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  1. The Switch Up While I definitely have a great deal of fun writing short, one time, stories whenever I can, and they’ll always have a very special place in my heart...I think I still prefer to write stories that are a little bit longer even more. I like having the room to breathe, you know? To explore my own characters and develop them a bit more so they end up becoming a bit more three-dimensional in my mind, and they’re a lot easier to work with once I get a chance to know them a little bit better. The unfortunate part of my personal process is that I end up getting to know them a little TOO well, hehehe, and then I don’t ever want to let them go. So the journey gets longer and longer and before I know it, I’m fifty chapters deep in a story that was only supposed a fraction of that size. What can I say? I love my characters! Even when they’re being brats and giving me a headache. So sue me... However, one of the worst things that you can do to your own series is allow it to become a one note journey and stretch it out longer than its welcome deserves. You readers can very easily burn out over time if you keep using the same scenarios again and again with similar outcomes. Especially since I write mostly teenage protagonists and love interests...there are only so many alleys that I can have them travel down before it becomes monotonous. Only so many jealous feelings, so many worries about coming out, so many parties or trips to the movies, or private conversations in those high school hallways. Every now and then, depending on how long your story is and how many chapters you’ve got ahead of you...you’ve got to switch things up a little bit. Reinvent the feeling of the story and restore a certain level of freshness to it, while still having it be familiar and connected to the audience that jumped in and got all invested in you work in the first place. That switch up can be really helpful when continuing forward with new storylines, characters, and events, in future chapters. It breaks the monotony, without shattering the blueprint. So adopt this technique into your repertoire. It comes in super handy when you can’t stop snuggling your fictional people, chapter after chapter. Hehehe! When I first began writing “The Secret Life Of Billy Chase” (https://imagine-magazine.org/store/comicality/), I never thought that I’d one day be heading towards my 500th chapter! They just kept coming, and I kept growing closer to all of the characters involved, so I continued to find new parts of their personalities to explore and bring alive to all of the readers out there who were looking for reasons to stick around and find out how much there was for them to discover too. However...this is where ‘switching things up’ first became apparent to me while I was writing. In shorter stories, I had an end goal to reach, and the events included within simply escalated towards that goal. It was a straight shot that I could follow. But I couldn’t do that with “Billy Chase”. Not for THIS many chapters! Hehehe, I mean, where am I escalating to? “Billy Chase Goes To Space”??? But I still had so much more left to do with that character and the steps that he’s taking towards slowly getting older and wiser with every conquest and heartbreak he has to navigate his way through. But how can I do that if most of his life is dedicated to school and homework and hanging out with his friends, all while drooling over all over the cute boys that he wish he had the courage to talk to? That set up can only last for so long before it get stale and becomes so predictable that my audience begins to drift off, and eventually tune the story out completely. Naturally...I don’t want that. Not when some of my best ideas are still yet to come! So...switch it up, Comsie! Read the title of the article! Geez! When I say that, I’m talking about setting up new challenges, new problems, sometimes new characters, and new goals for my main protagonist to reach for, all while having a connect effect on all of the other characters surrounding him. It keeps readers engaged and glued to the story as it moves into new territory that hasn’t been introduced to them yet...all while being familiar enough where they can remain invested in the characters that they’ve come to know and love without abandoning any of the treats that came with starting the story off in the first place. It’s an all around win. But the most important part of using this technique is to make the changes in your extended series match up with everything that came before it. You’re not writing a whole new story here. You’re simply altering the aspects of your current work to keep things fresh and relevant. You’re basically adding a bit more salt or a pinch of garlic to a sauce that’s already hot and bubbling. You want to ‘enhance’, not completely revolutionize. I say this because there are writers who try to invigorate their long running stories by pretty much tearing them down and starting all over from scratch for the sake of re-inventing them...thinking that readers will appreciate this brand new take, or reboot, of their beloved saga. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a coin flip in that sense, and if you get it wrong or stray too far from the original ‘feel’ of the series...you could end up derailing the whole effort and ruin the appeal. Again...that’s not what you want. You want to maintain the emotional connection between your fiction and your readers. That counts more than anything. You want to expand the boundaries of what you were writing before, but still let your audience know that you plan to keep your unspoken promise to deliver them the story that you told them you would. The way that you accomplish this is by being fully aware of all of the events that came before, which ones went over well with your readers, and continuing on that path while merely changing the situations surrounding them. If you’re writing a heavily character driven series, that familiarity needs to be present. Even if they change over time as a part of their personal character arc...those changes should be a building experience for both you as a writer and to others as readers. Why the change? What’s going on? Why is this character not the same person that they were when I started reading? These are all questions that should be gradually explained ahead of time. Let it rise and escalate naturally. Nobody just changes overnight like flicking a light switch. They may try...but there’s a story in that need for a change as well. Build up to it in previous chapters...so when it happens, it’s not like slamming your readers into a brick wall. So...how do you pull off a big ‘switch up’ in your story? I would narrow it down to three big methods... All using “Billy Chase” as my example, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers as best as I can if you haven’t read it yet. 1- New characters. This is a technique that I would advise you use sparingly, but it does work. Obviously, you can’t introduce a new character to your story every single time you want to make things a little different. That would be ridiculous, and after a while...it would just become repetitive and predictable. So use it only if you really think that it’s necessary. When is it necessary? For me...it’s when I want a new part of my main character to be shown to the readers that was lacking before. It answers questions like...how would this person deal with possible temptation? How do they deal with heartbreak and loss? How do they deal with bullying? What is their home life like? How secure are they in their sexuality? Adding a new character that is dealing with something similar, or maybe even something completely opposite, can help to present a new dimension of your protagonist’s heart and mind to themselves...thus presenting it to the audience. It adds another layer that wasn’t there before. With “Billy Chase”...what if had a shot at a boyfriend for the first time? What if he had a rival in love? What if he found a girl that was interested in him? What if he had a friend dealing with alcohol addiction? How does he process these things and react in general. New characters can bring out new facets of your main character and put them front and center in your storyline. Create a character that embodies a new part of your protagonist’s journey, and have them sort of play off of one another to revive some of that energy that your readers felt when the story was brand new. 2- New environment. With “Billy Chase”, I knew that the whole thing couldn’t take place in high school forever. (Even in his weird ‘time warped’ version of it all! Hehehe!) So sometimes I changed up the rules with his environment or in the life that he was leading. He’s still the same old Billy, but I might take him out of the high school setting for a while and change the environment around him to let people see how that affects him and his behavior. Let’s see what Billy does when he’s on Summer break. How does he react to having his very first job? What happens if he really does go into space? LOL! Kidding aside though, changing up the environment changes the rules, but keeps the main characters familiar and relatable to the people who are already invested in them. Remember, you want to stick to your framework, but you want to elevate it to the next level. Put your protagonist in a new environment, have them interact with new people, show your readers how they use the lessons they’ve learned thus far to adapt. Subtle but different, re-invented but familiar. That’s the mantra to keep going on in your head. Listen to that inner voice. It knows more than we do. 3- New Perspectives. This method is dependent, mostly, on the build up and the personal ‘history’ of the character that you’ve been nurturing from the very beginning. This is when you use a major event to alter the current flow of the story, and force your protagonist to deal with it in ways that they probably never had to deal with anything prior to it. A death, a heartbreak, a betrayal, being outed at school, or at work, a virgin experience with sex, a sudden windfall of money, a divorce, a painful break up...all of these situations that might change your main character’s outlook and approach to what’s going on around them. So Billy may get his heart broken, or might become suspicious that he’s being cheated on, or he might have to sacrifice something dear to him in order to fight for the greater good. All of these situations will affect him in different ways. How will he navigate his way through it, and what will it do to him emotionally? How will he see it? With sadness and depression? With anger and envy? Will he head down a darker path? Will he fight to head for the high ground? Will he fly or will he fall? All of these things add a new dimension to what’s going on in your narrative and will keep your fanbase highly involved as new questions, challenges, and possible outcomes, are introduced into your story. This is a method that you can use for almost anything that you’re writing, and you can continue to use it over and over again as long as it doesn’t move into the realm of being overkill. And it’s always a breath of fresh air in a long running series. Just remember to give it time to breathe, k? Otherwise, the storytelling comes off as cluttered and clumsy. Take your time. Your natural instincts will guide you in the right direction. You just have to trust yourselves. Alright, folks! That’s it for now! Remember...switching things up can make even the longest running series stay fun and interesting until you finally reach the end. You know those movies like “Avengers: Endgame” or “Avatar: The Way Of Water” or a number of others that have a runtime of three whole HOURS or more? And you doubt that you’re going to be able to sit through the whole thing at the beginning...but when you watch them, it hardly seems like it was that long at all? That’s the ‘switch up’ technique at work! Just when you think that you’ve had enough and need a break...the characters, environments, or perspectives, change...and then you find yourself all invested again. It’s the same reason that people can binge watch an entire series on Netflix in a single night, or spend three hours on Tik Tok! Your extended story follows the same principles. Same rules. Remember that...and write to your heart’s content! Take care, folks! I love you lots! And I’ll seezya soon!
