Tales of the Epistolary

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In high school, I picked up Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and was quickly smitten by the method of the storytelling, rendered through characters’ journals, letters, ship’s log entries, telegrams, and even wax cylinder recordings on that newfangled invention, the phonograph. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dracula represents a great example of the epistolary novel. Documents. It’s all about using documents to tell the story. An example is this log entry jotted by the troubled captain of the … Read More »

Warping the Universe for Fun and Profit

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Beginning in 1905 with a series of papers and little fanfare, Albert Einstein turned the Universe on its head. The notion of time and space being fixed, separate entities, he deduced, is all wrong. He envisioned “spacetime” as a single thing in his special and general theories of relativity. Better yet, spacetime flexes and bends and warps with gravity. And if all matter exerts a gravitational force, my time is not your time and your time is not mine. This … Read More »

What do you have to say for yourself?

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“Lemme axt you sumppin’, man.” I paused in mid-stride, my attention shifting to the speaker. The gravelly voice was distinctive enough, but it was the single phrase that caught my writer’s ear. I was on my way to gate C-45 in the Houston Airport and turned to see the speaker slumped in one of the molded plastic seats lining the windows of the concourse. He was staring into the distance, unaware of my interest and seemed to be talking to … Read More »

Character Naming

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Alien Names It’s fun to make up alien sounding names, but can you make them pronounceable? A name like Fator is easy to figure out. Not Feignonae. Avoid putting two vowels together—and avoid names like Avignemonsorkei—that’s right, long, unfamiliar names (you could use the name one time, and for the rest of the book, have the character go by his nickname of Avi). It can be played up for humor. “What’s your name, alien?” “Avignemonsorkei.” “Okay. When I say Avi, … Read More »

Taking Your Career to the Next Level with Writers Workshops

My biggest conundrum upon attending my first FWA conference in 2011 was “Where do I begin?” I’d written for many years, but had learned my (questionable) craft from reading novels. The dizzying head-hopping that was the bane of my editor’s red pen? I picked that up from Nora Roberts. My characters grunted, laughed, moaned, and snarled. They never actually just “said” anything. That came from reading Robert Ludlum novels. At the FWA conference, faced with more writers’ workshops than I … Read More »

When Setting Becomes Character

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When I was in college, studying landscape architecture when it didn’t interfere with my busy beer-drinking schedule, the dean liked to hammer home a recurring concept. “Genius loci,” he would say, his eyes agleam, his bowtie aflutter. “Spirit of the place.” You must understand a site fully before you design for it, he argued. Ideally, one should sit upon the ground in the middle of the place and meditate. Throughout a full year. Feel the sunshine. See the dappled light … Read More »

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