Archive for the ‘Fiction Writing Strategies’ Category

Writing Challenge: Describe a jaw-dropping view

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Keeping things short and sweet today. Here’s one of my favorite descriptions from my new novel, The Fragment.

The Fragment by Davis Bunn

Writing challenge

Have you visited a place that is so jaw-dropping, it’s hard to describe in words?

Envision that place. Describe it, helping people who have never been there to see it, feel it, taste it.

This place might be a grand palace, like the one I describe here. Or it may be the view from your yard. Or something you see daily while you commute to work.

Give it a shot in the comments. I’m betting big money that we have more than a few “word artists” out there.

Take Your Writing to the Next Level at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

If you’re feeling the nudge to write for publication, whether that be articles, blog posts, poems, curriculum, or books, consider attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (near Santa Cruz, CA), March 27-31, 2015.

The conference is for writers of every skill level, from unpublished to professional. Several literary agents and editors will be there; you can seek to set up a one-on-one appointment or dine with them at lunch or dinner.

Major Morning Tracks

Davis Bunn Facebook

Davis Bunn

I’ll be teaching “Take Your Story to the Next Level,” one of six Major Morning Tracks. Participants in this comprehensive fiction track will examine crucial elements of solid stories, including character and dialogue, point of view, plot structure and story arc, opening scenes and story climax—how to create a solid commercial structure. Come with your story idea in mind because you’ll have opportunity to apply some of what you learn in class.

Afternoon Workshops

Janet Kobobel Grant

Janet Kobobel Grant

I’ll also be joining with literary agent Janet Kobobel Grant of Books & Such and Laura Christianson of Blogging Bistro (she’s my online marketing manager) to lead an afternoon Q&A workshop, “Planning Your Book Launch.” Janet, Laura, and I will attempt the impossible feat of covering everything you need to know about planning a book launch in one hour!

Here’s the description and outline for our workshop:

You have a book in the works. When should you reveal the cover? What should you include on your author website? Do you have to be engaged on several social networks? Hire a publicist? Run contests with big-ticket prizes? During this panel discussion, you’ll learn insider secrets for planning a successful book promotion.

Click to download a PDF of the workshop outline: Planning Your Book Launch – Workshop Outline

Head Start Pre-Conference Tracks

Laura Christianson

Laura Christianson

Laura Christianson will also facilitate a Head Start Pre-Conference Track, “Take Your Blogging and Social Media to the Next Level,” from March 25-27. During her interactive mentoring clinic, Laura will approach blogging and social media from a business perspective. She’ll help participants pinpoint their ideal reader, polish their message, plan a publication schedule, and practice proven techniques for building community.

Her track is by application only because it’s limited to 8 participants. She told me today that she still has a few spots open.

There’s so much going on at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference; it’s just amazing. You will make lifelong friends and network with many others who love the written word as much as you do. Hope to see you there!

Reader Question: Where Can I Learn More About the Three Hebrew Terms Used for Sin in ‘Book of Dreams’?

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Mrs. Jacobsen writes:

On page 68 of Book of Dreams, you mention the three Hebrew terms used for sin. I have been trying to verify those. Please can you tell me which resources you used to glean that information?

Dear Mrs. Jacobsen,

My research for that particular segment was done with the assistance of two rabbis in the United Kingdom, where I wrote that story.

If you are interested in moving forward with a Hebrew perspective on the Scriptures, might I suggest you take a look at Rev. Tom Bradford’s Torah Class Ministries. He can be found online at Rev. Bradford offers quite a remarkable and insightful overview of the Old Testament, and how it specifically applies to the Savior.

Reader Question: What is Your Research Process?

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Lion of Babylon by Davis BunnCaroline writes:

On the second-to-last day of a writer’s conference, when I couldn’t stand any more conversation about writing style, the writer’s “platform,” or how to talk to an agent or editor, I holed up in the café with a bowl of ice cream and a book I hoped would be good enough to allow me to “escape” the chaos of the conference. The book was Lion of Babylon, and it perfectly served its purpose. Thank you.

Later in the day, when I was back to thinking about the details of writing, I realized that I had a question for you: I wanted to ask you about the research that goes into writing a story like Lion of Babylon.

I’m curious about the Bunn process of researching a story. I want be a good writer, and one of the ways I improve is by learning from those who are further along on the writing journey.

Dear Caroline,

The crucial issue with research is not to see this as the goal. Too often early books are marred by efforts to make the experts feel the research was solid. Your job, first and foremost, is to entertain.

