Friday, September 27, 2013

Fiction’s Ultimate Concern

“The only requirement for good fiction is that it be interesting,” Henry James said.  A fiction writer doesn’t have the restrictions of a non-fiction writer.  As a work of fiction belongs solely to the writer’s imagination, he/she is not bound by any formal rule. The only limitation comes from the imagination.

For any work of fiction to enter the realm of classic: it has to be good, interesting and relevant to all times; before and after its publishing period.

What separates a good fiction from a great one is not just the literary and technical skills of the writer, but also the universality (the universal questions the book deals with).

Paul Tillich calls it the Ultimate Concern. The contemporary fiction which falls under the best category has the quality of the ultimate concern in abundance. Ultimate Concern is something that we take with unconditional and utmost seriousness in our lives without any reservations. It’s something that we are ready to suffer or die for. Ultimate concern is the main concern in a person’s life. The ultimate concern consumes the person. It contains the answer about the meaning of that person’s life.

A person is grasped by this ultimate concern. Take the example of Harry Potter. His ultimate concern was to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes and kill him. Harry was aware that either he would be successful in thwarting Voldemort, or he would die in the process. Though the outcome of this ultimate concern was absolutely clear to Harry, he was caught in the ultimate concern’s deadly grip. It haunted him. He had just one mission in life. Stop Voldemort.

Every work of fiction grapples with an ultimate concern which consumes the protagonist like a fire. The resolution of this ultimate concern forms the crux of the story. For me the ultimate concern transfers into the conflict in the book. Maybe the conflict in my book may not be universal, maybe this conflict is just crucial for my protagonist: but it becomes his or her ultimate concern, something he or she is dead serious about. Something they are willing to die for.

How do you decide the ultimate concern of your protagonists? Are they grasped by it like Harry? Please share. We would love to learn from everyone’s experience.

P.S.  I am reposting an old post. Next week I will have a new topic for you all.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Alex Cavanaugh's CassaStorm hits the shelves

Hello everyone. September 15-21 belongs to our Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. The final book of his space opera trilogy: CassaStorm was released on 17th September. We the Ninja minions have decided to let Ninja Captain Alex take over the blogging world for these hectic seven days.

Let me share a secret with you. When I first met Alex online, I was stunned at his fan following. I was sure that he would ignore poor little me. I added myself to his follower list, thinking that he wouldn't even acknowledge me. Next day I was surprised to see that not only had Alex followed me back, but also left a comment. I thought that it would be a one off comment and he will never visit me again. Thank God I was wrong. Its been a few years now and I count Alex as one of my good friends who is always there for me, watching my back, encouraging and supporting me.

Drop in to his blog and be a part of the excitement. Alex is giving away lots of goodies- a Cassa mug, mousepad, magnet, and swag to a lucky random commenter on his blog this week. 

I had posted a question to Alex regarding his book. Here is his reply.

My question: How did you do the research for your series? Did you read any particular books for your research?

Alex's Reply: Didn’t read any books. I’m familiar with military fighters and had access to information about them. All other research came from what I’ve soaked up over the years watching science fiction movies.

By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“…the racial conflicts propelled much of the plot in this story, driving home a message that's relevant to our own world and giving the book an interesting texture.” 
- C. Lee. McKenzie, author of Alligators Overhead
“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.” – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats
Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Goodreads -

Here is the amazing book trailer.

Here is wishing Alex loads of success from all of us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sharing some writing pictures

This week slipped past so fast, that before I even realized it, Friday had loomed into view. Due to writing commitments, health issues and lots of personal work, I was unable to write a post. So I took the easy way out.

I will share a few writing related pictures that brought a smile to my lips.

This is the muse I need. Someone who holds a gun and commands me to write. I have been procrastinating a lot this month.

I am glad that none of us fall into this category!

I do suffer from the Obsessive Compulsive Editing Disorder. I tend to edit until the last minute and then I agonize over a few mistakes I may have overlooked.

Yes, I have met one or two nitpicking editors whose purpose is to give writers acidity and ulcers.

I often sit in this position, all bunched up like a comma. Thank God I don't have pets who will discuss my posture!

Which picture defines you? Which is the closest to your heart. Do share your funny stories. We all need a laugh.

Pictures Courtesy: All the pictures belong to the sources identified in the picture.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Beware of falling into the trap

The worst mistake we writers can make is by Falling into the trap. The writing trap. A large writing hole that we writers are prone to falling into, due to several reasons; overuse of certain types of plot lines, clichéd resolution, similar style of narrative in all the books we write, even though the books may not be a part of a series, use of similar settings, themes, use of similar protagonists in all the books, not deviating from the same and often predictable thought patterns and plot twists.

This can be attributed to the fact that once a few writers have discovered a successful formula, they want to milk it dry. Perhaps they endorse the view why mess or meddle with something that has worked well. But what they forget is that a certain style the readers may have adored once, may not find takers again and again.

Many times I have felt a sense of Déjà vu when I read the next set of books written by a few writers. I get the feeling that I have met the characters before, at another time in another place. Even the setting has no novelty as it’s the same one as the last book written by the author. The problem faced by the main character and the way the conflict has been resolved is something I had guessed halfway through the book.

Today’s generation of readers have several things vying for their limited and often straying attention. If the writer has nothing new to offer they are quick to discard the book and the writer. The only way we can avoid this vicious writing trap is by being original. This will sustain the writer if he or she is in for the long haul. There are several writers who have adopted this approach successfully: Roald Dahl; each book of his was different  from the other, for example there was no similarity in any of these books; George’s Marvellous Medicine, Twits, Mathilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate factory.

Another writer who escaped this trap is J.K Rowling. Though the seven potter books had the same setting of Hogwarts and the same set of characters, each book had something new to offer. There were new entrants who took us completely unawares, several times the plot took unexpected twists that intrigued us. This trait of unpredictability keeps readers interested.

 Have you ever felt that a particular writer is falling into the trap? How do you  manage to avoid the writing trap? Please share your views. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG Post – Fear of not getting published

IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) founded by Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh, is a support group for writers, where we talk of our writing insecurities and help and support each other. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. IWSG is celebrating its second anniversary today. 

Two years, 315 members, IWSG has gone from strength to strength, accumulating writers from all over the world in its womb.

The fear and anxiety I am sharing is one every writer would have undergone at some stage of his or her career. Fear of not getting published. Infact, for many of us this fear smacks us in the face with every manuscript we start writing.

For me this fear looms large like an insurmountable mountain every time I start a new work. For one, I have this great ability to choose themes which publishers may not be instantly attracted towards. I love to go for the unusual, both in story, style and characterization. This trait of mine gives me immense bouts of anxiety whether publishers will like my work or turn it down. Trying to keep this fear at bay is as tough as trying to outline the story.

Whenever this fear attacks me, I try to think of Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries), Jeff Kinney (Wimpy Kid) and other writers who attempted something new. I am sure they too had their fair share of rejections. I am also sure that they persevered even in the face of these rejections and managed to reach the publishing peak (getting published) and write their next lot of books.

Does the fear of not being published ever cross your mind? How do you all tackle this fear and manage to get over this anxiety? Is there anyone out there who was confident of getting published right from typing that first word on their laptops? Please share your thoughts on this topic.