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Were you ever taught not to talk about yourself? I sure was. To the point that it’s hard to do even when it’s ‘appropriate’, even necessary. Like when promoting my books, or in a job interview. Who me? Oh, I’m uh...not very interesting, really...

End Game isn’t a debut novel. I’ve been writing fiction since I was 7. I still have that storybook, in fact, from second grade. So I wrote, and loved to write. Even published a bit. I have no idea how much nonfiction I’ve written over the years – hundreds of thousands of pages of technical stuff. But in my private opinion, my fiction plots were never quite good enough.

Then maybe 12 years ago, my son and his best friend turned me on to fanfiction.net. Here was finally a platform where I could work on my plotting and get feedback. No need to create a world and characters and interest the reader in my creation, because I was writing in someone else’s universe, and the fans already liked that universe. Perfect! Besides, as a fan myself, there were stories I loved that were left hanging and screamed out for resolution in my mind. It was fun. Over the years I wrote 560,000 words there, about half in novel length.

If you’re a fan of Legal Drug or Kyoh Kara Maou, email me for my fanfiction.net author name. If you’re not, or don’t know what I’m talking about, you wouldn’t like those stories.

And what I learned was (a) Yes, I can finish writing a book! In fact, it’s annoying to not finish writing a book. And (b) My stories were never about the plot. They’re about the world-building, and the characters. The plot is just a vehicle to keep the story from rambling too much, and dictates when the story is over. For instance in End Game, the plot is simple. Girl chooses boy. So when girl finishes choosing boy, the book is over and it’s time to wrap up. Project Reunion has an even simpler quest plot. Save New York. In both cases, in no possible sense is the book about the plot.

End Game is about facing climate change positively. Project Reunion takes that up a notch, transcending self interest to align with a greater cause. The third book is half-written at this point, and takes on other fracture lines in the American psyche. But deep down they’re all about people, growing. Because I like character-driven stories. And I hope you do, too.

  • Mar 20 2016