Tag Archive for writing

Us and Them

Warm versus Competent graph

Of Doctors, Babies, Kings, and Zombies Before starting my journey as science fiction writer, I got a few degrees under my belt — astrophysics, mathematics, cognitive science, education, etc. It took a few decades (I’ve gotten married and had a family in there somewhere), but I got my doctorate and have used and still use it to help people think through complicated problems, mostly in product design. How is this relevant to writing, you might ask? Well, in addition to witnessing and surviving some amazing situations — always a good experience for a writer — I’ve acquired a few tools on how to think about situations and people. I would like to share one such tool with you: Us versus Them, a cognitive perspective. What people (and other animals) are very good at is dividing themselves into Us’es and Them’s. It’s a useful tool when we live in a divided world — how else do we keep clear of our allegiances to countries, sports teams, and political parties? But these divisions have neurological and psychological underpinnings. Consider a four square graph that charts competency versus likability (emotional warmth and approachability): We perceive (our) doctors as warm, personable, and able. We…

Radio Interview: Speculative Fiction Cantina

Speculative Fiction Cantina

On March 24th, I did a radio interview with the host of Speculative Fiction Cantina, S. Evan Townsend, and William J. Jackson, another indie writer. As it always happens in life, planning a speaking even several months in advance almost invites fate to give one laryngitis! I was luck to prepare my reading piece days in advance, and with the assistance of lots of tea and Advil went on the air. It was an interesting interview and I did manage to talk about ideas for creating sympathetic, diverse characters that evoked empathy among my readers. I am very grateful to Evan for this opportunity. Please visit the Speculative Fiction Cantina for many many interviewers with authors from all over the country. Evan has been doing these for years and has quite a library of conversations and readings. It’s worth the exploration — one never knows where your new favorite author will be discovered! As for my reading, here’s a little video of the first chapter from The FATOFF Conspiracy. You can read a few more chapters here, or get a free ebook from Amazon Prime. Enjoy! And thank you for listening.

Baby Killer

Baby Killers' Dinner

Baby Killer Brian was running away. He dumped his laundry basket into the trunk of his car, wrapped his computer in a towel and stuffed it underneath the mixture of dirty and clean clothes, and took off North. His college midterms went poorly and the paper he wrote for the world philosophy class was just dreadful. He was tired and haven’t slept in a very long time. Life had gotten to be too much lately and he had enough of it. He drove into the night. He liked staring into the passing lights, it was easy to lose oneself in the monotony of the highway in the dark — nothing to really see, just the passing the headlights, reflectors, and the lit highway signs. He drove most of the night. In the gray pre-dawn, he noticed a small billboard for a rest stop, offering hot coffee. Without making a conscious decision, Brain found himself turning off on a small side road and then into a parking lot of a medium-sized diner. Quite a few cars were already parked in a cluster around the front entrance. Soft yellow light spilled out of the curtained windows. Brian parked his car in the…

What’s in the Cover Art?

Coding Peter Suddenly Paris 2 Covers

This month we have released a sequel to Suddenly, Paris — Coding Peter — AND changed the covers of both books! Above is photo of before and after for the cover art of both books. Can a cover make a difference in the sales of these books? These products? Yes! Cover art makes a huge impact on how a book is perceived by its audience. Or to put it even stronger, the art on the cover of the book helps the potential reader recognize the book as something that they would like to read. Personally, I thought the original covers with strong black, red, and white design were striking. But that design didn’t communicate the genre of the books to its audience. We needed to come up with illustrations that made it clear that these stories were science fiction, and action adventure, and aimed at a new adult readers. We needed to covey a sense of mystery and danger. We wanted people to stop and notice the books based on their covers. And so we made it change. The new covers are a lot more narrative. And hopefully it would make a difference as the potential readers browse pages of…

Treasure Trove of Creative Writing Online Classes

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846) by Joseph Noel Paton

I discovered Brandon Sanderson a few years back, introduced him to my son, and we basically read all that he has ever written (that we could buy). He is a very talented fiction writer. And now I discovered that he is a great teacher: good at explaining, generous with ideas, and easy with advice. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his own experiences, thus making his classes gain a very concrete dimension. I have enjoyed his online lectures so much, that I am now posting his classes in sequence and adding additional links to similar lectures that are still worth scanning through. I hope these are as useful to you as they were to me. Happy writing! Very Grateful: Thank you writeaboutdragons for adding careful notes and creating 2012 BYU videos! Very grateful to the Camera Panda team, Jon Deering and Earl Cahill, for filming, editing, and providing careful annotations (shown here in quotes). Excellent work! Another shout out to zmunk who posted videos of Brandon’s presentations at JordonCon. Brandon Sanderson’s 2012 Semester at BYU: 1. Creative Writing — Ideas & Outlining 0:12 / Introduction to being a writer – Writing is not about inspiration, ideas, or luck –…

Inattention Errors in Extemporaneous Writing

Rapefruit

Automation provides many opportunities for inattention errors. Extemporaneous writing/typing is particularly prone to errors so egregious that they are funny… in retrospect. Here are a few examples of “scary” autocorrect mistakes as well as other problems caused by limited or spit [sorry, that was “split”] attention on the task of communication. 1. Everyone fails sometimes It is easy to fail when we are in a hurry, or are under pressure, or don’t proofread our work before it goes out. Some fails are the result of trying to be too clever and not getting a second opinion. Some fails are due to lack of process — a second pair of eyes on the copy would have noticed the “extra word” problem. Some fails are easily caught via a spellchecker… But in some cases, a spellchecker does help… And in many cases, spellcheck is the CAUSE of strange communications. I had a few of those myself… 2. Errors are different from mistakes Mistakes are things that we know are wrong the moment we notice them — the head-slappers! They are usually caused by inattention on the task. Errors are different. Errors result from true ignorance. But it doesn’t make the resulting fails…

Something from Nothing

Book_lover_Wikipedia

I like writing quite a bit — it is one of the few creative activities where we get to invent an entire universe without outside interference. Movies, plays, games — they all require teams of people and large budgets to get birthed. Written stories are not like that. We can control all of it — from each individual word choice, to how things turn out for our characters, to what font is used for the presentation, to how the story gets delivered to the readers. There used to be a time when one could program games (I used to do so) all by herself — code, graphics, ideas, even publishing. But that is not possible anymore. The skill set required to make something of quality is too wast. The same is true for movies. And plays can only be experienced in front of an audience with actors… But novels! There is freedom of creativity in writing stories. When I type “the end” something became that never existed before! Something from nothing — that’s creative writing! It’s like magic, only cooler. Particularly if the author enjoys the act of writing as much as having written…