Taking a Moment to Look Back and Say Thanks


Nearly six years ago, on January 24, 2008, Misty posted the very first essay to the Magical Words blogsite. It was called “Where’d Everybody Go?” and it was a response to a show she had seen the night before on the History Channel about what Earth might be like if all human life vanished from the planet. The following day, I put up my first post — “Doing as I Say” — which was about writing short fiction to help flesh out elements of worldbuilding or character development for larger projects.

Faith’s first post followed mine, and Catie’s first came after Faith’s. By the end of that first week of Magical Words, we had all posted something; the site was up and running, and to be honest, we were all pretty excited about it. We didn’t know where the site would take us, but we knew it was something [...]

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Going hybrid

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Over a year ago, John Hartness expressed dismay that I wasn’t self-publishing the short stories I had the rights back on and politely insisted that I do so ASAP. I believe his exact words were something along the lines of how those stories were making nothing just sitting on my hard drive but could be making me money if I put them out there for sale. Unfortunately, it took me more than a year to do so, but finally last month I self-published, The Dead and Empty World, a collection of short stories (I’ve begun publishing the individual stories as well).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | kobo

I have to tell you, it’s addicting! I hired someone (Jeremy West at Red Creative Design) to do the cover and design the inside. He was going to also do the file conversions, but I started reading up on it and [...]

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On Writing: Creative Intersections — Point of View and Dialog


A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about point of view and the ways in which it could help us address nearly all the narrative problems we face when writing. In comments to the post, Donald “SagaBlessed” Kirby, mentioned that making our dialog feel natural can sometimes be difficult, which is absolutely true.

More to the point, of all the writing problems that point of view can help us address, perhaps none is better suited to a POV solution than that of contrived dialog. Frankly, I can’t believe I left it out of my previous post.

Here at MW, we’ve discussed dialog quite a bit over the years, and I’m going to do my best not to cover the same ground in this post. This is not a post about how to write dialog, or how to make the spoken words themselves sound natural. (Carrie did this very well [...]

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On deep POV

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

I recently had dinner with several writers who were attending a week long writing workshop, and the conversation turned to what each of them felt they needed to work on. One of the writers brought up that she was struggling with “deep POV” and several of the other writers mentioned struggling with that as well. A few mentioned having felt like they’d “gotten it” only to have crit partners tell them they hadn’t gone far enough.

So they asked me: how do you deepen POV? I asked them for examples of what they meant by deep POV, and they mentioned Cut by Patricia McCormick and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Which are both intensely emotional, issue-centric, contemporary stories with very deep and personal POVs. However, the writer asking me about POV was working on a middle grade action adventure book, which means it will almost definitionally have a very different [...]

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On being bored

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Recently, a friend on Twitter noted that some days she feels like 90% of her time is spent on the business of being a writer and only 10% is spent on the actual writing.

And it got me thinking about time as a writer — what we spend our time and emotional energy doing. It seems like there’s never enough time to get it all done. Someone once said that being an author is like being in school — there’s always homework. It’s true — there’s always more you can be doing. For example, today has been about catching up on the business side of things since I had a deadline on Friday and while I’ve been on hold with various companies, I’ve been flicking through Twitter or making to-do lists or cleaning up my desktop because what else are you going to do?

You finish one task [...]

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On the relationship between plot and character

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Protagonists are the reader’s conduit into the story — without them, the story pretty much wouldn’t exist. Often I think there are two ways writers come up with characters: either the characters come first to mind and you then figure out what story to build around them, or you come up with a story and you then figure out what character to put into it.*

Either way, at the end of the day what you want to end up with is the right character for the right story (or the right story for the right character). There should be a reason *this* character has to tell (or experience) *this* story. There’s an interlocking relationship there. If we can pull out the character from a story and replace them with someone else without affecting the story, then the relationship between plot and character isn’t strong enough. The same is [...]

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The Dark Night of the Soul

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

In my last few posts I’ve been talking about structure (here on overall structure, here on the midpoint). Today I want to focus on the plot point often referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul.” It’s the turning point that comes at about 75% of the way through a story — the demarcation between Act 2 and Act 3.* You might also hear people refer to this point as the “Crisis Point,” or “All is Lost” or “Whiff of Death” (as you can tell, it’s rarely stuffed with rainbows and happiness – lol).

If the midpoint (50% mark) of the story is where things get much much worse and where the bridge is burned, the Dark Night of the Soul is where the goal seems as far away as possible. At the midpoint, things are tough, but there’s still hope that the characters can achieve what they want [...]

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