Writing 101: How To Write Setting

orioles-clipart-1

A month and a half ago, my fiancee and I moved from Connecticut to Baltimore. The arty, weird, almost anarchic qualities of Baltimore City seemed to be a perfect fit for a quirky couple like us. The fact that Lauren’s a Baltimore native didn’t hurt either. We hired movers (a whole other ordeal) and hit the road, moving in to the Hampden neighborhood immortalized in countless John Waters films.

Through being co-founder and co-publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with two talented writers, Austin Wiggins and Dario Cannizzaro. Austin and Dario have both recently released new collections of short fiction (check them out in the links at the end of the post). Seeing Austin and Dario put out such quality works inspired me to write my first book. Without getting into too much detail, the novel is about an underground cabal of high-powered individuals clandestinely engaging in child abuse. This story, like any other, needs a setting. While the cabal operates out of New York (my hometown, a city I know like the back of my hand), the protagonist is a Baltimore native. Of course, being new to the city, depicting Baltimore authentically can be a challenge.

So, how did I tackle that challenge of writing Baltimore and not looking like an outsider or someone who had no idea what he was doing? Simple – I followed a few basic principles.

  1. Explore Your Location. If your setting is in a real place, or even if it’s a fictionalized version of a real location, visit the place! Talk to people from there, frequent restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other establishments. Get an idea of the culture. Even just walking around observing people (not in a creepy way!) and the location can do wonders towards understanding a place. If a location is too far away and/or not financially possible to visit, simply go to the Internet. YouTube has videos of virtually every location on the planet. Watch them!
  2. Ask Questions. Find a native from the place you intend to write about and ask them whatever questions you might have. If you don’t have any friends or family from that location, again, take to the Internet.
  3. Treat The Location As A Character. Many novice writers make the mistake of either writing too much or too little description in their novels. Hit the right balance by integrating the location whenever possible into your story, but don’t overdo it. You want your readers to feel as if the story is taking place in a specific location/s, not in some formless world. That said, your novel isn’t a Wikipedia article either.
  4. Modern Day, The Past, or The Future? If you’re writing about a setting from the past, do your research. If it’s the recent past, interview people who lived through the era. If you’re writing about a setting in the future, examine the location in its current state and make predictions about how it will differ in the near or distant future.
  5. Live There. Nothing’s better than total immersion if you want to authentically capture the feel of a place, but if that’s not feasible, the first four options should more than suffice.

Do you have any tips for writing setting that might help our readers? Share them with a comment!

If you’re having difficulty with writing the setting and need a ghostwriter or developmental editor, consider working with me by clicking here.

Read Austin Wiggins’ Bonds That Bind.

Read Dario Cannizzaro’s Of Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies.

Sex, Drugs, and Lit: Ten Authors Who Personify Edge

We all have our biases. When it comes to literature, I have a strong preference for transgressive writing. Transgressive writing has little regard for the niceties of polite society, or what’s respectable to the traditional turtlenecked literary man or woman. Transgressive writers are outlaws, and as such present life on the edge. As someone who writes transgressive literature, these ten authors are huge inspirations.

weedbaby.png

  1. Charles Bukowski

A red pill writer on the nature of romantic relationships, the horses, and life in general, Bukowski is still the ace of the field.

Representative Work: Women

2. Hunter S. Thompson

He rode with the Hell’s Angels and took more drugs than thought humanly possible.

Representative Work: The Rum Diary

3. Bret Easton Ellis

An LA bad boy, with work filled with the glitz and sleaze that permeate the world of the rich elite.

Representative Work: American Psycho

4. Junot Diaz

Both socially aware and extremely raw, Junot Diaz might be the best writer alive.

Representative Work: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

5. Irvine Welsh

He wrote the book that inspired Trainspotting. Nuff said.

Representative Work: Skagboys

6. William S. Burroughs

He shot his wife, was a heroin addict, and did some of the most interesting experimental prose ever written.

Representative Work: Junky

7. Terry Southern

He co-wrote a borderline pornographic novel based on Voltaire’s Candide.

Representative Work: Candy

8. Tao Lin

The godfather of hipster lit.

