Being a Better Writer: Historical Fiction

Welcome back, readers! And sorry for the delay. Life … finds a way. That isn’t always to one’s benefit! This week is just looking crazy.

Which means it’s probably best if I dive right in, given my ticking clock today. So, historical fiction …

Okay, disclaimer. I give these every so often. I don’t write historical fiction. So I’m not the best authority on this subject. While I have written stuff that has taken place in other time periods, both future (Colony) and past (Shadow of an Empire), both of those also deviate quite a bit from what would be considered historical fiction because one’s the future, and the other isn’t Earth, but a fantasy world with magic thrown into the mix.

Which doesn’t mean you can’t throw a little magic into things with your historical fiction—it’s been done. What I’m saying is that my grasp of historical fiction is not as complete as someone who writes historical fiction full-time. I touch on it, they embrace it.

But … even with those who embrace it, there is plenty of historical fiction out there that is truly terrible. Just bad. And if you want to write historical fiction, you’re going to want to avoid stepping into those same mistakes, and into those same pitfalls. So, what are they? Well, let’s talk shop! Writing shop!

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Being a Better Writer: Research and Ramifications

Welcome, readers! Before we begin with today’s post, an obligatory plug, if you will. If you somehow missed it, Shadow of an Empire‘s cover has been revealed in all its glory! You can check it out here! And yes, that does have to do with the slight redesign of the site and its colors. Shadow of an Empire is releasing June 1st, and will be available for pre-order later this week!

Excited? Good! I know I am.

So, that out of the way, let’s talk about today’s topic: Research and the ramifications that come with it. Because, as with most things in the writing world … it’s not quite so simple when you get down to it.

Now, I’ll be clear up front: This is a request topic. Actually, it’s a pretty common request topic. Which, as often as I hammer the point home of “always do the research” doesn’t exactly surprise me. I’ve made a point of it time and time again in my posts here on the site and elsewhere around the web—and even in person! If you want to be an author, and write a story about anything … Do. The. Research. Learn about that thing. And learn well.

Naturally, this second bit is the crux of the topic today. At least at the outset. Because while it’s one thing to say “do the research,” for some it’s a bit like telling someone to build a boat. I say “do the research” and there are a cluster of authors new and old who respond with the concerned question of “Okay, how?” And yes, I say old as well as new because there are plenty of authors out there I’ve read that clearly have no idea how to do even the most basic research.

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Being a Better Writer: Good Subversions

Welcome back, readers, to another Being a Better Writer post!

Okay, so it’s not that surprising. After all, these things have been dropping like clockwork each Monday for almost five years now, so any surprise at this point either means you’re new or really poor at picking up on patterns. But in any case, it’s Unusual Things‘ … well, thing!

Anyway, I got all relevant news out of the way last week with the last news post, and there’s nothing new that’s worth bringing up at this time, so let’s just dive in to today’s topic shall we? And, oh yes, this is a request topic (clearing out the last of Topic List Ten, so get ready to suggest new topics), one that’s been a long time coming!

So, today we’re going to talk about writing good subversions. Which, almost immediately, means that our first question is going to be “What is a subversion?”

Well, it’s both simple and more complicated than it seems at the same time. But a subversion is when the story sets up an expected path, event, trope, etc, and then when the moment arrives to bring that same event/trope/story element to its expected conclusion … something happens to turn everything the reader expected about said element on its head. It’s called a subversion because when you subvert something, you undermine the established “traditional” narrative, or disrupt it. In other words, you—the author—have become a subversive element to an established trope, event, etc.

Let’s talk examples, and pick one of the more famous ones: The classic fantasy damsel in distress. We’ll start with an even more common story-arc in this formula, that of the princess being kidnapped by a dragon, and a heroic knight sent out to rescue her in return for her hand in marriage. That’s the classic setup echoed across fairy-tale and folklore for the longest time.

Now? Let’s subvert it! Sat we follow this story, it’s novella length, from the knight’s perspective as he travels across the land, in pursuit of this dragon and hunting for its lair. Then, after a time and some arduous travels, he arrives to find … That the princess doesn’t want to be rescued, thank you very much. She’s best friends with the dragon, been pen pals for years, and her dragon friend wasn’t kidnapping her but saving her from … Oh, an abusive parentage, or an arranged marriage of political convenience that the knight was specifically not told about (so that the king can conveniently backstab him later). The princess isn’t being poorly treated, but in fact is living well and finding her true calling as a baker …

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Being a Better Writer: Characters with Weaknesses

Welcome back! And welcome newcomers! I’ve been getting a lot of hits from Reddit’s r/writing, so those of you that are new, welcome to Unusual Things!

Now, first things first. Counting today, we are only four days colony-finalfrom the release of Colony! I’m keeping track of the numbers, and it has already seen more preorders than Unusual Events. Plus they keep rolling in! Still, that leaves four days for that record to have a nice, high bar by the time of release, so if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Colony yet, now’s the time! Hit the link and go! Or if you’ve already ordered it but know someone else who will enjoy it, fire them the link! Or share it on Facebook or your social media site of choice! The more eyes get a look, the better!

Right, enough plugging. It’s time to talk about writing!

So this week we have a request topic from a reader, but it’s one of the ones that is far more into the nuts and bolts end of things. More specifically, it’s right into the nitty-gritty of characters, which is something I can really dig into (and deliver on, if my reviews are any indication).

Anyway, this reader wanted to know how to go about writing characters with weaknesses. Specifically, they were curious about how they could go about writing a character with physical disabilities, such as one that was wheelchair bound or missing a limb.

This is an excellent question, because similar to writing about gender, there’s definitely a right way to go about it … and a wrong way.

But I’m not going to launch right into it. We’re going to do a bit of a lead-in first. And to do that, I want to talk a little bit about a subject that I’ve covered before: overpowered and underpowered characters.

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Being a Better Writer: Writing Outside Your Experience

This post was originally written and posted April 7th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never faced down a magical golem in my life.

Surprising, I know. If you’ve read my work, it certainly sounds like I have. But the truth is, never once have I faced a magically animated, humanoid construct, much less on the roof of a moving train. I’ve never faced down an eldritch abomination of stitched-together body parts, either. Or suffered a post-traumatic event related breakdown. Or even used magical conservation of inertia to move myself around a room.

But I’ve written about all of these things.

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