24 Jobs for Fantasy Characters

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

24 Jobs for Fantasy Characters

By: Christopher Luke Dean
Writer’s Wrte

Writer's Write
If you haven’t subscribed to Writer’s Write https://www.writerswrite.co.za/ I strongly recommend you do. they send out daily emails with tons of great tips for writers

Are you writing speculative fiction, particularly the fantasy genre? In this post, we look at 24 jobs for fantasy characters.

Fantasy Worlds

If magic were real, things would be different, but also they would be the same. People would still have jobs.

Men would still hate making an appointment with the cleric to get that thing looked at; people would still need their golems serviced every six months; kids would still need to go to the academy to learn their spells.

Life would have all the normal rhythms of the real world, but the substance would be different. For example, perhaps everyone would gather around the crystal ball to watch their favourite plays at night. Maybe the stage director uses CGI (celestially generated incantation) effects to spice up the performance.

But, there would still be industries and companies. They may be call guilds and associations, but people would continue to be people regardless of the setting.

I’ve created an infographic with a fun list of jobs that can only exist in fantasy worlds.

24 jobs for fantasy characters

The Last Word

I hope you had fun with this list of jobs for fantasy characters and that it gave you some ideas.

Happy Labor Day from Writers Write.

If you want to write fantasy or if you love reading fantasy, you will also love these posts:

  1. What Is Fantasy Fiction? Plus A Fantasy Book Title Generator
  2. 101 Fantasy Tropes For Writers
  3. A Complete Glossary Of Terms For Fantasy Writers
  4. The Greatest Fictional World Builder Series
  5. The 4 Pillars Of Fantasy
  6. 10 Classic Fantasy Tropes & How To Enliven Them
  7. 7 Ways To Create A Spectacular Magic System For Your Novel
  8. Why Writers Should Know About Monsters Before They Write a Word
  9. Hard Or Soft Worldbuilding: Which Is Right For You?
  10. A Quick-Start Guide To Writing Fantasy

… READ THE COMPLETE ARTYICLE

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How to Write Effective Dialogue in 6 Steps

RESOURCES-TIPS: For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write.
- Somerset Maugham

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary -- it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
- Somerset Maugham

Anecdotes don't make good stories. Generally I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about.
- Alice Munro

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil -- but there is no way around them.
Isaac Asimov

To write fiction, one need a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of work on the basis of those inspirations.
- Aldus Huxley

Get it down.  Take changes.  It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.
- William Faulkner

Books aren't written, they're rewritten.  Including our own.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.
- Michael Crichton

Any man who keeps working is not a failure.  He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he'll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.
- Ray Bradbury

How to Write Effective Dialogue in 6 Steps

by: Jerry Jenkins

If your writing bores you, it’ll put your reader to sleep. 

And unfortunately, your first reader will be an agent or an editor. 

Your job is to make every word count—the only way to keep your reader riveted until the end, which is no small task.

Riveting dialogue is your friend because it can accomplish so many things:

  • It breaks up narrative summary.
  • It differentiates characters (through dialect and word choice).
  • It moves the story, showing without telling.

But writing dialogue well is not easy. If your dialogue is bloated or obvious or telling, readers won’t stay with you long.

Step 1. Cut to the Bone

Unless you’re including them to reveal a character as a brainiac or a blowhard, omit needless words from dialogue.

Obviously, you wouldn’t render a conversation the way a court transcript includes repetition and even um, ah, uh, etc.

See how much you can chop while virtually communicating the same point. It’s more the way real people talk anyway.

Like this:

“What do you want to do this Sunday? I thought w We could go to the amusement park.”

“I was thinking about renting a rowboat,” Vladimir said. “On one of the lakes.”

“Oh, Vladimir, that sounds wonderful! I’ve never gone rowing before.”

That doesn’t mean all your dialogue has to be choppy—just cut the dead wood.

You’ll be surprised by how much power it adds.Unless you’re including them to reveal a character as a brainiac or a blowhard, omit needless words from dialogue.

Step 2. Reveal Backstory

Layering in backstory via dialogue helps keep your reader engaged.

Hinting at some incident introduces a setup that demands a payoff.

As they headed toward the house, Janet whispered, “Can we not bring up Cincinnati?”

