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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Book I Recommend: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee



A little more than a year ago I drove 4+ hours and attended the book launch of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur. I've mentioned it in my blog before, but the book really deserves its own post. And what better way to do it than to celebrate its first birthday-ish?

But I'll cut to the chase; the real reason you're here isn't so I can relive that beautiful night, it's to know about a book I recommend:

Monday, December 21, 2015

So I Watched the Star Wars Trilogy for the First Time . . .



Those of you who know me or follow my blog have probably picked up on the fact that I might be a little obsessive when it comes to my favorite stories. I've read my Harry Potter books so many times that they have penciled-in thoughts, sticky notes, and are literally falling apart. I've been writing essays about The Hunger Games. I've dissected Interstellar and Les Mis--for fun. I read Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen. And I've seen most of the Chronicles of Narnia movies opening weekend.

But then there's Star Wars . . .

My closest experience with it has been the (old) ride at Disneyland, which I'm sure I've seen more times than anything else Star Wars. One time my brother and I found the Star Wars holiday special online and laughed our faces off at it--in fact, we still do. With that said, I've never thought Star Wars was dumb, and I've always thought the lightsabers were sweet and clever.

But Star Wars was always apart from me.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Interview with Author Greg Smith


Today I have Greg Smith here to answer some questions about his writing methods as part of his blog tour for his book You Can Run, which comes out this month! You Can Run is the second book in the Kramer and Shadow Crime Novel Series and the sequel to The Pits.

In You Can Run, two US Marines (one a dog) volunteer to work with the FBI to bring down an international crime boss.

If you're into thrillers, crime fiction, and dogs, you might want to check this series out yourself. You can find everything you need to know on Greg's website.

It's always fun to get to know other writers, so let's get to it!

Interview


Who is your all-time favorite character? 

Friday, December 11, 2015

About What Happens with Finnick . . . (Spoilers)


SPOILERS

Anonymous said: I really liked that post you made about Prim. Her death really contributed to the plot, if it weren't for Prim dying, Coin wouldn't be dead too. Katniss actually realized that Snow and Coin were pretty much the same after she realized that Coin was behind the bombs. Finnick's death though, was pointless. I mean he wasn't that unnecessary of a character that you just kill him and everyone moves on.

Name withheld: Then why . . . why did Finnick die? Can you explain that to me?

Along with lots of other comments online about my posts. So many people have brought up Finnick's death.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Mockingjay: Why Katniss Needed to Kill C instead of S (Thematically)



(Spoilers)

Yet another problem people had with the Mockingjay book is that we've had all this build up toward killing Snow and having Katniss do it, and we never get that payoff. Katniss kills Coin instead. It's obvious why she needed to kill Coin on a plot level, but it was important it happened on a thematic level also.

Like I said in my earlier post, The Hunger Games has never been a good guy vs. bad guy story--just look at the first installment. Katniss isn't pitted against other villains. She's pitted against other youth who are also victims of their society. Katniss's real enemy is the wicked appetites of human nature, the natural man. The Hunger Games has always been a story about the good of human nature and even more so, the wickedness of it.

Also like I mentioned earlier, just as Katniss becomes the face of the rebellion, Snow becomes the face of the evil:

Friday, December 4, 2015

How to Write a Good Novel

Just a friendly reminder: Don't forget about my Comic Con giveaway, where you can enter to win one of eight prizes from franchises like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Sherlock, Dr. Who and more.

Rebecca asked: I'm writing a fantasy thriller but feel it won't be successful. How do I write a good novel?




First off, at some point or another, pretty much all writers feel like they will be unsuccessful. It's normal. Keep in mind that writers define "success" as different things. One might define success as making as much money as J.K. Rowling. Another writer might consider the fact they had a writing session, period, a success.

The truth is, there are so many parts to writing a novel that I really can't speak to them all (plot, style, character, setting, theme, emotion, brainstorming . . . ). I don't have a magic bullet. But the good news is I can give you some places to start:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mockingjay: Why Katniss did NOT Mean What She Voted



(SPOILERS) (Side Note: Don't forget to enter my Comic Con giveaway, where you can choose from several prizes, including a Hunger Games t-shirt.)

Last week I talked about why Prim actually needed to die to in Mockingjay to cement the themes of the entire Hunger Games series. A lot of people were upset and downright angry about her death, thinking it was pointless to the story. But it isn't. You don't have to like the ending of Mockingjay--I mean it's not as if we were meant to feel good about everything that happened in these books--but you can still appreciate and respect it.

A second problem some people had with how the series ended was that Katniss voted in favor of another Hunger Games. A lot of audience members felt betrayed, and they should--if Katniss had actually meant it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mockingjay: Why THAT Character NEEDED to Die



Earlier this year, I was talking to someone about The Hunger Games books. Okay, mostly about the end of Mockingjay. (By the way, this post has spoilers, if you couldn't tell by the title of it.) This person remarked how awful it was that Suzanne Collins killed off Prim.

They then went on to say, "The author just did it for shock value!"

"No, she didn't," I said. (I mean, yeah, it was shocking, but she didn't do it just for shock value.)

