Six impossible things

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The Problem with Prologues

Prologues are out of favor these days, one of the “forbidden” (by whom?) writing techniques, yet people keep asking about them because they know intuitively that the technique has enormous possibilities. Quite a few folks go ahead and use them anyway. Sometimes this works brilliantly; other times, […]

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The holiday season is a time for parties, especially the sort of parties that people throw in order to introduce interesting friends and neighbors to other interesting friends and neighbors they haven’t met but might like. It’s a great way to meet interesting people, and the first […]

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Decisions, decisions

A while back, I was talking with a young writer who was bogged down in mid-novel. The conversation went something like this (with names and plot points changed to protect the guilty): Writer: “I’m totally stuck. My characters are down in the ravine and I don’t know […]

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Mailbag #6

How did you know that you wanted to be a writer? I didn’t. I never, ever wanted to “be a writer.” I wanted to write. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to get these blasted characters out of my head and nailed down on paper so […]

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Hooking the Reader

I’ve talked before about the opening of a story and some of the things that can go wrong with the all-drama, all-action, all-the-time “hook.” But it occurs to me that I haven’t talked much about what a hook is, or how to do it right. Hence today’s post. […]

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Order and outlines

Back in grade school, when they taught us to write essays, the first step was always “decide on a topic,” and the second one was “make an outline/plan.” Nowadays there’s a lot more focus on creativity, i.e., writing fiction instead of essays. Based on what I’ve seen […]

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The Eight Deadly Words

“I don’t CARE what happens to these people.” – Dorothy J. Heydt Stories are, at bottom, about people (or people-analogs, like anthropomorphized talking animals). But more than that, they’re about people or people-analogs that the reader cares about. Hooks and cliffhangers, opening in medias res, lots of […]

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The Opening

It has become a truism in writing that one should always open a story with a “hook” – something that grabs the reader and pulls them into the story, forcing them to keep reading. The problem with this is that what “hooks” one reader will annoy or […]

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Choice paralysis

Starting a completely new story is exciting. There aren’t any constraints to worry about:  no dangling plot threads that you have to tie up, no previously established background that you have to stay consistent with, no inconvenient mysteries or revelations that you’re stuck with. It’s a clean slate, […]

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Before the Beginning

Probably the most often-asked question writers get is “Where do you get your ideas?” Very few people ever ask “What do you do with your ideas once you have them?” though that seems to me to be the logical next step. It seems a good many people […]

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