Writing self-sabotaging characters

Hi, guys!

Last week, I talked about writing believable romance and compelling chemistry, exploring the things that might draw two people together.

But if one of the people involved tends toward self-sabotage, the normal conventions no longer apply and relationships tend toward… dysfunctional.

If you’re writing a self-sabotaging character, it isn’t enough to just put them in a bad relationship. You need to understand why they’re there, so you can write them, and the ensuing relationship, accurately.

There are several types of people who do this. People who fear change and sabotage opportunities to prevent change. People who want to make others feel better about themselves.

And the most common, which is the one we’ll be talking about today, people with catastrophically low self-esteem.

People who genuinely hate themselves or feel intrinsically broken, perhaps due to trauma or a broken home or depression/anxiety, aren’t likely to look for someone who would be good for them. There’s a reason so many people end up in shitty, abusive relationships.

They don’t value themselves worth the effort of improvement or worth taking a good person off the market. They probably don’t even realize what they’re doing to themselves, but they’re seeking the shitty treatment they think they deserve.

At such a low point, something small might be enough to draw them in. Attention of any kind from someone who has even one quality they like, even something small like an outgoing nature, a cool tattoo, or good fashion sense, might be enough to draw them in.

Why?

Because they’re surprised they got attention or compassion from anyone.

And since they’re getting attention from someone, which is more than they think they deserve to begin with, they overlook glaring faults (drug abuse, cheating, domestic abuse, etc.) with ease. There’s a good chance they’ll internalize all of that, blaming themselves for their partner’s philandering or the abuse.

They’re likely to push good people away and seek out shitheads. Meeting someone good isn’t going to magically fix them or show them that they deserve happiness.

Until they learn to value themselves (which takes a hell of a lot of time and work), they won’t seek a functional relationship.

And that may very well be their downfall.

These characters can be absolutely heartbreaking to write, partly because it’s all too real. Far too many people destroy their own chances at happiness simply because they don’t believe themselves worthy of it.

So, if you decide to write one of these characters, keep these things in mind. It will be one hell of a journey, with a lot of time spent in darkness.

Now, on to the progress report. I’ve come to realize that Second to None may end up being a novella. I tend to write far shorter than the average length, regardless of genre. I write very punchy stories, sparing very little time for fluff.

I use my characters to build my world and vice versa, something I explained in a previous blog, which I’ll link below. (Ignore the progress report at the end of that one, because so much has happened since then that it’s irrelevant.)

Now, fantasy tends toward an average of 110,000 words (roughly), but mine lean toward an average of 70,000 or 80,000. Thrillers tend to be about 70,000 words.

So, with my writing style, I expect Second to None to total around 40,000 words. I’m currently sitting at about 7,500 words.

I’ve also made some strides toward releasing A Heart of Salt & Silver, and I’ve been reveling in the recent release of World for the Broken. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, it’s available wherever books are sold. (Amazon link: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

For now, I’m going to keep working away on editing Allmother Rising and writing Second to None.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- Here’s the link for the blog explaining the concept of using your world to build your characters and using characters to build the world.

The Dangers of Comparison

Hi, guys!

Writers tend to want to learn from their favorite authors and writer friends. Which is good. We need to learn.

With the importance of maintaining a good author platform, social media has made it easier than ever for writers to network with each other and show their readers how they write.

That also means that writers see exactly how other writers write. Sometimes, that makes for a good bonding opportunity or lively discussion. Sometimes, it can be discouraging to newer writers who haven’t quite found their own creative process, yet.

Lurking on social media, comparing ourselves to each other…does very little good.

So what if someone else wrote more or less than you did this week Maybe they used a vacation day to stay home and write. Maybe they had a bunch of overtime.

Did a writer friend start a new project the same day you did? Maybe you were both psyched that you’d be working on your projects, side by side, but now…one of you is falling behind.

That doesn’t mean anything bad about either of you. It doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other.

It just means that you’re not the same person, and the two of you approach writing in a different way. Maybe you edit as you go, whereas your friend types anything and everything that comes into their head. Of course, their word count will climb faster than yours.

If you like to plot your book ahead of time and your friend doesn’t, they’re going to jump in and write. If they have a few chapters written before you ever start writing? So what.

Your writing journey will be different than theirs.