Maggie shot her a double take. “Believe me, I don’t want that any more than you do.”

“Good,” Janet said. “I mean—”

“Can we not talk about it, please?”

What normal reader wouldn’t assume they will talk about it and stay with the story until they do?

As the story progresses, reveal more and more about your protagonist’s past.

This offers setups that should engage your reader, and it allows you to avoid relying on cliched flashbacks.

Step 3. Reveal Character

Your reader learns a lot about your characters through dialogue.

You don’t have to TELL us they’re sarcastic, witty, narcissistic, kind, or anything else.

You can SHOW us by how they interact and by what they say.

Step 4. Be Subtle

Dialogue offers a number of ways to powerfully understate things.

Here are three:

1. Subtext—where people say other than what they mean.

Cindy falls in love with the slightly older boy next door, who sees her as just a little sister type.

When she gets to high school, Tommy is already captain of the football team, dating the head cheerleader, and largely ignoring Cindy.

Tommy leaves for college and word soon gets back to Cindy during her senior year of high school that he and his girlfriend have broken up.

So when he comes home after his freshman year of college and is changing a tire on his car, Cindy just happens to walk outside. She strikes up a conversation with Tommy, and he looks up, stunned. Who is this beauty—little Cindy from next door?

She says, “Making a change, are you?”

Tommy looks at the tire and back at her and says, “Yeah, I actually am making a change.”

Cindy says, “Well, I’ve heard that rotating can be a good thing.”

And he says, “Yeah, I’ve heard that too.”

That’s subtext. They’re not saying what they really mean. They’re not really talking about changing the tire, are they?

2. Sidestepping—when a character responds to a question by ignoring it.

Instead, he offers a whole new perspective.

In the movie Patch Adams, the late Robin Williams played a brilliant young doctor who believes the Old Testament adage that “laughter is the best medicine.”

In the children’s cancer ward he wears an inflated surgical glove on his head, making him look like a rooster. He wears bedpans for shoes and stomps about, flapping his arms and squawking.

The children find it hilarious, but hospital directors consider it undignified and demand he stop.

Patch is trying to make one girl in particular—a hospital volunteer—laugh. But while everyone else thinks he’s funny, she never cracks a smile.

Finally, Patch leaves the hospital to open a clinic in the country. Imagine his surprise when that humorless young lady appears to help him set up.

At one point, she goes outside to rest, so Patch follows and sits opposite her. He says, “I’ve got to ask. Everybody thinks I’m hysterical, but you. I’ve tried everything. Why don’t you ever think anything I say is funny?”

After several seconds, she says, “Men have liked me all my life…all my life…” And we realize by the way she says it, she was abused as a child.

Suddenly, we understand what this girl is all about. She doesn’t trust men, and she doesn’t laugh, because life isn’t funny.

She had not really answered his question. Her problem had nothing to do with him or his humor.

Finally, Patch realizes that some things aren’t funny. Some things you just don’t make fun of.

It’s a great turnaround in the story. And an example of sidestep dialogue.

3. Silence

Silence truly can be golden.

Many, including Abraham Lincoln, have been credited with the line: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

One of the toughest things to learn as a writer is to avoid filling silent gaps.

Just like we shouldn’t tell what’s not happening in a story, neither do we need to write that someone didn’t respond or didn’t answer.

If you don’t say they did, the reader will know they didn’t.

“Well, John,” Linda said, “what do you have to say for yourself?”

John set his jaw and stared out the window.

“I’m waiting,” she said.

He lit a cigarette.

Linda shook her head. “I swear, John, honestly.”

Too many writers feel the need to write here, “But he refused to say anything,” or “But he never responded.”

Don’t! We know, we get it—and it’s loud, effective, silent dialogue.

Saying nothing, John is actually saying everything.

Step 5. Read Your Dialogue Out Loud

One way to be certain your dialogue flows is to read it aloud or even act it out.

Anything that doesn’t sound right won’t read right either, so rewrite it until it does.

Step 6. Create a “Make My Day” Moment

Certain iconic lines of dialogue have become as legendary as the films and books they originate from:

  • “Frankly my dear…”
  • “There’s no place like home.”
  • “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
  • “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”
  • “What we have here is failure to communicate.”
  • “Go ahead, make my day.”
  • “May the force be with you.”
  • “Houston, we have a problem.”
  • “Run, Forrest, run!”
  • “You had me at hello.”

