Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’: More Of The Same Meh

With a fresh viewing of Zack Snyder’s film in mind, the overall impression is that it is better than the original. A little bit better, not enough to make any lasting impression. By the time someone does another cut of this film, it will be all new to me again.

Source: Warner Bros

My memories of the first cut of Justice League were bits and pieces of fighting and Wonder Woman. She is still the highlight of both films. Her presence prevented the ho-hum stuff between the opening and closing credits from getting to me.

THE GOOD STUFF There’s a lot of good storytelling. We get more character depth than it’s possible to get in a 90-minute film. It’s good to finally see Darkseid in the flesh. As the DC version of Thanos, he has enough menace to be someone I look forward to in the next installment of Justice League. The plot has been rearranged, and it makes a lot more sense now. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the stand-out characters, as is Alfred the butler.

THE BAD STUFF There’s still not a lot here to get excited about. The overall arc of the film plods along, with no coherent sense of continuity. Pacing is choppy, and the film never really gets momentum to take off. It is a four-hour film, but it could be eight hours, and it still wouldn’t be much better than the original film.

The problems are with the entire DC Universe setup. It tried to outdo Marvel. DC made films that they thought would be exciting and fill theaters, but with no future design. No planning was done to create a coherent whole as Marvel did to perfection. We had no introduction films for Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, or Cyborg before the original film’s release. Contrast that to Marvel, where we had movies for Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America before The Avengers came out.

The second glaring problem with the DC Universe is the horrible lack of character continuity between films. Batman is a cold killing machine in Batman vs. Superman but is a chummy guy with a sense of humor here in Justice League. Wonder Woman has apparently forgotten that she can fly, having learned to do so 30 years before the Justice League‘s setting. I’m not thrilled by The Flash or Cyborg as characters. They’re second-tier characters and not in the same league as Batman. With the fate of the world at stake, are these the best you can come up with? No spoilers, but there are characters in this film who could have lent a hand and just couldn’t be bothered, I guess. And who likes Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? I’ll say nobody does and leave it there.

THE UGLY STUFF It’s not epic in any way you can define epic. This film never gets near epic in scope. The characters are not engaging and bland, except for Wonder Woman and Aquaman. The conversations have no flavor, no character context. You could take all of the dialogue and give the lines to different characters, and it will still sound the same. Nobody is in a hurry to stop the bad guys. They stand around talking about how bad things can get unless they do something, and sooner or later, they get up and do a little something. And don’t get me started on that epilogue.

RATINGS I gave Joss Whedon’s Justice League a 5 out of 10. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a 6 out of 10. Not enough has been added to make it much better than the 2017 film. Something is still missing from the DC Universe that keeps it from competing with Marvel. For me, it’s the characters. They’ve never been as interesting as those at Marvel. I just don’t care much about them, and that’s fatal for a film franchise.

Your Character Wasn’t Born On Page One

A character, let’s call him Roger, is accused of committing a murder he didn’t do. Roger goes on the run, dodging the police at every turn. A chance meeting with a mysterious blond leads to a confrontation with a nest of terrorists. All is remedied by the end as we learn that Roger has the information the police need to thwart the terrorists. Roger drives off with his new love, the no-longer-mysterious blond.

That’s all well and good, and you may have a great story on your hands. But what did Roger do yesterday? Last week? One year ago? Can you have a compelling story without knowing your character’s history? Is it necessary to delve into your main character’s life story?

The more you know about your main character, the more we will care about them. While you don’t need to write an entire biography about Roger, it would be helpful if we knew some of the things that will factor into the story. If he has specialized knowledge that will help solve the problem at hand, what does he do that would give him this information? If he is reluctant to get involved with a beautiful woman, has he just been through a divorce and is afraid to commit again? Your character will have assorted problems, accomplishments and other traits that make his life fascinating.

All stories, regardless of length, begin in the middle of the main character’s life. People we drop into our stories have already lived a full life. Your story is the aftermath of the events that occurred prior to the first sentence you write.

Take some time to explore your main character’s life before the beginning of your story. Even something as simple as a paragraph detailing the build up to their predicament you’ll be writing about is valuable.

