alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Writer Jennifer Crusie always thinks characters and conflict when she's building a plot, so she can't help analyzing books, movies, and television the same way. Here she tears apart the plot for "Lucifier" and if you checkout her LJ, she then comes up with a much better series idea.

Maybe she'll write it.

Originally posted by [ profile] jennycrusie at Questionable: Character Chemistry with the Reader

This is another one from Draft Vault, and it included this note: “Somehow I hit “Publish” while this was still in draft form. Therefore, whatever went out in the RSS feed was a rough draft. Sorry about that.” I’m pretty sure I cut almost all of the previous draft, so this shouldn’t be a re-run at all.

Cate M asked:

“Could you do a post on a character chemistry? Not necessarily romantic chemistry, although that would be helpful too. Basically, once you’ve got your checklist of goals, motivation, conflict, how do you make sure the characters are actually fun to spend time with, and better together than they are apart?”

So when you say “fun to spend time with,” you’re talking about the reader, right? You want each character to be fun for the reader to spend time with and then the relationship to be more fun for the reader to watch?

In my opinion (not to be taken as a rule or fact or anything like that):

• Readers want to spend time with characters who are fascinating, which means different from the norm but not so weird or awful that they’re off-putting. (“I don’t like this guy, but I can’t take my eyes off him.”)

• They want characters who are active because action is interesting and because action characterizes. (“Now that I see the things he’s doing in this story, he’s even more interesting.”)

• They want characters who are under pressure because pressure peels off layers of protection and makes them vulnerable. (“Boy, move him outside his comfort zone, and he’s a whole new character.”)

• They want characters who are struggling with other characters because while they want to see the human heart in conflict, they also want to see two human hearts in conflict with each other, desperately vying for the things that define them and make life worth living. (“She really moves him outside his comfort zone; he’s even more interesting with her.”)

• They want those struggles to suggest outcomes that are interesting so that their expectations for the rest of the story are as fascinating as the characters, especially when they’re together. (“I can’t wait to see what happens when these two get together again.”)

So fascinating, active, vulnerable characters in conflicted relationships that set up fascinating expectations.

Yeah, not easy.

As an example, I just watched a TV pilot that failed on almost all of these things.

Read more... )
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I don't have Internet right now, so I am swooping in and out as wireless presents itself. But I did see this article on effective settings, and since it mentions something I consider crucial I thought I'd share.

Beginning writers often:

* wait until it’s too late to describe and orient the reader as to place;
*or totally forget that the reader has no idea where the character is in the story, because the location has suddenly moved from a known to a new, unknown location.

If I write, Joe left his home and went to the city, the setting is so vague that it leaves you clueless and frustrated. But if I write, Joe left his beachside cottage and drove into Lake Forest City, a northern suburb of Seattle, the addition of a few specifics gives you enough to inhabit the character’s world while keeping the main focus on what’s happening in the story.

I often tell students and clients that we live in a very visual age. If you don't give enough hints to anchor a reader's vision, they will create their own scene. And then later, when you toss in something very specific, your reader has a problem. It may be very different from what they have already visualized, throwing them out of the book--or they may like their version better. Try not to bring the reader to a halt at that point. Give them a few visuals up front!
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Writers are constantly urged to "write what you know." When writing especially SF or fantasy, that becomes a double challenge. You may be creating a profession that doesn't exist in the real world. But you can be rock solid on a crucial point. How does your character look at the world?

Writer Emma Newman, author of Planetfall, explains how "Write what you know" is actually an untruth.
Read more... )
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Writers and writing instructors constantly try to figure out rules for writing. The truth is, there are few rules, and most good writing advice repeats those few worthwhile comments. Recently Ilona Andrews pulled together some basics on her blog.

For me, her conclusion was the most valuable, because it is easy to get swept away in studying the market and screw with your writing.

The bottom line is,

Focus on writing the story you want to tell. Don’t worry about how many words, what genre, and especially about people who tell you that you will never make it. They’re not important. Finish the thing and try to do your story justice.

Follow the link to see how she got there.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Lots of interesting stuff over at the Book View Café​ blog today. Madeleine Robins​ writes about balancing acts in writing. You're writing a period mystery...and some of the attitudes and actions of the people of the past are abhorrent to well-meaning, thoughtful people today. You don't want to erase the sufferings of people who were abused and marginalized, yet you don't want to stick 21st century mores and words into your characters. What is the line there? How do you balance the concerns?

I think about these things all the time, too. I'm writing what evolved into a period fantasy. I can change things in my magical world, but how much? Will there be a civil war? There will be a war of 1812, because too many people had something to gain from it. But I am not sure Andrew Jackson will get to be a hero in a battle that should never have been fought. I plan to take William Henry Harrison's "victory" away from him, because if I can save Tecumseh I will.

Mad just had the Romani show up in her story. And her balancing act just became more intricate.

