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  1. Author Branding One of the greatest parts of being a highly creative person who shares their work with others who enjoy it is this...no one can ever ever take it from you. It can’t be taught, forced, or manipulated, by anyone else. It’s hard for most people to even understand, to be honest. How can someone create something out of nothing? No order given, no guidelines, no rules or regulations, no fixed direction on what to do or where to go. I assume that most of you reading this right now don’t really see this as being any big task at all, as you’re you’re all highly creative people just like I am...but understand...it’s not like that for everybody. What you have is a specific talent that many don’t, and might never be able to, understand. Take pride in that. It will be one of the biggest strengths in your writing...finding the courage and the confidence in whatever it is that you, and you specifically, have to bring to the table as an author. The more you engage your talents in the art of making the intangible tangible, the more they will evolve and expand. You take a few chances over ‘here’ that you might not have taken before. Maybe you add some details and depth to a scene over ‘there’ that you might have originally skipped over as a less experienced writer. No matter what is that you’re trying out or experimenting with...you become more closely intertwined with your own work. And the more honest and more vulnerable you are with your storytelling...the more it becomes a unique part of you, and vice versa. Soon, you as a writer become recognizable in your work. And this is something that I truly believe can be used to your advantage when building a fanbase and a varied body of work that you can be proud of. Now, this doesn’t have to be your thing if you want to go into every story, brand new, and just want to entertain with each project standing on its own two feet. It’s a very cool approach and works well if that’s your goal. But I feel like if you want to create a collection of quality stories that expresses the best parts of you and want to take your own spot among some of the greats...then author branding, in my opinion, is a must! So let’s talk author branding... What is it, and why would it be of any help to you? Branding is the art of creating this awesome mystique about you and your talents that will create a bond of trust between you and your readers. It is the ‘you’ that they are sure to recognize whenever they read your work. There’s an expectation there. A predictable level of enjoyment. When you release a brand new project, your audience should see your name, or online handle, and immediately get excited. They know what to expect, and it’s up to you to deliver. Will everything that you write be a big hit? No. Doubtful. Nobody’s perfect, and not everything can be golden. BUT...if you’ve branded yourself as a writer of quality, you will be rewarded with a certain amount of loyalty. Even if you’re writing a story that your readers aren’t interested in...they may just peek in and give it a chance regardless. Hehehe, sometimes I’ll write a college romance, sometimes a high school romance. I might do something like science fiction one day, and may dabble into some horror, and then try fantasy, and then write more romance. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve written entire series that people told me they had no interest in...but when they finally checked it out, they took it back and became an instant fan. This is what author branding can do for you. They may not know the story, they may not know the genre...but they know ‘Comicality’. And they know I wouldn’t just release something that wasn’t close to my heart in some way, shape, or form. They know how I treat my characters, and how I weave my story plot lines together, and how I treat certain situations with infatuation or heartbreak or fear. My audience knows my sense of humor. They know that I’m going to toss some teen angst into the mix. And that I won’t shy away from being tastefully ‘naughty’ when I feel the story calls for it. These are parts of my writing that people have grown used to and can recognize when they see it...so whether the next big series sounds like it’s going to be right up their alley or not...if they enjoyed some of my other stuff, there will be a curiosity as to whether or not it’ll fall in line. And that’s a plus in the win column for me. Every time. If you think about the many authors that you may read here on Gay Authors...you may see a few similarities in the kinds of writers and stories that attract your attention the most. Take a moment and think about what those qualities are and which writers embody them the most. Some writers might have a more poetic prose in their text, and some may be a bit more straightforward and down to earth. Some may create longer stories or series that will keep you engaged for a longer period of time, and some may enjoy writing something short and sweet and easy to digest in one sitting. What are your favorites? And why is that? Do you like writers who add a bit more sexual content in their work, or would you rather have something much more subtle or merely suggested instead of reading through any graphic depictions? All of these things are determined according to your personal taste as a reader, and your readers are no different. There’s a certain ‘flavor’ that they’ve come looking for...and if their search is in sync with your particular brand of content...then they will keep coming back to you, time and time again, whenever you post something new. They know what to expect from you. Thus...author branding. So what is your niche? What do you enjoy writing the most, and where do you fall in when it comes to building something new? You don’t have to commit to writing just one thing or feel handcuffed to one genre, but it’s important to develop your writer’s voice in ways where it can work almost anywhere. If having a sense of humor or a certain sting of sarcasm in your storytelling or your dialogue...focus on making that your calling card. Even without seeing you named as the author, people should be able to read certain comments or get a certain vibe from your characters and know that this is your work. Either that, or a shameless duplication. Hehehe! The more in tune you are with your greatest strengths, the easier it will be to recognize your signature talents and build trust and loyalty with your audience moving forward. That means that you have to bring your ‘A’ game each and every time you release a new story. No excuses. Because where a good brand can really help you out and showcase your abilities in a positive light...a bad brand can do twice as much damage. Even if you’ve already got a good brand going beforehand. A lazy or lackluster story will make everything else that you’ve done seem out of balance. How can you create a brand if that brand is inconsistent? It’s like...there might be a fabulous restaurant right around the corner from your house that you’ve never been to, and it might have excellent food. You’ve just never tried it before. So you grab your wallet, you leave the house...and you end up at McDonald’s. Why? Because McDonald’s is a recognizable brand. No surprises, no time or money wasted...you know what to expect and keep going back for more. There’s nothing WRONG with that...but they’re consistent. If nothing else, you’ll always have a steady line worth of business. When it comes to building a brand as an author...you want to take that amazing little restaurant that hardly anybody knows about, get people to give you a try, and then deliver something that’s worthy of grabbing that same kind of attention. You can’t have an off day. You want to serve people something that they’ll love and come back for. And then spread the word so you can get even more people to do the same. Don’t rush the quality of your work. Put your heart into every word. Not everything I write is going to be perfect. Far from it, in fact. But I would rather miss a deadline or put a story on hold before I post or publish something that I didn’t give an exhaustive effort to. The Comicality brand means more to me than that. It’s supposed to stand for heart, and drama, and a sincere shot at excellence. So when my name is attached to a story, readers can expect a few giggles and warm fuzzy feelings, a heavy dose of teen angst, and a few dashes of boyish nostalgia thrown in. I may take those elements and tell them in a plethora of different ways...but no matter what it is that you read by me, you can be sure to feel my life essence in there somewhere. That’s my brand, and that’s what my readers come looking for when they see me. Something else that I always stress, but can never stress enough...put your NAME out there! Connect it to every creative endeavor that you put out there, and promote it every chance you get. Go to any website with multiple author contributions and look at how many new stories or chapters pop up each and every single day. Who are you? How are people going to learn and involve themselves in your particular brand if you don’t work to let them know, “Hey! If you liked this story, I also wrote these others over here!” Allow new readers and potential fans get familiar with your work. They may want to see more. If you can entertain them with two stories...what will story’s three and four be like? They key isn’t just to be seen as having a good story...but as a good writer. Create an aura around whatever it is that you do best and try to be as consistent with it as you possibly can be. That’s how you build a strong foundation to stand on. Also, find a way to keep your stories all in one place. As we all know, not everybody sends in an email or leaves a comment behind. You may not even know that they’re there. Have a space of your very own where if a reader comes to the end of one of your stories and decides that they like it...they can easily click a button to move on to something else written by you. Maybe they’ll enjoy that one too. But don’t make them ‘work’ for it. Don’t assume that somebody is going to spend extra time searching for your next story when there are thousands of other options at their fingertips. You’ve got their attention...hold on to it! Take your time and get your story right. Put out a champion effort if you want a champion response. Make it so every reader that has ever absorbed one of your stories in the past is antsy and fidgety to see what you’ll do next. You’re their favorite movie director. You’re that band that they’ve waited forever to hear a new album from. Build up a dependable brand by becoming one with the words you type out on your keyboards...and half of the excitement for your new story will already be taken care of before they even read a single word. Cool? Anyway, I hope this helps you guys when it comes to the ins and outs of this whole chaotic writing process. I realize that there’s a lot to think about, but if you can take all of the elements that we’ve talked about so far ad put them together? There’s no way you can lose! Take care! And I’ll seezya soon with more!
  2. Comicality

    Intimacy

    Intimacy In order to really connect your readers to the romantic stories that you write, you’ve got to keep in mind that it’s not always some giant swing of the pendulum that brings the mood and the tone from one extreme to the other. I think that it’s important to be able to recognize opportunities for all of those little giddy moments in between that can sometimes come off as being your biggest strengths. In fact, I’ve found that they can end up being the most touching and engaging parts of your story as a whole. An extra seasoning that will enhance the flavor of every other detail and event that you write around them. Intimacy, when you think about it...can be an effective binding agent that holds everything together. Gives it meaning. Power and purpose. And when done right...it can end up being one of the most erotic pieces of the puzzle when it comes to having your audience really feel as though they’re a part of the experience that you’re trying to build. Don’t write it off as a simple bonus to the rest of the story. It may just be the strongest weapon in your arsenal. So let’s discuss the potent impact of ‘intimacy’ in your writing... In earlier articles, I’ve talked about romance...and I’ve also talked about sex...but I feel like the art of writing ‘intimacy’ is something that hits on any number of points on the scale between the two. Now, this is where you can use a myriad of different emotions to create an exceptionally magical experience between your protagonist and their love interest. You can balance them out however you want, and mix and match them together like some kind of literary mad scientist! Whatever floats your boat! Hehehe! You see...the thing with intimacy is that nothing big has to be taking place for it to really captivate people and draw them even further into this fictional relationship without exhausting your other tools in the process. (Save those for bigger moments. Right now, just tickle your readers with little hints and tender expressions of love without anybody getting naked or making any big confessions or grand gestures. Remember...intimacy exists between those two wide swings of the pendulum) There’s a subtlety to it that simply can’t be taught or manufactured. This is one of those things that you really have to feel in your gut. And your readers will be able to feel it too. Trust me on this. This is another one of those ‘show, don’t tell’ moments where I think it works best when you strip everything down to its core...and just allow it to breathe. Don’t force it. Just allow it to happen. No sex needed. No groping, no kissing, no flirting...none of that. Shhhh...hehehe...give your characters a chance to discover the intimacy without any help or outside influence. You don’t even need dialogue. Enjoy the silence. Let them enjoy the silence. Intimacy is, like...this unspoken beauty that really shines the more you focus on the delicacy of it. Like a soft wind blowing a few blossoms into a slight, but graceful, bend. It can be as simple as a bump of two boys’ elbows. The breath on your cheek. A gentle blush, or an extended moment of eye contact. The more hidden the expression, the more powerful its pull on the heartstrings of your readers. Just peppering a few of these moments throughout your story can really enhance the feeling of a loving bond that will ultimately enhance every other interaction that these two characters have together for the rest of the project. The little things count. They really do. This is a full short film called “Running Without Sound” about two boys who have developed feelings for one another. I really like this one, but pay special attention to the scene that happens around 8:00 minutes. Where they’re together in a bedroom alone...and it hasn’t really been made clear whether they know the other boy is gay, despite their attraction. There’s this really intense, extended, silence between them...will they kiss? Not kiss? Say something? Stay quiet? Watching this, you can definitely find yourselves trapped in a moment of true intimacy. Not flirting or romance. Not sexual desire or contact. But all of the surreal moments of first love, and the possible promise for more. Tension, confusion, fear, yearning...rapid heartbeat, heavy breathing...searching for courage...that one extended moment touches on a variety of different emotions that seriously gets me all giddy and anxious every time I see it. But it’s cute and it’s awkward and just...extremely sweet! Hehehe, see for yourself. The best part of intimacy in your stories, depending on how you write it, is that you can leave the erotic nature of these moments in the hands of your audience. Some will see it as a playful tease, others will find it to be the hottest part of the story. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. But the key is to use these micro expressions to demonstrate a closeness that feels as though it is unique to these two characters alone. Something special that wasn’t meant to be shared with anyone else. You know? Using this method will set them apart from the typical boy meets boy story every time. Again, the beauty is in its simplicity. Holding hands, running your fingers through your partner’s hair, or gently rubbing noses together between kisses. Whispers, I think, are a real turn on. And just allowing your hands to glide over the skin of your lover after making love. Even when it’s not sexual in any way...there’s a certain excitement involved in short and sweet moments of intimacy. No words spoken, no kisses exchanged. Take a look at this clip from the TV series, “The Fosters”...and just feel the tension and boyish thrill of being in this position when you were first discovering intimacy for yourself. This scene is amazing! I can practically feel the poor kid’s heart beating hard enough to get all chocked up myself! Hahaha! Ahhhh….memories... One of the reasons that I think intimacy and smaller moments of affection in our stories is so effective when it comes to speaking to the hearts of your readers is because it’s like being plugged into a dream. It’s the ability to be totally vulnerable and see the world through the eyes of a romantic ‘hero’ of ours...but from a place of safety and security. You get to reap the benefits without any of the real risk that would com with it if you were to engage in the same behavior in real life, you know? When you’re living through the unguarded exploits of a fictional character in a story, you’re allowed to immerse yourself even further into the fantasy than you would if there were consequences involved. In a story, it’s ok to be awkward, or goofy, or to suddenly swoon and have a sudden ‘I love you’ outburst...knowing that it’ll be ok. I think there’s something really comfortable and alluring about that. So why not go for it? You’re the one with full control of the keyboard, aren’t you? The only limit is your imagination. Well...that and a suspension of disbelief, hehehe! But you get what I mean! One more example, and again...intimacy isn’t about some big event, or some story changing situation or plot twist. It’s not about a graphically, well written, sex scene, or a spoken exchange that was designed to bring tears of joy to your eyes. Those moments are needed too, and they work wonders when the time is right. But just a few random touches here and there, a few smiles across a crowded room, or a slightly awkward giggle between friends, can go a long way in your writing. Think of it this way...how would you feel accidentally bumping shoulders with a stranger on the bus...as opposed to bumping shoulders with the biggest boyhood crush you’ve ever had in a crowded elevator? Yep...that right there! You feel it? Hehehe, go ahead and smile! I won’t tell anybody! That’s the difference! This clip is from the show “Ugly Betty”, where the family pretty much knows their son is gay, but he refused to accept it...until now. And decided to ask his secret boyfriend to dance right there in front of everybody. It’s an intimate moment that really adds a whole new flavor to anything that could have come after that moment. (Unfortunately, I think that was the end of the series. But it would have) Like I said, intimacy is simple, but the impact is massive when used right. Not everybody is a modern day poet. Nobody spends their entire day giving and receiving flattering platitudes of love. And if all we did was have sex every day...how would the rest of the world even function. LOL! Who would want to do anything else, right? No. Sometimes...the best moments of life come from sharing a dance, a tender kiss on the cheek, or simply putting two straws in the same milkshake. Take advantage of these golden opportunities in your work and really demonstrate how close and tightly intertwined your main characters are when writing a romantic story. It helps to pain a three dimensional picture. Why are they together? What do they have in common? Why would they stay in love, other than they’re both cute and horny and have an intense attraction for one another? Sometimes...the love you’re writing about doesn’t really have to be about that. I’m not saying that you should avoid those other parts of the equation...just know that your readers will be more invested in those bigger moments if you occasionally focus on the little moments in between. Give it a try some time! And I hope this helps! K? Seezya soon, ladies and gentlemen! And happy writing!
  3. Comicality

