By Shawn Coyne | Published: October 31, 2014
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In honor of Halloween, here’s my favorite insider book publishing expression which represents the most desired property of any publisher, The Category Killer.
Two Category Killers, Sam Shepard and Patti Smith, NYC Circa 1971
What it means is this:
When a book (or author) hits on all cylinders and is absolutely way above the standards of its genre—be it fiction or non-fiction—it has the potential to become a category killer. When it does, the book and the category become synonymous. (more…)
By Callie Oettinger | Published: October 24, 2014
My neighbor called yesterday. She was in the hospital and her husband’s cell phone wasn’t working. He’d forgotten to bring a few things with him and was on his way back home to pack another bag for her. Would I pop over and ask him to grab a few extra things to bring back to the hospital?
I adore these neighbors and would do anything to help them, so I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head outside. Empty car port.
Back inside, I grabbed a sticky pad and pen and scribbled a note with the items she needed, then headed to the kitchen for a plastic bag. It was raining and I needed the note to survive. Only gallon-sized freezer bags were in the designated baggie-tin-foil-and-cling-wrap drawer. (Noted to self: Buy more sandwich-sized bags and hide from 6-year-old who hordes them for random rocks, pilfered coins, and other bric-a-brac).
No Scotch-tape in site (also most-likely claimed by the 6-year-old), I grabbed a tape gun, tucked it under my arm and headed back outside, note-stuffed gallon bag in one hand and umbrella in the other.
Not wanting to risk paint pulling from their door if I taped the note to it (and thus a call from the horrid HOA to repaint, which is the horrid HOA’s M.O.), I stared, wondering about the best placement. The door knocker made the most sense. It was centered, toward the top of the door. Because the note was in a gallon-sized plastic bag, it would hang below the knocker, at about my neighbor’s eye-level, note facing out through the clear plastic.
A few minutes after drying off inside, I heard his car. Moving faster than a TMZ informer sniffing out a payday, I stuck my head back out. The note was still on the front door as he shut it behind him.
What to do?
Did he see it and leave it because he was in a rush? Or did he tell himself he’d read it on the way out?
By Shawn Coyne | Published: October 17, 2014
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How do you choose what kind of story you want to tell?
Maybe you do it by thinking up a “What if” Event—what if terrorists attacked in the middle of the Super Bowl*?
Maybe you do it thinking of a “What if” Protagonist—what if the hero of my story is an inanimate object**?
Freddy Krueger, one insprired force of antagonism
Obviously, you can’t have a story without events and protagonists. But is there another way to goose yourself into a feverish writing jag? One that can sustain you for an entire first draft?
My advice to anyone tinkering in their heads about a big Story is to put both Events and Protagonists aside. Especially in the primordial stage. You’ll have no shortage of anguish with those two elements in the future, but for now—when you’re just doing internal spit balling—forget about them.
Instead go dark.
The most important element in any story is the force/s of antagonism. If you create incredibly specific forces of antagonism that you want to explore, the choice of genre to expose that darkness becomes crystal clear.