"As a writer, you must know what she did was just for shock value!"

This person was pretty adamant. So I just said, "As a writer, I know what she did wasn't just for shock value. We'll have to agree to disagree."

That's not the first person who has told me that Prim's death was only there for shock. But today I'm going to say what I've been wanted to say every time I hear that.

Primrose Everdeen needed to die.

And here is why.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Leaving Your Stamp on a Scene



Today's post is kind of a follow-up to last week's post, where I talked about ramping up your scenes by taking advantage of everything brought to the scene. But there is also something else to consider when brainstorming a scene: Leaving your stamp on it.

Now I don't mean like secretly putting your name in the text somewhere or doing a cameo or making sure every scene has a mention of water. What I mean is making your scene different from all the other scenes out there in the world.

Let's say your about to write a scene where your protagonist meets his love interest. There are a million scenes in the world of storytelling where that happens, right? So consider how you can make yours different or better than what's already been done.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Starting a Scene: Two Important Questions

One of the most important questions I've learned to ask myself when brainstorming/writing a new scene is,


What am I bringing to this scene?


And then the next important question is,


How can I take advantage of that?


You see, I think all of us consider this on some level, maybe even a subconscious level, because unless you're writing the first scene of your story, your scene is building off the scenes that came before it. You're guiding the reader through a narrative.

But it wasn't until the last year or so that I consciously and actively started asking and considering these questions.

And holy cow, the scenes I've been writing are so much better for it!



Monday, October 26, 2015

Comic Con Giveaway! (and a Blog Tour)

UPDATE: Congrats to Haley Scully for being our winner! She picked the pocket watch!


Hey everyone! I promised to do a giveaway after Comic Con. I wanted to bring back something cool, but there was just so much going on! So instead I picked a bunch of prizes online from the fandoms I saw (and one writing book for the writers).

How to Enter:

**You must be a friend/follower to win 

- Like, or share the giveaway post on Facebook. Do both to enter twice. (Make sure when you share that it's set to "public" so that I can see that you shared it.)

- Retweet this tweet on Twitter or reply to it telling me what prize you would pick. Do both to enter twice.

- Like or Reblog this post on Tumblr. Do both to enter twice.

- Comment on this blog post, telling me what prize you would pick if you won. (must be a follower of this blog)

So, you can enter up to seven times.

(Please note I reserve the right to change prizes if for some reason the item becomes unavailable.)

Is this an international giveaway? Yes! and no. It depends on the prize you want. So if you win and you live outside of the U.S. we'll talk :)

UPDATE: Winner will be selected Dec. 14th


Prizes:

 One winner will pick from these prizes:

- (my followers' favorite) Fullmetal Alchemist Pocket Watch (become a dog of the military)
- Harry Potter Time Turner Necklace (Need a few extra minutes? No problem!)
- A key to 221b Baker Street--who wouldn't want that ;) --key chain, so you can entertain Sherlock when he's bored.
- Dr. Who Soap (Defeat Daleks by washing your hands!)
- Attack on Titan Cape (Defeat Titans in uniform!)
- Hunger Games Shirt (Gain sponsors by looking your best in this t-shirt)
- DBZ Goku Art (It's over 9000!)
- The Emotion Thesaurus. Learn how every mood is expressed physically, internally, mentally, and how it is suppressed, then learn how to write it! (This is an ebook copy, no a physical copy.) (I use this book almost every week.)

**See bigger pictures of each prize at the end of the post!

Blog Tour

This giveaway is also part of what turned into a guest post blog tour of sorts! These bloggers are awesome and will be having me as a guest over the next several weeks. :') Please visit them! And follow them! And check their blogs for a post by me :)

WritersPayItForward.Org (My post will be there Oct. 27th!)

Bonnie Gwyn (My post will be there the 1st week of November)

Amanda K. Thompson (1st week of November)

James Duckett (2nd week of November)

Jake Jeffries (3rd week of November)

Ronda Hinrichsen (3rd week of November)

Lysandra James (4th week of November)

Jay S. Willis (4th week of November)

Tristi Pinkston  (November 30th)

Konstanz Silverbow (TBD)

Nathan Barra (TBD)

Katherine Ann Olsen (December 12th)

Monday, October 19, 2015

5 Types of Omniscient POV: What the What?



Sometimes I'm strolling through the writing world, and I'm like what the what is with the writing industry's terms? There are "terms" that mean different things to different writers. Regularly, I feel like there should be more terms for things that happen in writing that don't have names, and the terms we have should be more specific. So then on my blog I have to make up more terms for mechanics (like "micro-concepts"), which I'm sure other people have done too, and that's why some terms are so ambiguous. It's like there needs to be some kind of writing-term dictator to make everything the same across the board.

That's how I feel about omniscient viewpoint. I've heard five different definitions of it, so today I'm going to break them down into five types.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Looking for Something to Read? The Lost Shards by Charlie Pulsipher


I've added a new book to my to-read list, and you might want to do the same. The Lost Shards trilogy by Charlie Pulsipher spans worlds and blends my favorite genres, and it just sounds like a cool book series! So I'm sharing it here today on my blog, so you can check it out too.

