Saturday, January 28, 2017

Writing Tip #19: Killing Your Darlings and How to Deal with it

Any writer new or old knows the famous Stephen King quote: "Kill your darlings." What's a 'darling?' Any character, scene, word, chapter, or even full-length novel you wrote. No, not your actual darlings or loved ones, just the fictional ones.

What does he mean by "Kill your darlings?" Simple. KILL THEM ALL. Sorry. I had a Spartacus moment. Anyway, yes, King means to kill whatever you might feel is super important in your novel and yes, sometimes even your main character. Why? Lots of reasons.

When you kill a character you instantly invoke some kind of emotion in the reader and making your reader emotional is your goal. If they feel nothing then you're not doing your job. Then there's the whole dealing of the death of a character your other characters have to deal with and that will give you conflict. Plus hey, there's a cool death scene to write.

When you kill your scenes, certain words, or full chapters then you're tightening up your writing. You have to learn to read your writing from a reader's perspective. You have to learn to read your writing as if you've never read it before. You have to disengage yourself from every word, scene, and chapter so you can make your novel the best it can be. What does it do for you? Makes you a better writer. Plus it puts less strain on your editor.

So, how do you deal with killing your darlings?

First off you have to take the initial step in actually, you know, killing a darling. Start small: take out a few unnecessary words then take out a whole scene, maybe even *le gasp* a chapter. Honestly dissect your writing, look it over word by bloody word to see what doesn't move the story along. Once you find that non-consequential bit: take it out.

What do you do if that unneeded bit is a character? Well, you slaughter them mercilessly while cackling from atop your high tower. Sorry. The imagery helps me.

But seriously, you kill them. Throw them off a building, have them stabbed 27 times, let them get hit by a car, have them beheaded, burned to death, have a heart-attack, whatever makes sense for your world and your story. BUT, make sure the death will be impactful.

Don't go randomly killing off all your characters seconds after you introduce them (I'm looking at you Basilisk). You have to make the reader feel something for that character before you kill them off especially if they're a main character. Minor characters? Eh, not so much though you can and should feel free to try.

How do you know if a character is going to die? You take a good, long look at your story and that particular character. How will the story change with the character's death? What impact will this death have on the other characters? Do you need this character in another part of the story? Can your story survive without them? The deaths in The Walking Dead are all meaningful.

*SPOILERS* Pete's death by Rick's hand shows Rick's descent into madness, how he's become this tragic "survive at any cost" character which is emphasized by Morgan's reaction. Noah and Aiden's deaths reveal how much the Alexandria group really needs to learn. Tyreese's death is the loss of the "optimistic" character. Beth's death is the loss of innocence. *End Spoilers*

Like I said before: every character death has to mean something or move along the plot. If it doesn't then you didn't need to kill that character off. Don't kill off a character to end a series because you think you'll keep writing if you don't kill said character off. You'll have a lot of disappointed readers if you do that. Readers like to imagine what could have been after the series.

So, how do you deal with a character's death?

It depends on the character. You can either slaughter them horribly or have them go peacefully but again if you're not feeling something then your reader won't. Every main character I've killed I've felt something for. Yes it hurts. Yes I was balling like a baby as I wrote. But guess what? My readers will do the same.

So, buck up, take a few breaths, and kill the darling. Feel free to cry. Don't worry if you have to stop to get some semblance of sanity back. Do it. Kill your darling because it'll make you a better writer.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Revival

Why did I pick it up?

New Stephen King baby, why didn't I pick it up would be a better question. I own most of his books and at some point have read a good deal of them. I couldn't do the history-type novel (11/22/63) he put out a couple of years ago. For some reason I've never been able to get through The Stand, The Shining and I abandoned Danse Macabre recently.
I own Doctor Sleep but since it's a sequel to The Shining, I'm kind of wanting to slog through that before moving onto the sequel. I'll get there eventually.

My favorite King novels? Carrie, Thinner, Gerald's Game, The Long Walk, Cell, The Girl who Loved Tom Gordan, Under the Dome, Pet Semetary, IT, Lisey's Story, Christine, Bag of Bones, and The Dark Tower Series. You can actually see a glaringly obvious tribute to Dark Tower Series in Tale of the Twins. There are a BUNCH I'm missing because I suck at titles, but yes, I generally adore King. I've yet to pick up Mr. Mercedes since it is a trilogy and I've a thing where I must have the thing ended before I read the whole thing...which is why Dark Tower kinda bugs me.

He's influenced a lot of my gorier horror and sarcastic comedy moments. I love how he can write a short story and bang out a novel over 400 pages. I love he's got so many books but not all of them are perfect and some of them some people (like me) can't stand. Everyone has their favorites with him and everyone has the ones they don't like and that's freaking awesome.
And ending the King fangirl-ness, moving onto the book itself. ONWARDS!

