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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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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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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Being a Better Writer: Including a Range of Culture

Welcome back readers! Potentially to me as well!

Yes, this post was written weeks ago, to make up for the fact that I am in Alaska for a fishing job right now. I might be back, but it’s unlikely. At least from my perspective in the past.

Anyway, with that being said I have no idea what the news will be, and even if I’m back I’ll still be letting these go up as scheduled, so there’s little else to talk about aside from diving into our post today! So let’s get to it!

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Being a Better Writer: How Much Drama is too Much?

Welcome back readers, to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! Written via time travel … technically. As I am still in Alaska, this post was written and scheduled in advance, so I won’t see your comments until I return. That said, thanks to the magic of technology I can still deliver Being a Better Writer to you despite being—peers ahead—currently finish off another longline set.

So, with no news, there’s little for me to do but dive right in. So I’ll start by asking the question posed in the very title: how much drama is too much?

The prompt for this question came from a story I was reading a few weeks ago, in which two characters who were getting pretty close suddenly and out of nowhere had a massive moment of shared agonizing over holding one another’s hand. And I don’t mean “It became a big deal.” I mean “It became a big deal,” to the degree that everything else that had been going on in the story stopped dead while these two characters agonized over it.

Now, I’m not saying that someone agonizing over whether or not to reach for someone’s hand is a bad thing. Or an improbable one. Or even one that doesn’t bring the world to a halt for the duo involved. But as storytellers, we not only need to consider all of those things but as well everything around that moment or event. In this case, the story had not to this point had such a moment of drama. In fact, things had been quite the opposite, with the characters being very relaxed and at ease with one another. Again, not to say that there aren’t moments of transition from ease to panic in real-life relationships, but what happened here was less a transition and more a leap off a cliff. Or maybe up it, and the audience was left at the bottom. Not only was it quite sudden and out of the character we’d seen so far, but it also brought the rest of the story to a screeching halt, everything going on hold for a long segment of panic. Pacing? It was dead by the time that sequence was halfway over.

Which got me thinking, and led to me adding this topic to the list. How much drama is too much drama?

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Being a Better Writer: Why Indie Isn’t Evil

Hello readers! I’m actually out of the office today, and this post was written in advance! So while you’re reading this, given the schedule I’m probably pressure-washing the underside of a 48-foot commercial fishing vessel.

Anyway, today’s post is another reader request. Understandably so, too, since the topic of Indie, or independent publishing, has been a hot one across the industry for the last few years. Last decade with some change, really. But the storm surrounding it has continued to swirl and continue to be hotly contested. Hence, why I often get questions about it, and even have talked about it before here on the site.

But this reader wanted it directly addressed as part of Being a Better Writer, not just in an opinion post or as a side piece on the site. So, today we’re going to talk all about independent publishing. More specifically, we’re going to talk about why it isn’t bad, which is what the reader specifically wanted to know.

So settle back, grab a snack, and hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: A Little Bit About Copyright

Welcome back readers to another installment of Being a Better Writer! The last edition that will go up live, and not on a schedule, for about four weeks! That’s right, if you missed the big news post on Friday (linked here for your expanded reading pleasure) one of the upcoming things going on with me is a trip to Alaska to do a commercial fishing trip, so for the next few weeks all the posts will be scheduled to go up on their own.

Oh, and if you missed last Friday’s news post, you may have also missed Saturday’s, which featured a fun little news clip from my hometown starring yours truly. Give it a listen!

Oh, and Patreon Supporters got another preview story on Saturday as well. Go check it out!

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next few days getting a nice backlog of posts ready, and then I head out this weekend. The goal is to have 3-4 weeks of content done in advance, even though the trip might only take two weeks. With commercial fishing, you go until you’ve got the quota, so if I am gone for three or four weeks, the content pipeline won’t dry up.

Anyway, that’s the plan. So, with so much other news covered, let’s get right down to business. Now, I warn you, this post is going to probably be a bit shorter than normal. It’s a reader-requested topic, but I gathered from the way the question was phrased that the reader who asked it expected the answer to be much more complicated than it actually is.

Which honestly is to each of our favor, because copyright law and legal matters like that? They’re messy. So this being easier than expected is kind of a boon. So let’s get down to it. You’ve started writing out your story, your world and characters have taken shape.

When do you need to copyright it?

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Being a Better Writer: She’s Just Herself, Flaws and All

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! Hopefully it brightens up your day a little. In advance, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I’m sort of taking a slower day in the wake of getting Starforge done as well as pumping out a fic for a contest in a single go. A bit of a breather, really.

