A few days ago I received an email from PMI Publishing. You probably haven’t heard of them – they don’t publish books, or magazines or short stories. Apparently they’re a promotions agency. Nothing wrong with that – lots of folks employ promo people to help get the word out about their careers. But this particular email made me uncomfortable. Let me share the bulk of the email with you, so you can get where I’m coming from.
“We just signed an exclusive deal with the three monthly publications in Florida to provide book reviews. As part of our agreement we are required to review between 36 and 64 books over the course of the next 12 months, which will appear in print. There is no cost for the review.
Our goal is to provide a win-win scenario for both our client and for you, the [...]
Continue reading Get What You Don’t Pay For
I cannot bear the Magic Baby. You know the Magic Baby, right? It’s when a character in a book (or a movie, or a television show) suddenly becomes pregnant, often without benefit of any sort of bow-chicka-wow-wow beforehand. The resulting baby usually grows up within a few hours or days, displaying extraordinary mental or physical powers, and occasionally both. Sometimes the Baby turns evil, and sometimes good, but no matter which way her mind swings, she still annoys me. Yet she shows up time and time again, because whether I like her or not, the Magic Baby fulfills certain narrative needs and pleases many readers.
The Magic Baby is a fiction trope, a commonly used (sometimes overused) theme or device. A trope is not quite the same as a cliché, which seems to imply a lack of original thought. Most of the time we talk about tropes that have been [...]
Continue reading The Tropes I Like
On Monday, our own Mindy Klasky started a series on how she writes a synopsis, which I am dying to read because … uh … I have no idea how I do it. I mean, I do it, I write them, but I don’t know if I do it right. I know I must have my own way of constructing a synopsis because I have never read anyone else’s synopsis. Synopses. (shrugs) I’ve learned a lot from the other writers here at MagicalWords.net, and I am looking forward to her process.
Through MW, I have discovered one major way in which Mindy and David (and probably everyone else for that matter) do character research and planning in the pre-writing phase. They have their characters histories fully fleshed out, sometimes down to their childhood sports injuries, their pets’ names, the schools they went to (the characters, not the pets) and their [...]
Continue reading Character Preparation … Stuff I Don’t Do
Have you seen those t-shirts that say Don’t Make Me Kill You In My Novel! or something similar? I can’t help smiling every time I see one of those, because for a writer, it’s the ultimate threat. Well, a threat with one’s tongue firmly in cheek, so not really very scary. If you know anything about writers at all, you know that our characters generally walk into our heads with their own identities that have very little to do with real people in our lives. Every now and then, though, I do wish I could write a character just for killing him off, because someone in real life has behaved very badly.
This past week, for instance. A reader in Germany got his hands on a copy of Charlaine Harris’ newest book, Dead Ever After. It’s the latest and last in the Sookie Stackhouse series, with a street date of [...]
Continue reading Don’t Make Me Kill You In My Novel!
Back in the days when I was first trying to attract an agent and eventually get published, it used to bug the tar out of me to hear people in my same situation say, “I started writing because I knew I could write better than everything else I was seeing on the market.” People didn’t just say it to their peers, but I’ve witnessed writers making the claim to potential agents and editors, as if that would somehow not insult the very folks who put all that sub-standard work on bookstore shelves. I mean, really, that’s such an arrogant thing to say, and certainly not true. It implies that every book the would-be-published writer ever picked up was terrible, and so far, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like anything they ever read. Some of us are pickier than others, but eventually we all find an author whose work we [...]
Continue reading My Confession
“Good morning, Patch!” Jerry handed the sergeant a cup of steaming coffee. “Two more days, huh?”
“Shut up, Jer,” the old man said, frowning even as he took the cup and blew across the top. “You can’t say things like that. My grandson’s starting college, and he’s depending on my retirement pension to supplement his basketball scholarship.” He glanced around the bustling precinct at the shockingly good-looking detectives gathered in small groups, studying huge whiteboards covered with photographs and diagrams. He took a sip of his coffee, hissing as it hit his lips. “You remember what happened to my son-in-law?”
Jerry shook his head. “He was hit by a car, wasn’t he?”
Patch rolled his eyes. “He was hit by a car two days before he was leaving to take that great job with Interpol. We had that party for him, with the streamers and the cake that said Good [...]
Continue reading Don’t Say That!
I’ve been watching a show called “The Following”. The premise was intriguing – a brilliant serial killer reaches out from prison to create a cult of like-minded would-be serial killers. The only man who has a chance of stopping the madman and his army is the burnt-out former FBI agent who caught him the first time. But the agent has a pacemaker (thanks to a stab wound from the killer years ago) which impairs his ability to fight and run and chase the bad guys. I should mention he’s in love with the killer’s ex-wife. This fellow is not just flawed, he is all broke up in little bitty pieces.
The killer, on the other hand, is flawless. Everything he tries succeeds. Every episode ends with his plan moving forward, even though the full force of the FBI is devoted to chasing him. His people obey him without question. He [...]
Continue reading Weaknesses