Crystal Bridge is the first installment of the trilogy.



Crystal Bridge


Kaden could use his Egg, a shell of light only he can see, to transport himself across the emptiness between universes to distant worlds, but he’s afraid. This Egg may have saved his life once, but it failed to save another and the worlds it leads to are full of hidden dangers.

Aren’s sight reaches deep into the souls around her, exposing more than she ever wanted to see in friends, family, and strangers alike. When she turns her gaze on Kaden, his Egg responds, sending them spiraling across space and time to a world where dragons, elves, dwarves, and peculiar gods dwell. Separated, lost, and alone in a world on the brink of war, these teens must come to grips with their unique gifts if they ever want to see Earth again.

Back home, a biotechnology company tinkers with the science of reality, hoping to cure death itself, but they awaken something shadowy and powerful, a being imprisoned in the void for millennia. This dark god longs to break free and devour everything, its hunger insatiable. Infinite universes would be consumed. Kaden and Aren must decide if they can save more than themselves.

Can they save us all?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 Highlights!



So as most of you know, recently I was at Salt Lake Comic Con as a panelist and presenter! It was my first Comic Con and my first time being a panelist/presenter at any conference.

It. Was. Awesome.

I totally loved it, and I've already started making mental plans for next year's! :)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Raw vs. Subdued Emotions: Getting them Right in Your Story




Last week I talked about point of view penetration, and in that post I said that "Often I see writers who zoom in and zoom out of their character's viewpoint seemingly randomly. I'll see scenes written in distant third-person when it would be better in close third-person."

I pointed out that how deep you want to get into your character's viewpoint depends on the effect you want for your scene, what makes a better story, and how raw and tense the emotion is.

So today I'm going to give some pointers to help you discern when your character's emotions are (likely) raw or subdued.

Raw Emotions



Raw emotions are usually very intense. They're fresh, so the person feels them sharper, sometimes to the point of being irrational.

As human beings, we usually feel raw emotions in the moment. The temporally closer we are to the incident that incited those emotions, the more raw our emotions will be. If I just found out that a friend back-stabbed me, my anger would be sharp and somewhat uncontrolled (at least internally). But the next day, they will likely be more controlled, more subdued, as the situation "sinks in."

Here are some things to keep in mind to help:

The more severe the incident, the more raw the emotions.

The more unexpected the incident, the more raw the emotions. For unexpected incidents, people usually feel surprise or shock first. So, you might want to consider that when writing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Point of View Penetration




Over the last few weeks, I've been talking about point of view. I talked about first-person, third-person, and then last week I talked about some ways to pick your viewpoint character for a scene. This post follows up on those. It's about point of view penetration.

Penetration


In the fiction-writing world, the term "penetration" refers to how deep the narrator gets into the viewpoint character's point of view. (What is with some of the writing terms?) People usually use it in reference to third-person point of view. Many say that penetration, and its different levels, doesn't relate to first-person since in first-person we are always in the character's head, and therefore, we're always deep into their viewpoint. I'm going to argue against this somewhat, but first I'll talk about penetration in reference to third-person since that's how it is usually used.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Salt Lake Comic Con Schedule



Quick post to let you all know I got my Salt Lake Comic Con schedule! :) Voila!

September 24th, 4:00 p.m. -- Harry Potter is In Your Head (In the Best Possible Way)

Description: We look for the Hogwarts Express and Platform 9 3/4 at every train station and think each owl we see is delivering letters. How has Harry Potter changed the way we look at the world around us?


September 24th, 5:00 p.m. -- Taking a Story over 9000! How DBZ Took Over the World

Description: DBZ has been an international sensation, leading its creator, Akira Toriyama, to become one of the richest writers worldwide. Get a writer’s perspective on the storytelling techniques he used to skyrocket his tale into the next dimension.


September 26th, 6:00 p.m. The Lasting Power of Harry Potter

(No description up yet)


And I got tickets to meet the actors who play Fred and George Weasley!

So if you're at SLC Comic Con, feel free to say "hi." :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Picking the Right Viewpoint Character for Your Scene



Hey guys, today I'm picking up right where I left off in my post about third-person point of view. If you didn't read that post and are just here to learn how to pick the right viewpoint character for a scene, no worries. I'll backtrack a bit. Last time I ended on writing in third-person limited, multiple viewpoints. I mentioned that right now a lot of people feel like you should only switch viewpoint characters between chapters (this goes for writing in first-person too). And others believe you should alternate chapters or cycle through viewpoints like this:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pros and Cons and Types of Third Person



Hey guys, I'm back to talking about point of view, which was requested by an anonymous follower. Again, there are people who have talked about this better than I can cover in a blog post. The two books I like are Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress and Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.

Like I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, there are three points of view:

First-person: I thought I was going crazy.
Second-person: You thought you were going crazy.
Third-person: She thought she was going crazy.

But I forgot to mention (and another follower brought to my attention) that there are plural versions too.

First-person plural: We thought we were going crazy.
Third-person plural: They thought they were going crazy.