There comes a point where we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and just write like ourselves.

After all, the thing that could truly make you a great writer…is your unique style and process.

There are so many options, so many ways to personalize your writing.

Trial and error is the best way to find your own voice. Practice writing and eventually, you’ll find your groove.

It might be a niche. It might be a wildly popular genre. Maybe you like to write in the mornings like Stephen King.

Maybe (if you’re like me) that just doesn’t work for you. Writing in the middle of the night instead of getting up at 5 am to write doesn’t make you less of a writer.

Maybe you like typing anything and everything that comes into your head and organizing/editing later. Or (if you’re like me) you make sure everything is halfway decent before moving on to another chapter.

As long as you don’t let that stop you from actually finishing your book, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Writing is a very personal thing. The creative process varies wildly from one person to another, and that’s a good thing.

There are so many different readers out there, all searching for something different.

3rd person or 1st? Both are good in their own ways.

Present tense or past? Both are good in their own ways.

Whether you love interpersonal drama or action, whether you like your prose flowery or quick and punchy…That’s up to you.

Your stile and process will develop naturally. You just need to practice and try new things with your writing.

And most importantly, stop telling yourself that the way you write is wrong because someone else writes faster/slower or different than you.

Keep learning. But stop comparing your progress. You will grow and write at your own pace.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Genre snobbery (aka literary elitism) and why it’s a crock of shit

Hi guys!

Genre snobs are (unfortunately) common. I don’t mean people who prefer a specific genre, btw. I mean the people who think every genre outside of their own preferred genre is garbage. They have a tendency to put other writers and readers down, saying that they read nothing but fluff, because let’s face it, their genre is the only meaningful one.

I’ve seen a lot of genre snobs in the past few weeks. Now, part of that is because of the stories people have come forward with since I posted about this on social media last month. So many people have encountered this problem, and it is absolutely shocking.

But I’ve also encountered them personally, being told that “Romance is written by and for idiots,” which is crap. I love romance (writing and reading), and while I’m not the smartest person in the world, I’m not an idiot. Not by any means.

I’ve also heard that googling good dialogue will turn up mostly crime writers and that only dystopian, crime, or satire (or other similar genres/subgenres) can be used for profound writing.

I just can’t wrap my head around it.

The idea that only certain types of stories can be used to convey deep, meaningful concepts is absolute horseshit.

Want examples?

In my thriller novella, Annabelle, I tackle the topic of sexual assault and the fact that we need to speak up and do something about it. All while telling a compelling story.

In The Gem of Meruna (high fantasy romance, two genres literary elitists abhor), I explore death/grief, inner strength, and the effects of one corrupt, violent person on an otherwise peaceful community.

In Soul Bearer (also high fantasy romance), themes of oppression and prejudice abound, as does the importance of integrity.

World for the Broken (post-apocalyptic romance) hits just about every possible tough subject, exploring resilience and the darkness within humanity.

In Salt and Silver (dark supernatural high fantasy romance, so many genres that are looked down on by genre snobs), I pit emotion against intellect and perception of self against how others perceive us. I also look at religion and the afterlife (and how little we know about either).

The story I’m writing now, another dark high fantasy romance, explores nature vs technology, progress vs tradition, and the need for balance in our lives.

In short, every genre can express or explore important themes.

And you know why?

Because all stories, at their base, are about the human condition. All stories contain conflict, regardless of genre, pitting two or more sides against each other. The premise of that conflict, the depth of the story is up to the author.

Not the genre.

You can write about corrupt government in fantasy. You build the world, so it can be as fucked up as you want.

You can write about the effects of religion on society in supernatural novels. (I did in Salt and Silver. Sure, I made the religions up, but they draw parallels to real religions.)

Basically, you can write deep, meaningful content in any genre. You can also write fluff in any genre (even satire, even dystopian, even crime). Therefore, no genre automatically makes you a better, more profound writer.

I think the real difference between genre elitists and other writers has to do with their motives for writing, not their ability to solve philosophical debates.

Now, many people write to send a message or make a point. They have an opinion and want to use fiction to convey it. Which is fine. That doesn’t make them an elitist.

But literary elitists…always do that.

Because they have something to prove.

They write to show other people how smart they are. Obviously, if they can write a novel with tons of symbolism and “world changing” themes, they must be better than everyone else.

