It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
AUGUST QUESTION: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something, or you are inspired to write, or try the new technique. And why?
MY ANSWER: I’ve never read any of the writing textbooks more than once, even the best ones. But I re-read my favorite fiction authors regularly, and every time I do, I learn something new. When I know exactly how the book ends, I pay more attention to the way the author handles dialog or scenes, pacing or tension. I consider good fiction the best writing books out there.
Speaking of fiction, I recently re-read Sharon Shinn’s The Turning Season, a quiet and thoughtful book. Like many works by this author, it raised some hard questions. One of the questions touched me deeply: who has the right to kill? A soldier sanctioned by the government? Obviously, YES. A policeman – ditto. But what if the government doesn’t care about a certain segment of the population, doesn’t protect them? Who has the right to kill in their defense? Who can protect them? And if someone (a character named Ryan) appointed himself to the role of the protector, is he a hero or a criminal?
Personally, I lean towards Ryan being a hero. But many of the novel’s characters wouldn’t accept his killing, even though he doesn’t kill to get money or power for himself. He doesn’t enjoy his killing either. He kills to protect the others, to save lives, and his motive makes all the difference for me. While many characters in the book face a moral dilemma regarding Ryan’s killing or outright condemn him, I don’t have their problem. I cheer for Ryan.
Maybe because I lived half of my life in the Soviet Russia, a totalitarian state, I don’t trust a government, any government. In most cases, it is not my friend, even though I now live in Canada, one of the best democratic countries in the world. I’d still trust a vigilante before I’d trust any government. After all, we all admire X-men and Batman and Spiderman, don’t we? They kill the bad guys, and everyone rejoices. Why would Shinn’s characters denounce an identical behavior on Ryan’s part?
Just because Ryan doesn’t have a piece of paper signed by a government official, giving him ‘a license to kill,’ it doesn’t make him a villain. In the novel, they call him a murderer. But when a local sheriff kills him in the end of the story, that’s OK. The sheriff did it ‘in the line of duty,’ as was his right, and everyone is fine with that. That hypocritical ending made me long to scream in frustration.
What do you think?
Some unrelated news. My online friend Widdershins just published her fantasy book The Last Dragon in London. I made the cover for her, and you could see my cover everywhere where books are sold. It was a fascinating project for me, and I’m proud of the result. Here it is.