Archive for May, 2008

Building Character(s)

May 30th, 2008

You’ve read the reviews, you’ve heard the slams, you’ve witnessed the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism. You’ve heard that such-and-such author has “flat,” “paper-thin,” or “two-dimensional” characters that are “weak,” “anemic,” and “stereotyped.” And now you, as an aspiring writer, want to know:

How can I avoid that? How can I create fully-fledged, rich, three-dimensional, fat, happy characters with plenty of iron in their blood?

Brian Moneypenny ScultpingIt’s not as easy as it sounds. Problem is, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much time and effort you spend, what you’re really doing when you create fictional characters is pure illusion. It’s mimicry. Writers in college who have just discovered Plato get hooked on the idea that characters already exist out there in some nebulous Elysian Fields of the mind, and all you have to do is channel them. But that’s simply not true, and it’s not a particularly helpful metaphor.

I think it’s more useful to think of the art of characterization as something akin to the art of additive sculpture. When you build a character, you’re not describing an existing personality so much as building one from the ground up. (Additive sculpture, my Art History major wife informs me, is the type where you pile up stuff to build your object, whereas subtractive sculpture is where you start with an existing hunk of something and chisel away the stuff you don’t need.) Just like with sculpture, when building characters you’ll often throw in materials that you’ve got lying around the shop. And just like with sculpture, your characters don’t have anything that you don’t explicitly put there yourself.

So okay, you’re asking yourself, if building characters is like creating sculpture, what ingredients do I need to add to the mix? Glad you asked. Here’s my list of things that good, full characters need. (And keep in mind that these are the ingredients for major characters in your story; minor characters don’t necessarily need such attention.)

Continue Reading »

Reaching the End

May 29th, 2008

I have been thinking about different kinds of endings, of books and series both, lately for the obvious reasons. Many fantasy books have some kind of Immense Dramatic Climax, after which the survivors go home. But in Deverry there is no Evil Overlord to be defeated, no one-size-ends-all wrap-up. What the book will have is a set of climaxes and a tying-off of themes and loose ends. I’m worrying that readers won’t find this very satisfying, but given the way the Deverry world and its tales go, there really isn’t much alternative. The stories are about individual people or small groups facing various kinds of adversity.

So I was wondering, what do you all want in an ending? What are some of your favorite endings to long books or series? Which ones annoyed the hell out of you or disappointed you? Any thoughts on why you had these reactions?

Grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs Dies

May 16th, 2008

Danton Burroughs, the grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, just died, in Tarzana

[  Burroughs, who had been battling Parkinson's disease, died of heart failure a day after a fire at his home destroyed a room filled with family memorabilia.   ]

Here’s the Burroughs website.

From what I’d heard elsewhere, he’d been working on selling the Mars books as a series for a television network like GRRM did ASOIAF to HBO, or a movie franchise, like Indiana Jones.

I’d quite like to see a good HBO series of the Mars books, done in the style of the period in which they were written.  If done well, needless to say.

Love C.

News from Deverry

May 9th, 2008

In response to some comments here and elsewhere, I thought I should tell everyone what’s happening with the series. First of all, THE SHADOW ISLE from DAW or HarperCollinsUK is out right now, hardback from DAW, trade paper from HCUK. Two different covers, and I like both of them a lot — my, what a refreshing change, huh?

Anyway, ISLE is -not- the last book in the series. It was going to be, but it grew and split like a single-celled lifeform. The last book, and for business reasons in the UK it will have to be the last book, is going to be THE SILVER MAGE, which will be out next year sometime — I have no idea when because I’ve not finished it yet. It is going to be long, most likely. The other night I made a list of the events that have to get into the book, and good grief! a lot of loose ends to be tied up!

Now that I can see the computer screen without getting an awful headache from squinting, I will put together some new material for the website, too.

Free Download of “Spirit Gate”

May 9th, 2008

Tor Books is in the final development process of a new mega-site that is, in their own words

(a) science fiction and fantasy site not quite like any you’ve seen before, mixing news, commentary, original stories and art, your own comments and conversations, and more.

They’ve also been offering free downloads of titles from their backlist to anyone who registers.

This week’s title is, indeed, my novel Spirit Gate.

Seriously, if you haven’t read the book, you can go hence, register, and get the download.

It’s kind of like living in the 21st century.

Oh yeah, I’m back

May 5th, 2008

I have now had cataract surgery and can see well enough to return to various online sites. And here you all hoped you’d got rid of me! :-)

Another misguided soul

May 5th, 2008

Well, we have here yet another Literary Believer, apparently, who doesn’t understand why the general disrespect of genre annoys us all so much. It’s a review of a new Michael Chabon collection of essays.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/02/RVHDVM6J8.DTL&type=books

The reviewer professes to be bewildered by Chabon’s aggressive defense of genre because after all, Chabon himself is highly regarded, so why is he “fighting stale battles” ? Not so stale to the rest of us . . . Three cheers for Michael Chabon, say I, and let’s hope this reviewer eventually gets a clue from someone nicer than I.

Writers Talk Writing: Constance Ash and Kate Elliott Discuss Shadow Gate

May 1st, 2008

What follows is two friends talking, via email, while Constance Ash is having the pleasure of reading Kate Elliott’s new novel, Shadow Gate, the second volume in Kate’s new series, Crossroads.

Since conversations, chats, discussions, exchanges between friends, are part of what keep writers writing, we thought maybe people who check in with DeepGenre would enjoy seeing this in action. For people who have not read the book, this is a discussion that might be deemed spoiler-ish, although we tried to stay away from recounting specific events and outcomes; however, if you are the kind of reader who hates knowing anything at all about a novel before you head in, be forewarned.

For an interview with Kate Elliott, or a review of her new novel, Shadow Gate, you can click the links at the end of this DeepGenre entry.

CA: The heart of story telling is conflict: external and internal, and how these conflicts are resolved. The potential scope of a novel provides a stage for more than one kind of conflict, just as it provides room for more than one character and even point of view. Constant subjects of the conversations we’ve shared are the effects of war and slavery upon women and children. So here we’re at it again, with Shadow Gate, talking about the conflicts brought by war, slavery and economics, and women plus children. Continue Reading »