Being a Better Writer: Politics and Writing

Welcome back readers! No news this week, we’re just diving right in! I felt that with the United States celebrating Independence Day this last weekend, today’s post topic felt timely. Though it wasn’t inspired by current events. This topic has been on the list for several months, inspired by a combination of commentary on various book and writing locales online as well as some very public statements by a gaming company on the nature of politics and stories (statements I disagreed with, personally).

So then, with no further ado, let’s jump in and talk about politics and writing. This is going to be a rather involved post, and as well, I suspect, somewhat controversial, because as of late culturally the idea of talking about politics has become fairly divisive in and of itself. Or to put it bluntly: Many seem to only think politics should be spoken about as long as what’s being said supports their position (no matter what it is) with as little friction as possible.

Which is kind of a genesis of sorts for this post. See, today we’re not going to talk about how to write political intrigue in our stories, nor how to write a book that focuses on politics and governmental drama. Not at all (besides, you approach that like any other topic: lots of research). No today we’re discussing the idea of having “politics” be something in a story at all.

You may have heard this statement before from someone in person or online, or at least a statement akin to it: “I don’t like politics in my story. There’s no need for them. [Creator] can just make a story without politics in it.”

Yeah, this is a popular phrase being parroted around these days. If you haven’t heard it, count yourself lucky, because any following discussion devolves into madness, usually quite quickly. However, this commonality of this statement does raise a legitimate question: are they right?

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Being a Better Writer: Lengthening without Padding

Hello readers!

Normally at this point I’d express hope that you all had a good weekend, but given the events of the last few days, some of you most assuredly did not. Instead, I’ll express that I hope you had a safe weekend with all the civil unrest going on, and that you did at least glean a moment of joy from the success of the successful SpaceX launch this weekend. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend heading over to YouTube and checking it out, as it marks a new era of space travel.

If you’re not sure why I’d make such a grand statement, here’s the quick summary: A commercial company, SpaceX, successfully launched two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard their own capsule and their own rocket, with their own space suits. Oh, and once again, the rocket that launched them was an RLV, or Reusable Launch Vehicle, which means that rather than crashing into the Atlantic and being a sunk cost it instead landed atop a barge to be refueled and reused later.

We’ve had that latter one, or rather SpaceX has, for a while. But a manned capsule launch? That’s good news. Something to somewhat offset all the lousy news that swept over the weekend.

All right, let’s move on to today’s topic. Which is a reader request, as most of the topics on the current topic list are. So thank you to the reader that suggested this topic, and I hope my explanation aids you in working through this question! Because today’s topic is an interesting one: lengthening without padding.

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Being a Better Writer: Escalation

Welcome back readers! I trust you had an enjoyable weekend? For many of you given current conditions I imagine it wasn’t too different from the actual week.

So, a quick bit of news: A Trail for a Dragon is now in Alpha! That’s right, readers have been poring over it and offering feedback, suggestions, and more of the usual Alpha stuff. Plus enjoying it. From some of the comments, quite a bit! If you are an Alpha Reader but haven’t gotten to it yet, please do ASAP, as there’s a deadline on this story and it’s always better to beat those as cleanly as possible!

Second bit of news: Expect more Fireteam Freelance this weekend! We’ve got episode three almost ready for its big appearance, so if you’re a fan of Adah, Ursa, Anvil, and Owl, be sure to come back this weekend for their latest op!

Okay, that’s the news. Anything else that wasn’t brought up will get it’s own post later this week. So now let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this post so many of you came for, and let’s talk about escalation.

I’d wager that a few of you came this far simply on the curiosity of what I mean by the term escalation. So without much further ado, let’s get into that.

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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: Keeping it Simple

Alternative title: Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew.

Hello readers! Welcome back! How was your weekend? I trust it was enjoyable?

I hope I was able to help with that. Episode two of Fireteam Freelance dropped Saturday morning with a bang! More adventures with Adah, Ursa, Anvil, and Owl!

And … that’s all the time I’ve got for news today. And all the news, so it works out. So, let’s talk writing.

With a title like this some of you are probably wondering what the inspiration is. Well, as many of you know, I do a lot of reading. Not just books, but webcomics and even some fanfiction here and there as well. I’m also highly selective, especially with the last two, but I do notice a lot of trends. Trends that tie back into a lot of stuff I hear from novice writers (who frequently turn around and write fanfiction or webcomics).

In fact, I was actually tempted to share a synopsis I found for one new webcomic in this very post to illustrate my point today, but decided against it. It would have illustrated today’s point, or rather today’s issue we’re discussing pretty well … but I’d hate to have that creator find this post and feel personally put under a spotlight they didn’t ask for.

