Our featured guest post for today comes from David Farland. An accomplished author of dozens of bestselling novels, Farland has established himself as a leading authority on crafting superb fiction. You’ll find him at the forefront of the Writers of the Future contest. He’s a (very) active presence in your inbox if you subscribe to his newsletter. You’ll also see him at LTUE 2018.
In this post, Farland teaches the core principles behind writing effective scenes.
As a contest judge, I see a lot of stories from beginners. Very often the new author seems to be preoccupied with just “writing.” They let their imaginations take them where they will in a scene. So they tend to overwrite in one of several ways.
They may spend time exploring the nooks and crannies of a setting, or creating entire billion-year histories. They might relay relatively unimportant information about a character’s inner motivations, or over-write rather trivial dialog. They may spend time playing with words, trying simply to write beautiful metaphors or they might try to be witty, or simply try to capture a mood or tone.
The results can sometimes be surprising and a bit gratifying, but most often the scene feels bloated, overwritten.
Today’s featured guest post comes from bestselling fantasy author L.E. Modesitt Jr. A longstanding and active participant in LTUE, Modesitt writes huge, intricate, and detailed novels spanning sprawling worlds. If anyone knows the merits of good information, it’s him.
If you’re interested in writing, particularly fantasy and science fiction, Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE), the Provo literary symposium now held every year in mid-February, is an underrated, often overlooked, conference that provides a wealth of insight and information about the field. Just listing the noted authors, editors, and even publishers who have attended LTUE and shared their expertise would take a good page single-spaced.
My daughter loved to play Oregon Trail on the computer when she was young. I never quite understood the appeal, but she would laugh about the different ways she would die. I think the whole point of the game for her was dying; I don’t recall her ever surviving the game. I’m avoiding asking if that says more about her or me.
Last year, I was feeling a little nostalgic and I bought her the Oregon Trail card game for Christmas. I think she might have played it once. Maybe if there were a VR version she would get excited about dying of cholera or a broken leg, once more (just don’t turn off the safety protocols). Continue reading
So much of our lives revolve around stories. We tell stories to children. We ask people to tell us the story of how their day went. Significant milestones in our lives become stories we tell over and over again. Pictures are also common to our everyday lives. And pictures can tell stories themselves. A painting is a picture that someone has created to tell a particular story. In writing, authors are trying to help the readers form an image in their minds. Artists are much the opposite, they are giving you the image and trying to help the audience find the story within it.
I first learned about role-playing games in Junior High, when I attempted to play “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” with a friend. The attempt didn’t stick, but in High School, a group of my friends gathered at the library on a regular basis, and later at my friend’s home, to play “Star Wars”. I dabbled with “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” and “GURTS” for a little bit, just long enough to convince myself that AD&D is the Work of the Devil — as is any other D20 game system.
So I have a bit of experience with role playing — and then I grew up.
One of the greatest joys in life comes from seeing your creative ideas take shape, come to life and then having your audience respond positively to your work. Whether it’s words on a page, acting/singing on a stage, or seeing your finished work on the silver screen, the core purpose is to convey ‘story’. Story is the heart of it all.
To be the best storyteller you can be, you need to understand your craft and you need to learn to think like the fish–you need to understand what makes an audience respond positively to any artistic creation. This is especially true for the elements of a story that are conveyed musically.
You may be wondering how to begin writing your story. There’s an improv game where the people tell a story together. The formula is always the same, but hopefully the story isn’t.
It goes like this:
First person, “Once upon a time there was a _______ .”
Second person, “Every day they _______.”
Third person, “until one day _______.”
And thus the journey begins.
Full disclosure: I write very little fiction. However, I have noticed a number of great fiction writers use the essential tenants of non-fiction to make their work stand out in terms of both story and craft. So, before you poo-poo the techniques of those of us from the more dismal arts, take a look at these three non-fiction essentials that make for universally good writing (including fiction).
It would seem that no game could possibly live up to the pre-release hype of No Man’s Sky.
So argues Nathan Grayson over at Kotaku, pointing out that while Hello Games promised (and failed to deliver on) quite a few things, they never promised “The Ultimate Video Game.” Rather, it was the players who promised that one to themselves–and when it didn’t show up in their Steam library, they were quite upset.
Of course, ‘upset’ might be putting it a bit lightly. At the time of release, No Man’s Sky boasted over two hundred thousand concurrent players; after two months, just over one thousand players–a measly 0.5% of the original player count–can be found on the game at a time. Recent reviews are totaled as “overwhelmingly negative,” placing the game within the bottom-most qualitative tier on Steam. I would cite some other games which have warranted this ranking, but none are worth mentioning–and that is possibly the biggest indicator of the sort of game we are talking about; it is ranked with the games which no one speaks of, which no one knows anything about.