TEN YEARS OF FANTASY AUTHOR’S HANDBOOK

I can’t believe I forgot such a major milestone in my writing life, but the tenth birthday of this blog came and went on June 15, marking an uninterrupted decade of weekly posts on the subject of writing fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general.

In some ways, as with any anniversary, it seems like just yesterday that I started this up, and at the same time it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t have that weekly commitment.

How do you look back on ten years of a blog like this?

Let’s start at the beginning, which is the conception of the thing in the first place, which was to coincide with the release of The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, which I was then finishing up. If you scroll through the index you’ll see that a lot of the early posts are portions of text that was cut from that book; and the full interviews with authors, editors, and agents who were quoted in the book.

As of this morning Fantasy Author’s Handbook has enjoyed 397,658 views, with 2152 views on the best day. Readers have left 1997 comments, I have 837 followers, and have written 522 posts. Surely because I ended up on a few best lists, the biggest year for Fantasy Author’s Handbook was 2015, but I keep plugging along.

The most popular single post is “What Makes a Monster Scary?” from July 8, 2014 by a margin of 10,000 views over second place finisher “How Long Should Your Fantasy Novel Be?” from March 31, 2015. The last place finisher is “Moving Forward With Backward” from November 28, 2017, so you should click on that one and give it some much needed love.

It’s always interesting to see how people get to Fantasy Author’s Handbook, and some of the search terms can be a bit on the oddball side. The all time search term champion is “the prisoner,” beating “galley slaves” by 77, leaving “philip athans” in third place, just barely above “galley slave.” At the bottom of the list? Four people got me by typing “bee gees little brother” into Google. Still, the number of different variations of “galley slave” is disturbing. The post that obviously refers to is about the origin of the term “galley” for a pre-press copy of a book, a post from all the way back on February 9, 2010. But something tells me that’s not what most people were searching for.

The overwhelming majority of you (107,386) got here via various search engines (which means Google, really) with Facebook and Twitter neck and neck at 6539 and 6268 respectively, but I owe a debt of gratitude to thewritelife.com for 4898 referrals. And speaking of referrals, Fantasy Author’s Handbook has sent someone to Amazon.com 5752 times.

If you haven’t scrolled through the INDEX page, this might be a good time to start. There might be a few of these 522 posts you haven’t seen yet that might help you out or amuse you or get you thinking. And take a look at all those links off to the right side of the page, maybe give a few of those a look-see, too. And if there’s something I haven’t covered and you’re curious to hear my take on it, comment at ASK PHIL and let’s see what we can do.

What more could there be for me to say? What inside information can I spill on Fantasy Author’s Handbook after ten years?

How about this: It proves that it is possible to commit to an ongoing writing project and to make a habit of it. I’ve posted something here, religiously, every Tuesday for a decade and running, and the overwhelming majority of those Tuesdays, I had no idea what I was going to write about until I sat down that Tuesday morning. There are only a handful of times that a post was written ahead of time, and maybe only two or three times that I scheduled something to post ahead of time.

Fantasy Author’s Handbook is something I do every Tuesday morning, and barring some world-altering tragedy like my untimely demise (Heaven forfend!) I’ll keep posting every Tuesday.

At this point I’m not sure I even know how to stop.

But in any case, thank you for reading, thank you for writing, and see you next week!

 

—Philip Athans

 

Science fiction and fantasy are among the most challenging—and rewarding!—genres in the bookstore, but with best selling author and editor Philip Athans at your side, you’ll create worlds that draw your readers in and keep them reading!

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

 

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TWO CROWS: EXPLORING WEIRD TALES Vol. 5, No. 1—PART 17

This week my series of posts examining a single issue of Weird Tales from 1925 takes a bit of a strange turn—or does it? The next feature in the magazine, filling the rest of the page that begins with the ending of “The Ocean Leech” by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. is a poem. But what’s this? A poem in a series of posts dissecting pulp fiction?

Well, yes, “Two Crows” is indeed a poem, and poetry was not at all an unusual occurrence in the pulps, though from what I can tell they slowly ran out of fashion as the magazines progressed (or, some might argue, dissolved) into the 1950s.

And this being…

…we should expect a weird and unique poem.

I’ll go ahead and paste the entire poem here.

