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  1. ″His eyes were as blue as a half-melted crayon, his skin as soft as wet clay...with a smile that could warm my heart like leftover meatloaf in the oven. He was so beautiful.″ Hehehe, ok, so that′s not the best collection of phrases to demonstrate the use of metaphor and simile! LOL! But I write a LOT...so I need to save my best stuff for the stories themselves. But we can start here, just so you guys can get an idea of what I′m babbling about this week. Easily put, metaphors and similes are the words and phrases that we use to further enhance the details of whatever it is that we′re trying to say. It′s like watching something on a regular TV screen, and then switching it to high definition for a better picture. (That′s a simile, by the way. It was meant to give you guys a better understanding of the straightforward sample of information that I had given you in the sentence prior. Finding ways to use these enhancements can add style and grace to your projects, and paint a more vivid picture for your audience to hold on to. To get the most basic foundation of how to accomplish this...we must first recognize the subtle difference between metaphors and similes. They′re very similar in nature, but not one hundred percent. For me? I think the difference goes beyond the idea that similes use the words ′like′ or ′as′ in their descriptions. Even though that is often cited as the major rule when it comes to telling one from another. In your writing, these are tools that you can use to make comparisons between what you′re thinking in your head, and what your audience is reading on the page. Whenever I see a description that seems very basic in a story...functional, but not overly telling...I always get this old comedy routine vision in the back of my mind. Hehehe! You know how the comedian on stage says something like, ″Man, my wife is SO ugly!″ And it′s the audience′s duty to all shout out, ″How ugly is she???″ And he says, ″She′s so ugly, she had to pay her own pillows to sleep with her!″ Cue laugh track. When it comes to metaphor and simile, keep that in mind. When you make a flat statement like, ″His eyes were so blue.″ And don′t go into any further detail...imagine your willing audience asking you to finish the line. This will get you to see the places in your work where just a little bit more info could really make the difference between a good story and a great story. How blue were his eyes? What can you compare them too? What kind of picture can you paint, using just a few words, that will give your readers an idea of exactly what your love interest looks like? Think of all the many shades of blue there are out there. Are they a piercing dark blue? Are they a neon shade of light blue? Are they almost grey or silver? Picture your character in your mind...take that shade of blue...and draw a comparison to line up with something that your readers might recognize from their own lives. The idea is to get on the same page and have the same image floating around in your imagination. Your character is fictional. They haven′t seen his eyes. But maybe they′ve seen the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky. Use that. ″His eyes were so blue! Like the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky!″ Do you see what I mean? Your readers can take that simile, and match the exact color of your fictional character′s eyes to a color that they can clearly create a mental picture of, and you can both go on from there. This works for everything that you want to enhance along the way. His eyes might be as green as well polished emeralds. His hair might be as blond as strands of freshly spun gold. Or his lips may be as soft and warm as warm marshmallow. Whatever you come up with, take some time to match the ideas in your head with something familiar and appealing to your readers, stimulating their senses and bringing them further into your personal online portrait. Most of your readers know the feel of soft blankets against their skin. They know what heartbreak feels like, what fear of rejection feels like, or the smell of freshly baked bread. Whether your descriptions are surrounding something tangible or intangible...a little practice can make this part of the writing process SO much fun! Hehehe! Just sayin′! Now...what I′ve been using have all been similes so far. Using ′like′ or ′as′ to cue the readers that the statement I′m making is a comparison, but not a literal one. Metaphors are slightly different. With metaphors, your statements are being made as if they were literal, even when the audience knows, deep down, that it isn′t. Metaphors might seem like they′re a little bit fancier, due to their wording being a bit more complex in some cases...but it′s really just a slight variation on the use of simile, where the comparison is more implied than told. It′s a bit more abstract. For example, if your main character thinks to himself, ″The butterflies in my stomach went wild, their fluttering wings slapping against my heart while I fought for breath.″...ummm, that′s not literal. Hehehe, or, at least I HOPE not! Unless you′re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or maybe even horror...I′m going to assume, as a reader, that you′re using metaphor to describe a feeling of nervousness and discomfort. I′m not actually picturing a nest of insects in someone′s belly, nearly suffocating him as he struggles to survive. That would be...weird. However, this use of metaphor has the same effect. The idea of ′butterflies in your stomach′ is something that people can associate with when approaching a situation that they find nerve-wracking or scary. Readers can identify with the feeling of it being hard to breathe when talking to someone they′re infatuated with. So metaphor serves the same ′HD TV′ function as simile, it just uses a little more finesse to do it. Similar, but different. Simile: ″I may have a few dark parts within me, but his presence in my life was like a ray of sunshine. It′s like he brightens up everything with his presence alone.″ Metaphor: ″He brightens up everything. His presence alone, a ray of sunshine to steal away the darkest parts of me.″ The first is delivered as an attempt to give an explanation to readers who may want a bit more clarity, while the second is delivered literally...even though it′s obviously not a literal statement. The end result is the same, and the message has been sent. Congrats, writers! You just connected to your readership, and your vision is now right there for them to use to further engage in your story! That′s awesome! Now...that being said, you have to know when to use metaphor and when not to. Every word of your project doesn′t have to be some overworked stream of flowery text and Shakespearean poetry. It′s fun to show off every once in a while, but choose your moments. Sometimes, it′s better to keep things simple. You don′t have to say, ″There was a determined rapping against the wood at the entrance of my domicile, the familiar sound of covered bone connecting to a hard surface, trying to grab my attention.″ Hehehe, it′s ok to just say, ″There was a knock at the door.″ No need to get carried away with the little things. But, in those moments when you feel a little flair and finesse is warranted, get your thoughts together and swing for the fences! Picture the comparisons that you want to make, and then make them a part of your story. Try to get your readers to visualize things the way you see it in your head. The end result might not be exact, but the closer your connection is to your readers...the more powerful your imagery will become as your story expands on that original foundation. They′ll see it like you see it, and that makes it easier for you to get your vision across in the most potent way possible. Give it a try! Or, better yet, pay more attention to the metaphors and similes that you′ve used in the past. I′m sure that it has come, quite naturally, to many of you authors out there. You may not even notice you′re doing. Signs of true passion and natural talent! Never feel weird about studying your own process. And once you take a closer look at your work, find ways to get even better. Challenges are the ′fun′ part! Hehehe! I hope I made some sense with all this! And I hope it helps! Take care! And happy writing!
  2. Comicality

    First Kiss

    No matter how hot and steamy the sex may get between your main character and his love interest later on in your story...sometimes the sweetest and most explosive moment of all comes from that very first kiss. Even if your characters are older and it's not their first kiss ever...it's that first delicate connection with the guy you're passing off as his perfect counterpart. If done right, a first kiss between characters can be just as erotic as every other part of your story, if not more so. So how do you make someone's awkward attempt at pressing their lips together for the first time seem like such a grand experience? Read on, and let's talk about writing that first kiss. One thing that always makes a scene for me, as well as the rest of the story, is the love and care put into the characters. That's rule number one. If people care about the characters, then they will care about what the characters are doing. Who they are and how they interact with one another is all a major part of the actual build up to a first kiss. Have them trade glances, talk to each other, flirt with one another...maybe even have them get nervous and back out of a previous attempt or two. The anticipation of a first kiss should be both adorable and maddening at the same time. I've written a bunch of stories where the emails and reviews were like, "Arrgggghhh!!! I hate you! I HATE YOU!!! When's the next chapter coming out???" Hehehe, but that's what we as writers WANT, right? We want the readers to get excited like our main characters get excited! That's a big piece of what makes telling a quality erotic story so much fun. It's not this kiss itself, but the events surrounding the kiss that give it its flare and true magic. It should be a blissful 'reward' for all of the fear and angst and confusion you put your protagonist through to earn it. Once you've successfully built the tension and you're ready for the big moment to happen...let that moment represent your character's personality just as much as any other part of your story. A kiss is basically a silent dialogue, continuing on from everything you know about these boys so far. A previously bashful guy isn't going to ram his tongue down someone's throat. And a stronger, more dominant character, wouldn't deliver a kiss on the cheek and shy away from him with a giggle. Depending on your characters, try to have it match the tone of the story. Have it match their personas as you created them. For example, if you're writing a really sweet dramatic fiction...maybe you have them stare into each other's eyes as they go silent. Then they lean in slowly, close their eyes, and experience something truly amazing. Soft and tender and special. Or, if you're writing a story that's super lighthearted with a lot of humor added to it, you might enjoy making their first kiss clumsy, with bumped noses and smashed lips and possibly a fall back into the bushes. Maybe that's not the story you're trying to tell...maybe you want the first kiss to come off as some repulsive, and you want to describe it in a different way. Maybe they're actually fighting with one another when it happens, and the kiss comes off as angry, but erotic, as their 'oil and water' emotions collide. Think about the overall tone of your story and the people involved, and write something that will reflect who they are. It works wonders. 'Surprise' kisses can also come off as being incredibly sweet. Whether it comes from the protagonist or the love interest. The idea that they're close to one another, and despite holding back originally, they simply can't take it anymore. Lunging forward spontaneously without warning can, physically, cause your reader's jaws to drop. And that's always a good thing! Hehehe! You could go a million different ways with it, but if you listen to your characters speaking to you within the context of the world you built for them...they'll tell you how it should all go down in the end. My own characters NEVER shut up! Hehehe, trust me! Now, once that magical moment happens...make sure you milk it for all it's worth! This is a monumental achievement happening here. This is that first dip in the roller coaster that will lead toward the exciting ride to follow it. So, make sure to get in your character's head and really use this opportunity to paint a pretty picture. What's he feeling? What's he thinking? Put yourself in his place, really visualize it, and describe it to the readers who are taking this journey with you. Let them feel the racing heartbeat, the heavy breathing, the jittery stomach, the slight rise in body temperature. Let them experience the softness of his lips, the fabric of his shirt as you gently hold onto his hips...let them read about the taste of the grape flavored popsicle he was sucking on just moments before. What do you do with your hands? What do you do about the obvious erection digging into his hip? How do you react to the feel of his tongue entering your mouth? What do you first hear a moan fill the room and you don't know if it came from him or from you? All of these little details can grab a few seconds of kissing and make it soar into orbit, making your fanbase just as dizzy and delirious as your protagonist. Make it last. Because, just as in real life...your story only gets one first kiss. Now, one last thing that I've learned over the years about the first kiss...let it breathe. Allow it to be it's own grand event in your fairy tale. I used to have a habit of letting the first kiss happen somewhere private, and then letting it transition, immediately, into that first sexual experience. If that's a part of the story that you want to tell, then so be it. But I find it more effective to just let my characters have that one special moment, truly let the readers appreciate it, and then allow them a period of time to glow and grin and smile up at the sky for a while before they come back to escalate to a naughtier level. I like it when first kisses stand alone in a story. There's nothing more endearing than having a character get just a taste of the possibilities, and watch him float home...enjoying the overwhelming 'wow' of it all. Give it a shot. These are the moments that really define a story as a whole. You don't want to 'blow your load' all at once, do you? As always...pun intended. I hope this helps. Just keep in mind that the first kiss in a well written erotic story is like those first rays of light breaking over the horizon at sunrise. It is, basically, the end of your 'first act' in a lot of cases, and you want it to have some power to it. By the time you get to anything more graphic, your readers will already be so in love with your two main characters that you'll be beyond the point of doing any wrong by them. So pucker up, and give your audience the magic they deserve.
