Larry Hama's Tips for Writing Filecards

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Hmmm, guidelines for file cards?

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Two paragraphs.

One paragraph should tell what the character does, AND why he is so good at it.

The other paragraph is personal details about his character. Interesting quirks. But remember, that to most people a collection of quirks is what makes you move to a different seat on the bus.

The main thing is not to get involved in physical details or facets of personality that do nothing to illuminate the human qualities. Why is the character loyal, brave, a stand-up guy, etc.

Get all the information down first, and then start whittling away at it.

Inference is better than overt statement.

I like Stephen King's advice: "The adverb is NOT your friend."

Print out each paragraph in 9 point Times U&L, and hold the paper at arms length with your right hand. Also at arm's length, bring your left thumb over the paper. If your thumb does not completely cover the paragraph, you've written too much.

Read "The History of Warfare" by John Keegan, "We Were Soldiers Once, And Young" by Harold Moore, "Henry V" by William Shakespeare, "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara, and "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy.

Never say that a character is "brave" or "heroic" or "patriotic." These are words that soldiers shun as being unseemly.

That's it. That's all I know about writing file cards.

Larry Hama - July 13, 2007

A major debt of gratitude goes out not only to Mr. Hama for dropping the knowledge, but for Cabana Jack for translating my fanboy babbling. - pluv

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