Remember when we talked about William Gibson calling the cyberpunk genre a retro-future on Twitter? Part of the reason cyberpunk can feel stale is that so many of the tropes are already part of our daily lives.
This thoughtful essay from The Inner Moon suggests that cyberpunk is actually a close sibling of post-apocalyptic fiction. An “entropic dystopia.”
In post-apocalyptic stories, the apocalypse strikes in a moment and leaves behind a broken world. A meteor, bio-weapon, zombie plague or nuclear war changes everything overnight.
Meanwhile, the apocalypses of cyberpunk are slow, insidious, and layered. Societal rifts that spread over decades. Dysfunctional governments in thrall to multinational corporations. Greed winning out over community. Tech becoming more and more ubiquitous without solving any of these issues. The problems just keep piling up. The world doesn’t collapse in cyberpunk. It gets steadily worse. It’s society as the frog boiled in the pot.
Last week, I talked about the good and the bad of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write the entire first draft of a novel in the month of November. Now, November is almost upon us. Are you going to participate?
If you’re on the fence, or you’re just not sure where to start the whole process, take a look at Connie J. Jasperson’s latest NaNoWriMo prep post for a guide to getting a project set up on the NaNoWriMo site.
If you don’t like to plan, you can just start writing after Halloween midnight. If you’re an inveterate planner like me, that strategy might feel overwhelming. Luckily, Jasperson has you covered, with an entire series of NaNoWriMo prep posts linked at the bottom. They’ll get you figuring out your setting, characters, story arc, and more.
For this week’s reblog, I want to direct you to Stuart Danker, who’s here to remind us that writing doesn’t always have to be romanticized. Sometimes writing is just work — it’s digging ditches; it’s bricklaying. Sometimes the muse takes a sick day, and you sit down and grind out those words anyway.
My disdain for writer stereotypes didn’t start the moment I joined the industry. In fact, I’d buy more into those hackneyed ideals, holding onto them as if they were my ticket to being the next bestselling author.
One example of this would be me thinking that real writers only wrote when the inspiration struck. “If you have to force it, then it’s not real art,” I used to say.
Never mind the fact that I was simply relaying information from a press release or padding up an annual report. I seriously believed that I needed my muse’s blessings before I could even fire up the word processor.
It wasn’t that long ago that serials seemed like a bygone format — something that worked for Dickens and Dumas, but not really a viable option for the modern author. Now, it seems like serialized fiction is a growing new segment, with big companies making big bets all over the place. There are exciting news announcements around serial fiction every few months.
This spring, we got news of Korean media conglomerate Kakao Entertainment gobbling up both Radish and Tapas. Then, as summer was rolling around, Amazon announced the release of their own serial platform, Kindle Vella. These companies are banking on the growth of stories that cater to short attention spans with reading material that comes in bite-sized pieces. They’re also farming content, optioning the most popular stories for traditional publication or adaptation to streaming services, TV and movies.
Last month, well-known traditionally-published author Salmon Rushdie announced that he’ll be serializing his fiction via Substack.
Lincoln Michel weighs in on his own Substack, Counter Craft:
The success of Substack and similar services have shown writers what most artists in other mediums already knew: there’s a lot of money in fans. Hardcore fans are willing to pay extra to support the artists they love. For extras, yes, but even just to support. And fans seem to like knowing exactly who they’re supporting, meaning that there is a not insignificant number of readers who are willing to, say, pay 5 bucks a month for an individual NYT journalist’s Substack who won’t pay 5 bucks a months for a full NYT subscription.
So…can that translate to fiction?
For this week’s reblog, we go over to Writer Unboxed, where Milo Todd discusses the third person narrator as a voice independent from the characters and the author.
So we’ve got this whole “third-person narration” thing. You know it already. It’s that “he/she/they” thing instead of the “I/me/we” thing. The narrator isn’t the protagonist or (usually) any of the playing characters, and so the narrator is kind of floating above everybody’s heads, nonexistent, as lives are lived.
But the thing is, the third-person narrator isn’t floating. They’re not nonexistent. Not really. Rather, they envelope the book, hold it in their hands, and therefore are arguably one of the most crucial elements to your entire story. Just because nobody can see them doesn’t mean they’re not important.
