Archive for the ‘Fiction Writing Strategies’ Category

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

SouthernWritersRadioShowNov2013ad

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 www.writingforlifeworkshops.com 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!

Related article on my blog:

Crafting Fiction for Commercial Success: 2-Day Writing Intensive with Davis Bunn

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Would you like to receive writing instruction in an intimate and professional setting?

If so, I invite you to join me September 14-15, 2013 in the San Francisco Bay area for “Prose in Motion: Crafting Fiction for Commercial Success.”

This two-day intensive is sponsored by Writing for Life Workshops, the brainchild of best-selling authors Susanne Lakin and Geraldine Solon.

Their goal is to host a series of multi-day workshops on the writing craft in a venue other than a huge conference setting. They chose to host these workshops in heart of Silicon Valley, a location that offers easy access from the entire Bay region and is close to three major airports.

“Prose in Motion” will be at The Marriott Courtyard in Newark, CA.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn:

  • How can writers craft their fiction so it sells—without selling their soul?
  • Is there a secret to fashioning a novel so it will hit the best-seller lists?

During this event for intermediate fiction writers of all genres, we’ll go deep into the technique and structure needed in your fiction to make it grab the attention of publishers and readers.

We’ll cover:

  • First line, first paragraph, first page: how to create a winning first impression
  • How to make “point of view” your ally
  • Right-brain energy: how to transform the outline process into a vital experience
  • Creating a pitch and premise that sell
  • Plotting, subplotting, and the interweaving of successful scenes
  • Upping the ante: the discipline of daily output and how to maintain the emotional and story threads
  • The three-thousand-year legacy: How understanding the Heroic structure and Post-modern story can work to your advantage
  • The wonder of three dimensions: How to create characters and dialog that leap off the page

Here is the tentative schedule for our two days together:

Class: 9:00 AM–12:30 PM
Lunch: 12:30 PM-1:15 PM (included in price)
Class: 1:15–5:00

Registration for “Prose in Motion” opens January 14, 2013 with a week-long registration and give-away of all kinds of door prizes.

The cost of the two-day workshop is as follows:

  • Early Bird rate: $315 if registered before May1, 2013
  • Early Bird rate for members of any CWC (CA Writers Club) or ACFW chapter: $295 (you must provide the name of the chapter/region you belong to) if registered before May 1, 2013.
  • Regular Rate: $350 May 1–August 31. Registration closes August 31.
  • Fees must be paid in full at the time of registration.

Your registration fee includes:

  • Two full days of writing instruction and exercises
  • lunch each day
  • registration materials (including a padfolio, pens, neck badge, and other cool items)
  • raffle tickets for the drawing to win books
  • editing services
  • chocolate and other goodies
  • all handout materials

Lodging is not included in the workshop price. Attendees must make their own room reservations at the hotel. The Marriott is offering a discounted rate to our participants of $84 a night plus tax for either/both nights of September 13th and 14th up until August 22, 2103.

Hotel Reservations - code M-P11X0E or refer to Writing for Life Workshop Room Block.

Contact either 1-800-321-2211 or 510-792-5200 to book your room.

Remember, registration opens January 14 – mark your calendar!

Book Fun Magazine Premieres — I’m Officially a Cover Boy!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Friends,

I am so honored and humbled to be featured as the cover story in the premiere issue of Book Fun Magazine (October 2012).

Book Fun is the official magazine of The Book Club Network and is THE magazine for reading groups. Their focus is on Christian publishers and authors and on family-friendly books. Subscriptions to this online magazine are free — just go to bookfun.org.

The cover story starts on page 36, and is an interview with Nora St. Laurent. Our interview is followed by a review from Rick Estep of my novel, Rare Earth.

I hope you’ll read the story and leave a comment, below, letting me know something new you learned.

P.S. If you’re interested in learning the history behind the picture of the airplane on the cover, please read my post, “Our New Digs.”

Fun Filmwork Feedback

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Karen writes:

Thanks for the sneak peek into the world of film. You also gave us a picture of the person you are and how you are guided by God. I work at a bookstore and love recommending your books to customers especially ones who have never read your books. I have compared you to Francine Rivers another favorite author. Loved the collaboration with Janette Oke!!! Keep on writing and growing in Jesus!

Cali writes:

As an emerging writer, I found it fascinating to learn about the process of script writing.  To have the actors themselves talk to you about the characters must have been like having a character in a novel develop beyond what you expected.  It’s happened to me, as I’m sure it’s happened to you, but then to have that character displayed in a person who is telling you these things must have been amazing and surreal.

Dorothy writes:

Am so looking forward to this movie when it is out. Your books are so well received in the library where I am the purchaser and I know that there will be a lot of interest in this movie. I am also anxiously awaiting your next novel…love your writing!!

Larry writes:

Thanks so much for sharing this report with your subscribers. This is just awesome! I’m not over remembering all details of recent LION OF BABYLON and so looking forward to the new novel, RARE EARTH… However, I see what you mean about “using new tools” and it’s so interesting how God can use an author to write or even ‘embed’ spiritual data/points in novels and I suppose at times the writer might not even know he did that, but by the Spirit was it so subtlety accomplished….

Barb writes:

I am amazed at how God uses us in new and different ways if we are just willing and obedient! God bless you richly – I’ll be waiting to see this one.

Dear Friends,

There have been some amazing comments on my website and emails regarding the latest blog post on my recent filmwork for Unlimited.  Thank you so much, for the wonderful and encouraging comments.  As I work to develop the novel from the screenplay—the first time I have ever worked in this order, these very warm and heartfelt comments have been a great boost. 

Thank you again for writing. 

Warmest regards,

Davis

Reader Comments on My Radio Interview with Giovanni Gelati

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Carolyn writes:

That was some interview Giovanni Gelati  had with you! Thanks so much for providing it for us. I surely learned a lot about your writing life, your “inner life” as you face new opportunities and challenges, the history of your writing, and Isabella’s work.

If I hadn’t listened to that YouTube piece on your daily schedule, I’d wonder too when you have time to sleep! Considering the extremely high quality of your books, I am absolutely amazed that you aim for two books a year. But I thank the Lord you do!

Your devotion to and passion for your writing are amazing–and a clear indication of the strong focus our great God has given you and maintained the past 20 years. May the era of short stories for you take a very long time in coming!

Whereas Gelati was talking in generalities, you weren’t content to answer in kind. You graciously gave him and us so much detail–about that which he brought up and that which he didn’t. That to me is a strong characteristic of your books. There is nothing superficial about that which you write. When I’ve finished one of your novels, I feel I’ve been to a feast–because you’ve GIVEN SO MUCH of your experience, your talent, and your heart!

Readers, please note, you can still hear Giovanni Gelati’s webcast.

Dear Carolyn,

It is rare these days that interviewers move away from the standard questions and delve more deeply. Giovanni certainly did that, and as a result made his interview into something I truly enjoyed and appreciated. Glad it struck a chord with you as well.