So--which way do you go? Should history ring true? Do you deny your characters the right to grow and change, see The Other as people, too--even if some of the things they say and do (at least at first) are not heroic? How do you handle this?
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I did a post a few months back for Stephanie Osborn's Comet Tales blog, and today it is reprinted over at Book View Cafe. If you missed it, we'll be talking about what makes a riveting character. And yes, this is a question for both readers and writers!

If you are writing character and plot-driven fiction, “what happens” should be important. This is not “if I don’t get the soufflé to rise, dinner is ruined” plotting. This is “If dinner doesn’t gel, the Venusian Ambassador may eat his attaché, thus an interstellar incident erupts in my home” territory. And the ambassador eating his attaché should be only the beginning. When the ambassador later gives birth to a spanking new baby Venusian born with the memories of the eaten attaché, and people start plotting to place that infant in a position of power, you’ll know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)

So, do you prefer first person POV or third person POV?  Or third person limited POV, where the book has the slight distance of third person, but it's told from one person's POV throughout?  Rhiannon Frater listens to her characters to see if they want to speak in first or third person, but she tends to prefwr third person.  Here's why.  (I tend to agree with her.  I tried to write the Allie books in third person, but they just didn't work.  Nuala is third person, Alfreda first person--and the new book?  I think third.  Maybe a blend.  We'll see how it goes.)

The publishing aspect isn’t the only part of the publishing industry that changes, but also books themselves. When I was a kid, Young Adult meant books like Where The Red Fern Grows and Catcher in the Rye. There was also fluffy fun stuff like Sweet Valley High, scary Goosebumps and old standbys like Nancy Drew and the The Hardy Boys, but it was tweens that were eating up these books. Teenagers had already graduated to the likes of Ann Rice and Stephen King.

Now Young Adult is huge. It’s not just tweens and teens reading  the genre, but adults as well. Urban Fantasy didn’t even exist in its current form when I was growing up, but now it sits beside its fraternal twin, Paranormal Romance cluttering huge portions of bookstores.

With the advent of these newer, more popular genres, first person storytelling has become the dominate voice. Most of the books I read now are from first person points of view (POV). It’s rare to find a book in this genre that is not first person. Because readers are so used to first person POV, they sometimes find it difficult to immerse themselves in third person narratives. Add in multiple POVs, and some readers balk completely.

alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)

This is probably the best advice I've seen in a long time, from a recent hybrid (both traditionally published and self-published) author.  It's good advice whether you are currently an author, are trying to become an author, or just want to be an author.  A lot of it is good life experience, because Bob is a man with a HUGE energy level, and he has lived big in his life.

For example:

"Be open to change. I love Kitchen Nightmares with Chef Ramsay.  He gets invited to a restaurant that is failing, by the owners.  Yet, most of the time, they won’t take his, the expert’s, advice.  They invited him, yet they fight him.  They’re failing, yet they fight him.  It wasn’t easy for me to go from traditional publishing to indie publishing.  I’d made my living as a writer for 20 years, so I was putting my livelihood on the line when I made that decision. I wasn’t even close to a level where I could make a living self-publishing.  But I made the decision and committed to it."

I'll note that I haven't been able to be as committed, because I a) have Life, Interrupted to deal with unexpectedly b) job hunting c) school.  So in my case?  Triage.  You may need triage, too.

But you need all of what Bob is talking about, in some amount.

Check it out.

alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)

Burnout can happen to anyone, no matter how prolific.  But it doesn't have to be the end of the world.  There are ways to rise from the ashes.

For the longest time – years – I never ran out of things to write. There was always an idea fermenting, waiting for its chance. There was always an idea (or two) in progress, fighting for time in the chair. I was writing three books a year, and while I was more than slightly exhausted all the time, the stories kept coming. Long form, short…

And then they all stopped. Nothing. Nada. Dead air.

Laura Anne Gilman explains.

alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Adrienne deWolfe is a bestselling romance writer, and she's also a professional marketer from way back. Here are her suggestions to make you a better radio and podcast interviewee--or even help you get the gig.

"In one of my previous lives (which lasted for 20 years) I was a professional publicist. The news media hounded me all hours of the day and night with questions about professional athletes, education reform, and exploding space shuttles.

Fun times!

Now that I’m a published novelist, I often don my marketing consultant “hat,” because my passion is to help my writing colleagues reach for the stars by living their publication dream."

Lots of suggestions.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Wondered about it? Jeff Lyons offers seven suggestions of things found in the so-called "high concept" story.

"High concept exists on a continuum of expression; it is not a single, definable attribute. Think of it as a collection of qualities that once identified can help you pinpoint the height of the concept present in your story."
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (book view cafe)
Sometimes inspiration can be physical, as when Leah Cutter visited Victoria, BC and its Chinatown, and a story blossomed. Sometimes it can be observation--as when I realized that old buildings meant a lot of people died naturally there, and many ghosts might have lingered.

