The absolutely fabulous Faith Hunter offered to let me step in today, so I typed up my post over the weekend, hoping my stream of consciousness screed would actually form a coherent posting come today. Well, you’ll all have to be the judge of that. But it’s so funny coming on the heels of Christina Henry’s wonderful blog yesterday, which I read thinking, “Yes. Yes! Oh, thank goodness I’m not alone.” It’s no wonder I adore her too! Anyway, without further ado, here are my thoughts about:
Pantheons and Pantsers
You’d think a bunch of ancient gods talking in your head would have a lot more decorum than Donkey from Shrek jumping up and down yelling, “Pick me! Oh, pick me!”
You’d be wrong.
The toughest thing about writing a series is knowing where to start and winnowing down all the many ideas flying around in your head to [...]
Continue reading Pantheons and Pantsers
Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. It was tentative, as ideas sometimes are. All I had was an image of a young woman reciting prime numbers as her brother listened. The seed for that image was easy to identify—Oliver Sacks’s essay “The Twins,” which describes twin brothers, autistic savants, who recited prime numbers to each other. I chose to make my twins a brother and sister name Síomón and Gwen Madóc, both mathematical geniuses.
That initial scene came to me complete with setting and emotions and full-color video, but I wasn’t sure how the story would unfold. So I wrote as much as I knew, following the brother from the visitation room of the sanitarium (because Gwen is mad, suddenly and mysteriously mad from too many numbers), down to the lobby where a police detective introduces himself and…
…and all of a sudden, I had [...]
Continue reading Beth Bernobich: The Time Roads
I wish I had some really interesting, profound statement to make about the process of creating characters in fiction. I’ve read lots of well-written and well-considered pieces about finding out who your characters are and their motivations and how all those things can make your story better and more interesting.
I’d genuinely like to write one of those pieces for you. I’d like to tell you that I did this writing exercise or that I carefully craft each character and have background histories for all them even if all of that information doesn’t make it into the story.
Unfortunately, my writing process might kindly be termed “intuitive” and less kindly be called “half-assed”.
Take Madeline Black. The heroine of my BLACK WINGS series just appeared in my head one day. Well, I probably shouldn’t say “appeared”. That implies that I saw her, and I didn’t see her. I heard her. [...]
Continue reading Christina Henry — Talking to Characters
My second novel, The Shotgun Arcana, releases on October 7th from Tor Books. Shotgun is the follow-up to my debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot and takes place in the same weird western fantasy world—the tiny frontier town of Golgotha, Nevada, in 1870.
Shotgun Arcana takes up a year after the events of Six-Gun, and follows my ensemble cast of characters that were introduced in that novel—Maude Stapleton, Deputy Mutt, Jim Negrey, Sheriff John Highfather, Auggie Shultz, Clay Turlough, Jillian Proctor, Mayor Harry Pratt and Malachi Bick. Everyone has changed and grown a bit from the first book, some in good ways, others, not so good.
I also introduce a few new characters this time around, like the infamous pirate queen, Black Rowan, from the Barbary Coast, and her loyal, and pedantic, manservant, The Scholar. Another new addition to the cast is Emily Rose Bright, a young woman who comes to [...]
Continue reading R S Belcher: Double Barreled Sequel
Many years ago , I had the distinct privilege of interviewing David Drake for Starlog Magazine. Drake, the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, is best known for his military SF offerings, including the Hammer’s Slammers series. He’s a hell of an interesting guy and a excellent writer. At some point I think I called him an “artist”, and Drake was quick to correct me, saying he was a craftsman, like a guy who makes cabinets, not an artist. Drake’s point was that writers craft a story, they build it, refine it and as they build more, they become better builders, better crafters.
I’ve heard the craftsman/ builder analogy used before from Stephen King as well, in his fantastic book, “On Writing”. If you haven’t read it and you are interested in writing, or want to get better at writing, I highly recommend you read it. King says [...]
Continue reading R S Belcher: Taming Fire
There’s this excellent phrase Stephen King came up with about writing: he described points in writing a story in which he wasn’t sure about what would happen, in which case he would let it sit back and let “the boys in the basement” go to work on it.
What he was referring to, I think, was his subconscious, or the wordless, instinctual thinking processes that aren’t often in the foreground of our minds. There are thoughts that take up all the front part of our brains (“Pick up the kids! How much is in the checking account?”), and then there are the secondary thoughts, something like the 90% of the iceberg hidden below the water: invisible, but definitely there.
These are the thoughts that intuit the abstractions about stories, things like theme, character, and the way the plot needs to progress in order to satisfy everyone. That’s the boys in [...]
Continue reading Robert Jackson Bennett: The Writing Life
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 of [...]
Continue reading Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Stairs