Six impossible things


Idiot Plots

An idiot plot was first defined by James Blish as a plot that only hangs together because all of the main characters act like idiots. I’d add “…when they’re not supposed to be idiots,” because there are plenty of effective (usually comic) stories where the point is that […]

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Different structures

The structure of a story is its bones – or rather, it’s the way those bones are presented to the reader, the way things are organized and the patterns they make. Like bones, there are large ones and tiny ones; chains of things that fit together to […]

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Noon vs. Midnight

“You can’t tell stories about sunshine.” – Garrison Keillor Last Sunday, I was listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” as I frequently do of a Sunday morning, and the news from Lake Woebegone was about a group of men going out bass fishing on a day that […]

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Kitten Interlude

“A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the […]

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Hats and Rabbits

Writing isn’t magic. You can’t just say “Presto! A rabbit!” and pull a rabbit out of a hat. (Well, you can, but nobody is likely to believe it.) No, if you’re going to pull a rabbit out of a hat, you have to start by sneaking the […]

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Get it Out

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  – Groucho Marx Every so often, someone comes up to me at a social event and after talking for a while, they come out with “I have a […]

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Being mean

Lots of writers talk about being mean to their characters. Lots of critique groups tell writers to be meaner to their characters, to figure out what the worst possible thing is that can happen to that character, and then somehow make it happen. Of course, it has […]

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Plots without villains

More than once over the years, I’ve run into writers who complain about writing villains or who have trouble finding a “Big Bad” for their stories. Usually, they’ve somehow gotten the impression that every story has to have a villain of some sort, who has to be […]

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Some announcements and some characters

First, a couple of announcements. My e-publisher is having a summer sale, which includes Sorcery and Cecelia and a bunch of other things. It lasts until July 22nd. Second, I’m hoping that at some time in the next month or thereabouts, the new, improved, much cleaner and more […]

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“Crossover” is one of those writing terms that has multiple meanings, depending on to whom you’re talking and what you’re talking about. In fanfiction, for instance, it refers to a story that includes characters from totally different series or settings – Superman shows up in “Romeo and […]

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