Story Setting – What’s Important

“Setting” covers a large field of elements—not just the place and time but all the extensions of those things. A story taking place in Ancient Rome is not merely a story in a city in Italy in the first century. There is the architecture (which looked different when it was new compared to the ruins we see today). There is the dress, but that is more than the costume that covers the body of an actor. The toga had social significance to the people in Ancient Rome beyond its aesthetic appearance and specific functions, and at certain points in time,…

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The Essential Elements of a Story

Stories of all lengths, formats, and in all types of media have three core areas that make them up: Setting Characters Plot The setting is the place and time in which a story takes place. It can be explained explicitly, or it can be inferred by context, but all stories take place in a where and a when. Even a fantastical story about a man trapped in oblivion has a place and a time. The characters are the sapient or sentient beings (to be very broad) that act out the story. Most often, characters are people, but they could be…

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Odd changes in writing methods

One of the things I started doing at some point was writing my books in the same format as the paperback, that is, on a 6×9 or 8×5 page (depending on the projected length of the book) with the appropriate margins and fonts. I’m not sure when I started doing this, but I think I started a year or two ago. Before that I always wrote in a more standard manuscript format: 8.5×11″ with 12 point Times New Roman font, single-spaced, with half-inch indents. I liked this form factor for a long time because it put a lot of words…

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Games that Inspire – The Legend of Zelda

Usually, when an author discusses influence (or is asked about it), his focus is on books, not other forms of media. Perhaps there is some in-built prejudice against taking inspiration from other forms of media besides the mighty novel (although no writer ever seems to decry being inspired by Shakespeare). Maybe movies are too low-brow (certainly if you mention Star Wars); if so, games are positively Neanderthalic. Call me Ugg-ugg. There are many games that have inspired me as a writer, though not always for the writing that was within them. Games, since they utilize sound, music, visuals, words, and…

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“If you don’t push, you’re lazy.”

Around 15 years ago, I sat in on a little talk with Apostolos Paraskevas, a Greek composer and guitarist (among other things) working at Berklee College of Music (in Boston). I got to spend a couple of days hanging out with the guy, but the best thing he said came in that little informal talk with some composition students. One of the college students asked, “How do you compose music?” Apostolos got this odd look on his face, then he smiled slightly and said, “Asking a man how he composes music is like asking a woman how she gives birth.”…

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Auto-Allegory, or how Starfire is a Terrible Mother

I don’t like to give publicity to garbage like this, but it’s such an instructive moment for writing and understanding people I can’t help myself: Basically, this is about DC superhero Starfire’s daughter (Raven, I think), who is an angsty 90s-2000s goth girl who is also obese and a lesbian, and of course resents her beautiful mother. The surface level complain is obvious – this is bad fan fiction and denigrates established characters, pushes a gratuitous woke agenda at the expense of a good story, and is generally low-quality writing and art. Add to that the fact that it will…

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How to self-publish a book

Occasionally, I get messages from people trying to break into the “traditional” (as in 20th century) publishing industry, and they always seem to be under some distress. In fact, the messages often come off like the pleading of abuse victims, with authors talking publicly on twitter sounding like battered women excusing their abuser. Everybody is aware of how lame it is to “pay” an agent (in reality, they pay you, and you better hope they are honest, unlike Chuck Palahniuk’s agent, who left him broke) to have coffee with someone at the publishing imprint, who then takes years to make…

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Stop Seeking Magic Fixes Your Problems!

This is it! This is what my entire existence on YouTube has really been about, now that I stop to think about it: There is no magical secret that will fix what is wrong or make you good at something quickly. Sorry, folks, you can’t learn to play guitar in six weeks. You can’t write a guaranteed best-seller in two days with the “secret story formula.” You can’t become a shredded bodybuilder in six weeks by learning this “one diet trick.” STOP LOOKING FOR EASY SOLUTIONS. The more advanced you get in any field, the more you learn that “secrets”…

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3 Easy Ways to Keep Short Fiction Short

This was part of a response to a free audiobook of one of my short works (about 12k) words, which you can listen to for free below. The comment was concerning how to keep short fiction short. Writing short fiction is really a different beast than writing long fiction, and the skills are a different set. If you want to limit length, here are a few easy things: 1) Limit the scope. A few locations, or one, rather than many. A few characters, or even one, rather than many. 2) Keep it to one plot. “A” story only, no sub-plots.…

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Apolitical™

Sorry, folks, the Apolitical™ brand is just that – a brand. I get it – you don’t like the politics being forced into your favorite franchises at the expense of story, gameplay, aesthetics, and the general effect of the medium itself. I get that female Thor is lame and super-buff She-Hulk is an eyesore. I know that it’s not fun to be lectured about global warming in the middle of a space-opera game, or to be forced to play a game as an uggo who’s bent on killing your favorite franchise characters – and will succeed. I know it’s annoying…

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