Jon Dixon

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Coming back to writing after a long sabbatical. Back when dinosaurs and disco ruled the world I had several short stories published. I'm currently working on th4e first draft of a fantasy novel influenced by the connected Japanese philosophies of wabi-sabi and kintsugi - the embracing of the flawed or imperfect and the incorporation of visible breakages as an integral part of something of great value. The novel's theme and characters have been lurking in my head for decades and now seem to want to emerge into the light of day. I'm finding the process both exhilarating and terrifying.

I earned my living with an earring and a sword mostly as a professional actor for the first 20 years of my career, and then worked in the far less swashbuckling field of user experience design for the following two decades (no swordplay required). While acting I also worked as a freelance illustrator for paperbacks, role playing games and magazines, and I still keep my hand in with canvas and brushes (or more often now tablet and screen) though nowadays just for my own pleasure. So at least I have accurate reference for my characters' physical appearance!

I live in Derby (UK) with an elderly Bengal cat and three young(ish) chickens.

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Jon Dixon Discussions
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Is anyone else having problems accessing the registration for the March webinars on the members' sit…
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  •  · Thanks, Holly! 🙂 
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Here’s a thought. Tonight, just after twenty past 9, wherever we are and whatever time-zone we're in…
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  •  · Ha ha ha. The tiny pleasures that occupy our tiny minds. Some of us anyway = Jon. Enjoy your sip of …
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For anyone who hasn't come across this before (I hadn't) this nice infographic might come in helpful…
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  •  · So it was Reg who invented the emotion wheel.
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I've recently decided to make a couple of major changes to my work-in-progress novel, 'The Perfectio…
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  •  · Thanks, Irene!
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Hi all,I've just come across an article which may be useful in understanding what makes a query stan…
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  •  · I read all of this article and as ever I'm pleased to see the eclectic mix of successful letters use…
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There's a really interesting piece in the Guardian today from Philip Pullman. Lots of thought-provok…
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  •  · By the way, I've just got Pullman's 'Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling'. Have any of you re…

Not commercially, no, not for a couple of years now. When I retired from my 'main' occupation, I decided that any creative stuff I did would be for my own pleasure and without the stress of meeting other people's deadlines! 

But I still paint and draw (traditionally and digitally) alongside writing and 'making'. I find they all serve the same purpose, which is to try and give an external presence to people, places and things that have moved or intrigued me, and which would otherwise remain only in my imagination.

Occasionally I'll do something informally for friends, but I quite like not having the pressure to deliver after 45 years work! 😀 

I really enjoyed the webinar too, both in my capacity as an (amateur) writer but also as someone who's earned a crust in the past both as an illustrator and artist, with a few book covers and lots of interior art under my belt (though the bulk of my commissions came from roleplaying games companies and publishers) and as a graphic designer (with a couple of book covers in my portfolio - though I'd never dare put myself anywhere near Patrick's standard). 

It was really good to hear such a fine designer articulate the criteria for a good cover brief so clearly, and the difference between the cover illustration and the cover design... two very different things.

Fantasy is my favourite genre, and two of my favourite recent covers (from both a design and artwork perspective) have been those for 'Gideon The Ninth' and 'Harrow The Ninth', the first two books in the 'Locked Tomb' trilogy by Tamsyn Muir.

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While quite 'traditional' (for the genre) the matched designs are clean, wonderfully striking and perfect for the tone and subject matter of the books, the (I believe specially commissioned) typography is sublime, and the illustrations are beautifully accurate renditions of the primary protagonist in each book and superbly painted by the immensely talented Tommy Arnold:

http://www.tommyarnoldart.com/

Even the colour palette of each design is carefully judged to match the primary subject. I think they're the best covers I've seen in a long while. The books are pretty special, too. I can't wait for the third book, 'Alecto the Ninth', to be published later this year!

My thanks, too, to Jericho and to Anna, for a great, informative session.

I had a dream once, and saw a '2'. Nightmare!  Or a miracle.

Do you know, I hadn't even noticed them! So, based on that rigorous and extensive evidence... I'd say they were fine! 😆 

Yep! That works beautifully! 😃 

Hi Julie. I really really liked this, and I think both the pitch and the synopsis sum up your story very well. It has a lovely tone, too.

The only tiny hitches for me were in the synopsis:

When Seed knocks one egg out of the nest, Lion’s quick actions save it, and Seed learns that her need to prove herself is pushing her friends away.

I remember the scene well, and I don't think the cause > effect logic of this sentence quite works, in that the 'pushing her friends away' lesson doesn't seem to be one that she would learn just from Lion saving her egg - which is what's implied. I know exactly what you mean, and what the lesson is, but it doesn't quite come across for me here. What this reads as is that Lion's saving of her egg (cause) somehow causes him to be pushed away (effect)... and thus the lesson is learnt. As I remember, the lesson is that she can't do everything on her own, and when she does it sometimes causes disasters which her friends have to rescue her from. In other words, the lesson is that she needs friends rather than that her need to prove herself pushes them away. It's a subtle difference, to be sure, but a real one, I think. Maybe a slight tweaking of this sentence will make this clearer.

