Writing Diversity

Hi, guys!

So, I read a book recently that was meant to feature an empowering female lead and be LGBT friendly and such.

But it was pretty mishandled.

The female lead did want equality for women, but she was also…a manipulative, scheming, murderous bitch. Not exactly a role model, by any means.

100% it was written through the perspective of a villain. Which is cool. It was interesting enough for me to finish it.

But in a Q&A, the author said she wanted it to empower women. Seducing a man with the intent to take everything he has…That’s no role model.

That’s a bitch.

And the LGBT aspect consisted of one side character with very few speaking parts, but every time he danced with a guy, it was pointed out as if to say, “Hey, look, I’m inclusive.”

And it kinda breaks the world a bit because it’s set in a society VERY similar to Victorian England.

Two dudes dancing probably wasn’t gonna happen.

Now, I’m all for writing diversity into your books. Characters with the goal of equality are great.

But DON’T shoehorn diversity in for the sake of patting yourself on the back for being inclusive.

That ain’t how it works, my dudes.

If you do that, it will be obvious, and it will not make you look like a hero.

You want to know how to properly write diversity?

Write people.

That’s it.

It’s that goddamn simple.

Look at the world you’ve built. Look at their individual backstories. Look at their cultures. Shape each character as an individual within that culture with those experiences.

Don’t rely on stereotypes. Just write people.

Diversity will come naturally if you do that.

Honor the setting if it’s historical.

If your story takes place in medieval Scotland, don’t drop one Asian guy in there with no reasonable explanation and call yourself inclusive. If it’s set in Victorian England, don’t drop one flamboyant gay guy in there and pat yourself on the back.

If it’s a fantasy setting wherein everyone is seen as equal, then those things that tend to divide us should hold no bearing over their personality, whatsoever. Their experiences would shape them far more than the color of their skin or who they go to bed with.

If it’s set in a place where there is a lot of division, still don’t go to stereotypes. Build a person.

Think about what you’re writing and the way those characters interact with the world you’ve built.

Maybe the division in their land made them more defiant or more repressed, more prideful or more self-conscious. It isn’t going to guarantee they act one specific way.

Just write people.

Period.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why You Should Let Your Readers Use Their Imagination

Hi, guys!

I was talking with a friend a couple days ago about 2 sentence horror stories. I don’t know if you’ve looked any up, but there are some really good ones out there.

And they are absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

Because sometimes, it isn’t so much what’s said as what isn’t said. It lets the reader’s mind fill in the gaps with all sorts of horrors, personalizing it to fit their individual fears.

But simplicity shouldn’t be reserved for 2 sentence horror stories.

We don’t live in the Edwardian times, anymore.

You can write like that if you want, of course, supplying the reader with literally every detail of every object within sight. You can use an absolutely overwhelming amount of descriptors to tell your readers the exact curvature of a sphere.

But do you have to?

No.

Should you always do that?

No.

Certain scenes demand a simpler, less detailed account. (Fight scenes, sex scenes, transitional scenes which just show the passage of time, etc.)

Personally, I prefer books that don’t beat me to death with the color of the throw pillows or the shape of each doily (complete with the pattern and the type of stitch most commonly used to attain that pattern).

I like fast-paced books that let me fill in the decorations with my own imagination. It’s certainly active enough to supply the details.

Character development and plot are far more important to me than the number of freckles on a person’s face.

Because that little bit of personalization, that little bit that’s different for every reader is part of the magic.

There’s the magic of sharing an entire world that you’ve created with other people. And there’s the magic of that world meaning something different to each person that enters it.

That makes it more real.

We don’t notice every detail of every object in our lives. Why the fuck would our characters?

Why should the reader?

Let them get tunnel vision when the book draws them in. Let them get so wrapped up in a climactic scene that the background becomes just that… background.

Now, as for my own work, I’ve been reading through what I have of The Regonia Chronicles to reacquaint myself with the characters. And it’s shown me just how much I’ve learned, even just in the last couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love the story and the characters.

