Darkness and Grit: Why I Write the Way I Do

It’s no secret that my books play with darker themes and showcase the brutality of humanity.

I don’t mince words. I don’t pull punches. If a scene is meant to hurt, if a book demands a scene that hurts, then it’s going to hurt.

Of course, I do the opposite, as well, writing sweet, tender scenes when the book calls for it.

But I don’t recall ever covering why I write the way I write.

I don’t set out with the intention of writing something so dramatic and dark. It just kinda happens.

But there’s still a reason.

Well, more like several.

I haven’t had the easiest life. I’ve been through a decent amount.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good times, and I’ve known good people.

But I know what it’s like to hurt.

So characters who’ve had it easy their whole lives are hard for me to relate to.

Pretty princesses whose biggest problem is deciding what to wear to the next ball… just don’t work for me. I can’t connect with them.

And since I’m a very emotional person (not that that’s obvious on the outside thanks to social anxiety, extreme introversion, and resting bitch face), not connecting with a character emotionally pretty much damns the story for me.

Characters who’ve hurt, who’ve hit rock bottom and crashed through (because rock bottom is just a muscovite illusion, because things can always get worse), characters who kept falling until they smashed onto a ledge, breaking into a million pieces with their head over the edge staring into the abyss, only to heal just enough to get up and start climbing because they know, yes, things can always get worse, but things can also always get better.

And they know they’ll never have it better if they give up.

Those are the characters I relate to.

So, those are the characters I write. Those are the characters that keep me writing or reading until after the sun comes up.

Because they’re the ones I can identify with.

Writing them helps me get my shit out onto a page. It helps me see the issue as separate from myself because I fictionalize it, changing the details to fit the story, but the emotions are still there.

And that helps me process them.

And I know that I’m not the only one trying to figure out their shit. And if seeing it on a page helps me, it’s bound to help someone else.

Next week, I’ll be discussing which themes come up in my new release, A Heart of Salt & Silver. There are… several.

But for now, I’ll leave you with a progress report.

I finished this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads a couple weeks ago, and promptly moved into a round of edits on Allmother Rising. This round will be done with special focus on beta reader feedback. So, it’ll be a full round of edits, but I’ll also be watching for a very specific thing to come up in the book to see what needs adjusted.

I’m about an eighth of the way through.

I’ve also been steadily writing on The Regonia Chronicles. It’s definitely going to be three books. Plus prequels. Two books for the main series is not going to be an option.

There are just too many planets, too many necessary POVs, too much ground to cover (or space to travel through). And it’s all plot-relevant. So, no cutting it down.

I’m currently adding chapters throughout book two to lay some groundwork for book three, then I’ll be continuing in book three.

And I got some incredible feedback on Second to None today. I’ll be making some minor adjustments, but I’m ecstatic.

Stick around for some snippets from A Heart of Salt & Silver on my social media platforms this week, as well as guest blogs and interviews throughout the blog tour.

I’m aiming to have the new cover for Soul Bearer officially available this week or next week, so keep an eye out for that, as well.

Thanks for being here.

It means a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Curse Words: What to Consider

Should you write with curse words?

This question gets bandied about in writing groups far too often. It seems like people are afraid to break certain rules, and cussing is just one of those things where readers either don’t care at all or they care A LOT.

And the people who care A LOT about cussing tend to get super offended by it.

So I see where there might be a bit of trepidation when it comes to putting cuss words in your book.

So, should you do it?

It kinda depends. The answer for me and my books is… Fucking go for it. Lol.

But that answer might be different for you. Which means we have to get back to that “It depends” part.

First and foremost, what age group are you writing for?

I write books meant for adults, so it’s no problem for me.

But your book is going to be a hard sell if you drop a bunch of F bombs in a children’s book.

Unless it’s a “kid’s book” that’s actually meant for adults. Like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Then, it works.

YA isn’t real big on cursing either. Despite the fact that most people reading YA novels frequently use those words, within typical guidelines for that age range, cursing is to be kept to a minimum.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ellen Hopkins might use some cuss words, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I read her books. But she tends to go for the gritty depictions of real life struggles that teens face, so cuss words make sense in her books.

You should also consider your genre and the conventions within it.

Christian fiction isn’t going to have curse words. If they appear, it might be a little slip on the worst day of the MC’s life, and it probably won’t be any worse word than “crap” or “damn.”

And the character will likely regret it.

Unless it’s a reform/convert type book, in which case there might be a flashback, but even then, the foul language would likely be kept to a minimum.

Aside from those things, you should also consider setting. If you’re writing a book set in the Vatican 200 years ago… There probably won’t be any cussing.

Whereas, if you’re writing something in a modern day bar and you don’t include cussing, the flattened dialogue will almost certainly break the immersion.

But do you want to know the most important things to consider when deciding whether your books should include cussing?

It isn’t whether it’ll be embarrassing if your family or spouse or close friend reads it. That should never dictate what you write.

It isn’t whether the market hates or loves it, because there’s a market for just about everything.

The two most important things to consider are:

1. Is it right for the character?/Does it line up with their personality?

2. Is it right for your author voice?

If the answer is yes, then damn the doubt. Damn the fear of what others will say. Write those fucking cuss words.

If the answer is no, leave them out.

It’s really that simple. If it’s the right thing to do for you and your book, just fucking do it. If it isn’t right for you and your book, then don’t.

Give yourself the freedom to write your book the way it needs to be written.

Just be sure to market the book accordingly so you don’t get people who want grit reading clean books or people who expect clean books reading stories that have been carpet bombed with cuss words.

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.