Being a Better Writer: Character Development, Worldbuilding, or Empty Fluff?

Hey readers! Welcome back to Being a Better Writer, the regular Monday feature where we talk about writing ins and outs!

Most of you knew that, but I have to assume there are some new folks popping in for each post. Because there are, according to the stats I see. So, welcome newcomers, and welcome returning readers. Since I wrote up a good-sized news post last week, there’s nothing that keeps me from diving right into this, so let’s do that.

So … Character Development, Worldbuilding, or Empty Fluff? Where am I going with that? Well, this post topic comes from a few sources, but there’s a core cause of it that spawned this topic on the list. There’s a book out there that I read, along with many others that … well, let’s just say that its “character development” is left a little lacking. This post actually was conceived when I stumbled across someone talking about the book online who posted an entire topic about the book’s “character development” asking how it was character development because it just felt like a bunch of constant, rambling scenes that really didn’t contribute anything except maybe some worldbuilding, but after that just endlessly repeated.

And, since this is the internet, a huge debate ensued, with some attempting to defend the book, while others agreed that yes, it was just empty fluff that the author seemed to think was character development. Those who defended it assured folks that the author had done it and it involved the protagonist, so anything involving the protagonist meant that automatically, it was character development. Also, being the internet, a consensus was not reached.

In turn, that made me pick up my pen and jot down another topic on the list, because if you’re going to write a book, you definitely don’t want to get character development and worldbuilding mixed up. Worse, you don’t want either of them replaced with empty fluff.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: The Five-Man Band

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday! Which of course means another Being a Better Writer post. I do want to keep these to Monday if at all possible. Work shifts permitting.

But first, some news. I’ve picked up a few more reviews, moving my total ever closer to my year-end goal. Who says you can’t get started early? If I do the math, I’m currently sitting at, between Goodreads and Amazon, a grand total of 190 reviews and ratings. Pretty much an even split, numbers-wise, between the two.

By the end of the year, I’d like to double that. 400. That’s the goal, and I’ll be keeping a tally going, mentioning it on here from time to time.

The next milestone? 200. I’m only 10 away. Then 300, and then the goal. As for what will happen when I hit these? Well, outside of celebration, I’m not really sure yet. Probably something cool.

Aside from that, there isn’t too much news to wax on. Progress on Hunter/Hunted moves toward its conclusion. I’m somewhere in the final act, and finally getting a handle on some of the story’s more difficult concepts and elements. Since it’s a freebie fan-project and not something for sale, as usual I’ve experimented with some new things and choices. We’ll see what readers make of them, but I’ve definitely already come away with a few lessons of “that worked, that didn’t” to keep in mind for future projects.

And crud, I may as well mention that I missed a project for this year when I spoke about upcoming work in a recent post. I didn’t forget Fireteam Freelance. Or Starforge. Or the yet-unnamed-Halo-novel pitch. But I did forget a big one:

Axtara: Banking and Finance.

You might not remember this one; it was the first “short” story I wrote for the LTUE Dragons anthology, only for the story to quickly balloon out of the realm of “short” (always a stretch for me, even by the collections broad definitions) and into “Novella or Novel.” So it got set aside in favor of A Game of Stakes, which has already been submitted (so now we play the waiting game).

definitely have to devote some time to Axtara this year, as the idea is far to fun to leave untouched. A dragon going into investment banking? Yes, there’s a fun story there. It just wasn’t a short one.

Okay, and with that, enough news! Let’s talk about writing! Specifically, about the Five-Man Band.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Self-Deceiving Characters

Hello readers! How was your weekend? Get any good reading in? I did. Working my way through Jack Campbell’s second Lost Fleet series, which has been good fun. Spoilers, but he has an interesting approach to alien life.

Anyway, there’s not much in the way of news (outside of the Beta Call for A Game of Stakes having gone out a couple of days ago, so check your inboxes) so we’re going to jump right to today’s topic. Which, by the way, is a companion piece to a Being a Better Writer post a month or so back on Ambiguous stories and characters.

See, over the course of that post it became clear that there was one aspect which needed its own time set aside. Sure, we can have a plot, events, or characters that is ambiguous or deceptive to the reader, and even to other characters through lack of information, the wrong information, or even the wrong position (all of which, if memory serves, came up in that other post), but what about a character who is ambiguous about things because they themselves refuse to acknowledge them. As in, well, the title today: A character that deliberately deceives themselves?

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Scale, Scope, and Ideas

Welcome back readers. How was your weekend? Was it good?

Mine was. A Game of Stakes is going into Beta Reading this week thanks to my Saturday, so it’s one step closer to being done! I’m going to try and polish the Alpha off today, which was going to be yesterday, but  … Well, I had a work shift. And for the moment, Being a Better Writer takes precedence. Sorry for the delay, however.

Also, one other bit of cool news. I’m not sure about the internet etiquette for this scenario, so hopefully I don’t mess it up, but I’ve started getting hits from Wikipedia? Why? Being a Better Writer is being used as a source reference!

Again, not sure of the etiquette here. I only just noticed because I started seeing referral links from Wikipedia but … hey, cool! One further notch in “look how far I’ve come!”

Sands, maybe someday I’ll have a Wikipedia page dedicated to it or something. I’d not thought about that angle until this moment. Kind of an awesome thought.

I’d best get to work on building a future where that can happen, then! So, with news out of the way, let’s talk about ideas and scale.