Most writers—even bestselling novelists—never create such an unforgettable line of dialogue. But striving to create one is worth the effort.

Ironically, iconic dialogue should fit so seamlessly it doesn’t draw attention to itself until fans begin quoting it.

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Slang and Jargon Souces

RESOURCES-TIPS: For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write.
- Somerset Maugham

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary -- it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
- Somerset Maugham

Anecdotes don't make good stories. Generally I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about.
- Alice Munro

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil -- but there is no way around them.
Isaac Asimov

To write fiction, one need a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of work on the basis of those inspirations.
- Aldus Huxley

Get it down.  Take changes.  It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.
- William Faulkner

Books aren't written, they're rewritten.  Including our own.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.
- Michael Crichton

Any man who keeps working is not a failure.  He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he'll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.
- Ray Bradbury

Slang and Jargon Souces

American Slang Terms– slang, etiquette, some opinions and fashion do’s and don’t s.

AlphaDictionary – American dictionary of slang Drug Related Street Terms/Slang Words

College Slang Dictionary

Drug Slang Dictionary

Edwardian Slang

English Slang

Grafitti Terms

Medieval Dictionary – This is the dictionary of medieval words. It covers a lot of territory including weapons of the knight, parts of castles and medieval life in general.

Rap Terms – Terms used by Rappers and in the Rap Music industry.

Slang Language by City

The Best of British Slang

Twists, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang

Vietnam Veteran’s Terminology and Slang

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Fiction vs Nonfiction

NON-FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

Ironically, in today's market place successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable.
- Jerry B Jenkins

Words are a lens to focus one's mind.
Any Rand

There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.
- Brian Aldiss

I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.
- Clarence Budkington Kelland

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.
- Rudyard Kipling

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
- Mary Heaton Vorse

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry.  Writers are like dancers, like athletes.  Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
- Jane Yolen

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.  Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors.  Every stroke you put down you have to go with.  Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
- Joan Didion

In fiction, when you paint yourself into a corner, you can write a pair of suction cups into the bottoms of your shoes and walk up the wall and out the skylight and see the sun breaking through the clouds.  In nonfiction, you don't have that luxury.
- Tim Robbins

Fiction vs Nonfiction

by Shashank Nakate @ Buzzle.com

The fiction vs nonfiction comparison presented in the following article should help understand the basic differences between these types of literary works.

The different types of artworks viz., literature, films, theatrical performances and in short, all the narratives can be broadly divided into two groups i.e., fiction and nonfiction. To start with, fiction is a narrative which tells a story with imaginary characters and events. The very foundation of fictional stories is based on imagination. Nonfiction, on the other hand deals with facts/real information. Authenticity of the facts presented by authors can be challenged and it is a completely different topic of discussion. However, the person who writes nonfiction claims the content presented in his work to be factual. It would be interesting to note that, literary works which review fictional narratives are categorized under nonfictional creations. This is because, the real/true/factual representation of the actual content in the work of fiction is kept before the audience.

 

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Working with a Critique Group

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

Working with a Critique Group

By Shirley Kawa-Jump

Not all of us are objective about our work. In fact, if you asked even top authors if they are the best voice of reason over what works and doesn’t work in a given story, they’d probably say no.

Why? We are too close to our writing to see the flaws. And to be quite honest, a piece of writing is a lot like a child–even if your kid is ugly in the eyes of other people, you see the beautiful creation of your genes. You don’t see the missing plot lines, the stilted dialogue, the flowering descriptions. You see art.

The best option is to find a critique partner or a critique group with some experience in the writing world, but also a good knowledge of the publishing industry and how it works. The opinions of those outside your work can often serve as a great beginning for revision. A few cautions, however, before you hitch yourself to a homegrown editorial service. A good critique partner/group should do the following:

Understand Where You Are Going. A mystery writer might not be the best partner to evaluate your book on plant life in Antarctica. Someone who has no idea what is selling in the humor market today also might not be the best authority on your Dave Barry-type work. Search for people who are at least familiar with your market.

