Monday, January 31, 2011

Review for Second Volume of Series

The first review of Paths of Intimate Contention is in. Read the entire review here:

The second volume of the Sixth World of Men earned a 9.0 rating out of ten for this review by Allan Fisher. Below are a couple of excerpts from the review.

"The storyline skilfully charts the individual tales of lots of characters in this book, and (Walter E.) Mark is able to tell all the tales in an entertaining and impartial fashion without losing the thread and sight of the overall story."

"All in all a solid and entertaining read from a fast improving author. The future looks good for Walter E Mark."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Writing Style of the Series

The Sixth World of Men employs a very simple writing style. This style has drawn both praise and sneers from those who have read A Beacon of Hope. I really expected more criticism than I've received so far. Perhaps more criticism will come as the series becomes more well-known.

Now, you might rightfully ask, "If you knew writing in such a plain style would be controversial, why did you write the series in this manner?" The answer is slightly complicated so allow me a few sentences to explain how the style came to be.

Originally, I had planned to compose the series as a series of journal entries. The style of writing that I chose was based on the background of the main characters. These characters would be the authors of the journal entries. I imagined that each of the main characters in the first part of the story would write very directly because of the backgrounds. The main characters had backgrounds in either a scientific discipline or in the military. If you've read papers published by these types of people, you know that most of them employ a very straight-forward, no nonsense approach to their writing.

I decided against this method to tell the stories because of the difficulty of keeping the story in its chronology using this method. This story needs to be told chronologically to avoid confusion. Subsequently, I rewrote the series using the characters' point of view. However, while doing this, I found that the style of the journal entries fit this story very well. Therefore, I kept the style simple. Perhaps, not as simple as the style of the journal entries, but I mimicked the style as I thought appropriate.

The simplicity of the writing varies slightly depending upon which character's point of view is being used. Also, some dream sequences in the series aren't written quite as plainly either. I thought this to be appropriate.
You might then ask, "How do you know that the writing style used in the series will meet with controversy?" The answer is simple. I have several friends who are writers. Some of those friends thought that I was writing "beneath my ability" in this series. Others thought that the style was an act of genius for the series. It all depended on whether they saw what I saw. If they did, they thought that the style was grand; if they didn't, they expressed disappointment.
It is interesting how some people who don't understand the use of the plain writing style refer to the style. Some call the style "inexpert writing." Others call it "disappointing. The most amusing of the responses is the comment that said that the book contained many "grammatical errors." I suppose that this person just didn't like the style and lacked the vocabulary to express their dislike appropriately. (In fairness, the same reviewer said that there were typos in the book. This could be true. I'm not the greatest typist ever born. Many editors went over the book looking for typos, but it is possible that a couple might have gotten through. I am sorry if a typo was missed. Though, I've not heard that comment from any other source to date.)

I am surprised that a large percentage of reviewers called the style refreshing, original and "perfect for this story." It is a testament to these reviewers that they can put their literary biases aside and focus on the impact that this style has on this particular story.

A couple of reviewers say, "you have to get used to the style." These same reviewers continue to say, "once you do, you can just go along for the ride; the author does all the work for you."

I would like to take that time to thank all of the reviewers who took the time to understand the style employed in this series. It gives me hope that fresh styles still have a chance to blossom.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Use of Emotion in Writing

In fictional writing, an author needs to know how and when to evoke emotion from his or her readers. A common error that authors make is to try to force emotion into scenes where it is not appropriate. Emotion definitely plays a role in fictional writing, but if it is overdone, it resembles a soap opera more than it does a literary work. A stereotypical image comes to mind of a woman blotting her eyes with a tissue as she is curled up on a sofa watching TV. Soap operas are what they are. They try to evoke emotion in every episode, but I think we all know that soap operas are not known for their rich character depth or depth of thought at all for that matter. Although a purely emotional style of writing can draw sales, it is not an effective way to make a lasting impression on a reader.

