Character tags – how to make your characters more memorable

Last updated: 28th October, 2017I must admit it from the very start. Unless the physical description has some bearing on the story, I don’t particularly care about such things like the color of a character’s eyes, her complexion, her height or whatever else. I don’t care if the heroine has a shock of curly black hair or her head is instead as hairless as the ass of a two year infant. As a result, also when I write I tend to keep descriptions as short and functional as possible to the story I’m telling. I’m not alone in this. Les Edgerton, the author of Hooked, says he doesn’t particularly love physical descriptions in novels. Judging from their works, Elmore Leonard and Hemingway aren’t fond of detailed physical descriptions either. As for readers, many among them appreciate a somewhat restrained and parsimonious approach to physical descriptions.

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Describing characters in fiction – literary techniques

Last updated: 3rd February, 2017In a previous post about memorable characters in fiction I wrote that writers must offer their readers many occasions to get to know the characters populating their stories. In fact, just as in real life the more we know about someone the more intense our feelings can grow for that person, the same happens in a novel. However, given that any work of literature, even the lengthiest one, is always an heavily edited and condensed version of reality, we must choose with care which scenes to include in our stories and which are instead better left out. For example, if in our book we describe Ms. Jones going through an endless series of only relatively trivial incidents, we can rest assured our readers will put down our book and find something better to do. Of course, if we really want to write some experimental book full…

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The role of art in society, the ultimate mind map?

Last updated: 20th January, 2017There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. As the quote from Hamlet makes it apparent, Shakespeare knew quite well that the world around us, just like the one residing in our head, is simply too vast and rich for an artist, any artist, to ever hope to describe it in its entirety. This might seem like a terrible limitation on our ability to create art. It also seems to undermine the role of art in society. Instead, I believe this apparent inability, this sort of limitation, is one of the strong points of art. Arts and maps In fact, just like Borges points out in his On Exactitude in Science, maps that are so rich and detailed as the territory they are meant to describe are quintessentially useless. The reason is simple. Maps are by definition representations…

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How to use stereotypes in books – writing myths debunked

Last updated: 1st November, 2016Stereotypes in books… Shouldn’t they be like the kiss of death for the story you want to tell? Well, not necessarily. First of all, let’s consider what a stereotype is according to the Oxford Dictionary: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person, group of people, or thing. In this definition the adjectives “fixed” and “oversimplified” are the ones that make any serious beginning writer consider stereotypes in books with diffidence, to say the least. Besides, in the past, some psychologists believed stereotypes were used exclusively by people particularly rigid, repressed, and authoritarian–the exact opposite of what any writer should aim to be. Indeed, at times stereotypes can make us blind to what is out there in the environment. But they can also enable us to respond rapidly to a wide array of situations we have already encountered. In addition, we…

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How to write a blurb for your novel

Last updated: 22nd September, 2016No doubt, for your book, having an intriguing blurb is as important as having a great cover, an intriguing title and your story professionally edited. That’s why, if you’re serious about your writing, you should devote a bit of time to learn how to write a blurb. In fact, if the cover, well, the thumbnail version of it, is essential to catch a perspective reader’s eye, then it’s the blurb that has to persuade him or her to hit the “buy now” button, or at the very least to download a sample of your book. Now, guidelines on how to write a blurb can seem a bit contradictory at first sight. But you don’t need to worry. Just bear in mind that any well crafted blurb is based on intelligent synthesis and a grain of inventiveness, and that these are two essential tools all decent writers possess.…

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Elements of a horror story – descriptions

The world was, and still is, a dangerous place. And given that it is the only place where we can live, we have developed a series of semi automated responses in order to negotiate it without having to reinvent the wheel every time a potentially dangerous situation presents itself.

This natural mindset in which fear, aggression, heightened alertness all mix up is like having a ton of dynamite ready to explode.

If to this mix we add the almost unique human ability to empathize with someone else, thanks to the mirror neurons, all of a sudden we have provided our dynamite with a perfect fuse.

This is why the elements of a horror story can work their magic.

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The art of descriptions, or pink flowers and stories

Last updated: 22nd September, 2016  Sometimes the way our mind works can be tricky. And this is definitively the case for descriptions.  I mean, if I said Don’t think of pink flowers, the first thing you would think of would be, quite reasonably, pink flowers. Descriptions everywhere? That’s why creative writing works its magic. Our brains are always waiting for us to feed them with images, ideas, stories. They only require a bit of guidance. And in novel writing the smaller this guidance is, the better. Sure, you might believe that’s impossible for mere words to compete with the vibrant immediacy of pictures and movies. But this isn’t necessarily always the case. Sometimes a picture isn’t really worth one thousand words In fact, writers can use a few well chosen words to exploit their readers’ imagination. Take this short passage I just came up with: “A beautiful woman, whose hair was as…

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