Being a Better Writer: Small Windows of Character

Life, The Universe, and Everything is this week!

Yeah, that’s an opening of excitement. I love attending LTUE (which if you’ve somehow missed or not heard of, is a Fantasy/Science-Fiction convention that focuses foremost on authors and writers; check out their site here). Tomorrow I’ll throw my schedule up here on the site, ie what panels I’m interested in attending, where I’ll be, etc, but no mistake, if you spot me and want to say “Hello!” do so! I love attending this convention not just to both learn and pass on knowledge, but also to run into people and chat about books, writing, games … the works!

Okay, I’ll stop disrupting today’s Being a Better Writer post now. Well, save for one small detail:

My entire lexicon (as in, all of my books) will be on sale during LTUE. Starting a day beforehand—this Wednesday—and running through the weekend. This will be a great chance to catch up on any you’ve missed, let friends who might want a copy of one know,  share a link on Facebook (hint, hint), etc. It’s the LTUE sale!

And, like I said, it’s only through the weekend, starting one day before LTUE does (so that you’ve got a day beforehand if you really don’t want to be distracted during the con).

With that, all LTUE news is over for this post (tomorrow is another story). I hope to see you there! And yes, tomorrow I’ll give you some helpful identification in tomorrow’s post plus a picture if you’re looking to say hello.

Now, news out of the way, let’s talk about today’s BaBW topic. Which is … well, a bit of an interesting one. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about characters, or specifically, what makes them unique and have depth to a reader.

Which is, to be fair, nothing new. But today I wanted to talk about a specific aspect of giving our characters depth and how we approach it, because as I’ve been thinking upon it, I think that this is a delicate area that many authors accidentally overstep or underutilize for one reason or another.

With that, I’m starting to worry that I’m getting a little too nebulous here, so let’s just dive into it. Today, I want to talk about character quirks and how we use them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Being a Better Writer: Good Sources of Positive Interaction

Hello readers, and welcome back to another Being a Better Writer Monday usual!

Yeah, I know. I need to think of some new greetings. Regardless, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was both invigorating and enlightening. Twice a year my faith holds a church-wide, televised conference over Saturday and Sunday, and this weekend happened to be it, so I had a lovely weekend relaxing in my recliner listening to said conference and doing self-discovery and examination.

In any case, that doesn’t have too much to do with today’s topic, though if I wanted it too, I likely could find some application. Actually, now that I’ve typed that, I think I can already see some application, but it remains to be seen if they’ll come out in this post or not.

So … Good sources of positive interaction. This is kind of an interesting topic, one that has to do more with the tangential bits of writing than the straight act of putting your fingers to a keyboard (or pen to paper, if you’re that old-fashioned). You could probably write an entire book—no, you could—without ever finding a need for this particular topic. But as you write a second? Or a third? Or start to edit that first one?

Well … this topic suddenly becomes a lot more valid. As solitary as writing can be at times (which is very, just ask my friends and family, some of whom occasionally see me come up for air), it’s also an act that cannot exist in a vacuum. Not just socially (we as human beings need interaction with others) but for the good of our writing as well. We need feedback. Responses. Interaction.

So how do we find good interactions that will improve our craft? And how do we avoid those that will harm it?

Well, that is the topic according to the post title, isn’t it? So let’s dive into this.

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping Character Variety

Welcome back readers! If you’re seeing this early early early Monday morning, that means that I succeeded in getting it written on Saturday before my work shift … so that I wouldn’t have to worry about not having written it during my Monday and Tuesday work shifts.

One day I’ll move into that 20% of authors that don’t need a second job. Someday …

But for today, we’re back on track with Topic List 11 and chugging right along with a particularly interesting request topic: keeping characters fresh.

Now, granted, this request came with a bit of an explanation, which I’ll give to you now (and is reflected in the title). Our intrepid seeker of knowledge wasn’t asking about keeping a character constantly “fresh” over the course of the story (that’s another topic for another day) or how much tupperware they’d need to keep them from going stale. No, what they were asking after was another kind of freshness: how to keep their new characters from simply being photocopies of prior ones?

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