The Creative Writer's Toolbelt discussion

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message 1: by Andrew (last edited Feb 08, 2014 03:43AM) (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Episodes of the Creative Writer's Toolbelt are available from here

Thanks
Andy


message 2: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Episode 3 of the podcast is now available! I hope you all find it helpful

Thanks
Andy


message 3: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Episode 4 is now available on iTunes. In this episode I am looking at how you can use sensory language to enliven and transform your work. Go check it out and please do leave a comment.

Thanks

Andy


message 4: by Marlicia (new)

Marlicia | 1 comments I've enjoyed the first three podcasts and look forward to number 4.

God bless and have a great day!
Marlicia
with God all things are possible


message 5: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Marlicia wrote: "I've enjoyed the first three podcasts and look forward to number 4.

God bless and have a great day!
Marlicia
with God all things are possible"


Thanks Marlicia, I hope you enjoy episode 4 - I'm addressing a couple of issues from episode 3 and then talking about how to use sensory language to enrich a story.

More episodes to follow, although the frequency will depend on other commitments!

Blessings

Andy


message 6: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
I've had a question from one of the group members, here's the question, from Kate, and my reply.

Kate asked:

"I would like to understand dialog better. My beta-readers complain when all my characters "sound alike". But when I try to insert different verbal quirks, many (not all) of my readers complain about the oddities being hard to read. I have obviously missed the proper balance. What can you suggest?"

My answer:

I would encourage you not to start with dialogue but with the work of trying to define in your own mind who your character are. It is only then that you can present them in dialogue. This is hard work, but I think it's essential. Your readers only know these people as well as you know them.

The third episode of "The Creative Writers Toolbelt", which looks at how characters and scenes might be presented, says something about this. If you listen to my comparison of Mrs Mills and Mrs Baxter you'll see an example of how a character can be presented in dialogue.

So how can you know who your character is? You can go through an exercise by asking yourself questions about their personality and physical characteristics, and I think that's helpful, but I think the really important thing here is that you are not simply bringing together a disparate bunch of traits for a character, rather you are showing the features of a whole person.

The kind of questions you can ask are:

- are they are extrovert or introvert?
- do they take a logical or more intuitive approach?
- how might they behave under pressure?
- how would they handle a disagreement with someone else?
- What is their history, their upbringing? What was the political or religious context of their family home?
- What motivates them? is it fame? relevance? money?
- Do they believe in revenge? Or forgiveness? Or a mixture of both
- Are they a fan of justice or mercy?
- How has the damage that's been done to them in life effected them (if at all)

In the context of your work, which I have some knowledge of, you might ask:

- For an important task on board a ship in space does your character reach for the instructions book and take it step by step or just trust themselves and work through it? Would they flirt with other crew members? Why have they taken the trip? Are they loners or tam players?

I hope this has helped. I think the main thing is to kick the character around in your head until they become a coherent person, then you will know how they might talk.

If anyone else has an opinion please do chip in!

Thanks
Andy


message 7: by Andrew (last edited Mar 07, 2014 12:44PM) (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone

Just letting you know that Episode 5 of the Creative Writer's Toolelt will be up on iTunes or whatever your favoured podcatcher is, this Sunday 9th March.

In this episode, titled "The Power of Suggestion" Iam going to look at another dimension of showing not telling, and that's the potential for hinting, suggesting or implying something rather than telling the reader outright.

One of the most powerful tools we have as creative writers is derived from the fact that a hint or suggestion, well understood, will always have more power than something said explicitly.

If you're subscribed you'll get it automatically of course. Do leave a comment if you want to once you've heard it.
Thanks
Andy


message 8: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) Good episode on the power of foreshadowing. I especially like your usage of examples from other literature.


message 9: by Giles (new)

Giles | 2 comments Listened to all five episodes yesterday and REALLY loved them! Looking forward to the next episode.

