Inside the mind of author Michael Marano

Hey, Everyone! Just posting  for my students the topics I’ll be covering and the possible readings I’ll be assigning in my upcoming Grub Street class “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” The first class session will be on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston. The class will run at that time for ten weeks, with the final class taking place on Nov. 16, 2016. 

(If this seems like a lot of readings, keep in mind the lists below are tentative. I’m not going to assign them all!)

Grub Street is a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area. For more information on Grub Street, click here.

1. Creating Strong Imagery

How do you create effective imagery? How do you make imagery that’s…

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I’m really quite bummed by the death of Wes Craven. As a kid of the 1970s and 1980s, the artistry with which he articulated the darkness that was thrashing around in the American subconscious gave me a lot of catharsis. I had the pleasure of interviewing him by phone back in 2010. He was erudite, literate, and intellectually deft. One of these days, I should transcribe the whole conversation.  But for now, on the occasion of his death, I’ll share the bits that were published.

Wes Craven



Michael Marano

(c) 2010, by Michael Marano

First appeared in the December, 2010 issue of SciFi Magazine.

I was sitting down the road from the marsh where Wes Craven filmed Swamp Thing back in ’82 when Craven took time out from filming Scream 4 to phone about his upcoming movie, My Soul To Take.

“I very jokingly can refer to it as Stand by Me with knives,” says the man who picked apart the American Id when he brought us Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. His voice is cultured and smooth as a really good whiskey, the kind of voice that’d be perfect for a late-night Jazz DJ in a rainy city like Seattle or San Francisco. “It’s about a group young kids, 16-year-olds on their sixteenth birthday. And were all born on the same night in the local town hospital… on the night that a serial killer who had seven personalities died. Or at least, seems to have died….”

“The legend in the town is that this man [is still alive and] is going to come back to take his revenge on the town. But also it is suspected that he did die, and that his [murderous] soul went into one of these kids, and that the rest of the kids have his other souls. All of this man’s souls were rather benign except for the one that was a killer, and that [soul] was operating without this man’s knowledge. So, it’s a matter of, ‘Should we watch out for the friend we have? Or should we be watching out for the killer who is coming to take his revenge on the kids?'”

In this light, My Soul to Take almost sounds like a perfect storm of Wes Craven themes. If you look at a lot of Craven’s movies, they seem to deal with atonement, even if the people doing the atoning aren’t responsible for the initial trespass that’s being atoned for. The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Deadly Blessing, the Scream series–all involve some dark wrong committed that fairly blameless people (who often weren’t even born when the wrong was committed) have to pay for. And they pay for them real bad. I asked him about that.

“Certainly it’s one of the most profound aspects of life itself, when you realize you don’t just have to deal with your own stuff, and what you have caused, but what other people have caused in the past and sometimes in the quite recent past, and in the case of families, maybe even you parents. That’s just always interested me.”

“This film to me, frankly, feels quite personal. My father died when I was about four, so I do have some memories of him and some of them are kinds of scary. Not that he ever beat me, or anything. But I think he was a very gruff man with a bad temper. That kind of journey of trying to find out who your father really was and whether he loved you or didn’t like you–what were the aspects of his life?–it’s a very personal one. And also, you know, I was raised in the Fundamentalist faith, or let’s say even more specifically with the Bible. And ‘The Sins of the Fathers are visited upon their sons.’ That is a profound reality in our lives.”

In the context of family dynamics, what Craven is talking about smacks a lot of the same chords as Greek tragedy–how the immediacy of something that happened in your family can rise up and wreck your life. Check out Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes if you want some familial knee-slappers. Craven has thrown-down with a lot of these themes, too. These family dynamics bubble under Last House, Hills Have Eyes, Elm Street, Cursed, People Under the Stairs and all three Scream movies.

