Breaking the Rules: C. J. Cherryh’s ‘Foreigner’ Novels

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Image from SF Signal

All writers have heard the adage “Show, don’t tell.” It’s one of the most ambiguous and frustrating pieces of writing advice I have ever received. After all, writing is all about words. How can you “show” something when the only way to communicate is by “telling” the reader what’s happening? You’re also supposed to make sure something is always happening to move the scene forward. You don’t start in a static or simple moment. You have to begin with a bang to get the reader’s attention! Where’s your momentum, people?

Now, I get what this advice is trying to say. “Show, don’t tell” encourages writers to not just give a play-by-play of the scene, a “Then she did this and then he said that and then they went here” style of story-telling. That’s acceptable for a four-year-old telling a story, but not for a novelist. You’re supposed to make it more dynamic, fluid, and engaging. And starting with a bang isn’t literal, but to avoid the cliche of having a character wake up in the morning or monologue to themselves. The devil, as always, is in the details of how exactly to do this.

It’s easy to then fall into the trap of thinking that these are iron-clad rules which cannot for the love of all that is literary be broken. Rules are useful as a framework, but it’s always nice to see how the rules can be bent or outright broken and still leave you with an engaging story. Enter the Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh.

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Of Prep and Prequels

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The Hundred Days by Geoff Hunt

While most people are excited for the coming of pumpkin spice, winter, or the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo, which begins in (gasp!) only eight days. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk since April when I finished Courting the Moon, and only nibbled at the edges of projects. But National Novel Writing Month (especially in conjunction with the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge) usually gives me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.

So, to facilitate this imminent frenzy of vomit-typing, I picked a project that I only have the vaguest idea about: the second book in my planned Mariner Sequence series entitled Seahawks and Storms. Now, even though this is the second book I’m writing in the series, Seahawks and Storms takes place about 600 years before the events of the first book, Ravens and Roses. It will tell the story of the first Admiral of the Mariners, Samuel Tempest, his wife Amaris Seahawk, and the founding of their new home, the land eventually called “Marina.” If you’ve ever read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, you’ll see that the relationship between my two books is in a similar style. Each book can be read as a stand-alone, in publication order, or in chronological order, and should all still make sense. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
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