This is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog-hop, designed to help encourage authors and foster discussions about writing topics across the internet and the world. This month’s question is “What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names”
For me, it’s definitely coming up with a book title. Because I’m primarily writing a series, I want the titles to all work together, to where they sound like they’re part of a “family” of books. And then, I want them to be memorable, to not be something already used by another writer (at least, not on the blockbuster level). I don’t want to be one of 5 or 10 authors who wrote a book by the same name if possible.
By comparison, coming up with names is simple. I usually start with a feel for who the character is, what sort of person…
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It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. I was actually surprised at the number of things I didn’t know about minstrels and their place in history. And Terry Jones, as always, has a certain flare for telling it! 🙂
Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.
In this article, Lee Duigon discusses what makes effective Christian-based fiction by way of a book review of the Chronicles of the Nephilium by Brian Godawa. Even if you don’t know the book, this is a very well-written article worth taking a look at–particularly if you read and/or write Christian fiction. It was published in Chalcedon’s online magazine. You can find out more about Lee Duigon and check out his book series, Bell Mountain, through his personal website and blog.
A Review of Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa by Lee Duigon
Who doesn’t want to know more about those “giants in the earth”—Nephilim in Hebrew?
I couldn’t wait to read these books. Biblical mysteries elucidated! The bare-bones narrative of Genesis fleshed out! What really happened in that age before the Flood? It’s quite a draw.
And what a disappointment, when I finally read them.
But first I read the appendices attached to each book. These were fascinating, compelling. Delving deeply into Biblical and extra-Biblical scholarship, Godawa relocates Genesis into its original historical and cultural context, that of the Ancient Near East: Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, and how ancient Israel itself was influenced by these neighboring civilizations.
This led him to make an intriguing argument that there are other spiritual beings, angels, some good and some evil, some subordinate to God, Yahweh Elohim, but others in rebellion against Him; and that these rebel entities came down to earth and set themselves up as false gods, worshiped by the heathen nations; that these beings sought to control human history; and that they interbred with mortal women, producing a race of giants and assorted abominations.
He supports his argument with both Scripture and other ancient sources, such as the non-canonical Book of Enoch, Jewish tradition, and non-Jewish mythology. I have not the scholarship to debate his conclusions.
But whatever the value of the scholarship behind them, I cannot endorse these novels.
A Movie in Your Mind
Godawa is a Hollywood screenwriter by profession. His work is in the movies, he thinks in terms of movies, and he writes his novels hoping that his readers will experience them as a kind of movie in the mind.
What he does is string one movie cliché after another. He’s got them all: wise-cracking heroes getting off zingers as they march into mortal danger, like any pair of cops in a buddy movie; beautiful young women who are really good at martial arts; rapid shifts from one scene to another, action-movie style; sneering villains who are only one short step removed from snarling “Curses, foiled again!” My impression was of a comic book without pictures. Godawa prefers to think of his novels as movies without film. Maybe it would be fair to liken them to movies based on comic books.
And of course, as in any movie pitched to eleven-year-olds, these novels feature endless slangy, smart-alecky dialogue. What is the point of having characters that are supposed to be immortal spiritual beings, or great heroes of the Bible, if they’re just going to talk like a twenty-first century screenwriter thinks teenagers talk?
Really—it just seems wrong for archangels to say things like “We saved your rear ends.”
Two more literary offenses must be noted here.
These books present a bad case of “adjectivitis”—way too many adjectives burden the text, most of them unnecessary. There is no need for the author to editorialize about his villains. What they say and do establishes them as the bad guys. There is no need to label them, repeatedly, as “diabolical” or “sadistic.” Not when they’re always shown doing diabolical or sadistic things.
Worse, Godawa puts into the mouths of rebel angels, immortal beings living centuries before the Flood, actual quotations from present-day leaders of the Democratic Party. To list just a few examples, with their original speakers:
“Hope and change” (Barack Obama)
“Fundamental transformation” (Obama)
“I feel your pain” (Bill Clinton)
“It depends on what ‘is’ is” (Bill Clinton)
“You didn’t build that” (Obama quoting Elizabeth Warren)
In addition to verbatim quotations from the twenty-first century, Godawa’s wicked spiritual entities also spout modern catch-phrases of feminism, “gay rights,” “animal rights,” and accuse God of such modern trespasses as colonialism, imperialism, sexism, and being “macho.” As a reader I found this very hard to bear.
