Classic Being a Better Writer: Character Odds and Ends

New here? Confused by what a Classic Being a Better Writer post is? No worries!

Classic posts dig into a four-year archive of weekly BaBW articles to dig up a couple that are relevant to one another, forming a quick and easy to browse sampling of some of the site’s various writing articles.

Today? A few odds and ends, from character versus plot (and what that means) to language!

No beating around the bush here. Let’s get going!


Character Versus Plot—
We’ll start with the underlying concept behind these two options: All stories are driven by something. Now, when I say that a story is driven by something, I don’t mean the antagonist, or the inciting incident, or even the growth of the character. What I’m referring to by driven is the events or actions by which the story is pulled forward.

Bilbo leaving Frodo the ring, for example, is something that pulls the story forward. Harry receiving a letter from Hogwarts. Vin being noticed by Kelsier. A story is, in it’s purest, simplified form, a collection of events. But something inside the story must happen in order for these events to occur. Cause and effect.

What I’m discussing today is the method by which the story moves forward. Is it character-derived, or plot-derived?


Common Problems with Character Emotion—
More specifically, we’re going to look how writers handle giving their characters emotions, and where a lot of the common pitfalls occur.

So right from the start, I’m going to assume we’re all on the same page here. We wantour characters to have emotion. We want them to be well-rounded, well developed … real, in other words. We want characters who are complex, with multiple facets to their character who remind us of real people. We want a character who seems real. We do not want a flat character.

But the challenge is that writing such a character is quite difficult, and many authors fall into pitfalls along the way. And I’m not speaking of just novice writers out there either, plenty of long-term authors can still be guilty of making any number of these mistakes, falling into traps by either cutting corners or not realizing what they’ve done. And for it, their work suffers. Characters become “props” in a story, interchangeable parts that simply drop into scenes or events to fulfill a purpose.


Language—
If you’ve never considered how the language of different characters and scenes can affect your writing, well, it’s definitely worth thinking about.

But today, I’m going to talk about a different kind of language.

Foul language.

Some of you might not recognize the term (as it isn’t as widely used anymore), so I’ll get a little more specific. Swearing. Cursing. Derogatory words. Words and phrases that are generally considered impolite. The “F” word. D**n. Stuff like that. And yes, I’m censoring them for this blog. Family friendly.

You got that? All right. Are you ready for one of the biggest shocks of your life?

You shouldn’t be using them. At least, not nearly as often as you do.


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Being a Better Writer: Accents

Hopefully this will be a short one. After the longer-than-average posts the last few weeks, I’d like to get a quicker, shorter Being a Better Writer post in so I can jump back to closing up Jungle once and for all!

Granted, every time I say that I end up writing a post that’s multiple times longer than I expected, so hopefully I’ve not jinxed myself here. But let’s get this underway. Let’s talk about accents.

Thankfully, I feel that I have a bit I can contribute on this topic, as it was a hotly contested one during one of my college English courses, with the classroom dividing into three sides (for, against, and non-determinate) on the issue. Granted, the non-determinate faction really doesn’t come into play here, except to let you know that there are those who don’t mind either way, but … Well, let’s back up. Why were there two groups?

Well, because there are two ways of handling accents in fiction. Well, writing in general, rather (you could do this in a non-fiction work as well). You can create an accent that is phonetic—as in, written out the way it sounds—or you can not do that and simply tell the reader what the accent is. Okay, and there’s technically a third option, which is to blend to two, but most consider that going the phonetic route either way.

Both of these, naturally, have strengths and drawbacks, so really, it’s up to you—and on a smaller scale, up to your audience—to decide which of these you prefer.

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Why You Should Read … Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium

So I’m trying something new today here at Unusual Things. I’ve had the idea for a post series like this in the back of my head for a while now, and while it’s not going to be a regular series like Being a Better Writer is, I do hope it might be an occasional counterpart.

