This past near has been interesting for me, nostalgia-wise, as Engen Books has been re-releasing my original 10-part urban thriller series as Coral Beach Casefiles with some wonderful covers by Kit Sora. As such I’ve been taking the time to go back and tweak and adjust some goofs in the original texts.
There’s some things you can only write when you’re young I think, and last month and this month were a very anxious time for me because they saw the release of Ghosts of the Past and Ignorance is Bliss… both of which have plots which revolve chiefly around children in peril, and one in which said child meets a (spoilers) very bad end.
This is the type of thing I would rarely do today, and even looking back on it I find it… squeamish. Have I lost my edge? I went back a re-read these books with a kind of half-grimace, because all I remember are the outcomes… but then I remembered, these were actually half decent books. I actually started to like the writing again and get back into the mindset.
All this begged the question for me: why was this plot necessary for young me? Why do kids die in fiction? Continue reading Why we kill [CENSORED] in fiction | Writing and Publishing advice from Engen Founder Matthew LeDrew
For a lot of us writers working a “real job”, finding the time (and motivation) to sit down to write is a chore. Real jobs are exhausting. If you’re anything like me, coming home from a day at the office leaves you wanting two things: food and sleep. That’s right, I just want to eat and go to bed. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of leisure time. When I come home I have three kids, a wife, a dog, and my wife’s cat. Napping has become impossible, and I’d be lucky if there was any food left in the house by the time I got home from work. Of course then there is supper time, bath time, and bed time routines. Hanging out, homework, and, if we’re lucky, a few minutes to catch up with my wife before sleep drags me down into its sweet, sweet depths. Did you notice I didn’t work in any writing time in there? Yeah, about that…
Continue reading Got the Time? Make the Time! | Dobbin’s Blog
It’s the fortieth anniversary of the release of Alien. In its honour, I’d like to try and breakdown why it’s arguably the most effective horror movie ever movie. Much like how the xenomorph has different evolutionary forms, so too does horror
In the introduction to his short story collection Maps in a Mirror, Orson Scott Card identifies three stages of fear: 1) Dread 2) Terror and 3) Horror. Continue reading Unholy Trinity: Alien and the Three Stages of Fear
I liked the Game of Thrones finale. Fight me.
Much like the last episode of Lost, it couldn’t absolve all the sins of the final season(s), but the episode in itself was satisfying. In my last post, I was critical of the last two seasons of Game of Thrones, arguing that the writers were prioritizing spectacle over storytelling. And now, looking back over how it all went down, it’s really perplexing to me that they didn’t use all this time to better set the ground for Dany’s heel turn.
In a post that’s gone viral, Daniel Silvermint suggests that the series has moved away from the “pantser” ethos of GRRM towards the “plotter” approach of showrunners D&D. Silvermint does a great breakdown of what these terms mean, so I suggest reading it, but I’ll do a brief summary for you: “plotters” are writers who list out the major plot points of a story before they start fleshing it out; whereas “pantsers” discover the story as they write it, they fly by the seat of their pants. Tolkien is often referred to as the ultimate plotter because he designed the maps, languages, and lore of Middle Earth before writing LOTR. Conversely, GRRM is the ultimate pantser because he claims that he loses interest in a story once he learns the ending. Continue reading Plotters vs Pantsers: Prior Planning Prevents Proper Piss-offs
One of the great challenges writers face is creating a compelling conflict between their protagonist and antagonist. Too often the hero and villain exist within in their own respective vacuums. The hero saves the day because that’s their job while the villain twirls their moustache and exists as the hero’s make-work project.
I think a truly great hero/villain dichotomy is when the antagonist is a foil to the protagonist. That’s when the comparison goes deeper than their goals; their character traits are similar but differ in some striking ways. Moreover, by creating a strong contrast between your hero and villain, you can develop the themes of your story.
To illustrate this point I want to talk about the characters Cloud and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7. I chose FF7 because I want to show that this principle transcends media. And also because that game kicks ass and Sephiroth is the ultimate badass. FF7’s story is pretty bananas, but I’ll do my best to streamline and focus on the salient points.
*Spoilers ahead* Continue reading Final Fantasy Foiling: Sephiroth vs Cloud
It’s been a long time since I wrote an ongoing series of articles on this, or any other, website. That’s weighed on me. Since graduating I miss the exercise of penning essays. I’ve even encouraged my fellow Engen authors to write ongoing writing blogs (namely Ali House, Brad Dunne, Kit Sora, and Jon Dobbin, all of whom you should check out). But I never have myself. Writing advice is one thing, all our authors can offer that… but publishing advice? Marketing advice? Social Media advice… that comes with a different set of expectations, and a lot of hurt feelings.
Part of my anxiety around this has become the subject of today’s piece, because I want to address the evident hypocrisy in it right off the bat.
Today’s advice is: don’t post negative reviews, especially of authors at (or near) your current level of notoriety. Continue reading Watch Your Reviews | Writing & Publishing Advice with Engen Founder Matthew LeDrew
One of the most confounding pieces of writing advice that gets thrown around haphazardly is “write what you know.” On the surface it makes sense: draw from personal experience so that your familiarity with the material lends a sense of authenticity and verisimilitude. However, when you think about it a little, it would seem to preclude a vast amount of possible stories. If you’re supposed to “write what you know” then how are you supposed to write fantasy, sci-fi, or even historical fiction. Moreover, many of those genre writers seem to do just fine without having personally experienced their own settings; Tolkien never set foot in Middle Earth.
I still think that “write what you know” has some currency, but we’ll have to dig into it a little bit to unpack its value. Continue reading Write What You Know: A case study of Tom Clancy | Dunne Blog