The plural versions are used even less than second-person, but, they have been done. I know there are some science fiction stories that are written like this because the story is about a hive mind. What about plural second-person? I guess that could be done too.

I did a post outlining the common pros and cons of writing a story in first-person that you can read here. In it, I gave some suggestions on how to get around the cons, and then deflated some of the others. But today's post is all about writing in third-person!

Third-Person


She thought she was going crazy.

In third-person, the narrator is someone watching and experiencing the story, but not participating in it. It's like the narrator is looking over the character's shoulder.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips for Sequels and Focusing Ideas


elementrolls asked you: I'm one of those people who tends to have a lot of ideas from the get go, but I have a hard time deciding what's just a fun idea (that I might explore in a sequel or another book) and what really needs to go in the story. Any tips on focusing?




One of the pseudo-problems I run into when brainstorming happens when I get a bunch of ideas and suddenly I think I have to either pick this idea or that idea, when most of the time, I can use both ideas. So if you have a lot of ideas, try to see if you can use most of them.

With that said, there is a point where you have to stop yourself or your story will get longer than Lord of the Rings, which isn't a bad thing, but most writers aren't looking to write stories that long.

There are also times when you don't want to use all of your ideas; for example, if you are writing a medieval fantasy, you might not want to throw in time-traveling aliens after you already have a quest story for the main plot. Time-traveling aliens just doesn't fit.

For sequels, a good technique is to look at how you can broaden or deepen your storyline so that the conflict goes farther or deeper than the book before.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Get My Writing Tips on Youtube :)


I know not everyone has time to read my blog posts, so now you can listen to me read them to you! ;) Or, tell you my writing tips, rather. And you can learn about writing when you are driving, cleaning, painting, exercising, eating, or skydiving!

Listen on Youtube

I'm in the process of putting them up, and I plan to upload a video twice a month.

I started with full-on video, but it was too time consuming to make, so now I've switched to just audio (with a still picture). This works better for a few reasons.

If you like my blog or Youtube, please Subscribe. All you need to do that is a gmail account.

Happy listening!

P.S. I found two four-leaf clovers over the weekend! Luck is coming my way :D



Monday, August 10, 2015

Pros and Cons of First Person, How to Deflate the Cons




By request (you can thank anonymous), I'm going to do some blog posts on points of view, talking about the pros and cons, and how to get around some of the cons. I'll be pulling from two sources, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress and Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. They are both good books to have for those learning the craft of writing, and they should be easy to remember since their titles are nearly identical. I like how the authors explain point of view in those books the best. They go in depth.

Now, there is a reason I'm pulling from those texts. There has been so much that has already been said on point of view that I didn't think I had anything new to add, but when I started putting this post together, I realized I did. Some of my opinions on point of view are different from the general rules. So, in this post, I'll list the general rules and then my own opinions on them after.

But let's start with the basics.

There are three points of view:

First-person: I thought I was going crazy.
Second-person: You thought you were going crazy.
Third-person: She thought she was going crazy.

Please note that narratives are hardly ever written in second-person point of view, but it has been done, by authors like Jay McInerney.  You usually see second-person in other forms of writing, like role-playing games or do-it-yourself books. Most novels and short stories are written in first-person or third-person.

Today, let's talk about the common pros and cons of first-person, and then I will go and debunk a lot of those with my own personal opinion and tell you ways you can get around some of them.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Writing and Reading Stuff Going on

Hey everyone, I'm a little late getting my post out this week. I had family stuff come up over the weekend. I thought of just skipping this week's post but figured I had time to write something small about what's been going on with me.

I'm getting excited for Salt Lake Comic Con in September. I'm still waiting to get my full schedule for it, but this last week they announced that James and Oliver Phelps (who play Fred and George in Harry Potter) are going to be attending! Four years ago I got to meet some of the other actors and get their autographs in Florida when the last Harry Potte movie came out.


I definitely want to get James's and Oliver's autographs to go with them. :)

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Reminder that People Can Create Whatever the Heck They Want




Recently, one of my all-time favorite bands, Muse had a new album come out, and its release reminded me of something that a lot of consumers, especially in this day and age, forget: Creatives can make whatever the heck they want.

Too often I hear fans complain about a creative's new work. When J.K. Rowling released The Casual Vacancy, I heard people gripe about how she should have written another fantasy, or specifically a Harry Potter sequel. One person even said if she had any business sense and wanted to make more money, that that's what she should have done. I once read an article where the writer couldn't understand why J.K. Rowling was even writing anymore; she'd already made so much money writing Harry Potter so why would she want to put in the work to write anything else?

Similarly, I saw people a little upset to learn that Suzanne Collins's (author of The Hunger Games) next writing project was going to be something "ordinary" and "boring."

Months ago, I was looking at Spotify with someone and we ran into a Lady Gaga album, Cheek to Cheek. All the songs had a very "old-fashioned" jazz sound. Nothing sounded modern. The person I was with said something like, "Why would she even make an album like this? No one is going to buy it. I bet her fans were all disappointed."

Well, here is a newsflash for all the consumers out there. Creatives don't exist to serve us.

