Thursday, September 10, 2015

LKH Blogflog: Bleeding On My Keyboard

“One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one’s own flesh in the inkpot, each time one dips one’s pen.” Leo Tolstoy

Other quotes by Leo Tolstoy include:

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
"All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do."
"Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness."
"I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back."
"Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."
"It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness."
"To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can't eat it."

I'm pretty sure both LKH and her Sue need to learn some, if not all, of those lessons.

If the above quote is correct than I’m doing something very right with this latest Anita Blake novel, because it’s tearing me apart.

Yes. I'm making that joke. So there.

At the end of the day I feel like the office should be a battlefield with my blood splashed across the keyboard, dripping from the monitor.


There should be bits of skin and hair and flesh at the scene of the horror like a C.S.I. episode. Why is this book so hard?

Usually when that happens, it's because one of those silly plots is trying to squirm into the book. Or you're fighting against where the story and characters would logically go - like a breakup or a character death.

Anita got the emotional shit kicked out of her, and because of the kind of writer I am, so did I.

"Someone called her a SLUT! I'm so traumatized!"

Some writers seem to be able to write the most horrible things and remain untouched.

They are known as good writers.

Then you have the actors that have to descend into the depths to bring the pain up for the camera, but it’s real pain they show on film, their own pain.

Personally, I find many of those actors totally overrated. Yes, most actors need some kind of emotional or experiential base for their performances (which is why completely gay actors cannot fake sexual chemistry with the opposite sex, and most childless actors are shit at playing parents). You can't pull that kind of thing out of a vacuum. You need SOME idea of what you're doing.

But if you can ONLY act if you make the acting all about you and your SUPER-REAL AWESOME pain, it means you're not actually acting. Acting is the art of faking for an audience, and if you're only able to act if you use your REAL emotions, then you're not really acting.

It's like being the opposite of that guy from Tropic Thunder.

I’ve cried with and for, my characters.

"Nathaniel got an ouchie-booboo! Weep for him!"

I’ve screamed at my computer, cursed other characters, fought and lost to them.

When was the last time she "lost" to a character who "wanted" her to do something else? Every single event in the AB series is ultimately to give Anita the life LKH wishes she had.

Or is she just talking about the many times other characters pressure Anita into sexual acts that she isn't comfortable with?

Some very successful writers don’t seem to feel that emotional connection to their work, or at least not to the degree I do.

Well, thank God for that. It means they actually get work done, and their story makes logical sense.

Also, how would she know whether they feel an emotional connection to their work? Unless she's sneaked into their offices and eavesdropped on them while they worked, she has no idea how hard they work or how much it affects them. Or does she figure that if you produce a steady stream of work and act like a professional, you must be a cold, calculating non-artist who can't possibly be a slave to The Moose Muse?

I used to envy them until I realized the price of that cool distance. They write like they feel with less depth, less of themselves on the page. It is a safer way to write, less frightening, less hurtful, less pain for the writer, but the writing shows that.

Screw those writers like George R.R. Martin, with his massive loyal fanbase, his complicated plots within plots, his HBO TV show, and the devastation every character loss brings to the fans. He's too cool and distant! His works have no depth! They're too SAFE! They're so SHALLOW!

Yeah, what LKH actually means is that those other authors are able to do things like write character deaths. And conflict. And suffering. And loss. And emotions other than self-pity, rage and arousal. And if you DO insert those things into your book, you clearly don't have the depth and investment that she does. It may be true that they're not as invested... but they probably don't also blur the lines between reality and fantasy. It's a cheap, dirty way of insisting that she's better than them.

And you know what came out shortly before she released this blog? Changes.

And I really don't think that was a coincidence. This blog came out a few months after the release of Jim Butcher's game-changing mid-series climax. He puts Harry through more suffering in this ONE BOOK than he did for the entire rest of the series.

