Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Writing Tip #13: Minor Characters

This is the last post in the mini-series dealing with the basics of your novel. We've talked about setting and world-building, plots and subplots, and characters. Today is all about minor characters.

Minor characters are to characters like subplots are to plots and like world-building is to setting. Basically what this means is your minor characters (subplots and world building) SUPPORT, EXPAND UPON, and WORK WITH your main characters. How many minor characters do you need? Like subplots: there's no set number. You introduce as many as needed to move your story along.

Now, there are two types of minor characters.

The first is the Important Minor Character. This is the guy who's almost a main character, the one who could steal the show, but the novel is not about him. Think Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli from Lord of the Rings. Or Snape, Dumbledore, and Bellatrix from Harry Potter. Without these characters there would be something innately missing from the plot. It's why they're also referred to as "supporting characters."

The second is the Throw-away Character. These are the Unnamed characters. The waitress. The bartender. The random elf. The orc. These guys are the folks no one really cares about and are there to populate the stage. They're all those folks in the background on set that everyone kind of looks over. In the credits they're: woman with baby, security guard #1, Dead guy #3, Cheerleader.

What's the difference? Important Minor Characters need a backstory similar to your Main Character's. You're going to want to know what motivates them to help (or hinder) the main character, how they became who they are today, and what role they play in your story. They'll need a name and a purpose. They might even evolve into a Main Character in later books and you can bet they'll become a fan favorite if you work them right.

The Throw-Away character needs nothing. They don't even need a description or a name. They are the waitress who gives your Main Character and your Important Minor Character their coffee. They are the woman your Main Character has to walk around because she's stopped in the middle of the side-walk to text. They're the body count.

Throw-Away Characters CAN evolve into Important Minor Characters over the course of a series (I'm looking at you David Jones and Maverick). Important Minor Characters can become a Main Character (I'm looking at you Tenkondin and Sable). The reverse can also happen. A Main Character can become an Important Minor Character (...sorry Dyns) or even a Throw-Away Character.

A word of advice: don't make Cashier #1 some secret spy of the villain for the sake of *GASP! PLOT TWIST!* The ONLY way you can do it is if she's appearing more than once, always makes a point of serving the Main Character or acts suspicious in such a way your Main Character starts to notice.

Remember, your Minor Characters are there to do a job: SUPPORT YOUR MAIN. Or HINDER YOUR MAIN. They are there to cause subplots, conflict, and help your world-building. They might even steal the show or provoke a spin off. And if you're really good they might get a bigger following than some of the other minor characters even if they only appear in five chapters of 100+ story (I'm looking at you Matt).

Use your Minor Characters as they're intended to be used. You don't need to do an extensive back story on every one and no, not everyone needs a name. They can be "the waiter" or "the secretary" or "the bartender" during the course of the story. Don't feel bad about randomly killing off "Bank Teller #1." She is a device to move along the plot. That's all. Put up a grave and keep moving.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Why did I pick it up?

Continuation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Again, I don't stop reading a series unless it's gone past 17 books and it's still freaking going with no end in sight. Even then I wait till the remainder of the books come up then finish it. Said 17+ book series I'm waiting on is currently up to 18 planned books with nine short stories in nine different anthologies so no, I am not impressed. There are also THREE other 10+ book series said author is working on, yes, all at once. I kind of wish I never picked up that first book...

ANYWAY. We're talking a nice 7-book series known as Harry Potter. I started this one on February 3rd and finished it on February 8th. Yes it almost took me a week. You'll see why shortly.

The Review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling:

First I have to say: YES! THIS is the book where JK Rowling has evolved as an author. The general pattern is still the same: we see Harry with his foster muggle parents, Harry goes to see Ron, they see something mysterious (wrong place at wrong time syndrome) and Harry has a new challenge to face at school, new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher met, challenge resolved with Harry doing something amazing while breaking some rules, and Harry heading home to his muggle foster parents.

BUT, the mystery aspect in this one is MUCH MORE DEFINED. There are a lot more suspects for why this is happening to Harry and I was surprised when it was revealed. I expected one of two but not the person it actually was then it wasn't actually that person but someone pretending to be that person. It was great.

