Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Links of Interest

CHARACTERS: Why the characters make a book a keeper.

WRITING: Finding the hints in your writing of coming events in a novel.

PROMOTION: Setting up a writer's blog.

PROMOTION: How an author turned her books into bestsellers on the Kindle.

CRAFT: Creating tension with description.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Planning ahead so you'll get your writing done tomorrow.

THE IDEA FAIRY: Where good ideas come from and how you can get more.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: How self-publishing a book can hurt you if it was given an ISBN.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Examples of how to create goals for your writing and your career.

LIFE OF A WRITER: It's not just a hobby or avocation, it's a lifestyle.

LIFE OF A WRITER: The need to be a public you and the private you online and why you should.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Final Confrontation, CRAFT

The final meeting between the hero and his opponent must be more intense than any other battle before, and to be the winner, the hero must risk everything and lose something of inestimable value in order to win. It is not only a physical battle, but an emotional one as well.

The hero's special skill here should make the story stronger, not make the hero invincible. Think of Superman, Kryptonite, and the danger of invincibility to a story. Here's two story final confrontations --

STORY A: Several world leaders are held hostage by Lex Luthor who has tied them to Kryptonite poles. Though weak, Superman manages to rescue them and gets far enough away from the Kryptonite to regain his strength to defeat Luthor.


STORY B: Several world leaders are held hostage by Lex Luthor who has tied them to Kryptonite poles. They are surrounded by cameras so the whole world watches.

Luthor wants Clark Kent to act as hostage negotiator, and if anyone else including Superman comes near them, an explosion will kill both leaders. Clark approaches but sees the Kryptonite in the poles. If he goes forward and becomes weak, Luthor and the world will know he's Superman. If he backs away, Luthor will kill them immediately.

Here's his dilemma -- save two important leaders or lose his identity as Clark Kent.

But Clark Kent is more than a role, it's his humanity. Clark belongs to Earth and fellow humans, and he has a relationship with them. They see him as an equal.

Superman, however, is a superior alien who can never have an equal relationship with humans who see his powers and are afraid or uncomfortable. If he is no longer Clark, he will be totally alone.

Losing his identity as Clark Kent is his greatest emotional fear. What should he do?

Which story is stronger and more interesting? I'm sure you'll say the second one because more than physical danger is involved. Clark/Superman must risk something of great emotional importance to win, and by winning, he will ultimately lose.

To make your story and its ending stronger, find the main character's greatest emotional weakness and hit him there with your plot in the same way as you hit him with his physical weakness.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Links of Interest

THE LIFE OF THE WRITER: Building courage to face the life of the writer.

LEARNING FROM OTHERS' MISTAKES: How watching something so wrong can be so right.

WORLDBUILDING: Science fiction research sources.

HEINLEIN'S RULES FOR WRITING: I agree with all but #3.

MARKET NEWS: SWORD AND SORCERESS is now open for short story submissions.



BUSINESS OF WRITING: Career goal setting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shapeshifters and Mass, CRAFT

If your shapeshifter creatures are real, not magic, one problem you need to consider is the physical logistics. If a man can change into a mouse and back to a man, can the mouse weight less than a pound and a man weight much more?

In a magical fantasy, that is acceptable since magic by its nature defies the laws of nature and physics, but if you've created a real race of werewolves that exist in this world with its natural laws, you can't make the weight go away and come back.

According to the laws of physics, mass can be lost, but it can't be regained in a closed system.

If a man turns into a wolf, the wolf will weigh just a little less than the man weighed because some of the weight was burned off as the energy needed to make the physical change. Think of it as the energy equivalent of running a marathon. To change back into the man, even more energy would be burned.

The question of mass makes for interesting possibilities in a story. In my short story, "The Werewolf Whisperer," the protagonist is trapped in wolf form in an animal shelter. The only way out of the shelter requires his being neutered. The change from wolf to man heals most injuries, but it can't replace lost mass. If he's neutered as a wolf, he will be neutered as a human as well.

My protagonist definitely doesn't want that to happen so he must find another way out of the shelter.

Here's other interesting questions to consider in your stories. If mass is burned in the change, and the wolf or man is totally lean with nothing in his stomach, where will the burned mass come from?

Doesn't that mean that somehow the wolf must have a full stomach before the change comes, or he could die of starvation, be very weak from loss of muscle, or be crippled somehow?

If a man changes into a dragon, how big will his wings have to be to handle an adult human male's weight?

As I said, interesting possibilities. Logical worldbuilding offers more interesting possibilities than sloppy worldbuilding ever will. Take the extra effort to think out all aspects of your creatures' existence, and you'll have a better story.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Links of Interest

CRAFT: If your novel is a little short. Good suggestions that also work when you're first writing the story.

