Monday, February 22, 2010

A Few Things I Learned About Writing

I wanted to post a few things I've learned lately about writing--particularly writing sci-fi and fantasy. Because, well, learning stuff is good for you. So, suck it up. :)

1 - As technology changes, culture changes. Human emotion, however, is fairly constant.

2 - The more empathy you can create for a villain, the more powerful they are at affecting your audience.

3 - What feels exotic (in setting/culture) to the characters will also be exotic to the readers.

4- The more you make magic like science, the less sense of wonder you provide the audience from the magic itself.

5 - Sci-Fi is our world as it could be. Fantasy is our world as it could never be. Horror is our world as it should never be.

6 - Horror is in essence about morality. It is a study of good vs. evil.

7 - Children have fears that are concrete and abstract at the same time. For example: being afraid of "the dark"

8 - Real people with real psychological problems believe what they are doing makes sense--even if no one around them agrees.

9 - It is crucial to know all your characters motivating factors.

10 - There are six major motivating factors in a child/teenager: 1 - sense of belonging 2 - sense of protection 3 - curiosity 4 - denial of curiosity (knowing everything) 5 - desire to make things happen and affect the world around them 6 - to become or act more like a grown up

So, I hear the 10 is the it number when it comes to lists these days, so I'll stop there. What have you learned about writing lately?

P.S. I'm excited to be attending the LDS Storymakers Conference in April. If you're coming too, see you there! :)

They're also having a VERY cool Show Your Love for the Storymakers Contest. Let's just say, if I win...I will be surrounded by coolness.


  1. Somebody needs to give that place a tree and some OxyClean.

    Great post, especially because you present the audience and their viewpoint. I tend to forget about that, which is ridiculous. It is all about them, after all.

  2. I didn't know you wrote scifi .. how fun.

    And, you are right. Whatever the story line is it all comes down to human emotion, experience and connection.

    well said.

  3. I like the one about not having to explain the science of magic.

  4. Excellent list! If I could leave half as much as this, I'd be set!

  5. Oh, I love this post! Very helpful since I write sci/fi and fantasy:)

  6. Thanks! I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. I feel like I'm doing all sorts of learning lately. ;)

  7. Great summary of some of the major points of the conference. I knew I could count on you to take notes. That's why I was lazy and left my notebook in my purse at all times. :)

  8. Great list. It all boils down to people and their emotions.

  9. I love this list! I especially like #'s 2, 4, 5, and 7. :-)

  10. Those six motivating factors could easily be for me--especially number 6.

    When a character steps out of those and exhibits...altruism for example, it kind of makes them more endearing and more grown up at the same time. But is it believable?

  11. must have taken notes. That or you've got a great memory! Here a couple of suggestions from my LTUE notes:
    1) Find a way to limit the amount of info your character receives. When a character has unanswered questions, up goes the suspense.
    2) The publishing world is small. Everyone knows everyone. So, be nice. :)
    Michelle Teacress

  12. Great list. I've learned that rewriting is much harder than writing, but so much more rewarding.

  13. Love the list! What I've learned lately is that if I'm excited enough about my story, rather than doubting myself, I can write outside of ideal conditions.

  14. Kasie - That's what I'm here for! ;)

    lotusgirl - Yes, indeedy!

    Shannon - I'm glad you liked it and thanks about the blog! :) I like it too.

    Marilyn - Good point, it can definitely apply to adults too. As far as the altruism depends on what other motivating factors it fills. For example: do they think doing something nice will help them get included in the group, or does it help their desire to make things happen, or perhaps they feel it would be the grown-up thing to do. Most things fit in these groups from one angle or another.

    MT - I am a notetaker. It's an addiction really. ;) Great points! Thanks for bringing them up!

    Susan - SO TRUE! My books don't seem to really come to life until I've rewritten. :)

    Feywriter - Yeah, if the story is exciting enough, few things will stand in the way.

  15. Great list, Jenn! I'll have to come back after I've found my notes. =]

  16. There are a lot of great things on that list. So good!

  17. I think lately the biggest lesson I've learned is the phrase "write what you know". I've boiled that down to emotions. If you've known something emotionally and can draw from those experiences, I don't think it matters the setting because our best friend google makes so much possible. :) Super list. I love the one about the villain.

  18. Look at you being all busy learning things and stuff. And then you go and make me learn stuff too. Well I only have one thing to say about that..... Thanks!!:)

    I learned that writing while watching children's tv doesn't work well for me.

  19. Great list. I've learned that you have to keep writing even when you don't want to and it's in those moments that things seem to click.

  20. I really like #2 I remember hearing that. It was a light bulb moment for me.

  21. Great list! I'd like to add... Believable villains think they are doing the right thing, not the wrong thing. Even if they know what they are doing deep down is wrong, they will find a way to justify it. They won't nya-har-haarrr about how evil they are.

  22. I'm glad you stopped at 10 because I found number 10 to be extremely useful. Thanks for sharing your learning with us!

  23. Wow! How insightful! Thank you! I especially like number 5!
    Thanks for posting this, Jenn! :)

  24. I'm sucking up any informative about writing. I learn so much from blogging buddies.
    Thanks for your list.

  25. Number four kind of bums me out. My WIP is about the distant future of gaming so all the magic literally IS science.

    Otherwise, when magic is magical, I wholeheartedly agree with this.

  26. This is a great post. I'm glad I found your blog.

    And I can assure you that, even though you didn't win the contest, you will still be surrounded by awesomeness at the Storymakers conference.

    I look forward to meeting you.

  27. Wow, I'm saving this list, it's awesome! Mind you, I'm majoring in Creative Writing, and a couple of points there have not been mentioned in my classes yet.

    One question though, could you give an example of number 10.4? Denial of curiosity, knowing everything?

    thanks a bunch! =)

  28. Ray - you're the exception, I'm sure.

    Don - look forward to meeting you too!

    Aspen - I'll think that over and see if I can throw a blog post together with some examples. Thanks! :)