Godawa says (in an email to me: I thank him for taking the time for it) that he has done this to demonstrate that wickedness, tyranny, and flimflam have always been with us, they originate from spiritual wickedness, and they haven’t changed. To use current political leaders’ quotes, he says, is to demonstrate that the same sins that afflict us today afflicted us before the Flood.
Fair enough. You can make that argument. But maybe Godawa doubts the readers’ ability to come to the desired conclusion unless he makes things thunderingly obvious.
Elsewhere he himself has written, “Christian movies, though well-intentioned and sincere, often suffer from heavy-handedness in their desire to convert the unbeliever through art.” And he adds, “Which is more to be avoided: a pagan movie that rings true, or ‘Christian’ propaganda that rings false?”1
Physician, heal thyself.
Why Does It Matter?
I’ve taken time to discuss these literary faults because I think it’s important.
I found this post very amusing, particularly since I’m at the getting-ready-to-publish end of the author cycle once again. It would be fun to take my kids Life game and change it according to Lucy’s vision, but somehow I think that would be frowned upon. 🙂
One of my favourite board games is ‘The Game of Life’ by Hasbro. You spin the wheel and start down the road of life in your little plastic car, taking exams, getting a job, making money, getting married, having babies, acquiring pets, losing money and going on adventures.
The other day, whilst playing ‘The Game of Life’ with one of my children I had the idea of a ‘Game of Life’board game version for authors.
Nearly everyone nowadays wants to be an author so this unique game would make you feel like an author, without doing the hard bit – writing a book. It could be called ‘The Game of Author Life’.
In the ‘Game of Life’ your plastic car counter has little holes for your husband, wife, children and pets.
In the ‘Game of Author Life’ you would have little holes for your literary agent and your publisher if you decide to go traditional. If you decide to go self published, you would have little holes for your editor and book cover designer.
You would spin the wheel and start down the road towards publication. *Sigh*
Keep reading at the source: If There Was a Board Game About Life as an Author #MondayBlogs #BoardGames #WritersLife
Medieval coopers were important craftsmen in the Middle Ages. Many different types of goods were kept in barrels, such as alcohol and salted meats. But barrels were not the only things coopers made. A variety of wooden vessels were needed for daily use by the average person as well as many other medieval craft and tradesmen. Buckets were needed to draw and transport water, and pails collected milk from cows, sheep, and goats. Wooden churns helped to preserve that milk by turning it into various types of butter and cheese. Tub like containers would have been used for jobs such as mixing flour into dough, pickling vegetables and fruits, salting meat, or making beer, ale, and cider. Larger tubs would have been used for fulling (processing wool), dying fabric, tanning, washing clothes, bathing, and crushing grapes for winemaking. Serving pitchers might also be made out of wood. Their sides were curved for pouring, just like vessels made out of glass or ceramic would have been. When barrels and large tubs had out-lived their usefulness, they were either taken apart and the wood re-purposed, or they were used to line wells and pits.
Oak, which was strong and durable, was the favored choice for wooden vessels, but beech, pine, and silver fir were also sometimes used. The wood grain needed to be straight. The tools of the trade were simple ones, with coopers using mallets, axes and shaving tools to shape the staves. These could be fit together to make the vessels water tight, though not all barrels were. Some were used for dry storage and water tightness was not required. Surprisingly, metal hoops were not used for large barrels until well after the Middle Ages. They were reserved for use on some buckets and expensive drinking vessels. Barrel hoops were made of wood, primarily willow, ash, hazel, and chestnut. Hoop making was a specialized craft of its own.
I tried to find a video of someone using medieval methods to make wooden vessels, and this is the closest I got. George Smithwick is a 6th generation cooper and has been doing this for over 30 years, so I’d say he’s a great authority on the subject! The video is a bit long, and he does occasionally use modern day power tools, but his methods are rooted in tradition and he goes a bit into the history of his trade, which is very interesting. If you have time, I hope you’ll watch this one, even if you need to fast forward through parts of it. Nothing compares to actually watching how things were made–it gives you a real appreciation for the work involved in making simple, every day objects we take for granted in our post-industrialized world.
Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.
Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.
A lone warrior stands on the river bank, sword at the ready. Through the shifting white mist he sees the enemy. They’re coming. The dense fog is hiding the full size of their force, but he already knows he’s greatly outnumbered. Even so, he must stand firm. The lives of everyone he cares about are dependent upon his strength and cunning. He must hold the enemy back as long as he can. No doubt they have already sized him up and think their victory will be an easy one. But he has a surprise planned for them the moment they hit the river. Will he manage to prevail in spite of the odds? Or are these deep breaths of morning mist destined to be his last?
Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.