    Parallels

    Parallels You know those moments in a lot of stories or movies where the hero comes up against their main rival, and they always say the same cliché phrase? Hehehe! That part where they say, "You know...we're not so different, you and I..." Hahaha! I've heard it so many times and phrased so many different ways, that it's kind of cheesy and weird now. However...it's a trope that I really actually LOVE to use in a lot of my stories, and do so often. I just don't have them talk about it out loud. I love the idea of deeply cultivated heroes and villains having a lot more in common than they ever could have thought possible. It's like...this hypocritical blindspot that neither one of them can really see or recognize until they're in direct conflict with one another...causing both characters to learn and grow simultaneously when faced with the truth of it all. There's something about that dynamic that really appeals to me, and always has. There's a parallel between good and evil, love and hate, righteousness and rage...that can be used to craft a really compelling argument between two or more complex characters. And if you create the fictional characters in your project with this idea in mind, it will add a number of different layers to who they are, and how they are perceived by your readers. It's just a matter of looking at problem or belief system from both points of view, and setting those perspectives to war against one another until there's almost an emotional 'stalemate' that will remain until both sides are forced to notice the similarities in their thoughts, feelings, and goals. Even while violently disagreeing with one another. One thing that I used to always love about comic books when I was growing up was the fact that it was the ideas and the relationships that were always driving the story forward. Anybody with super powers can punch the 'bad guy' in the mouth and tell him to shut up. But that's not 'strength'. That's just an advanced form of bullying at best. But what happens when the hero is close to understanding that he and his greatest villain have similar goals and methods? What then? In the movie, "The Dark Knight"...the Joker basically tells Batman, 'Yeah, I operate outside of the law, but aren't you doing the same thing? You're a vigilante.' He actually says, "Don't act like you're one of them! You're not!" And he's not lying when he says this. Once you take a step across the line...why not two? Why not TEN? What's stopping you? Everything that you're fighting for becomes a joke when you ignore the fact that we're both criminals. Very deep. It's one of the greatest character parallels in comic book history. Basically...the art of using character parallels in your story comes down to pointing out that we all have successes and failures. We all have triumphs and falls from grace. In the 'Writing Arguments' article, I talked about how amazing it is to have your readers sort of understand two opposing points of view. Parallels are different. This is when they share a common goal, but have conflicting ways about getting it done. I've always been intrigued by that idea. For example, in the story, "Gone From Daylight", my main character comes up against a deadly enemy that seems irrational and insane from his words, thoughts, and deeds. But...as my protagonist grows into his new life, he realizes that this enemy is what he could have been, if he had gone a different way. Both have suffered through abuse and bullying and pain...they just handled it in different ways. Whereas, in the story "Savage Moon"...the opposite happens. The protagonist immediately feels a kinship with the very people who are leading him astray, and he willingly goes along with that feeling of freedom and brazen self expression...until they begin to cross the line, and he goes running back to find it again. But what's really changed? Nothing really. Not when you think about it. It's just a matter of guilt and shame that keeps him from taking pleasure in what he was so ready to embrace, initially. But does he know that? Or is it another part of that hypocritical blindspot that he can't seem to recognize until he's forced to face it, once and for all? What is life if you never question your own role in it, you know? This is a writing technique that can be used in a variety of different ways to bring out a certain level of added depth to your main conflicts in your story. The idea that...what one character that you love and are rooting for to win the day...is operating on the same flawed blueprint that their antagonist is using to be such a thorn in their side. You take the time to paint them to be the villain, and then...little by little...you begin to unravel their motivations to expose the fact that they've been through rough times too. As they say, 'Every villain is the hero of their own story'. Your characters (Especially if you tell your stories from a first person gay teen perspective like I do) are usually so wrapped up in their own goals, problems, feelings, and ambitions, to really see a different way of thinking or asking to have their point understood as anything other than aggravating friction. It's natural. We all do it from time to time. But if you can write a story where both characters seemingly start on opposite ends of a giant football field of emotions, obstacles, and booby traps...and then slowly bring them closer and closer together in your narrative, they find out that they're not on opposing teams. They're simply teammates that don't get along. And that makes for a really interesting conflict once you fit your plot into that particular structure. I series I'm writing called, "Jesse-101: Online Celebrity", pretty much begins with my protagonist, Tristan, being dumped and heartbroken by someone that he had developed feelings for. But the parallel is the fact that a younger boy that lives on his block has developed a huge crush on Tristan and is always doing all that he can to be around him and impress him whenever possible. Unfortunately, Tristan is not interested. Not only that, but he feels annoyed and bothered by having the younger boy chase after him so aggressively. It isn't until later on in the story that Tristan begins to think of how much it hurt to be tossed aside and ignored, and realizes that he's doing the same thing. He's become a mirror image of his greatest pain, and he's now given a choice to possibly change his ways, or continue being as cruel as his first ever boyfriend was to him. Like I said, I've done this in many of my own stories. Where one side or the other suddenly has a moment of emotional sobriety where they are forced to face the fact that...well..."We're not so different, you and I..." Just...DON'T write it like that if you can help it! LOL! There are ways around saying it outright. It really is one of those cliches that you should avoid at all costs. And...I mean, I get it..sometimes you just can't slip by it and still get your point across. But if you CAN...then do it. Don't make it so obvious. Your audience will get it. Promise. The beauty of putting a story like this, where your characters are connected in this way, is all about having their thoughts and feelings intersect at some point. Whether it be in solidarity or in contrast...it still works. Find the similarities, and build up to the moment when they finally reach a crossroads. That's the key. I have a story called "Untouchable" where an older guy in his early 20's falls for a boy who's still in high school. And at one point, he loses his driver's license. So he has to go and get it replaced and they tell him that they need a valid ID. Well...he lost his ID. That's why he's there. How can he get an ID if he doesn't have an ID. But, when the teen returns his affections and wants to epress his love for him, he tells the boy that he's not old enough to know what he wants, has no experience, and has no way to even know if he's ready for a relationship. At which point, he throws the exact same line back at him. "How can I get an ID if I don't have an ID?" What is he going to do? Have the world tell him his inexperienced...and then deny him the chance to gain experience? That makes no sense. But, by using that parallel between characters...a great deal of my readers were able to get a different perspective on the situation and maybe understand why this paradox was such a problem for him. I truly think that parallels in storytelling can bring certain thought processes to light in a positive way. It highlights the history and backstory of your heroes AND your villains at the same time, and it creates this inner dialogue for your audience where everything isn't so black and white. It adds nuance and flexibility to your character motivations, while still increasing the stakes of having them go head to head until someone can declare themselves the winner. (If there really is such a thing) It's easy for poor people to think that those who are wealthy don't have a care in the world. It's easy for someone who thinks they're ugly or average looking or overweight to think that the super model gorgeous boys have it so easy. It's easy to be out of the closet as a gay man and think that everyone in the closet can just 'come out' and tell the world if they weren't so busy hiding. We all have our own visions of what life is and how it should be. And, more often than not, we put that personal filter on top of the characters that we read about or the people we interact with on a daily basis. But we're not all sharing the same experience. We're not surrounded by the same people. We don't have the same needs, the same fears, the same joys... But that doesn't mean that there aren't parallels between your lives and mine. Chances are...we agree on more than what we disagree on. And that's your strength as a writer. Being able to point that out, and saying, "Yeah...I get it." I can be generous, loving, horny, witty, and downright goofy. But I can also be selfish, frustrated, jealous, cranky, and simply stubborn, too. But, somewhere in that overly moody mess of random emotions and bullshit excuses for actions that I'm sure to regret later on once I come to my senses...I've learned to see the parallels between me and other people. It's a humbling experience, you know? Who am I to say that I've never been impatient? Or insecure? Or allowed that nagging voice in my head to see even the simplest of jokes or comments as an 'attack'? I see myself in other people, and I hope they can do the same when it comes to me. And that's a huge part of what I like to bring to my stories. I want my readers to see and understand how a young teen boy might be scared of telling his parents that he's gay over Thanksgiving dinner. I want them to see why asking the most beautiful boy that they've ever laid eyes on out on a date might take some time. I want people to remember how frightening that first virgin experience is, or how scary it is to throw that first punch in a fight, or how devastating it is to have a parent look at you with disgust for who and what you are. Don't tell me you've never been there. I won't believe you. But finding those parallels between characters creates an even playing field for everyone involved. So, n matter which side of the fence your reader happens to be on, at least they get an explanation as to why the other character feels the way they do. And, hopefully, absorb it in some way. That's why I'm writing, isn't it? To make some kind of sense of the world? To have people finally hear my side of the story? So what am I holding back for? You know? When you build your protagonists and your antagonists...keep in mind how much they're alike as well as how much they are different. It's a tool that will serve you well. Hehehe! Friend or foe, it opens the door to a lot of moments when they can either combine forces to reach a certain objective, or toss certain illogical hypocrisies right back in each other's faces. There's nothing more engaging than a war of ideas, where the crowd of public opinion is just as divided as the voices battling it out. Try it. It works. That's it for now! I hope this helps you guys out with your writing! Take care! And thanks for reading! Can't wait to see what you guys come up with next! Seezya soon!
  4. Weight And Impact As many of you guys already know, I have always been a huge fan of the horror film genre. Even when I was probably way too young to be watching people gutted with a machete, hehehe! I was the kid with the ‘Fangoria’ monthly subscription and the B-Movie fetish growing up! But I loved every minute of it! Those flicks were just plain fun to me, you know? Excessive gore and all! The more blood and guts, the better! Well, it wasn’t until a couple of my college roommates actually made the big move out to California and wanted to make a real go at being action/thriller/horror writers in the industry that I noticed something different. They were so proud of what they had written together, with dreams of it being one of those new classic movies that people would be talking about decades later as one of the best. But you know what? All of the studios they offered it to turned them down. But not for the reasons that you might think. The biggest complaint that they had was, “Your characters are too likable, too memorable, and relatable for a horror movie.” Ummm...what? But this was their major issue with the story as a whole. You simply can’t have likable people getting stabbed and chopped up and tortured! That would be traumatizing! Which is a really weird way to look at it (I mean, is anybody who is really deserving of a horribly gruesome death?), but that’s what they kept telling them as writers. Which is why, when you see most horror movies, the victims are either unlovable, brainless, or simply lack much personality if any at all. And that gave me a slightly different perspective on how these stories are written and how they are made in this day and age. Not just for horror stories...but for stories in general. It is the same in every genre. The connection to the characters and the situations that they are involved in can allow you to use your writing to turn the dial up and down as necessary when it comes to how you readers to feel about what’s going on. That relatable quality greatly influences the weight and impact of their journey and how your reading audience reacts to it. And that’s the topic for the day. Creating weight and impact, and how to moderate it. When to turn it up to 10...and when to maybe dial it back down to a 2. It’s not an exact science, but it’s something to think about, no matter what it is that you’re writing about. So, let’s get started. When talking about horror flicks, there’s this sort of trope of having what I would call a ‘horror movie memory’. This is when you’ve got a bunch of people running from the masked killer, or the demon, or the monster, whatever...and, naturally, casualties happen along the way. And it’s shocking to the other characters on the screen initially, and they scream out, “Noooooo!!!” Hehehe, and then two scenes later, it’s like it never took place. I mean, shock and survival instincts aside...didn’t your brother, sister, parents, best friend, boyfriend, JUST get violently murdered right in front of you less than an hour ago??? That’s kind of a big deal, don’t you think? But the movie has to treat this extreme incident like, “Oh well...that just happened. What’s next?” In order to lessen the overall terror involved with such a thing. WTF??? This would be an example of an event with little weight and less impact. Great for a gore fest of a horror movie...but not so much with other stories in other genres when you want to bring attention to the emotional battering of a serious or even devastating scene in stories of your own. Heartbreak, parental divorce, suicide, being outed at school against your will...these things all have drastic consequences that I always feel should be dealt with in ways that takes up more than a few random paragraphs in an author’s story. If you’re not going to really concentrate on it...then why add something so apocalyptic in your plot to begin with? There are smaller problems for your main characters to deal with that you can use for dramatic effect and still get your readers engaged with their situation. If it’s going to be the kind of issue that you want your protagonist to get over and move past in a rather short amount of time, then maybe not have him burn down a house full of screaming orphans! Obviously, that has lingering consequences that are going to last a lot longer than one or two chapters. You need to find a way to gauge your problems and solutions in your stories where they ‘question and answer’ of it all kind of match up at some point. Otherwise...you’re just going to end up with a bunch of WTF moments that can’t be undone later without some kind of a miracle. And miracles are lazy. Hehehe! So let’s not, shall we? Psh! Like I’m one to talk! I’m not saying that you can’t still use this strategy of a ‘horror memory’ in some cases to navigate your way through your story quickly and efficiently in order to keep things moving and avoid any lag time in your pacing...but take a moment and think about how that would be in real life. I mean, I could meet a total stranger on the bus...and if he got off and was suddenly hit by a truck and killed after I just spent the last two or three minutes talking to him, that would kind of mess me up emotionally. And that’s a random STRANGER! Imagine if it was someone that I knew extremely well and spent time with on a more personal level. But that’s just how movies go sometimes. “He’s dead, oh well. I mean, I can’t stop now. We’ll be fine.” Hehehe, really? Will you, though? No intense, paralyzing, fear is setting in? No emotional distress, no trauma? Years of therapy, maybe? No? Ok then. Good for you, sole survivor of a horrific tragedy. If you’re just looking for people to kill off or punish emotionally in your story, that’s your choice. But the real question is...how much weight will it have, depending on relatability, time spent with the character, and the severity of the actions both leading up to and coming after the dirty deed is done? All of these things matter. Lord knows, I definitely put my own fictional characters through the RINGER sometimes! But there are levels to manipulating the impact that these events are going to have on the rest of the story, you know? This is the space that you’ve been given where you can play with the scale or weight and impact and set it to have the desired effect that you were going for. This can be a matter of infidelity from a beloved partner, or the betrayal of a trusted friend? A hidden secret brought to light, or the loss of a long time pet. It’s all in how you write about these things before they happen that will determine their impact. What kind of meaning do you want this action to have in your story, and how can you adjust your dial accordingly to have it seem natural? You can’t just toss in some drama for drama’s sake, and then gloss over it as though it didn’t happen. When writing a story, I think it’s important to have a clearly defined idea of how powerful you want certain moments to be, and how to emphasize your intentions in a way that makes sense. A few examples to see if I can emphasize how sensitive (or desensitized) your pallet might be for the level of emotion that you’re trying to bring to parts of your story, or to your story as a whole... In the 1968 movie, “Night Of The Living Dead”...it starts off in a graveyard, with one of the main female characters and her brother, Johnny. Now, we don’t really get introduced to these characters beforehand outside of some back and forth banter and dialogue...and we don’t have any real reason to care about them, to be honest. But we do. And when they’re attacked, and Johnny meets his end...his sister is completely and utterly traumatized by what happened for the rest of the movie! And it makes perfect sense. I mean, wouldn’t YOU be? This movie all happens in a single night, so watching your brother getting killed right in front of you seems like a pretty heavy burden to carry...even while fighting for your life. This is that opening scene... And that’s just one person...one that you didn’t even know anything about really before the movie started. And yet, that death has such an impact on the other character that she gives it meaning and depth, and a certain significance is born out of her reaction to it. One that people watching the film can understand and relate to. Especially back in 1968. The weight and impact of that scene is turned way up on the dial with the goal of having it impact its audience in a major way. Now...take a look at this... This clip comes from the movie “2012”, about the end of the world (Basically), and a massive, unprecedented, earthquake hits Los Angeles as our protagonist rushes through the city to save his family from being lost forever. The focus is greatly shifted towards just that small group of people and the tension and terror is provided by giving the audience a much more manageable focus as they try to flee the wreckage. However...I want you to notice the difference here. This is Los Angeles!!! Take a look at this! Millions upon MILLIONS of people are dying here! Being crushed and maimed and blown up and falling to their death into chasms of an almost infinite depth! All of them have lives, have families, have children...and they are running, crying, screaming, bleeding, burning to death, and suffering, with an unfathomable amount of pain. BUT...how traumatizing would it be for you to actually zoom in and focus on that all at once while it’s happening? It’s almost too much for anyone to handle. So they made the right choice here. Keep them unknown, faceless, casualties. You’d probably be curled up in a breathless ‘panic coma’ somewhere if you had to mentally calculate what was really happening in this chaos. But that’s not the point of this scene, is it? Or the movie in general. It’s special effects and explosions and this one family that you can cheer for who’s trying to survive it all. (As thought everyone else on the street isn’t trying to do the same thing) You may cringe or gasp here and there, but ask yourself...do you care? Imagine a majority of the population of America’s BIGGEST city, men, women, and children alike, being completely decimated in a matter of minutes by being swallowed up by the Earth itself! This is a situation when the weight and impact dial is turned way waaaaay down, so as to be more ‘entertaining’ than terrifying. Check it out... Do you see the difference? Can you feel it? If “Night Of The Living Dead” had treated Johnny’s death as a simple casualty with no lasting effects...then he would have so much less of an impact on the story. Like….he died. So what? You know? Then having his sister pretend to be all broken up about it for a few minutes and just move on...it wouldn’t have come off as being authentic or believable. And yet, if in “2012”, we had been introduced to a bunch of characters and their families, knew about their dreams and their ambitions, and really worked to humanize them...only to have them be driving home and have the bridge collapse, or fall out of the top floor of a building...that would have been tragic in a way that would have taken away from the kind of ‘thrill ride’ that scene was trying to take us on. There’s a dial. Understand? Learn how to use it in your benefit. Learn how to fine tune it to regulate the feelings that you want your audience to have to the characters and events of your story. It helps to create the desired effect, once you learn how to recognize it and add it to your skill set. Cool? I hope this helps! And, as always, I like to have some fun with these! So the last clip is just to make you smile! ::Giggles:: Remember to use that dial correctly with whatever you’re putting out there, k? Happy writing! And I’ll seezya soon!
  5. Shhhh....hehehe, there's a deep, dark, secret that I need to let you guys know about. And I'm going to reveal it all in this article! It'll blow your mind! ::Giggles:: So...the big question is...what the hell is a MacGuffin, and what the hell does it have to do with my story and how I write it? This makes no sense at all. This is a writing device that most people credit Alfred Hitchcock with, but it has existed in the art of storytelling long before he came along and gave it a name. Basically, a MacGuffin device is something that everybody in your story is trying, desperately, to get their hands on and keep it as their very own. For whatever purpose that they have in place to use this magnificent 'thing' to accomplish their ultimate goal. Adding a MacGuffin into your work, no matter what genre you're writing in, can add a sense of urgency and increase the stakes of whatever story it is that you're trying to tell. But there's a big secret involved that every writer should know when it comes to using this method in your writing! HUGE secret! And it comes from a few simple questions like...what does the MacGuffin do? What is it? Why do we need it? What impact will it have if it falls into the wrong hands? How powerful is it? How can the protagonist find it? How can they keep the antagonist from finding it first? What obstacles are involved? And what happens if your heroes fail? You want to know the secret? Do ya? Are you ready? Get your pen and notebook ready, so you can write this down. Because it's a REALLY big secret! Ready? Ok...here we go... It doesn't matter! Hehehe! Like...not at all! MacGuffin devices, while you may have seen them in many MANY movies, TV shows, and literary works, before...they are an interesting distraction at best. They exist as a rather cheap method of giving both your protagonist and your antagonist a direct and focused objective and motivation to guide the story forward. That's what they're there for. But while many critics act as though this is a bad thing...it really isn't. It's a plot device, just like any other. One that you can always use to your advantage if you do it with a sense of finesse and skill. It's like the hammer, the screwdriver, or the wrench, in your tool box when it comes to putting your story together. And, when it's used right, it can be an effective way of telling a really great story that you can be proud of, and can draw your audience further into your story for a fully engaging experience. But...at the end of the day, what it does and why is pretty much secondary to the device's main purpose in your project...and that is a guided motivation for your fictional cast to follow from beginning to end. So, let's talk about effectively using a MacGuffin in our stories, when needed... MacGuffin devices are a way to give your story meaning, and your characters purpose. I'm sure that a lot of people and critics comment on these devices and speak about them as if they're a 'cop out' or dismiss them as an important writing device entirely. I'd like to challenge that theory by saying that this is a method that has real merit when it comes to writing a good story. The trick is...to focus on the character growth and their intentions as they chase this random 'thing' and learn what it takes to reach the end of their personal story arc without losing what makes them the hero that they started out as. It's just a matter of balance, and slightly pushing the MacGuffin device out of the spotlight instead of having the device do the opposite to the character. Again, it's all about motivation. Basically, the MacGuffin is what everyone in your story is searching for, and is ultimately affected by. If you watch your typical bank heist movie...the MacGuffin is the big treasure or the untold riches that they're trying to get a hold of and get away scott free in the end. That's what is bringing all of your characters together, that's what is pushing them forward them, and (depending on how you use it) how they evolve or devolve during their quest to get it. THAT should be your main focus if you're going to try to write this kind of story. It will come off as more genuine, more insightful, and ultimately more interesting, than just people chasing something that they want and will inevitably get by the end of the story...simply because they're the protagonist, and that's how these things work, nine times out of ten. It doesn't matter if it's a magical sword, or a crystal, or a treasure, or a killer virus, or the launch codes for a nuclear war...it may seem like it should the most important part of the story, but don't be fooled by the suggested brilliance of the pursuit of the proverbial 'Holy Grail' in your project. It isn't. Or, at least in my opinion, it shouldn't be. Always make it about your characters. Their growth, their failures, their conflicts. That's what is going to really sell your readers on the story that you're writing. How many movies have you seen where the MacGuffin device, by the end of the movie, didn't really matter at all? Do you even remember what they really did or why they were important? "Oh no, we have to go out and find and grab the 'whatchamacallit' device or millions of people will die!" Was it the secret agent spy list, or the Horcruxes from Harry Potter, or the Hatori Hanzo sword from Kill Bill, or the magic frisbee thingy from Tron? All of these things might have been at the center of the story and the plot, but the goal was simply to provide a clear motivation for you to be more invested in the characters that are going after it. And it's important to focus on that part of your story. Because that's going to be the driving force between your fiction. Otherwise, it's just going to be another drawn out story about, "Oh...we all have to go find the 'blah blah blah' device before the world comes to an end." Hehehe! It doesn't really readers' interest for as long as you think it might. Have you seen "Pulp Fiction"? Do you have any idea what was in the glowing briefcase or what it represented? In the "Indiana Jones" movies...does he ever really get to keep the major reward at the end of the movie? No. It gets destroyed, or hidden away, or given away, or vanishes into space...whatever. But the MacGuffin is never the point. The adventure is the point. Does Frodo get to keep the ring? Does anybody remember what the Joker was really after in "The Dark Knight"? I'm one of the biggest James Bond fans ever, and I can't even remember what most of the Bond villains were actually trying to accomplish or what their massive weapons were going to do if the antagonist were to succeed. But, again...it didn't matter. Character A and Character B are both chasing 'C'...and we're rooting for the good guy to get there first. Done. We've got our motivation. The skill comes into play when you recognize a MacGuffin device for what it is as a writing method, and remember that once you've properly set it up...you still have an actual 'story' to tell. That can't be it. It makes for a really weak crutch, believe me. Now, don't make some of my rambling here out to be something repetitive for the sake of drilling the point home. I feel that it's really important for you guys to really understand how MacGuffins work so that you can find ways to use them to your advantage in a well told story. As I said before, the very term itself is often used with a negative connotation, but it shouldn't be. Because it can be used to thread your scenes together in a variety of helpful and productive ways. You simply have to see them for what they are and twist them in ways that can make your narrative stronger without becoming the main focus of the story itself. I began writing a story called, "Tell Me How", not long ago...and while things are moving towards a teen romance story, the love interest, 'Corey', actually starts off as a MacGuffin. It's about a high school boy who has completely fallen head over heels for another boy in his Woodshop class...but there is also another boy in the same class who has become infatuated with him as well. The problem, this other boy is much more social, popular, and approachable, than our main character. So he has to end up coming out of the closet to one of his best friends in order to ask him for help when it comes to getting Corey's attention and being able to have a shot at maybe asking him out some time and winning his heart. In this situation, Corey is the MacGuffin, because he is the motivating for both the protagonist and his rival. It also creates the need for him to grow, learn, and change. It means that he has to sacrifice his biggest secret to his best friend in order to ask for help. And it makes the antagonist a formidable enemy when it comes to attaining his goal. That, in my opinion, is how MacGuffin devices in stories should be used. The way the first few chapters are plotted, Corey is pretty much in the background the whole time. He's 'present', but at the end of the day...he's a shiny and pretty object to be chased after and hopefully obtained by the time the series is over. Will our protagonist be compatible with his dream boy? Is he as amazing as he imagines he would be? Is Corey even gay? Answer...doesn't matter. At least not for now. For now, it's the journey of our main character going from a shy and awkward closeted teen to making his very first move towards finding love and affection with a boy of his choosing. That is where you're going to find a majority of the heart and interest in this series. And it doesn't have to be a magic medallion or the shard of a crystal or a book of powerful spells or locating the 'chosen one'. It is simply a focal point for what your characters are trying to achieve. The sooner you understand that part of the process...the sooner you can begin developing instincts on how to use this method to add depth and urgency to your work. You can even use it to bring together an entire ensemble cast of different characters together for one adventure, with their own (even conflicting) motivations of their own. Maybe one wants the magic 'thingy' to take it home to protect their village from being destroyed. But another character might be there to use it as a weapon. One may be there to protect it, because power like that is too dangerous for any one person to wield without becoming corrupted by it. And someone else might be a thief who is pretending to be a friend, but was actually contracted to steal the item and trade it in for a handsome reward. You can go in a million different directions with the idea...just remember...the magical thingy' isn't the point. It's everything that is going on around it that will enhance your story and make it something truly special. Cool? As always, I hope this makes sense, and I hope it helps you guys out when you're writing your next big project! We're all rooting for ya! So best of luck! And I'll seezya soon!
  6. Hehehe, now, it's no secret that I am constantly typing my fingers to the bone on many different stories at once. And that means that I might finish a brand new chapter of one story, but it might take some time for me to cycle through a bunch of the others before I pick that story back up again. It's something that I've been really working on fixing for a long time now, and I hope that I'm getting better at it. However, I'm sure that there are some of you dedicated authors out there who have simply let one or more of your own projects linger for one reason or another, and might want to get back to it and finish it off, once and for all. Who knows what happened there? Maybe you lost some of your enthusiasm for the story, maybe life got in the way, maybe you found yourself in the middle of a new relationship, or are suffering the heartbreak of an old one. The point is, our work is a product of our current mood and mindset, and it takes time and energy and effort to create the stories that we do. It can't always be forced through our determination to finish it off and a craving from our fanbase. Sometimes you have to just wait for the creative expression to blossom like a flower growing in your garden. Yelling at the seed isn't going to make it grow any faster, so why even try? Hehehe! This is what creates long lapses between chapters for me, personally...and sometimes for others as well. But when you began writing that story, you truly had something to say. And that will remain a splinter in your paw until you finally get the chance to say it. Luckily...there is always an opportunity to go back in and pick up right where you left off. There's no real trick to it. Just dive right back in and make it happen. For any of you who have some unfinished stories that you've been procrastinating on, or worried about tackling again, this article is for you. It can be done...and that's what we're going to talk about today. The 'Not So Hot Potato'! I think that this becomes a lot simpler when you are personally invested in your own characters. That's an important part of this process. Because if you're invested in your characters and treat them as though they were real people, chances are that your readers are going to feel the same way. There's a bond and an emotional investment there. That will work in your favor. Every time. I've been asked countless times, "Comsie, how can you keep track of all of these stories at once and continue them all the way you do?" Well...how do you remember all of your friends and family members? They all have different stories of their own, don't they? Your mom, your dad, your siblings, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, your classmates from high school, you co-workers from a job that you quit years ago. How do you remember all of them? You might not have seen your best friend's wife's second cousin in ten years...but if you had a good experience with them and recognized them on the street as you were walking past them...you'd be able to greet them and pretty much pick up right where you left off, right? You might want an update on what's happened since then, but it's not all that difficult to remember what you originally liked about them or what interested you in their personal story or influence in your life. When it comes to picking up an old story of yours to rewrite, re-edit, or continue...the idea shouldn't be all that different. These characters may be fictional, but you created them from parts of yourself, your life, or your past memories. Reconnect with that, and try writing a new chapter. You might be surprised just how easy it is once you get started. The hard part is realizing that getting started is the most intimidating factor. But it doesn't have to be. I grew up in an era when things took time and people had to be patient with their entertainment. You didn't get seven new movies released in theaters or streaming services every week. No binge watching TV shows for nine hours straight to hurry up and get to the end. No...you got a satisfying piece or tasty morsel every now and then and you waited until the next one was ready. I don't know, something about that made me appreciate my entertainment much more back then. Now I just gobble, gobble, gobble, and devour everything in a day and then I ask, "What's next?" It's just not the same experience. But, if you do it right, and you get your audience invested in your characters to a point where they think about them outside of the boundaries of your current plot...even if it's been days, weeks, months, or even years, since you last updated it, you can pick that story right back up, blow some of the dust off of it, and finish your original work of art with just as much enthusiasm and creative energy as you had when you started it. The secret is in capturing that magic that made you start writing in the first place. And I've got a few tips on how to do exactly that. But first...a few examples of a single story (franchise) that can easily be continued in a successful way, no matter how long it has been between chapters. I have always loved "Alien", it's one of my favorite movie franchises ever, despite a few missteps here and there. But, the point is, every major chapter can literally go YEARS without any continuation whatsoever, and yet I can watch a new movie, and it's like I never missed a moment. In the blink of an eye, I'm right back into it. It's like revisiting an old friend, you know? The first "Alien" scared the living shit out of me as a kid, and that came out in 1979, so I was probably WAY too young to be watching that movie anyway! LOL! Thankfully, I was at home, and this was years after it had been on the big screen. Otherwise I would have been traumatized for life. But the second chapter, "Aliens", came out in 1986...and I think I was ten or eleven years old...so I handled it better, but that movie kind of freaked me out too when I first watched. That's a seven year gap! But the feelings that I invested in the first movie still lingered within me, and within the first five minutes, I was right back where I left off. And much later, when "Prometheus" came out in 2012...I'm a full blown adult now, and yet, I'm still tethered to the old movies even after all this time. So I was teleported back to watching those and now I'm getting a prequel that wasn't the best of movies, but my heart is invested in it just the same. It's weird. 0000 Again...the key all lies in the investment of the characters and the situations that they happen to be going through at the moment where you left off. No matter how long it's been since your audience has seen this story...the moment they get something new, if you've bonded them with the people populating your fiction, they will be eager to sit down and re-engage with them on a personal level all over again. Don't let the time lapse intimidate you out of writing that new chapter. Just write it. And follow these five tips when you're going back to an older project and breathing life back into it so that your readers can have a sense of closure. #1 - Don't feel bad. That's the first, and maybe the most important part of this process. Yes, it's been a long time. Yes, people are going to hound you, criticize you, or make passive aggressive comments about it...but you need to get past that. When you started that story, you had something that you wanted to say. What was it? Focus on that. Where were you going with it? What were you trying to express in terms of your feelings at that time. Maybe you were going through something difficult when you started it, and you've dealt with it and are trying to move on now. Whatever the reason...your story exists because you had something that you felt you needed to get out of your system. So get it out. You're not finished yet. There's no reason for you to feel bad for taking time to work your emotions out and translate them into a fictional story. It's ok. Stop beating yourself up and get back to the story whenever you feel up to it. It'll come out better if you don't force it. Trust me. #2- Start from scratch. Especially if it's been a really long time since you've worked on a particular project. Don't just read it and start writing again. It might have only been a couple of weeks or so, but you've changed as a person since then. Your views on life may have been altered. You skill at crafting a story may have changed. Your vocabulary might have grown. These seem like little things, but they aren't. And if you try to match the writing of the 'new' you to the writing of the 'old' you...it's going to be noticeable to everyone reading. Re-open that file, read your own story, and re-edit it as you go through. One thing that I've really enjoyed when going back through my stories while making my ebooks (Shameless plug! Comicality ebook 'director's cut' versions of the stories are available at https://imagine-magazine.org/store/comicality/ Just so ya know!) is going back to stories that I wrote years ago and seeing them from a different perspective. Adding details, rephrasing certain sentences, putting in new scenes and dialogue...I mean, I was a totally different person back then. And it took a reread of everything that I put out to realize just how different I am now from the person I was when I started. So if you're picking up an old project and getting ready to work on it again, make sure to really go through your previous work with a fine toothed comb and mold it to match who you are now, as opposed to who you were when you started. #3 - Keep the same vibe that you started with. Even if you're writing has changed, or if you've evolved as a person since your last chapter...it's key to make sure that your story keeps the same theme and tone that you had when you started it. A drastically obvious shift in tone can be a stumbling block for your readers. Ir's almost like...'false advertising', you know? Remember, keeping your readers invested in the story and your characters is what's going to make this work. So if you've got a story that has been on a particularly long hiatus, and you suddenly switch gears to change the fiction and deliver an entirely different narrative than the one you started with...there's a chance that you could lose the fans that you started out with. Some of this can be smoothed out during the rewriting process, to match your previous work with your new work...but there's a limit to those adjustments. Make too many changes in the overall 'feel' of your story can be confusing. And you don't want that. #4 - Update where necessary. While your story may be frozen in time until you get back to it, the passage of time in the real world keeps going forward. Always keep that in mind. I've written stories in the past where there are things like 'video stores' or 'public arcades'...and obviously, these things don't exist anymore. Not really. So, to continue those stories, I would either have to make them retro (which could be fun) or update things like the music, the technology, the activities that my characters get involved in, etc. Every couple of years, certain aspects of life either vanish, evolve, or take on a different meaning. So you have to accommodate for that time jump. A great example of this is the movie, "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers"! This is a story that has been told over and over again in the movies, but it evolves and changes to fit the times in which it's being told and what's happening in the world at that particular time in history. For example...the original movie came out in 1956, where the science fiction story was basically a metaphor for the big Communist scare during the Cold War. They could be your neighbors, your friends, your family members...oh no! (We always have people telling us that we have something to be afraid of, don't we?) Then, the movie got a remake in 1978 during the rise of interest in Occultism and cults and the whole Jim Jones Kool-Aid era. It showed up again in 1993, where everybody was a gangster or a drug dealer or had AIDS or something. Again, the fear that it could be your next door neighbor, co-workers, or even your spouse, was the driving force behind it. And then we got "The Invasion" in 2007, where people were living in a post 9/11 era where you had to watch everybody to make sure they weren't secretly a terrorist. The movies are all different, but the theme and tone of the movie was all about suspicion and paranoia, and keeping that element in tact is what made all of the remakes work in one way or another. 000000 #5 - Commit to an ending. If you're going to pick up an old story and start working on it again...you need to promise yourself that you're going to finish it this time. You're being given a second chance by your fans to bring things to a close. Don't waste it. Figure out where you want to go with your story, get your thoughts in order, and then get it all together. Set it in motion, and this time stick with it while the fire is in you. Don't let it linger. Sometimes, a spontaneous burst of creativity and nod from your personal muse is the best time to really get things finished. So plan some time to sit down and think about the first four phases of this process...and then get to work. Like I said before, I know that it can be intimidating sometimes...but once you push yourself to get started and find your rhythm and flow again...you'll find yourself getting right back into that same head space that you were in when you were inspired the first time. Use that to your advantage. And bring your unique brand of magic to the rest of the world. It's needed out there. Alright, so that's it for today. I know that some of you guys have older projects that you were really excited about when you started them, and somehow lost track of them after a while as other aspects of your life kind of took control and kept you from devoting the kind of energy that you needed to make it something great. But those stories still live in your head, and they deserve to be told. Just as much as they deserve to be read by your audience. So blow the dust off of those older ideas, read what you wrote, update and revise where necessary, and then pick up that not so hot potato right where you left off so you can complete the project and the vision that you originally had in mind. K? It's SO worth it! I hope this helps! Take care! And I'll seezya soon!
  7. Comicality