Keep Your Voice In The Material. The last thing you need is a critique partner who will impose his or her ideas, voice and style on your work. That’s not to say that a good critiquer shouldn’t offer suggestions, rather that they should leave the door open for you to make your own decisions.

Let You Learn From Your Mistakes. Showing you how to craft a good lead for an article or suggesting a strong hook for the end of a chapter is one thing, continually rewriting your work is another. You are there to learn. A good critique group helps you do that by pointing out areas of weakness and giving you options for fixing it. The true rewrite, however, should be done by you.

Point Out Your Weaknesses. This should be done honestly, and without malice. You don’t need a critique partner who says, “This is terrible.” You need someone who can say, “Your opening is a little weak. Why not try starting with this scene instead?”

Do Not Forget To Mention Your Strengths. You also need feedback on what you are doing right. This helps you understand your areas of best writing and then capitalize on them in your work.

Be Kind: This doesn’t mean every comment should stroke the writer’s ego, but rather, be put in a way that doesn’t purposely hurt the author’s feelings or disparage his/her skills. We’re all trying to succeed at this writing game-let’s be a help to each other, not a hindrance.

Be a Reciprocator. Some critique groups take and take, by bringing in first drafts and unformed pieces. They expect the group to help them write the entire piece. In exchange, they give nothing. Be prepared when you go to your critique meetings, and offer as much as you receive.

If you aren’t getting all that you need to from your critique group, don’t be afraid to say something. This is your work, after all, and if you don’t stand up for it, who will?

Remember, a good critique group is there to help you with your writing, not harm. While criticism is never easy to take, as long as it is constructive and paired with honest compliments, your writing will benefit. So search for a group that gives you all you need, and then be prepared to see your writing skills grow.

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What is Characterization?

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

What is Characterization?

author unknown

There are many ways to show character: exposition; description; action; gestures and mannerisms; setting, tastes, interests; dialogue; thoughts; and narrative voice.

You reveal your character by what he sees, not by what you see.

Example: A young boy would not notice his mother has on a shell-pink dress by Halston, he would see she has on her rich-lady clothes, and within two hours she would be “griping at him” for every little thing because she was grumpy “from wearing high heels.”

Inner thoughts set the scene, advance the plot and show characterization.

Example: Betsy stuck to the edges of the huge ballroom, away from the glowing candles and glittery chandeliers. Mama had outdone herself on this dress, and sure enough the stitches were so tiny a gnat wouldn’t be able to crawl between them. But still, Betsy was sure these beautiful people with their dazzling smiles and twinkling jewelry would be able to spot homemade at fifty paces.

When she was sure no one was looking, she ran a cautious finger up along her ribcage, making sure the safety pin that held the seam there didn’t show. She felt as out of place a mustard stain on a white tuxedo shirt.

Physical characteristics are another way to show characterization. Pick one or two major mannerisms (cracking knuckles or flipping hair out of eyes when nervous) that allow the reader’s imagination to view your characters. Props such as tattoos or body piercing are visual characteristics for a character.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, best-selling author of Glitter Baby, Fancy Pants, HotShot, and Honey Moon has developed a very good hand-out entitled “Creating Memorable Characters.” The following Character Interview sheet will help you know your character better and allow you to portray their strengths and weaknesses to make them real and believable. You may not know the answers to all these questions when you first start writing, but make a form for each character (in pencil or on the computer) so that you can change it as you learn new things about them.

  1. Physical appearance as it affects personality.
  2. Educational background as it affects personality.
  3. Family background as it affects personality.
  4. What drives him/her? What does he/she want from life?
  5. What are his/her strengths and how are they shown?
  6. Why does he/she have these particular strengths?
  7. What are his/her flaws and how are they manifested?
  8. Why does he/she have these particular flaws?
  9. What aspects of your own personality (strengths/weaknesses/likes/dislikes) can you bring to this character?
  10. What is he/she going to learn throughout the course of the book? How is he/she going to grow? (i.e. What is he/she capable of doing at the end of the book that he/she couldn’t have done at the beginning?)
  11. What external force puts him/her in conflict with the heroine/hero?
  12. What internal force puts him/her in conflict with the hero/heroine?
  13. What will make him/her beloved by the reader?
  14. Describe your character’s “spine” (central elements of personality) in three or four words.

