Writing Roundup April

Lots more interesting writing links in April:

Here’s Ann Leckie talking about the reasons why “limited 3rd” isn’t always the best choice for narration in More Omniscient

But what if you want the POV of more than one person in a single scene? There are ways to do this without a scene break in limited 3rd, though you want to be careful with them, they require very close control of your POV, and a very careful consideration of how you’re moving the reader from character to character. I’m not going to say don’t try it–on the contrary, do try it! You’ll come out of it with better control of POV and the flow of information to the reader. But you know what can give your reader the thoughts of multiple characters in a single scene without so much as breaking a sweat?

That’s right. Omniscient.

(This goes along with the Rusch link about “serious writer voice” a few weeks ago)

I haven’t watched these two shows, but Carrie Vaughn gets some interesting points out of the respective season finales in The Flash v. Supergirl

The lesson:  A great way to increase tension in the story is to make sure the main character and the audience are on the same page, pointed in the same direction.  A great way to destroy tension is to put the character and audience at odds.

More links after the cut!

Here’s another post about writer’s block: PSA: 5-Point Writer’s Block Checklist

And that was me for the last couple of months. My productivity plummeted. The contract I was working on seemed complicated and hard to focus on…

Then I had a very overdue eye test and the optician regarded my current reading glasses and said, “I wouldn’t be wearing those.”

It wasn’t my brain. It wasn’t my Fickle Muse (Oh The Angst). It was my damned eyes.

Not getting around for my eye test had cost me weeks of productivity and even begun to trigger self doubt. Was I really able to hack it as a writer? Would it make me happy?

Stupid! Stupid! STUPID!

Except when I started talking to other people about this, they had similar stories. External stuff – illness, eyes, depression, RSI – seeps into our lives in imperceptible increments. We’re like a lobster going, “Ooo. Seafood! Where is that nice smell is coming from?” We don’t realise we’re the one being cooked until too late!

Rachel Aaron has an interesting schematic for creating characters and checking existing ones to make sure they are great: Writing Wednesday: GMC – A Stupidly Simple System for Great Character Creation

Point is, I’ve never had to think very much about my characters because, for me, they just happen. I always make sure to get down the basics like what they want out of life, their histories, what they look like, etc. When it comes to their personalities, though, I usually just know.

Serendipitous as that might sound, this has actually been a huge weakness for me as an author. Because my characters come to me from the void of creation largely intact, I’ve never needed to make any kind of system to keep them in line, which means when things do go wrong with my characters, they go catastrophically wrong, and I have no idea how to fix them.

This is a problem I’ve been pecking at for a long time as a writer, but while I love granular systems in all other aspects of my writing (see how I plot or how I edit for examples of the too organized author in action), I’ve shied away from doing the same for characters because I didn’t have a system of my own, and none of the ones I found ever felt right.

And then I discovered GMC, or Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Like all really good writing tools, the GMC system is extremely simple on the surface, but has endless layers of depth. All you do to start is ask your potential character 3 questions:

What do you want? (Goal)
Why do you want it? (Motivation)
What’s stopping you? (Conflict)

That’s it. Answer those three questions and you will know everything you need to know about why this character is in this story and how they’re going to react to the other characters around them.

A great post by Gail Z Martin about concluding series: Guest post from Gail Z Martin – When The End Comes

So here’s what I think matters when it comes to wrapping up a series or a multi-book story arc:

1. Wrap up the loose ends. Make sure you’ve got all the characters accounted for, the plot bunnies caged, and the stray threads tucked in neatly. Don’t leave us wondering ‘whatever happened to …”

2. Give us closure. It may turn out that fate and free will are illusions and everything is mere random chance, but if it does, human minds will still be driven to assign meaning and context. So whatever journey or quest your characters have taken, make sure that by the end, we know what it all meant and what comes from it. Leave us with a sense of purpose.

3. Glimpse the future. None of us knows what tomorrow brings, but that doesn’t stop us from making plans. So have your protagonist face the future with the intent to move forward, and let us know what that looks like.

4. Provide emotional satisfaction. If you’ve made us care and cry and laugh and bleed for this character, then the least you can do is give us the emotional satisfaction of knowing how the character feels when it’s all over, and perhaps how the other key characters feel as well.

How about adapting problematic material for modern audiences, with reference to the upcoming Doctor Strange movie. If you can’t win, change the rules of the game – Swan Tower

Or — and this is my preferred solution — get rid of the problem entirely, by getting rid of the Ancient One.

Jettison the inherently problematic baggage you inherited from previous versions of canon and come up with something better. Sure, the fanboys will wail and gnash their teeth — but whatever, they can suck it up. They already understand that there can be multiple different canons, sometimes with wildly divergent stories for how the hero got his powers; let this be another. Give Doctor Strange a different origin story, one that isn’t founded on a horrible racist stereotype. Change the rules of the game. Play something better.

Last but not least, Jim Munroe ran an interesting experiment: Writing Every Day: Experiment Conclusions

It allowed me to get through my backlog of weird ideas, and grow them from a seed to a seedling: like most writers, I have a list of them and most of them I never get to. There was something satisfying about getting to the end. It became a kind of journal where the music I was listening to or the friends I was thinking of or the places I was going in December 2015 wound themselves into my fiction.

It didn’t noticeably impact my progress on other projects or really dominate the day in the way a regular writing session would, but it added a creative spark to the day — I find that my non-creative work can encroach on it otherwise.

It let me hone my craft with different kinds of endings and beginnings and assess some of my patterns/biases.



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