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Great writing advise and insights here from novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, Chuck Wendig:

I’m a panster at heart, plotter by necessity — and I always advocate learning how to plot and plan because inevitably someone on the business side of things is going to poke you with a pointy stick and say, “I want this.” Thus you will demonstrate your talent. Even so, in choosing to plot on your own, you aren’t limited to a single path. And so it is that we take a look at the myriad plotting techniques (“plotniques?”) you might use as Storyteller Extraordinaire to get the motherfucking job done. Let us begin.


The basic and essential outline. Numbers, Roman numerals, letters. Items in order. Separated out by section if need be (say, Act I, Act II, Act III). Easy-peazy Lyme-diseasey.


Start at the end, instead. Write it down. “Sir Pimdrip Chicory of Bath slays the dragon-badger, but not before the dragon-badger bites the head off Chicory’s one true love, Lady Miss Wermathette Kildare of the Manchester Kildares.” Rewind the clock. Reverse the gears. Find out how you build to that. Find the rest of this piece at Wendig’s blog terribleminds.

Ted Tally on The Learning Process

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Tally wrote the screenplay for The Silence of the Lambs, as well as All the Pretty Horses and The Juror. Tally was speaking at the London Screenwriters’ Festival.

How to Write a Sentence BY JAMES THOMAS

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“Sentences have been around since the dawn of paragraphs, and indeed since before that, for sentences are essentially the building blobs of a paragraph. Right here, if you’re looking closely enough, you may notice that what you are now reading in fact is a sentence. But also—some will have noticed even more well—what you are reading is a paragraph. And I could go further than that, even, to declare that you are also reading words, letters, and indeed this entire page. Nobody thought you could do it, but here we are now and aren’t you having a good time?’

Read the full article at The New Yorker.

Follow James Thomas aka @AstonishingSod on Twitter.

Write like a motherfucker

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"Write like a motherfucker" photograph via www.crazytownblog.com
“Write like a motherfucker” photograph via http://www.crazytownblog.com

“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same. … So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

Writing advice from Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild.

Via 3QuarksDaily.



All that is most worthy

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Carter G Woodson


Via By Heart – a literary influence series created by The Atlantic which features writers on their favourite quotes, with illustration.

“One-of-a-kind, unique Stories While You Wait. Sliding Scale – Donate What You Can!”

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“I moved to New York City, and I needed to make money. I wasn’t having luck getting a job. It’s a common tale,” writes C.D. Hermelin, a 26-year-old writer living in Brooklyn in the US.

Hermelin’s solution to keeping the wolf from the door was kinda unusual. He grabbed the typewriter he bought at a yard sale for 10 dollars, took it to a park, and started to write for cash.

“I’d write stories for people, on the spot—I wouldn’t set a price. People could pay me whatever they wanted. I knew that I had the gift of writing creatively, very quickly, and my anachronistic typewriter (and explanatory sign) would be enough to catch the eye of passersby. Someone might want something specific; they might just want a story straight from my imagination. I was prepared for either situation.” Needless to say as writers, we think Hermelin’s a rock star.

Read the story about an inventive writer who became a hated hipster meme, and survived to tell the tale.

On Twitter Hermelin is @cdhermelin.

All work, all play: the art of videogame writing

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“At the heart of game storytelling is the concept of “player agency”. Here, “agency” refers to the ability of a player to make changes within the game environment, or even more importantly, the illusion of being able to do this.

If the game presents a convincing enough illusion of freedom then the player suspends his or her disbelief in the artificiality of the game’s world and the limitations in their choice of pathway.

As a medium of interaction, videogames present the player with different possibilities and ask them to enact stories based on designed structures.

This may take a linear form, as in the clearly defined pathways of the action-adventure The Last of Us (2011), to the relatively non-linear in the sense of freedom experienced playing game Skyrim (2011).”

Read the full story at New Statesman.

The Gap by Ira Glass

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Ira_Glass_CMU_2006For the writers and story tellers and photographers and illustrators and producers and film makers and artists who struggle and doubt themselves. As we all do:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”  – Ira Glass. 

Watch The Gap by Ira Glass re-imagined visually by Daniel Sax.

The business of religion

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Christ (with TV head) on the cross by epSos.de on Flickr.
Christ (with TV head) on the cross by epSos.de on Flickr.

Whether it is exorcising demons, ‘auditing’ adepts using a crude lie detector, or getting paid to offer people a one way ticket to heaven, the economy of divine devotion is a big business. Jonathan H. Pienaar and Mandy de Waal investigated the supply and demand side of faith in the April 18 issue of Finweek, and counted the blessings accrued by Scientology; pentecostal ministers in Nigeria; the Zion Christian Church; and much, much more.