  3. When deciding what to post for today, I took a look through some of the things I have in reserve. I found a writing tip sent in a while ago and when I took a look back, I realized I'd never used it in a blog! So, without further ado, here's "Things to Keep In Mind" by craftingmom! Things I constantly keep in mind as a writer by Craftingmom 1. The Opening needs to grab the attention of the reader and be interesting enough to hold it. Starting the story in the middle of an action scene engages the reader immediately. Example: At age eighteen, he was rather short and thin. He had black hair and green eyes. He loved to run and climb. Or He hit the ground. Hard. He gasped as something sharp pierced his side. Damn rocks. The air whooshed out of his lungs before he felt an arm press across his throat. Technically, you know more about the character in the first paragraph, but do you really care? Are you anxious to know more? The second paragraph often has most readers already on edge just from the first few words, and they will continue reading to know what is happening, even if they don't know much about who the person is yet. By jumping into the story in an active scene, a reader is more likely to become invested in the character(s) and want to know more about them. 2. Try to describe your characters and settings actively. Examples: Non-active: Kathleen was sixteen years old and rich. She had blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She loved reading, and she usually had a book with her at all times. Active: Kathleen's blue eyes flew open in surprise as she tripped over the edge of the ornate coffee table, the book she'd had her nose buried in flying from her hands. She landed in a thud on the oriental rug, her long blonde hair falling in her face. She cursed to herself, how many times in her sixteen years had she fallen over something because she was so engrossed in reading. Both descriptions tell you the same thing about Kathleen—she's 16, she's a blue-eyed blonde, she loves reading, and even that her family has money. However, in the second paragraph, you learn even more about her because of her actions. You aren't told about how much she loves reading (in fact, those words are never even used), you actually SEE it because of how oblivious she is to her surroundings when she does read. The author didn't have to say "she loved to read" because you experienced it. 3. Use a thesaurus!!! I have Thesaurus.com open on my laptop every time I'm writing. When I was younger, I carried a paperback thesaurus around. It is too easy to fall into using the same words over and over again (I still do it sometimes, but I try to catch myself): she was sad, he was happy, she was mad, he was tired. Use words that tell more. She wasn't just sad, she was depressed, heartbroken, grief-stricken He wasn't just happy, he was ecstatic, overjoyed, thrilled. She wasn't just mad, he was furious, enraged, agitated He wasn't just tired, he was exhausted, fatigued, drained. (Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, anyone?) 4. Be aware of repeating words. My editor gets me for this still, and because of her diligence, I've become much more aware of when I do it. Most of the time when I'm editing other's works, I'll see things like: And then, he did ...., And then he went to...., etc. And next, he... 5. Don't rush it, and be willing to accept constructive criticism. Sometimes it's hard because you just want to get to the 'good stuff', but building your back story is just as important. Be willing to listen to what others have to say. Sometimes what you have in your head, doesn't get onto the paper, or you assume your reader might already know it. You can't assume that. You may know what the "Hurricane Mile" is, but your reader might not. So you may have to spend some time explaining things you might not have thought about before. 6. Be willing to start over. There are times when I've had to scrap a whole chapter. It's okay to say 'this isn't working' and throw it away, even if it's 5,000 words or more. 7. Dialogue! Dialogue makes your story more interesting and real, in my opinion. Life isn't quiet; people are always talking, even if it's in their own head. Keep your dialogue natural and fluid; write as they would speak. So that kinda covers what I've learned over the years to help me become a little better writer. Many of them are probably pretty obvious, but they weren't always to me as I was starting out. My very early writing (in middle school and high school) was rather boring looking back on it. Over many years, I think I've become a little better and hope others enjoy the stories just that much more.
  4. Every once in a while, we like to providing some writing tips to both new and seasoned authors. One thing I've learned as an author is that we never stop learning. Today, Graeme has written up a writing tip for you on the use of speech tags in your writing. Enjoy! Speech Tags Graeme Speech tags are important to stories, but they can be easily misused and abused. What do I mean by speech tags? Speech tags are the little bit of narration that proceeds or follows dialogue and is explicitly linked to dialogue. They're used to indicate whose dialogue is being reported. The simplest and most common example is the word "said". So what is there to talk about with speech tags? The answer is plenty. The first comment is simple: 1. Speech tags should be avoided as much as possible. Why? Because not only can they clutter up a story if overused, but often they are unnecessary, and alternatives can actually make the story stronger. For example, It's more verbose, but it's clear that Michael is the one speaking because of the narrated action, and so stating who spoke isn't necessary. Including the action also tells the reader more about what's going on because the speech isn't happening in isolation of any other activity. When possible, use that activity to not only inform the reader of what is happened, but who is speaking. By combining descriptive narration with dialogue, it's often possible to eliminate speech tags. Of course, the flip side is that you don't want to overload your story with description when it's the dialogue that's important, so using speech tags to identify the speaker is fine in those situations. This, however, brings us to the next comment: 2. Keep speech tags simple. What do I mean by this? I'll demonstrate with an over the top example: Yes, that's extreme, but all those different speech tags distract from what's being said. What's happening here is the author (okay, me) is trying to tell the user what's happening through the use of speech tags. This is almost always not needed, or even possibly inappropriate. In the above example, the "I apologized" and "I proposed" are not needed. All the readers will recognize the words spoken as being an apology (in the first case) or a proposal (in the second case) and they don't need to be told again through a speech tag. These lines could be left as simple dialogue, unattributed, if it's already been established that there are only two people present. If something is needed to indicate who is the second person in the conversation, narration can be used to indicate the speaker, as per the technique shown earlier: The "Michael sighed" speech tag is borderline as to whether it's useful, though I personally would recommend using something to indicate his disappointment. However, a speech tag is unnecessary for this purpose. The words make it clear that he's unhappy, so a simple piece of descriptive narration is all that's needed. Changing the comma to a period is all that's necessary to allow the reader to come to the same conclusion, but the sighing is now an action, not speech. As an aside, while it's possible to sigh speech, it's only appropriate if the speech is short. As an exercise, try sighing the this paragraph. I suspect you'll find it's impossible. You can sigh a handful of words, but not long sentences. The above also contains three examples of where speech tags have been used inappropriately: The first line has Michael grimacing dialogue, the second has the narrator laughing dialogue, and the third has Michael grunting dialogue. Now, I don't know about you, but I can't grimace, laugh or grunt statements (though I can come close on the last one if it's a single word). Grimacing and laughing are things you do alongside dialogue. I can speak while laughing, but I can't laugh a sentence. Laughing is not speech, it's an activity. Speaking happens before, after, or in parallel with that activity. Similarly for grimacing. Speech tags such as grunted, hissed, and growled, can sometimes be okay, but you should be careful. For example, you can't hiss something unless it contains sibilants. Growled implies a deeper tone which isn't always appropriate for the words being used. Overall, it's better to use a different option to portray what you want, rather than a speech tag. In the above example, the last line is better as: Though even that isn't that great. Personally, rather than a grunt, I'd have Michael roll his eyes, shrug, or maybe even smirk, either before, during, or after the dialogue, depending on what emotion I'm looking at portraying. Overall, it's better to keep to a handful of speech tags: 'said', 'asked', and maybe 'replied'. Other speech tags should be used sparingly, and even the simple speech tags should be used with care. If they're not needed, don't use them. In the above example, the opening statement was exclaimed. What other ways can you use to show someone exclaimed something? The answer is via a descriptive narration: My final comment is on the speech tag companion: adverbs. 3. Keep adverb use to a minimum. Adverbs are often used to strengthen speech tags, but it's often better to replace them with description narration: This is a good example of where description could be used instead of the speech tag and adverb. Sometimes, rather than trying to use an adverb to show the tone or volume, showing the response is stronger: becomes This avoids the adverb while also doing character development by informing the reader of something about both Michael and the narrator. Yes, it's more verbose, but it also reads better. Alternatives could be: That's not quite as strong, but it still gives the sarcastic feel to the dialogue without the use of an adverb. Remember, most adverbs are a shorthand for an observable action/reaction. As such, it's often better to show that observation and let the reader interpret it themselves, rather than spoon-feeding them with how they should interpret the dialogue. Even better than using narration would be change the dialogue to make the spoken words provide that information without support, though that can be a challenge at times. Beginning authors often use adverbs as a crutch to support weak dialogue. As an exercise, each time you've used an adverb, try to work out if you can change the words to make the adverb unnecessary: could be re-written as That last example also shows how you can use a speech tag to indicate a slight pause. The two statements are separated by the speech tag, and the reader will naturally view that as a pause between the two sentences. It's stronger than putting the speech tag at the end: Having said all of that, there are times when adverbs are very useful. In particular, when you want a contradiction between the words spoken and the tone used. For example: You can certainly write this to avoid the adverb, but it's simple and gives the reader the impression you want. This is not a common situation, but when it occurs an adverb is definitely a viable option. So, in summary, use speech tags carefully. Don't over use them, and try not to get too fancy. Try to avoid using speech tags and adverbs to support weak dialogue. Make the dialogue stronger so it carries the emphasis you want without support, or try using description narrative to support the dialogue. Both are both better options most of the time.