They find the kids digging by the creek. When Nicole and Luca leave, the friends try to dig up Seed’s eggs...

At the moment, this implies that Seed's eggs are definitely buried in the riverbank. As we know, they're not, but safely in Incubator. I think it needs to be explict here that Seed and Lion only think that her eggs are buried by the creek, maybe by making a slight change:

They find the kids digging by the creek. Fearing that Seed's eggs are buried there, when Nicole and Luca leave, the friends try to dig them up...

Those are really minor points, though, and I think the overall submission is really good!

Lots of good advice above. I'll share a quote from the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery that I really like, even if I don't manage to always live up to it!

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

On that basis, the question you must ask yourself is whether removing the child would make any real difference to the story you're telling, or whether the function the child fulfils within the plot could be achieved in some other way.

Could you take him away and still perfect the design?

If yes, do it, however much you're attached to him. He's superfluous.

If no, then he's needed. He's part of the design, however small his role.

Thanks, Robert. I'm glad it worked for you. As I say, I was building on your evocative scene, and just got lucky. A flash of all-too-uncommon inspiration! 😂 

Hi Sarita,

Jumping in with my two-pennyworth, for what it's worth.

I think the first one is absolutely valid. It's not really 'telling' in the sense of simply describing the act of looking; it's a conscious, deliberate non-action (and then action) that's being articulated by the character as part of her reaction to the actions of another person. If you like, it's a signifier of her emotional state. 

In my mind, that's very different from 'look' used in the 'telly' sense, where it's just 'I looked at the view...' rather than describing the view and the emotional reaction to it.

The second one is still ok, I think, for the reasons you state. You could, if you were so inclined, tweak it to remove the 'telly' verb.

She switched pencils and started shading the underbelly of her dog with the soft lead. Soft scratching. Then silence. When I looked up, her pencil was poised over the page, her head cocked to one side. I followed the line of her eyes. The unfamiliar boy...

Not so telly, perhaps. But also, arguably, less direct!

Same with the third one. Your rationale for it (as series of camera shots) makes perfect sense. I think this one, too, could be tweaked in a similar way to number two. Maybe something like:

‘Why would he…?’ Behind me, the crazies started their usual in-joke tittering. Reluctantly, I turned my head. Frankie's tongue protruded from his mouth, wagging. 

But I don't think any of your examples are really 'filtering' in the sense in which it's usually frowened on. In my (inexpert) opinion, they'd all pass muster as they are! 

Oh Lord! Robert, I didn't intend to cause any distress. I really hope I didn't. After all, I was working with your original fantastic concept and image, both expressed here and in the previous passages you've posted from your book. So most of the credit goes to you for a wonderful scene.

I suppose what I was trying to do was to overlay the emotional reaction I had as a reader to your brief description of the scene, and trying to embed those emotions in the evocation of the various elements of the scene - the wind, the landscape, the view. Your protagonist would of course be doing that unconsciously, just as the reader will be - both of them drawing those emotions from their own imagination, history and background. 

You don't need to tell us that the protagonist is gazing - the introspective and emotion-coloured description of the landscape does that. You don't need to inform us that he's feeling grief - the metaphors and descriptions do that. You don't need to tell us about his anger - the violent brushing away of his 'unmanly' tears and the blaming of them on the wind lets us know. And if all the descriptive imagery is chosen such that it's filtered through his feelings of grief and sense of loss, you really don't need to tell us anything at all... just describe your wonderful evocative scene through his eyes.

Anyway, as I say, your imagination, setting and character gave me a wonderful basis on which to hang some prose, even if it was a technical exercise in not using 'filter words'! If only I could do the same - reliably -for my own scenes! 😣  It's actually FAR more difficult to get it right in your own work than it is to 'edit' others, I think! 😀 

Strictly, Robert, neither. They're both filtering the direct experience and standing between what the protagonist is thinking or feeling and the reader living the same moment through him. In both cases, you're telling us what he's doing and how he's doing it rather than showing us the scene and allowing the reader to incoporate it into their own vicarious created experience.

I've attempted a version of the scene you describe below. My style, of course, so probably horribly over-written... but I don't think there's any filtering, and the emotion and underlying meaning of the scene I hope are still conveyed.

The wind cut across the bleak summit of Ben Lomond, skirling around the crags like the sound of distant pipes. Mourning. Ahead of him, the snow-capped highlands stretched into the distance, a map of grief and loss. So many clans. All gone. Lost in ancient time and bloody battles. His eyes watered suddenly, burning, and he brushed the tears away with the back of a hand. Damn this wind; it was sharp as a dagger in this place of the dead.


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