Questionable: Back Story and Flashback

Katie Redhead said:

I vote yes to discussing how and when to deploy backstory effectively . . . And maybe I’m sort of asking another question all together about flashbacks vs backstory and whether which way we get the information makes a difference to how I feel about a character.

Let’s start with what back story is, then go on to the difference between flashback and memory as a way of putting back story on the page, and then talk about back story and character. Continue reading

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Collaging Character

We’re talking about collage this week in the McD class, and one of the hardest things to get across is that collage is not illustration. While it’s perfectly fine to google for specific things in your story, what you’re really looking for is the look and feel of the narrative, and nowhere is that more important than in the characters.

It’s tempting to just pick one face to represent your character and leave it at that, but I’ve found that it’s too limiting, especially if you’re using an actor in a particular role. At that point, you’re really just using somebody else’s character, so I’ve found it’s easier to visualize my people if I choose multiple faces to represent them. For example, here’s Tennyson from “Cold Hearts:” Continue reading

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Questionable: Pictures and Writing

Deb Blake asked:

I know you’ve talked a lot about your creative process with storyboarding (is that a word?) and collages and such. I don’t tend to use such things, but I’m starting to make Word docs for each novel that include pictures of my protagonists, and other notable stuff (their dogs, cars, motorcycles). Can you talk a little bit about how you create and organize your pictorial “notes”?

I just went back to the draft to this post to reread my answer and realized that I didn’t answer the question Deb asked, I answered the question I thought she asked. So first, here’s the answer to her real question: Continue reading

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Leverage Sunday: The Juror # 6 Job, Integrating a Single Character Subplot

"The Juror #6 Job" Leverage has five members in its community which is a problem if you want to arc your characters by showing how the events of their stories change them and make them grow. One solution is to skip the character arcs and just do action stories, but that leaves a story with characters who become boring because they always react the same way, always do the same thing, Trying to arc each team member in every episode is just as bad; it results in truncated, chaotic plots and not much growth. A third option, giving an episode over to a single team member, would be almost as bad because it would kill the focus on community that makes this show so strong. The Leverage writers went with a different solution: giving characters their own subplots at different times in the series, making sure those subplots are integrated completely into the main plot so the character growth stuff never stops the main con plot in its tracks. “The Juror #6 Job” is a great example of this use of subplot. Continue reading

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Managing Plot and Subplot

I watched three TV episodes this week about teams of good guys battling a mastermind who communicated with minions using ear coms. Two of them aired in the past week, the other is several years old, but the basic plot was the same: bring down the mastermind. The difference was in the way the stories used their subplots, and it was a big difference.

(Important Note: This is NOT a writing technique, it’s a critical approach. Don’t do this for your own stories, it’ll make you insane.) Continue reading

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