Friday Fundamentals: Pull the Thread or Take the Shot?

Happy Friday, Magical Words folks!

Today I’m going to talk a little about short stories and how much to include in the tale.

There are several directions you can take a short story, but two of my favorites are what I call pulling a thread or taking a snapshot.

The first story type is “pulling a thread.” Here you can tell a larger story, but the focus has to be laser sharp. In this type of story, you’re following a particular character’s particular story. The important part to remember is that you should start and stop the story in the proper place. The story should start (as has probably been said here before) when the action starts to matter. It’s the moment where everyone would start listening and watching if they thought a fight was going to break out in that group just over there. Or when the wedding […]

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Read Like a Writer

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

“I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, most fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I […]

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CREATING A UNIVERSE (it takes a lot more than seven days)

As a writer and as a human I must admit, I am a bit of an egotist. Occasionally I swerve over to arrogant assdom, but mostly I reel it in and keep it entertaining.

But often, like the slip of the drunk cousin at the church social, my ego shows in my writing for the world to see.

You see, all my stories are set in the same universe, some more obviously than others, but all of them there. I don’t have a name for it, though I’m leaning toward the Spiralverse.

The Spiralverse is a universe built on the concept that major events cause a resonance that splits reality into a new timeline placed on a new earth. They are all interconnected and separate at the same time. Now this isn’t anything new. It’s been done a hundred million ways. Almost every comic book publisher has one shared universe […]

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Scary Tales

When I lived at home, my bed was under a window, and outside the window were two big forsythia bushes that sometimes swished and whooshed against the glass when the wind blew. Most of the time it didn’t bother me, until one night after I’d been shopping with my parents and had brought home a new book. I don’t remember the title, but it was a collection of horror stories, one of which was about a vampire coming in a woman’s window. I didn’t sleep for several nights, because I was just sure that sound must be the vampire trying to get in and bite me. I kept that book, though, and I read every single story in it.

We love being scared. There’s just something thrilling about reading frightening tales when you’re safe in your house snuggled into your favorite blanket with the door safely locked. Scary stories work […]

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Learning to Write: The Limitations of Books About Writing

I’m mentoring a graduate student in writing right now, and together she and I have put together a course on worldbuilding. In addition to having her read several SF/Fantasy novels that demonstrate various approaches to creating worlds or embedding magic systems in our own world, I have also assigned some reading in a couple of books on writing.

No, I didn’t assign her any readings in the Magical Words How-to — it always bothered me when my college professors did that; I believe it’s unethical. Instead, I assigned her several chapters in Melissa Scott’s Conceiving the Heavens: Creating the Science Fiction Novel and Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. But while I didn’t have her read the Magical Words book, it did occur to me as I was working on the syllabus just how many books on writing are out there. In our genre alone, you […]

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