What’s Your Point (of View)?

By Tom Tiernan

The power of your story can be enhanced or destroyed by how you present it. This presentation is the Character’s Point of View. There are three major points Of view and a host of others that are not often used. Here’s a quick rundown of these three points of view and three minor ones.

1) First Person: This view uses “I” and “Me” in its narrative form. The character is actually telling the story. We only know what they have seen, and they have to be present in all of the critical scenes in the story.

Example: I didn’t kill Margaret, but the cops were still looking for me.

2) Omniscient Narrator: Here we have the exact opposite of First Person. With this point of view, we see and hear everything, both relevant and extraneous. The choice of what to include is yours. You can be as lengthy as Proust or as sparse as Hemingway.

Example: George knew full well who killed Margaret, but he wouldn’t tell the cops. Mrs. Gray would have known he talked, and she would have had him killed.

3) Limited Third Person: Your story is clean and unobstructed by fancy language. Readers get to steep themselves in the lives of the characters. The writing is natural and transparent, making it easy to read. This method is the most common style of writing for fiction.

Example: George could only watch as Spike and Cuddles entered Margaret’s house. Sitting behind the steering wheel, he got the shock of his life as he heard the shots ring out.

The right point of view is crucial

Furthermore, Limited Third Person can be divided into three distinct stages.

A) Limited Third Person, Light Penetration: We can observe only the actions from the viewpoint character when they are present. The narrator is neutral. 

Example: George waited patiently in his car for Officer Baransky to show up. The street, devoid of other vehicles, still made George nervous. The rear passenger door opened, and a dark figure slid into the seat. “Evening, George,” said the figure.

B) Limited Third Person, Deep Penetration: We experience things as if seeing them through the character’s eyes. Items are related as the character thinks they are happening. The character’s thoughts become ours.

Example: George was shocked that the voice was that of Ezra, Mrs. Gray’s first assistant.

“What are you doing here, George?” asked Ezra.

George calmed himself before answering. Despite his fear, he found his voice. “Had a fight with Naomi. I had to get some air.”

Ezra stared at him, even though George couldn’t see his eyes. “Hunh. Are you sure it wasn’t to talk to that cop I saw walkin’ this way a minute ago?”

C) Limited Third Person, Cinematic View: In this Point of View, we see things only as the characters see them. It’s like looking through a camera lens. The difference here is that we don’t get inside the character’s head. We only see and hear what they see and hear.

Example: As George waited for the bullet to come through the back seat and into his gut, the door opened. Two hands reached in and pulled the surprised Ezra out of the car. Someone took his place.

“How ya been, George,” said Baransky.

Take your pick of these points of view and have fun with them. Experiment with one you haven’t used before. 

Turn Off Your Ego, Improve Your Life And Your Writing

Does Your Ego Hurt Your Writing?

Have you ever been insulted?

Have you ever wanted to be praised for something you’ve done?

Have you ever felt horrible after a submitted story was rejected?

Have you ever been disturbed about what someone has said about you?

Have you ever gotten upset when someone cut you off in traffic?

Have you ever felt guilty about something you did or said?

If you have, then you have been a victim of your Ego. Your Ego is the source of most of life’s troubles. Life is problematic enough without having to be concerned or worried about what may happen or what has happened. Neither one of these things are in your best interest.

Let me explain. The Past has already occurred, so it’s beyond your ability to change. The Future is a nebulous miasma of possibilities that is also difficult to change. Only your choices can affect the Future, and you don’t have any idea what those choices should be. All you can do is make a choice and hope that it’s the best one for the situation at hand.

Enter the Ego. It can be short for Everything Goes Overboard. The Ego never lets you forget what you’ve done in the Past. It also makes you second guess your options for the Future.

As for writing, the Ego really goes to town here. When you have a story rejected, you feel bad. Some people take it poorly, getting mad at the publisher and everyone else around them. Writers crave good news about their stories, whether it’s from a publisher or their Mom.