  2. Comicality


    Vocabulary I think that a truly important part of being a good and effective writer comes from having a decent and flowing vocabulary at your disposal for all occasions. Now, I have mentioned this briefly before in other articles before, but I never really went into depth about what this means and how to develop and expand it in ways that will be useful to you in some way. You see, what you want is to allow your word usage to grow and change and evolve over time...all while still sounding natural when you type it out on the page. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds either. It’s something that simply grows in its potency the more you get used to it. So that’s why we’re here today. Vocabulary is that special added flavor that enriches the whole project, and you’ll keep getting better at it once it becomes more of an involuntary part of your process. I do peek in from time to time at Myr’s “Word Of The Day” in the Writing World section, and occasionally find a few words here and there that I might decide to pick up along the way. Hehehe, where he finds so many useful pieces for the kind of writing that I do, I’ll never know. But they’re out there, and they come in handy when I’m staring off into space...looking for just the right way to phrase something for one of my stories. And once I make that a part of my vocabulary, then it just gives me a big palette to work from when working on my digital canvas. It always feels good to have a decent number of choices at my fingertips when it comes to stuff like that. Now, you might realize that I said the word ‘useful’ here. Let me explain... While I get a real kick out of words in general, knowing what they mean, and how to put them in a sentence...that doesn’t mean that I can us them all. Many, I might never use at all. When I put a story together, I write the way that I speak. I want it to feel as though I’m telling you guys the stories out loud, unscripted, with my usual speaking voice shining through. Now, I write all the time, so I’d like to think that I have a rather ‘expanded’ way of expressing myself in my everyday conversation...and for the sake of my fiction, I certainly don’t mind ‘flowering’ it up a little bit to make it sound a bit more poetic...but I, mostly, just make it sound like me. And that means that there are many words that I know for a fact I would never use in casual conversation. And if that’s the case, chances are...it will feel awkward if I tried to use it in my stories. If it feels awkward in my heart, it’ll feel awkward on the page. And sometimes, simplicity is better. For example...whenever my characters laugh, I have a ton of synonyms that I can use to describe them. And I can vary them up depending on how hard their laughing. I might bring it up to laughing or cackling...or bring it down to giggles and snickering. When used in context, the words you use can change the overall image and emotional impact of the scene. You would think that they would all have an identical ‘feel’ to them, but they really don’t. Not to me, they don’t. However, other synonyms could be used like ‘guffaw’, ‘chortle’, ‘snigger’, or ‘tittle’...which are synonymous, yes...but I would never be talking to somebody and use any one of those expressions to tell somebody a story in real life. I’m happy to know that they’re there and that I know what they mean...but the chances of me ever writing them into my fiction is very low. Probably never. So to me, personally...they’re not really useful when searching my vocabulary to create a scene. Those words are just more tools for the toolbox. If you find yourself looking for the right words, and you don’t want to keep using the same ones over and over...searching for other synonyms can be very helpful to you. I used to actually use an old thesaurus that my grandmother got for me when I was a teenager to look up other methods of delivering the same message. An actual book that was super thick and almost too heavy to hold in my lap. Hehehe! But, even though I’ve gotten in the habit of doing it online now for the sake of speed and maintaining my current mood for as long as currently possible...I still go back and do it the old fashioned way from time to time to this day. “But, Comsie...why on Earth would you do that???” I’m glad you asked! Hehehe, either that or I’m hearing phantom voices in my head again. Either way, it’s easy enough to explain... With an actual book, turning physical pages and looking for the word that I was originally searching for...I would sometimes come across a word that was even better than the one I was originally seeking out. It’s something that always stuck with me, and I use it when I’m online too. If you use a word from your vocabulary and realize that you may have already used it before...maybe even many times before...and the synonyms aren’t giving you many useful options to help you say it another way...take a moment to see if maybe you can find another word or phrase that might give your structure a little more variety. Say that I want one of my characters to blush...and I’m turning pages in that giant book, looking for it...before I get to ‘blush’, I might accidentally come across the word ‘bashful’. Hmmm, ok... If a synonym for ‘blush’, and phrases like ‘turning red in the face’, are seriously limited, or maybe just sound a bit weird...I might go back to see what I can find for ‘bashful’. Words like shy, reserved, timid, insecure, sheepish, or nervous. Now, do these words actually explain or be used to replace the word blush? Not really. But with a little clever rewording, you can change the way that you’ve written that part of the scene and use one of those vocabulary choices instead...where the blush is pretty much implied. Do you know what I mean? And if you really really just want to use the word blush in that particular sentence at that particular time...thn you can go back in your writing to the last few times where you used that word as a description and maybe rearrange one of them instead. Either way, it will keep you from sounding repetitive, and it can help to get you out of a jam when you’re working with a part of your vocabulary that can only really stretch so far before you have to phrase things in another way entirely. There are times when I worry about repeating myself too. And I’ll go back and try to see if I can change things up a little bit so it doesn’t stand out like a deep bloodstain in the center of my living room carpet. (The voices told me to do it...so it’s fine) But while some words and phrases can be explained a million different ways...there are only so many ways for me to use the word ‘kiss’. ‘Laugh’. ‘Cute’. And when I was trying to expand my vocabulary to be a bit more secure with my stories...those are the ones that I tried to work on first. Adopting whatever I could find and trying them out to see how thy looked and hear how they sounded to me. The ones I found useful, I held onto. The ones where I was like meh, I keep them in the back of my mind somewhere, but if I’m really struggling for a new way to say an old thing...I know those words will be there to save me in the end. Hehehe! Basically, as authors...your vocabulary is your best friend from a structural standpoint. It gives you space and freedom that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t built it up over time. The next time you get a chance...type out a few random sentences on a blank screen without really thinking about them. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, it could be about anything. Even better, go back to one of your older stories and pick a small passage or paragraph at random. Pay attention to the words you used to describe the scene, the characters, the fantasy, or the action, or the emotions involved. And then...go through and see if you can find other words to replace the ones that you have written there. You don’t want to change up the feel or the vibe of the passage...you want it to basically read the same way for a new audience as it would for your original audience, just with a more experienced vocabulary. Try it out. You just might surprise yourself. While re-editing and rewriting most of my ebooks, I look back and I’m like, “I could have made this soooo much better the first time around if I knew then what I know now.” But in a very short amount of time, you’ll feel everything become more natural, and you’ll have a lot of new words that you can use, pretty much, on autopilot without worrying too much about repeating the same expressions or descriptions multiple times in your project. Hehehe, Myr’s Word Of The Day does help a lot too. You might find whole new expressions entirely that you didn’t even know were out there before. Give those a try! An online thesaurus also helps (just Google the word you’re looking for and add ‘synonym’ behind it), or use a paperback/hardback thesaurus like I do sometimes. Keep the words that feel and sound natural to you...tuck some others away for later if you really need them...and get rid of the rest. Voila! You’ll be a scholar in no time. The idea is to always keep growing and evolving. It never has to stop unless you let it stop. As always, I hope that this little tidbit helps you guys out when you need it. The rest is up to you! Take care! And stay beautiful!
  3. Author Experience There are many different talents and unique gifts that go into being a really great writer, and you have to eventually learn how to master them all over time. That pretty much goes without saying. You have to be able to create compelling characters, write engaging dialogue, have an understanding of plot points and strategy, add details, pay attention to themes and tone, build reader empathy so you can get your audience to invest the time and energy that it takes to make your story work, and still maintain a sense of literary cohesion and continuity. You don’t really understand how much work goes into making a story from scratch until you take the time to break it all down and pay attention to all of its moving parts in order to understand the difficulty of how much creative genius it takes to manipulate all of these elements to create something special while still making it look easy. All of these things not only have to be a part of your common writing discipline, but they have to be added to your work with a certain sense of ‘balance’ that will hold it together and (hopefully) have it all make some kind of sense in the long run. It’s not a cake walk, not by any means...but that doesn’t mean that it has to be something that you as an author have to dread and continuously struggle with either. Experience takes a lot of the pain and agony out of it. And it will happen. Hehehe, I promise. One of the two major rules that I always stress when giving out any kind of writing advice is to practice, practice, practice! Practice every moment that you can get, and then take a break, come back, and practice some more. It’s the only way to hone your craft. You can never practice enough. Build up your experience and enjoy every opportunity that you’re given along the way. The second major rule is a direct extension of the first. And that is to enjoy yourself and feel comfortable with your writing. Comfort isn’t something that can be taught, it simply has to be found. It has to be earned. It’s there within you, but you’re going to have to dig for it. So dig! Relax and try to let your talent flow as naturally and as spontaneously as you possibly can, until that comfort can be felt by your audience in ways that I can’t ever hope to explain...but I can tell the difference. And so can they. The thing is...these two major rules are important principles that build off of one another, and it all boils down to writer experience. Nothing else can replace experience when it comes to bringing life to your work. It is the magic cocktail that will combine all of the best parts of everything that I mentioned above and it grows bigger and becomes more fine tuned every time you write a new story or try out a new approach in your work. So the more often you do that, the stronger your skills will automatically become. Now, the thing about writing is that it can keep on ticking for as long as you do. A boxer might lose a few steps over time, a basketball player may have a younger guy on the court who can run circles around him, a singer’s voice may fade after years of intense performances...but writing never has to stop or grow tired unless you want it to. You, literally, have your entire life to build up all of the experience points that you could ever need to be the very best there is. Be proud of that. It will escalate your writing to levels that might surprise you. Why? I thought you might ask that. Hehehe! Let me explain... When I started writing, I was young, and hungry, and passionate...I was doing things back then that I probably couldn’t even conceive of doing now. There’s definitely something to be said for jumping into something like this when you’re all headstrong and ready to take on the entire world with the limitless potential you’ve got laid out ahead of you. But...could I outperform a younger version of myself today if I really had to? Oh God, yes! Hehehe! I think so. Easily. I’ve gathered so much information and technique and nuance over the years where I know that my younger self wouldn’t stand a chance trying to go against me. (Hehehe, that’s my ego talking. Mostly kidding, but not entirely.) The thing about experience is that it brings you a comfort and a sense of self confidence that allows a lot of the rules, the mistakes, the constant push to be the best, and the paranoia that comes from knowing that you’re not the best, to simply fall to the side. They cease to exist for you in any real state of importance. If that makes sense. I think that a certain spontaneity comes with experience that simply isn’t there when you’re still learning, or growing, or trying to evolve. You can still stretch out and do new things, but you’ve already been working hard to maintain a comfort zone that you can draw from any time that you want to. And that’s extra energy. The eager need to prove yourself is still there, but it isn’t always in turbo mode. It’s….ugh...let me see if I can explain it this way... This is a clip from the