After answering all these questions, write or rewrite the scene that introduces your hero/heroine to the reader. Make it active and not passive. Show don’t tell. Include vivid details that make your character come alive. Try to include some element that gains reader sympathy for your character. Do not tell the reader everything you know about the character in one scene.

Kim gave an example from Ray Midge’s, The Dog of the South.

“I ordered a glass of beer and arranged my coins before me on the bar in columns according to value. When the beer came, I dipped a finger in it and wet down each corner of the paper napkin to anchor it, so it would not come up with the mug each time and make me appear ridiculous. I drank from the side of the mug that a left-handed person would use, in the belief that fewer mouths had been on that side.”

That was a truly great characterization paragraph. You can see immediately that he is a meticulous, cautious person who doesn’t want to appear foolish.

___________

This article appeared in Passion on the Plains, the Romance Writers of the Texas Panhandle’s newsletter. The author is unknown at this time, however if anyone knows who wrote this article, please email the information to editor@writingingcorner.com so we can give credit.

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The Sticky Story

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

The Sticky Story

by Emily Jean Carroll

What is a sticky story? A sticky story is the kind you want to write. I can think of three kinds.

You want your readers–beginning with the editor or publisher you send the story to–to turn page after page of your short story, chapter after chapter of your novel. You want it to be so exciting, so moving, so engrossing, so well written that your readers find it so sticky they can’t put it down.

Writing a sticky story is easy. You begin with a terrific hook, one that grabs the readers and holds their attention through the first few pages. You introduce your well-drawn, likable characters, you lay your plot, you place your setting and you let your readers know they are in for a great read.

You work the middle of your story so expertly that the tale unfolds as perfectly as an expensive paper fan. You include all the elements. You present conflict, and put in stumbling blocks for your characters to overcome. You build tension, you show your characters grow and mature, and you include minor characters and their problems as a bonus. You put in surprises, twists and turns that startle, amaze and delight you readers.

You build your sticky story through to an exciting ending. You tie up all the loose ends, stop writing when the story is told, and leave your readers wanting more.

That is the way one sticky story is written. It is a story so sticky the reader can’t put it down.

Another sticky story is one that presents characters of such qualities, be they good or bad, that they are remembered for years to come. They are vivid, full-bodied, endearing, or so dastardly that they are never forgotten.

This story has characters that stick in the minds of your readers.

We can picture characters in sticky stories so well that we’re often disappointed if a movie is made of the story and the movie version character is not the character we envisioned.

One sticky character I remember is one E. Annie Proulx created simply to give directions to her main characters in her book, THE SHIPPING NEWS. Her description of this very minor character was so complete and so vivid that I remember him today. Proulx created a character that stuck.

When you complete you own work, be it a short story or a novel length manuscript, try to put yourself in your reader’s place. Would the story capture you and hold your attention to the end? Would your characters seem real to you? Would they stick in your mind as if they were actual people you have met and are concerned about? Are they characters you would remember for years?

Ask yourself what you could do to strengthen your plot. Play around with “what if” scenarios. What if my character didn’t get the call about the accident until later? What if Susan didn’t want to marry Mark? What if there was a detour on their way that took them to . .? What if the baby turned out to be twins? What if . . .

Build your characters from birth on. Where did Susan grow up? What did Mark think of his father? Why does Susan chew her fingernails? Why can’t Mark make a commitment?

Your characters must have lived a complete life to be three-dimensional. Know who your characters are so they can be true to their background, to come to life in your story, to live on after the book is closed.

Take an old manuscript that didn’t quite turn out right, one that you gave up on, and try to make it a sticky story.

Oh. The third kind of sticky story? You probably have no trouble with that one. It’s the one you worked on while munching on that peanut butter sandwich . . . or was it that jelly doughnut?

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Painting With A Character’s Brush

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

Painting With A Character’s Brush

By Janell Looney

Every aspect of our own personal history colors the way we experience the world around us. The same must be true for the story world as experienced by our characters. Effective use of point of view (POV) means far more than staying in one character’s head, describing events through her eyes. Her personality, her history, her view of the world, must affect every aspect of the way she narrates those events.

