Aaron Rosenberg: Writing Characters Who Aren’t Like You . . . Completely

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Everyone always says, “write what you know.” But how many of us are actually heroic men and women, ready to charge into danger to save others? How many of us are dashing swashbucklers, as quick with a quip as with a rapier? How many are hyper-observant detectives, able to notice the most minute details and instantly analyze everyone we meet?

In short, how are we supposed to write what we know and still write engaging, interesting characters?

Then there’s the other side the coin. If every character we write is shy, reclusive, uncomfortable around new situations or strangers, allergic to shellfish, irrationally afraid of green cars and striped umbrellas, and whatever odd little quirks we ourselves have, that’s going to get awfully repetitious—and awfully boring—after the second or third character. But if we’re supposed to write what we know, how can we convincingly write any character who isn’t exactly [...]

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Christina Henry — of Running and Writing

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I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t be a professional writer. Strike that. I’m 100% sure that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t be a professional writer.

See, when I was 12 years I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and I decided then and there that I would be a writer when I grew up. My dad gave me a notebook and I wrote my first “novel” in that notebook. As you might imagine, the story was just a teeny-weeny bit like The Lord of the Rings, except that it had a 12-year-old girl as the protagonist (surprising, no?).

I continued to write for fun, for myself, all through high school, although at that time I took up poetry instead of fiction because I was going through puberty and I had FEELINGS and I needed to FEEL my FEELINGS.

I went to [...]

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Beth Bernobich: The Revision Monster

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The moment you finish your first draft, you are filled with delight. (And often, exhaustion.)

But let’s focus on the delight. You did it! You finished this most amazing and wonderful novel and you hope everyone loves it as much as you do, which is lots and lots and lots and…

Eventually you stop squeeing and climb down from the clouds. Maybe you spend a week or so retrieving your house from chaos. You catch up on life and family and everything else you neglected, including sleep.

Finally, a week or a month later, you open up the document for your amazing, sparkling draft and…

And here, the reactions vary. Some writers revise as they go along. They end up with a first draft that’s really a final draft. But others (like me) stare at the screen with dismay.

How am I ever going to fix this? I wonder.

Same [...]

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Beth Bernobich: The Time Roads

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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 [...]

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Christina Henry — Talking to Characters

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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. [...]

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Beth Bernobich: Hello, Story

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As I said in my last post, not all writing advice works for all writers. We each find the approach that works best for us, and for the project at hand. But! I do believe it’s useful to share our approaches with each other. Maybe we add a new technique to our writer toolkit. Maybe we try out this other technique and learn it doesn’t work for us.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is how I turn my ideas into stories.

Ideas. Those wispy scraps of “what if” that float through our brains. Most of my ideas are fragile things that never survive discovery. That death of the story can be quick, as quick as me noticing the idea, only to have it fade into nothing. Or I might jot down a few notes about a possible story, to find the story feels dead in my imagination. But [...]

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Beth Bernobich: Writing Advice, the Meta Post

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As you know, Bob, there is no shortage of writing advice in the world—advice about where to start your story, how to build a plausible world, or how to create compelling characters. There’s even advice about the process of writing itself. Should you write an outline first? Is it necessary to write the plot in sequence? When should you revise your work, and how, and how many times?

This is both a wonderful and a dangerous thing.

And yet, here I am, offering even more advice. What’s up with this?

Think of this as meta advice: how to approach the advice you come across. Here goes…

First rule: There are no rules, only guidelines.

Someone once told me you can’t set fantasy in the modern world. “Truefact!” they said. “Nonsense,” I replied.

Lots of rules are nothing more than preconceptions or misconceptions. Fantasy can take place in the past, present, [...]

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