Writing and Shit – part 30 – The horror! The horror!

Let’s spend a moment examining what story-time means for one particular genre: horror. (Some generalisations follow. Not all horror novels may conform, I realise.) The story-time of a horror novel depends upon a specific form of suspense, namely dread. Horror novels are dread-ful. But we can subdivide them in terms of microgenres, in terms of […]

Writing and Shit – part 27 – Come on, that’s just not realistic

BUT THAT JUST WOULDN’T HAPPEN – IT’S NOT AT ALL REALISTIC Oh dear. It’s like Mr But has taken over the section titles. He’s making a bid for total power. Mr But has more to say. I’m going to let him speak for as long as he wants: You’re taking examples from Hollywood movies – […]

Writing and Shit – part 25 – Hip-speak and and stuttering

Pushing further away from expositional dialogue, we come to what I call ‘hip’ dialogue. Hip-speech is a version of slang, similar to criminal slang – it is a way of communicating without fear of being overheard and understood. The jazz musician Lester Young came up with or popularized a lot of hip language – language […]

Writing and Shit – part 24 – What the hell is exposition?

Writers are usually much better at spotting, and mocking, exposition in the work of other writers. In their own work, sections of disguised address to the reader (a.k.a. info-dump) are simply jobs that have to be done, one way or the other. It is a truth of writing that sometimes the ugly way is the […]

Writing and Shit – part 23 – How to Write Really Bad Dialogue

Now that you’ve had a go at the three models of dialogue, you may be thinking I have horribly oversimplified the complexity of how people talk to one another. Good. Now it’s time to think about how to do better. Mr But: And you said you were going to mention other possible models of dialogue. […]

Writing and Shit – part 18 – Breaking your statues into two pieces

ALL BY YOURSELF One of the biggest faults in stories by less experienced writers is that they are about extremely isolated people – people who start off by being isolated and don’t end up making much contact with others. This is not, in itself, a bad idea. There have been many wonderful stories about people […]

Writing and Shit – part 16 – Making your characters more sympathetic even if they are baddies

SYMPATHETIC CHARACTERS The following bit is really only for you if you want to write popular fiction – although, if you are aiming for something that sells less well you might be interested in discovering something about the dark arts. I will have to flip over to discussing characters, because the phrase everyone uses is […]

Writing and Shit – part 13 – Exactly how not to begin your short story

Most of the examples I have given so far have been quite straightforward, unsubtle. The idea of the runaway bride, although something you might be happy to gossip about, may be the kind of on-the-surface, twisty story that you would never allow yourself to write. But I think that the idea of Story-Time, and of […]