My technique is to spend my outlining time–and a book that is to be researched requires a solid outline to keep you on track–determining the questions that really must be answered in order to tell the story.

Then I look for JUST ONE ANSWER. It is not necessary for you to find THE answer. The further back you go in time, the more experts will argue with one another over what is and is not the correct answer to any question.

You need to look for authors who will offer not just information, but an emotional spark. It is not data alone that you require. You need to have people who make the issue or the era live for you at an emotional level. Because that is your key aim in your story. To bring life to the page.

Reader Question: Can Godly Characters Dabble in Deception?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

FloriansGateCoverBrad writes:

I’ve been reading Florian’s Gate, which I realize you released over a decade ago, and have been greatly enjoying it.

Last night, I was reading Gregor’s story about how he was able to get back into Poland after the death of his wife. Obviously, it involved deception—which I’m sure would be very realistic in an unlikely situation like that.

I’d like to ask whether you hesitated at all about having one of your godliest characters dabble in deception? He doesn’t seem to regret having lied to the officials at all when he tells the story to Jeffrey. Did the circumstances justify the lies?

I’m an indie author and I’m currently working on the second book in my Christian fantasy series. The protags are godly characters who are really defined by their relationship with God. The story has been working up to two of the magi going undercover amongst the enemy. Some people have shared their opinion that it is impossible for a Christian to go undercover without sinning (again, deception).

While I can cite a handful of passages in which people were commended for lying—the midwives in Egypt, Rahab—and even point to a prophet in 1 Kings 20 that God apparently instructed to flat-out lie to King Ahab to prove a point, I’m not sure how persuasive this evidence is.

So when I came across Gregor’s story last night, it reminded me a bit of this portion of mine. I wondered if you had any insight you’d be willing to share. I realize that this is a reference to a random paragraph in a book you wrote long ago, but any thoughts you have on the subject would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Brad,

 It is great to connect with readers on a level like this, where we’re discussing a substantive issue like the one you raised.

There is no cut and dry answer, for as you rightly pointed out, there are indeed times in the Scriptures where deception is apparently condoned. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason, is really what we’re talking about. In Gregor’s case, I justified this by the simple fact that he did it to save others besides himself. He was working for the benefit of others, in effect momentarily sacrificing the truth in order to keep them sheltered from the dark events threatening to overwhelm them.

As a rule of thumb, it would definitely be better if your characters representing the faithful adhere to the ‘rules of the road’. But sometimes this simply won’t work. In my case, I decided to write the scene in the manner that seemed most realistic, and in this particular case I was actually following real events that had been related to me by Baptist seminarians who had survived in East Germany under the Communists. In your case, working in fantasy…Pray hard, is basically what I would urge you to do.

P.S. All three books in The Priceless Collection were re-released last year. Click here to learn more about them.

Interviews and More Interviews

Monday, November 18th, 2013


I’ve been honored to participate in three interviews lately.

Ann Byle did a Q&A with me about Strait of Hormuz on Novel Crossing.

Susie Larson, host of the Live the Promise show on Faith Radio, interviewed me during her Novel Talk segment.

We discussed the themes of suspense, wisdom, and redemption in my novel, Unlimited. Click here to listen to the show.

Southern Writers Radio Show interviewed me about Strait of Hormuz on their November 2013 show.

Click here to listen to the show.



Reader Letter: ‘I’m 54 years old and want to become a full-time writer’

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Shannon (who has been listening to the recording of a fiction writing course I taught) writes:

Listening [to your course] makes me sad, excited and scared.

Sad because I recognize how much better my manuscript can become given a lacing through of problem/resolution ties, inciting to cliffhanger incidents in each chapter, three-dimensional character development, and a drawing out of subtle backstory influences.

The task feels daunting – I see myself starting to lace and in the process, discovering rich veins of drama and emotional tension I otherwise would not have found unless these constructs were attempted.

Excited because I hear your voice telling me how long it took you to find your stride from your point of decision at 28. That’s encouraging as I realize it will take time.

Scared because I’m 54. I don’t have that much time. I would love to become a full time writer. I would love to make a living at it. And if I did, I would love to remain humble, approachable, and brilliantly helpful to other people as you are. Your thoughtfulness and analytical prowess in dissecting what is a very nuanced craft demonstrates your love for writing and your heart to serve God in guiding new writers.

So, I am talking myself off the hurry-up ledge and reconsidering my timeframe for the book proposal. Because of your influence, I have completely restructured the book, the tone, the balance between showing and telling, and the pace.

