Being a Better Writer: Embracing Conflict in All its Forms

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and another Being a Better Writer article is upon us! Though first, I do have two bits of news. Don’t worry, they’re both short.

First up, Being a Better Writer has opened another topic call, and that means it’s time for you to submit your ideas for writing topics you’d like to see BeBW cover! We always open up the Topic List to suggestions when we start building another one, and inevitably we get some great suggestions from readers, so if there’s a topic you’d like to hear about, let it be known on the topic call post! Make a comment!

Our second bit of news? I may do a post on this later, but I saw Sonic the Hedgehog 2 over the weekend. Remember how I blasted the new Halo show for making all the obvious terrible choices with a video game adaptation? Well, Sonic 2 is the opposite of that. In fact, my one sentence review of the movie would have to be “Everything Halo does wrong Sonic 2 does right.” I had an absolute blast, laughed myself silly, and grinned until my face hurt. Granted, I grew up playing the Genesis Sonic titles relentlessly (to the degree that some bugs, exploits, and secrets on the web I actually discovered and authored), so I love the series. But either way, I had a blast watching this film, and if you even somewhat enjoyed the first one I’d say it’s a sure bet you’ll have a lot of fun with the second. And they’ve already green-lit the third as well as a live-action show that tells Knuckles’ story so I am 100% on board here.

Okay, I did say the news was short and sweet. Delivered on! So, what are we talking about today when it comes to writing?

Well, this is a topic we’ve discussed before in vary degrees, but it came up once again during a conversation I saw online the other day, in which someone offered their opinion about a book, but said opinion raised a few eyebrows. Not because “Hey, your opinion bad” but more because their opinion was a bit, shall we say, odd.

Effectively, they’d left their thoughts on a book but were somewhat critical of it for not having any “traditional” action scenes, so to speak, stating that they weren’t sure who would be interested in a book that didn’t have any traditional battles or fight scenes, or why there would be anyone who would prefer anything that wasn’t guns, magic, action, etc. Basically, though the book had conflict, they believed that because it wasn’t violent conflict, the book therefore had low appeal because who wouldn’t want violent, action-filled conflict. They then backed that statement by declaring that this made it a “less mature” version of something else they liked.

Again, all because it lacked action and violence with its conflict, instead focusing on social conflict and bloodless battles of voice and opinion.

The issue here is … They’re wrong. And I’ll openly say that. Just because a book doesn’t have violent conflict in a physical sense does not mean that a story doesn’t have conflict, nor that the majority of people don’t want to read it.

In fact, statistically, the most embraced conflict in books is not violence, I would argue, but emotional conflict. My support for that statement? Romance books. They’re about 33% of book industry total sales or so, depending on who you ask and whether you count non-fiction, and the largest genre overall.

And Romance books? They’re not full of guns, bullets, sword fights, and the action-adventure peril. They’re full of a very different kind of action. And not the obvious joke, either. Most romance books are about social conflict rather than “How many dudes can this dude kill?” There might be a single action scene a climax, like a sword duel (yes yes, laugh) between two rival love interests or something, but overall, the point of the book is not to deliver death-defying action and peril.

Don’t get me wrong, those books do exist, even in romance. Spy thrillers and the like do mix Romance with deadly peril. But it’s far from every romance book.

Which means this internet poster’s stance is just completely off-base. Their issue was that they were thinking of “conflict” as required by any story to be action or violence, rather than any of the other forms conflict can take.

So hit that jump, and today let’s talk about other forms of conflict that can feature in your stories, and how these are still valid forms of conflict!

Because your story doesn’t have to have a gun fight or a sword duel in it to have “conflict.” Conflict is a wide range, and your story can pick and choose from all across that spectrum for the story you want to tell. Hit the jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Runaway Characters and Script

Hello readers! Welcome back! It’s another Monday, and bigger still another month! It’s officially April! So, let’s drop some updates before we get into the meat of things. Starting with some real news about Starforge.


Alpha Reading continues, slowly but surely. The furthest reader is about halfway through now (I did mention this is a 500,000 words book, didn’t I?) and the rest of the Alphas trailing somewhere near or far behind. Right now, since I’m hot on the heels of the lead for edits, I’m thinking of starting a second edit pass back on the early chapters, specifically with regards to a phew larger rather than smaller overhauls (like on chapter three, which needs some serious “sanding” on those rough edges).

