By The Hilt

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Emerson

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Right Writing

As a writer, I sometimes worry about my depiction of what’s right and good within my story.  I write fiction, and more specifically, I write for entertainment purposes.  But even so, what we read influences our opinions of the world – what we read changes what we think and how we think.  So as a writer, I feel that I need to be conscious of what I write and how I write it, because it could change what someone thinks, and I would rather change someone for the better than for the worse.

For example, when I was young I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  As a result, I was influenced to believe very simply that killing bad people is perfectly okay.  Now, however, as an adult, my morality has changed.  Taking the life of another person is a very serious matter, and not something to be taken lightly, no matter how bad a bad guy the person is.  Now the Redwall books were always careful not to glorify killing and war, but even so, warriors who killed bad guys are held up as flawless heroes.  (It is possible that I am misremembering some of the details, but this is how I remember it and it’s definitely the impression I took away from the books.)

My first attempt at a novel had a main character who was an assassin (her name was Taj).  Now I was quite taken with today’s glorification of BAMFs who go around killing bad guys, so I had no problems whatsoever with Taj killing more of said bad guys.  Over time, however, my morality began to mature.  I thought more about what I was writing, and I grew uncomfortable with Taj’s profession, and more than that, her cavalier attitude about the whole thing.  The message I was sending my audience was that not only was killing okay, it was cool.  And I no longer believed that any more.

It took many years and a philosophy degree before I came to realize that I don’t believe that killing is ever truly right.  I realize that sometimes it is, in a sense, necessary, for example when chosen as the lesser of two evils, but it is not right.  Killing is not good, and should be avoided if at all possible.  I know many think me naive for holding this view, but believe it I do.  And this presents a particular challenge.

Writing an action/adventure story that does not condone killing is challenging.  I still have killing happen in my story – I just have to make sure that when it happens, I don’t portray  it as an unequivocally good thing.  What makes this harder is that I also, as someone who desires to be a good writer, don’t want to resort to deus ex machina to save my characters (a popular device, at times, to save a character when the author doesn’t want them to have blood on their hands).  However, I have every intention of rising to that challenge.

Well, that’s all for this post, although I intend to write another related post on opinions and religion and writing.  As always, I welcome any and all feedback, comments, and questions in the comments!

Let me know what you think!  How does your morality influence your writing?  Is this something you’ve thought about or struggled with?  How did you deal with it?

Write always,

E.S. Hilt


What’s It About?

So you write a novel.  You sit back and proudly display this mass of text and feel a great surge of triumph wash over you.  Excited, you go to tell your friends and family (and maybe even coworkers and acquaintances) of your accomplishment.  They congratulate you, and then they ask, “So what’s it about?”  If you’re anything like me, this question will stop you dead… but not right away.

Me: Oh, it’s medieval fantasy!  It’s about these two guys… who fight evil…

And then I realize (or rather, remember) how bad I am at giving a synopsis.  It seems like to no matter what, when you summarize the plot of a fantasy novel (and many other genres too, really), it just comes out sounding really lame and juvenile.  Even if it’s really not.  Again and again, when I try to summarize the plot of a fantasy novel to someone who doesn’t read fantasy, it ends up sounding like a children’s story.  Now, I will admit that I am particularly bad at giving/writing synopses, but I’ve never been fond of synopses as a whole.  They just never seem to do the work justice.  Teasers end up sounding hokey or just plain bad instead of luring a potential reader in.

And that’s not the only problem with synopses; some of them don’t even accurately describe the contents of the novel.  Again, this seems to be especially true with fantasy… or perhaps this time it’s simply due to my disproportionate exposure to that genre (it is my favorite, after all).   I recall, on a few occasions, finishing a book and then reading the back of it, only to stare at it in confusion, thinking, “That’s not the book I just read.”  Those ones really make me wonder; did the author and publisher and editor (and everyone else involved) really fail to catch that?  Or did they notice and think, “That’s fine.”  Either way, that’s really strange.  The synopsis is a marketing tool, essentially, a small tidbit whose sole purpose is to lure potential readers into buying and/or reading the book.  So would it not be in the best interests of those who want to sell the book to make it accurate?  (I am thinking particularly here about books whose synopses sound like something worse than how the book turned out.  I suppose if the book sucked and the synopsis sounded like a better book, that would at least make sense on a marketing level… except I’m pretty sure that would then be false advertising, and thus illegal.  Maybe.  Silly rules.)

However, the synopsis is somewhat indispensable.  Unless you’re J.K. Rowling and wrote something as amazingly famous as the Harry Potter books, you need some way to let the reader know what’s contained in those thousands of words of text.  Readers, those fickle creatures, needs something to draw them in, or else they will scatter to the four winds without so much as cracking the cover.  …Unless it’s a really pretty cover.  Let’s face it, we’re all pretty prone to picking up a book with a cool-looking cover.  Still, it’s better not to bank on that.

