Author News 1 January 20 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction and science fiction writings.
In the last (1 Oct 19 issue) "Author News" advice blog, I discussed some aspects of the book "Story" written by Robert Mckee. Although this book is geared toward screenwriters, it is useful to novel and short-story fiction writers as well.
The world is a twisted place. Wouldn’t you agree? Fortunately, things are connected. They are connected to each other and they are connected to me, and I bet they are connected to you. Think about this for a minute. You learn how to set up your cell phone. Isn't it interesting that setting up your computer is a little bit easier because you know how to set up your cell phone? Setting up a cell phone isn't the same as getting your computer up and running; nevertheless, the setting up of the two is similar in ways that may not even be apparent.
The same is true for areas of writing. Fiction and non-fiction are the two major divisions. Each has many subdivisions. It amazed me when I found out that they are so similar in required techniques that fiction methods apply to non-fiction and visa versa.
I have about 12 books on writing. Most of them concern fiction. A few cover other areas of writing. Most, probably all, of my books on writing fiction came at me from different slants and points of view. Some I've read over 10 times. Then I picked up a book on non-fiction writing, specifically, non-fiction magazine articles. The book is "The Magazine Article: How to think it, plan it, write it" by Peter Jacobi.
I'd owned this book for years without ever cracking its cover. It was buried and lost in piles of books I had for sale on Amazon. When I stopped selling on that venue I started cataloging the books. After nabbing the magazine-article book, it became my next read on the skill of writing. Who knows. I might need to compose a magazine article some day.
"Epiphany" is an overused word knocking at the door of cliché, saying “let me in, I belong here.” We won't use that word here. I’m going to invent my own metaphor. Let's say "explosive realization" instead. We could get nasty and say "m--d f--k" or several dozen more word combos from slang world, but invention or new metaphors and similes, if clever, makes readers smile and think you are a fantastic writer.
We’ll brush that aside off the table. Here’s the crux: I'm reading "The Magazine Article..., and this explosive realization rocks me: “OMG, this would be useful in fiction writing.”
The realization happened in the first chapter prompted by this quote: "It is from poets and their poetry that those who seek to succeed at the art of magazine writing [non-fiction] can learn valuable lessons. Eight to be exact, including:
1. Mind opening and perspective freshening
3. Willingness to experiment
Consider these one by one. In a fiction story wouldn’t a reader want her or his mind opened to freshen perspectives? The protagonist sees the situation this way. On the other hand, I see it this way. By comparing perspectives, one has his own freshened, enhanced or tweaked. Creativity - new ways to write action and description and characters. What a joy to see that! Willingness to experiment - the writer hits it on the nail by trying different ways to present a story. Clarity - the writing is so clear, the reader can breeze through with understanding. Imagery - the writer evokes images in the reader’s mind. It’s like a mind movie. Tolkien had that skill. His writing made me see Mount Doom, and I trembled as Frodo got near to it. Rhythm - a flow that fits the tale. Fast, slow, etc. And, pacing and cadence. Compression - no extra words. Unneeded baggage stays at the station. Only what forwards the story is in the story. Excitement - one grudgingly puts the book down or reads through the wee hours to see what happens.
I have been writing all my life: technical reports, articles, humor, legal analyses, counseling notes, management. They were all dull; factual was my ideal. I had not a care for the reader! When I turned to fiction, I began the same way that I had always written. Big mistake. Some writing is expected to be an unexciting repetition of facts. I strongly doubt if it qualifies as entertainment. New knowledge is fine, though wouldn’t you want it packaged and given to you in an entertaining way?
At least now, I see the road. The eight points above I could have used to give my “factual” writing oomph and reader interest. I am incorporating them into my fiction. I hope you can do the same if you are a writer. If you are majorly a reader, take a look at your favorite stories. See if they don’t match the 8 points.