In fairness, I kind of needed it. This weekend I took care of multiple things that had been piling up for the last few months. Not major things, but small things that needed to be done but could be “put off” for another day. Home maintenance and the like. There was a bit of a backlog from finishing off the Starforge draft.

So, to do a quick news aside, now what? With Starforge‘s draft done, what’s going to happen next?

Well, I’m going to take a break from it for a while. Those of you that know the process expected this. I’m going to spend at least a month clearing my head, maybe more. Disconnecting from Starforge and working on other projects. Some short stories. The Shadow of an Empire paperback. A new Jacob Rocke story. The Axtara sequel. That sort of thing.

Then, once I’ve had some time to “detach,” I’ll head back into Starforge and start work on the pre-alpha.

So that’ll be what I’m up to for the next foreseeable future. Shorts, work on some new content for an old setting, and work on some new content for a fairly new setting.

Got it? Excellent! Now, on with Being a Better Writer!

So I’ll admit, this post’s title might have raised a few eyebrows. And well, that is deliberate. That’s how you get clicks, after all.

But it’s also a nod to the origins of the post, that being a discussion about a fandom’s love for a particular character while expressing disdain for another. Some of you may have already guessed at the identities involved, because this one has been a common … shall we say battle on the internet, a battle big enough that news outlets have gotten involved. Usually to their detriment.

Okay, I’ll drop a hint: It involves Star Wars.

Yup. And like that, most of you have guessed the origins of this particular debate. Basically, it boils down to Disney trying to make everyone love the protagonist of their new trilogy, Rey, by just about any means necessary. A large tactic in which was labeling anyone who didn’t like the character “sexist.” You know, they just hate “women characters.”

Nice, easy deflection of any criticism. But … it didn’t quite work with a lot of people because those same people that Disney was trying to deflect with accusations of sexism love the character of Ahsoka Tano. Who is … wait for it … also a woman.

Now, the point of this post isn’t to slam Disney’s Rey. Though it will make a few noted observations about what separates Rey from Ahsoka, because there are reasons why most fans of Star Wars like the one and don’t like the other. It has nothing to do with lightsabers, or with the “Poochie” factor (despite what Disney seems to think).

No, what it boils down to is simply something that holds true for all characters, regardless of gender, and yet seems to be forgotten from time to time.

Real characters have flaws. Furthermore, those flaws are acknowledged and part of their character.

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Being a Better Writer: Killing Your Babies

Hello again readers! Today’s Being a Better Writer post is going to (hopefully) be a bit shorter, because I’m on the last pages of the epilogue for Starforge and I want to finish it! This draft is so close to being done I can taste the freedom!

All right, enough about Starforge. And enough italics. Yes, it’s all I’m thinking about these days, and all I’m writing about, but you guys either want to see it done, or see other content. So let’s dive into today’s BaBW post. This week, another reader request! We’re going to talk about killing your babies.

Okay, this sounds worse than it actually is. If you don’t recognize this term, we’re not actually talking about human babies. Or living ones. But they may feel very alive. Because to a writer, what story isn’t their baby?

And sometimes … that baby’s time has come.

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Being a Better Writer: Bias and Growth

Hello again readers! Welcome back to Being a Better Writer. You know, it’s moments like these, typing out a welcome introduction once again that I somewhat envy the ability of film and video to just drop an intro on people. Granted, most people skip it, and people would certainly skip over the same opening paragraph, but it would take some early lifting out of every installment of BaBW.

Ah well, at least this segues into news and whatnot better than a constantly identical intro was. Though this week I don’t have any news other than what would be repeating last week’s news post: Starforge almost has a completed first draft. Thing’s a beast too. Once I get done with this post here? It’s back to working on it and getting that last chapter and the epilogue done. After which I can finally take care of some IRL things like getting my car sold.

So without any news, let’s talk about today’s topic, which is kind of a tricky one. It’s also by reader request, and when it showed up on my list, I knew I wanted to get to it early.

Now, in a way we’ve kind of touched on this before. Indirectly. Being a Better Writer has seen a number of posts on things like Why Writers Should Play Games or Writing Exercises for Viewpoints. Among others (hit the tags on those links to find more). A good writer is one that’s embraced a wide range of activity that stimulates and works their mind.

But we’ve never talked much about the other side of this that was requested. A side that, at least in my mind, brings up the image of stale bread.

Yeah, maybe it’s because I’m hungry, but I think today’s post is going to make some food analogies. Get set, hit the jump, and let’s talk about bias in our writing, and how we can expand.

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