movie, “Tap”. Now, it has some of the most talented tap dancers to ever do it. And Gregory Hines was one of the best at that time, but this scene involves him matching up with some of the greatest of all time, including Sammy Davis Jr, who has never spent a day in school! He was a performer from the age of three, and was a legend among entertainers the entire time. He’s done routines that were once thought impossible, and then surpassed them. Here, he was in his 60’s, and unfortunately passed the following year from cancer...but all of these incredible artists were able to take Gregory Hines to task, despite being almost twice his age! It’s actually kind of crazy when you think about it. Because there’s no WAY he could have taken Sammy on when he was in his prime! Hehehe! I’d like to think that if I could still keep doing the ‘Comicality’ thing for another ten years or so...I could reach the point where that would be me. LOL! “Comsie doesn’t have any typing fingers anymore!” “WHAT?!?! No typing fingers??? Bring your ass to this keyboard and let me teach you something, youngster!” ::Giggles:: The point is...there comes a point where all of the skill and technique that you’ve learned and worked so hard at in the beginning becomes an almost automatic response to what you’re doing. It’s second nature. You don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s simply a part of what you do. You know how it works and how to use it to your advantage without even breaking a sweat...and that gives you all the room in the world to improvise and take risks where other authors wouldn’t. This is why practice is so very important. Because the less energy you have to use adhering to writing formulas and mechanics, the more energy you have to put towards your natural instincts and spontaneous blocks of fiction that you never thought you’d be able to write before. Basically, that entire uphill battle that you struggled through in order to learn your art...is now a flat line. It’s just something that you do. You don’t have to ‘think’ about breathing. You don’t have to ‘retrain’ yourself on how to ride a bike. You don’t ‘forget’ how to swim. These are skills that are always at your disposal when you need them...and they don’t take any thought or effort at all. So all of that extra energy can go towards to achieving new elevated levels of expertise that you didn’t even know were there before. And that’s the beauty of experience. Hehehe, there have been many times in the chatroom where I playfully come up with a scenario or a new idea and write it out spontaneously right there in real time...just to show them that I can. Now, of course, an actual story takes a lot more time and planning and editing to make it complete...but at the same time, I’ve had enough experience over the years where creating a short passage on the fly has become so easy that it barely takes any thought or effort at all. I can do that part for fun. I know how to put words together. I know how to use descriptive words to paint a vivid picture. I know how to invoke certain motions and set up scenarios that will ‘show, not tell’ to express the thoughts of my main character. Structure, vocabulary, plot twists, story planning, dialogue...I’ve done it enough to have these things step in for me without even needing to think about them. It’s just something that I do. So all of my energy is free to do other things with every story that I write. Every part of the writing process that you conquer...becomes a natural ‘reflex’ action. One that you can trust and depend on. This is a martial artist, Donnie Yen, who I’ve been a huge fan of for many years now. And he’s playing Ip Man, one of the greatest fighters and revolutionaries of his time. But look at this scene! This is what I’m talking about! He doesn’t have to think or concentrate or put extra focus and energy into what he’s doing. He’s simply got so much experience that every block, dodge, and parry, comes naturally to him. He knows what’s coming next. He knows how punches and kicks work. He can see the entire ‘chess game’ of fighting twelve steps down the road. Why? An insane amount of practice. The only time he really has to expel any extra energy is when he has to deal with something unpredictable or out of the ordinary. Writing can work the same way once you’re comfortable enough with it. Now, I’m not saying that you have to put in an entire lifetime’s worth of hardcore daily writing in order to be as good as you want to be. Not at all. I’m saying that you work to take the writing challenges presented to you...find your own way to master them...and then allow them to become second nature to you so you’re not focused on them anymore. Like I said...every part of the writing process that you conquer, becomes a reflex action. The less you have to ‘think’...the more you’re allowed to ‘feel’. And the feeling is what people are going to remember most about your story. So try out a few new ideas, and keep at it until you get it right and feel comfortable with it. It might take a couple of weeks...it might take a couple of years. It depends on the writer and what they’re hoping to achieve with their work. But experience to the point of total comfort is key to really creating an amazing story in my opinion. There are still times when I’ll look back at something, or someone will quote something from a chapter, and I’m like, “Wait...I wrote that???” It’s because a lot of what I do now has become an involuntary expression of whatever it is that I was feeling while writing or adding to that particular story. So when you’re putting your thoughts out there, and wearing your heart on your sleeve...be a dancer! Be a martial artist! Know what works, what to look for, what’s coming next...and make it a part of who you are. And when you find that comfort zone...go searching for the next level. It can be the path towards being one of the greats! I hope this helps you guys out! A little something to think about when working on your next project! Take care, and thanks for listening to me babble for a while! More to come! I’ll seezya then!
  4. Against The Grain You know...as you get a bit older...you begin to see a bunch of ‘re-runs’ in the world. Or, at least in the world that the mysterious ‘they’ want to present to you. Hehehe, I’ve never understood the fascination, to be honest...trying to control public perception when reality is just….ummm...reality. It just seems so utterly exhausting to me. It’s like going through all of the trouble of kidnapping somebody, chaining them up in a basement with no windows, and soundproofing the whole room...just to tell them that it’s not raining outside when it’s obviously raining outside! I’ve heard it a million times before at this point, and it simply doesn’t affect me anymore. Rap music is going to cause the downfall of society. Pornography will destroy the kids. Comic books will rot the minds of the youth. Violent video games, and horror movies, and Dungeons & Dragons, and witchcraft, and marijuana, and...and...and... Ugh! There’s always SOMETHING to be absolutely terrified of at all times. With the very convenient exceptions of the dangers that make people insanely rich. I’ve seen it all...and it gets more tiresome every single time. But I digress….as a writer, there are going to be times when your heart rally wants to express itself and possibly talk about something that you really love and care about...but feel as though you can’t. You may want to tell your own personal story of your battle with drugs, or suicide, or physical or sexual abuse...and there goes that pesky peer pressure, looking over your shoulder every single step of the way and trying to scare you out of your sharing your voice. Not only that, but it’s constantly working on building an army of other people to view your art the same way...and I’m not going to lie...sometimes its going to suck. It really is. Believe me...I’ve been hurt, ridiculed, and banned, more times than I can count online for that very reason. Even though the stories I write are about first love and are meant to be seen as a nostalgic return to what young love was like. Not just for me, but for what I expected it was like for all of us. And no matter how many positive comments, emails, and ratings, I’ve gotten over the years...that pressure is always there. Desperately exhausting itself, searching for ways to tear it all down and punish me for it all over again. Hehehe, it’s kind of funny when I think about it now...but nobody can say that ‘Comicality’ hasn’t taken his fair share of lumps for these stories over the years. Especially in the very beginning. Oh God, did some of those attack hurt! I’ve lost a lot of hard work, been insulted, publicly humiliated...like I said...it sucked. And I had to deal with that venomous shit for a long long time. In fact, if it wasn’t for GayAuthors finding me, offering me they’re support, and believing in me and what I was trying to do...I wouldn’t still be writing today. I wouldn’t even have a website right now after being blindsided by quite a few shutdowns and pointless witch hunts. But that’s just how hard this random backlash of strangers was working to see me fall. And I’m still here. I sort of look back on those times fondly now. In fact, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I doubt that I would change a thing. That’s one of the downfalls of occasionally going against the grain when it comes to your personal expression. Especially when dealing with emotional issues that are very close to your heart. As I’ve mentioned before to many of you...while “My Only Escape” was a very difficult story for me to tackle and finally finish, seeing as it hit so very close to home...it wasn’t my first attempt at trying to write about my own experience with childhood abuse. I tried to approach it at some point in “New Kid In School”, and also in “Gone From Daylight”...but the pressure for me to stop intimidated me into shying away from the reality of it all. It was hard to hear those comments, but I had to buckle up and really tell my story the way the way that I felt it needed to be told. And that’s when “My Only Escape” was born into existence. I understand the backlash from a bunch of readers concerning this series, and if you read some of the comments...it was pretty severe in some cases. They didn’t want to hear it, read it, see it, acknowledge it...many people told me that they refused to keep reading, I got some emails that were borderline threats concerning that story. But you know what? It needed to be told. And I was going to tell it. Period. The rest of the world, be damned. Sometimes...going against the grain is needed. And that series has helped more people deal with their own trauma than you could ever imagine. I can take pride in that. Because I could have caved in and cut it short, never to write it again. It would have saved me a lot of anguish and been soooo much easier. But when has anything truly worthwhile ever been easy, right? Please understand, a few years ago I wrote an article about ‘Writer Responsibility’...so I don’t want any of you to think that I’m not fully aware of my position on this chess board of writing stories just like the rest of you. I’m very cautious about crossing any lines that I think might do more harm than good. Especially when it comes to stories with my kind of erotic content and often being seen by a younger audience than some of the other authors out there have doing the same. So I don’t just write whatever I want to write without keeping that in mind. I would never want to inspire anyone to commit any crimes or acts of violence. I don’t want to lead anyone astray, or glorify self destructive behavior, if I can help it. That’s not my goal at all...and it’s definitely a part of my thought process when I’m even planning a story out in my head, much less writing it and making it available to people who may find themselves vulnerable to the subject matter. Even my darkest stories have lines that I try not to cross if I think they’ll be taken too seriously. I don’t glorify gun violence or promote promiscuity with strangers or encourage suicidal tendencies of any kind. Even if those concepts make their way into one of my stories, I treat them very carefully. That’s a part of expressing yourself as well. You don’t want to put any bad vibes out into the world if you don’t have to. And yet...silence isn’t the answer either. It never has been. There’s a rapper named Vic Mensa who once said that it was an artist’s duty to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. And I believe the same thing. You can’t keep the world from seeing the rain forever. I don’t care HOW much pressure you put on us...seeking truth is human. Instead of playing pretend, how about you hand me an umbrella and teach me how to be careful out there? You know? It’s a lot less impossible. I think that...if you really have a part of yourself that you want to share, a story to tell, a perspective that you think might open the eyes of some of the people in your audience...then tell that story. Do it. There will be times when it feels a little scary, and there may be comments that will try to intimidate you out of speaking your mind...but these are the times when you have to ask yourself the question... ...Am I going to try something safe and go with the flow...or am I ready to deal with possibly going up against the grain? And I mean what I say when I mention ‘being ready’. Because sometimes it takes a bit of practice with some less controversial subjects to sort of get your head in the game and tackle the big fish. (Hehehe, what kind of metaphoric jumble was that??? Maybe I need some more practice myself!) That would be my advice, but...if you just have a deep story burning you up inside and you want to shout it out while the fire is still in you...then go for it. At the end of the day, its all up to you. The key is to thoroughly examine the thoughts and emotions in your head, and deliver them in a way that creates that emotional gut punch that you want it to have...while still being able write with a sense of tact and grace. This is much easier said than done, depending on how close you are, personally, to the subject matter. But that’s where being ‘ready’ comes into play here. I can remember (during one of my life