Monthly Archives: February 2016

Story Versus Style: Which is More Important?


Both story and style matter, and you should work to master both. Some people claim literary fiction doesn’t need a plebian thing like plot, only brilliant writing. Others will declare that their genre doesn’t need any frilly stuff, that they’re going to write for Real Men or Real Geeks who don’t care about style.

Are either of them right? Are both?

In a workshop, one of the members got The Answer to this one. His wife’s college roomate, now in the editorial staff at Random House, came to visit. With his ambitions, of course he wanted to know all about publishers’ policies.

He reported back to us with The Answer: Read the rest of this entry

Revision 06.3.2: The Face of the Bottomless Pool


If you are writing about the town you live in, your research has taken a life to accumulate. If you built this world, out of historical research or out of your imagination, it is still huge, and the more you research the deeper it gets.

This is good! From this huge supply you can find the perfect details of day-to-day life, as well as the interesting particulars that your plot hinges on.

The trick is showing the reader the surface of the pool and hinting at what lies beneath the surface, without drowning the poor reader in the depths of excess detail.*


World-presentation is necessary in all genres. Many think of this as some peculiarity of science fiction and fantasy invented worlds, which is simply wrong. Regionalists, especially, should know better.

Far too many novels depict Los Angeles as Miami on steroids, minus alligators, or Boston with palm trees, and so on. Having graduated high school in Los Angeles, I can assure you that there are stringent differences, starting with air quality. Don’t try to take up amateur star-gazing in LA. Smog doesn’t vanish at night, and you’re lucky if you can spot the highest-magnitude stars at all. To truly depict LA, you have to find out the essentials of what makes it different from other cities, like this. That’s all world-presentation.
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