Tag Archives: The Art of Writing

‘How to Ruin a Fantasy’ (2014)

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Just as merely destroying the dining room can ruin a do-it-yourself magic trick, there are just as simple ways to ruin a fantasy.

https://leeduigon.com/2014/06/22/how-to-ruin-a-fantasy/

Among many effective methods is the trick of repeatedly dragging the fantasy story back into the drearier aspects of what we generally think of as the “real world.” In the very worst example of that that I ever saw, the Elf turns to the Dwarf and says, “We must learn to respect a diversity of lifestyles.” I happen to know the author who wrote that. He’s a good guy. Otherwise he’d have to be put to sleep or something.

Having the characters in your fancy talk like modern teens’ text messages is guaranteed to ruin your fantasy. You’d be better off writing it in Rongo-Rongo script. Then at least we could maintain the untestable possibility that it might be good.


‘Fantasy and “Realism”‘ (2013)

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“Reality”? Or just a lot of dirty dishes?

Have you encountered this–people trying to appear intelligent by insisting that only the bad and ugly stuff is “real”? Of course you have.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/09/10/fantasy-and-realism/

The question I can’t answer, or even imagine an answer for, is why anyone would want us to believe that. To stifle belief in God–so that, in our desperation, we will turn to puffed-up goofy mortals for our salvation?

Yeah, that’s probably it.


‘How to Write a Really Rotten Novel’ (2015)

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I am re-running this post as a public service.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/02/22/how-to-write-a-really-rotten-novel/

It’s not everyone who can produce a really rotten novel. Indeed, it’s a gift. But if you’re shooting for sheer unreadability, these few pointers will surely get you started. And it’s no use complaining that certain individuals have gotten rich and famous by writing pure dreck.

Now I wonder–who could we say is (or was) the Cervantes of the truly rotten novel? Any suggestions?


I Miss My Book!

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It’s written, it’s typed and sent to the editor, and now the cold weather closes in and if I hadn’t finished by now, I’d be out of luck: yes, The Wind from Heaven is all done. And I’ve also written the cover blurb for His Mercy Endureth Forever, and Kirk has come up with dynamite cover artwork for it–

Now what do I do?

Yeesh! No more Bell Mountain, no more Jack and Ellayne and Martis, no more Gallgoid hatching plots in Obann City–what am I supposed to do with myself for the next six months? Just cover nooze?

Thing is, I work on a book so intently–especially when the weather won’t play ball and I’ve got to get it done in four and a half months instead of six–that to finally finish it leaves me gasping for breath. And a sense of loss!

I wonder what Violet Crepuscular would do.


‘Writing Tip: You’re Not in a Nudist Colony’ (2016)

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Probably a scene that you do need to describe in some detail

Come to think of it, I’ve never read a story set in a nudist colony.  But the point here, for budding writers, is to avoid burdening your readers with details that they don’t need–like what all the characters are wearing.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/10/25/writing-tip-youre-not-in-a-nudist-colony/

The trickiest part of writing fiction is description. If you don’t have enough, the scene never takes shape in the reader’s mind. If you provide too much, the reader will get bored and impatient.

J.R.R. Tolkien was great at telling you just enough to make the scene he was describing come alive. No one ever did a better job of harnessing the reader’s own imagination. That’s why illustrations of The Lord of the Rings don’t work for me–they never match what I’ve already imagined.


‘Bell Mountain’… and Mars

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Remarking that for some reason my character, Tughrul Lomak (one of King Ryons’ chieftains), reminds her of Tars Tarkas in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian novels, Heidi has asked to what extent, if any, those books by ERB have influenced my Bell Mountain books.

Tars Tarkas is a green Martian, a member of a race that has brutalized itself by practicing communalism–especially the communal raising of children: these guys take “It takes a village” to its logical extreme. But he has broken the law by loving his own daughter, which has made him capable of sympathy, friendship, and self-sacrifice. But he’s one of my favorite characters in the series, so thanks, Heidi, for mentioning him. Good old Tars Tarkas!

As to your question: Edgar Rice Burroughs has been one of my favorite authors since I first opened a paperback copy of Pellucidar back in high school. Over time, the Mars novels have become my favorite Burroughs stories. It’d be very unusual if I weren’t influenced by them.

But I’m old enough now to have learned not to try to imitate other writers, except in very general ways.

From Edgar Rice Burroughs I’ve learned everything I know about juggling sub-plots without dropping any, pacing, and moving the story continually forward, not letting it bog down anywhere along the way. No one ever did those things better than ERB.

