Posts Tagged ‘write what you know’

Writing what we don’t know

Musing today on that sage advice, write what you know.  Sounds like a good idea, but is it?

Not if we take it too literally. We don’t write to record what we’ve done or re-imagine what we’ve done. It could be argued that we write to experience something vicariously. And these events or experiences might be quite new to us.

Like many fiction writers, you may–like me–have a boring life. We keep our lives uneventful so that nothing will get in the way of writing. (Maybe this in itself should warn off aspiring writers. Write novels, and you will shun the world.) E.L. Doctorow said in a recent interview in the Paris Review that “A writer’s live is so hazardous that anything he does is bad for him.” Read More…

Fiction Myths

Not everything you read on writing blogs is true. It kills me to admit it, but sometimes I’m just dead wrong. Blogs, even by seasoned professionals are laced with personal opinion. And sometimes writing teachers repeat in an unquestioning manner delivered “truths” that don’t hold up.

Here are five pieces of bad writing advice, and why they lead you astray.  You’ll see some of these items expounded upon in upcoming posts. But for now, the slightly annotated list:

1. Start the plot as close to the beginning as possible.

In other words, “the moment the world changed” for that character should be close to the beginning. No, really not. Because you spend the first part of the novel with set up and showing the mundane world so that when the world changes we have reason to care. Novel openings are so tricky. That’s why your favorite author may use an action-filled prologue–useful, but often abused. The true action of the plot starts at what screenwriters call plot point one. So how to open? Watch for my blog on bridging conflict.

2. “Keep throwing rocks at your protagonist.”

This advice, meant to remind writers to keep the protagonist under pressure is responsible for tons and tons of episodic writing, wherein the major character trudging through your plot is confronted, one after the other, by different obstacles at the same level of intensity. But conflict must escalate (in emotional intensity if nothing else.) You don’t keep playing the same tonal plot chords over and over. The tension escalates because the forces of opposition grow more determined and the major character moves from willing to passionately involved.

3. End chapters with a cliffhanger.

Personally, I hate chapters that end this way. If I’m loving the story, I’m coming back to your book the next time I sit down to read. You don’t need to gimmick me into reading on. Read More…