These reactions are all tied to the Ego. The Ego is not your friend. While it tries to look out for you, it also does a horrible job with your feelings. Feelings are directly tied to the Ego. If you’ve ever felt hurt by what someone says about you, blame the Ego. I’ve got news for you. What someone thinks about you is none of your business. It’s just their opinion. It has no more weight than your shoe size, and yet an insult or a story rejection can ruin our week.

The good news? You are not your Ego, no matter how much the Ego thinks it is. The Ego is not a part of your Being. It is separate from your sacred self and interested only in defending itself. Ego helps protect us and preserve circumstances that are favorable for us. Without it, our physical form could be in danger. It can, all the same, be harmful when it takes over other aspects of our lives like our happiness. Keeping up with the Joneses is a perfect example of this.

To quote Dr. Wayne Dyer: The Ego-idea has been with us ever since we began to think. It sends us false messages about our true nature. It leads us to make assumptions about what will make us happy and we end up frustrated. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption, again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are.

How would switching off your Ego improve your writing? For one thing, you wouldn’t feel so much sting out of every rejection. In fact, the very act of not being hurt by rejections over time is an indication that you’ve put your Ego aside for this one process. Eventually, you will not let your Ego self-edit you as you write. That kills a lot of stories in mid-creation.

Just write like spelling and grammar and logic don’t exist. You can clean up the mess later. Right now, just write the story that comes into your head. Let your Ego look at it, but ignore whatever it says to you. This is your story, not your Ego’s. Ego didn’t write it, so it has no right to criticize it.

Pen and Scalpel: Does Your Hero Need To Be Flawed?

There is a disturbing, at least to me, the trend over the last decade or so that says that a Hero or Main Character has to have a flaw or they won’t be interesting. What a bunch of balderdash. There are plenty of characters that people love that don’t have a fault that sticks out like a third arm. These people are just ordinary folks, living their lives until something comes along and destroys that idyllic time.

Every day heroes

A crisis in the lives of our hero. That’s what is most important in a story. There is an old formula for writing a story that still holds true even today:

  1. The hero is walking down the street.

  2. Someone chases the hero up a tree.

  3. Someone else comes along and throws rocks at the hero in the tree.

  4. The hero figures out a way to get out of the tree and stop the rock thrower.

That’s not the exact recipe for an ideal story, but you get the point. There’s nothing in there about guilt or alcoholism or impotence. It’s just that simple. Yes, you can add in that he’s having trouble with gambling, but that’s not his main concern. Nor should it be the main concern for the reader, unless it’s a story about a gambler who gets in over his head due to his addiction to dice and chips.

When we pick up a book, most of us don’t look in the back to find the list of what’s wrong with our hero. That would be stupid. We also might not read a book just because that person has a weakness that makes them make bad decisions. There are fans of this kind of story, but I’m not in that category. Give me someone who has a good life, good job, family, and friends. Then have them get taken hostage during a bank robbery or involved in a domestic terror attack on his kids’ school.

Anyone can be a hero

Can you see how it’s the outside events that are more likely to draw us into a person’s life and not the inner demons? Those inner demons can come to the surface when the Hero’s life becomes a living Hell. A perfect example is Die Hard. (Funny how this film keeps popping up in my posts, but I digress.)

John McClane is an ordinary guy as his plane lands in LAX. Sure, his relationship with his wife is strained, but that’s how life can be. He’s in Los Angeles to get his marriage back on track. His inner demon is his need to have his wife live in the same city as he does. He can’t wrap his head around the fact that she is becoming a very successful person in her own right. It takes away from his masculinity.

Sure enough, John and Holly have a fight and he retires to her private bathroom to bad talk himself. He can’t seem to keep his caveman brain from smashing his attempts to see things from her viewpoint. Holly, on the other hand, is too wrapped up in her work to be anything more than angry at John.

But then the sharks arrive in the form of Hans Gruber and his gang of thieves. For half the night, John is a bit distracted by these bad guys. But all the while, he is thinking of how stupid and pig-headed he has been lately. He becomes very motivated to save Holly and her co-workers and to make sure that they never fight again. We all know that he gets the job done.

