Better Storytelling Secrets
Authors discuss their writing techniques.
Hi, I’m Mark O’Bannon. Welcome to this rare look into the secrets of storytelling from published authors.
Today, I’m joined by, John Corwin, the author of Sweet Blood of Mine (part of the Overworld Chronicles), No Darker Fate and Seventh.
Life as a Writer
How did you get into writing?
I started writing short stories in the sixth grade about a boy named Fargo McGronsky and his dog, Noodles. The stories were pretty violent but my classmates loved them and always looked forward to the next installment. It wasn’t until much later in life that I started writing for realz.
When did you first realize that you have what it takes to be a writer?
Part of that realization hit me when I finished writing my first monstrous tome, all 275K words of it. The next realization hit me when I accepted the business realities of writing and how to actually write decent, flowing prose as opposed to thinking bigger meant better.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Scientists have long debated this subject. I think most of my ideas come from the part of my brain closest to where I slammed my head against a rock on a jetty while trying to show off to a girl. I think that’s also where my sense of self-preservation comes from.
I really don’t know how I come about my ideas, only that they’re usually strange and must be tempered into a version other people can identify with as opposed to being completely weirded out by them.
How do you develop your ideas into a story?
I come up with a one or two-sentence synopsis of the book in my head, or try to fit whatever bizarre notion has popped into my noggin into something vaguely usable. If it feels like it might work as the basis for a novel, I’ll write a one-page synopsis outlining the main plot and how the book would end. If that works, then I’ll either start work on it, or shelve it for future use.
What kind of stories do you enjoy working with?
Paranormal, Sci-Fi—anything otherworldly. I once tried to write a non-paranormal novel and grew too bored with it. It wasn’t fun unless I could give everyone flying carpets.
What genres would you like to explore in the future?
I don’t really have any in mind that I haven’t already tried. I’ve done fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, and paranormal romance. It seems we create new genres and sub-genres all the time, so I’m sure something new will come along shortly involving donkeys and the political machinations of a subterranean culture on Mars—in which case I would drop everything to write in that genre. Until then, however, I’ll have to wait.
Do you work from an outline?
Yes and no. I generally outline the story in a short synopsis and go from there. I have used a strict outline before and didn’t stick to it very well. But I’ve found I absolutely must map out the plot or I’ll end up in la-la land somewhere with the book fast approaching 100K words and no end in sight.
How do you build your story?
Once I have the plot more or less set, I take the characters, determine their personality traits, and run them through a complex computer simulation to see what they do. Most of the time they die immediately because the computer doesn’t know how to handle vampires or talking seaweed.
Okay, so part of that is true. I do determine plot and personality traits of the characters and figure out how they’d handle certain situations and then write down what happens next. So far, it’s worked okay for me.
For you, what makes a great hero?
Someone who is normal by most standards rising above him or herself and doing what’s right.
If one of your characters were to describe you, what would he/she say?
John is so smart, funny, and handsome, and you can tell he really takes care of himself. I mean, have you seen his posterior? I do declare that’s the finest posterior I have ever seen. On the other hand, he is a bit strange, coming up with all these crazy shenanigans, like everyone on Earth dying and becoming ghosts. What sort of hooligan would wish that on people?
How much time do you spend researching the setting for your stories?
It depends on how familiar I am with the setting. My past few books have been set in Atlanta where I live. As with most people, however, Google and Wikipedia are my two best friends.
What settings would you like to explore in the future?
I don’t know yet. Probably someplace that doesn’t really exist, so I’ll have to make it up.
Do you like to know the purpose of your story before you sit down to write it?
Most of the time if there’s a theme or purpose, it forms along the way.
Do you have any favorite lines from your stories?
It amazes me when I look at quotes readers pull from my works. Everyone finds something new they think is funny. I don’t really have any favorite lines from my own stories because I tend to look at it from as a whole, but here are a couple from Sweet Blood of Mine:
“I was falling for Elyssa and my track record with girls looked like a zombie apocalypse.”
“What was it about women and crying that made me feel like crap? They must have guilt pheromones in their tears.”
Do you have a routine? A certain place to write? Do you listen to music?
I don’t really have a routine aside from sacrificing Concord grapes to minor deities. I can’t listen to music while writing although I can write in places that are noisy.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I remind myself that I’ll be dead one day and I don’t have enough time to suffer from writer’s block.
How do you go about fixing a story?
I’m usually pretty happy with my first drafts and I have a great set of beta readers and a tough content editor who show me what needs fixing.
How do you know when to stop?
I used to go through manuscripts ad nauseam, like up to 8 times. No more! I’ve found my gut instincts with writing are usually fine, I just need outside advice to help.
Words of Advice
What words of advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t write. Give up and join an ultimate Frisbee team. Learn tiddlywinks. Meanwhile, email me all your ideas for books and maybe I can salvage something from them.
So, what is YOUR plan for the zombie apocalypse?
We’re already in a zombie apocalypse. Just look at all the zombies walking around staring at their iPhones. 😉 My plan is to pray they’re not driving and texting while I’m on the road.
If we hit a real Zombpocalypse, I plan to hole up somewhere with my beta readers and write stories about it to keep us all entertained. Or barricade myself in the Playboy mansion.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?
Probably a short essay on why my mom is the bestest mom ever for the local newspaper.
What are you working on now?
Book 4 of the Overworld Chronicles.
I’d like to thank today’s author, John Corwin for being with us today.
I’d like to thank you as well. Please check out the other great interviews in this series with authors, and remember to keep writing! The next published book could be yours.
– Mark O’Bannon
About the Author
John Corwin has been making stuff up all his life. As a child he would tell his sisters he was an alien clone of himself and would eat tree bark to prove it.
In middle school, John started writing for realz. He wrote short stories about Fargo McGronsky, a young boy with anger management issues whose dog, Noodles, had been hit by a car. The violent stories were met with loud acclaim from classmates and a great gnashing of teeth by his English teacher.
Years later, after college and successful stints as a plastic food wrap repairman and a toe model for GQ, John once again decided to put his overactive imagination to paper for the world to share and became an author.
Visit John Corwin Online:
My Books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/John-Corwin/e/B004OTEQQW/
Books by John Corwin:
Sweet Blood of Mine
Dark Light of Mine
No Darker Fate
The Next Thing I Knew
Written by Mark O’Bannon
Mark O’Bannon is the CEO of MEOw Publishing and is the author of “The Dream War Saga.” His books include: “The Dream Crystal”, “The Dark Mirrors of Heaven”, and “Aia the Barbarian.”
You can find Mark on Google+ and Twitter. Over the past 15 years, Mark has taught Writing, Self-Publishing and Internet Marketing for authors. Visit his blog, “Better Storytelling” or his website, www.MarkOBannon.com