“Horror films, in my mind at least, are kind of human experience boiled down to the essence and sometimes to a very primal physical threat to the physicality of the body, or the mind or the soul, to the extent that we can understand what that is,” Craven said when I brought this up. “These are very, very primal sorts of things. And the family is a great paradigm of that. It’s not necessarily that everything is the world is about the family, but in a sense, it’s a boiling down of the Family of Man….. To take it down to the simplest paradigm, it quite often is the family, or the ‘tribe.’ Some horror films are about the group of friends who go out to do this or that, or some member of the tribe gets killed, or whatever. But it is about these very simple entities that have to do with the world we live in, outside of our own bodies, and how that affects us, and what those people either have done in the past or what the immediate generation just before them has done. A lot of horror films start out with: ‘On this night, one hundred years ago, these sailors died because someone took the lanterns off the rocks!‘ and then you end up with The Fog. I just think that for teenagers, especially, part of the coming into maturity is finding out who your parents really are, and what they did, and how that affects you. And even wrestling with the question of ‘Am I ever going to be distinctly different from my parents?’, or, ‘Am I going to be haunted by realizing Oh my God, I’ve become my father?’ is something that can happen to you in your ’30s or 40s.”

In this context, the antagonist in My Soul to Take seems to combine a couple of elements that have been staples of horror and slasher films of the past few decades: the earthly killer and the supernatural bogeyman. In the early days of the slasher genre as we know it, the killers had no direct connection to the supernatural. They had a level of power and blankness that seemed otherworldly, just look at early Argento movies. Then Jason became an undead super-being. Michael Meyers became a Druidic spirit being. Then we got Freddy, Chuckie from Child’s Play, the Trickster from Brainscan, Horace Pinker from Craven’s own Shocker. Where does the killer in My Soul to Take fall along this spectrum?

“I would spoil the story if I told you,” Craven said. “But the possibilities are that this is a man who has died and come back in one of the souls of the children, or this is a man who did not die and who is coming back to take his revenge, or this is a man who has died and who has come back in his own form, that has kind of been haunting the woods. All three of those are the given options over the course of trying to penetrate the mystery of what really is happening.”

Craven has directed in wildly different contexts. He’s done episodic TV for the 1980s incarnation of Twilight Zone. He’s done studio movies like Music from the Heart and Red Eye. One of the reasons he wrote and made The Hills Have Eyes was that it could be filmed on the cheap in the desert, where no permits would be needed. The climactic chainsaw fight in Last House was shot in a house that associate producer Steve Miner was renting.

“Even the budgets for Music from the Heart and Red Eye were modest budgets. I think over the course of making a lot of small films and learning how to make them seem bigger budgeted than they actually were, we’ve been able to mount films that have managed to get a lot of bang for the buck. My Soul to Take I would say is kind of in the middle. It wasn’t a miniscule budget. It wasn’t a big budget. But we were dealing with mostly unknown kids–there weren’t any gigantic fees on that. We shot in Connecticut, so we got a big tax break. The same guy was writing producing and directing, and his wife was also producing [Craven’s wife Iya Labunka], so we kept our costs down. I think the unusual thing about this film is that it falls into the films I’ve made that were written and directed by me where I’ve had final cut. Which were most of my classic films, possibly with the exception of Scream, written by Kevin Williamson and which also had terrific writing, and Carl Ellsworth’s work on Red Eye–[both] were scripts that were in terrific shape and had great ideas and I was able to just step in as director.”

“But My Soul to Take is very much of a personal film. I was given the auteur’s version of making a film, so I was allowed to do what I wanted, with great support. And although we didn’t have an unlimited number of days to shoot, we were able to put a film up that was designed to be modestly budgeted, but has a terrific look. I don’t think anyone is going to look at it and think that this is guerilla filmmaking. But on the other hand, anybody who knows about film would see that we designed it in a way that would be fairly economical to shoot.”

Hey… I’m posting this because I’ve been getting emails about the specifics of my upcoming “Writing the Smart Page-Turner” class at Grub Street in Boston this January, which will be taught at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston Thursdays, from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM starting on January 14, 2016. The gist of the class is–how do you make genre fiction… be it fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, Western, erotica, whatever… literary? Yep, I toss around ideas about what makes certain works both popular and literary. But the class is specifically designed to be useful for the actual writing of novels and short stories. The instruction is practical, not theoretical.

“If only every teacher had the passion of Mike. He brings his rich background of book and film knowledge–and experience–and uses them to create classes that are a joy to attend. His comments on your writing are thoughtful, sincere, and designed to make you strengthen your writing muscles–no matter how developed or atrophied they may be.” John D., former student

The class will consist of detailed workshopping, brainstorming, in-class exercises, and the reading of some pretty great fiction, screenplays, stage plays, and comic books/graphic novels. Here’s a breakdown of the class and a few of the things we’ll be reading.

