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Found 28 results

  1. Comicality

    Ensemble Casts

    Ensemble In one of my stories, "Savage Moon", I write about a teenage boy who gets drawn in with a bad crowd of misfits...who later turn out to be a pack of werewolves. (Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. It's, literally, the plot of the story. And it's practically given away in the title. So I didn't ruin any surprises with that one! Hehehe!) However, the 'alpha' tells their potential recruit about what it takes to build a strong pack. A family unit. And the key is in the personality traits of everyone in their circle. Every member of the pack has something unique to bring to the table. Something that none of the others can do without them there. Having any two of them exactly alike isn't efficient for the pack to thrive. Every character is filling in a hole that couldn't be filled by anyone else...and therefore, they are given purpose and a direct reason for being there. They strengthen the whole by covering certain blind spots within the group. I've learned that, if you're going to populate your story with a broad cast of characters...the same rules apply. While it's realistic to have people in your life that you recognize and, maybe, speak to on a daily basis...but don't really have any major impact on your life...allowing that to exist in your fiction can actually detract from the focus of the overall story. Obviously, we all have family members, coworkers, classmates in school, etc...but if you were to take out a piece of paper and try to list them all right now...you'd end up with a LOT of 'characters' that probably jump in and out of your life all the time. But your story can't be about all of them, now can it? It's a fun experience to work with a variety of different characters in a single story. I feel the interaction between characters, whether a positive interaction or a negative one, adds depth to the whole cast. You get to let them show the readers who they are by how they approach, engage, and respond, to one another, as opposed to just telling your audience who they are through narration. However...it can be really easy to get carried away when doing so. Any story can quickly spin out of control if you try to divide your focus among too many characters. It dilutes the potency after a while, and can make all of your characters suffer from a lack of proper development in the long run. SO...this weekend, we're talking about building and 'tightening up' an ensemble cast in your stories! Let's get to it! I, personally, use ensemble casts a lot in my writing. Not always, but quite often. Especially in my sci-fi or horror laced fiction. Definitely with stories like "Gone From Daylight", "Savage Moon", "Agenda 21", "Shelter", and "Skylight"...but also with stories like "Billy Chase", "New Kid In School", and "A Class By Himself". The idea is to have each side character bring something 'out' of the protagonist that the others usually don't. It allows you to see your main character from a different angle, existing in a different element as he or she bounces from interaction to interaction. It's like...in real life, I have a certain relationship with my mother. We talk, we laugh, we spend quality time together. But the relationship that I have with my very best friends that I've known since high school is completely different. The relationship that I have with the people I work with is different from both of those examples. It's not like I'm suffering with some sort of personality disorder...our interactions are just based on a variety of relationships to one another. So, when creating an ensemble cast of characters for your story, this is something that you might want to keep in mind. Why is this particular character there? What are they bringing to the table? What meaning will they have in terms of furthering the plot? And, most importantly...if you cut this character out of your story completely...would it have any real impact at all? If you have to even think about that last question for longer than a few seconds...take that character out of your story. Do it right away, before you get attached to them. You won't miss them. And neither will your readers. Trust me. I think my love for ensemble casts comes mostly from the works of Stephen King. More so in his writing than in the movies or TV mini-series, but he has a really cool way of putting ensemble casts together and using the technique to its full effect, in my opinion. It's as if he can take a group of friends, or just random strangers...toss them into a serious situation, and somehow weave them all together into a story where every single person has a role to play, and a seemingly predestined reason to be included in the story. Whether you've read the books or watched the movie versions, this is evident in stories like "The Stand", "IT", "The Langoliers", and others. Each character is contributing something to the plot. Maybe someone is a detective and has a keen eye for detail. Maybe another character has some sort of psychic ability. And another might end up being a traitor in their midst. But you bring them all together and put them in the same space? And, much like the wolf pack in "Savage Moon"...the whole becomes stronger by focusing on the attributes of its many parts. The key to creating a strong ensemble comes from being able to define who each character is and what each character does. You can start with a vague idea in your head at first, and narrow it down as you go along during your planning process. Think about what 'elements' you want to have in your story beforehand...and then create characters that will embody those elements in their attitudes and through their actions. I've found that to be the best way to go about it. Maybe you need a bashfully beautiful love interest. Maybe you need a character to lighten things up and act as the 'comic relief', even in dire situations. Maybe you need some muscle. A rebel who can bring the pain and provide protection when the plot calls for it. Maybe you need someone to be the asshole, or a best friend to act as the voice of reason, or a mysterious wildcard to keep the other characters on edge, or perhaps a sacrificial lamb who will end up saving the day when the time comes. Whatever elements you want your story to have? Create them in your mind first. Then craft your cast of characters around them and assign roles that will help you breathe life into those elements and carry the plot forward however you see fit. So...the big question becomes how to determine who belongs in the story and who doesn't. Well, I feel that ensemble casts should connect to your story in one of three ways. Whether the play a major role in the main story, or are just there for the blink of an eye, the reason for their inclusion should be attached to something in order to give them purpose. Connected to the other characters. This is something that I initially think about when putting my characters together in my head. I write gay teen romance, so I begin with my protagonist and then create his love interest. That goes without saying. So...how do I go about creating the world around these people? Maybe I'll give my protagonist a best friend. Someone to comfort them when they're down, lift them up, or maybe just someone to vent to when they're upset. It allows me to get outside of the main character's head and turn his thoughts into dialogue with another person, which is often more entertaining. What else? Maybe I'll add a bully at school, or a love rival, or a particularly nosey neighbor. Adding characters like this can offer challenges to our protagonist and can create some very interesting obstacles for our main character to skate around. In some of my stories, the parents are in the background. Present, but not really important. They don't enhance the story in any way, so they're not the focus. However, in a story like "A Class By Himself", the main character's mother plays a much larger role. A hard working, single, mom who's just struggling to get by so her son can succeed and have a future is an important part of the plot, so having her fleshed out and involved in what's going on is important. So...if you have characters that are directly connected to the main character, whether it be a friend, an enemy, a relative or sibling, or even a nasty teacher or school principal or boss at work...then you can figure out whether or not you really need them there pretty easily. Just remember that they should have some sort of impact on your main character's journey. They should greatly affect their moods and their actions. That's how you know they belong there. Connected to the plot. Sometimes there are plot elements that you want to express, or a series of events that you either want to set into motion or eventually resolve, and you can use a few side characters to accomplish that. Now, this isn't to say that you shouldn't flesh these characters out or push them into the background fog of your storytelling...but they are here to carry the plot. That's their purpose. In the story, "Never Again", I had a side character that makes a brief appearance in the beginning of the story, shows up for a few seconds in the middle, and then makes one last appearance, I think, in the last chapter. However, his role in the story ends up delivering the 'punch' that the story needed to reach the ending that I had in mind. Now, was he a major character in the grand scheme of things? No. But his inclusion was plot related. He had a role to play, and he played it well! Hehehe! When creating plot related characters, they don't have to be as deep or as layered as your main characters, but they still need to have an effect on the story that is significant and ultimately understood by your audience. They have something to do. This is less about how they interact with your characters, and more about what your readers can learn from them within the context of the story. Think of them as mail carriers. They're there to deliver a message. They can piss your protagonist off, or they can enlighten them, or they can destroy a romantic moment, or they can bring certain emotions to the surface. So concentrate on the moment that you're trying to create. You want the story to take a sad and dark turn? You want to fire your main character up and inspire him to give it his all? You want to create a sense of danger or dread? These are where your plot themed characters come into play. They don't have to be a big part of the story, they just need to provide the catalyst for the emotional ups and downs that you're trying to weave into your project. Connected to the theme. These characters can be 'temporary' in your story. This doesn't make them unimportant, though. When thinking of a theme for your story, you are creating a certain feel or tone for what you're writing. So ensemble characters that are connected to the theme are basically used as examples of the mood you're trying to express to your audience. Hmmm...how to explain? Let's say that you're writing a story about war veterans who are dealing with post traumatic stress syndrome. If your main character is going to meetings to deal with his issues, a 'theme connected' character or two might bring more depth to what's going on with him. They may not play a major role in the story, but may show up on occasion to offer some advice or possibly display what could happen if the protagonist goes down the wrong path. Maybe you have a story where the main character is dealing with drug addiction, or is a part of a Gay/Straight alliance club at their local rec center, or a group of runaway kids who happen to settle in the same abandoned building. Basically, you can tell as much or as little about them as you want...but their main purpose is to flesh out the world you've built for your characters to inhabit. They don't have to necessarily have to be connected to any of your main characters in any significant way, and they don't really have to further the plot. They're there to 'show' your readers the world in which they live. If you've got a homeless teen on the streets, you might want to have somebody he wanted to think was a friend...but ends up ripping him off. Or maybe you have some random kid beat him up for his shoes. Or maybe you have a truant officer constantly breathing down his neck and searching the streets for him. These people can come and go, only having short interactions with the other members of your cast...but they're there to demonstrate the theme of your story in a very visual and engaging way. So whether your main character lives in a Utopian paradise or a dystopian shithole...having a few meetings with other people who exist in that world to demonstrate exactly what it's like to live there, can be a huge bonus for a writer, and can make their story all the more immersive in the long run. So, bottom line, ensemble casts can be a useful tool in creating a more three-dimensional view of your characters and your story as a whole. It's all about how relevant they are to the plot, and that can be determined by how you view their contribution to the big picture. Always make sure that the characters you create are there to do something. To have some impact. Even if it's a little thing, make sure they know their role in the grand scheme of things. If they're just there for the sake of giving your audience another name to remember...let them go. Don't be afraid to cut a character that isn't going to work out for the best interest of your story. It's not always an easy decision to make, but unless you want that person to drag the rest of your story down into the mud, give them a hug and say goodbye. I hope this helps! Take care! And I'll seezya soon!
  2. Comicality

    Story Arcs

    Beginning. Middle. End. Setup. Conflict. Resolution. All stories have a certain formula to them. That formula can be played with, rearranged, and altered, in a variety of different ways...but even that has some form of structure, when you sit down and think about it. Straying from a conventional method of telling a story doesn't mean that the original blueprint doesn't exist. We just choose to find a way of subverting expectations concerning the norm. A norm that set the standard for us in the first place. The most interesting stories and character revelations aren't drawn as a straight line. Most memorable stories have an 'arc' to them. The beginning, middle, and end, are bent into a shape that gives our readers somewhere to go. A journey. An adventure. And I know that we hear about story arcs all the time, but do we really take a moment to think about what that term actually means? Let's discuss... Many people may be familiar with the depiction of the theater masks, 'comedy' and 'tragedy'. One mask is smiling, and the other one is frowning. But what many not be aware of is the fact that these two masks aren't just grins and frowns, but the visual representation of two true story arcs. It describes how the story is going to begin and how it ultimately ends. Look at the smile on the comedy mask. That's how comedies or 'feel good' stories work, isn't it? It starts at a high point, then it dips down to a low point where things look dark and hopeless for our main character...but then the smile slopes up again, and with the dodging of a myriad of obstacles and hardships, the story ends up on a high note again. This is the natural story arc of a comedy. (Not always a 'Ha Ha' comedy, but a story with a happy ending.) Now...take a look at the frown on the tragedy mask. This is the exact opposite. Things start out being dreary and miserable. A serious low point. Then...it slowly rises up to give the main character feelings of hope and salvation. Things begin to turn around for the better. However, to complete the frown, the high point is short lived, and then it's a downward slide back into misery again. The character ends up back where he started, and that brief glimpse of joy and promise makes the tragedy all the more unbearable in the end. It's a crushing blow to the protagonist, and there are no pots of gold at the end of this particular rainbow. Whichever way you go, the story arc is what keeps things interesting for your readers. You want your characters to have somewhere to go, whether it be to their benefit or to their ultimate demise. It is that journey that creates the feeling of purpose when it comes to people reading your story. They're looking for a reason as to why they read your book from beginning to end in the first place, right? You've got to give them one. Imagine if your story was traveling along a straight line instead of an arc. What if the protagonist started off miserable...ended up miserable in the end...and was miserable every moment in between. I mean, would YOU want to read that story? I wouldn't. There are no moments of hope. No promise of rescue or happiness...no shining light at the end of the tunnel. Just...more tunnel. And a depressing journey that never gets any better than it was when you started. In the same respect...imagine that your character was soooo perfect and soooo beautiful and happy at the beginning of your story...ended up getting everything he wanted in the end without any struggle or sacrifice...and had nothing but good fortune and heartfelt giggles every moment in between. That would be equally boring. I wouldn't want to read that story either. There's got to be a FEW pitfalls and missteps along the way, right? Otherwise...I'd know how the story ends just from seeing how it begins. That's not entertaining, in my opinion. Even a baseball pitcher knows to throw a few change ups in there every now and then to keep people guessing. Why should your art be any different? Remember...people scream on a roller coaster...but they fall asleep on a train. Take that any way you want to take it. Have you ever been on a long road trip? Driving down a straight road with no scenery, no turns, no buildings....just an endless road? Yeah, that would be your story without an arc. When you create an idea for a story...think of your plot as a yin yang symbol. Think about all of the wonderful parts that you want to add to it, but also keep in mind that there have to be a few challenges and obstacles in the way as well. Whether you're writing a comedy or a tragedy, these same rules apply. A happy story needs moments of misery to create a sense of joy for your readers. And a tragic story needs moments of levity in order to keep your audience from being so depressed that they stop reading. If you can master a sense of balance on either side, then you will attract an audience willing to laugh and cry along with the characters that you create no matter what. But it takes some finesse. And finesse takes practice. Now, I'll admit...I've never been the bravest soldier in the battle of growing up as a kid. Hehehe! I was the shy guy. I had secrets, I was scared to reveal a lot of the feelings I had for other boys, and well...hindsight is always 20/20. So I do include a lot of teen angst in my stories. Silly mistakes and bad decisions. That was my life back when I was trying to navigate through life for the first time ever. And believe me...I get HAMMERED for it sometimes in my comments and emails. LOL! My characters are 'stupid' and 'ignorant' and 'GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!!!' But that's not how I remember it. Not when I was a teenager myself. There were peaks, and there were valleys. I remember being scared out of my mind sometimes, and being brave to the point of being downright reckless other times. But that's life. We all go through it. And we all don't have the wisdom and experience of a full grown adult when we shuffle our way through it for the first time. But, that aside...when folks ask me, "Why can't this character just throw caution to the wind and tell the whole world he's gay and get it over with?" Or, "Why doesn't he just profess his undying love already for the most beautiful by EVER in chapter TWO of the series?" Hehehe...well, because I wouldn't have a STORY to tell then, now would I? There's no arc to constant misery or constant perfection. My teen years weren't like that, neither were yours. Be honest! So why would my characters' teen years be like that? I don't WANT my stories to read like, "I saw this boy. He was cute. I asked him out within the first ten minutes of meeting him. He said yes. We had hot sex. The end." I mean...how entertaining is that? Where's the meat of the story? Where's the fear and the folly and the reward for going for broke? That's 'porn without plot'! And there's an audience for that, but it's not what I write. That's not why I started creating my stories and sharing them online. Am I crazy? If I wrote that story, none of my 'romantic' fans would read it. None of them would connect in the same way, or relate to the situation at hand. What would be the point? Can't writers just paint a decent picture from their hearts without being 'jumped' on all the time? Hehehe! Let me give my characters somewhere to go, something to learn, something to deal with and wrestle their way through to a satisfying end. The 'arc' is everything in a story. No matter how short or how long it may be. Give your characters something to triumph over. Some kind of opportunity for redemption. Or even an unfair hardship that eventually leads to them crashing and burning at the end. Either way, the idea is to have your character start somewhere...end somewhere...and have a change in mood and tone and experience significant challenges along the way. That's the fuel that makes writing fiction fun. And if the writer is having fun, then the readers should be having fun too. And if they're not...because they desperately want the story to go a different way? Then...sorry...but they should be spending time writing their own story instead of wasting time telling you how to write yours. As I've said many times in the past...you don't write for your readers. You write for yourself. Then you SHARE it with your readers when you're finished. Don't get those two things confused. I've learned that 'all' readers will never be happy with anything you write. Hehehe! Not ever. Don't try to sacrifice your voice to please them, it won't work. If you're going to write a story, at least make yourself happy with it. And if others jump on the bandwagon, then that's a bonus. But if they get mad and complain...at least you know that you put out a good project. Your best work. And those readers have the entirety of the internet to go find what they're looking for. So don't you dare feel guilty for one second about being true to your own voice. K? Alright...had to say that, because...'tangent'... Anyway, an arc is created when you visualize where your character begins, and figure out where you want him/her to end. Then you try to find an interesting way of getting them there. Think about the lessons that you've learned in your own life growing up. Think about what defines your thoughts and beliefs surrounding everything that you do. It may seem mundane now...but those beliefs might have come from somewhere. Maybe you have a policy to never date a musician. Hehehe, ok...well, why? Do you have a history with someone who was a musician? Maybe you fell in love with him, the had some good times...then saw some pitfalls in the relationship, then it ultimately ended in tragedy. Well, that's you're story arc. You learned something. Experience was achieved through good or bad fortune. You traveled from your starting point to where you are now. It's hard for me to put into words, but if you keep writing and drawing from your past experiences...the grand design will present itself to you naturally. And you'll adopt that same practice to all of your characters when writing your stories in the future. You just have to be able to visualize the arc in the planning stages. Think of Scrooge. How he progresses from one attitude about life to another. But only when being shown the truth, and making an attempt to take that journey to see what's on the other side. That journey...the struggle...that creates the arc. The need to succeed or to fail is what pushes the main character forward within the storyline. So the key is to create the 'opposite' of where the character started from...and then bring them back 'home' in the end. That's the secret. If they're happy...put them through the ringer and give them some significant obstacles to maintain that happiness. There ya go! Character arc! If they're miserable, then their obstacle is being confronted with glimpses of joy and hope. They 'overcome' that obstacle by screwing it all up and letting everything go to shit. And the end up back where they started. Miserable. Either way, changing emotions is the hidden key to creating interesting character arcs in your stories. So play around with a few ideas, and see if you can find a comfortable way of creating story arcs of your own. Remember, you want to give your character somewhere to go...therefore, giving your readers somewhere to go. Everything you write should be a journey. And that comes with both good and bad times for the characters you use to tell your story. Give them something to do. K? I hope this gets a few brain cells sparked up, and it helps with your next story. Take care! And I'll seezya next week!
  3. Comicality