MARKETS: Mainly sf/fantasy/horror short stories, but some novel publishers.

CRAFT: 7 Tips for editing your novel.

CRAFT: How to make your novel a page turner.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Why books do and don't appear on bookstore shelves.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY annual SF/Fantasy issue.


EDITOR INTERVIEW: Rachel Meisel of Summerside Press.

BUSINESS AND LIFE OF THE WRITER: Setting different kinds of goals.


LIBRARIES: How books get into libraries.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magic in the Real World, CRAFT

If you are writing fantasy, you can do things that won't work in the real world. A person can levitate or fly, change shape and mass, or anything else as long as you stay within the rules you've created for that fantasy world.

However, some real world rules apply. Magic use should take a physical toll on the human wizard since it uses physical and mental energy. You can decide just how much energy is needed in your world, but you'll have to make sure your user has to eat and rest at a certain point.

Many recent novels with vampires, werewolves, and other creatures have presented these creatures as real, not magic. They are genetic mutations, or victims of a virus, or something like that.

If your creatures are real, not magic, then you have to think carefully about their special abilities, their energy requirements, etc., because you can no longer get away with saying that it's magic and doesn't have to make sense.

I'll talk more about that next week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Links of Interest

PUBLISHING: Abbreviations used in publishing.



PUBLISHING TERMS DEFINED: Another good explanation of royalties, earning out, and advances.

QUERIES: Comparing your book to others.

MARKET: SF and fantasy stories wanted. Longer length. Decent payment.

MARKETS: A listing of short story and fiction venues for ethnic fiction. Sign up for the email version of this market site while you are at it. It's an excellent resource, particularly for romance markets.


BUSINESS OF WRITING: Succeeding rather than surviving.


WORKSHOPS: I now have two workshops scheduled with another TBA.

The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question, April 11-May 8, 2010 at

Have you ever read a story then felt dissatisfied by it as you put it down? All the story elements--plot, characters, romance, and suspense--were there, but something was missing. That something is often called depth or resonance, and it's that element that turns an ordinary story into one you couldn't put down.

How do you create a story like that? It starts with the creation of the story. I’ll show you how to take a simple plot idea, premise, or character and turn it into a novel with resonance.

Magic, Monsters and Amour: Creating a Believable Paranormal, Fantasy, or SF World. October 4-31, 2010 at October 4-31, 2010 at

Are vampires, fairies, and space aliens real? If you create the right background for your paranormal romance, they will be to a reader. I'll show you how to create a fantasy or paranormal background from scratch and how to make it utterly believable.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fantasy Creatures in the Real World, CRAFT

Werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings have become a staple in current genre fiction. One problem I've seen in many of the fight scenes involving these creatures is created by a flaw in worldbuilding.

Consider this scene from a contemporary novel: The vampire protagonist is in a dangerous part of a major city, and he's attacked by a large pack of demon-possessed humans. He fights them off until some of his vampire friends arrive, and all the demon-possessed humans are murdered. Fortunately, no normal humans saw the fight so the vampires' existence remains a secret. They stalk away into the night.

What's the problem? Simple. How can a race remain a secret for long with widespread killings and the sheer number of combatants on both sides? Wouldn't the police become a tad suspicious if the murders kept building up? Wouldn't a medical examiner suggest that someone with superhuman strength ripped these guys apart? And what about that weird DNA found on the ripped throat of one of the victims?

The fight itself can be perfectly choreographed and written, but at its end, when all the bodies are lying there, and the vampires are leaving the scene, some readers will go, "Wait a minute. What about the police? What about...." If you leave that kind of question, the fight scene has failed.

In a recent urban fantasy novel, the human-shaped demons spent the novel taking human prey while the vampires were killing the demons and the vampire hunters were killing the vampires, yet the humans and the police were apparently totally clueless about the existence of any of these creatures and unconcerned at a body count that fit a war zone, not an American city.

For a race like vampires or werewolves to remain secret, they must have very small numbers, a large number of anything can't be kept secret, or the race rarely makes contact with humans.

If they take prey, they must dispose of the bodies so no evidence of the death will ever be found. Their prey must also be on the edges of human society so that their loss won't be obvious. In other words, vampires should attack a homeless person, not the beautiful young Countess surrounded by friends, retainers, and family.

Vampires definitely shouldn't attack tourists in a town which supports itself with tourism. Considering the incredible national coverage and outrage caused by just a few tourist deaths in places like Miami and New Orleans in recent years, it's highly unlikely that dozens of tourists becoming monster chow wouldn't cause a similar outcry and intense scrutiny.

Real world logic applies even to supernatural characters. Make the fight and its outcome logical, or you've failed.