Monday, November 4, 2013


I think if I had to summarize my writing as succinctly as possibly, I'd say it was a series of lists, separated by commas. I use commas a lot. Maybe too much. My cruise control mode is to bang out phrases until I've gotten from point A to point B without being particularly mindful of things like sentence structure or grammar.

Maybe a likely challenge week is to see if I can get through a thousand words without using a comma. I'm...not sure how pleasant that might be. For me, it would be like getting through a five mile run without tying my shoelaces.


Fun story. I don't give myself the opportunity to write action sequences nearly enough, which is problematic because action sequences are a great way to keep attention on your story if you dole them out wisely. Like all tools, it pays to switch things up to keep the pacing fresh.

Somebody once told me, way back in the days when I had to teach English to put food on the table while I got the bulk of grad school out of the way, that peoples' attention spans tend to test out at roughly ten minutes. If you've been talking ten minutes, you need to change something in the environment. Sit down, move, stand on the desk, do a hand stand, whatever it takes to switch things up. Stories aren't much different. You've got ten sexy minutes before attention fades and if you don't blow something up every few pages, you're gonna lose your readers.

Oddly enough, that's the same advice Roger Corman gives to his screenwriters. The Roger Corman formula is that every ten pages something has to explode, there has to be a killing, or some nubile somebody or other has to get naked. No exceptions. In practice, this means that every ten minutes in his films, there's SOMETHING interesting happening. It's a good habit to get into.

People can be doing just about anything else than reading your book/story/epic poem about the Hungarian throat-singers/play/whatever. You have an obligation to make sure their time is well spent, doubly so if they're paying you for the privilege.

Among The Moons Of Jupiter was a sort of double-exercise. I pulled out a twenty-sided die, because I am nerd enough that I usually have a billion dice within arm's reach, of any flavor you care to name, save for the real oddities (I don't have any d5, d7, d9, d14, d16's or d30's...yet). I rolled for a random book from my library and got a classic pulp from Leigh Brackett.

I used that as a launching point for Chuck Wendig's Zero Fuckery Guide on character creation. I came up with a typical pulp hero. The hook is that he's a pacifist. He's seen so much action that he's come to a place in his life where he simply can't bring himself to kill anyone anymore. Also, the Earth was destroyed at some point, probably by some cartoonishly villainous method like a moon-based death ray laser. No subtlety here, nothing surprising, just an excuse to get into the action as soon as humanly possible. If this were a full length book, it would be the sort you pick up, blow through in an afternoon, and then promptly forget about. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

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