Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Stairs

admin

The idea for CITY OF STAIRS was one of those rare ideas that come all at once. I’d been reading a spy novel called DARK STAR by Alan Furst, which is set in balkanized Eastern Europe before WWII, and it was fascinating to read a story from that era that wasn’t from a Western perspective. Then I was vacuuming and I had an old movie on in the background, a light, satirical story about a British tourist suddenly finding he physically resembles the king of a tiny Eastern European country, with many hijinks ensuing. And I thought, “I’d like to write a story about that – about being a diplomat in this fragmented sort of region.”

And for some reason I immediately imagined the diplomat as being a Southeast Asian woman, because that seemed like it would create the most culture clash within this patriarchal Eastern European culture. But [...]

Continue reading Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Stairs

R S Belcher: Building a Haunted House

admin

Years ago, I recall reading a suspense novel by Harlan Corben, I honestly can’t recall the name of the book – I think it was Gone for Good. It was well-written, enjoyable and kept my interest, it was also one of the reasons so many writers say you need to read to write. Coban’s novel was to the plot twists, what high-fructose corn syrup is to junk food. Pretty much every chapter ended with some kind of shocking revelation that shifted everything you thought you knew about the characters and the plot—this character wasn’t really dead, they were in fact someone’s mother/daughter/long-lost step-son/ St. Bernard… you get the idea. The first few twists blew me away, but by the end of the book it was, well, funny. I’d get to the end of a chapter and laugh at what new M Night Shyamalan-esque twist the author threw at me.

Plot [...]

Continue reading R S Belcher: Building a Haunted House

Robert Jackson Bennett: Character

admin

Character is possibly the trickiest thing for a writer to make work. It’s one of the most insubstantial and abstract elements in writing, but it’s also one of the most vital: when people love a character, they’ll return to their books again and again, sometimes solely for the “hang-out” appeal.

More so, as writer David Liss puts it, “Character is story,” meaning the best stories have conflicts and plot developments whose origins lie in the characters. So not only is characterization vital in its own right, when properly done, it act as a catalyst for nearly all other parts of the story.

So how to make characters work? How to make them feel “real”?

The thing to remember is that characters have their own agency, their own individualized wants, needs, and assumptions about the world. A writer must imagine that what they would be doing if the story never got [...]

Continue reading Robert Jackson Bennett: Character

Carol Berg: Answers, Plain and Tall

admin

Thanks again to the Magical Words crew for welcoming me this month.

There is a set of standard questions that authors hear all the time. When did you start writing? How did you get published? Do you outline? How many hours a day do you write? Do you have writing rituals? Do you use writing tools? Why are you so mean to your characters? We’ve answered them so many times, we don’t even have to think about them.

- I started writing halfway through my software engineering career, as my kids were needing less of my time. – I read the opening of Transformation for an editor from Roc Books in a Friday afternoon read-and-critique session at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. She ended up buying it and my next seven books. – I do not outline. Nor do I start out with a blank page and type Chapter 1 [...]

Continue reading Carol Berg: Answers, Plain and Tall

Delilah S Dawson: Sorry, I Blew Up Savannah!

admin

Bad news, y’all: This November, a freak hurricane will tear through Savannah, Georgia, destroying the amusement park and flooding the cemeteries and generally beating down an historical gem that even General Sherman admired too much to damage.

Even worse news: Hurricane Josephine isn’t just a meteorological phenomenon. She’s a demon. A mean one. Who sometimes takes the form of a monster albino alligator and makes people do horrible things.

At least, that’s the premise of Servants of the Storm, my YA Southern Gothic Horror now available online and in bookstores. What started as an obsession with pictures of Six Flags New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina became a paean to friendship, a love song to my husband’s home town, and a great reason to take a horse-drawn carriage tour with my favorite Savannah pirate, should you want to see Dovey’s neighborhood before Josephine makes a big ol’ mess.

I’m from [...]

Continue reading Delilah S Dawson: Sorry, I Blew Up Savannah!

Carol Berg: Blowing up the Dam

admin

I would love to say my stories blossom fully formed, and the words always flow like water from a faucet, ready to fill the empty vessels of scenes and characters, ever easy to turn on and off. But, alas, not so. Sometimes, I just can’t get that word count to budge.

The world-at-large calls this condition Writers’ Block and expects that a writer who suffers this debilitating condition might be sitting around for an indeterminate time waiting for it to ease, like toughing out a bout of spring allergies. But a working writer can’t just say oops and blow off a day, a week or a month. Working writers have deadlines.

Does this occasional incapacity mean I’m a bad writer? No. My books are by no means perfect, but I am very happy with them.

Does it mean I have a bad process? No. My creative process works very well [...]

Continue reading Carol Berg: Blowing up the Dam

Delilah Dawson: Paying It Forward

admin

There are many rewards to being a writer, although most of them aren’t the six figure deals and Tom Hiddleston movies we all dream about. I didn’t write my first book until I was 32, and one of the first things I did was hop on Twitter and start meeting other people treading the same path. I found agents, editors, bloggers, famous novelists, and other people following their literary aspirations, people just like me. Little did I know that I had stumbled into one of the most thoughtful, generous, supportive communities on the internet.

The best writers, to me, are not only amazing storytellers but also relatable and generous teachers. They understand that wherever you are, there’s someone else who wants to be there, and you’re uniquely qualified to help them get there. From big-name authors who blurb debuts (thanks, Nancy Holder and Cherie Priest!) or offer blog space to [...]

Continue reading Delilah Dawson: Paying It Forward