The Review of Revival by Stephen King:

So, first off: there's no body in the beginning. Nope, just a six year old boy, pardon, a 60-something man recounting his life from six to the age he is now. But this is King. We know the horror is coming. He foreshadows it coming when he first talks about Jacobs. And are we disappointed with the horror that comes to Jacobs? I wasn't. Totally knew it was coming from the set-up of seizure farmer driving the same road as Jacobs' wife but the whole "where's his FACE?" and one-armed wife? That was cool.

The minister (Jacobs) losing his faith? Predicable. Getting up at the pulpit and telling people why he lost his faith? That was pretty kick ass. Jamie losing his faith shortly after because he likes the minister? Predicable. Jamie being so good at rhythm guitar, playing in multiple bands, and becoming a druggie? Story of lives. Running into Jacobs at a fair and getting electro-shock treatment to be cured by Jacobs with Jacobs' home-made electro pulse machine? Wait, what? YES.

We see hints of said machine when Jamie's brother loses his voice and Jacobs' is the one to bring it back before Jacobs' horror happens. Anyway, Jamie and Jacobs part again then is found by Jamie's new boss (one Jacobs sets him up with) a few years later.
Then shit starts to hit the fan. We find out Jacobs has been curing people with not just his old carnie show but with his new healing show. Is he doing this for recognition? Because he's nice? Nope. They're all guinea pigs because he has a bigger goal in mind for his special electricity but Jamie's not sure what said goal is.

Of course Jamie and his boss Hugh go to see the show. Of course Hugh has revealed he was healed by Jacobs and that's why he took on Jamie in the first place. Course Hugh freaks out and has a color-episode. Then Jamie just can't let Jacobs go. Why? Because some of the people Jacobs has healed have had harmful episodes. Jamie's had one in which he randomly wakes up and starts stabbing himself. A woman cured from blindness put salt in her eyes. A kind cured from a disease ends up in a mental institution then hangs himself. One guy eats dirt.

So Jamie confronts Jacobs who wants to hire him but Jamie says no and Jacobs (in his 70s now) disappears only to reappear to say to Jamie: you can either help me or I'll let the only woman you ever loved die of her lung cancer. So Jamie helps. And Jamie cuts a deal he'll go back to Jacobs when the obsessed electricity man wants.

And Jamie does go back and we find out why Jacobs is doing what he's doing: he wants to find out what happen to his wife and son. And he does. By bringing back a dead woman during a thunderstorm. By doing so he unlocks something in all his former healed patients and they all kill a loved one and themselves...except Jamie because for some reason unexplained, he was the catalyst Jacobs needed in all this.

And what awaits us after death? Freaky ant overlords who make us slave under them for the hell of it. No peace. No redemption. Just ants whipping us if we fall down and total torture for our unlives. THERE is the horror. The part about Jamie's older brother (the first healed, remember) and Jamie still getting the visions of said ant folks? The icing on the cake.

THIS IS KING. The build-up. The odd-ness. The loving the characters and knowing them like they're your family. The CRUSHING of said characters so thoroughly. This is King. All that shit starts with E.

Would I read Revival again?

I'm going to have to cuz I burned through it on May 19th. Yes. One. Day. I nearly died but I couldn't put it down.

The Negatives:

I wish it was longer. I wish there was a bit more explanation about Clair but I get why Jamie didn't go into it. When something that traumatic happens to a family member then you don't want to talk about it.

Final Review: 5/5. This is a revival for Stephen King. This breathed new life into wanting to pick up the few books I'm missing and re-reading him from the beginning. Yes, I know I'm nuts. So sue me.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Writing Tip #18: Death and Where to Stick 'em

This tip is going to be way different than the other tips I've written about so freaking long ago. Sorry about that. Anyway, we're not talking about dealing with the death of your character. That's next time. Today, we're dealing with what happens to a typical person when they're, you know, KILLED. And yes in the physical sense.

For those who don't know: I wrote a 13 book thriller/murder mystery series. I went into the Forensics side of things (vaguely) and found out a lot of interesting things about what the human body does when placed in the vicinity of various deadly objects.

In short: can your character jump into ice water and swim for a mile? Nope. Unless they're immune to the cold they will experience hyperthermia almost immediately. If the water's cold enough they may even have a heart attack upon hitting said water. There are certain factors in determining hyperthermia. I found a cool article: HERE. I used said article's information in Bloody X-Mas.