The pace, though, says this one might take a while. I’d like to get it out this November, but currently the Alpha’s have had access to Starforge since early-to-mid February and we’re now in April with the leader among them only halfway through. Big. Book. At the current pace then, the slowest of the current Alpha Readers will finish it around … August. Which is a little too late for getting a second Alpha batch in, followed by at least two Beta passes and a copy edit if it’s going to be out by November. That would leave three months for a second Alpha pass, two Beta passes, etc.

I may have to do what I’ve done before and leave a few Alpha Readers behind, especially as there are already waiting people for the second Alpha Read (plus the Beta). Schedule is a requirement, and I simply can’t wait until 2023 or 2024 to get Starforge out.

On the plus side, those who have been Alpha Reading have really been enjoying it as the story has taken off (though again, not without areas that are getting fixed, changed, tweaked, etc). I’m enjoying the feedback and seeing the reactions of readers as they journey through the finale of this trilogy!

I really would like to see this one released by November, and that means getting the first Alpha done by at least the start of May. Earlier if possible. If you’re a current Alpha Reader who hasn’t sat down at it yet, please take the time and dig in. As with Colony and Jungle, you’ll very likely find it hard to pull away (past a few problem areas you’ll already see comments about).


Now, news outside of Starforge: Topic List #19 is almost exhausted, so this week I’ll be posting a call for writing topics you’d like to see in future Being a Better Writer posts. I’ll also be planning a live Being a Better Writer for the coming weeks, where we do a live Q&A on the Discord for everyone to listen in on. And if I end up heading up to Alaska in a few weeks (more on that as it develops) for a short trip, once again I’ll be building a backlog of Being a Better Writer posts, along with other posts to keep the site delivering content while I’m “off the grid.” I’m fairly certain that’s going to happen, but the timing so far has been very loose.


In other news The Minstrel and the Marshal is ready for submission to Troubadours and Space Princesses, the next LTUE Anthology collection. As each author is allowed two submissions this year, I’m debating a smaller, goofier and more light-hearted second entry, though it needs a little more brainstorming.

Submissions do close at the end of the month, so if you’re curious about submitting, or would like to have a go at getting your name in print—for a good cause no less—then check out the submission guidelines here.


Really quick, since I did mention The Minstrel and the Marshal, I do want to talk about plans for upcoming writing projects (and other writing-related stuff). While Alpha Editing is going on I do tend to have some time to write on the side (how Minstrel and its predecessor were written) and there are a few more short story concepts for More Unusual Events that I could plot out. Past that, if I take some spare time to write, it’s definitely time for another Jacob Rocke adventure, and I have been slowly putting a new mystery together for him to solve!

After that gets written (sometime over this spring, likely while I’m letting Alpha/Beta Readers build up a headway) then the next project will be Axtara – Magic and Mayhem. Oh, and somewhere in there I should look at polishing up Fireteam Freelance.

And with all that said … let’s talk Being a Better Writer and put the news on hold, shall we? That was a bit of a news dump, so let’s swing to today’s topic and talk about what to do when your characters or your script start to run away with things. Hit that jump, and let’s talk writing!

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Being a Better Writer: Tabletop Conversations

Hello readers, and welcome back once again! If you’re here on this Monday afternoon by some prior plan, then you know what’s up. If not, then welcome to the site and our weekly Monday post of Being a Better Writer! This week we’re going with a bit of a more classic topic, though not without a bit of wordplay within the title.

But first, we’ve got news to talk about. Con news, to be specific! Life, The Univere, and Everything is coming February 17-19, 2022!

Those of you that know what LTUE is can rejoice now. Those who do not, or haven’t been on this site before and heard about the con, LTUE is a writing con. That means that the panelists are all authors and experts on specific topics, there to talk about writing in all its various aspects and forms. I’ve attended it for almost two decades now, first as a young student, now as a panelist, and it remains the best con I’ve been to for being all about writing. With hundreds of authors and panels talking about all sorts of writing topics, from the basic to the specific (there’s always a panel on how to write action scenes, for example, chaired by some of the better action writers in the business, but there are also panels like ‘garbage dumps through the ages’ taught by historians and authors who’d need to know that stuff) LTUE is a smorgasbord of expert writing advice.

