Category Archives: Literature

Reviews and commentaries on how what you read affects your writing

Crime and picture books

At the library my five-year-old son pulled out a beautifully illustrated book of an old steam train. He had ridden in a few that still run for tourists. It was the kind of activity we did as a family, and … Continue reading

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What limits should side characters have?

Most people are at least vaguely familiar with Anna Karenina if they know anything about Russian literature. Perhaps they have seen one of the movies made from this famous novel. I even discussed this book with a student who had … Continue reading

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How likeable does a character have to be?

We often hear it is absolutely necessary for your protagonist to be likable. I take this advice not just with a grain of salt but with a huge chunk of sodium chloride. One of my very dislikable characters (according to … Continue reading

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Researching memorable characters

What makes a character memorable? There is no one clear cut answer and even much debate over which ones have that quality.  I have researched a number of lists, particularly for characters from novels written in the 20th century. After … Continue reading

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Obnoxious characters

Creating villains is much like creating protagonists. They are people with depth and a history. A villain follows discernible motives just like the hero does. Only at some point in their life, villains take an ethical shortcut to get ahead. … Continue reading

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Writing by numbers

Shoving creativity into neat little boxes of specific sizes is difficult. Still, I tend to quantify my writing. It provides the sense that I am actually accomplishing something and adds to the vague hope that someday the rest of the … Continue reading

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Want a good tip?

Have you ever chatted with a person and mentioned publishing some work only to be barraged with requests for writing tips? Although we would long to be full of wisdom, providing that kind of information is not easy. Sometimes it … Continue reading

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A new definition of literacy

A child of mine made a joking statement that if we wanted to raise the level of writing we needed to lower the number of people who are literate. The supposed logic behind this suspect claim is that the books … Continue reading

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The fantasy fad

When I attended a seminar for writers of young adult (YA) books, the speakers were all writing fantasy works. Nobody seemed to be creating realistic young adult novels. There should be room for mine, right? Maybe not. When I coached … Continue reading

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What were you thinking?

The precise rules for dealing with thoughts are not recorded in standard grammar and usage books. There are opinions on how to do this based on current trends, which may become dated in a few years. One of these is … Continue reading

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