They don't owe us a thing.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kicking "Great" Dialogue up to "Killer" Dialogue (with Interstellar)



I'll start off by being honest. This post can't decide if it wants to be an Interstellar post about dialogue, or a dialogue post with Interstellar as examples. In a lot of ways, there's not much difference. But basically, I'm going to talk about strategies you can use to help kick your dialogue up.

Similar to my What I Learned about Writing Action Scenes post and my 15+ Tactics for Writing Humor post, I've been . . . unsatisfied with the information available on writing killer dialogue. I read a couple of books on it and writing tips, but you know, I'm obsessive, and I wanted more.

Most of the dialogue tips I've read have been either on the grammatical basics of how to write dialogue, or really about how not to write dialogue. They might go through how to punctuate dialogue, and then talk about what not to do. They talk about bad dialogue.

Yeah, well, what about beyond all that stuff?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tips for Finding Writing Motivation


walking-with-turtles asked: Do you have any tips or advice for motivating oneself to get back into writing after having fallen out of practice? :3 




Hmmm, one quote I know comes to mind: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily.” - Zig Ziglar

Monday, July 6, 2015

Interstellar: Ramping up Try/Fail Cycles




In writing, a try/fail cycle is the main character's attempt to resolve the story's problem. There are at least three try/fail cycles in every well-written story (of this structure). Often the main character will fail the first two cycles, but not always. In Interstellar, the first try/fail is the first planet they visit, the second try/fail is the second planet they visit, and the third try/fail is the black hole.

A good writer wants each try/fail cycle to be bigger or better than the previous one. That's one key to writing a successful story. Escalate. Escalate. Escalate. The writer has got to keep increasing the tension, the stakes, and the costs.

Like I said last time, Interstellar has huge stakes and costs, and the Nolans ramp them up to the max-- all at the first planet they visit, the first try/fail cycle! Most writers wouldn't be able to do that. Do you know why?


Monday, June 29, 2015

Interstellar: Skyscraping Costs




I've been talking about the writing techniques the Nolans used to really ramp up the Interstellar story and in particular, the audience's emotional journey with it. Today's post is all about taking the story's stakes and costs to the max. I mean, totally skyscraping them.

If you're not a writer, you might not know what I mean by "stakes" and "costs."

The stakes are what are "at stake" or "at risk" in the story, what your character has to lose. In The Hunger Games, Katniss's life is what is at stake, and the emotional (and physical) health of her sister. If Katniss doesn't win The Hunger Games, she'll die and Prim will be devastated. In some stories, a relationship is what is at stake. A lot of 90's movies are about the relationship between a father and son being at stake, because the father works too much. In other stories, it can be a job.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Interstellar: Keeping Conflicts Unresolved

Today's post is short, but the writing technique is still strong and effective. I've been talking about what Interstellar did to have a powerful emotional impact. One way was to keep a crucial conflict unresolved until the very very end of the story.



When Cooper has to leave his family, and Murph refuses to say goodbye, it creates strong tension in the audience. See, if Murph and Cooper would have made-up before he left, that tension would have been released, but instead, the writers amplified it by leaving it not only unresolved, but by taking advantage of the parent-child relationship that was going on, and the unknown future of Cooper. All these things worked together to take the emotion to a new height.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Interstellar: Gaining Incredible Emotional Power by Crossing Opposites




When I pressed "play" on Interstellar, I had no idea that I was about to have one of the most powerful emotional experiences of my movie-watching life. Sure, subconsciously I took into consideration that I would cry at the end of the movie. Maybe. I was not prepared to legitimately cry near the starting, in the middle, at the climax (multiple places), and at the resolution (in two places). On top of that, I was not expecting to experience emotion that was that raw. I don't know if I've ever experienced emotion that raw from a movie.

I was not alone.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Interstellar: Flipping Story Stuff

If you follow my Facebook, Tumblr, or G+, you may have encountered my ramblings about the movie Interstellar. And let's be honest. That movie is storytelling at its finest. It works so perfectly, in so many aspects, that of course I'm going to pull it apart and talk about the thing on my blog. Don't pretend to be surprised.



I realize I'm months late jumping on the Interstellar bandwagon, but I made it. And whether you saw the movie the first day it hit the big screen or you see the film this month, it's still a killer story. The movie had a huge impact on me. And frankly, I don't think I've watched a movie that made me that emotional since Les Miserables, and I'm not sure if even then. If you read my rants on social media, some of this particular post will be a repeat, but not all of it. I promise. And there will be more posts after this one.

I've talked several times on my blog about flipping story-parts on their heads for an interesting effect. The example I usually refer to is Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, which takes the classic hero-journey fantasy story and flips it. One way he does this is by starting the tale after the prophesied "hero" has attempted to kill the god-like antagonist--and died. That's like Harry finally reaching the climax of his battle with Voldemort, dying, and then J.K. Rowling starting the story there.

The point of flipping and twisting familiar concepts is that it creates a sense of originality, breathes fresh life into old ideas, and surprises viewers. Whenever you need to get your story to feel more original, whenever you need to brainstorm new ideas, you can look at flipping, twisting, and morphing a common concept. You can look at flipping, twisting, and morphing what is already at work in your story.