So, anyone have any tips for writing a good synopsis for one’s own story?  What are your thoughts on synopses?

Write always,

E.S. Hilt

Why I Write: Words From Others

So later on the day that I posted the entry, Why I Write, I randomly came across an entire series of articles, written by various writers, on why they write.   The catalog of them can be found here: Why I Write: A Celebration of the National Day on Writing.  I especially liked Gaetan Pappalardo Writes for the Sake of Writing(especially especially the last two stanzas) and the TED talk following the article, Why I Write: To Spark Creativity, Not Kill It.  I particularly like the anecdote the speaker shares at 15:14 of the video.  There are a LOT of articles there (and I haven’t read them all yet), but I think that a personal examination of why each of us writes, and input from others on why they write, is important.  Self-knowledge leads to self-growth.  And besides, you never know what might spark inspiration.  Never stop reading, and never stop writing.

Write always,

E.S. Hilt

Why I Write

Why do I write?

This is one of those questions that has an answer that is simultaneously blindingly obvious and sublimely unknowable.

I say blindingly obvious because anyone who spends every waking moment thinking about writing – about their story, or their characters, or some topic they intend to write about – will wonder why someone would ask that question.  Why wouldn’t I write?  Not writing would make no sense whatsoever.  And yet “why do I write?” is a legitimate question.  And when the attempt is made to answer the question, we get to the “sublimely unknowable” part of the answer.

I say “sublimely” because even if I can’t articulate the answer, I know that the answer is a really good one: amazing, in fact, to the point where it doesn’t even matter what the answer is.  Yet articulating is supposed to be what I do, as a writer, so the question will niggle at me until I answer it.  So first I have to deal with that “unknowable” bit, and get it out of the way.

I say “unknowable” because wanting to write isn’t a conscious thought, but a feeling.  Sometimes it’s even a demand, from deep in my core, that compels me to write whether or not it’s convenient for me at the time.  The reason I write is because I must; writing is a desire, an urge, so powerful that you could almost say that it’s involuntary. There’s a quote from a movie called Sister Act 2:

I went to my mother, who gave me this book called “Letters To A Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke.  He’s a fabulous writer.  A fellow used to write to him and say: “I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.”  And Rilke says to this guy: “Don’t ask me about being a writer. If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing…  then you’re a writer.”

And yet there is even more to it than that.

Why do I write?  There is an answer; I know this.   There are mundane reasons, of course: there are stories that I want to tell, characters I want to share, and messages I want to impress upon people.  But giving that as the answer to “Why do I write?” is like being asked “Who are you?” and replying with just your name.  Well, yes, technically that is an answer that satisfies the question in the strictest sense, but learning your name tells me nothing about who you are.

So why do I write?  The answer is this:  I write because there is nothing more amazing, more beautiful, more exciting, more fulfilling, or more exhilarating than the act of creation that is writing.  There is simply nothing more incredible.  When I write, it’s a like the most beautiful song in the world is vibrating throughout my entire body.  My heart and soul are never more engaged or more joyous than when inspiration fills me to the brim and overflows, and I write freely.  That is why I write.

Why do you write?

Write always,

E.S. Hilt


P.S. I love all comments, people!  Even if they’re only somewhat related, fire away!  Share any thoughts, opinions, comments, and questions – I welcome them all!

Getting Started

Alrighty, so I’ve tentatively decided to post updates on Mondays.  The decision was mostly arbitrary, but what the hey – I wanted to try updating regularly, and Monday is as good a day as any!  The first few updates will focus on writing itself, rather than any creative works or other discussion.

Next Monday: Why I Write.  I very much welcome comments and discussion, so please, feel free to brainstorm on the topic and give me your input when the day comes! (Or before, on this post, if you so desire!)

See you Monday!

Write always,

E.S. Hilt


Hello and welcome to my blog!

This project is (obviously) in its infancy, barely an idea, barely a goal, brought to life during a moment of enthusiasm and ambition.  At this point in time, I’ve written one novel, but I have yet to even try to get it published yet.  In this blog I plan to share my progress and some of my ideas and thoughts about writing and other related topics.  Hopefully this doesn’t result in a load of boring drivel but will be informative and/or entertaining.  I can’t promise regular updates or amazing things at this point, but I have all these ideas, plots, and characters spilling from my mind and maybe, just maybe, I will glean further inspiration in this endeavor – or inspire another (which is almost as good ^_~).

So wish me luck, and good luck to all my readers and other aspiring writers out there.

EDIT: I would also like to add that any and all comments and/or questions that readers may have are very welcome!  I welcome discussion on almost any topic, so feel free to comment away!

Write always,

E.S. Hilt

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