Never what you think it is…
The Christmas Angel
A Paranormal Tale
by Adam Casalino
Silas Black didn’t like the woman very much. He thought it might have been her nose. No, it wasn’t that. It was her smile. She had a wry smile. It made her look smug. Silas didn’t like people who were smug. Some people called him smug. But they confused smugness with knowing stuff.
This woman knew stuff. Too much stuff.
People flocked from all over the city to see her. From the outer boroughs, even. She had started in a small tea shop. Now she appeared in an off-off Broadway theater. Soon, people from outside New York would be flying in to see this medium. As the city’s only paranormal detective, it bothered Silas.
It could hurt business.
Or: How to make people believe your lies
There are a lot of resources out there on how to write stories. Far too many. And, as Stephen King once said, they’re mostly b-s.
I’m not here to teach you how to write. Nor do I claim to be an expert in the craft; some kind of guru that will definitely, without a doubt, reveal to you the secrets of being an amazing writer.
Most blog posts that promise that are only after one thing: your precious clicks.
But I am a writer. And I do know how to put one word after another, until I have something that resembles a story. I’ve done that enough to know a thing or two about that craft. So, if I feel so inclined to share a little bit of my wisdom with you, why not?
Maybe it will help you write. Maybe it will be a little bit entertaining. Maybe we both can get something out of it.
Writing Convincing Stories
Today I want to talk about writing convincing stories. What does “convincing” mean? Convincing means believable, i.e.: your reader buys that the events in your story could happen. For reader to believe that, they are willing to stick with your story all the way to the end. They will probably end up liking your story, recommending it to other people, and perhaps read other things you write (or draw or publish online).
But how do you make a story convincing? What are the most important details that make a story believable to a reader? What are those terrible, disastrous, mind-numbly awful things that make bad stories utterly unconvincing?
It has nothing to do with the believability of your story’s setting or genre. Even the most radical sci-fi and fantasy tales can be alarmingly convincing. People do know how to suspend their disbelief. In fact, they readily do so, in the hopes of escaping into a fun, imaginative, fantasy world. They do that every day when they read books, watch TV shows, and play copious amounts of video games (what do you think those kids are doing every day?).
In order for a fantasy/sci-fi story to be convincing, there are many guidelines you have to follow. Notice, I didn’t say rules. Rules are meant to be broken. And, as Neil Gaiman once said, you can break any rule you like if you do so with confidence.
Guidelines are different. They are simply tips or instructions to help a fledgling writer when they lose their way. You don’t have to follow them religiously, but they can be a beacon of hope in the midst of a miry storm (like when you’re in the middle of your story).
I can spend plenty of time discussing valuable guidelines for making convincing sci-fi and fantasy. But I want this article to be a little more universal. Suffice it to say, for now, if you want convincing sci-fi and fantasy, establish clear limitations and boundaries in which your characters can dwell. Magic and incredible technology can’t do everything. Establish those boundaries and stick to them, so your audience won’t feel cheated.
Or: How to avoid the first-person trap.
I’m not much of a “literary critic.” Oh sure, I have my opinions. And unlike yours, mine are always right.
But I don’t get much into the business of critiquing other books or comics. It’s a lot of work, and I’d rather devote my energy to creating my own things. Things like the above webcomic, the Robert Ash occult detective stories, and novels.
Despite that, I do read a lot. I try to read books from a wide spectrum of genres, styles, and topics. That’s a pro tip right there for creative types: Don’t just read the genre you like (or are working in). Read broadly, read lots of things. You never know what might spark something that changes your work. Pursuing a medieval cookbook might give you an idea for the next great children’s novel. I don’t know. But it never hurts to explore.
After reading so many different kinds of books—and after spending a considerable amount of time learning the craft myself—I can say that I have developed a nimble taste for good writing and bad writing.
I’ve also learned what kinds of books make me so furious, I want to throw them across the room (full disclosure: I’ve done this).
Today, I’m not going to write a review about a bad book, but highlight something I’ve discovered that can really spoil a potentially great story. Maybe you’re an aspiring writer. Or perhaps a cartoonist. Maybe you just love reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff. Or maybe you just found this by accident.
Whatever the case may be, this blurb of text might help you recognize a very bad problem in your story. Avoiding this just might save your life!
Okay, maybe not that. But it will prevent you from embarrassing yourself.