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December 26th, 2006

11:37 pm: Ten things you can do in the middles of novels
This, of course, depends on the techniques you use—outlining as opposed to not outlining, structuring by chapters or scenes, whether the story’s episodic or not, how many viewpoints you’re using and what kind they are—but I’m hoping that the sheer variety of suggestions here can offer at least one that crosses boundaries.

Ten things that may help in the middle of a novel )

So there you are. Full of my own prejudices, but I’ve tried to admit them—you may have noticed the propensity to think of stories as animals—and I hope that it didn’t drag in the middle.

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December 17th, 2006

07:12 pm: Cohering a hero
Or “pulling all the damn stuff together.” Part matching the protagonist with the background of her world, part making her seem like a real person…that kind of thing.

Cool traits actually joined together )

(I actually think it’s far more fascinating to create a character out of traits that almost anybody can have rather than “Because it’s cool,” which is probably why I’m so in favor of ordinary, limited heroes).

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October 22nd, 2006

04:22 pm: Group dynamics rant
Another rant that I simply wanted to write.

Why ‘the heroine and some other people’ doesn’t cut it )

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September 23rd, 2006

08:07 pm: More on body-centered writing
This is a somewhat disconnected essay. Then again, I’m in a disconnected mood.

On keeping your characters in the world, and not just the clouds )

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September 18th, 2006

09:39 pm: Ways to make a reader hate your hero
This sounded like a fun rant from the list of suggestions, light and easy to do, so up it goes.

Pure, deep, heroic loathing )

Yes, shorter than usual. Blame the pressures of time and wanting to slap most of the characters in The Woodlanders.

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September 13th, 2006

09:07 pm: Loose ends rant
This is another one where I had difficulty deciding on the title for the rant. By “loose ends,” I mean not just the usual subplots or themes and concepts that might drift about in the wind at the end of a novel, but those things you want to leave untied. I like those stories best that seem to go on beyond the end, the characters who live after you let them walk off the page, those plots with reverberations that don’t just stop with a bump. So this discusses, as I see it—always as I see it, because there are exceptions for each of these if the book is written well enough—some ways of judging what loose ends might work to enhance your story and which will just muddle it.

See? Not a good title )

There’s always a risk to take with loose ends. But that’s true of every single story that reaches for more than mediocrity.

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September 10th, 2006

10:36 pm: Variations on a theme of ecological fantasy
This is mostly another, “Here is a list of ideas I think are really cool!” entries, and it doesn’t go into that much detail on any one of them. Just thinking about writing these gets me all bouncy. These are not prescriptions, these are Shiny.

Some patterns )

And now that I have chattered on and on and on, in at least partial incoherence—I’m sorry; this touches on my major interest as an English academic as well as one of my major interests in fantasy—I’ll give it a rest.

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September 6th, 2006

08:52 pm: Non-complex fantasy
A few people have asked for a rant on…non-complex fantasy.

I dislike this name. But I have stared at it for a while now, and there doesn’t seem to be any better replacement for it. “Simplistic” fantasy is an insult, and “light” fantasy usually implies some element of humor that’s not always there. A book can be a good read without delving into the most Byzantine themes ever and without having a joke every three pages. That’s the kind of book I’m talking about here.

(I will note that it isn’t the kind of book I usually enjoy, since temperamentally I’m inclined towards fantasy that makes me strain my intellect to keep up with the ideas being presented and smashes me into an emotional wreck by the end. I don’t always find it, but the books I love do it, and the ones I like the most come closer to it than not. So this rant may have hidden biases).

Non-complex fantasy )

Still not sure about the name of this rant, but the only other term I’ve thought of is “mindless,” and that would result in extreme sarcasm against the whole idea, so non-complex it remains.

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September 3rd, 2006

08:57 pm: On alien species and worlds and keeping them alien
So, back in that poll I did lo these many months ago, [info]latterdayoberon asked about creating alien races/worlds and keeping them alien—not making them so anthropomorphic they lose that edge of alienness. And thinking about that produced this. “This” is once again more an essay-like collection of tips and advice which might work. Alienness, like humor, is so often subjective that I’d hesitate to say, “This will make a character seem inhuman/a world different from Earth every time and to every reader.”

Inhuman/unhuman: when it’s a good thing )

I did plan to write a rant at some stage about making fantasy less anthropocentric, but this seems to cover half the points I would have raised there.

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August 31st, 2006

10:05 pm: Subplot rant
Uh, no clever introduction this time. Several people asked for a subplot rant. Here it is.

No clever cut title, either )

All I have to say on the subject for right now, as I’m pretty tired.

