Thursday, May 30, 2013

Creator Versus Character

Where does the author end and the character begin? I think this is confusing for a lot of people.

One of my favorite television shows is Dexter. Dexter is a television show about a serial killer. Dexter has writers. Do I think the people who write scripts for it all secretly wish to be serial killers like him? No. Even though Dexter is a character that we are supposed to like, I don't think the writers believe that being a serial killer is okay. The show glorifies it, but the writers, personally, probably do not.

At the same time though, I know I wrote Medusa's Desire not only because I love Greek mythology, but also because I find monsters and dark creatures interesting. I also drew on some of my own insecurities when writing about her thoughts and feelings. So there's some of me and my experiences in that book.

Pandora's Mistake, on the other hand, has almost nothing in common with my real life. I don't even know people who behave like the characters do.

It's no wonder that readers sometimes get confused reading books. They can't tell which part of books the author drew from personal experiences and which parts are purely fiction. And since social media is a more recent invention, the stories of authors used to be the only way we could get to know them.

I remember once reading a review for a book that I was thinking of purchasing. One of the reviewers complained because the main character called things she didn't like "retarded". The reviewer had a child with Down syndrome and felt that the author was prejudiced against people with Down syndrome and portraying them in a bad light by having a character use a derogatory slang word. The author replied personally to the review, saying that she would never use that word-it was only her character who felt that way. And the reviewer argued that it still encouraged people to use the word in a derogatory fashion.

I can see the truth in both their points. But at the same time it bothers me. I'm not racist for instance, but I have met racist people. Doesn't it make sense for their to be characters in books that are racist and have other faults since people like that exist in real life? Are things like that only allowed if the prejudiced person is portrayed as the villain? Or is it better not to write about it at all to help racism disappear from our society?

Why is it okay to write about a serial killer as a hero, but not a prejudiced person? Or are both bad things?

Do these books really encourage society as a whole to behave badly? And how much of this is the authors responsibility?

I have to admit that there have been times when I have been offended by certain character's personality traits and even made assumptions about an author's belief because of it. But is that fair or is it better to just analyze the characters and their actions without involving the author and their opinions at all?

It's a very complex topic in my opinion and one to consider when creating characters and giving them certain faults. I, as an author, love to explore the taboo at times, but there are still things that even I am terrified to write about.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Like A Novice

The other day, I broke a personal record. I had only thirty minutes to write that day and I was groaning because I was probably going to get nothing done. I typed as fast as I could and let the words flow from my mind. I wound up writing two thousand words in those thirty minutes. It made me proud. It was enough to be a full days work, but it didn't take a full day.

I can write speculative fiction novels more quickly now than when I started. The first novel I ever wrote was a fantasy romance and it took me forever sometimes even to write a paragraph. And when I did write, everything I wrote sucked. What I mean by "sucked" is that it was so bad that even the best editor out there couldn't have salvaged any of it. It's why I eventually threw that whole manuscript away. I don't delete stuff I write, but I did delete that story.

Lately, I've wanted to branch out from what I usually write. It would be interesting to maybe create another pen name and write contemporary romance novels or contemporary drama. After all, it's a genre that I loved reading growing up. I'm even more familiar with it than I am with fantasy.

But when I sit down and try to write it, I stare at the screen for an hour without writing even one word. I'm stumped and lost.

I was talking to my friend yesterday about this. She said if she was a writer like me, she'd probably write contemporary novels because it's easy. You don't have to create a new world or write about things that don't exist. You draw on life experience. But for some reason it's not easy for me. If I'm not creating new worlds it doesn't make sense to me.

Going out of your writing comfort zone is difficult. If you ever want to humble yourself as a writer, then this is an easy way to make yourself feel like a novice

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Covers!

You may or may not have noticed, but the covers for both my books have received a makeover thanks to Calista Taylor.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Self-doubt in Self-publishing

I feel like this subject isn't talked about much.

Everyone talks about the horrible self-published novels out there. People get angry because there's no gatekeeper weeding out the poorly written novels. People want to be the judge and never the judged.

Some people refuse to read self-published novels. Others get angry because they're self-published and feel that these bad novels are giving everyone else a bad name.

What no one talks about is the self-doubt. Even the most hated novels out there had people who were experienced in the writing industry giving their approval. The whole world may hate the book, but at least one publishing company loved it. When you self-publish, the only person giving their approval is you.

You start getting bad reviews. For me, when I receive bad reviews, I usually contemplate the person's words for awhile. I hope that I can take criticism and use it to improve myself in the future.

But then self-doubt creeps into your mind. What if their words are right? What if I'm a terrible writer? What if I am one of the people making self-publishing look bad?

For both of my novels, I had several critique partners and an editor look them over before I self-published them. But is that really enough to make them good? A bunch of other self-published authors did the same thing, but that doesn't mean that they sell well.

And what is good? After all, when you start receiving reviews, you get both the glowing reviews (This was the best book ever!) and the flaming ones (This writer couldn't write her way out of a paper bag!) Who is right? And how does one know?