  5. Raise your hand if you′ve been on a roller coaster before! Hehehe, I′m just kidding. It′s the internet, I can′t see you raising your hand! Trust me, if I could set up spy cameras around you, it would be in the shower...not next to your laptop! ::Giggles:: Seriously, though...when riding a roller coaster, you experience certain peaks and valleys. You slow down in certain sections of the ride, left anticipating the next big ′dip′ with baited breath...and then everything speeds up and races through whatever loops and scream-inducing tricks you′ve got planned for your riders to go through. Roller coasters don′t just take you up into the Stratosphere and then let you race all the way down to the bottom in one fell swoop. I mean, that might be exciting for some, but...change it up a little bit, you know? A few twists and turns, a few loops, some variety! I think it just makes for a fun, and ultimately more realistic, experience in the stories we write. Try this exercise for a week... Starting on a Monday, take notes on everything that you did for that day. What you did, what you had for breakfast, interesting conversations you had, maybe some drama that you experienced...whatever. Just take notes, detailing your life for seven days in a row, and look at that list when you′re finished. What happened during the last week of your life? Was there a huge betrayal of your trust? Was there an explosion at work? Was there a screaming match between you and a co-worker where somebody had a drink thrown in their face and turned over a dinner table in a public restaurant? I mean, the big theatrics are really entertaining in some stories...but is that real life? Or is that a reality show on prime time TV? When I′m writing, even though I have a virtual FLOOD of ideas that I want to add into the plot to really make everything exciting and addictive and a ′roller coaster′ ride for everyone reading...I have to be aware of the reality of the situation. And that is this... A story can′t be ALL drama, ALL the time! Hehehe, it just can′t. It can′t be all sex, it can′t be all action, it can′t be all horror, it can′t be all misery. I can remember when I first started writing...I wanted to write the sexiest, most explosive, stories ever made! Hehehe! But...that gets old SO fast if you don′t vary things up a bit with some character development from time to time. If you read my earliest stories, there was sex in every chapter. Sure, I tried to create a decent story to go along with it...but after a few chapters in each story, I mean...how many ways is there for the characters get ′naughty′ with one another? How many ways are there for me to describe the act? And if you have sex in every chapter, it becomes predictable and almost meaningless. For me, ″On The Outside″ was the first story on the site where sex didn′t happen in the very first chapter. That broke the mold. I took more time on the story and the characters and the conflict between being ′in′ or ′out′ of the closet. Most of my writing took a left turn after that. It was much closer to what I wanted to write in the first place. Stories where sex wasn′t the centerpiece of the story, but a fun little bonus to the romance involved. With some of my other stories, I included a lot of ′soap opera′ type drama, which was always fun and challenging and I had a ton of fun with it...but even then, I had to learn that there have to be moments of normalcy in the text in order to make the drama stand out when it happened. If you′re writing a story, and somebody is dealing with a major tragedy EVERY single chapter, or a massive heartbreak, or an explosive secret, or the main character is blowing up an oil refinery...whatever...then, chances are, you′re going to exhaust your audience pretty quickly. How long can you keep up that pace and still captivate your readers′ attention? It works fine if you′re writing a short story or a mini-series that only lasts two or three chapters tops. But if you′re writing anything longer than that, it can become tiresome. Peaks and valleys are needed to provide a much needed change up to your narrative. It can sometimes feel like you′re losing momentum, or that you′re getting distracted from your massive ′push′ to reach the next big gasp moment in your story...but, trust me...stories work better when you introduce a little bit of downtime between jaw-dropping events. It′s one of the many things that I′ve learned along the way through trial and error. Now, this is not a green light to find ways to slow down your story or get off topic when you′re writing. One thing you don′t want to do is waste your readers′ time! The best way for me to describe the big scenes in your story is to imagine it like the sentences you write in every paragraph. Every paragraph can′t be a joke or a ′zinger′. Build up to your key moments with a few sentences so the punchline has a bigger impact. Then...you settle down a bit to finish your thought, and begin building up to the next moment. Does that make sense? I definitely love writing stories where secrets are exposed, or where big break ups happen, or when extremely erotic scenes take place between characters. I love angst, I love scandal, I love action, and everything that comes along with it. But how can I expect those moments to have any real effect when I deliberately try to find ways to forcefully shove them into every single chapter that I write? Hehehe, it′s like watching a movie where an unknown character gets killed and you scream, ″Oh no! Not...′that guy′! Whoever the hell he is!″ Take your time. Think about how powerful you want your big moments to be. If you write a story where two guys become romantically involved in the first chapter, they′re having sex and moving in with one another in second chapter, and then he′s cheating on him in the third chapter, and then there′s a murder plot in the fourth chapter...ummm...unless your chapters are REALLY long and super descriptive in nature, I would say that things are moving a bit fast in my opinion. That′s a lot to handle in four chapters, and I′m not saying that I′m not guilty of it myself, because I most definitely am! Hehehe! Like I said, it takes time and practice and patience to get to a place where your writing instincts will tell you otherwise. Know when to push forward and when to reign it in a little bit. Give your readers a breather. Let them connect to your cast as though they were living the same kind of lives that you′re living in your seven days worth of notes. Chances are, they′ll relate better to your story, and it′ll come off as being a close representation of their lives too. Remember, reader connection is fifty percent of the effort when sharing your art with an open audience. Don′t just put it on display...include them. They′re a part of this too. So...keep in mind that I′m definitely not asking you to write nonsense or unnecessary filler to break up those big dramatic scenes that you might be so anxious and fired up to write and put out there for a big crowd reaction. That feels great for a while, but I′m telling you...it′s not sustainable. That gimmick will eventually wear thin. And if you don′t have likeable, well developed, characters and a decent story behind those ′soap opera′ moments...things can go South really fast for stories like that. Not for ALL stories, but I′ve seen it happen more times than not. Anyway, I hope this article was a little food for thought! As always, these are all things that I′ve learned through years of trying to get it right! Hehehe, and I′m still not quite there yet, but there a few steps of trial and error that you can skip over if you know about the possible hindrance ahead of time! So good luck! And I′ll see you guys next weekend!
  6. Hey All! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. Today we're going to look at a writing tip provided to me by Cole Matthews. Cole has put together a bit of a primer on a way to build character. As he told me, it's something that he's always reminding himself of and he was hoping that by sharing his thoughts that it would help other authors out as well. Thank you, Cole! If you have any advice that you would like to share with the GA authors, send me a PM! Builds Character Cole Matthews So, you’ve got an idea. You even have the beginnings of a main character and a hilarious best friend/sidekick. You have started writing about how your protagonist feels about things and views the world. You are kicking into high gear and then you hit your first speed bump. Your character is alone in the world. The point of your story is to convey how a young gay man navigates the difficult shoals of a changing world and a kaleidoscopic life. Yet, you are stymied by these details, and creating the annoying back story. For example, you need a difficult past, a troubled childhood, parents who don’t understand him, and a hostile environment. Right? This is what we must get past in order to discover the many crannies and crevices of our character’s deep personal history. Quickly, almost without effort, you create a distant, absent family, no room for siblings or cousins or even grandparents. You have a best friend/sidekick who gets your character, but haven’t taken the time to flesh out the rest of his world. You cobble together the most likely antagonist to act as a foil for your intrepid main character. Obviously, she/he’s a bully who hates/scorns/ignores gay people as a matter of course. You invent the perfect love interest, and now your novel is practically writing itself. Done. Well, not really well done, but you get the picture. Consider this, we are not just the internal aspects of our being. Human beings are a myriad of roles juxtaposed against a series of situations. Everyday. Several times a day. Unless we’ve sailed alone into the sunset or moved to a remote cabin in the woods and are writing our manifesto on an antique Underwood typewriter on hand-made paper created from soaking woodchips in spring water and pressing the pulp into sheets and drying on racks in the sun, we interact with others and these actions define us. You get the picture, or at least my first stab at it. Look at your day. You get up and pour a bowl of cereal. Your roommate is already eating his toaster treats and looking at his phone. He’s bleary-eyed from last night’s late night at the bar. He’s grumpy and you’re sick of hearing about his stupid love life which he is screwing up because he can’t commit to the love of his life. You are a good roommate though so you chat and say goodbye because, well, that’s what roommates do. You check your phone on the way to work. It’s your mother. She left a message about your sister’s birthday party. Your sister’s lazy, good-for-nothing, boyfriend is planning it, but needs help finding a cake. Apparently, he’s too stoned to Google a bakery or find a grocery store or buy a stupid ice cream cake at the local Dairy Princess. Regardless, you call your mother back and tell her you’ll help. After all, you’re a good son and an even better brother. When you get to work, your boss has sent you a nasty email about performance. Instead of finishing that boring market research project, you blew it off. You get cracking at it right away. You’re a good employee, generally, so you work diligently at it. In the meantime, your co-worker stops by to complain about the way her boss is treating her. You listen and nod and speak encouragingly about how things will get better. Let’s face it, you’re a team player and you really want to help make her feel better. You look up at the clock when she leaves your cubicle, and it’s 10:30 am already. Today you’re meeting your best friend for lunch so he can talk about his upcoming wedding to that girl you set him up with. You’ve known Stephen for ten years now and he’s so happy you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice in your memory. You’re thrilled he’s found someone. If only… [End scene]. Note, I haven’t talked about how he feels about things, how the light from the morning sun glinted off the windshield of his car and blinded him revealing his empty life, or even about how he feels like a cog in this immense machine which we call the world. Nope. I used the ensemble cast of his life to build character. We know him through his roles and his relationships with others. This is one way to build character, through the actions and interactions with other people. Think of all we know about him without any descriptions whatsoever. He thinks of himself as a good person who tries hard to fulfill expectations others may have. He works hard and tries to be a nice person. He’s operating by rote for the most part. His life is empty, but that’s by implication. You feel some empathy for him because you have experienced days, and episodes, like his. Instead of stock-in-trade characters who become static furniture to your main character, these characters have motivations, hopes, fears, and dreams of their own. None of them are paper dolls with premade, tabbed clothing to press over their two-dimensional bodies. In fact, this makes your main character even more complex and richer because he’s showing character while dealing with their issues. Take care to consider your cast and the richer their stories are, the richer your main character is. Does he snap at another co-worker, his rival, which begins a conflict neither can control? Is this how his antagonist comes into being? Be creative and think deeply. Not every antagonist is a homophobic, religious fanatic with sadistic tendencies. In fact, most aren’t. Developing a well-rounded antagonist is just as important as creating the supporting cast. In fact, a good foil can make Protagony look even better. Our guy, Protagony, and the other guy, Antagony, are bucking for the same promotion. They don’t get along, at all. Antagony is a jerk who cheats on his girlfriend with his wife. [Yes, I love the cheating inversion for effect.] However, he is good at his job. He loves his two kids. His mother has cancer, which she is fighting and winning. Antagony runs in marathons to support this cause. That’s not all. He stole our main character’s idea for a new promotional idea and is passing it off as his own. Protagony needs to figure out how to prove it’s his baby. The problem is, Antagony is really good looking and everyone likes him. In fact, Protagony hates him in part because he’s so attracted to him. He tries to hate him, fails, and then remembers about the stolen idea, and writhes in frustration. The truly memorable and interesting antagonists are complete human beings. When their humanity is compared to their monstrous actions, we are intrigued. How can Antagony live with himself after stealing his co-worker’s idea? Doesn’t his cheating nature show what a horrible person he is, or is there something else there? Let’s explore. Antagony’s wife cheated on him, but doesn’t want a divorce. He tried to make the marriage work, but she’s cold and distant. Their marriage is a farce kept alive by the children. Antagony has his work and that’s all that seems to be working in his life. His mother is sick. His kids are having trouble in school due to the family issues they don’t even understand. The idea he stole will give him a much-needed promotion, and even more importantly, a boost of self-confidence in his life. He’s even persuaded himself he really did come up with the idea. He’s convinced himself that Protagony tried to steal it from him. The rat bastard. This makes both characters more interesting and gives them motivations, perspectives, and even character traits which will color and flavor their interactions. To summarize: Build a better main character by using the supporting cast and antagonist to flesh him out. Give them back stories which align with the main character. Let them have motivations and their own tales. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle both good and bad traits since we don’t know people with all good or even all bad tendencies. Craft the story using these other characters to help, hinder, advise, trip, and otherwise baffle or enlighten the main character. Don’t be afraid of using an antagonist to refine your character and challenge, but make them whole and not cookie cutter. Using characters to fill up your main character will make a more interesting and richer storyline. That’s my advice to new writers and to myself as well. Trust me, I have to remind myself about this all the time. It’s another device to consider using.
