How??!!

How do you make your writing unputdownable?
How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
In short, how do you make Readers want to read your books?

As a writer, one of the things that I do is read. I read Non Fiction for interest, research and inspiration. I read The Internet (which is an interesting mix of Fiction and Non fiction) for the same reason.
When I read fiction, it’s for interest & escape (genres in which I have no intention of writing in), to learn how other people write and finally, to try and piece together the answers to the questions that I started with.

I’ve read all sorts of books, all different genres.

The truly great writers all have one thing in common. They have (whether they know it or not) figured out those answers and are making use of them.

When I read a book where the writer has used these answers, I am sucked so deeply into the story that it’s an effort to get out of it. I have to be yanked out by the hair to make dinner or help PW go to the bathroom or go shopping…

I’d love to be able to make my own writing that compelling.
There are times when I read something that I have written and I think I might have it… and usually it all falls apart on me moments later.
So how do I do it?

Well I started by watching the work of some of the best writers in the business… yes, that’s right, I said watching.

When was the last time that you watched an animation? I’m not talking the nonsensical stuff that they put out for the littlest of children; I’m talking properly developed, well thought out animated movies.
Studio Ghibli, Square Enix, Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks – there are many others, but these are the biggest and they have the best writers that they can afford working with their teams.

It’s no secret that I’d love to work with any of them… if I ever had the opportunity.

The films that make billions in box office takings aren’t just because of the quality of the animation or the design of the characters and environments – it’s because the story sucks you into the film itself and you’re not just watching anymore, you’re living it through the eyes of the characters. A lot of that comes from the writing – the compelling stories and the inability to look away because even if it’s cringeworthy or a little scary, you watch from behind your hands… you have to because you want to know what is about to happen.

And when they’re finished, you feel satisfied but a little sad because you’ve had to leave the world.

I love animation because it gives me an escape that live action films rarely manage. The ones that we have bought on Blu Ray are the best ones, they’re ones that will suck me in and keep me watching. They’re the ones that give me that satisfied but sad feeling.
There are live action films that do it; oddly, they’re ones like the Marvel Comic Universe films, Star Wars films, the Potter Universe. Some of the DC Universe films have done it; the Michael Keaton Batman’s and the first two Christian Bale Batman’s, and I think that Wonder Woman might be another (I obviously haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like it might work!)

Obviously films (whether animated or not) are a tricky subject; so many things influence their success, so it clearly isn’t “just” the writing that makes them great. But great writing will produce at worst an “okay” film; at best it produces a “superb” film. The writing has to be there for the actors, directors, producers etc to work with.

So how do books and movies intersect?

Obviously they both need writers, but they also need writers who know their craft.
They need writers who know how to create a believable world, how to design a character that isn’t two dimensional and who can make the reader /watcher connect with the character somehow.
They need a story that draws the reader/watcher into the world and keeps them there with action that ebbs and flows, until the story has concluded and they can sit back and wish they were still in that world.

And how do you get to be that kind of writer? Let’s look at my original questions and answer them one at a time:

1) How do you make your writing unputdownable?
You craft your story carefully and make it draw the reader into your carefully designed world so that they don’t want to leave it.

2) How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
See above… plus, world design and character design is a whole different blog post… I’ll do that another time.

3) How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
I believe I have actually answered this – were you reading carefully though?
*peers at blog reader and frowns thoughtfully*

4) How do you make Readers want to read your books?
See #1…
*winks*

And the Question I finished the post with?

5) How do you get to be that kind of writer?
If you were reading carefully, you’ll see that I answered it… before I posed it. It’s what I have been doing for most of my life and always go back to when I am having a problem with my own writing…

I read. I watch. I study, I practise, I edit.

In Fiction; I read writers who have inspired me, I read writers that are considered classics, I read writers (and stories) that have been around for eons, I read brand new, barely discovered writers.
In Non-Fiction; I read subjects that interest me. I read subjects that are uncomfortable for me, I read new subjects that I haven’t tried, I read subjects that are old friends.

