Posts Tagged ‘about writing’

A quick note: I fenced for a number of years. Foil primarily, but I’ve also picked up some different rapier techniques as well as some “heavy” sword work (two-hander, sword and shield, single-handed broadsword along with some very limited small unit tactics). My lens is primarily through Western martial arts, and there are some great additional resources out there (The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts for instance) that I definitely recommend checking out.


“Hey there.”

“Hey back.”

“Watcha working on?”

“A piece on dialogue writing.”

“Seriously? You think you’re qualified to write something like that. What are you starting with?”

“A definition. Dialogue: a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie.”

“Yawn. C’mon, liven it up a bit. Think of the great dialogue scenes in movies. John McClane and Al Powell. Harry and Sally. Vincent McCauley and Neil Hanna. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield. Two people, sitting down, talking to each other. Sometimes sizing each other up. Sometimes taking the piss out of each other. And you’re going to start with a definition?”

“You’ve got a better idea?”

“Bet your ass I do.”

“Please, enlighten me.”

“Start with a question?”

“A question. But not any question. The question all authors need to ask about anything they are including in a story.”


“Well what?”

“The question, what’s the question?”

“You tell me, you’re the one writing about dialogue like some kind of expert.”

“All right. How’s this: ‘What purpose does dialogue serve in the context of the story you are telling?’”

“Ding ding ding. Of course, you are also going to have give some examples.”


“Hey, you are the one that wanted to write about dialogue.”

“All right, all right. So you can use dialogue to answer questions, right?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“Can’t it be both?”

“Now you’re catching on. If you answer a question with a question, you might both answer the question and raise more questions. Same thing if you have someone ask a follow-up question to an answer provided. Helps break up the wall o’ text that might establish itself in the middle of what you are writing.”

“All right. So it can be used to ask questions and answer them. It can be used to provide information to the reader. Anything else.”

“What are you, some kind of idiot?”

“Wait- what? Why did you just call me that?”

“Maybe I did that to show the kind of relationship that we have. By taking an antagonistic approach to the dialogue I’m telling the reader about the kind of relationship we have, as opposed to if I started calling you Pumpkin.”

“Really, another Pulp Fiction reference?”

“Just seeing if you’re paying attention. So do you think it’s possible to have more than two people in a conversation?”

“Of course it is.”

“Whoa, who are you?”

“The person eavesdropping on your conversation. Fascinating stuff, really. So yes it is possible to have another character jump in, but you need to be sure to keep clear to the reader who is talking, otherwise they might lose the thread of the conversation.”

“Huh, good point.”

“Agreed. Now, if you don’t mind, this is a private conversation.”

“Well, excuse me.”

“Wait, where were we?”

“Let’s see, showing relationships through dialogue, Pulp Fiction reference, timely interruption. Anything else?”

“Let me think. Mind pouring me a cup of coffee while I ponder?”

“Not at all.”

“There you go, showing action through dialogue. Of course, you could do that through a sentence showing action within the dialogue, but that’s not always necessary.”

“Hmm. Good point. Any final thoughts?”

“Final thoughts? Final thoughts! We’ve barely dipped into the topic and here you are asking me for final thoughts! We haven’t touched on dialect, slang, or whether or not it’s okay to use ‘said’ at the end of a dialogue to indicate who is talking. And we definitely haven’t touched on the most important aspect of all.”

“Huh? What’s that?”

“Reading the dialogue aloud. It’s even better if you’ve got another person you can work with so you can make sure the banter works, as opposed to dwelling in your own head only thinking your dialogue pops when it facts its heavier than a lead balloon.”

“Huh, good idea, thanks.”

“De nada.”

The protagonist is the main character of the story. It is the person that, by acting, or in many cases reacting, to events, drives the action of the story.

Protagonist is a Moral Free Designation

The protagonist of the story is the main character, that’s it. They can be good, evil, moral, immoral, or amoral. Patrick Bateman is the protagonist character of AMERICAN PSYCHO, even if he is an unhinged lunatic. Maleficient, even though she is the antagonist in SLEEPING BEAUTY, is the protagonist for her own story. It doesn’t matter what their motivation is, so long as it is their action driving the plot, then that’s your protagonist.

If you were to write a story from Darth Vader’s perspective, Darth Vader would then be your protagonist, with the rebels (and possibly the emperor) being designated the antagonists.

Your Narrator Isn’t Always the Protagonist

It is easy to think that your narrator, especially when writing from a first person perspective, is the protagonist. This, however, is not always the case. The iconic example is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, which are told from the perspective of his friend, Dr. John Watson. Watson, however, is not the driving force behind those stories, even though he does take an active role. Rather, he is the chronicler of Holmes’ exploits.

So when looking at your own story, is your narrator the main character? Or is someone else making the decisions, developing as a character, and driving your story forward?

What If You Have More Than One Protagonist?

So what if you have more than one main character? What if your characters trade off narration duties, especially when perspective flips? Well, then you have the case of the deuteragonist. The deuteragonist may not get the same “screen time” or page count of the protagonist, but their story is as integral to the whole. While the story of Lord of the Rings is very much Frodo’s story, Sam’s story takes up a good deal of the plot as well. And yes, Aragorn ends up being a triagonist in this case, as his story, while important, is sublimed into the background of Frodo and Sam’s quest.

Sometimes the Protagonist Isn’t Who We Think It Is

Sometimes as writer’s we employ a bit of sleight of hand. We start off with a story, lulling you into a sense that the character who is currently front and center is the focus of the story. Surprise! They die a quarter of the way through the book. Wait? What happened? The writer was using the time-honored technique of the Decoy Protagonist. Huh? Why would they do that?

Lots of reasons really.

Maybe the simple answer is that the author never wants you to get comfortable around the characters, never wants you, the reader, to feel safe. If the “main” character dies part way through, well then who is safe at the end of the day? The sense of danger and of suspense is heightened when the reader doesn’t know who is going to survive and who’s just more meat for the grinder.

And Sometimes the Protagonist Lies

Think about stories you might tell about yourself. Do you drag every fact into the light? Are you always objectively telling the exact truth? If you and someone else tell the same story, do all the facts line up precisely? Probably not. Think about that from your perspective as a writer. You, as the author, need to know what happened. The character? Not so much. Their own prejudices and biases color their actions and thoughts, and you need to be aware of that. Sometimes your protagonist will lie, or even simply be mistaken. As the writer you need to be willing to take those chances, while still being true to the story you want to tell.

Now go ahead and watch THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Think about who told the story. Now, what parts of the story hold true? How much of it is a fabrication? How can you use this in your own stories?

On Horror

Posted: May 28, 2015 in On Writing
Tags: , , ,

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”- Stephen King

What defines the horror genre? What sets it apart from the rest of speculative fiction?


Roleplay, if you are into it, and you’ve got a like-minded partner(s)  can add a bit of variety to the bedroom- Wait. No, this isn’t that article. Whoops.


Right, back on track then.


What I meant to say is that playing role-playing games is good for you as a writer. I’m not talking about computer games either (though they can be useful in other ways, especially when looked at as a piece of media and you want to parse out the character and story elements), but the old pen and paper games where you get together with a bunch of friends, get a bunch of dice and go on and adventure together. (more…)