Category Archives: Technique and Craft

Writing the Group Novel


People are always asking, was it difficult to write a group novel? This is usually after some discussion about my involvement in The Rogues Gallery Writers’ first group novel titled, The Method Writers.

In short, the answer is no. Absolutely not. Method came together fast and brilliantly, and I’ve never had more fun working on a writing project of any kind.

So does that mean that any group of writers will find writing the group novel to be an easy venture?

Again, the answer is no.

I know, you’re probably thinking: what are you saying, Jeff—that tackling a challenging writing project like this is easy for the Rogues, but difficult for everyone else.

Perhaps I should qualify my previous answer: No, unless you have the perfect blend of writers. If you do, the group novel can be just as easy for you as it was for the Rogues.

Part of what makes the Rogues work as a group in the first place, is that we have great chemistry. All of us are like-minded, we have similar senses of humor, and more importantly, similar passions, dreams and goals. We all have quite the knack for creative writing and we like to think outside the box.

It doesn’t mean we all like to write the same type of prose. Quite the opposite, actually. We have a wide mix of writing interests, all the way from various genres of fiction and non-fiction all the way to poetry and screenplays.

This unique blend of writing interests and styles was a key to making The Method Writers‘ voice unique. The four of us each creating and writing about a first person character in our own distinct flavor of creative writing gave our novel plenty of variety, while creating balance and unity at the same time.

For us, creating this novel was easy, because being the like-minded individuals we are, we brainstormed the idea until we had a concept that we all loved, then we developed our unique characters, and then storyboarded out our individual and group plots. Once we had that thrown together during the early months of our project, the writing of the novel became easy.

Since a friendly competition of trying out do each other’s prior chapters bloomed naturally, we couldn’t wait to get back to our computers and try to bump up the quality and tension another notch for each succeeding chapter.

Can a successful group novel be written by other writing groups? Of course!

Will it be easy? Will it be a good read? Well, obviously that depends on the make of the group.

And I’m very thankful that my group is: The Rogues Gallery Writers!!

There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Character …

Or develop one, that is.

In a very recent post, fellow Rogue, Bridget Callaghan, discussed how she created her highly adored character: Georgie Mae Perez. She offers two ways that characters can be generated, by flat-out copying a real-life person (or fictional person) or creating an amalgamation of several, by borrowing traits and characteristics from multiple people or characters.

Although, I’ve created more than my share of amalgamations in my writing days, I want to discuss a third technique: situational character development. I don’t know if it’s an actual writing “technique” or not, but it’s something I began to do out of necessity for some of my works. Being that I like to write literary fiction that’s highly influenced by environments and social issues, sometimes I come up with an issue or situation I want, or need, to write about, and then let the environment birth my character. The challenges of this environment will help me to determine the personality and character traits my protagonist will need to share my message.  

David Haas, exploring his dark side

David Haas, exploring his dark side

This is basically the technique I used to create The Method Writers’ David Haas. I knew the path, or “method,” that I wanted my character to travel. But how would I get him there and make it believable? After all, I wanted an author to transform into a vigilante, of sorts, in a short period of time.

I needed someone who was down and out on his luck. All that he had worked so hard for had failed. All the ways he had learned to get by and succeed in life were false teachings. He had to be open to giving in, trying something new. Something desperate.

Enter David Haas.

David lost his father several years back to alcoholism, something David is also susceptible to. His senile mother is confined to a nursing home. He left his job as an editor of a big New York based magazine to help care for his mother, and as a result, his fiancée, a beautiful model, left him. He’s broke, jobless, alone, and his first novel had bombed.

At some point, David’s serial protagonist, the vigilante Kenny Black, begins to whisper in his ear, planting seeds, giving him ideas.

Dark, sinister ideas.

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