Interstellar did just that in several ways.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Some Good News!

Okay, so, I've been out of the blogging loop for a couple of weeks. I hurt my hand and so . . . yeah. Going two weeks without being able to type definitely tested my patience! Especially since the two loves of my life right now are writing and blogging. I really didn't hurt my hand that bad, but needed to give it time to heal. Health has to come first. But, I have some good news to share.

I'm going to be a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con this year!

Here are some reasons why this is exciting:



  1. Salt Lake Comic Con is the third largest Comic Con in the world. True story. It follows just behind the San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con. Salt Lake Comic Con had 120k attendees last year.
  2. Not only do I get to have fun and meet new people (and maybe cross paths with celebs in the backrooms), but I'll get some good practice in as a guest speaker (something I'll probably be doing a lot as a published author.) I love hearing people talk about stories they are passionate about, so that will be fun too.
  3. I've never been to a Comic Con (and frankly, once thought I never would).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Typing on a Dvorak Keyboard


I'm surprised how many people have never heard of the Dvorak keyboard, a keyboard layout that ramps up your typing speed, fends off carpel tunnel, and increases your accuracy. It's a layout that almost any computer lets you switch over to. If you're into writing for the long haul, you should consider swapping to the Dvorak.

The standard keyboard that we use here in the U.S. (as well as other English-speaking countries, I assume) is called the Qwerty keyboard. It's named after the first letters on it: Q,W,E,R,T,Y. Back in the day, the layout was designed to keep typewriters from jamming. The letters are arranged to keep those that are commonly used together, far apart. So we have "Q" and "U" six buttons away from each other even though they are almost always used together. This kept fast typists from jamming typewriters. It made them type slower.

Today, the Qwerty keyboard is still the standard layout even though its arrangement is not only irrelevant, but is holding pretty much everyone's typing speed and accuracy back, while helping them develop ailments like carpel tunnel more quickly than a Dvorak keyboard.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Writing Micro-concepts

Today I'm going to talk about what I call "micro-concepts." I don't know if there is a real term for them, but micro-concepts are cool little tidbits, little concepts that come up in some minor point of the story. They can be about a minor character, or a bit of indirect plot, or a snip of detail. They are really cool ideas or just great ideas that come up in passing. They may be only one sentence long or a couple of paragraphs.

In contrast, a "macro-concept" is an overall concept in a story. It might be the concept of your story itself. In The Hunger Games the idea that kids have to fight each other to the death in a reality t.v. show is a macro-concept. In the trilogy, Peeta becoming exactly what he feared was a character macro-concept. Macro-concepts are usually what come to mind when we talk about concepts in a story--we're thinking of the big picture. The overarching ideas.




But concepts appear in small aspects too. Micro-concepts are like that post I did a while back on picking the right details. We could pick some kind of generic concept for something small in our story, or we can pick something fresh or interesting. I'll give some examples.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Coping Constructively Vs. Destructively




Over the last couple of years, I've been thinking a lot about coping and how to cope better. We are all going to have difficult times in our lives, but how we cope has a huge impact on the quality of our lives.

I used to have bit of a problem with the concept that we can choose to be happy. I believed it, to an extent, but I've had some depressing moments in my life, and I wasn't sure I bought the idea that we could just choose to be happy and we would be. Whenever I heard the phrase "Choose to be happy," I pictured it like turning on a light by flipping a switch. You make the decision, and voila! You're happy!

Through experience and observation, I came to the conclusion that "light-switch" happiness is more like faking happiness. It's like that adage, "Fake it till you make it!" And while I think that can help on some level to some extent, I feel like that perspective is more like putting on a mask of happiness rather than being genuinely happy. It's like burying your other emotions and problems by slapping on a false smile. Not only can it be unhealthy, but it doesn't solve the source of your unhappiness.

I have since learned that the phrase "Choose to be happy," isn't actually anything like flipping a light switch. Choosing to be happy means choosing how to react. Really, it's about choosing how to cope. We can choose to cope in constructive ways or destructive ways.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Making Unlikeable People into Likeable Characters


Unlikeable people can be a pain to write if they're a main character. After all, our audience needs to like them enough to be around them for the course of the story. If our readers can't stand them, they won't want to read about them. But sometimes our protagonists are meant to be bad. They need to be bad. Heck, sometimes even the likeable people in our stories have jerk-qualities.

So how do we render their bad-qualities without driving our readers to throw our books across the room?

We turn our unlikeable people into likeable characters.

We make them such likeable characters, that the audience forgives, accepts, or overlooks that they are unlikeable people.

Here are six ways to do that.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Making Strengths into Weaknesses (and Vice Versa) through Context



Basics—


When we create characters, we give them strengths and weaknesses to make them more realistic. Let’s say we create a character named Erin. We give her some strengths—she is a great teacher, productive, and focused—and also weaknesses—she’s prideful and a complainer. Just by giving her these strengths and weaknesses, we’ve already made Erin interesting. But you can play with this even more. I’m going to show you how strengths can become weaknesses and weaknesses can become strengths through a shift in context. This can add complexity to your story (and characters).


