Being a Better Writer: Knowing When to Borrow and How

Welcome back readers!

Yeah, I know. It’s Tuesday. I had a work shift on Monday. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But, as always, that doesn’t mean that the post won’t be made soon!

So, diving right into things: knowing when to borrow and how.

This is a tricky question. Well, or it isn’t. There are some people who worry about whether or not they’re borrowing or copying too much … and then there are those that just shamelessly go for it.

If you’re one of the latter, this post is not for you. If you’re one of the former, well, I have talked about topics before that have spoken somewhat about this. Worrying about copying, duplicating, etc, is a common fear for a lot of young writers, and sands, even longstanding ones. Remember Is It Original or Is it Copying? Well … yeah, that article was written for a good reason.

But today’s topic is different enough that when I saw the request, I felt it did warrant its own post. See, the request wasn’t about how to avoid copying something, it was how to borrow something that worked from another work and use it for yourself without crossing that line.

And the answer? Carefully.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Chekhov’s Armory

Welcome back readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer! This week, I’m picking up right where I left off from last week’s discussion on Chekhov’s Guns, and moving on to another type of … Well, I guess we could call it a foreshadowing tool? Preparatory Plot Device set-up? Honestly, I’m not certain there’s an official name for this kind of thing past “Chekhov’s Armory,” but foreshadowing tool does work, though in the short term.

But that’s me getting distracted by terms, which few of us are here for. We’re here for Chekhov’s Armory, which I’m going to point out right now, Anton Chekhov did not invent. Rather, it’s simply the name that has become attached to the concept given its growth out of Chekhov’s Gun.

But again, getting sidetracked. So let’s dive right in. What is Chekhov’s Armory?

Well, to answer that question, I’m actually going to show you a youtube video. Hopefully you’re at a location where you can watch it, because this is one of those cases where showing you what something is and then talking about it will be far more effective than simply trying to explain it first. The video in question? The famous “Flying Wing Fight” from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you haven’t seen this film, rectify this ASAPRaiders is one of the most famous films in cinema, and it’s not hard to see why once you’ve seen it.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Chekhov’s Gun

Welcome back readers! Guess who had a real breakfast yesterday morning? If you guessed me, that’s correct. If you’re wondering why that’s significant, all I feel I need to do is point you at the title of my last post, the self-explanatory Flu.

Yup. The latter half of this last week was fun. And compared to that, being able to have real food is absolutely wonderful.

On another note, you know what else is wonderful? Seeing the first reviews and feedback start to trickle in for Shadow of an Empire. It’s official: Shadow of an Empire is an awesome, gripping read, and people love it! This also marks the first time I’ve ever had people contact me over Twitter to tell me how much they loved the book—right on! If you’ve not gotten started on Shadow of an Empire yet … well, what’s the hold up? Click that book cover on the right and get going! Knife-fights, horseback chases, shootouts, and more await!

Grabbed your copy? Good. Now that you’ve done that, we can move onto today’s topic: Chekhov’s Gun.

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of this one. Chekhov’s gun is one of the more universally known writing rules. Named not for Chekhov of Star Trek fame but rather for a book on writing advice by one Anton Chekhov, Chekhov’s Gun has become an almost universal law across fiction. It’s simple, easy to remember, and most of all, works. Writing a story? Keeping Chekhov’s Gun in mind will not only help you keep track of important narrative objects, but also trim out unneeded descriptive elements and clutter. Not bad for a straightforward, easy to remember quote.

Now, at this point those of you who can paraphrase the rule off-hand are probably already jumping ahead, but those of you who cannot, and are either new to the rule or inexperienced with it may be wondering exactly what it is or how pulls this off. So, as we start our discussion of Chekhov’s Gun, let’s revisit the rule itself. Like I said, it’s pretty simple, and easy to remember. You ready? Here goes:

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Moving From Essays and Non-Fiction Forms to Fiction

Readers, in case you somehow missed it, Shadow of an Empire is now out! And you should definitely pick up a copy. No, seriously, you really should. Reviews are starting to trickle in, and you definitely do not want to miss this book. Just click that colorful cover to the right there, or if you’re reading this post on an archive binge, the books tab.

Now then, with that said and out of the way (buy the book!), let’s get down to business for today’s hotly requested topic: How to switch from writing non-fiction work like essays and reports to something that’s a work of fiction.

Well, for starters, if you’ve acknowledged that there’s a difference, you’ve made the first step. Believe me, this is not always the case. Not everyone realizes that the two are fundamentally different, or that the experience and knowledge that make one form of writing sing will serve only to drag the other down.

