Surprise! Surprise!

In the old days of Saturday afternoon Western movies, the Cavalry would often arrive at the last moment to save the day. de·us ex ma·chi·na (dāəs eks ˈmäkənə,ˌdāəs eks ˈmakənə/); noun an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. (“We” don’t do that in our writing, do we?) There’s nothing as wonderful as a surprise ending whether it’s in a movie, a story, a book or aRead more

Not Enough Novel for a Novel?

Writing too many words as discussed in my most recent Post can have its benefits. But what if we need a specific length and don’t have enough words to fill that requirement? Develop a story or two to weave in. Make them form a “rope” or a “braid” toward the end. Trim off the “ends” (literally!) until only the Protagonist is left then have him/her ride off into the sunset. ta-da The End How Am I Going to Do That?Read more

Two Books in One?

We have accomplished 126,000 words? Bravo! Now we need to either cut that back by editing a lot out or cut it into two different ideas, expand those to “fit” and away we go. Two books! But as always, it depends. For science fiction/fantasy, an author needs extra space to develop a world the reader is unfamiliar with so can be forgiven for writing lengthy tomes. Because these genres tend to run long, fans expect it. (But all the “rules”Read more

Be Kind to Your Critters

Be Nice to Your Readers Don’t make loveable anybody you’re planning to kill off in the first few pages. A reader won’t trust you anymore, and a reader has to be able to trust you in order to suspend disbelief. And to read the rest of the story. Along the same lines, try not to kill off the family pet unless you’re dealing with a really despicable antagonist. The term “bunny boiler” has come into use on Inter­net dating sitesRead more

Recycling Characters

Story Idea but Don’t Know Where to Begin? If you happened to read my November 7/15 Post, “Using Backstory without Using It” and took it to heart and tried it, you’ll be thrilled to learn that all your hard work might have paid off. Instead of sitting there looking at a blank screen as you try to begin your next work, grab one of those minor characters from your last novel — how about the gas jockey, the one yourRead more

Don’t Stalk Your Characters

Let’s ensure that our major characters live out their own lives while we observe, read their minds, and record. However … we must not: follow their every single move; look in the mirror with them; go to the toilet with them (unless it’s to see something unfortunate like blood in the urine or crabs in the pubic hair); go shopping with them — unless it’s to purchase a gun, rat poison, the wrong flowers (or flowers on the wrong day).Read more

Describe through Action

Actions Show Character and/or Motivation From Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: Because we know everything about our character, we know why he does what he does. The reader won’t care a whit that Bill was frightened by a dog when he was three years old because that would get in the way of the story. But we (as the  writer) know that when Roger chases Bill out of the restaurant and Bill jumps that fence, and there’sRead more

Describe without Details

Place We may describe a scene or a background to develop an atmosphere, a feel for the scene we are writing, but we must maintain restraint. Pages and pages on the colour of trees and long winding roads, etc., are no longer de rigueur in novels — except in literature class. Let us eschew the hell out of doing this, even for gothic novels. Marcel St-Amand, author of the Lemon Ultra action-adventure series, is a master at providing just enoughRead more

Using Backstory without Using It

The importance of backstory cannot be overemphasized. It’s a real joy when we create a character that comes alive and starts going her own way, thinking on her own, and making decisions. When it happens, we can pat ourselves on the back. What is backstory? It’s everything we (author) know about our character that never makes it into the final product. Because? It has nothing to do with the current story. Why bother with it then? The more backstory weRead more

An Opinion for EVERY Character

EVERY character has an attitude. An author MUST show this through Action and Dialogue. Or Action Alone, never dialogue alone. Why? Mere chatter is not an attitude. We need to throw some body language into it. Every character has an opinion about what’s going on. Even the bystanders. Let the reader see it. Perhaps … A smarmy look from an Extra (or equivalent) in a crowd. The stereotype is the gum-snapping, confrontational waitress with a hand on one hip (let’sRead more