Style: George R. R. Martin versus Stephen King

I recently read "Fevre Dream" by George R. R. Martin and "The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger" by Stephen King. I alternated back and forth between the two to get a feel for the difference between their styles. It was an interesting experiment and I learned a few things from it, but I think there is one that is the most important: they could not switch. If Martin wrote "The Gunslinger" and King wrote "Fevre Dream" they would be completely different experiences. I have heard it before, but now I believe it to be true: your style is natural. Of course there are some caveats to that, but I don't want to go into those. What I do want to do is compare the styles of Martin and King in these two books.

I am going to, basically, pick a random page from these books. Let's call this page . . . page 57. That seems like a good number. The "Dark Tower" movie is just coming out, so let's look at that one first.

"Yes. That's all. It&…

Generating Ideas for Writing - The Gold Rush Phenomenon

Good story ideas come to me all of the time now, just while I'm encountering things throughout the day. My uncle John also sent me an idea that is very versatile, almost begging for expansion, and I keep going back and thinking about it. Returning to an idea is the definition of fascinating, and that is a good lead to follow.

The idea concerns a modern gold rush. It is currently possible, in our world, the real world, to turn lead into gold. It just happens to cost more than the gold is worth to do it. What if it became economically viable? What if someone had this secret and didn't release it, they just made gold for themselves? That reminds me a little bit of "Prison Break" with all of the amazing technology that people are willing to do anything to control. "Prison Break" was an amazing show, too bad it continually got more melodramatic with everyone coming back from the dead, and the entire world revolving around one family. Anyway, you can see there ar…

Searching for the Key to Plotting

Plots are really just a series of problems and solutions. Almost no one seems to talk about them like that, and neither do I, but I am not sure why. A problem is the difference between the current state of affairs and a desired state of affairs. The solution eliminates this differential, but an easy solution would be a boring story.

I think stacking problems and solutions on top of each other would be a good way to build a story. Most of the time the solution creates a bigger problem until the climax, which is the biggest problem so far. Thinking about it in this way reminds me of Dan Brown's stories, and I don't particularly care for something about them, maybe the pacing.
There are situationist writers. I just made-up that term to describe someone that starts with a situation and starts writing from there, seeing what happens as they go. Stephen King does that a lot. It seems like a fun discovery process.
Another good way, I hear, of coming up with stories is to start with a…

Drowning in Theory, Starving for Application

Learning the art/skill/craft of writing can be a daunting process. It is easy to get lost in the study and forget about the application. Theory does have value, as long as it is tempered with application. With my immersion into the study of writing I have found some great resources for learning that I am going to share with you here and now.

There have been five courses that I really liked. Many of the more academic courses that are supposed to be about writing seem more about trying to guess, or simply invent, the theme of an old, popular book. These courses are not like that.
Four of the courses are from I think they have done an excellent job of letting these writers show you their process and thinking patterns.
The first one I took was from James Patterson. I wanted to see how the best selling author in the world does it. I found his process to be very interesting. He writes these extensive outlines, sometimes up to 50 pages, then has a co-author flesh the story o…

Plotting Advice from Orson Scott Card

How do we know when a story is done? It seems, mostly, like a feeling. If your movie cuts out a little early your response would probably be, "That didn't seem quite right, I don't think that is where it ends." This happened to my mother a few days ago and that was her reaction. Orson Scott Card talks about how we can tell when a story should end by what it focuses on. That idea is what I am going to play with today.

Orson Scott Card is a successful author most known for "Enders Game." His two books on writing, "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" and "Characters and Viewpoint," are both excellent. In them he talks about something called the MICE Quotient. MICE stands for milieu, idea, character, and event. Milieu just means all of the setting/context, I looked it up. I will let Card quickly explain the basic structures of each.
"The structure of the pure milieu story is simple: Get a character to the setting that the story i…

The Flavor of Words and Disagreeing with Dean Koontz

I didn't like sushi the first seven times that I tried it, but now I love it. At no time was I wrong about sushi; when I didn't like it I was right, and when I loved it I was right. Flavors are individual, subjective; as in food, so in the written word.

Dean Koontz has been a very successful author for a very long time across many genres. Some of the best writing advice I have encountered so far is contained in his 1972 book "Writing Popular Fiction," but today we are going to talk about the part where I disagree.
I like so much of what Koontz says in the book that I was surprised by two style examples that he gives. Here is the entire section 5 of chapter 9.
Your style will evolve naturally as you continue to write, and you should not make much of a conscious effort to develop it. Of course, every writer should strive to create clear and dramatic prose, but if you are trying to write beautiful prose full of catchy similes and metaphors and other figures of speech, yo…

Why read stories? Why write stories?

I am currently immersed in reading about writing. Several authors have briefly mentioned why they write and why readers read, but the comments were brief in each case. I started to wonder "Why do we read stories, and why do we write stories?" There are a few answers.

Here is a picture of some of the books on writing that I am reading. (I'm sure I will go over some of them in future posts.)

I started looking through some of my favorite books trying to find a pattern of some kind. "What do I like about these stories?" I noticed a general similarity in the effect they have had on me. Each one expanded and/or changed my perspective on life in some way. The subjects are a lot different between Replay, The Dice Man, Siddartha, Zorba the Greek, Candide, Faust, The Ten Thousand, etc., but their similarity lies in the fact that they had an effect on my perspective. There is some research that I found on this, and I will put some of those links at the end, but some of th…

Breaking-down "Zoo" by James Patterson, Part One of the Prologue

"Zoo" is the first book in a bestselling series by James Patterson, there is also a graphic novel, and a television series. Obviously this has been a very popular story, and I would like to know more about why. So, let's start where it begins, with part one of the prologue.

Here is the prologue, then I am going to go through it with my thoughts.





LOCATED IN GRIFFITH Park, a four-thousand-acre stretch of land featuring two eighteen-hole golf courses, the Autry National Center, and the HOLLYWOOD sign, the Lost Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is more of a run-down tourist attraction than a wildlife conservation facility.

Funded by fickle city budgets, the zoo resembles nothing more than a tired state fair. Garbage cans along its bleached concrete promenade spill over. It is not uncommon to catch the stench of heaped dung wafting from cages where ragged animals lie blank-eyed, fly-speckled, …

Breaking-down "Zoo" by James Patterson, The Premise

"Zoo" by James Patterson is a bestselling book series, a graphic novel, and a successful television series. I would like to know more about why. Let's look at the premise of the story.

The descriptions on Amazon and on James Patterson's website are basically the same, so let's use the ones from Amazon. First, the book.
Once in a lifetime, a writer puts it all together. This is James Patterson's best book ever.

For 36 years, James Patterson has written unputdownable, pulse-racing novels. Now, he has written a book that surpasses all of them. ZOO is the thriller he was born to write.

All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa, the enormity of the violence to come becomes terrifyingly clear.

With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz …

Donate to Jeff's Work