Also, JK Rowling KILLED HER DARLINGS! She introduced one in the last book then just, BAM, killed him in front of Harry. Was the death needed? Heck yes. Did the death impact Harry? HECK yes. Did the dying character suffer? No, it wasn't long drawn out torture, just the killing curse and done but still. This was a great death and relevant to the story and the books. She also killed someone right in the beginning too: got us to know him and kind of care then knocked him down. Good job.

The way Voldemort comes back and the way everything was planned out by him and his minions was amazing. It was well planned, wonderfully executed, and that ending. This is the writing I've been waiting for as an adult reading younger fiction.

There are still some tweaks needed here and there because it's not entirely believable the Head of the Ministry of Magic won't take a threat like Voldemort seriously. Honestly, I think Fudge not believing Dumbledore and Snape was a bit much.

I do like that Dumbledore doesn't hide anything from the Hogwarts students and tells them flat out Voldemort is back, Harry saw it with his own eyes, and yes, Volty (hehe) killed the character.

I don't believe that Harry can't figure out where Hagrid and the Madame are going. They're half giants Harry, and Voldemort wants the giants on his side (as you heard), where the Hell do you think they're going?

I do like how Harry does suspect Snape might be working as a double agent now. The whole battle scene with Voldemort was kind of, I don't know. If my villain was so horrible and evil then he would've killed Harry outright. Screw talking: he wouldn't even have untied him from the gravestone to give him a fighting chance. It would've been Avada Kedavra and done. I guess Volty learned that lesson the hard way when Harry escaped.

The Goblet of Fire is mentioned one or twice and has a five page or so scene. So it's a catalyst, yes, but I think something else should have been used, like Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament. Why? Because the games was the focus of the book. The cup was more of a piece of equipment that could have easily been replaced by anything. I guess Goblet of Fire sounds cooler though.

I also LOVE how we get some backstory on Neville and Harry shows compassion towards the poor kid. We also realize why Neville knows the Cruciastus Curse (crucio) and why he's being raised by his grandmother. I was tearing up at this reveal and I'm so glad Harry went along with Dumbledore's request and didn't tell Hermione and Ron about Neville's parents and that Harry felt that Neville should be the one getting some sympathy from the other students about his parents. As Harry said "Sure, he (Harry) was an orphan but Neville had living parents who could no longer recognize him."

The ending with Harry coming back, the big reveal of who was going all this, and Harry on the train was perfect. I love that Harry, realizing he's a privileged wizard who has money to spare, gives his prize money to Fred and George. It shows who he is as a person. I also love how he wants to save all the hostages in the second task and he's willing to share the prize with Cedric, hell he tells Cedric what the first task is because he doesn't want Cedric to be hurt. This is good character development right here.

Harry doesn't break the rules so much, not to the extent of the other books anyway. Everyone else is breaking the same rules so it's not as horrible when Harry does it which is nice to see. But, one such rule being broken isn't even mentioned: Krum (Quiddich player and competitor against Harry in the Triwizard Tournament) using crucio (illegal to use against other wizards) on Cedric. Harry just kind of forgets to mention it.

With how the last feast goes, I suspect there won't be another new Defense of the Dark Arts Teacher in Hogwarts next year which is nice. It's good to break pattern.

Would I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire again?

Yes, most definitely and I might even do it without reading the books before it.

The Negatives:

The formula, oh God, change it up! Maybe start off when Harry's at the school or something. The time it took for Harry to get from summer to school seemed to be so much longer too but every part was needed or nothing would make sense later. The thing that really bothers me about the whole series is all these former Death Eaters were either imprisoned or given a second chance.

Never mind they conspired with the most evil wizard in history and killed innocent people, we'll totally give 'em a second chance if they give us names. Yeah, no. I honestly don't believe people would do that and I sure as Hell don't believe in second chances when it comes to that. Sure, if show you can be reformed, great. But everyone suspected Malfoy's dad would go back to Voldemort and guess what? He did. Worse yet, they're still letting his kid go to Hogwarts where Harry Potter, you know the person Voldemort wants to kill, lives. Yeah, smart. Go going.

See, if the same events had taken place in any one of my magic-ruled worlds, every one of Voldemort's supporters would have been killed, including the Dementors. I mean, who's bright idea is it to let the Dementors (who would go help Voldemort if he asked) guard the place where Voldemort's henchmen are imprisoned? Where's the sense in that? Kill off the henchmen, especially when you don't see a body for Voldemort and know that even if he does come back, he won't have any support. If the Ministry had done that then maybe all Voldemort would have is Wormtail. And ya can't do much with that guy.