long re-runs) when the AIDS virus was running wild all over the place, and by the time I had gotten to high school...there were people all over, in the media, and the church, and politics, and the papers...who were just SCREAMING for everybody to be abstinent! No sex! Ever! Sex is bad! Gaaaahhhhhh!!! And anybody who disagrees is a full blown criminal! Hahaha...an abstinent 14 year old ‘Comsie’...that’s hilarious! But I remember music and movies pretty much fighting back against that idea. They went against the grain. Because...’fuck off’. You want to teach sexual safety, then cool. But don’t tell me that sex is bad...you’re not going to win that argument. Rap music was rally getting popular around this time and more mainstream...and there were a bunch of songs encouraging safety and condoms and intimacy...but they didn’t demonize sex in general. And this was seen as a huge insult to the powers that be who were trying to control the narrative. ::Shrugs:: Sorry. You failed. Again. Just like you did with everything else. One of these songs was “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt N’ Pepa, and it was catchy and fun and delivered a good message without devaluing or dismissing the beauty of sex as a whole. It was going against the grain, but like I said...it was doing it with tact and grace. And that’s how you can get a controversial or even a socially unacceptable message across with minimal threat, and thus...minimal backlash. This would be an example of using a little sugar to help the medicine go down, as they say. Again...if you’re going to do something that may cause backlash or trouble with people absorbing your story...you have to have enough self awareness to do so within reason. You can’t just spout off whatever you want and expect your readers to stand for it. I’m talking about extremes here, and dancing on those lines that you’re not supposed to cross when writing your narrative. It’s not about self censorship. It’s about being able to effectively get your point across to your audience. Period. When your subject matter is deliberately creating discomfort or anger in your readers...you begin to lose your ability to communicate. People’s defenses go up almost immediately, and what you end up with is an audience that is more focused on fighting back against what you have to say than they are trying to find some meaning within it. And that was the whole point, wasn’t it? Having your readers understand? Pushing too hard or trying to be too edgy or controversial can only end up working against you at some point. Let me repeat it again...tact and grace. Say what you have to say, but don’t forget your manners, lest you lose your fanbase to something that they might get more enjoyment out of. Readers and writers have a symbiotic relationship, remember? So always remember to play your part in that. If you want to maybe challenge your audience to accept certain ideas or concepts that they probably wouldn’t normally...it may take a few extra pokes and prods...but don’t lose your footing in the process. I remember listening to Madonna’s “Human Nature” over and over again early in my writing days when I just wanted to find my confidence and keep writing some of the stories that I knew I was going to have to hear some bullshit about at some time or another. Specifically, “Untouchable”...which was a constant grief for me at the time. Then again...any sex scene that I wrote either got rejected or completely ignored by people who didn’t want anyone to know that they liked it. Ugh! But I kept writing anyway. And I refused to stop doing it my way. I used tact and grace, so what was I so worried about? They’re love stories...with sex in them. Deal with it. Hehehe! These lyrics helped me through a lot... You punish me for telling you my fantasies I’m breaking all the rules I didn’t make you took my words and made a track for silly fools you held me down and tried to make me break Did I say something TRUE? OOPS! I didn’t know we couldn’t talk about sex! Did I have a point of view? OOPS! I didn’t know we couldn’t talk about YOU! And I’m not sorry! It’s human nature! And I’m not sorry! I’m not your bitch, don’t hang your shit on me! Now, will this keep you safe from all manner of backlash and criticism? Hahaha! Hell no! You wish! You can tell people that they have some lint on their shirt, and they’ll throw a full blown tantrum over the horrendous offense! All I’m saying is that I realize that some of you, maybe even most of you, have a very personal story to tell. One that is full of struggle and strife, heartache and pain, and any number of any other harsh experiences that you might want to write some day. You might even want to start today. And it might be uncomfortable for some people to hear it. But as long as you’re able to write that story without judgement, anger, some overpowering agenda, and without losing your audience or sense of responsibility for what you’re doing...then you can not only craft one hell of a powerful story, but you can end up making a real difference in the lives of your readers. And that’s something that lasts forever. Take care, my beloved peers! I hope this helps! And I’ll seezya soon with more! ((Hugz))
  5. How To Ruin A Series Let’s say that you have yourself an amazing series online that you’ve been writing for an extended period of time now, and you can’t help but to have a blast working on it. You get excited sitting down at your keyboard with your juice or your coffee or your ‘miscellaneous’ cocktail of choice, and you’re ready to dive back into that world and continue the adventures of your readers’ favorite characters, ummm...’Slappy’ and ‘Hammy’! Hehehe! How can you go wrong? It’s the most popular series that you’ve ever written, right? Everybody is probably waiting with baited breath to see what’s going to happen next, and you can’t go wrong by reigniting interest in your work by blessing the internet with another Slappy and Hammy adventure. Actually...you can. In fact, one of the biggest let downs of any big series is having it slowly wind down, only to fade away with a whimper instead of being completed in the way that it was intended. No matter how popular or well beloved a fictional series may be...an author can ruin the emotional effect and lessen its overall impact if they’re not careful, and that’s going to waste soooo much of your previous hard work and all the time you put in to make it something special. It’s something we all have to look out for sometimes as writers, and it’s better to stick to the plan and go out on a high note then to just let the batteries run down and have everything grind to a halt while you try to figure out ways to make it seem like that’s what you meant to do all along. I believe, from time to time, it’s important to revisit a list of things that could potentially ruin a series. Just so we can always remember to keep it in the back of our minds for when we feel ourselves going astray. It’s a good thing. I can remember having a talk with some of my friends at work a few years ago...and we were trying to come up with movie trilogies that actually worked all the way through. Even if some of them came back with a fourth one later on and stumbled...we were only counting the first three. And you...it was extremely difficult to come up with more than a handful of options. The first one was great, the second one was great...and then third part of the trilogy just...ugh! Like, what the hell happened? Now there were SOME decent candidates that made the list, even though there were a few disputes here and there. The original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Indiana Jones”, “The Bourne Identity”, “Back To The Future”, “John Wick”...But there were some of my all time favorites that just could not get three solid movies together without somehow getting things messed up and practically taking away from the two movies that came before it. Not “X-Men”, not “Terminator”, not “The Matrix”, Not “The Godfather”, not “Jurassic Park”...it’s like...a curse. You know? How hard could this possibly be? Geez! You couldn’t have a better set up than the one you were given...what happened? Thinking back on those conversations, I realized that it might actually be a lot harder than it looks if you don’t know what to look out for, what to avoid, and what to be honest about when it comes to your own work. It’s a bit of a challenge, and not ever series makes it all the way to the end. Granted, Hollywood’s main goal is to make money, and that might be a part of the failing process...but that doesn’t mean that your stories have to fall into that same pit of murky quicksand. What my bit of studying has shown me over the years, and what I’ve been trying to stick to ever since, has been broken down in to five basic rules here for you all so that you can keep your best successes from turning into utter disasters just before truly realizing your potential and using it before those murky waters come to seek you out. Five rules that I’m trying my best to abide by, and hopefully you will to. Here they are... #1 – DON’T try to outdo the earlier chapters of your own story! Please don’t. That’s a no no. Hehehe! Now, as rule number one...this may sound like a weird way for us to get started. Because you’re supposedly building up to a big ‘climax’ in your writing, right? It seems counterproductive for me to tell you to not raise the stakes with every chapter leading to that big moment that everybody has been waiting for. But, listen to me...attempting to constantly build on the chapters that you’ve already used to set up a strong foundation for your story to stand on and use them as a comparison for what’s going on ‘now’ can eventually get tiresome for your readers. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s true. Now, writing romantic gay teen fiction for this many years, I’ve seen a lot of other writers go down this path to excess...and it almost always ends in disaster in the end. It simply doesn’t work beyond a certain point. They have a really sweet ‘boy meets boy’ story happening in the beginning, and then add a few conflicts, and then some increased sexual content...and then the chapters keep coming. Then you have a break up. Ok, it happens. Then you have them get back together. Alright. That works for the story. I’m with ya. Then there’s a need to ramp up even further on the naughty parts. Then a third party gets involved. Now you’ve got a threesome. Then somebody gets killed off. Then somebody gets...cancer or something. And then...and then...and then...it just keeps going until you find yourself with such a tightly packed and convoluted plot that by the time you’ve reached the intended climax of your original story, it seems kind of lackluster in comparison. And that’s considering that people have continued to read through death and melodrama and enemas and boy orgies. Stop it. Take a moment and remember what the center of your story is, and stay focused. You can’t just keep coming up with bigger and bigger events until the whole series begins to feel cartoonish and out of line. If every event is a BIG event...then what is a big event worth? Every fight can’t end the relationship. Every intimate moment can’t be THE most intimate moment ever. Writing as though you have to somehow ‘one-up’ the previous chapter every single time you sit down at your keyboard has consequences that will begin to show themselves further on down the road. So try to pull back a little bit and build up to your major events with context and character depth as if they were all parts of their own story. Not just as an escalation of the earlier chapters that came before it. Use emotions to surround these moments and trust that they’ll have the proper impact when presented to your readers. If your last big event was at a ten...don’t keep trying to reach for an eleven...and then a twelve...and then a thirteen. It becomes exhausting, and some readers will lose interest before hitting the end of your series. Save the big sucker punches for your climax, and wind down from there. #2 – Don’t overstay your welcome. I can’t stress how important this is when it comes to writing a series. I know that you love your characters, and I definitely love mine too...in fact, go back and read my “Neverending Story” article on this. But there comes a time when you simply have nothing else left to say involving these characters and what they’ve been through. Do yourself and your audience a favor...and let them go. If you’re dragging a series out for the sake of familiarity...chances are that your entire narrative is going to end up fizzling out like a defective firecracker, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you had in mind when you started. You’ll know when your series is beginning to lose steam. Either because you’ll begin repeating older conflicts that you had before, you’ll go searching for new characters or situations that will continue the narrative while adding nothing to the actual series itself, or you’ll simply find yourself not knowing where else you can take these characters in a new direction that will breathe new life into the story that you had originally intended. This is why having an ending in mind, even if you take a lot of spontaneous twists and turns and liberties along the way. It’s so you have a compass to lead you in a certain direction that will help you figure out exactly where you want your main characters to be when the story is over and done with. Seriously...look at your own work, and no matter how much you may love it, or how much you might fear having to start over with another story and set of characters from scratch...you’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself and know when it’s time to bow out gracefully. Wrap it up, and let the story exist as a moment in time before future lackluster chapters begin to sap the strength of the genius you initially created. #3 – Don’t go astray or lose sight of your vision! This is something that I’ve seen a lot of in some of the fiction that I’ve read in the past. Also, I’ve seen it in movies like, “28 Days Later”. This was a movie that I was really into for the first half, or maybe even the first 2/3rds, as I was watching...and without giving away any spoilers, everything sort of took a massive detour