story craft #11 Cover Letter Mistakes

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This week I went to the Tokyo Writer’s Workshop for the first time in years. I took with me 8 pages of the first Dawn book, plus its cover letter to agents, hoping to get advice on how to make both more eye-catching and intriguing. The feedback I got was incredibly valuable, and pretty darn surprising. In short, they really liked the 8 pages of actual story, but strongly disliked the cover letter. That’s a big problem, because the cover letter is what agents and publishers see first. In some cases it may be the only thing they see. They …

story craft #10 Ethics of Plagiarism

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Recently I’ve been looking to borrow quotes. None of the sources are from authors still living, indeed most of the people I’m looking to borrow from have been dead for hundreds if not thousands of years. They include passages from the Book of Revelations (up there with Ecclesiastes as my favorite Bible book), quotes from ancient translated Indian caste law, quotes on Medieval law from various British kings, quotes on social ills by Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, etc… Is it wrong to do that?

story craft #9 Completion Euphoria

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I just wrote the final scene for the first part of the first Dawn book, and I’m feeling euphoric. I want everybody to read it right now and be moved! It may only be redraft, but its a complete redraft, a ground-up re-write that I’m feeling very good about. It follows the principles I talked about in Writing Blog #1 The Dungeon Master’s Screen- all of the stuff that before had been potential on the page; back-story and summary, is now written large and dramatic, with acres of conflict, emotion, and irreversible change. The rest of this (short) post will …

story craft #8 Tapestry Narratives

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I`m a fan of convoluted narrative styles. I like stories that are chopped up and remixed, especially those chopped and remixed on the basis of character. LOST did this over 6 seasons, Magnolia did it in a 3-hour movie, Orson Scott Card did it between Ender`s Game and Ender`s shadow, David Gemmell did it across fantasy eras. The effect is always epic. We begin to see the threads that make up not just one person`s life, but the whole tapestry. We glimpse the arc of the world of these characters, and while we`re with them we get to see the …

story craft #7 The Engine of Fiction

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Everybody knows, it`s about conflict. Without conflict a story has no reason to be, it`s just a pretty picture, a post-card. I think about this a lot with regard to the Dawn book I`m working on. I went to a writing group on Sunday and took along three different potential opening scenes. They each belong to three separate drafts, and are different ways of presenting the beginning of the tale. I asked the 5 other members in the group to let me know which one got their attention the most, and why. Of course I would hoping they`d choose the …

story craft #6 Building the Maze

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I was writing several scenes (of my first Dawn book) set in a graveyard recently, trying to get across the wealth and variety of gravestone types within it, but not really succeeding. I got frustrated and disappointed. If I couldn`t show-case the bizarre variety of an ancient and storied graveyard, how could I expect to sell people on a whole fantasy world?

story craft #5 Make Them Real

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I just saw the movie Kickass, and loved it. Of all the superhero movies out there, it was the one that most made me actually get up on the edge of my seat as the main guy goes into battle. He seems real, and it seems like he could get hurt. He of course does, quite a lot.
At the same time, you`ve got Hit Girl bouncing around like your traditional super hero, just about impervious to damage, killing dudes in their slews. The film-makers get to have their cake and eat it too.

How is it done?

story craft #4 Flashbang

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I’ve been told I sometimes write in a flashbang style. This has manifested itself in several kinds of feedback- – I can’t read for more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s exhausting. – Some of the sequences left me really feeling the pain the main character felt. – Stop hurting him and give him some happy times. So what is flashbang? I can think of two corollaries. One- Michael Bay. *shudders*. Two- an overexcited American teenage girl delivering just a little content with a lot of verby enthusiasm- ‘so like, there was us two guys, and oh my gosh, …

story craft #3 Bad Guy Motives

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Last week I talked about character motivation– filling in the gaps between what characters want and why. It`s a fundamental part of story architecture- that the good guy wants something and will fight to get it. But probably more important than what the good guy wants is what the bad guy wants. That`s what I was thinking about when I started this latest round of Dawn redrafts *. What do bad guys want? It`s the keystone of story architecture, because the bad guy- – drives the story – creates the conflict – causes the wrongs the good guy has to …

story craft #2 Filling in the Motivation Gaps

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Last week I talked about the DM’s screen, and how I’d written chunks of story with other chunks missing. Now I’m rewriting the first Dawn book with that in mind. I’m about 30 pages in so far, and no section has escaped either strong editing or a complete rewrite. As I read closely what I wrote in 1st draft, I see the biggest DM screen error is probably this- character motivation. Largely it’s missing. And I try to consider the effect this will have on the first-time reader coming cold to my work. They have no reason to ‘help out’ …