…it’s about integrity as an artist. Being true to yourself.
…it’s about integrity as an artist. Being true to yourself.

…it’s about integrity as an artist. Being true to yourself.

Hey, as I wind down the podcast–I’m going to take a break after Griffin is done, so I can focus on fin­ish­ing writ­ing the Gate­keep­er series–I just want to remind you that my vir­tu­al gui­tar case is open on Ko-Fi… if you have a spare twoon­ie in your pock­et. Here is the link: Ko-Fi

One day, years ago, I was in our little loc­al music and video game store, flip­ping through the used CDs look­ing for some cool ones to buy. I was in the jazz sec­tion and came across a Kenny G CD. I exclaimed, “What is Kenny G doing in the jazz sec­tion? Kenny G is not jazz!” The store clerk said, “Hey, a lot of people like Kenny G!” I said, “That’s fine, but that does­n’t make him jazz.”

So… I don’t care for Kenny G’s music. I do get that a lot of people like his stuff, and that’s all cool. The oth­er night I heard the begin­ning of an inter­view with him on the radio when I was in the car on my way home, and some­thing he talked about struck me. So when he was start­ing out, he was still try­ing to sort out what his style was, what kind of music he wanted to play. And he kept get­ting pres­sure to use vocals because … Oh, y’know, the whole atti­tude of, “That’s what people want.” But that was­n’t really what he wanted to play. Still, he was like, fine, and he had this song that had vocals, and then he got a slot on the Tonight Show. I mean, Big Time. And of course his man­agers, or whomever, wanted him to play that song, the one with vocals, coz that was the song they were try­ing to pro­mote as his hit. But he was strug­gling with that choice, and when it came time to play on the show, he was like, “Screw it. That’s not what I want.” And so he played his instru­ment­al. Which was Song­bird, which, like it or not, launched his career.

Why do I bring this up? Because it’s about integ­rity as an artist. Being true to your­self. And it can be pretty hard to say, “No, that does­n’t work for me.” And not every­body is going to be launched into star­dom by hav­ing integ­rity either. So, how this applies to my own exper­i­ence is that — and I assume that since you’ve come this far in the pod­cast you’re famil­i­ar with the Gate­keep­er series — when I was shop­ping it around to agents and edit­ors, (Keep in mind that they are see­ing… the first ten pages, maybe the first chapter, maybe even as much as the first 50 pages of the book. And they stop read­ing as soon as they find a reas­on to. Some­thing that does­n’t work for them). The most com­mon bit of cri­ti­cism I received when being rejec­ted was this: Your dia­logue is too colloquial.

Now, one of the things I nev­er liked about the fantasy I was read­ing in my youth was what I think of as “Fantasy speak,” when the char­ac­ters take on this pseudo-form­al, styl­ized way of speak­ing that sounds hoity-toity and not even a little bit nat­ur­al. It was when I read Nev­er­where by Neil Gai­man that I went, “Hey… he does­n’t write like that, so why should I?” And I don’t even get it. Why tell me my dia­logue is too col­lo­qui­al. For what? I’m show­ing you MY char­ac­ters, and MY world, why are people try­ing to tell me I need to write as if it’s some­body else char­ac­ters in some­body else’s world? So I said, “Screw it. That’s not what I want.” So I have writ­ten my story in my style. Ha! I’m still wait­ing for the part where it launches my career, lol.… but I’m really proud of my cre­ation. I love my story, and I love my dia­logue. It makes me super happy that so many listen­ers have been in touch to let me know they’re enjoy­ing it too. Thank you so very much for that.

Anoth­er cri­ti­cism I’ve heard about Gate­keep­er­’s Key is chapter two where they have the meet­ing in the woods. I’ve been told, “It’s been done before.” I don’t deny that, and I use some oth­er tropes that have been done before, (and actu­ally there’s a lot of stuff going on in that scene that is not imme­di­ately appar­ent and would be tough to fit in a dif­fer­ent scen­ario, but I digress). I would say there are a lot of things have been done before that I have not done, such as The prot­ag­on­ist being an Orphan. Or… magic is for­bid­den. Or a girl is being mar­ried off against her will, Or The Proph­ecy! I mean there are lots of them, and some are used well, but oth­ers are just over­used. I gave a lot of thought to that scene in chapter two, but ulti­mately decided, no I’m gonna leave it the way it is. It does what I need it to do.

Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like I’m com­plain­ing about cri­ti­cism, and that’s not the case. Over the years of writ­ing the story and hav­ing it cri­tiqued by writ­ing part­ners and so forth I have made tons of changes on their recom­mend­a­tions. I even tweaked as I recor­ded the pod­cast. But at some point I needed to decide which parts of the story mat­ter enough to the story, and to try to execute them in a way that works, that is true to the story, and does­n’t come across as tired.

Pretty sure Griffin does­n’t have any of those tropes.