    Story Blurbs

    So...readers have decided to sit down and go to a quality archive full of some really well written, really hot, stories online. They get comfortable, open their laptops, head on over to GayAuthors.org because we've obviously got the best game in town when it comes to this sort of thing, hehehe...and BAM! They're looking at hundreds upon hundreds of stories all at once. Whether readers feel overwhelmed by that, or they take the happy 'kid in a candy store' approach, it can be a daunting task to figure out where to begin. Tags and keywords help to narrow things down, sure, but your story might still be thrown onto a list with a hundred others with a similar theme. So the question is, how do you get readers to buy your particular doggie in the window over somebody else's? Welcome to this week's topic! We're talking about writing a story synopsis for your project, and hopefully grabbing the reader's attention before they've even read a single sentence of your work. However, before getting to that, I think authors need to remember that you really can't judge a book by its cover...but the same can't be said about a title. So the rules of a good story title definitely apply. Otherwise, readers won't even get to the story synopsis and they'll end up missing out on your genius. So always try to think of something that's intriguing, easy to remember, and is relevant to the plot but doesn't give too much away, when you're giving your story a title. If it's too simple and non descriptive (Like "Jake Gets A Blowjob"), readers might skip right over it. if it's too long and unnecessarily descriptive (Like "The Cosmic Adventures Of Johnny The Detective On The Gangster Planet Of Neptune")...yeah, skip. There's a huge middle ground in between the two extremes, so you've got tons of creative space, just remember that title is the bait on your end of the fishing hook. That doesn't mean the hook can't be successful at catching fish...but most fish are going to pass up the chance to just suck on a random hook. Hehehe! So keep that in mind. I like to think of story blurbs as being mini movie trailers for the story to follow. You're giving readers a 'hint' about what to expect, but you want to leave out enough detail and context to keep them from figuring out the whole story from the blurb alone. Never underestimate a reader's ability to guess his or her way through your entire story from the synopsis you've given them. As I've said in the past...readers are very savvy these days. They've read hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories before they got to yours. They know the themes. They know what 'beats' a story hits, how narratives work, how plot twists are foreshadowed early on. They know romantic tropes, science fiction cliches, horror contrivances, and dramatic cues. Keep this in mind when you're trying to put a story blurb together. One or two sentences can end up giving away the entire plot of your story. And...even if the reader is making the wrong assumption from what they've read...they may skip your story anyway. Simply because they THINK, "I've read this before. I know how it ends." It's nearly impossible to avoid, but it is a factor. Think of it as reading an old mystery and assuming 'the butler did it'. That may not be how the story ends at all, but if your story blurb describes a murder, a grieving widow, and the victim's only friend was his loyal and true butler, Edmund? Some people will think, "Yeah. That guy's SO guilty! Hehehe!" I think story synopsis blocks should serve one, very important, purpose. It's asking your audience a question. Better yet, it is planting the seeds necessary to get them to ask the question. What is this story about? What can I look forward to? What kind of feeling am I going to get from this? Can I relate to these characters? Will I have any emotional connection to the plot? Etc. Your answer, as a writer, should be... ...Read it and find out! Your story blurb should take on the easy task of drawing someone in to read something that they've already been searching for. Always remember that they are trying to find your work and hear what you have to say. You've just got to wave your hands and shout out, "Over here!"And they'll come running. So, whether your story is finished or a work in progress, try to see if you can capture the overall theme of the project as a whole. Ask yourself what 'kind' of story it is, and try to project that feeling in your synopsis. It's like a microfiction project of its own. You only have a paragraph to do everything that you hope to accomplish with 10 to 20 chapters of a short novel, so use the same rules that you would when writing your story. Interesting characters, intriguing plot, emotional involvement. If you're writing apocalyptic stories where the stakes are high, use a vocabulary and a put forth a vibe of possible danger and dire circumstances. If you're writing a tragedy, your tone should be more somber. Feel free to pull a few heartstrings when giving readers a glimpse of what's to come. No matter what genre you're writing in, push that 'feeling' forward in your synopsis. Grand adventure, or sweeping romance, or spine-chilling horror...give your synopsis that will match the story you want them to dive into. You can't go wrong. Now, that sounds like a lot to accomplish in a very small space, but it can be done. Just remember, this is a 'movie trailer' for your story, not the story itself. You only need to capture the appropriate emotion and basic idea of what's going on. It's ok to be vague. Again, you want readers to leave your story blurb with more questions than answers. Be careful not to ramble. I know what it's like to want to cram a bunch of complex info into a few paragraphs to really sell your idea, but it might end up hurting you in the end. Even if you're telling a story that covers a bunch of different genres and has a lot of twists and turns...DON'T try to squeeze all of that into your synopsis! "And then the archaeologist finds the magic medallion, but the medallion is not what it appears to be, and when the aliens show up, it's up to Frank to save the love of his life from their evil plot to steal the world's supply of a mysterious mineral that was buried in the Earth over a thousand years ago. Did I mention that Frank's father was a Van Helsing?" Ok...stop. Take a breath. Erase ALL of that...and start over! Hehehe! There's WAY too much going on in that mess. A story blurb only has to be a summary. Instead, try, "On an archaeological dig, Frank finds a mysterious medallion that seems to be of interest to a group of hunters that lie in the shadows. Who are they? What do they want? And can Frank keep his love safe when they come looking for them?" There. Done. As always, your planting the seeds of multiple questions in the minds of potential readers. What mysterious medallion? What's so important about it? Shadowy figures? Are they dangerous? What's going to happen next? And...your writer's answer is? Say it with me... 'Read it and find out!' Don't worry about being too specific with details. You got the 'feeling' right. Mystery, intrigue, a touch of romance...done. Assume that the readers who are interested will read the story and discover the rest on their own. Hey, more surprises for them to find, right? That can only help you in the long run. As they say, sometimes less is more. Anyway, I'm sure that there is a LOT more that I could say about writing story blurbs, but I'll avoid that rabbit hole for now! Hehehe! It might be better for a group discussion, anyway. Still, I hope this helps. Just remember...the 'question' is everything when grabbing a reader's attention. If you can get that part right, it'll gnaw on their brain until they surrender to it and give your story a try. You guys are on your own from there! Hehehe! Best of luck! And check back next week for my article on 'Tone'! It applies to story blurbs too! Seezya!
  4. Comicality

    8 Tips for Improving your Writing

    Most of the time, when I'm writing stories or new chapters to existing stories, it's spawned by some sort of inspiration or emotion that I'm feeling. That's just something my personal creativity feeds off of, and sometimes the muse for one particular story or another can be a 'feast or famine' adventure. What can I say? When the time is right, the stars and planet align and they let me know when it's time. Once that happens, the words just seem to flow naturally as if they came from somewhere else entirely. I'm sure that many writers can say what a glorious experience that is. The feeling is amazing! However, while the creative side of writing can be sudden and effortless in moments of inspiration...there's still a process that we all have to go through in order to get the words from our hearts...to our brains...and out on a screen for other people to see. And I believe that the easier that process is for an author, the easier it will be for that author to blast out their best work. That's not always something that's easy to achieve. 'Life' is a great big attention whore! Hehehe! And so is creativity! So, there are going to be times when it feels like you're being torn apart by two narcissists at a dinner party. You're going to have to choose one. Sad, but true. And when it's time to write...life gets put on hold. It takes focus, and quiet, and a certain degree of isolation, to effectively pour your heart out on the page. But, if you can find a few hours to sit at your laptop and give your writing process your all? The end result will be SO worth it! This week...I'm talking about eight things that I did to help my own writing process a little easier to deal with. Not the actual writing itself, but the process of translating my thoughts and emotions for my readers to absorb, with as few obstacles and interruptions as humanly possible. It may make a 'recluse' out of me from time to time...but if I'm going to claim to be a writer, even unprofessionally, then I'm going to give it my all and do it right. And with a little preparation and a touch of writer discipline...I can smooth out the writing process itself, and pour all of my energy into my work instead of stumbling every five minutes and disturbing my train of thought. Let's get started... Eat something first! I know that I probably sound like you mom and dad when I say this, but it's true. Feeding yourself will give your brain the nourishment and your body the energy to sit down and create your masterpiece. Have dinner, have a snack, keep a bag of chips nearby...whatever. Your body is burning through a lot of mental and emotional energy when you write. Give your body what it needs to function, and your mind won't wander off while you're writing. Not only will you be fed, but you won't have to worry about stopping mid sentence later to make yourself a sandwich when you, inevitably, get hungry later on. Also...keep a drink within reaching distance. Whether it's an ice cold bottle of water, a warm cup of coffee or tea, or a few beers and a glass of whiskey...whatever your flavor is, have it handy. There's nothing worse than getting on a creative streak, typing out words as fast as your fingers will allow...while struggling to ignore hunger pains or a deep thirst. Keep it close. Have these things ready, or taken care of ahead of time. So once you get 'in the zone'...you can stay there. Work in a clean space. Clutter, whether we realize it or not, hinders creativity. I know it sounds weird, but it's true. Clutter in your work space leads to clutter in your thoughts. Get rid of it. If you feel cramped or like the messy clothes on the floor, or dirty dishes, are closing in on you...take a moment, and clean your space so you can feel free and comfortable to operate without having to look at it. Even if it's just in your peripheral vision...lose it. If you've got a bunch of notes scribbled on pieces of scrap paper and grocery store receipts and candy wrappers (As I often do), just stack the ones you need at your side, and put the other ones elsewhere. Set a positive atmosphere for yourself. Give yourself some room and feel good about the atmosphere that you set for yourself. You'd be surprised how much it helps to clear the mind. Again...the goal is to make your writing the ONLY thing on your mind while you're pouring your heart out. I always feel that I write much better and much faster when the clutter is gone. Give it a try. Turn all of your distractions...OFF! Every last one of them. We live in an era where everybody seems to treat everything as though it was a dire emergency and they NEED an instantaneous reply fro you. It's not. And they don't. "I texted you and you didn't get back to me within the first 12 seconds of me sending it! I know you're online! I'm stalking you!" Hehehe, really? Come on. Nope! Cell phone? Off. Television? Off. Radio? Off. Skype, Facebook, Twitter...anything that will 'alert' you to a new message within seconds of you receiving it, and will cause you to agonize over what it says and who it's from? Lose it! If you want to concentrate...then concentrate. The world can wait for a few minutes while you follow your passion and say what you need to say with your art. Now, obviously, if you have to look out for actual emergency situations for work, or for kids/family, and you need a line of communication open 'just in case', then that's fine. But unless you're an on call paramedic or heart surgeon or something...don't let people treat you as one. It may sound harsh, but please don't interrupt my flawless writing streak because you were bored at home and just wanted to say hi. Send me a message, and I'll get back to you as soon as I'm finished. Promise. Also, there's no such thing as effective multitasking when it comes to your writing. Don't write two or three sentences and then look back over your shoulder at the TV. Turn it off. Don't divide your attention. It's sooooo easy to do these days, but if you want to write...then write. Either save TV for later, or watch TV first and then write. You can't do both. Trust me. Millions of dollars are paid to psychologists and social analysts every year to make every last commercial on TV as eye catching and distracting and loud and obnoxious as humanly possible. It's their JOB to take your attention away from whatever it is that you're doing at the moment. So cut that influence out of your writing time, and focus. Learn to say 'no'. Now, this is one of the most difficult parts of clearing the runway for your writing process. At least it is for me. When it comes to your family and your friends and your job...it can be difficult to stand up and simply say 'no' when they come looking for attention. I don't mean that in a bad way. They want to spend time with you, and you want to spend time with them in return. I get it. I definitely advise us all to crawl out from our holes and get some sunshine every now and again. It's good for us. BUT...if your muse is jumping and you want to sit down and really express your current feelings while the juices are flowing through you...it's OK to tell your friends no every once in a while. Don't feel bad about it. Maybe you don't want to go to the movies tonight. Maybe you don't want to go out partying on a Saturday night, or have company, or get into a two hour phone conversation. Say no. "Hey, I've really got something that I want to do right now, and maybe I'll catch up with you guys on another night." That's all you have to say. No long list of excuses are necessary. Sometimes, you just want to write. So do it. What's wrong with saying no to a distraction from what you really want to be doing tonight? You know?You see, I think that a lot of people work at daily jobs...and at the end of the day, they punch out, and they're done with it for the rest of the evening. They can't imagine wanting to be there all day and night and sacrificing a good time out on the town for more 'work' if they didn't have to. Makes perfect sense to me. But I think creativity and passion works differently. I like to go out and have fun just like everybody else. And yet, writing 'frees' me. It's something that I truly LOVE to do, as often as possible. There is no punching in and punching out. I can do it all day and never get antsy or bored with it. So...there are going to be times when I don't WANT to stop writing my new story to go to a party. I don't want to gab on the phone, I don't want to go shopping, I don't want to go out to lunch. I want to sit right here in front of this laptop and spill my heart and soul out on the page for the next few hours. That's my idea of fun for the evening, and I hope my loved ones will be able to understand, or at least respect, that. Sometimes you just don't want to miss your creative moment. Sometimes...you just have to tell them 'no'. There's no love lost, I love my friends and family dearly. But...for right now...LEAVE ME ALONE!!! Hehehe!(Seriously...don't be a dick about it. Just say, "Hey, I've got other plans." I haven't creatively 'clocked out' yet, and I want to finish this thought before it fades away. I'll get together with you guys later.) Simple. Right? Create a playlist for yourself. A BIG part of my personal writing process is music. It always has been. I can guarantee you all that I have a personal playlist for almost all of the stories that I write on my website. They range from happy, 'mall friendly', boy pop...to dark and moody, instrumental, movie scores and ambient horror. Music is a part of me setting the mood for what I'm writing in whatever scene I happen to be tackling at the moment. If I need something sad and dramatic? I have a playlist for that. If it's for something comical and playful/flirtatious? I have a playlist for that too. And when I need something 'sexy'...hehehe, well, let's just say that I've got songs for that as well. Find songs on your computer that give you a certain feel or inspire a certain emotion inside of you. Some songs might make you want to get up and dance. Some might remind you of an action scene where your main characters walks into a room and kicks ass. Find songs that fit a certain mood, and put them all together in a single playlist, so you can play them while writing. We all have 'anger' music. We all have 'heartbreak' lullabyes. We all have confident anthems of triumph and achievement. Find yours, and put them into a single folder so you can out them all on repeat when writing certain moments in your story. Sometimes, having song lyrics helps. Other times, I find them a bit distracting, and go for instrumental scores instead. It all depends on what it is that you're trying to say. Get on Youtube! Think of movies that really got you revved up, or moved you to tears at one time or another. Then look up music from that movie in the search! If you're looking for a song by a particular artist or band, with lyrics and all...look up (Movie title) + soundtrack! If you want an instrumental part of that same movie...look up (Movie title) + score! Chances are you can find anything you want, and that musical backdrop will help to keep you in the same frame of mind while you write or edit your work. Give it a shot! It works wonders! Always have your notes within reach! If you guys keep handwritten notes like me on multiple scraps of paper...get ALL of them together before you start writing, and keep them in a nice little pile next to your laptop or PC. I can honestly say that there is nothing worse than trying to write, getting some nice momentum and flow going...and having to stop to go searching for notes and details at the last minute because you forgot how you pictured the scene going! Arrrghhh! It sucks! It totally takes you out of the moment. I'm constantly writing stuff down as I think about it, and any time that I have to stop writing to go searching for those scribblings...I end up losing some of the fire that I got burning bright for the next few paragraphs I had planned. So keep them close. Also, I've found it really convenient to keep 'character profiles' in my online files for each story. These are very short descriptions that I line up under each story title and can bring up and look at any time that I need to. Basically, I can look up "New Kid In School" and look to see if Ryan's eyes are brown or hazel. I can see how old "Billy Chase" is, or what side of "Jesse-101's" forehead has that tiny scar on. Just make a short list of details that you can pull up if you're drawing a blank on anything. Is this character blond or brunette? Are they right handed or left handed? Do they live with both parents or just one? Whatever details that you may need to jot down for continuity's sake...put them in the profile. That will save you the time of going back through earlier chapters of your own story to find any details that you may have forgotten over time. Take breaks! Psychological studies have shown that concentration and focus is actually MORE effective when we indulge in a few breaks every now and then. Even if you're trying to rush through and reach a deadline or get something finished...always remember to take a moment to breathe. I know that we all get in the mode of, "I'm going to sit right here, and just pour six hours of HARD work into getting this done tonight!" every once in a while. Ummm...don't do that. LOL! I don't know how YOU guys might look at that, but it never ever works for me. Forcing myself to completely 'mad dog' my computer screen for endless hours on end without a break just leads to burn out and mental/emotional fatigue. That's not to say that you shouldn't be determined about what you want to accomplish. Just...write for an hour, maybe two, and then take a short break. Ten to fifteen minutes. Go on Youtube and find something fun to watch. Lean back and listen to some good music. Play a few video games or go for a short walk or drop by a chatroom for a bit. Just 'disengage' from your main focus for a little bit so you can recharge your creative battery, and then jump back in with even more tenacity than you had before. Seriously...if you're on a roll and don't want to stop writing, then that's cool. Follow your instincts. But I wouldn't advise writing for more than an hour or two straight without at least giving yourself a chance to relax for a little bit. Otherwise, you know what happens? You get drained...your butt hurts, your shoulders hurt, your fingers get tired, carpal tunnel settles into your wrists...and you might get a lot done for that one day...but then you're sore and miserable and don't want to type another word for a WEEK! Hehehe, that's counterproductive. Do a little bit every day, and you'll make better progress that way. Just don't get distracted to the point where you forget what you were supposed to be doing in the first place. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there...then get back to work. I've learned that this works wonders when it comes to me getting stuff done. Know when to fold 'em! Yes, ladies and gentlemen...the old gambling anthem works here as well. Believe me when I say that I completely understand the desire to chase your muse and keep writing until the sun rises and the letters on your keyboard have been rubbed away from overuse! LOL! You should see the first WebTv keyboard I had (And still have! Because I'm sentimental)! The letters have been scrubbed off of the keys, and there is an actual groove in the spacebar. I definitely abused that thing when the site was young! BUT...you've got to know when to stop. When to pack it up for the night, shut it down, and have faith in your ability to pick up where you left off 'tomorrow'. Don't force it. Sometimes, the mind is willing, but the body can't keep up. If you're falling asleep at your computer? If your face is pressed against the keyboard and you wake up to 75 lines of the letter 'Z' because you just couldn't TAKE anymore? Then you're doing too much. Let it go. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to the same burnout and fatigue that I mentioned above. It's good to be ambitious and to give it your all...but you're only human. You need rest. You need food. You need to practice proper hygiene rituals. Hehehe! There comes a point when you need to call it quits, save what you have, and shut it all down for the night. That's just the way it goes sometimes. There have been countless times where I've actually gotten soooo MAD at myself for literally nodding off in my chair when I desperately wanted to get something done. Even now, I treat sleep the way bulimics treat food. I HATE it! I wish I didn't need sleep at all! I have WAY too much to do to waste hours and HOURS of my time sleeping. Grrrrr! But...nobody wants to read the half-baked ramblings of an author who's barely conscious while writing the next chapter of his/her story. Hang it up for the night. Go to bed, and come back when you have the brain power to put your best foot forward. K? It'll be there when you're ready to tackle it again. Besides, chances are you're just going to have to spend twice as much time editing the story when you finish. So you're not really saving yourself any time at all in the long run. So you might as well keep a healthy sleep schedule and get it right the first time. Right? Alright! So those are eight little tips that I've learned that will help to make my writing process a little bit easier on the body, mind, and emotions. Give these a look whenever you're having a bit of difficulty with getting that new work started or finished. I hope this will help! And happy writing, you guys! I wish you the best! Take care!
  5. As a few authors might have noted, there was some cause for concern earlier this week in regards to unsolicited commercial interest in some GA authors' stories. We have shut that down, hopefully for good as the so-called author/eBook producer has pulled their content from sale as well, but I will be continuing to monitor content for a while to see if they pop back up again with any stories that have GA content in them stolen from the site. Which is what I'm here to talk about today... We don't just have the mod queue to protect from plagiarism happening when authors post new content on the site. I also help authors whose content has been stolen and posted elsewhere, either for free or for profit. I've issued takedown notices on behalf of the site and, unfortunately, a whopping 5 different times for my own content. And while sometimes that alert comes from fans who are reading on alternate sites, other times I've been able to find my content stolen, for sale, or just posted on websites that I do not want my name or content to be associated with or 'hosted' on and hadn't given permission to do so. How did I know? I checked, and I continue to check, as often as I can. I'm not talking about Torrent sites, or free downloads, though those are a nightmare, but mostly about sites where authors are either flat out stealing your work as their own or trying to make a fast buck by ripping it off with a cheap cover and gathering royalties. How to check your stories for plagiarism: 1. Pick a distinctive phrase such as: Nyle looked up nervously as he rode under the portcullis. 2. Search the phrase within quotation marks "Nyle looked up nervously as he rode under the portcullis.". 3. Repeat search with a distinctive phrase without names: "The austere chapel and rigorous training had been a sharp contrast to his youth". Tips: Search on multiple search engines (Bing, Google, etc...). Search phrases from the first chapter and later chapters. Search distinctive phrases both with and without names in case those have been changed. DO ALL OF THIS OFTEN. How do I get the story removed if I find one or more that's been stolen? How to report plagiarism: 1. Look for a report button or a contact us link. 2. Copy the story link to the stolen story. 3. Share the stolen story title, author name, and links to your original. Haven't posted online? Keep copies of all sent mail to beta readers/fans with advanced reader copies of your work to prove when the content was written and sent. Offer to provide a forwarded copy of said email. If you really want to protect your work, purchase an official copyright, especially if you might publish later. If the site requires it, fill out an official DCMA notice. 4. Follow up. Most sites will work with you to remove the content. Sometimes you have to take it further to the ISP. If you suspect a story or other content on site has been stolen, please report it! This not only protects the site, but protects the authors, and the original artists. How to issue a DMCA notice: 1. Contact the site owners/ISP with the following information: Your signature, links to your copyrighted work, links to the plagiarized work, your physical and online contact information, a statement in good faith that the plagiarized work is unauthorized, and a statement that your information is accurate under penalty of perjury.... There's a lot more to DMCA notices I don't want to outline here, but there is a great website which explains the process: The DMCA Takedown Notice DeMystified by Ken Liu Sample notice:
  6. This week we have something a little different for today's blog post though we're keeping it all about improving and encouraging authors. Remember we have various opportunities for authors to be featured such as: Story Critique: Open to all GA authors. Sign up here. Ask An Author: Send your questions for your favorite authors to Carlos Hazday (no questions = no Ask An Author) Story Recommendations: Open to all GA authors & readers. PM your recommendation and why you recommend it to a Site Admin. But since last Wednesday was the Ask An Author post, and we don't have a story review to post, and no one has signed up to do an Improve & Encourage Story Critique, then... what could we do? I wanted to continue to feature content for authors, and I'm all about improving writing skills. My focus is often on grammar and the stickier rules relating to line editing, but today we're going to focus on an older blog post that Lugh added way back when we first started sharing site blogs to help encourage authors to improve their craft, and I also have a few Word files for authors to to use while crafting characters to download if they want so make sure you scroll to the end of the blog post! There are two minds as to if a story should be plot or character driven. But, no matter which way you pick, you need to ensure that your story is crafted to its fullest potential on both elements. This week we're going to focus on characters. First up, we're going to take a look at a blog post Lugh shared in 2012 about physical descriptions for characters: CassieQ shared some thoughts about character motivation and stereotypes: How about creating a villain? Renee shared her thoughts on the bad guys here. There are a ton of great articles like these, all about writing and editing, in the writing tips blog especially toward the back of the blog and last pages. These are just a few to whet your appetite! And, now that I hopefully have you hooked, I'm going to share a few Word files below. The first is a Blank Character Bio Sheet. You can use this to fill in your character's physical characteristics, age, birthplace, background, religion, family, habits, likes/dislikes, skills, home-life, job, fighting ability, backstory, etc... it's as comprehensive as I could make it and open enough to cover just about any genre. And, to help you fill it out, there's a character interview question file to make you think about what your character might answer if asked more abstract thoughts to help flesh out their personality and beliefs. Blank Character Bio Sheet.docx Character Interview Questions.doc
  7. Comicality