Can a character survive the blast of a 12 gauge shot gun at 10 feet? Nope. Unless the person shooting at them grazes them and even then it could cause your character's death. A 12 gauge shot gun can go through at least one cement wall and can blow a hole through a tree. The human body is all soft tissue and muscle. Our bones aren't even as hard as cement. If you get grazed with a 12 gauge, you are going down. This information appears in Hunter.

Can your officer character hit a target at 15 feet? Maybe but with a standard issue Glock: they're going to stun and not kill. The range on a police Glock is 10 feet and that's if your character is a good shot.

Can you shoot one-handed or while in a moving vehicle? Nope. Recoil is a bitch and you will have a sore wrist or be thrown back depending on the size of your gun. Can you fire a bigger gun from hip height? Kind of. The butt of the gun should be supported by your pelvis or your shoulder to prevent recoil because the bigger and more powerful the gun then the further back you're going to be thrown.

For those who think your character can survive a cut to the upper arm, stick a patch on it, and move around for days, here are some bleed times for various arteries. Bleed time refers to about how long it will take a person to die if they are struck in said place. It depends on the person's age, heart rate, etc. I found all these here when looking for the proper name of the brachial artery.

Carotid Artery (neck): 2 to 20 minutes.
Jugular Vein (neck): 2 to 20 minutes.
Subclavian artery: 2-20 minutes. This is an artery in the shoulder that runs down the front of a person's body and by the first rib. Unless someone does field surgery on you right away: you will not make it.
Subclavian vein: 15-60 minutes.
The Brachial Artery: 5-60 minutes. This is the one located in your upper arm and protected by the bicep. Depending where you cut along this artery changes the bleed time. Up closer to the arm pit and you're looking at the 5 minute range. Down further by the elbow and you might survive a bit longer.
Femoral Artery: 5-60 minutes. This is the big one located in your upper leg. You hit this puppy right and you're going down in seconds.
Axillary artery: 5-60 minutes. You can hit this via the armpit and front of the shoulder joint. It's hard to hit but an upwards slash or stab hit just right and the wound becomes extremely difficult to treat even with direct pressure. Yes: insta-death.
Inguinal artery: 5-60 minutes. It feeds the femoral artery in the leg and can be accessed by striking upwards between the legs and into the groin. Another extremely difficult wound to treat even with applying direct pressure. Think Blackhawn Down.
Aorta or any part of the heart: 1-2 minutes. These are instant death bleeders.

So, what's in a CSI Kit? It depends on your kit. Here's a good website to check out:

How do you do an autopsy? Wiki-how gives you a nice step-by-step guide WITH pictures located here:

How long will it take you to dig a grave? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. If you're doing this at night with a shovel, are average in athletics, and the ground isn't frozen from the winter, and the grave is shallow: about 3-5 hours, depending how shallow. You WILL NOT be able to dig a grave in an hour, with a shovel, in the middle of the woods, at night. It is not possible. I found a cool thread:

I have reams of information about decay times dependant on environmental factors as well as information about the human body in general. I don't have a link for any of it, sorry. I would suggest for any author wanting to delve into crime fiction or murder mystery: take a basic Forensic Anthropology and a Criminal Psychology course.

You can find plenty online (that's what I did) and you'll thank yourself later when your novel comes off as more believable. No, don't get a degree. You just need a single course available through a continued learning program to get you going. Of course, you can specialize in both fields if you have the time/money/motivation.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

No I'm not dead

I've been concentrated on Avalora.

And I really suck at keeping up with "deadlines" (even self imposed ones) in keeping this blog going. I'm also kind of professionally unmotivated (re: lazy) when it comes to writing anything that isn't novel-related. Like a blog. Or tweets. Or whatever else.

But I figure I should let the few people paying attention to this blog know that I am alive and well. I've killed another million words, gotten a huge chunk taken out of Avalora, wrote a novel, and done a bunch of adult-ing.

My goals are the same as they've been years prior: making some money off the worlds I've created, losing some excess weight, etc, etc, etc. This year I've got some work-friends who want to get together and do a craft show. I've also taken up knitting (with a loom) so even if they don't follow through I might find myself a table or something.

I'm still going to be the lovely way irregular updater of this blog. I'm still going to be writing Avalora mainly on the weekends and the few hours a day during work. I'll post the reviews of books I did last year (ahaha) and the few writing tips I haven't got up yet.

I might even post updates on writing stuff and open the dusty file of Tale of the Twins to actually re-publish the poor creature of mine. No promises *winks*

What I can promise is I won't stop writing so you can be assured even if I don't update the blog I'll be around, pounding on a keyboard making characters suffer and cackling madly while doing so.

You know the drill about comments and what not.

Till next time.