As long as they make their point, they can lord it over everyone else and act superior, even if shoving their philosophy down everyone’s throat hindered the story and led to a convoluted mess of words. And if you don’t like their book or their genre of choice, that just means you’re “too dumb to understand.”

Of course, that’s not the truth.

It’s just a defense mechanism to avoid listening to any criticism, constructive or otherwise. It’s cutting people off before anyone gets a chance to point out where they fall short. It’s (possibly) hiding deep-seated insecurities.

So if a genre snob is putting you down and saying your story will be trash because you write in a trash genre…don’t worry about it. Most of the time, the people who are absolutely convinced that they’re smarter than everyone else…are actually…not.

Personally, I’d rather write a solid story, anyway. I never go into a story for the sake of making a point. If it develops to include some deeper observation of our world, great. If not, that’s fine. I’m in it for the story, not the clout.

Now, to tell you all what I’ve been up to over the past week.

I designed and ordered book swag for World for the Broken! I’ll be sharing the designs with all of you later this week. I also ordered proof copies of the book, did a lot of research for release week, and made some decisions regarding marketing.

And I made some headway on my newest WIP. I’ve added a lot to it in the past couple weeks, so I don’t think an updated word count will be a spoiler for where characters get…broken.

I’m now at 32,663 words.

I need to get back into editing Where Darkness Leads. But that is a task for another night.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why my book title had to change…

Hi, guys!

I finally announced the official title for World for the Broken this past week, and today, I thought I’d explain why I changed the title, to begin with.

Originally, World for the Broken was called After.

It was simple and easy to remember. It fit with the post-apocalyptic theme as well as the themes of coping and resilience.

But then the After series by Anna Todd hit it big. Then, it became controversial and absolutely blew up.

And I knew my novel would be buried under the avalanche of posts about her books.

I wen’t back and forth on whether to change my title or not. I toyed with the idea of keeping the title simply to have it show up in the same searches, but the people looking for her books (contemporary romance, possibly YA)…probably aren’t looking for a visceral, intensely dark post-apocalyptic romance.

Then, when I came up with World for the Broken, I fell in love with it. This title stands out quite a bit more. Obviously, it still fits the post-apocalyptic narrative.

And I’m so glad I changed it.

I had a similar thing happen with Salt and Silver. Not exactly the same, because the title wasn’t exactly the same. And the other book has yet to be released.

But I want my books to be unique, just like any other author.

So, here are a few quick tricks for making sure you have a good title for your book.

First of all, get feedback.

Just like every other aspect of writing, working in a vacuum without any outside influence isn’t the best idea. You need more eyes on your work and more opinions than just your own.

If you have a few potential titles in mind, don’t be afraid to ask other writers or perhaps book club members for their opinion. They know books. Of course, it’s best if they know the genre you’re working in, but ask away.

Second, think about which one embodies your book best. Genre, themes, and all.

Abandon catchy and trendy for just a second and dare to twist words around for effect. Words are so versatile. Double meanings abound. Maybe use a contradictory double meaning to your benefit, if both meanings fit your book.

Swap words around. Try synonyms. Try different variations of whatever you’ve come up with.

Okay. It’s time to go back for the catchy, trendy shit. Consider it briefly. After all, trends are trendy for a reason. People like them. And they work. Look at titles within your genre. Is there a pattern that tends to pop up a lot?

There are a lot of books out there that are “blank of blank” (City of Ember, Crown of Conspiracy, House of Night). Lots of book titles lately have just been a list of three things in the book, often with the first two obviously fitting together but the third being “random.”

Do those formats fit your book? If they do, use the shit out of them.

They obviously work.

Now, the advice lots of writers hate when it comes to the actual book, itself. Cut unnecessary words. For the love of everything good, there’s a reason book titles aren’t usually a full paragraph. It’s too hard to remember and no one wants to type a 14 word title into a search bar to pull up a book they heard about and were sorta interested in but wanted to look it up to learn more about it.

There’s a good chance that’ll drive away buyers that were on the fence.

Last but certainly not least, type it into amazon or google. Make sure there aren’t an absolute fuck ton of results. If there are, I don’t care how good your title is…you probably need to change it.

If a couple hundred things come up, your brand new book is not going to be at the top of the results. Not without a shit load of work on search engine optimization, a ton of build up before launch, and probably some paid ads.

