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.