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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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.

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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. (more…)

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. (more…)

The Top Five Characters From My Bookshelf

There are few characters in literature that I’ve encountered that have really made me love them.  There were characters that I liked, but high above those were the characters with beautiful personalities.  The following is a list of five amazing characters I’ve encountered in my own reading. (more…)

Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V

One thing I obsess about too much is originality.  I like to be original, to know that the things I say are my own and not stolen from some movie or comedian’s shtick.  I like to think that the concepts that I write about are from my mind, instead of lifted from the last book I read.

This is strange, since I often do just that.

Most people would say there’s a difference between something inspiring you and you copying something.  There are also two different ways to copy something– to copy it intentionally, and to copy it unintentionally.  For the latter, let’s say you read a book a year ago and then two months later got a story idea, which you wrote out into a full-length novel.  A year later, you reread that book and find that a lot of things from that story of yours were copied from that other book.  They were small things, but they were there. (more…)

To Love Hurting Characters– And Characters that are Hurting

One of the coolest things of being a writer is having a character completely at your control.  You feel amazingly powerful and great when you can just kill someone off if they displease you.  It’s incredibly fun to reduce brilliant characters to gibbering messes, and, by extension, doing the same to your readers.

Unfortunately, a bad thing happening to a character does not necessarily mean that the reader will feel for him.  That is the hard part, where you actually have to make your readers love the character before you make them feel like a pool of Jell-o.  When you’re going along, having loads of fun killing your characters, it can be a real shock that you actually have to make them likable first.  Why make them likable when they’re dying in the next chapter? (more…)

Guest Post: Miss Seana J. Vixen

The three-thousandth comment has come and gone.  And with Miss Vixen as the third most commented person in that last set of a thousand comments, is it any surprise that she had the 3001st comment?  (I was the 3000th, so we had to pick the nearest one.  You’ve had too many guest posts from me anyway.)  She was awarded a guest post for being awesome.

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When I heard that I was being asked to do a guest post for Liam at This Page Intentionally Left Blank, I had a moment of silent freaking out….fine. It was semi-silent. Many more people read his blog than mine, so I’d be blogging to a wider audience. Frightening, isn’t it? And there is the opportunity that I might be able to snag some more readers with some subtle hinting (verrrry subtle, mind you…nothing obvious about this…). After the freaking out moment, I had a moment of derp when my brain simply could not think of anything of which to type. So I scoured through the northern region of my brain (where the ideas are the coldest, sharpest and most polar bear-infested), and after 7.3 minutes, voila! There was my idea. Huzzah.

So.

Onward we go. (more…)