So first up, what is this post? Well, Why You Should Read … is a recommendation post. I’ve said before on this site (more than once actually) that writers need to read. It’s an important part of being a writer. Reading other’s works is an vital way to broaden your writing horizons in all aspects. And, in that vein, I do follow my own advice and do my best to read a decent number of books per year (usually around fifty, but be noted that I’m a fairly swift reader, so don’t feel like that’s some sort of milestone you need to reach). Various sources and genres, too.

In any case, Why You Should Read … is kind of the result. Because every so often I’ll pick up a book and read it that makes me think “Whoa. That was really good!” for one reason or another. This in turn makes me want to suggest it to you readers for one reason or another (and don’t worry, I’ll be dividing my recommendation by spoiler potential, so you’ll be able to stay clear of those if you so desire, though the recommendation may not be as grounded).

Now, minor disclaimers here before we get started. First, I’m not receiving any sort of compensation for this recommendation. This is a title I picked up and read of my own free will that I am in turn recommending for reader consideration for one reason or another (the rest of the post will get into that). I’ve not received any compensation whatsoever for recommending this book.

Second, as always, I’d recommend anyone looking for a few more good books to head over to my books page and start browsing! You can read samples, grab bonuses … I recommend each and every one of those!

Final disclaimer: What did you think of this post? Comment below, past the “End Spoilers” bar and let me know if you like the idea!

Right, with the pre-amble taken care of, let’s get this Why You Should Read … underway! Buckle up readers, because it’s time to meet Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium!

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Being a Better Writer: Why Writers Should Play Games

I’m back!

Yup, got my replacement ethernet port installed and I’m back in business. I actually did get a pretty good amount of writing done too. Two weeks without internet notwithstanding, as Jungle isn’t in any position at the moment where it requires internet. Okay, well, it required some worldbuilding documents on Google Docs, but those I could skim on my phone.

Jungle, by the way, is still in the finale. Everything’s blowing up, similar to Colony, and that’s not really that much of a surprise as this is a sequel. Hopefully I can be done by the end of this week. There are only a few chapters more to go, and everything’s coming together pretty well. Editing is going to be a chore, but … that’s the writing life!

Okay, enough yammering about current events in my writing queue. Now to yammer about something else. Just a quick reminder, if you’re a Patreon Supporter, check the reward posts! I checked the stats on Patreon yesterday and some of those posts have only ever seen two views despite the number of supporters! I’m not sure if I’m not making them visible enough, or what, but I was genuinely surprised (especially as a few supporters have hinted that they didn’t feel there were enough Patreon rewards for being supporters … and yet a large majority of those rewards have barely been looked at). There’s retrospectives, worldbuilding extras and notes for various books, and even previews and short stories I’ve not posted anywhere else!

If you’re a supporter, don’t miss out! Those posts are for you! You can check out the entire backlog here, or just head on over to my Patreon page if you’re not a supporter yet, but would like to become one.

Okay, that’s all out of the way. Now how about I get down to today’s topic. Which is a bit of an odd one, sure, but one that’s worth bringing up. Today, we’re going to talk about why writers should play games. And no, I’m not talking about the kind of games where you find a maybe significant other and lead them on. Not those games.

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October Patreon Reward – Happy Halloween!

I’ll keep this short, as I am beat! The October Patreon Supporter Award has arrived over on Patreon. And it is awesome.

What is it, you may ask? Why it’s a story! That’s right, a story. For Halloween. An early draft, but about 8.5k words long.

Oh, and it’s the sequel to Monthly Retreat from Unusual Events. And it has some other familiar faces show up as well.

Very much a fun treat piece. Perfect for the season. I had a lot of fun writing this.

Thanks for supporting, guys. You can check out your first look at Adapation, the October Patreon Supporter Reward, right at this link.

The Halloween Sale

In case you missed it, this Halloween weekend is home to all kinds of spooky sales on my work. Through October 31st, you’ll be able to pick up One Drink and Dead Silver for free, as well as find Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection for half-price and the stellar Colony for 25% off!

You can head on over to my Books page to preview each one, read a free sample, and then score a copy for yourself!

Hardware, Halloween, and Other Updates

You know the deal, guys! It’s a news post. And there’s a lot of it this week, but I have categorized it, so skim through and see what the updates are!