To the 1-star reviews:

Again, Pottermore website. The Hell, Rowling, the Hell? With so many complaints about downloading the book from the site or receiving the wrong copy of the book, being misled on the condition, etc, someone should've looked into this by now.

There are some people saying it's not for kids and well, to each there own. I read IT at 12 and am no worse for wear. I do find it funny that my one cousin let her kid read Harry Potter at 10 but not Hunger Games because there's a lot of killing in both series. Goblet of Fire is where the darkness starts seeping in and yes, it is for a mature audience.

A lot of the people don't seem to get Harry is 14 now. One says he's "suddenly interest in girls especially the fat French girl". Two things: 1) Harry is 14. Yes, he is "suddenly" interested in girl but was interested in Cho when he first met her in the last book. 2) the fat French girl is a watered down version of the Veela who are seductresses by nature in the book. Yeah "suddenly" *snorts*

I also find that I'm the complete opposite when it comes to the series. Everyone thinks 1-3 are totally awesome and 4 sucks where I think 1-3 are okay and four is one of the better ones.

The "TOO LONG" comments are entirely justified especially when the page count in the series goes from 350 to 634. Yeah, the fourth book is MASSIVE compared to the others but rightfully so. There's a lot going on and more mystery involved. Yes the front part was needed because now you know who Krum is and why everyone acts the way they do in the later stages of the book.

I could agree Rita and SPEW weren't really needed as plot elements though it DOES give us a nice insight to Hermione's character. She cares about other people and shows her brilliance by deducing how Rita is finding out all this stuff she shouldn't know.

The "pure evil" villain is a disappointment though. Yes, I get they're villains but their needs to be some sort of justification to their villainy just like Harry needs to have justification in lying, cheating, using illegal curses, etc. I like Harry's not a saint but it bothers me that Voldemort and his posse have NO redeeming characteristics. They're pure evil for the sake of being evil. It bugs me.

There are some spelling mistakes, wrong words, and quotes missing during dialogue which is bothersome. I'm no grammar guru so I can't point it all out but if I'm finding something then an editor reading this might find way more.

Final Review: 3.5/5 for the voracious readers. 3.5/5 for intended audience (darker concepts is the main reason here.)

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rage, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing Tip #12: Subplots

With every great war there's a bunch of little battles to be won. What does this have to do with writing? Let me put it to you this way: with every conflict, there are minor setbacks. Still confused? With every PLOT there are SUBPLOTS.

Life is not a happy trail along a singular path. There are lots of different choices to make which can put you on an entirely different path than the one you meticulously planned out in career studies five years ago. That's right, I went there. ;)

The thing with five year plans is life happens. What you thought would happen at High School graduation when you were first starting High School likely won't be what happens. Or happened. When I was younger I figured by now I'd have a husband, a nice house, and kids. I've a house, a cat, and no children. When I started high school I was planning to go into the sciences, more specifically genetics. Life happened and I don't have a degree in science or any fancy letters after my name. Hell, I figured I'd be a best selling novelist by this time and, yeah, no.

Why is this important? The same concept occurring in your story makes your story more interesting. What are these minor setbacks called? Subplots. How many do you need? Enough to make life interesting and as with most novel concepts: there is no set number on how many subplots you need.

What you do need is one main plot or conflict: defeat the bad guy. How many subplots do you need with this? Well, there could be a romantic interest (one). Your hero might not know how to defeat the bad guy (two). Your hero's sibling could be kidnapped (three). Your hero might have to find the bad guy. (Four)...You see where I'm going with this?

The fun part is there could be conflicts within those subplots. The love interest of your hero might be working for the bad guy (one-a). The hero might have to find a special relic to defeat the bad guy and learn how to use said relic (two a and two b). Your hero's sibling could be part of a bigger problem (three a) Your bad guy might be able to travel between four different worlds (four a, b, c, and d). You see how subplots can get complicated?

