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Found 38 results

  1. One element of storytelling that really makes a difference when writing is the ability to immerse your readers into the world that you are trying to create. Now, that pretty much goes without saying, of course...but one thing that I’ve learned over time is that this immersion works better when there’s a balance between ‘imagination’ and ‘information’. (I hope I’m saying that right. Let me explain...) As I’ve stated in previous articles on my writing process, I always think of storytelling as a symbiotic relationship between the writer and the reader. We are both creating this story in different ways. One way is in my head, and one way is in theirs. It’s sort of like having a dancing partner, where I may be leading, but we both need to participate to make it the graceful expression it was meant to be. So, with my stories, I’m always trying to involve the reader’s imagination in what is going on. Visual cues and actions that allow them to build a mini movie in their heads as they read along. Meanwhile, I’m also attempting to tell the story that I want to tell. I have to deliver a certain amount of information so that everybody is on the same wavelength in terms of what’s going on. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is through dialogue. Narration and prose from a writer gets to be an old trick after a while, and I find dialogue to be a much more interesting way to get certain plot points across to your audience instead of just long explanations from the writer that doesn’t involve and active participation from the story’s main characters. However...sometimes that can create a slight problem. If anyone thinks that an extremely long monologue from one main character to another main character is going to be seen as anything different from author narration...you would be mistaken. Hehehe! You’ve got to remember...readers are savvy to those tricks in this day and age. They are devouring hundreds of hours of media every single day. They know exposition when they hear it. And while you may just have to say, “Screw it! it’ll just have to be exposition, then!” every now and again...there are still a few magic tricks up the authors’ sleeve that can help with this. First things first...try to break the ‘monologue’ temptation if you can. This is when you want to explain a character’s motivations or big plot points of the story, and the other characters is basically like, “Well, sure...let me tell you all about it.” And then he or she ends up talking for 75 paragraphs in a row to break down the entire story in one sitting without ever taking a breath. Hehehe, yeah, that’s not a good idea. What is the other character doing while all of this is going on? Does he just sit down on a carpet with his legs crossed like a kindergartner getting a bedtime story? What’s happening here? Think about it. What would you do if you casually asked somebody how their day was going, and that led to a 45 minute explanation? Would your mind wander? Would you find that strange? Would you get frustrated after a while? Well...you readers would too. When it comes to exposition dialogue and drawn out explanations that you feel need to be included in your story, always keep in mind that your audience’s attention span can be easily broken if you don’t throw in an occasional change up every now and then. It doesn’t mean that the information is boring or that anything is wrong with your story...it just means that you would do better to cut it up into bite size pieces first. That’s all. As with most of these little writing tips, this isn’t hard to accomplish. It’s just hard to notice if you’re not looking for it. The easiest way to do this in a dialogue is to simply keep in mind that two people are having this conversation. Involving the secondary character in the discussion can be much more involving. Say...you have an astronaut landing on Mars for the first time...and he runs into an alien being. Well, what the…??? How is this possible? How did we not know you aliens existed? How did you hide yourselves from us all this time...and why? The alien may say (In perfect English...which is a whole other explanation in itself!), “My Earthling friend...let me tell you all about it.” And that can end up being a monologue that goes on for pages and pages without end. Word to the wise...readers will mentally and emotionally check out if you hit them with an unbroken wall of text telling that whole story in one go. I’m assuming you guys don’t want that. Get your astronaut involved! He’s completely oblivious as to what is going on here. Have him ask questions. Have him be shocked or maybe even negatively react to what he’s being told. Have him make comments of his own. Play both sides of the conversation in a way that will keep a momentum going in your story. Have them both learn something along with your readers. A simple ‘back and forth’ can save you from the infamous ‘ton of bricks’ wall of text that a percentage of your readers might get bored with or just skip altogether to get back to the meat of the story. It sucks to have to think about these things sometimes, but I’ve found that it helps to keep this as a rule in the back of your mind. That’s the ‘information’ part of the equation, and that’s in the hands of the writer. Here’s where we can use the ‘imagination’ part of this to keep readers interested as they visually picture the scene unfolding in front of them. This part doesn’t take any dialogue at all, or even a back and forth with another character if that isn’t an option for that particular scene. It’s just a matter of using your talents as an author to paint a picture and put it into motion. You’ve spent all of this time thinking about the information that you want to deliver to the people reading your story, and you’ve got someone talking about it, acting as a vessel for the big message you’re trying to push out there, right? Well, what’s happening while that character is doing that? Think about it...when you talk to anyone at length in real life (AFK)...what else is going on during that time. Take a moment and think about it. What are you looking at? What are your hands doing? Are you standing up? Are you sitting down? Do you look around the room? Do you speak up, or do you lower your voice, depending on whatever it is being discussed? Are you guzzling a soda, sucking on a cough drop, staring at your cell phone? What’s going on? Use those details in your story. Break up that dialogue with visual actions that your readers can see, hear, feel, and relate to. Make a virtual movie out of it. I want you guys take a look at this opening scene from the movie “Pulp Fiction”. I truly believe that one Quentin Tarantino’s most amazing signature talents is his flair for dialogue. There are times when he can turn the most random, off topic, conversations into a work of art. But, beyond that...I want you to take notice of what the actors are doing with this scene, and think about how you would write it into a story if you had to. Here it is... Now, if you guys were to close your eyes and just listen to this...the whole scene is just dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It’s two people sitting in a restaurant booth, discussing a robbery scheme. However, look at everything else that’s going on in this scene. Pay attention to what the actors are doing here during the conversation. The visuals. They are not just sitting there discussing a robbery. They are in motion. They are displaying emotions. They are giving each other clues. They’re...in a word...’alive’ in this scene. When you’re writing, I’ve always found it important to bring a certain life to the conversations as they’re happening. These two people are doing things that can be described in your writing. They lean in to look each other in the eye. One might take a drag off of his cigarette, or clip the ashes off into the ashtray. Take a sip of coffee, smile at the waitress, lay their head on the table, put his foot up on the seat, speak in a hushed tone...these are all things that you can use to break up the monotony of an extended scene of dialogue when writing your story. Even if you have a ton of information to deliver in that once scene...you can ‘jazz it up’ a little bit by adding a sense of motion to what’s being said. Maybe you write a few sentences of dialogue...and then the speaking character walks over to take a look out of the window. Write a few more sentences, then he looks back over his shoulder and, with a wave of his hand, silently offers the other character a seat. Maybe they’re sharing a drink, or eating a snack. Maybe one of them has a nervous twitch or a habit of tapping his foot under the table. Flesh out the rest of the scene around the dialogue and try to create a mental picture of what’s going on around your characters...all while distracting your readers from the fact that, “Geez, they sure are talking a lot!” Hehehe! Long blocks of one character shoving an entire history lesson down the throats of your readers can be exhausting. Visuals, I feel, help to change things up a little bit. Not only to break up the dialogue blocks, but to add little quirks and nuances to your characters. Allow their natural personalities to shine through in their actions. Someone who’s full of anger may pace back and forth, make threatening gestures, or might invade another character’s personal space in a challenging manner. Someone who’s timid or shy may have trouble looking another character in the eye, and may direct his gaze down at his shoes instead. He may mumble his words under his breath. He may twiddle his fingers nervously while searching for the right words. These are all tiny little activities, sure...but sprinkling these seemingly insignificant actions throughout a meaty conversation can bring a whole new feel to that particular scene, and it will keep your readers engaged and searching for more hints and clues to pick up on with your characters, while still absorbing all of the information that you have to deliver to them. Trust me, it works. So, to wrap this up... Information – Try to avoid heavy narration or a dialogue that no character in real life would ever bother to sit through after a few minutes or so. Break it up by involving both parties and try to swing back and forth between characters...with one asking pertinent questions, and the other character answering them. It’s just enough of a change up to keep people from getting bored. Imagination – Add visual and ‘action’ to what your characters are doing in any given scene where their personalities are being developed, or where a heavy dose of information has to be given all in one go. Have them bashfully brush their long hair out of their eyes, have them bite their fingernails, or constantly look up at the clock to see what time it is. These micro-actions can say a lot about your character, and it can keep things active while giving your readers the amount of information that they need to move on to the next part of your story. Watch the “Pulp Fiction” Opening again. It’s the perfect blend of both sides. Put THAT in your writing, and you can’t go wrong! Alright, that’s all I’ve got for you this time! And as always, I hope this helps you guys to be the best writers as you can! Take care! And I’ll seezya soon with more!
  2. Comicality


    It’s the weekend again! So...let’s talk about climaxes! Wait! Not THAT kind of climax! Stay out of the gutter! Geez! We’re talking about story story climaxes. This is the grand finale to your story! This is the big finish! This is where you’re able to give your readers the big pay off that they’ve been waiting for since they got hooked on those first few sentences of your story. A story’s climax can really make or break a wonderfully written project, depending on how well it works with your audience. It expresses the overall theme of your story, the reason that you wrote it in the first place, and what you want your readers to walk away with once everything has been said and done. So...put some thought into it, folks! Hehehe, this is important! For me, personally...I like for most of my own stories to come full circle. For the end to somehow encapsulate what was taking place in the beginning. I like for the climax of the story to be the defining moment for my main characters, and have that moment either bless the readers with a satisfying ‘happily ever after’ scenario...or have it be the merciless sucker punch that causes the whole story to collapse and end on a darker note. Or at least a note that’s somewhat bittersweet in the long run. While I definitely concentrate on making the story addictive and enjoyable as a whole, I do make it a point to save my most heavy hitting moments for the very end. In my opinion, the climax of a story should be more amazing, more shocking, more jaw-droppingly dramatic, than every major event that came before it. The climax is the sincere promise that you made to your audience from the very beginning. “Stick with me, and I’ll give you the reward you’ve been patiently waiting for!” Now, depending on the kind of story that you’re writing...this climax can mean a bunch of different things. It can be the defeat of a major enemy, or the salvation of a lost soul. It can be the big showdown between a super strong hero and an equally powerful antagonist. Or it might be the first kiss or hot sexual experience that your main characters have been trying to have, but obstacles have been standing in their way. Whatever the climax may be in your story...it should be the peak of your project. You’ve been seducing your audience into reading along and following your protagonist through this amazing adventure for all this time...so when they reach that major moment, when they’ve finally dug down deep enough to find that treasure chest...you want to make sure that they all feel like the hard work was worth it. The last thing you could ever want is for that big reveal or elevated event to fall flat and end up as a disappointment to readers who were looking for something more. That can be a curse on your story as a whole. Even if you’ve written a true masterpiece up until that point...the climax of your story is what you will, ultimately, be graded on when they comment or spread the word of your story to other people. I’m not kidding when I say that this can be a ‘make it or break it’ scenario. Don’t spend all of your hard work and energy on writing a fascinating story, only to have it fizzle out like a spent candle at the very end. The end of your story is the personal stamp on the fictional journey that you’ve created. It’s what people are going to remember most when they close the link and reflect on what they’ve just experienced. You want your lingering effect to give them a feeling that will stick with them in a way where they will not only read your work again some time, but will refer it to other readers as well. Always remember that the climax of your story should answer the intriguing questions that you set up in the earliest parts of your story. Let it be the punctuation mark on your story in general. Seduce your readers into expecting something MAJOR just over the horizon...but only give them small hints and glimpses of what’s coming along the way. I think that an effective climax is all about the ‘tease’. All about making that promise, that unspoken contract, with your readers...and then following through by giving them something eyebrow raising once they see the finished product. And...accomplishing this feat, as always...comes from planning. Always planning. When you’re diving into a brand new story, and you want it to be something special, and memorable, and loved by all...planning is essential. Think of it like you would if you were telling a joke to somebody. The biggest impact of the joke is the punchline, right? But that punchline can’t work without the setup. And the setup falls flat without the punchline. You’ve got to have both in order for the comic element of the joke to work. The timing, the delivery, the surprise of it all...it matters when it comes to bringing the most potent part of your story to life. Always give your story somewhere to ‘go’ when you’re building up to your climax. You want there to be a peak to your roller coaster. A finale to your fireworks display. This comes from plotting out the most important part of your story, and gradually building up to that punchline without overshadowing its impact ahead of time. KNOW where you’re going with your story when you start! That’s not to say that you can’t be flexible and let certain ideas change and evolve over time while you’re writing, but having a definitive idea of what your story’s ‘big moments’ are going to be ahead of time will help you out a lot when it comes time to top all of your previous highlights in the story and are looking for that major ‘WOW’ to send it off with. So know where you’re going, tease your audience with awesome plot points, complex twists, and surprising turns, along the way...and then deliver a final blow that can act as an effective punchline for the story that you’ve been telling the whole time. Be an entertainer! Give your audience something to cheer about. Or cry about. Or get angry about. Whatever the outcome...give it that punchline. You’ve only got one shot at this, so make it count. Now, one example that I’d like to use here, comes from the movie, “Blade”. I LOVE “Blade”! Hehehe, I really do! Even though people nowadays don’t talk about it much, Marvel’s “Blade” basically SAVED the whole comic book movie genre! Without that movie...taking a comic book hero seriously...and making it R Rated and action packed...we wouldn’t have what we have today. We’d have campy “Batman And Robin” with George Clooney, and campy “Superman 4” with Christopher Reeves. “Blade” paved the way for “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, “X-Men”, “The Avengers”, “Black Panther”, “Deadpool”, “Justice League”...I mean...we have Oscar winners in comic book movies now! That’s crazy! So THANK YOU, “Blade”, for showing the world that it can be done! However... As much as I love that movie, I believe they made a huge mistake when it came to putting that movie together. And this is a perfect example of why a climax is so important, and why it should be strategically placed at the END of the story! See, when “Blade” opens up, there is a SWEET action sequence that takes place in the first ten minutes of the movie! And I remember seeing that in the theater, and thinking, “HOLY SHIT!!! Let’s GO! I’m so psyched, right now!” It was everything that I wanted a Blade movie to be! And by drawing me in with that opening scene (Highly effective!), I was glued to that screen, waiting to seee what would come next. But...and this is NOT to say that “Blade” wasn’t awesome...it never really topped that opening scene. I mean...how could it? You’ve got a major protagonist reveal of a shotgun toting, sword wielding, vampire hunting, ninja in a long black trench coat, laying waste to an entire underground club full of panicked bloodsuckers!!! I mean...where do you go from there? The most over the top moment of the whole movie happens right after the opening credits, and it’s hard to even match that, much less surpass it later on in the movie when it comes to fighting the big baddie, right? I mean...here. Look at this! Again...as much as I LOVE that scene...the rest of the action scenes never really live up to the hype and the utter chaos of that first opening slaughter. That’s a hard act to follow. Hehehe! So it’s understandable, sure. But that, to me, was a ‘climax’ scene. Imagine for a second, that this had happened at the end of the movie instead of the beginning. See, the advantage that you, as a writer, has when it comes to a story climax is that your readers already have an entire journey behind them to build upon. They’re familiar with your main character. They have a short history of experience, learning about how high the stakes are, what is most important, and they’re already on board to cheer you main character on as they go complete APESHIT on an army of adversaries! Imaggine if Blade had been taking on vampires two or three at a time, and the situation had gotten so bad, things had escalated SO much, that he just had to let loose and slash his way through an armada of the undead to bring an end to this once and for all. That would be EPIC! The climax of your story has already been set up, it has been reaching a boiling point over time, and now it’s time for the major payoff. If it can’t match or outdo what you sold your readers on in the opening scene...then you kind of miss the mark in terms of bringing everything to a head and making the kind of impact that you set out to make. Now, compare the “Blade” beginning to the defining scene in the original “Matrix”. This happens at the END of the movie this time, and the whole impact of this scene has a different feel to it. Check it out... This time, you’ve spent some time with the main character. You’ve come to relate and understand him and his motivations. The movie sets up ‘Agent Smith’ in the beginning as being one of the most terrifying things that the Matrix could possibly throw at the protagonist. Calculating, precise, unbeatable. Everyone is scared by the mere appearance of such a creature, right? But...the story ‘teases’ you by letting you know that Neo isn’t your average guy. It then teases you into realizing that he’s special. That he can almost dodge bullets the way that they do. And then teases you even further when he turns and tries to actually fight with an agent...something that has never been done before. All of these things, while amazing scenes in their own right...they’re building up to something big. They’re the preamble to a climax that audiences are waiting for. Neo has transformed into the hero that the story needed, and the WORST thing that the Matrix can throw at him can be easily dispatched one handed if needed. But what gives the reader a rush is the journey that brought them to that point. The training, the mind games, the realization that...”I can do this!” All of these things make a difference when it comes to making a climax the major event that you want it to be. And, again..that doesn’t mean that there has to be some sort of knock down, drag out, fist fight or anything. It can be a first date, it can be coming out of the closet for the first time, it can be standing up against an abusive parent, or finally getting the courage to follow a lifelong dream. Whatever the climax of your story might be, make it the fireworks display that it deserves to be. Fulfill the promise that you made to your readers when they started investing time, effort, and emotion, into what you were writing. Let them know that this is actually leading somewhere. And when your story is done...they’ll thank you for a wild ride. Hopefully, one that they’ll remember for years to come. Anyway, that’s my little spiel on Climaxes. I really do see them as being a major part of your story as a whole. Without a defining moment to validate the whole reason for reading the story in the first place...your project and all of the hard work that you put into it can become a distant memory in a very short amount of time. I’m going to assume that you guys don’t want that. I hope this helps! And I’ll see you soon with more! Take care! And happy writing!
  3. I have to be 100% honest here... I had NEVER once, in my entire life, heard the term 'Mary Sue' used in any writer's discussion, ever...until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was released in theaters a few years ago. Never. Not once. Since then it has become this weird 'buzzword' that a lot of people have weaponized to use as a criticism in a variety of stories, movies, and comic books, and while I don't really use it myself I think it is an attempt to point out a certain flaw that authors may run into when creating their characters and building an engaging story around them. I do wish that it hadn't become such an insulting way of describing a character, but I suppose it all depends on who's using it, and why. So this weekend, I'd love to take some of the venom out of the term, and have an open an honest discussion about the concept of a 'Mary (or Gary) Sue' character in our stories online. To begin...what is a Mary/Gary Sue? What does that even mean? And how do you spot one in whatever story you happen to be reading or writing at that particular moment? Well...basically, a Mary/Gary Sue character is someone who is written to be absolutely flawless. Perfect beyond the suspension of disbelief. They're always super strong, and super beautiful, and super smart...they almost never lose, they have everything going for them at all times, and they barely have to lift a finger to make any situation in their lives come up roses. Just...frustratingly free from any real challenges of any kind. In other words....'boring'. Oh you can have an EXCELLENT story going on around them the whole time...with action and romance and intrigue and all the sprinkles and ice cream scoops that would make for a great reading experience...but a boring protagonist can drag that awesome story right down into the dirt with them if you're not careful. Simply adding a few sentences to 'tell' your audience that this person is confused or conflicted or flawed in some way, only to go back to describing how perfect they are over the next ten pages, is NOT going to balance out in the long run. How can a character who never loses possibly enjoy winning? How does a character with no struggles and no obstacles to overcome possibly express any sense of joy or triumph? What is the value of an achievement that you didn't earn? These are all questions that might arise when it comes to having a Mary/Gary Sue character in your story. And that's something you might want to ultimately avoid. I think that the idea is best displayed when you see a character that is SO well loved by the other characters in the story, and has SO little to worry about, that you actually stop caring whether or not they win in the end. It's not that you're cheering for the opposing team. You just don't see a need to give your character any support when they obviously don't need it. What is there to root for? The entire universe is conspiring in their favor at all times whether you agree with their choices or not. They're perfect. EVERYBODY thinks they're perfect! Hehehe! One example of this idea, in my opinion, comes from the movie versions of the "Twilight" series. Now, I've never read the books, so they may be totally different from the films, but from what I saw in the movies...Bella is the pure definition of a Mary Sue character. She's a dark and brooding teenager who moves to a new town and starts a new school...and by the end of the first day, she has a group of friends to hang out and eat lunch with, she has a boy asking her out to the dance, a 100 year old vampire immediately falls in love with her (After going from high school to high school for over a century, he's NEVER been more in love? Really?), as well as a boy werewolf that can't stop obsessing over her, and just...ugh! These are TEENAGERS we're talking about here, right? Stereotypes aside, it's been my experience that if you go sitting at the wrong table in the cafeteria on your very first day at a new school, you're going to get a cold shoulder like you wouldn't believe! But...as the series goes on, all eyes are on Bella. Everybody loves her, they go out of their way to make her a part of their inner circle, there are practically immortal beings literally fighting over her, even vampires that are much higher up on the food chain over OTHER vampires are completely fascinated with her...it reaches the point of just being ridiculous after a while. The entire world revolves around her and her wants and her needs, and since she's so perfect and flawless in every imaginable way...there really isn't much for her to do outside of bearing witness to whatever else is happening in the story. The plot unfolds, and she basically watches from the sidelines until it comes too close to affecting her as the poor victim...and then the rest of the world bends over backwards to protect her. She can't lose. She's not going to die! Be honest, that never crosses your mind, does it? When you have a character like this in your story, even if it's a main character, they become more of an observer than a participant. And I think that takes your readers out of the story in terms of relating to them and being a part of the adventure. Like I said, that can drag a GREAT story down to a mediocre level...or worse. So it's definitely something to look out for when you're putting your story together. "But Comsie...isn't the story supposed to be concentrated around your main character at all times? Isn't that the point?" The answer is YES! It most certainly is. But there is a difference between a 'protagonist' and a 'Mary/Gary Sue'. Even though a protagonist is made to be the center of attention in your story, that doesn't mean that they have to be perfect or void of any unlikable flaws. I understand the idea behind reading a modern day fairy tale type of story where you can live vicariously through a character that can live the life that many of us always wish that we could have lived ourselves. I don't want to claim that there isn't something alluring about the escapism of it all. But, for me personally...I find myself looking for a little struggle every now and then. I think it only enhances the appeal of a protagonist to know that they have to deal with issues that we can all relate to. Even when they're super powerful. Even when they're outrageously gorgeous. Even when they're extremely rich. Give me something 'human' to latch on to so that connection can be made between me and the characters that I read about. It's a part of that reader/writer relationship that makes it so addictive. This is what makes it fun. Some years ago, Hollywood decided to reboot the whole Superman franchise for a brand new generation with the movie, "Man Of Steel". Now, I know some people sort of drag that movie through the mud for whatever reason, but I actually really liked "Man Of Steel". I've always been a Superman fan, ever since I was a little boy. He was my very first superhero. And...I still love Superman to a certain degree...but I cannot IMAGINE actually having the task of writing for that character! No way! Superman, in a lot of ways, is the ultimate Gary Sue! You can't hurt him, you can't kill him, you can't run from him, you can't hide from him, you can't corrupt his morals or good nature (Generally speaking. There have been some isolated stories that have played around with some of those ideas)...he's invincible. Period. It makes me ask why there could ever be any crime, anywhere, on planet Earth. How is that possible? We have Superman. You see the comic book cover, and he's fighting an army of space demons or whatever, and there's a blurb asking, "Will Superman survive and save the day?" The answer? Of COURSE he will! He's friggin' Superman! Is this a trick question or what? However...there was this one trailer (I think it was the second or third trailer that released before the movie came out) that completely SOLD me on the idea of the reboot! While all of the trailers that came before this one, and after this one, were winding people up with how awesome and majestic and invulnerable Superman was...this trailer was different. It mostly focuses on the destruction surrounding him. The horrific decimation of whole cities. People running and screaming and fearing for their lives. And the goosebump raising quote, "For every human you save...we will kill a million more!" I remember thinking, YES!!! THAT is how you get to Superman! THIS is the kind of strategy that a war torn general would use to flush out and defeat a being that is basically God in a cape'! Now there's a challenge. Now there's some tension. I'm not worried about some super villain punching Superman in the face. That's not going to accomplish anything at all. But go after the people he loves and cares about? Take advantage of the fact that he can't be in all places at once, and he can't save everybody....THAT'S how you hurt a 'perfect' superhero. I honestly wish that movie had exploited that part of the equation a bit more, but...I was happy with what I got. Decent flick if you get a chance to check it out. Here's the trailer that I'm referring to... Now, Superman is a highly exaggerated version of a Mary/Gary Sue character, but the same principles apply. If you have a character in your story that seems just a little too 'special' to ever create any doubt or conflict in the minds of your readers...you may just be sapping some of the strong potential that your story has because of it. As sadistic as it sounds, I actually like putting my characters through the ringer on occasion. Because when your main characters are perfect, it gives them no room to grow and nowhere to go. That's not a protagonist. That's an act of nature. They're in the story, but they're not really 'driving' the story. They're just being put in one supposedly difficult situation after another, and waiting for their inevitable stroke of good luck to kick in and get them out of it...again. That can be mildly entertaining for some, but I definitely get more attached to the idea of 'CAN they get out of this?' over 'How are they going to do it this time? Because they always do.' I find the former much more interesting. One thing that I usually do when creating characters of my own, is look for some sort of balancing factor that will humanize them. I build them up to be attractive, funny, sensitive, loyal, sympathetic...I want them to be the kind of person that you would truly cheer for if you knew them in real life. And then, almost immediately after that, whether it's my protagonist or their love interest, I begin stripping them down. Like...ok, we've got the whole 'too good to be true' facade going...now let's explain exactly why they're too good to be true. What am I missing here? Sure, this character might be stunningly gorgeous...but he has feelings and insecurities just like anybody else, right? In fact, what if his beauty is more of a curse in his eyes than most people would believe? What if someone who's super famous, on TV, and has crowds of cheering fans...secretly wishes he could give it all up for the genuine love of just ONE person? What if you're blessed with a limitless reserve of special powers and unnatural abilities...but you were too scared of yourself and your past to really unleash them all at full power? It's a Yin and Yang idea. You have all of these great attributes and advantages over many of your other characters, but there are still parts of you that are vulnerable. That can be exploited for leverage or increased for the sake of tension later on. To avoid the Mary/Gary Sue comparison, I think there has to be a weakness or a chink in the armor. No matter how small. Something as simple as a 'secret' between friends can end up adding a layer of depth and involvement for your readers. Because they know it won't stay a secret forever, right? As long as it continues to loom over the story like a mini storm cloud...there's a reason to keep reading. Mr. Perfect isn't so perfect after all, is he? From when I first started writing, I sort of learned to dig a little deeper into my character's