from what the movie was originally supposed to be about, and I was lost. More than that...I was disappointed. Like...WTF? Yeah, if you’re writing a story about a certain relationship, a theme, a vibe...don’t suddenly pull a bait and switch and throw your audience off and try to make it about something else. I am seriously not a fan of that at all. Reader/Writer trust is a must when it comes to investing emotions into the stories that we’re all trying to tell, right? Trust. If you start out getting your audience entangled with characters, themes, and storylines, that you set out for them...only to break everything apart and go a completely different way with it? Some may see that as being edgy or super creative or whatever...but to me, personally, it’s a broken promise. I came looking for one thing, and you lured me in with the bait of that promise...but then you just changed your mind and decided not to do that anymore? No way. That can end up being the total destruction of a series if not done carefully, and not as a part of the original plan. So be super cautious with this one. It can ruin an entire series in a single chapter or two if you’re not. #4 – A sudden stop. Now...I understand that in some narratives, this can be a really effective of a series, even a long running series, if done right. But if you’re going to take this approach, then it had better be one hell of a shocking finale. You have to not only build up to it throughout the entire series, almost from the very beginning...but you have to make sure that all of your loose ends are all tied up and everything has been dealt with in a way that comes full circle and makes that abrupt stop in your fiction a satisfying ending for your readers and for your characters as well. Don’t bring up a bunch of issues, leave a bunch of open ended questions, and then have your main character suddenly drive off of a cliff for no reason. Like...’Boom’...done! What is that? If that’s the ending that you have in mind, then you’d better spend a majority of your story building up to that point, with your protagonist talking about how he’s going to do exactly that...and how he just wants to leave the rest of the world behind. That still doesn’t mean that it’ll be a satisfying ending for your audience, but at least it won’t feel random and weird. Like the ‘writer’ (Yes, that’s you) just got tired of writing the story and needed a quick way out. Chances are, you’re going to piss off a lot of people. Remember, your readers are spending time, effort, and energy, in getting used to these characters. They’re embracing the people that you write about and want to involve themselves in their lives. So cutting the off without warning without so much as a ‘happily ever after’ ending? I’m just saying...it’s kinda rude. And ending without an ending is NOT an ending. Don’t pretend that it is. #5 – Don’t be caught off guard. Meaning...when you started this story, based on a solid idea...you actually did have an ending in mind, right? We talked about this! Hehehe, readers can actually feel you wandering aimlessly when you’re not exactly sure of where you want to go. You know, like...when you’re driving around in circles and looking at street names out of the front window, and thee person next to you is like, “You’re lost, aren’t you?” You may think you’re fooling your audience, but you’re probably not. Hehehe! Trust me, I’ve tried with a few chapters of my own. It doesn’t work. I totally understand the practice of just writing what you feel and seeing where it leads you, and that’s awesome. But at some point, as your story morphs and changes and begins to take on a more solid shape...you need to start thinking about where all of this is going and how you’re planning to bring it all to a close in the long run. Otherwise, your prose is just going to come off as driftwood in the river. Just gliding along without any real direction or destination outside of where the waters decides to take it. This is snatching the control as a writer right out of your hands and setting it adrift. Never a good practice. Take a moment to take some notes, figure out what your goals are, and guide the story down that path. No one is going to be entertained for very long, watching you flail about with nothing to look forward to. Not having direction is another way to take your fun and creative series and its characters...and crush them down into the mud. So always remember to ask yourself if you’re on the right track, and try not to stray too far from the master plan here. K? So...those are my top five advice tips that I hope will help you guys avoid the pitfalls of ruining a series that you’ve worked so hard on for so long. Keep things ‘in the pocket’, and remember what your goals are. It’s just that simple. If you find yourself drifting off to the side...do what you can to pull yourselves back to the path you started on. And when your story is over...no matter how short or how long it might be...let it be over. Box it up, wrap it up with a shiny bow and a heartfelt card to say ‘thanks’, and then let it go. There will be other stories, and other characters. Other successes and other failures. But passion and challenge is forever intertwined, right? So you can’t help but to love it! That’s it for this go round! Enjoy, folks! And stay beautiful!
  6. Character Interaction Not long ago, I was talking about my love for working with ensemble casts in my stories. It’s something that I really love to engage in as a writer, and it sort of fleshes out the world that I’m working with. I mean, even if you happen to be a fan of video games, you might remember way back when it was just your character on the screen trying to complete some kind of quest or whatever, and a horde of enemies trying to stop you. But video games have evolved since then. When you run through a city or a neighborhood...there are actual people walking around. Driving, shopping, talking, and just existing all around your character. Not enemies. They’re just sort of there. Hehehe! Well, when I’m writing...I think about this from time to time and try to keep things as realistic as I can, while still keeping my focus centered around a small cast of characters that I plan to be using to carry my story. Because that’s what characters do. They carry your story. Not the other way around. I can’t really spend too much time building up side characters that aren’t really meant to have much of an impact on the plot as it plays out, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. It’s a bit unrealistic to think that NONE of my fictional characters have any friends at school. No teachers? No parents? No activities? No homework? I do try to address the situation, but only briefly. And only if it means something to the rest of the story. But I’m doubting that there are any of us who don’t have daily interactions with other people in some capacity or another. Friends, family, neighbors, the mailman, an online chat, a text on your phone...something is happening outside of your own personal bubble at home, right? Even a virtual recluse like me has to go out and deal with other human entities every once in a while. Hehehe! So, I like to make the stories that I write feel as though they’re somehow ‘populated’ with other people from time to time. Even if they only appear as faceless with no dialogue at all, at least they’re there. I might describe a crowded school hallway, a mall, a skater park, a family gathering...something. It keeps my fictional world from feeling like some sort of dystopian wasteland where the only ones left are the protagonist and his love interest. You know? However...when it comes to building a cast of characters that are meant to share the spotlight with my main character? I get to have a great deal of fun building them up through their interactions with one another. And I feel like I have a lot more freedom to define who they are as individuals without having them come off as awkward or forced in the storytelling. You have no idea how off-putting it is to have a side character just start giving a random monologue about themselves without any real reason as to why they felt the need to do so. It’s creepy. Hehehe! And people don’t often talk like that. Even if you have a wide fanbase of readers who are already fully invested into whatever it is that you’re writing...something like that will pull them out of the moment and weaken your story as a whole. Sad, but true. This goes back to the fundamental rule of writing. ‘Show, don’t tell’. The beauty of having an ensemble cast to work with is that you can really lean into it and create a dynamic with other characters populating your story that will convincingly expose who they are in an interesting way that your audience will hopefully appreciate in the long run. Remember, it’s up to your characters, all of the ones you focus on, to do the heavy lifting and carry the story forward. And if you want your readers to care about them and empathize with what they’re going through (Or, at least loathe them for being the bastards that you created them to be), then you’re going to have to find a way to explore and explain who they are, inside and out...so that can happen and have some weight. This can be achieved through character interactions. Let’s say that you have a side character who’s a total hot head. He can’t help it, he’s just cursed with an extremely short fuse and a very low tolerance for bullshit of any kind. Would he be sitting down with your main character and just go into a monologue about how he has a bad temper and sometimes loses control? Would he just say that out of nowhere? That would feel a bit awkward to me if I read that in the middle of a story. Just saying. But, maybe this is a scene that demonstrates a certain level of bonding between this character and your protagonist. What I would do, personally, is have a third character involved that just rubs him the wrong way. It might not be on purpose. In fact, it might be completely benign on the other boy’s part. But he’s frustrated and annoyed by every word that comes out of his mouth, and they clash and interact in a way that is hostile and destructive at every turn. I would write out a scene or two of cruelty and conflict first between them...and then have my protagonist sit down with him and ask him what his problem is. THEN...maybe he sighs and gives a short, ‘I just lose control sometimes’, speech...almost in an apologetic way. We’ve already demonstrated his behavior and see the aftermath of his tantrums...but it comes from his interaction with the third member of their little group. We’ve seen it first hand. And being asked about it has a preamble that makes sense in a literary sense. He’s not just telling us something about himself out of nowhere. Allow your characters to mesh and talk every now and then. Weave them into the story in a meaningful way, and ‘show’ why they feel and act the way they do. With a bunch of different characters (Not TOO many), you get conflicting emotions, different goals, competitive instincts, and a lot more. All of us are different, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t coexist. One of the reasons that I’ve never been a big Facebook fan is the simple fact that I don’t interact with everybody in the same way. That’s not to say that I’m being fake or dishonest with anybody. It’s just that I can joke around with the friends I grew up with in high school in a way that I could never joke with the people I used to work with. I can’t talk to the people I work with the same way that I talk to my family. And so forth and so on. I can’t curse and make sex jokes or bring up funny drunken memories from my college days on Facebook! My MOM reads this! LOL! Well, if you look at the character interactions that I put into all of my stories...the same thing is happening there. It’s not really all that different. The best example of this is probably “The Secret Life Of Billy Chase”. Billy is keeping a secret journal with all of his daily thoughts and experiences, and that’s the one place where he feels like he can speak freely and give an unapologetic view into who he really is as a person. That’s the part of Billy’s life that you as the reader get to read and enjoy it as it is. However, Billy also has an entire life full of parents and friends and lovers and classmates and co-workers who don’t get to see what the audience gets to see. And his interactions with those people mirror my own in my life. Billy is still being honest, and he’s 100% Billy, no matter what. But he can’t have the same kind of open conversations with his mom that he has with his best friend, Sam. And those conversations are different from the way that he talks to his boyfriend. And he can’t talk to his boyfriend in the same way that he might talk to the other friends he has at school. Noticing this is important. But why? And how does it make a difference to you as a writer? It’s because every interaction that my protagonist, Billy, has with each of these different cliques becomes a clear demonstration of who he is as a main character. Everyone that he comes into contact with, whether it be in a positive or a negative way, brings out another aspect of his personality. Some will allow you to see his romantic side, some will display his angry and mistrust, some will show his envy, some will bring his lustful cravings to the surface, others will cause him to feel insecure and afraid...every aspect of his personality is showcased depending on who he’s involved with in that moment. At the same time, having those characters run into one another during the length of your story will create opportunities to expose their personalities and flaws as well. Their interactions build this community that they can all feed off of and trade that energy between one another. In my opinion, this is the best and most entertaining method of introducing and exploring all of the characters in your project. Everyone gets a chance to shine, and creates a bit of a shine to the characters that they’re communicating with, simultaneously. It’s a win/win situation, all around. If you have two characters that absolutely love and care for one another...that says something. If they can’t stand being in the same room with one another, that also says something. If they’re