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: 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: Getting Religion Right

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope that all of you had an enjoyable weekend!

Mine was a bit of a mixed bag. Loved the new episode of Wandavision, but also spent more time determining some of my PC issues (the power supply is looking more and more like one culprit). I’ve got some replacement hand-me-down parts coming so we’ll see if that introduces some stability.

Oh, and here’s a real mystery for all of you out there. Axtara (fantastic book if you haven’t read it yet), a book about and starring a dragon, does not come up on Amazon’s selection of fantasy books involving dragons. At all. For reasons I’ve yet to find an explanation for.

No joke. I spent some time today looking at Axtara‘s keywords. Yup, dragon is in there. Genre? It’s in the right slot. But for some reason, if you go to Amazon’s selection of fantasy books (kindle and otherwise) involving dragons … Axtara is curiously absent.

The amused author part of me wants to joke that it’s some form of speciesism, that clearly Axtara is “not a dragon book” because the “dragon” in question isn’t being ridden (in either sense of the word, judging by some of those covers) or mauling people to death as a mindless beast, and therefore isn’t eligible.

The less-amused author in me is both annoyed and alarmed, because this means that people looking for books specifically about dragons on Amazon won’t find Axtara in their search or genre results, and that’s definitely negatively impactful to me. I’ve messed with some genre indicators and I hope that this fixes it. Next step will be an e-mail to Amazon directly, because what the what, if there ever was a book that was more suited for the “dragon” category, I haven’t found it.

While I’m on this tangent (and before we get to today’s post), is anyone else overly tired of dragon-rider books? Especially the ones where the mount is sapient and intelligence, but is basically treated like a horse that can talk? That’s one rut I’d rather see fantasy climb out of. Or, for all the talk of avoiding “problem issues” in fantasy, I’m surprised “keeping sapients in stables as mounts” hasn’t drawn more ire from readers. I guess the idea of equal rights only matters if they’re humanoid? At least Temeraire wasn’t afraid to tackle this, but most other generic dragon-rider fiction just kind of ignores it … and I’m getting too off-topic. That’s my mystery from the weekend.

So, let’s talk about today’s hammer of a topic: Getting Religion Right. And I’m pretty certain that already some people are going to have issues simply based on that title alone, because some folks get ready for a fight anytime the words “religion” and “right” are in a sentence together without the word “not” or something similar.

But whatever. We can’t shy away from this topic, and it’s an important one. Which is going to come with a hefty lead-in. So we may as well hit the jump and get started. Get to it.

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Being a Better Writer: Clothing and Fashion

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that mean’s it’s time for another installment of Being a Better Writer!

Of course, it’s not just an ordinary Monday. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the US honoring the life and accomplishments of, well, Martin Luther King Jr (Surprise! This one is names correctly!).

If you don’t know who Martin Luther King Jr. is, then today is a good day to perhaps carry out a Google and learn a little bit about him! In the meantime, however, and before I get to this week’s news and then the post itself, I’ll share this quote from him, one that feels especially relevant after the last few weeks:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

If you’ve never read that quote before, nor anything else Martin Luther King Jr. said during his life, then I’d say today would be a good day to do a quick Google and some reading! Enjoy!

And now, the news! With the most relevant question on many readers’ minds being “What’s the status of Axtara – Banking and Finance?” Well, I’ve got good news, and I’ve got good news!

Good news #1 is that Axtara is doing pretty well. Even almost a month after release, it’s still sitting in the top 25 on the new release tracker for its category on Amazon. It’s also picked up a number of reviews and ratings, all of them in the positive. From what’s come in so far, the meaning is clear: You guys love Axtara! Let’s take a look at some excerpts from the reader reviews so far:

I just finished reading the the book a bit ago and I loved it. The story is enjoyable and wraps up well (it does leave it open for a sequel too, and I hope that there is one – or more – eventually). The characters are also likeable, and the story being from the perspective of a dragon – Axtera – is interesting … I enjoyed it quite a bit and if you think the description looks interesting then you should definitely give it a shot as I think it delivers well on the premise.