flaws. And I think I like them better that way. When I started, it was more like, "How can I get a super hot, totally perfect boy, to find another super hot, totally perfect boy, and get them naked together. Hehehe! And that can be entertaining, sure. But these characters aren't super experienced when it comes to sex and relationships and love in general. They're not free from temptation. They're not immune to jealousy, or depression, or heartbreak. For me, the most interesting part of crafting a project from beginning to end is getting my characters to learn, and evolve, and ultimately earn their idea of a 'happily ever after'. If they just happened to be born HOT, and found another hot boy who was gay, and then he got him on the first try without any angst or struggle...? Well, that would make for a forgettable story, in my opinion. It almost seems unfair in a lot of ways, you know? Nah, I'd rather engae my readers with something that was a bit more realistic in nature. Something to say, "No! You TOO can have this if you wanted it! This magical unicorn of a love interest is out there right now, and there's a chance that you might find him tomorrow if you know where to look." I can't say enough how important it is to make your readers an active part of your project. Let them immerse themselves into something that feels real. Everybody looks perfect from a distance. Bring your readers in closer for a more personal involvement. To keep your characters from being a witness instead of a protagonist...give them choices to make. Plain and simple. And I'm not talking about wanting an ice cream sundae or a milkshake. Hehehe! Put dilemmas in their path, and force them to make decisions that will have rewards and consequences on both sides. Make them an active participant in your story. Behind curtain number one...you've got the love of your life wanting you to come out of the closet and be with him forever. And behind curtain number two...you've got a super religious, homophobic, family that might disown you and never speak to you again if you choose this lifestyle. Yikes! What do you do? THAT'S where the tension comes from. A Mary/Gary Sue might just tell his boyfriend, 'I love you', and his family decides, 'well, as long as you're happy, we'll change our judgemental ways'. Wow...exciting... Insert a little danger into your character's plight. Drag them out of their comfort zone and let your readers know that they have problems just like the rest of us. Escapism only goes so far. It might be effective for short, one shot, stories, but if you're looking to write something a bit longer and more in depth, allow your characters to take the training wheels off of their bike and get a little dirty from time to time. Not just for the sake of drama, but to accurately depict the shared experience of life itself. We have our hearts broken, we make mistakes, we jump to conclusions, we have bad days and say stupid things that we don't mean, we have regrets, we get scared, and we sometimes get weak in the face of temptation. It happens. But I think readers appreciate seeing that in the characters that we create, and finding the strength to overcome the same problems that they've been through in the process. To wrap this up... The whole 'Mary/Gary Sue' label may be flung around as an insult more often than not these days, but it's basically just a warning against making your stories too easy for your protagonist to navigate through from beginning to end. Place a few obstacles in your main character's way. Give your outwardly perfect characters a few inner demons to face and tackle as the story goes on. And make sure that your protagonist remains relevant to the story by giving them some tough decisions to make on their own. And then show the benefits and hardships that came with making that decision. I truly think that this makes for a much more intriguing and immersive story, and it will keep your audience coming back for more. None of us are perfect. And, while pretending to be perfect for short periods of time can be enjoyable for some...it doesn't last. Reality is like gravity. We've all got to drop back down to Earth eventually. Keep your stories grounded. That's where we spend most of our time. I hope this helps, you guys! Take care! And I'll seezya soon! ((hugz))
  4. And here we are, distinguished ladies and gentlemen! This is officially the 50th article in the 'Comsie Rambles On' series! Hehehe! I just want to take a quick second to thank you all for the likes and comments, and for offering your own touches and advice on the topics being discussed. I'm still learning too! So I love to see them! And now...let's take the first step taken towards Article #100!!! This weekend's topic took some extra effort, trying to figure out how to put it into words that people could understand. Emotion can be such an intangible idea when it comes to explaining it or trying to bring it out in a story. Not to mention the fact that methods of doing so drastically differ from author to author, and it translates differently from reader to reader. But there is a hidden essence in all this that truly connects us all together in a variety of ways...and if we learn to tap into that energy, our stories can truly create some moving moments for everybody involved, writers and readers alike. But how can I even approach a conversation like that? The best way, I figured, was to do so through music. Music has this incredible ability to truly affect us when we need it most, and expect it least. It takes the intangible idea of being able to emote in your writing, and makes it a little more easily absorbed. It's more than an inner concept. You can hear it. You can feel it. So I'd like to use that as my tool this week as we talk about bringing real emotion to the words we write, and how to dig even deeper once we know what were looking for. As always, the idea behind this goes back to the whole 'show, don't tell' mantra that every writer should keep going on in their heads at all times. When you're writing, always remember that it is not enough to say, "My main character is sad." Let your main character's inner thoughts, sullen actions, and painful dialogue, display that. If done right, the sentence, "He/She was sad," shouldn't have to be mentioned. Instead, concentrate on what's going on around that character. What led up to that moment? What might happen after that moment? How does this take the story in a 'sad' direction? If your readers have been absorbing all the details around this particular event or the circumstances surrounding this character, then their empathy should kick in and they'll feel sad for him or her without you having to 'tell' them that they should. It's like seeing a well decorated slice of cheesecake behind the counter at your local bakery. Hehehe, nobody has to 'tell' you it's going to be delicious! You can look at it, you can smell it, you begin to salivate at the very thought of it. (Ugh...now I want some cheesecake!) But this connection between you and your audience comes from digging really deep to the very core of the emotions that you're trying to convey in your story. And that takes practice. Not just skill, as I'm certain you all have the skill, without a doubt. But practice. It takes time to really drudge up those emotions and memories and personal experiences that you might be drawing from to create that particular scene, and then put it into words. You have to 'feel' it, so your readers can feel it. I can, honestly, say that I've sat at this keyboard with tears in my eyes MANY times, myself, while writing some of the more painful moments in my stories. And while it may be emotionally draining, and it might force me to take a break from time to time...the effect that it had on my readers worked out even better than I ever could have imagined it would have. Hehehe, so...I guess you could say that I was proud to depress so many people at once. The sadist that I am! LOL! But this comes from being able to really understand emotion in general, being able to relate to it from times in your life when you felt the same way, and then bringing that to the surface. Because, at its deepest level...I think we really have the ability to all relate to the shared experience of life itself. We've all been heartbroken at one time in our life. We've all been angry, we've all been scared, we've all been head over heels in love with someone, we've all been full of joy and fireworks. It might have been on different levels or for different reasons, but believe me...a 14 year old boy who got a Playstation 4 this past Christmas and a 65 year old man who got that first shiny bicycle in the store window when he was a kid BOTH understand the same kind of joy and surprise that comes with that. The bike or the video game isn't the connection. The JOY is the connection. And you can touch the hearts of an infinitely wide range of readers once you teach yourself to make that part your focus. So where does the 'music' come in, Comsie? I want you guys to listen to a few songs down below that I chose specifically for this article. I want you to think about how these songs make you feel inside. The voice. The lyrics. The instrumental arrangements. And more importantly, how they all fit together. These were meant to 'move' you. They are presenting a particular feeling and guiding you to sympathize and possibly end up feeling the same way. Try to let go and feel what it wants you to feel. What is it doing to you? Why are you suddenly feeling something that you weren't feeling before the story started? This is a South Korean artist by the name of So Hyang. Now, a friend of mine shared this with me last year, and she is being hailed as one of the most emotionally moving singers in the WORLD right now. Naturally, I was skeptical. I mean...the world? Really? Ummm...but I have to admit, she is pretty damn moving to say the least. What starts off as a really cool, soft, and pleasant song...ends up as a near religious experience by the time it's over. She's about as close to a living, breathing, Disney princess, as you can get. Hehehe, I just listened to this again a couple of minutes ago, and I feel really good now! Give it a listen... Hehehe! Did you feel that? Maybe a little bit? Maybe a lot? Now, when you think about the song itself and her performance of it...how did it affect you, emotionally? And why do you think that is? No matter whether you're a singer, actor, writer, painter, or architect...the unique value of your art comes from your personal 'choices'. For a singer, it comes from knowing when to draw a note out, or to cut it short. To reach a higher tone, or a lower one. These choices may be pre-planned or totally subconscious and spontaneous...but it is those choice that personalizes the song to them and them alone. Writing is no different. Can you move someone with text on a screen the same way that song might move you with visuals and audio and expert arrangements? YES! You can do all that, and a LOT more, in fact! Because the people reading your story have more than a few minutes to spend with the characters and themes that you're hitting them with. If anything, your writing should be able to touch them on a level that a three to five minute song can't reach. And while it may not be as immediately devoured as a song or a movie...the impact can be just as powerful. Just like these singers, you, as an author, have a 'voice'. Your choices will make your story relatable and unique to everyone who lays eyes upon it. It's all in how you communicate the emotion that you're looking to broadcast to your audience. I think that there's something 'unspoken' between us all that can be instantly discovered when an artist presses the right button or finds the right trigger. Something about hearing that song above touched me. It connected to something within me that I might have buried or forgotten about. An old memory? An emotional experience? A faded dream? A release for some bottled up feelings that I never faced or dealt with properly? Who knows? But something about this particular song made contact with a deeper part of me. It went searching for certain emotional strings...and then gave them a little 'tug'. THAT'S the power of being able to emote with your work. You can have all the vocal skill and training in the world, perfect pitch, breath control, and the best sound equipment that money can buy...but it's the emotional connection that will always make your work stand out over everything else. There's a spark, an untitled glow, to it that can't be faked, manufactured, or imitated. I believe that emotion easily separates a really good story from a GREAT story. One that your readers will never forget. Like I said, it takes practice. It takes exposure. And sometimes, it's going to be exposure to feelings and memories that you may not want to relive or dwell on for any length of time...but the more experienced you become with experiencing those feelings, firsthand, the easier it will be to project those feelings through the characters in your story. Spend some time thinking about it. Take a moment, and think about that very first time that you really got your heartbroken. Go back to that time in your life...the pain, the tears, the denial, the acceptance...honestly approach those feelings, and think about how you (at that particular moment in your life) would have to explain how you were feeling. Put it in focus. "I felt like my heart had been torn in half by someone I trusted." Good! Put that in your story! "I was so ANGRY that he cheated on me!" Great! Put that in your story! "I wish I never met her! It was like she destroyed my whole life!" Excellent! Take those emotions, and tell that story through the eyes of your main character! I won't lie...sometimes it hurts. It does. I've dealt with some really painful moments in my life through my stories. From "My Only Escape" to "Save Or Sacrifice" to "Never Again"...I had to draw from some pretty disturbing memories in order to write those out. But it can be a truly therapeutic experience when it's all said and done. I don't know...tears are good for the soul and all that. But the more you sort of dig around in that wound, the more you pick at that scab...the more you begin to get a clear understanding of the subtle differences involved when dealing with one emotion or another. In the two songs below...they are both dealing with heartbreak. Someone that you love who is now attempting to be happy with someone else. Now, hearing that part of the emotional description, one would think that the songs would be pretty similar to one another. "I love you. You left me behind. I can't let go." They both deal with loss. They both deal with a mixture of pain and anger...so, I guess 'painger'! Hehehe! However, give them both a listen. The emotion and the theme is the same, but lyrically and emotionally...they're both sending out a very different message. Sad, yes. But the Yebba song is a bit more determined. She seems like she's in pain, but there's a certain feeling of strength and empowerment in her delivery. I can feel the pain in her performance. But she's still standing strong, despite her being so close to breaking down. However, in Conor Maynard's highly emotional cover of Drake's 'Marvin's Room', he seems a bit more somber. More defeated. It feels more like he's trying to maintain some kind of strength, but he's struggling through it. It's almost like he's lost as to whether he's going to make it or not. And is he crying? it almost looks like he was crying! Geez! Where was this coming from? I think he was 17 when he covered this, so...recent heartbreak maybe? Who knows? Anyway, you can tell two completely different stories from this subtle difference alone. One of someone getting over a massive heartbreak, or one of someone being crushed by it. Put yourself in both situations. Feel it in your heart. And think about how you would put those feelings into words when your characters are going through something similar. 000 The thing to remember is to always draw from your personal truth. Somebody out there has been through the same things that you have struggled through in your life, and when you make that connection...when you find a way tug on that heart string...the reader/writer dynamic becomes a symbiotic experience. When you dig deep enough...you're no longer just telling your story, but their story as well. You reach out and you actually 'touch' a part of them that they didn't even know was there. Hehehe, I didn't mean for that to sound anywhere NEAR as perverted as it did! The subtle changes on one side of the emotion or another comes from the words you use, and the way you describe the plight of your character. If you want to empower them, your word usage should reflect that. The tone should be different. Convey strength through your descriptions and vocabulary. If you want them broken and hurt beyond repair...change the way you describe their handling of the situation. You wouldn't describe both sides in the same way in real life if it were happening to you. So don't do it that way in your stories. Pay attention to the difference. A sentence or two can make a huge difference in how your readers perceive your protagonist's state of mind. And that state of mind can be the rise or fall of an emotionally potent scene in your project. These next two songs show a slightly different take on the idea of misery. Just...plain misery. Now, this first one will always have a special place in my heart. Johnny Cash and his wife, the love of his life, passed away about 4 months apart from each other. After losing her, he said that his music was all he had left, and he made this cover of 'Hurt', originally from Nine Inch Nails' album, 'Downward Spiral'. This was the last video he ever filmed before he died, and the flashbacks to a long life of entertaining and basically being country music's number one badass, mixed with the heartbreaking lyrics, is sure to twist a few hearts here and there when watching it. The second video, however, is more 'angst' than misery. You watch the video and listen to the song, and while Alessia Cara is 'miserable' where she is, it has a totally different vibe to it. She isn't sad about it. She just doesn't want to be there. I remember seeing this for the first time and thinking, "Omigod, I remember being like that at a party!" I'm supposed to be having fun, but...I'm just not into this at all. I'd uch rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else. Again, these songs have different tones to them. The inspire different emotions and therefore need to be treated differently in order to connect to different people. It all depends on what you're looking to broadcast with the picture you're painting for your readers at that moment. Will it be Johnny Cash, a dark place with a slightly optimistic outlook? Or an Alessia Cara party place with a slightly darker, isolated, outlook? 