shy and inexplicably bashful around one another...that’s a whole other message being sent. And if they have a history together that creates sadness and heartbreak...another message. Use these interactions as a tool to tell their story and make them more than just flat cardboard cutouts or background characters. If you don’t need them there, take them out of your story. But if you decide to keep them there, give their presence some meaning. By having them share exchanges with one another beefs up their character and gives them more of a history and a purpose as to why they’re a part of your story. And that means that their interactions with your main character will end up having more depth and meaning as a natural side effect of that initial process. Does that make sense? You know more about who your protagonist’s friends and family are...which allow them to have a deeper impact on your protagonist. The way that I often go about this method of writing is by having my main character spend time with each other character separately at first. A one on one meeting where some of the set up details can be conveyed and expressed. He has blue eyes, he’s really standoffish, he wears ripped jeans and retro rock band T-shirts, he’s always in detention...whatever. Very basic descriptions and a few short engagements to build him up on his own first so as not to get him confused with anybody else right away. That’s my usual formula for character interactions, even if I do break the mold from time to time. Then...I bring that character into contact with another one of the characters in the story and see how they act with one another. Sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a bad way. Whichever I choose...there’s always something being accomplished through having them meet one another, and I try to make it so it highlights parts of both characters’ personalities by seeing how the gel with each other. And even if they don’t get along at first, that leaves room for their relationship to build and evolve beyond that later on. And if not, then I still have characters who are capable of bringing whatever side of my protagonist that I need to use for that particular progression of the story. Whether it be an inspiring and supportive friend, or a troublemaker ‘Devils Advocate’ type...I can use that to craft a well written series of events that will create the peaks and valleys for the kind of the roller coaster vibe that I’m going for. Bonus! Every character that you put into your story should feel like the kind of person that your readers could somehow meet in person and hang out with some time. They should feel real. They don’t have to be perfect, or even likable. But you want them to be memorable. Again...your characters are in charge of carrying the story forward. If you can get your audience invested in them and their struggle, then your work is already half way done. Let them breathe life into your story, and peel back their many complex layers a little bit at a time by having them participate in their interactions with the other characters in your story. Not everybody gets along. And those that do...they don’t get along on everything. Use these emotional collisions to create special moments, to add levity through a humorous back and forth, or bring about the kind of friction that disrupts the peace of the placid lake you’re riding on. It’s a good thing. Trust me. It has more of a positive effect on your story as a whole than you may think, so give it a try. Alrighty then! I hope this helps! Pay attention to the way your characters already connect and talk to one another in the stories you’ve written so far. Or, if you’re just now thinking about writing your first...then take these lessons to heart, and build the most believable and drama filled world that you can. It helps to answer the whole, ‘How do I introduce this person into the group’ question. You’ll go mad trying to figure that one out. Hehehe, I speak from experience. Stay beautiful, you guys! And I’ll seezya soon with more! Happy writing!
  7. 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!
  8. Comicality


    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!
  9. Comicality


    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!
  10. 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!
  11. 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!
  12. "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!
  13. 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!
  14. 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?
  15. Comicality


    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!
  16. Comicality


    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!
  17. 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!
  18. 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!
  19. What creates a story? What creates an unexpected thrill? What connects the writer to the readers that they're attempting to entertain? These are all questions that should be lingering in the back of your mind when you're writing your story. NOT in the forefront, because writing a story isn't all about catering to an audience. Instead, it should be about exploring your true self and your deepest emotions. Having an audience enjoy and appreciate what you do is a thrilling side effect to all of the hard work that you put in to making it a reality and then finding the courage to share it with others. But that response shouldn't be your only reason for writing. Because that response is not guaranteed, and that can be intimidating in the long run. So make sure that you're having fun and pursuing your passion when putting a project together. That's the most important, and most genuine, part of being a writer. K? Now, back to the initial question...what creates a story, a character, and a connection to the people investing their time, energy, and emotion, into what you're writing? The big secret? It's not the big story as a whole. Sounds weird, right? But I've learned over the years that it's not the major story as a whole that really keeps people coming back for more. Sure, it's a PART of it...but what keeps people reading are actually the 'little' moments. While readers may be excited in the overall story, the sprawling character archs, and the intricate twists and turns of the plot that I might throw out there during major events in the narrative...it's the little moments that most of my readers remember most. It's something that I took note of, and made sure to remember that while I was writing whatever epic scene I happened to be focused on at that particular moment. There was an earlier article where I talked about the BIG, monumental, moments in your stories. Making them as huge and as amazing as you possibly could through the build up and the payoff. This time, however, we're going to shrink things down a bit, and talk about the smaller pieces of the puzzle that makes your entire project more memorable from beginning to end. There are ways to do this, but we first have to look at what makes a certain event or plot point in your story something that people will want to cherish and hold on to. Something that will grab them and drag them from one larger special moment to the next. There is 'magic' in those micro moments in between moments. If that makes sense. And that magic is what you're going to use to keep your readers engaged and interested in the story so those bigger moments end up having the kind of impact that you want them to have. (In other words, don't let the readers fall asleep on you and then try to shake them up and get those gears spinning again later. Hehehe! A mind in motion tends to stay in motion. It takes time to re-engage, and it'll slow down the pacing of your story significantly.) So let's get together and talk about creating a much more memorable story by concentrating a bit more on those smaller moments combined... Now, what do I mean by 'smaller' moments? I think we should start there. There are many stories that have huge, dramatic events in them. A big reveal of a deep dark secret. A fight breaks out. A sudden heartbreak. An unexpected betrayal. And all of these things can make for a great story. But, as I've said many times before...you can't keep that up, chapter after chapter after chapter. It gets tiresome after a while. Big moments, in my opinion, should be used sparingly. How can they have any real impact if you keep having them every chapter? It takes skill and practice to pace your story and space these major events out in an effective way. So that begs the question...what do you do with the 'space'? What I love to do during these moments, is build characters up and really give the readers a glimpse into their personality. Like...who would this person be when he's not following along with the plot of the story I'm telling. That's part of the magic that I'm talking about. Who is this really cute boy when he's not being gawked at by the main character? Or following the breadcrumbs that I set out there to get him together with my protagonist? These are the questions that I ask myself when I'm putting a story together. And the best way to show that, is by creating these little moments of friendship, or cuteness, or pain, or anger, or shyness. Small moments. It doesn't have to be anything major. It can be a simple gesture, a blush, a conversation...hell, it could be a simple line of dialogue. Just a few words can create a moment in your fiction that will become memorable beyond anything that you ever expected it to. I think the best example of this comes from the original "Terminator" movie. He walks into the police station, asking for the person that he's there to kill in cold blood...the cop behind the counter tells him to wait...and he says, "I'll be back." now, that wasn't meant to be a big tagline or major writing achievement. But that ONE line of dialogue ended up being one of the biggest catch phrases in cinematic history! I mean, who could have predicted that? But...watch the movie again. The build up to that moment, the aftermath a few seconds later...study it. Try to figure out why those three simple words have such an impact, and think about how a seemingly innocent moment in a film could resonate so heavily with audiences for years and years to come. This is one of the things that I've thought about a lot, even before the Comicality stories. The big events in a story are highly entertaining, but people always quote the little things. This is that connective tissue that I'm always talking about. It will keep your readers invested and excited for the next big reveal. I definitely focus on enjoying and getting my audience to appreciate these little moments, so they can get to my characters on a deeper, more emotional, level so that it never feels like there's any 'down time' in my chapters. Even when there isn't something hugely dramatic going on in my story...you're still entertained and learning more about some of the quirks and humorous antics of the boys that I'm writing about. The same goes with action, sci fi, or horror, or anything else you might be writing. Remember...tiny moments. They mean more than you might think they do. I wanna share this fan made video with you. (God, he's sooooo good! I could NEVER do that!) He's put together what has to be at LEAST 100 different movies together, if not more! Edited it, set it to a beat...it's amazing! But, what I want you to pay attention to...is the fact that most of the clips that he uses are only a fraction of a second long! Thats it! But they're all 'little moments' from these hugely popular movies, TV shows, Netflix series, and anime...and even though they go by in the blink of an eye...I'm willing to bet that many of you can easily recognize the movie, know the scene, and can easily call it out if asked to! Because it sticks with you, right? Hehehe, you know that scene! And it was awesome! You got an instant memorable flashback in a fraction of a second. How crazy is that? Check it out! I totally understand that we're not all writing blockbuster Summer action movies here on GayAuthors, hehehe...but I believe that the same technique applies to all kinds of stories, in every genre. Little moments are what give your bigger moments meaning. Something simple. A shared joke, a whispered secret, a bashful grin. All of these things matter when creating a three-dimensional story and bringing your characters into contact with one another. Like I said, I've learned to really appreciate these little moments and utilize them to their full extent whenever I can. Maybe, in "Left Without Words", Shane gets a peek up the leg of Dimitry's shorts. Maybe Ariel spills an ice cold milkshake on a potential love rival, or Tristan passes his Youtube crush on an escalator in the mall. These scenes have power. They're memorable when many of the other scenes in my stories aren't. They can be used to create tension, fear, worry, joy, laughter...don't let opportunities like this pass you by, while racing to the next big event in your storytelling. These little moments are a PART of the storytelling. Whether its an emotional breakdown of an abused boy in front of his friends, or simply throwing a snowball at the cute boy next door. Let these little moments fill out the personality of your main characters and create someone that your readers can get to know on an intimate level so that they'll be all the more invested in what happens to them when you tell your story. To me, the most important thing to remember is that a story is not just about 'plot'. Don't use your characters as simple tools to tell your story. Give them life. Let them breathe. Allow them to interact with one another and explore the space that you've built for them. It'll make for a better story overall, and your audience will gravitate to them in ways that you never expected. Use those little moments to flesh out and give your story 'life'. You'll be surprised how much it adds to the everyday, 'cute boy meets another cute boy, and they have sex...because....cute' formula. People have read that story a million times already. How are you going to be different? Go for it! And make a classic that your readers will enjoy! I hope this helps out! Good luck in your writing, and I'll seezya soon with more! Take care!
