So someone took a book from me…

So someone took a book from me. This wasn’t like the time I fell asleep on the bus and someone swiped my copy of “Hitchhiker’s Guide”, oh no. This was much, much worse.

Every once in a while, I Google the titles of my stories, just to see if anyone is talking about my work. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t.) I was doing this the other day, and I decided to search for the name of a creepy poem I wrote, “Holding Back The Dark”. I found out someone had plagiarized it.

Now, people have plagiarized my work before. I’ve even had students in writing classes ask me if they submit my stories for their homework assignments. (No, you can’t.) If the plagiarist is posting to a site they don’t own, like a Tumblr, it’s usually pretty easy to get my work removed. But this guy went a bit farther than just signing his name to something I wrote. He took a whole stack of my stories, put them together in a novel-length book, and started selling it.

This book was on Amazon. It was on Smashwords. Like herpes at Burning Man, it was all over the place. I started sending out emails asking for it to be taken down, with links to the original on my site. I don’t date the posts on my website, mostly because that would make it obvious how lazy I am about posting updates, but there are comments on “Holding Back The Dark” and other stories with dates more than a year earlier than the stolen book was published. Read more…

The wikiHow Game

Mystery writing tips

Mystery writing tips

I spent my spare time in college writing a mystery novel called “They Ate the Waitress?” Before that, I had only ever written science fiction, horror, and weird things like that. Fantasy or science fiction stories can be almost anything you like. However, as I discovered, detective story readers have certain expectations about what makes a good mystery. Deviate from them too much, and your readers may give up before your detective even finds the first clue. Whether want to write a straight whodunit or a mixed genre mystery, here are some ideas that might help you get started… Read more…

1,001 Story Ideas – Science Fiction, Horror, And Fantasy Story Starters You Can Use!

Science Fiction Story Ideas – Part 3: Strange Changes

Science Fiction Story Ideas

Physical Changes

Body Swapping

  • A scientist drags his aging, abusive wife into his lab and turns her into his ex, his highschool sweetheart
  • The world’s newest billionaire is the CEO of Rent-a-Body, a service that allows people to become someone else for a day.
  • The latest diet craze involves kidnapping skinny people and switching your brain with theirs.
  • A talented, female surgeon is assigned her first sex reassignment surgery. She botches the operation and is sued. The judge declares that, as she cost her patient his chance at a female body, she will have to sacrifice her own to him.
  • Read more…

Staying Excited Seven ways to keep up your enthusiasm for writing

Staying Excited

Seven ways to keep up your enthusiasm for writing


hen you’re working on a longer story or a novel, one of the hardest things you’ll face is just keeping up your enthusiasm. Writing can be hard work, sure, but it’s important to make sure you’re having fun. Remember: if you’re bored, so are your readers.

So what do you do?

1. Be lazy

You can use laziness to your advantage.

First, make a to-do list. The list should be realistic, with projects you can see yourself actually doing. The list should be more complicated and more time consuming than your writing project.

Next, sit down to write. Tell yourself, “As long as I’m writing, I don’t have to clean house / work out / mow the lawn / empty the cat box.”

Remember, as long as you’re writing, you’re not working. You’re avoiding work! Any amount of work seems easy when it’s not the work that you’re supposed to be doing at the time.

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Science Fiction Dialog

Science Fiction Dialog

Some ideas, tips, and suggestions about genre dialog


enre literature can create some special challenges for writers. For those interested in writing science fiction stories, here are some tips for writing great sci-fi dialog.


First, you should almost never have dialog between two robots. Why? If you have a group of robot soldiers or security guards, they would not talk to each other out loud. Just like real soldiers and security guards, they would need to be able to communicate at a distance. They would communicate silently via radio waves, Wi-Fi, or other ways. If a group of robots can do that, there would be no need to use a speech synthesizer.

How do you show that two robots are communicating without words? The same way you might discuss a remote control “talking” to a television. Avoid the temptation to anthropomorphize robots, and just use general description.

However, a robot might speak out loud to another robot if they had vastly different programming, incompatible wireless hardware, and so on. Spoken words would be a kind of “international language” for robots, like their own Esperanto.

When your robots are speaking out loud, your first concern should be this: what is the robot’s function? While it would be an advantage for any machine to be able to learn, most robots would be on the level of “smart appliances.” Only a few specific functions would warrant highly advanced, human-like intelligence.
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Writing realistic aliens

Writing realistic aliens


ne issue many, if not most, science fiction writers will face is creating convincing aliens. Just slapping on pointy ears or a wrinkly forehead isn’t good enough. How do you make an alien creature seem believable?