000 Now, emotions don't all have to be sad and depressing! Hehehe! Of course not! Evoking emotion comes in the form of love and joy and blissful happiness as well! So, don't think that you have to have some kind of heavy drama going on in order to explain making an emotional connection with your audience. Some of my more lighthearted stories are extremely fun for me to write as well. "Kiss Of An Angel", "Jesse-101", and others have given me a few giggles and good vibes, typing them out. But still...joy is an emotion that you want to push forward when you're writing your story. Let your readers feel it like YOU feel it. Right? The slight shift in these two videos below is expressed mostly through an 'internal' and 'external' version of joy. Both by the same artist, same voice, same theme. However, in the first song (Which ALWAYS makes me smile when I hear it! Hehehe!) is all about feeling good. It has the kind of feeling that you get when you just wake up, the sun is shining, you've got the day to yourself, and everything is AWESOME! This is an internal joy. Nothing can touch you. It can't bother you. It just makes you feel good inside! The music, the lyrics...everything about it is all sunshine and good vibes! The second, while having the same theme, is more external. It's sharing that joy with other people. It's inspiring. It tells you that you can feel just as amazing as she does, if you only shrug off the bullshit and realize how beautiful you really are. (A song that I desperately needed to hear when it first came out and I was feeling down. Because...sighhh...'the internet'!) Both of these themes can connect to readers in a way that will keep them smiling until their cheeks hurt while reading your work. And that is what is going to make your writing memorable. It's more than a story. It's an experience. Something that they can go back to when they want to feel that way again. Something that they can share with a friend or family member when they're in need of connecting to that happiness the same way that they did. If only you knew how much power you had when it comes to affecting people on an emotional level. You really can change lives with what you write. One emotion at a time. 000 So, there we go! Emote control! It's not about me telling you what to write or how to write it. You all have the talent and the passion to figure it out for yourselves. Your very presence here proves that. This is just meant to shine a spotlight on a few things that you may have a feel for, but never really pay attention to. It's there. Many writers think about emotions in terms of joy, sadness, anger, jealousy, and indifference. But there are infinite shades of grey in between. Combinations and lethal cocktails and conflicting ideologies, that you can personalize and use to your story's benefit. But the first step is diving into those emotions, feeling them fully, and attempting to figure out how they work for you and for your readers. Learn the subtle shifts from one to another. Teach yourself how to deescalate or intensify those emotions at will. And, as always...practice, practice, practice. I've been doing this for almost 21 years now...and I still find new blind spots that I didn't pay attention to before. So get familiar with your own hearts, and go out there to give them your best. Do it better than I did. Thanks for the love and support you guys! I hope the music/writing comparison helped to get my point across. Like I said, it's kind of a hard thing to put into words. I love you all! And I'll see you next weekend with more! Also...one more... If you think you can't find the emotional power within yourself, check out the video below. This is a Latin pop artist, Abraham Mateo. He made this back when he was only TWELVE years old! How a twelve year old was able to tap into such heartfelt emotion is a complete mystery to me! But listen all the way through. By the end of this song, its like, "Who IS this kid???" It just takes passion, effort, and practice. That's it. If he can do it...you can too. Best of luck!
  5. The biggest trick that any writer can pull off when it comes to their finished product...is making it look like writing is easy. Hehehe, getting your readers to think that you just sat down at a keyboard with a cup of tea or coffee, and tapped into some level of genius to type something out from beginning to end. (Cue snickers and laughter from the writing community.) Obviously, this isn't true. Sure, it becomes easier through practice and discipline, and we get used to the habit of expressing our thoughts in this particular way...but there is nothing 'easy' about writing a story. Not at all. From conception, to creating characters, to plot devices, to dialogue...it takes a LOT of time and patience and skill to pull off a story from beginning to end. You have to juggle a series of different talents all at once, and once you're finished...you've got to edit it and start all over again to catch anything that you may have dropped along the way. Yeah, to say that it's easy to do is not only a mistake...it's an outright lie for many of us. Because of this pleasurable, self torturing, practice that we love so much...it can sometimes cause our most ambitious ideas to seem more intimidating than they have to be. At least that's been my experience so far. There are stories that I wanted to write years ago that still intimidate me to this day. Every time I consider sitting down and just getting it started, I almost get overwhelmed with anxiety about how I'm ever going to create that story, those characters, and actually get it right. I get intimidated by the time I'm going to have to put in. Intimidated by the emotion I'll have to pour in. Intimidated by whatever research I might have to do for the details. I feel the story idea looming over me to the point where I'm forced to back away from it, and like the procrastination savant that I am, hehehe...I put it off until later. And as we all know, 'later' often never comes. This week, I'd like to spend a few moments talking about writer confidence, and maybe clear up the smoke and mirrors aspect of possibly beating the intimidation when it strikes. For me, personally, it doesn't always take some massive new project to intimidate me into shying away from putting the work in. Sometimes, it might just be a particularly important chapter that I'm worried about getting right. Or a specific scene where a big secret is revealed, or a dramatic argument or major event has to come along to change the course of the rest of the story. As I mentioned in a past article, sometimes I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it...but there's a 'hesitation' involved anyway. For me, that's WORSE than writer's block! LOL! I can deal with writer's block. But fear or lack of motivation? Nothing makes me feel more helpless when it comes to my writing. Also, there are times when the intimidation isn't even creatively inspired. Sometimes I have to ask myself if I'm going to have the time and the focus to really dive into this new chapter/story the way I want to. What is my work schedule like? What are my friends and family up to? Will I be able to remove myself from the world for a week or two to get this as well polished as I want it to be? Some of you guys have kids or partners that need attention and quality time. Some of you have a busy few weeks of work ahead of you, and you know that's not going to leave you with a lot of energy to write when you come home. There are more factors that you can ever imagine that have to be shifted around in order to concentrate on the task at hand. And that can cause a writer to hesitate as well. It's nothing to feel bad about. It happens. And if you decide that this isn't the time for you to jump into that particular project...then so be it. However, you can't let these things destroy your writer confidence. See...being intimidated by a story, chapter, or important scene, in your project isn't going to be like an explosion at the base of a tower, causing it to crumble to the ground all at once. It's more like an aggressive army of termites. It erodes the foundation in secret. You start making little excuses for why you can't jump into it today. You start getting randomly distracted by things like getting your house cleaned, or a sudden Netflix binge. "I'll do it later" and "I'll get around to it when I have more time" become your mantras, and before you know it...it's six months later and you haven't so much as brought it up on your laptop once in all that time. Don't believe me? Look at your files right now? Do you have any lingering projects that you were going to 'get around to', and haven't? When was the last time you opened that file? It might be longer than you think. Hehehe! It usually is for me. So how can we fix this? I think the first step in starting this new project or getting a previous project back on course comes from asking yourself...'What am I so afraid of?' When I mention fear, I'm not talking about outright TERROR or anything! Hehehe, it's not that serious. But something is stopping you from sitting down and typing out the thoughts and emotions in your heart. What is it? What's bullying you out of tackling the next chapter? Find out what is giving you the most hesitation, and give it some thought. Loosen that knot. And be brutally honest with yourself. Maybe you don't like where the story is going. Maybe you're bored with it. Maybe some negative comments on the last story made you doubt your abilities as a writer. Maybe you have such high expectations for this next chapter that you worry you're not up to the task? Whatever it may be...find it, face it, and think about how you might be able to get around it. Diagnose the problem so you know what to fix. As long as you keep putting it off or making excuses, the actual issue that you might be trying to avoid is going to remain vague and unclear. In fact, you may deny that there is a problem at all. "I can't write tonight because...it's National Hot Dog Day! That's all." Hehehe, yeah, that's not a reason. The second step? Take a leap of faith. Find a few minutes of peace, open that file up...read what you've read so far, maybe doing a soft re-edit and making a few changes along the way, and then move right into the next sentence without hesitating. You just read what you wrote, your memory's been refreshed, you've got the file open, your fingertips are touching the keyboard...do it. Right then and there. Pick up where you left off and just start writing again as if it had only been a few hours since your last entry. If you're starting something brand new from scratch, and you're not sure how to begin...stare at that blank scene and think about ONE thing that you want your readers to know about your main character. And then create an opening scene that displays that one trait or attribute (or flaw). Put them right in the middle of it. Like, let's say that your protagonist is madly in love with some boy on the basketball team, right? Your first sentence... "I don't even really like basketball all that much. But I show up to the high school games for 'him'. Only for him." This is an opener that you can easily build off of. That little bit of text both gives answers and creates questions. The answers? This person is probably in high school. He's infatuated with someone on the team. He doesn't like sports. The questions? Who's speaking right now? Who is 'him'? Why is he so infatuated with him? You've immediately planted the seed, and you know have avenues to pursue your next few sentences. You can get into the thoughts and feelings of the main character, or you can describe the beauty and allure of the boy he's watching on the court. You end up writing a few more sentences to complete your thought...and that thought leads to a few more thoughts. You're already a few sentences deep into this new project, right? You might as well follow that path to the next logical idea. And when you complete that thought, you open the door to two or three more things that you might be able to add. Before you know it, you might be 1000 words into your project, with enough inspiration to keep moving forward. Sometimes, getting your brain to operate in that creative mode will create the momentum needed to get things started, and far enough along to actually enjoy yourself again instead of worrying about whatever problem you had getting started in the first place. Believe me, it works. But only with practice. I feel much more confident when I play around with my stories and sort of feel my way through it. I have to put things into motion, and that takes a push and a few extra nudges when I feel myself getting distracted again...but once I actually start writing and get my wheels turning again, the intimidation of taking that project head on ceases to be a problem. I think about what I'm feeling, and what I want a certain scene to accomplish, and I just keep feeling my way around until I feel good by what i see on the screen. That doesn't mean that everything I write is going to be flawless or error free. I don't even worry about that part. The emotion is what matters most. Capturing that moment, and bringing it to the people reading. Most of the time, I'll start a sentence without any idea as to how it'll end. The same way that I might have a spoken conversation with a friend. I don't plan what I'm going to say ahead of time, or what he/she will say after that, and how I'll respond. Stay in the moment. That's important. more times than not, the intimidation you feel is coming from this magnificent vision of what the final product is going to be. But you haven't built it yet. Don't start worrying about the dangers of life on Mars when you haven't even figured out how to get there yet. Hehehe, one brick at a time. I'll just start writing a sentence, let the emotion sort of swirl around in my head for a bit, and I may stop halfway to stare off into space for a second or two, trying to find that one magic word to add next...and then keep going. Don't worry about it being good enough. Worry about it being honest enough. Take one step, and then another, and then another. Learn to trust your instincts. The only way to do that is by putting your instincts to work for you. They're like any other muscle in the body. You have to give them a workout in order to strengthen them. Build them up, sentence by sentence, through little leaps of faith. With time and practice, it'll become second nature to you. Your confidence will grow, your instincts will become more involuntary...and then...there will be these truly magical moments when you truly feel in tune with what you're doing. You own it. You start typing and you feel as if you're in complete control of everything that you're doing, to the point where you might get in the zone and turn out half a chapter in one sitting. Let me tell you, that's the greatest feeling in the WORLD! There are nights when I feel like I'm playing this keyboard like a piano at the Philharmonic! And when I click that 'save' button...I'm truly proud of the work I put in, and get excited for the reaction I might get back from the readers. Now...mind you...I might come back the next day, look at it, and rip it to pieces again, because we're all our own worst critics. LOL! But at least I put the work in, and I got it done. That hesitation that I felt because I was intimidated by my own expectations of what I wanted the story or chapter to be didn't beat me. It didn't bully me out of my creative expression, and once I actually made the decision to get it started, it wasn't anywhere near as scary as difficult as I thought it would be. But it will be a leap of faith. Each and every time. That's not going to change, but you learn to deal with it. And before you know it...you'll have much more written than you ever though possible. As always, I hope this article helps any of you guys who might be struggling with a few 'I'll get to it later' issues as well. Whether it comes to you starting something new, getting back into something old, or even going back to edit and ultimately publish a story that's already finished...you can get it done. Just find your earliest opportunity to sit at your keyboard, and dive right in without waiting. You're all creative people, and you've spent a long time honing your craft. Have enough faith in your instincts to carry you once you make the effort to get started. Start writing, and let your instincts take the wheel from there. They won't fail you. Take care! And I'll seezya next weekend!
