Reblog: Conflict is Only One Way to Think About Stories —Lincoln Michel

Lincoln Michel always delights me with his thoughtful posts about writing. He occupies an interesting position as one of those rare authors who is deep into both literary and genre fiction. In this post, he continues his grand quest to convince Writing Twitter that there is no one true way to write a story.

In response to the question, “Do all stories have conflicts?” he takes us on a journey through Aristotle and Freytag, kishōtenketsu, Vonnegut’s “character fortunes,” and other ways to think about and model a story.

The point here is these are all different metaphors, different models, to think about stories. None of them are “right” or “wrong.” None of them are universally applicable to all types of text that one might call “a story.” At the same time, these models are frequently overlapping and a single story can be mapped onto a dozen different models.

Read the rest over at Lincoln’s Substack, Counter Craft…

Reblog: Cubing, One Person Brainstorming — Firewater

This week’s reblog is a brainstorming technique explained by the pseudonymous Firewater. The goal is to expand upon an idea by thinking about it in several different ways and making unexpected connections.

The idea of the Cube is just a way to visualize a thing, person, place or emotion that you are writing about. As a cube has six sides, this writing exercise includes six aspects that you keep in mind while you are writing. Since this is one-person brainstorming, you aren’t meant to spend more than 3-to-5 minutes on each aspect.

Read more over at Firewater’s Site…

Martian Magazine — Year 2

As an occasional writer and frequent reader of drabbles (exactly 100-word stories), I don’t think there can be any doubt that Martian magazine hosts the best of the form. They’re a web-zine that has published a science fiction drabble every week for the past year, and they pay authors professional rates. If you prefer your drabbles in themed anthologies, they’re doing that too!

Now, they’re running a Kickstarter to fund their second year, with hopes of expanding. They have all manner of physical and e-book rewards available. I don’t have any skin in the game—I just like what they’re doing, and I’d love to see them get to do more of it.

Check out their post here, and the Kickstarter here.

Reblog: Green Herring: How to Camouflage a Villain in a Mystery Novel — Dimitri Vorontzov

When you’re writing a mystery, especially a classic murder mystery with a proper sneaky villain, one of the hardest things to do is keep the reader guessing. You don’t want your villain to be obviously evil, so the natural inclination is to make them appear as squeaky clean as possible. Of course, a savvy reader will instantly suspect the character who’s always helpful and nice. It’s a tough line to ride.

Dimitri Vorontzov coins the slightly silly term of “green herring” to suggest some solutions to this conundrum. It mostly comes down to treating your villain as a real character with flaws, good qualities, goals and conflicts. Even if some of those things turn out to be clever deceptions when the villain is revealed.

So, what’s more plausible than “a very good person?” That’s right: Essentially good, but flawed, imperfect person.

We can let such a character make dumb mistakes (which we may later reveal to be deliberate acts of sabotage); we can make him or her slightly selfish, or slightly dishonest (a tiny instance of dishonesty may prove their overall integrity); we can give that character some of the “seven deadly sins,” for example sloth or greed.

Anger works particularly well to prove the green herring character’s essential goodness, because when a good character is a little nasty, has a bit of an attitude problem—this sub-communicates that such a character is not hiding anything, not trying to come off as “nice.”

Check out the rest over at Writer’s Digest…

Reblog: Does Social Media Sell Books? — Chuck Wendig

Yes! Of course! I mean, sure, probably. Long-standing publishing orthodoxy takes it as a given.

And, of course, I’m a writer with a blog. Based on my typical audience, chances are pretty good that you, reading this, are also a writer with a blog. We have some sunk costs. It’d be much easier to not ask this question. Because if the answer is anything other than an unqualified “Yes,” we might have to consider how well we’ve been spending our time.

Chuck Wendig asks the thorny question, and doesn’t shy away from the answers. And like so many things, the answers turn out to be complicated and nuanced.

Way back in THE OLDEN DAYS, in the BEFORETIMES, at the outset of this current wave of social media (Twitter, FB, IG, eventually not Tumblr, eventually yes Tik-Tok), it was a common refrain that an author had to have a “platform,” which was something of a corruption of the notion that non-fiction authors had to have a platform. For non-fic authors, that platform meant they had to have a reliable reputation in the subject matter at hand and/or some kind of demonstrable expertise in it. But the dilution of that became simply, “As an author, you should have a social media following at one or several social media sites.” (At this time, blogs were still acceptable. Remember blogs? Yeah, me neither.) It was a little bit advice, a little bit mandate. What that social media following meant or needed to look like was a set of teleporting bullseyes, and though I’m sure some publishers had hard and fast numbers they hoped to see, they did not share them with any authors I know.