An enjoyable read! I’ll give a try on kindle unlimited to most any book with a dragon as the protagonist, but I quite liked this one enough to leave a good review. I was particularly interested in the entrepreneurial elements as Axtara works to establish her bank. Axtara’s focus on reaching break-even point shows the author did their research here, and the business side seems well grounded and interesting.

 I came away fully satisfied from having read a story so well-crafted, and I hope to see more!

A lovely and enjoyable story that I will be buying as a hard copy as soon as it’s available!

So yeah, the verdict is in: Axtara is a hit! I hope those of you that are still reading it are finding it every bit as enjoyable as you’d hoped, and that your reviews will find their way to the world soon!

Now, what about something that even the last review quote touches on: The hard copy. Is it still coming? I know I haven’t offered an update in a week or so (again, blame the computer failure I suffered). Well, I’ve got good news people!

It’s almost done. The manuscript has been uploaded, and the hard copy cover is almost done. All that’s left is for someone who knows more about GIMP than I to do some smoothing on the image, and for me to acquire and zip through a proof! And once that’s done … Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback!

Okay, so what are we looking at, detail-wise? Well, the price is likely going to be, as of right now, $11.99, and weigh in at a little over three hundred pages. If that price seems high, well … that is literally as low as I can go before the print costs are such that I’d lose money on every copy sold, at which point the Print services just say “no, you can’t do that.” Not a great deal for me, either. So yeah, it’s very likely going to be $11.99 for the time being. But hey, at least there’s digital for those of you saving pennies.

However, I can say this: Axtara will almost certainly be available in print before the end of the month! I’ll be sure to let you all know!

Now, I do have one other bit of news before we hop to today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Price drops! That’s right, the promised price drops in the wake of a new release have finally come for Shadow of an Empire and Jungle! Shadow of an Empire has now reached its final tail-price of $3.99, while Jungle has seen its first price-drop to $5.99. So if you’re a tail reader, your day has come for Shadow of an Empire! Click that books tab at the top and go for it!

All right! That’s the news, said and done. So let’s talk about today’s writing topic, which is a bit of an odd one. Clothing and fashion, after all, is something a lot of young writers barely consider, save occasionally from the lens of “how cool can I make them look” (a process which for some reason for many seems to involve robbing an outlet store for a few hundred belts and zippers)? So why devote a BaBW post to the topic?

Well, it’s because as I’ve said before, a lot of bringing a world to life is in the fine details. And clothing, and what we wear, is definitely one of those details. Let’s take a look.

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Being a Better Writer: Describing Your Character without Infodumps

Hello readers, and welcome back after an—at least here—unexpectedly chilly weekend! I hope you stayed warm and toasty! Here the temperature dropped down into the freezing range, which means my writing habits have officially shifted from shorts and t-shirts to hoodies and socks. Or some combination thereof.

News? Nope, I haven’t got any that I can think of not covered in that last news post I made. Other than the usual pre-election griping of “Why does heavy political activity get in the way of people reading and buying books?”

Seriously, I do not understand this one. Does an election have the same effect on the video game industry? Does Netflix see less streaming during an election cycle? Or is it just books that get hit by this strange oddity?

And furthermore, why? Stress overload? Do people associate reading with political activism? Or to the contrary, as a form of anti-politicking? Or does it stem from a general anti-intellectualism bent in the United States, where a common rebuttal in political disagreements is sometimes sadly “Yeah, well you read to much?”

I wish I were kidding about that last one.

Ah well, at this point we’ve moved into me musing on questions for which I have no answers. Let’s just leave it that I firmly believe that if you’re thinking about voting for someone, reading about them and their policies is a good start. And that I’m still perplexed as to why elections impact book sales so strongly in a negative manner.

Anyway … let’s move on, shall we? Today’s topic is … Well, I’d say it’s one of the hardest things for authors of all experience levels to get a handle on. The book I started last night, for example, quite literally runs into a problem with our topic in the opening chapters.

