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?”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Cathartic Characters and Wish Fulfillment

All right, readers! Welcome back after another weekend! It’s time for Being a Better Writer once more, and this week we’ve got an interesting topic that I’ve been muddling over in my mind for a while. So it’s a bit of an interesting one.

There will be a call at the end, too, so make sure you read down to there if you’re curious what that means, or know what that means and are brimming with ideas!

Jungle CoverBut really quick, before we get into today’s post, just a reminder: We’re only a day and a week out from Jungle! That’s right, folks, it drops next Tuesday! We’re eight days away! Eight days from finding out what comes next after Colony! Eight days from … well, that’d be spoiling things. But hey, we’re eight days out, and you can still pre-order your copy today so that when the moment arrives, you’re reading ASAP! You can just click that cover over there to go right to Amazon and reserve your copy, or you can click this link instead!

Seriously guys, you don’t want to miss this one. Colony scraped the surface of things. Jungle? It’s … Well, you don’t want to miss it. Take it from the Alpha and Beta readers who worked on it, or the lucky few who got advance copies to look at: Jungle is wild.

Look for at least one more preview here on the site (or in advance on Patreon for supporters) before the book launches next week, but get ready! If you liked the first one, this one will be right up your alley.

Okay, enough plugging. Just go pre-order a copy, and let’s talk about today’s topic: cathartic characters and wish fulfillment.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Too Unique?

Hello readers!

First of all, I want to thank all of you for being patient with this week’s Being a Better Writer post and allowing me to move it to today. My mother was in town, and it’s been … two years, I believe, since I was able to see here last. Thanks to your patience and understanding, I was able to spend Monday and a good portion of my Tuesday with her.

So thank you, again. Living so far apart I don’t get many chances to see her, so it was wonderful to have a day to catch up.

I have a second bit of good news as well! I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday for my wrist, and it was pronounced almost fully recovered, but recovered enough to no longer have work restrictions. I have one more physical therapy appointment, and they want me to keep up the exercises for another month or after that, and effectively until the final checkup in May, but …

I’m good!

I also caught a filling that had cracked and fallen out within a week at the dentist’s, so I’m getting that fixed without much issue.

Right, so there’s lot’s of good news from me. Hope things are going well for all you readers. But with that said, let’s dive into today’s topic!

So, what do I mean by naming this post Too Unique? Well, I want to talk about something today that can make or break a book’s characters.

In fact, it’s on my mind because the last book I finished? Broken. In part because each of its nine or so characters was this. They were too unique.

Again, I’m using that term, but not explaining. So let’s get down to business. What do I mean by “too unique?”

Continue reading