Question: any chance you'll get a twitter account for this podcast? I've found it's a great way to get in touch with other writers in the online community, and I'd love it if every writer could find you without any difficulty. :D


message 10: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi Gilesand everyone,

Thanks for your note, I've been thinking about a dedicated twitter account for the Creative Writers Toolbelt, and have set one up. So as well as this forum at Goodreads I can be reached via twitter at:

@writerstoolbelt

Please join me!

Thanks
Andy


message 11: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) Looks like I'm your first follower. :)


message 12: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
J. Nelson wrote: "Looks like I'm your first follower. :)"
It does indeed J - welcome aboard!

Anyone else care to join us?


message 13: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Next episode of CWT will be up on iTunes tomorrow morning (UK time) I'm tackling the last of my fie techniques for showing not telling - and that's the serious business of being funny in your writing.


message 14: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone

Episode 6 of the Creative Writers Toolbelt - The serious business of writing something funny - is now available on iTunes and other platforms.

This podcast covers the last of the five techniques for showing not telling - and arguably it's the hardest one to do, and I think it's been the hardest podcast to put together!

Humour is a serious business and requires precision and integrity in its execution. Precision in terms of timing and editing, and integrity in terms of keeping the characters and scene believable. In the podcast I give you some ideas and tips on how to write somthing that will be funny on the page.

I hope you find what I have to say useful, as ever I welcome comments, suggestions, constructive criticsm,

Best wishes
Andy


message 15: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) My favorite books, films, and TV shows often have a thick comedy vein running through them. While I'm naturally inclined to include humor in my writing, it doesn't always come as naturally as I'd like (as you mention in the episode), but your episode has given me some things to think on (I especially enjoyed the Wind in the Willows and the ducks at the pond segments).


message 16: by Andrew (last edited Mar 24, 2014 01:07PM) (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi J

Thanks for the comments. really good humor is very difficult. I'm glad the episode gave you something to think about, I feel like I could probably do anotyher podcast on this subject sometime, although I don't think it's going to be the next one.

I'm pleased as well that you liked the 'duck pond' segment, which I created for the podcast. The important thing with all of these examples, especially the ones I come up with myself, is not that they are shining, booker prize winning, examples of whatever I am talking about, what matters is that people understand the point I am making and can apply it to their own work.

Thanks
Andy


message 17: by Kate (new)

Kate Rauner (katerauner) | 26 comments In my working life, my boss once said to never try to insert humor into a presentation. He said, half the time you'll gauge your audience correctly and it'll be fine; but you can't afford the other half of the time. In fiction, at least people choose to read your writings, but even so, humor is hard because what's funny to one person is offensive or just dumb to others. I think inserting a little humor in an otherwise serious story is harder than writing a comic piece. But when it works, it's great, so it's worth the risk. Thanks for the tips! I'll try them.


message 18: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi Kate

Yes you do have to be careful but I think if you know the audience at a presentation it's safer.

In terms of writing, one of my theories which I didn't mention directly in the podcast is that if you know your characters well you have a better chance of getting them to be funny, I think this is because funny characters have to be authentic to themselves, they have to believe in their own attitudes and behaviour, however comically foolish we think they are.

A


message 19: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone,

As some of you will have noticed episode 7 is now out there, I hope it's useful to you. I'm focusing on what editors are looking for ( mostly things they don't want to see!) in your manuscript. It's a subject I may return to because I know there are other issues to bear in mind when we think about what editors want, and my editor friend Ali Hull will be speaking on this subject next week at our Writers World conference, I will pass on the best bits of that to you in due course.

As ever comments and constructive criticism welcome!

Regards

Andy


message 20: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) I neglected my usual podcasts as I was working my way through Neil Gaiman's American Gods on Audible, so now I'm playing catch up.

I often find the "what not to do" advice just as helpful as the "what to do" advice. Of the ten things you mentioned, I'm most guilty of changing tense mid sentence. It's something I always have to look for during my second draft.


message 21: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Thanks J

It's so easy to do this because some tense mixes are quite subtle and can seem to make sense initially in the conext of the story. The problem, as with so many of these things, is not that they are grammatically or technically wrong, it's just that they are distract the reader.