  7. Writing is a very solitary activity; we sit there on our own, writing away on our computer or laptop, or even doing it “old school” via paper and pen, pouring out our stories and preserving our characters there in the written word. But how do we know that what we are writing is any good? We can ask our family and loved ones, but will they give us the feedback we need? They are our loved ones and so often they want the best for us and may not give us the feedback we require, or they may not be able to handle what we are writing about, especially if it doesn’t fit their image of us. As a teenager I wrote poetry, like so many teenagers. I wrote a poem about loneliness. It was bitter, angry and dark. “Nothing kills you faster than loneliness,” was its last line. My mother read the poem and said it was “Nice.” As writers we can get so absorbed in our own writing, get so far into our characters’ heads that we can miss the obvious. We may have failed to introduce our characters, not given them a distinctive enough voice; we may have left huge plot holes; we may have overused one particular word literally. Because we are so close to our writing, we can’t see these mistakes. We also need to know that our writing is readable and engaging, and that cannot always be achieved by rereading on our own. Good and honest feedback will always make our writing better. Writers’ groups have provided me with this; they have been a wonderful source of feedback and support. I’ve learnt so much just from meeting with other members. The first writers’ group I went to was when I was eighteen. The Old Swan Writers were based in the Old Swan district of Liverpool and it was one long bus ride away from my then home. Those bus rides gave me plenty of time to think and read. But that writers’ group told me and showed me I could write. This group of adults showed me I could create a story and characters, plot it out and write it down on paper. It was an amazing revelation. There I received feedback without any agenda. They weren’t pulling me down because they thought I was getting above myself by wanting to be a writer or else telling me polite things because that was what they thought I wanted to hear, both of which had happened before. (Unfortunately, after an extensive Google search, I cannot find any mention of the Old Swan Writers. Like all good things, they seem to have ended) When I moved to London, I stopped attending any writers’ group, not because London is short of them but because I led a very gypsy lifestyle in those early years. I changed jobs frequently and I often moved home. I only really started to settle down when I started my nurse training, and that didn’t leave me much time to write anything that wasn’t related to my studies. I seriously came back to writing after the millennium, when I started to find many avenues for my writing, not just fiction. It was also when I reconnected with a writers’ group, first online and then later in person. I’m now a member of my local writers’ group, Newham Writers Workshop, and they have been so helpful. I’ve had some very helpful feedback on my writing, how my plots and characters are working, how readable my writing is, how my descriptions work, how they paint a picture for the reader. I have also learnt so much about the craft of writing, subjects like “head-hopping”, “filter words”, distance and intimate view points and about using the “unreliable narrator”. I learnt about self-publishing from my writers’ group. But giving feedback to other writers has also helped me. We have a policy of always giving feedback that supports the writer in what they want to write. So there is no saying, “I don’t like this,” neither can you just say, “I liked this.” You have to explain why, what makes this a good piece of writing, where the writer could improve it, what does not work but why it does not work. I have also been exposed to some amazing writing there, listening to/reading other writers’ work has opened my eyes to how you can do things differently and stylistically. It has also shown me what my own personal style is; I like to write from a very intimate point of view of my characters, to get under their skin. The vast majority of my stories in Case Studies in Modern Life have benefited from the feedback from my writers’ group, in some cases I have completely rewritten them after getting some really thought-provoking feedback. My writers’ group has also shown me how inclusive my writing is. The previous two writers’ groups I joined (one online and one in person) were both LGBT groups. I wanted the support of other LGBT writers, it was a safe place and a safe idea, but good things can come to an end and both these groups closed for different reasons. I’m now a member of my local writers’ group and this is an open group. I’m the only openly gay man there and yet that has never been an issue. Now I am writing about gay issues and themes; the other writers there have understood my writing and have seen what I want to write about. It has shown me that my writing has a wide appeal and that is amazing and very reassuring. Newham Writers Workshop has been the last cog, though a very big one, in the machine that encouraged me to publish my collection of stories, and I’m very grateful for this. And then there is the social element. After each meeting, when meeting face-to-face, most of us go to a local pub for a drink. Talking with other writers about writing in general, or even life in general, is a breath of fresh air. It takes the solitude out of it all. And I’ve made some good friends there from very different backgrounds. It is nice to get out of my comfort zone. I would encourage any writer to join a writers’ group; no matter what your experience or level of writing, you can only benefit from good and honest feedback. Drew Case Studies in Modern Life (On Amazon) Case Studies in Modern Life (On Smashwords)
  8. I've been away on a writing course this week and would like to share some of the exercises we did. Much of it was concerned with character development. Here's one of the first ones we did: Close your eyes. See a character walking towards you. At first, they are indistinct, then as they come closer, you start to pick out some features. What are they wearing? What do they look like? As they come closer still, notice their face and hair, the texture of their skin. Closer still, what do they smell like? Would this character shake hands with you, or hug? Would they say good morning, or acknowledge you at all? I chose to use a minor character in the story I'm currently developing for this one and here is what I wrote: Arthur’s out walking his terrier, Susie as he always does at the same time each morning. He’s wearing his rough clothes: his dog walking clothes as Helen, his wife puts it. An old pair of jeans, with mud splashes around the ankles, well worn walking boots and a practical waterproof jacket with pockets for essentials such as poo bags. His thin grey hair, which is in need of a trim, stirs in the breeze. His cheeks are ruddy, with broken veins from a lifetime of working outdoors in all weathers. His jacket exudes a smell of stale smoke; he’s not allowed to smoke at home as Helen thinks it’s bad for his health. Another pocket conceals a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. Now he’s out of sight of the house, he turns his back against the wind, lights up and takes his first long drag of the day. The cigarette - partially smoked the previous evening and picked out before he got home - is held firmly curled within his calloused palm, easy to hide if he meets a friend of Helen’s. Susie sits at his feet, content to wait patiently. She won’t give away his habits. His secret is safe with her.
  9. Zuri


    I originally wrote this blog post in German for another community, but I felt like I give it a try to translate and share it with you folks. This is the first post of a now three series which I’m intending to expand since now and then, I get new ideas or encounter other cases when writing or editing stories. I'm sorry if it appears to be a bit random, but I wrote it as the ideas came to my mind. Make sure, to also check out GayAuthor's writing resources! I'm sorry if the intro is a little short, but the subsequent parts will be considerably longer and more in detail. Grandparent scam/assets of a Nigerian prince Don’t just pull rabbits out of the hat when you need them. If there was given no hint beforehand whatsoever, it may be convenient, but feel like cheating at the same time. It’s better to lay out the bait a few scenes before. The Hunt For Red Herring A story, you know the ending when you read the first page, is rightfully considered dull by most readers. That’s why especially whodunit-type stories use distractions, deceptions, and plot twists to fire full blast. Just like a magician, you are not just telling facts but making them entertaining, and let the readers delve into fictional worlds. One common mistake is to create a deceptive plot line that doesn’t seem to serve another purpose than the deception itself. Readers will often times feel dissatisfied by that. More information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47ntBElzaWk&list=PLG2IXYJ6H-fuZzLunP0fSUNrZYAm8mUtK&index=17&t=55s Truism alarm Why so precise? Quite unlikely in reality. If being that precise doesn’t serve the story in any way or has no specific reason, scratch it. A lot of things are dependent on a lot of factors. Our daily lives rarely work dead on time each and every day without any incidents. That kind of process fits an evil mastermind more than an average protagonist who isn’t a Mary Sue. Show, don't tell Better: Good vintage has to stock for quite some time … and sometimes, it gets forgotten in the vine cellar. Or simpler: When I want to harvest vegetables or corn, I have to put seeds in the ground and wait in the first place before the seed yields fruits. It’s just not fast food! Two pieces of information, which trigger an epiphany or a change of mind, shouldn’t be introduced within the same scene. That makes it more authentic, more surprising. Many plot twists are planned well in advance. Some even date back to the very first chapter and don’t come into play before the climax. This is essentially called "Chekhov's Gun" (by StudioBinder as seen in "How Knives Out Perfects"). Family tree No shit, Sherlock! I would have never guessed that both had the same family name, since they are related. Of course, there are exceptions but in these cases, mentioning it makes sense. You should refrain from attributing complex and implausible family trees to your character if that is not explicitly needed, or you want them to make themselves a fool. Closing words Here are some more tips on Writing with Jenna Moreci: BEST AND WORST WRITING TIPS Also, the On writing playlist by Hello Future Me These are the channels with the most videos in my storytelling playlist See also: "How To Write A Twist Ending" with John Gray by Film Courage on YouTube
  10. I was an awkward thirteen-year-old (a little under ten years before I was diagnosed as dyslexic) when my mother gave me a copy of A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie. At the time I loved the concept of books but I found them so difficult, my reading was so slow and finishing a book seemed like an impossibly difficult task, a mountain too high to climb. This book intrigued me. The cover was macabre, a black bird’s skeleton surrounded by its black feathers, lying on an illustrated sheet music to a child’s nursery rhythm. I began to read it and on the second page was the description of a man dying from poisoning. I was hooked and carried on reading. What kept me reading it, at my painstakingly slow pace back then, was the plot. At the end of the book, the twist hit me hard; it wasn’t the murderer I thought it was, I’d been certain it was. Then I looked back on the story and saw the clues she had sprinkled throughout the plot, subtly hinting at who the murderer was, and I didn’t feel cheated, I didn’t feel that she had held back important information from me. She had just got the better of me. I raced out, got another one of her books and started reading it. As a teenager Christie’s books were the first “adult” novels I read and I loved them. It was their tight plots that kept me guessing who the murderer was and their archetypical but very recognisable characters that kept me reading them. Those Christie novels were a gateway into the world of literature for me. From her I read some other Golden Age crime writers, some I enjoyed and some I didn’t, and from them I started to read modern day crime writers (modern day when I was a teenager). This was a very mixed experience, many of them were poor or just plain bad, but I also discovered PD James and Ruth Rendell, and later still Joseph Hansen. These authors opened my eyes to the fact that crime fiction can be about much more than just a murder (or two). They all used detective fiction to write about other subjects too and their prose was of such a high standard. They took time setting scenes and developing characters; they gave their detectives a whole life outside of work. Their writing led me to other, non-crime fiction, literary fiction and other genes, though I still enjoy a good detective novel. As an adult, I still enjoy a Christie novel, occasionally, but I cannot say she is the greatest of writers. Her descriptive prose is poor, just using a few commonly used colloquialisms to sum up a recognisable image; most of her description is left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. She set her novels in a very narrow world, that of the middle- and upper-class English, but her books still had strong and well-crafted plots. It was from