Your Setting

Surround yourself with things that make you want to write.

This is a lesson I’m learning more and more.  As you learn more about the world, you begin to find a million things that lead you in all directions.  Watching a foreign film makes you want to learn French.  Reading about adventure makes you want to travel the world.  Meeting a champion juggler makes you never want to juggle ever, and that’s that.  All these are great.  If you’re like me, you know that most things are within reach, and with a little work you can achieve them.  Learning French, traveling the world, never juggling— all worthwhile goals.

But do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to write?

If you’re a different kind of artist, or your career lies elsewhere, substitute your dream whenever I say the word “write”.  This applies to anything.

As a kid, I read a lot of Brian Jacques books, and I’ve posted before about how much they mean to me.  Through reading and imagining, I began to dream about writing my own stories.  For the past four years, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I love it.  I love daydreaming about it and pushing toward that goal.

The path has its ups and downs, though, like anything.  You start off shot from a cannon, propelled by your amazing inspiration and genuine love for what you’re doing.  Then, of course, comes the letdown when you actually realize you’ve got a long way ahead of you.  But you pick yourself up and keep moving, and you enjoy the work for a while.  Then you poke your head up and look around, and start comparing yourself to other people, and you wonder what you’re actually doing. Continue reading “Your Setting”


Getting Rid of Parents (Fiction Only)

Many difficulties come standard in the task of writing child protagonists.  To a certain point, a person is a person no matter how small, but there are subtle differences in younger characters.  Their behavior can be slightly different from that of an adult— less logical at times, or not quite sure of morals yet.  Their physical limitations, of course, must differ.  A ten-year-old boy cannot take the same amount of knocks on the head as the adult hero of an epic fantasy (there is considerable debate on whether the hero himself can take that many hits realistically, but the point remains).  Most importantly, however, there is a child’s place in society to consider.

Any middle grade fantasy will grind to a halt when the child’s parents decide she can’t cross the street without permission.


But books about children have been around for centuries, from the Brothers Grimm to C.S. Lewis.  Many people have solved this problem for their stories, many different ways. Continue reading “Getting Rid of Parents (Fiction Only)”

Dialogue and Blocking

The Writing Excuses podcast just released an excellent episode about blocking, dialogue, and description.  There were many things of note (including the awesome-sounding “Pyramid of Abstraction”, and kitten noises), but there were a few things in particular I thought were very interesting indeed.  One thing was blocking.

Blocking, basically, is description inside blocks of dialogue.  “Sure.”  He picked up the scalpel.  That description of what the character is doing acts as a signature– we know that the man who picked up the scalpel is also the man who said “Sure.”  These are not two men, one with his hand hovering over the scalpel as he waits for the other to consent to be operated upon.  It is one man, speaking, then picking up a scalpel.

As I realized when I reviewed Partials, blocking replaces speech tags.  “Sure,” he said.  “He said” is a speech tag, and when you have a long string of dialogue, you don’t want “He said, she said, he said, she said, he said…”  Instead, you use blocking. Continue reading “Dialogue and Blocking”

Mini Reviews— Ghost Edition

I’ve read too many books to ever review alone, so I’ve decided to do another edition of Mini Reviews.  I’ll review three books without spoilers, but with stuff I learned from them that you might find helpful.  Since two out of the three books include ghosts, this is our Ghost Edition.  The three books today are Ghost Knight, by Cornelia Funke; W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin, by Eoin Colfer; and The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.

Continue reading “Mini Reviews— Ghost Edition”

Here’s My Stop!

Dustfinger, from Inkheart, is very complicated.  The Book Chewers just published a guest post about him that I wrote, so you can read all about him there.  The main discovery I made in that post, however, was that his goals don’t agree with the protagonist’s goals– nor do they disagree.  This makes him a strange character.

Look, for instance, at the epic fantasy Team of Awesome.  The old guy who wants the prophecies fulfilled and the world set to rights.  The young hotshot who wants to spit in the face of Lord Maleficent.  (He might be a traitor eventually.)  The girl who really just exists for the romance plot line, but Lord Maleficent killed her father.  And the protagonist, the Chosen One, born to fulfill a prophecy spoken ages ago by an old blind soothsayer.

What do they want?  The old guy wants the world better again.  The hotshot wants glory.  The girl wants revenge.  The protagonist might want anything, but it’s always associated with Lord Maleficent dying.

Lord Maleficent probably wants to live. Continue reading “Here’s My Stop!”

How to Change a Character

There are two ways to get rid of a bad character.  One way is to destroy every mention of them within your manuscript and smite them ’til you can’t smite no more.  Another way is to change them.

The second option is so much more fun.

As Robyn Hoode pointed out in one of her many comments, one way to make characters interesting is to develop them.  Though this process takes a long time, it does work if done correctly.  In this post, I’m going to call “Making bad characters into good ones” character development.  If that isn’t your definition, assume it is for the moment while I expound, then tell me why it isn’t in the comments. Continue reading “How to Change a Character”