“Tell me if this is a stupid question,” my correspondent asked, “but how do you come up with the many different names needed for a story or novel? Is there a secret to making them sound somewhat realistic?”
Continue reading “Naming Names”
Writers talk about writing a lot. Sometimes, their sharpest observations are made in places where you (and possibly they) think they’re talking about something else. Continue reading “Fake Nose and Eyeglasses”
I’m personally of the opinion that revenge is morally dubious as all hell; but it undeniably makes a great story engine for a piece of fiction. It gives your character a large and important (and possibly dangerous) goal to work toward; it implies an interesting backstory of some variety; it insures that your character is either going to have to get off his duff and do something or at the very least spend some interesting screen time justifying the fact that he isn’t; and it provides lots of hooks on which to hang moral and ethical and social debate if you go in for that sort of thing.
As plot devices go, you can’t beat it with a stick.
Most stories have two plots, the internal or emotional plot and the external plot. Which plot is the primary one depends upon the genre and the writer. Continue reading “A Two-Plot Problem”
The question of “embedded exposition” came up again the other day, and I said: Continue reading “It Has to Go Somewhere”
One of the things I like say about plot, on those occasions when I’ve been encouraged to pontificate about such matters, is that in my opinion plot is necessary but it’s not important — that it’s not the story, it’s just the ropes and pegs and tentpoles that make the story into a habitable space and not a flat puddle of metaphorical canvas. Continue reading “Plotting in Corners”
Everybody in this business, it seems sometimes, has a set of Rules for Writing that they swear by. In no particular order, then, here’s my own set of ten (bearing in mind that this list, like all such lists, should be regarded as having a bright red In My Opinion Only/This is How it Works for Me sign posted above it in flashing letters): Continue reading “It’s More of a Guideline”
True story: A few years back, I was talking with an aspiring writer who did the usual and ubiquitous Something With Computers for a living, and who was also a jazz drummer by avocation. He had, he said, been a professional drummer for a while, and had earned decent money playing the drums for groups who did the local bar and lounge circuit in his somewhat tourist-infested area.
“But I had to give it up,” he said. “I realized that if I had to do one more request for ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon,’ I was going to lose the joy of playing music altogether.”
Then he went on to ask me — because we were mostly talking about writing at the time, and people will ask writers questions like this — if I thought that he should quit his current day job and try to make it as a freelance writer.
“No,” I said. “Because if playing one too many requests for ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ nearly drove you away from jazz, the same thing would happen with fiction — because the sorry truth is that if you want to write fiction for a living, then one way or another you’re going to wind up playing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ a hell of a lot of the time.”
“Save the pitched-out awful pages someplace where you can find them again,” I said. “Sometimes the discarded bits turn out to come in handy later. I think I told the folks at Viable Paradise the story of The Five Different Chapter Nines and the Adventure of the Too-Short Novel didn’t I?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she said, “though my memory is appalling. It sounds like a charming story. Do I have to go again this year to hear it?”
Nope, she didn’t, and neither do you. The way it goes: Continue reading “Five Ways to Write a Chapter, and One that Worked”
This morning I wore my editor hat. Which is to say, I did a line-edit and a letter of critique for the first chapter of somebody’s novel. Continue reading “A Stylish Chapeau”