reading them that I learnt how to plot and how important plots are in fiction. Her plots carefully set the scene of the story, introducing the place and characters but not giving away all the details at the beginning. Her plots dripped out the information and clues as the story progressed, they didn’t give away all the information in one go. Her plots give the reader a journey to go on throughout the book. At first, I thought this plotting style was only useful for crime fiction, where withholding information until later in the story was an important element. Then I read Job's Year by Joseph Hansen. Here he used the same style of plotting but in a non-crime novel. Each chapter gave more information about the central character. Reading it, I felt like a detective finding out more about a character, it was like how I felt in a friendship; over time I found out more and more about that friend, I wasn’t given all the information about them in one go as soon as we met. It felt much more of a natural way to tell a story. You don’t have to be writing crime fiction to learn from this style. I learnt not to give everything away at the beginning of a story, treat it like a detective story, drip out your information as the story progresses. So instead of telling the reader everything about a character as soon as you introduce them, let the information fall out as the story progresses, as a natural progression. Hold the reader’s interest by giving away clues to a character as the story flows; tell them about the character’s background and history through the length of the story, not as one, rushed chunk of information at the beginning. I have learnt to give the reader a beginning, middle and end to a story. I introduce the story and draw the reader into the world I’ve created. Like Christie, I don’t let interest fall during the middle of a story, the middle isn’t just there to get from the beginning to the end as quickly as possible. I use that part to build on my story and characters, I let the reader get to know my characters, I let the characters speak for themselves, to set their own motivations. There’s no need for the end of a story to tie up all the loose ends, but I give the story a definite moment where it ends. An example of this is my story The Men Who Took Their Vows Together in East Ham Registry Office. Though this story has an ending I have used a lot, it ends at a certain point of the story, not tying up all the loose ends and giving the characters a neat resolution; instead it ends with the character moving forward. I try to always give a reader an ending, just not always a neat one. Plot holds so much writing together; even if it is a story/piece that is looking back on a character’s life or following a character’s emotional journey a plot gives me a structure to hang all this upon and, hopefully, to hold a reader’s attention. At present, I am writing a short story about a man, in his late twenties, who cannot seem to attain an adult, romantic relationship. All he can find is short-lived relationships that crash and burn or casual sex. The story explores how he has got into this situation, what has contributed to him being so poor at relationships, though I want to portray him as a character with little insight into his own situation (I do like a challenge). I could just write it as the character looking back on his life, but this would be a very dry story with me just telling the reader about this character’s situation. I have decided to intersperse this retrospective narrative across one evening of this man’s life when he goes on another first date. With the date, I can show the reader some of this man’s problems, how he sabotages his attempts to forge a relationship. Here I am using a plot as a device to explore a subject. Agatha Christie was called the Queen of Crime, she is one of the most widely read of English language authors, she is also the most successful English woman playwright, but for me Agatha Christie was a great teacher. Her books taught me how to plot a story and I’m so grateful to her for this. I also have a strange link to her, not through her books. During the Second World War, Agatha Christie worked as a hospital dispenser at University College Hospital in London. This was one of the hospitals where I did my nurse training, so she and I walked the same hospital corridors, just separated by five decades. Happy reading, Drew
  11. I never actually met Hamish (*), but God did I hate him, and that wasn’t from a personal prejudice. Martin (my husband) was working for a previous employer but still as a clinical nurse specialist. I know that I am biased, but Martin is very experienced at his job and he knows his subject. Hamish started working at the same trust. He had no clinical experience or qualifications and was working as a manager for a non-clinical service; he managed the trust’s buildings. But this didn’t stop Hamish. He very quickly began telling Martin how to do his job and what he “really” should be doing. Hamish’s suggestions were deeply wrong but this didn’t deter him. He was pushing himself into Martin’s role, trying to override Martin, constantly trying to bully him and generally making his working life hell by making doing his job so difficult. So many evenings, after he got home, I would hear Martin’s complaints about how again Hamish had made his working life so taxing and how Hamish just refused to listen to complaints about his own behaviour and wouldn’t agree to any suggestions that weren’t his own. He was making Martin’s working life unbearable and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt so useless because I couldn’t help Martin, except by listening to how Hamish screwed-up his working day. Then the idea came to me, I could use my writing to get some revenge on Hamish for Martin. I was writing a story was about a man who was being homophobically bullied by a work colleague, and I decided to call the work colleague Hamish. The man breaks one evening and ends up killing Hamish in a very bloody attack. From there the plot twists as the man reacts to his crime. My interest in the story was writing about perceptions and how easily we believe anyone can be keeping a secret, even if it goes completely against what we know about a person. When Martin read the story, he took gleeful pleasure in Hamish’s murder. It was so nice to see his stress eased, if only for a short time, by something I had rewritten. (Hamish left for a “better” job soon after, though he had no idea what I had written. The story remains unpublished but it is on my list to be revised for a planned collection.) To want revenge, especially when we have received unjust or prejudicial treatment, is a very natural human response, but it is never satisfying. Whatever that other person has done to us, we can never make them suffer the way they made us suffer, most of the time they are not even aware of how much suffering they caused; often it us who are hurt as we are eaten up with the injustice done us and the desire for revenge. I spent so much time, too much time, plotting how I could get my own back on those who had hurt me when I was a teenager, the homophobes who hurt and rejected me. All it did was eat me up with anger and bitterness, I wasn’t even able to put into context what had happened to me. Then I wrote a story based on a very traumatic event from when I was a teenager. Writing it I found I was able to take a step backwards and look at what really happened, how I came to put myself in such a position, that it wasn’t my fault, and to begin to understand why those people had behaved so appallingly. Rereading that story now, I see that it is overwritten, with far too much unnecessary backstory, too long and too slowly paced. It will never see the light of day. I was just learning how to write then, but it did show me the power of writing, how writing could open my eyes to why something happened. That short story also had another big flaw, it was easy to identify who the characters were based on. I’ve since learnt there is no need for anyone else to be able to identify who a character is based on; I actually do not want readers to stand any chance to. So now I take all steps to prevent this (see my blog about writing about real people). Writing fiction about things that make me angry or events that have caused me pain has become very liberating. Doing so, I have to look at a situation, what caused it, what led to it, the effects it caused; I have to analyse the entire situation. This can give me insight and understanding, it is amazing how the negativity of a situation is diminished by understanding it. I do the same thing with attitudes and beliefs that I don’t agree with and that make me angry. Understanding an attitude doesn’t mean that I will agree with it, but it does mean I can understand where it comes from and the harm it does. Writing against it I can explore the human effects of it. I have a relative who has very conversative and Evangelical Christian views. Her views are very black and white, no shades of grey, and very simplistic. She bluntly doesn’t engage with any challenges to her views. She is also someone I have known most of my life and, as such, I have been able to study why and who she is. She has given me so much opportunity and understanding of why someone would hold her views. Her attitudes have appeared so often in my writing, giving me the opportunity to explore them and the harm they cause. Saying all that, this approach isn’t easy and I do not always get it right. Years ago, and several jobs ago, I was subjected to a rant by an Evangelical Christian colleague. She objected to the Equality Bill, claiming wrongly that it would give LGBT people more protection than Christians and that Christians would be persecuted under it. She claimed that Christians were the most persecuted minority in the country (not true). When I tried to reply to her, she bluntly refused to let me speak, refusing to listen to any view that didn’t match her own. I was so angry at her. Through my anger I began to wonder why someone would take such a blinkered and untrue view and the harm such views were doing. The result of this, after much thought, was the short story “Easter Witness”, which was published in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life. I am very happy with this story because I was able to show the negative effects of those views as well as punching holes in that argument. But I don’t always get it right, especially if I write too quickly about it. During the Marriage Equality debate here in Britain, there were a lot of untruths and downright lies told about what would happen if same-sex couples could legally marry (all of which have not come to pass). I was so angry that I wrote the short story “To the Heart of Marriage”. Unfortunately, I wrote it too quickly and I was too angry when I wrote it. Its arguments are simplistic and it tells the reader what’s wrong, not showing the effects of these negative untruths. It failed. Revenge does need to be written with a cool mind. But also there shouldn’t be a wish fulfilment element to this, we shouldn’t be using fiction to rewrite history so that we win, so we come out on top, to enact the revenge we were never able to do in real life, because that is so hollow and untrue, and what service are we doing to our readers? Many years ago, I was a member of a gay men’s writing group. One of the members was writing a novel in which he rewrote his unhappy and repressed childhood. His novel made him, as a young teenager, the winner and always coming out on top of his family’s fights and wars. He had created a thirteen-year-old boy who had the debating and arguing skills of a thirty or forty-year-old man; this child was impossibly wise for his years. That novel made me feel uncomfortable because it was so untrue but he, the writer, couldn’t see that. He was actually taking deep pleasure from it. I realised the discomfort I felt was the discomfort a reader would feel and that it would make a reader stop reading. My fiction has to be honest about human emotions and reactions, otherwise how can I ever hope to hold a reader’s interest? After all, they are the ones giving me their time to read my writing. Art is the best revenge but only if it’s done honestly, not to settle old scores but to explore the events. Happy reading Drew (*) Not his real name.
  12. Revisiting "On-Hold" Stories By Renee Stevens As a writer, many of us may find times when we get stuck. Maybe we push a story to the back-burner and think, ‘oh, I’ll go back to it later.’ Then the time comes and we realize that we have no idea exactly where we want the story to go. Here’s just a few tips that might just help you get past the block and finish up some of those on-hold stories. Tip #1: When you finish a story and are trying to decide what to work on next, go back to all those "on hold" stories. Read through them or at least skim them. See if, by chance, one of them jumps out at you to the point that the story comes alive again in your head. Tip #2: You have a story that is in “on hold” status that you just really want to finish, but you’re not sure where to take it. Get help. Send the story to a trusted beta who is willing to look it over. Let them read through what you have and then discuss it. You can re-read it during this time too. Maybe you, or your beta reader, will get an idea of where the story could go. Talk it out with them and take note of their ideas. You might not use them all, but one or two of those might jump out at you. These two tips are no guarantee that your “on hold” story will get finished, but it’s a good first step to take. Authors - Do you have any other tips that help you in this situation? Let the community know!