  6. As many of you guys already know, I grew up being a fan of Stephen King's writing. Something about it creeped me out, but more importantly...it spoke to me. The setting, the characters, the almost claustrophobic feel of the events taking place...I could feel it as if it was really happening at that very moment. So, I was, and still am, a fan. I remember watching an interview with him once as he was talking about his writing process, and he was asked if he actually sat down and took 'notes' and jotted down his ideas before he started a new book, or at any time during his efforts to finish it. He was quick to give a clear and emphatic, "No!" Hehehe! He doesn't keep notes at all. The reason he gave was that, if the ideas he had were good enough to make the book, then they'd stay in his head and there would be no need to write them down. And if they weren't good enough, then they probably faded away for a reason. Makes good sense, I suppose. I can see where he's coming from. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite! To me, my notes are just as important to me as the actual story itself. In fact, it's rare that I throw the notes away, even after I've finished the project. Sentimental value, I suppose. Plus, it's rare that I use all of the ideas that I come up with...so I end up going back and sliding some of those ideas right into the next story. Why not? Consider it my 'literary recycling program'. This week, I want to talk about the benefits and the possible drawbacks of taking notes for your stories, both before you get started and during the writing process! For me, taking notes on my ideas are essential. I make sure to keep a small pocket notebook and at least two working pens with me at all times. Inspiration can hit me at any time without warning, and when my muse gets all fired up and is looking for a way to channel itself into something productive, I want to make sue to have that outlet ready in the form of a pen and a pad. Maybe I have or overhear a particularly interesting or funny conversation and it sparks an idea. Maybe a beautiful stranger passes me in the street and I start thinking of ways to describe him as a character in one of my stories. Maybe I'm having a shitty day at work and I have some frustration that I want to get off of my shoulders. Whatever the situation, I like to develop my ideas when I'm in the moment. I tend to self reflect a lot, so when something happens, good or bad, I'm constantly asking myself how I feel about it. And how would I be able to explain that feeling to somebody else if I had to. That's where my notes come in. I can honestly say that there have been plenty of times when I've been riding the train, or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, or standing in line at the grocery store...and I'll suddenly get flooded with some really vivid ideas out of nowhere. So I immediately look for a way to jot them down before I forget anything. I have an entire shoe box full of scraps of paper at the foot of my bed right now. Hehehe! Little scribbled notes on the back of candy wrappers, store receipts, junk mail envelopes...some of them are short pieces of dialogue that I thought up, some are basic layouts for what I want to accomplish with the newest chapter, and sometimes they might be ideas for an entirely new project altogether. I'm constantly trying to capture a written 'snapshot' of that moment, as some of my best ideas can be fleeting. Telling myself that I'll remember it when I get home is not an option. Because I won't. Not like I would have if I took notes in the moment. The method to my madness is this...once I get a decent idea in my head, I want to expand on that idea. I want to explore it with the same energy and emotion that created the idea in the first place. What was I feeling that made me suddenly think up this sweet and tender moment for the next "Jesse-101" chapter? Who knows? But let me see where else this feeling will take me. You see, by writing it down...I can allow the idea to grow and change without worrying about losing its original form. Have you ever tried to memorize someone's phone number without a cell phone or without writing it down? Do you see how MADDENING that is??? Hehehe1 you end up repeating it over and over and over in your head until you nearly drive yourself insane, and just 30 seconds before you're able to find something to write it down on...you forget one of the numbers! Or you forget the area code, or get the order wrong! Arrrghhh! That's how I feel when I'm trying to remember story ideas as they come to me. My brain gets clogged up with more and more ideas, all spawned from that one momentary feeling inside, and there's no way for me to remember them all. My creative brain swells up with a ton of info sometimes, so I have to write it out like people in a sinking canoe, trying to use buckets to scoop the water out before it fills up and sends them to the bottom of the lake. So, rule number one? Get rid of it! Hehehe, if it's in your head and in your heart att that particular moment...write it down. You don't have to pen an entire chapter right then and there, but get your details scripted out. Names, faces, places, events...put it on paper. The bonus of making this a habit is not only saving your initial thoughts...but you don't have to stress yourself out over remembering it for later. You won't have to repeat the details in your mind again and again, only to lose some of them anyway in the end. Also, your brain can sort of push that idea to the side and build on it. It's been my experience that any idea, no matter how small or how vague...the second I write it down on a piece of paper, my mind starts coming up with ways to support and expand on it. Right away. It's become an automatic part of the process for me now. Example...I might hear a song on the radio, and it'll inspire me to think of two characters sharing their very first kiss while listening to that very song. The melody might just trigger something in me, and I reach for my pen and pad. I imagine that kiss, and how I would visualize it, what words I would use to describe it, and where it takes place. I might just write... "Ethan and Drew look at each other, music playing, drawn in slowly, so nervous, lips touch, heart racing." They're just a skeletal structure of a scene, but it's enough to remind me what I was thinking of and how I wanted it to look. However, once that's written down and I don't have to worry about remembering it later...my mind starts to add details. Maybe they're laying on the bed. Maybe it's raining outside. Maybe they use their feet to kick their shoes off and let them fall to the floor. As the moment expands, I start thinking that maybe they were having some sort of softly spoken dialogue that led up to that moment. Then a brief silence. Then the kiss. And then I'll add a few notes about what that kiss leads to. Maybe they go further. Maybe they stop and just enjoy the sound of the rain against the window. Maybe Ethan's mom comes home and they get interrupted. Maybe a friggin' Tasmanian Devil jumps out from under the bed and devours them both! I don't know! LOL! But whatever it is that's got me feeling the urge to start writing...I want to catch it. I want to hold onto it. And then recall that emotion as soon as I can get back to my keyboard to type it out. So keeping a pen handy at all times is an absolute must for me. I'm pretty sure I would have lost volumes of work and ideas if I didn't have a way to keep my most spontaneous thoughts with me. However, you don't want to get too dependent on your notes in the long run. You want to remember your ideas and free your mind up with enough space to make room for more...but you've got to remember that they're just 'scribbles'. What you jot down in your notebook is NOT some sort of binding contract, where you're now forced to put every single thought in your head into your story. As I said before, I make an effort to collect all of my ideas and keep them handy if I need them, but I don't use them ALL. That would be crazy. Think of it like leftovers in the fridge. The night you had that dinner originally might have been amazing and delicious and awesome all around. But, you may look in the back of the fridge a week later and still see it sitting there. You might start thinking, "I really don't feel like keeping this any longer. I might as well throw it out." These random ideas and spontaneous thoughts are no different. So if you go back and look at them later or you put some more thought into them and decide they don't really 'fit' into the framework that you're trying to create...let them go. Or use them elsewhere. Don't be discouraged. It wasn't a BAD idea...it was a spur of the moment idea. That's all. Also, don't let your notes, outlines, or its of dialogue constrain you. Be flexible when you're writing. more spontaneous ideas will come to you as your typing out your next chapter. Trust me. So don't feel like you're handcuffed to the notes you took before you started writing. If you want to cut something out that was in your notes? Cut it out. If you want to expand on an idea by adding things that weren't in your notes? Add them in. The beauty of writing your own stories is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. The only rule book you have to follow is the one you write for yourself. And alll rules are subject to change at any time. So proudly take advantage of your freedom and only use your notes as a grab bag of helpful treats...and not some rigid set of laws that has to be reproduced exactly the way it was written when you thought of it. Relax. Allow you talents to flow organically and bring all the heart it can to your story. Anyway, I hope this makes some kind of sense. I always have to keep notes when I'm thinking of these articles too! Hehehe! ::Holds up my trusty piece of folded scrap paper:: I know what it's like to really enjoy writing and the thrill it can give you when the ideas are just flying at you to the point where your typing fingers can barely keep up. But I also know that 'passion' and 'opportunity' don't always line up the way we want them to. We won't always have the chance to run for our laptops and start writing every time the creative lightning strikes...and there's nothing worse than having a really good idea, or cleverly worded block of dialogue...and forgetting the best parts of it before you get home. So keep something to write on and something to write WITH in your pockets at all times! That would be my advice. Take care, you guys! Happy writing! And I'll seezya soon!