  20. 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!
  21. 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!
  22. Comicality


    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!
  23. 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))
  24. Ok, so you all may remember an article that I did on exposition in your fiction a few months back...but I'd like to go a little bit more in depth when it comes to finding ways to create and finesse that exposition, how it works, and why it works. Basically, it's the art of writing without writing. It's the craft of being able to paint a vivid picture in the minds of your readers to deliver a message without having to write it out for them. There are certain techniques that you can use to accomplish this, but in order to truly understand how and why they work, you have to realize how you're doing exactly the same thing on a daily basis. Once you're able to realize that...the rest will come naturally. So, ladies and gentlemen...welcome to 'Exposition, Round Two! Take a moment, and think about the people who might cross your path every day when you leave the house. When you go to work, go to school, go out shopping, whatever. Think about how much real life exposition is being fed to you without a single one of these strangers saying a word. Maybe you see a guy who you think might be a car mechanic. Why? Is it because he walked up to you and said, "Hi, I am a car mechanic"? I would certainly hope not. If he does, ummm...cross the street. Hehehe! But think about it. Maybe he's wearing a wife beater t-shirt with some oil stains on it. Maybe his hands look as though they've been digging around an engine all morning. Maybe he's got an oily rag hanging out of his back pocket. There are things about his look, and his actions, and the materials he's carrying with him, that would give you that impression. That doesn't mean it's the RIGHT impression, as looks can be deceiving (He might be a high priced lawyer who likes to work on his Mustang on his off days s a hobby)...but these are things that are familiar enough to you to paint a picture. Your mind is doing this all day. Maybe you see someone with a cardboard sign saying he'll work for food, maybe there's a lady wearing a 500 dollar pair of sunglasses and a bright red dress walking with a briefcase and talking on her cell phone, or maybe you see someone with a red nose whose sniffling and constantly reaching into her coat pocket for another balled up wad of tissue. Think about all of the times you looked to see if someone was wearing a wedding ring, or the times you saw a soldier in uniform, or noticed a kid with a black eye. All of these visual clues are telling you a story about who these people are and what's going on with their lives at that particular moment...without having them say a word. It's describing these visual cues and actions in your writing that can help you get around a lot of exposition when you're feeling stuck and can't see another way out. Take in those details, and think about how you would describe this person, this situation, this environment, to someone else...and get them to draw the same conclusions that you did. It helps when you realize what you're looking for. Sometimes I have to babysit my younger cousins, and I'll walk into a room...and suddenly they sit straight up and look at me wide eyed without saying a word. Hehehe, it's immediately like, "Ok, you either saw something, broke something, or spilled something, so fess up!" The fact that they're being angelically quiet conveys a whole LOT of information in a very short amount of time. Now, does that mean that they actually did anything wrong? No. But I can safely assume that something is off about their behavior. It's behavior that's familiar enough that pretty much anybody walking into that room would come to the same conclusion. When you're writing, I feel that it's important to visualize every moment of every scene. What's going on? What's the tone? How do they look? What are they doing? You can add those details to your scene to deliver the same information that you want to deliver, but without having it come off as boring or awkward. I had an art teacher once who told me that when you draw a triangle on a piece of paper...the triangle doesn't exist. You draw three connecting lines, sure...but the triangle itself is an illusion. It's simply the empty space being brought out by the lines surrounding it. Exposition can be delivered the same way. By describing the surrounding factors with visuals and dialogue, you can avoid a lot of "Hi, I am a mechanic" moments in your story. As a writer, it's your duty to set the stage and sync it up with certain connections that your readers can recognize and follow. Let's say you have a character who's a drag queen, and performs at a nightclub on Saturday nights. Now you can start your story off with a long explanation of your character's backstory, and how they knew they liked drag, and when they started working in the club, and "Oh, by the way, my name is Harry." if you wanted to. There's nothing wrong with that. OR...you could start your story with your protagonist fitting a wig on his head and fixing his make up...there's a knock at the door. The boss walks in and says, "Let's go, Harry! The club is packed tonight, even for a Saturday! You're going on in two minutes!" Your readers now know that it's a man in drag, his name is Harry, he's a performer, and he works at a club on Saturdays. Takes, like...three sentences and a line of dialogue, tops. And it's a bit more engaging than having to read Harry's life story before getting to the actual focus of the scene. Instead of your audience reading a history lesson...you're bringing them into your world right away. Hopefully in a manner that will come off as interesting and intriguing. Now I, personally, write most of my stories in the first person. So I can deliver a great deal of exposition through the inner thoughts of my main characters and bring my readers along with me. However, when it comes to all of the other characters in my story, their thoughts, feelings, and motivations have to be relayed through observation. My protagonist doesn't get to be a mind reader (Except for that one story where the protagonist is a mind reader! Hehehe!), so I have to describe anger, attraction, heartbreak, shyness, from outside the source. And it would be easy in some parts to simply write down what needs to be said and be done with it. I won't say that I've never done it, and won't do it again, but I try to avoid taking the easy way out more often than not. Down below is the very first paragraph of a short story that I wrote called, "The Kissing Game". It was one of those little innocent/not-so-innocent Daydream Shorts that was just meant to capture one small moment in time. They're supposed to be quick and to the point, so there's not a whole lot of room for backstory and character development here. They have to feel real, and they have to be able to connect to readers right away. So exposition was given in a way that sets the stage, but a lot of the details are merely implied. Even if the readers don't realize how much and how little information was actually given. Now, what does this short paragraph actually tell you as a reader? The main character and the love interest are friends. The main character's name is Tommy, and the love interest's name is Jared. They are 'doing something' together for practice. They're going to high school for the first time in the Fall. That makes them about 13 to 14 years of age. Jared is obviously straight, and is looking to get a girlfriend and high school status. Also...he mentions getting 'ourselves' a couple of girlfriends...so chances are that he doesn't know his friend Tommy is gay. That set the stage, the audience is locked in, ready to go. Boom. Done. Now...what doesn't that first paragraph say? How long have they been friends? Did they grow up together? Did they meet two weeks ago? When did they start kissing each other? Does Jared live next door? Across the street? Across town? Is there a parent in the house at the moment? Did they lock the door? Is Jared really straight, or is it just an excuse to make out with his friend? Where are they? The city? The suburbs? Summer camp? The beach? The park? Is it Summer time? Spring break? A snow covered day in January? Who knows? None of that stuff is mentioned. Nor does it need to be. It's not important to the story in the least, so why even go into all of that? A good strategy for writing exposition is figuring out what is, and what isn't important. Exposition is the art of answering a question that wasn't asked. So if your readers don't need to know certain details about a scene or a character, and it isn't going to have any further impact on the story later on...cut it out. Trim it down, and let your readers fill that part in for themselves. I'm willing to bet that a majority of my readers saw those first few sentences and pictured two boys, long time best friends, in a bedroom when their parents weren't home, possibly over Summer break, close to going back to school, in the early afternoon. The thing is, if you read it again, I didn't give out any of that information in the first paragraph. This could be current, or it could be placed in the 80's, or the 90's, or a post apocalyptic world being rebuilt by society to get back to normal. Hehehe, but unless those extra details are directly needed for me to tell the story I'm trying to tell, there's no reason for that extra detail to be there. In the story, "A Class By Himself", the main character's mother works in a diner. She's a waitress. I displayed that by having her work long hours, standing on her feet, coming home exhausted, bringing food home in plastic cartons, falling asleep on the couch...and it's a part of her character. Not only that, but her character is an important part of the story as a whole. The fact that she's a waitress, barely makes enough money to make ends meet, and likes to cook, is also a big part of the story. So those details were given and occasionally reintroduced to the reader as needed. Now, compare this to the mother in "The Secret Life Of Billy Chase". She works for a living too, right? She's doing something to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. So, after reading 450 chapters of the story...tell me...what, exactly, does Billy's mom do? Hehehe! Crazy, right? I don't even know what she does for a living! If I ever bothered to mention it, then I forgot. LOL! The point is, it's not important. It doesn't play into the rest of the story, so that bit of exposition isn't needed. Maybe she's a nurse, maybe she's a corporate defense lawyer, maybe she's a professional female WRESTLER! Hehehe, but it doesn't add anything to the other parts of the story, so it doesn't have to be said. Sometimes she's at home, sometimes she's not...and the reason is ‘work'. Done. The readers can fill in the rest on their own. And chances are, they don't care. If your main character works in an office….what kind of office? Doesn't matter. An office. In your reader's minds, they will probably think of cubicles and paperwork and copy machines and water coolers...and that's all they need to know. Does he work on payroll? Accounting? Does he balance budgets? Does he work customer service? Doesn't matter. He works in an office. Done. Now...if he happens to be an accountant, and he finds out that a great deal of funds are being used to hire contract killers in foreign countries...and that's what your STORY is about? Well, then you might need to be a bit more specific. But if it's just a passing detail to round out your character, then mention it vaguely and let it pass. At least that's how I would handle it. Now, one last thing before I wrap this up... To make things a bit more visual, this is a short horror film that I found on Youtube. It's a fun little flick to give you the creeps, but I want you to pay attention to what information is being delivered to you from the very first shot, and through the first two minutes or so of dialogue. Look at the surroundings, listen to what's being said, and see what is actually being told to you...and what isn't...but you sort of fill in the blanks regardless. Your readers are probably doing the same things when they read your work. So...watching that, what do you think was told do you? And what do you think you made up on your own? Spend some time to meditate on it if you like. The very first thing that you see on the screen is a cardboard box with the words 'Toby's Room' on it. Immediately, you can assume that this mother and son are moving into a brand new house. And he's probably not used to sleeping in a big room by himself, so he's a little scared by the idea. Also, he says that he misses his dad...to which his mom quietly says that she does too. Which would cause me to assume that there was a death or an accident of some sort. Either way, we've established that 'Dad' isn't around. A lot of information seems to be given to the audience right away, and you kind of go along with it. Because we know how movies work, and the exposition is being quickly given to us by showing us a situation that feels familiar. However, and I'll go into more detail about this on my 'Plot Twists' article later on...a lot of my assumptions about this short film are more illusion than direct information. And if you play around with that illusion a bit, you can really shock your readers by subverting their expectations. Playing mind games with what they thought they knew, as opposed to what you were really telling them. Hehehe! For example...is that little boy really 'Toby'? I saw a box with the name Toby on it, and I made an assumption...but if I wanted to throw a monkey wrench in the works, readers might find out that this boy isn't Toby at all, and 'Toby' is another little boy tied up in the basement somewhere, because this boy and his mother burst into their house and took over! LOL! He's never referred to as Toby once in the whole film. Not by name. But...in my head, that's what I was thinking. Imagine if it was all a nightmare, and the mother kisses the boy goodnight, saying, "Goodnight, Carl." And then goes down in the basement where you see a mother and her son, bound and gagged by the furnace. "Goodnight, 'Toby'." That would be cool! Did his father die? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he was shipped off to war. Maybe he got caught banging a leather clad bear from the 'Manhole' club! Maybe he got relocated to another dimension to work with Billy Chase's mom! Who knows? But...did I NEED to know? Nope! Not important. Not for this particular story. I was given just enough information to make the appropriate assumptions, and that's all that needed to be said. The director had eight minutes to make a movie. The dad's history? Not important. The reason they moved? Not important. Who is the Number Man? What's with the rhyme at the beginning? What's with the numbers on his chest? Is he supernatural? Is he a figment of the boy's imagination? Is he an escaped mental patient? Doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with the story this very short film had to tell. And anything that was left out? My mind filled it in anyway. So it's a win, in my opinion. So when it comes to exposition in your stories, try to find clever ways to deliver the information needed for your reader to get a sense of what's going on...but ONLY the information needed. Trim the fat, and have faith that your audience is doing a lot of the work with you. Their imagination is carrying half the load. You can avoid a lot of exposition when you practice with this idea, and spend your energy enhancing the details that do need to be given. In a future article, I'll get more into how you can use your readers' own assumptions against them to turn the whole story upside down! Hehehe! But, until then...as always, I hope this helps! And happy writing!