Believe me.

I didn’t think about it when I titled my novella, Annabelle, and it DOES NOT show up unless it’s typed in with my first and last name.

Because…well, you know. Ghosty-possession movies or something. Some doll. I don’t know. Lol. I don’t watch horror movies often, so I haven’t watched them.

Anyway.

Picking a title is hard. I know.

But it’s important. Which means it’s worth doing it well.

Now, to hold myself accountable for the past week…

I’ve been alternating between knocking out some more edits on Where Darkness Leads and writing my new novel. I think I wrote about…3,000 words? So, nowhere near as much as I wanted to. That was only two good writing sessions.

But I have to keep editing so I can get these other books out. Lol.

I also sketched a quick map for the new story, made a gif and a trailer for The Gem of Meruna. I’ll be unveiling the trailer soon. I already posted the non-looped video from the gif.

All in all, not a bad week.

For now though, I’m exhausted. Work was…well, exhausting. Lol. It’s time for me to sign off and get some sleep.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Info Dumps and Why Not to Write Them

Hi, guys!

This week, we’re talking about info dumps.

What are they? Why do they suck ass? How can you avoid them?

Basically, an info dump happens when an author takes a break from the story to describe everything in the known universe.

From the color of the curtains (blue maybe?) to the person the MC bought them from and why they still have them up even though they don’t match the new carpet. From the rotational period of the world (high fantasy or science fiction) to the shape of the leaves.

Or maybe it’s important for the reader to know every single scar and pimple the MC has to make them relatable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You can write a lot of detail and do it well.

It isn’t my personal style, at all. I prefer to cut my stories to the bone and see how the blood wicks across the page. I give relevant details for character development, plot development, and world building, but little else. I like my stories punchy.

But you can be detailed and write well.

The problem comes in when you decide to give all the detail…all at once.

That bogs down the story. Even the best plot can only carry so much weight. After so much detail, it gets too heavy and the story just kinda…drags the dead weight of the details behind it until all of its energy is depleted and it just slows to a crawl and eventually falls over dead.

Most readers can only tolerate a certain amount of description lobbed at their face in a single paragraph. Too much, and they get tired of it.

Is your character going to walk into a room in the middle of a gunfight and pause to survey the crown molding, the stain of the table, and the fabric of the couch in the next room (just barely visible through a doorway framed by elaborate, hand-carved original trim)?

No.

Are they going to space out during their true love’s heartfelt confession…to admire the blades of grass beneath their lover’s feet and how it bends in the breeze, the bark on the trees around them mottling sunlight and shadow, and every cloud in the sky (which happen to be shaped like their mother and their first grade teacher?

Fuck no.

They’re going to pay attention to the important things going on around them. If you’re in an action scene or a love scene (two of my favorite types of scenes), get the necessary description out of the way relative to the action.

Otherwise, it’ll just slow the scene down. These are scenes that are supposed to have people on the edge of their seat, gripping the book white-knuckle tight.

Not rubbing the bridge of their nose as their eyes cross while rereading the same paragraph for a millionth time because the detail is so convoluted they can’t focus. Or worse, skipping whole paragraphs because it’s useless to the plot.

Obviously, that’s not what you want.

But how can you avoid it?

First of all, give your readers some credit. People are intuitive. They pick up on things.

If your character settles in to watch some tv, you don’t have to tell us that they pick up the remote and press the red power button and watch the screen blink to life. You don’t have to describe what’s on every channel they flip through or the layout of the menu.

If you say that your character turns on the tv and flips through channels searching for something to watch…that’s good enough.

If your MC is sitting down, people will assume they used a remote. Almost all power buttons on remotes are red. If this one isn’t, it probably doesn’t matter, as far as the plot is concerned.

If they’re flipping through channels, clearly what’s on screen isn’t interesting to your MC.

Why would it be interesting to your reader?

Unnecessary details slow the story down for absolutely no reason. Cut a few out, and your story will benefit from it.

Basically, get to the fucking point.

Now, I mentioned describing things relative to the action. This is what separates a good detailed story from a bad detailed story, if you were wondering.

Describe things in relation to the character. Instead of pretending that you can step back from the story to describe the room while your characters just stand there…

Describe things relative to the character.