  7. Can you guys believe that this is the 47th writing article I've done already? LOL! I talk too much! Geez! Reaching that big 50th milestone in the next few weeks! Can't wait! Anyway, let's get into it, shall we? Whenever you read something, whether you actually realize it or not, you are speaking the words on the page/screen aloud in your head. Even while you're reading these words right now...there's a voice in your head narrating the text for you. Then again, there are some people who actually read out loud, and that's ok too. However, when you read something in your head, even though you don't have to use your lips or your tongue or control your breathing...the same rules apply. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you may find yourself doing these things anyway. And I'm willing to bet that a majority of your readers do too. When I talk about writer 'flow', I'm talking about the ease and comfort that people experience when reading the words that you wrote. This is an aside from content, plot, or character. It's different. Subtle. You have to make an effort to notice it and smooth things out if you want your project to be as awesome as it possibly can be. How do we do that? Well, that's what this weekend article is all about! So...let's talk about writer 'flow'! Have you ever read a story that you really LIKED, but kept stumbling over words every now and then...preventing you from loving it as much as you really wanted to? Sometimes its due to spelling errors, or maybe just awkward wording in a sentence, or sometimes there's a language barrier and certain phrases don't translate well. Whatever it is, it can cause that inner narrator to pause or get confused, and that can interrupt the flow of a story. See...there's a rhythm in writing that may seem natural to you guys as authors, but the truth is, it's a skill that you build over time with a ton of practice. If we go back and read our earlier works, we may be able to see the difference in our old rhythm and our new one. At least that's how it is for me. The word usage isn't as refined, the sentences aren't as well structured...I can always tell my older work from my newer stuff. I guarantee you that my readers can too. So, I think it's important to go back and pay attention to what we've done in the past and compare to what we do now. You may be surprised to see a pretty big evolution there. I really started noticing this when I began re-editing my stories for eBook releases. Some sentences needed to be rewritten to keep from sounding...'clumsy'. Sometimes I would add new material, reword certain scenes, or add a little finesse to the dialogue to make sure that the rhythm that I was looking for could be maintained throughout the project. The first rule of creating a flow for your stories? Keep it consistent. Let the tone and feel of your scene play itself through, and then if you decide to shift speeds, segue into it as smoothly as possible. Try to picture the colors changing, like a sunset. It doesn't go from high noon to midnight in a snap. There's a slow and steady transition from one to the other. A sunset. A sunrise. Give yourself enough space to move through your story with graceful curves instead of harsh angles. Hmmm...wait, is this making sense? Hehehe, let me try to put this into words that may seem a bit more 'user friendly'. There's nothing mystical or philosophical about writer flow. It's just a means of taking notice of what you're doing and how you're doing it. When you get a chance, read some of your writing out loud to yourself. Treat it like an actor's audition. Put your feeling and emotion into it. Look at the text on the screen, think about the character and the scene, and then read it out loud. If you have trouble with a word or two, or if it sounds awkward when read aloud...think about how you could change that sentence around to make it sound better and create the emotional vibe that you're going for. Sometimes, changing a single word or adding a few extra can create a whole new 'feel' for your story. I happen to be a bit obsessive about this kind of thing, myself. Hehehe, which is one of the reasons that I know that anyone who offered to be my editor would end up in a mental hospital by the time I got through nitpicking my own stuff to the point of madness. But stories are personal portraits of who I am. If I don't feel it, how can I expect my readers to feel it. So, occasionally I read through a sentence or line of dialogue, and I'll realize that it could be done a little bit better. For example, sometimes I'll say something like..."We stared at each other." Which is simple enough, but I might go back later and change it to..."We stared at one another." it's saying the same thing, but sometimes 'one another' sounds slightly more intimate in my mind. (Hehehe, I told you it was insanity!) I might change the word 'hug' to 'embrace', or the word 'beauty' to 'allure'. It all depends on how I'm reading the sentence and how it makes me feel. Always be aware of your emotions when you're reading your own work. You'll know when you've got the flow just right. Just keep at it. Now, if you find yourself reading out loud and you stumble over the way a sentence is worded...fix it. Try thinking about what you're trying to say with that particular sentence, then close your eyes and try to convey the same message 'naturally'. As if you were talking to a random person on the street. Treat the story as if it was some sort of high school or office gossip that you witnessed yesterday, and now you're telling somebody else about it. Don't think about the writing aspect of it. No mechanics, no structure...just say it like you would say it to a regular person. Let it come out smoothly. If you speak a different language, say it in your own language where you feel most at home, and let it roll out naturally. It's possible to overwork a sentence and over plan our dialogue when we're writing. Sometimes simplicity is the key. If you find yourself having to reread a sentence, if there's a clumsy jumble of words on the page, if you run out of breath or feel that there's an awkward pause that shouldn't be there...get rid of it. Smooth it out. Grab some mental sandpaper and wear it down until those rough edges are gone. Because if you stumble physically, you'll stumble the same way mentally. And so will your readers. As I've mentioned in previous articles, the length of your sentences create pacing. Make sure that the pacing matches the tone that you're looking for. Longer sentences slow things down. It gives your readers time to absorb more details, inhale all of the fragrances you've provided them, experience beauty and color. You can use this tactic to flesh out emotional events and deep conversations. Shorter sentences, however, speed things up. This makes the heart beat faster. It puts you in a different state of mind. Short sentences can be used to increase tension. To enhance the heated back and forth of an argument. To shuffle your readers through an intense action scene. Every time you use a period, it's like an editor's cut in a movie. Cut, cut, cut, cut...look over there, look over here now, back to you. But always remember to try to keep your flow consistent from one moment to the next. Don't throw your readers off with a weird mix of the two. Remember the sunset? If you start off with long sentences that are full of detail and flowery language...and then want the scene to change into something more aggressive or intense...start making your sentences shorter and shorter as you progress forward. Let it smoothly transform from one extreme to the other without it coming off as jolting or out of place. And vice versa for the opposite effect. Again, this is subtle when it comes to writing, but if you read enough stories and have practiced writing your own, you'll be able to 'feel' the difference once you start paying attention to it. Now...this isn't an exact science. Nothing artistic or creative ever is. That's what makes art beautiful. The freedom from rules and regulations, and the dreamlike ability to express yourself without boundaries. But I hope that bringing your attention to the idea of writer flow will help you to notice it a bit more when your writing your own story or reading somebody else's. That way, you can build your own methods of pulling this off and develop your own instincts on how to use it to be the best writer you can be. I feel that writing is both an art and a craft. The craft is being able to put words together and tell a good story. But the art is being able to transcend that craft and translate your emotions for your readers to feel it the way that you do. That only comes with dedication and practice. So keep at it! And I'll be cheering for you the whole way! Take care! And happy writing!
  8. There are five words that always make me laugh whenever I watch one of the videos from the Youtube series below, hehehe! Because it's SO true for every story and every TV show and every movie that I've ever seen! And it's true for your work too. Can't help but to get a few chuckles out of it! Those five words? "Super easy! Barely an inconvenience!" Don't worry, an explanation is coming. One thing that I hope many of you will take from this week's discussion is the idea that any story...literally, ANY story...can be picked apart and scrutinized to the point where it simply might not work as an effective story anymore. Sad, but true. I don't say this to discourage you guys. I say this to 'free' you. I say this to make you guys aware of the reality of the situation when it comes to writing a story of your very own. Especially if it's your first time. Please keep in mind that you are writing a fictional story. Let me repeat that before moving forward...you are writing a FICTIONAL story! You are creating something out of nothing. Your goal is to entertain an audience by getting your fictional main character from a fictional point A to a fictional point B, by whatever means you can use to advantage while keeping your readers locked in while you're doing it. You are creating a dramatic series of events to provide opportunities for your story to move forward. It's not real. NONE of this is real. It's a story. And it's meant to get your readers to enjoy the ride that you have planned for them. (Unless, of course, it's autobiographical...in which case, that's real! LOL! But even then, who's to say that your memory is as accurate as t should be.) I wanted to start this discussion with this statement, because I feel that it's really important for every writer to remember this when they go into writing their next project. PLEASE, keep in mind that you will never ever EVER be able to avoid or find your way around the "Why doesn't he just...?" crowd! Never! Not EVER! Hehehe! Trust me, I've spent 20 YEARS trying to write stories that the nitpickers couldn't possibly dismantle and make my main characters look hopelessly stupid, frustratingly clueless, and unforgivably fake! And those aren't MY words...that's from my fans who claim to actually love the stories I write. Anyway, when writing a story and plotting it out, putting all of the pieces together to reach the desired effect that you're looking for...you have to construct a certain formula in order for your story to work in your head. You have to build a foundation and keep adding bricks until you reach the top and are able to put a roof on your project. It takes practice, but you learn to connect dots, bond events, set chain reactions in motion. But that doesn't mean that you won't miss something or slip up every now and then. It happens, and people will catch it and call you out on it. Sometimes, it's a plot hole that you can fill in and make your story better. And other times...just let it go. Hehehe, sometimes it's just a part of the story. Let readers know, 'This is something that we built, exclusively, for you to enjoy', right? Just...hopefully they'll enjoy it for what it is. It's all a matter of telling the best story that you can, and concentrating on what you feel is most important. This can...and will...lead to plot holes in your story. Don't feel bad about it. This is inevitable. No writer is out there looking at ten thousand different alternative solutions for your main character's every thought and action in any given story. And even if you could, there would be ONE reader out there that saw ten thousand and two possibilities, and will bring it up anyway. You can't beat them, don't try. This weekend, we talk about plot holes! Figuring out what you can fix, and what you should leave alone. And those unavoidable literary speedbumps in the road that we TRY to avoid...but still hit, despite our attempts to swerve around them at the last minute! Before I start, take a look at some of the videos below. I really love these, as they always make me think about things I never thought of before and laugh! We're all potential suckers for a good (or bad) story sometimes. But, yes! There are plot holes in every movie you see! And if you sit there and make a sincere effort to pick everything apart...then yeah, I doubt any story/movie/TV show would make much sense at all. But...that's only if you work at stripping down every element of it. And where's the fun in that? LOL! These are all parody versions of what these movies would be if broken down to their core. Many SPOILERS are involved! So, if you haven't seen the movies listed, then you may want to skip over that particular video. But, for those who have seen them all... ...Take note of the plot holes and conveniences included in this as the jokes fly by... - - -- - - Hehehe, are you beginning to see what I'm talking about here? No story is exempt from contrivances or cliches. Plot holes pop up because we don't all see the world with the same eyes. That's something that you really have to keep in mind when you're trying to get around this problem in your writing. Something might be wrong with my car, and an experienced mechanic might tell me, "Well, why didn't you just move this wire to that wire and reroute the electric charge? Hehehe, or whatever. Ummm...ok, well I didn't think of that. Thanks, I guess? And you guys know how I struggle with programming and computer stuff that, I'm sure, makes me look like a full blown idiot to people who know computers much better than I do. But, hey...sorry. I didn't think of that either. Shame on me. The point is, if you're going to share your art with a wide audience, they may see blindspots that you can't. And this is where having a Beta reader, or even multiple Betas, read your story (I suggest 'chapter by chapter', just in case you spin off in a direction that you can't come back from later) ahead of time. Maybe your friends and fans can pick out a few inconsistencies in your writing, and let you know before you get too far ahead of yourself. They can be extremely helpful in that regard. I've made many mistakes in my stories in the past that I didn't really think about until someone pointed it out to me. I've had someone in a wheelchair show up on the roof of an abandoned building without thinking about how he was able to get up all of those flights of steps without assistance. I've overlooked obvious answers to story conflicts, I've mixed up continuity issues, I've dropped the ball in potentially major scenes...but that's all a part of honing your craft. Live and learn, I suppose. I was trying to tell a story that would be excting and memorable to everyone who took a look at it, and I was definitely trying to guide it in a certain direction so I could achieve that. A young artist, Ruel, said about creating his own music, "Writing is exaggeration." And I really couldn't agree more. It's not so unrealistic, you know? Any honest portrayal of our own lives might come off as convenient and contrived as well when seen through the eyes of an observer. Take a look at your own experiences, good times and bad. How closely does it play out to the stories you read online? Is it really all that complex? Sometimes, you meet your best friend by chance. Sometimes you fall in love with someone you didn't expect to care for. It happens. It almost feels like 'fate', when it does because...how the hell could I have been so lucky/unlucky on my own? Should our stories not reflect that in some way? Sure, we add a little flair here and there, but truth be told...a majority of the greatest moments of my life happened by 'accident'. Spontaneous reactions to unexpected opportunities. Falling for my best friend, losing my virginity, comng out to a few trusted friends, lucky breaks, and hilarious failures. Even writing my first story for Nifty. "What's the story behind that, Comsie???" I found Nifty by accident online one night, read a bunch of stories, wanted to write one of my own...so I sat down and wrote it. "Oh." Exactly! Not exactly a page turner, is it? Hehehe, but it's life! Exaggerated life, sure, but life just the same. That's what I write about. And that's been my personal experience. I want flawed characters. I want spur of the moment mishaps and bumbled conversations and knee jerk reactions. As a writer, we all get the chance to plan and plot things out in order to create the story we're trying to tell. Stories that take place in the 'moment'. Readers, however..have a bit of an advantage. They have time to detach emotionally, take time, pause, back away from the situation, and crate a variety of alternate scenarios in their heads to poke giant holes in what you've written. Which makes sense, it's what readers do. But it's not always fair. Hehehe! Keep that in mind. Have you ever had a heated argument with somebody, walked away angry, and spent the next few hours thinking, "I SHOULD have said this!" Or, "I should have pointed out how much they SUCK when they said that!" And hey...if you had time to think and analyze and push your emotions aside for a biting zinger that would knock your opponent to the floor in the heat of the moment...that would have been great. But, the truth is...we don't get a do-over. We don't get to remove ourselves from the situation and pick it apart from a distance until the moment is already over. I say this because I believe that an author's