Cup of Dcaf: Music That’s Impacted My Writing

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I know for a fact that I’m far from unique among writers as a big music fan. Almost every writer I know has some sort of writing playlist; many have the same habit I do of making a new playlist to fit the tones of new books or stories.

But just because I’m not unique doesn’t mean that music isn’t worth talking about in the context of writing. It’s indispensable for me. I simply cannot sit down and be productive on a manuscript without music.

On top of that, I get a lot of inspiration just listening to music. Often, it will be the tone of a song that gets me; others, it’s a line that I particularly enjoy or a really cool song title. In this vein, I thought I’d talk about some of the songs and the stories (that you can read right here on Dcafwriting!) that they inspired.

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Cup of Dcaf: Why I Write

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With November being National Novel Writing Month, I’ve seen a proliferation of posts about writing habits, motivations, help and tips, and, most of all, identity as a writer. NaNo is a big deal in the writing world, especially the amateur section of it (let’s be honest here: the pros were already writing during November). NaNo is the time for people who “always wanted to write a book” to find the motivation and acceptance in the community and sit down at a keyboard or put pen to paper. There’s a general air of beginnings with NaNoWriMo.

For me, though, NaNo is something I’ve struggled with. It feels very much like it’s targeting a different demographic of writer than I fall into. NaNo, for all of its freedoms and encouragement and message, feels very restricting to me. I plan things out way in advance, and even when I don’t or can’t stick to those ambitions, I still have an order of things. NaNo seems like a wrench in the gears when it comes to that.

Because of all this, I’ve been giving a fair amount of thought to my situation and identity as a writer. 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.

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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