Week 1. What Makes Fiction Popular? OK, what makes something a “Smart Page-Turner”? To warm up, we’ll be picking apart a few of those elements, tricks and techniques that give genre works literary heft. There are three factors that are key to this, and we’ll not just talk about each factor, but look at how they work together. Readings will include Ray Bradbury and a few others.

Week 2. Creating Characters–“Archaeology Without Digging” In this class we’re going to be pinching techniques from top Hollywood screenwriters, acting coaches, journalists and… believe it or not… archaeologists. Creating good, memorable, believable characters can be a daunting challenge, and ruthlessly stealing from other disciplines can give you an awesome toolkit for doing this. Readings will include (non-scary) parts of Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, who, it should be noted, was a top crime reporter before he became a crime fiction writer. We’ll take a close look at how he uses his reporter’s eye to create amazing characters.

Week 3. World Building and Setting In genre fiction, “World Building” is often thought of in terms of how it applies to the creation of imaginary worlds, like Dune or Middle-earth. But the same techniques that are used to create imaginary settings can also be used to create believable, visceral settings for mysteries, espionage stories, cop stories, and vice versa. Building on last week’s lesson, we’ll take a look at how character defines setting, and setting defines character. Readings will include Philip K. Dick, part of a Philip Marlowe story by Raymond Chandler, and Tom Perrotta. We’ll also be looking at some awesome comic books, written by bestselling thriller author Brad Meltzer!


Week 4. Exposition “As you know Bob–my twin brother and fellow operative with whom I grew up in Kansas–our briefing report from HQ summarizes that it is our objective to….” Ever roll your eyes at an expositional groaner like that? How do you get across the background information the reader needs to know without making a botch of it? We’ll go over some elegant techniques that get that information to the reader in ways that the reader at times won’t even notice. Readings will include Andre DubusJohn Cheever, and we’ll take a look at how James Cameron pulls this off in his better screenplays from the 1980s.

Week 5. Dialogue Bad dialogue can kill a great story. We’ll take a look at the work of people who can skillfully tell stories using almost only dialogue, like playwrights and the authors of radio dramas. We’ll see how playwriting techniques can be used in prose form, and also look closely at the work of playwrights who also write for the screen. Authors read will include Norman WexlerMidnight Cowboy author James Leo Herlihy, and Sarah Kane.

Joe Cover

Week 6. Point of View We’ll take a look at how POV actually defines plot, how it determines the narrative arc of a story, and can be used to create suspense. We’ll build on previous lessons to find ways to get deep into a character’s head, and to use that perspective to figure out not just what makes that character tick, but how he or she ticks in his or her world. Among other sources, we’ll be looking at a pretty great comic book written by Ed Brubaker that features Batman… in a context you’ve never seen him in before!


Week 7. Plot What is plot? How is what is not told to the reader just as important in the creation of a plot as what is told? Is the narrative climax of a work of fiction the same as its emotional climax? In addition to raking over these questions, we’ll go over some great “hands on” techniques for creating new plots and getting your creative pistons firing. Readings will include Annie Proux.

Week 8. Theme Theme isn’t a one-way street. This session will focus on the ways that the reader contributes to an understanding of Theme right along with the author. We’ll talk about the themes in your fiction, how to develop them and make them dynamic. Readings will include Jack Ketchum and either Rosellen Brown or Tom Reamy.

Week 9. Meeting Weird Editorial Requirements Writers have to meet deadlines and deal with certain themes or topics when solicited, and some themes are just weird, or bewildering, or whacked. We’ll dig in and take a look at real themed anthology guidelines and find ways to cook stories suited for those markets. We’ll also find ways to create stories suited for several specialized markets, and take a look at how specific works have been developed for and sold to specialized anthologies. Readings will include William Faulkner and a few others.

Week 10. How to Work with Editors, Cover Letters, Submitting your Work So… what’s an editor do? What do they look for? The course will close with an examination of fiction that I have myself taken through the editorial process with other writers in my capacity as the Fiction Editor of the online magazine Chiaroscuro. We’ll also go over ways to submit professionally, and ways to strategize to whom you should send your work and how you should pitch it.

