On Fiction

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The Carcer Principle

Let me tell you one of the most important lessons my favorite author ever taught me. In Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the main villain is a thief, murderer, and all-around bastard named Carcer. He’s the very picture of a psychopath—he has no conscious, feels no guilt, and doesn’t even understand the idea of right or wrong. He’s egotistical, volatile, constantly smiling, and he always has an extra knife. In a basically well-run city where the rule of law is kept, he...

Starting a story with a bang—and when not to

The conventional wisdom is that fictional stories need to appeal to their audience right after they begin, lest the audience get bored and wander off. That’s why so many action stories start off with an action scene, romance stories with a lovey-dovey scene, mysteries with something that hints toward the mystery. Grab ’em quick before they lose interest, that’s the ticket! Youjo Senki started with an episode of action, and it sucked. The second episode, which had less action, would have been a...

Why I never give characters temporary names

If I give a character any kind of temporary name, it might stick. That’s why I never do it. I give them the name they will keep, or I identify them in strictly descriptive terms—the Prince, the Enemy Leader, the Chief. The less descriptive, the better. (Though sometimes, even those stick. I’m looking at you, True Head Cultist.) It’s a lot easier to give a name to the Swordsman than it is to rename a character with an ill-considered temporary name. Temporary...

Flawed genius

I’m always on the lookout for flawed genius. Rather than solid perfection, I prefer the crazy, quirky, and niche every time. I stole this term from Paul Barnett of Mythic Entertainment, who was discussing his (late) game Warhammer Online, and its rival World of Warcraft: “I believe WoW is a work of flawed genius. When you dismantle [these works] you can never be sure whether you get genius or flaw.” I once evoked this in the finale post of Sakurasou na Pet no Kanojo, and though my prose is awfully unpolished,...

Between novels

“What now? Are you working on a second book?” –cshin9 The cardinal rule of writing fiction is to never stop. When one book is finished, you can’t rest on your laurels. While you’re editing that one, get started on the next one so there’s more story coming down the line. That doesn’t mean the next story needs to be a novel, though. It always struck me as odd how all the major events in characters’ lives happen at the same time. While...

Five movies on a plane

I don’t often get to watch movies, especially English-language ones. Between trying to keep up with 20+ anime a season and the 15,532 other things I do, I rarely get two connected hours to sit down and watch a flick. On my plane ride back from Europe this past weekend, I got to watch four in a row, plus one on the trip over. I thought I’d branch out into movie reviews a bit, because I found watching so many...

Respect

I believe the acts of reading and writing fiction should be based on relationships of mutual respect. First and foremost is an author’s respect of the reader’s time. This is one of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing short stories: 1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. An author should respect her readers enough to not waste their time with unnecessary junk. This is hard...

It’s not always the ones you expect

It’s not always the stories you expect that enchant you. Often it’s the ones you weren’t sure about until after you gave them a shot that become nearest and dearest to your heart. When I first heard about Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, I was confused. I didn’t even plan on watching it. I didn’t start until eight episodes into the first season, and now I love it. I was skeptical of Ano Natsu de Matteru. I didn’t expect it would become one...

I like good people

Fiction, when it’s done well, will not only entertain, but resonate. It picks out something about the world and says it in a way that you never thought of before. It’s the same thing a good comedian does, only perhaps not quite so often. Let me share one such moment. “I see. Jared, allow me to share with you my philosophy of human beings. It can be summer up in four words: I like good people. You seem like good...