    Giving/Getting Criticism Part 1

    There are two sides to every story. And two sides to the critical review of every story, once it gets released. Hopefully, with a little bit of insight on both sides of the equation, I can help both the critics and the creators deal with their, often vastly opposing, views on what a good story is, and what it isn't. This week, as the initial approach to a 'two-parter' blog post...we talk about giving and receiving criticism. Two sides of a coin that I don't think most people fully understand each other on these days. Especially on the internet, currently plagued by unprovoked rants and knee-jerk reactions. So I'm going to highlight FIVE points that I think both the critics and the creators need to recognize so we can all have a symbiotic relationship here. One that will ultimately be beneficial to both parties in the long run. Now, seeing as I am a self-proclaimed author and one of the 'creators' myself, I'm going to use my insufferable bias and start off with the 'giving criticism' part of this article! LOL! Because, for every single person that has ever told an artist of any genre that they can't take criticism and are way too sensitive (I can't *TELL* you how many times I've heard that lame argument over the years), they need to look back at what they actually said to this person to provoke that particular response. Seriously. Some critics have gotten way out of control, and they have not been given the green light to be as hurtful and as brutal as they want to be to a writer, simply because they are viewing the extremely hard work of an individual and feel entitled to something more than what they got. So...with a certain level of grace, let's start with the rules of engagement aimed at the critics... Rule #1 - Be constructive! For the love of God...have a point. When reviewing an author's work, think about what you didn't like about it, or what you thought could have been done better, and then give them your honest feelings on the matter. Simple, right? Not for some people. Don't just charge in like a wild rhino and send harsh comments like, "Your story sucks!" Not only is that not helpful in any way, but it's just plain rude and unnecessary and it makes you look like a total jackass. STOP IT! Take some time, read and absorb the writing as a whole, and find places where you think the story could use some improvement. What is it about the story that you didn't like? What turned you off? What questions did you have? What are some of the things that you felt were unfinished or needed more exploring. If you're taking the time to comment on somebody else's story, then we (as authors) should assume that you've put some actual thought into your critique, and have something more intelligent to offer than "I hated it, and you're not a competent writer because I didn't like it." Well...why? Explain in detail. If you can't make any valuable suggestions and articulate your distaste for said story...then you're not a critic. You're a 'heckler'. That's not the same thing. Also, along with the critique, feel free to mention what you liked about the story. You're taking the time to write a comment, right? Something about the story must have grabbed your attention and inspired you to review it. Make that a 3-dimensional part of your comment. "I liked the beginning, but I wasn't so crazy about how it ended." Then provide examples. While negative reviews might be hard to hear, this is the very purpose of feedback. "What did I do right? What did I do wrong?" Take some time and express yourself in your comments. It helps more than it hurts. Rule #2 - The words you use? They matter. I'm sure that we all recognize the usage of words and the tone of voice in everyday conversation, even online. Not just as writers, but as human beings in general. Sometimes, there are language barriers that occur, worldwide, but try to be aware of what you're saying and how you're saying it, if possible. Use TACT when talking about the work of an individual who has just poured their entire heart and soul into a project that was meant to entertain you. NOT to ruin your day, or to frustrate you to the point of throwing a mini tantrum, simply because you don't like what you see. When reading a story that you think has a few flaws in it, feel free to be honest and let the writer know what might have confused you, or what might have been inconsistent from one chapter to the next, or if someone was acting out of character. These are criticisms that can actually help an author realize his or her mistakes and get better at their craft. But, please take a moment to calm down. The theatrics aren't necessary to get your point across. Why are you so angry? It's not an author's job to write 'your' story. It's an author's job to write their own story, and then share it with you. That's it. If you refer to an author's plots and their stories and their characters as...'stupid', 'annoying', 'weak', 'frustrating', 'cliche', 'contrived', 'bullshit', 'ugly', or any one of a thousand other negative descriptions that you would NEVER want to hear about yourself if you overheard other people talking about you, personally...then expect a backlash. Why would you do that? Every artist bleeds openly on the screen and reveals who they truly are in their writing, whether they know it or not. So when you make those nasty comments and use the 'just being honest' shield as an excuse, I think that's a cowardly way to express yourself. You can be honest and direct without being an asshole. Take it EASY, for Christ's sake. It's a fictional online story. Never forget that there is an actual person bearing the brunt of the humiliating rant that you're putting out in public for the whole world to see. Maybe you get off on hurting people for no reason. I do not. Rule #3 - If you decide that you want to stop reading a story? If you decide to leave? Leave SILENTLY! Please, pay attention, because this is something that needs to be addressed. I'm SO sick of it, and I'm sure a lot of authors can agree with me on this one, even if there's a large group of readers out there who can't see it for themselves. If a story that you're reading isn't going the way you planned...if you feel the writing has gone downhill, or the plot is entering territory that you don't want to jump into...if you think the updates are too scarce or that certain story elements just aren't your thing...you may decide to stop reading. You might want to leave and find another writer that is more to your liking. And that is totally ok with me and with the authors that you've supported in the past. But...if you decide that their story is no longer an enjoyable read for you and you want to move on...then, just move on. Go away. Leave. It's alright. Just click on something else. No harm, no foul. Follow whatever story makes you happy. Some people act as if they can't do that. If you actually take the time to sit down and type out an angry email or post a nasty comment to specifically tell an author that you will no longer be reading their work because it's not what YOU want to read? Yes! I, personally, find that to be extremely rude, and you should stop thinking so much of yourself. Just leave. Why are you making an announcement about it? Why the big production? A reader that does this usually has one of three major motivations. One...they're trying to deliberately hurt the feelings of the author writing the story, and is just being cruel for the sake of feeling important. Two...they're hoping other people will see it and agree and feel empowered by damaging your story and your reputation as a whole. Or three...it's an empty threat that was made to emotionally manipulate you into writing everything their way instead of bringing your own personal genius to the written word the way that you intended from the very beginning. Neither one of these scenarios will make you look like anything other than a narcissist and a bully...so don't do it. There is content on the internet that you see every single day that you don't like, and you don't care for...but you don't feel the need to make some grandiose comment about every single one of them, do you? Why do it for THIS particular author? Why are you suddenly a 'warrior' for content that you don't agree with or enjoy? If you really care about the stories you read, and the authors that created them for your entertainment, then show your support for their hard work, and offer constructive criticism whenever you feel they give you less than 100% of their true effort. Don't INSULT them! And don't think that your departure from their readership is going to have some major impact on their fanbase that it didn't earn and doesn't deserve. That's your ego talking, and nobody asked you to walk away. There's the door. Exit of your own free will. We don't need to hear about it. Chances are, you never gave us any real love or support to begin with. No feedback at all. No comments. No emails. No word of mouth promotion. Nothing. So if your 'first' email to me is, "I'm not reading your stories any more!" My first reaction is probably going to be, "I didn't know you were reading my stories in the first place. Who are you, again???" What have I lost? Honestly. Just stop reading. It's ok if you don't like a certain story. Nobody is faulting you for that. But it is an act of cruelty to go out of your way to shame an author just because a story isn't what you wanted it to be. Or because it takes too long to update. Or because the characters don't follow your idea of how they 'should' act and react to what's going on. I stand up for any author that has had to hear comments like these, and will continue to do so for as long as I'm alive. This isn't easy, writing and exposing your true feelings for a judgmental audience. Please, remember that. If any of you want a story done your way...then YOU write it. That's what I did in the beginning. Now you're reading writing tips from ME! Hehehe, and I'm a complete idiot. Trust me! So what does that tell you? Rule #4 - Know your biases! One of the elements that is most endearing about well-written stories like the ones on GayAuthors, is the fact that we can all put ourselves into the stories and identify with the main characters and relate to the situations being put on display. We can reminisce over what it was like to be in that same position, to get that first kiss, or to experience those nervous jitters, or re-live that first time walking into a gay bar. The best stories take us back to moments when everything was so exciting and sweet...and we tend to personalize those moments and make them our own. I do it all the time. However, again...it's important to remember that it is NOT an author's job to write your life story. Writer's don't know you, personally. They weren't hired or contracted to build your fantasy and base it solely on your personality. Maybe you shared a similar experience, and that grips your heart and makes the reading all the more enjoyable, but don't burden the writers you love with the task of writing your personal fiction. Please don't. They are telling things from their perspective, and delivering a message that they understand as an individual. It's their story. So if the storytelling deviates from 'what would *I* do in this situation?' that doesn't mean that the story is unrealistic or wrong or lacking. I know that it's natural to connect with a story or a character and really WANT to take control and have your own personal motivations, ideas, and desires, take over and guide the story in a certain direction. I get that. It's flattering. But if you're giving serious criticism on a story or a character or a certain plot point...you have to make an effort to understand and recognize your own biases in your perspective sometimes. You need a slight disconnect. It's essential in how your comments are conveyed by other people. I think "Billy Chase" is the one story where I've had the most trouble with this issue. And while I am HONORED that readers invest so much love and effort and can relate to what's going on...I have spent years trying to defend the poor kid and reminding people that it's JUST a fictional character and that the plot points and story arcs that I make are done for the sake of conflict and drama. It's IMPOSSIBLE to please every reader that comes across that story, and I understand that. But people that I've talked to in my emails have severe biases that factor in to how they view the series. And sometimes it's just not fair to fault the story itself for something that is so personal to that specific critic. I have to keep that in mind when I post new chapters, because Billy Chase was me when I was a 15 year old kid in the 90s. Shy, insecure, secretive, HORNY, hehehe! This is MY story, dangit! This is who I was back then. It's the foundation of who I am now. But not everybody grew up the same way I did. Some grew up in an earlier time, some are currently going through high school right now. Some grew up in a major metropolitan city like I did, and some grew up in a small rural area in the Bible belt of America. Our experiences are different. And since I'm the one piloting this plane...you'll just have to ride with me and hope for the best. Readers personalize the "Billy" character and then get frustrated and angry when he does something that they wouldn't do themselves. Again...that's not fair to us as writers. We're not responsible for rewriting someone else's history. If they are so fired up about it, then they can sit behind a keyboard tell their own story. Don't let that get you down. K? Some people have been cheated on in a relationship, some people have made bad decisions while they were drunk, some people have had issues with drugs, or suffered through physical or sexual abuse, or simply have regrets over not going for the boy of their dreams when they had a chance. All of these things factor in towards how they read your story. It's baggage that some critics bring with them, and you just can't satisfy them all. It's insane to even try. They are triggered by certain situations and get flustered and full of rage, or deeply depressed and full of sorrow, and want to make your writing the culprit for making them feel this way. It isn't. That might be an unsolved issue that they need to take up with their therapist. That's not your fault. You're a writer. Take care of your own issues while you're writing. If you have something to say, then say it. And if critics disagree? So be it. You expressed yourself with honesty and integrity. So, by the time they read it, you've already done your job as an author. Be proud. Rule #5 - Don't automatically expect an author to submit to your suggestions or demands just because you make them. I will admit, I have gotten plenty of emails with really GOOD ideas for stories, or for continuations of my own stories, and I was like, "WHOAH!!! That's a damn good idea! I wish I had thought of that!" Hehehe! Because there are a lot of fans and loyal readers that come up with concepts that never even crossed my mind. As writers, some of you guys might even incorporate some of these ideas into your story as time goes along. But don't feel pressured into using every idea that is sent to you. Like I said, you can't please everybody. Don't try. To you creative critics out there, we LOVE to hear your ideas, and I'd never discourage any of you from sending them in to your favorite author. But don't think that just because you hit the 'send' button and your idea is awesome, that an author is going to suddenly shut down their original game plan and follow your new path towards an ending that you're not even aware of yet. That's not how writing works. See...some folks have an idea for a 'scene' or two. Something exciting and provocative and 'wouldn't it be cool if?' scenarios. But, when writing a story, those great ideas need a build up. They have an impact, and consequences, and have to fit into the rest of the plot . I can't speak for all writers, but I, personally, have a master plan in mind from the very beginning. And most times, other ideas, no matter how awesome they may be...don't fit. I'm thinking of my story as a whole, and I only make changes when they fit the narrative. For folks reading the story, they might think ahead and, again...think 'wouldn't it be cool if'? But those ideas only fit a scene or two, and then it skews from my timeline and leads to an ending of their design, not mine. Which defeats the whole purpose of me writing a story of my own in the first place. But who knows? If you think you've got a great idea for your author's project, maybe you'll inspire something great within them. But, if your ideas are far removed from what the author is trying to say or the message that they're trying to convey? It might not happen. If it's a fully fleshed out idea that you think would make for a great story...then take a shot and write it yourself. Don't say that you can't do that, because you already came up with the idea. That's one third of the battle already done. Maybe even HALF! Writing is very personal to most people. It is for me. I need to be connected to every part of it. Every word, every sentence, every phrase and metaphor. So, I may think your idea is fantastic and should be made into a story...it might not fit into my current expression. The story ideas were finished long before you guys got to read them. So those are my five rules for critics that are reviewing and leaving comments on stories. I know that there are a lot of critics really don't mean to be cruel, but honesty doesn't mean brutality. If you think something is terrible, then the writer is going to assume that you know why it was terrible. So let them know your true feelings about it. Write your reviews as if you were talking to them face to face, instead of from behind the anonymous protection of a laptop screen. A true critic gives both positive and negative feedback if necessary, and concentrates on the writing itself without making it personal. Word choice is important, and you might be striking at a very sensitive nerve when you attack a story. So be civil. Have some class. And with a little coaching and true support...the writers you love will get better and better with every chapter or story they put out. That's what you want, isn't it? Give some encouragement when you can. It'll only make things more amazing in the future. Alright! This ends 'Part 1' of this blog post! I hope it resonates with you all and will help out in the future. Don't worry, writers! It's our turn next! Hehehe, and we've got five rules of our own that we need to think about when it comes to criticism! So don't get too comfortable yet. See you next week!
  8. Comicality

