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Truth in Fiction


We use stories to tell useful truths through lies

Expose your true self to get to good truths

Sources of Inspiration

They don't necessarily need to be things in the field you're working in; your most
influential sources of inspiration can come from other things, like music or books
you read as a child.

Subvert Expectations

Take a familiar story and dissect it and look at it in a new way, from different

People-watch. Add them to your stories. Real people are stranger than you can

Confluence: put two things together

Finding Your Voice


"Style is the stuff you get wrong."

Your style will take time to develop

Just write. Get the bad words out.

You have to finish things to learn from them. You learn more from finishing a
failure than starting an award-winner.

"What's going to happen?" is the game you play as a writer with your readers. Make
them wonder.

You have to care what happens to these people and put it in your writing. If you
don't care, they won't.

Developing the Story


When you start, make a brain dump and write down everything you know about the

Don't look down. Don't censor yourself. Don't derail the train by doubting or
looking behind the curtain or editing too early.

First you get an idea, then you ask yourself: what's it about? You have to have
something to say that means something to you.

Create conflict. There are many ways to deal with conflict; directly and
indirectly. Characters can fail or succeed or neither.

What do your characters want? Make two characters have two opposing desires.

Case Study: Graveyard Book


Everything is driven by the characters' wants.

Short Fiction

Roger Zelazny: "The best short stories are the last chapter of a novel I didn't

Only one thing has to happen.

Short stories are a great place to practice your craft and learn skills.

Short Fiction Case Study: March Tale


Forks; you start with many options, but by the end of the story, there should
really be only one or a few paths to choose from.

Dialogue and Character


Dialogue IS character. Dialogue reveals character and moves plot. And it can be

Real life conversation is fragmented, dangling words, unfinished sentences. Don't

do that.

Dialogue should be economic.

Don't force your characters to say things; listen to them.

Trust your characters. Know your characters.

Find your characters in parts of you.

Find people with the characteristics you don't have or know and talk to them.

Trust yourself, but also do your research. But also don't get trapped in research;
do "enough." (That's so helpful.)

It feels more honest if you do the research.

Funny Hats. Give each character something different and unique to them. A point of
reference for the reader. An accent, a funny hat, a walk, whatever.

Case study: Neverwhere.

Character Case study: October Tale


Robert Heinlein said there are basically three stories;

- Little Tailor
- Boy Meets Girl
- A Man Learns a Lesson


Don't use someone else's world. Look at the real world and make it different.

You need to know the rules even if you don't tell the reader.


Describe through the character's impressions.

If you don't want to describe literally, you can describe through simile.

Focus on what makes that thing different. Everyone knows what a tree looks like;
why is YOUR tree different?

Use different senses, like smell and taste. Use what's strongest.


Humor is important to him. Sometimes dry, sometimes overt. Humor is recognition of

something unexpected, something off.

Take the familiar and twist it a bit, make fun of the cliches.

End the sentence with a funny word like "lard"

Interesting story about collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Running jokes, overt or
covert, with or without payoffs. One-off jokes.

Saying goodbye to your characters?


Understand your reader's expectations for the genre.

The plot exists to keep everything (your reader expects from the genre) from
happening at the same time.

Know the rules before you break them.

Sail against reader expectations.

Get out of your comfort zone. Don't stick to what you grew up on.


While very interesting, I don't really plan on writing comics.

Play to your collaborators' strengths. Be aware of how the process works.

Make sure you know why we should care about the story.

Dealing with Writer's Block


If you are stuck...

1. Go away and do something and come back and re-read it as if you've never read it

2. Be better. Go deeper. Be honest.

3. Recalibrate if you need to. Each character should get what they need.

4. Deadlines can focus the mind and force you to be more willing to throw away what
doesn't work.

Print it out and read it with fresh eyes. Read it as a reader, not a writer.

Listen to feedback and that it exists and be aware if something doesn't work, but
don't listen to their suggestions as they will invariably be wrong or bad.

Rules for Writers


1. You have to WRITE.

2. You have to FINISH what you write.
3. Once finished, you have to SEND it out.
4. EDIT only if you have to. You are the final word.
5. KEEP sending it.
6. START another thing.

Good and bad days are part of the process.

You need arrogant confidence and humility at the same time.

The Writer's Responsibilities


Put good values into your stories

Parting Advice

Go out into the world