Tag Archives: plotting stories

Ten More Plots Taken From Other People’s Problems

Again taken from helpineedhelp.com: I don’t know what the back of my head looks like. I’m a peeping tom. I don’t know what fork to use. I forgot my password. I need a dream recommendation. I forgot someone’s name. I … Continue reading

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Ten Plots Generated from Other People’s Problems

All taken from http://www.helpineedhelp.com/#/ I don’t like my eyebrows. I’ve never been kissed. I don’t want to clean up my mess. I’m involved in a gang. I don’t know if I’m gay. I want my cat to be a cover … Continue reading

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About Writing: Coaxing a Seed into a Story

Last night we had the final session of the Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction class, which is the session where we talk about everything except writing: stuff like going to conventions, and how to submit stories, and how to treat editors and what about audio markets and all that sort of thing. And I’d meant to include a section about plotting stories, because I’d taught a new class the day before, the Moving Your Story From Idea to Finished Draft class, and as often happens had come up with some new things to say about stories from thinking about one specific aspect, but there just wasn’t enough time. So I want to talk a little bit about it in a blog post.
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Writing and the Human Condition

I wanted to talk about something that I often say in class. It’s something Connie Willis told my Clarion West class, and which I repeat, but don’t explain as thoroughly as I should, because it’s so clear in my head.

But words are imprecise things, and so I’m a-gonna do what we used to call “unpacking” back in grad school and even provide some useful examples. What did Connie say? She said, “Good fiction teaches us what it means to be human.” As good f&sf writers, I would argue that we might change “human” to “self-aware being,” but that is picking nits.

What does that mean? It means we’re all faced with this common problem: life. And we want to know what we’re supposed to do, and what we can get away with, and what to do about all that hardcoded primate behavior that keeps popping up from time to time, and stuff like that. Sometimes the message features a universal human, sometimes it is a human shaped by particular circumstances, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, etc. It’s why we like to read fiction. It’s why we like gossip. We want to know what other human beings do.

And here’s why this is important: Sometimes thinking about what a story is trying to say is a good way to complete, rewrite, or sharpen it.
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