Let’s create two Janes. Socialite Jane, the daughter of a Fortune 500 CEO, grew up in Manhattan and attended boarding school in Europe. Farmer Jane grew up in Iowa and has never ventured past her state borders. Both Janes meet Johns.

Which meeting does the following passage describe?

Jane heard a sound behind her. She turned around. A man–a big man, with shoulders nearly as wide as the doorway–blocked the sunlight from outside. His features hid in shadows, except for his firm jaw. His hair was the color of butter.

Which Jane? We don’t know, because nothing in that passage was specific to either of the characters we created. It was generic, a passage that could’ve been used in nearly any story with any characters.

How about these two paragraphs?

When she heard the door open, Jane dropped her shovel and spun around. Yowza! The man in the doorway was built like a bull. Even from a stall away, the energy harnessed in his broad shoulders made her palms itch. His hair was the color of the hay she’d spent half her life baling.

Jane glanced back over her shoulder. Well, well. The man in the doorway was definitely worth standing up for, in spite of his off-the-rack suit. His hair was the buttery color of her favorite leather jacket, the one she bought at an open-air market in Madrid. No–Florence, beside the river.

Pretty easy to determine which Jane met John in each of those passages, because each meeting was shown through the filter of its Jane. Only Socialite Jane would recognize immediately the poor quality of his suit. Only Farmer Jane would compare the color of his hair to that of hay.

Keep this idea in mind as you pick up a novel by one of your favorite authors. JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts) does a great job with her In Death series. Eve Dallas is a police detective in the year 2058. When she sees commuter buses flying past her apartment window, she doesn’t act surprised. This is a normal, everyday element of her world. The only reason she thinks of the bus is that the bored commuters might be trying to sneak a peek of her in her bathrobe.

By filtering the setting through Eve’s eyes, the author manages to enrich the story world for us twofold. She tells us a detail that we think is pretty neat (flying buses) and reveals the world weariness of her viewpoint character.

Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, the heroine of the alphabet mysteries (A is for Alibi…), loves tiny houses. The smaller, the better. So when she walks into a small house, she describes it as “neat and cozy.” Another person would label the same space “constricting.”

Part of the creative joy of being a writer comes from being able to live inside another person’s skin for a while. Don’t take that experience lightly. Go all the way. Use the words your character would use. Notice the things she would notice, ignore the things she would ignore. Every word, every thought expressed in your story should be expressed through the experiences and the history of your viewpoint character.

Paint the story world with the character’s own brush, and you’ll give your readers the chance to live inside her skin, too. Believe me, they’ll thank you for it.

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Dynamic Characters

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

Dynamic Characters

By: Nancy Kress

Characters, they are the life of your story. Literally. As a long time reader it has always been my opinion that the greatest books are the ones with full, believable characters. You know what I mean? They make finishing a book bittersweet, you are happy to know the end and yet, sad to leave the book behind. It’s these kinds of characters that every fiction writer dreams of making. It’s these kinds of characters Nancy Kress will help you to find if you read Dynamic Characters.

Initially, buying this book was a hard choice for me. There are so many fiction techniques that I want to find out more about, dialogue, plotting, the list goes on. In the end I choose Dynamic Characters because I felt it they were the most essential technique to master. Now I doubt I’ll need the other books. The book may be called Dynamic Characters but a more apt description of it’s contents would be Dynamic Fiction.

Nancy has divided the creation of characters into three parts. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: The Externals includes chapters on Names, Setting, Dialogue, Jobs and more. This first part didn’t just teach me how to start planning my characters but how to write realistic dialogue, the importance of setting choices and cultural effects.

The second part, The Internals, delves deep into your character, and your writing too. How do you decide what elements to leave out? What to include? How do you make a villain that’s as exciting to read about as your hero? When assumptions really do make an a** out of you and me and so much more than you would expect.

The final part is Character and Plot, with chapters that touch on conflict, point of view, and adaptations of plot. Of course, it also has a strong emphasis on the relationship between plot and character and how to make the plot naturally evolve from your character. When you finally finish this book you will not only have learned how to make Dynamic Characters but you will have completed all the sketching out of your complete novel, including setting, conflict and plot.

