Six impossible things


Making stuff up: Characters to plot

Every writer I know has a lot of trouble with some part of the making-up process. The most common difficulties seem to be with plot, or with characters…and quite often, the people who find making up characters “the easy part” have horrible difficulties with plot, and vice […]

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Making stuff up: plot to characters

The plot-centered story is popularly assumed to be the territory of the action-adventure story. This is because action-adventure pretty much requires a strong plot. But we’re talking about process here, and the way writers make stuff up, and that means that the kind of story is irrelevant. […]

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Making it up in general

Writing fiction comes in two parts: making it up, and writing it down. For some writers – the seat-of-the-pants sort who just sit down and wing it – the two things happen simultaneously, or at least so close together that it is practically impossible for anything working […]

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What you want and what you need

For a writer, stories start in all sorts of places. Sometimes, it’s a headline that makes you think “If that had happened a little sooner, or in a different place, or to someone who wasn’t a celebrity…” or “What happens if they keep doing this?” Sometimes it’s […]

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Career decisions

First things first: I think we may have the comments problem fixed, though I may have to reapprove people the first time. I’ll try to keep an eye on it, but anyone who doesn’t see their remark after a day or so, please email me. A writing […]

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What if…

One of the really common recommendations for generating plot ideas is “Ask yourself What if… about something.” It’s the foundation of Alternate History stories, from changes that everyone recognizes – What if the South had won the Civil War? What if Napoleon had won at Waterloo? What […]

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Tax Tracking

As you can probably tell, we’re still having difficulties with the web site, off and on. Also, for anyone who still has my old email address, has permanently stopped working; the only one that works now is the one on the main web page, Thanks […]

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What they do while they’re talking

The last set of considerations in a dialog scene are not, strictly speaking, dialog; they’re the speech tags, body language, and stage business that happen around the dialog. But various students of communication contend that somewhere between forty and eighty percent of what we communicate is done […]

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How it gets said #3: Syntax, grammar, and typography

Syntax is the arrangement or sequence of words in a sentence – for example, whether one writes “Something wicked comes this way” or “Something wicked this way comes.” The order in which one places the words and phrases can be a subtle indicator of emphasis (or de-emphasis) […]

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How it gets said #2: Punctuation

The workhorse of conveying tone and delivery within dialog is punctuation. Dialog certainly can follow the standard English rules for punctuation, but often it doesn’t. The differences are as much about leaving out “required” punctuation as they are about adding more or less of it than the […]

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