Over the past year, I did a lot of awesome stuff. I read 87 books, wrote 2 novels and 4 novellas, and published uncountable blog posts. I learned a lot about writing, and I mean a lot– and many of those things were monumental concepts that I posted for you here. I’m sure you all read all my posts just the second I publish them, but in case you missed these, here’s a list of posts– and the concepts within them– that I thought were really life-changing.
- Emotions. This was written just after reading I Am Not A Serial Killer, a horror novel by Dan Wells. Horror is the best place to learn about emotions, but really, all this post said was that they were important. That, of course, is very true– it informed most of my decisions about the things I wrote later in the year. Emotions are so important to story, and I’m glad I learned about this when I did. Along with this post goes Emotions in Structure, which spoke about low points and midpoints of stories and how emotions pertain to those sections.
I always think about this post in the same vein as the emotion post. Contrast is all about emotions, really– growing one emotion, then changing it so quickly the readers are shocked. It’s a really cool concept in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s writing, drawing, or life in general. The post touched on the main two facets of contrast for fiction– contrast in large things like scenes and characters, and contrast in small things like making things noticeable in the narrative. It’s a really cool concept– along with it go the concepts of cat scares, well-placed humor, and many others.
- Motives on Steroids. I published this while sick, so I apologize for the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, but it was truly an amazing idea that I stumbled upon. After reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, I discovered why her characters were so vivid and passionate, and why all their choices worked: all of the choices worked with their personalities, which shone through every moment of the story. Their emotions (I’m telling you, emotions are really important) were amazingly complex, but fit perfectly and didn’t feel like she was getting them out of a random emotion generator. (There are such things.) As time went on, this concept grew into a way of knowing my characters: boil them down to a single emotion or attitude, and then work their plot line around that emotion. They won’t want anything that isn’t in their character to want– that’s why it’s called Motives on Steroids.
- How to Make Anything Enormous. True to the title, this post was massive. It rested on the concept of expanding instead of adding. (A funny side note: Sanderson, whose law I paraphrased as “Expand, don’t add”, actually sees that law as saying “Everything is interconnected”. That’s true as well, but I like the expansion theme better.) You can look at anything as worthy of expansion– consider, for instance, The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien rewrites in the Silmarillion in the span of three paragraphs. Anything can be expanded, including outlines. (The success of this year’s 4th novella, Plague, depended on that.)
- Promises. I love the concept of this post, that the writer is making unconscious promises to the reader that the reader expects will be fulfilled– it utilizes the fundamental human nature, curiosity. Promise the readers something in the beginning and they’ll want to see how that promise is kept. However, you have to make sure you keep your promises, promise the things you keep, and know what constitutes a promise. (A satisfactory ending is a happy ending, even if it ends in tragedy.)
I hope you got as much out of these posts as I did– they really informed much of the crafting of Stakes, by far my best (and longest) novel yet. I hope they helped you as much.