Among the fun events:

  • Harry finds out he has a daughter with his semi-vampiric ex-lover Susan, and that that daughter has been kidnapped by the evil Red Court. The horror of this - and all the wrenching thought of parental loss that goes with it - hangs over the whole book.
  • He loses his home, his office, his staff, and his car.
  • Murphy loses her job and is disgraced.
  • Harry's spine is shattered, leaving him paralyzed and despairing.
  • He agrees to sell himself to the servitude of a cruel fairy queen in order to be healed.
  • He has to force himself to murder the former Winter Knight.
  • He has to murder Susan IN FRONT OF THEIR CHILD to save all their lives.
  • And then he's shot, falls into Lake Michigan... and dies.

This book is absolutely devastating. LKH can sneer about how it's "fake" because Butcher didn't attempt suicide BECUZ HE FEELZ HARRY'S PAINZ!, but actually reading it is like a huge punch to the gut... and then a kick to the head while you're wheezing from the gut-punch. It was so devastating and so risky that Butcher's publishers flat-out refused to publish it until they saw the first few chapters of the NEXT book.

It also feels real because the characters are feeling things that the readers can empathize with. The entire book is basically about the desperation of a father who has to basically sell his soul to save his child, and even murder the woman he still loved in order to save everyone he knows and loves. It's about hard choices where you simply don't have a third option that lets you asspull a magical solution. It's about seeing your friends suffer because of you. It's about losing everything you have in the world, and discovering that THINGS CAN GET EVEN SHITTIER.

And those are things that people can really connect with, because all parents have felt that all-consuming desperation to save their kid at one time or another. Everyone is afraid of losing everything and everyone they have. Everyone has had to wonder what THEY would do in a "Sophie's choice" moment.

So just because Butcher wasn't immobilized with TEH PAINZ OF TEH ARTZ! doesn't mean he is a "fake" "shallow" author compared to LKH, who insists her characters are so real to her that she tries to buy presents for them. He couldn't get that kind of emotional response from his readers if he were "fake" or "shallow." So clearly doing things in a more detached way doesn't make your works "fake" or "shallow." It means you're actually capable of telling a story.

On the other hand, LKH keeps getting immobilized by the "traumatic" deaths of characters... who are usually fourth-stringers who are hard to even remember. Anita never has any actual emotional attachment to them (oh, she claims she does, but these are usually people she's barely spoken to in half a dozen books), and their deaths don't really affect anything or anyone once they're gone. Hell, I can't even REMEMBER the names of most of these guys. So clearly bleeding on the keyboard doesn't make a story more powerful or effective.

And let's face it: LKH doesn't want to put her heroine through the wringer like Butcher does, since that would mean she would have to "fantasize" about death, pain, loss, struggle, and having to actually WORK for what she has instead of having everything served up on a silver dildo.

And right on cue, LKH comes out with a blog about how SHE is way better than those stupid "fake" authors who don't feel the deep connection to their characters that she does, because they write huge plots full of real drama, pain and loss. Those other authors feel real not because they bleed into their keyboard, but because they write emotions and experiences that readers can identify with.

The other reason I think LKH released this is because at the time, she was about to release Bullet...

... where she made a huge deal about how someone "important" dies. Who was it? Haven, the douchebag Mafia werelion. No, I don't expect you to really remember him.

Yes, LKH she expects other people to think that his loss is super-devastating because... um, Anita says it is. He first appeared in Danse Macabre so Anita could ogle him, reappeared in The Harlequin to take over the werelion pride and happily join the harem... only to effectively vanish from the series. Sure, we heard about him, maybe once per book. But he had suddenly become mean and nasty and "non-sharing." Which we're all told, because I don't think he appeared even once between Harlequin and Bullet.

How does he die? He attacks a werelion nobody cares about, and Anita shoots him. Oh sure, we're told that Anita is devastated by this. Why? Because she had sex with him. She clearly loathed the guy, but she had sex with him, so that supposedly makes her "care."

This is the exact opposite of Changes. Nobody can emotionally connect to this kind of thing, because it makes absolutely no sense for a gun-happy lunatic to wangst and wail (seriously, she starts screaming and crying in the shower) over being forced to shoot someone she detested. It's all based on LKH's belief that sex = eternal caring. There's nothing realistic or identifiable about what happens here, so it's just going to leave people cold.

