June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep and abiding love for the TV show Firefly. It is, simply, the best written science fiction show that ever aired. Ever. (Feel free to argue with me if you like, but you are wrong.)
Firefly was created by Joss Whedon and written by him and several talented writers. Whedon also created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Dollhouse, and made Cabin in the Woods and oh yeah a little movie you might have heard about called The Avengers.
He’s got cred, in other words. He’s made his bones, and risen to the top. So when he drops his top 10 writing tips on you, you’d best listen, and study them, and then put them to practice in your own work.
I know I will.
June 28, 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, and I had planned to pick up The Ocean at the End of the Lane at some point, but it wasn’t at the top of my to-read list. As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a bit of a space opera kick right now, and I wanted to keep my head submerged in that bucket awhile longer.
But then I started seeing the reviews Gaiman shared on Twitter, and the blog post his wife, Amanda Palmer, put up about the book, and … well, I bought into the hype. And then I bought the book, and now I’ve read it.
I’m just going to say right up front, I don’t get it. I don’t get what the hype was about.
June 25, 2013 § 7 Comments
I’m always surprised when writers tell me they don’t know what the Heroic Cycle is. It’s fundamental to storytelling and has been pretty much since storytelling was invented, and when I hear that a writer hasn’t heard of it, I urge them to go buy their own copy of Joseph Campbell’s classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces as soon as possible.
I still recommend that if you, too, don’t know what the Heroic Cycle is. But now I can also point you to this excellent TEDtalk video that summarizes it in just a few minutes:
Not every story has every stage of the journey, and some jumble the stages, but overall, it’s a great pattern to keep in mind when you’re plotting out your story. And if you’ve got a story that isn’t working, see if it fits into this mold. It could be that you’re missing a stage, and figuring out how to include it might just resolve that plot problem you’ve been having.
Do you keep the Heroic Cycle in mind when you’re plotting your stories?
June 17, 2013 § 9 Comments
Joe Hill gets a hat tip for tweeting a link to I Write Like, a website that allows you to paste in a few paragraphs (or more) of something you write to get an analysis of whose style your work is most similar to. I did it for the first chapter of my space opera in progress, and got this:
Which is cool, I guess. I mean, I like James Bond as much as the next guy. Maybe a little more. But I thought I’d try it again, this time with the entire text of my most recently published story, “Lightning” (blatant self-promotion: you can find it in the Cincinnati Writers Project Anthology 4: A Few Good Words). This time, I got:
Also cool. I mean, I liked the movie version of Fight Club, but I’ve never read the book. Or anything else by Palahniuk. But “Lightning” isn’t my normal style. It was an experiment, and I like the result, but it’s not the type of writing I plan to make a career out of.
Try it with your own work and post who you write like in the comments!
June 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
I mentioned in a recent post that I began reading Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks in part because Banks had announced that he was dying. Late last week, he passed away. There was an immediate outpouring of grief from those who knew him as well as those who were fans of his work.
The most recent homage to Iain M. Banks is Annalee Newitz’s article on i09, “11 Rules of Good Writing That Iain M. Banks Left as His Legacy.” It’s not the usual rules, and it’s well worth checking out.
I’ll be continuing to read Banks’ Culture series and posting my reviews here. If you are new to Iain M. Banks (as I am), you really should check out his work. It’s clear even to me that we’ve lost a great one.
June 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
My favorite part of the New Yorker is the “Shouts & Murmurs” section. Many very funny people have written a shout or a murmur. Teddy Wayne is the most recent, with his Eight Rules for Writing Fiction. You have to read them in order to get the full effect, so I’ll just quote the first rule:
Show, don’t tell. Remember show-and-tell in elementary school, when you’d bring in an object from home and talk about it? I want you to remember that experience and the lessons about storytelling it imparted. Then invent a time machine, and travel back to elementary school, and get a job as a second-grade teacher, and make sure you get yourself as a student in your class, and in the time machine bring along an iPhone, and give it to your second-grade self. All the kids will be blown away, even though it won’t get phone reception because cell-phone towers haven’t been built yet. The younger you will develop greater self-esteem from your newfound popularity, and go on to lead a richer adult life, and have more material to write about.