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?”

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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!

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A Trip to Alaska with Pictures and Video!

Hello readers, and welcome! Welcome to a visual tour of some of the highlights of my trip to Alaska! I know that a lot of you have been waiting for this, and I promise once I’m done I’ll get back to work on Shadow of an Empire, Stranded, and all my other projects, but let’s be honest … This is going to be a cool post.

A little background, for those of you that are new or unfamiliar with my personal history (and haven’t glanced at the About tab or read my author blurb at the end of my books): I grew up in Southeast Alaska. Also known as “The Panhandle,” it’s that little bit of Alaska that sticks down by Canada on the East side, where the capital of the state is. It’s also largely made up of islands, with the terrain severe enough that even cities that are technically on the mainland, like Juneau and Ketchikan, and only accessible via boat or plane. There’s no road to get to any of these places, the terrain is just too extreme unless you want to put a lot of money into it and go through Canada.

It’s a different place. Here’s a shot of my hometown taken on my flight out, from the air. No, you can’t see my house in that picture (it’s a ways south from the town itself), but you might notice the water all around it. Yup, it’s an island.

Wrangell island (and town) from the air, courtesy me.

That’s mainland behind it, leading into a lot of mountains and then Canada. But yeah, that’s my hometown. That’s where I grew up. Not very big. Tiny, in fact, unless you’re from anywhere that’s tinier (and there are, in fact, small places, like Elfin Cove and its population of probably a hundred people). But hey, it’s home.

Anyway, since I grew up there, I do occasionally tend to go back to visit and take part in consumption of fresh seafood. Growing up in a fishing/tourism town (also once logging, but that era is gone for the time being), I started working on fishing boats in my family when I was about 12 or 13, and well, that’s how I made it through college without any student loans. That and dividend savings (a whole ‘nother topic).

In any case, that’s why stuff on the site was extremely light these last few weeks: I was back in Alaska! Partaking in crab, shrimp, halibut … You know, all the good stuff. Oh, and pitching in on a fishing trip as well (because fish!). While taking plenty of pictures to show off the experience on the return! So hit that jump, and let’s get looking at some cool pictures and videos of Southeast Alaska.

Because WOW did I get some good ones. Before we do hit that jump I’ll say this up front: I grew up fishing on boats and working in Alaska, and yet this trip turned out to be one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. And now you’ll get to see it as well, through the lens of my phone. So yeah, hit that jump.

And if you want to go to Alaska and experience this kind of thing yourself, there’s probably not been a better time. After the Covid year, the state is desperate for tourists, and I’ve seen a lot of deals on flights, travel, and hotels. Get your shot and get going! It probably won’t be this cheap again!

Oh, quick warning, you guys are going to see a little fish blood and guts in a few of these shots. Be wary if you’re sensitive to blood. You’ll see it.

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Being a Better Writer: The Post Labor Day Grab Bag

Welcome back readers! To both of us, actually! I am back at my desk again this Monday, returned from Alaska (which you might have noticed if you saw this post).

So then, what’s today’s Being a Better Writer about? Well … It’s a collection, actually. Long story short, this is my first Monday back, and last Monday, which had a post, shouldn’t have. Yeah, it was Labor Day, one of the few holidays I’ve regularly taken on the site. Except that this time I didn’t, as I was absent, and I hadn’t checked ahead with my scheduler to note that it was a holiday.

Now, normally I’d take today completely off to compensate, but I’m not doing that either, because while I was gone and had a bunch of BaBW posts going up via scheduling, they didn’t get nearly as many eyeballs as they normally would have.

Why? Well because I couldn’t schedule the promotions that take place on a lot of other sites for these posts. So those of you that relied on the site feed to see each new post saw it. Those of you that relied on other site feeds to see each new one, well … You didn’t. I can see the numbers, so I know that.

Thing is, all those posts are still there. And now that I’m back, I can put each of them out in those other places for you to peruse.