  13. How To Recognize a Head Hop Some of you may be asking, what exactly do you mean by a “head hop”. Head hopping is something that many of us have been accused of at one time or another. In this lesson we are going to look at how to recognize a head hop and ways in which to correct it. What is a head hop? A head hop is when you have a chapter or story that is from one characters point of view but you find that you have unintentionally included things such as thoughts of another character. These are things that your main narrating character couldn’t possible know unless they are a mind reader. Perhaps the easiest way to show this is by an example. I have taken this example from my own story, Chance Encounters. The one way that it’s not considered head-hopping is when the story is 3rd Person Omniscient. The below story is supposed to be 3rd Person Limited. So now we are going to look at what possible corrections could be done. I have shown both the original and what the rewrite COULD be. Head Hop #1: Old: "Not at all, have a seat Simon," Richard answered before nearly kicking himself as he realized that he had slipped up by using Simon's name. New:“Not at all, have a seat Simon.” Richard cringed and motioned to the seat across from him. Simon wondered at the slight tension, but shrugged it off. Head Hop #2: Old: "A couple weeks ago," Richard answered as he avoided meeting Simon's gaze. He hadn't planned on reminding Simon of that night two weeks ago, but once he had slipped up and called Simon by name he didn't know any way around it. It never occurred to him to make up something else, in fact, he didn't know enough about Simon to make up anything plausible. New:“A couple weeks ago.” Richard stared at something behind Simon, not meeting his eyes. Simon glanced over his shoulder but didn’t see anything that would hold the other man’s attention and turned back to Richard. Two weeks ago would have been when he’d gone to the club. Maybe… Head Hope #3: Old: "Not really," Richard answered, purposely not mentioning exactly what had happened. New: “Not really.” Simon felt like Richard was holding something back, but wasn’t sure what it could be. His non answers were beginning to get annoying. He wanted the answers to his questions and he wasn’t about to give up before he got them. Head Hope #4: Old: "I'm not so sure you want to know," Richard answered and was slightly taken aback to see the sparks in Simon's eyes as he rested his elbows earnestly on the table. New:“I’m not so sure you want to know.” Richard took a sip of his drink and stared down at the table. Simon glared at his companion and felt a slight satisfaction when the other man flinched. He wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t want to know. He needed to know even if he was slightly apprehensive about the answer. So, as you can see from the above examples, fixing head hopping can be fairly easy. It can also be very easy to recognize. Simply ask yourself while reading through your work if what you’re reading is something that your main narrator could possibly know. If it’s not, then it’s probably a head hop.
  14. Those Pesky Words by Cia I was having a discussion with an author the other day about words. Why do we pick the ones we use when we write? What should the focus be on, the words themselves or they image they are meant to convey? When I first started writing, I used a lot of formal language. For example, from my first story, The Price of Honor: The strange color registered with his consciousness but he continued to stare blankly about, trying to process the abrupt dislocation that he had just experienced. Right. People think or talk that way. I don't think so. After getting advice from other authors and having readers tell me what works and what doesn't, I don't write like that anymore. I've realized, that for my writing style, smaller is better. I narrate my stories the same way I speak and leave formal language for dialogue by characters that need it. If I were to re-write that line now, it would be different and look like this: He noticed the strange color of the plants, but he stared blankly at the bush in front of him. He'd expected a city landing pad when he woke up, not this wilderness. They mean the same thing, but my words aren't getting in the way of the image in the second line. People know the plants are a strange color and he's in a wilderness that he wasn't expecting. That's all that is needed. Instead of flexing my vocabulary muscles, I'm letting the story speak in a voice that most readers will be more familiar with and understand more easily. I think it gives my stories a readability that they were lacking in the past. Remember Read! Review! and Happy Writing!
  15. Um... hi again! Sorry about yesterday seems I had a med reaction to the new med. Needless to say I'm back, although not quite together. I'd like to bring to you an essay by Dark today. Hope you enjoy it. Plot Bunnies There’s nothing as nefarious as a plot bunny. Lurking in the corners of a writer’s brain like cockroaches, plot bunnies live to nibble on productivity. Those sharp front teeth bite and gnaw with a crunsh crunsh crunsh until single-minded focus turns into something resembling a writer’s version of Tourette’s syndrome. Praise be to the writers who can ignore these infamous creatures of the dark! Bow to the mighty bunny hunters! And pledge your allegiance to the wondrous few whose minds can twist along a plot bunny’s path and live to tell the tale! What is a plot bunny? Some say that plot bunnies are the spawn of reluctant muses; they are sent out to distract writers from their rightful path. Blame the muse or blame the author? It has been said that plot bunnies are to writers what senioritis is to high school students. That amazing chapter outline or a partially-completed draft is generally not as enticing as a new idea -- and lo! The plot bunny is born. There is nothing like working on something mindless like washing dishes, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, etc. for encouraging plot bunnies. They sneak in on the edges of sleep and insinuate themselves into random thoughts. A line from a movie, a snapshot posted on Facebook, an emailed joke, or that one snippet of song that got stuck in your head -- these are the birthplaces of plot bunnies. wikiwrimo.org reminds us of the John Steinbeck quote: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” This begs the question, then, of how you handle something that can run faster than you can think and with less substance than a rainbow. Should you, in fact, even try to harness the power of the plot bunny? Many are they who encourage the snaring of these beasts, for they are a menace; these become writing prompts for other people, there to terrorize the unsuspecting. Another train of thought says that plot bunnies are the bane of writer’s block and as such become the brain food of muses. Stuck on a plot point? Then feed your muse a plot bunny! That should be a bumper sticker for writers. Whether stamping out these unwanted trespassers from perfectly choreographed writing time or luring them in with skittles and coco puffs, writers must manage these plot bunnies or subsist amongst the cluttered, ill-tended wasteland of a lifetime of half-finished story ideas. From Ilea For: “In order to capture a plot bunny, one must first be able to identify plot bunnies. Simply looking for a creature which appears bunnyish will only work in some instances. Much like the sweet potato, a plot bunny is a rabbit in name only.” There is an infinite variety of plot bunnies, so determining which plot bunny you’re dealing with can be a challenge. The first rule of plot bunnies is to pay attention! Though they are distractions, plot bunnies also answer the dreaded question, “How did you come up with this?” Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take ten minutes and jot down the bare bones of the plot idea on whatever you have immediately available. This can later evolve into an outline or even the next best-seller. Remember, plot bunnies inevitably fade away … eventually. By writing them down, good plot bunnies can be revived at a later date. Or they become zombie bunnies. Whichever. What is known for certain is that plot bunnies don’t stay small and cute and loveable and inspirational forever. Often, plot bunnies devolve into the same drawn-out piece you were working on before. The trick, when working on one story at a time, is to keep all the plot bunnies that apply to your current work and discard the rest. Learning how to focus on what you’re doing is a hurdle all good writers must overcome. If you want to get rid of your plot bunny, one of the most effective tactics is to sic that plot bunny on somebody else. This can be done by posting your idea on any number of plot bunny adoption sites. Or, if you’d rather the more direct approach, chat up your favorite victim online and tell them all about your bunny. Plot bunnies take a little more coaxing, but like that song stuck in your head, they’re eager to latch onto the next person to come along. This option also has its drawbacks, in that you may decide (after explaining the idea to someone else) that you rather like this particular plot bunny and you want to give it more life yourself because no one else could possibly do it justice. And you must be careful with plot bunny discussions lest your plot bunny realize its mortality; because in cases like this, if you do end up taking it back, the plot bunny is unlikely to fully cooperate without some significant bribery. Last of these particular insights is an introvert’s ideal: think about and visualize your plot bunny. Without setting fingers on a keyboard or picking up a pencil, close your eyes and imagine what your plot bunny might be like as a novel in your favorite bookstore or a movie starring your favorite actor. Remember to ask all the ‘what if...?’ questions. Explore the idea in as much detail as you can, but spend no more than 24 hours mulling it over. Once you’ve decided to keep or discard your plot bunny, do it ASAP. At this point, Susan from The Prosers recommends going into your weapons arsenal and pulling out a holy hand grenade because: “… bunnies have a dark side. If I give in and pick one up and stare into those limpid eyes, that wascally wabbit mutates. What seemed like such a perfect, bouncy idea begins to contort. My plot grows fangs. And claws. It misbehaves. I know what kind of story the plot bunny should turn into, but it doesn’t cooperate.” Like a good writing prompt, a good plot bunny can become a grand story. One of the reasons a plot bunny is so tempting is because plot bunnies make writing exciting. When you’re slogging through a scene that even you find boring, a plot bunny can remind you why you ever decided to set pen to paper or click away on a keyboard for the nameless masses. You never know what a plot bunny is going to do or where it will lead. Writing when you’re excited about the subject/idea is easy; trying to write something you care nothing about leads only to writer’s block. Alternatively, plot bunnies are like iPhones; you love what you already have until the next one comes along. One caution: you have to be careful when deciding to give a plot bunny a home because they are sneaky bastards, always inviting their buddies. The shiny, new plot bunnies are very often an entirely new breed of bunny and pretty soon, if you’re not careful, you’ll be inundated with bunnies, whereupon drama and backstabbing ensues. Only the strongest and sneakiest survive, and bunnies, being the evil masterminds that they are, know all your secret triggers to draw attention to themselves. Each writer sees different varieties of plot bunnies. Wikiwrimo.org has published one of the most extensive lists of different breeds, among them the Luuuuuuuuv Bunny, a bunny who makes random characters fall in love, the WTF Bunny, a bunny of outlandish story plots, and the Two Things at Once Bunny, who always appears when writers are least able to write their thoughts down. Whichever breeds your bunnies arrive in, the most dangerous of all are the mutant bunnies. These are plot bunnies on crack. When they first appear, mutant bunnies seem like just another harmless plot bunny, but over time, they slowly evolve into a different breed that is more potent than the ordinary bunny. The only cure for a mutant plot bunny is a plot ninja. Plot ninjas are commonly found in NaNoWriMo write-ins and are not to be confused with plot bunnies. Nevertheless, write, write, write! Or the plot bunnies will get you. Happy Reading, Writing, and of course Reviewing!
  16. Many of you noticed the little faux pas I made in the beginning of yesterday's blog. Oops. Well, I received some interesting feedback over it, including a shoutout to this little gem, so I thought I would share.... Cia on Research... So, I read an ebook recently. Big surprise there, lol. Several things jumped out at me as I read it that let me know that the writer was definitely NOT a resident of the state they set it in. Not only did they describe the summer weather as humid, which it never is, they mentioned a 6 hour drive between two cities that takes 3, maybe 3 1/2 hours, tops. This leads me to my topic at hand. Research. Why should you do it? What should you look up? How do you research? Now, if you're like me, research is fun. Take one of my stories, Two of a Kind. I took two hours to look up the flowers I used to describe the decorations on statues. I had to make sure they were native to the region I was using as the origin, the color variations possible and what they looked like. It may seem excessive for a single descriptive section of just a few paragraphs, but they were a vital part of the plot. Since I wrote specifics, I wanted to have the facts. I looked up fact pages on Wiki, always a good source, though one I cross check with other sites whenever possible. It is, after all, a site compiled of information by the people and sometimes people don't know their butt from a hole in the ground. Yep, I went there. I looked up flowers from the region on a wiki page, then looked up a few horticulture sites. Then I googled pictures so I could see the colors myself, which I find is the best way to cement them in my head so I can really describe them. I also found myself researching jungle animals, black jaguar melanin issues, plant poisons and cures, flight time between Brazil and California, weather patterns, driving distance from the airport to a city/mountain range I set the story in, antiserums and how they are created . . . just to name a few things. You can hit your local library for books on your subject, check online websites, find an expert or researcher in the field/area you are wanting to write about, or just go see for yourself if you plan to use local settings. Ignore the temptation to say,'Only this or that person would know this info is wrong.' Get it right from the start. An author who doesn't even take the time to get to know the region/time/people they are writing about is a pretty sloppy writer in my book. Make the effort to get to know your subject if you're going to use it. Or, do like I do so often when I can't figure out what I want in a modern story or the facts of the known universe contradict me; make it up! Fantasy stories are prime for making up your own rules and facts, like the alternate history of the Carthera people. Mixing the two takes work; you have to make sure you stick to the rules of the world you create when you write, but it can help you out of those sticky situations sometimes. Besides, learning something new every day is a GOOD thing! Happy Reading! Writing! and Reviewing!
