Cup of Dcaf: On the Subject of Prologues

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I must admit to some discontent with myself even as I write this. I’m a fan of a well-executed prologue, especially in a fantasy novel, and indeed there is a prologue in All Flames Cast (and will be one in Of Genesis). Yet I’m about to argue in opposition of prologues, for some reason.

Actually, for good reason. You see, prologues are generally unnecessary.

Oh, most authors will argue heartily that their prologue absolutely HAS to be in there. “It sets up so much!” they maintain. Or, “There’s tons of background there!” Possibly even, “It’s where the plot gets set up!” Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Thoughts and Internal Dialogue

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Anyone who reads a lot of fiction will be familiar with italicized font, and what it signifies: internal dialogue or thoughts. This is a very common tool used in first- or third-person close points of view, and it helps bring the reader more intimately into touch with the character’s identity and personality. After all, people can very easily say one thing while thinking another.

This, when used judiciously, can be very effective in making your stories deeper, your characters more fleshed-out. When I think about the ways that Robert Jordan used thoughts to demonstrate Mat Cauthon’s recalcitrance despite his overt heroism, or how Scott Lynch cleverly hints at plot details in Locke’s thoughts while not quite giving it away, it’s very clear that this can be an incredibly effective tool for enriching a story. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Flashbacks

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Flashbacks are a troubling and wonderful thing. They can provide essential insight into a character’s personality or motivations. They can develop dramatic tension by making the reader privy to events in that past the character isn’t aware of. They can set up thematic fulfillment with scene changes.

They can also be confusing, or a crutch for weak characterization or plotting. They can mess up the flow of a story, throw off pacing, and stick out like a sore thumb.

Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Themes and Subtlety in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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This has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s pretty much par for the course that good SFF has more than just a basic story going on. The ability to construct new worlds, cultures, and environments gives authors an unparalleled ability to comment on things in our own world in a more nuanced, and if done well, more effective manner. This can cover things like racial topics, economic issues, religion, military strategy and policy…you name it. If it’s an issue in our world, it’s probably been written about.

But when you break it down, some books (and TV shows or movies) handle this much better than others. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Show vs. Tell

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I’m sure just about every aspiring writer has heard the infamous dictum: “Show, don’t tell.” This is often a foundational element to how a lot of people write, especially when starting out. While the heart of this advice comes from a good place, exhorting writers to not use the crutch of adverbs or gratuitous description, it can sometimes swing too far in the other direction. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: When the Narrator Makes the Book

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This post is mostly going to be about other books I’ve read, moreso than anything I’ve written, because it deals with first-person perspectives. While third-person narrators can absolutely make an impact on the way a story is read (looking at you, A Song of Ice and Fire), some of my favorite stories are first-person novels. By and large, the reason for this is the way the first-person viewpoint structures and colors the story. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Finding a New World

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A lot of people have ideas for novels. A lot of them are good, creative, or have something poignant to say. But actually putting those ideas on the page is an entirely different animal from just coming up with premises. There are a whole host of things to consider before creating your new story on the pages of a novel. Continue reading