    Giving/Getting Criticism Part 2

    Imagine that you're standing in the middle of a crowd of your readers and fans that absolutely love the stories you write and appreciate the love and energy you put into every word. Every single one of those loyal readers has a giant feather...and they surround you, lightly teasing and fawning all over you with those feathers, day and night. It's just a good feeling, you know? Hehehe, and there might ten, or twenty, or fifty, or one hundred, of them...giving you nothing but good vibes the whole time. NOW...imagine that there is one person in that crowd...armed with a sharp, rusty, screwdriver. And that person runs up and STABS you right in the gut with it! Hehehe, it doesn't matter how many fans you've got, or how many feathers...that's impossible to ignore. It hurts! And sometimes it cancels out everything else, and all you can focus on is the pain. If you're one of those people...then welcome to 'Part 2' of the 'Giving/Getting Criticism' blog post! Oh yeah...it's our turn now! Last week, I gave FIVE rules that I thought critics should keep in mind when reviewing stories online. That includes us, as writing peers, as well. This week, we have five rules of our own to think about when it comes to receiving that criticism. Hopefully, it will help us look at things from a different perspective, keep up our enthusiasm for something we love doing, and possibly take some of the 'sting' out of getting a few less than favorable reviews. So let's dive right in, shall we? Writing can make you vulnerable sometimes. You may not even realize how much emotion you pour into the words you write on a screen. Feelings and memories and personal beliefs...desires, fantasies, hopes, and dreams. And when you're done, you've actually given birth to something that didn't exist before. You created something out of nothing, and it is so tempting to love that work unconditionally, no matter what anybody says about it. Don't feel guilty about that! It's a good thing. Be proud of what you done, and feel accomplished in knowing that there is a piece of you out there in the world that represents you as a writer and as a human being. However... There's loving your story like a parent loves their child when they come home with a bad report card...and there's loving your work like the mother in the movie "The Bad Seed"! Hehehe! (If you don't know the reference, ummm...Google it) Fans and critics are two sides of the same coin. You simply can't have one without the other. It doesn't work that way. If you open yourself up to praise, then you have to open yourself up to ridicule as well. Your armor can't be selective when it comes to this, but if you stay in the right frame of mind, not only can you avoid some of the hurt and frustration involved, but you might actually come out better for it in the end. K? So, here we go! These are my FIVE rules that every author and creator should take into account when getting criticism! Rule #1 - Shields up! I realize that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve in order to tell an honest and emotionally engaging story...but the criticism will come your way. Expect it. And brace yourself for the impact. I say this because it's easy to make any negative comments on your work seem MUCH worse than they actually are. No one wants to admit to being sensitive, but let's be real about this...we're sensitive. There's nothing wrong with that. The harder you work on something and the closer it is to your heart...the more difficult it is to take criticism on it. At least for me, it is. Now, I happened to grow up with an abusive father when I was very young, and it was a very painful experience for me, trying to write that into the "New Kid In School" storyline. I approached it, but as comments came in, I found that I wasn't ready yet. I was much too close to the source and couldn't handle the critics' comments on that part of the story. Comments that weren't anywhere near as harsh as I made them out to be, originally. So, some of you may notice that the abuse element was quickly written out of the storyline and never mentioned again. I took another shot at it when I wrote "Gone From Daylight", where it is a side story to the main plot. And it wasn't until "My Only Escape" that I felt prepared to tackle the issue head on. And that took practice and a thicker skin to really tell the truth about some of the things I went through and was able to distance myself enough from the story to accept any and all comments about what was going on. When you have a tight connection to what you're writing, criticism can hurt. But DON'T take every unfavorable comment as a personal attack! It's not personal. To your readers, it's just a fictional story. We have to keep that in mind when reading their reviews of it. This is where you need to have your armor in place so that you can listen to what your audience is telling you with an objective eye and avoid making it personal. Have your shields ready! There are going to be times when you need them. Believe me. Rule #2 - Shields down! Hehehe, remember when I told you to put your shields up JUST a few sentences ago? Yeah, well...you're going to need to take them down again! This is step two. The same vulnerability that you needed to tap into in order to create your story...you will need to tap into it again to accept the criticism you receive from readers, and improve as a writer. Again, this takes practice for some people. But there comes a time when we all have to be open to suggestions and try to see our own work through the eyes of the very people that we begged for validation in the first place. Hehehe, it's true! If you're asking for other people's opinion, expecting ONLY good news and nothing less than praise and worship...then you are in for a few harsh wake up calls in the future. And they won't be pretty. One thing that you DON'T want to do is argue! Never get defensive and try to bully your readers out of their opinion. That is only going to make you look like a jackass. I've been guilty of that myself, and I regret it. I've learned better. If you feel the need to explain something to the reader that you think they didn't understand, then that's fine. Do so calmly and let them know why you made the choices you made. Or clue them in on the fact that you have a master plan in the works, and (without giving spoilers) they'll see the need for your story design in the near future. That's fine. But don't get into a war with your readers over how they truly feel about what you wrote. You won't change their minds and they won't change yours. It's an eternal stalemate before it even begins. Instead, thank them for their feedback, and examine their comments to see if they've made any valid points that could possibly point out weaknesses in your work. Try to look at things from their point of view. You're trying to be the best writer that you can be, right? Well, that means taking responsibility for your own flaws and blind spots...and then working to correct them. Writing a story isn't easy. Step up to the challenge. Your readers won't settle for anything mediocre when they're reading, and we shouldn't either when we're writing. Rule #3 - DON'T get discouraged! Just because you get a few negative comments on a story, that doesn't mean that it's terrible and beyond redemption, or that you simply don't have the talent to write a story at all. As I've said in the past, the WORST reaction an author can get is 'silence'. If somebody is taking the time to comment and review your story at all, then you are already being given a gift that many writers never get. Even if the reaction is negative, you have captured the attention of a reader who took the time to let you know how they feel about something that you sat down and bravely put out there for public consumption. That's saying a lot. Appreciate that, and be grateful for the interaction. If you allow every negative comment to 'shut you down' in terms of continuing with the story...then you'll never get anything done, nor will you ever reach your full potential. Don't give up, don't put that story on the back burner or write it off as a loss, never going back to finish it. Have faith in your talent! Maybe you have a few stumbles along the way, but that's no reason to abandon the project. If you receive negative reviews on your work, make that an incentive to work even harder, as opposed to letting them beat you down. You had a dream to make your voice heard, and you're making that happen by expressing yourself your way. What's changed? Nothing. Keep writing. If you don't get them with 'this' story...you'll catch them with the next one. What's most important is that we all stay true to the stories that we want to tell. Do that, and we can conquer any criticism that comes our way. Always remember...we're creators. We create. Our job is already DONE before the critics ever get their hands on it. No apologies. K? Rule #4 - Never be afraid to retrace your steps. Look at your feedback, both positive and negative, and see if there are any similarities in what they are trying to tell you. Whether they say, "AWESOME story! I think the part with the vampire unicorn was a bit weird, but other than that...I LOVED it!" or they say, "I didn't really like it. Sorry. The vampire unicorn thing? WTF was THAT about?"...there's an 'agreement' happening there. Hehehe! Go back and see why both positive and negative comments are stuck on the same problematic elements of the story. What did you do there? Can you see where they're coming from? Are there parts of your story that might need some tweaking or possibly need to be removed from the story altogether? Everything you write isn't going to be perfect. Even if you work hard on editing and revising it a million times in an attempt to do so. The whole point is to have your personal expression translated into words and feelings that someone else can understand and relate to. If that connection is broken, and they're not getting it...then you might want to go back and try to find a more accessible way of getting your message across. It's important that we really LISTEN to what our critics are trying to say to us. And that can really SUCK sometimes! LOL! But don't block them out. Because the worst, most hurtful, comments you'll ever receive might just end up bringing out the best in you. They may leave a few scars along the way, but if you come out better for it...then they're worth it, right? Rule #5 - Know when to 'cash it' or 'trash it'! When you read criticisms of your work, and you've absorbed what it is what they had to say...you're left with a choice to make. Do I 'cash it'? And take their suggestions to heart in ways where I change up my way of writing and get better at doing what I do? Or do I 'trash it'? Because this person is just nitpicking and being rude without understanding how much time and effort I've put into making this story a reality? We have to know the difference. What you DON'T want to do is cave in every time somebody tells you that they don't like certain elements of your story! You can't please everybody. Don't try. You will drive yourself CRAZY trying to chase the needs and desires of your audience. STOP it! K? You had a story in your heart that you wanted to write and share with people online. Write that story. You don't HAVE TO accept every suggestion that you get from your critics. Stand up for your choices as an author. Maybe you killed off a beloved character, maybe your story took on a darker tone, maybe you threw a monkey wrench into a previously 'perfect' relationship...wherever your instincts guided you in your writing, GO there! Why not? Just because your audience doesn't agree with your artistic choices, that doesn't mean that you have to change them. It's your story. You can do whatever you want with it. Follow your gut feelings and put out a project that you can truly be proud of...criticism be damned! Me? I can be really 'wordy' in my stories sometimes. I make a lot of mechanical mistakes, formatting errors, continuity mishaps...I notice them a lot more now than I did when I was first writing my stories for the first time. So I'm still learning and challenging myself to do better with every chapter that I put out. But, despite it all, my goal is to maintain the flow and the emotion of every single story that I release. No excuses. And, while there are people who may not agree with some of the artistic choices that I've made, or the flawed presentation of the stories themselves...I hear your suggestions, but stick to my game plan. I'm stubborn like that. Hehehe! I think every creative mind reading this should be the same. Never let someone with a negative view on what you're written 'hijack' your story. It's YOURS! Own it. Both the good and the 'not so good'. Don't start kneeling down and surrendering to a group of people who think they know how to write the perfect story, and yet, all they do is instruct you on how to do all the hard work while they sit back and judge the end result. No. Stick up for your work. If you believe in it, and you think it truly represents your vision...then don't let anyone take that from you. Because there are people out there that will be overjoyed to read your story told YOUR way! Write for them instead. So...there we go! As writers and artists, opinions and criticism is going to be a constant part of our lives, and while critics need to have a certain sense of grace and etiquette when approaching us, we need to display a certain sense of grace and etiquette when accepting and dealing with them as well. We can be a part of the problem too, and every critic isn't trying to cause you any embarrassment or emotional damage by letting you know that your writing could use some work. Be grateful for the feedback you get, whether it's cheers or jeers. K? I hope this helps, you guys! Love you lots! And I'll be back with more soon! Later!
  9. Comicality

    Overworking a Story

    You've written a story, you've gotten from point A to point B, and you made sure to wrap everything up, nice and tidy...but it's just not ready yet. Right? You want it to be your best work. So you go back and edit it so that it'll seem like a much better, more professional, well-written story. You take a little more time with it, but even then, it doesn't seem quite right. So you go back again, and try to 'fix' everything that you think is wrong with it. You finish up...and it's OK...but...SHIT! Just before you go to bed, you toss and turn because you're thinking of a few more things that you want to say, and maybe a line of dialogue that you wanted to add to the third act. So you dive right back in and try to alter your project even more. You rephrase a couple of thoughts, add a little 'here', subtract a little 'there', and you wear yourself out trying to reach perfection. This is a natural, but often self-destructive way of handling your own writing in the long run. I know that sounds weird, but I've learned that this is a practice that needs to be recognized and avoided at all costs. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to art. K? If anything, it is the collection of imperfections that will ultimately set you apart from everyone else who is pursuing the same audience that you are trying to impress. There is such a thing as 'overworking' a story, and in your valiant attempt to improve on your original ideas, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you're not careful! So...this week's blog is all about leaving well enough alone and not letting your scrutinizing eye eat away at your story, taking the feeling and emotion out of what you're trying to say. This week, we talk about 'overworking' a story. Now, I can only speak for myself when I say that my writing is most potent when I am in the moment. While I have an idea and a game plan and an outline fixed in my head...the writing itself is very spontaneous in nature. Those thoughts and emotions come through me and get translated into words as I channel my muse as best as I can. There are times when my typing fingers can't keep up with what's going on in my mind and in my heart. It can be a rush, to just zone out and have a story evolve and blossom right in front of my very eyes. Then, once the story or that chapter is done, I take a short break from it to make sure that I can look at it with an objective eye, where I'm not still all buzzed and excited over what I just created. Naturally, there are going to be mistakes. Spelling and mechanical errors, dialogue mishaps, and a few things that could be delivered in a better way. So I go back to the beginning and try to give it that good old-fashioned Comsie polish so it's a smooth and enjoyable read for anybody who happens to stumble across it online. However...I have my worries and insecurities just like any other writer, and there exists this temptation to keep thinking about the story long after it's finished. As well as the need to jump back into it so I can fix it. One of the main reasons that I edit all of my own stories is because I would hate to drive an editor into a friggin' ASYLUM with the tiny tweaks and twitches that I'm constantly putting into my stories at the last minute. Hehehe, that just wouldn't be a fair fight for any human being who would try to figure out why some of these things needed changing at all. I still try to add little touches of 'last-minute magic' before posting a new story, but I had to train myself to stop agonizing over the tiny micro details of every chapter the way that I used to. It's not easy, but I feel it's necessary. You see...when you keep going back to your story, changing this and that, trying to correct issues that weren't really issues to begin with...you begin to work against the spontaneity of your own muse. That gut instinct that was pulling you along and guiding you to speak your truth and express your honest feelings? It can get lost if you become obsessed with bending and warping the natural flow of what you were trying to say in the first place. I've seen really heartfelt stories turn into something slightly 'wooden' and less appealing, simply because the original version was overworked in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Sometimes, the search for perfection can drain the 'life' out of a project. That's never a good thing. I'm not saying that you shouldn't strive to be at your very best at all times. Of course you should. But, at the same time, you have to develop some level of faith in your own instincts. That energy and that passion that you put into those phrases and metaphors and emotionally engaging moments is the very essence of a great story. It's raw and it's real and it says something about who you are and where your heart lies when talking about the situation at hand. Don't lose that. Think about some of the best moments in your real life. Take a second and think about those times when you fell head over heels in love, when you laughed until your belly hurt, or when you were totally surprised by a bit of good fortune. Did you plan for those moments? Or did they just sort of happen? Life is really a matter of 'winging it' from one moment to another, and having that same feeling expressed in your stories is only going to make it more relatable to everyone reading it. By going back and putting an extra gloss on every situation and word of dialogue can sometimes make it seem fake and unrealistic. That spur of the moment genius that you had while writing gets pushed aside for robotic corrections and stilted conversations. It can become a disconnect between you and your readers. If you think your readers can't recognize a labored scene in a story, you'd be wrong. They can often tell right away. And that's not your best work, is it? I, personally, think that there has to be a time when you let your work speak for itself. Leave it alone. In a way, I imagine it would be like raising a child. You want to give your story a good foundation and bring it to a point where you can be proud of what it can accomplish...but at some point you have to let go and let it breathe on its own. You won't lose any love for it, hehehe, promise. Go back, touch your story up in a few places if needed, and then let your heart take control and give your brain a rest. STOP thinking about it! Hit the send button and anxiously wait for the reaction. Your audience might surprise you. Remember, we can all be our own worst critics sometimes, and the mistakes that you think are so unforgivable when you're reading your own work...most readers don't catch the at all. They're too busy enjoying what it is you have to say. I've reached a point now where I barely even remember half of the stuff I write. Hehehe, it's true! Sometimes, somebody will quote something from one of my stories and I'll be like, "Wait! I wrote that? That sounds pretty cool. THANKS!" LOL! Sad, but true. But, like I said, that's because I write 'in the moment' and don't look back when I'm done. I would much rather have the passion take center stage. Don't be a 'George Lucas' and keep going back trying to fix "Star Wars"! "Star Wars" is fine just like it is. The extras aren't necessary, and they begin to intrude on the simplicity and innocence of the original work. Spill your heart out, make one or two edits for content and mistakes...and then leave it alone! Too much is too much. Less is more. And whatever cliché you want to attach to the same idea. Have some faith in your talent and let your story say what it needs to say. Allow your natural instincts shine without being hindered by afterthoughts and insecurities. K? The more love you have for your own stories, the more that love will be transmitted to the people watching. It's like the difference between hearing an artist or band on a marketable CD, and seeing them live in concert. The concert is an entirely different experience. Feel good about your initial gut feelings, and bring them to your audience without giving them that 'perfection' handicap. I think they'll appreciate it. I hope this helps you guys gain some trust in your muses, wherever they may be. And I'll be back soon with more! Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm going to go back over this entire article and scrutinize every last word and detail to see if it's ok for posting! LOL! What??? It needs 'fixing', dammit! I'm insecure. So sue me...
  10. Comicality

