On Writing: Solving Writing Problems with Point of View

I have written about point of view many times before. A couple of years ago I did a whole series of posts on it, and one of my “Creative Intersections” posts earlier this year dealt with POV as it related to worldbuilding.

But here I am again writing about POV, and there is a reason for this. During the course of the summer, I attended several conventions, and I also taught a writers’ workshop up in Calgary. And it seemed that at every turn I would bring one writing issue or another back to POV. It happened so often, that I began to rethink one of my own foundational beliefs about writing. I have said for years that I believe character to be the single most important element of successful storytelling. I realize now that this is not quite true. To my mind, the most important element of storytelling is […]

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This Post Is About SEX and VIOLENCE

Got your attention with that, didn’t I?

The idea for this post originated with a message I received from a writer who wrote to Faith with a question about writing sex scenes. Faith sent her friend to me, which felt a little like being the Dad whose eight year-old kid comes running into the room saying, “Mommy said you should tell me about the birds and the bees.” But that’s kind of beside the point . . .

The writer in question asked, essentially, how do I write a convincing sex scene without it becoming gratuitous and nothing more, without it being one step removed from tasteless porn.

It’s a terrific question, one that actually goes far beyond sex scenes to encompass any sort of action — magic, fights, battles, murders, sex, and all the other stuff that keeps our readers turning the pages of our books.

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Descriptive Passages, Part III: Action

For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about descriptive passages and Vernor’s Law, trying to make clear that a description is most powerful and most effective when it does more than just describe. These passages should also reinforce character, backstory, narrative, etc. Character descriptions should tell us as much about the character doing the describing as about the character being described. Descriptions of setting should reinforce all those other story elements that we’ve mentioned. And I’ve been quite dogmatic in saying that in order to keep your book from languishing you must be doing several things at once (character development, plot advancement, background deepening) with all your scenes. I’m about to contradict pretty much all of that.

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Writing Violence

Last week, A. J. wrote a post on action scenes, and the ensuing comments-conversation got me thinking about the nature of violence (and an essential book on the subject). Oftentimes we use violence in our stories as a method of creating action, excitement, intensity, and thrills. We will use it to forward plots or solve plot holes. The big chase, the final confrontation between hero and villain, the surprise death at the end of the epic battle are all examples that pop-up in many of our favorite novels. It’s even been suggested here at MW that one way to aid a troubled plot is to kill a character. We also use violence to evoke sympathy. My old theater professor used to say that making an audience cry was easy — just take a couple kids out on stage and beat them. This is because we can empathize with pain.

There […]

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