It’s also cheap. Students, be they K-12 or collegiate, get in for $5. For the whole three days. That’s right. Five bucks. Non-students pay a bit more (usually around $75 for all three days), but that’s still an incredibly low price for three whole days of writing content. The panelists are all volunteer as well. This isn’t one of those “writing camps” taught by a few people with one book to their name who make the majority of their living telling others how they wrote that one book by being at that camp. These panelists are people taking time away from their normal day job of writing, editing, or being an expert on something in order to talk about the craft because they love it and want to help others.

If you’re somewhat versed in Fantasy and Sci-Fi you’ll recognize a few of these names too. This year’s Writing Guest of Honor is non other than Jody Lynne Nye, and if you check the “featured guests” page over on LTUE’s website, you’ll see quite a few other names you’ve likely heard of (or read). Checking the full schedule page will let you search all the attending panelists, and you may see a few more names on there you recognize!

Now, I’m going to link that schedule page once more, because that’s also how you can look at a full list of upcoming panels, and it’s time to start figuring out what panels you’d like to hit.

Even if you can’t come in person. Last year the entire LTUE experience was uploaded to Youtube as well as available to attend online. I’m not sure of the exact details around online attendance this year myself, since I’m going in person, but there are whole archives on YouTube of prior years’ panels. They usually end up online about six months later, but that’s better than nothing if you can’t make it.

UPDATE: I have been informed that there will not be as many recorded sessions this year due to some of the principle recording staff being unable to attend. The staff hope to record and post some sessions, but they will likely be few in number and take more time than usual if they’re uploaded.


Now, one more item of news before we dive into today’s topic. As in prior years, I will once again be attending LTUE this year as a panelist (most of you probably guessed that). It’s an absolute delight, and once again I’ve got a bevvy of fun panels to look forward to, including—

  • A Space Opera Starter Kit
  • Fanfiction: Having Fun
  • My Genre Wishlist
  • Science Fiction Faux Pas
  • No Mirrors: Character Description in First Person

I’d love to see you there! In addition, I’ll also be at the big book signing and moving around the con conversing and attending other panels.

But there’s one more little tidbit that I want to share that definitely belongs in the news section. Not only will I be at the book signing, but the LTUE book vendors will be carrying copies of Axtara – Banking and Finance and Shadow of an Empire!

That’s right! In prior years this hasn’t been a thing, because I’ve been solely a digital purveyor of products (despite attending the book signing anyway). But with a few of my titles now available in dead tree format, you’ll now be able to purchase them at the LTUE bookstore. I’ll be bringing a few extra copies as well to have on hand, but if you’ve been thinking of snagging a paperback for either of those two titles at last, LTUE will be your chance not only to do so, but to get it signed while you’re at it!

You know, unless they run out. They’ll have a decent stock of both, but the way they sell …

All right, that’s it for this Monday’s news. I know that was a lot, but hey, LTUE is a big deal, and only happens once a year. We’ll talk about it more in the future, but for now, let’s talk about “Tabletop Conversations.”

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Being a Better Writer: Tears Are Not Weak

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope you all had a pretty good weekend, and that you’re ready for the week ahead.

Now, as usual before we get started we’ve got a small reminder to state: Christmas is coming! The holidays are here! And with everything that’s been going on, this year is definitely a year to order your Christmas gifts early.

I’m not just saying this because it’s “Cyber Monday.” I spent a good chunk of my Saturday ordering Christmas gifts (yes, before the Cyber Monday sales because I knew what I was ordering wasn’t likely to be discounted) and getting them on their way just so I’m not caught by surprise when something gets delayed. We’ve already got supply issues this year, combined with problems that the USPS has been facing. If you can, just start getting things now, and avoid the risk (and the rush).

To that, I will add a bit of a shameless plug and say that for the reader in your life, I do have a nice array of books to choose from over on the Books page. Axtara – Banking and Finance in particular is a perfect purchase for any lover of non-standard fantasy or dragons in your life. If they loved Dealing with Dragons, they’ll love Axtara. On the other hand if you know someone looking for a large, epic journey with a touch of wild west magic to it, Shadow of an Empire will keep them occupied for days.

And of course, if they’re Sci-Fi fans, you can gift them copies of Colony and Jungle, right to their device. On Christmas Eve, no less (yay for scheduling, right?).

