by Craig Clevenger
NIGHT OF THE LIVING SYNTAX: DISEMBODIED ACTION
Stories are about people doing shit. Yeah, take a minute to let that soak in. Feel free to quote me, too. Allow me to elaborate: a story has somebody who wants something, goes for it and gets cock-blocked. Our hero, let’s call him “Somebody” (because I’m creative like that), then redoubles his effort with a Plan B. Each new attempt means greater and greater effort on Somebody’s part, with greater risk each time, and greater consequences with each action. The cycle repeats itself up to the climax, where at which point the consequences are the most significant.
Pardon the sarcastic recap of the craft, but the notion of character volition is one of the guiding principles in this piece. Your protagonist must have a desire; your protagonist must also behave willfully to bring about that desire. This goes for the action hero who desires to rescue the hostages from the fortified building and willfully takes the appropriate action to do so; it also goes for the daughter working up the nerve to face her estranged mother who’s on her deathbed.
Even if your protagonist is a perennial couch potato, that character’s desire to do nothing is an act of will. He or she consciously chooses to ignore the phone or take a shower; to watch television instead of scan the classifieds for a job. As lazy as he or she is, they are still choosing one set of behaviors over another; the laziness is not choosing them. If it is, you may be writing about a character with serious depression, in which case he or she has different sets of choices—likewise a battle of will—waiting ahead.
Some stories are driven by protagonists who start a chain of events by their own hand, others by protagonists who are reacting to the circumstances and events around them. In every case, your protagonist wants something and takes measures to get it. If your protagonist has no will, your reader finds another book. Critical in establishing your character’s will is putting as much conscious action within your character’s scope of behavior as possible. read more »
How's this for an endorsement!? imjustinescolon , one of our site members, just showed us how much she loves the Invisible Monsters Tshirt Kevin Tong designed for us... by having it tattooed on her thigh!
An aging Nobel prizewinner tries to solve the world's energy crisis with the sun that shines out of his ass.
I don't know about everyone else, but I had Ian McEwan's Atonement pegged as a lady book from a mile away. I'd never read the novel, but I'd seen the movie trailer and it had manipulative tearjerker written all over it. Hence- lady book. Whether I was right or wrong, this impression was the reason I initially had little interest in Solar. But then I read a post on IO9 calling it one of the year's best science fiction novels and I became intrigued. I love me a good, literary sci-fi novel, so I set about acquiring a copy.
Turns out, Solar isn't much of a science fiction novel at all. It is a book with science at its core, but the story is grounded firmly in reality. This reality is inhabited by Michael Beard, an aging Nobel prizewinner clinging to the faded glory of his one big breakthrough. He is a self-centered cheat whose career is kick-started by the death of a sycophantic colleague who happens to be his wife's lover. Based on the dead man's research (which in turn is based on Beard's own prize-winning breakthrough) Beard develops a method of artificial photosynthesis to produce clean, inexpensive energy. read more »
Our favorite affiliate, St. Helen's Book Shop, is the best place to not only order Chuck Palahniuk books online, but to also have them personally signed and inscribed to you by the man himself! (yes, Chuck visits the store quite frequently to fulfill online inscription requests). Usually our promotions for St. Helen's Book Shop have to do with a new novel, but this time, Chuck is signing copies of an anthology of short stories edited by Neil Gaiman! The anthology features a short story Chuck read on tour in the past called The Loser.
Here are the details from St. Helen's themselves. (and hurry, they only have 100 of these!)
Limited Quantity! Chuck Palahniuk will only be signing 100 of these for us, and then they will be gone. If you placed your order before July 4th, your copy will ship the weekend of July 17th. All other orders will not ship till early September, after our next meeting with Mr. Palahniuk.
New anthology containing the brand-new Chuck Palahniuk story, "The Loser", featuring "a college kid on acid as a contestant on a game show." read more »
All ye who enter seeking the crazed Anne Rice of yore- consider yourself warned.
If this path to God is an illusion, then the story is worthless.
Oh, Anne. May I call you Anne? Remember when you freaked out on Amazon.com over the negative reviews of Blood Canticle? Or how about the time you brought your special brand of lunacy right here to The Cult? (sadly lost in the great Drupal transfer of the aughts.) Because that's what I was expecting from your memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. To be honest, that's the only reason I read it. I was hoping for a heaping dose of bat-shit crazy, but to your credit, all I got was an even-handed elegy to your archaic religion. *Sigh. read more »
A Four Part Video Interview With The Author of 'Columbine'Interview by Kasey Carpenter
One of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time, is Dave Cullen's Columbine. Released last year, the book went on to become a New York Times bestseller. But what it also did was clear up a lot of the gray smoke still shrouding the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High. For years, the media had gotten the story drastically wrong and has depicted Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's motives incorrectly. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene that day, but what set him apart was that he was not associated with any media 'pack' (CNN, Fox, etc). Instead, he was freelancing at the time for Salon.com. This important detail, and the fact that he spent close to ten years researching and then writing the book, make Columbine the most definitive exploration into the Columbine tragedy that exists.