Hardware Horrors

You might have noticed I’ve been quiet this week.

Like, quieter than normal. And it’s not just here. I’ve been almost 100% silent across all my usual online hangouts. And the reason for that is actually pretty simple. Right now, I’m writing this post through a tethered connection with my cell phone.

No, Google Fiber didn’t go down. My phone’s buzzing through them. The ethernet port on my desktop shorted out. Thankfully, without taking the rest of my motherboard with it.

Yeah, I’m still nervous about that one.

For those who aren’t computer literate, however, the ethernet port is what you plug the internet into if you’re not using wi-fi. Desktops don’t usually come with wi-fi, and I prefer the speeds and latency that a cable offers over a wireless connection (it’s a bit more reliable).

In any case, I’ve ordered an ethernet card for my desktop, but it won’t even ship until the 30th. So … I’m a little disconnected at the moment. Which leads me into my next point here—

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Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir

Morning readers! Well, actually afternoon, and that’s my fault. Ever start reading a book late at night? Yeah, that’s something I shouldn’t do, and yet …

Well, anyway, let’s dive right into today’s topic shall we? It’s one that I’ve wanted to write about for a while, since it comes up a lot in the modern reading world, and quite frankly, it really shouldn’t. At least, not if the claims of the authors were remotely accurate.

What am I talking about? Why, I’m talking about preaching to the choir! Which I’m sure you know all about, so let me just skim over things so we can all get to talking about how right we are and how wrong everyon—

Ahem. Apologies, but we won’t be doing that at all. But that last little paragraph does serve to illustrate in a somewhat rough fashion exactly why this topic should be brought up, as it’s an exaggeration example—though not too far off the mark in many cases, sadly—of what preaching to the choir is, and offers a glimpse of why writing something in that fashion can wreck your story’s potential audience.

So without further ado, let’s dive into today’s Being a Better Writer, starting with an answer to the question that I’m sure is on some of your minds (and if not, we’re talking about it anyway to establish a baseline): what is preaching to the choir?

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The History of One Drink

Greetings and salutations readers! I’m hard at work trying to wrap up Jungle‘s first draft (it is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a jungle), but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep you guys in the know. And today, I’ll be doing that with a recap of the creation of One Drink!

Yes, this post was a Patreon reward. Supporters got to see this all the way back in May. Now that Halloween is almost upon us, however, I feel that the time is right for a revisiting of One Drink with its ghosts and its necromancers and—of course—its straightforward protagonist. Where it all came from, how the first book came to pass, and naturally, what came next.

If you’ve not read One Drink, then be forewarned that this post contains spoilers. Seriously. For a 99-cent book that’s been out for almost five years now. Nudge nudge, why-haven’t-you-just-read-this-already? There’s a link to it right here!

But yes, spoiler warning.

And now? Let’s take a look at the history of One Drink

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Being a Better Writer: Applying Writing Advice and Feedback

Welcome back readers! Another Monday is upon us, and I’m diving right in today. by picking up a request topic from Topic List X!

So, you’ve done it at last and found a like-minded group of people who’ve come together in a pleasantly pleasing—yet still critical—writing group (more on that topic another time). You’ve met, discussed one another’s work, and as expected, they’ve found some areas you can polish with your work. But then, as you sit down the next day to look over what the group had discussed and the fixes you want to make, you come to a sobering realization.

You have no idea how to actually apply the advice they gave you. You know where the problems lie, sure, and what didn’t work. You’ve even got a few suggestions that they gave you. But as to how to put that advice to work in your writing? Suddenly, you’re drawing a blank.

And to be fair, this isn’t easy. Sands, that’s why the question was asked! Getting feedback on what needs to be fixed and then figuring out how? It’s a challenge, especially if it’s your first time having received such. You might even feel a little overwhelmed!

But first step—and this is key—is not to worry. Feeling overwhelmed is often one of the first reactions when faced with the thought of apply writing advice or sticking it into your story. And once you’re overwhelmed, it’s hard not to focus on that feeling.

So first, let’s break things down, shall we?

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