John McClane uses the outside influence of the Nakatomi Building getting robbed as a way to solve his marriage problems. Quite an extreme example, I know, but it’s a good one to show how the Hero does not have to have his inner flaws out in front in order for us to enjoy the time we spend with him. His scuffle with his wife is minor at first, and that’s where it should always start. When John realizes that he’s fighting for Holly’s approval (in his mind) that he finds the inner courage and fortitude to overcome a problem he might not have been able to handle without that inner fire.

Pass It On: Are You A Witch? Or ‘How a Single Line In a Story Can Change an Entire World.’

I have been writing off and on about an Anomalist named John Pentgram since 1978. He has changed a lot over the years. At first, he seemed to be a Scottish knock-off of Sherlock Holmes in modern times. He even had his own Dr. Watson, in the form of Amos McConnell.

In 2016, I decided to move his home and entire history to South Central New Jersey. This involved a complete re-write of every story and novel, plus the backgrounds of every major character. This would be a major challenge, and I jumped at the chance to create a more real and accurate world for John Pentgram. He still solved mysteries beyond the Borderland, but now he’s closer to where I live.

What’s Out There In The Dark?

I put Pentgram on the shelf for a few years, as I concentrated on other works. I hadn’t written a new story for him in years. Then, on a drive to Florida, a new story hit out of the blue. On the first page of One Room Unfurnished, John’s Mother and vineyard are mentioned. John in turn asks Amos about his girlfriend Allyson Haywood.

The Pentgram Vineyard

Wait, what? A Mother? A vineyard? A girlfriend? It turned out that the Pentgram Family owns a large vineyard at the northern edge of the Pine Barrens. John’s mother, Hayley is the owner and CEO of the Pentgram Vineyard. The girlfriend’s name is Allyson Haywood, daughter of John’s mentor and good friend Nicholas Haywood. All of these ideas hit me as they hit the page. They all made sense, but the biggest revelation came later.
A later story, The Dead Refuse To Lie Down, introduced us to Allyson in the flesh. At one point, John asks her if she were a licensed witch. She said no, not yet.

Witchcraft: A Real Profession

Whoa! A witch? A licensed witch? Here is where John Pentgram’s world veered from ours in a big way. In the America of John Pentgram, witches were not killed in Salem Village in 1692. by that year, they had become an important part of American culture and defense.
From the moment the first colonists landed in North America, the forces of Darkness attacked them. Hordes of Trolls, Goblins, Wild Men, Elves, Kobolds, and other paranormal beings assaulted these first citizens, from Plymouth to St. Augustine, Florida.
The witches, living in every colony, fled Europe where they were being slaughtered for mere existence. Here, with their new country under assault, they stepped forward. The Colonies survived only by the quick and skillful enchantments of the Witches of America.
At first, the Church resisted these actions, urging the citizens to step forward to kill each and every witch on the grounds that they practiced Magic. An uproar by those same citizens convinced the colonial governors to place all witches under the protection of the colonial governments. As long as they did not practice Dark Magic, they would be protected from any harm.
The true test of the American Witches came in 1692 at Salem Village, Massachusetts. Nineteen witches engaged in battle with Derylth, the King of the Elves, and his Para-Human minions. By the time the horde had been defeated, the witches had become heroes of the American People.
Songs, books and plays by the hundred were written and performed in the century after the Salem Witch Travails. The National Witchcraft Headquarters is located at Salem Village. All witches are required to become licensed by age 18. They are a part of the FBI’s Domestic Service. Article VI, Section 6 of the U. S. Constitution specifically details the licensing and protection of any natural-born witches, and that of any immigrants who have gone through the Citizenship process.

National Witchcraft Headquarters

In The Dead Refuse To Lie Down, I threw out a line about Allyson Haywood having her license. That one line created a firestorm of ideas in my mind.