The purpose of this social media following was unclear, though it was usually sold as some combination of, hey, be funny, be informative, earn an audience, oh and don’t forget to SHILL YOUR BOOKS, BOOKMONSTER. Drop the links, use the graphics, do the hokey-pokey and shake it all about. You’re an author! Also a brand! Standing on a platform! Asking an audience to love you with money! You’re like the Wendy’s Twitter account — be funny, be individual, be the best version of yourself, get attention, but also get them to eat your goddamn wordburgers.

The question is, did it work then? Does it work now?

Read the rest over at TerribleMinds…

Reblog: Writing Set-Up For the Big Reveal — Beem Weeks

Today I wanted to point you to a quick read about setting up a story with a big reveal at the end. I appreciate that this advice is just as applicable for writers like me, who like to outline, as to those who prefer exploratory writing.

Some writers swear by the outline. Other writers, those seat-of-the-pants types, have little time for such nonsense. The desire to get that story from head to page is much too urgent. I’m not going to rehash that old outline-versus-pantser argument. Writers will choose the one that works best for the individual and run with it.

What I’d like to share today is the set-up. This is where an outline really comes in handy, though it certainly isn’t necessary. Most writers know what the set-up entails. It’s those breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout the story that leads to the big reveal at the end.

Read the rest over at Story Empire…

Reblog: The Memex Method — Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is an opinionated activist, technologist, futurist, and insanely prolific writer of novels and short stories, essays, speeches and Twitter threads. He’s also been blogging for more than two decades. To say that he gets a lot done would be a gross understatement.

Interestingly, Doctorow suggests that blogging hasn’t taken away time from his other projects. He believes that the blog is just a commonplace book (or better yet, a memex) that’s made available to the public, giving the writer a natural incentive to be a little more organized. It’s a tool for kicking around thoughts and opinions, assembling and tending to them until they’re ready to become a story, an essay, a book. It’s an idea generator.

Like those family trip-logs, a web-log serves as more than an aide-memoire, a record that can be consulted at a later date. The very act of recording your actions and impressions is itself powerfully mnemonic, fixing the moment more durably in your memory so that it’s easier to recall in future, even if you never consult your notes.

The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself. I am much better at kidding myself my ability to interpret my notes at a later date than I am at convincing myself that anyone else will be able to make heads or tails of them.

Writing for an audience keeps me honest.

Read the rest over at Cory Doctorow’s Medium page…

Reblog: 13 Things That Might Be Holding You Back as a Writer — Edie Melson

(I found this post thanks to Chris, the Story-Reading Ape, who re-posts a ton of interesting writing-related things from around the web.)

If you’re still looking for a New Year’s resolution, this might give you some ideas. Writers aren’t all the same, but it’s worth taking a look at this list. Chances are pretty good you’ll find something you should work on. For example, I don’t read as much as I should, and I’ve been meaning to join a writing group for about five years now.

Check out the list over at The Write Conversation, With Edie Melson…

Reblog: How to Study the Craft of Writing — Priscilla Bettis

As I’ve mentioned before, I read a lot of books about writing and the craft of storytelling. Along with regular reading and writing, I think this is one of the keys to improving as an author.

I find I can usually take at least a few good things from any of these “how-to” guides, and I synthesize all of it into my own mish-mash of writing process. However, I’ve always done this very informally, mostly just reading, absorbing, and seeing what sticks.

Bettis suggests a much more rigorous form of study, and encourages us to take notes. Notes let us come back later and get the executive summary of what we read, but perhaps more importantly, they allow us to better retain all those juicy tidbits of advice.

As I’m reading a book or article or even listening to a YT lecture, I jot down key ideas in the left hand column, and then (this is the important part) in the bigger area I immediately apply each concept to a work in progress. If you zoom in on my notes, you might see items about a character named Wang and how I could develop an emotional core for Wang’s story.

I also make little boxes with published examples. In these notes, the published examples are from Moby Dick.

When I’ve filled up the note-taking area down to the bottom section, I stop and get out my yellow pen to highlight the main points of what I just studied. Then (this is another important part), without looking back at the notes so I’m not just copying, I summarize what I’ve learned in my own words at the bottom of the page.

She even includes an example page from her own notes, links to the note-taking method that she adapted, and an article explaining why note-taking can provoke deeper learning.

Check out the full article over at Priscilla Bettis, Author…

Reblog: Crutch Words – the Word Police — D. Wallace Peach

Today’s reblog is a helpful reminder of some words that can feel good when you’re in the process of writing, but don’t pull their weight. I know I have my own list of personal “favorites” that I search down and excise from early drafts.

Crutch words are words that add nothing to the meaning of a sentence. They’re hollow words that we automatically insert and frequently don’t notice. We want our writing to be tight and sharp. Too many crutch words will slow down the pace and dull the impact.

An interesting thing about crutch words is that we often have favorites. You may never use some words from the list below and use others more than you want to admit!

Read the rest over at Myths of the Mirror…