  17. You know we all love a bad boy. We all love them better in our stories. But can we write them? Today's tip talks about... Creating a Credible Villain by Renee Stevens When creating a villain for your story, there are many things that need to be considered. Villains are not ALL bad. While they will have mostly flaws, they most likely will also have something about them that is good. This could be anything. A serial killer could also be a devoted family man. Your villain could be the go-to guy of the neighborhood, the one who watches the neighbor’s dog while they’re on vacation. When creating your villain, you need to decide your villain’s depth of evilness. Some plots will require your villain to have more depth and loftier goals. If the goal is complete domination, then chances are your villain is going to have to be more complex, more evil. If the goal is to simply make everyone’s life miserable, your villain could be someone who is just a bully. A school bully who takes younger kids’ lunch money, or a corporate CEO who fires people for a single minor mistake. Make sure the degree of evilness is relevant to the plot of your story. Also, keep in mind, that the more demented your villain is, the more likely he will be to succeed in what he sets out to do. Another thing to think of is, unless of course your villain is a demon that from the time of birth was evil, or a robot that was created to destroy a world, chances are that there is something in their past that was the turning point for them. What was this point for them? Maybe they watched their parents or spouse be brutally murdered. Maybe they were bullied in their teenage years. Be creative, but make this turning point be something that is believable. Whatever this point is, it's going to be the driving force behind your villain. When creating your villain, you need to decide what the villain’s purpose is. What is his overall goal? Does he focus on people like your hero and just set out to thwart them? Or does he hatch plots and set forth to make his goals a reality while the hero’s job is to thwart him? Essentially, the question here is: who is trying to do the thwarting? Once you have all of this, you need to decide what the outcome is going to be. Is your villain going to be evil until the end, by rejecting redemption, or does he end up being redeemed somehow? There should always be a chance of redemption, so you need to think of that throughout the story, because you will need to plant things throughout the story that show he is redeemable, especially if you plan to redeem him. Otherwise, a villain just suddenly becoming a good guy, it’s not going to believable to your readers and may leave them feeling confused at the end of your story. Think also, about what fears and weaknesses your villain has. These are what is going to allow your hero to win in the end, if that is your ultimate goal. Even if you are going to have your villain win in the end, everyone has some sort of weakness. It might not even be something that the villain will readily admit to, but these are things that you can use throughout the story for the villain to overcome. If you are going to allow your hero to win in the end, then these are things that he will be able to exploit to ultimately win the day. In the end, how you create your villain is up to you, but the above guidelines will help to create a believable villain. A couple other things to keep in mind are: your villain doesn’t have to lose every battle, your villain may hold a view that others can sympathize with, and with the exception of demons and things like them, many villains will have some good qualities as well as bad. Your villain is going to drive the story as much, if not more than, your hero. Good luck with creating your villain!!! Happy reading, writing, and reviewing!
  18. Motivation. What makes a writer start writing and keep at it day after day? I asked Mark to write something for the blog, and that was the topic he chose. So, let's all take a peek inside Mark's head and see what he thinks... Chronicles of Chronicles: How I wrote “Chronicles of An Academic Predator” I’ve learned that when someone really hot, really charming, really bitchy, and/or really sinister asks you to do something, it’s usually a good idea to agree, especially if they have all of those traits. That’s why when Lugh asked me to write something for the newsletter, I agreed rather quickly. The big question on my mind was what to write about. I think that writing is a very personal thing, and that everyone has their own method and style. All I can really do is talk about how I got started, and what prompted me to start writing fiction. My first fictional story was “Chronicles of an Academic Predator,” which was published here in e-fiction back in September of 2008. I was thinking back to how that story started, and it really did entail quite a few coincidental events. The first and most important thing in the development of “Chronicles” was having a good support network. In those early days, there were two people who really coached me along. The first was Sharon. I’d known Sharon for quite a while, since we all made the big pilgrimage to GA back in 2005, following that gay writing genius, Domluka, to his new home. I was lucky to have the premiere editor as a friend, so I could impose upon her to read my efforts. Anyway, I had this idea for a story, knocked out a few chapters, and sent them to her for her feedback. She told me they didn’t suck, fixed my grammar and spelling errors, gave me some pointed advice, and suggested that I post them on e-fiction. The other player here was Adam Phillips. Adam and I have been e-friends for an e-ternity, having first met at John Walsh’s Fraternity Memoirs group. Adam is one of the smartest guys I know, and I knew that I couldn’t post a story until I got his feedback. He wasn’t nearly as pleasant as Sharon; he didn’t pull any punches, because, as he said it, we’d been friends too long. He pointed out that my characters weren’t resonating, that I wasn’t making them live, that they weren’t really all that likable. It was wonderful advice, and I learned something about myself as a writer. I learned that if I was going to write realistic characters, I had to find them attractive in some way, and I had to really be willing to dive into their brains. Without his candid feedback, “Chronicles” would have been crap. While I was lucky to have that kind of support to start out with, as I started writing I got a lot more feedback, and developed a team of people to help me out. How did that happen? It was actually pretty easy. I’d be writing about a place, or an era, that was interesting to someone, and if I needed their help and they were willing to volunteer the time, I pulled them into the team. So in addition to Sharon and Adam, I’ve got a guy on the team that’s a medical doctor (for all those soap-opera illnesses I use), a guy who’s great at details and keeps my stories consistent, a guy who knows about damn near every kind of kinky sex trick out there (no, that’s not Jeremy), a guy who handles the music and makes sure my language isn’t anachronistic (that’s Jeremy), and a man of the cloth, among others. There are also other people who are willing to devote some time and energy to helping me with specific topics. For example, there’s one lady who’s a figure skating expert, and has been helping me timeline a career for one of my characters, and another young man who recently graduated from the private school I sent some of my characters to. I’ve even got a couple of guys who are Hollywood insiders who can give me pointers on that world. It’s been an awesome experience! While it’s vital to have those kinds of people around, before I gave them anything to do, I had to have an idea, an inspiration, and I actually had to write something. When I think about my inspiration for “Chronicles”, I just about laugh my ass off. It was the movie “Hairspray”. A gay/bi story inspired by a musical: how cliché is that? Maybe it is, but I watched that movie a few times, and was really stunned at how far the United States had come as a nation regarding race relations. It wasn’t so long ago that African-Americans were being referred to as “Negroes” or “Coloreds” (or worse), and segregation was the norm. I liked the era, especially the cars and the music, so it seemed like an ideal setting for a story. Then I had to decide on a main character, and that’s when I started to develop JP Crampton. My inspiration for JP was actually at GA. I loved Quinn in Domluka’s “The Ordinary Us”, and decided that I wanted someone who was more introverted and quirky. I don’t think JP ended up being much like Quinn, but he is definitely quirky. Where did I get the last name: Crampton? I got that from a type of railroad engine (The Crampton locomotive). Any of you who have ever played Sid Meier’s Railroad games on the computer should recognize that one. Another big question was what kind of background he should come from, and more specifically, should he be rich or poor? That was actually pretty easy for me to decide. I needed to have a point of reference with him, so I tapped into a line on my family tree for a model, and decided that he should come from an upstanding family in a small Midwestern city. There were several advantages for me to take that approach. First of all, while I didn’t live that life I was close enough to it to be able to accurately describe it. More importantly, though, by having him be a wealthy man, it gave me a lot more flexibility to bring in historical references, especially fashions, trends, and cars. I mean, it’s hard to write a story about a poor guy and talk about the engine options for a ’63 Corvette Stingray. And finally, I wanted to be able to write more about him and his internal struggles with his homosexuality, and less about his external struggles, trying to make ends meet. Another consideration was point of view: I had to decide on whether to write the story in first or third person. Some people advocate third person as really the only real format, and that first person is somehow of a lower quality. I disagree with them. I think that if you really want to dive into a mind, and to try to effectively show how a character is thinking and feeling, then first person is a great way to go. And since that’s what I was planning to do, that’s what I went with. The final piece of the puzzle was the story itself. That actually turned out to be the easiest part of all. I started writing the story, and after the first few chapters, it really wrote itself. It was originally supposed to be this rather twisted story of a college professor who uses his position to seduce unsuspecting but subsequently willing college guys. That idea lasted for about two chapters. After that, the character (JP) took over. I found that I just had to jump into his mind and let him take me for a ride in his world. The challenge for me was finding and throwing interesting challenges at him, and then figuring out how he’d handle them. Since I was writing an historical story, that dovetailed perfectly with my strategy. I could pick period events and tailor them to happen to JP, and thus bring them into the story. Civil rights, the Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination, all of those historical events make for a great story line. From that ill-planned beginning, the story spawned sequels, and has become GA’s longest serial, and currently comprises 11 completed and one current story with a total of almost 2,500,000 words. Thank you Mark! So, as usual, if you have an idea for a writing tip please feel free to send it in and we will see what comes up. Happy reading, writing, and reviewing!
  19. While poking around in the forums the other day I found myself in the Editor's forum looking at a thread concerning physical descriptions and how authors handle writing them. It seemed the biggest concern was how to get the info across without the story sounding like something plucked from the Nifty's "First Time" collection. I'm not going to repeat all the discussion from there to here, if you are an author, you should read it. If you are a new author... please read it. What I am going to do, though, is give you all a couple links to also look into at your leisure. The first is Effective Character Description by Marg McAlister. Her philosophy boils down to: The second, Great Character Descriptions from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, is really a list of several descriptions from published books and a commentary of why they work. and the third, The Basics of Introducing a Character by Camy Tang, which covers three basic points: Create a Strong, Quick First Impression Make the Characters Act Don’t Crowd the Scene Hope this helps. And remember, we are encouraging requests for the kinds of tips you would like to see and for people to write tips and story reviews. If you would like to volunteer, send a PM.