Taking it Further—


Most people generally agree on what is categorized as a strength or a weakness. If I gave a list of character traits to a class and asked them to separate them into strengths and weaknesses, they would probably all agree on what goes where. If I said “liar” they would probably say “weakness.” If I said “peacemaker,” they would probably say “strength.” But sometimes when we switch the traits’ context, we (if only temporarily) switch their category in the story.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Deviating the Reader's Experience from the Character's



In my last post I talked about how subtext works and how to (not) write it. I mentioned that in some places, in some stories, you may want to make your reader's experience deviate from your character's experience.

Uh oh.

Does that not break a writing rule? Don't we want to write our stories so our readers feel like they are experiencing what our characters are? After all, I wrote that whole post about writing empathetically instead of sympathetically and sentimentally, and before that I wrote this post about putting the emotional tension in your reader, instead of writing about it on the page.

So what gives?

There are some situations where making your reader experience something different (and sometimes the opposite) of your viewpoint character is exactly what you want and need to do. So let's talk about how to break this writing rule properly.

Monday, March 30, 2015

How to Write What's Not Written (Subtext)


Subtext: *tries to be invisible*


I've been seeing a number of stories lately that are lacking in subtext. And honestly, it's no surprise. writing subtext (or, I guess not writing it) is flipping difficult to 1) understand 2) do. I had read about writing subtext like over two years ago, and only now do I feel like I'm starting to understand it and have conscious control over it. So, I'm going to attempt to try to explain how to do it.

What is Subtext?


The best definition of subtext, in my opinion, is this: subtext is what's not said; it is what is implied. 

Remember my humor post from a few weeks back? I talked about how Lemony Snicket had a specific technique he employed for some of his humor. He states the obvious. And then strongly implies the un-obvious. 

So subtext is what is implied. Look at this example of it that I just made up:
Robert, not bothering to raise his hand, spouted out an inappropriate joke.
"Robert, I don't want to hear that kind of language in my class," Mr. Henderson said, but the ends of his lips twitched up. "That's very offensive." He failed to suppress a full-blown grin. 
Here, we can tell that the teacher found whatever Robert said funny, but neither he nor the narrator comes out and tells the reader that. Instead it's implied by his body language and behavior--what he doesn't say. What Mr. Henderson actually says to Robert is at odds with how Mr. Henderson acts.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Real Reason We Shouldn't Hide Our Talents


I had a realization last year that totally changed my perspective. Ready for it?

You always do more good in the world by sharing your talents.

Do you know why? Because the people who don't like your talents, the people who disagree with you, who don't think you're very good at what you do, who think your talent is stupid--they're just going to shrug their shoulders, maybe say a few things about it, and then be on their way.

But the people you do touch with your talent, the people you connect with, will be blessed because of you. You might inspire them to do something more, to be a better person. If nothing else, you've given them a moment of happiness and awe and enjoyment. You've made their life better, if only for a second, by sharing your talent.

Monday, March 16, 2015

An Unsolicited Shoutout: James Duckett


Born helpless, nude and unable to provide for himself, James Duckett eventually overcame these handicaps to become a writer, a geek, and a lover of books.



Hey everyone! Once in a while I like to give a shoutout to some of my close friends in the writing world, and today I'm doing a special post on James Duckett. Why? Because he recently published his first book. Everybody celebrate! So, if you need an excuse to do something fun or a reason to make today spectacular, just remember, James Duckett has his first book out and you need to do something cool in his behalf.

His book, Pushing the Wall, is a memoir that follows the story of his first marathon:




What kind of idiot would run a marathon without training for it first? Me.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Birthday Giveaway!!! Harry Potter, Sherlock, The Hobbit, Trigun, FMA

(This giveaway is now closed)

Fun fact: the more birthdays you have, the longer you live.

Today is my birthday! Yay!! I'm older than I've ever been!

To celebrate, I'm doing a pick-your-prize giveaway, where the winner gets to pick an item from one of my favorite stories. These are a few of my favorite things: Harry Potter, Sherlock, The Hobbit (but more than that, Lord of the Rings), Trigun, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I tried to find a cool Hunger Games thing to giveaway, but had no luck.

Here's what the winner gets to pick from:


  • Harry Potter Time Turner Necklace (Need a few extra minutes? No problem!)
  • Trigun Decal (Meyaaaw)
  • A key to 221b Baker Street--who wouldn't want that ;) --key chain, so you can entertain Sherlock when he's bored.
  • (followers' favorite) Fullmetal Alchemist Pocket Watch (become a dog of the military)
  • The Ring from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings (Renders you invisible. Side effects include fleeing for you life from Ring-wraiths)
  • A Dark Mark temporary tattoo (Become a Death Eater . . . temporarily)
  • One of my favorite writing resources The Emotion Thesaurus. Learn how every mood is expressed physically, internally, mentally, and how it is suppressed, then learn how to write it! (This is an ebook copy, no a physical copy.) (I use this book almost every week.)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Three Tweaks that Keep Details Interesting




Over the last six months or so, I've learned a few new things about writing scenes. Today, specifically I'm going to share some techniques that can tweak your scene here and there to make it more interesting and to keep it from going stale. They are, expand, deepen, and create motion.