But I’m gonna have a lot of editing to do. Lol.

I’ve also been prepping some cover reveal stuff for A Heart of Salt & Silver and finalizing the map. I’ll be moving on to formatting, soon.

Which means I’ll be announcing a release date, soon!

Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of the big announcements (or the upcoming giveaway).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Rites and Rituals in Fiction

Hi, guys!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely saw my post about which rites or rituals are in my upcoming dark supernatural high fantasy romance, A Heart of Salt & Silver.

There are quite a few in there, and it was so much fun to write them.

But rites and rituals are more than just fun to write.

They’re major worldbuilding tools, and deserve proper attention from writers. You can’t just write a pretty ceremony or a dark, broody ritual and not pay attention to the context.

These things have bigger implications for the world, the characters, and the plot than just being some party they go to.

Rites and rituals say a lot about the culture they exist within. You can learn a lot about a group of people by studying how they mourn, how they celebrate, what they mourn, and what they celebrate. That shows you what that group of people values.

You should also pay attention to what kind of ceremony is held and how much of a commotion they make about it.

So, let’s say your book includes a wedding (or whatever you call it in your fictional universe). The level of pomp and circumstance put into that ceremony can show the role those domestic partnerships play in their society.

If it’s pivotal to their culture, the entire village might turn out for the big ceremony. If marriage is seen as more of a merger of power and wealth, the decorations and the food and the finery will likely take center stage.

In The Regonia Chronicles, Daen Tribe partnering ceremonies include a lot of singing. They honor their ancestors, the Drennar, with their voices. Singing pervades nearly every aspect of their life. So naturally, it’s part of every rite and ritual.

They wear special headdresses made with antlers and local flowers, showing reverence for nature.

They get new tattoos done in a vibrant shade of blue, the same shade of blue that decorated their ancestors’ skin (you know, before the last of the Drennar died out from a mysterious illness contracted while exploring the deep recesses of space, leaving Daen tribe to its own devices on Regonia).

Their relationships are very important to them, and divorce is not a thing for them. As such, the tattoo for their partnering ceremony is VERY large, so much so that the specific location where the tattoo is placed can only fit one.

So, just showing a partnering ceremony tells A LOT about their culture.

Now, you can get deep into the details during the planning stage (if you plan) or while writing. You can go into the symbolism behind each color and how those colors came to mean those things.

You can fill a summoning ceremony with lore, telling your reader which gods or demons or creatures are more receptive to the pleas of mortals.

You can plan out each and every possible symbolic meaning for each piece of plant or animal matter used in a ritual sacrifice, whether all that detail finds its way into the final draft or not.

But be careful, despite how important these rites and rituals are.

If you tend to procrastinate, this has the potential to swallow you. And at some point, you have to write the story.

And on that note…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

An Unexpected Visit from the Science Fiction Muses

Hi, guys!

Exciting things are happening.

The week before last, I completely redid the cover for A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’m so happy with how it turned out. I have a few more steps before I can reveal it to you all, but it’s coming.

But last week, something happened that hasn’t happened in a long time.

The sci-fi muses visited me.

The Regonia Chronicles has been sitting on the back burner for a while, like… a long ass time.

But while at work, I was listening to music and came across a song that just… resonated with the story.

It had an epic sound to it, with lots of dips and crescendos.

And I just started picturing the scenes from the book as if they were in a movie trailer.

And now, for the first time in about a year, I want to jump back into writing that one.

It’s insane the effect that music can have on us, especially in creative endeavors. Finding that perfect song to listen to during a scene can really make the writing experience that much better.

It’s part of why I’m trying something new with The Regonia Chronicles. I’ve written a soundtrack into it.

The Regonians of Daen Tribe are very music oriented. it’s deeply rooted into their culture. So, of course, when they hear human music, it’s a big deal. They notice the songs, and check displays for what song is playing.

