What I learned from a Writing Fiction College Course
Currently, I am enrolled at Edmonds Community College as a Running Start Student, which means I’ve been doing a lot of writing. Sadly not the fun kind of writing I wish I was doing, just a bunch of boring academic essays. I know, gross. Word of advice, when signing up for your first quarter of college classes, don’t pick two five credit English classes; since nobody told me that, that is exactly what I did. I picked the basic English 101 course, and English 161, or a Writing Fiction class. Needless to say I was excited to have an excuse to write fiction for school, but the class I got was much different than I expected. Here’s some things I gleaned from my experience. Continue reading
Back in 2002, a beloved teacher approached me about editing for the school newspaper. I had barely begun writing fiction (fanfiction) as a hobby, but I thought “Why not?” and became a part of the newspaper staff without any real idea of what I was getting myself into.
I learned how to edit and critique by doing everything wrong. Continue reading
In the spirit of Thanksgiving lets take a few moments to be thankful for all of the blessings we have. When it comes to writing what do you have to be thankful for?
Take inventory of your writing
Good story boils down to these four factors: plot, character, setting and craft.
While there are countless other elements that make up the intricacies of a good book, these are the backbone of a good story.
Odds are, you already know what you’re good at. If not, ask your friends or writing community—anyone who’s read your work. Or you can take this quiz to find out. What’s your specialty?
The World Builder
You can never stop being a writer.
You can stop writing, but there is a part of your brain that never sleeps, never stops observing, never stops scribing.
This is an unconscious process for many of us, but to write novels that clutch people’s hearts, we must tap into that thought process. Today, I’m going to give you four lenses you can use to observe the world and enrich your writing. So let’s get started!
Recently I reviewed a few new writers manuscripts and found they were making very simple but fatal mistakes. The result was terrible: their characters left no impression on me.
When we read a book, at most we want to fall in love with the characters. Not romantic love, but form a real connection to them—at a minimum we want to identify or sympathize with the MC and other sub characters or else the story won’t matter to us.
Here are a few pointers on how to connect readers with your characters.
Think back to high school (maybe you’re still in high school, and it’s not a far stretch of the imagination). Think about that girl who’s pretty, popular, kind, smart, and to top it off, the boy you have a crush on likes her. Or think about that handsome guy: the star of his chosen sports team, who coaches and teachers alike look the other way for him, has the newest car (or an awesome restoration), and has his pick of girlfriends.
No matter how nice or kind they are, you’re sort of annoyed by them, right? Even if you happened to be their best friend and they treated you well, you’d have days where you’re just jealous and resentful of how easy life seems to be for them.
Now take that seemingly perfect human, and translate that into a character. Ugh.
How do you end up deciding this important choice? Is it from personal experience of the story you’re writing? Is it how the character presented him or herself to you? Is it how the story needs its main character to be perceived? Weak, strong, overbearing, shy… these all create ideas of gender for us, no matter which side the descriptor causes you to fall on. But how do you shake up those old pre-conceived notions without going on a crusade? (Only those who agree with you are going to read that, and will they really be reading to experience your story, or to be validated by it?)
What qualifies as a Real Boy in young adult novels?
The boy next door? The rebel? The savior?
Who or what composes the right boy protagonist? Many people have their ideas.
People argue that they are too perfect, too strong, too brave, too good looking, and whose Peeta Mellark’s love, devotion, strength, and life-saving capabilities raise an unreachable standard for real boys. But I don’t think so. Because I see all of those things in the real boys around me.
If you’ve consumed any form of story, you’ve likely run into characters that didn’t seem quite right. Dragons, pantheons, acrobatic Chinese boy bands– you can suspend your disbelief for all of these things, yet somehow you can’t bring yourself to fully believe in a character.
What does a pirate who is afraid of water have in common with a thief who has a conscious or a snowman who loves summer? What about that monster who is innocent and wants to be loved? That vampire who detests human blood? That sister who wants to save a life but must kill to do it?
At a conference awhile back I heard an agent talk about internal contradictions in characters. Basically, she claimed that the greatest characters, the ones who keep coming back around, are those with the greatest internal and external dichotomy –what they do contrasts with who they are.
This contradiction causes tension and conflict. We are being pulled to opposite ends. It begs resolution. How can we bring these two sides together so there is peace? Continue reading