Category Archives: Craft & Technique

Setting Stories in My Own Backyard

TuskersThis article is by Duncan McGeary.

I’ve never subscribed to the notion that one must “write about what you know.”

I mean, what do I know about a wild pig apocalypses?  Or vampires who evolve?  Or Donner Party werewolves?  Or Bigfoot and gold miners?

This stuff is spun out of my imagination, and even when I research, I like to have the basics correct while I allow my ingenuity to create the rest.

But I see no reason why I can’t set my stories in places I know, as much as possible.Continue Reading

The Power of Symbolism

symbolsThis article is by Jacob Gralnick.

How do you convey an entire idea, feeling, or characteristic without saying a word?

The same way you can foreshadow a future event in subtle passing, and you can do that with a little nifty thing called symbolism.

Used correctly, and at the right time, symbolism can add meaning and depth to your writing on the subconscious level and propel a simple passage to one that rivals bestseller and Hollywood quality scenes.

The best part: it’s as simple as whittling.Continue Reading

How to Balance Creativity with Story

balanceSurprising a reader requires that an author think differently from others.  As I mentioned in my previous article, being creative means finding new material to trigger ideas in your mind, or digging deeper for ideas in the material you have.  But when I showed my post to my wife, she referred to it as the “Darlings Workshop.”

That is, it’s what you use to create all the ideas you’re just going to have to cut later.

There can be a fine line between the creative choice and the bizarre choice, the clever idea and the idea that doesn’t fit, the solution that surprises readers and the one that yields eye rolls.  Continue Reading

Help! I Accidentally Wrote a Novel

typingOkay, so the story wasn’t an accident, but its length was.

I searched for any way to pass lonely Wisconsin winter hours while my coworkers paced an empty showroom floor, waiting for clients who needed a vehicle badly enough to brave low temperatures and icy streets.

I hated all of it. In fact, I never meant to sell cars, either. While in school for auto body repair, I turned in an application to the body shop and they sold me the job on the showroom floor!

During slow times, I wrote. I scribbled notes on the backs of financing forms, filled pages of lined paper with a story, and even based my character off my predicament purely for inspiration—not as some sort of immature way to deal with my frustrating job. So what if a few salesmen wizards had a few bad things happen to them?Continue Reading

Surviving Grimdark Fantasy for the Squeamish

grimdarkWhile there is still some debate about whether it’s a legit sub-genre or not, grimdark has become part of the fantasy lexicon in recent years.

I actually like a lot of the authors that some label as grimdark, so I’m a bit torn on if it’s a good or bad thing. The term can be used to define fantasy with more realistic grit, where morals are gray and blood is bright red. Sounds cool to me.

However, on the flip side, it’s also used as a pejorative term for fiction that is perceived as too bleak, dark, and soul-sucking. This being the opposite of the good vs. evil type of conflicts that may be more familiar for fans of fantasy.

Well, I’m here to show you that grimdark doesn’t have to be unpleasant at all.Continue Reading

Focused Ambiguity: Using Metaphor in Fantasy Writing

This article is by Walter Rhein.

Star TrekThere is an inherent paradox in the phrase “focused ambiguity”. Yet the disconnect achieved by putting those two words together approximates the mental state necessary for writing good fantasy.

One of the big mistakes a lot of new writers make in their world building is too much of a focus on practical construction. However, unless the overall theme of your fantasy book is economics, you really don’t need to explain how your “diamond city in the desert” gets enough drinking water to support its population.

An effective novel always has a strong connective thread, and, in fantasy, every character, setting, and action can be molded to function as an integral part of the extended metaphor that supports the novel’s overall theme.Continue Reading

Writing Warfare in Fantasy: A Guide to the Battle Scene

battlefieldThis article is by Aaron Prince.

Few words are as synonymous with mankind as War. As writers, war often influences the stories that we tell. People remember wars, people remember battles, and often these moments are when characters shine, plots reach the point of climax, and readers are drawn into a visceral experience that they won’t forget.

To write about war, to describe battle and it’s horrors, we must first have a basic grasp of this human creation. War is not a jaunt through a field of roses that leaves you smelling fresh on the other side, and should not be depicted as such. Understand war’s meaning first, and then write.

Continue Reading

Speaking of Thorns – Interview with Mark Lawrence

prince of thornsMark Lawrence is the author of Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns.

His latest novel, Prince of Fools, will be released in June 2014.

Literature has depicted violence since the earliest records. Even the “high fantasy” subgenre has heroes we physically associate with killing troves of orcs. What is it in the “grimdark” subgenre that ruffles so many feathers?

No idea! I don’t even know what “grimdark” is. People back off rapidly if you ask them to actually define it. It seems to be shorthand for ‘this thing I don’t like’ … and given that the things people don’t like are as diverse as the things people do like … it ends up pretty meaningless, generally a form of slur.Continue Reading

How To Hook Your Audience

This article is by Craig W. Van Sickle & Steven Long Mitchell.

the-pretenderWhile novels, graphic novels, television or motion picture scripts each present writers with different formats, narrative challenges and audience expectations, they all have one very simple commonality at their heart: telling a great story that hooks, pulls in and holds its consumer.

Simple, right? Well, as they say in novel writing circles, if writing were easy, everyone would be Stephen King.

Truth is, no matter what medium, defining and learning how to hook your audience can actually be very simple if we just break down the elements of storytelling into small, manageable segments.Continue Reading

5 Reasons Why Narration Can Work in Fiction

This article is by Anne Marie Gazzolo.

BilboAuthors can use narrators in many different ways to add value to any story. Among them, they can speak directly and indirectly to their audience, inform the readers of things not even the characters inside the story know, give a look into the heart and soul of the heroes and villains, and praise or condemn them for their actions.

Here are five reasons why you should consider using one:Continue Reading