I immediately knew that Pentgram had several friends who are witches, and a half dozen acquaintances. Several of them turn up in The Deadly Mile, which means I have to go back and re-write that one to add in the new histories.
The Pentgram Vineyard employs three witches, one each to protect the property, the personnel, and the products. Witchcraft in the Pentgram family goes back many generations. In fact, one of the witches in Macbeth is a Pentgram.
One small change in one story can cause ripples and seismic shifts in an entire Story Universe. I’m still debating with Hayley Pentgram, John’s Mother, as to whether or not she’s a witch. We’ll just have to see how her story unfolds in the future.
One Room Unfurnished” will soon be published in the Corporate Gothic Anthology from JWC Books coming in Spring 2021.

Pass It On: Make Your Writing Better. Read Different Genres.

We are all comfortable reading the books we love. They’re like old friends, always there, always reliable. It matters not what you read, they are something you can hold onto and know that they will always be the same. They rarely leave the confines of their genre. That makes them something to look forward to.

As a writer, it is good to read in your genre to have a good feel for what you’re writing about. It would be difficult to write a fantasy novel if you didn’t know the difference between a Troll and a Paladin. But what is there to do if your writing begins to get stale, like everything else you’ve read before? That is the danger you face if you only read what you are interested in.
A good writer absorbs words and ideas that they encounter and read. That being said, if you only read one type of fiction, the kind you are writing, then you may only be versed well in that genre. It only makes sense. But there is another way to enhance your writing.
So much reading to do!

Your writing, and your reading scope, will increase if you take it upon yourself to read in other genres. Take some chances and pick something you’d never thought you’d read. There are a lot of great books in every genre, and a lot of them are free to read or listen to online.
A word about audiobooks: there have been many tests that show that anything heard is taken in and filed away in the mind. The same studies prove that if you listen to an audio story at fifty to one hundred percent faster than normal speed, you will recall it better. I myself listen to at least one audiobook a week as I write my new stories. I can tell you the stories in fine detail many months later.
Using the speed audio method, I have been able to sample some excellent books that I might never have taken the time to read. Here are a few genres I have read, some for the first time.
The Western
I am a big Western movie fan. The Old West ended about 125 years ago, yet it still lives in films and books. Everyone knows of the Old West, and yet it isn’t as popular as it had been 40 years ago and more. It’s a shame because the genre is rich with imagery and characters who will stay with you for a long time.
The Seventh Man by Max Brand

At random, I chose The Seventh Man by Max Brand. The story concerned Dan Barry, a man of great strength and pride. He takes on the seven men who have killed his prize horse, determined to kill each and every one of them on a crusade of vengeance. The authentic language of the cowboy, the outlaw, the gambler, and the lawman are here in fine form. Brand is one of the great Masters of the Western yarn, in the same company as Zane Grey.
I found the story to be well written and intriguing. It immersed me in the dusty trails and dense forests. The characters are people who could not be in any other fiction genre, so much a part of the world that they would not be able to survive anywhere else.
Hard Boiled Detective
Along with the Western, the Detective genre is another great American invention. Sure, others have created their own detectives, but the originals were created here in the U. S. A. it was Edgar Allan Poe who started things off. After that, there has been an explosion of detectives across every genre. I chose a few interesting novels by authors I know were among the best in their field.

Cop Hater by Ed McBain

The first story I dove into is Cop Hater by Ed McBain. What a powerful voice. The writing is crisp, clean and the dialogue real. Published in 1954, the language is raw, and often vulgar. The criminals are slimy and the cops have real lives. They all have fears, prejudices, and pride. A very good book. I’ll be reading more of the 87th Precinct in the future.
I then read The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald. It’s the book that introduces us to Lew Archer, down and out detective in the grimy and corrupt hell that is Los Angeles in the 1940’s. Little has changed about L.A. In the past 75 years, but that doesn’t matter. This is a classic detective novel, made unique by its laconic and indifferent narrator. Archer doesn’t care who is guilty or why anyone has done what they’ve done. He seeks the truth and will not stop until he’s dug up the roaches responsible. A good start to a character with two dozen novels to his resume.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This book has been recommended by so many people over the years that I decided to read it. I actually read it and listened to it at the same time. I’m glad I did, because seeing and hearing Frankl’s words made them hit me much more.
Man’ Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl

The main part of the text concerns Frankl’s experiences in Dachau, the notorious Nazi Prison Camp. How anyone could survive under such circumstances is a testament to the tenacity of the Human species. Frankl studied the various types of prisoners in the camp, noting how different people reacted to their situation in very different ways. Some could not live under the harsh conditions. Many died trying to live to their next meal. A very few let the entire experience pass through them. They kept on, knowing that they would live to get out and return to their lives after the war. Frankl is one of these people. He committed himself to living and not giving up. Only those who knew they would survive actually did survive.