Another thing I’ve learned from his example is that when the imagination wants to rip, let her rip! This is especially evident in one of my all-time favorites stories, The Chessmen of Mars, in which he created a place that’s weird and eerie even by Martian standards–and made it totally believable.

And I think it’s obvious to Tarzan fans that Wytt owes some of his inspiration to Tarzan’s easily-frightened little monkey, Nkima.

As a storyteller, I’m always on the lookout to learn from other storytellers. Self-education never stops. Something of all my favorite authors has gone into all of my Bell Mountain books. Sir Thomas Malory, Homer, The Mabinogion; Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Walter R. Brooks, H.R.F. Keating–and everyone else whose work I’ve enjoyed. Not forgetting Ross McDonald, who taught me how to write sentences that make themselves easy to read.

I could go on like this all day. But to sum it up–

If you want to be a writer… read!


Holy Moly! Finished!

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I’m a little behind in my posts today, but never mind–The Wind From Heaven has been written! Finito! Bell Mountain No. 13 is ready to have its final chapter set typed up and sent to Susan for editing.

Just in time, too: the weather’s getting too cold for me to sit outside and write.

Will this go down in history as “the Tanystropheus book?” I mean, because there’s a Tanystropheus in it? But that’s only one of its attractions, and the only one I’ll mention by name–don’t want to spoil any surprises. Susan has read the first five chapter sets and says you’re gonna need a seat belt to read this book.

But first we’ve got to get His Mercy Endureth Forever into print, and to make that turn out right, we need Kirk DouPonce’s cover art. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with this time.

And I just remembered I’ve got to do something about Joe Collidge today–so see you in a bit.


Today So Far

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I should’ve stationed a prairie dog on my calendar to squeak out an alarm when a day like this is coming up.

It’s cold and wet outside, but not actually raining (I think), so I’ll have to go out and try to get some work done on my book. We were going to go to the bank today to wrestle with more of Aunt Joan’s financial affairs a year and a half after her death–it just never ends–but Patty was too tired for it this morning. So let’s see if I can do any writing out there.

But first my Facebook share button mysteriously disappeared. Unable to re-connect, I had to contact the WordPress Happiness Engineer. Before he could address the problem, it went away. Just a temporary glitch.

By then I had received a comment from a lib who suggested I just stop blogging altogether because I have “nothing to say”–as opposed to, say, Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi–and oh, yeah, my Byron the Quokka posts stink, too. After a few minutes I decided to delete her comment. After all, we have a comment contest running and I don’t want a jerk like that to affect the results.

And now to go see if I can dry off my chair.


Down the Home Stretch (if I Can!)

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The fall season has its charm and beauty, but today, despite abundant sunshine, it’s just too cold to go outside and write.

I have one more chapter set to go, to finish The Wind From Heaven. Due to the late spring we had this year, I wasn’t able to start writing this book until May 24 . Usually I start in April. By working extra-hard for four months, I’m now racing the weather down the home stretch. I pray this coming week is somewhat warmer.

Jack’s had prophetic dreams again–dreams he doesn’t understand. Lord Orth has had to risk his life by returning to Obann City. Great ships coming from who knows where have been sighted off Durmurot. Lord Chutt has made mischief like no one ever dreamed he’d make. And Ebed, the orphan boy who spies for Gallgoid in the city, is about to go to sea–something that no one in Obann has done for a thousand years. And don’t even ask what Ysbott’s doing.

All this and more–you can see I’ve got my hands full.

Can I do in five months what usually takes me seven? And will it turn out right?

Stay tuned.


Writing Under Bombardment

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Well, it’s black walnut season again, and these heavy, baseball-sized projectiles are falling from the tree in our yard. When you hear one hit the roof of a parked car, you know it’s gonna hurt if one hits you.

Most writers probably don’t have to worry about getting pelted by walnuts. But I’m outside, trying to finish off the last chapter set of The Wind From Heaven, and there are walnuts falling all around me.

Why don’t I just write indoors? Nuisance phone calls are only one of many distractions. Besides, over the years, I’ve come to need the outdoors as my studio. Believe it or not, it’s kind of hard to imagine imaginary people in imaginary places and write them up in such a way that readers can believe they’re real. I need the birds, the bees, the butterflies, the sky, the grass, and the trees. When I write my fiction, I’ve just got to be outdoors.

Risk of falling walnuts notwithstanding.

Anyway, I’ve got to finish the book before the cold weather sets in, and I’m plugging away at it every day I can. May the Lord make my work fruitful in His service–and protect me from getting beaned while I do it.


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