Today (Sunday), my older daughter was graduated from high school. It has been an emotional weekend, full of celebration, of wistful remembrance, of joyful anticipation of adventures and journeys to come.
Throughout the various events, as I have watched my child take these first decisive steps into adulthood, even as she still smiles at me with a face that doesn’t seem to have changed at all in the past eighteen years, I have found myself thinking about many things, most of them having nothing at all to do with writing. But I have given a good deal of thought to the notion of narrative, to the ways in which we humans seek to shape a coherent story out of events and circumstances and milestones that do not necessarily lend themselves to a coherent progression of “plot points.”
It seems to me that we do this at moments like these. [...]
Continue reading On Creativity: Narrative, Fiction, and Life
Diana Pharaoh Francis
What do you do when you read a book (or start reading it) that everyone on the planet seems to like and get and you don’t?* Stop reading is the obvious answer, but I’m a writer, and I can’t stand the idea of giving up on a book. I also hate thinking that I’m not getting the book somehow. That I’m at fault, because if everyone else is falling in love with the book, why can’t I? It’s also a writerly quirk where I want to dissect the way a book works. I don’t dissect books that I like because I enjoy them and because it’s easy to see what works (for me, that is). It’s really tough to figure out how a book works if you don’t like it. Especially that hard-to-define something that captures the heart and imagination of a reader. That something that we all want to [...]
Continue reading Only Words Will Show the Way
Diana Pharaoh Francis
One of the things that this investigation following the Boston bombing has reminded me of is character building. This is the writing disease, to connect even awful things to writing. Graham Greene said every writer has to have a splinter of ice in his heart, that he has to be able to be inside a terrible situation and still observe and record. As I look at how the cops are trying to piece together these men and understand the how, why, when and so on, I realized how similar that is to what writers do.
Don’t think she’s not got a motive and means. She’s just looking for opportunity.
I have a character in my WIP. (Wow, how crazy is that? Having a character in my WIP? Moving on, Dr. Obvious . . . ). Anyhow, I began with what she looks like and her name. As I started [...]
Continue reading Writers as Cops
Early in February of this year, I posted to the MW site the opening paragraphs from my WIP, City of Shades, which will be the third Thieftaker book. (It should be out in the summer of 2014; Thieves’ Quarry, the second book in the sequence, will be out on July 2 of this year, as will the paperback edition of Thieftaker. Just sayin’.)
Today, I want to revisit that passage and show you the revised version. First, here is the original:
Ethan Kaille knew that he had been followed. Even as he pursued Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End, he himself was pursued. Like a fox running before hounds, he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself.
Salter had led him [...]
Continue reading Your Critique of My Work Revisited
A couple of weeks ago, Diana mentioned in a post the latest publishing kerfuffle, which pits Barnes & Noble against Simon & Schuster. (Feel free to check out Di’s post, as well as the other posts to which she links. I’ll wait.) The issues in this fight, as with so many other publishing industry conflicts, are murky at best. When corporate behemoths do battle, it’s hard to take sides because neither entity is terribly sympathetic. But you can always count on one thing: Whatever costs the giants incur as a result of their disagreement will be passed on a) to authors, and b) to consumers. Certainly that has been the case this time around.
I bring this up because lately I have been feeling deeply frustrated by this business and my precarious-as-always place in it. I’m a mid-lister. I’m not one of fantasy/science fiction’s big names. I’m too old to [...]
Continue reading A Writer’s Manifesto: The Doubts and Resolve of a Midlister
Two weeks ago, I wrote here about writing short fiction and how the challenges it presents differ from the challenges of writing novels. I want to expand on that a bit, and will use as my jumping off point a comment on that first post from regular site contributor Megan B. In her comment, Megan wrote (in part):
I think it’s worth considering that a short story set in a larger universe (e.g. the Thieftaker world, which you have established already in longer form) is a different beast than a stand-alone short story. It has it’s own advantages and challenges because it uses some people, places or concepts that the reader may or may not be familiar with.
On the one hand I think that Megan is absolutely correct: writing a short in an established world certainly makes the author’s job easier. In part this is just a matter of [...]
Continue reading On Writing: Short Fiction and Worldbuilding
This week I return to my series of posts on Creative intersections. Thus far, I have discussed point of view and worldbuilding, plot and character development, and worldbuilding and plot. Today, I am going to address plotting once again, and combine it with a discussion of pacing.
In my opinion, pacing is one of the most difficult elements of storytelling to master. We all have read books that seem to drag at certain times or that become so frenetic that they are almost impossible to read. And yet, I would never suggest that you try to make your pace consistent throughout an entire novel; to my mind, novels, like great pieces of music, have mixed dynamics. There are slower passages and fast ones, periods where everything is loud and exciting, and periods of calm, during which your readers have a chance to catch their collective breath. The key is, how [...]
Continue reading Creative Intersections: Pacing and Plotting