I have developed a bad habit of getting too hung up on the realism of the fiction I consume.
I don’t mean that it has to portray the real world – I’m a fantasy and sci-fi fan, after all – but I find myself nitpicking anything that looks like a logical flaw in a story.
“That’s stupid,” I say of some character choice or plot point. “Why did this character pal around with that one for half the plot if she was planning to turn on him all along? Why not just kill him at the start and get on with her evil scheme?”
Continue reading “How much realism should you demand from your writing?”
Today I read an amateur science-fiction short story that opened by describing at length the twin-sunned planet the protagonist’s ship was orbiting. It then moved on to several paragraphs about the mega-corporation whose employees worked on planets like this, the unfortunate circumstances of said employees, and why they needed the protagonist’s services.
And then the action started with the protagonist arriving at a completely different planet to engage in work that had nothing to do with the corporation or its employees. None of these things was ever mentioned again.
Continue reading “Set-up and pay-off – focusing on what is relevant”
This is the sequel to last week’s post about all the ways Ted Chiang’s book blows my mind and makes me want to be a better writer.
I’m aware that what follows may come across as overly critical, so let me start by reiterating that I really enjoyed these stories. They intrigued and surprised me, and made me feel like I was wrestling with some incredible intellectual notions.
If I’ve written more about what didn’t work for me than what did, it’s only because those were the aspects I felt best able to get a grip on when it comes to analysing why they affected me the way I did and applying those lessons to my own writing.
Again, this review contains very minor and non-specific spoilers – unless you’re reading the book right now, you should be fine.
Continue reading “Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 2”
I said at the start of this blog that I might try the odd book review-type thing, so this is me trying one. It’s really about what I took away from this book as a writer, rather than a reader, but hopefully it will be helpful (or at least interesting) to readers and writers both.
Edited: Looking at this just post publication, I’ve realised what a wall of text it turned into. So I’m going to take a load off you (and *cough* off future me) and split it into two posts. Tune in next week for part two.
Continue reading “Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 1”
It has to be the single most common piece of writing advice there is: “Show, don’t tell.” And yet so many of the unpublished stories I read demonstrate that their authors don’t understand it. And honestly, that’s not surprising, because taken literally it’s utter nonsense.
Writing is, by definition, telling. You’re speaking to your reader through words, not pictures. So how the heck are you supposed to do anything but tell them things?
Here’s the secret: yes, all writing is telling. But by choosing what it is you tell your reader, and how you tell it, you can create a vastly more enjoyable reading experience.
Continue reading “Why “show, don’t tell” is nonsense – and why it’s important anyway”
A couple of years ago, at the height of the craze for such things, a couple of people gave me adult colouring books for Christmas. They were beautiful things, full of intricate spirals and minutely detailed images, each one a blank canvas open to a thousand possibilities for filling it with glorious colour.
And my first thought was, What if I get it wrong?
Continue reading “Colouring books and creative anxiety”
As an emerging writer, I spend a decent amount of time seeking out and absorbing advice from established writers. Two of the most common tidbits I have come across in my trawling are:
- Forget other people – write for yourself; and
- Write as if your audience was anyone but yourself.
Continue reading “Who are you writing for, anyway?”