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FYI Debunking Myths for Better Writing

Rich.

Guardian
Staff member
Patron
#1
Debunking Myths for Better Writing

a collection of links to titbits of fact

A few days ago @Robinne Weiss created a thread that linked to a blog post of hers about Writing Venomous Creatures. The article contains lots of useful information and is exactly the kind of thing you might find useful if you happen to be writing a scene where your protagonist gets stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake or licked by a loris.

And this morning I stumbled across an article about drowning. What? What's that got to do with venomous critters? Well, nothing. But it did get me thinking about how useful it is for a writer to have a mindstore of facts – the kind of thing you can reach for when you need the ring of truth.

The article I found is titled Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning. It's fascinating, a little macabre, and exactly the kind of thing you'd want to know if your protagonist was slung in the water by Nefarious Villain or needed to rescue Expiring Sidekick from a visit to Davy Jones' locker.

So, like the subtitle says, post your links to interesting facts. Anything goes – if it's factual, interesting, and conceivably usable in a scene, post it here.

Cheers m'dears!

:)
 
#2
A useful article, Rich. Living in Cornwall, which has 422 miles of coastline, I hear of many deaths by drowning every year. Often, the victims are holidaymakers unfamiliar with such things as how swiftly tides come in, rip currents and the size of waves dashing against seemingly safe rocks—add alcohol to the mix and it's a recipe for disaster.

I used drowning in my first Cornish Detective novel, Who Kills A Nudist?, where an experienced swimmer and surfer is found dead near to a naturist colony he frequented. Forensic testing of the contents of his lungs and bone marrow shows the presence of a species of diatom that are used to create swimming pool filters, but which are uncommon in seawater. Diatoms are microorganisms that live everywhere there is water, and there are thousands of species. The dead nudist had been drowned in a plunge pool, with the killer attempting to cover his tracks by hurling him into the sea at night; rough waves returned his corpse to dry land.

Diagnosing Death with Diatoms
 
#10
Out of interest (and off topic, sorry @Rich. ), whereabouts in Cornwall are you, @Paul Whybrow ? I grew up in Cornwall. Around Falmouth.
I've been living in a remote location, about six miles from Newquay (Sodom-on-Sea, as I call it) for a while, but started off in Saltash, before moving to Bodmin Moor for ten years. Cornwall suits my bolshy nature: the S.W. is shaped like a Christmas stocking, so all of the nuts fall to the bottom!
 
#11
I've been living in a remote location, about six miles from Newquay (Sodom-on-Sea, as I call it) for a while, but started off in Saltash, before moving to Bodmin Moor for ten years. Cornwall suits my bolshy nature: the S.W. is shaped like a Christmas stocking, so all of the nuts fall to the bottom!
:D
 

Amber

Benefactor
#12
This is how I read the title of this post:

Debunking Myths for Better Writing (Debunking false advice given about how to improve your writing)

I can’t help how my brain works ... sorry.

The article about drowning is interesting.
 

Rich.

Guardian
Staff member
Patron
#14
[Cryptocurrency] Though we do still have the word 'crypt' buried in there, hehe. Creep to the crypto.
Ha! There's no getting away from it!

This is how I read the title of this post:

Debunking Myths for Better Writing (Debunking false advice given about how to improve your writing)
Brilliant! I think we should allow this reading as well. :)

So in that spirit, here's an article that follows your reading of the title:

The Complete Novel Writing Software Guide

And here's one that follows mine:

How to survive a parachute failure (though I'll admit this article is pretty fluffy, journalistically speaking – I imagine you can guess the answer).

:)
 
#15
For a couple of years, I lived near Thruxton Aerodrome in Hampshire—famed as fighter aircraft base in WW2—in modern times, a leisure aircraft base and racing circuit. I sometimes walked across the fields to Thruxton village, to visit the thatched pub, and one summer day I heard a strange tiny voice, seemingly coming from overhead. It sounded a bit like a ventriloquist throwing his voice into an inanimate object. I searched the sky, spotting a black falling dot that was yelling G-E-R-O-N-I-M-O! The chute opened and the jumper floated safely to earth.

More terrifying, were the expert parachutists who waited until the last moment possible to pull their ripcord. Seeing them plummet closer and closer towards splat was not the relaxing preamble I needed before having a pint, so I simply stopped looking up!
 