 

Two Crows

by Francis Hard

 

Two crows flapped over dismally

(So wearily, so drearily)

To the blackened limb of a blasted tree;

The shells flew screaming overhead,

And the field was covered thick with dead—

The earth reeked with its dead.

 

One crow lamented to his mate

(So wearily, so drearily):

“How long, how long must we now wait

For the taste of food that was so good

Before the shrapnel shattered the wood

And loaded the ground with dead?

 

“The odor sweet of dying men”

(Lamented he so drearily),

“How strangely pleasant was it when

I sensed it first with ravished breath!

But I am sated, and sick to death,

And would fain lie yon with the dead.”

 

A shell came moaning through the air

(So drearily, so eerily)

And burst where the crows were plaining there;

It shivered the wreck of the blasted tree,

And bits of crow fell bloodily

Among the tangled dead.

Quite a maudlin little piece there, made more poignant when you do the math between the end of World War I and the publication of this magazine. It’s easy to imagine that more than one of the authors published therein were veterans of that terrible war, and here we have a forlorn tale of battle fatigue and the suicidal depression so often part of post traumatic stress disorder.

Francis Hard was actually Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales from 1924-1940, including the issue at hand. And indeed, according to the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Mr. Wright “was drafted into the US Army in 1917 and served in the infantry in WWI.”

This goes to show that though we’ve seen some pretty silly stuff here, and have had some fun with outmoded ideas and retro culture and language, there’s a lot more to be heard in these yellowed old pages, and a lot still to be learned.

 

—Philip Athans

 

Finding the Personal in the Procedural

Take a deep dive into “show vs. tell” by concentrating on your point-of-view character’s emotional experience of each scene in this online tutorial from Writer’s Digest.

 

 

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WHEN WRITING GETS DIFFICULT

I think there are two types of writers. There are writers who never get any version of writer’s block and for whom the act of creation is either pure joy, or a task to be completed like any job. The other type are the writers who aren’t totally full of shit liars.

Aaron Sorkin, in a Hollywood Reporter Writer Roundtablesaid:

Listen, most of the time I really struggle with writing. People ask if I have writer’s block. That’s my default position. And so most days I go to bed not having done anything except climb the walls because I don’t have an idea or I’m stuck where I am. And you really do think in that moment you’re not ever going to write again. Those are tough moments. Another tough moment is when you see something in your head that’s good, that’s really beautiful, and you were just not able to transfer it onto the piece of paper.

There’s a pretty successful writer telling us he sometimes gets locked up. And he’s hardly the only writer in any medium who’s said some version of the same thing. Though I love advice for writers—I collect it myself, trying things and experimenting with ideas, and so on—I also try to remember that this is a creative pursuit, an art form, and as such there’s some mystery to it, and a huge dose of individuality. And by that I mean what works for one author will not work for another, and for no quantifiable reason.

I’ve heard authors advise we treat writing fiction like a nine-to-five job, with an hour off for lunch. I’ve seen various word count goals: a thousand words a day, 1500 words, etc. There are time limits: write for an hour every day, or two hours. I’ve seen advice for when exactly to write your number of words or minutes: in the morning before the kids get up or at night after the kids go to sleep…

Hell, try all these, especially if you’re sitting around not writing. If, like Aaron Sorkin, you’re stuck where you are—if you need to unblock or figure stuff out. I have a whole online tutorial on the subject. Try making lists, play media roulette… or just plain walk away.

This last one, I believe, is the best first go-to position for any author not working to a deadline imposed from outside. I like the idea of self-imposed deadlines, of trying to finish a rough draft in the month of November, or before the end of the school year, or whatever. But unless there’s an editor threatening to call back an advance, a magazine that will publish with or without you… calm down.

If you’re climbing the walls like Aaron Sorkin, or, like me, staring blankly off into space (I’ve never been much of a climber), maybe today just isn’t a writing day. Maybe today is a balancing your checkbook day. A cleaning the carpets day. A taking the dogs to the dog park day. A binge watching Chernobyl day.

No one will punish you if that 1500 words isn’t finished today—even yourself, believe it or not.

I’ve done my own best work under some amount of deadline pressure, my worst work under extreme deadline pressure, and a little of both under no deadline pressure at all. But if writing fiction starts to feel like a mechanical, assembly line process… stop!

Take a breath, take the day off, and give yourself and your muse a chance to catch up.

