Hitting That Tablet Sweet Spot: The Atavist

The idea is a such a simple one that it’s no wonder that everyone who has tried it before has made a hash of it: create a ideal format for mid-length storytelling that recalls the better long form magazine journalism while making use of the possibilities of the multimedia age. Much like it took over a decade for people who actually TALK on their cellphones in public to be treated like the social lepers that they are, with the tablet and mid-length writing (more than an article, less than a book) the technology has preceded its appropriate patterns of usage. Enter The Atavist. 15,000 words, give or take. $2 a pop. The writer gets paid a flat fee plus a percentage (likely less than Apple’s 30% cut… ouch!) Stories launch simultaneously for the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook, and soon, Android tablets (“We are working very hard on it, we promise…” […]

Serendipity Generates Your Fantasies

“The hale enchantress poses ‘pon husky columns, her placid covering violet of tincture… crimson oculars flashing with innocence and auditories pricked atop her powerful physique.” You think I could have written that?  Ha, fat chance.  No poet of magic-dealing furry slash fiction am I.  In fact, I don’t even know what that last sentence means. Posing dashingly on the ruined sludge fields of the internet, Serendipity’s text generators kick holes in your writer’s block with multiple genres of automatic gibberish.  Need a fantasy story plot?  How about: “In this story, witches and merfolk clash with a retired elf stuck in the middle.”  Bam! It’s the next Harry Potter I tell ya. Or say you find yourself working a dead-end job as M. Night Shamalon’s assistant and he wants three plot twists by 5 pm.  No problem: At this juncture a hungover police officer arrives and serves dinner. Suddenly a mysterious boy […]

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Interview with Brendan Koerner, Microkhan

Brendan Koerner writes the delightfully eclectic blog Microkhan, covering the latest developments in imaginary comic books, excessive ceremonies and the great sport of kabaddi. This outlet stays updated daily, somehow worked around his writing for Wired, Mother Jones and elsewhere. Among other hats he wears, he’s been Slate’s Explainer and is currently Wired’s Mr. Know-It-All. He wrote a gripping, painstakingly researched book about the World War II-era manhunt for Herman Perry in the jungles of South Asia, not to mention the script for its film adaptation. So why blog? “95% of my ideas suck,” he tells me. “The blog is for trolling through idea after idea, trying to find something that connects.” Ideas include the economics of collecting snake venom, the lesser known Choctaw code talkers and the unconventional recruitment techniques of the North Korean film industry. Sure, a little obscure but with a blog “there’s no penalty for doing […]

The Write Channel

Giant leaf fell on a boy. Mayor ate too much and got sick. Kid bites dog. Grammar gets mangled. The Write Channel chronicled the not-so-gonzo journalism career of insect reporter R.B. Bug, spitting out the facts on a 70s local newscast under the watchful eye of editor/anchor Red Green.  No, not that Red Green. R.B. covered surreal events around town in a basic, straight-laced manner, suitable for illiterates and the E.S.L. classroom.  That’d be where I encountered this fine bit of educational programming.  Though I was already sawing my way through Isaac Asimov, in 4th grade they sat our narrow asses down in rows to watch our weekly installment of a stop-motion bug talking with all the speed and juicy detail of a Midwesterner with a concussion. (Yeah I went there, Minneapolis.) Still, credit is due for the end bit (the ominously named The Club) that goads viewers to fiction, […]

For Writers/Obsessives: Names and Weather

In the realm of fiction, the concept of ‘plausibility’ is a tricky little bastard.  Unless you’re writing about dimensionless plasma dragons beyond all mortal physics and continuity, it’s going to be a sticky wicket to lie just right so that your reader swallows it while still being swept away in the unique fantasy world you’ve crafted. Even real life often comes off unlikely on the page.  Who among us young, shiftless, creative types has not tried to shoehorn into a plot some personally lived-through story that began with neutral spirits and come away muttering “Naw…. bullshit”? As I said, a sticky wicket.  I’ll say it again if pressed. Point being, it’s important to give some air of real life to your stories by recreating the milieu they take place in.  Character and setting greatly factor into this.  A couple of resources for this I came across tonight: Weather History: The […]