Being a Better Writer: Big-Lipped Alligator Character Traits

Hello readers, and welcome to another installment of Being a Better Writer! We’ve got a really interesting topic for you today and we’re looking forward to diving right in! But really quick, before we do jump into today’s topic, there is a bit of news to cover.

First up, and most importantly, next week’s Being a Better Writer will once again be a Live Question and Answer session! That’s right, once again I will be taking questions from a live audience and answering them over on the Unusual Things Official Discord channel, The Makalay Camp. It will run for about an hour, starting at 5 PM MST, which would be 7 PM EST, and 4 PM for those on the west coast. Hopefully this time works best for those who’d like to listen in, at least in the US (in advance, I apologize to those living in places like India, but we really are put in a difficult spot there by the Earth being round).

But yes, next week’s Being a Better Writer will be live, at 5 PM MST. The day of, an invite will go up on the day’s BaBW post with a link to the official discord server, so that those of you who have not joined yet can get in and familiarize yourself with the server (which is small, and like the site, has grown as needs have demanded) before the Q&A session goes live.

So mark your calendars! Next week, October 25th, 2021, at 5 PM MST. Live Being a Better Writer Q&A session!

Got it? Good! Now, let’s get talking about today’s topic: The Big-Lipped Alligator Character Trait. I’ll admit with a name like that the initial response to seeing the title of the post likely fell into one of two camps. On the one side, you had the people who are familiar with the term “big-lipped alligator moment” and immediately wondered what that had to do with character traits attached on the end (as a true big-lipped alligator moment” is a scene, which we’ll discuss in a moment. The rest of you? “Big-lipped alligator what?”

So hit the jump, and let’s start answering those questions.

Continue reading

Weekend News (A Quick Post to See You Through)

Hello readers! Max here with a quick update/news post. First and foremost, if you’d like a preview of my weekend …

That’s right, the paperback proof for Shadow of an Empire arrived this week! And it’s a hefty chonk! With no remorse I placed it on a kitchen scale to bring you the exact weight: two pounds, one ounce!

That is a big novel. And that’s about a hundred pages less than Colony would be. Jungle would, by the same scale, be almost four pounds. Assuming it could even be bound.

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next little bit working on getting that finalized and ready for shipping! Just in time for … Halloween, I guess? Who doesn’t love a good Western in the fall?

Hit the jump for a few other updates on things, including Starforge news!

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Having an Online Presence

Good afternoon, readers! Welcome back on to another installment of Being a Better Writer! We’ve got an interesting topic to discuss today, which will probably go by pretty quick (that’s okay, it’s a holiday) but before we do, it’s time for a little news. Emphasis on little, so you can read through it without getting too bogged down.

First up, Shadow of an Empire‘s print proof will be in my hands this week. Yes, you read that right. I am excited to be holding it at last. I don’t anticipate many issues between the proof and the final copy either, since Shadow of an Empire, unlike Axtara, has been out digitally for a few years already and seen a few cleanings already. With the paperback release it’s going to be checking it to make sure that the formatting is good and nothing unexpected happened. After which paperback sales can be approved!

Speaking of which, based on the poll I put up last week (Side note: the WordPress base poll tool isn’t very good, as I have to vote to see the results) has been overwhelmingly in favor of the option I wanted to go with: Expanded distribution. Which means that yes, Shadow of an Empire will be available to libraries, bookstores, and the like. However, since most of those places want their cut, it does mean the book is going to cost a bit more.

$21.99 in total, to be precise. Before some of you blanch, this is for a 600+ page trade-sized paperback (same size, in height, as Axtara). By comparison, the non-trade paperback for Dune (releasing because the movie is coming out) which is a smaller, cheaper to manufacture paperback, is 500 pages and sells for $17.99. The math does work out: This is just a big book.

Which amuses me personally, because a few friends who’ve heard about this have already dropped the comment of “But isn’t Shadow of an Empire one of your shorter books?” To which I have to say “Well, yes?” It’s more in the middle, really. But Colony and Jungle are certainly larger, plus Starforge

Anyway, that’s the update on Shadow of an Empire: The print proof will be in my hands this week, with paperback sales opening shortly thereafter.

One final question before we dive into today’s topic, though: Axtara does well as a paperback, but how would you readers feel about a hardcover release?

Right, I promised short news, so that’s it. Instead let us turn our minds to the act of writing. Well, sort of. Today’s topic is one of the rare BaBW topics that’s less on the “nuts-and-bolts” side of things and more on the side of authorial things that don’t quite involve sitting down at a keyboard to work out your latest story. That said however, today’s topic is incredibly valuable. Quite simply put, if you ignore today’s topic, you’re unlikely to ever see more than a few book sales without someone else doing it for you. It’s that critical.