For more information on the class and to sign up, you can click here.

You can contact me directly at profmike AT mindspring DOT com

Thanks stopping by! Hope to see you in January!

Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers.  Well, for want of a better term, we’ll be using ideas from theater and drama critics and directors to “reverse engineer” scenes like this one below from the brilliant cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS, so that the same techniques can be used for your prose fiction, or even memoir. Think of it as a computer hack, only we’ll  be dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This specific bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning? How do you write about “slice of life” situations and create compelling storytelling, and not just diary entries with names changed?



That’s a pretty amazing scene, right? Full of a whole spectrum of emotions. It feels over-the-top, but it also feels real. When we’ll be looking at this TV script, we’ll be looking at the ways in which writer Michael White managed to concentrate Real Life into a brilliant fictional scene, and brainstorming ways to do the same things for your prose storytelling.


For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here.

 E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information.


Hope the New Year is treating you all well!





Hey, Everybody!

Thought I’d give a specific hint of the kinds of things things I’ll be covering my upcoming Grub Street Class,  Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015.

Check out the really incredible scene below (which we’ll be dissecting in detail about halfway through the course), from Robert Redford’s adaptation of Judith Guest’s really amazing novel Ordinary People. The script was by the great Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent.  The scene below is not in Guest’s novel, but it has become iconic in that it so beautifully and intensely concentrates the emotional tensions that backbone both the novel and the film. Check it out:



What we’re gonna look at in Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers are the ways that you can, and at times maybe should, look upon revisions of your first drafts not as polishings, per se, but as adaptations, much in the same vein as screenwriters adapting novels to screenplays. We’ll “reverse engineer” the ways in which Sargent created the above scene (by taking a look at similar scenes he’s written in other adaptations of novels, like The Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War) and inserted it into Guest’s existing narrative. And we’ll figure out ways you can use the same techniques of adaptation that screenwriters use to the revision of your own work.

If you have any questions, post them below and I’ll answer them ASAP.


To enroll, click here:  .

Hope to see you guys in class!

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing in terms of theme, character, dialogue, and plot is being done by playwrights, screenwriters, and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include ways to rewrite real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama, how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead, how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene, and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays, and scripts as well as some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.  

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis’ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here:  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.



Slummin’ in Somerville–Comedy
Wednesday, 9:30 AM CBS
“The Whirlwind Wednesday”

Wackiness ensues when Mike, kind of behind on the new novel he has under contract and trying to get back into condition for circus training after an injury, has to deal with Jim, his kooky new neighbor (Paul Sand), an aspiring songwriter who belts out love songs every night dedicated to his girlfriend Gladys… whom he’s only “met” over the phone after she dialed Jim’s phone as a wrong number! Tony Randall guest stars as Jim’s agent, and Doris Day has a cameo as the voice of Gladys.

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN' IN SOMERVILLE

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN’ IN SOMERVILLE

*Sigh* I mostly write horror and dark fantasy. I want to write science fiction. But I can never _anticipate_ the future as a thing of absurdity or satire or terror. Each time I think of some future scenario, it’s overtaken by real life. A million years ago, I tried writing a political science fiction novel that just *became true* before I got far into it because of the candidacy of Ross Perot.  I tried writing about a near-future Great Lakes reality that just *became true* as Detroit imploded.

As a Science Fiction reader and writer, I can’t make up anything as insane as the Japanese Orgasm Game Show Challenge. And yet, it has happened.

I’ve been stuck in the writing of a dystopian SF novel for a while. I threw in a situation like the one below as an idea to sort of play with and explore as something going on in the background of the main action. I could never have come up with the really brilliant added touch of this craziness going on while the person was a.) fully clothed in a steam bath b.) in Alaska and c.) in January.

Here’s the explanation from Uproxx:

“Meet Kathleen Tonn, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Alaska currently held by Democrat Mark Begich. Here she is in a video she uploaded to her Facebook page, one that features her speaking in tongues fully-clothed in a steam room, naturally. She apparently did this to try to convert a non-believer into accepting Jesus Christ as her lord and savior.”


Really… how could even Alfred Bester, Robert Sheckley, Alice Sheldon or William Gibson have topped this true event through any imaginative act of extrapolation?