    Guidelines

    Now...I know that there are authors out there (or artists of every kind, to be honest) who hear the word 'guidelines' and go into a state of immediate shock, shaking their fist like, "Oh nooooo! They're gonna try to take control and limit my artistic freedom! Don't put me a box!" Hehehe, I'm happy to say that I've never really been one of those people. That's not to say that I want to sellout or have my creative abilities to be bound and gagged in order to fit into a mold that was built by somebody else. Because I don't. But I've always seen the idea of writing a story within a certain set of guidelines as a really fun challenge for me, and I enjoy it immensely. Nothing could be more satisfying than trying to come up with an idea that fits into a structure that was put together by someone else, and actually finding a way to figure it out. It's awesome. The best example of this would be GayAuthors Antholgies right here on this site. I truly loved getting involved with those, and hope to keep doing so in the future. This is where a bunch of story themes are submitted and voted on by the collective readers of the site, and then the most popular themes become the guidelines that all of the participating authors have to adhere to in order to be added to the anthology. But DON'T worry! Hehehe, it's not limiting at all! If anything, I think it forces me to be more creative and more clever than ever with the stories that I want to add. And I have to say that some of my favorites, and some of my readers' favorites, have come from the anthologies that I wrote for GA! So don't be afraid of writing within certain guidelines! It can be a good thing, trust me! Let's discuss... What you have to do when it comes to writing with guidelines attached is truly understand the concept being presented to you, and make that your literary 'anchor'. For example, one of the anthology story themes was 'Road Trip'. Ok, got it. I want to write about a road trip. What does that entail? What happens on a road trip? How can I write a story about a road trip? What creative spins can I put on the theme without losing sight of the theme itself? I can't just have a road trip happen for a few paragraphs in the middle of my story and then have the rest of the project be about something else. The theme is a road trip. So that needs to be the main focus of the story. So I thought it over, took some notes, tried to make sure that I was sticking to the idea presented to me, and I came up with the story, "Not Enough Road". It was about two boys who were going out of town to visit their older brothers on a college campus, and this was their first time taking a long bus trip out of town without supervision. By doing this...I can still have that beautiful stranger, boy-meets-boy, idea that fits right into my particular niche of writing, and the actual 'road trip' theme remains the lion's share part of the story at the same time. Once the theme has been tackled and fleshed out in your mind...the rest of the narrative is wide open for you to create whatever you want to create. You're free to go nuts from that point forward. One Summer anthology theme was 'Out Of This World', which could be taken a bunch of different ways, but I decided to take a slightly sci-fi, literal, approach to the idea...and I wrote, "Light Reaches Earth" for that one. A story that I can say that I'm really proud of, and have re-edited and turned into an ebook afterward because of the joy that I got out of writing it in the first place. Again, the real freedom came from finding ways to fit within the guidelines that I was given, while breaking the rules at the same time. Hehehe! I loved it. And it became one of my absolute favorite stories. Whether you're writing something for a competition or contest, a fanfiction, or trying to get something published in a particular magazine or online website for the sake of promotion...the art of finding your freedom within the guidelines that you've been given is an excellent skill to develop and keep under your belt. Not only does it train you to focus and control your output, but it also diversifies your talents to a point where you can write almost anything that comes to mind without worrying about whether you'll be able to pull it off or not. It comes in handy. Especially for those of you who want to make a career out of this sort of thing someday. SO...how do we accomplish this, and still feel like we have the freedom to write what's in our hearts at the same time. I think that it's simply a matter of finding your comfort zone within the boundaries that you've been given, and then pushing those boundaries further out, all while sticking to your 'anchor' and not floating away into something that has nothing to do with the guidelines you've been given. I would break this down into five simple rules to think about before you even get started... #1 - Theme And Concept - This is obviously the most important part of writing a story with guidelines placed upon it. What are you writing about? What's the theme? Look at it. Study it. What do you think about it? What does it mean to you? How can you concentrate your creative energy around that one idea? This can be really fun once you get your wheels spinning. Hehehe! At least for me it is. What you're trying to accomplish here is basing your writing talents on a single subject or event while still making it your own. It makes you narrow certain aspects of your writing process while expanding on others. What would other people do with this idea, and how can you do it differently? Spend some time thinking about a single situation that is theme related, and then create characters that are best suited to carry out the tasks involved with bringing this situation to life. Believe it or not, this is the easy part. Ideas are infinite at this point...you just have to choose one that you think will be the most potent and relevant to the people reading it. Something that will have a significant impact on an emotional level. That story is out there somewhere...and if you plan it just right, you get to be the one to write it down and bring it to the masses. So choose an idea that really speaks to you, and apply it to the story you've been given to write. #2 - Word Count - Now, this is where you might begin to feel the walls closing in on your project. Not by MUCH...but a little bit. If what your writing is constrained to a suggested word count, you're going to have to adjust your thought process and control your narrative to fit within a certain space. It's like going on vacation in a lot of ways. You can't pack your entire closet full of clothes into a single suitcase. That's too much. You remember the discussion that we had on 'scope' earlier? That will come in handy here. Don't rush into an anthology or contest with a giant, century spanning, narrative that simply can't fit into a much smaller space without you cutting a lot of it out in the long run. Don't do it. You're either going to commit to a story that is way too elaborate and complex for you to finish in time, or you're going to end up with an incomplete story that will lack depth and meaning because you had to rush and cut it short. Neither one of those is a good idea. It's good to be ambitious, but don't tackle a challenge that you can't handle if you think it'll be a burden on everything else that you've got going on. As we all know...'life' tends to get in the way. #3 - Deadlines - One thing that I am, personally, terrible at...is meeting deadlines when it comes to my creativity. My muse is a fickle master, believe me. But I will push myself and try to meet them as fast as I can. If you're writing for a publication, for instance, and they need all submissions in by June 15th...try to get your story finished a week ahead of time! That way you have time to give it a rest, then go back and look at it again to see if you can re-edit, add, or subtract, certain elements in your story to make it as awesome as you possibly can. But you've got to meet that deadline. Try as hard as you can. I don't always make it, and I've missed out on some great opportunities because of that...but when that writing bug gives me the appropriate 'sting'...everything else just seems to fall into place. So be aware of your deadlines! Mark them on your calendar. Find out how many days you have left to work on your project, and how many hours you might need to put in on each day to get it ready in time. I know that authors don't like being rushed to completion, but if you plan far enough in advance, and don't have too many outside influences working against you...then it really shouldn't be much of a rush at all. Planning is everything. Writing it out is the easy part. #4 - Read The Room - I think it's important for every author, when writing for a collection, a publication, a contest, or anything else with guidelines included...to be able to read the room. Who is your audience? What are the other stories going to be like? Can you find past works from the source and maybe get a feel for the type of fiction that they may be looking for? Again, this isn't meant to limit you or your imagination. It's just a good idea to keep in mind that most of the time, in these situations, when you're writing for mixed company or a wide audience. It's basically a way to tell what could help your story's presentation, and what might hurt your story's presentation. If most of the audience is looking for something sweet and subtle and romantic, don't just kick in the door with some hardcore fetish porn! Hehehe, I mean, you might turn a few heads and raise a few eyebrows, but you'll be causing more harm to your story than good. And the same goes for the reverse situation. If they want something, ummmm...'hot n' ready'? Don't try to win them over with puppy dogs and rainbows, ending your story with a bashful kiss when the readers of that particular genre are waiting for them to get naked already. Teach yourself to be versatile. You should be able to operate on a self made scale of what will and won't fit into the guidelines that you've been given. That's one of the beautiful parts of using this as practice. Turn it up, tone it down, explore some different genres...figure out what works and what doesn't. You're an artist first...but coming in as a close second...you're an entertainer. So entertain. And make it count. #5 - Test The Leash - Once you've gotten all of those other issues out of the way, and you're about ready to start writing, test the leash. Think of it like a puppy wearing a leash for the very first time. They tug at it, shake their heads, bite it...it takes some getting used to. Hehehe! Do this with your writing. How far can you take things and still stay in your pocket? What can you get away with? What's going to be your edge when it comes to matching your story up with everybody who might be writing about the same topic or within the same theme? Use your instincts and your personal voice to find as many opportunities as you can to spread out and create your own experience within the space that you've got to work with. Switch genres. Be creative with your main character. Add a plot twist. Change story formats, like go from first person to third person, or put it in a diary format, or whatever you come up with. Guidelines don't take away your freedom to be yourself as a writer. It merely focuses it and directs your ideas in a certain direction. As with all of your other stories, once you know where you're going and what your character motivations are...everything else is free game. Your ideas are as limitless as you want them to be. So why not take the challenge, you know? Show your readers what you're made of! Now, these lessons can work for any kind of creative fiction that you decide to pursue on another platform, but I really think that the GayAuthors' Anthology projects are the best place to try your skills out among friends and a cool audience of readers who are looking for the kind of work that you can manifest and present to them in an entertaining way. There's usually a number of themes or topics for you to choose from, the deadlines are more than fair and give you enough time to work your magic without feeling pressured about it, and you've got a lot of room to interpret the ideas any way that you want. So try it out some time. You might just like it. And it truly helps to hone your skills as an author to find your strengths and weaknesses to involve yourselves in this community and match wits with your peers. It's a good feeling! It really is! That's it for today! I'll see you guys next time with more! Take care, and I hope this helps!
  8. Comicality