This is one of the most devastating books I’ve ever read. The horrors Frankl lived through are not anything anyone should ever do again. I would highly recommend this to get an uplifting view of the Human Condition and what people will do to their fellow Man.
In closing, I would recommend reading books in different genres for several reasons. First, it helps expand your reading horizons. Second, it will help your writing to see how other types of stories portray incidents you may run into with your characters. Third, the writer’s voice is always different in other genres. A cowboy talks far differently than a serial killer in Chicago. But that same cowboy would probably look and sound a lot like an asteroid miner in the year 2077. Both are on the frontier of their era. But you wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t read either the Western or the SF novel. Reading one will certainly help you create the other in a more believable way.

Note: This post contains various affiliate links to the books referenced and as such, the author makes a small percentage of sales. This content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.

Pass It On: Can’t Write? Don’t feel like Writing? Write Anyway.

We all have days when we don’t feel like writing. Things get in the way. The kids need something, and they always need something. Your mom calls and asks you to help her with something she saw crawl out from under the sink. Or you might not be in the mood.

Writing as Therapy

Do yourself and all of us readers a favor. Write. Write even though every fiber of your being screams that you don’t have the time, or that what you’ll write will be crap. It’s okay. Write the crap and get it out of your system. Who knows? Some of that crap could lead to something interesting.

There’s a concept called “free writing.” Free writing is where you sit in a quiet space with a pad and a pen. For ten minutes up to thirty minutes, write down whatever comes into your mind. The key is to get the pen moving even if you write about not having anything to write about. You will soon be writing something. Free writing is used a lot by psychic mediums to pick up a presence in a place where there is a haunting, but it’s also beneficial to free your mind from the clutter.

Let the Ideas Flow 

Stuck somewhere that is not usually a proper place to write? Write in this place whether you’re waiting for someone to finish their shopping or at the hospital’s emergency room. Pull out your journal and write something. It’s good therapy that can clear your mind and also take your mind off of worrying needlessly. Writing is good for the soul, and your thoughts never have to leave the journal.

Let your finished draft rest for two or three months. I know that’s hard, but absence makes the novel grow better. If you now look at your work as a reader, you’ll see what works better for the story. While you’re waiting, play with the story in a separate place. Where are the characters now? What were they doing before you set pen to paper? Are there other adventures waiting for your people now that you’ve gotten them to your story’s end? Think about it. What harm could it do to combine writing therapy with character and event exploration?

Are you stuck on where to take your current story? Take the opportunity to write out possible ideas for your characters and their predicaments. Even if your ideas make no sense or don’t fit with the story you’re writing, that’s okay. Write it out. You may find another story waiting for you in your rambling thoughts.

Pass It On: Some Positive Quotes for Writers

Writing is an intense and rewarding solo effort, as much as musical composition or painting is. There are no partners or helpers in any of these arts, nor can there ever be. The creation of music, painting or a story can only come from a single hand.

Just as Gershwin could only create the magnificence that is Rhapsody In Blue, so it is that a writer has to tap into their own mind, experiences and talent to craft something that they can only hope someone will want to read.

Writing can be a lonely, frustrating business, but don’t get me wrong. Some writers need that. Others need a more positive mindset. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of quotes from and by authors about their craft. It is my hope that you will find them inspiring to your inner genius.

