30 June 2009
29 June 2009
We've got 7 great stories--a slightly darker issue than usual, which, of course, I love. There are bugs and angels and all sorts of nasties...can't wait to show it to the world! Plus,we've an interview with Stuart Neville, whose debut novel is taking the British Isles by storm, and our regular movie column.
Our slush has also been quiet--not on the intake side! but on the reading side. I for one, with company and the holiday, am not likely to read until July.
Happy Fourth to our Stateside readers.
22 June 2009
I've mentioned before that I don't get too excited about vampire novels, but I read Robin McKinley's Sunshine because of some recommendations. I liked several aspects of Sunshine over other vampire tales I've read. In McKinley's world, vampires are much different than humans--they move differently, look less than human, and act strange. This is better than vampires who are essentially human except they have super abilities and drink blood. Also, McKinley's novel takes place in an alternate world that is quite different than ours. She's developed alternative history and culture that's both interesting and unique. McKinley is also a talented writer with a deft touch and an enjoyable voice, which adds a great deal to the book.
17 June 2009
16 June 2009
10 June 2009
The tagline is the sales line, a pitch if you will, used for films and also to sell novels. Short stories don't require taglines because frankly, most short story editors don't care about anything other than how long the dang thing is when we first open the file.
I don't think it matters when you write the tagline, either. You don't have to start with a tagline if all you've got is a character with a problem and that's how you operate. But what taglines do, whenever you write them, is give you focus. Then, whether you have the tagline at the start or write it after your first draft, you can make sure every scene supports the main idea. Yup. It's that five paragraph essay, come back to haunt you.
For instance, on my personal blog I plotted a short story, real time, online. It took me some days to complete the plot, and I ended up with something a little more detailed than usual because of all the thought writing the posts inspired. (The posts are here if you want to read them). But early on, I wrotee a tagline. That way I'd know immediately if I started to stray off path while plotting. It read like this: Kaelin is ordered to murder the woman he loves in order to save her from a fate worse than death.
Not even the most original of problems. You'll find many story problems, at their heart, aren't original at all. But basic works. Basic raises all sorts of questions. That's rather the point, actually. Why, who, where, what, when, how? Why should we care about Kaelin? Unoriginal problem, so what makes him so different? Why is this story about HIM and not some other flunky? What is this "fate worse than death"? Where is this crazy thing happening? When does it happen? Is it particularly timed for ultimate cruelty to Kaelin, my protag? If not, how can I make it more so? What stands in his way? How is he going to survive it, true love intact? Will he survive it? If not, why and what does it mean to my point in writing the story.
And so on. Questions upon questions circle around the plot and my character in an ever tightening noose. I know when I'm through I'll have something that's focused and tight.
Incidentally, the story is about half written. I got waylaid by another project and editing for this issue, but I anticipate putting it on the market by August.
09 June 2009
Even some of the best stories we get at Electric Spec could be tighter, meaning they could have the same impact with fewer words, ideas, events, dialogue, settings, and/or characters. Tightening a story is a bit like working on the composition of a photograph or painting. The main subject of your photo is your protagonist, so we need the focus point of the picture to be the protagonist. There should be no doubt the subject of the photo is the protagonist, and it should have lots of detail and originality, making it a fitting subject. Sometimes your antagonist may be nearly as detailed as your protagonist, sharing the focus of the picture. Other times, a secondary character, like a romantic interest, will share the focus. The background should give you a good idea of the setting--what kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? Are you trying to invoke an image of a particular location? The background will be detailed if it is important, less so if it is not.
08 June 2009
Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife can be found in two places on Amazon's virtual bookshelves: Women's Fiction and Science Fiction. Few books have such a claim to fame. However, the novel successfully straddles the line between two genes. A scientific concept--time travel based on flawed DNA--is central to the book. On the other hand, the novel is really about a romantic relationship--beginning, middle and end.
02 June 2009
Studying the hold-for-voting stories made me ponder the qualities that make a story stand out.
Obviously a good genre story has a good plot arc. This is often a problem that the protagonist tries to solve. In the course of the attempted solution the protagonist should grow or change in some way.
For me qualities of an outstanding story include:
- an original idea
- a strong unique voice
- a fully-fleshed out world
I think the meaning of an original idea is pretty clear. For example, the upcoming issue will include a story about a ghost-pet boarding business and the family that runs it.
Voice can be tricky to pin down. I've blogged about it before. Voice is a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc. A strong voice may be hard to create but is easy to identify. For example, I would recognize writing by Isaac Asimov, Connie Willis or Kim Stanley Robinson anywhere. Wouldn't you? Do people recognize you in your writing?
I've heard it said that all fiction is a subset of speculative fiction in that all fiction creates a world on the pages between the covers. Speculative fiction is unique though in that the created world is NOT what we usually experience. Thus it's important to fully flesh out your world. Transport your readers to the land that exists only in your imagination!
Check out the next issue of Electric Spec on cyber-stands June 30, 2009!
And keep sending us your outstanding spec fic stories! :)