This one is … an interesting topic. One that was brought about, as many of my topics are, by reading. In this case, it was reading two Science Fiction books, unrelated outside of genre, back-to-back and looking deeply at why I enjoyed one so much more than the other. After thinking about it for a time and letting my mind run across a large number of different traits and possible reasons, it was reading a third book that finally made things click in my head. And when it clicked, it clicked.

It has to do with scale and scope, plus ideas, and how those are brought about in your story.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Trait Dominance

This is going to be a short one today. Two reasons. One is that I’m still sick, and don’t feel great. The second is that I’ve also got a work shift today I have to be at in a little over an hour. It’s going to be an interesting day.

So, let’s not waste time (also, I really hope my head is there enough to at least make sense with this). Last night, I watched a review of a film which noted a major flaw in a character: that they were dominated by a single, overwhelming trait.

It wasn’t that they didn’t supposedly have a character outside of that one attribute. But the problem was that the writers were so sure everyone wanted to know about that trait that it came up in every scene, in every bit of wording … crud, at the end of the film, the character was still acting on this trait and reminding everyone “Oh, by the way …”

And yeah, that ended up really jarring for all involved. As the reviewer put it, it was both pointless “character development” that was shoved at the audience and distracting from everything else that the film was supposed to be about.

Thing is, this isn’t an uncommon problem. I’ve read books where the same thing happens; where the author is so determined to show us one side of a character that it becomes the only side we get to see. After I finished that review, in fact, I spent some time thinking on how a lot of stories have fallen to this weakness and ended up making a perfectly good character weaker than they needed to otherwise be, or would have been had they not been so badly thrown off-balance.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: The Static Character

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post, readers. It wasn’t because I had work, or because I was indisposed by some sudden surprise event or something. No it was simply because I was tired and decided to catch up on sleep. And catch up I did. I slept … crud, I’m not even sure, but it was more than eight hours by a long shot. I’ll probably do the same tomorrow.

Anyway, we’re actually venturing off the list this week with today’s post. For two reasons. The first is that there’s only one topic left on Topic List XI. The second is that this post was inspired by a book I read last week that left a strong impression on me for the exact problem we’ll be talking about today (which means I also won’t be naming the book, since it’s otherwise fairly good, and that’s my usual approach as to not turn readers off from it).

So then what is this problem? Well, you’ve seen the title. So what am I talking about when I say “The Static Character?”

Well, really quickly, let’s get out of the way what it isn’t, at least how we’re speaking of it today. Because a “static character” description can be used as a catch-all phrase for a character that doesn’t do much or doesn’t contribute, and this can include speaking of the events of the story. Different reviewers will use the phrase interchangeably for similar concepts all the time, but that’s usually what it boils down to: A character that does little and doesn’t move.

But there’s another aspect that the term can refer to, and that’s the one that I want to talk about today. The character that does stuff, is involved in the story … but never changes or shifts as a character.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Imagery and Metaphor

Reaching the end of Topic List XI folks! Only a few more to go! But before we go diving into today’s Being a Better Writer post, a few bits of news to take care of.

So, the weekend sale and the dearth of sales before it. According to a comment left on the original post, I’m not the only author who saw a sudden drop around that time, so Unusual Events’ involvement may have been a coincidence, the drop being something larger sweeping through the book world. School year starting? Something else? I don’t know. But it appears it wasn’t just me that felt it.

Thankfully, the weekend sale seems to have done pretty well, with Colony and Shadow of an Empire selling a good number of copies. Hopefully the momentum gained carries on through now that the sale is over and keeps it back at what it was before things took a swift downward dive, but if nothing else there was a weekend of good sales numbers that hopefully leaves some happy readers craving more.

So, that’s the news so … Oh wait, there’s one more thing. Someone did ask my opinion on the Fantastic Beasts Nagini “controversy” and if I was going to do a post on it. A full post? For something so ridiculous? No. But I can address it in a paragraph or two.

The gist of it? The newest trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2 revealed that Nagini, the pet snake of the big bad in the original Harry Potter series, may in fact be a Naga, and is a character in the new Fantastic Beasts film. Well, almost immediately after this reveal, the film (and Rowling) came under attack for casting an Asian actress as the character, saying that it was accusing all Asians of being reptiles, etc etc. The usual stupid, easily-offended-but-completely-uneducated-social-justice-virtue-signal stuff.

Rowling’s response was to politely point out that Naga are a southern Asia mythology, hailing from that culture, so in addition to the actress’ talent at the role, it was an accurate choice given the myths, legends, and source of Naga. Now, with sane, rational people who aren’t just looking to jump on the latest bandwagon of “look what makes me so woke” things would have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead the attacks immediately changed to a variety of secondary “social justice” standbys: Cultural appropriation, Nagini was Voldemort’s pet so clearly this is saying all women are pets to men, etc etc etc.

The lack of logic is truly staggering. It’s perpetually-offended folks wanting to be perpetually offended and doing everything they can to try and take some sort of imaginary “moral high ground” to shame everyone else and gain a measure of power over them. Look at that initial chain of “How dare you have an Asian actress portray this mythological creature” to “That creature’s from that part of the world? Then how dare you ‘appropriate’ that myth!”

It’s a strange “game” these morons want everyone else to give them.

Right, that said, let’s get on to today’s BaBW post and talk a little bit about imagery and metaphor.

Continue reading