Alyx Dellamonica: Unhinging a Plot

A lot of plot – indeed almost all of plot – builds towards and turns on the moments when somebody changes their mind.

Let’s take an action-adventure example, for example. Let’s think about Back to the Future, a lightweight little action comedy, with time travel, that many of you will have seen. It was big when I was in my teens, and featured Michael J Fox, Crispin Glover, and Lea Thompson.

(It also has four women, as I recall, and Lorraine and Linda McFly talk to each other about… well, about being slutty and getting men. The portrayal of Libyan terrorists, on the other hand, can fairly be said to lack anything approaching political sensitivity.)

Bechdel rating aside, adventure hijinks throw Marty back in time. He falls into the path of the 1955 versions of his parents, and screws up their budding romance. He has to get his Cupid on, […]

Continue reading Alyx Dellamonica: Unhinging a Plot

Alyx Dellamonica: Slivers of a Writing Life

I call myself a full-time writer.

What would be more accurate (and it’s something I do sometimes say) is that I have a handful of interrelated part-time jobs.

For two to four hours a day, I write fiction. There’s another one to two hours I spend teaching writing, via the UCLA Writers Extension Program. I review books and write articles about pop culture within the SF/F field (my recent Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch on, for example). I sometimes pick up one on one mentoring gigs, helping writers work on completed novel manuscripts.

Part of what makes it possible for me to have this lifestyle, which is rewarding but also a bit catch-as-catch-can where income is concerned, is that I am also the primary homemaker for my two-person family unit. This means cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping mostly falls to me. (As John Scalzi says, in his brilliant […]

Continue reading Alyx Dellamonica: Slivers of a Writing Life

Alyx Dellamonica: If All Your Characters Jumped Off a Bridge…

In looking at writing articles yesterday, I found a mention of Virginia Woolf having talked about finding ways to infuse contradictions into your characters ( and it occurred to me that this is an area where most of us, wherever we are on our writing journey, could practice more.

In real life, the contradictions within people we know can be both fascinating and a source of difficulty. People say they want one thing and then do something that ensures they won’t get it. It happens all the time. When it’s our loved ones, it can be mind-boggling, saddening, and even infuriating.

How do we manage to hold within ourselves so many conflicting impulses? If we want X and Y and they’re mutually exclusive, does that mean we don’t feel entitled to one or the other? Why don’t we have sense enough to want whichever of the two is healthier? Are […]

Continue reading Alyx Dellamonica: If All Your Characters Jumped Off a Bridge…

In the beginning… no, wait. Before the Beginning…

Here’s a conversation I’ve been having a lot lately:

Friend, Fan or Fellow Writer, otherwise known as some lovely person who’s drawn the right conclusion from the lovely, oceantastic cover of Child of a Hidden Sea: So the new book is a pirate book?”

Me: Um… well… yes…

FFF: It doesn’t have pirates?

Me: It’s just they’re reform, rather than orthodox.

(Which always gets a laugh, but it is more deflection than answer.)

Something I see with a lot of newer writers is a tendency to want to front-load all of the backstory for a book or piece of short fiction upfront.

It’s a natural impulse. Even when we tell stories in person, we’ll often want to start with a quick rundown on everything the listener might possibly need to know to understand how you got away with flipping off the boss, or convincing Mom to make the vegetarian soup […]

Continue reading In the beginning… no, wait. Before the Beginning…