Emotion is to writing is much like seasoning is to cooking. If too much seasoning is used, food dishes become indigestible. If not enough seasoning is used, food dishes are too bland. By the same token, if a writer overuses emotion, the reader cannot digest anything meaningful from the book. The emotion gets in the way. A reader who likes emotion might think that this sort of book is a good book, but the book will quickly be forgotten when the next book comes along. On the other hand, a writer who uses too little emotion in his writing will not have much of an audience at all. So, for the serious writer, there is a certain balance that needs to be struck between emotion and thought.

To extend the cooking analogy, if just the right balance is struck between the main food ingredients and the seasoning, a memorable dish is created. If the right balance is struck between emotion and thought in a literary work, the work becomes significant and meaningful. It is very important that the emotion of a writer's work mesh with the substance of the work.

A great literary work will do this seamlessly. The work will flow into an emotional scene without warning much as it does in life itself. If, for example, a slight irritation arises in a character's life, it would be inappropriate for the character to display extreme anger in reaction to it. However, if enough slight irritations built up over time, then the display of extreme anger would be natural at the occurrence of another slight irritation. This gradual building of emotion lets the reading empathize closely with the character as the emotion builds. This principle holds true for any emotion.

The best way to convey common emotion is by the gradual building of small incidents that cause emotion, however, dramatic bursts of emotion also can happen in life. These are responses to major and sudden changes that occur in life. However, be careful of including too many major changes in a work. Few changes of this nature happen in an average life. These changes are rare in life, so they ought to be rare in a character's life as well.

Most importantly, the use of emotion should tie in with your work's goals and purpose. Any strong emotion associated with a character ought to bring out a flaw or strength of that character. Emotional devices should also be used to reinforce an emotion felt by your characters. For example, in A Beacon of Hope, I wanted to bring out the frustration felt by a character when dealing with a new technology. I did this by using repetitive language and extending scene longer than I normally would. This created a feeling of impatience in the reader. This impatience reinforced the frustration felt by the character to such as extent that I received more comments from reader about that scene then any other single scene in the book. Most of the comments centered on the readers' identification with the frustration of the character. The use of this simple device made the scene a memorable one for nearly everyone that read the book.

Emotion is very appropriate for the climaxes of your story. If you message at the climax is a negative one, say, a message of warning, the emotion used to convey the message should be a negative emotion such as anger, sadness, fear or lust. If you message is a positive one, then the emotion should be positive such as joy, excitement or even deep love. Even, in these situations, a writer can be tempted to overdo the emotion. Let the emotion of the climax flow freely, but there is no need to try to embellish the moment further with artificial devices at these moments. Let the emotion flow from your soul, without propping it up. If you have done your job building the climax properly, the natural flow of emotion will make the moment memorable.

The use of emotion is necessary in good fictional writing, but like a good chef uses seasoning, use it sparingly and appropriately. The constant use of cheap emotion like fear and lust might sell some books, but it won't leave a lasting message in folks' minds. Why write, if not to leave a lasting message on the minds of your readers? A last thought: it takes real work to write a work that is memorable.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Review of A Beacon of Hope

Allan Fisher recently reviewed A Beacon of Hope and had some nice things to say. Read his review here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why are All Cirrians Blonde?

A lot of folks have asked me why all of the people from the nation of Cirri are blonde. I tell them that I have given a few hints in the book for this genetic trait, but folks don't seem to be too satisfied with that answer. Well, I will give a little more information about this burning topic in future books of The Sixth World of Men. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy some explanations that some readers have to explain why the Cirrians are all blonde.
The most popular one has to do with the cold climate. Folks figure that hair might get "frosted" being in the cold for so long. A related reason says that the lack of sunshine due to shorter days and extreme latitude is the reason for the light hair. Another one says that it's the cave cities in Cirri that are to blame. The dark caves keep both the hair and the skin light in color. I like the last one the best. It shows some good imagination. This theory states that all Cirrians were once infected with a disease that eradicated the pigment in their skin and hair. The disease was so widespread and lasted so long that the genes themselves were affected. The Cirrians simply lost the ability to create enough pigment.
Why do you think that all Cirrians are blonde? Perhaps you can come up with a reason that is more creative than the ones that have already been put forth. Maybe you will even hit on the reason that I have in my notes. In a later volume, you can find out if your theory was right.