    Story Scope

    It's something that I still struggle with more often than many of you may think. More times than not, I think in terms of a 'story'...and not in terms of a 'plot'. I've talked about this before in earlier articles, but just to reiterate really quick...the plot is the beginning, middle, and end of the story that you're trying to tell. The story is what exists OUTSIDE of the plot. So that could be a million stories all building up to a culmination of the story you're writing, and then reaches out into the future to tell what happens afterwards. If that makes sense. Hehehe! The best example that I can think of right now would be the original 'Star Wars' trilogy. Those three movies tell a rather complete story all by themselves, and it's a three story plot that explains exactly what you need to know to be involved and invested in the world that was built for you. However...the 'story' reaches sooooo far beyond that. You've got prequels and a whole history before that. You've got a whole trilogy that comes after it. Side stories and spinoffs and TV shows and books and comics...it could, quite literally, go forever on into eternity if they really wanted it to. And why not? Because all gripes and complaints aside...people will come back and be reinserted to that world all over again because they want to explore it even more than what you've given them so far. The key is...to make a definitive decision about what kind of story you want to write, and how 'big' you want it be. Some stories come off as being too small to really dive into the rich details and potential expansion of the plot that you've decided to tackle. And some stories have a story that gets stretched out sooooo far and wide that the original idea that you wanted to highlight gets hidden and overshadowed by everything else that you're doing all at once. The idea is to find a balance in there somewhere, and figure out what you want the overall scope of your story is going to be before you even start. As with everything else when it comes to anything you do creatively, that's not always easy...but a little bit of practice makes the process that much easier. So, today, we're talking about story scope, and how to format it in your head beforehand so you don't find yourself with too little or too much story to write when coming up with your plot. Because, unless you're planning to write "War & Peace" every time you sit down to your keyboard...it's going to take you forever! LOL! Trust me, I know from experience! I think one of my biggest problems with scope is that I sometimes imagine these giant worlds full of a ton of characters and criss-crossing storylines for projects that could probably be a lot more self contained. (One of the reasons why I miss deadlines so often. Too many ideas and subjects that I want to touch on, and not enough time to get them all in there) My other problem with scope is when I try to write a much shorter, 'one-shot', story...and I leave my readers thinking, "Awwww, really? That's it? I need more!" Neither one of those scenarios is a very good foundation to stand on, but I do try to work on it when I can. I just happen to lose my balance every now and then and fall over to one side or another. But it CAN be done! Hehehe, I know, because I've done it before! I just didn't understand why or HOW I did it! That takes some self examination, and I hope this will help you guys take the same approach when creating stories of your own. It took me a while to try to come up with some sort of visual representation to express what I sort of see in my mixed up brain when I'm trying to determine the scope of each story for myself. I couldn't quite figure out how to do that, but this is about as close as I can come to it. So bear with me, ok? Now...when I'm thinking of new ideas and what I want to do with them, I pretty much have 'this' going on in my head. When you look at it...don't start at the top and work your way towards the middle of the picture. Instead...do the opposite. You start in the middle...and you can expand your own story from there. Begin with the simple idea...and then venture out into other rings as you allow the idea to grow bigger and bigger. Stop whenever you feel like you're able to say all that you have to say, and hold steady at that boundary so that you can creatively control how small or how big you want your story to be. Take a look... I hope this doesn't look confusing! Hehehe! ::Fingers crossed:: Sorry! My brain is a mess! In my head, things get a little bit more complex than this, but I wanted to narrow things to seven levels to make it a little bit easier to absorb all at once in one article. Feel free to write me if you ever feel like you want me to elaborate anymore. I'm always bouncing around here somewhere. Hehehe! Ok...so let's start from the center! Boy Meets Boy - This is the simplest of stories if you want to write gay fiction. That can mean porn without plot and chance encounters, or it can mean a gay teen romance happening for the first time. The whole point of the story is exactly as it's described. One guy meets another guy (Or ladies, or teens, whatever your particular genre is), they get along, find one another attractive, and work towards getting together. I've written a bunch of short stories like this...some with sex, and some without...and it was meant to just capture a single moment in time and describe it for your audience in a way that brings them into that moment so that they can experience along with your main characters. This formula is perfect if you're writing a short story, either for an online contest, or to promote yourself on another site, or to add a submission to a GayAuthors' Anthology or something like that. It's short and sweet, and self contained. Depending on how much or how often you get the chance to write...you can easily find a balance to bring these stories to life without really exhausting yourself or cutting it short at the last minute when you'd rather keep going. But that's for all of us to gauge for ourselves. The point is to always put out your best work. No matter what. Find your balance, stay in the pocket, and write a quick and concise story that can stand on its own without floating too far out of the box. Friends And Enemies - Ok...so now we're going to expand a little bit. Not a LOT, but a little bit. Most of my earliest stories stay right in this realm. This isn't just one cute boy meeting another cute boy. Now you're adding a few other elements into your story that need fleshing out as well. If you're protagonist has a best friend...what is that relationship like? How do they tie into the story? Are they there as a method of support? (Lori and Michelle in "Jesse-101", Tyler in "New Kid In School") Or are they someone that your protagonist has to hide or keep secrets from? (Adam and Sam in "My Only Escape", Jermaine and the others in "On The Outside") When you add other characters, you've added a whole new dimension to your story, and you don't want those elements to simply 'vanish' as though they were throwaway characters with no meaning. They need to be addressed as a part of your story. Same thing goes for any rivals or enemies that you add to your story. How do they impact your protagonist? And abusive father? A high school bully? A jealous ex-boyfriend? These are all things that you're going to have to flesh out in your story if you want it to feel 'complete' at some point. So if you add them into the mix...you've probably just doubled the length of your story. The scope is much bigger than it was a minute ago. But don't worry...you can go further if you're feeling ambitious. Hehehe! Family (Parents/Guardians/Siblings) - There are a lot of people that would lump friends and family into the same category when determining the scope of their stories. I, personally, do not! Hehehe! Do any of you remember the show, "Seinfeld"? With George screaming, "WORLD'S COLLIDING!!!!" LOL! Yeah, that's how I feel about this one. The way that I talk to my friends from high school is NOT the same way that I talk to people that I used to work with. The way I talk my co-workers is not the same way that I'd talk to my Mom or my family members. Etc. This, I believe expands your story even further when you get family involved. Do they know your protagonist is gay? Does it matter at all? Or does it matter in a MAJOR way? Are older/younger siblings going to understand, or get in the way? Are parents going to understand or be stressed out about it? To put it in perspective...how many of us would talk in real life, face to face, with people the way we type words out online? Have you SEEN 'Mean Tweets'? Those people would be starstruck if they had to meet those celebrities in real life. A family dynamic is another added layer to whatever story you want to tell...and you've just increased your writing effort by even more, whether you know it or not. So beware of that...because we are now leaving 'short story' territory. Social/Environmental Conflicts - The next level takes us out of the initial love story and brings a much larger, and often more oppressive, element into your story. And if you're going to get into anything deep or heartfelt here without falling short and disappointing your audience...then you'd better be willing to really go for it. Don't cheat your audience. It's never a good idea. On this layer, you're not just dealing with the worries of love, the camaraderie of friends, the threat of enemies, or the judgement of parents and family members. This is a much larger conflict. Such as living in a small town where being gay is not only unacceptable, but dangerous. Or being at war with your own religious or political beliefs. The fear of being outed at school, or at work, or as a Hollywood actor who's in the closet. Forces that can, in no way, be controlled. (Ethan in "On The Outside", Derrick in "A Class By Himself") Or it includes an environment that, whether it's taking center stage or exists as a heavy menace in the background...also becomes a huge threat that needs to be dealt with in your story in some way. (Jake in "Shelter", Nick in "Agenda 21", Jake Gordon in "SKYLIGHT") If you introduce outside forces like financial stability, gay tolerance, or some disaster, into your story...it has to be a part of the story. It can't just be something that you mention once or twice and then write the rest of your story without addressing the fact that, "Oh...there was a massive alien invasion last week! Oh well, at least I'm in love!" Hehehe, no...that's not how that works. This is where a writer has to get into world building, problems, solutions to those problems, tension, despair...you're getting into the thickness of the weeds now. I don't think you're going to really be able to effectively tell that story in ten thousand words or less. And if you CAN...please teach me how! Because I'd love to know! Subplots And Side Characters - We're spreading even further out at this point...introducing new characters, each one with a history, a plot line, and a motivation of their own. The moment you begin traveling down this rabbit hole, then I think an entire series is necessary. Not just a super long story, but a variety of chapters that have to be expertly woven into your main narrative and given significance to the point where there are many branches of different stories and characters and interpretations can be made to orbit waaaaay out from that original 'boy meets boy' idea! Don't get me wrong, you can, and in fact SHOULD, still have that be the main focus of your story...but you're dealing with a ton of other factors now. Other characters, other storylines, other conflicts and obstacles that they have to face. And all of these characters should be relevant to the larger story, so you will have to put some thought and effort into fleshing them out as well as all of the issues and characters that came before them. You maybe even TRIPLE the potential of your original idea by adding all of these elements to your story at once. That will be a LOT of writing! And you will need a LOT more time to get it done! You are entering Marvel/DC, Star Wars, Matrix, Lord Of The Rings, territory now. And the most important thing to remember at this level is...you're going to have to wrap every last one of these stories up at some point in time! So don't overwhelm yourself. Every loose end that's left to dangle is a sign of 'not-so-great' writing on your part. I've done it myself plenty of times. But I get better at it every time I jump back in to attack it again. Missile Launch - You know how you see those computer screens in movies where they have the nuclear missile launch all over the world? Hehehe, that's sort of how I see this part of the next expansion in storytelling. Like I said in the last level...all of those stories that you built up and invested so much time and energy into...well, they need conclusion now. You may have one MAIN story, but now you've got an entire swarm of side stories orbiting around it, and woven into the very fabric of what it is. So now, the big challenge is finishing all of those stories off in an effective way that will still keep them connected to the point of the whole project. I call it the missile launch because of all of those lines on that screen...where the missile takes off, makes an arc, and then hits the target. Boom! If you've reached this point in the scope of your project, that's exactly what you want. Not just for your protagonist...but for all of the characters that you've created to support and interact with that protagonist. Maybe the father accepts the fact that his son is gay after being so homophobic in the beginning. Maybe the main character comes out to his best friend. Maybe the biggest coward on the team finds the courage to make the ultimate sacrifice. Maybe the angry vigilante decides not to kill his enemy for once and spares his life. All of your story arcs come to fruition in this phase of storytelling, one by one, and you give them the kind of importance and substance and gravity that they deserve. Treat your characters like big name actors when you're writing. "What? I came here just to be an extra, and I don't get my big moment?" Hehehe! Give them their big moment. Spread those moments out however you like, but take pride in having them be a part of your story and display their significance for all to see. Every last one of them. It means more writing, and a larger scope of story, but it'll read better. And your audience will applaud you for it. Change - The idea of 'change' is sort of the denouement of the process of writing a full length series or a multi chapter novel. It's more than just a 'happily ever after' type of scenario...this is a broader view and a summary of what has changed from the beginning of your story and the end. Where did your characters start from? What have they been through since then? More importantly, how has the situation of the people and the places and the environment changed around them since the beginning of their journey? Even if only from their perspective alone. I think this is VERY important when it comes to seeing a larger story to completion, as it brings light and detail to whether or not the rest of the journey was worth it. This is your opportunity to display what has changed with your characters or their situation or their interaction with one another or with others. This is when you get to truly celebrate the many hurdles that your protagonist had to jump or how many hardships he had to overcome in order to reach this point. This is, in my opinion, how you effectively reach your 'happily ever after' moment. You can't just cut off your story with a triumph and not set up a hint of continuation for the 'story' once the 'plot' is over. Hehehe, that's just rude! I'm not talking about setting up a sequel or anything...just something to say, "And then they got hit by a bus the next day and they were never heard from again." Do you not know the purpose of the 'happily ever after' trope? Hehehe! Let your readers know that, even though this is the end of this plot, the story goes on. The rest is up to your imagination. So...take another look at this weird 'Comsie Diagram'! Do you see how it works? Small story. Simple approach. Just two characters. And as you add different elements into your narrative...the scope of your story increases. It gets bigger and bigger and more complex...needing more attention and time and energy to fully realize its potential. And you need to sort of find a way to gauge how big or how contained you can keep it, depending on your own style of writing and how you view the story itself. It matters. The more you add, the more you write. The more you write, the longer it takes to pull it off. Keep that in mind, and set conscious limits for yourself when thinking of what you want to put out there. ::Giggles:: Like I said, I am still struggling with this delicate balance myself, but if I find out any other tricks of the trade along the way, I'll be sure to come back and share them with you all! Sometimes, my ideas are way too big for a short story...and sometimes my shorter stories aren't enough to satisfy. But I'm learning. So feel free to learn with me. K? I hope this helps! Take care! And I'll seezya soon with more! If it's one thing that I LOVE...it's talking about writing! So expect more soon! ((Hugz))
  9. Now, when I talk about creating a sense of 'dread' in your writing, whether it be drama, thriller, horror, sci-fi, or romance...I'm not always talking about something life threatening or earth shattering every single time. It's not about action. It's not about gore, or heartbreak, or terror. The concept of dread, in my opinion, is much more evident in its subtlety than in its delivery of some major occurrence or surprise twist. The most effective way to use 'dread' in your stories is as a build up to something bigger. And sometimes...it can be used for character development by not having any real payoff at all. It simply gives the illusion of a payoff by tapping into certain triggers that your readers may not even know that they have until you present them to your audience...face to face. Or...errr...screen to eyeballs. Whatever. Hehehe! It's a technique that I really like to use from time to time. It changes the mood and the tone of a scene into something that's extremely uncomfortable for your protagonist, and ultimately ends up increasing your readers' involvement and investment in the story itself. So, the question for this particular article is...what is a true sense of dread, and how do we best use it to entice our readers to the edge of their seats? Let's see if I can pull this one off without being too confusing. Hehehe! For me? I like to think of dread in a way that splits three ways. The typical methods of writing that I'm sure we've all been taught or have experienced somewhere while beginning our own journeys into learning about conflict. What are these three conflicts? Man vs man. Man vs society. Man vs self. We've all heard that before, right? They're three major conflicts of every story that you've ever read in one way or another. Well, the art of creating dread in your writing rests just on the outskirts of those three well known concepts, and lures people in to eventually get wrecked by whatever surprises you may have for them later. Used correctly...they can be a powerful weapon in your toolbox of personal tricks. Let's begin with the first one. This is simple enough, right? It's man vs man. Your protagonist is a person with a goal, your antagonist is someone with an opposite goal, or is standing in the way as an obstacle. Now, you may have this conflict play ut in the form of an explosive argument, or a fist fight, or a shoot out...whatever. But the dread exists in the mere threat of having this antagonist be a part of your story. It doesn't have to be an immediate threat, either. Like I said...the feeling of dread can be introduced with the mere presence of a potential threat...and nothing more. I want to show you guys this scene from "No Country For Old Men" to use as an example. This is one of the most INTENSE scenes in this entire film! And it comes, quite simply, from a feeling of utter dread. To look at it from afar...a man is at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, engaging the clerk in a conversation. He's eating peanuts. He flips a coin. But just listen to the dialogue and study the perfectly delivered performances by both actors. (BRAVO!) Something so simple, so seemingly mundane...can be transformed into something truly terrifying to the point where you may not even notice that you were holding your breath until he takes his hand off of the coin on the counter. Because we, as the audience, know that he is a heartless killer who doesn't give two shits about who he might decide to kill on a whim. We know who he is and we know what he's capable of. This fact puts the store owner in a level of danger that he senses, but isn't fully aware of. We feel for him. Check this out, and see if you can pick up on how scary this really is... That is exactly what I'm talking about. No heated language, no raised voices, no weapons...just a very intense conversation between two individuals who are trying to figure one another out in the short time that they're spending together in the same space. This is dread. It's...the horror movie where you know the monster is lurking in the basement, or the killer is in the woods. It's the love rival that you know is beautiful enough, devious enough, to steal the love interest away from your main character if he really wanted to. Dread lies in the shadows behind every bright light, and can be heard in every shaky voice or hesitation to answer the question of 'where were you last night?' While writing the story, "Savage Moon"...my protagonist falls in with a really menacing group of potentially bad kids from the area surrounding the campsite. However, it isn't all horror and abuse. Quite the opposite. 'Wesley' gets drawn in with a certain level of kindness and understanding that he's never really experienced before. He's enticed into exploring some of the more taboo parts of himself, and whether he wants to admit it or not...he likes it. However, the feeling of dread doesn't come from the friendship. It doesn't come from some of the darker actions of his group. It comes from brief, but definitive, acts of aggression that are so 'under the radar' that Wesley is encouraged to write them off as not being anything big enough to worry about. But the dread is still there. Always present. Always looming over him. And when he finds out what he's really gotten himself into...he realizes that he's already come too far to take it back. This is created through a feeling of dread in the writing. Cyrus can do with an ominous comment or a particularly wicked tilt of a smile what some stories can't do with chapters worth of outbursts and blatant threats to the protagonist. If you practice with this...you'll find that it's a highly effective way of engaging your readers indeed. Number two...man vs society. I can remember working in the heart of downtown Chicago when 9/11 happened. I'll never forget it. Because the morning that it happened and people were forced to basically evacuate the city and go home, the only thought in my mind was..."Are we going to be hit next?" They didn't tell us anything, because nobody knew anything at the time. This had never really happened before. That has an entire context of dread on its own. But, as an example...let me skip forward a few weeks to a month after that fateful day... I still don't really know what happened, but I think some kind of phone line had been cut, or there was some weird glitch in the system, and all of downtown Chicago couldn't use any credit or debit card machines. No ATMs, nothing. There were whispers that it was another terrorist attack, but that was mostly just paranoia from being on edge for so long. However, we couldn't ring people up for the products that they wanted to buy because their cards wouldn't work. We tried to write down the numbers and prices to charge them later, but even that was a monumental task in itself. And what was happening was...people had parked in public parking lots and couldn't get their cars out to go home at the end of the day. Nobody was used to carrying cash anymore, so they were unable to get lunch, or buy their morning coffee. After a few long hours of this, people began to throw tantrums. They were rendered completely helpless by the fact that their daily routine had been uprooted by a simple malfunction in the middle of a major metropolitan city...and there was nothing that they could do about it. When I think about dread in terms of man vs society...that could mean being a woman during the Salem witch trials, or being Jewish during the Holocaust...but it can also be the simple act of realizing that our entire civilization is basically balancing itself on a single pole in a high wind. How hard would it be for everything we know, everything that we depend on as human beings, to suddenly fall apart and leave us stranded and unable to figure out what to do next? Something as simple as being openly gay and moving to a small town in the Bible belt of America where such a thing is not allowed can be a serious lesson in dread itself. What do you do? How would you react to suddenly watch society collapse all around you without a moment's notice, forcing you to fight your way out of it when you have never been faced with that kind of problem before? Even then...how would your friends react, individually? Your family? Your classmates? Your best friends? Can you trust them? We may not stop to think about it for more than a few fleeting moments at a time, but if 2020 and the pandemic has taught us anything at all...it's that the rules and civility that we abide by every day can come crashing down around us at any moment. Whether it's a deadly virus, a plane flying into the Twin Towers, or the simple shut down of being able to use a credit card when you go to work on a random Tuesday. And the questions is...then what? This creates a feeling of dread. I know that I often use action or horror clips as demonstrations, because these ideas are often exaggerated and easy to absorb, but the effect in your writing is the same. Here is a clip from the Zack Snyder remake of the classic "Dawn Of The Dead" movie. Take a look, and think about what you would do, personally, if you were suddenly thrust into this situation without warning. In a society full of maniacs who have abandoned all sense of their own humanity...trying to maintain your sanity makes YOU the 'crazy' one! And that brings us to number three, and what I personally feel is the most frightening concept of the group. And that is man vs self. To me...that is a concept that should chill you to your very bone when you look inward and really put some thought into it. Every single day...all around the world...people hurt other people. They kill people, dismember the bodies, and bury them in a hole...hoping not to get caught. They cheat on their loved ones, they rob and steal from one another. They set entire houses ablaze, abuse their own children, plot to take over someone else's job, or assault random people in the streets. It happens. But...what is going on in their heads? It CAN'T be the natural order of things...all of this hatred and violence. So what are they thinking? What is that voice inside of their heads telling them to do? How is it persuading them to act this way? And are they aware of the conflict within them? Or does it not seem like a conflict at all? I mean...who can you trust if you can't trust yourself, right? To use as an example...this is a clip from the streaming miniseries, "Them". Now, I LOVE horror and thriller and stuff, but I actually found this show to be truly unsettling in some parts. Imagine a very old school racist suburban neighborhood, terrorizing a new family that moves in looking for a better life. BUT...this show feels a lot like Stephen King's, "The Shining"...with Pennywise the clown from "IT" thrown in...but in full minstrel show blackface. And it knows the inner workings of the protagonist's mind as well as his whole family. And it pushes him. It pushes, and pushes, and pushes...trying to get him to reach a breaking point. Excellent series, if you haven't seen it. But in this scene, it is a perfect example of creating dread within the 'man vs self' dynamic. Again...it's the lure that makes it work. The enticement. That voice inside your head that whispers (NOT shouts...but whispers)...'Do it. You know you want to. Do it.' I can't think of anything more frightening than not being able to trust that voice inside of your own mind that has been pretending to have your best interest at heart for your entire life. It's just plain friggin' creepy! This is a technique that I've used a lot in my "Gone From Daylight" vampire series, where my protagonist has been gifted with an immense amount of power...but there are certain parts of it that he can't tap into without being completely corrupted by them. Parts that feel sooooo GOOD to him when he experiences it for the first time...a previously bullied and abused teen, who now has the ability to crush any and all of his enemies with ease if they dare to approach him. But the thrill of using that power comes at a mental and emotional cost. He begins to hurt people. He begins to scare the ones that he cares about, even when he's trying to protect them. And there is still that whisper in his ear telling him to keep going. Get stronger. More power. MORE! And he has to struggle with himself to keep it from swallowing him whole and forcing him to lose his humanity in the process. Again...this creates a level of dread in the story. Because the readers have to wonder how long it will be before some imminent threat will apply enough pressure, or get enough leverage, over the main character...before he's forced to tap into the darkest parts of himself to overcome it? Only time will tell. SO...I hope this article made some sense to you guys. Maybe the examples worked to help demonstrate what I was talking about. And remember that dread exists on the outer rim of the major conflicts of your story. Use it as a form of escalation. Let your readers know that 'danger lurks'...but this isn't the main blitz on your protagonist and his/her journey through the plot. It's an intensely stated 'hint' of what's to come later. It creates menace and an intimidating appeal to your antagonist and the world that they inhabit. These rules can be demonstrated on a much larger scale if you see the need to do so. And they can be demonstrated on a much smaller scale if you see the need to. The goal is to engage your audience and get them all riled up about a major conflict that hasn't even happened yet. That is the power of dread! Learn it well! Best of luck to you all! And happy writing!
  10. "I hadn't even realized how much trouble I had gotten myself into...until I felt that first punch land directly on the side of my left cheek...sending me reeling back against the high school lockers. I really should learn to keep my mouth shut." Now, I'm going to assume what the heck is going on with those past few sentences. Hehehe! Rightfully so. What is going on? Who just got punched in the face? Who hit him? And WHY? Well, as I've said in earlier articles, the answer from me as a writer, to you guys as my readers, is always the same. 'Keep reading and find out!' Looking at those two brief sentences, you might think that this was taken from somewhere in the middle of some story that you've never read before, and therefore have no context for what the hell is going on here. But you'd be wrong. This is an example of what could very well be the beginning of a brand new story. And with just two sentences, all of those questions above instantly come into play, hopefully hooking a new reader and hold them hostage until they're far enough into my story to decide whether they want to keep reading or not. Will everybody suddenly be drawn in and keep reading all the way to the end? No. That's not guaranteed. But, at least for those first few paragraphs...I've got their attention. All I have to do now is let the rest of the story sell itself. That's the beauty of the first paragraph. You can begin your story anywhere that you want to...so why not start things off with a bang. I'd like to talk about creating a first paragraph that will intrigue your readers right off the bat, and get them to invest some time and energy into learning more. Because, more times than not...a strong beginning is just as important, if not more so, than a strong ending. So, let's get started. What we all have to remember as writers is that a lot of readers, especially online, have a very short attention span. How many of you guys have read a few stories, checked your social media multiple times, and consumed a variety of Youtube videos, in the past couple of hours alone. Some of you may even stop reading this article halfway through for a moment to go and check what's going on in the world of Facebook. Hehehe! It's like...you sensed a disturbance in the force or something, and can't stay away. We're all heavily distracted at all times. The only thing that you can do is be a better distraction than the rest of the distractions rattling around in the heads of your readers. And you've only got a short amount of time to do that before they start to wander. This is where 'the game' comes in. Using the example above, I could have easily started with my main character waking up in bed one morning before school. And that would have been a totally acceptable beginning paragraph. Readers get introduced to this new character, learn his name, get an idea of what he looks like and what his life is like at home. He cleans up, gets dressed, has some breakfast, hops on the bus, gets to school...and then gets confronted by some other boy who's been bullying him for the past few weeks. The boy is bigger and stronger than my protagonist, but he refuses to give him the satisfaction of feeding the bully with the fear that's he so desperately searching for. And then...POW! He gets punched in the face and falls back against the school lockers. This can work as an effective beginning to a story, sure. nothing wrong with that. But look at how long it took me just to give you extremely shortened, underdeveloped, version of the story. The people reading my story might have a cell phone sitting next to them, the TV on in the background, and probably some music playing in his or her headphones, all at the same time. Are they going to really focus on my main character brushing his teeth and eating eggs and toast for breakfast? Do they want to hear about his bus ride? Are they going to be locked in long enough to hear about his history with the school bully? ::Shrugs:: Maybe. Some will. It's not outside the realm of possibility. But what happens if I start my story with a direct punch to the face? A shock to the system? A reason for my audience to let the record skip and think, "Wait! What the fuck did I just MISS???" Do I have they're attention now? Good! Now...let's work backwards, and you can find out all of that other stuff in retrospect. Do you sort of get what I'm saying here? Sometimes, you just have to grab a reader by the collar and get them invested with a scene that inspires them to get more information. And how do they do that? Keep reading and find out! I'm actually proud to say that I've gotten a lot better at this since I first started. I think the first question to ask yourself as an author is...'what is my story about?' Like, an overview of what you want to do with your story and where you want it to go. Maybe you're writing a story about forbidden love, or about the first settlement on Mars, or the creepy neighbors that just moved in next door. Whether you're writing about loss, or chasing the dream of being a superstar, or just wanting a romance with someone that you think might be way out of your league...think about that, define it, and drop your readers right into the thick of it. Right away. Not in a major way that's going to spoil anything for later, but in a way that immediately connects to the main theme of your story. Let's say that the example above is a story about a gay boy in high school who's dealing with bullying and intense violence. Ok. Great. Let's start there. In two sentences, it's established that the main character is dealing with an antagonist who has no problem beating him up. We also find out that the protagonist must have said something to instigate this action by his reaction of 'learning to keep his mouth shut' or 'getting himself into trouble'. At least the way that he sees it. What is the story about? It's about the conflict between this boy and his bully. Everything before that takes time to flesh out...and every story doesn't have to go that route. Sometimes, you can just jump in with both feet and get things started. Now, after that...maybe you can have the protagonist being comforted by his best friend, or he might go home and his parents see him with black eye and wand to do something to help...and that's a perfect opportunity to build on those character relationships and motivations. This is the time for the extra prose, and the history of his bullying, why it happened and what he's planning to do about it. Now you've increased your chances of an audience reading through that part of the story and fully absorbing it because you've got them interested already. Every minute that someone spends reading your story...it gets more and more difficult for them to back out of it and go do something else. This is why so many stories can feel so addictive. You're invested now. You want to know what happens next. You HAVE to know what happens next! This, like I said before, is 'the game'. Think of it as lighting a bunch of small candles in a dark room. Lighting just one candle isn't going to illuminate the whole area...but you get to see a little bit more than you did before. So you light a second candle. Then a third. Then a fourth. And with every tiny flame...you begin to discover more and more details about the room that you're standing in. Pictures on the walls. Windows. Doors. Floorboards. Playing the game with your first paragraph is no different. ONE lit candle in a pitch black room is an immediate draw for anyone in the room with you. It's a focal point that blocks out everything else. Now...what will your second candle be? Oh...he has a best friend that really cares about him, but isn't big enough to keep him from being bullied. You get a little more detail. Third candle? His mother worries about him coming home with bruises on his face, but he's ashamed to admit what's going on at school, so he rejects her attempts to soothe him. Fourth candle? Maybe his father comes home from work, and he's embarrassed to see that his son has gotten beaten up again. He wants his son to stand up for himself, and it only adds to the main character's shame for not being able to do so. And so forth and so on. The idea is to snatch your reader's attention with an exciting jump off point, and holding their attention long enough for you to 'light another candle' and draw them in further. Don't give them too much! Just let the story unfold a little bit at a time for right now. Let them learn about your characters and figure out what's going on. And when you're done with whatever new detail that you've decided to feed them with...add a little bit more. By the time you've built an adequate foundation for your story, they'll be too invested to turn away from it. That first paragraph means a LOT to a story, especially if you're drawing in brand new readers who have had no previous experience with you up until that very moment. Catch them first...and then proceed to string them along, allowing their own curiosity to carry them further into the story that you're trying to tell. Let your details 'swell' gradually. While reading your initial intro to this world and your characters, your audience should be learning something new every few paragraphs. They should be thinking, 'Oh. Well, there's something else that I know. Oh, and something else. Ohhhh...that's why he got punched in the face. Wait...ok, I get it. Well his best friend seems cool. At least he's not alone in all this.' Etc etc... One thing you DON'T ever want to happen is for someone to start reading your story and think, 'Where is this going?' You should be giving them hints as to where things are going right from that first paragraph. If your story is about bullying...then start there. If you story is about losing a loved one...start at the funeral, and work backwards through memories or flashbacks. Take what your readers will instantly cling to as something relatable and provocative...and use that to hook them without trying to build up to it with any filler. In my older stories, I would have my main characters practically introduce themselves through some sort of self narration, explain where they are and how old they are, and I'd go through the agony of having to inform my audience that they were gay, and feel different, and struggle to keep it a secret. Nowadays? I try to avoid that as much as possible. If the point of my story is creating a romance...then I start with the main character already being in love. Done. "I can't help but stare at him." Those seven words might be my whole first paragraph. Can't help it? Stare at who? Why or why not? Readers engaged...now let's get on with it. In the story, "My Only Escape", I have Zack rushing home after school to keep from receiving another beating from his abusive father. In "Give It To Me Straight", the protagonist has a huge crush on a straight boy from school. So let's start in the middle of a high school party where he's watching him from across the room. Whether it be a short story or a long series...let's get started with the interesting stuff and build it up as we go along. Let the audience grow with you and your characters. Do that? And they're more likely to stick around for a while and make it to the end. So make sure your story ending is up to par! Hehehe! They won't be expecting anything less! But that's a lesson for another day! Anyway, that's all for today! Just remember to catch your readers with the kind of literary 'bait' that is significant enough to warrant more of their attention as you bring them into your story, and build your world around them. Keep lighting those candles! It'll be worth it, trust me! Take care! Hope this helps! And I'll seezya soon!
  11. Whether you are using an auto correct program on your laptop or PC, or whether you have readers constantly pointing out some of the same errors in your stories, chapter after chapter...there comes a time when you need to take an honest look at your writing and your bad habits...and make yourself a ′low-light′ reel for yourself. This is the opposite of a highlight reel, where you look at what you′re really good at and examine the best parts of what it is you do. That′s a good thing to do, and it keeps you inspired and pushing yourself towards excellence. But sometimes, a low-light reel helps a LOT more when it comes to reaching that higher goal of being a better writer. When you′re putting a story together, I always stress comfort and natural flow over everything else. Follow your heart, let the words flow through you, and whatever mistakes you make along the way...fix them in editing after you′ve poured your emotion out on the screen in its most potent form. Get the emotion out first, while you′re still in the moment. That′s the most important part. The mechanics? You can fix and tweak those later, and hopefully give your story the shine and gloss that it deserves. However, if you look at your project, and you′re constantly misspelling the word ′privilege′ or ′separate′? You should make that a part of your low-light reel. It′s not a typo or a random error. There′s a problem there. The sooner you get a hold on it, focus on it, and work to correct it...the sooner you can break that habit. And the sooner it will cease to be a problem, slowing your writing process down. We′re on the internet! We have access to every spelling, definition, tense usage, known to mankind. If you′re writing off the top of your head, and you feel like you′re in a particular groove at the moment and don′t want to stop...write it the way you think is correct, and make sure that you come back later to look for it when you start the editing process. As I′ve said in a previous writer′s article, I don′t think any author should just type out a story and then hand it over to an editor to ′fix it′ without going over it and doing some self editing for themselves first. Not ever. This isn′t your editor′s story. This is YOUR story. Own it. Go through it. What mistakes have you made? Have you made them before? Will you make them again? Keep track of your mistakes, and do two or three minutes worth of research to correct your flaws so you can take them off the table as obstacles on the road to you being the best writer that you can be. Google it. Commit certain spellings and punctuation use and turns of phrase to memory. Copy and paste them into an email if you have to, so you can easily bring them up and remember, ″Oh yeah...I always spell the word ′occasionally′ with too many C′s or S′s or L′s, and I need to keep that in mind when I′m writing from now on. Don′t depend on your writing programs or your editors to catch your consistent mistakes. You′ll only make their jobs harder, and you won′t end up learning anything in the process. So those weaknesses will remain until you work to fix them yourselves. In a lot of my earlier stories, I would often use the phrase, ″All of the sudden″. Or I used to write ′outloud′ as one word instead of two. And I thought that was perfectly normal. But I learned after a while and after some constructive comments that I was doing it wrong. So, I looked it up. I had a few minutes to spare, right? And, lo and behold, I had been doing it wrong all that time. Out loud is two words, and it′s ″All of A sudden″. So I had to try to add that to my loooooong list of grammatical errors that have repeatedly appeared in my stories from the very beginning. After creating a low-light reel for myself, I now keep a conscious and watchful eye out for those same mistakes. And even when my muse is on fire and I′m in a writing frenzy...when I get to one of those areas, I stop and think, ″Wait...let me make sure that I get this right on the first try.″ And eventually, I create new habits. Corrected habits. And everything becomes natural, to where I don′t have to look out for making that error anymore. THAT...is how you step your game up to the next level, one baby step at a time. Something else to look for on your low-light reel? Cliché phrases that you may use over and over again, and don′t even realize it. Now, I have seen this in a lot of other writers′ work, and I′ve seen it in my own, so it can be difficult to notice unless you′re actively searching for it. When I say cliché phrases, I′m talking about those easy to rattle off ′connecting′ phrases that we may all use in casual conversation, but come off as unimaginative and unimpressive when you see it written in a story on the screen more than once. Some of these phrases are: ″As a matter of fact...″ ″If I had to be honest...″ ″Well, before long...″ ″On one hand...On the other hand...″ ″I′m not going to lie...″ ″You know what I mean?″ ″If I had to guess...″ And of course...″All of a sudden...″ Now, I′m not saying that a writer shouldn′t ever USE any of these phrases. Just realize that it has become such a part of starting or ending a sentence in everyday conversation...that we may end up using it multiple times in our stories as well. And with the written word, it is MUCH more noticeable! If you often use the term, ″As a matter of fact...″ to start a sentence or to make a statement in your everyday speak? Go to your story, use the ′find′ function, and see how many times it shows up in your project. If it′s more than twice...then that may be a habit that you want to break. It might not be a full fledged crutch...but you′re definitely walking with a ′limp′ there. Hehehe! Make yourself aware of it, and try to find other ways to say the same thing, or find a way around saying it at all. If your audience keeps reading the same phrases over and over, it becomes tiresome. Get rid of anything and everything that makes you come off as anything less than AWESOME! K? Another thing to look out for? The themes and plot directions for the stories you write. I wrote a ′One Life To Live′ article not long ago, and depending on who you are and what you′ve experienced in your life...you should take that into consideration as a writer. You′ve only lived one life, so you only have so many experiences to draw from. Some of you have been rejected in love before. Some of you have been cheated on in a relationship, or have been abused, or have had to make difficult discussions about whether or not you should come out of the closet, in the past. Now...this pertains mostly to writers who write multiple stories, either at once or one after another...but if the themes in your stories seem to be recurring or repetitive, try to change that up as well. This is something that I occasionally struggle with, myself. So if any of you guys have any advice on how to effectively accomplish this, please respond below and let me know! Hehehe! There are themes in my stories that repeat constantly, and I have made an attempt to avoid most of the blatant tropes that I′m known for, but there are some more passive elements of my stories that pop up again and again from time to time. The fear of coming out, the single mother, the feeling that the boy you like is out of your league, etc. Just like the cliché phrases I mentioned above...these things are hard to spot until you deliberately go looking for them. Something that I′m doing more often these days. (Wish me luck!) So, take some time to make a mental note of all the places where you may stumble as a writer. What words do you have trouble spelling, what phrases do you use more than is necessary, what common themes do you have running through every story you write. Self analyze, figure them out, and then make an effort to correct those bad habits when you′re writing. If you have to make a physical notebook or webpage dedicated to the things that you feel you need to keep in mind...do it! No harm in that. Keep it close to you, and practice until you have it drilled into your brain where it′ll stay as a practical part of your writing process. It won′t take long. Promise. And you can knock these constant errors down one at a time. Hope this helps! And happy writing! ((Hugz))
  12. Anyone who has ever read any of my personal story reviews of another author's story will almost always find a common theme popping up in my critique. Whether it's said in a positive or negative way, I am constantly pushing for people to give more and more detail in their work. (As a suggestion, of course.) Not in every single scene that they write about, but in a few choice scenes that I find myself wanting to dive deeper into as a reader. Now, that's just my opinion, and writers can take it or leave it as they see fit. But I can't help but feel like there are some events in the stories that I read where an entire chapter could be built around the scenes or plot points that writers sometimes choose to skip over. So, please feel free to absorb or dismiss this article if you want. Hehehe, no hard feelings. Promise. But as a reader and a lover of online fiction myself, this is what I see, and what I look for. And I'm hoping that I can give other writers something to think about while putting out new projects. Imagine that you were watching a movie about the Titanic, or 9/11, or...hell...the life of Jesus Christ, as told by the Bible. And you're totally invested in the story being told...but, at the last minute...you got robbed of the (Sorry to say it this way...but...) the dramatic 'punchline' of the whole story? What if the Titanic hit the iceberg, and the screen faded to black, and then came back up to show a few people in a lifeboat saying, ″Man...that sure was a tragic experience!″ What the…? There was SO much that happened in the previous moments that, conveniently, got skipped over without any detail at all! You can't just 'skip' that shit! Hehehe! You can't skip the falling of the Twin Towers, or the Crucifixion. These are major parts of the story that you're trying to tell, and where your most potent descriptions will become the payoff for every person who had traveled this far on the journey with your characters and your writing in general. Choose those moments. Flesh them out. Don't build up to fake promises, if you can help it. There's SO much more of a story to tell in the small places that you might ignore or shrug off in order to get back to other parts of the story that you're more comfortable with, or may feel are more interesting. That can be damaging your storytelling ability as a whole in the long run. So...let's talk details... Read the stories that you've written so far. Go back, skim over them, reminisce over how awesome it was to finish those projects and put them out for a beloved audience to read. I don't want to suggest that there's anything wrong with them! Not at all. This isn′t about criticism. It′s about ′enhancement′. These stories might be truly incredible as they are...but is there a scene or two that you might have wanted to elaborate on? I know that I am notorious for being extremely 'wordy' and repetitive in my stories in many people′s eyes, especially the older ones that I wrote years ago. But even now, I regret not going into more detail about certain key scenes in some of my projects. I didn't know how to pick my moments back then. I was always racing to hurry up and get to the end of the story without really filling in the gaps that, ultimately, proved to really matter and stand out as some of the most memorable scenes that readers took to heart and ended up remembering in vivid detail. I didn't have the patience back then that I do now. I think lots of practice makes a difference. When you're writing a story, it's easy to overlook a lot of details because the characters and storyline exist in your head before ′putting it on paper′. You see it so clearly. You know where it came from and where it's going, so moving from point A to point B is as easy as building a simple bridge between the two sides. 'This' happened, and then 'that' happened...and all I have to do is write some fluff in the middle to connect one big event to another. That'll work, right? No. It won't. Not the way you think it will. Your readers don′t have access to the full picture the same way that you do. The translation of your ideas to an audience is where the true talent lies. You have to be able to get readers to see your vision. That′s the whole point, right? I can't speak for everyone on this, but I can always tell when a writer is trying to rush from one major scene to another, and not really taking the time to focus on the cohesive situations that bind one moment to another. I can 'feel' it. I think that it's important to look at our own projects and find those 'passover' sentences that we use to progress the story forward, but don't really give the readers an idea of what those few sentences really mean. Example... ″I haven't been the same since my parents' messy divorce. The way that it happened...it just ruined my idea of love, trust, and loyalty, in general. And that's why I feel hesitant to give my heart to Michael. Even though he's offered me a promising way out of my predicament.″ Nothing wrong with that short collection of sentences. It conveys emotion, and it progresses the story forward, where a lot is implied, but never said. Understandable. Sometimes, 'less is more'. I get it. However...when I read something like that, I immediately start asking myself questions. What's a 'messy divorce' in his eyes? The way what happened? What did he go through? How did he feel about it? What did Michael offer him as a way out, and why did it work? There's an entire CHAPTER worth of flashback information in there with the amount of questions that I have about what was just said. You know? It doesn′t take a 1500 word essay to explain it...it can be done in just a few sentences. But I kind of want to know what happened there. A ′messy divorce′? Did one of his parents cheat? Did they just not get along? Was there a lot of fighting in the house? Was it abusive or just a scary experience from the main character′s point of view? Just a few sentences can give us a whole new perspective on his outlook on love and relationships and a whole lot more. It explains his discomfort in giving his heart away. It provides another layer to what he′s feeling, and how those feelings affect his behavior. So, if I personally read that in a story, this would be one of those moments that I′d be commenting on, and asking questions about. What happened there? If I keep reading...will this come up again later? Am I missing some important information? Will I find out more later on in the story? Hehehe, I have a ′noisy′ imagination! Sorry. But I know that some other people do too, and they′ve called me out on some of the scenes that I′ve skipped over as well. And they were totally right to do so. I just didn′t see it until later. I think the key is rereading the stuff you′ve written, and actively searching for places where you might ′hint′ at something exciting and important happening in your stories, but don′t really go into detail about it. Ask yourself...is there a ′scene′ in there somewhere? Something that will actually add something to your story? Don′t get me wrong...if your characters are standing in a room...you don′t have to mention the temperature on the thermostat or describe the wallpaper. That′s not what I mean. It′s more like... ″My boyfriend and I had a fight earlier today. It just left me in a bad mood when I went to work.″ Raise your hand if you′d like to know what that fight was about! Or, if you′re ambitious...to even create a scene with dialogue and all to let your readers be a part of that argument! Sometimes, that tiny bit of detail can really draw your audience into the lives of your characters, even if it′s not the main drive of your story. Take a few moments and create a full experience, you know? I hope this doesn′t sound like I want people to be more wordy when they don′t have to be! LOL! I swear that it′s not my intention. Just look at your work and see if you can pick out sentences here and there that target certain scenes that could use a bit more fleshing out. Be aware of your opportunities. Funny story...one of my best friends was telling me a story that he saw on the news afew years ago, and I hadn′t heard about it yet at the time...and he was like, ″Yeah, there were these two naked homeless guys on a bridge, and one of them was doing this bath salts drug, and he was actually EATING the other guy′s face! The cops showed up, and he didn′t go down when they shot him, and they thought it was some ′zombie apocalypse′ type of stuff″ (That′s a true story, by the way!) But I just broke out, laughing hysterically! Like...WTF??? There is SO much more of that story that I′m not getting! You STARTED with two naked homeless guys on drugs on a bridge! There are like...25 steps missing before I reach the ″How the fuck did we get HERE???″ stage! LOL! That′s what I′m talking about. Some statements made in your storytelling might just need a ′touch′ of finesse to paint a full picture for your readers to jump into. Something to depict a more layered vision of what′s going on, and bring your readers in to peek behind the curtain and become involved in it. That′s all. Keep asking yourself questions during the self editing process. If something was sad...why was it sad? If something tragic happened...what was it? Describe it for us so we can feel the weight of it all. If the main character finds someone super beautiful, or super annoying, or hilariously silly...show us why! Add a short scene to demonstrate that. Put yourself in the moment, and then expand on it so your audience can be right there with you. It takes practice to recognize these moments, and nothing in art is perfect...that′s what makes it art. But if you′re looking to make a few baby steps towards making your stories a little more involving...give this a try. You might just enjoy it! As always, I hope this helps! And I wish you guys the best!
  13. Comicality