What was interesting to uncover during our research was the nexus between religiosity and poverty. Jon and I discovered that religion can be good for growing the wealth of those who feed the growing populist demand for faith in developing countries, but questioned whether  divine devotion was beneficial to a nation’s development.

Gregory S. Paul, a US palaeontologist, illustrator and author doesn’t think religiosity benefits nations, and has done scientific research to back up his hypothesis that religion is in fact ‘bad’ for economies. The dinosaur specialist who was credited for his work on Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Paul’s recent work on the relationship between religion and society has earned him high praise.

Paul doesn’t believe that religions prosper in wealthy and successful societies, and created what he calls the ‘Successful Societies Scale’ to prove this. The tool analyses 25 socioeconomic indicators against data on religious practices in some 17 developed nations. “Only the least godly democracies enjoy the best overall socioeconomic conditions,” Paul stated on his web site, and added: “In history, the much more Christian US is the most dysfunctional first-world nation according to major indicators.”

Paul looked at a wide range of information to arrive at his results, and this data includes societal data like teenage pregnancies, infant mortalities and homicide rates. The most secular societies, he discovered, were those that had the highest socioeconomic scores.

“No socioeconomically successful and highly religious nation has ever existed, and the antagonistic relationship between benign conditions and the popularity of religion probably make it impossible for one to come into being,” Paul exclaimed.

Paul did the research to show that societies that don’t believe in a God or a higher being aren’t doomed, but actually prosper and fare much better from a societal well-being and economic perspective than more religious countries. “It’s not fear of death that drives people to be religious, and it’s not a God gene or a God module in the brain or some sort of connection with the gods; it’s basically a psychological coping mechanism,” Paul stated.

But let’s look at other data to see if it confirms Paul’s assertions regarding the relationship between religion and socioeconomic success. The WIN-Gallup International ‘Religion and Atheism Index’ measures global self-perceptions on beliefs and ranks the top ten atheist and the top ten most religious countries. The survey is based on interviews with more than 50,000 men and women from 57 countries across the globe spanning five continents.

The results?

The Top Ten Atheist Countries, according to the 2012 WIN-Gallup Poll:

atheist countries

(11 countries shown because of 4 tying in at 10%)

The Top Ten Religious Countries, according to the 2012 WIN-Gallup Poll:

religious countries

Now let’s look at a list of the list of top performing countries in terms of gross domestic product, as determined by the World Bank:



GDP (Millions of $US)


World 69,983,693n12 2011
1  United States 15,094,000 2011
2  China 7,318,499n2 2011
3  Japan 5,867,154 2011
4  Germany 3,570,556 2011
5  France 2,773,032n4 2011
6  Brazil 2,476,652 2011
7  United Kingdom 2,431,589 2011
8  Italy 2,194,750 2011
9  Russia 1,857,770 2011
10  India 1,847,982 201

Nigeria comes in at 41 with a GDP of US$ 235,923 million on this list; Ghana at number 84 with a GDP of US$ 39,200 million; and Armenia is at number 125 with a GDP of 10,248 of US$ 39,200 million. Conversely China, Japan and Germany top the atheist rankings, and score amongst the highest in terms of GDP rankings, showing a strong nexus between economic prosperity and a lack of religion.

The WIN-Gallup survey shows that the poor are more religious, and people in bottom income groups were 17% more religious than those in top income groups. “It is interesting that Religiosity declines as worldly prosperity of individuals rises,” the survey read. “While the results for nations as a whole are mixed, individual respondents within a country show a revealing pattern. If citizens of each of the 57 countries are grouped into five groups, from the relatively poor to relatively rich in their own countries, the richer you get, the less religious you define yourself,” said the WIN-Gallup authors.

Religion is on a downward trend. Globally, those claiming to be religious have dropped by 9%, while atheism has risen by rises by 3% “Most of the shift is not drifting from their faith, but claiming to be ‘not religious’ while remaining within the faith,” the survey read. “Religion becomes less central as people’s lives become less vulnerable to the constant threat of death, disease and misfortune,” Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart write in their book, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide. But political scientists and sociologists agree that wealth is a strong causal factor that explains why religion erodes, but concede that there are a myriad of other influences that contribute to this loss of faith.

Download a preview of the “Business of Religion” edition – Finweek-Eng_18-April-2013_preview.

Read more about Gregory Paul’s thinking on The Science of Religion.