    Show, Don't Tell

    It's been said many times before. It's practically one of the first basics that every writer learns, that every mentor teaches, and that every critic jumps on. That is the idea of 'show, don't tell'. And yet, while many people may hear that, to some it's a bit unclear as to what that really means, or how to achieve that particular goal. Hopefully, this would give you a slightly better perspective on what appears to be a very simple task on the surface, but actually takes a little practice and finesse to pull off correctly. The first thing to pay attention to is the difference between showing and telling. The 'telling' part of the equation is simple...these are the details of who your characters are and what's going on during any particular scene. Telling is a vital part of writing, so even though people say 'don't tell', don't think of telling as being the enemy. Telling is describing what your character is wearing, the color of his hair, how clean or how messy his bedroom may be, or whether or not it's raining outside. These are all things that your readers are going to need to know if they want to fill out a complete picture in their minds. You can also use telling to describe a certain action. Use it to let your reader know that your character crossed his arms, or that he gave your protagonist a slightly goofy grin. Maybe he's shuffling a deck of cards while he's talking or sipping beer out of a plastic cup. These are all acts of 'telling' your audience what they need to know and giving them a clear vision of where they are and what's happening. Now 'showing' is a little bit different. Showing is the talent using the basic details and actions above to tell a much deeper story. Think of telling as getting the ingredients, spices, and garnishings together for a gourmet dinner...and showing as actually having the skill to use those ingredients to make your dish a masterpiece. Sometimes, this is where some people get a little shaky, and if you try to cut corners on this part of the process, you'll be missing some of the emotion and reader involvement that you need to make your story memorable. Let's say you have someone in your story who's a friend of the main protagonist...but he can be a real jerk sometimes. Now there's nothing wrong with describing him through narration or simply writing, "He's my friend, but he can be a real jerk sometimes." That's perfectly functional, but that's just you 'telling' your readers that he can be a jerk. How do they know that? What are you going to do to demonstrate that? Simple...you create situations in your story (Even if they're very small scenes) that actually show him being a friend and other scenes that show him being a jerk. Maybe you have a small scene where he stands up for his best bud against a bully, but in the next scene he runs up and smacks the books out of his hands because he think it'll be funny. Just a few actions like that will give your readers the information they need about the character, and you won't have to waste time 'telling' them that. Find ways to use your story to actually demonstrate what you want your readers to know. Instead of saying, "He was so beautiful!" try creating a scene where your character is just caught off guard and keeps looking back at him. Describe his eyes, his hair, his laugh. Create an infatuation that your readers can feel and take part in. Just saying 'he's beautiful' isn't going to be memorable or important later. But readers will definitely remember that scene and think back to all the times they've felt the same way. It builds a stronger connection to what's going on. This works for everything. Moments of heartbreak, sadness, anger, and joy. Your characters' actions and spoken dialogue should say more about them than just what you type out on the screen. Every time you're describing something that isn't just concrete details...ask yourself how you can prove to your readers that the statement you just made is true. If you call someone a tough guy, or say that they're really funny, or that they seemed really shy and uncomfortable...ask yourself if you can find a way to demonstrate that through their actions instead of just saying so. Someone who's shy might look down at the floor when he talks or blush when given a compliment. Someone who's sad might seem distant or might be heard sniffling softly in a corner all by themselves at a party. Don't be afraid for your characters to speak for themselves and show who they are without the extra help. I hope this helps a little bit and gives everyone something to think about while you're writing or editing your next story. A few well-written moments in your story will create memories that your readers will cling to and remember. Unless you've just written one of the greatest, most quotable, sentences in the history of literature...no amount of simple words and details will have the same effect. Then again, if you can do BOTH...then go for it!
  11. Comicality

    Character Descriptions

    Who is this person? And that person? Who are the characters populating this fictional world that I'm reading about? What do they look like, what are their personalities, and why should I care? These are all questions that need to be asked and answered with every new story that you put out, as you are trying to paint a vivid picture with the words you type on the screen. No matter how clear the vision of your main characters and love interests may be in your head, you have to keep in mind the fact that your readers only have your descriptions to go on when it comes to visualizing the people they're reading about. If you're looking to set the stage for your written experience, then you're going to want to give your readers a series of images to adhere to. Someone that they can picture walking, talking, and acting, in your little movie of the mind. So, this week, we're talking about character descriptions. Their importance, their effect on readers, and how to effectively translate the actors in your story to an eager audience. Let's get into it! Whenever I read a story for the first time, I mentally try to set the scene and imagine the characters to the best of my ability. If you mention that someone has amazing blue eyes, I put that in the back of my mind and picture someone with amazingly blue eyes. If you mention that they're an older man with a 5 o'clock shadow, then I picture that. If you mention a certain hair style, like a Mohawk or an emo fringe or a buzzcut...then I keep that with me. This works to further connect me to the story that I'm reading. Many of your readers are doing the same thing. They want to breathe life into the characters that they're meeting for the first time. I always think about a story as a cooperative experience between writer and reader. You are both creating the dream at the same time. You set the bare bones, and they fill in the details. This can make for a really engrossing read and can make your story more realistic and enjoyable through the sheer involvement of your audience in its creation. I can break this process down into three rules that have helped me out in the past. 'Suggest'. Don't control. If you are giving a physical description of the characters in your story...leave your readers some room to create their own vision of what they look like. Always remember the eye of the beholder when it comes to beauty. Usually, when I give details on a character, they're very basic. Eye color, hair color, general build, skin color or ethnicity, approximate age, style of dress...etc. Sometimes, if I have something or someone in mind specifically, I'll add a few extra details that I think will complete the exact look that I'm going for. But, I feel that it's important to let your audience define their own vision of beauty. I'm willing to bet if I asked them what some of my characters look like in their mind's eye...no two visions would be alike. That's a GOOD thing! Allow them to fall in love with characters that they, personally, find super attractive. Let them attach the physical attributes of the ultimate love interest to something or someone that they hold close to their heart. It makes for a more immersive experience while reading. Only add descriptions that are necessary. As a personal rule, I never add certain details unless they're a part of the character himself or herself. If they fit into the scale of what is considered 'average', then I feel like those descriptions are readily assumed, and therefore not needed. But...if one of those details is a defining part of the character themselves, then I might make mention of it. As an example...if a character is your average 5' 7" tall, give or take...I won't make that a part of the story. However, if the character is extra tall? Then that is a trait that gives the character a unique 'extra' that should be a part of what's going on. This goes for other details that need to be known if it affects how that character is seen or how they act. If their overweight, or emaciated, or rippling with muscles, or very short for their age. If they have a disability or a visible scar...if they have freckles, or braces, or wear glasses...these are all things that might not be assumed by your readers unless you tell them directly that this is what they look like. So, unless their appearance includes features that are somewhat unique to them...leave them out. You don't have to mention height, weight, or anything of that sort if they're average or not a departure from your typical protagonist's appearance. Let the character speak for themselves, it will show the reader who they are through their actions. Basically, this means that you don't have to 'tell' your readers who this character is through exposition or by using stereotypes to define who they are in relation to the rest of your story. When I started writing these stories, I felt the need to mention that the main character was gay. But that wasn't necessary. The main character is a boy, and he finds another boy attractive. That already explains the 'gay' issue without me having to announce it. That's a bit of fat that can be trimmed off of the story when I'm putting it together. I have written stories with characters who were blind, or deaf, or transgendered, and those details were needed to set up that particular character and initiate the kind of interactions that they were going to have with other characters in the story. But if I can describe them and their differences without actually saying it out loud...then it will work much better in the long run. This goes back to my article on 'show, don't tell'. Sometimes your characters can provide all the details needed through their actions and deeds, without the desperate need for you to spell it out for your audience. They'll get it. Just write the character with those traits in mind, and people will make their own assumptions along the way. Some details are self explanatory when it comes to the flow and direction of the narrative. So let it stand on it's own. K? So, keep those three rules in mind, and you can create a character that you love and want to present to your audience, while simultaneously giving your readers an opportunity to personalize their own visions of beauty and attraction by filling in the details of the characters you've given them to work with. Everybody has an idea of the most beautiful person in the world! Let them make that the love interest in your story, and they'll follow you, chapter to chapter, until the very end. Participation in the creation of a good story is key to making it work. There's a give and take between reader and writer. Never forget that. I hope this helps you guys get an even deeper understanding of your audience, and vice versa. Good luck to you all! And I'll talk to ya some more next weekend!
  12. Comicality


    What drives a story? More importantly, what is driving you while you're putting the story together, piece by piece? It's not something that you really have to focus on or worry about while you're writing...but it's something that you will begin to notice more and more as you gain experience with your craft. If used right, you can structure your story in a much more effective way before your fingers ever touch the keyboard. It's something to think about while plotting out the events of your story or series, and it might help you to concentrate on what you're trying to do with it, as well as keep you from going astray with the overall feel of your project in general. So let's get started, shall we? There are three major ways that can drive your story from its beginning to its end. It can be 'character' driven, 'plot' driven, or 'theme' driven. And while these three things have a bunch of similarities, they're really pretty different in terms of telling the story you want to tell. So pay close attention... Character Driven. I would say that this category is probably what most of my own stories fall into. Growing up with comic books as a kid, this was my very first experience with handling multiple characters and having them be the focus of the story while building an experience around them that could (potentially) last forever if I wanted it to. The best example of this would be "The Secret Life Of Billy Chase". Billy is a closeted gay teen in high school, who keeps a diary that documents his day to day adventures with his friends, crushes, parents, and everything that is going on around him. With this story, there are a bunch of different characters, a variety of different storylines, and a series of obstacles and problems that Billy has to face from one chapter to the next. However, "Billy" is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Everything is told from his point of view. Everything that happens is happening to him. He is thee character that is going to carry this whole series through thick and thin. So even if the storylines change, or older characters leave and newer characters enter the scene...everything revolves around the protagonist. This is why that series can have 400+ chapters and not really get tired or exhausting. You're following one character through his life. The problems he faces can change. He can evolve with every mistake he makes. And there doesn't need to be a definitive 'goal' for him to reach, because living alongside the character himself is the point of the whole story. Even when one storyline ends, another one can begin. And as long as the audience stays connected to Billy himself...that's ok. This can make for a very strong connection with the main character, and can give your audience more of a 'friend' than some guy they just happen to be reading about. Plot Driven. While characters are important in every story that you plan to write, some stories are meant to be more plot-driven, and work better that way. A lot of my shorter, 'one shot', stories fall into this category. These stories are based on an idea that I had and wanted to express in story form with a particular agenda in mind. While "Billy Chase" can have a TON of different story plots that rise and fall over time, these short stories have a specific goal in mind and work best when I have a smaller arc and a determined point to make. Some good examples of this would be "Between The Lines" or "Save Or Sacrifice". These stories were written with the intention of tackling a certain event or series of events that would lead to a definitive outcome. In these two series, the problem was introduced, and the storytelling was all focused on solving that problem to reach the end. As I said, the characters are still important, but the plot of the story is what takes center stage this time. If I were to take these characters and put them into different situations...it might make for a good 'side' story or a sequel...but it wouldn't be a part of the original story that I was trying to tell. That one moment in time has been addressed, that one problem has been solved, and the story has been told. The plot-driven story isn't as limitless as the character-driven story...but sometimes it's better to just be short and sweet and to the point. Don't let yourself get too 'out of bounds'. Say what you have to say, and then let it go. If you try to drag it out, people will be able to tell. Never a good thing. And then we have theme driven stories. Theme-driven stories can give you a ton of freedom, but it can be really easy to get lost in that freedom, causing you to go off on tangent and lose your focus if you're not careful. 'Theme' is a really direct, but also a really vague, way to create a story. A theme can be anything. A theme can be, say...drug abuse. If you want to build a project around that theme, you can write a story that takes place in a rehab center. You can have multiple characters involved, and each character can have their own plot-driven stories going on, independent of one another. But the main 'theme' is what connects them all, and as long as you keep that as the main reason for all of these people to be interacting at all...then it'll work. As far as my own stories are concerned, the best example for this would be "Skylight". It takes place in a high school, many different students who all have different backgrounds and different obstacles that they have to face. Some of them aren't related to one another at all. Some have never even met. However, when 'disaster' strikes the school...that disaster becomes the theme driving the story. Even though I'm, technically, telling many stories at once, involving characters who may not even know one another...the theme is the glue holding it all together. The theme is what makes the story cohesive for the readers, and they can follow along, seeing how each story grows and changes depending on how they all deal with the same tragedy. So, taking a look at the story that you want to write...keep these three things in mind: Character driven stories can have multiple plots and can go on and on until you decide you want to bring them to a close. Just make sure your character is likable enough for your readers to want to keep following him on his many adventures. Plot-driven stories are clear, concise, and straight to the point. Decide what you want to say with this type of story, and say it. Address a single problem, situation, or idea...and then present a solution. It's used to capture a single moment in time. Start the story, build the story, then end the story. One, two, three...done and done. Theme-driven stories can get messy if you don't focus. Figure out what your theme is. An Earthquake, an alien invasion, a hostage situation...whatever. Populate that event with your main characters and all of the individual stories that might define them...and see how they all react differently to the same event. Just make sure that the main theme remains center stage, and your readers won't get lost in the chaos. Alright...that's all there is to it. If you get a chance, go back and look at some of your older stories and see what category they fit into. A lot of writers feel most at home with one variation or another, and if that's where you're comfortable, then that's awesome. But if you're ever looking to reach out or jump into something new, keep these three categories in mind, and let them help you build a structure that you might want to play around with. You never know how much you might enjoy doing something different every once in a while. That's it for now! I hope this helps! And I'll be back with more! Happy writing, you guys!
  13. Comicality

