Choosing the Right POV

One of the biggest decisions you have to make before you begin writing a story is through whose eyes are you going to tell the story–otherwise known as a Point of View. If you’re new to the idea of POV, click here for a good primer.

For those writers who invent their characters first, and then build their stories around those characters, choosing the POV is an easier task. But what if the story came first, or you have multiple POV characters? How do you know which is the most effective POV to tell this part of the story? Read more

Brainstorming, Pt 2.

Jumping back in where we left off in Brainstorming, Pt 1, we’re in the middle of brainstorming a premise for our hypothetical fantasy novel.

Spaghetti strand #3 is a good one, but just for fun we’re going to go back and check out the others.

WOMEN IN POWER – Why would a feudal society be controlled by women?
1. Women are physically dominant instead of men.
2. Religion or tradition dictates a matriarchal society.
3. Women are superior in magic, giving them an edge.
4. Men really screw up the world, so some supernatural force curses the male royal line.

#4 is interesting to me because it also seems to have a lot of conflict built right in. Remember, conflict = gold. You, the writer, love conflict. Conflict makes ideas into stories. The first question that I come up with while looking at #4 is ‘what kind of curse keeps men from taking power in our little fantasy world?’ Hmmm. Time for another list. Read more


Some people just don’t know how to brainstorm.

Jeff is one of those people–brilliant in many other ways, but with no natural gift for brainstorming. Recently, I spoke with another writerly friend who struggles the same way.

At first, I was rather shocked. What do you do when you can’t brainstorm? Do you just wait for a brilliant idea to spring fully-formed into your mind like Athena from the forehead of Zeus?

Well, yes, apparently.

Just like being hit by lighting, this DOES happen occasionally. There are plenty of anecdotes running through the writing community about someone eating three day old pizza, having a trippy dream, then writing it all down and voila–instant bestseller!

Unfortunately, this is sort of like winning the lottery. Yes, it could happen, but it wouldn’t be smart to bet your livelihood on it. If you ever want to be not just a writer but an author–you know, someone with text in print, preferably PAID for said text–you have to figure out a better way. That better way is brainstorming. And, luckily for my better half, it’s a learnable skill. Read more

The Dreaded Sag

This is a post about writing, I promise.

Since I write fantasy, I know a lot about killing tension. Fantasy and other spec-fic writers have a ton of information and backstory to convey, and more often than not this results in the story coming to a screeching halt. Epic fantasy, in particular, tends toward long, drawn-out ‘saggy bits’ that can try even the most patient reader’s tolerance.

So, as I wrestle over my own cartload of infodumpery, I’ve been trying to figure out the solution. Read more

Writing the Middle

middleofbookA lot of writers are good at beginnings–starting off with a bang. Then there are plenty of writers who are masters of endings, knowing how to tie things up in a way that is both dramatic and satisfying. I rarely come across anyone who favors the middle section of a story.

In my experience, this is the point where I usually tend to stall out. Not only is it the largest part of the story, rather than having one (or two) big dramatic events, you have to string together a series of events with tension running through the whole thing. A lot of writing instructors refer to the middle as the ‘try/fail’ cycle, a series of conflicts and obstacles that your protagonists must somehow overcome. The nature of these conflicts will determine the level of tension, provide character growth, and propel the story to its eventual end.

Read more

The Great Escape

Image Courtesy, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.
Image Courtesy, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

A subject that came up between writing friends… how do you deal with the “escape scene”? Imprisonment of some sort is a much loved staple of the classic adventure story. So what makes a “good” escape, and what makes a “bad” one? How much detail, as a writer, should you go into when putting an escape into the story?

Lets assume that the story in question is not Escape From Alcatraz, or the subject of this blog entry. The escape is not the story, but one of the obstacles in the story.

If the escape is important to the story, as a reader I feel like I need to have a little detail. On the other hand, if the character is a world-class thief escaping the same prison for the sixth time, I’d be okay with you glossing it over a bit. But that leads to the second dilemma… how do you make escape possible without making the captors seem stupid for overlooking things? Read more