You know who wrote the way LKH does? Stephenie Meyer.

I can read most other writers and tell you within a few pages which of them “feels” strongly when they write and which do not.

Which is absolutely idiotic. If you read Lord of the Rings' first few pages, you would mostly hear about the hobbits conversing in a tavern, and the preparations for Bilbo's birthday party. According to LKH, she could tell instantly whether Tolkien had an emotional connection to the characters he was writing... even though three of the lead hobbits don't even appear on those pages. Hell, MOST of the main, important characters aren't introduced until halfway through the first book!

But hey, he didn't write in the first-person about Frodo's deep orphan wangst, and he didn't puke exposition at readers like a housecat with food poisoning. So clearly he wasn't as invested as LKH, despite creating AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE with its own languages, history, mythology, and multiple fictional species. How shallow!

Now, some can fake it better than others, but in the end it is a fake.

"Their stories and characters are FAKE, because they don't fling themselves around dramatically, howling about every single problem the characters ever have! They don't BLEED INTO THEIR KEYBOARDS over minor characters getting killed! They don't wangst about their characters' made-up traumas! They don't fall into a depression over Third Redshirt From The Left getting an owie!"

They don’t believe in their own work, their own world, their own characters.

Which is a pretty arrogant thing for someone to say about someone else's work.

It's even more arrogant coming from a woman who randomly changes the rules of her world BETWEEN BOOKS, and can't be bothered to observe basic continuity (Haven acquired and lost a Evil Jellus Hater wife purely because LKH mixed him up with someone else).

They know that the skin of let’s pretend is there, always, they never let themselves sink past a certain point, or perhaps their world, their muse, their imagination is more shallow than mine.

Clearly no one has a deeper imagination or more complex world-building than LKH, who slaps weres and vampires into modern America, and doesn't even contemplate for a SECOND how world history, politics and religion would be different if these things had always existed. SHE SO DEEP!

Yes, again, LKH is pretending that because she "bleeds on her keyboard," that elevates her above authors who actually put thought and logic into their worldbuilding and story. Because thought and logic are "cold." If you don't just spew your personal fantasies on the page like Anita orgasmically sprays bodily fluids, your stories are SHALLOW and your writing isn't as awesome as hers!

What's even MORE arrogant is that almost every artist in history is under this umbrella of "they're shallow and they don't believe in their characters! Not like me!" Yes, there are authors who channeled their pain into great art. But great art does NOT require great suffering, or people insisting "MAH CHARACTERS ARE REEL TO MEEEEEE!" If you look at the great expanse of human history, most great artists DID NOT DO THAT. There are whole GENRES OF WRITING that are incompatible with that.

Are we really supposed to buy that the Sistine Chapel's ceiling is "shallow" and "safe" because Michelangelo did it for money rather than to express his deep wangst? Are we supposed to think that Jane Austen was crazy-obsessed with her imaginary world and thought of Lizzie and Darcy as her "friends"?

Maybe there are no painful depths to explore and they just spend their careers wading through the shallows because no matter how wide the water looks, it’s just a wading pool with no unexpected holes to swallow the writer up, and drown them in the dark water of their own minds.

  1. "If you don't bleed on your keyboard, then you're SHALLOW! And STUPID! And you can't write as good as a TORTURED ARTIST like me!"
  2. I'm sorry, I just can't get past the ARROGANCE of LKH accusing someone else of being shallow.
  3. She is NOTORIOUS for the staggering shallowness of her worldbuilding, her character backgrounds, her magical system, and her plots.
  4. In fact, looking at her imaginary world with any kind of logic means that it falls apart like a house of cards during a hurricane.
  5. But she bleeds on her keyboard, so that means she's superior to people who write books that make logical sense.
  6. Hey, logic is "cold" and not done by anyone with ALL THE FEELS! I bet her favorite Star Trek captain is Jonathan Archer.
  7. And wow, she's accusing other writers of not taking risks and immersing themselves in their stories? Sort of like, say, an author who promised her Mary Sue that she'll never kill anyone of importance in her stories?
  8. Or hmm, maybe an author who only kills minor characters... or the avatars of men who have sexually rejected her...?
  9. Yeah, only deep, brave authors refuse to endanger major characters, or make their lives hard, or actually give them obstacles to overcome. They're not shallow and safe!