Hope you enjoyed American Gods,I read it in paperback, a extraordinary book, with all that particular kind of supernatural flavour that Gaiman brings to his work.

A


message 22: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) American Gods was great. I listened to the full cast recording of the 10th anniversary edition. It felt like I was listening to an old style radio play. I wish all audio books were recorded like this.


message 23: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi All,

Episode 8 of the Creative Writers Toolbelt will be out this weekend. In this episode I am going to be talking about 'just in time storytelling'. This refers to the wisdom of starting your story just as the action starts (hence just in time) rather than driving the reader away with an extensive infodump of backstory right at the start of your work. As usua there will be examples.

I hope the podcast is useful for you, as ever please do drop me a line to comment, make suggestions, and to talk about other areas of creative writing that you find a challenge or want to hear more about.

Thanks!
Andy


message 24: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) One of the things I love most in books and films is a great opening line. One of my favorites is this line from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."

As you pointed out in the episode, this line gives the reader a sense of place, a sense of the characters, and it makes it difficult to put the book down.


message 25: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Thanks J, yes that is the idea. I think the first line in most first drafts gets ditched, and rightly so. You want a first line that grabs the readers by the (metaphorical) ****s and doesn't let go!


message 26: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone

Episode nine is now up and ready to download - in this episode I explore two of the more useful pieces of advice I have received as a writer - to choose precise and powerful verbs, and to use the active voice unless I have a very compelling reason not to. It's a bit of a grammar and linguistics-fest this time but I hope you find it valuable.
regards
Andy


message 27: by Diane (new)

Diane Cowie | 2 comments Good podcast and working definition of agent and patient!! I rarely hear those terms outside of linguistic analysis and appreciate those who use the terms well. Over the years I've done some thinking about the oft maligned passive voice. It can be a very powerful tool in the writer's toolbelt. Yes, we need the strong verb/active voice technique to move a story line along, but a bunch of strong bare branches makes an ugly tree until we add foliage. And that is one of the places where the passive shines. At times the writer should focus on the action and the patient (and downplay the agent), maybe to slow down the intensity or fill in some background. Masterful use of the passive voice would make a good topic for developing writers.


message 28: by Diane (new)

Diane Cowie | 2 comments Andrew wrote: "Hi everyone,

As some of you will have noticed episode 7 is now out there, I hope it's useful to you. I'm focusing on what editors are looking for ( mostly things they don't want to see!) in your m..."

I've passed the link to this on to a young, self-published author who needs to take this to heart.


message 29: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Good podcast and working definition of agent and patient!! I rarely hear those terms outside of linguistic analysis and appreciate those who use the terms well. Over the years I've done some thinki..."

Hi Diane

Many thanks for your comment.

I'm encourged that you think I've got this about right. It's very difficult to know where to pitch some of the more technical explanations of what goes on with grammar and linguistics, and it's not the prupose of the podcast to delve in to that, expect in so far as it helps people to understand the point I am making. Also, I am no expert myself!

And I wanted to avoid the error of saying "subject - verb-object = active voice, and object - verb - subject = passive voice" which is an incorrect assumption some writers make (including me once).

Your suggestion that I look at appropriate use of the passive voice is an in1triguing one, and a challenge I'd relish. If you have any further comments on the cotent of this subject, or examples I'd be grateful to receive them - you can contact me here at goodreads or my via my website:

www.andrewjchamberlain.com

Thanks again for your comment,


Andy


message 30: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Hi everyone,

As some of you will have noticed episode 7 is now out there, I hope it's useful to you. I'm focusing on what editors are looking for ( mostly things they don't want to ..."