Going it alone is difficult. You don't have people outside of your family (who is obviously biased) cheering you on and telling you that they believe in you. You have to find that bravery inside of yourself-not only do you make decisions for the marketing of your books alone, but you deal with the consequences of those actions alone.

And I feel admitting to these self-doubts is almost taboo. After all, if you don't believe in yourself and you are the publisher of your book, then why should anyone else?

Self-doubt is normal and without it, none of us could improve. Writers are human and they go through all sets of emotions-be they anger, self-doubt, fear, or others. It's time to admit to the truth.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why I Love My Mother

I'm a little late for Mother's Day, but I thought this was important. Last year I didn't make a mother's day post, but I thought it would be appropriate to make one today.

I don't talk about my mother a lot, but she's one of the most important people in the world to me. When I write, there are parts of her that exist in some of the characters I write about.

My Mother was a feminist when she was in college, so when she got married and became a housewife, she always felt like a failure because she wasn't a career woman. Especially when I was a toddler and she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew-up and I told her,"A Mommy! Just like you!" She wanted me to say that I wanted to be the next President or that I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer (like my father.)

The thing my Mother failed to realize was that she still taught me how to be a strong woman. Because strong women come in all different types. My Mother has gone through things in life that might have emotionally crippled other people, but she's always remained strong and always made me feel loved, even when she wasn't feeling loved by other people.

She gave me a place to go when the world was falling apart around me (a home) where I could feel safer and better about life. My mother did it without good examples of how to be a mother in her life. She did the right thing and became the best Mother she could be even faced with a lot of adversity.

Happy (Late) Mother's Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Problem With Conflict

Conflict is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe of writing a novel regardless of what genre you are writing in. It's what keeps people on the edge of their seat, how you encourage them to keep turning the pages, how you get readers and keep readers long term.

Here are some of the things you should protect your story from if you want it to have good conflict:

1. There's no conflict

When you fall in love with your characters, it can be difficult at times to write about them in a way that portrays them in a bad light or hurts them in some way. We become so attached to them that they're almost like friends and who wants horrible things to happen to their friends?

But the truly good stories are the ones in which the characters struggle for something. It's through trials and pain that the good aspects of every human being, their strengths, shine through. We get to know a character through how they suffer and we grow to admire them or hate them for it.

There is no story without a struggle.

2. The conflict doesn't build

When you write the first pages of a story, there should already be a conflict. That conflict will be resolved a little, but will lead to even more of a conflict afterwards. This builds and builds until you reach the climax of the novel and then resolve the whole thing in the end.

Sometimes, this can be difficult. You might only have one conflict for the story and resolve it too quickly and don't know where to go from there. In this case, you need to brainstorm further and come up with reasons why this conflict is more complicated than it seems. Like, maybe a teenage girl (the main character in a novel) doesn't get along with her mother. She could talk to her and resolve it easily, so how to complicate things? Give the mother a secret, make it so there's something the mother refuses to talk to her daughter about that further complicates their relationship when the daughter approaches her. Conflict in your story shouldn't be simple, it should get bigger and bigger as the characters try to resolve it. They make progress, but the progress gives them a bigger problem than they had before. Things can only get harder until they get good.

Another problem you might have in this area is dragging the conflict on and on, torturing the reader with one conflict, never resolving it and never expanding on it. The characters remain stagnant, never changing, never growing, never making progress, which will frustrate the reader. That's why you need to have a conflict, have them resolve it a bit and then increase the conflict. For instance, in a romance novel, if the characters aren't getting closer and closer to having a relationship in the novel, while at the same time, the stakes are being raised that wants to keep them apart, people will get frustrated because no progress is being made in their relationship. They aren't trying to get together or trying to improve. There's nothing to root for or be excited by. It's just torture and no relief as they make no progress. It's why I hate the "Will They/Won't They" Trope in 90's sitcoms.

Another issue you might have in this area, is giving them a bunch of different problems that are small. There is no climax to the story and the events don't fully go together. They aren't cohesive. They don't build on each other. These have the potential to destroy a story by confusing the reader and making everything seem pointless. There needs to be an overarching theme of why everything is happening to the characters. It's one big story, not a series of little stories.

3. The conflict doesn't have a satisfying resolution

Writing the endings to novels is one of the most difficult things to do. You can sometimes build up your conflict to such a large degree that it's difficult to come up with a resolution.

The truth is that most people prefer stories that end in happily ever after. Your story doesn't necessarily have to end with a happily ever after, but it should end with some resolution that leaves your readers satisfied. Something has to have been solved or fixed. Maybe your characters are all dead or devastated, but the main premise of the story, the main conflict has been resolved or healed.

The worst thing is to read a whole exciting story with a bunch of exciting events only to find no closure in the end. No definitive conclusion to the events that occurred. Nothing solved or explained when there needed to be a solution and explanation. It makes the reader feel like they read a whole novel for nothing.

If you'd like to read more articles on writing like this, please go to my site: The New Writer's Guide To Writing, Publishing, And More.