Tag Archives: Writing

Writing in General : How Multi-Classing Can Help You Be A Better Writer

I promise this post is only as geeky as the title itself; Multi-Classing is a feature within Dungeons and Dragons that allows a hero to, once they’ve reached a certain level of experience, branch out into a different category of expertise.

As a writer, we’re often focused solely on our craft. We write, therefore, we must be writers, and only writers.

Write? Wrong.

Sure, you can learn to be an even better writer by writing, reading, and doing more writing, but you’ll only become gifted within a very narrow scope. Be more than a writer. Take up drawing, music, filmmaking, photography, knitting, martial arts, dance, anything – find a different perspective and skill set that you can reinforce your writing with.

I recently finished a film-making class, and one thing continually reinforced by my professor, Hezekiah Lewis, was flow. He said at one point, “people get too hung up on details, like cigarettes in the wrong hand or something like that. Don’t let the technical aspects block the flow of the story. If you have a great take and it flows, but the cigarette’s wrong, who cares? Use it. You shouldn’t be concerned with accuracy. The performance comes first.”

When a friend of mine, Branson, came down to visit, I cajoled him into giving me some brief art lessons. I learned more about drawing feet in that afternoon than I ever had before, but that led me to draw more. And more. And then, when I read this blog entry by one of my favorite artists/creators ever, Chris Sanders, things came together. I made connections between the way I would draw people and the way I would describe these drawings – which, in turn, made my words more vibrant. Thinking visually and working visually helped me to write visually.

And now, instead of getting caught up by thoughts on technicality, I think more about capturing the moment. Who cares if it’s right, as long as it’s written? You can always take care of these things in post-production.

-Ryan Lynch (is a Level 10 Writer / Level 2 Artist / Level 1 Filmmaker)

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Writing in General – Throwing Things Away

I read once that human nature compels us to acquire stuff; that we, as people, cannot be ourselves without having things. Some people’s things are odder than others; I, for instance, have three copies each of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.

My explanation is simple; either I’ve come into them by accident, or – in the case of Red Dragon – I keep forgetting I already have one.

(I’m afraid that one day, years from now, I’ll walk out of a library with a discarded copy of Red Dragon, only to realize with horror that there are fifty others just like it in my living room.)

At some point, we realize that our lives, and shelves, are filled with things we can do without. I have an empty root beer bottle on the long white desk in my apartment; I think I liked the design at first, but now, it just seems like part of the desk. Today, I put it in the recycling bin.

Writers, when in the throes of their craft, tend to be very focused. So much so, in fact, that we forget what is absolutely essential to the story – and what is just an empty root beer bottle. In the case of the latter, we risk forgetting why it was included, why it remains, and worst of all; we might forget that we can get rid of it.

Don’t think of it as “murdering your darlings”. Your ideas are not your children, or prize pets. Your ideas are things you’ve acquired. Not all of them are essential. Some are more useful, and thus, more worthy than others; keep those.

But if it’s a loose sentence, a bad page, a misguided character, or a discarded project, remember that you’ve collected quite a few of them – and if you don’t need to keep it, toss it out. You’ll need that space for something else…perhaps, another copy of Red Dragon.

-Ryan

Writing in General – The Power of Silence

Never underestimate the power of silence.

Whether it’s prose, movies, or comics, a beat of silence can do a lot for storytelling. More than you’d think, even.

It can create tension. It can resolve tension. It can create emotional depth by letting the last words – or the words to come – dominate the audience’s thoughts. It can allow for visuals, rather than dialogue, to tell the story. Of everything in your storyteller’s toolbox, your best asset is and always will be nothing.

A single moment of silence in a drama can be destructive. The same amount of silence in an action movie can be calming, and in a horror movie, it could be positively terrifying. Silence is versatile. Silence will do what words can’t. It will go where words can’t go, and it will create mystery where there is none.

But for you folks that love lists, I’ll give you three general principles to follow when using silence.

1) Never underestimate your audience.
2) Never underestimate what silence will do for them.
3) Never underestimate what silence will do to them.

-Ryan

Writing in General: One Step At A Time

It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s been said so often, in fact, that most people gloss over what happens after that first step. Most people don’t know that there are over two thousand steps in one mile; and very few have taken that extra – well, step – to determine that there are over two million steps in one thousand miles.

That alone tells us something far, far more enlightening than Lao-Tzu’s proverb; we place so much emphasis on beginning things and ending things. We forget about everything in between. Some steps are larger than others, but they are still steps; there are two million of them to be taken in that lengthy journey, and it should never enter the mind that these middle steps are insignificant.

Think of your writing the same way. If you’re a beginning author, don’t imagine that your first sentence will be brilliant. In fact, don’t assume that the last one will be, either; focus on the path. Think about where you want to go, but remember that each sentence builds on the others before it, thousands at a time. You are walking the road, but you are also creating it simultaneously, brick by brick and step by step.

-Ryan

Writing in General : Fragile Life

When I go out for a run in the morning, I have three things stuck in the mesh pockets of my shorts: the keys to my apartment – which sound their warning jingle as I run through concrete streets – my driver’s license, and a post-it note.

On that note is written the following: In the event of an emergency, please contact my sister L______. You can reach her at 215-555-9876. Thank you.