Continue reading

Shadow of an Empire: The Paperback Price Poll

Hello readers! I come to you today with news! And also, with a question.

The news, first. But those of you tempted to skip it, don’t. The question is tied deeply into it, and I would prefer feedback from you, the readers.

So the news: Shadow of an Empire is almost available in print. The proof has been ordered! That’s right. At long last, those of you who loved your sun-soaked journey across the desert Outlands of Indrim will be able to order a paperback copy to sit on your nightstand or coffee table!

Now, this is a chonky boy of a book. At the same trade size as Axtara – Banking and Finance, Shadow of an Empire has smaller text and is still twice as thick. It’s gonna be a hefty volume (and this isn’t even my longest work by far). But as you might expect, this comes with a catch.

See, the print cost is more than double what Axtara‘s is as a result. And when combined with expanded distribution that allows it to show up in bookstores, libraries, etc, that means that the price point for Shadow of an Empire‘s paperback is … significant.

How significant, you might ask? Well, for it to be available in bookstores, libraries, etc, the prices needs to be … $21.99.

Yeah. For a paperback. A good quality one, if Axtara‘s paperback quality is anything to go by, but … yeah, still high. Granted, it’s not too much higher than most similarly sized paperback books of similar quality. Dune is what, 500 pages and that’s retailing at $17.99 or so right now.

But here’s the thing. If I don’t allow for expanded distribution, IE, no libraries, bookstores, etc … then that cut doesn’t exist, and the price could be $15.99 … a full six dollars less.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: “Alien” Aliens and the Conflict of Drive

Hello again readers from across the datanet! Well, some parts of it. Today I woke up to the frantic news announcements that Facebook and all its associated services, from Instagram to WhatsApp, are down. Completely and totally. Very likely not permanently, but as of writing this, it’s gone from the web. You can’t even access it.

You know I’m just going to say it: It’s a good break for people. I usually log on each morning to see if I have any notifications from my family, but I don’t miss not having it this morning. If it were gone for good, well that’d be a different story since I keep a bunch of photos on there and I do use it to keep up with family members since I can’t get any of them to use Discord.

But that’s all I’ll say on it. It’s down, so you’re probably not going to be linking here from there today unless things come back up. No ads on Facebook today! Which almost made me switch topics, I’ll admit, but I’ve wanted to talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic for some time now. And having Facebook and some of the primary social media sites be down for the other topic would be slightly less than ideal, despite making me thing about it. So that post will have to wait.

So then, what about today’s post? Most of you have read the title, so where is this coming from? Why this topic? Well, hit the jump, and let’s get talking.

Continue reading

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Hey folks! It’s time for a news update!

So, what’s new? Well, after spending all of last week save a day sick (seriously, gnarly cold), this week has been more of a return to form. Writing, working, and all the usual once more.

So what’s there to talk about? Well, for starters, this week saw Axtara – Banking and Finance grab a few new 5-star reviews, both of which were full of praise. Take a look!

The second one kind of makes me laugh a little because it reminds me of my favorite C.S. Lewis quote, but hey, they loved it anyway and still gave it 5-stars! Axtara really is a great success. The titular dragon herself would be proud, I think. And a little mortified that everyone’s reading about her life, but that’s most fiction.

Speaking of Axtara, I once again want to float the idea of Axtara t-shirts out there. Right now I’m thinking something with a slogan on it. Sort of like “Banking shouldn’t be a drag …” on the front, and “… so I do my banking with a dragon. Axtara – Banking and Finance!” You know, something goofy like that, as if Axtara herself were actually handing out promotional t-shirts at a job fair somewhere in hopes of drumming up business (she probably would).

I’ve never done t-shirts before, but especially if they’re just text on a color, they couldn’t be that tricky, difficult or (hopefully) expensive, right? Anyway, right now I’m just trying to gauge interest, so as before leave comments in the affirmative if you’d be interested in an Axtara t-shirt!

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Too Much Purple in Your Prose?

Well, this post topic comes at a topical time. Or maybe I picked it because of what I’ve been reading lately. Hard to say.

Hello readers, and welcome back! I realize that intro needs a little explanation, and so you’ll get one! See, I’ve recently started reading this book. Recently as in “just a few days ago.” It was a book I won’t name (per the usual, if I’m going to use a book as a negative example of something, I don’t name it unless it’s so famous the creator won’t care or it’s really bad), but it was a loan from my sister. No idea where she acquired it, but she passed it to me with an ominous exchange of ‘I read this and I wanted to know what you think?’ followed by ‘Was it good?’ and a retort of ‘It was interesting. I want to know what you think.’

Now I’ll admit that I’m about eighty pages in and I am curious to see where the story is going, though as a YA book it’s already showing some signs of slipping into a more “standard” trope story. But it’s not terrible. But it definitely is … interesting.