passion is important, and writing should feel natural and fun to you guys. Create your vision, and have it play out the best way that you know how. You shouldn't be stressing yourself out, trying to outsmart the world's greatest detectives with every plot point and word of dialogue that you add to your project. You'll never get anything finished that way. Have confidence in your ability to craft a series of events that will get your characters where they need to go. Create your story line, write it out, go back and self edit to see if your plot is missing anything or if there's anything that doesn't add up...and then give it to your Beta readers to see if maybe they can find some of the errors that you can't see for yourself. The big thing here is to get the story finished! If you need to add something or change something later to keep from confusing your audience or spoiling the suspension of disbelief...then so be it. But while I challenge you all to write the best story that you can at all times...please don't give yourselves brain aneurysms trying to fill in every plot hole and make your story 'critic proof'. It won't happen. There's no such thing as 'critic proof'. They're critics. Criticism is what they do. Hehehe! It's like trying to make a kite 'wind proof'. It's pointless. And you need that wind to make the kite fly, so why try? A few more of these... - - -- - - Plot holes occur...these things happen from time to time. Don't stress yourself out about it. I definitely challenge all writers to do their best to write as airtight a story as possible...but I'd be lying if I said I thought it was possible. Plot holes exist. Hehehe! If 'The Terminator' had a time machine...why not go back and kill Sarah Connor as a baby? Or her mom? Or her MOM'S mom? When the weaponry that could stop him didn't exist yet? Instead of becoming Batman...Bruce Wayne was a massively rich, highly influential, member of society? Why not create a giant, non-corrupt, police force to take care of all the crime in Gotham City, and take out all the crime at once, 'Elliott Ness' style? And how did the elderly farm couple in 'Superman' suddenly explain to everybody in their rural town that they have a new BABY living with them? How did they enroll him in school with no prints, no birth certificate, no previous history of him existing at all? Sometimes...you just can't address a million questions in one story. Every story you write can't be 'War & Peace' length. Every story can't have a 'Lord Of The Rings' foreword with history lessons and languages and world building bonuses. I definitely think that we, as writers, should always cover as many bases as we possibly can when we're working on a project...but, sometimes, you've just got to get your story to work the way you want it to work. Period. The answer to a lot of question that readers may ask when it comes to plot holes is, quite simply..."Because the story would be OVER if I did it your way. And that wouldn't be satisfying at all." Hehehe! I cant imagine how boring my life would have been if I could go back and 'fix' everything to make it perfect. I'd be so dead inside. LOL! However, don't take this to mean that you should ignore all of the comments you get when it comes to potential plot holes in your stories. Some of them CAN be fixed, and probably should be. Especially if you're getting the same questions fro a variety of different people. As always, hear your critics out, and then see if they're making a decent point. Is this plot hole big enough to cause your whole story to fall apart without addressing it? Or can you sneak it by with a few tricks and puffs of smoke? If you find something that needs fixing, you might be surprised to know that you could probably correct the problem with a few sentences and get your story right back on course again. It may just be that simple. However...if you want to go the 'smoke and mirrors' route...hehehe, I can give away a few secrets on how you do that too. - Focus on the moment. Bring the emotions on and put your readers in the moment with your protagonist if you can. Really dig deep into what they're thinking. What they're feeling. I will admit to being a full blown savant when it comes to teen angst in my stories. Hehehe! And it's easy for someone older and wiser to scream, "Why doesn't he just walk up and ask the other boy out already??? Jesus!" Take that argument and make it a part of the moment. Make that a part of your protagonist's inner monologue. Of COURSE he thought of that too, but, ummm..."I'm 15, I'm deep in the closet, and I'm being asked to approach the cutest boy I've ever seen for the first time ever while my body and emotions are working against me all at once!" Sometimes it helps to actually address the obvious (and probably more boring) solution to the problem, and use that confusing fluster of emotions to further explain why he may be taking a different option instead. - Re-read your story from beginning to end, and try to ask yourselves the questions that readers might be asking later. How specific are they? Visualize them in your head. If you were to fix certain details, would it derail the events and special moments you had planned for future chapters? SOMETIMES...(probably bad advice, but...) you can let these things slide by for the sake of the story. I know that sounds lazy, but honestly, many readers will be along for the ride. They want to follow the roller coaster and just have fun. Whereas...if you were to sit on a roller coaster and concentrate on the physics of how it works and the probability of a tragic accident...um, it would be TERRIFYING! If you need your characters to suddenly run out into the street for some reason...have a fire alarm go off. Hehehe, because...'story'! Ugh, I hate to say that, and don't overuse that technique...but I'm being serious when I say that just has to be the answer sometimes. 'Because...'story'. Why hasn't Marty McFly's trip back to the past screwed up the entire time continuum, creating paradoxes that threaten the existence of everything that he's ever known when he gets back to the future? 'Because...'movie'. Why are Morpheus and Neo constantly jumping into the Matrix to free people when they can just go out and free them in real life and destroy the machines power supply in the process? 'Because...'movie'. Or, as one of the videos called it, "A scene called 'shut the hell up, everybody!'" LOL! I hate to say it, but sometimes it's the only way to keep you from painting yourself into a corner. So embrace it. - And, last but not least...the things you don't think you can fully explain without turning your plot on its head and messing things up? Don't. Keep those scenes short and sweet, allow the scene to serve its purpose, and hopefully you'll be able to move on to something else before readers start thinking twice about what just happened. Take a scene and follow it up with something with some emotional weight. A different focal point. If you're lucky, it'll act as the shiny object to keep readers progressing forward instead of slamming on the breaks and trying to figure things out. This is where pacing will be important for your story. If you provide too much lag time after a scene that might act as a plot hole in your story...you're dead in the water. Hehehe, so, before they can ask...just shout..."Look! Elephant!" And then run away. Alright, just a few more before I wrap this up! - - -- - - Now...as I said before, PLEASE don't take this as a Comsie license to be lazy or cut corners when you're writing. You should give every story you create the heart and soul that it deserves. One hundred percent of your best effort. And then get your Betas to help you find all the little blindspots that you might have missed. Take pride in what you do, and always give it a champion effort. No excuses. However...I wrote this article so you all realize that plot holes can, and probably WILL, happen. Know them for what they are, try to see if you can fix them without bringing your story to a screeching halt and having it fall to pieces...and if you occasionally run into a brick wall, where no other option is available to you, well...'Because...story.' Sometimes you've just got to go with your gut and hope it works for the best. That sounds pretty difficult, choosing when to grind harder and when to let things slide...but I guarantee you... ...It's "Super easy! Barely an inconvenience!" I hope this helps! And I'll seezya soon with more! ((Hugz))
  9. This week, I'd like to talk about something that I face from time to time, and it often takes a few days for me to power through it, but it can be done with a little bit of patience to balance out the frustration of not being able to sit down and write when you really want to. I'm talking about writer burn out. Don't panic, hehehe! It's not a permanent condition. But it does happen from time to time, and it's never a good feeling. But there are ways to get those rusty wheels turning again, fire up the engines, and get your muse back in working order. You just have to ride it out every now and then. Now, when I talk about writer burn out...I'm not talking about 'writer's block'. That's an entirely different animal altogether. With a block, there are no ideas coming to you, no direction, no real inspiration to get you motivated to keep writing. That happens from time to time as well. But burn out is when you already have your thoughts together, you know where the story is going, you know exactly what you want to say...but there's this strange 'fatigue' that settles into your very bones, and you suddenly don't know whether or not you really feel like typing it out. It's like you just feel worn out and you're almost intimidated to write in your current mood, because you won't 'feel' it the same way that you would when you're all hyped up and ready to cover your screen with a 1500 word outburst in one sitting before even taking a break. Have you guys ever experienced that? Or is it just me? There are times when my brain is racing and I have all of my notes sitting right here beside me, and I feel like I should be ready to go...but my emotional gas tank is empty. It's hard to explain, but I just don't have that magic spark that I need to write anything good at that particular moment. I don't know where it goes. I don't know where it hides. I only know that it's missing when I need the added juice to get started, and I hate having to feel like a slacker until it shows back up again. But what else can I do? It happens. Sometimes you've been sitting at a keyboard, and your fingers are sore, and your wrists hurt, and your butt is getting flat, and your shoulders are slumped over, and your eyes are red and worn out from strain, and...you just don't feel like writing anything at all. You WANT to write, but you don't feel like writing. Weird. Sometimes writing can be a physically taxing as well as emotionally draining experience. But, if (or more like when) this happens...don't stress yourself out about it. It'll come back to you. And often, the result will be better than ever before. My first piece of advice to you guys is to simply let it happen. Don't push yourself or force the words to leap out on the screen if you're not feeling it at that moment. Writing should always be a passion, not a chore. If you don't feel like your mojo is working...take a break. It's as simple as that. Sit back for a moment, catch your breath, get some sleep...pour a glass of something 'wicked' to drink. Hehehe! Give your creativity a breather every now and then. I treat my brain and my emotions the same way that I would treat any other muscle in my body. This blank screen that I sit in front of is my intangible version of going to the gym for a healthy workout. Don't make yourself sore and miserable by pushing yourself too hard. Give your 'dream factory' time to gather new material for you to write about. Give your battery some time to recharge. You'd be surprised how often it helps more than it hurts. And I know that it's sometimes difficult to stand back and break whatever writer 'momentum' you had going initially, but I've found that when I push myself to the brink of exhaustion on any one project, I end up finishing it and not wanting to write much of anything for weeks afterward. I'd rather give myself a 48 hour break and get right back to work than frustrate myself into burning out for weeks at a time. It sounds weird, but I start to resent a story that keeps nagging me to write it. Hehehe! Sad, but true. Sometimes, I'll just be mentally fatigued and I want to come back a bit later when I can give my writing all of the heart and energy it deserves. I've learned that I have to listen to my muse 90% of the time so I can get these stories to look and feel the way that I want them to. But that other 10% of the time? My muse needs to listen to me for a change. Slow down. I've done all I can do. Back off for a little while so we can get back in sync again. Hehehe! My personal muse is a huge brat, and hates to hear the word no...but he'll get over it. Allow yourself some time to breathe. I can't tell you how many times I just figured, "I'll sit down at that keyboard on my day off, and just handcuff myself to this machine for 12 hours straight and get it all done in a day!" Hehehe, yeah...life almost never works like that. Anything can tip my current mood in a counterproductive way. I could get a nasty email, I could wake up with a sore throat and a cough, it could be a rainy and gloomy day outside, I could get a rather hefty bill in the mail, I could have slept wrong and have a sore shoulder...hehehe, it could be anything. And, suddenly, I can't generate the right amount of sparkles that I need to do what I do online. But getting angry about it only makes things worse. Frustration is the undertow that's certain to pull me further and further away from the shore. In order to beat it, I need to relax. And sometimes, I need to unplug completely. There are certain activities that I can jump into in order to deal with writer burnout when it happens. It often helps me get my thoughts together, and I can get back on track rather quickly. My top three are as follows... Youtube! Hehehe, yes...I believe that Youtube is probably one of the greatest distractions, and yet greatest stress relievers, in human history. Sometimes, when I need to step away from my 'Comsie work' and give my brain a chance to cool down...I head over to Youtube with the click of a button and I get a chance to zone out for a bit and SMILE for a little bit. I want to laugh a little bit. Maybe check out something creepy, or watch a few movie trailers, whatever. Sometimes I get into a 'Youtube Loop' where clicking on one video causes the system to suggest something else. Then I click on that, and it suggests something ELSE. It can be endless. But it gives me something to concentrate on other than the aggravation of not being able to write. Who knows? You might even find yourself getting the inspiration you need to get back in the mood you were looking for. You never know. Either way, if that gets my brain to release a little dose of Dopamine into my system from the entertainment, I'll be that much closer to slaving away on the next story or chapter. The sooner, the better. Chats and email! Despite my need for a touch of isolation for a few hours a day, I really do pride myself on being a rather social person. I really do enjoy talking to people when I get the chance, and I don't get to do it as often as I used to. So there are times when I break away from the intense focus of writing to just...say hello to people on the Shack and engage in some casual chit chat from time to time. I might start answering emails from people who wrote to me, or I make a surprise visit to the chatroom on my site to share a few giggles with my online friends. This always puts me in a good mood, and it re-energizes me to be in touch with the people who have given the site so much support so I can see what's going on in their lives and how they're doing. Again, having a spontaneous interaction with other people will keep you from pulling your hair out over something that you really can't control. Let the writing obligation go for a few hours and just unwind for a bit. It's fun. I promise. Reading! I've said it a bunch of times before, but I can't say it enough. Even though I LOVE to write stories and entertain others...sometimes I like to be entertained too! There is sooooo much talent out there. So many writers with unique perspectives and a variety of writing styles that I love getting into when I need to break away from the grind of it all. Get on GayAuthors, get on Nifty, get on The Shack Library...find stories and give some other authors a try. See what they're doing with their characters, what techniques they're using, how they make you feel. Not only do you get a chance to lay back and enjoy someone else's hard work for a change, but you could almost think of it as doing your homework as an author. Reading always makes for better writing. Always. So see what's out there. And if you like what you read, send the author a quick note to tell them so. Who knows? You might get a colleague and a new friend out of it all. All in all...the key is to detach yourself from the desperation that you may be feeling to create some sort of masterpiece against your will. Break away from it. Take a day for yourself, and come back when you truly feel inspired to move forward with the story that you wanted to write. Maybe it'll be today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week...who knows? But I can honestly tell you guys that I have been deeply dissatisfied with every chapter or story that I felt 'forced' to write by a deadline. And these days...I won't even release something unless I know, for certain, that it represents my very best effort. I can tell when I was pushing myself too hard. I worry that my readers can too. I didn't come this far to screw it all up now. Hehehe! I want my beginner's luck to keep carrying me for as long as humanly possible before it gives out on me. Anyway, I hope this helps! Writer burnout...have you guys ever been trapped in that frame of mind? Let us know! Seezya soon!