As some of you know, I work for David Farland, so his writing tips and lessons obviously have an impact on me, which is why I make sure to mention him right there on the right-hand column of my blog. Well, one of his writing tips led me to come up with the contents of today's post. This is just like a little hypothesis of mine that has developed over the last few months.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Picking the RIGHT Details



If you've been writing very long, you'll know the importance of mentioning details in your writing. Appealing to the senses and attention to detail is what will ground your reader and bring your story to life. Details often make it so that your reader experiences your story, instead of just reading about it.

So as writers, we might want to mention what a character is wearing, the color of her hair, the smell of a river, or the texture of a tent. Usually we want to tag our character's with a particular description. If you read Harry Potter, you'll know the Minister of Magic, Fudge, always has a bowler hat, that Dumbledore has twinkling eyes and half-moon spectacles, that Professor Trelawney wears shawls and smells like sherry. J.K. Rowling mentions the same details for these character regularly to tag them (or in a future post, I'll refer to them as "anchors"). It helps us remember who the characters are and reminds us of their demeanor.

But sometimes as writers we don't pick meaningful details. We just pick something. We might say that "the man wore a white shirt." Okay. But that's so generic, we might as well not even mention it. It's so generic, that the reader is going to forget it almost immediately after reading it. It's not even characteristically interesting enough to be a tag. So it won't even help us remember the character.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Relationship as a Character: Crafting Duos, Trios, Groups that Readers can't Resist



There are loads of resources about creating great characters. But when it comes to creating great relationships--the perfect tag team, the favorite couple, the best friends--the writing world is lacking. Whether your characters are romantic partners, coworkers, best friends, siblings or what have you, audiences eat up a wonderfully crafted duo, trio, or group.

People love Sherlock and Watson's relationship so much, that there is an entire fan community that roots for them to actually be together. Agents Mulder and Scully from X-Files worked so well together that they belonged together. I was once watching Harry Potter with someone who turned to me and said, "You know, I love how Harry, Ron, and Hermione all fit together."

Some kinds of relationships would still be entertaining to watch if the whole story revolved around the characters going to the grocery store--their relationship is that amusing. (In fact, one of my favorite X-Files episodes is where Mulder and Scully have to go undercover as a married couple living a normal life together. It's hilarious.)

This post is going to talk about some of the key factors in creating this effect. How do you create a tag team that we can't get enough of? Well, here are some things to consider.

Monday, February 9, 2015

15+ Tactics for Writing Humor

A monster-length master list of over 15 tactics for writing humor, with examples from The Office, Trigun, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Emperor's New Groove, The Fault in Our Stars, Harry Potter, Pink Panther, The Series of Unfortunate Events, Elf, Enchanted, The Amazing Spider-man, and more. Be prepared to laugh.



Introduction


I've been to a few workshops on writing humor, and I've read about writing humor, but the funny thing is, none of them really taught me how to actually write humor. But yet they all said the same thing: Writing humor is hard, harder than writing seriously, because if you fail at humor, you fail horribly.

I heard it so much, it made me fear failure rather than strive to develop that writing talent. For years I avoided writing humor, period. But the catch to that is that I also often hear how humor is a huge draw for an audience.

I read recently in Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts that humor is hard to teach and that some writers believe it can't be taught at all. If you know these writers, send them to this post, send them to this post.

People think writing humor can't be taught because they don't know how to teach it. Some people can write humor, but can't teach it. They don't know how they are funny because it's just intuitive and natural to them. I was at one workshop on humor, and the only "how-to" tip they gave was that humor had to just come up naturally in the story. But professional comedians slave away and work their butts off writing their jokes, and then practicing them. That's not natural. Sure, some comedians do improv (Whose Line is it Anyway? was one of my favorite shows), so they're more natural, but I believe most comedians have to work to be funny.



Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Break Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Adverbs, Adjectives"

As I promised last week when I talked about using cliches in your writing, today, I'm talking about using adverbs and adjective in your writing. When it comes to breaking the rules for adverbs and adjectives, you've got at least five great reasons to do it. 1) The verb or noun you need doesn't exist in your language. 2) To control pacing. 3) To communicate interesting or unusual situations. 4) To create a specific tone or character voice. 5) The adverb or adjective is doing double duty.


What's the Rule?


The Rule:
Don't use adverbs because it weakens your writing. Use adjectives rarely for the same reason.


Why it's a Rule

Take a look at these sentences:

She laughed happily.
The yellow sun was beating down on us.
Jasper pulled hard on the door knob.
"Get your butt to your room right now!" Cynthia said, angrily.
I quickly put on my beautiful, silky pointe shoes and with my thin, spindly, little fingers tie the ribbons around my bony ankle, so they fit constrictingly. I walk awkwardly to the dark, dim wings of the huge stage. I think about one fun evening at a local theater where I lovingly watched a ballerina dance gracefully across the stage and into the soft air. Happy and thrilled, everyone there smiled with joyful eyes.