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Guest post: Writing 201 by Paul Lell

Paul

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of more writing basics, 🙂 is brought to you by science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Lell.

Writing 201

After my “I just do it” line, I can see the next round coming at me from a mile away! “Okay, so write every chance I get, accept criticism, and don’t do it for the money. Great advice, Paul. But seriously, how do you craft a story?”

My writing tends to be very organic. I start with world building, every time. I make an environment that is as complete as I can possibly make it. I establish history and politics, business practices, science and technology. Even the general psychology of the masses needs to be accounted for. Detail is everything, for me at least, because without a believable world, the characters and the story are pretty meaningless. After that I move on to character building. My characters tend to be as detailed as my world. I have huge piles of data about my characters that I doubt anyone else will ever see, just to make them as real as possible in my mind’s eye.

Once I have my world designed, and my characters fleshed out, I begin the story creation process with a problem. What is it that has everyone riled up? What are the potential dangers to the characters? Their friends/family? The world? Further, how do the characters get involved? What is it that pulls them into the quagmire of the story’s plot? Everyone needs motivation to act, and it is always helpful, from a storytelling standpoint, if our characters’ motivations are believable to the reader, and compelling enough to the character(s) that their involvement is as realistic as it can be.

Next, I try and establish a few key plot points that I think I want my story to go through on its winding path to conclusion. This is more often than not a mental map, and I try to keep it intentionally vague, because establishing fixed points makes me feel as if my stories become very forced as I try to manipulate the plot, and players, into meeting those ridged points. The dots I try and pin to the map are the start, the end, and two or three waypoints in the middle. But again, I try to keep these points as vague as possible, so it is easier for them to change and flow as the organic story begins to take shape.

Then, I toss my characters in at the starting point and let them go! I find that, for me, the story just flows, if I’ve done my job of world and character building properly. The characters will have motivations, desires, and goals, and those create personality, when combined with their history. Their personality dictates how they react to the world and deal with the problem of the plot.

To borrow an analogy from Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ (an excellent book that I recommend to all writers), the process is much like sculpture, or the excavation of a buried dinosaur skeleton. Everything is in place and as detailed as I can make it. My job as the writer is to clear away the unnecessary bits of dirt or stone that obscure the final piece from view. Sometimes it’s easy going; sometimes not so much. But I cannot force the end result to be something it shouldn’t, unless I want to risk ruining it.

Thank you, Paul.

3rd KeyPaul Lell is a Science Fiction writer and publisher, best known for his series, ‘The Keys of Kalijor’ which can be found on all major eReaders and at all major online booksellers.

You can read more about Paul Lell, his books, and his crazy life, at www.Kalijor.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with children’s author Stephen Lamoreaux – the five hundred and eighty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words (and post stories of up to 3,000 words). Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in childrens, ebooks, ideas, novels, recommendations, tips, writing

 

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Guest post: Writing 101 by Paul Lell

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing basics, is brought to you by science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Lell.

Writing 101

The most common question I am asked at conventions is easily, “how do you do it?”

For the longest time my answer was, “I just sit down and do it…”

Then I got to thinking about it. I did some reading and some investigation on the process of writing. I did a little soul searching and ‘dug deep’ as they say; and do you know what I discovered? I just sit down and do it!

So as not to appear trite, let me explain myself a bit better here. If you want to be a writer / author / novelist / whatever (they’re all pretty much the same thing in my mind), you need to write. Just as if you wanted to be an artist, you need to produce art of some kind, or if you want to be a baseball player, you need to play baseball. It comes down to motivation and practice, really. While I do believe there is a certain level of ‘inborn’ talent that can really push a person over the top in their chosen endeavor, I also believe that just about anyone can become just about anything they want, as long as they knuckle under and put forth the effort it takes to learn, practice, accept feedback (read: criticism), go back to the drawing board and occasionally reinvent themselves… In short, they need to commit themselves to the process of evolving into what they want to be.

To get back to the question, “how do I do it?” The more complete answer is, “I write every single chance I get. I write good stuff. I write bad stuff. I write terrible stuff (lots, and lots of terrible stuff). Occasionally, I may even write some great stuff. But I write, all the time. Even when I have nothing specific that I feel I need to produce, or a story to tell (which doesn’t happen very often, by the way). I have piles and piles of junk writing lying about my hard drive, filled to overflowing with writing that will likely never see the light of day.