    Sex Appeal

    What is sex appeal? Take a moment and really think about that. What is it that we find ′sexy′ about the people we dream about? Now, not everybody writes romance or sexually themed stories online, but that doesn′t mean that your characters don′t have some sort of appeal to them that acts as a direct interest to your main character. What is it that draws your protagonist in? What is the bait? Why this particular boy over all others? Today...we′re talking about sex appeal. What it is, what it isn′t, and how you can use it to get your readers to agree with you. I think one of the biggest mistakes that an author can make is assuming that the fact that your love interest is ′pretty to look at′ is enough to make them sexy. Ummm...no. No more than it does in real life. Maybe back when you were twelve, that was enough to flip your life upside down, but we grow up. Our tastes evolve and our search for someone special becomes more nuanced and more complex. Your love interest might have the silkiest hair, or the bluest eyes, or the most mouthwatering ass that you′ve ever seen, and while that is tantalizing in a variety of ways...that appeal won′t last long. Even in a fictional story. At some point, your readers will think, ″Ok, so he′s hot. We get it. Now what?″ Usually, when I describe the love interests in my own stories, I try to do so through the eyes of the beholder. Now, is this boy the sexiest thing to ever walk the face of the Earth? Well, of course not! Hehehe! But to my PROTAGONIST, he is! He is precisely what that character finds attractive in another person. That is his personal vision of perfection and beauty. And that could change from character to character. I don′t want to ′dictate′ what is and isn′t beautiful to my audience, I simply want to put them in the mindset of the character they′re reading about. So, in terms of appearance, sex appeal is whatever the main character says it is. And still, that′s not enough. Depending on what you, personally, find attractive about someone...you can bring your love interests to life by bringing those traits to life through their actions and dialogue. Maybe you′re a sucker for a shy guy. Maybe you like the brooding bad boy type, with a hint of mystery. You might be attracted to a more confident and straightforward personality. An extrovert who′s always the life of the party. But others might like the quiet, homebody, type. Someone to curl up on the couch with, who you enjoy giving a poke or a tickle in order to get him to smile, even when he′s trying to hide his giggles from you. I believe that sex appeal is created by the bridge that exists between two people. What you want, what you like, and a few surprises that you didn′t even know came with the total package. Sure, he′s cute...but he likes the same music that you like. His top five movies and yours are almost identical. You have similar ways of seeing the world. Similar ways of carrying yourself. A similar sense of humor. And in the places where you are different from one another, it′s more of an intriguing opportunity to learn something new, as opposed to arguing over it. Sex appeal is all about connection. If you readers can envision your love interest and truly understand what makes him sexy beyond his physical attributes...then you′ve got them hooked! Also, the smallest gestures can truly bring a character′s sex appeal to the forefront. The actions of your love interest can come off as adorable if made into a habitual character trait. I use this technique from time to time when I′m writing. Some characters might flick their blond locks out of their eyes every few seconds. Some lightly bite the corner of their bottom lip when they′re flirting, or might twirl their pencil when they′re being shy. Fidgeting can be really cute in a character, and a well-timed blush can create a sweet little ″Awww″ moment that will give your readers the appropriate warm fuzzies needed to stay connected to the character being mentioned. This is not to say that your dream boy has to be flawless. As, quite often, little imperfections and character quirks can end up being just as sexual appealing as any other gleaming attribute. Some of my characters can be really suspicious when it comes to being ′liked′, and they don′t understand why. Some characters can become extremely clumsy in tense situations. And some are just downright insane in the head. Hehehe! But that′s fine. Sometimes, being comfortable with your own imperfections can be just as sexy. Let them own it. Play around with it. It′ll be fun, I promise. Just remember to always create a 3-Dimensional image when you′re attempting to create the ideal boyfriend for your story. There′s more to sex appeal than simply being easy on the eyes. And the best way to demonstrate that, is through the way he interacts with your main character. As you′ve heard me say a million times before...′show, don′t tell′. We don′t need your protagonist′s inner monologue telling us he′s cute, or he′s nice, or he′s funny. Well...prove it. Have him joke around and say something funny. Have him grab a flower out of his neighbor′s yard and hand it to your main character as a token of affection. Show us how he blushes and looks down at his shoelaces because he′s too shy to look your protagonist in the eye when he′s declaring his true feelings about him. The idea is to get your readers to fall as deeply in love with your romantic lead as your main character. There′s nothing like being able to wrap yourself up in the fantasy being displayed in front of your very eyes. Experiencing the joy involved when it comes to sharing some quality time with a boy that many would find so CUTE! ″If only I could find myself a boy like that! Wow!″ Bottom line, you can find more sex appeal in the glimmer of a set of bright eyes than you can in the sizable bulge in the front of their pants. Something as simple as a shrug, a kiss on the cheek, a witty conversation on a first date, or a smile shared from across a crowded room...can truly impact the people reading your story. There′s an intangible x-factor that hides deeply within the actions of your love interest. Bring it to the surface. Put it in the spotlight, and let your main character drool over it whenever he sees it first hand. Hehehe! So keep that in mind, and you can build up the most lovable boys to ever grace the pages of the written word. With practice, of course! 😛 Hope this helps! And thanks for reading!
  14. Comicality