In fiction, like all things, our motto should be:

Quality over quantity.

 

—Philip Athans

 

Where Story Meets World

Look to Athans & Associates Creative Consulting for

story/line/developmental editing at 3¢ per word.

Now scheduling projects for July 2019.

 

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SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY AS WISH FULFILLMENT

Ryu Spaeth opened his discussion of the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, “An Education Through Earthsea,” with:

The most beguiling promise of fantasy fiction is that of self-knowledge. At some point the protagonist discovers, with the force of a calling from God, that he is no mere mortal, but a wizard, a dragonslayer, a king. It is an irresistible idea for adolescents particularly, who are in the midst of discovering themselves and trying on different identities. How much easier everything would be if the choice were essentially made for you! And how amazing it would be to find that you were, as you might have secretly hoped, special, that you could speak to animals or move objects with your mind. It puts the “fantasy” in fantasy, and is one reason this genre is often associated with young adult fiction.

That certainly describes my own early experience with fantasy and science fiction. When I was a kid I wanted to be as cool as Captain Kirk, or Don from Lost in Space. I wanted to be as smart as Hari Seldon or Reed Richards. But that didn’t end at adolescence as Ryu Spaeth seems to imply. The older and better educated I got I still looked to fiction for entertainment, even while also adding the other two “Es”: enlightenment and experience. I wanted to be as significant as Paul Atreides or as courageously curious as Will Navidson. All the while understanding that I won’t actually ever be the emperor of anything and my house will never turn out to be bigger on the inside than the outside.

I think it’s fair to say that anything that can be described as “entertainment”—absolutely including science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels—depend on some degree of wish fulfillment. Even in the bleakest horror novel, the darkest dark fantasy, or the dystopianist dystopian science fiction story we wish for something: to be less fearful or more ethical or more capable than some poor beleaguered protagonist.

I touched on this idea when I wrote about Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones and how we need to show our villains being villainous. Sometimes we, as readers, need bad guys bad enough that we wish to be the person who defeats them.

So then even if you aren’t writing purely “heroic fantasy,” if you have a protagonist more like Mad Max than Luke Skywalker—and who doesn’t want to be Mad Max, for a couple hours anyway?—your readers will still find some wish to be fulfilled there.

Pulp master Lester Dent, quoted in “Doc Savage: The Genesis of a Popular Fiction Hero” by Will Murray, said:

I didn’t realize how many people wanted to be a superman. It’s more clear to me now. A man comes in from driving a taxicab all day to find his wife threatening to throw him out on his ear for not bringing home more tips to turn over to her. Naturally he wants to be a superman. Or a barber who has to vegetate in his shop all day, don’t you think he yearns for a chance to get out and reorder the life of whole continents? Doc is sort of the what-I-would-like-to-be dream of everybody, including me.

If someone tells you that genre writing is somehow bad or unserious or juvenile because it depends on “wish fulfillment,” laugh that off and keep writing. I’m ready to wish to be your protagonist, and so is every cab driver or barber out there in the reading world.

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

In my four-week online Pulp Fiction Workshop we’ll learn storytelling techniques that transcend the pulp genres and make writing fun again.

Write a 6000-word short story, with edit, in any genre!

Next class starts Thursday June 13.

 

 

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THE OCEAN LEECH: EXPLORING WEIRD TALES Vol. 5, No. 1—PART 16

Back to my ongoing series of posts where I’ve been reading a single issue of Weird Tales from 1925. You can read along in order by going back to the beginning and starting here. This week’s short story is “The Ocean Leech” by Frank Belknap Long, Jr., one of the pulp era’s most prolific and highly regarded authors. With a quick scan of the era you’ll see his name come up time and time again across a number of genres.

As an editor, I tend to run across the same issues over and over again. It’s the same, I think, for every profession—the same mistakes, the same issues, the same procedures… Though any art form tends to resist that kind of set of hard and fast rules, there are a few that are hard and fast enough that they’re worth at least noting if not fixing in an edit.

With all due respect to Frank Belknap Long, and with full understanding that both rules and reader expectations of the language can and have and will continue to change over time, I’d like to look at this story in the mode of a copy editor.

