Thursday 31 May 2012

Can You Be Trusted To Tell A Good Story?


Or, to put it another way, would you want to read a story by someone who doesn’t know what they're talking about?

Me neither.

In fact, even if someone sounds like they don’t know what they’re talking about, that’s enough to turn off most people. They don’t want to read that guy’s story, or listen to his views, or spend any time in his presence.

When it comes to communicating with people, especially people you don't know personally, to ‘sound like’ you know what you’re talking about is more important than actually knowing what you’re talking about.

Monday 28 May 2012

Easy Ways To Keep The Reader Interested

The reaction I want when I read a story is Ooh, possibly Ah and maybe, if I’m lucky, Woo hoo! What I usually get when reading a WIP is Meh, maybe Blah and more often than not, Huh?

It’s all very well advising writers to write something interesting, but how do you do that? It’s all subjective isn’t it? When you read a good book it holds your attention — sometimes it’s obvious why, sometimes it isn’t.

So, here’s a list of the types of story elements that are universally attention grabbing. 100% guaranteed or your money back.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Conflict In Story Is Like Finding Gold


Conflict is the key to writing an interesting and dramatic story.

When you come across a moment where the main character faces a difficulty, that is a precious and valuable thing to have found. You need to keep digging until you get it all out.

What you shouldn’t do is find ways to make the problem go away. In real life you should, in fiction you shouldn’t.

There are three main cop-outs I encounter again and again when it comes to writers creating a wonderful opportunity for conflict and then running away from it as quickly as possible. If you do any of these, you need to stop. You’ve found gold, stop throwing it away.

Monday 21 May 2012

Writing Characters Worth Reading

Characters are the key to your story. You want readers to connect with your main characters as quickly as possible. They should be able to see them, know them and be interested in them.

The easiest way to do this is with clichés, which is what often gets put on the page. Dave’s unhappy at work. Belinda’s in love with her boss. Phil wants to be left alone. These sorts of things tell you something vague and indeterminate... and instantly forgettable. 

Also, bland (if accurate) description is very popular. Hairstyle, eye colour, body-type. But the fact she has long, golden hair down to her waist, or hazel eyes flecked with gold is like being shown a photograph of someone you don’t know: meaningless.

If you want the character to really make a strong first impression you need to find a way to get under the reader’s skin. How do you do that?

Thursday 17 May 2012

The Truth About The Price Of Books

There’s a lot of talk about whether books are priced fairly. Ebooks especially get a lot of flak for being .99c or free.

Various arguments are made for paying a fair price, not flooding the market, quality control. A popular one is that people value things based on how much they pay for them.

The truth is all this fretting has nothing to do with money. It’s got to do with how you feel about yourself as a writer. It’s got to do with how you think other’s see you. It’s got to do with being valued as  a person, and worrying that you're not.

Monday 14 May 2012

Storytelling: Is Knowing Craft Really Necessary?

There are plenty of successful authors of gripping, bestselling novels whose writing, if you look at it in technical terms, is crappy. But having an excellent grasp of grammar does not guarantee a good story, either.

So, does that mean learning the ins and outs of show versus tell and passive versus active writing is a monumental waste of time?

In many cases yes, it is.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Why Reread A Story You Already Know?

You read a story, you loved the story, you were amazed the things that happened. Then you read it again.

This is true of all types of stories, movies, plays, comics. We go back to the stories we enjoyed the most. Even though we know what happens. Nothing is surprising, and “What happens next?” is a redundant question.

Why? And how can we use this to improve what we write?

Monday 7 May 2012

Unknown Outcome Does Not Lead To Unpredictable Story


Readers enjoy the unexpected. Not knowing what’s going to happen is part of the pleasure of hearing a story. But just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you want to know.

If a man approaches a crossroad where he can turn left or right, you don’t know which way he’s going to choose. But when he does choose, you won’t be surprised. You knew it was going to be one of the two.

So a character going about his business, even though every action he takes is unknown to the reader right up until it is revealed, won’t be engaging purely on the basis of not knowing.

Sunday 6 May 2012

A to Z Reflections

I usually post twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. During the A to Z Challenge I posted 26 times in 30 days.  The effect of this was that I received a bump in page views, some new followers, and as severe case of exhaustion.

I had planned to write my posts in advance and then schedule them. The easy life. I managed to do rough outlines of all my posts, but that still meant a rush to get them done on the day of posting. Best laid plans...

So, clearly the A to Z Challenge is a good way to boost blog activity, even if it’s only for a month. Only, I have two blogs. This one, and a Tumblr. I post the same things on both, the only difference is that the Tumblr audience is all cool kids who love Korra, and it wasn’t part of the A to Z Challenge. So how did the two blogs compare over the month of April?

Thursday 3 May 2012

Can Too Many Pronouns Spoil The Story?

There will be times when you suspect you have too many pronouns in your story. I, I, I or he, she, he, she. And as soon as you become conscious of this problem you will start seeing them everywhere and it will feel like a big problem.

First thing to realise is that it’s not a big problem. Pronouns are part of writing stories, you’re just being hyper-sensitive. A good way to calm yourself down is to pick up a book by a good writer and look through it. You’ll find pronouns packed to the rafters and pouring off the page. It’s normal.

However, there are times when you genuinely need to reduce pronouns, and that’s what this post is going to be about.

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