I’m one of the few writers that routinely calls my characters, imaginary friends.

Because you're insane.

And you know who else does that?

Like any good friend when they hurt, a little bit of you hurts, but when you’re there for the tragedy, to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, wipe the tears away, hold them while they scream, well, you don’t forget days like that.

  1. I don't like it, enjoy it, think it's good, well, this sentence, is poorly written, can you believe it, this woman is a published author. I made it a question.
  2. LKH, you were not "there." Because it's all happening in your head.
  3. And those "friends"? They're not real. So you're not holding them, wiping tears, or anything else.
  4. You're making it all up.
  5. And you know what else? You are terrible at describing emotion and sensation. Maybe YOU feel it, but it doesn't translate to the reader.
  6. Part of that is because your writing has atrophied horribly, and part of it is because you try to tell instead of showing, so you expect people to buy Anita's wangst over killing someone SHE HAS SHOWN NOTHING BUT HATE FOR.
  7. I know LKH seems to think that the writing of published books is for HER benefit, and we're supposed to enjoy it because she's a Keyboard-Bleeding Genius. But the fact is that the books are published FOR OTHER PEOPLE, not so she can wangst about shooting the avatar of her ex-bodyguard in the face.

I don’t forget them when the person I’m holding is flesh and blood, and I don’t forget when there’s no real body to hold, but my own imagination made so real that I reach out to comfort someone I can never touch, because they aren’t really there.

It's not just that they are not THERE, LKH. "Not there" can mean something is real, but elsewhere. It's that nobody you're talking about is REAL.

I know you desperately wish all your fictional boytoys, sycophants and slaves WERE real, because real people have those pesky habits of having their own lives away from you, making choices you don't like, and having personal relationships with other people. But wanting doesn't make a difference.

And no, I am not going to feel the same compassion for a fictional character that I am for a real person. Because no matter how great a book is, no matter how rich the characterizations, no matter how realistic and well-developed a world is... I still know that person is not real. I know nothing is actually hurting anyone.

So you know what? Flesh and blood people will always get more compassion and caring, AS THEY SHOULD. I don't care how real your characters are to you, and how superior you think your semi-delusional state makes your "art." I am not going to feel as much or even more just because YOU care, instead of the suffering or death of ACTUAL PEOPLE. Who actually exist. Who have their own lives, and experiences, and families, and don't just exist in the head of a midlist author with delusions of grandeur.

Oh, and you know what happened around the time she killed off Haven? Earthquake in Haiti. Countless people dead, starving, desperate for shelter... and all LKH would talk about was "MAH ANGST I KILLED A THIRD-STRING BOYTOY TEH PAINZ OF ART!"

But sometimes the feel of them is so real, so close, that it seems wrong that I cannot breech that last barrier.

It's "breach," you fucking hack.

And again, I don't care how real they feel to YOU. They should feel real to ME. They should be likable to ME. If all you care about is the realness that YOU feel, then just stop writing, go sit in the bathtub and masturbate over floor-length hair.

For me, as a writer, if I do not feel than I’m doing something wrong.

Which is evidently why she avoids everything that doesn't make her "feel." Like realistic police work. And plot. And interesting characters who exist for reasons other than to titillate Anita. And good villains. And endings.

Oh, and just because an author doesn't flop around wailing and bleeding into their keyboard doesn't mean they don't "feel." It just means they're not a lunatic.

If my character’s sorrow does not make me cry, if their pain does not make me hurt, if their terror does not make me jump, if their lust does not make me shiver with delight, if their laughter does not make me smile, or even laugh out loud, then I’m not doing my job.