A copy editor is looking for issues of grammar, usage, spelling… all the technical aspects of writing. And it’s the copy editing or technical writing issues that tend to come up over and over again, enough that I’ve actually created a Word file I call COMMON COMMENTS. From that file and I can copy and paste certain bits of advice, explanations of editorial changes, etc.—in many cases then tweaking them a bit for the specific story at hand.

Let’s see how “The Ocean Leech” stands up to my COMMON COMMENTS file, starting right away with the very first line:

I heard Bourke beating with his bare fists upon the cabin door and the wind whistling under the cracks.

COMMENT: Since this is all in CHARACTER’s POV, we get that this is what CHARACTER thinks (or sees or hears or smells, etc.)—an easy trim just to get to the heart of it. More at: https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/active-search-he-could-see/

EDIT: Bourke beat with his bare fists upon the cabin door and the wind whistled under the cracks.

This one is about active: He did this, vs. passive: I heard him doing this.

He pointed towards the door and ran his fingers savagely through his reddish hair, and I knew that something had nearly finished him—I mean finished him spiritually, damaged his soul, his outlook.

COMMENT: Toward tends to come off as passive—it’s almost (but not always!) better to direct your characters to or for something. You can see my extended rant here: https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/toward-a-more-balanced-use-of-toward/

EDIT: He pointed at the door and ran his fingers savagely through his reddish hair, and I knew that something had nearly finished him—I mean finished him spiritually, damaged his soul, his outlook.

And towardis okay in England but not in America.

Here’s one sentence that calls up two COMMON COMMENTS:

Oscar was standing by my elbow, and I turned suddenly and gripped his arm.

COMMENT: That construct: “something/someone was verbing” is often a sign of passive voice. It’s almost always better to let the action be more direct: “something/someone verbed” so that thing is happening in the past tense “now” and doesn’t come across as feeling as though there’s an extra layer of delay between your readers and the action. https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/active-search-something-was-verbing/

COMMENT: Be careful of words like immediately, suddenly, abruptly… a full rant here: https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/immediately-suddenly-and-abruptly-stop-using-the-words-immediately-suddenly-and-abruptly/

EDIT: Oscar stood by my elbow. I turned and gripped his arm.

“Oscar,” I said, “I want you to be quite frank, and if necessary, even brutal. Do you think you can explain that thing? I don’t want any wretched theories, Oscar. I want you to fashion a prop for me, Oscar, something for me to lean upon. I’m so very tired, and I haven’t much authority here. Oh, yes, I’m supposed to be in command, but when there is nothing to go upon, Oscar, what can I say to them?”

COMMENT: Watch out for what I call “used car salesman dialog”—too many lines of dialog that end with or include the name of the person being spoken to. Real people almost never do that, so reserve it for those characters who do it on purpose—like used car salesmen or other villains. Full rant: https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/some-dialog-tips-we-know-who-hes-talking-to/

Frank Belknap Long lays this one on thick, too. I’d give him the first one…

EDIT: “Oscar,” I said, “I want you to be quite frank, and if necessary, even brutal. Do you think you can explain that thing? I don’t want any wretched theories. I want you to fashion a prop for me, something for me to lean upon. I’m so very tired, and I haven’t much authority here. Oh, yes, I’m supposed to be in command, but when there’s nothing to go on, what can I say to them?”

And a bonus COMMON COMMENT changing there is to there’s:  Don’t be afraid of contractions! I whine about that at length here: https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/contractions-arent-bad/

“The thing is obviously a cephalopod,” said Oscar, quite simply, but there was a look of shame and horror in his eyes, which I didn’t like.

COMMENT: Be careful of relying too heavily (if at all) on adverbs in dialog attribution: she said sympathetically, etc. Though I’m not sure I entirely agree with Stephen King’s more strident: “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs,” he does have a point. The adverb tells, but a description of the sound of that character’s voice, the look on his or her face, body language, or just the context in which the line is spoken, shows.

EDIT: “The thing is obviously a cephalopod,” said Oscar, a look of shame and horror in his eyes that I didn’t like.

Notice that I’m also simplifying sentences from time to time, again because of the change in the language and reader expectations between 1925 and 2019.

He screamed, made shocking grimaces, fell down upon the deck and tried to draw himself along by his hands.

COMMENT: The Oxford or serial comma is non-optional in long form prose—doing without it is a relic of print journalism where any opportunity to save column width is taken.

EASY EDIT: He screamed, made shocking grimaces, fell down upon the deck, and tried to draw himself along by his hands.