The totally gorgeous new cover for DAWN SONG by Erik Mohr

The totally gorgeous new cover for DAWN SONG by Erik Mohr

Hi, Everybody!

Above, please take a look at the stunning new cover by Erik Mohr for ChiZine Publications’ reprint of my first novel DAWN SONG. I think it’s an absolutely stunning piece of work, and when Brett Savory e-mailed me the cover, I was in a coffee shop in Cambridge, MA, where I kinda embarrassingly expressed my delight almost the same way Jan Brady would, upon receiving a signed 8 X 10 glossy in the mail from her favorite Monkee.

The reprint of DAWN SONG will be coming as a Trade Paperback and an ebook in June 2014; the ChiZine edition will be loaded with a few extra goodies that have not been in any other previous edition of the book. It will be followed by a sequel in 2015 and another sequel in 2016, the titles of which aren’t really finalized yet, though I can assure you that DAWN SONG: BREAKING DAWN has been considered and soundly rejected.

For those of you who don’t know, DAWN SONG was first published in 1998, and went on to garner the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. According to some metrics, it’s still among one of the 100 most critically lauded genre publications, at # 72. (Hey, man… I’m right between Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and Fredrick Pohl’s Man Plus on that list. That’s pretty goddam good company to be rubbing shoulders with!)

DAWN SONG is set during the first Gulf War build up of 1990, and is part of a mythology I’ve been developing in fiction based on the notion of a War in Hell… in which the struggles of various factions of demons in Hell for supremacy at once create, and are created by, the psychic shockwaves of conflicts on Earth. The book centers on the quest of Lawrence, a young gay bookstore clerk who’s come to Boston to create a new life for himself, and a Succubus who has also come to Boston to further the agenda of her demonic Patron in the War in Hell. I’ll be posting here about DAWN SONG some more in the future. But for now, let me sign off with a very generous quote from a writer who really helped me a lot in the development of my approach to this kind of material. Thanks so much for stopping by!

“‘The falling snow, dropping from the darkened sky, reminded her of the steady rain of souls upon the plains of her homeland. Although, unlike the souls, the snow did not scream.’ When I read those lines (from Michael Marano’s Dawn Song), I got up, turned on all the lights and checked the locks.”

“The author’s talent is unquestionable, his sensitivity and power of expression quite impressive. How rare to find a work of this genre written in so literate a style. It put me in mind of Anne Rice.”

–William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist and Legion

Hey, Everyone!!

Just wanted to let you all know about my NEW class at Grub Street, “How to not STINK! A Look at Bad Storytelling and What Writers Should Do and Not Do”

It will meet for 6 Wednesdays from 10:30am-1:30pm at Grub Street headquarters, (162 Boylston Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02116) starting on April 3rd.

Here’s the official Grub Street Description from their website:

The most important thing a writer can do to become a good writer is to avoid being a bad writer. In this multi-week, multi-media class taught by an award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated film critic, students will autopsy a string of really bad examples of storytelling so we can all figure out why they’re bad and how not to be bad ourselves in the same ways. Strategies will be developed in class to make rotten books and films no longer rotten, or at the very least a little less rotten, so that students will develop a toolkit for writing fiction and other narratives that are … y’know … actually good. Students must be prepared to read some really bad fiction and watch some really bad movies. Class time will also be spent on in-class exercises fixing bad narratives, and on the development of a practical toolkit for actual good prose writing that will address issues such as world-building, character development, the right ways to apply background research to a story, and the application of sound logic to plotting. There will be workshopping of students’ fiction, emphasizing the application of good storytelling techniques from the toolkit we’ll be developing. For students with prior workshop experience.

Here are some of the topics we’ll tentatively cover:

*How to avoid clichéd characters.

*The importance of clear character motivation.

*How to structure plots that are logical.

*How to create conflict that’s meaningful, and not just an excuse to get your plot rolling.

*How to avoid bad imagery and mood.

*How to avoid terrible exposition.

*How to not cheat your readers with bad endings and resolutions.

*Does your protagonist really BELONG in your story?

*How to not use product placements in the place of real world building.

*How to not let your really awesome and fun research get in the way of your storytelling.

To sign up, click here:

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below!