Oh, the lessons we have to learn as writers! It's an apprenticeship in character as well as creative writing!
A


message 31: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) Another good episode filled with good examples (and I even got mentioned)! My first drafts are often littered with passive voice and weak verbs. The more I write, however, the better I get at spotting and correcting them.


message 32: by Jodi (new)

Jodi (jodilmilner) | 2 comments Hi Andrew! I've been listening and enjoying your podcasts and just finished listening to #9 - which is a topic I'm particularly interested in. In critique groups I'm known as the adverb police because I can't stand when they are used to support weak verbs.

As you look for ideas for new episodes consider these:
*Achieving resonance with your reader
*Author intrusion and how to avoid it
*Flavoring descriptions with the emotional state of your POV character.

I also blog about writing topics over at http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com :) Come on over!


message 33: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi Jodi

Thanks for getting in touch, and I am glad you are enjoying the podcasts, I should be back after a break with one this weekend. I am still looking for ideas; the suggestions you have made are interesting and after some thought my response is to ask you to unpack these ideas a bit yourself.
That’s certainly doesn’t mean I won’t be tackling them myself, I'll certainly take up the challenge of dealing with these issues, but it would be good to hear for you about – and might mean I do a better job of it.
The one I am least certain about is "achieving resonance with your reader". What does that mean to you? I ask because I think it might mean slightly different things to different people. For me it's about getting the balance right in terms of showing enough for the reader to be intrigued in the story and be drawn in - and thereby achieving an understanding with the author within which both parties can share the story. What are your thoughts on this?
In terms of “author intrusion” this to me means a bit too much telling, but I am sure there are other aspects, again let me know your thoughts.
The emotional state of your PoV character is an interesting one. I’d say that I want to flavour descriptions of all of my characters with a range of cues, some of which would be emotional. That would be an interesting subject to tackle!
So, yes, I’ll have a go at these, but your thoughts would be appreciated as part of my research for the episodes.
Meanwhile I’ve signed up to your blog, and I look forward to reading your views there as well.

Best wishes
Andy


message 34: by Jodi (last edited May 29, 2014 10:56AM) (new)

Jodi (jodilmilner) | 2 comments Andrew wrote: "Hi Jodi

Thanks for getting in touch, and I am glad you are enjoying the podcasts, I should be back after a break with one this weekend. I am still looking for ideas; the suggestions you have made ..."


Thanks for signing up for the blog, that makes me super happy! I did a post about the third topic, you can find it here: http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com/...

As for the other two topics, I'd be more than happy to tell you what I know and also give a few references. Would you like that discussion here on the boards or emailed to you directly?


message 35: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Thanks for the link.
You can put your thoughts here on the other topics Jodi that would be fine, we might even get some other contributions!

Best wishes
Andy


message 36: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Episode 10 is up and running! I'm looking at the importance of plausibility / beievability as well as consistency in the creation of excellent characters.
Andy


message 37: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone
Episode 11 of the CWT is now up on the podfeed of your choice. Continuing on the subject of characterisation, I'm looking at how to make your character into an individual, starting with descriptive markers and giving your character a weakness.

Andy


message 38: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) I had not given it much thought before, but you're right about a character's weaknesses being just as a big a part of who they are as their strengths. It's things like this that we as readers, watchers, and listeners take for granted because every character has a weakness. However, we seem to celebrate the strengths when in fact it's the weaknesses that make a more complex character.


message 39: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi J

Definitely, it's the weaknesses, or vulnerabilities of characters that make them interesting. One of the enduring examples of this for me, which I didn't mention in CWT but which you might be familiar with, is from the brilliant ALIENS, when Ripley goes back to face the aliens to rescue Newt. Ripley's "vulnerability" is the moral code she lives by which means that when she promises Newt she's going to look after her, she delivers on that - and we love her for it - even though it places her in a dangerous position.

