Monday, March 28, 2011

Cultural Differences

Writing in English means a bigger audience. But does it means a writer needs to be aware of the cultural differences between himself and his readers?

Visiting the United States made me aware of how little do I know about Western Culture. It's in the little details. In the way someone addresses you as you block his way to an elevator, in the way a waitress asks you what you would like for dinner, and even in the way people behave on the road.

It turns out that my story will lose a great deal if I get one of these details wrong, especially if I set it in the states.

Reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods made me realize you can actually write in English without falling into one of the traps I mentioned before. Not that his book does so – on the contrary, this book is all about western culture. But his ability to weave fiction and fact made me realize I can use that technique to avoid those cultural pitfalls. But in order to do that, my book has to be fiction.

Writing fiction, I am not bound by any cultural standards. It's my world, and in my world, anything is possible. I have to be consistent, and give good reasons for things being different than what they ought to be, but I can do it. But then again – I need to be aware of those differences in order to work around them.

Taking mental notes during my stay in the U.S. surely is going to help. Reading Gaiman's works also is going to help. Any other tools for the job? Maybe I should consult my colleagues at

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When The Character's Voice Becomes Your Own

While writing a dialog in which Jeremiah talks about his past, I suddenly realized that Jeremiah's voice was gone, and my own voice took over his own.

I stopped writing and stared at the last few sentences. Clearly, Jeremiah was gone. Instead I found my own feelings, my own ideas and my own past.

Exposing myself in such a blunt way was not my goal. I am not writing to convey an idea, or to express an opinion. I write because I want to tell a story, period. Finding myself taking over my main protagonist in such a way was not a joyful experience. I know my own life's story. I'm not sure I want anybody else to know it that intimately.

Taking a step back and re-writing the section I was working on was the reasonable thing to do. But I wanted my story to Go Forward. So I took another look at what I wrote, decided it was not that personal, and moved on. And yet - it still nags me. I don't want to tell my story. I want to tell Jeremiah's story.

I posted on and asked about the effect of personal feelings while writing. John Smithers offered a great response:

You are cutting off your most valuable writing resource...Free it, or I promise you a massive writer’s block.
He is right, of course. But I do need to find a way to have Jeremiah find his own words, and not use mine.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meet Jeremiah Mekler!

The old man was sitting on a wooden chair. He was reading a thick book when I arrived.
"Sorry for being late," I started. "The traffic was horrible."
"Think nothing of it," He said with a smile. "I've read this book a thousand times over."
I smiled back, and sat on the sofa in front of him. "Shall we begin then?" I asked.
He nodded and leaned back, placing the book on his knees.

Meet Jeremiah Mekler, the protagonist of my first book.

Why am I writing about him? Well, because I can't write about myself. By using Jeremiah's voice, I hope to be able to explore sensitive aspects of my life without exposing myself in the process. Using Jeremiah, I can write freely, relying on the fact that no one will be able to tell fiction from fact, at least not that easily.

But am I Jeremiah? Are his experiences mine? Does he share all my secrets, and all my feelings?


I am not Jeremiah. I don't even know him very well. I plan to get to know him, through my book. Through the act of describing his feelings, his goals, his decisions and actions.

But before I start writing about him, I need to get to know him a little better. So I'm going to interview him. This interview is not going to be included in my book, but his answers might.

Browsing through Writers Stack Exchange, I found a lot of good advice about how to get to know your characters. Fox Cutter, for example, offered the following advice:
For me, I like to interview them. I have a series of loose questions that I like to have them answer. It helps me not only round out there backstory but get an idea how they will react to situations.
This isn't the first time I've heard of the above technique. It sounds reasonable and productive enough, so I am going to apply it and present the various stages of the interview here in this blog as a writing exercise.

"Feel free to stop me if my questions are too nosy," I said with a smile. "I won't be offended in any way."
Jeremiah gave me a sad, knowing look. "I will." he said, and I wondered what does he have to hide.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Google Scare

Google managed to give quite a scare to a small portion of their users, as some logged into their accounts and found it empty.

Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability, dedicated an official Gmail blog post to describe the issue and its cause:
I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here. 
How many of us are using free services such as Google's Gmail to store private (and sometime important) data? I know I am. I use Gmail and a bunch of other free services regularly (Dropbox, Google Docs) as I work on my new book.

I think its high time for me to consider my backup options, and my entire work-flow. Since I'm working on my iPad, every sync to iTunes should backup my Pages documents to my laptop. But my syncs are not that frequent, so I also use Dropbox as an external, free, Cloud Based, storage. So I might one day log in only to find my entire storage's empty.


As I said, its high time for me to consider my backup options.