Finding Characterization in Fictional Characters

An uncomplicated topic that may not even warrant a separate blog post, characterization is the writer's efforts to take a character from concept to three-dimensional human actor (or non-human, if that fits).  It will encompass everything from height, weight, and coloring to speech mannerisms, gender attitudes, time and place of birth, and much more.  All that the character shows to the reader (and to fellow actors in the story/plot) is part of ch

My Plots vs. My Stories

This post carries on from my last entry “Story vs. Plot—Really?”  I’m going to reflect here on those ideas as they pertain to my work, so please take a look at that one before reading this (or, a second look, in case it put you to sleep before).  Non-Spoiler Warning:  None of the following gives away anything that will diminish your reading experience. The Brass Ring:  The story if of a young man is feeling, perhaps groping, his w

Story vs. Plot—Are They the Same?

Story vs. plot—is there a true distinction, and is it material?  And if so, who cares?  I see a distinction, and I think it is material, but this is territory over which you can have some real arguments. To me, a narrative’s story is the universal psychological and emotional human unfolding that the characters are living between the novel's covers.  It is generally not specifics-dependent, while the plot brings it to life, turning a story

Your Why It’s Called Creative Writing

I had completed The Brass Ring, and I told my friend Christopher Buckley, renowned poet and creative writing professor.  I said, "Hey Chris, I've written a book." His reply was "Who says?" Chris was right.  The months passed, the years passed, and no one recognized that I had written a book except me (and a few friends).  What could I do?  I started on another book.  Like Ring, this one would involve a global stage, lots of t...

The Origin and Value of Story Titles

Titles are a never-ending source of curiosity, inspiration, and befuddlement, to authors as well as to readers.  Sometimes one hits you, and it is the unmistakable, gold-plated moniker by which that book should be forever known.  I like the title "The Brass Ring" because it captures a piece of emotional mentality in every one of the major characters.  Alex Corlett, Samantha Bergman, Gilbért, Kudelka, Modrzewski, Tito — all are pursuing an ob...

Why Your Own Writing Concepts Work Best

The first novel that I satisfactorily completed, The Brass Ring, came out of my first venture in the wine business.  I had sent a pallet of California zinfandel to some rugby friends in London with a UK-based import-export firm, but the venture never got off the ground because of a high US dollar and cheap imports from Europe.  However, I came across an obscure fact in my research: Colombia, third largest importer of American wine, had just stopp

The Mechanics of Showing

This essay was inspired by, and is based on, a discussion with the novelist and teacher Lee Martin at the Vermont College of Fine Art’s 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference, directed by Ellen Lesser. # Show, don’t tell is one of the great dictums of the writer’s art and the editor’s science, aimed at extruding an end-product that breathes and throbs on the page or screen.  At the basic level, though, in the creative process, the vivid pictures that

Writing Disciplines Revisited

Please do a quick re-read of the previous entry, “Failure Spawns Discipline”.  Ill-discipline was the problem with my first novel.  The manuscript would go untouched for weeks, even months, from my own neglect.  I thought I could go in and out of the process and still accomplish the project.  Yes, I was wrong, so go ahead and laugh.  Detritus and refuse congealed in the vehicle’s avenues, the lubricant ran out of the joints and the

How Writing Failure Leads to Writing Discipline

My first attempt at a novel followed a Steinbeck binge, my next-in-the-series of fiction-groupie crushes that began with The Iliad, went through Jack London, Saul Bellow, John le Carre, On the Road, and others, and picked up later with John Irving, Elmore Leonard, Nicole Mones, Cormac McCarthy, and Simon Mawer; I’m currently hot for Ian McEwan.  That “first novel” failed through lack of discipline.  I’ll try to explain why. There had been two ...

The Motivation to Write Fiction

Since my current interest is primarily the novel, I'll start by talking about long fiction.  I believe that if you're going to write fiction, you have to respect it on its own merits.  For some writers, storytelling is an art or an obsession or a blood-challenge with which to take up and become enthralled.  For others it may be a working endeavor in pursuit of a livelihood, advancement, recognition, and so on, and getting words on a page is ...