  10. I can't imagine anything feeling better than finding some level of pride in one of my projects. (Well, there might be a few things that feel better, but I can keep my clothes on for this one! Hehehe!) And that pride doesn't just come from favorable responses and good ratings. In fact, it comes from finishing a new chapter or project before anybody ever even sees it. It's like the planets and stars align, and everything is finally fitting together the way that I pictured it...or at least as close as I can get to that ideal presentation. I honestly get excited about releasing new stuff on the site. More than the readers do, believe it or not. But one thing that I always pressure myself to remember is...'I need to get this right first'! That's the most important part of the process for me. The wording, the emotion, the structure...that final 'spit and polish' that's going to make the whole medley truly sing. That takes patience. Getting that part done right takes time, and it can be frustrating when my muse is being stubborn, but once I get it to sparkle the way I want it to...I'm practically beaming with a grin for the rest of the week! Now...not everything that I write is going to be a big hit with my audience. Everything that I release is not going to have some huge, dramatic, event take place that will leave readers angry, overjoyed, or sobbing uncontrollably at the end. I don't expect it to. Sometimes, writing a story feels more like drawing a detailed picture, or building something out of old school Legos. In my mind...I know exactly how I want the final picture to look when it's finished. So being certain about where the lines, the colors, the building blocks, go in order to make that happen, is just as important as the major events that they're either building up to, or coming down from. You can't skip to building an awesome attic in a house without building the basement first, right? It's something that I've learned to appreciate, and pay more attention to since I first started. In my earliest days of writing stories at Nifty, I had four points that I wanted to hit with every short story and every additional chapter that I added to my list. Introduce the cute boy characters, find a way to get them together, find a way to express their feelings for one another, and then...let's get some mattresses squeaking! Hehehe! I figured that, as long as I got those four main parts of the plot right, then a lot of readers would probably just skip over most of the other stuff anyway. Why concentrate on the details? At best, they'll 'skim' through it and keep scrolling down the page until somebody gets naked. The same idea was applied to my sci fi stuff when it was still in the planning stages. People want to see the alien, the vampire, the spooky ghost...get to the point already before you lose their attention and ruin the story! I feel like that was a novice mistake on my part, looking back on it. One that I've learned to correct over time, and with a lot of practice. Details, depth of character, backstory, clearly defined motivations...these are not meant to be seen as boring parts of a story. They're not meant to slow down the pacing or to merely act as 'filler' for readers who are immediately looking for something juicier to jump out at them with every few thousand words. In fact, when done with the right amount of flair and a hint of mystery...it can become the most intriguing part of your project. This time around...I'm going to try to express the importance of 'connective tissue' in our stories, and how we can use them to enhance a story, rather than flatten it out. (If that makes sense) My older stories and chapters were often a lot shorter than they are nowadays. In fact, many of them are only half the size of the chapters I try to put out every week or two. And while those stories were straight to the point, and said what they needed to say...I felt my love for details and connective tissue spreading out as I got more relaxed with my own voice in terms of writing. Reading feedback and emails from the people absorbing it all...I found that they weren't skipping over the so-called 'boring' parts at all. I mean, sure...I know that there are readers that are in a big rush to have certain issues resolved and certain events to finally take place...but I refuse to rush it. I absolutely refuse. And it's because I can see the finished work in my head. Even if the readers can't. And those tiny little intricate details and casual mentions of past or future events are all needed to build the design that I want my stories to have. I think that, with writer maturity, you learn that it's more about telling the story you want to tell, and less about trying to simply 'entertain' with the words you put together. And as authors...isn't that the whole point? One quote that I live by is, "Some people write because they want to say something...and others write because they have something to say." And if any of us are having trouble figuring out the difference...then that's the first journey that we should all be taking to be a better writer. Hehehe, it's something to meditate on when you have some free time. There are times when fans will politely (or not so politely) push you to turn tricks in your story without fleshing it out properly. But you have to train yourself to resist the urge to 'perform' instead of 'create'. If you have a plan in place...stick to it. And mold it into what you want it to be. This is when I get to truly be selfish and tell everybody, "WAIT! I'm getting to the good stuff! Just hold your friggin' horses!" Hehehe! And that may lead to some folks feeling aggravated and impatient...but if they rush back to read the next chapter? Then I've already done my job as a writer. And, here we both are...back in the saddle again. I want to show you a few fun videos. It's basically cartoon rabbits re-enacting some of your favorite movies, but rushing through them in 60 seconds or less. Now, even though this is an exaggeration for comedic purposes...THIS is what your story looks like with no connective tissue! With so-called 'filler'. This is what you have when a rabid 'event oriented' fanbase pushes you to skip the boring stuff in order to hurry up and get to what they say they want to see. - - Entertaining? Sure. But will it be your best work? Will people remember these a day later? Can you shove the depth and meaning that you wanted your story to have in these few short moments? You're an author. Have confidence in your art. And don''t let anybody force you off the road when you're pursuing your passion. Is this your story, or their story? Take control and be proud of your creative choices, cheers or jeers be damned. One thing to remember is to constantly build upon the foundation that you created from the very beginning, and to remember the essentials every step of the way. When I say that, I mean that every chapter of your story should be an evolution of the chapter before it in some way. Now, that doesn't mean that your protagonist has to go from a painfully shy bookworm to a full blown gigolo within a chapter or two, or from a farm boy to a powerful Jedi knight in a week's time. The growth can be gradual, steady, and in sync with who your protagonist is as a character. Give them time to learn, and bring your audience in to the learning process with them. If you've got a big action scene coming up, or a dramatic character death, or an explosive first kiss...then that's awesome! These things are the benchmarks of a great story, and those will be the scenes that most people will remember when they're finished and think back on your story later on. BUT...that connective tissue can add a few extra sparks to those bigger scenes that you're so anxious to get to. They are meant to give those bigger moments meaning. I've discovered SO many missed opportunities in my older stories as I was going back through them to re-edit and fix them up to release as ebooks. Moments that I skipped over, dialogue that ended too abruptly for my tastes, opportunities for character development that were ignored...if I were to rewrite those stories all over again, I would definitely do things differently. However, since I write and release my stories, chapter to chapter...there are some scenes, or even whole chapters, that some may see as 'filler'. But I can assure you...they're not. I'm always thinking ahead, and whenn those future chapters come around, readers will be able to look back at those old boring chapters and say, "Omigod...NOW I see where that came from." That's the whole point. Connective tissue in a story can have a variety of effects on your plot. It can display the aftermath of a recent event, and explain how your main characters are dealing with it...and how they plan to progress from there. It can also drop hints and clues and create a trail of breadcrumbs for your readers to follow towards the next big event. Creating speculation, foreshadowing soon to be revealed secrets, or increasing tension for a building conflict. Connective tissue can bring two unlikely friends or lovers together through a seemingly mundane situation or conversation, or it can shift the focus of your main story to concentrate on a few supporting characters or a related subplot while giving the main plot a rest. Think of it as an opportunity to take all of your best ideas, your most memorable moments...and gluing them together with something interesting enough to hold it all together. Connective tissue is all about answering your reader's questions before they're asked. That's all. "Why did this happen?" "Who is the woman in black?" "How is this kid going to come out to his homophobic stepdad?" "Where is this thing with the college roommate going, and is he flirting or not?" See...without a series of scenes to ask, and then provide possible answers, to questions like these between the big moments in your story...then all you have is a bunch of dramatic 'dun dun dun!' moments with no reason or meaning to your audience. Always remember...'show', don't 'tell'. You can't just convince your readers that a gay teen coming out to his stepfather is scary by simply writing, "I'm scared to come out to him because he's a homophobe." Well...I mean, technically, you can...but it won't have the same impact. It's just words on a page. It conveys a message, but not the emotion behind the message. Instead...why not try having a few short (but effective) scenes where you demonstrate that this stepfather doesn't care for gay people? Maybe he hears something on the news and makes some off colored remarks about it. Maybe he's trying to get his stepson involved in sports to keep him from being a 'sissy'. Or maybe there's a TV show with a gay character on it, and he swiftly changes the channel to display his distaste for the subject matter. This might seem like boring filler dialogue to some, but what you're actually doing is building a history of behavior for this side character in your story, and explaining why his stepson is afraid to come out to him as being gay. You're providing actual reasons for your protagonist to feel the way he does. This is necessary when telling a good story, even if your audience is in some big hurry to skip over it because they don't see where it's leading the way you do. Now, let's say your main character finds a love interest, and decides to come out in order for them to be together. But...in a rage, the stepfather ends up kicking him out of the house and screaming that he can never come back. Not ever. This is (finally) where you can see why the connective tissue was needed. You can see the last domino fall, and trace it back to where the chain reaction happened in the first place. If you skip around...and write, "I'm scared of my stepdad, but I'm in love now. I'm going to do it. I'm going to tell him tonight." And then you have a short dialogue and have him kicked out of the house? Well...it's functional. Not bad. I would have written it the same way when I was still finding my way around a keyboard. Hehehe! But now? I want that connective tissue there to bring color and understanding to what's going on here. I want readers to see the stepdad for who he is ahead of time, anticipate his negative reaction, feel the tension when coming out becomes a necessity for the gay teen, and then be shocked and appalled when the explosive conflict happens at last. There's a build up. An arc. Your readers are already entrenched in the situation before they even read it. Then they experience the emotional impact, first hand. They're given a clue as to what built up to this moment, and how the main character is planning to press forward towards the next big event. They're a part of that journey. I wish I could stress how much these chapters mean to building a better project when you're writing. A few missing bricks in a wall can cause it to collapse. DON'T RUSH! Take your time, and craft your story your way! K? People will either like it, or they won't. You don't have any control over that. The goal is to give birth to a project that you can be proud of, and that went exactly the way you wanted it to go. Much like sex...sometimes it's better to slow down and take your time so your 'partners' can enjoy it. As always, I hope this helps! Happy writing to you all! And it's good to be back! Hehehe! Sorry about disappearing for the holidays! But, you know...'family' and stuff! Seezya soon!
  11. 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!
  12. 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!
  13. 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!
  14. 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!
  15. 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:
  16. 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
  17. 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!
  18. 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!
  19. 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...
  20. 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!
  21. 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!
  22. 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!
  23. 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!
  24. 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!
  25. 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!
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