Star Wars

Star Wars
Property of George Lucas, LucasFilms Ltd.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Dark Side ... of writing

This is the Dark Side, KJA!! Don't listen!
Ro and I recently agreed that we're actually more invested in "Darksaber" than we were in any of the other KJA books we've read so far. We're pretty sure it's because there's genuinely interesting plot happening here. KJA chose to do yet another superweapon novel but he also chose some very interesting villains. Good for him! It's neat that he's using Hutts (so random!) and giving Admiral Daala such an interesting and persuasive agenda. Also interesting how ruthless she remains - she goes around killing on a daily basis! The Emperor really missed out when he didn't recruit more jilted and maniacal women into his officer core. Imagine the might of an empire with Admiral Daala, Roganda Ismaren, and Mara Jade running things. RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

All that said, why can't KJA write a decent paragraph to save his life?? And/Or why couldn't LucasFilms/Bantam Spectra find a good editor to work with him??

I'm not a grammar freak - no, really! But when I read, I don't want to be reminded that I'm reading. There are all kinds of ways of accomplishing this immersion: solid character points-of-view that really get you inside a character's thoughts and perspective, effortless wording (in both description and dialogue) that feels as though it were easy to write, humorous and lively phrases and expressions and clever word play that makes me want to share it with everyone I know. I'm not saying it's easy - but when you're writing professionally, I think it's safe to set the readability bar high.

I'm still trying to get to the heart of what bothers me about KJA's writing (and "bothers" is not a strong enough word, clearly!) so I thought I'd find a paragraph that irritates me and try rewriting it. Maybe then I can get to the roots of my irritation and put specific explanations to them ... or not, we'll see ^_^

KJA's Paragraph

"Daala felt her nerves taut like high-tension wires running through her body. She kept her expression impassive, but adrenaline coursed through her as she strapped herself into her chair. Everything had gone remarkably well. The conquest had been devastating and bloody, but she had taken out selected targets 0 the appropriate victims - and the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked. Se felt elated when she thought of the momentum of her triumph.

Pellaeon raised his eyebrow in question, but she didn't respond. The risk had paid off for her. She would always remain on guard, but for the moment the danger was over. Now she had to work on consolidating her power."
--Darksaber, p. 154

Esme's Issues

To begin with, get rid of descriptive verbs like "Daala felt" - right away I feel like the author's telling me something about Daala instead of Daala's perspective telling it for me. Same goes for the past-perfect ("had paid off," "had been devastating," etc). Not only is there a removal from Daala's point-of-view but sentences like "The conquest had been devastating and bloody" is a gross generalization that sort of takes the subtlety and cleverness of Daala's consolidation of power for granted. In fact, there's a really neat sentence in here that's getting buried under the poor craftsmanship of all the others: "...the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked." How cool is that imagery! It sounds exactly like something that a grand tactician like Daala would think! And that's what this paragraph needs - more of Daala's fabulous and terrifying character.

With all this in mind, here's one way I think an editor could tackle this:

Even Imperial troopers have children who need PBS...
Esme's Edit

"Daala's nerves sang like high-tension wires. She strapped herself into her chair, schooling her expression into an impassive scowl as she considered the last few weeks of her campaign. Though devastating and bloody, she had eliminated selected targets - the appropriate victims - and the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked. She smiled grimly at the momentum of her triumph - all went according to plan.

Out of the corner of her eye, Daala caught Pellaeon's raised eyebrow. She ignored it. The risks continued to pay off. Her guard remained up but, for the present, the danger was over. It was time to consolidate power. For the glory of her Empire."

There are any number of ways to improve this paragraph (and many others like it in the novel) - I just wish someone (read: THE EDITOR) had because this novel has so much potential for awesome!!


  1. It is my BIGGEST pet peeve when an author, or aspiring author, uses "felt" instead of describing what it is the character is feeling! Every single time I came across that in my writer's group, I marked it. They thought I was being ridiculous, but it is a legitimate writing error. I am not a fan of sloppy or lazy writing, and being an author is hard work. You have to consider how your characters are feeling at all moments and then find the right verbiage to describe those feelings.

    You did an amazing job converting the "felt" into a feeling we can all understand, totally changing the sentence into something I as a reader can identify with. I think you should write Star Wars novels, Es. Or at least rewrite all of the terrible ones we've read thus far... ^_~

  2. Heehee, thanks! Mostly, I was curious if it was possible to keep the good ideas and work around them with language. I love Daala, actually - I think she's really interest. Sort of like Izard ... lots of potential to be really cool. But the language holds Daala back.

    I'm exactly the same way about "felt" - ugh!! Like I said, I'd always prefer to see how are character feels and is - don't tell me, SHOW me! I want to be absorbed into the story and have to shake myself free of it, not constantly be jolted out of it by poor language...

    I think you should give this a try, too. It's actually a really good writing exercise and if we both show we have mad skills, maybe we'll be allowed to write our own Star Wars novels someday ;)