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Dec 01,2014

Hi there. I’m Sean Williams and it’s December, and I’m excited to be here INSIDE A DOG looking out at all of you.

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Nov 27,2014

As I said in my last post, watching movies will never really teach you how to write. Only reading does that. If you aren't immersed in the best writing, the kinds of books you enjoy the most, you can never hope to create a novel that has a life of its own.

That said – you can learn a little about storytelling from movies.

Writing is the art of prose. Storytelling goes along with it, but isn't precisely the same thing. I think storytelling is about expressing the narrative instinct, the need all humans have to imagine what happened before this moment, or what could happen next. Not everyone is an avid reader – but virtually everyone will enjoy a story with a sensational beginning, dramatic middle, various twist and turns in the plot, and a satisfying conclusion. Seeing this unfold in movies won't teach you how to write it (again, only reading does that); however, it may help you recognize when you're on the right track, or where you've gone astray.

A few storytelling tools movies can share with books:

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Nov 27,2014

One of the most important things an aspiring writer can do is read. Read widely. Read the kinds of books you most love. Read books you'd never normally dream of picking up. Read everything. That's how we learn what kinds of characters fascinate us, what sorts of stories ignite our imaginations. And even though you can analytically study your favorite novels to see exactly what makes them work, this isn't absolutely necessary. You'll absorb, on an almost subconscious level, a few lessons about how to create a gripping first chapter, how to execute a plot twist, or how to pull various narrative threads together at the end.

This advice sounds sort of silly, because – come on. Doesn't every would-be writer love to read?

The answer, strangely enough, is no. Astonishingly, I often hear people who talk about the books they want to write, but haven't actually read anything in months, sometimes even years. When they think about stories, they think in terms of movies rather than novels. Sometimes this is deliberate, because people love to think about their book becoming a film someday. Who wouldn't? I dream of this myself.

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Nov 22,2014

Today I spent some time looking through different military alphabets, past and present. (You know – "Alpha Bravo Charlie," etc.) I didn't do this because I had any pressing need to communicate over the radio to army targets; I did this because I had it in my head that one of these words might make a good character name.

Naming characters can be one of the most enjoyable parts of creating a story, and yet it's also one of the trickiest. When you're writing, you know when a name is right … or wrong. Readers know too. Names with overly dramatic flourishes make people snicker; names that are too commonplace are difficult to remember.

There's no one right or wrong way to name a character, but here are a few principles I personally go by:

1) What name would the characters' parents use?

This is, of course, how most of us get our names. I like to take this into account when I'm naming my characters, because thinking about a character's parents tells you a lot about where they come from, and the expectations their parents had for their child. For my latest book, A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU, I knew the main character's parents had family ties to France and Russia; they were also bookish types, scientists, unlikely to choose names that were faddish. So this character needed a name that was classic, but that had variations in several different languages – which is how I came up with Marguerite.

This approach also helps you avoid a too-common trap – characters' names sounding too much alike. Not everyone you know has a very romantic name, or a very unusual name, or a very common name, or an Irish name, etc. And yet often you'll find casts of characters in books in which all the names fit together too neatly. Different parents will make different choices, and will help you diversify your own character names.

2) Beware alliteration and other forms of similarity.

As someone whose first book series contained characters named Bianca, Balthazar and Mrs. Bethany – trust me, you can get very tired of all those B-names, or M-names, or whatever letter you're taking to the verge of overdose. Also, sometimes readers may confuse characters whose names seem too similar, and first letters often have this effect. Now, if you have the absolute perfect names for a couple of characters, and they happen to start with the same letter, go for it. But if you have three, four or five characters in that situation … I bet another name would work just as well for one of them.

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Nov 22,2014

File 26824Today I spent some time looking through different military alphabets, past and present. (You know – "Alpha Bravo Charlie," etc.) I didn't do this because I had any pressing need to communicate over the radio to army targets; I did this because I had it in my head that one of these words might make a good character name.

Naming characters can be one of the most enjoyable parts of creating a story, and yet it's also one of the trickiest. When you're writing, you know when a name is right … or wrong. Readers know too. Names with overly dramatic flourishes make people snicker; names that are too commonplace are difficult to remember.

