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Category Archives: Building Characters

First drafts – Ugh!

writers-blockAs I plod away at the mystical process of gathering impressions, images and ideas , tossing them into a cauldron and stirring them until they transform into a new novel, I'm reminded what an act of faith first drafts can be. I console myself with a quote I read  recently:

"I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand

On genres and literary awards

Yesterday, I received word that two of my novels won bronze medals in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite awards. There Comes a Prophet won in the Young Adult – Coming of Age category, while Along the Watchtower won for Fiction – Drama. Of course, I was pleased. But what to make of it? I’d applied to several contests before. All are different, with various categories an author can specify. Most of the categories are genre specific—romance, mystery, paranormal,

World of Warcraft and Prince Frederick’s Azeroth

Where did some of the ideas come from for Prince Frederick's fantasy world? From World of Warcraft, of course. As research for Along the Watchtower, I played a lot of World of Warcraft. I started when my son, an avid player, invited me to meet him in Azeroth and go on quests together as a way of visiting. With him on the west coast and me on the east, it was an invitation I could hardly ignore.

My Writing Style

Matthew Arnold wrote: “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.” Hemingway said it a bit differently: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the simplest possible way.”
I believe good writing is clear thinking, saying what you mean in the simplest possible way. The problem for fiction writers is that we don’t always know

Why genres exist?

Did you ever stand in an art gallery, look at a painting and think,” it’s a girl squatting beside a bird’s nest.” Then the guy next to you says, “It’s a man walking a dog.” The two of you step closer to see who’s right, and the illusion dissolves into brushstrokes. Books are like that. Why should a bunch of letters crawling across a page evoke so much emotion? “I loved that

The plot thickens – how to start a story

Many writers have an image in their mind of how to begin a plot. First, you come up with one or more compelling characters who want something badly. Then you make it hard for them to get it. Over time, I’ve heard others talk about how they like to envision the situation that starts their story. One said he sends his characters up a tree and throws rocks at them until they

On the release of the author’s first novel

I waited a long time for my first book to be published and wondered how that moment would feel. Would it be like shipping the initial release of the flagship product from my first software company? Or more like the birth of my sons? Would it be that “Rocky” moment, when Sylvester Stallone, after defeating Apollo Creed, cries out: “This is the greatest night in the history of my life…YO, ADRIAN! I DID

Pixels, words and the eye of the beholder

Recently, my wife was helping me by doctoring an image of a young girl in Photoshop. She zoomed in on the image until all we could see were blurred patches of color. Then she lightened the color of three pixels. At that instant, the image was unrecognizable. But when she zoomed back out and we compared the new version with the original, the expression on the girl’s face had changed entirely.

What makes a memorable character

So many of the books on writing focus on one area: dialog, style, character, setting or plot. That’s why I’m so fond of the book, Story, by Robert McKee. It analyzes what makes a good story, well told. One of its most important premises is that plot and character are inseparable from one another. And what makes a story memorable is a memorable character. What does that mean? Likeable, attractive, heroic?

A strange and mightily obsessed book

I just finished rereading To a God Unknown, John Steinbeck’s second novel. I first read it many years ago when I was fifteen and it made a huge impression--not quite the book that started me writing, but close. I decided to reread it to find out why it had such an influence on me.It’s not regarded as one of Steinbeck’s best or even a particularly good novel. Criticism ranged from lukewarm to
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