    Promoting Your Work

    For this article, I want all of you reading this to take your loving, sweethearted, humble, nature...all of your shyness and all of your shame...crumple it up and toss it over your shoulder! Because, for the next few minutes, we need to be a full blown 'ego machine'! Period! Don't worry...you can go back to being humble again when you're done. It passes. It's like a flash fever, or a 24 hour flu. Use it to your advantage while you can. Whenever you decide that you have your story looking exactly the way you want it to, polished and edited and ready for your audience to read...you've got to take the next step and market the HELL out of your own work! I'm not saying that you should just mention it whenever it comes up in casual conversation. No. You've got to actually make a real push to make sure that people get just as excited about reading your story as you were about writing it. In fact, you might actually have to work even harder to promote your story than you did to write it in the first place. The time for being passive or shy is over. You've got to be able to push that aside for a few short moments and express to other people that this story is just as amazing and incredible as you wanted it to be before you typed the first word. Now...I'm not telling you to be Donald Trump about it! Don't go out there saying that every story you've ever written is as immaculate and divine as the Bible itself, and that you're the greatest writer that's come along since William Shakespeare! That's just...dumb. And nobody is going to believe you. So...like...why do it? But, if you're honest and open about your work, and you make an effort to put yourself out there...you can catch the eye of some interested readers who might really like your style and the stuff you write. Not only that, but they might help to spread the word to their friends and family. Some of them have blogs, some have Goodreads accounts or something similar, and some belong to online forums or book clubs where all they do from week to week is talk about new stories and make recommendations to each other as to what they want to read next. All it takes is a few sparks to create a fanbase, and provided you're willing to keep them interested, that can lead to even more attention in the future. How does an author go about doing that? Well, let's jump right in and see, shall we? If you're going to take the time to write something from your heart (which is difficult to do), and gather the courage to share it with people that you don't even know (Which is even more difficult to do), then don't you want it to be read? Of COURSE you do! That's why you end up checking your post and email every ten minutes since you clicked the 'send' button! In order to get noticed, you have to advertise your product, and you have to be relentless about it. This is the only way for you to truly get your story noticed and your talent recognized. This is the internet. There are a BILLION different distractions going on at any given moment of anyone's time online, and the fact that you even stopped by to read the words I've written in this article is mind-blowing to me! Because that means it took a lot of hard work to get you here, and you decided to stick around. At least for a couple minutes. But imagine how hard it would be for anyone else to get you to pay attention to their story right now while you're reading this. Hell, even YOU aren't paying attention to the story you just posted right now! You're watching me instead. Hehehe, do you see where I'm going with this? Please understand that when I say 'relentless'...I don't mean 'obnoxious'. There's a difference. You don't want to run around the internet spamming everybody with unwanted advertisements every time you pop up on their screen. That will get you the exact opposite reaction than what you're looking for. When you continuously bombard people with visual 'junk', they tend to start ignoring it. Or possibly putting you in their junkmail altogether. That's counterproductive. The difference between 'Obnoxious' and 'Relentless' is a matter of finesse and necessity. You don't want to FORCE your story down people's throats. That's obnoxious. What you want to do is make links and contact info available to them at all times. That's 'relentless'. You don't want to send unwarranted emails or make posts three or four times a week with the same information that you gave them just 48 hours ago. That's 'obnoxious'. But whenever you want to post a new chapter or story or update to your site, you can leave a reminder that you still have other projects available for them to read. That's 'relentless'. Getting the picture? Cool. I hope so. You want to be seen, but don't let your promotion speak for your work. Your work should speak for your work. Period. And IF they like what they see...then there are links available to them so they can choose to follow you further. But leave that up to your readers. You can't force them to support you, and you'll only make a pest out of yourself by trying. Always keep that in mind. If they're enjoying your work, then their support is merely a pleasant side effect of that. Keep writing. They'll keep an eye out for you. Have some faith in your audience. Something else that I can't stress enough...answer your email! This may seem easy at first, but could get much more difficult over time. But it is a necessary part of the process. These people took the time to write to you and send you their thoughts and feelings on your project. Read them! And answer back. They are giving you their heartfelt opinion on what you wrote. What parts spoke to them, what parts they may not have understood, what parts moved them...all of these things can be used to get an outside vision of how your story looks to other people. Pay attention, and respond. True fans will comment at length about each and every chapter, and you can't ask for any better feedback than that! If you can find a few trusted voices online to review each story they read by you, you will be truly blessed. But you've got to do your part too. Even if it's just a note to say thank you and let them know that you're paying attention. That goes a long way, believe me. Speaking of email...choose ONE email address and stick with it! Make it separate from all of your other email accounts, and be STABLE! I know some of you guys like to change your name or email addys every few months for little to no reason at all. STOP that! Stay still. When I started writing in the Summer of '98, I chose Comicality@webtv.net as my email address...and 19 years later...it's STILL Comicality@webtv.net! People who are just finding my very first story online right now, can write me at that email address and talk to me just fine. The harder you make it for your fans to talk to you, the faster they're going to turn away from you and go find some other author that doesn't take a treasure hunt to find online. Get something stable and stay there. Nobody's going to send out a search party for you just to give you a brief moment's praise. Trust me. Also, build a virtual community around what it is you do. Social media is a huge part of that in this day and age. Get a Twitter account. Look at things like Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube if you want to get into that world. Find yourself a free mailing list so you can alert people to upcoming posts and updates. Allow your readers to find a 'home' where they can hear from you and locate your stories easily without having to search around the net for them. Remember, that 'backspace' button on the keyboard is NOT your friend! It only takes one click of that button to send you spiraling right back down into obscurity. Avoid that at all costs. While all social media is a great way to talk to a huge number of fans at once, I personally prefer forums and chatrooms. Because I'm not just dictating messages to a random audience, I'm actually getting a chance to interact with them. The biggest reason that the "Billy Chase" series really took off the way it did wasn't due to my announcements or frequent updates. It actually came from me posting them on the Comicality Library forum. People began to leave reviews and comments, and they began to talk to each other about each and every chapter. That discussion every week ended up boosting that story into becoming one of the most popular on the site in a very short amount of time. Plus, I get to stop by and say hello every now and then, I get to have fun in the chatroom and meet my readers one on one so they get a feel for who I am and vice versa. I get to answer questions and get feedback in real time. AND...as long as were being 'relentless' I have my own platform to toss in the occasional advertisement whenever I feel like it. Hehehe! It takes some time to cultivate your own virtual territory when it comes to this kind of thing, but once you carve out your own little space online...well, as the saying goes... "If you build it, they will come." The most important part of promoting your work is putting a tireless effort into making your stuff available...but not shoving it into people's faces. If they want it...they'll come get it. Take my word on this. Add a 'signature' to the bottom of every email you send out, including your website link and return email. If you post on Nifty (A great place to get started), make sure you do the same. Email address, website link, social media contacts, etcetera. On EVERY post! Put it at the top, or put it at the bottom. I do both. Try submitting stuff to GayAuthors and try to get your work looked at there. Try Wattpad too. Let people see your name and get to recognize you. Encourage feedback, and make sure to REPLY when you get it! Don't ever think for one minute that your readers don't deserve your time and attention. They are just as important for reading your story as you are in writing it. Respect that relationship, and be thankful for it at all times. God, knows that I am. Alright...I'm gonna stop now before I start rambling. Hehehe! But I hope this will help you guys out, and I wish you all the luck in the world in building a fanbase that you can truly be proud of! Happy writing, and I'll talk to you soon!
  14. Comicality


    I believe that one of the biggest tricks you can ever hope to pull off in writing a story is the art of foreshadowing, which is a LOT more challenging than you might think it is. This is due to the fact that you have to be able to set up a series of major events in advance...without letting your readers know what those events are ahead of time. In fact, you don't even want your audience to know that you're doing it at all until you get the pleasure of landing that 'zing' moment upon them later on. It's one of literature's most impressive magic tricks! And hopefully, this little piece will help you to effectively pull it off without a hitch. So...let's get started. What is foreshadowing? It's the daunting task of secretly setting up future events in your story ahead of time without letting the reader in on the secret. For example...maybe your main character just happens to be a computer hacker. That might not have anything to do with 75% of your story...but as you reach the climax? You might have an issue where someone says, "If only we could find somebody with the ability to hack into the system!" Dun dun dun! Your main character just so 'happens' to have some hacking experience! Something that you casually alluded to earlier on in your story. Problem solved. The question is how do you set up that important payoff in advance without your audience rolling their eyes and saying, "Well, THAT'S definitely going to be a part of the story later on! Ugh!"? It's not easy. Trust me. Readers are much more savvy these days. People absorb sooooo much media in a single evening these days. They've seen every movie, read every story, heard every song...no matter how HARD you try, they will always try to outwit you and jump twelve spaces ahead of you to figure out what you're going to do next. Everybody's looking to be the first one to shout out, "CALLED IT!!!"...followed by them calling your work contrived and predictable, of course. (Sigh...I really hate that second part...) But when people are reading ten to fifteen stories a week, sometimes even double or triple that number, it's hard to surprise them with much of anything at all. You have to be sneaky about it. You've got to toss a banana peel on the floor. (Tosses banana peel!) And while I realize that giving some of my secrets away will now make readers even MORE savvy and it will ultimately make things harder for me to ever surprise them with anything ever again...I'm going to give them to you anyway. Because...why not? Hehehe! The first part of the process is obviously the most necessary piece of the puzzle. PLANNING! Planning, planning, planning! This is something that can't be ignored, skipped over, or taken lightly with you story's foreshadowing. You need to know, ahead of time, what's going to happen, why it happens, and what impact it's going to have on the rest of your story as a whole. Remember, your readers already have a seriously unfair advantage when it comes to your creative solutions and set ups. So if you're going to write a story with any surprises at all...you're going to need to take their advantage into account. Because some people are just WAITING to tell you that your story sucks! Hehehe! And that they're smarter than you for figuring things out before you told them what was going on. They live for it. Be prepared for that. Just kidding. They're not that bad. Plan! And don't be 'vague' with your planning. You have to have a definite idea of where you're going to end up from the beginning. Before you even start writing a story where foreshadowing is a technique that you want to use, figure out what you want to reveal, when you're going to do it, and how you want to hide it. Vague and unspecific planning leads to severe plot holes and inconsistencies later on in your project. A good example would be the original “Star Wars” trilogy, where it is revealed that Luke and Leia are brother and sister...but were clearly seen kissing in the first episode. Ummm...yeah, so...great plot twist, but you might want to have a major detail like that worked out beforehand. Otherwise, it only causes problems in the end. So, to avoid this...try to visualize your story fall the way through. Try to think of it as your own personal movie trailer. Seriously, if you were going to market this to an audience, what would be in the trailer? What happens in the beginning, what happens in the end, and how do you get from point A to point B in an entertaining way? Think of all the interesting major events that will carry your reader on the journey you want to take them on? Visualize it in your mind. Now, once you have the whole story in your mind (Don't worry, you still have enough flexibility to spontaneously change things around while you're writing. I know that inspiration can be unpredictable, but that's where some of your best work comes from.) it's time to move on to the second part of your magic trick. Pick your moments. When thinking about your completed story, ask yourself, “What are the events that stand out to you? Which ones are most important? Which events will have the biggest impact on the over all outcome of the story?” These are going to be your golden moments, and the ones that you want to concentrate on building up to. Great use of foreshadowing can really bring an already exciting moment to the next level. Imagine if your main characters are being chased by some kind of deadly enemy and they're trapped at the end of an alley with a locked door. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. What do you do? Well, what if the main character notices a special shaped keyhole in the door, and suddenly notice the chain around his neck...which holds a charm that fits the lock? Imagine him giving it a last minute try in a moment of desperation, and it opens the door...saving everyone from an untimely demise. Awesome! The hero wins again! But something like that can't just 'happen' in your story out of the blue. That would seem a bit weird, right? So, how do we fix that? Foresha...DAMMITT!!! You guys said it before I did! See? Quit trying to jump ahead of me all the time! If this is going to be a big moment later on in your story, you're going to want to make a few 'loose' references in it ahead of time. Maybe the charm on his neck was given to him by a lost parent when he was younger, or by an ally that he met in his journey's along the way, or maybe he took it from a slain enemy...however you want to work out the fact that he now has the essential tool that he needs hanging around his neck at the moment he needs it most, use that. It sets up that magic moment when he finally realizes why he has it, and everyone reading will say, "Oh yeah!!! I remember he had that from before!" Or...some of the folks who are skipping ahead will be silently screaming, "Use the charm! Use it! C'mon!" Both of these things are good for your story. So don't worry too much, either way. What you want to do is sufficiently set up the future scenes in your stories early, so when that big moment hits, your audience will be able to think back and trace the natural progression from one moment to another and have the big 'design' suddenly be revealed to them. This method goes for whatever you're writing. If you're writing a romance story, you don't just want two people getting together and a few paragraphs later they're already making out and dry humping on the living room couch. I mean...where did that come from? You know? Romances use foreshadowing too, albeit a lot more visible. Maybe they meet, they smile at one another, the develop an interest for one another, they begin to flirt, then they get some time alone, and...when they finally share that very first kiss, you readers can go back and follow the breadcrumbs as to how all of this happened. That's all foreshadowing is...setting up the big events that are going to ultimately define the kind of story that you want to tell. Now comes the hard part. CONCEAL! If you're foreshadowing consists of someone giving your main character a charm to wear around his neck and saying, "This will save you when you need it most."...then that's all your readers will be looking for from that moment on. They will have a whole 'Batman' board on their wall with pushpins and photos and strings, connecting one event to another, trying to beat you to the punch. You've got to be sneakier than that. Here...follow me into my secret Comsie lair! (Laughs as you slip on a banana peel!) Hehehe, do you see what I did there? If you go back and read the beginning of this article, does the mention of a banana peel being tossed on the floor seem odd or out of place to you? Just Comsie being dumb and goofy again, right? Good! That's the point. The only reason I even put that sentence or two in this article was so I could bring it up again later and use it as a lame joke to prove what I was talking about. That's foreshadowing. Put it early in this post, and then go on talking until you forget about it, and then bring it back when you least expect it. So everyone reading this can go back to the beginning of this article later on and think, "Damn...you got me, Com. Bastard." When hiding your foreshadowing clues, you want to simply mention them as though they're something insignificant. Something mundane that won't really mean much in the future of your story. A few good ways to do this is to hide it in some random dialogue between characters, or to perhaps have something much bigger going on at the time that it's mentioned. You use the 'shiny' object to distract your audience, and then slide the true gems right under their radar without them knowing it. The conceal and reveal part of the process is the fairy dust needed to make this magic trick work, after all! This takes practice and instinct and it's VERY hard to pull off in a story anymore! As I said, people have seen every plot twist, every red herring, every distraction, by now...and trying to misdirect them is going to be an exhausting experience. And even then, some will spend a lot of time trying to figure you out and beat you to the punch. BUT...if you can make your clues subtle enough, do a little misleading, and then announce everything early enough to have your readers 'forget' about them by the time you're ready to spring the big revelation on them...it CAN be done. And if you can catch just a FEW of your readers off guard with a well executed secret...there's no better feeling in the world than that! Hehehe! Especially when you've been laying the breadcrumbs out ahead of time. You can practically hear their jaws drop all around the world. Hehehe! To find some examples of expert foreshadowing, I'd recommend a few movies that I think did a great job of it. No spoilers, don't worry! Give these movies a look, watch them twice if needed. "The Sixth Sense", "Usual Suspects", "Frailty", "Seven", "Angel Heart", etc. Check out the way these movies build tension, give you hints, and then force you to go back and watch what you missed the first time around. This is what you want to accomplish. Study them and see what made them work. Then...go and do it better! Being able to toy with your audience is a skill that has to be earned over time, so start today! Hehehe! Plan ahead of time, pick your moments, and be sure to hide your hints and clues as best as you can! It's all you can do! But the payoff is sooooo worth it in the end! So take a stab at it, and I wish you guys the best of luck! Happy writing, you guys!
  15. Comicality

    Love Rivals

    What would an involving and engaging story be without some sort of conflict written into it? And what could possibly be a bigger conflict in a romantic/erotic story than a direct rival for the love and affections of the boy of your protagonist's dreams, right? Here he is, making all the right moves, saying all the right things...and here comes some drop dead gorgeous stranger to throw a monkey wrench in the whole works and screw it up for everybody involved! Arrrgh!!! How upsetting is that? Today, we're going to talk about 'love rivals' in our erotic stories...and how we can use them and the complex situations they bring with them to our advantage. When you're writing about love, especially if it's young love or first love, there's an added intensity to the idea that you've finally found perfection in a mate of your choosing. What happens when that perfection is challenged? As I wrote in a past story once, when you're building something beautiful together...you have everything to gain. But once you've got it...you have everything to lose. And if you want a love rival to be a part of your story's conflict, that's something to keep in mind. Because it can take just one mistake, one moment of weakness...to destroy everything and send your happy couple right back to square one. The threat of that happening can be devastating to your main characters, so use that to twist the story into a knot and keep your readers engaged as to what might happen next. What you want from a rival is a certain look or personality that is incredibly appealing. Not only to the love interest, but to the protagonist as well. There should be something about him that is instantly noticeable, maybe even addictive. Whether they be drop dead gorgeous, super rich and/or famous, really funny, or particularly charming. Maybe this other guy has a certain something in common with the love interest that the main character doesn't. Maybe they share a passion for something, or they spend an awful lot of time together. The idea is to raise suspicions and doubt as to what would happen if these two were left alone for an extended amount of time, and accidentally 'shared a moment' that they decided to surrender to. Write their interactions as 'innocent', but more than friendly. Put yourself in your characters' shoes. How would you feel if the love of your life was giggling and trading inside jokes with another guy who was just as cute as you were, if not cuter? Let the tension reach a slow boil, until questions have to be asked and lines have to be drawn. Done right, your readers will begin to take sides between your characters. Some will side with your protagonist, some will think he's being over protective, and some...will just end up falling in love with the rival because they like him best! (Hehehe, if only I had a nickel for every time I had THAT happen in one of my stories!) Either way, your audience will be more involved, and their further involvement is what writing a story is all about. You've got their attention. Spotlight, on. Now put on a good show. While there are nearly infinite types of love rivals that you can use for your story, I'm going to talk about what I consider to be the main three. Number one..."The Schemer" Now this is probably one of the first love rivals that comes to mind, as it is one of the most dangerous. The schemer is an actual 'villain' in your story. He's devious, he's determined, he lacks sympathy or any sort of moral compass when it comes to breaking up a relationship in order to get what he wants. And what he wants is your boyfriend. Now, the important thing to remember when writing this kind of rival is not to make them TOO despicable. You want to intrigue your readers, not frustrate them. I've found that the best way to create the scheming rival is to play with varying degrees of 'evil intent', all while adding in a hint of purpose and reason into what they're doing. Meaning, they're not completely detestable just for the sake of being detestable. Maybe your rival has true feelings for his target and is just trying to snatch him up for himself. His affection is real, and he can't let it go. Maybe it's someone who's been hurt before, or someone who is manipulating the situation because he thinks he's a better match. It's fun to play with their dark side a little bit, but remember to make them human. The reason that they're an actual threat to your hero is because, despite their sinister ways, they are charming enough to possibly win your love interest over if given the proper opportunity. If he's just a jerk that nobody likes, there's no threat at all. Remember to make his presence an actual menace to the rest of the plot. You can only do that if your devil has a decent disguise. Number two..."The Clueless Beauty". Now this kind of love rival, I feel, works best when it's used to bring your main character's insecurities to the surface, creating an inner conflict that your readers might identify with. The Clueless Beauty is usually someone who is everything you're main character is not. Usually a total knockout in the looks department, firm body and a sexy smile. Often very popular, extremely witty, smart...the kind of boy that anybody would fall head over heels in love with if given the chance. But he's not a schemer. He just happens to be the dreamiest boy on Earth, and he's wandered into the lives of your main characters, creating a sense of paranoia and projection every time he's around. He may not have any ill intentions at all, but the very fact that he's around is a temptation in itself. A temptation that might make your protagonist crazy with worry that he's not good enough to hold on to his boyfriend with 'Mr. Perfect' always smiling in his directions. Now, there's a lot of ways that you can play with this kind of rival...it can create arguments between the two main boys, or it can cause a drastic change in your main character's behavior, or it can actually cause them to withdraw from one another. Whether you want to go as far as to have something 'happen' with this beauty during the telling of your story is up to you. But the idea behind the Clueless Beauty rival is that he's not there to deliberately create havoc between your lovely couple...even if he ends up causing it anyway. Number three..."The Divided Heart". Where the other two rivals are most often paired up with the love interest, leaving your main character to ache and worry about it, the Divided Heart rival is a challenge that is more attached to your protagonist than his boyfriend. What makes this rival so interesting is that he can either be a schemer or a clueless beauty or something else entirely. The idea is to have someone that develops feelings for your main character, and provides a temptation of his own that will challenge him to stay true to his boyfriend. There's an added intimacy here, because there's the obvious ego stroke of meaning so much to someone else, as well as an opportunity to dig deeper into the inner thoughts and feelings of your character. This rival should have an alluring quality about them that actually implants thoughts of 'what if' in your protagonist's mind. He's happy with his boyfriend...but there's a 'novelty' in this other person. Something that is attractive, and opens up that naughty part of the brain that is always looking for a way to have it all. Perhaps he fits into a tiny little spot of his heart where his boyfriend doesn't. Having even a slight interest in him could create some real tension in your story, as your main character struggles with the 'grass is always greener' idea. Maybe he feels bad about it. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe it catches him by surprise. Or perhaps it's an old love or a long lasting crush that he just can't seem to let go of. Play around with the way you write the idea, and have him sway back and forth between his admirer and his true love. Make sure to display why both choices are so tempting with your writing, and you'll be able to keep your audience swaying along with you. So, there you have it! If the story you're writing is going to toss a love rival into the plot as an obstacle and a threat to the peace and harmony shared between your two main characters, try to keep some of these ideas in mind. Whether he's a conniving bastard, an innocent cutie pie, or a love struck dreamer, it can strategically add some playful drama to your project. And it will keep your readers thinking and talking about it after they finish the current chapter. That's always a good thing! Hope this helps! And I'll seezya soon with more!
  16. Comicality