Because writing a piece of non-fiction, be it a textbook, an essay, or a news article (at least, in the days when news articles weren’t clickbait opinion pieces) is a process entirely different in execution than writing, say, a short story about a character who goes out to buy milk. So different, in fact, that we’re going to run headlong into one of the oldest battles of fiction.

Show Versus Tell.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Currency

Welcome to Monday, readers! And to another installment of Being a Better Writer! Where today, we’re going to talk about something worldbuilding related: Money!

Now, those of you who’ve been following things since I announced that Shadow of an Empire would release on June 1st (and you can pre-order it now!) may have caught on that BaBW posts since then have been kind of tied into something to do with Shadow. Which makes things easier on me at the moment, to be sure. But those of you who have may be wondering how currency as a topic ties into Shadow. Well, outside of “Hey ho, I can’t wait until Shadow of an Empire launches and I start making a return on it!” Which, to be perfectly fair, is a 100% reasonable reaction from a content creator. We like to be able to afford rent.

But that aside (Order Shadow of an Empire!), how does currency tie into Shadow? Well, to be perfectly frank, it doesn’t … in any more or less capacity than it would tie into any other book taking place in its own little world.

Let’s step back for a minute. Say you’re writing a … oh, let’s go with the Fantasy genre. So you’re writing a fantasy story, and you’ve got your group of characters out on the road for an adventure or whatever. They come across an inn and stop for the night, expecting to buy dinner and a few rooms. Now, quick pause here: how are they going to pay, and with what?

Well, if your character were having a fantasy adventure in the United States, it’d be with US currency. If they were journeying in the Indrim Empire, they’d need to shell out some Imperial Marks, hard metal coins minted by the empire, or sign a bank writ of sale. If they were in Sheerwater, they’d use reeds—basically metal straws of varying values and make. And if they were at the Leaky Cauldron of Harry Potter fame, they’d need to produce knuts, sickles, and galleons.

The reason I bring this up is because currency is one of those facets of basic life that most take for granted, so much so that it often seems to slip beneath the cracks in a lot of basic worldbuilding (nod your head here if you’ve ever read a book or played a game that’s defaulted to simplified gold, silver, and copper “pieces” without even a name or mention of mint). A lot of novels and worlds simply … skip, I think would be the best term … this aspect of worldbuilding. They go with the aforementioned copper, silver, and gold pieces, because … well, to be perfectly frank, that’s usually the system they know, the one that they’re most familiar with next to whatever they use each day.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Cover Art

Hello readers! Welcome back to a Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! I know, it’s almost sad that I have to celebrate the posting of a Monday-centric series on a Monday, but my other job lately has been nuts. As in, I could write an entire post about how it’s an example of the dumpster fire that corporate America has created/become. I sort of want to, for my sanity as well, because … well, that’s a tale for another time. Or day.

Thankfully, things with this job are going pretty awesome. How so? Well, you might have missed it if these posts are the only ones you ever check out, but Shadow of an Empire (the snazzy cover you saw in the featured image) is available for pre-order! That’s right! It comes out June 1st, and joins my slowly-but-ever-expanding roster of adventures. If you’ve been reading Being a Better Writer but haven’t checked out any of my books yet, this is the point where I tell you that you definitely should. You’ll get to see all of the topics, elements, etc, that I talk about in these BaBW posts on display in some awesome fiction.

Also, if you haven’t, this week’s News Post is pretty packed-full of cool news and updates. Price drops, Reddit AMAs … check it out!

Okay, news and stuff out of the way! Let’s talk about a really tricky, often dividing topic among authors and writers: Book covers.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Keeping Character Variety

Welcome back readers! If you’re seeing this early early early Monday morning, that means that I succeeded in getting it written on Saturday before my work shift … so that I wouldn’t have to worry about not having written it during my Monday and Tuesday work shifts.

One day I’ll move into that 20% of authors that don’t need a second job. Someday …

But for today, we’re back on track with Topic List 11 and chugging right along with a particularly interesting request topic: keeping characters fresh.

Now, granted, this request came with a bit of an explanation, which I’ll give to you now (and is reflected in the title). Our intrepid seeker of knowledge wasn’t asking about keeping a character constantly “fresh” over the course of the story (that’s another topic for another day) or how much tupperware they’d need to keep them from going stale. No, what they were asking after was another kind of freshness: how to keep their new characters from simply being photocopies of prior ones?

Continue reading