Monthly Archives: January 2012

World, Character, or Plot? Why do you read and write the way you do?

I once participated in a discussion where someone posed the question: why do you read what you read? Do you read for the world, the characters, or the plot?

In the course of discussion, someone suggested that perhaps people who are “world” readers will prefer genres like fantasy and science fiction, people who are “character” readers will prefer more realistic fiction, and people who are “plot” readers will enjoy genres like mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories.

Obviously this is a flawed look at the nuanced ways people choose their reading material (or other media entertainments). But I think this idea does hold a grain of truth for both what people choose to read, and for what writers choose to write.

In my own entertainment choices, I prefer stories that employ a good blend of world building, character and plot. However, when I examine my favorite books, films and television shows more deeply, I’ve found that I’m willing to forgive shallower or less interesting characters if the world building and plots are really cool. On the other hand, I can also forgive plot-holes, weird time lines, etc. if the characters and world building are really great.

The one thing I have trouble forgiving is shoddy, poorly thought-out world building.

Give me a rich and engaging world, whether it be a fictional small town in America, the supernatural underworld in a big city, or a medieval kingdom filled with monsters and magic and if the characters and plot are at least somewhat engaging, I’m sucked right in.

So that makes me a “world” reader first and foremost. But character is a strong second place—the books, films and shows that I turn back to over and over again inevitably have strong characters to go with their engaging worlds.

So how do these reading preferences influence my writing?

Just as you might guess, I spend a lot of my time as a writer thinking about world building.

I’m curious if this pattern holds true for other writers out there. Do you write like you read? And are you a “world” person, a “character” person, or a “plot” person?


Writing and Publishing Around the Web: January 2012

Here’s the articles from around the internet that I found the most interesting this past month.

Author Anne R. Allen shares her interesting path to publication in Confessions of a Former Query Addict, and also shares some great advice on Hooks, Loglines, and Pitches.

Author Joanna Weiss talks about her choice to self-publish in The Stages of Indie Publishing.

For another take on self-publishing, author Danyelle Leafty shares her thoughts here.

Author Janice Hardy opened the year with a discussion on Reevaluating Your Writing Process. She also wrote a helpful article on Making Backstory Work for You.

Author Bryan Thomas Schmidt shares his insights into Adapting a Well Known Story For Fiction.

Author Dawn Lairamore asks the question: Does Word Count Matter Anymore in middle grade fiction?

Writer Dee Garretson shares a helpful Chapter Worksheet for use during revision.

The BBC published an interesting article on self-publishing and entrepreneurship.

Author Ash Krafton lists some of the many “rights” that business-minded writers need to be aware of when The Hobby Becomes the Job.

Author Richard Parks shares a subversively inspiring commentary on The Downside of Persistence.

Editor Stacy Whitman shares a wonderful article on Writing Cross-Culturally.

Author Paul Greci shares some tips for Micro-level Revision once the major plot/character arc revisions are complete.

Author Patricia C. Wrede rants about Misunderstanding grammar, discussing when using “to be” is perfectly appropriate, and how sometimes the passive voice is the right choice.

Author Lynn Viehl talks about Collecting Characters from your observations of people around you.

Agent Jenny Bent talks about Why Reader Taste Differs from Publisher Taste.

The Huffington Post published an article of warning on Why Self Publishing Authors Are a Target For Conmen.

Finally, author Amy Rose Davis talks about Finding the Sweet Spot for Description in Fantasy Writing.

Share your own favorite articles in the comments.


Once Upon a Time

A lot of stories begin “Once upon a time.”  Many of them are fairy tales, meaning stories made up either for explanation or to pass history on in a pre-literary world. 

In most cases they’re so old that their origins are almost impossible to trace.  We know only two things.  First, the stories were deadly serious, and passed down as a form of oral tradition.  Second, there are variations of the same stories all over the world, in almost every culture regardless of location or geographical barriers (such as oceans).

Nursery rhymes are a little simpler, since most of them are relatively recent in regards to human history.  Most of what we know as nursery rhymes are songs or rhymes passed down in oral form to teach children their history. 

As writers we do something similar—take the familiar, the known, and translate it into the fantastic.  It would be quite entertaining to see some of today’s “classics” 1000 years from now if we went back to oral story telling, the tales so different that their origins would be barely discernible even to those who know the stories by heart.  And yet, I have no doubt that many of those stories would still be around, in some form.

The habit of telling stories, whether in oral form or on paper, is as old as the first language.  Just as in every other culture throughout time, there are born story tellers among us.

Regardless of the manner—oral around the fire, written by hand and passed to friends and family, electronic or printed on paper, it’s still storytelling.  It’s an integral part of the human experience, and not likely to go away any time soon.

Once upon a time, someone had something to say.  It’s that simple.


Opportunities for Writers in Our Neck of the Woods

There are several conferences and workshops coming up in Utah along the Wasatch Front over the next few months. The first of them happens tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 11th:

Caleb Warnock’s Annual FREE writing class is on Wednesday 🙂

Hello all! This year’s annual free writing class will be on Wednesday. Our hot topics this year will be Publishing Trends 2012, and “The Anatomy of a Successful Book Signing.”

