Writing Tips

Video Saturday: #Writing Advice from Nalo Hopkinson (How to Write Descriptively)

Great video today on writing descriptively from Ted Ed by award-winning author Nalo Hopkinson. Hey, the fact this video starts with these lines…I was hooked.

“Her legs were noodles. She began to question her half culinary existence when she realized her hair was poison needles.”

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Guest (Re)Post: Anthony Dobranski – #Writing Hybrid Genres

What’s a hybrid genre? You won’t often find hybrid works marketed as such, since there are only so many aisles in the bookstore. Look in — and across — the larger genres’ shelves, however, and they appear more and more. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels rank as Amazon best sellers in historical fiction and time travel romance. Charlene Harris fused mystery and horror fantasy in the Sookie Sackhouse series, and won top mystery awards for it. Tor.com now has a column for hybrids.

A hybrid genre story uses essential elements of two or more genres, in a single story that honors the audience’s expectations for its parent genres, but also questions them — or at least plays rough with them.

My forthcoming novel The Demon in Business Class is a hybrid fantasy, a modern-day story of magic and the supernatural, in the international setting of a corporate thriller, with a romance that changes the story but also completes it.

Genres Mixed TogetherI wanted to write a fantasy about my own place and time, the way Wilde set The Picture of Dorian Gray in Victorian England. I live in an amazing era, the dawn of the networked age, a far happier adult world than the Cold War nuclear winter feared in my childhood, and a world more open to many kinds of people. It is also a time of cultures clashing violently, of heartlands that feel abandoned by elites, on all sides. Lately we’re hearing from globalization’s discontents, and I don’t discount their grievances or suspicions. I worked in international business, however. I saw its good side, its optimism, the way it helped humanity shift from Cold War us-vs-them absolutism to complex morally-unsatisfying alliances that feed and clothe more than war did.

I had the sudden bold idea for a novel, a difficult romance between supernatural corporate rivals representing moral opposites, a fantasy for a time of change and ferment, both chaotic and intoxicating.

The problem is, that’s a mess of a story, a weird assemblage that invites yet leaves unsatisfied the expectations of three different genre audiences. Here are just a few:

  • Magic — the directed use of supernatural power to achieve a goal — changes any society where it is public.
  • In fantasy, a heroic and vigorous culture overcomes a decadent if powerful one.
  • What would a business with magical powers advocating a moral polar attitude… sell?
  • Corporate thrillers require a big corporate conspiracy, whose goal is either money or power.
  • Romance is about individuals.
  • Romance disallows villains. Anti-heroes, yes, but even they must be morally improved by love.
  • If the opposition is truly polarized, each has to find something repugnant in the other — which makes romance hard.
  • Romance ends a romance; exposure ends a corporate thriller; in a clash of good vs. evil, evil has to lose.

You’ll have to wait until this fall to see how I got all those narrative questions and more all resolved, but it took witches, playboys, gangsters, cultists, a prophet, two angry angels, and a very modern Tarot deck – along with several rewrites and the help of committed beta-readers!

Along the way, though, I discovered some principles that can help you develop your hybrid genre story:

Know what you want. A story speaks to humanity through genre norms, but if you’re so flagrantly violating the norms of a genre, you’re doing it for a reason. If you don’t know what that is, it’s hard to work it into your story. It doesn’t have to be an easy reason to explain. Mine was so hard to explain that I had to write a novel to do it. It’s what binds all your other ideas together, however, so be clear about it.

All plates keep spinning. A hybrid tale gives your characters multiple arcs, and none stop, though some can slow. Think through where the character needs to go on each arc to see how to weave them together.

Genres themselves are as diverse as insects. Even a seemingly niche category like “sci-fi with aliens” encompasses 2001, Pacific Rim, and Aliens — each of which also belongs to a wholly separate sub-genre (hard-SF, kaiju, and bug hunt) with different ways to show heroism. Even if you want to apply a genre “norm,” there’s more than one way to go about it.

Don’t forget the writing. You are writing one book, but as your genre elements shift, your writing can shift with them. This is a chance to play, to satisfy yourself and your audience with the style to go with your story. Be terser in the thriller elements, festive in the social moments, vulnerable in romance, quick and cutting in anger.

Don’t fight a genre — use it. Genre demands and tropes can enliven your story, if you use them creatively. To have a romance that worked out, I couldn’t make my fated opponents the primary actors for or against a worldwide conspiracy, its James Bonds or its Blofelds — but I could make them a small part of such plans, maybe even a bigger part than they knew, while still giving them believable loyalties and higher stakes.

DemonInBusinessClassConsider the genre’s own influences. Noir and cozy mystery differ in setting and tone, but also in the social class and status from which their stories view their societies. Looking past the symbols to their hidden meanings gives you new perspective on how to refit elements to your story. Because —

It’s still all your story. We’ve been talking about genre norms and conventions as if you’ll get issued a citation from the genre department. You won’t. You have incredible creative freedom – if you stick your landings.

Are you writing a hybrid genre story? Talk about it in the comments below!

Reposted with permission from author from: http://www.fictorians.com/2016/07/28/hybrid-genres/

Anthony Dobranski is an author from Washington DC. His first novel, The Demon in Business Class, comes out this fall from WordFire Press.

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Pixar #Storytelling Tips – and my favorites

Via Pixar storyboard artist, Emma Coats. I picked my top five seven to include here on Unleaded. But you should check out the full list  here: http://io9.gizmodo.com/5916970/the-22-rules-of-storytelling-according-to-pixar

 

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

(Note from Day: I really like this fun little “blank” exercise above. It just lets you play and at the same time offers a very basic throughline for a story. How fun is that?!)

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

 

Also the image below is Pixar Star Wars. Although not related to the “22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar” I couldn’t resist.

Pixar_SW

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#Writing Tips and the WHY behind them

I’ve been seeing this great table from Josh Bernoff floating around on Facebook and thought it might be a good addition to Unleaded: Fuel for  Writers. We have all seen many “Top 10 Tips for Writing.”  What I like about this list is that it tells you why specific actions or forms of writing may be less valuable to you. That then lets you better decide why you might want to follow the tip and also when and where you might not choose to follow it.

 

Top-writing-tips-Bernoff

The quick list is below but please do take a look at the more detailed article.

  1. Write shorter.

  2. Shorten your sentences.

  3. Rewrite passive voice.

  4. Eliminate weasel words.

  5. Replace jargon with clarity.

  6. Cite numbers effectively.

  7. Use “I,” “we,” and “you.”

  8. Move key insights up.

  9. Cite examples.

  10. Give us some signposts.

 

References:

10 top writing tips and the psychology behind them: http://withoutbullshit.com/blog/10-top-writing-tips-psychology/

 

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#Art and #Fear – A Tumblr Story about Pots

A great little story about the problem with “perfection.”

This comes from David Bayles and Ted Orland (via qweety) Perfection is intimidating. I think most artists blocks come from the fear of creating something imperfect.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.Clay Pots

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

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Emotional vs. Intellectual Words (Is there such a thing?) #writing

What do you think? Are there words that are more “intellectual” versus “emotional?” How do we determine which is which? Is it just which is used more often or has become part of the vernacular?

Words_Emotional_vs_Intellectual

Original meme can be found here: http://writerswrite.co.za/persuasive-writing-emotional-vs-intellectual-words 

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