I've decided to give interviewing a shot. I've met a lot of great people through my blog and many of them have helped me hone my writing and story-telling skills. It's only fair that I spread the word; maybe they'll help someone else too! I'm thinking of posting an interview/introduction every Thursday (at least for the foreseeable future). So, without further ado...
One of my favorite bloggers is David Powers King. Apart from being one of the nicest people I've met in the blogosphere, he runs one of the most helpful blogs on writing that I've found (visit him here). So, I decided to pick his brain about writing, and this is what he told me:
"Thanks for having me, Reece (if you guys don't already know, Reece is the man!)."
How did you get started as a writer?
I had this idea about aliens, so I took out some paper and a pen during lunch in the early days of my sophomore year and wrote a scene based on it. Ideas kept coming and I kept writing ever since.
I kind of want to know what your idea was...
What was your first complete story?
A short story about a couple kids digging a hole in their backyard, so deep they discover an underground society.
I admire anyone who can write short stories. I've tried and it's hard. Kudos!
What made you decide to write it?
I thought finding a bunch of mole-people would be awesome (and actually tried digging said hole).
My brothers and I dug a giant whole in our grandparents' back yard when we were little...I don't remember why, but we didn't find any mole-people either.
Do you free-write or outline?
Both. Before I start any story, I have to know how it ends. I HAVE to, no matter the outcome. Kind of like the final destination on a road trip. You make a few preplanned stops along the way as well. The time in between? Well, that's where the free-writing comes in. I also draft a character bible to establish their psychological make-up and write copious notes to make sense of the world that I'm about to enter.
I'm glad you've found something that works for you. I'm still in the trial-and-error phase of developing a writing methodology.
What do you do to counteract writer’s block?
I stop and think, think, think. Blocks kick in when the story is not working for me. Maybe I missed a turn and have to retrace my steps to find the right path again. If it's a lack of motivation, I do the dangling carrot method of persuasion with Jelly Bellies. Pretty effective, since that's the only time I'm allowed to eat them.
Very nice! I find I get writer's block in similar situations: either there's a problem with the character(s)—I'm working through this in my current WIP right now—or there's a problem with the plot and I'm trying to make it do things it's not supposed to do.
How do you keep your characters original? (i.e. what do you do to make sure your characters
don’t turn out the same in every story?)
A character bible. I create mini stories about my characters, taking place years before the story actually starts. What happened to them? How did they react? What kind of person have they become because of it? Why is Spider-Man Spider-Man? He used his powers inappropriately and his uncle died as a result. The neat thing about psychology (like snowflakes) is no two people are alike, including their minds. Give each character a different history, likes, dislikes, friends/enemies/crushes, and they will speak for themselves.
You know, I often find myself imagining short little one- or two-scene stories about my characters, but I never thought to use them as background material. I always just figured I was getting too into the character. Thanks for the tip!
What exercises to you use to develop your characters?
I prop a character sheet in front of me and have a conversation with it. I'll ask about their past, what they like, etc. Sounds crazy, but then, isn't a face-to-face talk the best way to learn about a person?
What sort of character sheet do you use?
How do you build a believable world within your stories?
A tangible setting is a good start. Something I can touch, grounded, where the problems of society (if any) are made clear from the beginning. Geography, geology, weather patterns, and botany should be taken into account, too (or astronomy, for us Sci-fi enthusiasts). Get me to believe a setting and its characters and I'll have no problem believing the magic/science. Most of the time, anyway.
I agree. Probably sixty percent of developing a good magic system or a good piece of amazing technology is couching it in a world where it already fits.
What do you do to make your whole story interesting? How do you avoid “slow stretches”?
Keep that tangibility consistent and make the story about the characters rather than the prose. I give just enough detail to paint a scene that you can see in your mind and get back to the characters. I like reading conversation. Well-timed humor and conflict (and crushes) does it for me. That's what I enjoy writing.
This is getting scary; you're giving almost the exact answers I would! I love dialogue! I think you get more out of a good bit of dialogue than any other form of prose...at least as far as fiction is concerned ;)
How does your own life inform your writing?
Life experiences. They find a way into my stories all the time. Often exaggerated (who wants to wrestle with a wild bear, right). Everything I do and look at finds its way into my writing, one way or another.
Have you ever attended a writing convention or conference?
Yep! Just local events like LTUE, LDStorymakers, CONduit, MountainCON, and The Book Academy, as well as a workshop with Orson Scott Card. I really need to check out the bigger gigs like FantasyCON, WorldCON, and so forth.
I wanted to attend a few of these this year, but by the time I found out about them, they were over. Epic. FAIL!!! If you go to any of these next year, maybe we'll actually meet each other.
Who is your favorite author?
Such a hard question, but I pick Orson Scott Card.
Oh, he is a good one! I really need to read more of him though.
Also a hard question, so I'll go with Ender's Game.
Excellent book, though I thought Ender's Shadow was better.
Favorite genre to read? Favorite genre to write?
Science Fiction and Fantasy x 2.
Me too. I can't make up my mind, so I trade off between the two.
When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?
Be a father. Work. Watch or read something. Or think about what I'm going to write.
What do you do for a living?
What are three interesting facts about you?
I almost had my leg amputated as a toddler, I've had an encounter with a wild bear (a cub--mama bear was close, so I played dead), and I administer psychological assessments (IQ and stuff).
Okay, you and I seriously need to get together. My wife and I are always arguing about my sanity and you could help us settle the dispute once and for all! ;)
So, a big thank you to Dave for being brave enough to be my first interviewee! I hope you all check out his blog because he does a really good job with it.
Is there a writer/blogger that you've learned a lot from? Tell us who!