#16
I came across a quote recently, which is applicable to every form of art, including writing, though it was said by dancer Fred Astaire—who, when he was staring out, was assessed for a screen test he did for a major studio as, "Can't act. Slightly bald. But can dance a little."

Astaire went on to have an illustrious sixty year career as a dancer, singer, choreographer, actor and television presenter. He observed that:

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style.
 

Amber

Benefactor
#19
I came across a quote recently, which is applicable to every form of art, including writing, though it was said by dancer Fred Astaire—who, when he was staring out, was assessed for a screen test he did for a major studio as, "Can't act. Slightly bald. But can dance a little."

Astaire went on to have an illustrious sixty year career as a dancer, singer, choreographer, actor and television presenter. He observed that:

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style.
I suppose so. It sounds like you're saying the system is rigged. There's a lot of that going around. It's incessant. But I'm pretty sure feeling sorry for oneself doesn't have anything to do with writing. Here is my complete list of habits which aren't writing habits but which are sometimes writing customs.

1 - Feeling sorry for oneself
2 - Complaining about reader reviews.
3 - Complaining about Amazon.
4 - Complaining about how the publishing industry isn't fair.
5 - Complaining that no one is buying their book.
6 - Spending more time talking about stories than writing them.
7 - Telling readers what they're supposed to 'get' or 'understand' from a particular piece of writing.
8 - Becoming entrenched in the drama of writing or not writing.
9 - Bringing up the name of their novel and/or series at every opportunity.

Since we're all human, I suppose most of us do some of these some of the time. I say that but I don't know for certain. I mean, apparently I know people who aren't human because they never do this stuff. There might be a distinct difference between a serious writer and a writer. But that seems like a judgment it would be too much work to prove.

Oh ... and Fred Astaire... not a great dancer in my opinion. Gene Kelly was the genius .... Fred Astaire ... reasonably graceful ... looked nice in a top hat ... but sort of a whiner and a little entitled. He didn't work near as hard as Gene Kelly.
 

Rich.

Guardian
Staff member
Patron
#20
There might be a distinct difference between a serious writer and a writer.
Serious writers are the ones your mother told you to watch out for. And if we're discussing types of writer, I'd like to present... the happy writer! Life is serious enough. Imagine having to square your jaw to do the thing you love. Ugh.

[I imagine there should be a winky face somewhere in that last paragraph.]

Links, people! Post your links!

:)
 
#21
OK, I know I've plugged it before, but just in case you didn't catch it, or didn't notice when you were reading my venomous creatures post, Dan Koboldt's blog is all about debunking myths and improving fiction by getting the facts right. There are a gazillion articles on his website written by experts about topics ranging from forensics to astrophysics to wolf ecology and biology. It's a fabulous resource for writers.
 

Amber

Benefactor
#22
Serious writers are the ones your mother told you to watch out for. And if we're discussing types of writer, I'd like to present... the happy writer! Life is serious enough. Imagine having to square your jaw to do the thing you love. Ugh.

[I imagine there should be a winky face somewhere in that last paragraph.]

Links, people! Post your links!

:)
Funny. Yes... happy writer is best.
 
#25
Some of this reminds me of a scene from the film A Cock and Bull Story, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's take on Tristram Shandy. From memory (I haven't seen it for ages) Coogan gives an actorly demonstration of what happens if you put an (imaginary) hot potato down the front of your trousers, hopping around the room in a comic kind of way. Then he puts a 'real' one down and is reduced to doubled over, eye watering, sweary agony. It is toe curling to watch and hard not to feel the pain. Of course, I have no idea if the second potato is any realer than the first one but it is pretty compelling! I haven't tried it myself, even in the spirit of research so that I can 'write what I know'.

Anyway, the film is anarchic and very funny. I think you can find the scene with the potato on YouTube.
 
#26
Mention of Tristram Shandy makes me shudder, as it takes me back to Christmas 1982, when I was a penniless student at teacher training college in Portsmouth. I worked part-time as barman in a real ale pub, and on Christmas Eve my boss fired me and two other staff...he blamed us for till shortages, but had actually been fiddling the books himself and was later prosecuted by the brewery. It was too late to sign on for unemployment benefit, as the job centre had closed for the festivities. I really needed that wage packet, and with literally no money, I spent Christmas wearing all of my clothing to stay warm in the hovel I lived in, eating raw onion sandwiches (the only food in the larder) and reading Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy for entertainment. The paperback edition I retrieved from the cellar was 650 pages long, so it kept me occupied. I've avoided it ever since!
 
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