How Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Broke the Cardinal Rule of Writing–and Still Became a Best-Seller

I recently finished Lev Grossman’s fantasy series, The Magicians.

For better or for worse this series brought something new to the fantasy genre, something that, however awesome they are, most previous fantasies lack: entirely realistic characters.

However, you cannot unequivocally say this is a good thing.

The characters of The Magicians are very different from the familiar ‘heroic’ types you find in LOTR, Harry Potter, Conan, The Name of the Wind, etc, or even the anti-heroes filling Joe Abercrombie’s and R.R. Martin’s grim-dark novels. No, Grossman crafts more realistic characters, the sort of real-world individuals we all know and hate. Quentin and his cohorts are self-absorbed, privileged, snotty, obsessed with booze and sex, and don’t seem to genuinely care about any other human beings. Basically, they are like most teenagers and twenty-something’s currently logging time in our world.

This technique, though, makes it easy for us to suspend disbelief and believe that these are real people. Their interactions with each other and especially with adults are all convincing to the point of non-fiction. From his solid prose you can tell Grossman knew what he was doing in breaking this cardinal rule of fiction writing. You don’t make unlikeable characters—and you especially don’t make all your characters despicable.

But it is this very element that makes everything else more believable. Grossman took a huge risk here, but he knew what he was doing. And I think it paid off. Continue reading “How Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Broke the Cardinal Rule of Writing–and Still Became a Best-Seller”

Writing Prompt: A Blind Man’s PoV

Alright, October’s writing challenge has arrived, and it is a fun one! Write a short story from a blind man’s Point of View. You can do it in first person or third, just make sure he’s blind as a bat.

When I started my series of short Sprinkle stories, from Henry J Sprinkle’s blind PoV, I knew right away this was going to be a true-blue challenge. Sure enough I found myself pausing after every other sentence. I had described something from a visual perspective, something Sprinkle could not possibly have noticed. Once you start your story, you’ll recognize after a while that it’s ingrained into your Writer’s Repertoire to first and foremost describe the world from a visual perspective.

It’s a useful tool, to be sure, but there are many other specialty tools in your writer’s tool box that you should be using.

Grab Those Writing Tools!

Sprinkle loves lounge music, so I use that to accompany numerous scenes. Having Frank Sinatra telling a story—such as I’ve Got You Under My Skin—while Sprinkle performs an autopsy or whatever, lends flavor and punctuation to an otherwise featureless scene. The labored breathing of heavier people, or the thumping sound of air in the pipes also works to illuminate a world we cannot see. And then there are smells and aromas. Sprinkle’s world is filled with the stink and perfume of life, certain odors acting as indicators, letting him know when someone familiar (Ishmael and his cigarette-stink) or unfamiliar (the BO of a bum) is nearby.

Writing from this perspective was a great challenge I thoroughly enjoyed. I believe you will too. By the end of your first story you will have expanded your writer’s toolbox, and developed a new, more advanced skill set. Happy Writing!

P.S. I’ve pasted the first page of Sprinkle Takes the Cake, below for your perusal. Enjoy: Continue reading “Writing Prompt: A Blind Man’s PoV”

How to Write Likable Villains–and Still Do it Your Way

What do you want your villain to make your readers feel?

This is the only question you need to ask yourself when breathing life into your antagonist. Do you want them to be revolted? Mesmerized? Have pity? There are entire books and posts devoted to this subject.

But do yourself a favor and forget the Rules of Writing Bad Guys. You cannot become your own writer by imitating others, even the best. Do you want to be the next Stephen King? George R.R. Martin? Sarah Maas? Or do you want to make your own way in the literary world? Be the first (your name here). Continue reading “How to Write Likable Villains–and Still Do it Your Way”