In fact, a lot of books do. And short stories. And everything in between. Because in some odd way, describing our characters—in a smooth, worked in way that seems natural—seems to be one of the hardest challenges many authors face.

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping Character Voice Consistent

Welcome back readers! I hope you all had a decently uplifting weekend? I spent mine largely asleep, fighting off a bug that thankfully did not show a large amount of signs of being Covid (but kept me indoors anyways because I was asleep and hey, just in case). In any case, I hope your weekends were a bit more lively and/or successful.

Now, after a week’s break, I’m sure some of you were wondering what sort of topic we’d be covering upon returning once more. Well, today you find out that answer. Combing over the new list (which is, admittedly, still being built) for a topic today, the one I’ve chosen is … Well, you can see the title a bit.

I’m sure some of you are wondering why I picked this topic, and, well … It has to do with something I saw someone else speaking out over the last few weeks. It was a few weeks ago, but I ran into an online discussion where character voice consistency (and a lack of it) were being discussed at length. Then again just this last weekend during the LTUE Mini-con (Did you attend? How was it?) the topic came up again, this time in a small discussion about editing and this being something to watch for.

So yeah, when I looked down at the list again this morning, this seemed like a solid topic to choose for the first reappearance after such a lengthy, one-week break.

Enough background. Let’s get down to it. Let’s talk about keeping our characters’ voices consistent.

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Being a Better Writer: Tools VS Actions

Welcome back readers? I trust you all had a pretty enjoyable weekend? Especially with the newest episode of Fireteam Freelance having released on Saturday?

No official word from me at this time whether or not we’ll see episode five this Saturday, but there will be something (either another interview or an interlude). But until then we’ve got a whole week of content to to think about, of which the most important is today’s Being a Better Writer post.

After all, it is on of the site’s primary features. So without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic. Which is a bit of an interesting one.

See, today’s topic was inspired by someone in a writing chat room asking for thoughts and opinions on a character sheet they’d assembled for their story, and a trend I noticed with it. A trend that then combined with a more common complaint I’d seen online in the last few weeks and discussed on book sites.

We’ll start with the trend. There were several discussions I’d seen in the last few weeks across writing sites and discussions about so-called “gamification” of characters. Or, to put it another way, writing characters whose abilities felt like they were out of a video game.

I realize this is a bit vague and that’s because there’s not an official term for what these people were discussing (and ultimately complaining about). But what it boiled down to over paragraphs of discussion was … Well, I personally wouldn’t call it gamification, though I see why those complaining about it would. And it does fit. Me, I’d call it “animefication.”

If you’re familiar with anime at all, you’ll know why here in a moment. What readers were complaining of was written work where characters had “attacks” or “skills” that were both names and deployed often in solution of the protagonists/antagonists pursuits.

In other words, they’d be reading a story, and the protagonist would helpfully inform readers that he had a “magical ability named ‘Light Whip’ that would do X” and then any time X came up, they would proclaim “Light Whip!” and use it.

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Being a Better Writer: Bravery

Hello readers! I hope you’re all staying away from groups and doing your part to counter Covid-19 as best you can. Washing your hands, etc. If you are, good! If not, pick up the slack! The better we can do at slowing the spread the better off everyone will be.

Anyway, with that said, let’s get into today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Bravery. Yes, I know that’s a bit of a weird one, but I decided to go with brevity in the the title and expand on it here. Plus, I felt like it was a topic that might ease a few minds outside of the sphere of writing as well. I may be wrong, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

What I want to talk about today isn’t just the concept of bravery, but how to write a brave character.

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Being a Better Writer: Flanderization

Hello readers! First things first, apologies for the lateness of this post! I am still recovering a bit from that con-crud, it would seem, and slept far, far later than I expected to. Right through my alarm, right through everything.

On the plus side, I feel better today than I did yesterday, and yesterday I felt a lot better than the day before. So I’m definitely kicking it out at long last. I hope (meanwhile, deep within me a lone cold virus tapes its knuckles, chews a strand of DNA, and says ’round two” lol).