Why use one paragraph (or, god forbid, an entire page) to describe the decadently framed windows, the early morning sky beyond, and marble floors with rich mineral veins, then another paragraph to say that your character is pacing across the floor (the material of which was all important a moment ago, but now apparently doesn’t matter)?

Instead, maybe show them pacing across marble floors, backlit by the grey dawn streaming in through an extravagantly framed window.

That tells us that they’re restless, but in a fancy place.

Perhaps you’re writing a thriller. Instead of spending page after page describing the way the shadows bend in the night, blending into the evening itself (redundancy), then spending more pages telling us that the person is terrified of getting caught…

Tell us about the floorboards that creak beneath their feet, raising hairs on the back of their neck and churning their stomach. Maybe show us a nervous glance over their shoulder, rendered useless by the cloak of night which has fallen around them.

So, not quite so fancy because creaky wood floors rather than marble, and they’re trying not to get caught.

Still all the detail. Packed with all the feels.

But you’re not slowing your story (or your reader) down.

Maybe you just introduced a character and you’re struggling to avoid stopping to describe every detail about them. Do it in terms of their actions. Are they frustrated? Maybe they ball their hands into fists in their long silky hair, staring at the inky strands that sweep forward over hunched shoulders.

That tells your reader that the character has long black hair, and it’s soft as fuck. It also tells the reader that the MC is fast approaching a breaking point.

My point is, you can throw in a bunch of details and still have a good story. The key is to multitask. Don’t throw all the description in at the same time. You want to punctuate it with actions or speech.

I briefly mentioned another aspect of the multitasking thing in another blog, so I’ll recap it quickly here.

In Salt and Silver (new title coming soon), one of the MCs, Ness, is a demi-demon. That tells the reader a lot of things. It means that there are demons, and they can interact with (i.e. breed with) humans. Since people in that world know demons exist, because they can do it with them, that will affect how they look at the world.

Calling them demons and demi-demons sets up a contrast, implying that there are also gods in that universe and the people probably know they exist. Otherwise, why would the demons be called demons? If the humans didn’t know the gods existed, they would call the demons gods.

Had I made up a name for her race, I would have needed to explain that Ness’ race opposes another race of super powerful immortals and that both races have the ability to interact with the mortal realm.

I then would have needed to explain that the people saw Ness’ race as being bad and the other race as good.

But demi-demon explains all of that in a single word. No need for paragraph after paragraph of exposition. No need to stop the scene to describe the workings of their world.

Something so simple as a single word choice can be used to tell the reader a lot (coming back to that whole giving your readers credit and allowing their intuition to fill in some of the details). That allows you to keep moving forward without slowing the reader down.

Which makes it more likely for them to be sucked into it.

So please, be as descriptive as you do or don’t want to be, but don’t write a bunch of info dumps. You can do better than that, I promise.

Now, to fill you in on what I’ve been up to. I hammered through a lot of editing on Where Darkness Leads this past week. It’s going to take a lot more work, but it’ll get there.

I also put together a book trailer for Soul Bearer (which gave me practice for making one for The Gem of Meruna). I’ll be sharing the Soul Bearer one with you guys on Tuesday. Excited? I freaking am.

And I got a new scene written for The Last Settlers (prequel in the Regonia Chronicles) and brainstormed new story ideas.

But for now, I’ll let you all get back to your own writing journeys, hopefully with a little bit more knowledge to help you along your way.

Come back next week, same time, same place, for more writing advice and adventures. Subscribe if you want notified first when I post blogs, run sales, or hold giveaways. (Hint hint. I do have another book release coming up, maybe there will be a giveaway with extra stuff for email subscribers…)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Who do I think I am? An expert?

Hi, guys!

I’m going to get the little accountability portion of this blog out of the way quickly today. I approved final proofs for The Gem of Meruna, making it officially available for pre-order, and designed some book swag for the re-release.

I also made quite a bit of progress toward finishing the 3rd person to 1st person conversion of my post-apocalyptic romance novel, and sufficiently pumped myself up for the next story I’ll be working on. (Thank you playlist made specifically for that story…)

Now…

I had a blog planned for today, and I intended to think through all the avenues I needed to cover in the blog while I was at work.

But now, this blog feels more important than the one I was going to do. (I’ll just do the other one next week.)

