By Michael Knost (ed.) Editions: ebook, paperback Published: May 14th 2013 by Seventh Star Press Genre: Collection of Essays / Interviews
Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews by and with many of the movers-and-shakers in the industry. Each contributor covers the specific element of craft he or she excels in. Expect to find varying perspectives and viewpoints, which is why you many find differing opinions on any particular subject.
This is, after all, a collection of advice from professional storytellers. And no two writers have made it to the stage via the same journey-each has made his or her own path to success. And that’s one of the strengths of this book. The reader is afforded the luxury of discovering various approaches and then is allowed to choose what works best for him or her.
~ Jitterbug PR
Writers Workshop Excerpt
“ “Nothing fills a page faster than dialogue,” the writer said.
There it is, the blank page or screen, the intimidating and recurring challenge every writer must face. The temptation is to fill that page as quickly as possible, to advance the narrative however you can. Often the easiest way to do that, even for writers who are not masters of dialogue, is to get the characters talking. A few A few writers are even bold enough to begin novels or stories with a line of dialogue, something I don’t recommend unless you possess the skills of the early Robert A Heinlein, who began his story “Blowups Happen” with the suspenseful line: “Put down that wrench!” Orson Scott Card also opened his popular novel Ender’s Game with a piece of dialogue that immediately rouses the reader’s curiosity: “‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.” Writing good and convincing dialogue is usually enough of a challenge without relying on it to hook a reader right at the beginning of one’s story. Writing dialogue, whatever the difficulties, is generally easier than, for example, crafting descriptive passages, offering insights into a character’s
psychology, creating vigorous and absorbing action scenes, or presenting necessary exposition in a graceful way.
Writers who harbor dreams of scriptwriting may be especially prone to fill pages with dialogue, but others also succumb, partly because dialogue is a shortcut and a very useful one. Sometimes a few well-chosen words of conversation can accomplish as much in a story as pages of description and exposition. There are also a fair number of readers who are more absorbed by stretches of repartee than by beautifully and poetically rendered descriptions. (Writers meet these people all the time; they’re the ones who tell you they skip all the dull parts, often meaning those carefully wrought passages that cost you so much effort.) Better just to cut to the chase, or in this case, drop in on the conversation.
The strength of dialogue—namely that it can be a useful shortcut—is also its weakness. Writers who rely too much on dialogue risk leaving too much out. The writer may hear the characters clearly and easily envision the scene, but that doesn’t mean that the reader will. (In a review of a novel some years back, Joanna Russ wrote that passages in that book seemed to be largely about names drinking cups of coffee, noticing the designs of ashtrays, or riffing on the furnishings in a room, the characters were so indistinguishable.) The beginning writer is likely to produce dialogue in which the reader will find it hard to tell one character from another. The useful shortcut can produce a story that is sketchy, in which too much has been left out. “
I hated books.
I hated reading. I hated math. I hated English. I hated biology. I hated everything about school. Except time on the playground…and obviously lunch.
Every new year of school I was amazed that my teachers promoted me to the next grade—I always thought I would be held back at every level.
Things were no different when I entered the fifth grade. But after a few weeks, my teacher, Bill Marino, pulled me to the side, handed me a worn paperback, and said, “I’d like you to read this.”
“Come on,” I said, exaggerating ocular disdain. “I don’t want to do a book report or anything.”
Mister Marino shook his head. “You won’t need to turn in a book report. In fact, while reading this you will be totally exempt of all homework—all you have to do is have a short conversation with me about what you read.”
I tried to read his face. “Conversation?”
“Yeah, just tell me what you thought of the book.”
“And I won’t have to do any homework while I’m reading this?” I said.
That night I began reading with the full intention of making the experience last as long as I could so I wouldn’t have to worry about homework for a few weeks. However, I quickly found that I couldn’t put the book down. My Theater of the Mind’s Eye was producing images and sounds I never knew existed. I found myself in a whole new world…and I loved it.
The next morning I returned the book to Mister Marino and we talked about the story, the images, the sounds, the smells—It was as though I’d just returned from some exotic vacation.
He told me the book was mine to keep and placed a large box on his desk filled with classic science fiction paperbacks. “Better get started,” he said, sliding box toward me. “Same deal—as long as you are reading one of these, no homework.”
I devoured them all…Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and dozens of others. I was hooked.
The name of that first book was Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. I always laugh about the irony in that title because it became my very own childhood’s end.
When I first had the desire to write, I had nowhere to turn except to fall back to those stories I had read all through the years. Isn’t it funny how we somehow retain structure, grammar, and style via means of literary osmosis from the things we read? We may not understand why we do certain things as we do them, but we know when it sounds or looks right.
But that will only take you so far. At some point you’re going to have to learn how it works. Let’s be honest, you can take a pocketknife and start cutting up a frog on your own to see how biology works, but without guidance (a teacher or instructor) all you will achieve is a bloody mess…and a dead frog. You can expect the same thing in writing.
Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy was put together with the person in mind who wants to see how fiction ticks, but can’t find the literary biologist to help them dissect it step-by-step. It gives you the instruction you need without the homework. It doesn’t hamper creativity. It doesn’t give you formula. It doesn’t offer a bunch of rules for you to obey.
But it will teach you how to avoid making a bloody mess by finally breathing life into the dead frog.
by Michael Knost
Featuring essays and interviews with:
Orson Scott Card
Ursula K. Le Guin
Alan Dean Foster
Kevin J. Anderson
James Patrick Kelly
Gordon Van Gelder
John Joseph Adams
Lucy A. Snyder
Nayad A. Monroe
G. Cameron Fuller