Which is what we’re going to do today. While I catch up with a few things and get stuff on my end running smoothly once more for next week, this week I’m going to be delivering a summary of everything that went up on remote last week, so that those using other feeds finally get their due.

So enjoy, and hit the jump to see what posts you might have missed!

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Guess Who’s Back?

Hello readers! Guess who’s returned?

Yeah, I know. It’s not much of a guess. And I’m not quite 100% back yet. Physically, I’m back at my home at long last (after nearly four weeks of being away), so that’s not a worry. But as to the other kind of physically, I’m still pretty sore and tired. My fingers feel like they’ve been through the wringer, as do my hands and wrists. But hey, I can make a fist when I first wake up now so that’s progress! During the trip, at one point they were sore and swollen enough I could only just get my fingers to touch my palms when I woke up.

So I’m going to take another day or two. Oh, and this Monday there will not be a Being a Better Writer post. Why? Because when setting up the posts in advance, I completely missed that the last Monday I prepped for was Labor Day, a holiday I normally take off. Oops. So next Monday (this coming week) there won’t be a traditional post.

Which isn’t to say that there won’t be a post. No, far from it! Monday instead will see a compilation post of the last few weeks. Why? Because quite frankly a lot of people depend on ads and feeds to keep up with Being a Better Writer each week, and a number of those are manual. So quite a few people were just waiting for the notification to pop up rather than spend the time going to the site itself.

I get it. I’m not ragging on them. So this post will deliver to them all the content they may have been missing for the last four weeks.

After that? Well, I do have a large post coming. See, I took a lot of pictures this time. And video! Of some seriously awesome stuff that happened while I was in Alaska. Seriously, this trip made memories. I’ve never been as close to a killer whale (orca) pod as I came this trip. And when I say close, I mean they were close enough I could have hopped over the side of the boat and landed on one.

That close. And I got video. And pictures.

So yes, there will be a big post coming next week. But not Monday. And … I’m not actually sure when during the week either.

Why? Well, because something else happened while I was in Alaska. Something big. Something awesome.

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Being a Better Writer: How to Be a Good Editor

Hello readers! Welcome back to the last of the pre-scheduled posts! Huzzah! Yeah, I’m probably back by now, but just in case, I wrote this in advance anyway. And this one? It’s a reader request! Yeah, we had a reader out there that wanted to know how they could go about being a good editor.

You know what? It’s a really good question. One more people should ask, personally. Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of ways to be a good editor. And an equal amount of ways to be a bad one.

Now, there is something I’m going to lead this post with: If you want to be a professional editor, and I mean have that on your door, working either freelance or for a publication somewhere, that is an entire college track. It’s a career. This post? If you want to be a professional, make your living at it editor, then this post’s advice is to go to an education course for that. Pick a school, use legal means to acquire enough wealth to purchase a house so that you can afford a semester or two without incurring crippling debt, and become an editor that way. I realize that’s perhaps not the advice you wanted, but the truth is that if you want to be a professional editor there’s a lot to learn, from various literature standards held across different forms of print to when and how certain rules get broken and why.

Being an editor is not something someone decides they are because they are really anal about grammar and got an A in their high-school English class that one time, or used to subscribe to a magazine about literature. Sorry internet trolls, but the actual requirements for being a professional editor are a bit stricter than “tell everyone else how wrong they are.” Most of us that spend a decent amount of time online inevitably run into these folks, and none of them make for good editors.

So, if you want to be a professional editor and work at a publisher somewhere, or a magazine, or a paper (though both of those last two are getting unfortunately rare as both papers and magazines make cost-cutting measures), there’s a whole degree you can acquire in that, and I would urge you to do so, because there’s a lot of knowledge to gain.

But what if you’re not looking to be a professional editor. What if (as I somewhat suspect this reader was asking) you’re looking to be a helpful volunteer “editor” for a friend’s work? Or on a fanfiction site? What about then? Not professional, but at as hobby element?

If this is you, even just tangentially, then yeah, there are some definite pointers to give out. Hit the jump.

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