    Adding Humor

    You know...there′s often a ′complaint′ that goes around about a lot of the Marvel Comic Book movies that I never really understood. That is the introduction of humor into their storylines. Now, there are some people that I know that could, quite literally, find something wrong with everything in existence. If God Almighty showed up tomorrow in white robes, 400 feet tall, with an entire symphony of angels singing His praises behind him, all surrounded with the brightest light ever seen by human eyes...there are people who would still shrug their shoulders and think, ″That′s it? I expected more.″ So sometimes people complain for the sake of complaining. But the same argument kept coming up over and over again. I hear friends say it, and family members, and people on youtube...I can′t help but to wonder... What the heck is so wrong about having a sense of humor? Why is that a bad thing? Have we reached a point where we all prefer to be depressed, angry, or somber all the time? I would, personally, like for my audience to have some fun with my stories the same way that I do. That′s not to say that I have to write a full-blown comedy, where there′s a joke every two or three paragraphs. But, even the darkest themed stories on my site have a touch of humor added to brighten the mood every now and then. Otherwise, they might come off as dreary and frustrating to many of the people reading. The key is to find clever ways to pick your moments, and deliver the appropriate wink and a smile when it will be most effective. So, I′d like to talk about adding humor to our stories today, and hopefully it′ll spark a few ideas to make your stories even more enjoyable than they were before. Going back to the big blockbuster movie idea, superhero movies did not invent the habit of injecting jokes and humor into their scripts. ::Gasp:: Shocker! I know, right? ″Die Hard″ had humor in it. ″Predator″ had humor in it. Everything from ″The Matrix″ to ″Aliens″ to ″Nightmare On Elm St″ had humor in them! It′s ok to SMILE! Even when Jason Vorhees is hacking camping teenagers to bits in the woods...that doesn′t mean you can′t add a slight giggle here and there. The whole idea behind humor is to have fun! So that your readers can smile and think to themselves, ″I really had a good time reading that.″ We′re all human beings. Flawed human beings. And that means that we do some silly shit from time to time. We occasionally stumble over our words and say something goofy when we don′t mean it. We sometimes walk right into a glass door while looking at that really cute boy across the street. Sometimes we go to a job interview with spinach in our teeth and our zipper down. Hehehe, I don′t know! Whatever you want. It doesn′t have to be all knock knock jokes and witty one-liners. Sometimes it′s just a coping mechanism to deal with a potentially humiliating situation. Have some fun with your characters, and allow them a few golden moments of levity away from the misery of life so they can recharge their batteries and emotionally prepare themselves for what′s to come next. When you really think about your life in general, I′m sure that you can find some times when something happened to you that, at the time, might have seemed like the end of the world. Times when you were mortified, or where you did something that you regretted...that you can now look back and laugh at. Not because it′s ′funny′, but because it′s life. Hehehe! I could write an entire novel full of those moments alone. I once joined the soccer team for a girl that I liked. I once had a crush on a girl and ended up sleeping with her brother! I used to dash out of class and practically RUN to the gym locker room because I wanted to see a cute boy from the class before me half naked and getting dressed! LOL! I′ve done some pretty ridiculous things in my life. Harmless, and perfectly logical at the time. But I can find the humor in it now, and a lot of those moments have found their way into my stories. Humor doesn′t have to make anybody double over with laughter, it just has to display some of the more ridiculous sides of life. It′s reality, reflected in a circus mirror. Use that as a tool. Stories can′t be all sex and drama. Keep it fun. There are different kinds of humor that can be injected into a situation. For example, I have a character, ′Cody′, in the ″New Kid In School″ series who has a very sarcastic, almost abrasive, sense of humor. When used at just the right moment, that razor sharp tongue of his can make some pretty deep cuts. But I also offset that ′meanstreak′ by demonstrating that he has a good heart and is willing to stand up for his friends. So readers can forgive him for verbally ripping people apart from time to time. Hehehe! In the story, ″Shelter″, I have a young character named ′Preston′, who′s comical presence comes from his innocence and naivete. It′s offbeat and weird, but he′s too adorable to do much more than shake your head and think, ″Ok...whatever, kid.″ Having characters that you can put in charge of bringing some light to a dark situation can sometimes make them a crowd favorite. As long as you don′t overdo it. You don′t want to make them into a total cartoon. The need to feel like real people, just with a comic side to them. If you′re adding humor to a story, and don′t have that comic relief character to work with, sometimes the situation itself is funny enough. Ever had your mom walk in on you while you were masturbating? Hehehe, NOT so funny when it′s happening to you! But having it happen to a fictional character in your story? There′s some comedic gold in there somewhere. Ever slip up and something stupid to someone you were head over heels in love with? Ever get a cramp in your leg during sex? Ever trip over your own feet and have a complete spill right in front of the object of your affections? Love makes us do crazy things sometimes. And if you′re able to view it from the outside, you can find the humor in some of our biggest romance failures...and bring them to your story in ways that are just as entertaining as they are refreshing. The one thing you don′t want to do is have the humor take away from the dramatic moments and serious situations that you might be writing about. Like I said, you have to pick your moments. If you have a suicidal teen, crying his eyes out, and holding a razor blade to his wrist...that′s obviously not a place for a joke. Don′t try to inject humor when two best friends are locked in a terrible shouting match, or in the center of an abusive relationship. I mean, this seems self explanatory, but you have to be careful and make sure that you′re paying attention to what′s going on in the story at that particular moment. When you use humor, it takes center stage. Every time. So don′t use it during a scene when some other emotion or situation is supposed to be the focus. The humor will undercut everything and you will lose the tone that you created for that particular scene. So it CAN work against you if you try to force it. Only do it when it feels natural. Now, I get it...not everybody thinks of themselves as being ′funny′. But you really don′t have to be a comedian to add humor to your stories. It can be very subtle. It can come from insecurity or awkwardness or outbursts of unexpected joy. Express yourself in the best way that you know how. Those awkward moments are something that we can all laugh at, because we can all relate. We remember. And looking back...hehehe, I wouldn′t change a thing. So never feel pressured to take the fun and humor out of your projects. Choose your moments wisely. And have some fun. Your readers will appreciate it. Even the ones looking for something darker. The dark side can be funny too.
  15. So, you've done it! You put in the time and the energy and the effort, you've drained yourself creatively, and you've put together a story that you can be proud of. One that can touch and inspire as well as excite and arouse. Awesome! Now, all you have to do is put it out where people can read it so they can be thrilled by your genius. Just find a place to post your work...and wait. And wait... And wait some more... Ok, so what's going on here? Where's the praise? Where are the great reviews? You poured your heart and soul into a story that you think is really impressive and well put together. So what happened? Well, while writing the actual story is a fun a passionate experience for a writer who's searching for an audience...it's not enough. That's not to say that your story isn't great literature. It might be a truly engaging story, filled with heart and wit and written with immaculate skill. But merely putting it in a place where people can see it doesn't mean that it'll get seen. That takes extra. Hehehe, don't groan! This part can be a lot of fun too! So let's talk about getting yourself out there, and getting some readers to notice your talent. The first thing that I want to tell you, before we move any further...may sound a bit discouraging, but don't let that bother you. Ready? Here goes... Chances are...I'd say that 85% of all the people who read your story online...will never send you any feedback on it. That sounds pessimistic, but I'm actually being optimistic by keeping it at only 85%. It's something that I've learned after many many years of doing this, and at first, it's going to be really disheartening. A part of you is going to think that if people liked they story, they'd tell you so. So the deepest cut of all for any writer is silence, because they immediately assume that you didn't like it or weren't interested. That's a mentality that you've got to break before anything else. Get past that. The internet is full of so many distractions that it would be impossible to even begin to appreciate it all. Think of all the Youtube videos you didn't like or share, or all the articles you've read, or the meme images that you laughed at and moved on. It's not that you didn't 'like' it, you've just got a lot more going on. So lose the idea that a lack of response is a comment on your talent or the quality of your work. That's not always the case. That kind of thinking will only demoralize you and keep you from moving forward. Got it? Good. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into the meat of it... It takes more than simply putting your work in a public place to get noticed. You spent all this time on getting your story just right, so why not market it a little bit? Let people know how to find you among the thousands of other people who are doing the same thing. We can look at this in three layers. The first layer is on the surface. You want people to check out your story? You want to draw them in? You're going to need to catch their eye. You need to be the shiny object on the table in order to grab their attention. We start with a 'catchy' title. Something interesting, something different, but uncomplicated enough for a potential reader to commit to memory. If you title your story, "Gabe's Story"...well, there's nothing wrong with that, but will that grab your attention when somebody is scrolling down a page of 150 other story titles? Also, if you call your story, "The Unbelievably Annoying Chortle Of My Best Friend"...that's going to scream 'skip' to people who have never read your work before. Those titles can come off as wordy and a little offbeat to the point of turning some readers away. Once you establish a fanbase, that can change. But just starting out and building a name for yourself takes mass appeal. You want the average reader to take a random chance on you so you can show them what you're capable of. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover...but people do. And in cases of online fiction, a lot of times you don't even GET a cover! So the title is everything. The second layer? WRITE!!! Write until your fingers hurt! Write until your back aches and your butt is flat from sitting in your computer chair for so long! If you can get up from your seat and not ache and feel stiff and worn out...you haven't written enough. Take a break and come back to it. A great way to get yourself noticed is through short, one time, stories. A story told from beginning to end, maybe somewhere between 3000 to 5000 words max. Something that will give you enough room to build character and a decent plot, but won't get too involved to the point where it takes half a novel to make your point. Think of it as a collection of 'extended examples'. And experiment with different genres and ideas. Keep a pocket sized notebook on you at all times, you'll need it for jotting down spontaneous ideas. The idea is not only to practice and hone your craft, but to have a variety of stories out there for people to find. If you have only 'one' story out there, no matter how amazing it may be, getting it noticed will be harder for you. Maybe you have a title that doesn't grab the reader's eye. Maybe you have a theme that a percentage of your readers aren't instantly enthralled with. Or maybe you just got passed over for no reason at all. BUT...if you have five stories on that list, somebody is about to find ONE of them. And when they read it, and discover that they LOVE what you have to offer...they'll immediately look for other stuff that you've written. By that time, you'll have a wealth of material that will prove to them that, "Hey, that story you liked wasn't a fluke! I've got more!" You want them to love 'you' as a writer, even more than your individual stories. Stand up and prove you're up to the challenge of impressing them with almost everything you put out. Build a 'brand' for yourself, one that people can believe in. If you've written a high school love story...try a college story. If you've written a modern story...try something with a sci fi twist. Every time you try a new genre, you grab a new audience. And those audiences will all follow the breadcrumbs you leave behind to see what else you've created to give it a chance as well. This is how you build multiple fanbases. Except, since you're at the center of it all, all your fanbases combine into one entity. You may only write one story, but some people might enjoy it, and some may not. Write two stories? Some people might like one, and not like the other. Write five? You might get three stories they love, and they'll give the other two a try, even if it's not really their thing. The more you write, the more material you put out there, the better chance you have of getting your work noticed by new readers. Simple mathematics. The third layer? Get involved with your readers! This is probably the most fun part, at least it is for me. You get to meet and talk to a lot of really great people, and get some feedback on your work at the same time. The first thing you want to do is have an email account where people can reach you. Make yourself readily available for comment and review. Even if you get criticism, that part is important too, because it'll give you a different perspective on your writing in general. Get a Twitter account! Get a blog! Get a mailing list! Find a way to build your own forum, and keep a constant presence in ALL of these places at all times! Be there. Get to know your audience personally. If they can take the time to say, "I liked your story", then you can take the time to say, "Thank you!" Let them know what you're working on next, listen to what they have to say and use it to get an even better idea of how your writing is being seen by other people. Adjust accordingly. Also, make sure to add your contact and social media info on everything you write. Put it at the top of your manuscript, so people can see it before they read a single word of your story. And then add it again at the bottom of your story, so when they finish, and they have that big smile on their face and that sugary sweet feeling in their heart, they can look at it and go, "Oh yeah, I can actually 'talk' to the person who wrote this! Let me send them a quick message." Invite some sort of interaction between you and your audience. They are really COOL people! I've made some of my best friends ever through the stories I've written, so allow them to get to know you, and then you'll get to know them in return. Like I said, this is the FUN part! So, a short recap... Step 1 - Grab their attention with an interesting title and a well-written story. Step 2 - WRITE! Get as much quality material out there as you possibly can! Let me put emphasis on the word 'quality'. Don't just put a bunch of mediocre fluff out there for the sake of having a bunch of stories online. That will only hurt you in the end. Don't rush. Do it right. Your potential fans will appreciate the extra effort. Step 3 - Be social! Start by giving people a way to contact you directly, and then set up public ways to let everyone know when you have something new in the works and when it's getting released. Do this on your own. There are sites with automatic announcements and daily updates and the like, which is great...but that works best for the 'website' you're on. You want to actively connect with your personal fanbase on your own. Your direct involvement should be your main priority, and all other websites should be a very cool bonus in helping you get attention. Not the other way around. Try out a few of these techniques, and I can guarantee you that you'll start increasing your fanbase within a matter of weeks. It takes time and effort, but anything that's worth it always does, right? It's not a 'trick' or a 'strategy'...it's simply a matter of you taking the passion that you put into your stories and extending that to the people who enjoy them. So don't take the self-promotion step for granted. Remember, a work of art loses its value if there's no one around to see it. Don't let your hard work fall into that category.
  16. Are any of us perfect? I mean, I'm sure that a lot of us realize that we're not actually perfect...and the few that do believe they're perfect are often blind narcissists...hehehe, and therefore NOT perfect! Honestly, that's not even something that I would ever want to shoot for. If perfection is determined by some sort of direct formula or standard, if it's a bunch of little boxes that all have to be checkmarked to be considered a part of that group...then that would mean it's our imperfections that make us different. Unique. Hell, even mildly interesting. Who would want to toss that aside from a life free from stress, worry, and pain? Am I right? Hehehe! We're not perfect...our characters shouldn't be perfect either. Today...we talk character flaws. Now, when I say the word 'flaw', I don't you guys to start cringing and worrying and shouting out, "But I don't WANT my main characters to become unlovable douchebags!!!" Shhhh, calm down. It doesn't have to go that far. Ok? Character flaws can be minor. They can be human. And if you plan ahead and play your cards right, you can use those flaws and the flaws of your love interest, to build a wonderful story arc where your characters learn to battle those demons and overcome those flaws for an amazing story that can get your readers to think, evolve, and maybe even change themselves. It's all in the way you put it together in your story. So, what are flaws? What are we talking about here? That's the big question, right? Well, I happen to be a very flawed individual myself, and I'm fully aware of what those flaws are. That's what helps me maintain a conscience about them and try to fix them when they get in the way of me being a decent human being. Naturally, as a writer's creation is always a reflection of the writer, those flaws trickle down to my characters, and I use them as chess pieces to tell a bigger story and to hopefully have a deeper theme. Even if it's done in a slightly exaggerated way. It's easy to want your protagonist to be a good soul and a true angel, through and through. Even easier for your main love interest to shine even brighter and be even more magnificent, to the point where the entire choir of Heaven shouts down at you from the clouds above at his mere appearance. Ohhhhhhhhh, Hallelujah! But as tempting as it is to do that, you're going to end up running out of things to say VERY quickly. There would be no conflict. No adversity. No challenge. What would you do for the rest of the story? "I love you." "I love you more." "No, I love YOU more!" "Unh unh...I love YOU more, times infinity!" Yeahhhh...don't spend ten pages doing that to your readers. That's just plain mean. Hehehe! When I speak about character flaws, I'm talking about typical human traits that could somehow be used to add a touch of literary color to what you're writing. Maybe your main character is a great guy, but he has a bit of a jealous streak. He's involved in his first gay relationship ever, and his brand new boyfriend is talking to the star quarterback of the football team? How would you feel? I have written stories where one of the boys was 'out and proud', but his boyfriend wasn't. There's a slight friction there. I wrote a story where the main character was the victim of physical abuse from his father, and finds it hard to even believe in himself enough to approach his own boyfriend without being suspicious. I've written about people who have had their hearts broken before and are afraid to love again, boys who feel inadequate because of their financial status, or boys who think the person they're in love with is so far out of their league that even trying to ask them out seems like a waste of time. These are all HUMAN traits. They're situations that we've all dealt with in one way or another. Some people are painfully shy, some have a mean streak in them, some have religious constraints, some have age restrictions, some have problems with alcohol, or drugs, or just an unhealthy connection to their ex-boyfriend. These things can be used to enrich your characters and give them a added level of depth, they're not meant to ruin them or make them unlikable. Not at all. In fact, the very concept of dealing with these personality flaws can become the backbone of your story and make it an exciting read for everyone who's reading it. While the loving relationship, the breathless kisses, and of course...the mind-blowing SEX...is the centerpiece of most erotic stories, how much cooler would it be to also touch on a partner dealing with substance abuse? Or maybe cheating on their significant other? Or maybe keeping people at arm's length because he's scared of commitment? Everything from the insecurity of being with an online 'celebrity', to the aggravation and agony of a long distance relationship, can become an enthralling part of your project, and it might just touch people in a deeper way than you ever thought possible. To me? A super hot, super perfect, person...falling for another super hot, super perfect, person...doesn't hold much entertainment value. It's GREAT for a ten minute session of 'cocking the shotgun', hehehe! But once you clean up, who really remembers that? It's not that I don't understand the true intention of erotica, but if it doesn't feel like a real experience to your readers...then it becomes less about your writing and more about their fantasies. Which would mean...they could get the same thing anywhere. From anyone. If you want to stand out, never be afraid to add a little extra layer to your stories and have an impact. I'm not saying that you have to turn it into a soap opera about something else entirely, but drawing attention to little flaws and having them deal with it between marathons of naked sex-scapades will only help you to stand out even more. And it'll keep people coming back for the next story you write. And the next. and the next. I'm thinking that's a goal a lot of us are working towards.
  17. Comicality

    First Kiss

    No matter how hot and steamy the sex may get between your main character and his love interest later on in your story...sometimes the sweetest and most explosive moment of all comes from that very first kiss. Even if your characters are older and it's not their first kiss ever...it's that first delicate connection with the guy you're passing off as his perfect counterpart. If done right, a first kiss between characters can be just as erotic as every other part of your story, if not more so. So how do you make someone's awkward attempt at pressing their lips together for the first time seem like such a grand experience? Read on, and let's talk about writing that first kiss. One thing that always makes a scene for me, as well as the rest of the story, is the love and care put into the characters. That's rule number one. If people care about the characters, then they will care about what the characters are doing. Who they are and how they interact with one another is all a major part of the actual build up to a first kiss. Have them trade glances, talk to each other, flirt with one another...maybe even have them get nervous and back out of a previous attempt or two. The anticipation of a first kiss should be both adorable and maddening at the same time. I've written a bunch of stories where the emails and reviews were like, "Arrgggghhh!!! I hate you! I HATE YOU!!! When's the next chapter coming out???" Hehehe, but that's what we as writers WANT, right? We want the readers to get excited like our main characters get excited! That's a big piece of what makes telling a quality erotic story so much fun. It's not this kiss itself, but the events surrounding the kiss that give it its flare and true magic. It should be a blissful 'reward' for all of the fear and angst and confusion you put your protagonist through to earn it. Once you've successfully built the tension and you're ready for the big moment to happen...let that moment represent your character's personality just as much as any other part of your story. A kiss is basically a silent dialogue, continuing on from everything you know about these boys so far. A previously bashful guy isn't going to ram his tongue down someone's throat. And a stronger, more dominant character, wouldn't deliver a kiss on the cheek and shy away from him with a giggle. Depending on your characters, try to have it match the tone of the story. Have it match their personas as you created them. For example, if you're writing a really sweet dramatic fiction...maybe you have them stare into each other's eyes as they go silent. Then they lean in slowly, close their eyes, and experience something truly amazing. Soft and tender and special. Or, if you're writing a story that's super lighthearted with a lot of humor added to it, you might enjoy making their first kiss clumsy, with bumped noses and smashed lips and possibly a fall back into the bushes. Maybe that's not the story you're trying to tell...maybe you want the first kiss to come off as some repulsive, and you want to describe it in a different way. Maybe they're actually fighting with one another when it happens, and the kiss comes off as angry, but erotic, as their 'oil and water' emotions collide. Think about the overall tone of your story and the people involved, and write something that will reflect who they are. It works wonders. 'Surprise' kisses can also come off as being incredibly sweet. Whether it comes from the protagonist or the love interest. The idea that they're close to one another, and despite holding back originally, they simply can't take it anymore. Lunging forward spontaneously without warning can, physically, cause your reader's jaws to drop. And that's always a good thing! Hehehe! You could go a million different ways with it, but if you listen to your characters speaking to you within the context of the world you built for them...they'll tell you how it should all go down in the end. My own characters NEVER shut up! Hehehe, trust me! Now, once that magical moment happens...make sure you milk it for all it's worth! This is a monumental achievement happening here. This is that first dip in the roller coaster that will lead toward the exciting ride to follow it. So, make sure to get in your character's head and really use this opportunity to paint a pretty picture. What's he feeling? What's he thinking? Put yourself in his place, really visualize it, and describe it to the readers who are taking this journey with you. Let them feel the racing heartbeat, the heavy breathing, the jittery stomach, the slight rise in body temperature. Let them experience the softness of his lips, the fabric of his shirt as you gently hold onto his hips...let them read about the taste of the grape flavored popsicle he was sucking on just moments before. What do you do with your hands? What do you do about the obvious erection digging into his hip? How do you react to the feel of his tongue entering your mouth? What do you first hear a moan fill the room and you don't know if it came from him or from you? All of these little details can grab a few seconds of kissing and make it soar into orbit, making your fanbase just as dizzy and delirious as your protagonist. Make it last. Because, just as in real life...your story only gets one first kiss. Now, one last thing that I've learned over the years about the first kiss...let it breathe. Allow it to be it's own grand event in your fairy tale. I used to have a habit of letting the first kiss happen somewhere private, and then letting it transition, immediately, into that first sexual experience. If that's a part of the story that you want to tell, then so be it. But I find it more effective to just let my characters have that one special moment, truly let the readers appreciate it, and then allow them a period of time to glow and grin and smile up at the sky for a while before they come back to escalate to a naughtier level. I like it when first kisses stand alone in a story. There's nothing more endearing than having a character get just a taste of the possibilities, and watch him float home...enjoying the overwhelming 'wow' of it all. Give it a shot. These are the moments that really define a story as a whole. You don't want to 'blow your load' all at once, do you? As always...pun intended. I hope this helps. Just keep in mind that the first kiss in a well written erotic story is like those first rays of light breaking over the horizon at sunrise. It is, basically, the end of your 'first act' in a lot of cases, and you want it to have some power to it. By the time you get to anything more graphic, your readers will already be so in love with your two main characters that you'll be beyond the point of doing any wrong by them. So pucker up, and give your audience the magic they deserve.
  18. Imagine if you were watching a movie or a play for the first time. You've never heard of it before, you've never seen any advertisements about it, and you don't even know what it's going to be about. Now...imagine if you could hear the dialogue and everything that's going on...but the stage or the screen is shrouded in complete darkness for the first fifteen minutes. You can't see anything at all. You just have to sort of listen to the words and use your imagination to figure out what's going on. Well, the problem with that is...once you bring the house lights up, once the movie visuals actually kick in...the people watching may have your vision all wrong. And that can be a huge stumbling block. Writing is no different. In fact, putting out certain details as early as possible in your story is even more important. Because your readers' imagination is three-fourths of the whole experience, and the last thing you want is for them to spend too much time in the dark before you give them the basics. That's why it's so essential to 'set the stage' before getting into anything that will push your story forward. When someone clicks on your story, most of them are going into it blind. What will it be about? Who are the characters? When does it take place? For example, imagine if you read a story about a guy who's out in the park with his dog, and they're playing fetch, then he sees a guy that he thinks is absolutely gorgeous, and after a brief conversation they decide to go out to a local café for a drink. Seems simple enough, right? Now...imagine that your story has gone on for a few pages, and you don't start giving some basic details to your reader until they're already sitting down to dinner. Out of nowhere, you mention that both characters are high school juniors. Wait...what? Oh, maybe your readers were picturing them as being a bit older. Ok, well, they can deal with that. They keep reading, and you mention the dog was this giant Great Dane. Whoah! You might have pictured a dog that was a lot smaller, but...no big problem. Then maybe you mention that it's Winter time and there's snow on the ground, but your readers were imagining it being a nice Summer day. Then you mention that it's 8 PM at night, and the guy has a full beard and glasses and looks older than he really is...oh, and did I mention this story takes place in 1975? What could have been a very sweet beginning to a story has now baffled and confused your readers, because every time you add some major detail that they weren't told from the get go...they're forced to stumble, erase their previous ideas, and readjust their imagination to fit the details you're giving them. Which can sometimes be frustrating and it can give the story a clumsy start. Always remember, this is the internet. There are WAY too many options out there for you to have a clumsy start. The 'back button' is not your friend. Whenever I start a story, I try to use descriptions of that particular moment so anyone reading can get a real sense of where they are, who they're looking at, and when it's taking place. Now you don't have to spend paragraph after paragraph spilling every last detail at your reader's feet all at once, but you want to give them a sense that they can see what's going on. Because once your audience has dreamed up a solid idea of what everything looks like...that's the vision they're going to be instantly invested in. If you throw them a curveball after they've already made up their minds that the main character is a modern-day teenager from the suburbs, and you tell them, "No, he's really a gritty, chain-smoking, detective from 30 years in the future"...hehehe, we'll that's going to be a problem. If you're writing about a teenager, maybe have your opening scene start out in a classroom, or next to his locker, or at his best friend's sweet 16 birthday party. Maybe have his mother or father call him down to breakfast. These little cues will put the idea in your reader's minds that, "Ok, we're dealing with a high school kid here. Got it." And then they can continue reading, while emotionally attaching themselves to your vision instead of creating one of their own, and later having the two conflict with one another. In a future setting, maybe have someone fiddling with some sort of futuristic gadget, or describe some giant metropolis with floating holograms and hovering cars. If it takes place in the old West, maybe mention dirt roads and people riding past a saloon on horseback. Whether you describe a corporate office full adult businessmen, or a couple of kids sword fighting playfully with a couple of sticks in a Medieval castle, or walking through an apocalyptic wasteland...try to find creative ways to let your readers immediately know who, where, and when, before you get too involved with any other part of your story. That way you can be on the same page...pun intended. Hope this helps. Just remember that the faster and easier it is for your readers to get involved in the world you're trying to build, the more powerful your story will be. Set the stage first and then start building momentum from there. The last thing you want to do is trip them up right out of the gate.
  19. Welcome, everyone! Starting early in 2018, we will be posting weekly articles by Comicality and other authors every Saturday morning. I wanted to get this kicked off so between now and then we'll be posting links to previous Writing Tips, which can currently be found in our Stories Archive in the Non-Fiction -> Writing Tips category. Please be sure to check them out. Read and review! The three for this week are from Lugh:
  20. Comicality