  20. Well, yesterday was an interesting day... I would like to go on record as saying I did write today's tip. Take it with the intended humor is it written with... Out of the Ooze by Lugh Please understand that what I am about to share with you is a personal experience. It is not based on any research nor is it scientifically sound; take it with a grain of salt. Better yet, save the salt, you may very well need it when you get to ‘The End’. I have heard authors speak repeatedly again about their muses: of how they have to coax them into sharing the juicy tidbits of a story or bribe them with chocolates or other treats. Now most people speak of their muses as female, and I can just see them now: obese fairies wearing too much make up and not enough clothing sitting on someone’s shoulder yammering away about trivial things until someone opens the box of bon-bons. This got me to thinking about my own muse one day and what a little whore he was. Yes, I said he. I did not want a whore of a muse… so I must confess. I took the self-centered son of a bitch, bashed his head in, and then drowned him in the primordial ooze that is my imagination. I never felt better. However, I then realized I had a problem. All the writing books addressed the muse in one-way or another. I did not want my muse back, but I needed to find a way to tap into the creative aspect that was the muse. Luckily for me, about this time I was taking a class in college on psychology. If you have been to college, I am sure you have had the same class. How the mind works, the ego, id, super-ego… sound familiar? Well I was pondering this one evening in the manner of many great writers, and I decided a few things. Other people may have come across these ideas before, but if they have, I have not read them. If they have not, well, maybe it is because they have not yet murdered their muse. The thoughts that whizzed around my mind that night centered on two things: the part the muse played in a writer’s life and the role of the internal editor. With enough Poesque prompting, I finally determined that these two figments of a writer’s imagination were just that — figments of the imagination. Granted the writer gave them voice and shape based on several different factors not limited to mythology, gender, age, and most importantly, the writer’s own psyche. My mind wrapped around this and danced with it: the writer’s own psyche — the part of the writer made up of the id, ego, and super-ego. I could see the three separate parts and their functions: the id often manifests as the muse; and the super-ego as the internal-editor. Why? Because the id only wants what it wants, when it wants it. Does that not describe most of the muses you have met? And the super-ego is our compass of right and wrong — the good the bad and the ugly — sound familiar? It was a profound moment. I had discovered that the muse and internal editor that authors so often gripe about were nothing more than a manifestation of my subconscious given form by my imagination. The two things that define many a beginning writer’s struggling efforts were nothing more than the writer’s own voice finally being heard by the inner ear. While these two manifestations are necessary to the author, they do not necessarily have to take the predetermined form. With this in mind, and now knowing that the muse was only a figment of my imagination I took a mind trip to discover this font within myself. Little did I know what I was in for… Tramping through the recesses of one’s own mind is not recommended for those who do not want to come face to face with what they have been, for there is a place deep within each person where the imagination exists: a vast swamp of ideas bubbling to the surface through all the person’s life experiences — the good and the bad. I believe that as humans we are hunters and gatherers, and that as an author I am a hunter and gatherer of stories. It bubbles forth from time to time mixing with all the person’s life experiences creating a sort of primordial ooze where all the elements of good fiction reside. At other times, though, the ooze must be poked and stirred for the right mix to come together. However, when I first stumbled across mine, I did not recognize it. The ground squelched up between my toes with dark fluids and sharp bladed grasses protected the more vulnerable areas. Huge trees had grown, and fallen, left to rot where they lay. And amid all this, a pool of murky water roiled with random bubbles and the slithering movements of creatures I dared not to guess at. My first thought was that I should be afraid of this place, but I could not muster more fear than curiosity at what might be there, hidden in the depths. I found a half rotted tree that lay partially in the water and sat on its trunk, pondering what I had found. This fetid place was not at all what I had expected. Imagining myself as a Hunter in this dreary place was not difficult. Bubbles popped on the surface of the pool, and a spear formed in my hand. Recalling the meaning of Primordial Ooze, the beginnings of life… I took my spear and I stirred the Ooze watching it carefully for signs of life, knowing that anything could come forth, prepared for battle. Deep within the Ooze, the elements came together and Plot formed, it took shape and substance and began to make its way out of the Ooze leaving a trail of slime behind. At first, I did not see it for it was small. A tiny Plot Slug almost not worthy of my attention, although I was seeking it. I watched it as it struggled up from the turbid pool and slimed across the more firm ground near my foot. The slime it left behind was shiny, more so than it should have been in this dark place and I could not help but to reach out and touch it. When I did, images filled my mind. This slug had a story to tell. I gasped in disbelief. My imagination was this foul pool? I followed, writing as I went. It could be an interesting story, if only I could find the Slug. The trail crossed itself several times over before I caught the now fattened Plot Slug and speared him to the ground. He was mine! He would be written! I built a fire and slowly roasted the Slug to making sure I got all of his juicy secrets. At his screams, his followers crawled out of the Ooze. Characters… I had characters. Exhilarated, I netted them and bound them to nearby trees. They will talk, oh, how they will talk. I began to write more furiously; I now had dialogue. Over the fire, the Plot Slug spat and popped. With every layer of skin a new twist showed itself. I cackled with glee. Soon, very soon, the climax came. The Slug, resilient as ever had survived all the way through. The characters hung their heads for they had told all, and I had written down every word. Then I came the decision… did I want a sequel? I looked at the slug. Should I decide ‘yes’, I would have to toss him back into the Ooze to let him heal and grow some more, and should I decide ‘no’… well you did remember to bring the salt, did you not? So, how do you deal with your muse and wayward plots? Please share!
  21. Everyone who has ever tried to pass eighth grade knows what a pain grammar can be, and one of the worst things in my personal opinion is punctuating dialogue. As many of you know, Cia edits for me, and one of her favorite things to do is smack me around for not putting proper punctuation around my speech tags. So, in honor of my favorite fallacy she agreed to educate everyone – enjoy! Important rules about structuring and punctuating dialogue: Definition of a speech tag: Any descriptive words preceeding or following dialogue that describes the speech. IE: said, muttered, asked, yelled, screeched, whispered, insisted, demanded. 1. When your dialogue is associated with a speech tag a comma should be placed within the punctuation marks at the end of the speech unless you use an exclamation or question mark. The first word in a speech tag directly after dialogue should be lowercase unless the word is a proper noun. IE: "Let me help you with that," he said. or "Let me help you with that," Billy said. 2. Speech tags that preceed dialogue should end with a comma and the first word of the dialogue should be capitalized. The dialogue inside the quotes should end with a period, question or exclamation mark as appropriate. IE: He said, "Let me help you with that." 3. A divided quotation dialogue can go in two different ways. Both sides of the dialogue should be within quotation marks. The first word in the second half of the divided quote should not be capitalized unless it begins a new sentence or is a proper noun. IE: "This story is long," he said, "but worth the time to read it." 4. Ellipses (...) and dashes (--) in dialogue. Ellipses indicate the speaker is trailing off and is pausing before either finishing the statement or not continuing. They should be spaced and if they occur at the end of the dialogue you need to include proper punctuation, either a period, question, or exclamation mark. Dashes indicated that the speaker was interrupted. If the speaker continues after the interruption the dialogue should be preceeded with dashes within the quotation marks. IE: "Do you know if he . . . ?" he trailed off and blushed as he looked away from her knowing grin. "Do you know if he—" "If he what?" "—said anything about me?" he asked as he blushed at her knowing grin. 5. Maybe the most important rule, imo, when writing dialogue you must start a new pargaraph EVERY time the speaker changes. IE: "Stop!" he yelled. The man kept running as he sneered over his shoulder. "I'd like to see you make me." "I will shoot!" Steve braced his gun, training it on the running burglar. The shot was loud in his ears. He calmly walked over to the man rolling on the ground. "You shot me in the knee," the man whimpered. "I did warn you."
  22. How about a Blast From the Past? This was printed in our 2007 Vol2 Ed 4 Newsletter under Jokes: How To Write Good 1. Avoid alliteration. Always. 2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. 3. Employ the vernacular. 4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc. 5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary. 6. Remember to never split an infinitive. 7. Contractions aren't necessary. 8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos. 9. One should never generalize. 10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." 11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches. 12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous. 13. Be more or less specific. 14. Understatement is always best. 15. One-word sentences? Eliminate. 16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake. 17. The passive voice is to be avoided. 18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms. 19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed. 20. Who needs rhetorical questions? 21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. 22. Don't never use a double negation. 23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point 24. Do not put statements in the negative form. 25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects. 26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. 27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. 28. A writer must not shift your point of view. 29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.) 30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!!! 31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents. 32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided. 33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. 34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. 35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. 36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing. 37. Always pick on the correct idiom. 38. The adverb always follows the verb. 39. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives. 2007 Vol2 Ed 4: Joke
  23. Today you are being brought a book selection. The Essential Writer's Reference is an outstanding resource if you can get your hands on one. They do come used, and very cheap. If you would like more books for writers, both old and new, there is a thread in the writer's corner where they can be found. The Oxford Essential Writer's Reference Berkley Press, 2005. This is an excellent writer's reference that is current and more relevant to the task of creative writing than the Little, Brown Handbook. Its focus is more on langauge usage form. The text is divided into 19 sections: I. Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling and Usage Guides II. A List of the Most commonly Used Foreign Words and Phrases III. 100 Tricky Usage Problems IV. 100 Rare 50 Cent Words and their Meaning V. 125 Synonym Studies VI. Proofreaders Marks and their Meaning VII. Common Citation Styles VIII. A List of Cliches to Avoid IX. A List of Common Rhetorical Devices, Poetic Meters, and Form X. A Quick Guide to all the plays of Shakespeare XI. A Timeline of Great Work of English Literature XII. Biblical Quotes, Characters and Books of the Bible XIII. Major Mythological Characters XIV. A List of Great Print Resources that can be Found at Most Libraries XV. A List of Writer's Advocacy Orginazations XVI. How to Copyright Your Work XVII. A Commonsense Guide to Manuscript Formats XVIII. great Websites for Writers XIX. Forms of Address for Letter Writing copyrights: Jane Aaron, Longman Press 1998. This particular book was recommended by jamessavik. If you have a book or site you would like to suggest, PM me or add it to the thread linked above.
  24. Tip Tuesdays is being lead off with a short article written by one of the hardest working editors on the site, Sharon. In the future, on Tuesdays, you can look forward to writing, editing, site, or other tips that we think you may find useful. If you have something you would like to share, drop a PM and let me know. Good for you! But take it from a veteran editor and reader, it takes more than the desire to put pen to paper. Or keys to screen. Trust me…it took me two days to write this article. And it’s not very long. If I could give just one piece of advice to a new author, it would be to brush up on the basic rules of grammar. We’re not talking about anything fancy here, just good old spelling and dialog punctuation. If these are not your strong suit, find a good book or website to use for reference. There are plenty of them out there that present information in a fun and entertaining way. Find one, or like me, ten that works for you. Also, check the options on whatever word-processing program you use and set the spellchecker, grammar, and style functions to the highest level. Don’t take the suggested corrections at face value, though. Most spellcheckers won’t catch everything. But at least things that may need a second look are highlighted. Spend the time to understand what these tools are telling you. Correcting mistakes in spelling, grammar, and style will make your writing more enjoyable to read. As a reader, these basic errors act as speed bumps for the eyes. They break a story’s ebb and flow. You may think your plot is wonderfully entertaining, your characters extremely well developed. And they very well may be. You could have the next Pulitzer winner for fiction all ready to flow off your fingertips. But if a reader has to stumble over the incorrect use of ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ too many times, you’ll lose them in the first chapter. So you want to be an author? Then do it. Write. Write with passion, heart, and flair. But learn your craft first and give your future readers your best effort. Copyright © 2011 sat8997; All Rights Reserved.
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