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August 26th, 2006

09:53 pm: Varying a story's emotional tone
This one was inspired by books that make me feel like I’m taking an acid bath in one kind of emotion—specifically, Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson and any number of Piers Anthony’s pun-driven novels—and by others that seem to fear allowing any kind of emotion other than ANGST ANGST ANGST or SLAPSTICK HUMOR HA HA into them will ruin them. So this is a discussion of ways to vary a book’s emotional tone, both to give it more “color” on the palette and to avoid burying your reader in too much of one feeling.

It’s hard to paint in shades of gray when all you have is either darkness or light )

I like books with varied emotional tones because they’re usually the ones where the characters feel most alive to me. They haven’t forgotten living while they go about this business of being in a story.

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August 23rd, 2006

08:02 pm: Having "different" sexual practices in one's world
This is just a short and, at times, rather obvious rant to get back into the swing of things; I recently returned to university and am running around trying to get settled.

And, after all, it goes with the continuing theme of romance and sex )

I don’t know why there seems to be a tendency to idealize particular sexual practices in fantasy—whether it’s a cousin of the tendency to idealize romance, or whether an impression truly exists that we have just got sexuality all wrong in our world and in any other world, it would be better.

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August 16th, 2006

08:49 pm: On making non-utopian fantasy worlds
Blame [info]otakukeith for this one. Or me, since I wrote the essay and he only gave the suggestion.

Why they don’t have to be perfect )

Now I must think on the next rant.

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August 11th, 2006

08:55 pm: Writing believable romance (part 2)
This one is not really like the other portion of the rant, despite the “part two” at the top. For one thing, the other part could apply to genres outside of fantasy much more easily. For a second, this is just as much about world-building as plot and characterization.

With that in mind, now we begin )

Haven’t decided on the next topic yet. Shall have to do that fairly soon.

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August 7th, 2006

09:03 pm: Writing believable romance (part 1)
I’ve already written a rant on non-bickering, non-love at first sight romances. This one’s different. That one also includes notes about leaving characters single and not turning every sexual relationship into a romantic one. This one does accept that you have characters in love.

And, once again, just like the sex rant, it’s really, really personal. I have my biases (you will see one in my first point). I am a very, very, very picky reader of romances. Most don’t feel real to me, and I read around them and refuse to care about them at all. So whether you’ll find this rant useful or not might depend on a) how much you agree with me, and b) how much you mind some of the things I hate.

Here we go )

That was very picky, wasn’t it? You can see why I dislike romance novels. And fantasy romances. And science fiction romances. And most movies. And a whole ton of television shows.

Next part will be much more fantasy-oriented, on differing ideals of love and what you might do with them. Stay true.

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August 3rd, 2006

08:10 pm: Writing sex scenes
This rant is personal—as in, based on those things that I’ve found to work for me, along with some other peoples’ tips on the subject that I think are useful. I don’t get into specifics like, “Write this kind of sex this way…” It’s very general.

And “foul” language warning. For appropriate definitions of “foul.” Also, somebody should probably take the pun generator away from me.

If it’s just Tab A and Slot B, there’s a problem )

I think the rant on killing secondary characters is next. With fewer puns, I do hope.

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August 1st, 2006

07:54 pm: How to write complex, real royals true-to-character
I’m stealing the phrasing of the suggestion exactly as [info]lovelikeheaven put it in the poll, since I like it.

Some ideas )

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July 29th, 2006

09:45 pm: Writing ordinary, limited heroes
This means writing the characters who have to work to achieve things, rather than having things handed to them. The people with unearned magic, true love, destinies, and beauty have no place here. I’m talking about the second-in-commands who pick up after the nobles, the fighters who have actually trained for years to become good at what they do, the lovers who worked on their relationship or arranged marriage instead of just tumbling effortlessly into bed with each other due to hormones or shared danger, the parents who throw their whole heart into raising a child. People who have problems, and make mistakes, and struggle and fail and fall and stand up again.

They are the fascinating ones )

I think I like working within the limits lately; I’ve lost most of my taste for extreme magic, extreme beauty, extreme everything.

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July 26th, 2006

09:19 pm: Good explication/exposition
Pounced on this one because it seemed like a good idea. You know, as usual.

Necessary evils )

I think the biggest cause of boring, stupid, or pointless exposition is authors wanting to get across information, and not caring how they do it.

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July 20th, 2006

11:26 pm: Creating high-magic worlds
This essay suggestion had an unfair advantage, admittedly, because I was considering it a few weeks back. But, oh, well, them’s the breaks.

Magic as technology, rather than science )

I think the next one will be on creating a world via extrapolations from deep changes from Earth, because that sounds interesting.

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