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Posts from the ‘characterization’ Category

Good Critic, Bad Critic

Last time I talked about dealing with the destructive inner critic, so I thought that today it might be worth mentioning that it’s not really a good idea to silence or ignore all the criticisms that float through your head. Some of them come from the useful critic, the one you definitely want to listen to. It’s not hard to distinguish them. The Bad Critic makes statements that are usually personal attacks, and are always designed to silence you. The Good Critic asks questions that spark ideas and help you improve the story.

There are lots of checklists of questions to ask yourself, but I don’t find these terribly useful. I prefer to take a step back from the story and see what floats into my head when I try to read it as a stranger might; when I sense a weakness in what I’ve written or recognize an old stumbling-block. A lot of them are things you might expect to hear from beta readers, but I don’t believe in counting on beta readers to fix problems I can catch for myself. Here, then, are some things I might hear from the Good Critic during the journey from initial idea to finished draft. Read more

Ruminating on Falkenberg’s Regiment

Ruminating on Falkenberg’s Regiment

At 19 years old, I discovered Jerry Pournelle’s work in a massive omnibus entitled The Prince.  I will vociferously argue that his CoDominium series with John Christian Falkenberg III, is a better, more enjoyable body of work than Janissaries.  Friends disagree with me about this, but I tend to ignore them.  Pournelle’s Falkenberg is an incredible character and one I can always more of in my library, hence my surprise when I learned that a new Falkenberg’s legion novel existed.  Hallelujah!  Then I read it… Read more

Writing by Nose: Use all the Senses

No, this is not a new version of two-finger-typing for those endowed like Cyrano de Bergerac. It is about adding a new layer of reality and depth to your setting and scene description, and about playing up the differences between characters. Read more

A day short and a dollar late

Image by 7854 on Pixabay

The short story, once the absolute heart of the sf writer’s career has long since dwindled off to become so irrelevant that many a successful author never writes one, and certainly many (me included) never sold one prior to selling a novel.

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When a Character Gels

Author photo of a Deutschmark from during the Great Inflation of the 1920s.

Sometimes, authors start the story knowing who the main character or characters are, and build the story around them. Other times, an idea leads to noodling around with world building and then characters sort of wander in. And a few times, world building comes first, and the author looks at her wonderful world, sighs a little, and starts auditioning characters so she can explore her world (and sell it to readers).

I tend to alternate between idea and character. In the case of the Powers books, the “what if” idea came first, followed by lots and lots of research. Specifically, since the world Joschka and Rada inhabit in the Cat Among Dragons series is slightly off-kilter from our history, I started working backwards to see what would have to happen to make it that way. And then hit WWI and really had to dig into the material, which took me back to the Austro-Prussian War, which led to… You get the idea. But I needed a protagonist. And not Joschka. Read more

Needing Traction

I spent some time on Saturday in a large plastic water-tank (about 6000 gallons) – A tank I had inadvertently put a crack into, and was now trying to weld. The tank has been used for at least 20 years to pump muddy dam water uphill to allow garden irrigation pressure – so it had more than a token amount of silty mud in it, and we couldn’t drain the last of the water out.

We tried leverage and to use a suction cup glass transporter to pull the edges of the crack into alignment – but alas, it didn’t handle the convex surface well, and it required more force than the suction could handle. So it had to be dealt with from the inside. Read more

The Chosen Hero

It is a trope that has been overdone, especially in fantasy, or so everyone seems to say. A prophecy of a Chosen One, a child born to be special, or a man or woman blessed by the gods to be better, stronger, wiser, braver, the one foretold who will save the world. And so he or she does.

I suspect my mind wandered this direction because this is the time of year when readings and songs talk about a Chosen One, a hero sent to save his people, a messenger of G-d. Now, the idea of signs and foreshadowings is not limited to Judeo-Christian traditions. King Mithridates used the legends of Alexander and Cyrus to have himself shown as one foretold. Some Chinese traditions hold that the mother of Confucius was visited by a special animal, a ki-lin, that foretold she would bear an especially blessed and noble child. Read more