Speakers this year will be Nebula-winner author Eric James Stone, national bestselling author Caleb Warnock, Tristi Pinkston, author of the addictive “Secret Sisters” series, Chrissy Ross, author of the hugely popular and hilarious “To Mormons With Love”, and Loraine Scott, author of the beloved “Summer Winter Mystery” series. Caleb Warnock will present his Publishing Trends 2012 (his 2011 blog on this topic went viral worldwide), and 14 ways to create success with book signings. After all the speakers, Caleb will give feedback on first pages for anyone in the audience, time permitting. If you wish to get feedback, bring one copy of the first page of your manuscript. This event is free, and sponsored by the American Fork Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Come and jump-start your writing for 2012 🙂

This year’s free writing class will be from 6:30-9:30 on Wednesday, Jan. 11 in the upstairs room at Historic American Fork City Hall, 30 North Church Street (50 East) in American Fork. Questions? Email Caleb Warnock at calebwarnock@yahoo.com.

Saturday, January 21st:

iWriteNetwork presents their Winter Workshop, all day long in Provo, UT. $30, lunch is provided.

Hands on classes will be taught by authors Canda Mortensen, Tristi Pinkston, Greg Park, Rebecca Shelley, and Cindy Hogan.

For more information, visit their website: iwritenetwork.com

Thursday, February 9th-Saturday, February 11th:

Life, the Universe, and Everything 30: The Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy.

After nearly 3 decades at BYU, this long-running symposium moves to its new home, Utah Valley University. For a bargain price you can spend 3 days attending panels and workshops on writing, the publishing industry, and science fiction and fantasy in general. Learn from a wide variety of authors and other industry professionals.

This year’s guest of honor is James A. Owen, author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica. Special guests include the whole team from the Writing Excuses podcast, authors Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor.

For more details, visit their website.

Saturday, March 3:

A Live Critiquing Workshop presented by the Precision Editing Group.

The Precision Editing Group is a company made up of author/editors who offer professional manuscript editing services.

The workshop will consist of small group critiques of 15 pages of your manuscript, with a member of Precision Editing Group leading each critique group.

Learn more here.


Artist Michael Phipps on website design

In this podcast, Artist Michael Phipps talks about the ins and outs of building a website: design, creation, what differentiates an amateur from a professional, and more. Listen to learn what he says about whether or not to build one yourself, and find out why he started a blog, even though he jokingly says he hates blogging. You can find out more about him on his cool website with moving pictures at: http://www.michaelphipps.net and go to his blog at: http://michaelphipps.blogspot.com/2008/04/michael-phipps-anti-blogger.html.
Be sure to comment on any of our Michael Phipps podcasts for the chance to win one of James Dashner’s Jimmy Fincher novels.

Jimmy Fincher

Download (right click and go to “save link as” to download)


Listen to our appearance on Dungeon Crawler’s Radio

If you want to listen to Ava, Lauren, and Alice chat with the boys of Dungeon Crawler’s Radio, you can find the interview right here.


The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA)

Entries begin on January 23rd and you can enter until February 5th unless they reach 5000 entries by that date.  They will accept up to 5000 entries in two separate categories, general fiction and young adult fiction.

See the official rules at http://www.amazon.com/abna, but basically it’s a contest for novels between 50,000 and 150,000 words that have not been previously published. Self-published is OK if you have all the rights.

Submit your entry at http://www.CreateSpace.com/abna.


Ruminations of/on the Certifiably Insane

I woke up this morning with story running circles in my head, screaming to get out.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,” I thought. “This is great stuff. Maybe I can get to my computer today and write it all down…”

My three year old comes to my elbow just as I am sitting down and asks me if she can play on my computer. “When I’m done,” I say.

She waits exactly twenty seconds. “Are you done now?”

“No,” I tell her. “Go talk to daddy.”

Breakfast. I can’t write on an empty stomach… And then the dishes. Then the necessary. Have you ever noticed that just when you are up to your eyeballs in something uninterruptable, nature calls? Insistently?

My nine year old comes to the door of the bathroom. Apparently the world has come to an end and I missed it. He wants to get on my computer, he yells through the door, and he needs me to type in the password. It resets itself every thirty seconds, you see. Some security setting. I tried to fix it, but I think all I fixed was the aspect ratio. If anybody knows how to turn an upside down screen right side up, I would sure love the information. Why do we even have that setting?

“Oh well,” I tell myself. “The kids are on my computer now. I may as well vacuum and make the beds.” And clean the bathroom. Ugh. When I was little I could milk romance out of anything. When it was my turn to clean the bathroom, I would get out the scrub-brush and bucket and “Sing Sweet Nightingale” while I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees.  You know; Cinderella. If I ever find out whose bright idea it was to put textured white linoleum with glamorous glittery gold flecks in a bathroom…

The bathroom will wait. It’s my computer, I can boot the kids off and write.

It takes serious effort to drive off two daughters, two sons, one nephew, two nieces and a few random neighbor kids, but I have survived. The repercussions will be felt when they turn on the hose in the back yard, but at least they are outside now. Type fast, little wanna-be author!

My fingers hover over the keyboard, waiting for those first golden words to spill out; the immortal poetry that will give my story flight, that will raise my words to sacred truth in the minds of worshipful readers everywhere…

Nothing.

Nada.

Zero, zip, zilch.

Oh, %~^&*$}?@#!!!!!!!

I guess I’ll go clean the bathroom.

 

by Ava Mylne


Listen to Writing Snippets on the Dungeon Crawlers Radio show!

Tomorrow, Monday, January 2, several members of the Writing Snippets crew will appear on the live internet radio program, Dungeon Crawlers Radio!

Tune in via their website from 6pm-8pm Mountain Time to hear Lauren, Ava, and Alice chat with the boys of Dungeon Crawlers about our experiences putting together our own podcast. You can listen later via the Dungeon Crawler’s archives.

Happy New Years!