Okay, enough shilling. We’re here to talk writing. But before we do—it’s related, I promise—a quick reminder that this is the first BaBW post from Topic List #19, and there is a topic call going on! Which means that if there’s a writing topic you want to hear about, then you can get it on the list! Just head on over to the Topic Call post and let us know what you want to hear about! Got a question? A topic you’d like explored? An area of difficulty you’re struggling with? Get a Being a Better Writer post on it!

Okay, that’s enough news and whatnot for the day. Let’s talk writing.

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Being a Better Writer: The Mary Sue

You know, it’s almost impressive it took this long for a direct post on this topic to come up.

I mean it! While the topic has come up before in other posts and been discussed in amounts ranging from referential to a few paragraphs, in all the years Being a Better Writer has been running, we’ve never tackled the topic in a post of its own. Somehow, it just never came up or was requested in an in-depth fashion.

But then I had a conversation that got me thinking on Mary-Sue characters once more. Specifically, a conversation that held a bit of a debate over what a Mary Sue was, with various folks offering different opinions. Most of which were quite accurate, but there were a few offered that were also a little far from what a Mary Sue was, which led to further discussion over the definition.

At which point, as some people held that a Mary Sue was just “a character they didn’t like” I checked the archives here and realized “Well dang, I’ve never actually written a post on this topic” and put it on the list, once and for all.

Which brings us to today, and the pertinent questions that come as a result of such a straightforward topic: What is a Mary Sue? Where did the term come from? How does it show up in writing. And, of course, the most important question of all for BaBW: how does can we put this knowledge to use in our writing?

Hit the jump, and let’s talk about Mary Sues.

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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: 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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Being a Better Writer: Selling Emotion in a Written Medium

Hello readers! Welcome back after the (for many) Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend! A bit of an odd one given the pandemic issues sweeping the country at the moment, but a Holiday Weekend all the same. Like many, I stayed home, making a Thanksgiving meal for one—by which I mean I’ll be eating leftovers for a while now—and then got all my Christmas shopping done in a single, several hour stint of buying on Friday. It’s a bit easier when you’ve had some gifts in mind for a while.

Anyway, it was a pretty nice weekend past that. Got a bit further in The Pinch, which I’ll be talking a little bit about when I’m done, and also tore through Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which I can absolutely recommend as a worthy successor to the first title, Ori and the Blind Forest. Very evocative story-telling, to the point that yes, just like with the first game I teared up a little. Moon Studios is really good at getting that Pixar-like empathy with the audience going, all without dialogue.

Which actually ties in to what I wanted to talk about today, actually! Because yes, both Ori titles do a fantastic job of selling emotion, in a way that’s very reminiscent of the opening to Pixar’s Up (yes, that opening), and selling emotion like that is what we’re talking about today. So hit that jump, and let’s get started!

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Being a Better Writer: Using Food

A quick reminder to start keeping a list of your ideas for future Being a Better Writer articles! Topic List #15 is almost out of topics, which means there will soon be a topic call and a chance to make your requests for ideas and topics heard!

Got it? Good! Because today we’re diving right into our topic, which was inspired by a writing chat I hang out on. You ready? Today we’re talking about food.

Ah food. That subject that everyone has an opinion on. Food is as basic a part of the human lifestyle—or really any living lifestyle—that it’s ubiquitous to existence.

With that in mind, to kick this post off, I want you readers to try a little thought experiment for me. I want you to think of a memory of a favorite holiday. Got one in mind? Now analyze it: was food in that memory somewhere?

There’s a fairly high chance that it was. What kind of food may have varied, but some of you may have even been able to almost taste it as you imagined that holiday.

All right, now let’s try a second little experiment. Just read the following things and see what sort of thoughts pop up at the prompt. Ready? Go!

  • County Fair
  • Wedding
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Business meeting
  • Birthday
  • Break

All right, made it through the list? Now, this may have been tempered a bit by the topic, but how many of you thought of foods associated with those events, activities, etc?

Sure, it might be something simple, like donuts at a business meeting (the 90s standard) or snacking on a break. It might be wedding cake or onion blooms at a county fair. But all of these activities, in one way or another, can, and most likely will, involve food!

However … if you were to look at those events in a book of some kind … how many might skip over the food altogether? More than a few, actually. And those books?

They’re missing out.

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