Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

Control your powerI know, I know, you were expecting something early yesterday. Well, late Thursday night, I had computer problems and although I still haven't returned to where I was, I was able to access enough enough to upload this week's blog. Thanks for being patient.*****

"Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate."
Chuang Tzu

I thought of all the aspects of this topic. Of course, the obvious one concerns physical strength and skill. In taekwondo, I instruct how to control the kicks and punches so as not to injure a classmate or a competitor. In another lesson, I may teach how to use one’s strength to break a board. (It isn’t muscling your way through that is the key, rather it is proper technique.) Of course, when in a physical confrontation and needing to defend yourself, you want to use the correct amount of power. I teach the kids about the levels of threat from a simple pushing or verbal assault to a knock down to the ground fight. There are different responses for each level.

In trying to decide which part of power control to discuss I thought of a way to relate it to writing. Words, of course, have power. Words mean something. The way you use some words must be controlled because of the power behind them. For instance, if you hear the word ‘bitch’ what is your first thought? Now this word is perfectly fine depending on the circumstance. When you read this word, what came to mind first? An insult to a woman? A complaint? A female dog? Maybe a slang usage for an inferior?

I guess I wanted to delve into the author’s role of controlling the power of words. I think more than anybody, writers can affect anything from personal habits to global events. And I’m not just talking about newspaper reporters or so-called ‘journalists’ who seek to skew the truth for their own personal agenda. I’m talking about thinkers and philosophers and fiction writers who have an opinion and want to share a perspective.

Personally, I’ve always avoided many fiction authors who try to insert a deep meaning into their works, a moral lesson, or who go out of their way to evoke a long lasting ‘feeling’ that can be experienced and remembered. Blech! I read fiction for enjoyment. Can I learn something? Sure, teach me some history by throwing it into an adventure. Show me the wonders of technology by having the thriller bad guy spy use it for his evil means. I don’t want to read about a family or a teen or a divorcee who struggled in youth through the Depression or other hard times, influenced by racism or discrimination, fought against disease and betrayal and emerged on the other side with a better life. (Does this sound like most of the books on Oprah’s list?)

Okay, before you start slamming with emails about how good these books are, I’m not saying they aren’t. I’m saying I don’t read those because they’re not entertaining for me. Do they have power in the words and the stories? You bet. They’re meant to convey that power as forcefully as possible.

I disliked having to read this stuff in school. The Scarlet Letter, Death of a Salesman, The Pearl. Romeo and Juliet. Blech! (Okay, I’ll admit to liking Macbeth but only as a story and not immersing myself too deeply into the moral or philosophical lessons.)

As authors we have power. When I was writing Beta, I contemplated the amount of graphic detail I wanted to include. That’s power. I think by not providing every little detail was better.

Think of the oft heard concept of ‘not seeing the monster is scarier’. Why? Because once you see it, then you have little to stoke the imagination. That’s why most horror films of today are stupid rather than scary. Once the killer breaks through the door wielding the chainsaw, there’s nothing left to anticipate. H.P. Lovecraft was a master at building up the suspense and leaving you wondering just what it is that was seen.

That’s control of power.

I also struggle with the amount of profanity I use. Many books have unnecessary profanity. If you look at some of the early mysteries, the classics, you won’t see any f-bombs. But they’re still good mysteries.

However, Robert Pobi’s first thriller, Bloodman, practically erupts with profanity. But it’s a certain type of book. In other books, I would have been turned off by so much, but this one captured me and the profanity became part of the story rather than thrown in just because.

That’s control of power.

So, whether you’re teaching a martial class (or taking one), or writing a novel, remember you have within you power to accomplish great things.

Use it wisely.

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