So, when they check, I put the song title and artist (and year, because in the human society of 3018, songs over 1,000 years old are completely free, songs over 500 years old can be downloaded in batches of 100 for a single credit, over 250 years old cost a credit for 50, etc., so the year is necessary for their pricing.)

I’ve timed them for my reading speed, which I know isn’t universal. I’ll have to look up average reading speeds and go from there later. I’ll also need to make the playlist public on Google Play at some point. But those are tasks for editing.

Of course, the songs aren’t necessary for the reading experience and have no bearing on the plot. The books can be read without ever looking up a single song.

But I kinda like that extra element.

And it’s just one more thing that makes me excited to jump back into that series.

I just need to push through the rest of Second to None, first.

And if i’m being honest, this thriller may well turn into a short story. I’m about halfway through the plot and sitting at about 10,500 words.

So, basically, I just need to keep that song around me, wrap up in it like a blanket, and hammer through the rest of Second to None before the sci-fi muses desert me, again.

Which means I have some fun times ahead of me. Second to None is about to get bloody. Those characters have a lot to deal with.

But compared to the shit going down in book two of The Regonia Chronicles…

Let’s just say those humans and aliens are facing down some serious shit.

For now, I’m going to jump back into Second to None and wreak absolute havoc on some characters that are only just beginning to see how fucked up one of their friends really is.

If you want a peak at just how dark the human soul can get, check out my recent release, World for the Broken. This dark post-apocalyptic romance gets into the nitty gritty of human emotion and resilience.

Check it out here: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Importance of Emotion: A Book Rant

Hi, guys!

It’s happened. I’ve fallen into a reading slump. It happens to every reader and writer at some point.

I’ve made it halfway into a book and just…lost interest.

But since I’ve been spending so much time analyzing my own writing lately, I was able to pinpoint exactly what made me lost interest.

Lack of emotion.

The book in particular (which I won’t name here) has tremendous world building, and a lot of it. But I’m not connecting with any of the characters on an emotional level, largely because the emotions aren’t the focus.

The author chose to focus more on showcasing the history of the world they built and the reason everything is the way it is and explanations of their gods and the pathways that characters walk and…all these other things that should take a back seat to the actual story.

It may very well build to something amazing, but if readers lose interest before they ever reach that amazing thing, then all the build up is for naught.

And don’t get me wrong. There were a couple really good, emotional scenes, but how far can just a couple of emotional scenes carry a reader?

For a story to be interesting, you need stakes. You need something on the line and a reason for the character to want it.

The overwhelming majority of the time, that means emotions are involved.

It doesn’t have to be some grand scale thing, some major adventure to be interesting. You don’t have to traverse multiple worlds to tell an interesting story. Hell, it can be the most basic premise in the world.

The thing that most often compels people to keep reading is emotion.

Okay, I’ll stop talking in circles and give you an example.

If I just say “Mary walked up the stairs in her Victorian home, old bones creaking as loudly as the wood she trod upon,” it might pique your interest.

But there’s nothing at stake. There’s no emotion to pull you in, just a potentially interesting setting.

She’s just some old biddy walking up the stairs.

But if i describe her desperation, describe the tears flooding the wrinkles on her face as she pushes herself up the stairs with all her might, if I show the pictures of her late husband on the wall, the husband she bought and remodeled that home with, if I tell you about the threat of the nursing home looming on the horizon, waiting for the day she can’t make it up those stairs to her bedroom…

If I show you the picture of her wedding day waiting for her on a little table on the landing to greet her, if she reaches out a hand and touches that picture and says, “I can stay with you one more day, love…”

That emotion MAKES the story.

It’s still just a story of one woman climbing the stairs.

But it has stakes. It hits you right in the feels.

And that is what keeps people reading.

At least, in my case.

That’s why my books are so emotional, because that’s what I look for in a book.

Yeah, they have adventure and usually magic and world building (I tend to write epic high fantasy romance, after all). But the emotion is what makes the story.

