I begin to suspect that writing dialog is a different skill set from writing everything else.
In published work, obviously, everything has to be up to a minimum standard of quality, so you might have brilliant dialog with adequate…err…everything else, or vice versa, or adequate both, or brilliant both. But what really surprised me was the number of fics that I read that would have completely uninspired milieu, setting, plot, etc, just plain mediocre, even poor writing—and I would read it anyway, because as soon as somebody started talking, I was practically convulsing in my chair. Stuff that would make me pound on the desk and howl kind of funny, and it’s a very rare bit of writing, published or not, that can make me do that.
And of course the opposite is true. Something that could be up to adequate writing standards otherwise that just gets annhilated as soon as one of the characters opens their mouth.(Forget the fan fic—George Lucas, I’m lookin’ in your direction…)
And dialog is a deal breaker for me, apparently. I can endure bad descriptions, but I can’t handle bad lines. I did not know this about myself. Lot like comics in that regard—I’ll put up with bad art, but not bad writing, and so much of writing in a comic is dialog.
I find it odd that the two halves are so starkly separated. Because I don’t read a lot of unpublished work, the sheer enormity of the gulf never occurred to me, but man, in some places it is vast.”
Okay, if the point of being a Jedi is to surpress all passion, fine. Okay. Sure, even Vulcans get to cut loose once every seven years, but I suppose having an insanely calm ruling class is probably good for the social order. You wanna live an ascetic monastic life? Hey, knock yourself out.
And so then the point of being a Sith is thus to let your passions run wild, draw strength from them, destroy your enemies, etc. Okay. Fine.
Then how come you go to a Sith academy and lo and behold, everybody’s got metal underwear and a single bed? (Yes, I looked.) You get beaten like a bloody flagellent and fed to starving monsters and tortured on weekends. You slog through your training, achieve a sufficiently high GPA, and get to be a Sith Lord, and what do you do? You stalk around on the bridge of your bigass starship, brooding, and glare out at empty space wishing you could bitch-slap the entire galaxy simultaneously. (They all do it. “Here’s your diploma, congratulations, here’s the keys to your star destroyer…”) They don’t even get a comfy easy chair to brood in. They all gotta stand up or else levitate in lotus position.
Do you get regular massages? No! Do you have legions of hot alien women waiting on you hand and foot? No! (You get one apprentice, who will always try to kill you, and will usually dress like a freak and wear too much eye makeup in the meantime.) Do you at least get good food? Possibly, but always off camera! Do you get to sleep in late? No, because other Sith will use the extra hours in the day to take your starship so that they can brood on it instead!
What’s the fun of giving in to your unbridled passions if they’re such LAME passions!? I mean my god! A pack of Catholic high school girls could cut looser than the Sith! If you’re going to be evil, why aren’t you people ever having any fun!?”
Ben is a cat with a mission.
Apparently it’s an escort mission.
The mission begins at a little after 8:30, after James has gotten up. Ben attempts to trigger the questgiver—namely me—by walking around on the bed. If I am particularly sloggy today, he climbs onto my chest and purrs. Ben is a very large cat. This will get the mission going in no time.
Once I’m up, Ben escorts me to the bathroom and checks for ninjas. Dangerous things, ninjas. They can swim up plumbing like rats. Finding no ninjas, Ben accepts a quick petting while the questgiver attends to needed bodily functions.
Then it’s down the stairs at a gallop, and an escort to the kitchen. The questgiver dumps food into bowls and replaces water. Our hero is pleased.”
Slate, who had a pretty good understanding of the criminal mind—you didn’t hang around Brenner for too long and not start to pick things up—was pretty sure that they were actually waiting on the boss to show up. This was his petty vengeance, after all, and he’d certainly want to watch. Otherwise, the efficient man with his edible cactus descaler would have reduced her to a weeping heap in short order.
There was also almost certainly nothing planned involving either cockroaches or fresh eggs. They were under orders to wait, and were simply letting her stew in her own imagination while they did.
“Joke’s on you, you bastards,” she muttered. “I’m an accountant. I don’t have an imagination.”
Although I would have liked to know that that thing actually was. Not knowing is going to drive me nuts.
So there she sat, tied to a chair in the middle of a mostly empty room, her wrists and ankles tightly bound, with blood leaking slowly down the back of her neck.
It was, Slate reflected, the first thing that had gone right all goddamn day.”
There’s a break in the narrative here, because the intervening chunk is rougher than usual and I suspect it needs a lot more kicking. When we rejoin our heroes, they’re starting down the road to Anuket City. Relations, never great to begin with, have broken down completely. Caliban is surlier than ever, Brenner takes much delight in poking his emotional wounds, Slate is in a kind of fatalistic fugue, and Learned Edmund, a scholar of the Many-Armed God, has joined them and is not at all happy about traveling with three criminals, particularly with a woman in charge. (He’s a raging misogynist, which has been done to death, but in this case will hopefully be redeemed by the fact that he’s ultimately a far more decent person than any of the other characters. That’s the plan, anyway.)
None of which is terribly important, because the real point of this section is to address yet another glaring oversight common to fantasy novels—namely that hardly anyone in a medival city below a certain socioeconomic class would know how to ride a horse.
(Slate’s experience with horses is drawn very much from life, and man, it felt good to get that out of my system. I haven’t been on a horse since a lethal six-hour bareback ride in my youth, and y’know, I’m just fine with that.)”
(mod note: The entire story is for sure worth reading if you follow the link)