Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Writing Tips Tuesday: Making Weird Work by Charlie Holmberg

Welcome to another Writing Tips Tuesday! I am pleased to introduce the author of the amazing Paper Magician Trilogy, which includes the Wall Street Journal Best Seller "The Master Magician", Ms. Charlie Holmberg!


I’m sure you’ve heard the maxim that every possible story has been told, we just have to tell it a different way. According to Christopher Booker, there are only seven basic plotlines. It’s our job as writers to take one of these plotlines and make it seem new. To infuse it with something original. Or, as I’d like to discuss in this post, something weird.

What do I mean by “weird”? I mean something that is extremely original. As in adding an element to a story that isn’t just different, but completely obscure. An element that shakes hands with the bizarre.

I love weird elements in books, though to date my published works have been relatively tame. (Just you wait, world.) The reason weird is weird is because it’s vastly different—it’s not just thinking outside the box, but jumping into a new box entirely.

So, how does one make weird work?

The safe route is to change one aspect of the story into something weird: character, setting, magic, etc.

Let’s take the well-known story of Cinderella and make it interesting by adding a weird element:

Character. What if Cinderella were a leper? How would that change the story? (There’s nothing pretty or usual about leprosy, especially if we kept the romance element to the story.)

Setting. What if Cinderella happened in a world with intense volcanic activity? Or, staying closer to home, what if the story occurred under the reign of Ghengis Khan?

Magic. What if the price of magic was something bizarre—such as the organic materials being affected (pumpkin, mice, horses) turning into raging cannibals at midnight?

While these examples are off the top of my head, I highly recommend not using the first few ideas that come to mind when adding an element of weird to a story. Usually the first things we think of are either too obvious or too tame.

In addition to that, don’t overdo it. Imagine writing a story where Cinderella is a leper living in an alternate-universe where Ghengis Khan rules during a time of hyper volcanic activity, and all magic has zombie-esque consequences. It’s too much. It’s too weird, and that makes it hard for the reader to relate to the story (let alone understand it).

Going weird is something great to do if you’ve lost momentum with a current manuscript. Sometimes changing just one thing—especially for the bizarre—can breathe new life into an old project, or can plant a colorful seed for a story that’s still in its planning stages.

Want an example of making weird work? Read The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. His worldbuilding is very new-box (why herd sheep when you could be raising giant crustaceans?).

What weird things have you encountered in fiction? What weird elements have you yourself employed?


Be sure to stop by Charilie's blog to share your thoughts on weird fiction and to congratulate her on the success of The Paper Magician Trilogy!

And tune in next week to read real tips from a real publisher on getting your book published. Really!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Read My Short Story: Virtual Ghosts

Please take a moment to check out my science fiction short story:

published today on Perihelion Science Fiction.

Also, this might be my new favorite writing quote:

“I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books.”

-Louisa May Alcott

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing Tip Tuesdays: Finding Your Muse By Sarah Foster

Welcome back for another Writing Tip Tuesday. I'm very happy to welcome today a fantastically The Faux Fountain Pen, Sarah Foster!
creative writer and blogger, you know her from her blog

Those of you who know Sarah probably also know Jordan, the teenage boy serving as her muse who lives in Sarah's head and occasionally makes appearances on Sarah's blog. Having such a strong relationship with her own, I asked Sarah to share how one finds a muse. Where does one come from? What's that connection like?

As usual, Sarah delivered. Please enjoy her post and then stop by her blog to share stories about how you found your muse.

Most writers have heard of a muse. If you don’t have one, you’ve probably heard or read about other writers struggling with theirs. Your muse can be a source of inspiration to write and figure things out, or it can be the person you blame when the writing isn’t going the way you’d hoped. You can love or hate your muse (or both, usually), but if you have one, then you understand this unique and bizarre relationship.

Most of the time, and we don’t usually like to admit this, a writer’s muse is imaginary. It’s that urge, that voice in your head that gives you ideas and motivates you to write. They don’t actually exist, but it’s much easier to blame someone else when you’re not feeling inspired. But it goes for the good times, as well. How else do you explain the random ideas that pop in your head? Or the sudden ability to bust out pages and pages of words out of nowhere? It always feels like it’s in someone else’s control.

Where exactly do you find your muse? It can be different for every writer. For me, though, it has always been a character from one of my stories. When I’m trying to write from this person’s point of view, it feels like he or she is always with me when I’m writing, telling me what happened to them and how I should write in their voices. It just feels natural to me that way. Other writers may have a completely separate person as their muse, one who isn’t a character in one of their stories. Your muse could be an animal, a fairy, or even an inanimate object. Or you may look at the muse as a more abstract entity, one that isn’t an actual person, but more of a spirit or force of inspiration.

Whether you want a muse or not, they may find you. When I started my current project, I wasn’t looking for a muse. I wasn’t even looking to write a story, but the idea struck me out of nowhere and consumed every second of thought so that it actually bothered me to not be writing. I thought it was my main character trying to fight his way out of my brain. Well, he may have fought his way onto the page, but he never actually left my brain.

I never expected to have a teenage boy for a muse, but Jordan is as real to me as any actual person I know. We brainstorm, we fight, we have random moments of witty banter. I let him take over my blog now and then. And sometimes we actually get around to writing. If I wasn’t a writer, this would probably be very strange. Why do I talk to this imaginary person inside my head? But I spend so much time every day trying to figure him out and write from his point of view, essentially pretending to be him. Why shouldn’t I talk to him? If he doesn’t feel real to me, then he isn’t going to feel real on the page.

If you understand your muse and have a strong connection, you may find that inspiration comes more easily. So embrace your muse! Talk to them, scream at them, bounce ideas off of them. If you get a great idea or pages of writing done, who cares how crazy it seems? I’ve always been a firm believer in listening to your characters, and the same could be said of muses. Treat them like they’re real people with their own thoughts, emotions, and opinions, and your writing will be better off for it.