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Ray Bradbury Quote

Writing Tips

  • Music: Just like in a film, I find that the right music sets the tone of a story. Just like you wouldn’t have a film without music, I use soundtracks when I write to set the tone.

  • Characters: I often like to use real historical people as characters. This was inspired by an old Steve Allen PBS show called Meeting of the Minds. The first one of which I ever saw was a conversation between Ulysses S. Grant, Marie Antoinette, Thomas More and Karl Marks. Some of it also comes from the 1983 Dudley Moore file, Lovesick, in which a psychiatrist is visited by the spirit of Sigmund Freud who tries to help him. I’ve always found the idea of historical characters meeting each other or story characters inspiring. In series Black Sails, you get to see the same thing. A literary character like Long John Silver talking with the Historical Edward Teach as if the literally character was a real person. I just love that. Besides, you don’t have to make up the description of a character when you can look up their picture in Wikipedia and describe that. I also frequently cast actors as characters into my stories. So, for example, Alec Guinness would play Sigmund Freud in a movie where I wanted to use Freud as a comic character. This way, at least for me, I can visualize a scene in my head before writing it on the page. I find that makes the conversations more real for me and dialog much easier as a result.

  • Plot: I usually don’t like to know the end of a story when I start it. I prefer to let the characters themselves create the end of the story as I am writing it. I call this the “How I Met Your Mother” syndrome. In the case of this TV series, the writes kept with their original ending … even though the characters in the story had quite clearly moved in a different direction. As a result, the final installment was not only jarring, but painful to watch and may viewers despised the ending as a result. I say, if your characters take you in a different direction, go with it. That’s your subconscious telling you that your original ending wasn’t a clever idea.

  • Easter Eggs: Many film makers put Easter eggs (an intentional inside joke or a hidden message) in their productions. I love to put Easter eggs in my stories. Many of the names I use in my stories are Easter eggs for something. This makes the creation of names for things in my stories a fun task and not a point that I must struggle creating.

  • Naming: Ok here’s my character naming trick. Step one, I pick some actor/actress I like and go to their filmography on IMDB. Then I look up the names of characters they played. I use their filmography like a Chinese restaurant menu. I pick the first name from one role and combine it with the second name of another roll. Take for example, Actor A, who played Les McCallum in one picture and Alex Pankhurst in another. Put them together and boom … the character Les Pankhurst is born. As an added bonus, I might give Mr. Pankhurst some of Les McCallum’s characteristics to give a reader, who has seen that film the general feeling that they are familiar with the character.