I also throw away any pretentious thoughts that everything I write is gold and should immediately be published so the world can bask in the glory that is my crazy mind. I have no illusions about being the next [insert amazing author’s name here]. I just hope that somewhere, someday, somebody might enjoy one of my stories. I keep trying to refine my craft. I share work with people and ask for brutally honest feedback. Then I don’t cry once I’ve received it.

It is a rare bird indeed that can turn a love (or in some cases, a compulsion) for writing into a comfortable living. Much like teaching, one should never enter into the world of writing novels with the expectation or love of money as motivation. Rather, do it for the love of the craft. The difference you might make in the lives of yourself and, hopefully, a few other people.

I’m still working on the living part, but loving it certainly. Thank you, Paul!

Paul Lell is a Science Fiction writer and publisher, best known for his series, ‘The Keys of Kalijor’ which can be found on all major eReaders and at all major online booksellers.

You can read more about Paul Lell, his books, and his crazy life, at www.Kalijor.com.

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with children’s author Jeyanthi Manokaran – the five hundred and thirty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in articles, ebooks, ideas, novels, recommendations, tips, writing

 

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Guest post: What makes a Compelling Character? by Paul Lell

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of characters, is brought to you by science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Lell.

What makes a Compelling Character?

We’ve all read piles of information on how to make a believable character, right? Make them guy/girl next door. Give them foibles. Make sure they have flaws and strengths in equal measure, etc. There are dozens of schools of thought on the subject and no one method is right or wrong for everyone, or in every situation. But thinking about it the other day, and chatting with some friends about what sorts of things folks would be interested in hearing a writer talk about, the subject of making them compelling was raised.

You see, making them believable is only half of the battle. Most people don’t want to read a book about the average person next door unless there is something extraordinary about them, or their lives. And more often than not, having something extraordinary going on in your life, will bring out some extraordinary characteristic in yourself, just to cope with what life has thrown at you. Well, either that, or you get run over by whatever situation has arisen… But again, who wants to read about how Bill woke up one morning to find his kitchen counter levitating two feet above the floor, then was crushed to death by it when whatever magic caused it to behave so strangely suddenly gave out?

No, we want to hear about how Bill figured out what was causing such strange behavior in his kitchen furnishings, and harnessed it somehow. How he was changed by it. Maybe he has no idea and metaphysics (or just advanced physics, depending upon how we choose to explain the levitating counter) are not his bag. Then maybe some other person or agency who has a much keener interest in those disciplines shows up to take over the situation and Bill is suddenly forces to deal with being suspected of complicity with whatever force has latched onto his kitchen counter. How does he do that? What reserves, known to him or not, does Bill tap into in order to deal with this craziness?

In my first book, ‘The First Key of Kalijor’, there is a scene where the main characters engage in a high speed chase through a heavily populated archology on Mars. On the back of an ancient two-wheeled motorized vehicle, they weave through heavy pedestrian traffic while dodging (or not) their enemy’s gunfire and trying to escape with as little personal and collateral damage as possible. But why? Why didn’t they just call the authorities? Why not have professionals take care of the situation and go home to relax in front of the vid screen and catch a movie?

I submit to you that there is that one little nugget of crazy that a compelling character has to keep in the back of their otherwise every-person personality. There needs to be that ever so slight (or maybe much more significant, depending upon what your goals as a story teller are) unbalance to a good character that compels them to take up the yoke and forge ahead into the craziness that their lives are about to become with the beginning of any good story. Without that, they’d just call the cops and watch through the window as the trained professionals came around to sweep up the mess outside their front door.

Or, in the case of our friend Bill, he’d just disappear one day, kitchen counter and all, and nobody would ever hear the story of how his kitchen came down with a bad anti-graviton infection and Bill used it to learn how to dominate the niche market of roadside human tire-jack service…

“one little nugget of crazy” I loved that. Thank you, Paul!

Paul Lell is a Science Fiction writer and publisher, best known for his series, ‘The Keys of Kalijor’ which can be found on all major eReaders and at all major online booksellers. You can read more about Paul Lell, his books, and his crazy life, at www.Kalijor.com.

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with murder mystery and children’s author Deborah Nicholson – the four hundred and fifty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 5, 2012 in ebooks, ideas, novels, tips, writing

 

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