MAKE THEM EARN IT
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
2d ago
Your characters need to earn the things they need to succeed in their own stories. Don’t let anything come too easily, and in most genre fiction, at least, I mean anything and everything must feel that it came at the cost of significant effort. If not, it’s not worth including in the story. I’ll refer you back to a previous post on why you don’t need to cover every little minute detail of a character’s experience—we don’t need to follow them into the bathroom or see every little twitch and itch—but anything and everything we do see should ..read more
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JUST EXACTLY LIKE
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
1w ago
Okay, I have to admit it, I’m currently residing in Deadline Hell in order to get the Year of Phil off to a proper start the first full week in February, so how about a short story this week? This one was published in the Spring-Summer 2017 issue of the literary magazine Word Fountain, and the editor was gracious enough to nominate it for a Pushcart Prize, which is always flattering to hear. Enjoy… JUST EXACTLY LIKE “What’s this?” she said after she’d crossed right in front of him. He didn’t really think she wanted to know the name of the movie she’d momentarily interrupted but still he ..read more
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SO JUST WRITE AREADY!
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
2w ago
This post is directed at myself, but you might accidentally benefit from it as well. It started with rereading this quote from a Paris Review interview with Stephen King: You have a short life span. You need to stop this crap about sitting there and talking about what we do, and actually do it. Because God gave you some talent, but he also gave you a certain number of years… I do primarily make my living talking about what we do (writing), more or less, but I get what he’s saying and so should we all. Are you, like me, setting writing goals then watching them go right past you ..read more
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DO YOUR CHARACTERS QUESTION THEIR OWN MOTIVES?
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
3w ago
You know, by now, how strongly I feel about the importance of strongly motivated characters—heroes and villains alike. Last October, I got into this in “Why? The Heart of Character Motivation” when it comes to villains: Evil, like good, is specific to an individual and is something that comes from deep inside, from a mix of nature and nurture, and is visible in that individual’s speech and deeds. And often, the worst acts are perpetrated not by someone with “evil intent,” but by someone with perfectly benevolent intentions who somehow screws up, misinterprets, acts out of fear or some other p ..read more
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2023: THE YEAR OF PHIL (FOR REAL THIS TIME)
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
1M ago
I think I proclaimed 2020 as the Year of Phil on Twitter, then doubled down in 2021… and I think we all know what those years ended up being instead—anything but Years of Phil. But the Year of Phil is too important an idea to give up on forever, so once again, and this time for sure, I hereby proclaim this as the Year of Phil, using the same super cool, awesome graphic I designed for the first attempt: What does this mean for you? Probably nothing, but this is my blog, so gimme a week, already. In the Year of Phil I will put as much good effort into my mental health as I put into my phys ..read more
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MAYBE WE SHOULD ALL BE MORE LIKE ROBERT SILVERBERG
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
1M ago
Last week, inspired by my reading of his collection Gentleman Junkie, I wondered aloud if we should all be more like Harlan Ellison—an author who found, developed, and protected his own voice, his own career, and steadfastly defended that against all odds and temptations. Obviously, I stand by that, even a full seven days later, but that post got me thinking… who else could we be more like? Watching a lot of science fiction Booktube recently, another author’s name kept popping up, a name I’m of course familiar with, but one who otherwise never seemed to be in the discussion ..read more
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I’VE BEEN WATCHING “BOOKTUBE”
Fantasy Author's Handbook | Fantasy & Science Fiction
by Philip Athans
2M ago
I threw myself into the unknowable vortex of YouTube to research Vegas ahead of my anniversary trip last July, then discovered, buried under inexplicable algorithmic recommendations for videos about “near death experiences” and anything having to do with Joe Rogan, that there were actually things of value being done on YouTube… go figure. It didn’t take long for me to find “booktube,” which is what people who talk about books on YouTube call themselves (and why not?), and over the past few months it’s become a bit of an obsession of mine, wandering through the backlogs of video, and adding boo ..read more
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READ THIS INTERVIEW WITH RAY BRADBURY
Fantasy Author's Handbook | Fantasy & Science Fiction
by Philip Athans
2M ago
This week, I’m just going to toss this over to The Paris Review and an interview with the great Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203. Read this interview while you still can—it might drop back behind their paywall. In any case, here are the bits I pulled out that I thought were valuable, and you’ll very likely see quoted in future posts and other of my writings about writing. Enjoy… Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have a ..read more
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DELETE NOTHING, AT LEAST NOT PERMANENTLY
Fantasy Author's Handbook
by Philip Athans
2M ago
It’s okay to cut bits of text from your work in progress as you’re revising, but let’s say you’ve written the beginning of a short story, and about a thousand words in it feels like it’s just not working for whatever reason. It’s okay to walk away from that, but it’s not okay to throw it in the trash. Keep everything you write. Why? Because you never know. What if, twenty years later, you experience some flash of inspiration that rescues that first attempt at a story and propels it to something new and great? But you’ve tossed the first stab at the text, so now you’re scrambling around trying ..read more
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BOOKS FOR FANTASY AUTHORS XXXI: IN PRAISE OF GOOD BOOKSTORES
Fantasy Author's Handbook | Fantasy & Science Fiction
by Philip Athans
2M ago
From time to time I’ll recommend—not review, mind you, but recommend, and yes, there is a difference—books that I think authors should have on their shelves. Some may be new and still in print, some may be difficult to find, but all will be, at least in my humble opinion, essential texts for any author, so worth looking for. Author Jeff Deutsch is the director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago. In 2019 the Co-op was incorporated as the first not-for-profit bookstore whose sole purpose is bookselling. I’ve never been there, though it sounds fantastic, but then I’m an easy se ..read more
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