Biology and Environment

Biology and environment are intimately connected. Your alien’s body should be specifically adapted for its home world. What specific challenges would the environment pose to developing life? What type of life would evolve in an alien world?

Your first task is to determine which is more important to your story: the alien or the environment? If you have a specific alien in mind, then use the alien’s biological makeup to determine what sort of environment would have produced it. If your story is mainly about the environment, then use the environment to establish what kinds of life would be likely to evolve there.

But how do you do that? Say I’m writing a story about an asteroid heading for earth, and the astronauts who are sent to space to destroy it with an atomic bomb. I’ve already researched asteroids and written half the story, but now I decide I want the astronauts to find intelligent life. Finding intelligent life on the asteroid would make them reconsider destroying it, and make the story much more interesting.

Since I can’t change the asteroid to something else, I have to work from the environment to determine what kind of life the astronauts might find. I have to work from the environment to determine what kind of life the astronauts might find. An asteroid would pose numerous problems for an organism to overcome. For example, there is no atmosphere, and no sun to provide heat. What if the aliens lived underground? That might provide some protection from radiation. There could also be frozen water underground which would help them survive. Since the aliens live underground, they would be blind, relying instead on their sense of touch to get around. But what about heat? Perhaps this asteroid passes by several stars in its lightyears-long orbit. When the asteroid is close enough to a star, the aliens are active, but the rest of the time they go into a long hibernation period.

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Naming a Genre

Naming a Genre

How “Science Fiction” Got Its Name


f you were going to write a story about time travel or teleportation or a new invention, how would you describe it to your friends? Science fiction? Sci-fi? Speculative Fiction? Geek Fantasy?

Names influence us deeply. Very often, a writer will use a character’s name to hint at how we should feel about that character. In Barn Burning, William Faulkner introduces us to a violent, horse-stealing arsonist named Abner Snopes. It’s an awkward name that doesn’t roll off the tongue very well, a very unlikable name for an awfully unpleasant character.

Harlan Ellison wrote a marvelous story called Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman. The title paints vivid images in the minds of the readers. From just the names of these two characters, we know that this is going to be a battle between an uptight, rule-bound antagonist and an untamed, freedom-loving hero.

If the names of characters are so important, so much so the name of the genre! Where did the names originate?

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Dialog tips and tricks

Dialog Tips & Tricks


‘ve got a present for you,” he said, drawing his gun.

A big part about communication is nonverbal. Action can add layers of meaning to your character’s words, and even completely change the meaning. Describing gestures, facial expression and posture can show the relationship between two characters, indicate irony or sarcasm, and add subtle nuances of meaning to otherwise drab dialog.

If your characters don’t really mean what they’re saying, you can show us through a visual.

David handed Rick a photo of his new girlfriend. Rick’s face puckered like he was sucking on a lemon. “Oh, she’s really sexy!” he said.

Action can also show us the relationship between characters. For example: Rachel’s mother dies, and two people try to comfort her. The first puts his arm around her, and the second mumbles and stares at the floor. Why? The first character is her brother, and the second is a friend, embarrassed at seeing her in the shower the previous day.

“My dialog is terrible,” he grumbled ungraciously.

Said, said, said, said, said! When you write a long story, eventually you get sick of writing “said.” If you hate the word so much, your readers must hate it, too. Right? When you write a long story, you type “said” dozens, even hundreds of times. If you’re like me, after a while you just get sick of writing the word. If you hate the word so much, your readers must hate it, too. Right? Not necessarily. Most people barely notice it. To your reader, it’s almost like punctuation.

Alternatives to “said” are fine, within limits. At most, you should use three to a page. Any more than that, and they can become distracting. The more creative your alternatives, the more distracting they can become. Words like “yelled,” “whispered,” and “called” can be used much more often than “groused,” “breathed,” or “chanted.”

The same thing goes for dialog describers, those words that tell you how a line was delivered. “Softly,” “sadly,” “shyly,” and so on. Used sparingly, they can be a great addition to your dialog. But too much, and they become a crutch. You shouldn’t rely on dialog describers to carry a scene. You’re not writing a play. You want your readers to be able to see the scene, not just hear it. I’ll show you what I mean.

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