  1. Again.... the books are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FOR YOU.
  2. You should be caring about whether the characters' sorrow/pain/terror/lust/laughter have that effect on the READERS. Not on YOU.
  3. People are paying you money every day in the hopes that a book will make THEM feel something.
  4. They are not paying you so YOU can feel these things, and YOU can spent all day immersed in your masturbatory fantasies of being the queen of everything.

The way I write is not for everyone, God knows, but for me it’s the only way I know.

And everyone else's way is "fake" and "shallow." Only hers is the RIGHT way.

It’s the way I’ve always written.

Maybe, but once upon a time she had an editor and a writing group to laugh hysterically at the worst of her crap, and then force her to rewrite it.

It is not a safe way to do this job,

Actually, it's VERY safe to not kill anyone important, or even seriously threaten them with death.

It's very safe to know your protagonist will always come out of top, and never lose.

It's safe to know that they will not have to compromise in ANY WAY they don't want to, because they will always be able to just pull a new superpower out of their asses.

It's safe to write them as never suffering, or struggling, or encountering obstacles.

It's safe to write them as only having "problems" that allow them to become more powerful, or do sexual acts that you find hot.

It's safe to write them as gaining godlike powers, but without any drawbacks or corruption.

Most of all, it's safe to write everything in the way that YOU want, without ever troubling yourself to think about what would entertain your audience.

Stop pretending that you are somehow superior because you play the tortured artist, LKH. You're not. Playing the tortured artist and insisting that greater depth and quality are linked to your "bleeding on the keyboard" method ONLY WORKS if your works actually have greater depth and quality. And they don't.

If anything, LKH's books are an advertisement on why playing the tortured artist and spraying your "feels" all over a book doesn't actually work.

but when I dance with the muse it is always a thing of battles, and violence; shared pain and joy.

And when that doesn't work, my will goes off and rapes other people's muses.

Right now Anita is hurting and so am I,

"It was so traumatic for her to shoot the avatar of a guy who turned me down! SO HARD!"

the only thing I can try to do is to keep her pain off of my “real” life, and my pain off of hers.

  1. Why am I supposed to buy that Anita has any pain over shooting a guy she hated anyway?
  2. Oh wait, he fucked her occasionally. That totally means she cared about him, even though the dialogue dripped with loathing every time he was mentioned after The Harlequin.
  3. And what pain is LKH trying to keep out of her books?
  4. She's a middle-class hausfrau with an aging boytoy husband, a kid she doesn't have to actually care for, and a job writing down her fantasies for money. Oh, and at the time this was written, she also had an unpaid chef.
  5. I'm pretty sure nothing in her life is giving her pain.
  6. Besides, she insisted earlier in the blog that she was like those actors who have to soak themselves in Teh Painz to act effectively. Now she's insisting she has to avoid splattering her wangst all over the character.
  7. Wow, if she has to TRY to keep her character's wangst and whining out of her daily life, can you imagine how irritating she is when she fails to?

"Begone from me, commoners! I am emo today!"
"Um, we're here to fix the leaky sink in your bathroom."
"What do I care for actual reality? My self-in... I mean, my protagonist who is totally not me just had to shoot someone! I... I mean, SHE is so distraught! I AM IN SUCH PAIN!" "Um... okay. Well, at least it's not a real person."
"NOT REAL? He is so totally real to me... I mean, Anita! And I... I mean, SHE cared so much even though she despised him, because we... they had sex occasionally and that only happens if you care about someone! He rammed his mighty body into my... um, her wet yet tight vagina, over and over, thrusting mightily as he roared, roared like a lion, a lion with a manly mane, except it was blue instead of yellow-"
"Ma'am, I don't want to hear about that."
"HOW COULD YOU BE SO CRUEL?! Don't you know how much pain the death of my... I mean, Anita's third-string lover causes me?! He's as real as supposedly-real people I don't even care about, like you! DON'T YOU CARE ABOUT ANITA'S PAIN?"
"Not really. I just want to fix the sink and go home."

Her problems are not mine, and mine are not hers.

True. Of course, LKH probably WISHES Anita's problems were hers.

Some separation must remain or we will both go mad. Or maybe we’ll simply weep.

I'd say you're both already pretty crazy.

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