Vampires are a popular subject these days. There are a million different versions from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Anne Rice’s angst ridden vampires. You have everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Twilight to True Blood. All of them different. There are vampires for every taste these days from sexy to scary and even sparkly if you go that way. But they all have one thing in common. Vampires are immortal.
Part of world building is creating culture. Your people have to have a culture unique to their place in their world. Even if you are writing in modern America, it’s important to notice the influence of culture on the choices and assumptions that your characters make. However, since culture is a huge subject that spans several BA programs, I’m going to pick just one little piece to discuss today: Family.
What do you do when you are working on a story and your characters start going off on a tangent? When they leave the outline behind and insist on going down the rabbit hole that you never even saw?
There are some writers who will tell you to back up to where they started going off script and get them back on. You are the writer after all, and they are just the characters.
“The pen is mightier than the sword”
An old truism that is mostly true. Swords are intimidating. They show their power openly. Everyone knows that a sword can kill and it looks like it. The sharp edges draw your attention to that deadly power almost immediately. But the truth is that a sword is an inanimate object. It must have the will of a person behind it. The ability of the sword to kill is dependent on that the person holding it. Words on the other hand hide their power. They are soft and hard to grasp. No one thinks of words as deadly weapons, and many will laugh when I tell you that they are more deadly than any sword. But the truth is that words are behind almost every murder or suicide. Worse than that, words can do their damage without the speaker having any intent to hurt. A careless “there’s no one here” can be more painful than a literal dagger in the back. Words can drive people to hate each other, or worse ignore each other.
A roll of the dice. A flip of the coin. A spin of the wheel. All good ways to get a thrill and maybe a good pay out. But are they good ways to get the love of your life?
Luck is a random event. You can’t plan on it. You have to “make your own luck” which means it isn’t luck at all. Rather you should plan. Make careful lists and check them twice or three times. Set up a schedule and stick to it like glue. This is how one avoids the need for luck.
How long is your story? How long should it be? Is a novella better than a novel for a first time writer? Should you write something as epic as War and Peace or keep it under 100k words? Such weighty problems that some new writers obsess over are really simple to figure out once you realize what the real questions are.
First a brief discussion of the different story lengths. These are rough estimates and can be flexible depending on the market you are submitting to. Be sure to check the guidelines. If you are self pubbing, it’s kind of up to you but your readers will expect something like this:
Characters are interesting pieces of your imagination. For many writers they are autonomous being made up of our experiences but different from us in fundamental ways. This at least is my experience, and by anecdotal evidence that of most of the writers I know. You hear it in interviews all the time – authors speak of their characters as though they are living, breathing people. Many of them talk about the characters telling the story and they are just there to write it down. It sounds crazy; in a way it sort of is.
Back in high school, I remember arguing with my teachers about how to take notes and outline papers. I get it now that they were just trying to teach me a method of organizing my thoughts and I really shouldn’t blame them for not realizing that my brain doesn’t work in the standard outline form. I made it through high school and on into college where the professors no longer cared how I took notes just so long as my papers were organized and I could answer all my test questions. That is when I learned how to take notes in the way that my mind actually processed things, and suddenly school became a lot easier.
If you ask a bunch of writers about how to find time to write there are two basic camps: Butt In Chair (BIC) and Steal Minutes (SM). If you go to any writer’s group and ask a general question like “How do you find time to write” you’ll get a nice smattering of about equal weight of the two camps. No one will deny the other camp’s position and they’ll be quite polite about it.
We did it. We survived another year and have made it to this (rather arbitrary) day we call the first day of the new year. Really any day would have done for it, so long as we all agree that it’s the first day. So there you have it, we’ve agreed that it’s a new year. We’ve also agreed to call this year 2013. We’re off to a good start.