How are you inspired?
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Here's a short rant from bestselling author Jennifer Crusie about set-ups. Her point is, set-ups are not story. And if you spend too much time with a set-up, you lose people. I try hard to jump into a book, even when I write lyrically. People will figure it out, and I hope delight in their discovery. If my first reader doesn't figure it out, well, then I have to slide more info in. But I don't add an additional three chapters at the front of the book!

Crusie uses recent television to make her point, so if you're watching TV drama, you will get this immediately, and even if you aren't, you will still get it. Take a look.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
These should exist.

Maggie Stiefvater provides those messages we keep expecting to crop up at crucial points...
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Recently a lot of editing jobs landing on my desk have been...not yet ready for prime time. That's the simplest way to put it. I especially see this in YA novels. People have an idea and a great character, they think they've fleshed out that character--and what they have is a first draft. Their protagonist is a Mary Sue, whatever the writer's definition of the perfect heroine or hero is, the love interest is an afterthought, and the supporting cast is cardboard. The plot of the novel, if the story made it from the author's head to the file, is secondary to the romance. The protagonist looks like a Mary Sue/Stan because the things that make them unique and interesting are stuck in the author's head.

And this is not good fiction, or memorable fiction.
Read more... )
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Thanks to some very inconsiderate people who think leaping to the defense of their favorite writers should be a contact sport? Social Media, especially reviewing books, has become a nightmare for writers. Most of us are introverts, who just want to share our opinions on some books. That's not so easy anymore--and might accidentally ignite a firestorm.

Author Anne Rallen offers some well thought-out suggestions about how to sail your ship safely to harbor.

"Unfortunately marketers sometimes tell us to go into those neighborhoods and do the very things that will set off attacks. I've seen 'marketing handbooks' that are the equivalent of sending children into gangland wearing a rival gang's colors.

"Part of the problem is that the rules of the online book world bear little resemblance to the conventions of the staid, gentlemanly publishing industry of the past.

"That's because the laws of online activity come from the people who were here first: hackers and gamers.

"When you enter the online culture, it can feel like stepping into a game of Grand Theft Auto. It's an aggressive, testosterone-fueled, competitive universe. On some sites, sociopathic behavior is the norm and innocence is a crime.

"Everybody is trying to eliminate the enemy, and the enemy is probably you."
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
There's a useful thread going on over at Reddit on media conventions--are they useful for writers, how do you categorize them, ROI--things a writer has to consider. This is also useful for fans--where will you find instant entertainment, and maybe people who enjoy similar things? For me, also meeting people who enjoy different things is important.

This is a very male geeky list, and does not include conventions like World Fantasy Con and Sirens, very different conventions.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
Over on Jennifer Crusie's blog, she talks weekly about her impressions as she works her way through the reboot Dr. Who episodes. When she reaches the oh-so-pivotal "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead" duology, a fan posted a breakdown of why this two hour episode is actually a classic romance encapsulated into a time travel narrative.

And it's wonderful. Go learn something about storytelling, romance, and Dr. Who that might be new to you.
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
This one is for professional writers as much as for aspiring ones!

How fast does contemporary stop being contemporary, and what to do about it with your work? Author Patricia Rice is a bestselling romance writer, and knows what to do with her historical romances. But what about her contemporary romances--or her mysteries? Join professional writers chiming in as we discuss what to do and why.

"Normally, I write historical romance, which requires extensive research into costume, social policies, where Wellington and Napoleon were at the date of my story, and whether Drury Theater had just burned down again or not. This can be an incredible amount of work, but once it’s done, it’s done. Napoleon does not unexpectedly move from that place in history and reappear ten years later as a senator instead of a king.

Then I started writing contemporary romance and mysteries. Stupidly, I thought it would cut down on research, and I’d be able to meet deadlines a little easier."

Au contraire....
alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Mascot)
You MUST read this post by Jennifer Crusie, because otherwise the next time you have a Sharknado moment, you might let it go by. Jenny Crusie explains why you must seize the shark!

"Comparing stories is ridiculous, especially comparing stories across genres. All that really matters to a viewer or a reader is “Does this story deliver on its promise? Do I get what I came to the screen or page for?” It’s the reason covers are so crucial to a print book’s success, the reason that first scene or chapter is crucial to any book’s success: it’s where you make your promise to the reader. But it’s not enough to set up a cover or a first scene that invites the appropriate reader to the story inside, it has to make that reader want to step in. When a writer opens the door into a story and the viewer or reader peeks inside, there has to be a party in there. Whether or not the reader goes inside depends on the kind of reader and the kind of party, so the key is to make sure that the reader who goes in is going to get the kind of party she or he wants. The brilliance of a title like Sharknado is that you know exactly the kind of party you’re getting (which is why the tagline is “Enough said”)."

More Twitter fun is coming--there will be a sequel to SyFy's Sharknado.

August 2017

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