My brain has been on some next level anxiety this past week, concocting Truman Show level conspiracy shit. Basically, I’ve been pushing myself lately, and my brain is getting angry.

It’s been picking apart positive feedback from beta readers and twisting good reviews. Certain words, though clearly meant in a positive way, have been stripped of their context and twisted. My brain’s been spiraling.

Imposter syndrome has been saying, “This word? You think that’s good? No, no. This, this terrible, negative other meaning that word has (because English is terrible and words mean many things out of context)…this is what they really meant.”

Anxiety has also been telling me that all my various friends have their own secret group messages created for moments when I’m around, and whenever I do something they don’t like (read: exist near them, physically or in various virtual functions), they venture into those group messages, and say shit like, “Is she fucking serious with this shit? Why is she even here?”

And rationally, I know that’s not the case.

People are far more upfront than anxiety gives them credit for. Sure, duplicitous people exist, but I don’t make a habit of associating with them.

People are also not likely to willingly subject themselves to the company of someone they don’t like just for the sake of making a joke. Unless they’re a stand-up comic. Then it’s material for their job.

But I don’t know anyone who does stand-up.

Rationally, I know that this is just what anxiety and my occasional bouts of depression do to a person. I also know it’s temporary. I’ve been dealing with this crap off and on for most of my life.

And I know I’m not alone in dealing with this. (Hence talking about it here, because other people need to know they’re not alone.)

Now, normally, I feel like I need to come up with something really good for my blogs. It feels like it needs to be important and informative for people to want to bother reading it.

Social media has this way of making us feel like we need to be perfect and polished, like we have to be experts at everything.

When it comes time to write a blog, I tend to pick some tidbit about writing and give advice on it. Sometimes it’s based on mistakes I’ve made in the past or things I’ve learned while researching story structure or flow or character development or whatever. Sometimes it’s a pet peeve that cropped up in a book I’m reading, or maybe it happened in a book I read years ago and it just came screaming back to me.

But it always feels like I need to act like an expert.

I mean, I’m not.

By any means.

Which is always made abundantly clear by the “update” portion of my blog, wherein I basically say I’ve been throwing shit at the wall all week to see what sticks.

Because I’m not an expert.

And I certainly don’t feel like an expert today.

I don’t have a foolproof, airtight plan detailing everything I need to do every day for the rest of the year to make all my dreams come true in the new year. I’m not going to lie to you guys and say that if you do everything I do, follow every step, all your dreams will come true, too.

(If anyone ever says that, approach with caution. Or…just walk away.)

Humans can’t possess that level of perfection. We are flawed creatures by nature. We can plan things, but that doesn’t guarantee the perfect outcome every time.

We get in the way. We make mistakes. Life gets in the way. Shit happens.

I have some plans for what I need to do and some ideas of what I want to try, but I don’t know if they’ll work until I try them.

And that’s part of being human.

So for all the millions of people also battling anxiety and depression and imposter syndrome, here are a few things you need to know.

You’re not alone. (I promise.)

It is temporary.

It’s okay not to be an expert, so long as you keep trying and learning.

It’s okay to take a break if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, so long as you taking a few hours to relax doesn’t turn into you never getting back on the proverbial horse.

Keep trying even if it’s difficult. Because ultimately, you’re doing this for a reason.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Playing God

Hi, guys!

Today’s topic is a heavy one…Religion.

No, my beliefs are not being discussed or mentioned, at all. I’m not trying to make you believe or not believe something.

I’m simply talking about writing religion into your books, whether they’re set in the real world or a world you made up specifically for the book.

Religion is a huge part of society. Its one of those things that has the potential to completely shape how an entire civilization evolves. Its presence or absence has a huge impact on the world it’s set in, and as such, it should be treated with the levity it deserves, regardless of your own religious beliefs.

At the heart of religion, people want to feel cared for. They want to feel like someone more powerful has a plan for their life. They need an explanation for things they don’t understand, whether they’ve had a strange experience or are simply wondering what happens after death.

Religion provides these things. It holds answers and safety and structure.

It often demands certain practices in exchange for these answers and safety and structure, though, shaping day to day life for any who follow devoutly.

As such, you can’t just…glaze over it and expect no one to notice that not a single person in your story believes in any type of religion whatsoever.