The job of your subplots is to make your main plot more interesting. This usually means things are going to get complicated for your character but that's okay. Complicated is good just, try not to go overboard. We don't need two romantic love interests, six different relics needing to be combined in a certain way at a certain time in order to defeat your bad guy, multiple family members being killed, kidnapped or otherwise causing distractions, and a bad guy who's always on the move all in one novel. Spread that out in a series if you're going to get so complex.

That's the other fun thing about subplots. When you are doing a series you can have new ones appear for each book or one continue over multiple books. Some might start in book 3 and end in book 6. Another might start with book 1 and end in book 5.

Do you have to tie up every subplot in every book? Yes, again, not in serials. Every subplot must be resolved before you write THE END though. If not your reader will throw the book across the room and ask what the hell happened to X? Then they'll bug you until X is resolved and that's not fun for anyone involved.

Remember, subplots are little mini-stories attached to the main story that make the story more real, interesting, and drive the main plot. Do they have to make sense right away? Nope. But they MUST have something to do with the main story. Don't throw in a love interest just because, hey romance. Said love interest should be bringing something to the main story line.

Subplots move the story forward, keep the reader's interest, give some more information about what's going on in the story, and make sense in the world of your story. They provide little battles to the main war. You don't need thousands of them but you do need a few to keep things moving along nicely. Again: there's no set number for the amount of subplots you need to have. It all depends on your story.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I have issues, no really

I know everyone says they have issues but I've been officially diagnosed with issues. My issues happen to be so severe that I get to take a month off work so the medication they gave me can kick in and so I don't freak out and jump off a bridge. No, really.

Yesterday I tried to go into work. Note, the tried. I got up, ate breakfast, brushed my cat (it's our morning ritual now), chilled for a bit, got dressed, and headed out. I made it to the parking lot and was parking my car when I hit the breaks, burst into tears then took off.

Where did I take off to? The cemetery where my parents are entombed. I sat with them for about two hours until I got hungry. Cemetery bathrooms are gross by the way. Anyway, I headed down to the shopping mall for food and promptly went to my doctor's office. Why? Because on my way back home I wanted to drive my car off a bridge.

Why? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. I've always had darker thoughts and most of the time I can translate them into my writing and everything's good. It hasn't been working for a few years now but most of the time I can take a day off, cry it all out, and be done with till the next time I kind of cracked. This time, I broke. I couldn't fix it on my own.

My doctor referred me to the urgent care area in the hospital. I got to talk to an RN who specialized in mental issues about everything that's bugging me. No I'm not going to go into detail here mainly because it will reveal things about my location and my family life that I don't want to delve into for personal reasons.

The basics is I'm exceptionally unhappy with my life in general. I don't sleep well. I'm not enthused about anything (even writing) anymore. I hate my job. I hate the way my life has ended up. I hate myself. I want to go to sleep and not have to wake up to face the shit-hole that has become my life.

This is not where I wanted to be at this point in time. I had everything (or at least most of it) planned out. I had a way to get there. Then the train came off the track and I had no idea how to get it on the right path again. I still don't know how to get everything where it's supposed to go.

I think most of it comes from this cloud hanging over me, that has been hanging over me, for the better part of a decade. I don't think I'm worth it so I kind of hide out in this little corner and hang on the fringes of life. I don't want to cling to scraps anymore. I want to get out there and have a life, including marketing and publishing my novels but I don't feel like I'm good enough. I feel useless. I feel inadequate. There's no point in trying because it's not going to work anyway. I never have enough money and I'm so deep in debt I don't feel like I'll ever get back out.

So the RN got the emergency doctor to talk to me just to make sure I wasn't actually going to drive off a bridge or take a bottle of pills. I wasn't. I obviously didn't. The psychiatrist then spoke to me and prescribed me a month off work and two different kin of pills. One is a general anti-depressant/relaxant that I take every day and the other is a take-as-needed relaxant. I also got a few sheets of papers for referrals to grief counselling as well as therapists I can talk to. On Monday someone's going to be calling so they can make arrangements to come check on me through the month.

Thankfully the pills weren't too expensive because I had to pay for them out of pocket since my medical didn't kick in yet at work. Yes, even though I'm in Canada I still have to pay for my medication if I have no benefits through work. OHIP does cover some stuff but not this. Yes I do get a reduced rate (I'm sure) because I'm on a sort of benefit through the government but the pills were not free.