In TV; I watch Documentaries, I watch TV serials of all sorts of genres, I watch Kids TV, I watch Adults TV (yes, porn too), I watch Foreign Language TV (by subtitles).
In Movies; I watch Small Screen, Big Budget, Foreign Language, Animated, Live Action, Independent.

I study Writing; I read How To books, I take modules from Free Online Course Sites, I read the books that the Big Writers have written about how THEY got into writing.

I Practise Writing; I try writing Poetry (Different styles and Meter), I try writing Flash stories (there are different word lengths), I write different Genres (there are so many I can’t list them all), I write different lengths of story (Flash, Short, Long, Novelette, Novella, Novel, Epic), I write for different ages (Child, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult), I write for different audiences, I write inside and outside my comfort zone.

I edit… this one is the hardest of all.

I do a basic grammar and spelling edit, then I get people I trust to read what I have written and they comment on it (these are Alpha Readers). Then I re-read it and consider their suggestions as I go along. I adjust it if I agree, discuss it if I don’t – the discussions always help me to understand what they see – and change it if I can see what they are getting at and agree with them.

Then I get a second round of Reading done (these are the Beta readers) not always by the same people. If they throw up anything that needs adjusting, I re-read and adjust if I agree… if it’s something I didn’t agree with the first time, I take a long careful look at it.

Then I get someone to do a General Line Edit for Typos and plot holes etc. This is always someone who hasn’t seen it before and has Editing Experience. Sometimes they may have been an Alpha/ Beta Reader as well, but they have to have Editing Experience as well.

And no, not every Writer is a good Editor – I’m a prime example of that!

Once it’s Edited, then (and only then) I consider it ready to be published. And bear in mind that until I think it’s ready to be published, it may go back for Beta Reading or Editing again.

That’s how you get to be a Writer.

To be a Great Writer, someone who can write a Book or Movie that will draw the Reader / Watcher in and hold them there until they’ve finished; someone who can leave them with that “Satisfied but Sad” feeling; someone who can bring them back for more of their work, time and again?

That takes Talent.
Do I have Talent?
*shrugs*
I don’t know.

I know “some” people have enjoyed my work because they have told me so personally or they have written reviews on my books that have shown they’ve read them and considered it good enough to leave a comment about it. That has been enough to make me want to keep me writing and publishing.
But is that Talent?
You’d have to ask them or read my books to answer that for yourself; because as it is with every Artform, Art is subjective and personal.

You have to make your own mind up.

The VFX Protest – what does it mean to us?

As a writer of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror stories, I allow my imagination to come alive. I pride myself on making sure that my work is as cinematic as possible…

Hang on. Cinematic… what does that mean?

Let’s take a quick trip to the dictionary; just to make sure I’m using it in the right context:

cin·e·mat·ic

adjective \ˌsi-nə-ˈma-tik\

Definition of CINEMATIC
1
: of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures <cinematic principles and techniques>
So.  what I am trying to say when I use the word Cinematic, is that I attempt to show through words the pictures that I am seeing in my head as I write. I try to make sure that my descriptions of characters and places draw the reader into the story.
What has this got to do with the VFX Protest?
First, I need to sum up why the VFX industry is protesting.
While life is hard for a lot of people; the economy is down, no one has a lot of money, we’re all feeling the pinch etc, for those of us who try to make a living as a creative person, that’s normal.
Everyone in the world wants  books,  posters, pictures, magazines, comics, films, music, jewellery, clothes, cushions…- all the little things that brighten our day and make us feel a little better about our circumstances – and they want them as cheaply as possible, mostly because they don’t have a lot of money to spend on them.
Now I could rant about this all day and it wouldn’t solve anything.  This is supposed to be about the VFX Industry Protest after all.
Like everyone else, the VFX Industry is having financial problems. Several VFX houses have had to close down, putting people out of work. They do the work of gods (ie: creating worlds and creatures where there once were none) for as little as  the studios that hire them can get away for paying them. And while the film that they work on may go on to be a massive blockbusting hit, bringing millions of pounds in ticket sales to the studios, because they work for a fixed fee, the VFX Houses see virtually none of that profit.
What they are protesting about is the system they are forced to work in and they want to do something about it.  Fair enough say I and probably many of you will agree with me,  that their protest is a fair one.
However, the protest is being kept under wraps by all sorts of people who really ought to know better… and this was the straw that broke the VFX Camel’s Back – go on, I’ll wait for you to watch the video and come back:
While the Oscars was going on, the VFX community were picketing outside. Everyone else on the oscars got a decent amount of time to do their acceptance speech, but when the Life of Pi VFX team were picking theirs up, they got cut off barely 43 seconds after being handed the award.