So let me give you a common hypothetical. An occurrence that happens to authors, or to teachers in creative writing courses, or even to random people who know someone bitten by the writing bug. They get cornered, and they’re given a synopsis of this new writer’s planned plot and story. And it’ll be something like this:

So the main character is an undead werewolf, right? And she’s trying to hide and survive this organization that’s hunting her, while trying to figure out what happened to her mother. Her mother was a powerful sorceress who might have discovered the cure for this deadly disease that’s wiping out the world, which she got from aliens. But the good aliens, not the bad ones. See, she was part of a secret organization that fought the bad aliens during World War I, who were using voodoo to try and manipulate the world and take over. They’re not related to the people hunting the main character—or maybe they are, I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, one of the people hunting her is secretly in love with her, but there’s a problem because they’re actually a vampire, part of a secret organization that’s working against everyone else to try and make the world eternally night by using the bad and good aliens. So we start out in this high school …

So, what do you think of my short story idea?

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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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Being a Better Writer: Avoiding One-Note Character Pitfalls

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and you all know what that means!

Also, brief news, just a refresher, but LTUE, the writing con to beat all writing cons, is coming! Be there if you can!

But, before we get started, I need to issue a warning. No, not a news warning, but a warning about today’s post. Why? Because some people are going to find it controversial. Or, if they stop in the first few moments and don’t go past the opening, perhaps even “offensive.” Largely because they didn’t bother to read further and will be upset with the opening example, real as it may be. But I promise there’s a purpose and a point to it, though it will touch on an area of writing these days that will immediately make hackles rise. So just push through it, all right? It’ll make sense.

Okay, so to start with on today’s topic, I’m going to give you a character bio. Now, this character bio is real, a composite of several dozen real character bios across the web from various sources. But with one detail flipped. Which, as soon as you read it, you’ll likely pick up on. In fact, these bios (and the stories that resulted) were what prompted this post. Ready? Here we go. Again, this is a composite bio, built out of real bios, with one thing flipped, and once you see it, you’ll get it.

NAME: Bjorn the Mighty
Age: 37
About: Bjorn the Mighty prefers sex with women.

Okay, do I even need to ask? It’s pretty obvious what’s wrong with that bio. It consists of nothing more than who this character wants to have sex with, a name, and an age. There is literally nothing else save the inference from the “the mighty” part of their name.

If you’d like to know what I flipped from the real bios this is based on, it’s … Well, it’s which sex Bjorn likes to have sex with. And I can hear torches and pitchforks coming out from here, folks, hold up, hold up. Put the axes down. Stop revving the engines.

The point isn’t that someone “isn’t allowed” to flip that so that it says “Bjorn the mighty prefers with men.” The point is that too many authors as of late have fallen into a trap of letting that be the only point to the character’s character.

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Being a Better Writer: Taking the Lumps

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday! I know for many Monday is seen as a bit of a drag, being the start of the workweek and all that, but for me? Well, I always get to look forward to them because it means another Being a Better Writer post! And I kind of hope that in a way, a lot of you look forward to, if nothing else, at least this part of Monday because of BaBW.

Really quick, I do have some nice news, too, which also helps. Hunter/Hunted? Going into Beta. Look for a cover and a release date soon, fans! And Jungle? In Alpha, with a release planned for end of summer/early fall depending on the speed of editing. All I’ll say on that one is … dang. Rereading it and polishing it up, I’d forgotten how tense it got!

While I’m on the subject, Colony picked up two more Five-star reviews over the weekend across Goodreads and Amazon! Woo-hoo! One step closer to global domination!

Okay, got the news out of my system. So let’s talk about improving your writing. “Taking the Lumps?” What does that mean?

Well … interestingly enough, this is kind of, in a way, a related follow-up post to an incredibly popular BaBW post from two weeks ago on the Strong Female Protagonist. Not 100%, but … well, you’ll understand in a moment.

See, what inspired this post was a news article I read elsewhere on the internet. Well … read half of it. I started skimming when it got foolish, and then didn’t finish. Why? Because … it was bad. Terrible, actually.

I’ll give you the rundown. And, fair warning, it’s a bit of a socially charged article, which was the root of part of the overall problem with it. Just go with me for a moment.

The article was in effect a complaint piece. And half rage. And what it was complaining out—or at least, thought it was complaining about—was misogyny in a story series the author’s article followed.

Long story short, this was one of those “We want strong female characters articles” (and yes, this is putting it very simply and bluntly). The author really, really wanted all the male characters of this series stripped out and replaced by women characters.

Pitchforks down. Though that is a topic, really, all in and of itself, it’s not one we’re discussing today. Because in this case, they’d gotten their wish. The male characters had been sidelined, the female characters were the new leads … and the article writer was upset and offended.

Why? Because the female characters were suffering losses, injury, and even death, just as the male team had. And as the article writer felt, that was ‘misogynistic and sexist.’

Yeah, that’s why I stopped reading. It was a pretty dumb article. However hyperbolic it was, though, it was something that got me thinking, because the mentality behind it isn’t something that’s unusual or new. In fact, it’s been around for a long time. Regardless of the reasons we’re beholden to a set of characters, from gender to backstory to … well, any number of things that make a character appealing to us, there’s a constant we should never forget.

Struggle means risk. And risk can—and should—mean loss.

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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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