Framed Stories


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So I’ve been reading through the Arabian Nights. Which is a huge book, and the version I’ve been reading is apparently a fairly complete version of the ancient anthology. Also, minimal paragraph breaks so, yay! (It’s almost incomprehensible, but I’m not reading all that carefully anyway.) Continue reading


Making a Good Series Finale


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(Last one, I promise!) In case it isn’t clear, I really enjoyed Star Wars Rebels and I think people should watch it if they like Star Wars and cartoons. It’s a fun series, and there’s a lot of things I think they did right when they told these stories. I know I said rules in the title, but it’s really more a set of observations about things that work well. Not all of them apply to all stories, and some of them might just be fun story elements for all I know.

Anyhow, here’s a few things that make a good series finale. Continue reading

What Makes a Great Sequel


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Star Wars Rebels is also a sequel, and a pretty darned good one. Not so much to Star Wars I-III, but to the Clone Wars TV show. It reuses both the half hour cartoon format, and a few of the characters. And like being a prequel, there are a few things that make it a good sequel that I think can apply to other stories. Continue reading

What Makes a Great Prequel


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Finished watching the TV show Star Wars Rebels. Yes, I know it’s a kid’s cartoon. Who cares? This show is interesting in that it is both a sequel to Star Wars I-III and the Clone Wars TV show, and a prequel to Star Wars IV. Which means that there’s a lot to learn about storytelling. I’ve got three blog posts planned. This one is about its status as a prequel. Continue reading

I Can See the Light


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I finally have the third act of my latest WIP (work in progress) outlined. It was painful, and it has taken me months to figure out what I’m doing with this book and where I’m going with all those vague notes I made in the beginning, but it is done now. All I have to do is write it.

First, dealing with character motivations. They didn’t change, thank goodness, but they did become a lot more defined by the time I was halfway through, and so the final act needed to reflect that. I can go back and add in the things I need to make it work, but for this all I needed to do was make sure I knew what I was targeting for sure.

Next, going through old notes and reconciling with how the story has gone, because it still works. It’s still what I was aiming for, I was just super vague. Which is probably why it still works. Filling in a few gaps, making sense of some confusing digital scribbles, turning my generalized sense of an ending into something I can actually write.

Then, connecting the dots between the character arcs and the underlying political tension and the actual surface goal of the character. That’s… going to need work. And lots of going back to act one to add more hints and clues as to where it’s all going. But at least now I know how it ties together, at least in a clumsy fashion.

And then going back and outlining the little details I’m going to need to add in order to make that tension clear. I probably shouldn’t have spent all that time on outlining the details for these things, when I’ll just change it first thing when I start draft two. It was helpful, though, in that now I know where I theoretically want readers to be coming from by the time we get to the end.

Finally, making a story out of it and finding an end point that’s not 100k words in the future. All I can do for that is write it. See if it actually meshes together the way it does in my head, or if I’m just being silly.

It feels like a triumph right now, getting all that figured out. Hopefully I can take the momentum and let it carry me to the actual end of the book. Anyone else have an epiphany moment lately?


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Some days I wish there were twenty-five instead of twenty-four hours in a day. I could…

Watch more TV / Get more writing done

Play Stardew Valley / Play around with my blog a bit more

Daydream / Shop my stories around to editors and agents by writing killer query letters

Procrastinate on my phone / Socialize with my peers

Listen to music / Make a super fancy dinner for my family

Or… I could accept that both options are valid uses of my time, whether I have twenty-four or twenty-five hours to do it in. To find a balance, and re-energize myself for doing the hard stuff. The work stuff. All that. In general, just make the best use of the time I have, rather than wish I had more of it.

A Few Lessons Learned from Ratatouille


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I watched Ratatouille, and learned/was-reminded-of a few things about writing within the first half hour or so. (Seriously, if you need lessons in storytelling, just watch a Pixar movie with a critical eye.) In this instance, I mostly noticed how well the characters were introduced, so I wanted to sit down and figure out what made it work. So here goes.

1. Show them in their natural habitat

We see the rats being rats, but more importantly we see Remy standing out from that. He’s clearly got his own habits and ideas set long before the point where the story begins, and so that first plot moment develops naturally. You get the sense that he’s going to end up in this place no matter what.

2. Use the way they see the world to tell us about them

Remy is also a narrator character, which is something I enjoy employing in my own work, to varying success. In this case, it really works because it tells us details about the world that we might otherwise miss, but especially because it tells a lot about how Remy sees the world. Since he’s the main character, that’s kind of important.

3. Turn something upside down and force them to react

All that normal stuff, all the history given, and then an old lady with a shotgun blasts it all to pieces. Show the characters, then let those characters react to something crazy. I mean, of course we want the plot to happen, but in terms of character development, this is the moment that makes or breaks. If you did your job right, everything the character does just flows out of the prior setup.

4. Don’t have to reveal too much too early.

Yes, the important things should be there, but some details can wait or merely be implied or hinted at. We don’t need to know that Remy’s telling the story from the safety of his little rat restaurant in the future. We don’t need to know anything about how Remy would treat a friend just yet. We’ll see that eventually.

Darn. Now I wish I had been able to finish that movie. (I mean, not that I haven’t seen it before, but I missed the big finish with the ratatouille. I miss that.)
Anyone else with a Pixar movie that inspired them?