Anyway, I took the first one today. I know they say the pills aren't supposed to be working right away (about 3-5 weeks) but I don't feel like bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. I don't feel like ending it. I actually made a necklace today which I haven't done in months. I also felt disconnected. Kind of like I'm wasn't fully attached to my body. To be honest I think I was a little high. That feeling's gone now but man it was strong this morning. Right now I want to take a nap. And my mouth/throat has been really dry all day.

Oddly enough I feel like I could handle working. Do I want to go back? Nope. You can bet your life I'll be using at least part of this month to find a different job. The other part will be spent on novel writing, jewellery making, advertising Avalora, and reading.

I know I had a month off in January but it wasn't really a month off. I was freaking out about finding a job, worrying about training for the job I did get, and generally panicking about every little thing. Now? Eh, not so much.

Yes I'm still worried about money but it's at the back of my head. I know I have something coming to me Friday and I might not get sick leave benefits right away but I'll get something. I still have a job when I go back after a month. There are other issues and concerns which were bugging me (and still have the potential to bother me) but again: not an issue.

The concerns still need to be addressed of course but they aren't a horrifying monster that's going to bite my head off. They're more a bug I have to gather the courage to crush.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rage, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Why did I pick it up?

Continuation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I never stop reading a series once I start and I go until it's done, well, unless it's taking too long between books or there are 17+ books then I get annoyed and wait for it to finish. And yes, I am currently waiting on a 17+ book series to finish so I can buy everything at once then go from the beginning. I might name the author at some point.

Anyway, I started this one on January 29th and finished it on February 2nd, again reading on breaks at work and maybe an hour outside of work. This is how short these books are and I know if I really wanted to I could finish the series in a week. But meh. Onwards.

The Review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling:

I'm starting to think the same pattern is going to continue with every book and I'm not sure if I want to be annoyed or not yet. We left Harry heading home to his muggle foster parents who hate him and we pick up with him having another crappy summer. To be honest I can't remember what happened to Harry this summer...wait, he ballooned his equally horrible aunt and spent the summer in the Leaky Cauldron. Right. 

He did actually make it on the train though and ended up sharing the compartment with Remus Lupine who is the new Dark Arts teacher.

This is another thing that's starting to make me roll my eyes. Every year they get a new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher. I get the firing of the first one. He was working with Voldemort. I get the firing of the second one. He was a weak plot device and an idiot. I was kind of hoping Lupine stuck around because he was a good teacher but no. Turns out he's a werewolf and the parents are afraid of him freaking out so he elects to leave. Never mind the fact he can be controlled with a potion. It's just tradition for the teacher to leave and for Harry to get a new one.

And oops, revealed the werewolf thing a little early. But really, with a name like Lupine and drinking something Snape cooks up for him once a month, you kind of suspect something's up.

We also have the Sirius Black plot line and of course (like in other books) Black isn't who everyone says he is. Oh, neither is Ron's rat Scabbers. I do appreciate the Scabbers and Black story line. Those were well done.

Harry completely disregards the rules multiple times despite them being put in place especially for him since everyone things Black is out to kill him. I get the whole "I do what I want cuz I'm the main character and I'm special thing" but this is ridiculous. And I'm fairly sure all the Weasley Twins are is a plot device to help Harry get out of Hogwarts. Neville's a plot device to have tightened security with the whole password thing. Wood is a plot device, 2D character to talk about Quiddich and you KNOW because Wood says it's his final year on the team they're going to win the cup. This is how things work.

And yes, make the book-worm take on more than she can chew and have her freak out. It's believable but the fact Hermione uses a Time Turner to illegally take more classes is a bit, eh. She slaps Malfoy too which is so out of character even Ron didn't know what to do with it. She is 13 by this time so...

Again Harry breaks a bunch of rules and is virtually unpunished. This time Ron breaks a leg, literally, so many in the next book Harry with think before dawning his invisibly cloak to go recklessly solving some new mystery, yes? I doubt it.

I get he's a main character and he's supposed to be kind of reckless and his dad was the same way but really now, this is getting a little disbelieving. The fact the Headmaster of the school is letting Harry get away with all this stuff is a bit insulting. It's Dumbledore's job to teach his students to kind of you know, respect the rules and all that.

