There is, or used to be, a long-running ad in some US martial arts magazines for a system called Target Focus Training. What's interesting is the provocative headline, which goes something like: IMAGINE TWO PEOPLE LOCKED IN A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE, ONE PERSON'S HANDS TIGHT AROUND THE OTHER'S THROAT. WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?

Along with the sub-heading of: Whatever you've answered, you're probably wrong.

Anyway, as I think about writing, I'm reminded how rarely SF uses the first-person viewpoint compared to other genres. Private-eye fiction used to be entirely first person; nowadays there's a new form, wherein one character's story is told from first person (through their eyes, feeling their feelings) while others are from third person (not omniscient third person, but dipping into the thoughts and feelings of the viewpoint character).

The first time I came across this structure, I hated it... It seemed a lazy form of writing, to take a simple first-person story and pad it out with scenes from the characters' viewpoints. However, both Robert Crais and Barry Eisler switched to this technique at the same time as they raised their games to new levels, and I enjoy their books very much.

Recently, screenwriter Adrian Reynolds has been discussing with me the psychological processes involved in writing. One of the things I'm aware of is that I can visualize a scene, move around inside it (like a form of lucid dreaming... which it is) and when I'm moving into a character's viewpoint, I'm moving the observer/feeling part of me into that person's body. And I wonder how much our internal visualizations are influenced by cinema and other modern media?

I've also stated in a recent interview that music -- whatever you want to listen to, whenever you want to listen -- is the thing that separates modern writers from our antecedents, even more than using keyboards instead of pens. Because listening to music at the write time (!) every morning is a brilliant, powerful and effective way of dropping you into exactly the right state to continue with your story.

So what about that advert? Does it help if you know that the system being advertised is one that concentrates on real-life self defence, rather than traditional martial arts? (By the way, I think the actual advertised methodology is a good one, worth adding to other practices, not replacing them. That's just my opinion, though.)

Remember, the scenario was two people locked in a life-and-death struggle, one with their hands around the other's throat. The question was: What do you do next?

My answer, when I read it?


Be safe, be confident, be powerful, my friends.


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