Especially if you’re building your own world.

Whatever religion you believe in the real world may or may not influence what you write. You’re making up a religion and a world. It might have similarities with real world religions, but it won’t be exactly the same.

So go crazy.

It doesn’t have to be logical or easily proved. If it were easy to prove, it wouldn’t be religion. It would be scientific fact. Religion, by its very nature, involves some sort of faith in the unknown and unknowable.

If you want your characters to worship a dragon that lives in the stars and cries when they misbehave (maybe they live near an intersection of rivers and heavy rain makes it flood a lot, idk), go for it.

You just want to make sure it’s consistent within itself unless the story is about figuring out why the religion goes against itself. Tons of unintentional contradictions make for plot holes, things you definitely don’t want in your story. So be thorough.

One of the first things to consider if you’re building a world is whether your characters are surrounded by pagan or monotheistic religions.

Maybe they all believe in the same gods, but one tribe worships one god and a neighboring tribe worships a different one. Does that cause tension? Strife?

War?

Maybe one faction interprets the same religion differently than another faction. That certainly causes problems in the real world. Does it cause trouble in your story?

These are things you need to consider.

Now, unlike the real world where no single person can know for sure whether any one religion is correct, as an author, you know that about your world. You know if one is correct and another is wrong. You know if they all contain little grains of truth.

You know if maybe…they’re all wrong. Do any of your characters know the truth about their world and the gods that govern it?

Or maybe they think they know.

That one person would see the world very differently than the people around them.

You should probably also consider how the god views the world, or at least, how the people think the god views the world. People who think their god is forgiving are likely to conduct themselves differently than people who think their god is easily angered and vindictive.

And if they think their god just…doesn’t care? That the world was created, and then that was it? What then?

Easily angered gods might demand human sacrifices. Forgiving gods may wish only for repentance. Or perhaps, they’ll demand sacrifice to show sorrow over one’s actions.

It all plays a role in the world you’re building and the lives of the characters in it, and it’s your job as the author to figure that out.

Now, if you’re writing a story set in the real world, good news! The religions already exist. There are still some things to consider.

Again, not everyone believes the same thing. The people in your story need to reflect that.

Unless your story is set in an Amish community, and never leaves that community, the odds of everyone in the story being of the same religion…are pretty slim.

The world has become a hell of a melting pot. Diversity is everywhere. What people believe in regards to religion or sexual orientation or race or gender or whatever…differs.

Wildly.

The odds of two people believing exactly the same on every topic is pretty much impossible. Unless one of them has cult leader charisma, and brainwashes the other one. Which, to be fair, has been the basis of many stories.

But it’s typically set against the backdrop of other people who believe differently, so…you still have to consider multiple viewpoints.

Now, if your main character has the same religious beliefs as you…be careful. Yes, that means you have more insight into the inner workings of that religion and common dilemmas faced by those who practice it.

But you also run the risk of coming off a little…preachy…if you’re not careful.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe you’re trying to bring people over to your religion through your writing.

But that’s something that you need to commit to. Way ahead of time. And something that should be handled with tact.

A lot of tact.

Now, for the sake of realism, you probably need to show your character having doubts, at some point. It adds tons of extra drama and gives the character more depth.

For example, I set my post-apocalyptic novel, After (new title to be announced later), right here in southern Illinois.

A.K.A. The Bible Belt.

Christianity is huge here.

And the apocalypse is fucking fantastic at testing faith.

But different people react differently. Some people cling to their faith for comfort in the face of adversity. Others relinquish it completely. Some believe but get angry, while other people fall into spirals of doubt.

Some people do all those things in the course of a single particularly trying afternoon.

What happens to each individual character’s beliefs after trauma depends on their personalities, their life experiences to that point, the strength of their beliefs, their upbringing, their surroundings.

All these things play a role.

As do about a million other things.

All of which, you need to think about.

So, whether you’re religious or not, there’s a good chance that some sort of religion will influence whatever world you write your story in.

Somehow.

Some way.

Don’t be lazy and pretend no one ever heard of religion.

Anyway, this past week, I spent a decent amount of time editing my post-apocalyptic novel. I also did more work on book covers (a few options took a ton of time in photoshop) and well…played a lot of minecraft. Lol.