That’s all very well, you say, but that doesn’t me anything to me, I don’t work as a VFX Artist and neither do you… well it should mean something.  Lets look at this in the most basic level. What would Life of Pi look like without VFX?

Photo credit: @tvaziri (pic.twitter.com/JjGOJ8zsQg)

Essentially, without the VFX that makes the film so beautiful to watch, it wouldn’t be as ground breaking. It’s not just Life of Pi though. Without VFX, films like Avatar and the Avengers would be just people in costumes and paint… nowhere near as engaging.

Okay, you say. I can see that. But why are you getting worked up about it?

As I said, I’m a Fantasy/SF/Horror writer. I rely on my imagination and my skill with words to communicate what I see to my readers. But should those words be popular with enough people, some studio might say “Let’s turn this into a movie.” and that movie will be dependent on the VFX industry to bring it to life.

So yes, this problem will affect me personally in a slight fashion… and no, I don’t have any movie rights contracts up my sleeve.

Also, my fiance is heading into the world of animation and illustration – he’d love to work for the very industry that is having problems… The thing is, this protest and a similar one by screenwriters a few years back, are symptoms of a larger problem that I touched on earlier.

Everyone is having money problems. So those people in the position to spend money want to get what they need as cheaply as possible, and that creates the problem. Instead of paying artists/writers/animators etc, what their skills are worth in real terms, they negotiate it so that the artist at the bottom end of the chain (the one producing the effect) is getting paid pennies.

I touched on this myself when I tried to explain why I set my e-book prices the way I do… essentially I give myself a living wage, which in britain is the minimum wage of £5.40 (according to the govt) and work out how long it took me to write the book, multiply that by the minimum wage… gasp, have a heart attack and cut it from a couple of thousand to a reasonable figure that I could expect a reader to pay. It takes me longer to make money that way, but believe me, a price of £4.99 for a novel is better than one of approx. £5,000.

And that’s what the VFX houses have to do. They figure in their technology and software of course, but paying the artists who do the work and the technicians that do the coding is the biggest part of their price. Of course, they have to figure in overheads like energy and rent as well… if I did that, I wouldn’t be paying myself anything at all…

Everyone complains about their wages, but when you’re on the breadline and worrying about the food coming in, having to worry about your job as well… well, we can all understand that.

So show some solidarity with the VFX Artists – all they want is to be paid what their skills are worth. And if you go by the amount of money the studios rake in on heavily animated or CGI’d films, then their skills are worth a lot.

VFX Protest : Ang Lee letter

VFX Artists are the gods that make fantasy films possible – I, as a writer of fantasy/science fiction/horror stories who would love to see her work come to life on the big screen, am supporting this protest.

Not only is my work possible fodder for the movie industry, my partner is a talented artist who wants to move into animation, so I am showing solidarity with all VFX Artists by changing my FB and Twitter Avatar to a green square – symbolic of the green/blue screen that is all that would be there if the VFX wasn’t.

 

VFX Soldier

Reposted with permission:

Dear Mr. Lee,

When asked about the bankruptcy of Rhythm + Hues, the visual effects house largely responsible for making your film “life of Pi” as incredible as it was, you said:

“I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive].”

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