But hey, kids book so I can't complain too much. The bows were neatly tied but had a bit more mystery to them this time around. You can tell Rowling's becoming better at making a mystery and stringing you along with this book.

Oh, the Dementors were iffy. Basically they're these kind of mindless drones that feed of positive emotions regardless if a person is innocent or not. Kind of a crappy punisher-type person to send out and an equally worse security guard. I can say they'd have fun trying to beat up a few of my characters. When someone IS fear and nightmares, well...

Would I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban again?

Since it would only take four or so hours: sure, why not? It's entertaining and a light read when someone doesn't want to think.

The Negatives:

There's a formula to the plot and I can all ready predict the next book: Harry has a summer with his horrible Muggle foster parents but gets saved by Ron, Harry goes to school and discovers a new mystery to solve (presumably there's a Goblet of Fire), Ron and Hermione get into an argument of some sort, Neville acts as a plot device, Snape and Draco do mean things to Harry, Harry breaks a bunch of rules to narrowly save the day with Dumbledore's uncanny help and everything ends neatly wrapped. Oh, and a new Defense of the Dark Arts Teacher. And Quiddich. TO THE AMAZON REVIEWS!

These are seriously becoming my favorite part of doing the Harry Potter reviews because they're so freaking hilarious.

...and now my fun-time is ruined by Amazon who has for some strange reason put reviews for Deathly Hallows into book 3. HUH? The first two for Azkaban are the same Pottermore complaints. You'd think someone would have picked up on the Pottermore issue by now...

OH! There's a "this book is evil and teaches our kids to practice horrible magic!" fanatic Christian review. One goes as far to say this book will affect a child's spiritual health. Hey, Christian Parents: IT IS FICTION! IT IS DESIGNED TO GET YOUR CHILDREN TO BE CREATIVE! Also: The Hell book are you going to find out there that doesn't include magic or "violence" or evil? When you do find one, lemme know.

I do like the review from the young girl who says she thought the book was the best ever back in grade 1 but because she's gone on to read other things, she's realized it's not. Harry Potter was her stepping stone into the world of fantasy fiction and I give kudos to JK Rowling for making it happen.

Then someone compares Harry's scar to being a Satanic "S" for "destroyer" and representing Zeus. *giggles* Also, reading tea-leaves is demonic, don't you know? Oh, there's the "this is to(o) long!" complaints.

And AGAIN someone telling people to go read GRR Martin. PEOPLE. HARRY POTTER IS FOR UNDER 10 YEAR OLDS. UNDER 10 YEAR OLDS SHOULD NOT BE READING GRR MARTIN BECAUSE HE "DOES FANTASY BETTER". Christ. And while we're at it: Tolkien and CS Lewis are meant for older audiences as well.

There are a few "the plot is recycled" reviews which are entirely true. But a newer reader won't notice. Again: these books are MADE for the newer readers.

Final Review: 2/5 for the voracious reader. 4/5 for the children it's meant for.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rage, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tale of the Twins: The Re-Vamp

Shush, I'm totally allowed to have a corny pun.

Anyway, yes, I am re-vamping the Tale of the Twins. For those that don't know: I started this self-publishing journey back in March 2010 with the novel The Tale of the Twins (ToT). Yes, five freaking years ago. Go check back to the first post of this blog. I'll wait. Good? Good. *winks*

Moving on, it took me two of those five years to realize the vanity press I had gone through for ToT wasn't helping as I thought they would. Why'd I waste three more years? I was depressed. I still kind of am but that's not the issue here.

I was stuck in the vanity press and didn't know how to get out. I couldn't do any deals for the pricing of the book, I didn't like the cover, and I started to hate the story so I didn't bother marketing it. I didn't even get a sale for four years. My self-published books (unedited and put out in haste) were doing better as a whole than ToT. I'm fairly sure I've had more views to Avalora than I've ever had to ToT and Avalora's only been out for 8 days.

So, I finally said enough and bought back my rights. Basically it was an invisible bit of documentation saying I "owned" the story again. I didn't get images and the inside they did give me is so horribly formatted I can't even use it anyway. I'll have to compare it to the edited version I was given. Yes, it was a major set-back.

Enough of the whining and onto the good news.