I know, it’s not writing related, but that game is so addictive. And it was nice to play a video game again. I’ve been so caught up in trying to get everything done that I haven’t played any game in…weeks? Months? I’m honestly not sure.

I’ll be announcing giveaway rules next week, so come back next Monday to learn how you can win a signed copy of Soul Bearer, along with a shit ton of swag and possibly a signed copy of Annabelle.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Style

Hey, guys!

So, I’m in several writing groups, and the big one on facebook (Fiction Writing, 90,000+ members) has had a lot of posts asking a pretty similar question, here lately. “I have an idea for a story, but there are already so many stories like this out there. Should I even bother writing it?”

Such a loaded question, but a very simple answer.

As long as you’re not just straight up stealing someone’s work, write your story. It won’t be like the other stories, because it’ll be yours, written with your voice, in your style.

Who gives a fuck how many werewolf stories there are, or how many accidental baby with a billionaire stories have been written. If you have an idea about an accidental baby with a billionaire werewolf, fucking go for it.

Because your individual writing style and voice will change it, and make it unique.

Individual writing styles vary so much that it’s insane. Some writers even use different styles for different types of stories.

So, as long as you have a clear style and voice, you can write whatever you want.

Seriously.

Whatever you want.

Writing style let’s you get away with some serious shit.

Hell, at one point in his short story, “The End of the Whole Mess,” Stephen King forsakes spelling, punctuation, and every rule of grammar. And without that section, the story would’ve been…meh.

With it?

The story was phenomenal. I think back to it frequently, even though I read it like 5 months ago.

I’m not going say why he does it, or when, because it’s a pretty major plot device. It MAKES the story.

But it happens. Every basic writing rule…gone. And because of the style the story was written in, not spelling anything properly or bothering with punctuation…it enhances the story rather than taking away from it.

Side note…the shit you want to get away with has to be intentional. Don’t just bury your head in the sand, and refuse to learn about writing. Don’t pretend rules don’t exist or apply to you.

Don’t be that cocky.

If you’re gonna break a rule, don’t just say, “That’s how I write,” and expect everyone to think it’s awesome. Lol. You need to have a reason, and an understanding of how it affects the story.

Now, if you want an example that doesn’t seem so unattainable (because Stephen King is pretty high up there), my personal writing style is meant to be like you’re in the mind of the character. It reads sorta like a mixture of thought and direct experience, even when I write in third person for the sake of clarity when switching points of view.

Therefore, it’s rife with sentence fragments and occasional repetition. Because people don’t think or experience things in perfectly composed sentences.

I use curse words and sarcasm. Since I write very naturally, it makes sense. People curse. People get snarky sometimes. It happens.

I use enough description to get the point across, but no more, and only stuff the character would notice. Writing the scenes in such a direct way means that the character isn’t going to pay attention to the type of fabric every other person’s clothes are made of, or the type of trees in the careful landscaping at someone else’s house. Not unless they’re a seamstress or landscaper. Maybe not even then, if their mind is otherwise occupied.

And I pack the stories with emotion and dark subjects. If the story calls for gore or violence, well, it’s gonna be in there.

Not everyone wants to focus on trauma or battle scenes. Not everyone wants curse words. (Clearly, I don’t mind them. Lol.)

The book I’m currently reading (Winterhued by E. H. Alger) is in a genre that I write in a lot (fantasy romance), but is nothing like my books.

It begs to be read in an old English accent. It’s got beautiful, flowery writing and rich description. So far, it’s stayed away from heavy battle scenes, and focused more on the interpersonal goings-on of a besieged castle.

Had I written about a besieged castle with knights and a princess and ladies-in-waiting, it would have been a very different book aimed at a different audience. But Alger wrote it, using a different style, and a different voice, and different ideas.

Not writing it because other people have written about castles and knights would’ve been silly and sad.

It’s beautiful, and there’s no substitute. The author’s voice, the author’s style, and individual spin on things are what make the book unique.

So, to sum up, if someone else wrote about a vampire that used to be a viking and is also an angel (yeah, seriously, it’s been done. It’s a seven book series by Sandra Hill) that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

Because it won’t be the same story.

Write what you want, even if someone else wrote a story about the same general principal.

So. Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- I haven’t read that series by Sandra Hill, but I love the title for the last book. “The Angel Wore Fangs” is catchy as fuck.