  25. Comicality


    So...I want you all to take a few seconds, and think about your life in it’s entirety. Your entire life, as a whole. Childhood, adolescence, adulthood. How do you envision it in your mind? Do you think about that day you picked up some extra eggs and milk from the grocery store? Do you think about the night you sat on the couch and watched TV for six hours straight? Or maybe you’re thinking about that gas bill you paid, or that time you got a parking ticket? Hehehe, you might be, I don’t know. But I’m willing to bet that it’s unlikely. I like to think of life as a series of ‘moments’. In order to think back on our memories, we have to tell ourselves a story. This is what happened, and where it happened, and how it happened. And when we tell ourselves that story, it usually comes in the form of the bigger, more influential, moments and experiences that we’ve had in the past. The major events that stand out in our minds are the ones we have the clearest recollections of. I couldn’t tell you every slice of pizza that I’ve ever had...but I could tell you about being on a date with a really cute guy and sharing a pizza with him. Because that was a significant moment that stands out in my mind, and one that made me tuck it away in the back of my mind to think about later and smile. It holds a specific meaning for me. It’s a moment worthy of being a part of my personal highlight reel, because it is more than just something that I remember...it’s a part of who I am. When you’re writing a story, being able to effectively create these moments in the lives of your characters can truly make your work stand out as well. It’s all about picking your moments and using them to their full advantage. Naturally, you want your entire story to be well written and edited down to a point where everything has a certain significance, value, and purpose...but choosing to focus on just a few big moments can really enhance your story as a whole. It defines the theme, the tone, and the development of your characters, in a way that will be both exciting and memorable. So this week, I’d like to talk about the creation of defining moments in our fiction. When I talk about moments, even if they’re happening to the same person or people in the same work of fiction, I believe that each moment should be able to stand alone as a story all its own. To use the “Billy Chase” story as an example...that massive story is about to get its 450th chapter, and even people who have read it more than once could possibly remember the entire thing. Lord knows, I can’t do it. But there are certain ‘moments’ throughout the series that readers can remember fondly (Or not so fondly) by certain situations and lessons that were learned along the way from beginning to end. Maybe they think about mistakes that he made, or big revelations that were discovered, or that very first kiss with another boy, or his parents’ divorce. The question, however...is that if you were to take any one of those moments, and write it as a stand alone story, and then give it to someone who has absolutely no idea who Billy Chase is and has never heard of him before...can that ONE moment in time still make for a good story? If so, then it’s a moment worth the glare of the spotlight. And that’s where you can truly grip your readers and keep them invested in the story as a whole. Everything that led up to that moment, and everything that is sure to follow it. Down below is a little video that I’m adding for fun. And while it’s all done for some highly exaggerated grins and giggles...it does demonstrate my point. Movies, books, TV shows, theatrical plays...they all have certain defining moments that, when done well, can really bring you to the edge of your seat. And it does NOT have to just be in the climax either. It can be anywhere in your project where it feels natural, and creates momentum to take things up a notch. It can be the first major showdown between your protagonist and his or her main rival. It can be a big surprise, or a major reveal, or the act of turning the tide in a battle that seemed hopeless. They’re the moments that uplift you when you bear witness to them, and they stick out in your mind to the point where you and your friends will think back and say, “Remember that one part, when…?” Take a look! Besides...the Avengers theme song just makes EVERYTHING a little bit more epic! LOL! Hehehe, as a side note, it’s kind of funny once you pay attention to it...but every time one of these moments happens in a movie, there’s always a cut to somebody’s shocked face! Like, “Omigod...WTF is going on right now?” It’s just sort of a film thing. A shocked face or a cheering crowd...or both. But, I can’t lie...it still gets me every time! Now...these were all action based movies, animations, or video games...but your defining moments don’t have to be that over the top. The theme song is merely signaling you to say, ‘This is it! This is the moment that will take you readers to a whole other level!’ And it doesn’t need to be gunfire and explosions. It can be a great act of courage on the part of your protagonist. It can be the realization of a secret. It can be the simple act of your antagonist finally getting what he deserves, or getting a taste of his own medicine. It could be a severe break up, or finally balling up a fist to blacken the school bully’s eye, or feeling the rush of hearing the words ‘I like you too’ for the very first time. It’s all about creating special moments and giving your readers something to experience that they can hold on to, even long after the story is over. They can have memories of these moments as if it happened to them, personally. And that will give your story a longevity that even the best quality writing can’t imitate on its own. So, when I think about these big moments in my own work, I try to break it down into three simple pieces. Premise, Promise, and Payoff. Very easy to remember, very easy to pull off as long as you’re thinking about these things ahead of time. The Premise is simple...what is it that you want to happen to your main or supporting character, and how can you introduce it to your readers? More importantly, what impact will this defining moment have on your story? A defining moment has to ‘define’ something, after all, right? So what direction are you trying to take your story in? Maybe you have a closeted gay college boy, and you want him to finally meet and talk to the guy he’s been infatuated with from day one. There’s a moment there. How will you go about setting that up? In that same story, they may go on their first date, and end up kissing at the end of the night. There’s another moment. Maybe they fall in love, and the main character decides to take his new boyfriend home for the holidays and come out to his parents. Another moment. These are all things that we as writers should be thinking about ahead of time. Know where you want your moments to take place in your story, and then use the ‘Premise’ part of the equation to present the initial building blocks to your audience. ‘Promise’? This is merely the act of stringing a series of events together to make the journey to the defining moment more interesting. I’ll admit...this part can be fun. Hehehe! It’s true. This is where you can set up certain scenarios and tease your readers into wanting to jump ahead to the big reveal...but you don’t give it to them. Not just yet. Think of it like...spinning the crank on a Jack-In-The-Box. You know that the clown is going to pop out at some point. That’s a ‘promise’. But half the fun is not knowing when it’s going to happen. A little suspense, a few close calls, maybe some awkward conversations or missed opportunities...these are all tools that you can use to wind your audience up, and put them edge for that final crank before the clown pops out. You’re making them a promise...and you’re going to stick to it, right? Unless you’ve got some huge plot twist planned and decide to throw a monkey wrench in the works somewhere along the way! Hehehe, there’s a moment there too, if that’s the way you want to go! And finally….the ‘Payoff’! The big moment is here! Inner strength has been revealed. New answers have been given and new questions are left to be asked. Confessions have been made, lines have been drawn in the sand, arguments reach their boiling point…this is the moment of shock and awe and joy and sadness that your readers have been waiting for since you set up the premise and made the promise in the first place. ::Cue The Avengers Theme:: This part can sometimes be a little intimidating (At least for me it is), because a soggy payoff can really damage a really great story if it doesn’t meet reader expectations. That’s not to say that you should write, specifically, for reader expectations...just make a serious attempt to make the defining moments in your story add up to what you promised they would be. You spent all of that time setting it up, why not deliver the end product with a bang? Basically, we all remember moments from our favorite movies and games and, yes, from our very lives. Take a few minutes and really think about what made those moments special to you. Why you hold on to those memories, and how they make you feel. Having just two or three of those memorable moments in your writing can really boost reader involvement, and your talents can hit them right in the feels each and every time. The right moments...with strong connective tissue binding them together...can really make a story sing. Just a little something to think about! I hope you enjoyed this week’s article on Defining Moments! Love you all! And I’ll seezya next week!
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