Representative Work: Taipei

9. Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club…

Representative Work: Fight Club

10. Daniel Clowes

He introduced Enid and Rebecca, two of the biggest BAMF’s in comic history.

Representative Work: Ghost World

Honorable Mention: David Foster Wallace

Did I miss anyone? Who is your favorite transgressive or alt-lit writer?

Happy Labor Day – Save Some Labor

First of all, happy Labor Day!

This is a quick post about a new service I’m offering: proofreading writers’ manuscripts. For only $10 per 1,000 words (so, for example, $250 for a 25,000 word short story collection), you can get your self-published (or attempting to be traditionally published, your call) manuscript completely free of errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, formatting, and consistency. If you’re a student or active or retired U.S. military, I’ll offer you a 25% discount on the total price. If you’re interested, just let me know with an email by clicking here. Thanks for spreading the word!

Interview with Brian Anderson

I’m privileged to bring my readers a conversation with one of the finest up-and-coming novelists around, my good friend Brian Anderson.

In our discussion, Brian shares his thoughts on his excellent novel Groundwork, the writing process, and many other topics of interest to aspiring writers.

Brian Anderson, author of Groundwork, on the left, Alfonso Colasuonno, founder of The Literary Game, on the right.

Your Protagonist Is The Alpha

In literature, when writing your protagonist make sure that they are “active.”

What do I mean by active? I mean that your protagonist, whatever situations s/he may be facing, must take action to attempt to solve them. Your main character cannot be a passive onlooker. Be they of heroic, antiheroic, or villainous qualities, the character who is the primary focus of your book needs to move things forward through aggressive actions.

I want to get into a bit of an aside…in April 2013, I quit my job as an educator at Monroe College. I loved working at Monroe. I had a great rapport with students and colleagues alike. The administration was quite high on me, wanting to promote me. I enjoyed the culture of the institution. However, I was determined to make it as a writer and when the initial catalyst arrived – my first publication in a literary journal – I set out on a new path, taking action to get my writing published and delving into the worlds of acting, filmmaking, and entrepreneurship. I have faced many challenges along the way, but regardless, I continue to push forward on my path until I have achieved everything I set out to do.

Now if someone someday might view me as an inspiration for the lead character in their book, I can work as a protagonist because I always have a bias towards action in my own life, working to move things forward through all obstacles. Your protagonist needs to do the same.

Of course, there are exceptions. You can choose to write a book about a character paralyzed by inaction; however, most writers write active protagonists and should remember to make sure that their lead character is always pushing the plot forward through their actions.

The takeaway: Make sure that your protagonist is a doer. S/he is not someone merely acted on by others, s/he is the one leading through their actions.

Coming Soon – Interview with KD McGregor, Author of Backs Against The Wall

I had the pleasure to edit Backs Against The Wall, the debut novel of KD McGregor, a talented indie writer. KD has agreed to be interviewed by The Literary Game to discuss his perspective on many issues of importance to aspiring writers. We’ll have the interview up soon.

In the meantime, I highly recommend that anyone interested in a fast-paced, gritty, character and plot-driven work of fiction pick up a copy of KD’s book, now available on Amazon. Click here to purchase a copy (free for users of Kindle Unlimited).

If you too are looking for an affordable novel editor, please click here.

Six Different Ways To Write Your Conclusion

The beginning of your novel is easy. The ideas flow out and you’re writing at least 3,000 words a day.

The middle of your novel starts to become arduous, but you still know where you’re going with your story. Maybe you’re down to about 1,000 words a day.

Now you’re at the finish line and it has become a nightmare because you have no idea how to artfully end your book. Sound like a situation you’ve faced before? If so, read on for a few different ways to conclude your novel or short story.

  1. Open Ended – In this approach, readers determine what happened because the writer intentionally leaves the ending open to interpretation.
  2. Traditional – A clear cut ending with no ambiguity. Readers know exactly what happened and why.
  3. Back To The Beginning – The writer revisits the same/similar image or situation as at the beginning of the story.
  4. Thoughts – A character, usually the protagonist, sinks into reflection.
  5. Dialogue – Characters have a conversation.
  6. Symbolism – Details that allude to something important are presented.

Which approach have you used in your novel/s or short stories? Why did you choose that approach?