One of the reasons I say this is because the book has a real love of overly purple prose. In fact, as I was reading it last night I realized there was a pattern to it: Almost anything that was going to be described wasn’t just going to be described in very flowery, over-the-top terms and language (I’ll bet I could find “eyes like cursed amethyst” somewhere in this book). No no, it was going to be described using such no less than three times. Introduced, or even meeting again a male character? Get ready for three sentences—a whole paragraph—about how his eyes are burning like simmering, shifting coals, his posture like a howling wolf with a firebrand on his tail, etc etc. You get the idea.

I actually laughed when I noticed that it really was a “rule of three” thing going on with all the prose and descriptions. Even if it’s just a sudden cut for a quick, single-word description of something, there will be three of them in a row. All equally verbose and over-the-top.

But … it does raise a question. I haven’t stopped reading the book yet, so is it too much? For that matter, what about in the books that we write? When is there too much purple in our prose?

Continue reading

Well, This Week Was a Wash

Hey readers. Not much to say here. Just sort of a news update. With very little news.

See, Monday started out strong. Solid Being a Better Writer post, planning and catching back up with the Shadow of an Empire paperback to see what had to be done there so the rest of the week could be spent writing and working on that, plus this faint tickle in the back of the throat that was probably just from lack of sleep or something, right?

Yeah, it was not. Instead, that was the first, very early sign of what I would awake to find Tuesday morning: That I was the latest to catch a cold that had swept through a solid chunk of my family already, one that’s expected to be part of this fall’s more nasty cold and flu season. I guess on the bright side I’m getting it out of the way early (and no, it’s not Covid, took the test, so no worries there). But on the other hand … Well, this week saw nothing done Tuesday through Thursday. And I’m not certain I’m going to do any today, though my mind feels a little sharper than the fog it’s carried the last few days.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Making Characters “Pop”

Hello readers! How are you all this Monday morning? Or I suppose afternoon, as it’s about to be? Spry? Alert?

Hopefully that last one, because you’re about to read another Being a Better Writer post! Furthermore, it’s not a scheduled one!

That’s right baby, I’m back! Back from a fantastic Alaska experience, which I have chronicled with pictures and video here. Yes, you should be clicking that link if you have even the faintest interest in seeing whales, fish, Alaskan scenery, or videos of rain.

But I’m back now, and after a day “off” last week ( somehow I still managed to write about 17,000 words in a week I was supposed to be relaxing for) I’ve returned to tackle the topic list once more and bring you readers writing topics.

So, what are we talking about this week as I return to my regular duties? Well, I took a look at the list and spotted this little topic that I had jotted down as one I wanted to hit, and well, it popped out to me as much then as it does now. So today, we’re going to talk about making characters “pop.”

Of course, before we get into the how we’re going to have to define exactly what it means to have a character that “pops.” So hit the jump, and let’s get started. What is a character that “pops?”

Continue reading

OP-ED: I Have a Confession to Make – I Can’t Stand Dragon-Rider Books

So the other day I was on Amazon, doing the usual bit of browsing, when I spotted one of those little advertisement bars that Amazon uses to get eyeballs on products by advertising things “like” what you’ve purchased or are interested in. To what should be no one’s surprise, Amazon has figured out that I like the book Axtara – Banking and Finance. Which isn’t exactly true, since I love that little book and its characters. Like isn’t a strong enough word.

Anyway, naturally I browsed this little recommended section because hey, I love Axtara, and Amazon thought these books were similar. It’s not always right, but I’m always down for a good dragon book, so I gave it a look. Even clicked on one that from the title, looked a little promising. Lots of reviews, high rating, all about dragons—

Oh wait. Scratch that. It wasn’t about dragons, but about dragon riders. That’s right, yet another book where dragons, intelligent or not, are reduced to glorified flying horses for a surely-not-just-like-every-other-fantasy-protagonist human.

To borrow from River City Ransom: BARF!!!

Look, I’ve always enjoyed dragons, ever since I was a kid. But I never enjoyed books about dragon riders (with one exception) because, well, honestly they never go past the trope. Again, with that one exception. The dragons are just mounts. Spiny, scaled, flying mounts that may or may not breathe fire. Worse, often they’re intelligent, as in fully sapient, but just fine living in a stable, being treated like a beast of burden, and generally only talking so that the protagonist has someone to talk to to reassure them that they’re “doing the right thing” or whatever.

Does it not bother anyone that a massive swath of dragon books involve treating a sentient being like a piece of property? If the dragon were human, we’d call it “slavery” and YA Twitter would descend with torches and pitchforks to burn that author’s career to the ground … even if the book were about how wrong it was and how the cast overcame it or fought against it.

But hey, if they’re not human, that makes it “okay” I guess. Sure, buy and sell the sapient species. They’re made to be mounts anyway! It’s what the universe intended!

Continue reading