Though it’s a wealth of information, Nancy Kress never lets you feel like you are reading a textbook. She manages to squeeze it all in with a light conversational tone that educates and befriends the reader. I really enjoyed spending my time in this book and recommend it to all you fiction writers who are looking to make your work just that little bit better. Whether you write shorts, or novels and no matter the genre, this versatile book will soon become your best friend and adviser.

Visit the website: http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/

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Crafting Romantic Suspense

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

Crafting Romantic Suspense

By Nora Roberts

Construction is tone of the key words in creating romantic suspense. In a romance novel, the love story is built step by step on the emotions, needs, doubts and personalities of the protagonists. In a suspense, the mystery, intrigue, secret or tension is built state by state with facts, innuendo, atmosphere and action.

Romance suspense is a blending of the two. There must be a relationship — that ongoing, developing relationship we expect between the covers of a romance novel. There must be an unknown — a suspicion, a mystery, a danger that we expect between the covers of a suspense novel. Therefore, the outside tension is just as vital as the emotional and sexual tension and its construction must be just as meticulous.

The mystery and its ultimate conclusion must be just as visible, just as believable and just as important as the romance and its final consummation. There are not two separate stores with a common link. It is one full, complex story where separate elements merge and affect each other. Two levels where the writer is in charge of setting the balance and keeping the reader involved.

Any novel contains basic elements such as plot, character, setting, dialogue and narrative. Both mysteries and romance are build on a certain framework. Romance novels celebrate relationships. By their very nature they represent the standards and values of society. Seeking a mate, starting a family. Mysteries are our morality plays where evil is ultimately found out and punished by good.

The mixing of the two results in a variety of genres and sub genres. Romantic suspense, mysteries with a dash of romance, romance with a dash of mystery. Women in jeopardy, the hard boiled or soft boiled detective novel that flirts with a relationship, the gothic, the cozy.

Any Mary Steward novel is an excellent example of romantic suspense at its best.

From Nine Coaches Waiting, written in the first person from the heroine’s POV: “The side of the room where we had been sitting was in deep shadow, lit warmly by the now fading fire. Behind us the while shaft from the moonlit windows had slowly wheeled nearer. The bed lay now full in the sharp diagonal of light. Raoul carried the sleeping child across the room. He was just about to step into the path of light — a step as definite as a chessman’s from black to white — when a new shadow stabbed across the carpet, cutting the light in two. Someone had come to the window and stopped dead in the path of the moon.”

This involves you immediately. It makes the reader wonder who came to the window and why. What effect will they have on the protagonists? The atmosphere, in using moonlight, shadows, evokes both romance and suspense. I don’t know anyone who uses atmosphere better than Ms. Steward, and in blending romance and suspense she is unsurpassed. There is always a balance of tension in her work that is essential to a successful romantic suspense novel. The characters and their relationships are as finely developed as the twists and turns of the mystery. Invariable one element enhances and moves the other.

For mystery with a dash of romance, we can read any one of a dozen Agatha Christies or Ngaio March. These are puzzle books, deftly constructed mysteries, but often contain a hint of romance.

For romance with a hint of mystery, you can check out the back cover copy of any number of category romances. Some may fall into romantic suspense, but there are many that employ a dollop of mystery to enhance the plot and add tension to the relationship.

In the hard boiled league, try the Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. This is first and foremost a detective novel, one of the best film noirs ever produced. But there is a whiff of romance as Sam Spade falls for the mystery woman — a woman, who in the end he must not only give up, but turn in. One of Sam’s last lines to his love — and naturally I hear Bogart speaking to Mary Astor — goes like this: “I’m going to send you over. The chances are you’d get off with life. That means you’ll be out in 27 years. You’re an angel. I’ll wait for you. If they hand you, I’ll always remember you.” That’s romance.

Another favorite of mine is Sue Grafton. Her Kinsey Milhone is a tough, sharp, savvy heroine who plays with the big boys while maintaining a touching feminine side. She’s a woman, but she isn’t weak or naive as so many females characters were portrayed in mysteries in the past.

On the soft boiled side, give Nancy Picard a try. For dark and delightful British mysteries with solid relationships, there’s Elizabeth George.

