Baroque Convolutions

With a dashing of syntactical twists and turns

  1. Top of Page
  2. Setting the Scene for the Skreigh
  3. Begin Rant
  4. Seed those Dumps
  5. Memo to Self
  6. Syntactical Turns
  7. Twists to Thievery
  8. Unfashionable Omniscience
  9. Writers don’t just play God in their own Books
  10. Capital Crimes
  11. Non-Issues
  12. Never Done in North American English
  13. Never say ‘Never’ in any English
  14. Well, that clears that up then
  15. According to one person anyhow
  16. Speaking Personally
  17. Speaking Thirdly
  18. Anheroic Mosaic Shared
  19. Conclusive Coherence
  20. Quotation re Multiple Viewpoints in a Novel
  21. Quotation(s) re Perspective Breaks
  22. Bottom of page comments


Helios on the Moon - comic book cover; art by Richard Sandoval 1978

Helios on the Moon – comic book cover; art by Richard Sandoval 1978

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So, Jim McPherson came back from a 6-week working break in warmer, sunnier climes reckoning Helios on the Moon was ready for a quick edit by a professional prior to a Spring publication.

Reckon anew, mate.

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This came back from a 10-year pro in the field, albeit not specifically in the field of editing full-length fantasy novels:

Here are a few more questions and thoughts:
And here are Jim McPherson’s responses.

1) There is a seriously large amount of initial information. Is it my understanding that readers will be aware of much of the background and back story? Is this an alternative history? I’m just trying to get my bearings, as ordinarily I’d suggest a writer drop that back story in over a long period, “seeding” it more organically rather than employing the huge info-dump you do here.

This hurts, all the more so since I’m super-conscious of the issue already. Yet I heard the same criticisms re “Nuclear Dragons”. They came despite my efforts to set up background and back story details in such a way that they could be skipped readily.
I even went so far as to write a preamble (reprinted here and here) in which I advised (highlighted here) readers to bypass material in parentheses if they find it too distracting or time-consuming.
Guess I’m supposed to accept the supposedly
‘prevailing wisdom’ that the days of leisurely, information-laden immersion in someone else’s imagination is non-Helios history. A sad situation to be sure.

That said, I’m hearing it so often I’m going to step back and reconsider the whole way I’m handling this issue. Might I need to revert to Character Companions like I did for 1000-Daze? Or add a glossary? Maybe it just needs more seeding, less dumping. Comments appreciated.
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2) Your style is quite convoluted, and even baroque in its syntactical twists and turns. That is definitely not a criticism … your readers’ expectations might be quite sophisticated and therefore it’s not a concern. The current trend is to write more simply.

Definitely sounds like a criticism to me. And if it isn’t a concern why mention it? As for writing simply, what does that mean? I’ve read efforts by folks I reckoned very good writers to produce material for Young Adults. The results sometimes seem so simplified that if I didn’t know better I’d assume they were written by simpletons for simpletons.
Still, I quite like
‘convoluted and baroque in its syntactical twists and turns’. Think I’ll steal it.

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3) Whose voice is narrating this? Is it a third-person omniscient perspective? If so, that’s fine (although again, not currently fashionable), but the sudden injections of colloquialisms such as “um” and “sure as shit” might need to be dialed back a little. They are jarring from a “god” type perspective.

What you’re dealing with, in me, is a chatty, conversational writer trying to be both friendly, as in non-threatening, and entertaining.
As for having a narrator with ‘a third-person omniscient perspective’ not being fashionable, that’s nonsense. Then again, if it isn’t, is that what you have to learn to write in this day and age of low-sales and writers increasingly having to turn to the DIY ‘Indy Market’ to stand any chance of seeing their writing in print?
In which case, call me determinedly unfashionable as I hate being nonsensical, at least in the sense of writing rubbish. 
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4) Gypsium? Is this an invented element or mineral? A play on gypsum? I couldn’t find it anywhere online or in my dictionaries. Either way, I don’t think it ought to be capitalized. We don’t capitalize granite or limestone, etc.