It’s that little thing that makes the characters, and thus the story, real.

Never underestimate the power of emotion in books. It can be the difference between a mediocre book and one that absolutely blows people away.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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.

Writing an Unreliable Narrator

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re talking about something that can be really fun to write.

Unreliable narrators.

They can lead a reader down a pretty wild path, and they’re not terribly difficult to write as long as you stick to their personality. You can write them in just about any style, whether you write as if an outside source is telling the story or from the perspective of a character.

Personally, I prefer first person, present tense, which drops you right into the mind of the main character. Everything is seen through their eyes, experienced through the lens through which they view the world.

And if you strive for any level of realism, your characters, much like real people, will NOT see themselves 100% accurately. Whether they have low self-esteem or are overly cocky, whether they have body dysmorphia or Stockholm syndrome, depression or maybe they’re just your average Joe…

They almost certainly are not perfectly self-aware.

On average, people rank themselves as being above average. Which is statistically impossible.

And yet, we all have something, some little thing we hate about ourselves that we focus on way too much and try to overcompensate for.

We all have some strange little thing that we learned in childhood that we thought was just… how everyone did things. And we don’t even think twice about it until we meet someone who has no idea what the fuck we’re talking about.

And if your characters are realistic, they’ll have all these little quirks, too.

Much like real people, their perception of themselves colors how they see the world, making their view of the world rather skewed, as well.

Which is where we get unreliable narrators.

Some personal bias they hold casts shadows on certain things, painting them as terrible or perhaps ignoring them completely, while putting too much praise on other things.

Maybe the character is racist, and they describe people with negative or positive traits depending on their race, regardless of the truth.

Maybe your character grew up rich in a happy home, and now, they don’t see any of the problems in their world until some other character pulls the blinders off and forces them to see their actions and their world for what it is.

I won’t say what story this character is in because spoilers (hell, I’m not even going to tell you their gender), but I’ve written one with full-on Stockholm syndrome. It shapes their entire perception of themselves, their world, their religion, their peers. Literally everything is shaded by this veil over their eyes, and it takes the entire story for them to see the truth.

In order to pull off an unreliable narrator, you have to dive deep into their mind. You have to stick to your guns and write everything how they would see it, not how it actually is. You have to know how it actually is, as the writer, then write it how that character would see it.

Only when that “Ah-Ha” moment hits do you really show the world and the character for what it is. Then, the reader can think back over it, and see what actually happened and how things were actually going down.

You need to find a balance with the details you put in before that eureka moment, though. There needs to be enough accurate detail for the reader to see it properly later on, but not so much that it stands out like a sore thumb at the time.

Beta readers, critique partners, and editors can help with finding that perfect balance.

And so can studying psychology.

The mind is a maze laced with mines, dead ends, and trap doors. It holds pitfalls and skylights placed directly under the balcony of someone else’s apartment, blocking the light. Its full to the brim with steep descents and hairpin turns.

Memories, constantly relived or questioned by others, can be shifted and tweaked. Things lie forgotten in our past.

It’s a mess.

And it paints a mess across the entire world.

Personal bias makes us all a little unreliable, so it makes sense for a narrator to be unreliable, as well. And it can make for a hell of a twist in a book.

So, have fun with it. Write a character that doesn’t see the world accurately every now and then.

Now, as for what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been getting so much done while I’ve been laid off from work. I finished writing Allmother Rising, finished a round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, and did a complete round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’m almost through the first round of edits for Allmother Rising, and I just started the last round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver this past weekend. It goes off for proofreading next month.

I also got a finalized design for the cover for A Heart of Salt & Silver, which is super exciting. I have to adjust the size of it after formatting the manuscript for trims sizes and all that, but the design is done.

And if you somehow didn’t see it, World for the Broken is officially out, now! As of last Tuesday, it’s out there for you all to read. You can order it wherever books are sold, but here’s the Amazon link:

mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Anyway, it’s time for even more editing. : )

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.