I WILL be re-publishing Tale of the Twins this year. I want to read through the entire story again and make a few changes here and there, possibly drop a few characters (not sure yet), definitely drop the general swearing going on, spread out character descriptions better, and tweak a few things. Basically I'll be bringing it more in line with my 2015 writing style.

So when will it come out? I've no idea. This year hopefully before National Novel Writing Month because I need to work on Book 3 for NaNo. It's the only way I'll ever finish the damned series and in order to even write Book 3 I have to revisit Books 1 and 2.

This raises the question of when Book 2 will come out. Well, that depends on YOU. Editing costs money and I refuse to release a full length piece of fiction without proper editing. If you're going to be paying me $3.99-$4.99 for this book I want to make sure you get your money's worth. It's only fair.

So, what have I been doing since I bought my rights back in January? Waiting for the rights to come to me. Yeah I know. But I got them back last month and started putting together a brand-spanking-new cover...as seen below:

Yes, it's similar to the old one but it's something I can be proud of. I never really understood why there was water in the background of the old one or why the heads of both figures looked so fake. Plus Lysandra has her scythe so that's a bonus. I would've given Leopold his guns but it may have looked a bit awkward considering where his hands are...*cough*

I PROMISE I will be taking the time I do have to re-read ToT so it can be updated. Don't hold your breath as it is a huge undertaking as I'm still trying to keep up with Avalora's bi-weekly updates, other novels, and character images for the Avalora crew. Plus maintenance on the website, keeping this blog fairly active and working 8.5 hours a day, not including travel, so yeah. It'll take a while. But Tale of the Twins will return.

And if we're good, maybe this time around Book 2 can be published because I'll gain enough profit from Book 1 to edit Book 2. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll see how the damn thing ends.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Writing Tip #11: World-Building

A novel is like a movie. You need a stage (setting) for your actors (characters) and a director (plot) to tell those actors where to go. If you're missing one element then your novel will fail. Like I said in the Setting blog post: you don't have a novel if you don't have a setting.

Setting can be as simple or as easy as you want. It can be earth based or a whole new world. When done correctly the setting can become it's own character, showing your reader the tone of your novel and giving them clues as to what's happening in your plot. No matter how complex your setting you're going to have to do a bit of world-building.

What is world-building? It's everything that occurs in the world you've made, or the world you're borrowing (earth). What do I mean by everything? Here's a world-building sample question list:
  • What kind of currency does your world have? What is the cost of living for an average person and how many may or may not be below the poverty line? Is there a big gap between poor and rich?
  • What kind of clothing do the people wear? Does this clothing change based on status? Who makes the clothing? How difficult is it to get the materials to make clothing?
  • How many countries are in this world? What are the boundaries between countries like? How is the world ruled (multiple Kings, one King, lord and ladies, etc)? How do people travel between countries? Do they need permits in order to travel from one country to another? How many languages are there? Are there different races and do the races have different customs than others?
  • What are the customs? Are there days of the week, months, years, different than ours? What holidays are there and how are they celebrated? What are the traditions?
  • How do they build and what are their main building materials? What are their streets and roads like? How are their cities and towns laid out? What kind of technology do they have?
  • What kind of food do people eat? At what time? How much? What kind of table manners are people in different castes expected to have? Does food differ between rich and poor and by how much? How easily accessible is food? Does each country have its own supply or do they trade for rarities and what are those treaties like?
  • What does society think about and how does it treat: sex, abortion, religion, specific customs, women, men, animals, and children? What are the general rules of society and how is a person punished if these rules are broken? What are the morals of society as a whole? What do they do for entertainment?
  • What is the main religion? Are their cults? How does believing or not believing in this religion affect a person?
  • What's the wild-life and fauna like? Are there hybrid animal-humans? Do some countries have specific fauna and others don't? What's the general layout of the lands? Forests? Rivers? Desert? Mountains?
  • Is there a caste system? If so, how does it work and can one move up or down in the system?
  • Is there magic? If so, what are the rules behind this magic? Do people need a totem, potions, rituals, or some other object of power? What are the limits to the magic? Is it only certain people who can perform it and if so, how are these people seen by society as a whole? Are certain mages liked more than others and are there forbidden magic types? Why are these magic types forbidden but others not?
Woah, woah, hold on. Don't start copy-pasting those questions into a new document (or hand-writing them) so you can use it as your starting point to EVERY novel. You don't need to know every little detail for every single world. Let me repeat that: YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW EVERY LITTLE DETAIL FOR EVERY SINGLE WORLD.