Though this one isn’t in my COMMON COMMENTS file, I think it deserves to be called out here. I won’t copy the whole very long paragraph in the first column of page 114, just this last part:

“Oscar, ” I said, “I didn’t really suffer when that thing fastened upon me! I didn’t, really. I enjoyed it!” He scowled, and scratched his ridiculous fringe of hair. “Then I saved you from yourself!” he cried. His eyes blazed, and I saw that he wanted to knock me down. That was the last I saw of Oscar. He faded into the shadows after that, but had I kept him with me I might have been wiser.

Except under a small set of circumstances, which we do not see here, keep dialog from two different characters in their own paragraphs.

EDIT:

“Oscar, ” I said, “I didn’t really suffer when that thing fastened upon me! I didn’t, really. I enjoyed it!”

He scowled, and scratched his ridiculous fringe of hair. “Then I saved you from yourself!” he cried. His eyes blazed, and I saw that he wanted to knock me down.

That was the last I saw of Oscar. He faded into the shadows after that, but had I kept him with me I might have been wiser.

I didn’t bother calling out every little mistake the way I would if I were really copy editing this story, like the misspelling of gurgling (guggling) on page 112 and 115, but there’s not too much there.

And last, he used the word about in a way that’s old fashioned (it was 1925, after all) and in almost ever instance the copy editor in me would change it to around, for instance:

…but the thing had wound its tenebrous tentacles about his leg: but the thing had wound its tenebrous tentacles around his leg…

All that said—I loved this story. A weird tale indeed!

 

 

—Philip Athans

 

In my four-week online Pulp Fiction Workshop we’ll learn storytelling techniques that transcend the pulp genres and make writing fun again.

Write a 6000-word short story, with edit, in any genre!

Next class starts Thursday June 13.

 

 

 

 

 

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PLAY!

When I was in seventh grade and extremely into Legos I made a starship—really just the floorplan—and populated it with a crew of the newly-released mini figures. I then devised a monster with a tail that ended in the twirling propeller bit. The starship landed on an alien planet on a peaceful mission of exploration, coming to rest near the edge of my bed… I mean, the shore of an ocean. When the first team of explorers went out onto the beach, something emerged from the waves and tore one of them to shreds then pulled the other astronaut into the water. The rest of the crew rushed to his rescue in a little boat—because starships always carry little boats. The monster attacked, tearing them to pieces with its tail, which whirled like the blades of a helicopter. This went on in my bedroom—I mean, an alien world light years distant from Earth—for who knows how long before the surviving remnants of the valiant crew made it back to their ship and, with the monster outside trying to shred their hull, managed to blast off. But their ship was damaged and their navigation computer was destroyed. They went to light speed and ended up at an Earthlike planet where they landed to try to repair their ship. When they went outside—the same monster attacked. They had gone in a huge circle right back to where they started!

Then, some weeks later, we were assigned to write a short story for English class. And guess what… that was my story, following the made-it-up-as-I-went-along Lego adventure. The way I remember it, I got an A.

When was the last time you wrote like that?

When was the last time I wrote like that?

Play first, write later?

I’ve written before about how I carefully plotted out the huge wizard duel between Dyrr and Gromph in Annihilation, round by round, taking into strict account the casting time, area of effect, and other D&D mechanical specifics of each spell—essentially playing through it then reporting on what happened for the novel.

But honestly, I don’t do this anymore—not, of course, like I used to when I was mumble-decades younger than I am now. And why not?

As adults we seem to forget how to play—and play without rules or competition. D&D and other roleplaying games break through that barrier for a lot of us, and it’s why we see an awful lot of crossover between pencil and paper RPG players and genre authors. But even then, can you grab a bunch of Legos, miniatures, action figures, graph paper, and… hell, anything else, and play your way through a story? A scene at least?

Can you recapture the pure imagination of play, and translate it into your writing?

I know you can, because I know I have, and damn it—I’ll do it again!

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

Read my story “Morbid Dread of the Dawn” in

The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias from Lycan Valley!

