Writers Coffeehouse: June 2019

Peter Clines ran the Coffeehouse this month (on his birthday weekend no less!). We had a free-form discussion this time, covering everything from good twists in fiction to outlining techniques.

I had to leave early because I wasn’t feeling well, but I’ve captured my notes below.

Thanks again to Peter for running the show, and to Mysterious Galaxy for hosting!

  • at different points in your career, different writing techniques will work for you; that’s ok, it’s normal for your process to change over time
  • second sunday of each month: LA writers coffeehouse in burbank at dark delicacies at noon, then dystopian bookclub that night at last bookstore downtown
  • good twist: needs to make logical sense, should change your perceptions of everything that came before
  • empathy critical to being a writer; that’s why it’s important to go out to talk to people, experience things, to maintain that empathy
  • remember that people (and thus your characters) are different around different groups and in different situations; give your characters a chance to show different sides of their lives (think killer on phone with family while finishing off a hit)
  • expectations are a real constraint; we will let a comedy get away with different things than a drama; and genre (horror, scifi, etc) always comes with expectations
  • one way to get away with blending genres: hang a lantern on it from the get-go; ex: i am not a serial killer, predator, where they broach the topic of monsters early on, and then go into the other genre for a while before coming back to the monsters
  • clive custler’s rule: no chapters longer than 5 pages (potato-chip chapters)
  • stephen king: any word you need to go to a thesaurus for is the wrong word; meaning *not* that only blue collar words are worth using, but that reaching for a word you’re not familiar with is wrong, write in your own vocabulary and it’ll sound more natural
  • transitions: in written fiction, we can’t be as choppy as in tv or movies, where they jump from place to place instantaneously; we need more connective tissue, or it starts to feel episodic