Sometimes, the post-it is lost, and I am forced to write a new one, which is quickly folded around the driver’s license (a choice of neatness and habit). A cell phone would make more sense, but only in an emergency context; as it applies to running, such a choice would only cause my phone to meet with the pavement regularly.

You or I would think nothing of having an emergency number on our phone; but writing it down repeatedly, along with a message, creates in me an odd feeling of uncertainty and numbered days. Youth is not accustomed to dealing with mortality; Youth will think of it as a tragedy to lose one’s life in these, the years of promise and vigor.

I try to shake that notion, and think of it as a simple precaution. If I am the unfortunate victim of someone’s poor driving, I’d like for my family to know it. Hence, the post-it.

As I laced up this morning, my thoughts wandered to death in fiction; too often, writers will kill for the sake of a shock, or convenience. The deaths that truly affect us are the ones that come out of nowhere, that, sometimes, will make no sense – such as a young man, out on a morning run, hit by an out-of-control car. We are not reminded of the killer’s cruel touch, or a heroic deed with a death like that. We are reminded, instead, of the fragile lives we live.

When you write, use that. Know that. Most people will never know a brave moment in their life, as we see them in books or on the screen; but they will know a weak moment – a fragile moment – not unlike the one I described. They will connect with it to a much greater degree, and it offers you a powerful opportunity for plot and character development.

How your characters navigate tragedy is up to you; I only ask that you do it well.

-Ryan

P.S. If you should be interested in reading a great book dealing with life’s fragile moments, I can’t recommend Inio Asano’s Solanin enough.

Writing the Fight : Over The Top

It seems that, for all of the mental trappings of writing, my most popular topics have to do with the physical; particularly fight scenes. Time will tell if my previous entry on writing and running is as successful in continuing to bring attention.

As I mentioned last time, one of the most important things to consider when writing a fight scene is the relative skill level of the participants involved. You can write a great, thrilling fight with characters best described as brawlers; most fight scenes in movies, up until – say, the 1960’s – were plain fistfights. There was no technique, little blocking, and beautifully untrained haymakers, coming left and right – but all of it was dramatic. Even in the Rocky movies (particularly Rocky IV), there was an aspect of showmanship that went with the boxing. It was a struggle. It was about the back and forth, and not about anything fancy.

Fast forward to today. A great deal of modern writers grew up in eras with an emphasis on martial arts; specifically, karate, judo, and various disciplines of kung fu. Today, we also have more emphasis on mixed martial arts, which spreads out to wrestling, jiu jitsu, and muay thai, as well as sub-forms of karate, tae kwon do, aikido, and so on. Some of these martial arts are more graceful; others are simply direct and brutish in their approach.

In any case, look for the dramatic. If a style you’re working with (say, Crane or Mantis kung-fu) is filled with quick movements and imperceptible strikes, then emphasize the little instants that change everything. If it’s a bold, brash style – like muay thai, karate, or the form I studied, Tang Soo Do – then go for the big, powerful moments. Wrestling, jiu jitsu, or judo? Find a balance somewhere in between; there’s quite a bit of drama to be found in grappling itself, but getting the right hold can turn a fight around.

But, always, look for an element of danger. Look for something that makes you tense as you think about the situation; frame it so that it really COULD go either way. Find the desperation – the thing that brings each side to want the win just as badly as the other one.

I know, I know. “But  fights don’t go like that”. We all like the Bourne approach, where hands start flying and bing-bang-boom, the guy’s disarmed and his vertebrae’s snapped in fifteen different places, all in under a minute. It works, because everything ELSE is so tense.

Or, alternately, we think of real fights with two untrained idiots, one of them drunker and angrier than the other one. Sometimes they drag on, sometimes they’re short. What’s genuine and compelling about that? Easy – the raw, personal emotion from that moment.

Some of those other fights may have that, too. It’s up to you to find that, and write about it. I can’t help you do it.

…but if you’re looking for a sparring partner, I’d be glad to oblige.

-Ryan

Writing a Novel : The Importance of Having Endurance

I’m aware this is, much like my other recent entries, divergent from the central topic of the last month or so. But after seeing the wonderful Charlaine Harris the other night, and having a conversation with a fellow would-be writer, I think it’s important that I discuss endurance. (and, later, stretching.)

As of right now, I have two half-written novels. You may have more than two; you have may have fewer. For various reasons, I’ve had to abandon both of them at the hundred-page mark. For one, I had an entire outline planned, and then veered off track to the point where I just didn’t know where to go with it.

At that time, I decided that I would be treating writing the same way one would prepare for an endurance race; start off with smaller stories, then build my way up to the novel. Writing is different from running, in that somebody with sheer willpower and enough time could make it through a whole first draft without preparation; but it’s also very similar. If you do put in the time beforehand, it’ll be… well, it won’t be easy, but it’ll be easier.

My fellow writer from the night before barely made it past the ten-page mark, and said, “I should really consider writing something shorter first.” She’s right. It’s all a part of training yourself, and getting into the mentality. One can’t physically handle running a marathon the first time through; it’s all about long training, discipline, and building on small successes.

If you work hard, stay focused, and avoid injury, you could one day run a marathon.

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