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Monday, March 27, 2017

Why We Need Stories about Dark Things




One of the things I get tired of from time to time is the perspective that if something shows evil behavior then that means the story, song, game, whatever, is inherently bad. But there is a difference between illustrating evil behavior and promoting it.

Not all appearances of bad behavior invite bad behavior.

While one purpose of storytelling is to entertain, another purpose is to teach or educate--a purpose that in today's world, most people seem to have forgotten.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tension vs. Conflict (Hint: They aren't the Same Thing)



I used to think tension and conflict were the same thing. I mean don't they go together?

Well, a lot of the time they do, but it's entirely possible to have one without the other. They often go hand-in-hand, but they aren't the same thing. Conflict doesn't necessarily equal tension, and tension doesn't equal conflict.

Lately I've been editing stories that seem to have so much conflict and no tension! I don't care about the conflicts. I don't care about the characters. Because there is no tension.

Tension isn't the conflict.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Writers' Most Frequently Asked Questions



Writers get asked a lot of questions. They have an uncommon job and an uncommon pursuit. So I decided to go through some of the most frequently asked questions and provide some general answers, sprinkling some of my own answers in, too.

Where do you get your ideas?

This is the most common question writers get asked, and often the answers aren't that amazing. Ideas come from everything--interesting facts, song lyrics, life experiences, people-watching, movies, other books. Sometimes I get ideas sitting in Sunday school class. I've gotten ideas listening to college lectures. A lot of the time I get them because I'm sitting down with a paper brainstorming; I force myself to come up with ideas. Some writers get them from dreams (I never have). Sometimes inspiration strikes out of the blue. Most of the time, for me, it comes because I'm working hard at coming up with them. A lot of times I think about what others have done in storytelling, and how I can twist or morph that in a way that's new or interesting or surprising. I might try to think of a way to top it.

Askers will almost always get a more interesting answer if they are a bit more specific, "Where did the idea for this book come from?" "How did you come up with this character?" "Such-and-such was my favorite part, how did you come up with the idea for that?"

Specific aspects are pretty interesting, but talking about ideas in general can be rather vague.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Long Road



The path to being an exceptional writer is long. The road is marked with goatheads and brambles, and other times there are small stretches of gold bricks. The long road is not necessarily measured in time, but it can be. It can be time. It can be effort. It can be in written words.

But in the end, it's a long road.

Lately I've been thinking of that long road. It's difficult to move from a beginning writer to a good writer, but the work is even greater and harder to move from a good writer to an exceptional one. It can take blood, sweat, tears, and more than that.

I do a lot of editing, and in the process, I find myself reflecting on the magnitude of such a feat. . . . so many writers who have worked hard to get where they are, and they still have a long way to go. I've edited manuscripts from military professionals, people who work for NASA, university professors, and employees in Hollywood, and do you want to know a secret?

We all start at the beginning.