What Inspires You?
Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”John Green

I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”Isaac Asimov

Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” – Lisa See

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia E. Butler

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” – Stephen King

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” – Ray Bradbury

There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.” – Jim Thompson

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”Stephen King

Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.” – W.H. Auden

Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”William Faulkner

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”Edgar Rice Burroughs

Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend than inspiration.”Ralph Keyes

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”Neil Gaiman

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”Stephen King

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

I’ve always been into ‘fast-paced, don’t bore ’em, keep it moving along, stick with the story.’ You know: tell a story the way I want to hear a story.”James Patterson

When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”  Stephen King

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”Ray Bradbury

If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb

Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”Ray Bradbury

I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” – William Carlos Williams

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” – Chinua Achebe

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Pen and Scalpel: Don’t Limit Yourself to What You Know

Ever since I began to write seriously, just about every writer gave the same advice. “Write what you know.” It seemed to make sense at the time. I figured that if I stick to writing what I know, it will be more believable. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Denizen of Oz
If you accept the advice to stick with what you know, we would never have had Middle Earth, Oz, or the Lost World. These places, and many more, were created out of the imaginations of their authors. Did Tolkien visit The Shire? Had L. Frank Baum found something at the end of a rainbow one day? What about those dinosaurs in South America? I happen to know that Arthur Conan Doyle never set foot in South America. How could he then have written about that plateau filled with dinosaurs and those Cave Men?

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The real answer is, of course, that these writers had incredible imaginations. Their minds operated on a much different plain than those around them. They could walk along the foggy moors of western England and come up with the Hound of the Baskervilles. They see a piece of amber with a mosquito inside it and conjure up the technology and architecture of Jurassic Park. They take Wagon Train, a classic television western, and morph it into an equally famous show set 300 years from now, Star Trek.
Hound of the Baskervilles
The ability to look at an ordinary object or person and extrapolate them into something completely different is something authors do every day. A great author can take a dictator from Romania Transylvania and transform him into Dracula. Bram Stoker had never met a vampire. His job as a secretary for an actor gave him no time to travel to Transylvania. What did Stoker do? He researched the area where Castle Dracula lived. His knowledge of the various locations in and around London and southeastern England is all that he needed to create Dracula. By the way, the book has never gone out of print since 1897.
Castle Dracula
You do not have to write about what you know. You only need to write about something you are interested in. If you aren’t interested or obsessed with, the subject of your writing will be flat and uninteresting. I have an interest in ghosts, and could probably craft an exciting ghost story. I do not know anything about hunting. If I wanted to write a story that had a hunt in it, I needed to do much research if I wish for my forest scenes to have any believability.
Passion makes all of the difference. Without this love, the foods we eat in restaurants would be bland and unattractive. Every book would be 215 pages and have the same characters living another day in their dull, uneventful lives. Every television show would use the same color scheme, lighting, and set designer and be about nothing each week. Do you have some idea now how passion makes the difference in everything?
Here’s an exercise for you to do. Try it once, and if it works, do it as often as you’d like.
Take a setting you haven’t written about yet.
Create three people and give them first names. Don’t do anything else with them.
Throw something unexpected at them that is outrageous. It could be a situation, an outside force, an animal, another person intent on doing them harm or something really crazy like something falling out of the sky.
Give your three main characters last names. What are they doing together? Why have they been there? Are they friends, relatives, or strangers to each other?
Have your three main characters deal with these events. They are in the center of it all.
Three Random Characters
Go crazy with this exercise. Don’t worry about how insane it gets. Focus on your people. How do they get out of the circumstances alive and unharmed? Do they get out of it unscathed? That’s up to you.
The point is to care about these main characters. Breath life into them, and feel what they feel, hear what they hear, and cry when they lose someone. Out of this will pour passion for them. You need to get very creative about keeping these three people breathing until the last sentence. The more you do this exercise; the better and more detailed the finished product will be. Make it as outrageous as you can think of. This chaos will force your brain to become inventive. 
After you do this several times, change it up. Put yourself and two of your family members through the same exercise. Now you’re dealing with real emotions as you do anything to keep the family safe and unharmed. You’ll find yourself getting much more emotional now because you care about these individuals. Soon you will be able to write about characters you invented as much as your family. That’s because the main characters of your story are your family now. You gave birth to them, and you need to nurture them.
You didn’t know them before you invented them. But you know these people now. And that’s the point.