kind of project.

R. Thacker

P.S.  This is a little contradictory to my last post.  I may get lost in pursuit of selfish dreams, that is a fact inevitable.  Still, there is one thing that might redeem my name from hypocrisy.  Time will tell, of course.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

It's all good and nice to dream about "New Year's Resolutions," but a lot of the time, we're being selfish.

They're our resolutions to help us.  Maybe we did promise to make our home a better place by "being kinder to our families," but will it happen?

Is it even possible?

But then we have to think - is that even what we should be doing?

Trying to improve life for ourselves and our kin is fine and all, but it's a little selfish.  Who, besides us and the ones close to us, is it really helping?

Okay, so maybe you promised to "go green!" this year.  That's splendid!

Now are you going to do it?

New Year's Day is a fun time to think up what we'd like to do this year.  To fantasize.  To say, "maybe this'll be the year I write my book."  But we have to remember that what we do or not do will affect others.

One hundred and thirty-thousand people died in the Syrian Civil War.  Their lives were taken away from them without hesitation, without a tear of remorse.  The brutal meatgrinder of war will never stop.  Is there anything you can do in a "New Year's Resolution" to solve?  No, of course not.

But when you're thinking about what you want to do, consider what you can do.  Can you help the 2 million people displaced by the Syrian Civil War?  They live in fear, hunger, and poverty, places inhuman to be forced into.

So while you're in the hype of "doing good things," and "becoming a better person," think about what you can really do.  New Year's Resolutions might be a good thing, but it won't resolve the problems of life.

Alone we cannot resolve our problems.  Things will remain unresolved, no matter how we try.

Resolutions might make you feel good, but look at the results, did it really do good?

R. Thacker