So, let’s dive into things shall we? First, before we get to today’s post a quick reminder that Kamchatka, episode 1 of Fireteam Freelance, did indeed drop on Saturday, as hoped. Fireteam Freelance is an episodic side series to Colony and Jungle, taking place on Earth and starting during the ending of Colony. Head on over to the Fireteam Freelance page to start reading, but be warned that as a side story, Fireteam may spoil some elements of Colony and Jungle you’d be better of discovering there!

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oSecondly, a quick reminder that A Dragon and Her Girl, the second LTUE benefits anthology, is out! Containing twenty stories of heroines and dragons, including yours truly’s A Game of Stakes (in which a woman hires a dragon to find her a husband), A Dragon and Her Girl is not one to miss. Early reviews that have dropped definitely agree!

In fact, I’m even going to drop a link to it right here. Just click that cover over on your left there, and you’ll go right there on Amazon. Available in digital and paperback. Though sadly, signed copies will be hard to find now that LTUE is over. There’s always next year, however!

So then, that’s the news out of the way, let’s talk about today’s topic of choice: Flanderization.

Yeah, it’s a fun word. But you may not have heard of it before. because it’s one that’s growing in popularity. In fact, the word is entirely modern, the term that makes up the first half of it being sourced from the name of Homer Simpsons’ neighbor Ned Flanders. Characters on The Simpsons, which first aired in 1990.

Which makes the term even younger, as the process the character Ned Flanders underwent to coin the phrase didn’t happen overnight, but over the course of several seasons.

In other words, this makes flanderization a uniquely modern term, clearly younger than even I am. In fact, a quick good wasn’t even enough to know when this term first appeared. Maybe no one’s done any research on it? Grad students, take note, this could be your big break for a fresh paper on language! Track this one down!

Okay, so the term flanderization is younger than thirty years at the very least (and, this is just guessing, but I’d put it probably around twenty-two or twenty-four, as that was the “golden era” of The Simpsons, making it the most likely time for the term to have cropped up). But what does it mean? And how’d it get that bizarre but memorable name?

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Being a Better Writer: Character Flaws

Hello readers! Welcome back to Unusual Things and Being a Better Writer! I trust you all had a fairly good weekend?

Mine was nice. Got more done on Fireteam Freelance, including finishing another character interview and getting about halfway through a third. Plotting for the main arc is starting to come together. Once the interviews are done, I believe I’ll have enough planned out to start the first chapter! Which means it’ll show up on the site some time after that … So get ready folks. While I’m not close enough to it yet to want to drop a release date for certain, I’d guess that you’ll all see the first chapter of Fireteam Freelance before LTUE!

Also don’t forget that LTUE is coming! We’re just sixteen days out from one of the best Fantasy and Science-Fiction writing conventions of all time! In fact, this week I’m making a run to my local print shop to get a few things printed up for it (not books, but closely related)! If you’re looking at that acronym in puzzlement, check out the full write-up I did on LTUE and the panels I’ll be at this year, then go check out the official site to secure your registration or find more panels to be at!

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oAlso, in that vein, don’t forget that A Dragon and Her Girl, LTUE’s second benefit anthology, launches February 13th and is now available for pre-order! Again, there’s a write-up on the site about it you can go check out if you missed it. Featuring twenty stories from accomplished authors old and new about dragons, heroines, and everything in-between, A Dragon and Her Girl is absolutely something to grab if you’re a fan of any of that! Additionally, proceeds from sales of A Dragon and Her Girl are used to keep attendance prices at LTUE low, specifically the $5 student ticket. So by purchasing a copy you’re helping keep the student admission price to LTUE affordable and cheap! Click on the image to the right and go right to the pre-order page on Amazon!

Okay! That was a lot of news, but hey, there’s a lot coming up in the next few weeks. I all honesty, I probably could have talked about some other stuff as well. But … I’d rather get into this week’s BaBW post! So, let’s talk about character flaws.

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