    Getting Motivated

    Sometimes...the hardest, most unbelievably difficult, part of any story...is the first five paragraphs! It is grueling, it is maddening, it is downright FRIGHTENING at times! And it's hard to really explain why that is to people who don't write all the time. It's a level of insanity that only writers and other artists will ever really know. Because this is the 'kickoff' when it comes to starting a new project. It's the equivalent of throwing the first punch in a fight. Like..."Ok! This is it! Here we go! I hope I know what I'm doing!" And while writing may seem like a relaxing, expressive, and therapeutic exercise in general...this first step forward can be more intimidating than any other part of the process. This is the leap of faith. This is telling yourself that you're actually going to take a shot at making this idea in your head a reality...and you'd better do it right. Because you can't be an artist without taking your armor off. You've got to be vulnerable. You've got to show people your true self, and HOPE that they approve. The world is watching now. I can't think of anything that could be more terrifying when it comes to writing my own stuff. So I'm right there with you, even after years of practice and experience. The thing is...the pressure to get things right on the first try can create a feeling of dread in all of us...even if we don't recognize it as such. We begin to procrastinate. We tell ourselves that our ideas aren't ready yet, or that we're still 'fleshing it out', or we just start binge watching Netflix shows so we have an excuse to not commit until later. And while that keeps our mixed up creative minds calm and comfortable for the time being...it can stop our most gifted thoughts and emotions from ever making it on to the page. Or...the screen. Whatever. We need to recognize this subtle self intimidation for what it is so we can conquer it and actually get something done. Otherwise...your personal story is going to stay stuck in limbo for YEARS...if not forever! So let's push that weirdness aside and get MOTIVATED, shall we? First things first...sit at your keyboard, and open up that program. Whatever you use to write with...open it up, and let that harsh blank page stare you in the face until you come up with something to say. That's the hardest part. Think of your story as a whole, pick a golden spot to start from, and then word your first few sentences based on that idea. Easier said than done, I'm sure. But that's the most important part of writing anything. Getting the ball rolling. I realize that a million thoughts are going through your head at this point, and it's easy to feel like the entire story is weighing heavily on your shoulders, but you just have to dive into it without thinking too much. In our heads, we may be thinking of characters and story elements that are waaaaay down the road from those first few sentences. Twists and turns and romantic encounters and everything that we had planned out from the very beginning. But for right now, you just want to find that special jump off point. Nothing else. The rest will come naturally as the story progresses, so try your best to keep from feeling like you have to write an entire book In one sitting by the stroke of midnight. That only adds to the pressure, and before you know it, you'll be opening up your YouTube account in a separate window and you'll be right back to being lazy and distracted. Hehehe! STOP that! For me personally, when I want to get a brand new story or even a brand new chapter of a continuing story started...I think about the main character and where I want him to be at that particular point of the story. Who is he? Where is he? How can I put this character in a place where I can provide the reader with some much needed information about him/her/them? I've written stories that start off with my protagonist's relationship with their parents, and some where they seem to just be hanging out with good friends. Sometimes, their life starts out normal and that beautiful stranger shows up later to flip their whole world upside down. Other times, the very first sentence of the story might be, "He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen." Boom! You're instantly drawn into the moment. You get a chance to describe the love interest, maybe give a brief history of where this beauty came from, and also have the main character show the audience who they are. Starting a story is all about picking the right moment. Different ways of doing this could be starting at the 'end' of your story, and explaining how the main character got there by having the whole story play out as a flashback. Or you could choose a moment that seems mundane at first, but is soon given detail and meaning through the first few paragraphs to follow. But you want something that will grab your reader's attention right away. Something that will intrigue them and urge them to keep reading to see what happens next. Once you choose that moment, and you make that leap...you can settle in and begin molding your sculpture into something beautiful. Find a moment that starts your main character off in the middle of his journey. At the top of the roller coaster, just about to take that first exciting dip downward...so that you, as a writer, can get excited about this story too. There will be an urge to start off really slow, thinking that you have to have a basic beginning before you get into anything more interesting. Don't. Get your readers involved right away, and if you have to go back and add some more details to your foundation later, then so be it. But, as I always say, an author's worst enemy is that 'backspace' button on the keyboard. You've only got a small window to impress your readers, especially if they're brand new to your writing. So don't take the 'slow burn' approach. Dive in, and have the dive right in behind you. Once you begin writing, the momentum will build all on its own. You'll begin to feel your fears and tensions relax, and focus more on the flow and rhythm of what you're writing in that chosen moment. Simply pick your peak...and then ski down to the bottom of the mountain when your muse is all out of juice. Then...take a break. Don't force it. Allow the idea to be 'born' on its own. Your only job is to kick it into gear. Visualize where you want to go, and force yourself to take those first few awkward steps towards getting there. Don't let the distractions and excuses stop you. Write a few sentences. Then a few paragraphs. Then a few pages. And the more you build upon what you started with, you'll find yourself pounding away at those keyboard keys until you almost don't want to break away to go to sleep for the night. You may not believe me now, but give it a try. I'm willing to bet you'll be surprised what happens. Passion feeds on its own fumes...so get started. Because the longer you wait, the longer you'll WANT to wait. There will always be a reason not to write. Always. So don't think that you're going to be the first author in history to be 'called to arms' when the feeling hits. No...you've got to make that move on your own. Take the initiative. Deliberately step forward, and like gravity...the story will pull you in the right direction until the feelings in your heart have been expressed. Just push a little bit. Just enough to get started. That's all you need. The rest will write itself. I hope this helps you procrastinators get started with your newest projects. If you feel yourself hesitating every time you sit down to write...then take notice of that hesitation. Why won't you write? What are you afraid of? Just GO! Type! Do it! It's a small step, getting started...but it isn't easy. Be aware of that obstacle...then beat it. Happy writing, folks! And I wish you all the best of luck!
  17. Comicality

    Losing Work And Starting Over

    It is, quite possibly, the WORST feeling in the world to have poured your heart and soul into a project...ALL of your emotion...ALL of your creative energy...only to have some kind of crazy computer glitch just 'zap' it right out of existence forever. Gone. Never to be seen again. The experience is heartbreaking! I've had it happen to me quite a number of times in the past. Either the 'Save' function didn't work like it was supposed to, or the file got corrupted...my laptop fizzled out on me, or my files got hacked, or my website was shutdown without any warning...I can honestly say that I've probably LOST just as much writing as I've posted on my website over the years. And it never ever gets any easier to deal with. Because, while writing takes time and notes and a game plan set into motion ahead of time so you know what kind of story you want to make...the actual writing itself is a very emotional and spontaneous act. You sit at your keyboard with a feeling and a purpose...and you 'bleed' through your words. Right then, right there, while you're in the moment. You search for just the right words. Just the right phrases. Just the right metaphors. And with your passion and focus working together...you create moments in your writing that express exactly what you're thinking and exactly how you're feeling at that particular time in your life. Once you lose that...even by accident...you can't ever get those moments back. It's like setting fire to a photo album full of your baby pictures. It hurts. Especially when it's something that you worked really really hard on so you could get everything just the way you wanted it. Yeah, there's no feeling in the world like losing your creative expression with a technological screw up or the click of the wrong button. BUT...that doesn't mean that you have to give up on saying what you need to say with your work. If you want to take some time before starting over, that's fine. In fact...I encourage that. But when the anger and the frustration passes, you've got to pick yourself back up, add some wood to the fire, and get your ass back in gear. If this was a story that you felt you needed to tell the first time around... you still need to tell it the second time around. What's changed? You have something in your heart that you wanted to share with the world, and chances are that the world needs to hear it. So dust yourself off and get back to work. That story isn't going to magically write itself. Get up, soldier! There's work to be done! Having been through this sad process myself many times before, I hope this article will inspire you guys to keep going, and take steps towards starting again, despite the harsh blow that our imperfect tech might have dealt you. Step number one...'Grieve'. Hehehe, seriously...take a short break to get over losing all of your hard work. The reason I say this is because it's a truly aggravating experience, and there will be a sudden urgency within you to try to jump right back into your story and start typing away before you lose all of the wonderful things you had in mind before they leave you! I can tell you from experience...this is a mistake. Any writer that is truly invested in their own work and writes from the heart 'exposes' themselves in their writing. It's automatic. The emotion flows freely and it affects your every word choice and description that you put on that page, and if you charge into rewriting your story with a head full of anger and frustration and despair...those feelings are going to come through in your writing. Your readers will feel it. And unless a pissed off author who just lost a lot of hard work and had to start all over from scratch is the vibe that you're going for...you're going to end up writing a very different story from the one you intended to write initially. So...it's gonna SUCK for a while, yes...but take a few days to breathe and get all that out of your system before jumping back into it. K? Your readers will subliminally detect your frustration no matter how careful you think you are about hiding it. Or...they'll just figure out the hint from the number of 'F'-bombs and heavy exclamation marks you use in this new version! Hehehe! Step number two...'Look for your notes'. I once made the huge mistake of keeping a majority of my notes and ideas for stories online. Needless to say, I don't do that anymore. I don't trust ANY online program to keep my hard work safe unless I absolutely HAVE to! Not a server, not a word processor, not my own email, not a 'cloud'...NOTHING! I've been screwed over by every last one of them in the past. So *FUCK* the internet! Hehehe! (See? That frustration? It's still there, and it comes out in my writing. Hehehe!) I actually go out, and I buy physical notebooks and physical pens and I jot down notes on my own where I can see them and hold them in my hand. So unless my house burns down to the ground, I don't have to worry about something like...WebTV suddenly ending their service and losing a TON of my emails and saved stories in the process! Grrrrr! Keep personal notes on your spontaneous thoughts and feelings concerning a certain story, and keep them in a place where you have easy access to them. If the unthinkable happens, and you lose your story online...go back to the notes that you took ahead of time, and use that 'bare bones' structure you referred to in order to write the first story as a guide to start over again. Not only will you have access to your most awesome ideas, but after reviewing them, you might even come up with NEW ideas that you never even thought of beforehand. They will help to keep you in the same frame of mind, so always keep your notebooks close to the hip. Step number three...'DON'T try to recreate your original work'! I speak from experience when I say...that will never ever happen. I don't mean for this to sound depressing, but all of those thoughts and emotions and literary choices that you made 'in the moment' to create that masterpiece of yours? They're gone. Gone for good. And they're never coming back. This is something that you have to take some time to embrace and accept so you can move forward. You will drive yourself CRAZY trying to remember the exact wording of certain passages and dialogue that you wrote before. Trying to rewrite your opus, word for word, isn't possible. You will only end up weakening your own writing by even attempting such a thing. Let your old project go. Keep the feel of it, but start anew. You have your notes, you have your passion and your focus, and while you may see many 'shadows' of your previous work in your new project...it'll never be the same. Don't go backwards and try to create a carbon copy of what you've already done. Move forward, and write something even BETTER. Otherwise, you'll just be rehashing old ideas and stale emotions from moments that have long passed you by, broadcasting your regret to your readers for not being able to effectively pull it off twice. It's ok. There *IS* no effectively pulling it off twice! That's what makes writing so personal, and so unique. Have faith in yourself. You wrote a masterpiece before, you can write one again. Your talent hasn't changed, nor has your drive to tell a great story. So go for it! It'll be fine. K? A quick recap... #1 - Take Time To Grieve. Don't rush to start writing again. Losing irreplaceable thoughts and emotions SUCKS!!! Take some time to wring that out of your system before you try to 'clone' your own genius. #2 - Look For Your Notes. The ideas and brilliant bits and pieces of or your original story might still exist in the notes you took before writing it the first time. Get yourself back in the same frame of mind and remember why you wanted to write that story in the first place. It might inspire you all over again. It won't work. Don't try to build a story off of worn out feelings and 'spur of the moment' expressions. The best thing that you can do is build a brand new version of your original story, based on what you're feeling right NOW. Let it be just as heartfelt and spontaneous as it was the first time without looking back. Follow your heart. Let your muse speak to you without restriction. Your instincts won't let you down. K? That's it for this particular article. I hope it helps. And remember to save save SAVE your work! Keep TEN copies in ten different places if you have to! Email it to yourself at three different accounts! Save it in LibreOffice, in Notepad, on Google+...ANYWHERE that you can save a copy...save one. After 'gay material' witch hunts on Tripod, and email malfunctions, and laptop or hard drive crashes...I have grown WEARY of losing some of my BEST work to technology. But...as much as it hurt...I had to keep going. And you guys can keep going too. So take some time, watch some TV, deal with the loss...and then give it a second try. You may end up topping what you originally had planned!
  18. Comicality