There's no one right or wrong way to name a character, but here are a few principles I personally go by:

1) What name would the characters' parents use?

This is, of course, how most of us get our names. I like to take this into account when I'm naming my characters, because thinking about a character's parents tells you a lot about where they come from, and the expectations their parents had for their child. For my latest book, A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU, I knew the main character's parents had family ties to France and Russia; they were also bookish types, scientists, unlikely to choose names that were faddish. So this character needed a name that was classic, but that had variations in several different languages – which is how I came up with Marguerite.

This approach also helps you avoid a too-common trap – characters' names sounding too much alike. Not everyone you know has a very romantic name, or a very unusual name, or a very common name, or an Irish name, etc. And yet often you'll find casts of characters in books in which all the names fit together too neatly. Different parents will make different choices, and will help you diversify your own character names.

2) Beware alliteration and other forms of similarity.

As someone whose first book series contained characters named Bianca, Balthazar and Mrs. Bethany – trust me, you can get very tired of all those B-names, or M-names, or whatever letter you're taking to the verge of overdose. Also, sometimes readers may confuse characters whose names seem too similar, and first letters often have this effect. Now, if you have the absolute perfect names for a couple of characters, and they happen to start with the same letter, go for it. But if you have three, four or five characters in that situation … I bet another name would work just as well for one of them.

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Nov 19,2014

File 26635For my last post, I declared that I didn’t believe in “writer’s block” – because I don’t. But I do understand that occasionally, we all just get stuck. You’re in a scene that isn’t doing what you thought it would do, or you don’t know where it goes next, and the book stops moving forward. It might not be the mythical, all-powerful writer’s block holding you back, but something has definitely gone wrong.

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Nov 08,2014

It’s one of the most common questions writers get: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Legend has it that writer’s block is this mysterious, insurmountable malady that befalls writers for no known reason, and there is no known cure. Any creative mind can be crippled by it at any time. How can we escape it? Is there anything we can do?

My personal solution: I refuse to believe in writer’s block.

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Nov 06,2014

Does anyone out there not know what fanfiction is, by now? Even a decade ago, lots of people were confused about it, but by now it seems to be almost mainstream. Just in case, though, here’s the definition: Fanfiction is the writing done by fans of an existing text (be it book, movie, tv show, commercial, poetry – you name it), using the characters and/or premise of that text to tell an original story.

Every once in a while, you see people get puffed up and self-righteous about fanfiction. I can’t stand these people. None of their objections make any sense. For instance, one thing you often hear is, “Why don’t these people create their own characters?” Because we love the existing characters, and we’re curious about them, that’s why. Humanity has always told new stories about existing characters; that’s how mythology is born. That’s why we have the Arthurian legends. People didn’t want just one story about Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin, Morgana, etc. – they wanted hundreds, and so they invented them. The best became part of the legend itself.

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Nov 01,2014

One of the first questions a lot of people ask an author about their book is, “If it becomes a movie, who would you cast?”

To be honest, this is a question that makes my heart sink a bit. I could nobly proclaim that this is because books are BOOKS, brilliant on their own and with no need of a movie to validate their existence. This is all true. Also, my heart sinks because nobody is making a movie of my book.

But the main reason I’m uneasy about the question is that I never have a good answer. I very rarely mentally cast people of appropriate age in the roles. When my internal images of my characters match up with actors, they’re always adults at least a decade too old for the part; I simply de-age them in my mind. For instance, in my novel A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU, the character of Theo is absolutely, 100% Robert Downey Jr. However, it’s the Robert Downey Jr. of thirty years ago, so unless someone’s got a Tardis handy, he’ll be unavailable to play the role in any future films.

File 26464File 26466

Young RDJ: Just right. Except the hair. THEO DOES NOT HAVE THAT HAIR. 

Older RDJ: Gloriously hot, and at least 30 years too old for the part.

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Oct 28,2014
Zac & Mia

I read a lot of YA literature, and so today I am going to write about three great 'AND' books:

Zac & Mia

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