For our interview, Kasey Carpenter, longtime Workshop member turned journalist, flew out to Denver, CO to visit with Dave at his writing studio. Dave, being a burgeoning enthusiast for video, set up his handy HD flip and over the course of four 10-14 min segments talked about everything from the media, to the killers, to even the publishers that released the book.
Below are the four segments of the entire interview. We had to set up a brand new Vimeo account to house all these, as YouTube won't let you go past 10 mins clips unless you're the Whitehouse. Enjoy!
From July 6 - July 13, all of our Fight Club Tshirts are on sale for only $15. These shirts were designed by top L.A. designer, Kevin Tong. The make is Next Level Apparel and they are available in all sizes in both Men's and Women's.
The Men's shirts come in Cornflower Blue and Cream. The Women's come in Cornflower Blue and Pink.
Check out the design in a high-rez close-up.
*Tshirts will ship within 1 week of your order.
Model For Us! Snap a pic of yourself wearing your Tshirt upon receipt and we'll post it on our site! Send your pic(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your name, as you'd like it credited.
Richard Thomas (aka Wickerkat on our forums) is a beloved and longtime member of our site who, in recent years, contributed much as a moderator of our Writers' Workshop. But during that time, Richard didn't just read submissions and provide feedback and help to up and coming writers, he also participated in the workshop himself! Now, after years of lessons from Chuck's 36 craft essays, peer feedback / review, and some of the best writing critiques you'll find on online, he graduated to the big time by having his first novel, Transubstantiate, picked up by a publisher!
This week, that novel was officially released. Read more below!
BOOK RELEASES TODAY
Hey everyone, the big day is here!
Go to http://www.otherworldpublications.com to purchase the signed/limited hardcover, the paperback, or the ebook. Use the code OWPMEM to save $2 off the HC or PB. Thanks in advance for all of your support.
“Transubstantiate is, is — it's a visual: that 2001 baby opening its eyes in the monolith, but the monolith is shrouded in this story of loss and hope and identity, and encoded in the cadence of that story, if you listen close, is the genetic map with which to draw this impossible celestial infant, opening its eyes on the page, looking right into you.”
—Stephen Graham Jones
The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong, All The Beautiful Sinners, The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto, Bleed Into Me: A Book of Stories, Demon Theory, The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti, Ledfeather, The Ones That Got Away read more »
by Craig Clevenger
TALKING HEADS, HEARING VOICES AND THE DISAPPEARING NARRATOR
I have two major pet peeves when it comes to dialogue. First, it bugs me when all the characters sound alike. Sure, with regional diction, accents, socioeconomic class, blah blah blah, it may be tough to distinguish between the Valley Dude speak of two high school kids, but not between those kids and their teachers or parents. Secondly, when characters speak with the same eloquence, or at very least the same style, as the narrator, i.e., the author, it rings false for me. One of the most valuable classes I had as an undergrad was a single semester of writing for the stage, during which we wrote two one-act plays. I still intended to write prose fiction, but writing plays forced me to hang the story on characters and dialogue.
To this day, I write all of my dialogue separately. In The Contortionist’s Handbook, I extracted all of the dialogue from the first finished draft, pasted it into a separate document in script format, what I call a “dialogue map.” No dialogue tags, narration, etc. I read through it out loud, re-worked it until I was satisfied, then dropped it back into the subsequent draft of the novel. With Dermaphoria, I wrote the entire first draft with no dialogue at all. Just narrative, with placeholders for the dialogue. Those placeholders had notes as to the nature of the exchange and the particular outcome, as well as any specific key phrases or lines I wanted to use. With each chapter, I wrote a dialogue map from scratch, worked on the dialogue separately from the novel (multiple drafts, etc., as though each map were a short play), then wove it back into the prose and worked on dialogue tags and breaking up the prose to accommodate it. In my current project, I’m writing all of the dialogue first with each chapter, to make certain that the chapter is driven by the voices and actions of the characters.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but worth it in my opinion. I’m very self-conscious about my dialogue. Will Christopher Baer thinks I’m crazy. He’s probably right. But the feeling is mutual.
Good dialogue is all about the author being invisible and letting the characters take center stage. It’s the difference between watching people on a screen, versus spying on them through the window, versus being in the room with them. Ideally, you want your reader in the room with your characters; experiencing your story as opposed to witnessing it (or simply hearing about it). Crafting realistic dialogue is a matter of time and practice, of listening to people and having an ear (and a love) for accents. While I have a few pointers on those things, they’re really up to the individual writer to work at. However, I have learned some very practical ways for the author to disappear when it comes to writing dialogue, methods that remove the one-way mirror between the reader and the story. read more »