So what do we do with an invisible narrator?
If you’re a consumer of any kind of modern media, chances are pretty good that you know something about three-act structure. You may use it in your writing. You may recognize it intuitively from books, movies, TV and stage. But those three acts are not the only way to structure a story.
Today, I want to send you over to Mythic Scribes, where Nils Ödlund discusses Kishōtenketsu, a four-act story structure with roots in Asian classics.
Recently we presented a series of articles on three-act structure here on Mythic Scribes. This inspired me to try and write an article about a kind of four act structure known as Kishōtenketsu. It’s used in classical Chinese, Korean, and Japanese narratives, and is often mentioned as an example of a story structure without conflict.
Now, I’m not well versed in narrative theory. I find it interesting, but I’m far from an expert, and most of what I know of writing I have figured out myself (though the forums here on Mythic Scribes have been invaluable in doing just that). As such, this article will really only scratch the surface of Kishōtenketsu.
I’ll begin by explaining the word itself and the basic principles behind the story structure. I’ll then show two examples of stories told in this way, and finally I’ll give a few tips I’ve found useful for wrapping my head around this whole concept.
We’ve talked in the past about engines that power story: types of conflict and creating and resolving tension. Today, I want to point you to Lincoln Michel’s great article about the false dichotomy between character-driven and plot-driven fiction. Lincoln argues that there are an almost infinite number of engines that can drive a story, and that any single one is rarely enough to power even a short story on its own.
The hard thing about writing—or one of the hard things in the endless series of hard things about writing—is that there’s no one way to do it. Instead, there are infinite paths in the dark woods of fiction leading to infinite types of stories. It’s hard, a little scary, yet ultimately thrilling.
Despite this, there are countless articles that insist there are in fact only two methods of storytelling: plot-driven and character-driven. It’s understandable that writing guides and craft classes are reductive. Who would pay for a writing guide that said “lol who knows ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” followed by 200 blank pages? Still, the plot-driven vs. character-driven binary has always made me wonder why those two aspects of fiction are the only ones allowed in the driver’s seat. Couldn’t a story be driven by voice? Couldn’t setting have a turn at the wheel?
Read the rest over at Lit Hub…
Simple, but extremely good advice from Maud Newton on Medium.
At times while working on my book over the years, I would become resentful of it, as if it had its own expectations, as if the draft itself were insisting I recount the entire history of genealogy in the United States or offer a dissertation on genetics. Ugh, now I have to write this boring part, I would think. I would spend a few days in active rebellion against this directive that I imagined the book was imposing.
Read the rest on Maud Newton’s Medium page.
The always-delightful Max Gladstone discusses the good and bad of repetition in fiction.
We notice repetition as a negative. But some words do not just repeat as tics, or not merely as tics. What is a book, but a constellation of words? Each time a word is used, it accumulates new meaning from its context, and lends the meanings it has accumulated—in your particular text, and in others—to the sentence. In this way languages can be ennobled or (for a time, at least) poisoned—if you’re an American, do you feel the same way about the word ‘great’ that you did six years ago? If you’re a particular kind of nerd, when I began that sentence just now with ‘What is a book,” did you hear it followed by “a miserable little pile of secrets”?
Within a text, repeated words draw connections. What sorts of things in this book are ghosts? Is this car a ghost? This memory? Is the white of her hat a ghostlike white? “The ghost of a smile?” Fantasy and science fiction prose worldbuilding sings—or, to be honest, works at all—by loading vocabulary in this way: ’uplift’ in Brin, ‘Guardian’ in Jemisin (or the beautiful side-loading of ‘suss’ into the invented sensory verb ‘sess’), iris in Heinlein’s off-referenced ‘the door irised open.’ McKillip’s ‘riddles’ and ‘beasts’ are quite particular sorts of riddles and beasts, as are Jordan’s ‘channeling,’ and Tolkien’s ‘ring.’
Read more at Gladstone’s substack, The Third Place.
I’m always excited to see someone make a well-considered, articulate argument against the traditional “rules of writing.” Lincoln Michel does exactly that, when he suggests that maybe characters don’t need to change over the course of a story.
Can a good story contain static characters, and instead change their circumstances, change how the reader views them, or just make that static viewpoint incredibly compelling?