    Plot Armor

    ::Old Timey Radio Voice:: "Lois is trapped underground and tied up next to the bomb! Jimmy Olsen is being held captive by the gangsters from the underground syndicate! And Clark Kent can't leave the Daily Bugle in time to rescue them without giving away his secret identity!!! Can Superman possibly HOPE to save the day??? Hehehe...umm, of course he can! He's freakin' Superman! Duh! I remember being in the college dorms with my roommates and some of our friends, discussing which characters in fictional folklore it would be near IMPOSSIBLE to write a compelling and interesting story about if we had to...no matter how much money was being tossed our way for it. And my very first thought, and ultimate answer, was Superman. To this day, I think I would have a difficult time trying to write a Superman story with any kind of 'stakes' involved, because...well...he's Superman. You wont find a more impenetrable version of plot armor in any character than you will with the son of Krypton. He's invincible, he's insanely fast, he has eye lasers, he has frost breath, you can run from him, you can hide from him, he's got X-Ray eyes...WTF? And the thing is...people who love Superman WANT that from him! They won't stand for anything less. No weakness, no conflict, no corruption...none of that. Unh unh! Superman is Superman, and that's all there is to it. I, personally, have problems with that idea when it comes to writing a story. Not just for the main characters, but for the characters surrounding them. I feel like super overpowered characters make it extremely difficult to create feelings of tension or provide any real sense of danger or conflict when it comes to bringing an audience into my world and getting them invested in the idea that my main characters might actually lose in the end. I mean, seriously...who cringes when Superman gets punched in the face? However, when you see Jackie Chan make a near impossible jump from one rooftop to another, throw himself down a flight of steps, and nearly get IMPALED on a bed of spikes??? It's like, "JESUS!!!" That's what I want in my stories! Those gasps and cringes and true worry when it comes to the main characters that has an impact that almost makes you forget that the 'story' is supposed to make them invincible. Hehehe! I have been a movie buff my entire life. I was sooooo little when I was introduced to film, and I can seriously remember being totally vulnerable to the idea that the heroes in my favorite movies could actually die or come to serious harm. I hadn't become movie savvy yet, and that gave these stories an entirely different level of breathless excitement when I watched them! The whole house could have caught fire in the middle of one of these movies, and I would have kicked and screamed and thrown a full blown tantrum if I didn't get to see what happened next. Why? Because I had no real vision of 'plot armor' at that age. The concept was beyond me. And, for a long long time...I kind of missed it. Watch this video below. I wasn't much older than the boy watching "Return Of the Jedi" for the very first time in his life...and I can remember feeling the EXACT same way when he was facing off against the Emperor! I mean...how do you even battle something like that??? An emotional time, indeed. And this was at a time when I was under the assumption that no one was safe, no matter how cool or important they may be to the story or franchise itself. This is an extremely difficult trick to pull off in stories these days. As always, people are more savvy to all of the smoke and mirror tactics that writers and filmmakers have used in the past...and that means that we, as writers, are all facing new challenges when it comes to creating a sense of urgency and loss in the stories that we tell. Especially when it comes to characters who may come off as overpowered to the readers who dive in to check your story out. Now...when I say 'overpowered'...that doesn't just mean some hunky super hero or magical fantasy wizard. This works in general, down-to-earth, fiction as well. Overpowered can mean a guy who is obscenely famous, extremely wealthy, outrageously gorgeous, or insanely popular. A character who seems to be lacking any visible flaws at all. How do you beat that? What do you do? Having your protagonist struggle with that and slowly begin to figure out ways to get around what seems so unbelievably unavoidable in terms of being a challenge to the 'un-challengeable'...will make for an EXCELLENT story! Readers always love to root for the underdog, after all! Going back to the whole Superman idea...I distinctly remember seeing the final trailer for the "Man Of Steel" movie just before it was released, and I was soooooo impressed! It was, like...they solved the biggest problem of all! How do you hurt someone who can't be physically damaged in any possible way? And watching this trailer gave me an explosion of hope that they might actually be able tackle this problem the way it needed to be tackled. You're not going to be able to hit, stab, shoot, burn, blow up, Superman. It just won't work. BUT...if you can really hit him where it hurts the most? Then you'll win every time. Superman cares about humanity. His heart is his greatest weakness, and always has been. And by attacking the people that he loves...his plot armor doesn't really mean much. And that is where you, as a writer, can find opportunities to inject feelings of dread and danger into your story. Something tense that will keep your readers on the edge of their seats, even though their main hero is invulnerable to being taken out of the game prematurely. So this trailer really caught my attention. This is what Superman fears most. Being exposed. Having people hurt because he wasn't able to save them. Knowing that his very presence is a threat in itself. Brilliant! 0 0 0 If you want to write a compelling story and keep people locked in (And maybe piss off a few people along the way...it happens...), take the plot armor off. If you can't do it for your main character, then do it for the characters that he or she cares about most. This is where building up the personalities and interactions with your side characters will come in handy. Make people love them. Care about them. Want them to make it through towards the whole 'happily ever after' in the long run. And then threaten the stability of that dream by putting them in danger and stressing your readers out with situations that your main, overpowered, protagonist could easily solve on their own...but aren't there to do so. I hope that makes sense. For me? In the vampire story, "Gone From Daylight", the main character, Justin, is definitely powerful enough to do a LOT of damage if he really wanted to. There aren't many problems that he couldn't solve within a matter of seconds if it really came down to a life or death conflict. But, one thing that I always tried to keep in mind was the fact that I really can't tell a decent story when my protagonist can simply vaporize everybody he comes across without any effort at all. I mean, where's the excitement in that? So I had to 'anchor' him somehow. Justin is 14 years old...powers and all. He's never known how to fight before. If anything, he's spent a majority of his life being a victim. He struggles with the idea of crossing over the line into a much darker side of his personality that he may not be able to come back from. He's making up all of these things as he's going along. He's no trained warrior, nor does he even fully understand what abilities he holds within him yet. There are limits on what he can do, and how he can manipulate his extras to help him out in a serious situation, but I can't just having him destroying entire Chicago neighborhoods in the blink of an eye. Hehehe, I' surprised that he gets away with as much as he has so far. However...his biggest weakness...much like with the Superman trailer above, is that he has a heart. He's suffering through trauma and heartbreak, and he's doing all that he can to be a part of a brand new family in darkness for the very first time. If anyone really wants to hit Justin where it hurts the most? They can start with the people he cares about. Which has been a running theme in this series from the very first chapter. He's overpowered, but far from invincible. And I like keeping him that way...for now. I think that 'plot armor' can create a certain flatness in a storyline. No...Harry Potter isn't going to get stabbed in the heart while he's sleeping. Captain America isn't going to get shot in the head while giving a speech to the public (Hehehe, at least not in the movies! :P), and Indiana Jones isn't going to fall off of a jeep and get run over by a TANK! I mean...we're past the age of thinking that such a thing is a possibility anymore. BUT...I have to admit that there were a few shows that completely ripped the entire concept of 'plot armor' all the way off and tossed it to the four winds! And gripped me in a way that I never thought I'd ever see again! Omigod! That feeling...that anybody could go at any time...wow! It's priceless. It creates such an intense experience when you're watching it. And while I would definitely put "Game Of Thrones" in that category...my favorite (all time FAVORITE) series that display how white knuckled tension can be created by letting the audience know that 'plot armor doesn't always exist here'? They would have to be "24" (If you've never seen "24"....WTF? You need to make that your homework! Season 6 was fucking CRAZY!!!) and "The Walking Dead"! (Again...Seasons 6 and 7? PHENOMINAL!!!) Watch those shows, and you'll see the impact of not knowing whether your favorite character was going to make it through the next 40 minutes or so. You won't regret it! 00 The whole point of this article is very simple... If you want tension, worry, paranoia, and high stakes, in your story...putting your readers through bouts of stress and discomfort (You SADISTS, hehehe!)...then remove the plot armor. If you can't do it for your main character then let the dangerous consequences of that character's actions spread to the people that he or she loves most or keeps closest to their hearts. It creates a sense of vulnerability. A chink in the armor. And that makes people uneasy. Pick at it. Tweak it. Have some fun. Hehehe, writing a really good story can be a gleefully manipulative effort some times. Enjoy it! I hope this gives you guys something to think about in the future! Happy writing! And I'll seezya soon with more!
  21. As we work through the logistics of keeping the article pipeline fed, and it's a hungry beast, I thought I'd open a dialog about choosing what we write. For example, when I started writing for the public, I went to the root of writing FanFiction. Those who immediately scoff, remember that some really prolific authors started out that way, including Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Meyers. In fact, Mercedes Lackey publishes a yearly anthology. For at least 10 years now, she has short stories written by other authors in her world... you know, FanFictions. I was interested in Harry Potter. When I started, we were in the drought between books 4 and 5 of the Harry Potter series. There was quite the fertile ground of speculation and tropes that still continues to this day, 20 years later. I just finished a reread of my own unfinished Harry Potter FanFiction novel and restarted editing so I can finally finish it after 20 years. I don't want to turn into George R.R. Martin and never finish the book that's mostly done, after all. (Where are you, Winds of Winter?) Writing a FanFiction, especially a Harry Potter one, gives you a hungry audience ready to beat you over the skull for mistakes. They are driven to reply. If you thrive on interaction, that is a path. Of course, they can be brutal, too, so that's something to bear in mind. If you are inclined to follow markets, you can figure out what is popular and write something that scratches that itch. Paranormal Romance was huge some time ago, for example. (It might still be, but I'm not paying attention much to larger outside trends). Quirky teens getting laid seems to usually go over well with the Gay Authors' audience. Teens crossed with giants (at least 1 part) seem to be a regular favorite over at Nifty. You can give yourself a leg up on the audience by feeding the beast. The other path is more challenging but more rewarding. Write something so compelling that you set the trend. In other words, be you. Write a great story, and it'll get noticed. I am always going to write something other than contemporary. While I will complete my Harry Potter story, I don't plan on writing more in the FanFiction genre (and sharing it) going forward. I'm going to continue to wander off into the lands of speculative fiction, be it Science Fiction or Fantasy. That's me being me. How do you approach your writing? Has it changed since you started? Is feeding the audience more important? Or writing what you want?
  22. Comicality

    Feedback

    There's an old proverb out there, and I'll have to paraphrase as I don't remember it word for word...but it says 'the Sun doesn't enjoy its own brightness. The river doesn't drink its own water. The tree doesn't eat its own fruit. And living without giving...isn't really living.' As a writer, I really do believe in that. Being able to create something out of nothing and then share it with people who really enjoy and relate to it brings me a lot of joy. That's my way of giving to my readers. And the more they love what I do, the more inspired I am to give them even more. But...there is one part of the process that I have to admit that I truly FAIL at when it comes to giving something back. And that's why I thought it was important to approach the topic this time around. So, let's talk about feedback. When it comes to writing, it takes a lot of thought, time, and energy to pull off a completed story. Or even a single chapter, for those of us who write in a 'serial' fashion. It can be emotionally draining at times. But every now and then, the payoff for all of your hard work is more than worth it. Sometimes I get an email from a new reader finding my work for the first time, a dedicated reader who's been with me for years, or some young teen who's still struggling to find their place in the world...and their love and support really touches me. I feel a wave of satisfaction just knowing that my words were able to reach out into the ether somewhere so other people can have access to it...and they took the time to reach back to say thank you. There's no greater reward than that, in my opinion. No amount of money could ever compete with that feeling of connecting with someone else's humanity, simply by expressing my own. However, I do write an awful lot...and I don't read nearly as much as I used to. I simply don't have enough hours in the day to catch up anymore. And one thing that I definitely want to get better at is giving praise to my fellow authors when they totally deserve it. I have read some really amazing stories on nifty and here on GayAuthors and on Jeffsfort...but I haven't really taken the time to send a personal email with my comments about the kind of genius that these authors are putting out on a regular basis. I mean, when it comes to well written stories, plots, and characters...I'm a fan too! I don't get to talk to people individually often, so I seem a bit isolated at times. And I don't want to play 'favorites' where I'm commenting on this person's story, and not that person's story. But I really hope to correct that in the near future and give more feedback when I'm enjoying someone else's hard work. I definitely do what I can to promote as many talented authors as I can and give them the attention they deserve, but I think I could take a more personal approach and send more comments and reviews when given the opportunity. I think it's important. You see...we, as readers, are the cheering section. We are the fuel that a writer uses to keep going and maintain interest in the stories we love and get all wrapped up in. Without our input, some of the best stories that we've ever read could end up fizzling out right before our eyes. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've had people talk to me in email, or post on the Comicality Library, trying to get them to tell their story and share their experiences and really GO for it...but gave up on their projects due to a lack of response from readers. And, believe it or not, I've even had readers come back to contact me months or even years later, asking about 'that one story' and what happened to the author. Well...you ignored him/her the whole time they were writing, so what do you think happened? You're the fuel. You didn't take a few seconds to let them know what you felt about their story...so they quit. And now...we all lose out. Hehehe! What did they expect? Again, I'm definitely guilty of doing this myself. And I need to get better at giving my thoughts when I read something that I think is awesome. Or even to give some constructive criticism when I think the story has major potential, and can be even better if the author tweaks a few details here and there. It really helps an author out to know that they have an audience that's paying attention and appreciating the effort that they put in. I speak from experience when I say...sometimes it just plain sucks to look at one of my chapters on GA, and in the first 48 hours...it has 300 views...and 2 comments. I mean, I appreciate the 2 comments, for sure...but that means that 298 people RUSHED over to read the story the second they got the notice (They were THAT hyped for it!), but when they finished? No comments. No hitting the 'like' button. No email. Nothing. Just 'gimmee gimmee gimme' and 'gobble gobble gobble' and then they roll over and go to sleep. Gee, thanks. Glad that at least ONE of us got something out of this! Hehehe! Imagine performing on stage in front of crowd of 300 people, dancing or acting or playing music, whatever...and when you were done...TWO people clapped for you. Two...out of 300. Yeah, sometimes that's what it feels like. And authors need that from time to time. Nothing much. Nobody is asking you to share your life story or write complicated stanzas of poetry. No one is asking you to get down on your knees and bow and scrape at the feet of a writer, or spit shine their shoes from a place of total submission. Just be, like...'Hey, I really liked this story. Thanks.' Or, 'Wow. That was cool.' That's it. Thirty seconds worth of typing at the end of a chapter can really do WONDERS for the writers that you truly love. Don't just think it in your head. Let them know. Say it out loud. Leave a comment. Hit a 'like' button. It's an important part of the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers. Don't be greedy and make this a one way street. We should all feel compelled to do our part, you know? I want to give an example that may help to demonstrate the feeling that an author gets when people are actually participating in the process of sharing their work and expressing themselves in the hopes to be understood and appreciated... Over the past year, since the pandemic and all, going out to movie theaters hasn't really been much of an option for a majority of us. And that sucks, because I still love going out to the movies. I love the 'energy' that's provided by being in a crowded room with people who came out to have a good time. I love laughing with them, cheering with them, gasping with them, jumping during horror flicks with them...it's so different than just watching a movie at home on a streaming service. Or, even worse, watching it by myself on my laptop screen. I think this is the best way to describe the difference between a writer having an audience and a constantly participating source of feedback, over a writer who keeps putting out material without much outside support. This is the final battle scene from the "Avengers: Endgame" movie (Spoiler warning, if you haven't seen it yet), and it is one of THE most badass, most amazing, most hardcore cinematic superhero throw down scenes in movie history! Watching this in the theater for the first time, I couldn't even mentally process what the hell I had just seen! Jaw dropping! Jesus! Go ahead and click the video below, even if you've seen it before, and just imagine what it must have been like, and how much hard work went in to filming, choregraphing, and creating, this whole scene! Editing it, adding the soundtrack, incorporating all of the characters, and just making it such a mind-blowing experience for everybody watching!!! When anyone pours that much heart and passion into their craft...they want us to notice. I mean, wouldn't you? It's not an ego thing. Creative minds just don't want their efforts to feel so...thankless. You know? And if you're getting a million dollar paycheck to write stories online, well...then at least you have a decent incentive to keep writing more. But if it's just a hobby or something that a writer does to clear the cobwebs out of their head on occasion and share it with the rest of us? The ONLY thanks they get comes from us actually saying the words 'thank you'. That's it. Nothing else. We're the only thing keeping those fires burning. And if we don't openly support what we love...it withers on the vine. Imagine how many awesome stories we've all missed out on because we didn't say something to the author when we had the chance to. I've read some really amazing stories that got abandoned because nobody stepped up to support them. And, like I said, that's a loss for all of us. Reading these stories is like tending a garden. If you feed it, fertilize it, cultivate it...it'll grow. If you neglect it and never pay it any attention...well, what did you expect the result to be? Support the things that you love! Why not? Too tired? Too busy? Too shy? What is it? What's the excuse? Do you have any idea how many gay story websites were out there when I first started writing? I couldn't even keep track of the number. And I'm one of very few sites that has outlasted them all over the years. And NONE of that could have been possible if it wasn't for the comments and friendships that I've made since then. I would have burned out a decade ago if it weren't for the support of my readers, and I try to give thanks to them every chance I get. And I think ALL writers need that kind of encouragement when the have the courage to bare their feelings to an invisible audience and are looking for some kind of validation for their efforts. Now, I want to show you the SAME "Avengers: Endgame" clip from above...but this was filmed in a theater on opening night. This is with the audience's participation, experiencing this epic moment for the very first time. This is what it feels like when a writer puts their heart and soul into their work, and actually gets to see and hear what the reaction is to their efforts... Hehehe, are you smiling? I mean, do you see the difference in the intensity of the energy provided by having an audience that is really enjoying themselves? Compare that to what you felt in the first video. That's all our favorite authors want from us. Nobody puts in all of that hard work without expecting at least a little bit of appreciation. And we are all working on our own projects, and that's totally understandable...but every once in a while...give someone a wink and a nod and a little applause for their efforts. Seriously. Imagine if only two or three people in that entire audience was openly having fun while everybody else was stubbornly remaining silent. Not as cool, is it? Bottom line, as readers, we are the messengers of appreciation to every writer who ever sat at their keyboard and created these fantasies for us to enjoy. And as fellow writers, we can consider ourselves colleagues, which has an even more meaningful impact. They deserve our attention. Where are the 'likes'? Where's the support? Where are the donations? Where are the comments? Where are the recommendations? We have time to read the stories, but suddenly don't have time to say thanks when we're finished? It's something that I definitely want to change about myself, and I hope I can bring some others into the trenches with me. Give a few ratings. Send a few emails. Spread the word to your friends. Because, when we stay silent, we end up discouraging the very people that we claim to love so much for their work from ever creating any more content for us ever again. And it's too late to complain when those talented writers have given up and moved on to other things. Our feedback gives writers the passion to keep going. It allows them to finish their projects, it gives them the confidence to stretch out and challenge themselves, and it is the best way to maintain our garden. So don't be stingy with your support. Give them some love. It doesn't have to be every day, or every month even...just...once in a while, send them a message to say, "Hey, thanks for the stories! I really enjoy them!" That's it. Don't let more talent go unnoticed and fade away because you couldn't find thirty seconds to say something positive about something they wrote. K? That's it for this round! Hope it gave you guys some food for thought! It certainly did for me, and I want to improve on giving comments more often myself. So, please don't think that I'm preaching! Hehehe! I'm probably more guilty than you are when it comes to giving feedback. But I'm working on it! Promise! Seezya soon!
  23. Comicality

