photo by Heidi Ruby Miller
EXCERPT from "Painting Your Setting with Concrete Nouns" by Jason Jack Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
Concrete nouns may not be your croissants and Beurre des Charentes, but they should be.
Concrete nouns help authoritative authors establish dominion over setting by showing readers that the action isn’t taking place in a fluffy, generic anywhere. Concrete nouns show without telling. Time period, seasons, political climate, socio-economic situations and social mores can all be demonstrated by the nouns an author utilizes to animate his settings. Tim Esaias, one of my mentors at Seton Hill, once told me that “every concrete noun paints a picture”, and at the time, being more specific with my nouns transformed my prose into a much more concise and believable product.
EXCERPT from "Setting Limits: Working in Small Spaces" by Jason Jack Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
Every story doesn’t need a million square miles to unfold in. Even when used in small doses, setting can still play a pivotal role in plot development. Here are five plots that worked really well in a limited setting.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
Marko Ramius plays hide-and-seek with a Soviet sub. And in a Soviet sub.
CUJO by Stephen King
Ralph Nader never mentioned that Ford Pintos were rabid dog magnets too.
EXCERPT from "Magical Realism as Genre: Or, Waiter, There's an Angel in My Soup" by Jason Jack Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
Loosely defined as the mundane made fantastic, magical realism can be an elusive concept to writers and readers with both feet firmly planted in this world. Consider as accessible examples the realistic settings of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth or Tim Burton’s Big Fish, based on the novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace.
Magical realism is essentially indigenous belief surviving in the modern world. Isabelle Allende described the concept much more eloquently, saying, "... magic realism is a literary device or a way of seeing in which there is space for the invisible forces that move the world: dreams, legends, myths, emotion, passion, history. . ."(Allende 54-58).
EXCERPT from "Essential Magical Realism" by Jason Jack Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (the Bible of magical realism)
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (a book lover's magical realism)
Life of Pt by Yann Martel ("wait, it gets weirder" magical realism)
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (magical realism meets science fiction)
Jason Jack Miller is a writer, photographer and musician who has been hassled by cops in Canada, Mexico and the Czech Republic. An outdoor travel guide he co-authored with his wife in 2006 jumpstarted his freelancing career; his work has since appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, online, and as part of a travel guide app for mobile phones. Several of his articles are in the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft. He received a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill where he is adjunct creative writing faculty and he is an Authors Guild member. He's been a whitewater raft guide, played guitar in a garage band and served as a concierge at a five star resort hotel in Florida. When he isn't writing, he's on his mountain bike or looking for his next favorite guitar. He is currently writing and recording the soundtrack to his novel, The Devil and Preston Black. Find him at http://jasonjackmiller.blogspot.com.