Thank you so much for making yourself available to aspiring Christian writers. I think your teaching is and will remain a foundational component to my newly developing awareness of writing constructs and how to engage readers in a highly entertaining and hopefully thought provoking experience.

Dear Shannon,

If I might offer one additional bit of advice at this point in time, it would be to start another book now.

Too often we writers see the current work in the same light as our profession. But most real progress only comes through first drafts. In other words, to really tackle the issues that need growth and change, you must confront the empty page. Again and again. Redrafting can only take you so far, especially when you are so deeply attached to your current work.

Start the next story. Today.

Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Perfect Hero’ in Fiction?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The Quilt, by Davis BunnMy most commercially successful novel ever is the story about a virtually perfect woman. It’s called The Quilt.

It’s about a woman who decides that she wants to sew a final prayer quilt and she uses it as an opportunity to bind the entire community together and teach the power of meditative prayer to her town.

The only way you can forgive this woman for being so good is because she’s dying. She can’t sew the quilt herself because her arthritis is so bad she can’t hold a needle.

When writing a story in our post-modern world, structure your hero so people will care.

Ask yourself: What is my hero’s flaw?

The more perfect you make your hero, the greater the hero’s flaw needs to be.

Agree/Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Hardest Thing a Novelist Faces

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

During the creative process, there are going to be moments when you have explosions of bliss. For the Christian writer, this is a feeling of moving into the presence of God. ‘Self’ disappears and you become one with the idea you are constructing on the page.

And then there’s the next day.

The next day, you go back and re-read what you write yesterday, looking for a cheap high. You want to feel those energies again.

When you start to re-read, you’ll notice a thread that’s dangling… an imperfection. And so you drop this; you change that. All of a sudden, the beautiful tapestry you put together yesterday is gone. It’s dead. It’s just words on the page. You’ve lost the ability to use the momentum of yesterday to begin work on a new empty page.

Many beginning novelists fear that their draft is doing to require changes, and so they start making the changes as they write.

Don’t do this.

What you’ll find is that you’ll feel compelled to change it again and again. Instead, finish the story. If possible, I urge you to not even re-read your work until you finish your first draft.

The hardest thing you will face as an artist is the empty page. But you will never establish your “voice” through re-writing. It comes through first drafting.

The importance of drafting

Too often, an author mistakes their early book for their profession. It’s not the same. You need to be establishing the discipline of regular output, not just in terms of pages, but in terms of stories. You need to be able to see yourself as growing, through the story, into the next story – into becoming a commercial writer.

A successful novelist has to be convinced that this is a great book and that what you are doing is what you should be working on now, and that you are the person to write this story. This drives you through the first draft.

The second draft is all about doubt. You question everything. I suggest approaching the second draft from the standpoint of developing your creative concept into a product. These two need to be separate entities.

You write the story and it’s your baby until you hit the climax.

Then you set it aside… you divorce yourself from the project, preferably by starting your next book. And then you do the re-drafting. Until you have identified yourself with the next story, you should not begin the re-drafting. What you’ll discover is that re-drafting is more of a refining process than a drastic alteration.

How I draft stories

During the first draft, I write in blocks of about 40 pages. I make constant notes at the beginning of each of these blocks. By the time I’ve finished writing a story, I will have as many as 10 pages of notes for a 40-page segment. In my notes, I write out, in dialogue form, actual passages I’m thinking of inserting, but I won’t try to find where those passages should go in the story. I won’t look at anything until I’ve finished the story.

If I’m thinking of making a big change, such deleting a character, I will make a note that indicates at which block the character no longer exists. But I will not take the character out during the first drafting process.

The result is not just a heightened flow; I’m able to maintain the sense of confidence in my storytelling ability through that first-drafting process.

I can doubt the story and myself when I start the second draft. But not during the first draft.

What about you?

What technique works best for you when drafting a story?

Early Bird Rate on Two-Day Writing Intensive With Davis Bunn

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Announcing Prose in Motion: a first-time-ever two-day workshop I’ll be teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area this fall. This event will take place at the Silicon Valley Courtyard Marriott in Newark, CA, and will offer full-day instruction as well as buffet lunch. The dates are September 14 and 15 and will be packed with great instruction to help you take your fiction to the next level, whether you are a beginning or seasoned writer.

Take advantage of the special early bird rate through the end of April 2013.

Visit for all the details. Space is limited to ensure a personal experience, and this special rate is made available for you for a limited time, so register soon!

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