So, why the questions? They're examples and nothing more. You may need one set in great detail (like the magic set) and not another (like currency). Furthermore, your world-building serves the story, not the plot, these are two entirely different things. Your story is the finished work from first to last word. The plot is the series of events (conflict) that runs through the story. World-building is kind of like stepping stones.

Anyway, world-building serves the story. Your reader does not need to know every single rule in the world, especially if said rule will never come up. You're not writing an encyclopedia or new law book for your world. You're giving the reader enough knowledge so they know why the characters may be in trouble if these use certain types of magic or whatever. It's actually cool to leave out some little details so the world is mysterious and interesting.

A few things you should ALWAYS remember when world building:
  • Stereotypes should be avoided. Don't make white rulers and black slaves. Please, Higher Power, AVOID that.
  • Small details are sometimes better than a huge run on Bible. For instance, how a person greets a higher up can say a lot about the culture.
  • There are people who will not behave as culture dictates because of free will. (Raven in Bonehemmer Princess comes to mind...)
  • Just because a rule or punishment might be cool: if it's not important to the story then don't include it. On that note: Take a look at how the real world works and base your world off it.
  • Not everything has to be a huge info dump for the reader, show instead of telling.
  • The changes in one part of the world (new laws in a different country, draughts, famine, etc) effects other parts of the world.
World-building can be overwhelming but you have to think of your story and characters first. Mainly: what and who is your story about? Some examples:

The Princess: Is it about a princess who's kidnapped and has to find her way back home? Then you have to know the differences between poor and rich in your society, possibly about how clothing is made and who makes it, possibly other countries, and especially food and how it's obtained. Do you need to know about religion? Eh, not really. A simple "She prayed to the gods to let her get back home" is good enough. Do we need to know about politics? Hells yes. She's a princess, this is going to come up. So, who rules? How many rule? What's the hierarchy like in ruling? How does one secure land?

You'll also have to know why she's been kidnapped and what the people think of her. Is she important because she's a princess or are the people okay with her younger brother being the ruler even if he's not of age because they're a patriarchal society? Good example: The Starks in Song of Ice and Fire. Sansa and Arya are leveraged by many enemies because it's thought all the boys are dead and both girls will be the Stark in Winterfell. BUT, if one of the boys pops up then the girls don't matter so much.

The Mage: Someone comes into newfound magic! YAY! See that big set of questions up there about magic? Yeah, answer all those. Do you need to know how many Kings rule, who rules under them, etc? Eh, not really. A general mention but you're going to be focusing more on how society deals with any aspect of magic. So you won't need to know who the King was two centuries ago. Hell, depending on the story you might not even need to know who the current King is. And depending on who's coming into their magic you might not even need to know about how the 'rich' people live. Good example: Harry Potter. Everything in the story revolves around magic and how it's used and seen...so I'm told. I haven't actually gotten around to reading it yet.

The BARE BASICS of world-building are the following:
  • Is magic important to your story? If yes, go into some rules and limitations about magic.
  • Is money important in your story? If yes, go into currency arrangements, how people obtain money, etc.
  • Is the Leader (King, Queen, etc) important in your story? If yes, go into the differences between rich and poor and expectations of royalty. Who ruled before who and how the rule is separated between countries as well as what treaties their may or may not be.
  • Is someone in your story part of a religious faction? If yes, then you're going to need to go into religion.
No matter what you're going to need to know how society deals with certain issues pertaining to your character. If your character is "not normal" why are they against the societies norm and how does society view them? This can be something like your character being female in a male dominated world where women are seen as nothing but objects and baby makers.

Now do you see why you don't need the whole big list of questions in the beginning? World-building is completely dependant on your setting, your plot, and your characters. Again, it's only as complicated as you need it to be and you don't need to tell the reader everything.

A word of advice: figure out the main conflict of your story and how your characters are going to solve that conflict. World build from there. Remember, the world-building comes after you know what your stage (setting) is going to look like, who your actors (characters) are, and what direction (plot) the story is going in. And no, your reader doesn't need to know every little detail.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.