The ending of a story can sometimes be the most important part. In a fable, it’s where the lesson is communicated. In a romance, it’s where the happily-ever-after happens. We spend a lot of time polishing and refining the beginning, making sure the hook line is sharp and that the introduction of characters is compelling. The ending needs the same amount of care, so that when the reader finishes that last page, she closes the book with a satisfied sigh instead of a grumble. Some writers start their novels with only a vague idea of what the ending will look like. Others know exactly what the end will be, and find themselves trying to pull the story together in order to fit that clear ending. As we’ve said many times around here, there’s no one right way to write your novel, so whichever of these describes you is perfectly [...]
Continue reading Endings
Last week we talked about ethical situations in speculative fiction, and how they appear even when we might not be intending to write about them. Everything our characters do is dependent on their ethical beliefs, and when they make a move that conflicts with those beliefs, it needs to be hard for them and important to the story, or it just won’t feel valid.
Have you ever read a book review in which the reviewer complains that the protagonist behaved stupidly? It’s annoying to read something and know that the character we’re most connected to isn’t being smart. Sometimes it’s not that the character was actually stupid, but that he has done something that didn’t fit with his behavior up to that point. It generally means the author needed something specific to happen in her story and couldn’t think of a better way to drive things forward. If you’re in [...]
Continue reading Turning the Ethical Upside-Down
I spent this weekend at Mysticon, in Roanoke VA, where I learned a few things, taught a few other things, observed wacky behaviors and brilliant ones, too, and generally had a great time surrounded by my people. I rode up with Gail Martin and John Hartness. We drove through nearly impenetrable fog and snow-covered hills, chatting and laughing all the way. On Saturday morning, I joined John to read our work to an appreciative audience, and premiered Miniature Pirate Theater as accompaniment to the reading. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched tiny plastic pirates work a tiny plastic stripper pole while John reads from Bubba the Monster Hunter. Gail’s launch party for her latest, Ice Forged, was a raucous affair, full of happy people eating cake and buying books. I met a couple of writers who’ll probably be making guest appearances here later on this year, and got [...]
Continue reading Ethics in Speculative Fiction
As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, the original idea for Thieftaker and its sequels came originally from a footnote in a history book that described the life of one particular thieftaker, London’s notorious Jonathan Wild. A footnote. In a book I was reading for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with writing.
Ideas are funny things. They come from everywhere. They come unbidden, and will absolutely refuse to come if I TRY to force them. They can come in any form: characters, plot points, magic systems, worlds that present themselves to me, etc. They all begin with “What if?”, but from there they take on lives of their own, becoming as individual as children. Often they come at the worst possible times; they are particularly likely to show up when I’m in the middle of working on something else, most likely the last book of [...]
Continue reading On Creativity and Writing: Making the Most of Ideas, part I
Picking up from four weeks ago, I have a new post on the top things you should know about your own book. It is simple stuff, but if your WIP is missing that vital something, that special element that sets it apart from other unpublished books on the market (or hopefully someday on the bookstore shelves) perhaps you’ll spot it here. The better we know our books, the more likely they will interest an agent or editor, and the better they will interest the reading public. Knowing our books better can make us more confident writers, and take us to the next level in our writing. And if we discover that we can’t answer a question or two, that is an area of weakness that we can address now, before an agent sees our baby.
09. Where does your story begin?
Most wannabee writers forget that the story begins the [...]
Continue reading Top Ten (Okay Eleven) Things You Should Know About Your Own Book, Part Two
I’ve been asked quite often why I never went back to write more books in my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle. There are several reasons — I had other things I wanted to write, I had completed the story I set out to tell, I felt that I outgrew the worldbuilding — but probably the main reason is that I got bored with my lead characters, Jaryd and Alayna. They were both so . . . nice (and I say that with as much of a sneer as I can manage) that after a while I just wanted to slap them both. They were virtuous and kind, generous and wise beyond their years. Their faults were superficial, their magical powers the stuff of future legend. They were, in short, just the sort of people I would wind up hating in real life. By the end of the series, they seemed [...]
Continue reading On Writing: Characters to Love, Characters to Hate
Recent discussions here at the site have focused on the need to write fast, to put butt in chair and get the work done. Catie mentioned it the other day in the context of NaNoWriMo. Edmund and James Maxey took the idea to the extreme on Friday. And, of course, A.J. has been telling us to write fast for some time now. All of them are right. I think that putting our internal editor at arm’s length and delving into a project in a way that forces us to write at a swift, steady pace so that we get the thing done, is all to the good. Our goal, of course, has to be completing that first draft so that we can then move to revising and polishing, and that’s the important thing to remember: James Maxey might have written his book in a week, but I guarantee you he [...]
Continue reading On Writing: Writing on Demand, and a Story Assignment!