Western literature’s oldest critic tells us why critique partners help us avoid the idiot plot… .
I finished revising The Last Omen last week, and have moved on to trying a new approach to short story writing. The novel came up in conversation with my wife two nights ago and I discovered, yet again, that telling the events of the story does wonders for ironing out the plot.
My wife is not a fantasy reader, in fact, she reads very little fiction, and since discovering audiobooks has gotten most of her “literature” from Audible. She does love a good supernatural story, but mostly in contemporary form, and on TV or a movie. I think fantasy readers are especially forgiving when it comes to certain elements of plot as long as there is cool stuff going on. As an example of this attitude, Brandon Sanderson’s most important law of magic is “err on the side of awesome.” We write and read fantasy because it’s fun, and because it satisfies our craving for the stupendous, but someone really into that side of things is not the best critic when it comes to plot. Continue reading “Aristotle Says “Pitch Your Book””→
A Veil of Spears is the third full-length novel in the Song of Shattered Sands series by author Bradley P. Beaulieu, which began with Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. The author has created a setting for the ages, akin to Hogwart’s, Randland, and Middle Earth, but I would argue Sharakhai is even better because at the heart of this series is a central character who is deeper and more complex than Harry, Rand al’Thor, or Frodo. There is a supporting cast of nobles, “gutter wrens,” Blade Maidens, revolutionaries, monsters, and various mentors, but Ceda and her quest to understand her origins remains the central driving force behind this series. If this book disappoints in any way, it’s that there is not enough time with Ceda.
Howdy there: I have been playing around with GIMP and have found some cool ways to make my own artwork, so I gave the blog a new look. Tell me what you think. I created the new banner just by playing around and trying to create something related to the themes of my books.
To end all questions: yes, I and the family are moving to Colorado in June. I will miss New England and the writing scene here, but I’m looking forward to being close to my extended family and old friends in Colorado. I haven’t been blogging or writing short stories lately because we’re getting our house ready to sell and I have to focus on the novel. This is not an apology. I like writing this blog, and I have plenty of stuff I want to write about and discuss, but it’s a lower priority.
Why ask me? This book is a classic that goes beyond all internet reviews. School librarians and teachers will forever be recommending this book, and with good reason. If you’re going to read it as an adult, don’t expect too much, but kids will remember it forever. I just read it to my children and we went to see the movie. It’s a cerebral, magical, wonder-filled book that is great for children from 8-12. I highly recommend it for reading aloud or reading solo. The kids loved it. It’s imaginative and adventurous, with plenty of laughs and cries. The thing I liked most about it was reading a children’s book that quotes Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, and Cervantes in their original languages. That’s the kind of book I want to read to my kids. Continue reading “A Wrinkle in Time”→
In which I alienate readers by talking about music… .
I’ve posted a brief video on a new channel, with a few tips on how to tune a 5-string banjo. If you’ve come here via search, enjoy the video and check out my other posts on books, movies, storytelling, and the writing process.
The take-away from the video is that if your banjo is too difficult to tune to itself then it needs to see a professional luthier experienced with banjos.
An exploration of what makes a book readable and hooks readers, in which I alienate beer drinkers… .
Readability is not a joke. Of course, this is how I treated it a few weeks ago when I first noticed the readability of Peter V. Brett’s debut novel The Warded Man. The speed at which I read the first book of Brett’s Demon Cycle series and the way I kept going back to reading it–and actually enjoying it–left me thinking it was just really easy to read. This was funny because a book should be easy to read, and if it’s a pain to read, and you have to drag yourself into reading it, then why are you reading it? It reminded me of a billboard for Bud Light that hung over the entrance to the O’Neill Tunnel in Boston: “Superior Drinkability.” If you’re selling a drink it really ought to be drinkable, or else something is wrong. Continue reading “Superior Readability”→
Over the past couple weeks I have watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (hereafter Star Wars) twice, along with bits of other films from the prequel and original trilogy. Also last month, I saw The Last Jedi in a special preview. My kids talk about Star Wars nonstop, have huge amounts of Star Wars Legos, books, lightsabers, droids, and video games. This is different from when I was a kid: we saw Star Wars once a year on TV, and The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi once every two to three years (seeing the Ewoks was a treat). Star Wars bonus material was hard to come by even in gaming stores and other genre-oriented places. It wasn’t until I had kids who were old enough for Star Wars that I noticed the glut of material now available (including the entire EU, which was around, but not really part of my universe). Soon after that Episode VII was announced and you’re all familiar with the story from there.
I have gone into back to basics mode: what does it mean to tell a story? I have been reading a lot of short stories since giving up on A Game of Thrones for what must be the eightieth time. Not just fantasy or science fiction, but authors of all nationalities, genres, and styles. I have been reading Chekhov, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Flannery O’Connor, and others who I used to read before I got the idea that I had to give myself assignments and read stuff that was current. I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things: Continue reading “Back to Basics: compelling short stories and character motivations”→