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More on the art of writing

From: Raymond E. Feist
Date: 22 March 2009

It's an organic thing.  I've got thirty years of "muscle memory" to work with in writing so I don't think about a lot of things.

Sometimes I'll have a scene or a snippet in my head and go with it, see where it leads.  Other times it's "Joe opened the door," with no idea what Joe's going to find until he steps through.

One thing you'll find.  If you have a SOLID ending, very quickly you'll be asking yourself, "Does this take me in the correct direction?"  Sometimes you'll put stuff in to add to the character, to better explain why he/she is doing the damnfool things he/she is doing.  Other times you'll toss in some comedy relief, but mostly it's "does this further the story?"

As you make choices, you'll discover other choices fall away and as you get closer to the end, fewer choices need to be made.  If the end of  your book is "happily ever after," and you're only task left is kill the bad guy and rescue the fair damsel, then you're not going to suddenly have a talking bear or alien spaceship show up as the hero is escaping from the dungeon.

Best, R.E.F.


From: Raymond E. Feist
Date: 23 March 2009

As I said, it's a mental muscle memory sort of thing.  Characters now show up pretty well fleshed out as soon as I need them.

There are three basic elements a character needs to be believable: 1) his/her motivations must be consistent with their own perceived self-interests, irrespective of those self-interests being in sync with or  at odds with everyone else's.  Sacrifice is judging your own interest  to be suborned to the greater good, for example, but it's still in  that character's self-interest to be self-sacrificing. 2) his/her  behavior must show three elements within that behavior, something  intentional, something habitual, and something gratuitous. 3) he/she  must react and change to the forces around him/her, or actively resist changes.

A great example of the last is the film Alfie, the original with  Michael Cain, not the remake. At the end, Alfies at the camera and  asks, "What's it all about?"  The film is about a guy who can't get  it, won't get it, and it works because it shows that brilliantly.

But if you don't show a character can't change, then have a world war erupt around him/her and have no reaction, that's a bad character.

There are other tricks each of us uses, in terms of seeing them in our head, hearing their voices, knowing their mannerisms, so that we don't  stop at each scene and asked, "How are they going to react?"  We know.

As I said, years of practice.

Best, R.E.F.

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