 

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MOSTLY WEAKNESS, JUST A LITTLE STRENGTH

In one of the written lectures for my Advanced Horror Workshop, which, yes, starts up this week—thanks for asking!—I get into the idea of starting with characters not necessarily defined by, but with some weakness, some thing that prevents them from making the perfect decision every time, from overcoming every physical obstacle without fear of injury, and so on. This is especially true in that context…

A horror story that features a truly heroic hero will be a tough go, for you and your readers. The nature of horror, almost the very definition of the genre, is that it’s a story about an unprepared character confronted with the One Weird Thing. If that character is ultra-capable and fearless, immediately rising to the occasion knowing precisely what to do to overcome this strange threat… well, the threat immediately stops being strange. Your POV character isn’t scared and so neither are your readers. And if the ensuing action scene in which the highly capable hero quickly and efficiently dispatches the threat, a carefully crafted plan that goes off without a hitch, you have not written a horror story but maybe some kind of, frankly, boring urban fantasy.

The heroic protagonist might be one of the fine lines that separate horror and fantasy, but even someone who is physically capable and courageous shouldn’t be perfect. So regardless of genre…

A character without weaknesses, who is incapable of making mistakes, who never makes some incorrect assumption, who isn’t at least tempted to run screaming out of the haunted house as quickly as possible… that’s just not an interesting character. It’s not a character worth reading about, and not a character worth writing about.

In Writing Monsters I talk about monsters bringing out the good and evil in characters, but they’re also an opportunity to bring out the strengths and weaknesses in characters, to reveal what’s imperfect and, therefore, humanabout them. If you’ve trapped a cast of characters in an isolated locale and thrown even a single monster at them, those characters will naturally rise to their own overriding impulses, whether that impulse is to protect everyone else at all costs or to protect himself at all costs.

Keep in mind, too, that monsters can bring out more than simply “good” and “evil” in your characters.

I define a villain as someone whose motivations you understand but whose methods you abhor, and a hero as someone whose motivations you understand and whose methods you admire. In the same way that monsters can bring about this split in method, they can also bring out the resourcefulness in people… Your monsters can allow your characters to exhibit qualities like tenacity, loyalty, trustworthiness, a capacity for forgiveness, and so on. All of these characteristics are brought to the forefront by placing characters in a world full of monsters that force them to act, choose, and become something more (or, tragically, less) than they were before the story began.

The novelist James M. Cain discovered this as well, describing in this 1978 Paris Review interview how a character can be developed around a particular weakness:

I learned from [Sinclair Lewis], and also from the most prolific novelist I think this country ever had. Does the name William Gilbert Patten mean anything to you? His pen name was Burt L. Standish. Certainly you’ve heard of Frank Merriwell, “Dime Store” Merriwell.

The books about Merriwell came out on top of each other. Anyway, I wrote Standish up for theSaturday Evening Post. I’ve got to make a confession to you—I couldn’t, as a boy, read a Frank Merriwell story. When I wrote him up, I tried and tried to read a Frank Merriwell, and I’ll be goddamned if I’ve ever read one through yet. They were so utterly naïve, and so horribly written. But I learned from Standish, learned from his mistakes. And I admired the discipline that turned out all those books. You know, in all Frank Merriwell’s perfection, he had a fault. Once when I was talking about how perfect Frank Merriwell was, Sinclair Lewis corrected me. “No, no, Jim,” he said, “Frank had a weakness—he gambled, had to deal with it all the time.”

Just then Phil Goodman asked Lewis, “Red, how much would Babbitt have made this year?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Lewis in his falsetto, “I think this year about ten thousand a year.”

“Oh, much more than that.”

“No,” says Lewis, “don’t forget that George (Babbitt) had a failing. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so he never got taken in on anything big.”

Well, there are two writers who fall into the category of what Mark Twain called a “trained novelist.” Each apparently developed his own characters on the basis of a weakness.

A story—any story—tends to hinge on a character overcoming obstacles to achieve some end, and we often look to the outside to provide those obstacles: monsters, villains, traps, and so on. And that’s all good stuff as far as I’m concerned, but if all your story is is a guy going from obstacle to obstacle and not changing in any way, not experiencing something emotional, not being afraid sometimes, inspired sometimes, reluctant sometimes, impetuous sometimes… well, that character, and therefor that story, will never really come alive.

 

—Philip Athans

 

Science fiction and fantasy is one of the most challenging—and rewarding!—genres in the bookstore.

But with best selling author and editor Philip Athans at your side, you’ll create worlds that draw your readers in—and keep them reading.

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

 

 

 

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