If you want Gothics, you can’t do better than going for the classics of Victoria Hold. Her Mistress of Mellyn, has unease and suspense and romance that kick off almost from page one and carry right through, brilliantly.

Construction, again. A house of cards or a complex arrangement of dominoes. Each step, each stage depends on the whole to make it stand. In romantic suspense there is an interlinking, so that when each card, each tile, each piece of the jigsaw puzzle is set into place, it changes and affects the whole. It isn’t fair, to yourself or the read, to force the pieces of the puzzle together. Just as it isn’t fair to shoehorn our lovers into bed. The pieces must fit, the lovers must be ready. And each new stage of the puzzle, and the relationship should affect or build on one another.

We know a love story isn’t satisfying if lose ends are left dangling . . . if the hero and heroine haven’t come to terms with each other and whatever was keeping them apart. All of us would be furious if we turned the last page of a mystery and were left ignorant of the villain’s name. Just as annoying is to discover at the end of the book that the writer held back vital clues, both to the relationship and to the mystery. Years ago our hero spent nine and a half chapters being a total jerk, often an emotionally abusive jerk, then confessed that he’d made her life hell because he loved her. We don’t want that today, just as we don’t want those impossible red herrings at the end of a mystery. The murder was done by the hero’s twin brother, separated at birth and raised by gypsies — and the twin handily appears in the last two pages to confess all.

The fun of reading romantic suspense is to play along, and at the end when the solution is revealed, to be able to say — yeah, of course, I should have guessed. And to say, when the relationship is resolved — they belong together. I’m glad they worked it out.

You must give the reader these two levels of entertainment so they are satisfied with the romance and its outcome, satisfied with the mystery and its outcome. And there should probably be a connection between the two.

Involvement is another key work. You must involve the reader in the blend of elements. Your hope is that they will care just as much about the love story as the mystery. That means you, as the writer, must care equally. You set the stage for a romance, to draw the reader in. Moonlight, candlelight, music, a rainy afternoon. This same stage can be used to develop the suspense as well — even if it’s used to give the protagonists a moment’s respite from the outside tension.

You set the scene for a murder — a dark room, a scream, a vacant lot. How does this event affect the relationship between the protagonists? This action must send out ripples of reaction that involves the characters.

In suspense, the reader need to hear the door creak, the wind howl, footsteps echo. They should feel the danger and care if a character is in jeopardy — as much as they care if the heroine and hero make love. How these two people become involved in a mystery must make sense. How they react to the danger has to suit their personalities. And how they react should probably have an effect on how their relationship progresses.

There’s a natural connection between romance and mystery. A man and a woman fall in love — they have to learn about each other, clues are dropped, false steps are taken. There is risk. There has to be motivation. There is usually suspicion before there is trust.

What do we use to create romance in a book. Back to atmosphere. We use lighting and shadows, sounds and scents. Emotions. Precisely the same elements we use to create suspense.

I strongly believe the build of writing is intuitive. You just know. You just feel. There’s a danger always of becoming over analytical and hedging back from your instincts. If you’re writing a romantic suspense, nothing will bog the creative flow more than sitting there worrying if you’re put in enough of this or too much of that. I don’t think we should take it to the level of measuring out the proper ingredients for a cake. It it’s really right, I think you’ll hear it click.

That doesn’t help when an editor sends the manuscript back saying it’s not romantic enough, or suspenseful enough, or that it lacks focus. Romantic suspense isn’t an easy genre to get into. We can probably count on one hand the truly recognizable names in the genre.

But we have to get back to basics. If you want to write it, you have to read it. You have to understand it, enjoy and appreciate it. Ask yourself why a particular book satisfied your need on both levels. Or why it didn’t. At the risk of being analytical again, follow the steps and the structure. Do they balance? Does the romance add to the suspense and vice versa?

Remember when readers settle back with this kind of novel, they are looking for a wonderful love story, a tense mystery, a heist or a chase, sexual tension and romance. They want to be moved. They want to be baffled. And they want it all to come together in the end. You have to want that, too.

When you’re building your own personal house of cards with words, remember that every one counts. If it tumbles, it was misplaced. It’s up to you to find the right spot for it.
__________________

This article first appeared in Northwest Houston RWA May 1995

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