Close Up Editing & Assessment

Ashley Capes, a good friend and writing buddy, has recently launched Close Up Editing & Assessment, a service for fiction and poetry writers. Whether you’re looking for overall manuscript assessment, line-editing, or proofreading, he and his wife Brooke Linford have numerous editing, writing, teaching, and publication credits between them that they can put to use helping you get your work into the best possible shape.

I’ve been in a writing group with Ashley for nearly a year, and it’s been brilliant having access to his insight and technical knowledge. He has an excellent grasp of story structure, character, and an ear for prose that has helped me hone and tweak my second draft far beyond what I believe I would have been able to achieve alone. 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

Music & Writing

Collective_Soul_-_Hints,_Allegations,_and_Things_Left_UnsaidWhen I was 13, my sister bought Collective Soul’s first album (Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid), and played it all summer long. As a result, every time I hear a song from that album, I am suddenly and very vividly 13 years old again. My brain has linked that music so irrevocably to my 13th year, and all the things that happened then, it’s the next best thing to a time machine. What memory my own mind has not been able to keep hold of over these years, that music has stored away for me, perfectly preserved.

I wrote a post on characterization a while ago, and I mentioned the idea of giving your characters a theme song. You can take advantage of the mental link between memory and music to help you keep your characters separate and defined in your head–very useful when you’re dealing with a large cast of characters, or you’re one of those writers that likes to story hop, working on more than one project at once. Read more

Prophecies, Part 2

This is part 2 of how to create a prophecy or any other sort of archaic text for your story.

In my previous post, we talked about the basic elements of a prophecy (who? what? when? where? why? is there cake? is the cake a lie?). Now we can bring together those elements and start creating the actual text of the prophecy.

This is a completely optional step. Prophecies are often communicated orally and not committed to scripture. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume you want to create some nice, archaic text for your prophecy. Read more


Prophecies are a very common element among fantasy stories.

I can hear you now.. “Cliche! It’s been done to death. Prophecies are so predictable (ha, get it?).” When paired with a protagonist that happens to be the ‘Chosen One’, yeah, I agree. This is a hard one to pull off in a fresh way. However, prophecies and predictions are present in almost all ideologies–religious and otherwise–although they’re not always described that way.

A belief of any sort usually includes a consequence that is meant to persuade others to adopt that same belief. The threat of destruction is a favorite (the burning of the wicked by the messiah, our planet becoming uninhabitable by the exhaustion of its resources, etc). The threats are often paired with promises (paradise, nirvana, personal or generalized peace) if the warnings are heeded. Sometimes they’re as vague as “the bad stuff won’t happen”. Read more


handlebarmoustacheFor me, villains are the most difficult characters to write. I find that I have to spend alot more time developing their character and carefully editing their dialogue than I do any of my other characters, hero/heroine included.

It’s difficult to nail down a convincing “evil”. The world is filled with cardboard villain cutouts.. people who want to take over the world, but we’re not really sure why. Evil is so difficult to write convincingly that alot of people just default to crazy or mentally disturbed. There is an evil that is perfectly sane and doesn’t stem from some hideous childhood event. It hasn’t lost its moral compass, it consciously, willingly set it aside. Read more

Naming Woes

One of the questions I come across the most on writing forums is ‘How do you name your characters?’ Naming¬†can be especially challenging when writing fantasy and science-fiction, because often you’re creating names for a society or culture that doesn’t actually exist.

There are a lot of name generators around the web (which can occasionally spit out something suitable), but there are a couple other tricks I like to use when searching for names: Read more

Developing vivid characters…

Sometimes it can be difficult to create a vivid, memorable characters who are all individuals in their own right. A cast of characters that comes from a single brain is going to feature the writer’s own personal preferences and bias–and this repetition can easily make each character seem very much like the last.

We often look at characters in a story as individuals, but I think it can be helpful to consider them as a whole, with each character a part of the “machinery”, with a defined role and purpose. Defining their purpose in the story is very important. Throwing in people willy-nilly creates a very confused background that can obscure the story you are trying to tell. Read more