Hel-Moon is the sixth full-length Phantacea Mythos to be published by Phantacea Publications. The imprint would not exist were it not for the Phantacea Mythos.
Gypsium etc, like Deva (as in Master Deva), has been capitalized in every one of the books, in the comics before them and in the many web-serials betwixt and between.
Gypsium etc are made up words, I treat them like proper nouns and will continue to do so. Similarly, when I use the term Shining Ones (which is what the word ‘deva’ literally means) I capitalize it.
Capitalization makes a word stand out, gives it a kind of heightened status. It adds emphasis without the use of either italics or single quotes.
And if we do go ahead, don’t bother changing all the en-dashes to em-dashes. That’s not how I use them so I’d just have to change them all back.
Em-dashes, especially in mid-sentence, are unsightly.
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5) Re the use of single quotes: It’s just never done in North American English… except when it’s a quote within a quote, or is within a newspaper headline.

I would dearly love to eliminate single quotes, especially where I’ve had to add emphasis in form of italics. They’re a pain to have to reformat when it comes time to move over to In Design in order to prepare a PDF for the POD-printer.
They are, however, extensively used in fantasy novels, some of which I perhaps oddly believe use North American English. Steven Erikson’s Malazan books for example ( and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which are probably the two series I most admire in the field, use them a lot. Erikson is Canadian and Martin is American.
Single quotes are often used for dialogue in flashback sequences and very commonly to indicate conversations conducted in telepathy. Devas often communicate via telepathy.
BTW, in a previous section, I used single quotes and emphasis as follows: “the word ‘deva’ literally means”. Is that wrong too?

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Front and back cover mockups for "Helios on the Moon", prepared by Jim McPherson, 2013

Mockup sent to potential cover illustrators for “Helios on the Moon”, the next scheduled Phantacea Mythos mosaic novel

When asked for clarification on an earlier point (#3), the editor came back: “… today readers are not as primed for it [someone writing from a third person viewpoint often using … godlike omniscient perspective]. They find it odd or jarring or even boring …”

To which I replied: Huh and double huh!?! Sez you, I say.

Personally I won’t buy anything written in first person. I mean, what’s the point? Especially in terms of action-oriented books wouldn’t this be a typical sentence: “I whirled, kicked him in the knackers but he managed to shoot me anyhow, so now I’m a zombie. Have to be, right — otherwise how could I be writing this?”
Talk about boring, an action hero writing his own book. Certainly eliminates the stress of worrying if hero live or dies.

As for following one character throughout, even when it’s in third person, well, that’s almost as bad. Without pulling them off the shelf – or more like pulling them out of boxes in basement – I can guarantee you Erickson and Martin don’t do that and they’ve hundreds of characters in every (really, really long) book.
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Phantacea is ‘anheroic fantasy’, as in without heroes. It’s also a Shared World novel with a lone writer ( Another common term for this sort of thing is a mosaic novel (; albeit, ditto, one written by one author.
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Hel-Moon progresses to its conclusion via a series of events that are experienced by a wide range of characters in a variety of disparate situations that may not cohere until its final chapter, though there could be lots of little endings along the way. (Sorry for the run-on sentence.)
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That in mind …
“Multiple viewpoint novels are common in literature, so it would hardly be a risky choice if you chose to write one yourself.
“…  a Third Person Story is narrated by that invisible, godlike witness to the novel’s events (or the magic camera, if you prefer that analogy) – and it seems perfectly natural for this narrator to choose to slip inside not just one character’s skin during the telling of the story, but several.”
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Which leads to this:
“But when should you switch [viewpoints]? There are a few simple rules here…It is virtually always best, if at all possible, to start a fresh chapter when you switch from one viewpoint character to another. Next best is switching viewpoints during a break within a chapter (the kind denoted by a line of white space, or by asterisks if the break occurs at the bottom of a page).”
When it comes to what I call ‘perspective breaks’, as much as possible, I double-up with a eight ======== followed by a paragraph or two of italics then another =========. I also use dates to provide breaks, though that’s usually at the beginning of chapters and not so much in mid-chapter.
And that’ll do for now.
End longest rant yet.
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