Roundup: Eaten by Cockroaches

So this week's roundup has two writing articles and one article on how to be a writer.  Wait a second, that doesn't make sense.  Well, being a writer is not just about writing, even though the simplest and first rule is: Write.  And then write some more.  As a writer, if you want to improve, one way to do so is to get feedback, which means talking to other writers, getting critiques, and revision, revision, revision.  I'm going to save that article for last, since it's rather polarizing.

Also, there's an oldie but a goodie in this week's Roundup. Read on to see what awaits!

Article #1: Flashback into Character Development

I have a confession to make.  After reading fanfiction for ten years and perusing every urban fantasy romance in the aisles at Wal-Mart in my free time, I've discovered the bane of my existence: the flashback.  It seems like the easiest thing in the world to write to dump entire loads of back-story on the reader and give your characters more clarity in their action...but as this article definitely covers, it can go horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, wait, I sound like a total hypocrite here.  After all, the first two chapters (and arguably Chapter 7) of What Fates Impose contain extensive flashbacks.  So maybe they're not the bane of my existence, but this article is great because it preaches judicious use of them and shows different options you can take.  My reasons for including the Go Fish scene, Bryce's visit to the bunker, and Chuck and Sarah's interactions on the C-130 were to do world-building, but now my world is established (or at least I'd hope it would be after 41 chapters!), so we probably won't see the flashback again any time soon.

For me personally, I use dialogue to give character background, which is why characters like Ellie and Morgan are great to have around in Fates.  Take, for example, this passage from Chapter 26:
“What on earth has misguided you so badly that you believe you’ll ever be cursed with normality? C’mon. You took apart our toaster before your seventh birthday.”

“I wanted to see how it worked. We didn’t have Google back then.”

“Trust me, I know. Google would have really helped when I had to actually fix the stupid thing for you before Dad got home and saw.”

“But you did it so well,” Chuck said. “The toast didn’t even burn on the one side after you fixed it.”
So that might be considered a mini-flashback like the kind used in the article.  I'm not a fan of LOST (my J.J. Abrams love seems to stick with Fringe and Star Trek), but I liked what the article was saying, and I feel like a lot of people could get use out of it, so to the Roundup it went!

Article #2: Kurt Vonnegut's Tips for Writing Fiction

We read this article back in my Style in Writing class in college, so I'd seen it before it popped up on my Twitter feed, and it's got some great advice in it.  Some of it is strangely specific, but I love #6 in particular.  Maximus might say I take that one too much to heart.  I believe in Rule #7 quite strongly, too, and I was talking to mxpw about Rule #8 just the other night.  In fact, he gave some really great advice that I'm going to toss into the Roundup without his knowledge because, well, I'm evil:
When I was in grad school, one of the things one of my professors said was that good writing wasn't about tricking the reader or withholding from the reader, it was telling the reader all that they needed to know and then dealing with the emotional fallout that results.
For example, I'm reading a book right now where the writer is only telling me the basest details and shielding a lot of the perspective character's thoughts, and it's frustrating to me because it feels like the author is deliberately not telling me things simply because if I know more, her entire plot will be given away.  It  just feels cheap and like I'm being spoon-fed, which is not something I enjoy while reading.  I prefer intelligent characters who let me jump to my own conclusions even while I'm in their shoes.

Now, warning, this third article has both quite a bit of swearing and is VERY, VERY polarizing.  I'm not preaching it as gospel, but it is something I think every writer needs to read once in his or her career, and it's about common courtesy.  Like I said, be wary of the language, though!

Article #3: I Will Not Read Your $%@#ing Script

This is not aimed at anybody or written about anybody in particular.  I stumbled across this a year ago when some of the authors I read were talking about it, and it's something to keep in mind when you're a starting-out writer and you're looking for help.  You may not agree with it, that's fine, but I find it, aside from being unnecessarily abrasive, pretty eye-opening, so I'm including it in the Roundup.

Hope these articles helped!!!



  1. Ayefah11.11.10

    Ha, I'm pretty sure I've read that last one. My equivalent is "I Will Not Give You $%@#ing Free Legal Advice". :)

  2. Want to be a good writer? Listen to Vonnegut, the man knows what he's talking about. Also, you should listen to me, as apparently I know what I'm talking about too. Heh.

  3. Ayefah, can I pay you in fic? :)

  4. JohnClark11.11.10

    Despite the fact that I don't have a creative bone in my body I do have a few links that might be of interest for writers.

    For anyone unfamiliar with his work Steven Pressfield is a very accomplished author, his two most notable works are probably the Legend of Bagger Vance (yes that weird Will Smith/Matt Damon move was actually based on a acclaimed book) and Gates of Fire which is considered to be one of the great works of Historical Fiction. He's an immensely, and diversely, talented guy on his website (www.stevenpressfield.com) he posts on a number of topics ranging from contemporary military topics to different authors or writers that inspire him. While most of his work focuses on military history he talks a lot about many different subjects related to writing.

    Another is a very interesting article on writing written by the great Elmore Leonard : http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/writers-writing-easy-adverbs-exclamation-points-especially-hooptedoodle.html

    Another thing that isn't really focused on writers but should be of interest to anyone with a creative passion is J.J. Abram's Ted Talk. He rather interestingly explores his own creative process, he keeps it fun and entertaining so its a great thing to watch for that reason alone.

  5. I'm with Ayefah, why the $%##%·$ every single person you just met think that he/she is entitled to free legal advice? And why do every single one of my relatives think that it's my obligation to represent them without a fee? They don't even offer to pay me in fictions! I got bills to pay, people!!
    Ok, rant over. I've read the articles, thanks for the links. I particularly liked the one about flashbacks. I used a lot of flashbacks on the first chapters of my fic, I needed them to show the moments that made the AU (and the characters) different from cannon. I suppose I could've used dialogue to do the same, but I thought that showing the moments was more effective.

  6. Thanks again for these writing articles Frea.

    One of them did bring up a memory though. Aardvark reviewed a chapter for me. Tore it to shreds.

    Best thing to happen to me as a hack writer. I am still learning lessons from it.

  7. Constructive, if harsh, criticism can be wonderful for writers. There's an old story I heard several years back where a young man played the violin for a master and the master told him that it was horrible. Discouraged, the young man never played again, though he carried that memory for a long time. He happened to meet the master several years later, and he asked, "Why did you tell me that? If you hadn't told me that, I would have been a pro by now!"

    And the master replied, "You could never be a pro if you were willing to give up at the first sign of adversity."

    I guess that kind of fits with No, I Will Not Read Your [Expletive Deleted] Script. And it makes me happy to know you took that in the spirit it was intended, BDaddy. Criticism can be hard to take, but if it helps us improve, then it's worth it.

    And Tynianrex, flashbacks can be very well done, especially if your world is complicated and hard to explain, and they have their uses. Like I said, I used flashbacks in Fates 1, 2, and 7 to establish the connection between Chuck and Sarah. I mean, can you imagine the fan outcry at seeing Sarah snap and Chuck and point a gun at him, but never seeing the Go Fish game? Sarah would have been dragged over the coals even more than she already was! I thought the flashbacks you've been using in The Pond have been very well done.

  8. Oh, and JohnClark, thanks for the links! The first link reminded me of a book I would recommend to anybody editing: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. A very education read, and a great link, too!


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