    Getting Yourself Out There

    So, you've done it! You put in the time and the energy and the effort, you've drained yourself creatively, and you've put together a story that you can be proud of. One that can touch and inspire as well as excite and arouse. Awesome! Now, all you have to do is put it out where people can read it so they can be thrilled by your genius. Just find a place to post your work...and wait. And wait... And wait some more... Ok, so what's going on here? Where's the praise? Where are the great reviews? You poured your heart and soul into a story that you think is really impressive and well put together. So what happened? Well, while writing the actual story is a fun a passionate experience for a writer who's searching for an audience...it's not enough. That's not to say that your story isn't great literature. It might be a truly engaging story, filled with heart and wit and written with immaculate skill. But merely putting it in a place where people can see it doesn't mean that it'll get seen. That takes extra. Hehehe, don't groan! This part can be a lot of fun too! So let's talk about getting yourself out there, and getting some readers to notice your talent. The first thing that I want to tell you, before we move any further...may sound a bit discouraging, but don't let that bother you. Ready? Here goes... Chances are...I'd say that 85% of all the people who read your story online...will never send you any feedback on it. That sounds pessimistic, but I'm actually being optimistic by keeping it at only 85%. It's something that I've learned after many many years of doing this, and at first, it's going to be really disheartening. A part of you is going to think that if people liked they story, they'd tell you so. So the deepest cut of all for any writer is silence, because they immediately assume that you didn't like it or weren't interested. That's a mentality that you've got to break before anything else. Get past that. The internet is full of so many distractions that it would be impossible to even begin to appreciate it all. Think of all the Youtube videos you didn't like or share, or all the articles you've read, or the meme images that you laughed at and moved on. It's not that you didn't 'like' it, you've just got a lot more going on. So lose the idea that a lack of response is a comment on your talent or the quality of your work. That's not always the case. That kind of thinking will only demoralize you and keep you from moving forward. Got it? Good. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into the meat of it... It takes more than simply putting your work in a public place to get noticed. You spent all this time on getting your story just right, so why not market it a little bit? Let people know how to find you among the thousands of other people who are doing the same thing. We can look at this in three layers. The first layer is on the surface. You want people to check out your story? You want to draw them in? You're going to need to catch their eye. You need to be the shiny object on the table in order to grab their attention. We start with a 'catchy' title. Something interesting, something different, but uncomplicated enough for a potential reader to commit to memory. If you title your story, "Gabe's Story"...well, there's nothing wrong with that, but will that grab your attention when somebody is scrolling down a page of 150 other story titles? Also, if you call your story, "The Unbelievably Annoying Chortle Of My Best Friend"...that's going to scream 'skip' to people who have never read your work before. Those titles can come off as wordy and a little offbeat to the point of turning some readers away. Once you establish a fanbase, that can change. But just starting out and building a name for yourself takes mass appeal. You want the average reader to take a random chance on you so you can show them what you're capable of. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover...but people do. And in cases of online fiction, a lot of times you don't even GET a cover! So the title is everything. The second layer? WRITE!!! Write until your fingers hurt! Write until your back aches and your butt is flat from sitting in your computer chair for so long! If you can get up from your seat and not ache and feel stiff and worn out...you haven't written enough. Take a break and come back to it. A great way to get yourself noticed is through short, one time, stories. A story told from beginning to end, maybe somewhere between 3000 to 5000 words max. Something that will give you enough room to build character and a decent plot, but won't get too involved to the point where it takes half a novel to make your point. Think of it as a collection of 'extended examples'. And experiment with different genres and ideas. Keep a pocket sized notebook on you at all times, you'll need it for jotting down spontaneous ideas. The idea is not only to practice and hone your craft, but to have a variety of stories out there for people to find. If you have only 'one' story out there, no matter how amazing it may be, getting it noticed will be harder for you. Maybe you have a title that doesn't grab the reader's eye. Maybe you have a theme that a percentage of your readers aren't instantly enthralled with. Or maybe you just got passed over for no reason at all. BUT...if you have five stories on that list, somebody is about to find ONE of them. And when they read it, and discover that they LOVE what you have to offer...they'll immediately look for other stuff that you've written. By that time, you'll have a wealth of material that will prove to them that, "Hey, that story you liked wasn't a fluke! I've got more!" You want them to love 'you' as a writer, even more than your individual stories. Stand up and prove you're up to the challenge of impressing them with almost everything you put out. Build a 'brand' for yourself, one that people can believe in. If you've written a high school love story...try a college story. If you've written a modern story...try something with a sci fi twist. Every time you try a new genre, you grab a new audience. And those audiences will all follow the breadcrumbs you leave behind to see what else you've created to give it a chance as well. This is how you build multiple fanbases. Except, since you're at the center of it all, all your fanbases combine into one entity. You may only write one story, but some people might enjoy it, and some may not. Write two stories? Some people might like one, and not like the other. Write five? You might get three stories they love, and they'll give the other two a try, even if it's not really their thing. The more you write, the more material you put out there, the better chance you have of getting your work noticed by new readers. Simple mathematics. The third layer? Get involved with your readers! This is probably the most fun part, at least it is for me. You get to meet and talk to a lot of really great people, and get some feedback on your work at the same time. The first thing you want to do is have an email account where people can reach you. Make yourself readily available for comment and review. Even if you get criticism, that part is important too, because it'll give you a different perspective on your writing in general. Get a Twitter account! Get a blog! Get a mailing list! Find a way to build your own forum, and keep a constant presence in ALL of these places at all times! Be there. Get to know your audience personally. If they can take the time to say, "I liked your story", then you can take the time to say, "Thank you!" Let them know what you're working on next, listen to what they have to say and use it to get an even better idea of how your writing is being seen by other people. Adjust accordingly. Also, make sure to add your contact and social media info on everything you write. Put it at the top of your manuscript, so people can see it before they read a single word of your story. And then add it again at the bottom of your story, so when they finish, and they have that big smile on their face and that sugary sweet feeling in their heart, they can look at it and go, "Oh yeah, I can actually 'talk' to the person who wrote this! Let me send them a quick message." Invite some sort of interaction between you and your audience. They are really COOL people! I've made some of my best friends ever through the stories I've written, so allow them to get to know you, and then you'll get to know them in return. Like I said, this is the FUN part! So, a short recap... Step 1 - Grab their attention with an interesting title and a well-written story. Step 2 - WRITE! Get as much quality material out there as you possibly can! Let me put emphasis on the word 'quality'. Don't just put a bunch of mediocre fluff out there for the sake of having a bunch of stories online. That will only hurt you in the end. Don't rush. Do it right. Your potential fans will appreciate the extra effort. Step 3 - Be social! Start by giving people a way to contact you directly, and then set up public ways to let everyone know when you have something new in the works and when it's getting released. Do this on your own. There are sites with automatic announcements and daily updates and the like, which is great...but that works best for the 'website' you're on. You want to actively connect with your personal fanbase on your own. Your direct involvement should be your main priority, and all other websites should be a very cool bonus in helping you get attention. Not the other way around. Try out a few of these techniques, and I can guarantee you that you'll start increasing your fanbase within a matter of weeks. It takes time and effort, but anything that's worth it always does, right? It's not a 'trick' or a 'strategy'...it's simply a matter of you taking the passion that you put into your stories and extending that to the people who enjoy them. So don't take the self-promotion step for granted. Remember, a work of art loses its value if there's no one around to see it. Don't let your hard work fall into that category.
  19. Comicality

    Introducing Sex Into Your Story

    There are two schools of learning when it comes to writing erotica...some people want a full story with drama and tension and build up...and some people are rock hard already and want to find something hot to get off to! Hehehe, and sometimes we understandably flip flop from one to the other. Depends on the mood, I suppose. But if your writing a story, and you label it as 'erotica'...just keep in mind that no matter how intriguing the story is, no matter how adorable your characters are, or how talented you are with words, style, and metaphor...a great deal of your audience are going to be actively searching for the erotic part of that equation. And that means a touch of the 'naughty' between the people they're reading about. But when is the appropriate time for you to introduce sex into your story? You don't want it to be too soon, or it won't have the same 'umph' in the delivery. But you don't want to take so long that your readers get frustrated with the long wait either. So where's the middle ground? Let's discuss. I started out writing stories that matched the stories that I used to read online. Super HOT! They were mostly short, one chapter, stories that had one hot boy meeting another hot boy, trading names, finding a way to be alone, and then shagging each other silly! Hehehe, and I LOVED it! Sometimes, I still get in the mood for a hot quickie, to be honest. There's nothing wrong with it. Sometimes, it's exactly what you're looking for and exactly what you need. In fact, I suggest you write a few yourself, just to get your name out there and use it as a draw back to some of your other stories that might be longer and have a little more depth and plot to them. However, many times those stories can feel like eating a handful of cookies to hold you over until dinner. It satisfies, but it's not as much nourishment as something that you might find a little more emotionally substantial. I think that introducing sex into a story has a lot to do with how you, personally, view sex in general. No matter what your feelings are about it, tell that story. If you hold that level of intimacy to a much higher standard and think it should be something that your main characters don't take lightly...then take your time and tell that story. But if you think sex is just a normal expression of what you feel and don't want to dive into the whole 'angst' and slow build aspect, and would rather go forward with something sexy and hot without I being that big of a deal, then write THAT story too! Hell, try both if you want to experiment with the difference. But sex scenes in your story should truly reflect a very private and vulnerable part of who you are as a person. Allow yourself to explore the kind of sexual exploits that you would want to have in real life. If you could have it any way that you wanted it...what would you do? How would you do it? This is your self orchestrated wet dream, so go wild with it, right? I like for things to take a very natural and realistic pace in my stories. But that pace is also set by the kind of story that I want to tell. Sometimes I want to write about someone who has spent the better part of their lives lusting over the one they want, and once they're given the opportunity to dive in to a situation...they go for it, full throttle, with no regrets. However, there are other stories that I write where there's a certain level of insecurity and intimidation that comes with having a sexual experience with the boy of their dreams. Especially if it's a virgin experience, which is something that I try to handle with delicacy and a bit of grace. I wrote an article on building up to the 'first kiss' in your story, and I feel the same way about sex in a story. Let it be a reward, not only for your main character, but for your readers as well, for sticking it out through the plot points that come before it. So there's a balance that you'll have to play around with and determine on your own. However, you want to play the 'long game' but still want to add some sex into your story before your audience gets too antsy, a good way to achieve this is through a masturbation sequence or a dream. Possibly even a series of naughty thoughts while staring at their love interest from across the room. That way you can add something truly sexy to your story without having to rush your main characters into doing the deed before it feels natural. Also, since this is your personal fantasy, feel free to really express yourself through the type of sex you want your characters to have. Write it your way, and make it sizzle. The hotter it is to you, the hotter it'll be for your readers. If you want a slow, romantic, grind in the bedroom...then throw yourself into it and bring out the sensuality of that moment. If you're more of a 'rough rider', and want something fast and breathless...then try to capture the spontaneity and desperation involved. Do you want your characters to do something secretive, or in a public place? Maybe you want something more innocent and experimental. Or perhaps a bit more on the dominant/submissive side. Whatever your particular flavor is, you're running the show. And you want that first sexual encounter to be as erotic as humanly possible, as it's going to set the standard for every hot scene to follow it. It takes a little instinct and a lot of practice, but if you can bring sex into your story at just the right moment, and you make it something explosive...your audience will be strapped in and ready to ride with you until the very end. So go on out there and put a smile on their faces!
  20. Comicality

    Set the Stage

    Imagine if you were watching a movie or a play for the first time. You've never heard of it before, you've never seen any advertisements about it, and you don't even know what it's going to be about. Now...imagine if you could hear the dialogue and everything that's going on...but the stage or the screen is shrouded in complete darkness for the first fifteen minutes. You can't see anything at all. You just have to sort of listen to the words and use your imagination to figure out what's going on. Well, the problem with that is...once you bring the house lights up, once the movie visuals actually kick in...the people watching may have your vision all wrong. And that can be a huge stumbling block. Writing is no different. In fact, putting out certain details as early as possible in your story is even more important. Because your readers' imagination is three-fourths of the whole experience, and the last thing you want is for them to spend too much time in the dark before you give them the basics. That's why it's so essential to 'set the stage' before getting into anything that will push your story forward. When someone clicks on your story, most of them are going into it blind. What will it be about? Who are the characters? When does it take place? For example, imagine if you read a story about a guy who's out in the park with his dog, and they're playing fetch, then he sees a guy that he thinks is absolutely gorgeous, and after a brief conversation they decide to go out to a local café for a drink. Seems simple enough, right? Now...imagine that your story has gone on for a few pages, and you don't start giving some basic details to your reader until they're already sitting down to dinner. Out of nowhere, you mention that both characters are high school juniors. Wait...what? Oh, maybe your readers were picturing them as being a bit older. Ok, well, they can deal with that. They keep reading, and you mention the dog was this giant Great Dane. Whoah! You might have pictured a dog that was a lot smaller, but...no big problem. Then maybe you mention that it's Winter time and there's snow on the ground, but your readers were imagining it being a nice Summer day. Then you mention that it's 8 PM at night, and the guy has a full beard and glasses and looks older than he really is...oh, and did I mention this story takes place in 1975? What could have been a very sweet beginning to a story has now baffled and confused your readers, because every time you add some major detail that they weren't told from the get go...they're forced to stumble, erase their previous ideas, and readjust their imagination to fit the details you're giving them. Which can sometimes be frustrating and it can give the story a clumsy start. Always remember, this is the internet. There are WAY too many options out there for you to have a clumsy start. The 'back button' is not your friend. Whenever I start a story, I try to use descriptions of that particular moment so anyone reading can get a real sense of where they are, who they're looking at, and when it's taking place. Now you don't have to spend paragraph after paragraph spilling every last detail at your reader's feet all at once, but you want to give them a sense that they can see what's going on. Because once your audience has dreamed up a solid idea of what everything looks like...that's the vision they're going to be instantly invested in. If you throw them a curveball after they've already made up their minds that the main character is a modern-day teenager from the suburbs, and you tell them, "No, he's really a gritty, chain-smoking, detective from 30 years in the future"...hehehe, we'll that's going to be a problem. If you're writing about a teenager, maybe have your opening scene start out in a classroom, or next to his locker, or at his best friend's sweet 16 birthday party. Maybe have his mother or father call him down to breakfast. These little cues will put the idea in your reader's minds that, "Ok, we're dealing with a high school kid here. Got it." And then they can continue reading, while emotionally attaching themselves to your vision instead of creating one of their own, and later having the two conflict with one another. In a future setting, maybe have someone fiddling with some sort of futuristic gadget, or describe some giant metropolis with floating holograms and hovering cars. If it takes place in the old West, maybe mention dirt roads and people riding past a saloon on horseback. Whether you describe a corporate office full adult businessmen, or a couple of kids sword fighting playfully with a couple of sticks in a Medieval castle, or walking through an apocalyptic wasteland...try to find creative ways to let your readers immediately know who, where, and when, before you get too involved with any other part of your story. That way you can be on the same page...pun intended. Hope this helps. Just remember that the faster and easier it is for your readers to get involved in the world you're trying to build, the more powerful your story will be. Set the stage first and then start building momentum from there. The last thing you want to do is trip them up right out of the gate.
  21. Comicality

    Character Flaws

    Are any of us perfect? I mean, I'm sure that a lot of us realize that we're not actually perfect...and the few that do believe they're perfect are often blind narcissists...hehehe, and therefore NOT perfect! Honestly, that's not even something that I would ever want to shoot for. If perfection is determined by some sort of direct formula or standard, if it's a bunch of little boxes that all have to be checkmarked to be considered a part of that group...then that would mean it's our imperfections that make us different. Unique. Hell, even mildly interesting. Who would want to toss that aside from a life free from stress, worry, and pain? Am I right? Hehehe! We're not perfect...our characters shouldn't be perfect either. Today...we talk character flaws. Now, when I say the word 'flaw', I don't you guys to start cringing and worrying and shouting out, "But I don't WANT my main characters to become unlovable douchebags!!!" Shhhh, calm down. It doesn't have to go that far. Ok? Character flaws can be minor. They can be human. And if you plan ahead and play your cards right, you can use those flaws and the flaws of your love interest, to build a wonderful story arc where your characters learn to battle those demons and overcome those flaws for an amazing story that can get your readers to think, evolve, and maybe even change themselves. It's all in the way you put it together in your story. So, what are flaws? What are we talking about here? That's the big question, right? Well, I happen to be a very flawed individual myself, and I'm fully aware of what those flaws are. That's what helps me maintain a conscience about them and try to fix them when they get in the way of me being a decent human being. Naturally, as a writer's creation is always a reflection of the writer, those flaws trickle down to my characters, and I use them as chess pieces to tell a bigger story and to hopefully have a deeper theme. Even if it's done in a slightly exaggerated way. It's easy to want your protagonist to be a good soul and a true angel, through and through. Even easier for your main love interest to shine even brighter and be even more magnificent, to the point where the entire choir of Heaven shouts down at you from the clouds above at his mere appearance. Ohhhhhhhhh, Hallelujah! But as tempting as it is to do that, you're going to end up running out of things to say VERY quickly. There would be no conflict. No adversity. No challenge. What would you do for the rest of the story? "I love you." "I love you more." "No, I love YOU more!" "Unh unh...I love YOU more, times infinity!" Yeahhhh...don't spend ten pages doing that to your readers. That's just plain mean. Hehehe! When I speak about character flaws, I'm talking about typical human traits that could somehow be used to add a touch of literary color to what you're writing. Maybe your main character is a great guy, but he has a bit of a jealous streak. He's involved in his first gay relationship ever, and his brand new boyfriend is talking to the star quarterback of the football team? How would you feel? I have written stories where one of the boys was 'out and proud', but his boyfriend wasn't. There's a slight friction there. I wrote a story where the main character was the victim of physical abuse from his father, and finds it hard to even believe in himself enough to approach his own boyfriend without being suspicious. I've written about people who have had their hearts broken before and are afraid to love again, boys who feel inadequate because of their financial status, or boys who think the person they're in love with is so far out of their league that even trying to ask them out seems like a waste of time. These are all HUMAN traits. They're situations that we've all dealt with in one way or another. Some people are painfully shy, some have a mean streak in them, some have religious constraints, some have age restrictions, some have problems with alcohol, or drugs, or just an unhealthy connection to their ex-boyfriend. These things can be used to enrich your characters and give them a added level of depth, they're not meant to ruin them or make them unlikable. Not at all. In fact, the very concept of dealing with these personality flaws can become the backbone of your story and make it an exciting read for everyone who's reading it. While the loving relationship, the breathless kisses, and of course...the mind-blowing SEX...is the centerpiece of most erotic stories, how much cooler would it be to also touch on a partner dealing with substance abuse? Or maybe cheating on their significant other? Or maybe keeping people at arm's length because he's scared of commitment? Everything from the insecurity of being with an online 'celebrity', to the aggravation and agony of a long distance relationship, can become an enthralling part of your project, and it might just touch people in a deeper way than you ever thought possible. To me? A super hot, super perfect, person...falling for another super hot, super perfect, person...doesn't hold much entertainment value. It's GREAT for a ten minute session of 'cocking the shotgun', hehehe! But once you clean up, who really remembers that? It's not that I don't understand the true intention of erotica, but if it doesn't feel like a real experience to your readers...then it becomes less about your writing and more about their fantasies. Which would mean...they could get the same thing anywhere. From anyone. If you want to stand out, never be afraid to add a little extra layer to your stories and have an impact. I'm not saying that you have to turn it into a soap opera about something else entirely, but drawing attention to little flaws and having them deal with it between marathons of naked sex-scapades will only help you to stand out even more. And it'll keep people coming back for the next story you write. And the next. and the next. I'm thinking that's a goal a lot of us are working towards.
  22. Welcome to the New Year! We are wrapping up the last of the Writing Tips before launching our new weekly article feature. Be sure to check these out and let Comicality know what you think!
  23. This week, we start posting articles by Comicality. These are in our Writing Tips category in the story system. When we catch up on all those tips, we'll start posting new ones directly right in this blog. Keep an eye out! In the meantime, check out these tips by our very own Comicality:
  24. Week 3 of our Writing Tips Article Review is upon us. This week, we have an article from Don H and sat8997.
  25. Welcome to Week 2! As we continue to highlight previously posted Writing Tips, we'll bring you something old and something new.

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