A

PS Any ideas for my "three most important qualities to cultivate as a writer?" post


message 40: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) I've been thinking on it, but I'll wait to see what you have to say in the next episode first.


message 41: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Fair enough, I'll have that episode up around 28th June
Thanks
Andy


message 42: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
So episode 12 is up and available. What are the three essential qualities a writer mustr develop to improve their craft? I think the answer is: perseverance, humility, and imagination. Let me know if you agree...


message 43: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) I agree that those are important qualities. I've been blessed with a wife who is a merciless as any editor. Her willingness to let me know if something isn't working has played a big role in my continued improvement as a writer.

I think these all echo what you said in the podcast, but I came up with Motivation (not really a quality, but it's the thing I lack most), passion (I feel this is essential for any creative person), and flexibility (my dad likes to quote the adage, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken." I've found this to be essential, especially as a family man working full time).


message 44: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi J

I think motivation is a quality, akin to my 'perseverance'. Passion is an interesting one, and it's a good counterpoint to my tendancy to accentuate the fact that, as a writer, you have 'grind it out' quite a lot of the time. Passion is also linked to motivation I think. Then flexibility is good as well. Interesting you describe yourself as a family man working full time. I've been there (my kids are 19 and 21 now) but it's a tough place to be.

I remember someone telling me how much of an achievement it was for a single mother they knew to wrtie a book, and it is. I think it's an equal achievement for a family mom/dad with a full time job to write a book as well. So good on you! What are you writing at the moment? Maybe you can post it in my new "Showcase" section, where people can talk about the stuff they have out there.

Best wishes
Andy


message 45: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
The next episode of The Creative Writer's Toolbelt will be out soon, looking at characters with edge, what are they? Do you have them in your writing? What will they add? I'm drawing on this book: The Writers and Artists Guide to How to Write

Enjoy!

Andy


message 46: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Well I'm going to be releasing my 16th episode of the Creative Writer's Toolbelt this weekend. That feels like an achievement, even if it isn't the 50th, 100th, or 1,000th episode!

For episode 17 I'm really excited to present an interview with award winning fantasy and scifi writer Derek Kunsken. Derek’s short story: “The Way of the Needle” won the Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award for its category in 2012, and if you are interested in hearing that story you can do so, completely for free, by going to the Escape Pod website and looking up episode 446.

I know not all of you are interested in science fiction and fantasy, don’t worry we’re going to keep it genre neutral as much as possible and focusing on general areas like characterisation, setting the scene and the challenges of being a writer. I’m looking forward to bringing it to you in a couple of weeks-time.

Meanwhile you can find out more about Derek and his work at his website.


Happy listening!
Andy


message 47: by Justin (new)

Justin Smith (halfgleason) I meant to comment last week and let you know I got caught up on the episodes. Good stuff, as always. I also enjoyed the interview. Looking forward to more of those too.


message 48: by Andrew (last edited Sep 05, 2014 07:42AM) (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi everyone,

The next issue of the Creative Writers Toolbelt podcast will be out September 6th and feature an interview with Science Fiction and Fantasy writer, Derek Künsken. Derek’s short story: “The Way of the Needle” won the Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award for its category in 2012, and his latest story, “Persephone Descending” is the cover story on the November issue of Analogue. Derek talks about showing and telling, outlining, characterisation, and being found out by your writers group.

Andrew J Chamberlain


message 49: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
Hi All

I hope you are finding the HARVARD model I describe in episode 18 useful, you can download a PDF of the model from my blog here.


message 50: by Andrew (last edited Oct 17, 2014 03:55AM) (new)

Andrew Chamberlain (andychamberlain) | 272 comments Mod
I recently spoke with Visual Development Artist Claire Keane, and that conversation will become a CWT episode in a few weeks’ time. Claire has worked at Disney and, amongst other things, helped to create some of the wonderful murals we saw in the film Tangled, you can find an interview about her role in the film here. She now works as a freelance artist for children’s books as well as films.


Talking to an artist has confirmed my belief that there is a lot of common ground between the creative process for written stories, and visual art forms. We had a great conversation and I learnt a lot from it, I hope you do too.


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