That's it for now.
Walter E. Mark

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Busy December Ahead

Next week will mark the beginning of a busy December for me and A Beacon of Hope
On the fourth, there is an event scheduled at the Big Sky Diner, a popular spot in Ypsilanti, Michigan. On the eleventh, I will visit the WIFI Coffee shop in Belleville, Michigan. At both of these locations, folks will be able to place orders for Paths of Intimate Contention, which will release next year. Paths is the second volume of The Sixth World of Men series.
On the eighteenth, I will hold a book signing at Borders in the Southgate Center in Southgate, Michigan to help the store kick off the sale of Beacon there.
In between, I have a few speaking engagements at various clubs, libraries and even a church. I you happen to live in southeast Michigan, come out and see me at one of the events.
Until next time,
Walter E Mark

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How the Series Portrays Faith

When I first thought about doing a fictional work about a fictional world, I thought long and hard about how I would depict the world’s faith in God. Among the things that I had to consider was how to portray faith in this fictional world and how much revelation that this world would receive.
I didn’t want to create an alternate earth. I wanted to create a new world that would have its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Most readers are quite accepting of alternate viewpoints, especially those viewpoints that at least appear to be fresh and new.
So, there I was searching for a way to get readers to think along with me.  I wanted people who were familiar with the scriptures to understand that the God that I referred to in my fictional world was the same God they knew from the Bible.
That’s when the story of Cain and Abel came to me. The great faith chapter, Hebrews 11, says this about these two men: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.
As I meditated on this statement, I asked myself, “How did Abel know his sacrifice was going to please God?” The obvious answer was “by faith.”
Then I asked myself, “What revelation do we know for sure that Cain and Abel had?” The answer to that is found in Genesis chapter three. They understood that they were under a curse because of their sin. In particular, they knew that the ground was cursed. And they knew that plants didn’t cover their nakedness. It took the death of an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.
Knowing this, it took faith for Abel to keep sheep. After all, it wasn’t until the ninth chapter of Genesis that God gave man permission to eat meat. Before that, the command was always to eat vegetation. Abel was not providing for his physical needs by keeping sheep; he was providing for his spiritual needs.
Cain made no such provision. His thinking was that if vegetables are good enough for him, they would be good enough for God, despite what his conscience told him was right. Cain made no room for faith in his life, working against his own conscience. God’s response to Cain in Genesis 4:7 makes it clear the Cain knew that it was right to offer an animal offering. Cain just lacked faith. Instead, he spent all his time providing for himself, and no time providing for an offering to give God.
This story is the essence of the faith found in the book series. The God character in this book gives enough light to the people of Kosundo for them to know what is right and what is wrong. They know what is pleasing to God and what is only pleasing to themselves.
In addition, the God character of the book gives the people of Kosundo an advantage over the people of earth. He kept the evil character, the destroyer, out of Kosundo for thousands of years. Yet, when the destroyer was finally allow to visit Kosundo, he immediately capitalized on man’s sinful nature and soon he was able to instigate the scenario that Kosundo faces as A Beacon of Hope begins.
It is the fight for the souls of men that the whole series is based upon. It is a fight that is clearly illustrated by an ultimate decision that each character has to make. Although the decision is sometimes clouded within circumstance, the basic choice that each character faces is the choice between doing what is best for oneself or do what is best for others and also pleases God.
So the faith of The Sixth World of Men became a faith of conscience. Following what light is given to you, or following what each individual deems right in his own eyes.