    Context

    And then the pig drop kicked the goat into a meat grinder, and finally...he could rest easy, knowing that justice was served! Hahaha, WHAT??? Does that make much sense? Does it have any impact at all? I'm willing to bet that you guys are quite confused. Hehehe! As you should be. (Unless you're not...in which case, you should seek psychiatric help immediately...) Who? What? When? Where? Why? These are all questions that every writer should be prepared to answer in their projects at any given moment. It should actually be included in the story itself, and not just when they get a message from a confused reader who is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The major events in any story plot, no matter big, or how well written, don't really carry any weight to them if they're not given the proper context beforehand. They're just random events. It's the equivalent of seeing the aftermath of a car accident at an intersection on a random Tuesday afternoon. I mean...sure, you notice. But there's no meaning behind it. Not for you, anyway. I think that there are a lot of really great moments in well written stories that suffer from a lack of context. Scenes or events that could be SO much more emotionally satisfying if the story's context had been a bit more fleshed out ahead of time. It makes a difference, you know? It may seem like such a small thing, but it isn't. It matters. Trust me. There can sometimes be a certain eagerness when writing your own story. You have a ton of really great ideas and action packed, or super romantic, or truly heartbreaking, moments that you can't wait to write down and edit and create dialogue for. And there are going to be times when you really just want to skip ahead and write those complex and super interesting scenes out so you can sit back and take a look at them, and then share them with your readers. But one thing that is important to remember is that you have a much fuller and more complete view of the story as a whole...putting you a great advantage over the rest of your readers. They may not be able to see what you see unless you actually include it in the story you're trying to tell. Just a page, few paragraphs, or an interesting exchange during what seems like a random conversation, can make a big difference in how your audience sees the rest of the story unfold. So...how can you see the difference when it comes to a scene with context and a scene without much context at all? Let's find out. I want to show you a clip from the 2009 remake/reboot of the movie, "Fame". It's all about college kids who go to a school for the fine arts and are trying to make it to the big time. Now, watch this clip...with no context behind what's going on at all, and think about what you're looking at. It's just a single musical performance, so enjoy! A cool scene, right? Now, watching that by itself, you can get some enjoyment out of it, maybe wiggle your booty a bit to the music. Hehehe! But what is the context behind this performance? And would it make a difference in the way that you watch this particular scene? In this movie, the rapper who started off the performance lived in a dangerous neighborhood and his little sister had been killed b a stray bullet. Ever since, he's been holding in all of that frustration and anger, and it was constantly keeping him from really rising to his full potential. And Denise? The singer was sooooo passionate about her singing, and her classmates convinced her to perform on stage with them because they thought her voice was so incredible. But her father absolutely HATED the fact that she would want her to waste her life being an entertainer when he wanted more for her. Even with her mother supporting her, he just wasn't having it. Any of it. However...they showed up in the audience that night at random where she was performing in secret, and the singer was so scared of disappointing and angering her parents that she almost walked out and refused to go on...even after all the hard work that she had put in beforehand. Both artists came together for that performance anyway, bringing one another out of their shells, and finally just let it all go. They totally went for it! And they got to show the public what they were really made of for the first time...unleashed. NOW...with that context in mind...scroll back up and watch that same video again, and see if it contains a whole other level of power for you. A whole other emotion. The nervousness. The emotional release. To see the two of them come together and just blossom on stage in front of your eyes, put their fears and bad times behind them, and totally KILL it no matter who was watching, takes on a different meaning than just watching that one video by itself! That's what context can do for the major moments in your writing. I think that context in stories is everything. You can't just have these big dramatic situations happening without some kind of build up and prior information being given to your readers. Otherwise, they don't really make much sense. When I go back and read some of my older stories from the first few years of me writing these stories online, I feel like I rushed through a lot of the context and just jumped into the drama, or the sex, or the heartbreak, without really giving much information or backstory as to why any of this stuff was happening or why it mattered as much as I hoped it would. I did learn to slow down and add those necessary details over time, but maybe some of you reading this and are starting to write stories for the first time can skip that particular 'trial and error' (mostly error) part of the process. And then you can speed along towards creating great stories a lot faster. Context is simply the act of giving your most potent moments in your story more depth and meaning. They're not just details...they are the foundations for a good plot, and a decent motivation for your main character. Whenever you think of a really cool or romantic scene for your story, you should be asking yourself the same questions that I asked above, and have a definitive answer for every last one of them already set up. Who? What? When? Where? Why? What's going on in this scene? Why is it happening? What led to this moment? What happens afterward? If you're planning your story out ahead of time, all of these things should already be in order. Right? Plan! Plan! Plan! Always plan! Even if you change those plans later on, it helps. It really does add another layer to your storytelling ability to be able to explain the context and nuance of your character's actions. Like, an abused child will have reasons for waiting so long to say how he truly feels to someone he really likes. A poor or working class kid may have reasons to feel that some rich boy at school is way out of his league. These are all circumstances that you can explore as a writer to set up the big events in your story, and have that dramatic moment hit with the kind of power that you're looking for. Like, "Here I was, thinking that I was so ugly...and yet, the hottest boy in school that I've ever seen is kissing me on the lips right now! OMIGOD!" If you build up the insecurities of your main character ahead of time, and then describe how outrageously gorgeous the boy that he's crushing on is ahead of time...when that magical first kiss happens, it will be something special for your readers to look back on and appreciate. Instead of just having him walk up and kiss him for no reason. I mean, that'd be hot, hehehe...but how much meaning would it have? What does this kiss mean without context? It's just...kissing. Nothing wrong with that, but what kind of moment are you trying to create? If it's anything deeper than that, context is a must. This is another clip that I wanted to show you guys. This is from the movie "Purple Rain" with Prince. Love this song! Give it a look! Now, once again...great song! Great performance! It's easy to understand what's going on here on a surface level. But...lets add some context... In the movie...Prince had just lost his girl to his rival, who's also a performer at the same club and was much more popular than he was. He was told that nobody understands his music other than himself. His band was mad at him because he never performed any of their songs, just his own. And he was going to be fired from his professional gig at the club. This was his probably going to be his LAST night ever performing on that stage. His mother had been abused and beaten, and his father had just attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head. So this is Prince's ONE shot at giving the performance of his life and venting his heart and soul out and playing the HELL out of that guitar before possibly losing it all for good. THAT'S the context behind this scene. Now...re-watch it again...and see how it makes you feel, knowing what you know about the movie and everything that he's been through up to that point. Go ahead, I'll wait. Hehehe! Basically, the point that I'm trying to make is that 'everyone likes like the frosting...but you have to bake the cake first'. When writing, don't be afraid to slow down and let things naturally escalate towards the next peak, so people can really get into it and enjoy it even more. That doesn't mean that you have to force yourself to add so much detail that your pacing begins to drag and it slows your whole project down to a snail's pace. That's definitely something you want to avoid. But allow it to be natural when you're writing. What's going on here? How did we get here? Sometimes, skipping around can suck all of the 'magic' out of your work. Create interesting context, and let that guide you towards those special scenes so you can enhance their emotional resonance with your audience. If you want to have a fist fight break out between two enemies...well, why are they enemies? What began the conflict? Who's the bad guy in this situation? Will there be any regrets to follow this spontaneous action? And what was it that finally crossed the line? In your context, you can play with the tension and frustration to the point where your main character balls up their fist and makes your readers cheer when it connects for the first time. Add bits and pieces of that along the way in your story, build it up, brick by brick...and when it happens, your readers will know why. And they'll love you for it. Anyway, I hope this helps. Just remember to think back to your favorite books, movies, stories online, etc...and think about all of the places where the context lies before each major event. Sprinkled out through different chapters or parts of the story. Hints. Building blocks. And keep those ideas in the back of your mind so you'll know what to look for as well in your own work. K? Have fun! And I'll seezya soon!
  24. I always go through a certain three-part process when it comes to putting a story together in my head. The first part is creating the idea and the theme. What kind of tone will it have? Some stories can be playful and happy, others can be sad and deal with heavy subjects, others can be full of anger and/or regret. But whatever the story is about, I try to flesh that out first. It usually doesn't take very long as it's usually just a vague outline of what the story is about and a few of the events that I want to happen in the long run. The second part is to flesh out the characters for my story. What roles they play and bits and pieces of their personality are sketched out a little bit in my head during part one, but this is when I begin creating who my characters really are, what they look like, what they sound like in my head, etc. Family relations, quirks, hobbies, sense of humor...whatever I need to do to make them feel real enough to assign them the roll of carrying this new story forward. And then comes part three...and this one is important... ...Character motivations. Put, very simply..what are they there to 'do', and why? One of the quickest ways to bore your readers into putting your story down is to have a cast of characters with nothing to do. Just milling around an empty parking lot like blind cows in an empty pasture. You have a story to tell. You're trying to get from Point A to Point B, correct? Well how are you planning to do that? And why are your characters so determined to help you make this happen? Today, we talk about the importance of character motivations. How to display them, how to define them, and how to get them to the finish line without going too far astray. To begin...take a moment and ponder what your story is actually about? That's the easiest way to get started. Are you writing a love story? A horror story? An action piece? What is it that your characters are looking for. Not just your main characters, but all of them. As I've said in a few articles before...if one of your characters doesn't belong or doesn't have much to do...get them out of there. They will only end up being a distraction from your main plot. And for readers who are actually invested in the main goal of your story, stepping away from it will end up causing more frustration than anything else. For me...my characters' motivations are mostly surrounding one thing, and one thing only...and that is a feeling of 'lack'. It doesn't matter what I'm writing, what genre, or how long (or short), that story may be. As long as they are lacking something that will make them complete...they will have an instant motivation to go after that. Maybe they lack the bravery to stand up to the high school bully. Maybe they lack the money to help out with the rent this month. Maybe they lack love, or adventure, or closure from a previous relationship, or they lack an escape route from the Island Of Dead Monkeys...whatever. Finding whats missing will motivate them to think about how they can knock down a path towards getting what they want. And once they figure that out...their motivations will guide them from event to event, from obstacle to obstacle, in an attempt to finally seize that goal. (Or not. Every story doesn't have to have a happy ending. But more on that another time...) Always remember that the personalities that inhabit the world you built for your story should always have a purpose. They should constantly be 'chasing' something. They're trying to find a missing person, or they're looking for a way to get that audition for the lead in theater performance this coming weekend, or they're trying to maintain some kind of big secret...whatever it is that you're writing about, find a motivation that will give your characters focus. That motivation may change or alter itself along the journey it takes your main character to get to where they want to go...but make sure that those changes are still connected to the number one goal, and that you'll have a way to get back on track if you feel yourself swerving all over the road. Concentrate on the character's pursuit, and make it clear and clean and important to the overall theme of the story. Down below is a very simple animated cartoon. Not a word is spoken, but ask yourself whether or not the motivations of the two main characters are clear. Even though some of them vary a little during its runtime, it keeps heading in the same direction. The motivation here is fairly straightforward. A kitten and a dog form a friendship and escape to find a better position than the one they're currently a part of. The short film takes a moment to introduce the first main character, then the second...and all of this is done within the first two minutes. It gives you your 'actors', and it sets the tone. Then, shortly after those two things are set up, it's time to reveal their motivation. Now, while I may have said that those motivations may change and vary throughout the animation...they are still heading towards a similar goal. Especially with the young kitten being so afraid of its threatening new neighbor on the other side of the fence. The kitten's not really big enough to frighten anybody off (despite many attempts to try), and there aren't any other major options available except to run and hide. However, when the kitten sees the dog suffering, a very slight connection is made. And that slightly alters the kitten's motivation. Now, it's still going to the exact same place and heading in the right direction, but the kitten's current motivation switches over to wanting to help the dog feel better, and the only way to do that is to maybe overcome some of his fear. Once that goal is accomplished, the motivation changes again, and the abusive owner comes back out to see an empty yard as the motivation becomes the need for a hasty escape. Now, remember...these are all in tune with the theme of the animation and the main goal of your characters. 'Make a new friend, escape, better your position'...that's where all of your roads are leaning, even though they may seem like a random series of adventures, they're not. The characters are simply growing, and deciding to work together to get to Point B, just like you imagined they would in the first place. Now, the changing motivations in this next scene work a little bit different in this next scene. While the two main characters had a simple shared goal that they could work together to reach in the first clip...the second clip is a lot more chaotic. Firstly, because you're dealing with more than just two main characters. But second...all of the characters have their own personal motivations, and they are coming into direct conflict with one another. For some writers, this can be a bit more difficult to pull off. And for others...hehehe, it can be a LOT more fun. In this scene, the main character of the movie is actually a nine year old boy named, Cologero, who's living with his parents in a small apartment...and downstairs at this restaurant and bar is a notoriously dangerous mobster type that seems rich and fearless and practically runs the entire neighborhood. Take a look at this scene, and see how the different character motivations play out for the boy, his father, his mom, and the mobster... Now, one of the things that I absolutely love about this scene is that every single character that's involved is trying to benefit by doing, what they really believe, is the right thing. You've got a kid who's torn between two of his heroes and likes being able to be showered with attention and money. You've got a father who loves his son, but it's his job to protect him and keep him as far away from that criminal life as he possibly can. You've got a mother who wants the same thing, but the family is struggling and that money would really help them out in their time of need, even if it came from a bad place. And then you've got Sonny downstairs, who actually treats the boy really well, teaches him some important lessons about life, and tries to inspire him to be better throughout the film, and he likes having him around. So he showers him with cash and gifts and praise every chance he gets. However...obviously...all of these motivations can't co-exist in the same space. They criss-cross and they crash into one another, making for a very volatile situation. This can be highly entertaining for your readers as they begin to see the value in both sides of the argument, and maybe even begin to pick sides. That's something that I learned a lot about from reading comic books growing up. Stories like "Civil War", or the heated discussions between Professor X and Magneto from the "X-Men" comics, or the battles between Daredevil and the Punisher...I always found myself just kind of watching their conflict like a tennis match, and maybe thinking, "I think I agree with this side of the argument a bit more than that one...but they're not wrong." Being able to pull off conflicting motivations that aren't your typical 'good guy/bad guy' fodder for the brain can be a little challenging sometimes, but you can do it with some practice. The more you practice, the more it becomes a natural part of your writing instinct. Just keep it in mind that the conflict of your main character should still be heading towards his or her main goal in the story...even when all other motivations are working against them. So, if you want to create a certain level of momentum in your writing, stay focused on the motivations of your main characters. Everything that your characters say or do should have a definitive reason for doing so. And that reason should tie into some part of who they are as a character. What are they after? What are they lacking? Why would they do that? Maybe they're afraid to get close to anybody because they've been hurt so many times before. Maybe they need to find a way out to the Grand Canyon...and later you find out that the main character's mother had passed away recently and was cremated...and all she ever wanted in life was to see the Grand Canyon. Maybe someone is looking for a special, magical, sword because it's the only thing that he can use to exact justice on the evil warlord that killed his brother. Whether you reveal the motivation in the beginning of your story, somewhere in the middle, or not until the very end as some kind of big secret or plot twist...make sure that you, as the writer, always have your eyes on the prize and can follow that star to your final destination. Varying motivations and all. Anyway, I hope that this makes some kind of sense. Hehehe! Sometimes it's hard to put these concepts into words, but I'll keep doing my best. You've got my word on that! Take care! And I'll seezya next time!
  25. You know, when I started the Comicality Library on Voy (http://www.voy.com/17262/), I found out that even when I tried to alter the length of the posts that were acceptable...my chapters were still a little bit too long to fit within the confines of the space that I was given. And I didn't want to put 85% of a chapter in one post, and a measly 15% in the second post, just to split them up to make them fit. That would have looked weird. And, to me, looking weird is bad presentation. As Stan Lee used to say...you have to write comic books as if it's everybody's first comic book. And when I write stories, even if I'm fifty chapters in or more...I try to approach it as if this is their very first introduction to 'Comicality'. If I screw up that first impression, chances are they won't be back. So let's get it right the first time if we can, right? So I would go in, and I would follow the little gray bar on the right side of the screen...and try to split my most current chapter into two equal halves instead. What I found out, very early on...is that when I did that with my chapters, adjusting a few paragraphs or sentences here and there, that the posted chapters were already split in half. Almost as if I had done it subconsciously. And any one of you can go to the Library link on my site right now and see proof of that in one of the archives when the chapters were longer in word count. (I shortened the chapters so that I could get them out quickly and much more frequently without the usual long waits between chapters. But if you were to divide those smaller chapters in half, the same rule would apply) And that got me to thinking about my writing process a bit more...making something clear to me. A story isn't just one arc from beginning to finish. Instead, its a bunch of smaller arcs from chapter to chapter that are all working to reach the same goal. Every separate chapter has a beginning, a middle, a climax, and an end. So I began thinking of them that way all the time. The middle of my chapters are the highest reaching arc of that particular rainbow, and that, in turn, leads me to the end of the chapter. It almost never fails. Like I said, without even knowing that I was doing it...it just became the norm of how I write my stories from chapter to chapter. There's an inciting incident, an escalation, a high point, and then a bit of a 'cooling off' period as the chapter comes to an end. Even if it ends on a cliffhanger. Why does this happen? Well, it comes from a lot of intense planning ahead of time before my fingers ever even touch the keyboard. What am I doing? Where am I going with this chapter? How was it affected by the previous chapter? How will it impact the chapter to follow it? And how is this all still keeping me in line with my theme, the tone, and my characters' motivations in the long run? All of these thoughts are necessary to proceed when it comes to writing a tighter, more cohesive story. This is how you can navigate your way through each chapter and still make things happen the way you want them too. However...there are going to be times (Not maybe...not possibly...but inevitably)...when you're going to find yourselves painted into a corner, with no feasible way out. If it hasn't happened to you yet, chances are, it will at some point in one of your future projects, and I've learned a few do's and dont's over the years that I'm hoping will help you guys out in the future. Don't worry about it, or think that it is making any statement on your talent as a writer. Trust me, it comes for us all eventually. It's best to be prepared for it, and maybe have a few tools at your disposal to get yourself out of it when it happens! For this article...we're talking about painting yourself into a corner! So lets get started! I'm sure that most of you have already heard of this phrase before, but just to reiterate...imagine that you have a paint brush in your hand. You're painting the floor beneath your feet. You keep going and going and you are almost ninety percent done with the whole room....then your back and shoulders hit the wall. You're standing there...with a very small patch of un-painted floor beneath your feet...JUST enough for you to stand in that corner with nowhere to move, no steps to make without ruining the hard work you've put in and leaving footprints in the paint until it dries. Hell...you could be stuck there for HOURS without being able to move in any direction at all. What do you do? Hehehe! This is the idea of painting yourself into a corner. Just with your writing. Sometimes, we all want to 'raise the stakes' of what's going on in our stories, or we give our main characters some extremely heavy problems to deal with, or put them in a serious predicament that seems like it's nearly impossible for them to get out of. And hat's awesome...IF you know how to get them out of it! Hehehe! If you find yourself headed in that direction, and you're enjoying the ride without having any idea as to how you expect to solve the problems that you've put in the way of your main character...then you're, very quickly, going to find yourself painting yourself closer and closer into that corner. I mean, how are you going to fix the elements of your story that you broke on purpose? Is it intriguing? Yes. Is it entertaining? Of course. But the conflict will ultimately fall flat if you don't already have some kind of believable resolution in mind. Don't get your audience all worked up and then just say, "Well...they just got out of it because they're awesome." Um...what? NO! That's not what your readers were looking for. That's not the payoff that you promised them when escalating the situation and working up to some kind of explosive or particularly clever dash around the major obstacles that you put in your main character's way. That's not cool at all. This is the time to recognize and appreciate the merits of planning your stories ahead of time. Have an idea in place before you start traveling down that particular rabbit hole. I definitely think that all authors should be 'flexible' with their writing, and allow room for spontaneity in their work as they're lost in a creative moment. Just understand the potential traps that comes with that kind of writing. Because you can find yourself putting your characters into a position that they really can't get out of without some kind of unrealistic 'miracle' rushing in to save them. And that can detract from a really great story for readers who are looking out for that sort of thing. You may have heard the term, 'Deus ex machina', many times...but didn't really absorb the meaning of what it means when it comes to your ideas and your own writing. It's a Latin term that means, 'God from the machine'. It basically means that a situation is solved by some random person or situation just 'magically' happens at the last minute without reason, and somehow solves a truly difficult problem with ease, and without explain how or why? To highly exaggerate the idea...one boy asks another, "Wait are you a homosexual???" And while the other boy stutters for an answer...SUDDENLY the Earth gets invaded by the flying saucer people of Neptune! Hehehe! Whew...dodged a bullet there, right? NO!!! Don't do that! Just....don't ever do that! LOL! Unless you've built up your story in a way where another character or group of characters or certain circumstances are set and ready to swoop in at the last minute to save the day...don't cop out and worm your way out of a difficult situation with an easy (and instantaneous) fix. That drains sooooo much energy from your story. Avoid the Deus ex machina as much as possible if you can. Your readers will get more entertainment out of watching your main character struggle to overcome that difficult obstacle, or maybe even LOSE against it...than they will with some kind of 'shrug of the shoulders' solution to the big mess that you spilled out at their feet. This is your audience. They're expecting you to put some work into your project. So put it in. If you find yourself getting closer and closer to that corner...have your character mirror your feelings as a writer. How do I do this? What am I supposed to think? How can I get out of this dilemma? It's ok to let your main character struggle. I know that I put mine through the ringer all the time! LOL! God forbid, if I were to ever meet them in person! They'd probably chase me through the streets with torches and pitchforks! But that is the core of literary drama and tension. Creating problems, raising the stakes, and having your main character fight like hell to figure out a solution. Doesn't that sound like a story you'd want to read? No story can start with a 'happily ever after' vibe...and end with a 'happily ever after' vibe, and still be interesting. No matter WHAT events happen in between. Guaranteed joy doesn't intrigue an audience. Questions do. Take that tidbit of advice to heart. To sum it all up...make sure that you have at least a clue as to how you're going to wrap up the problems that you put you're characters through. Planning is essential. Always. You can decide to change and alter or bend the details later...but don't put your 'James Bond' in an inescapable trap and make it truly inescapable! Because, when it comes time for him to find a way out...you're going to either get so frustrated looking for a solution that you're on the verge of a brain aneurysm...or you're going to try to think up a way to save him that adds up to...'because God saved him'. Neither one is going to be satisfying to your readers. Write every story as though you're getting paid a million dollars to do so. And, who knows? Maybe one day you will! That's my article on painting yourselves into a corner. I hope a few of these tips will give you a little something extra to think about! Seezya next time! Have fun!
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