Let’s Take a Mary Sue Test!

This week, instead of calculating payments on my student loan debt, I’m going to submit one of my novel characters to a Mary Sue test, and you all get to watch. Sound fun? No? Then go read something else.

For the purposes of this test, I will be using a free litmus available here: http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

I do not own nor did I make up any of these questions. Someone else did that, the someone who created this website, and I’m grateful for them. If you’re unfamiliar with what a Mary Sue is, be sure to visit that website and find out. They’re a potentially hazardous character type in original fiction.

Before we begin, I want to tell you all why I’m doing this. I primarily use this Mary Sue test when working on flushing out characters that I think are somewhat one-dimensional or did not get enough depth the first time I tried to write them. Creating living, breathing characters in a story is hard because we like to rely on previously established archetypes as guidelines. Everyone loves the badass cop, the innocent young maiden, the secretly badass maiden. These are all typical tropes, and while a trope is great for quick payout, the character who is that trope usually lacks any meaning or depth beyond what defines that trope. They’re flat, in other words.

I will be running Taylor Morgan from Dark Horizons through the Mary Sue test this time. Taylor has long been a favorite character of mine, and she originated all the way back in 2010 in a short story I wrote for a college class. She’s evolved since then, but her debut onto the public scene was a little lackluster, I feel. I have such a rich canon involving Taylor in my head, but I don’t think I spent enough time putting that into the story for readers to see, thus giving the audience a character who did not shine as much as the one in my head. Putting Taylor through a Mary Sue test highlights those important things about her I should highlight in the sequel, or perhaps give me a slap across the face and tell me she’s a little too boring. Either way, there’s only one way to find out, so let’s begin. If you really want to see every answer available, you can follow along with the actual test in another browser window. For sanity’s sake, I will be skipping over questions that are answered with a “no” for my character.

Part One – All Characters

1. Is/does your character’s name:

The question lists a lot of things, like is the name odd, do you want to name your children with it, does it have unique spelling? That kind of stuff. Taylor Morgan is about as plain as they would get, though, and I did not take it from my name at all, and no, I will not be naming my children after her.

2. Did you deliberately base your character’s looks on your own?

God no. Taylor is my opposite as far as looks go. Well, maybe we’re close in height, but not much else. I actually tried something different with Taylor in that I made her half Japanese, something I have no personal experience being, considering I am a pasty white Alaskan. While I mention this characteristic once in Dark Horizons, I do not really call attention to it because I have no freaking idea what it means to be part of that culture. Thusly, Taylor kind of didn’t either. And that works. A lot of people from cultural backgrounds only know the default they grew up in. Still, it sort of feels like a cheap grab for brownie points by making her “different” but not at the same time. Thoughts?

3. Does your character look like how you wish you look?

No. I love my tousled mane of curly hair. It’s very in right now thanks to HBO’s portrayal of Robb Stark.

4. Is your character depicted as effortlessly beautiful, cute, or handsome?

…Yes. Maia’s all over that shit. But it is a romance novel. It comes with the territory.

4d. Does anyone see your character’s attractiveness as a threat?

Does it count if Maia sees it as a threat to her freedom in the first book?

5. Does anyone want to adopt your character?

No. Well……… no.

7. Does your character have a great body/physique, which you describe, show, and/or illustrate in detail?

Yes, but it’s a romance novel! And Taylor’s in the army. You don’t get more fit than that.

9. Do you use poetic and/or creative terms to describe your character, but virtually no-one else (aside from your character’s love interest, perhaps)?

9a. Do you frequently describe your character’s beautiful/handsome/cute attributes or point out how sexy your character is?

Yes… I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

13. Does your character have a particularly attractive scent that doesn’t come from xir perfume, cologne, or shampoo?

Yes, though humans all smell different to Maia.

14. Does your character have a scar or other small “flaw” that is noticed by someone, but does not actually detract from your character’s appearance from your point of view?

 

Yes, and Maia finds her scars sexy. It’s an erotic novel, though. I mean… Am I expecting more of the character than I should?

16. Does your character have a particularly piercing (EG, “can stare straight into your soul”), haunting, captivating, or dazzling gaze?

According to Maia, yes.

59. How many languages does your character fluently speak?

Oh god, I have no idea!

78. If/when your character has sex, is it absolutely perfect and beyond amazing?

Yes. Though who wants to read about bad sex?

83. Has your character otherwise lost:

A close friend, check. A whole squad, actually. Taylor angsts about it for a while.

87. Does your character angst about something that she did in the past?

Yup. Kinda. Does getting your squad obliterated at the beginning of the book count?

87c. Does your character eventually learn that it wasn’t her fault? 

Yeah, or at least stops blaming herself for it.

Part Two – Original Fiction

5. Are most (if not all) characters who don’t like your character merely mean, shallow, spiteful, and/or jealous of her?

Yes, but… that changes in the sequel.

7. Does anyone who doesn’t like or respect your character by the end of the story end up beaten up, humiliated, miserable, and/or dead?

Oh for the love of… yes.

Part Five – De-Suifiers

2. Has your character ever been honestly selfish, petty, lazy, shallow, or pointlessly cruel?

And she regrets it.

15. Does your character ever seriously question the morality of her actions and/or is left with a lingering doubt that she may not have done the right thing?

Oh Taylor. Yes. She has a lot of doubt about her life choices.

18. Has your character ever misjudged someone else and discovered she was completely wrong about that person?

Yes. *coughspoilerscough*

19. Does your character ever admit to being wrong, even if she doesn’t really mean it?

Though Taylor does mean it, yes.

24. Do you view your characters more like tools than friends/children?

While I occasionally joke that my characters are my babies, they are first and foremost a means to an end. They are the story, they reason someone will love or hate it, and the only thing any book has going for it, ever. Characters are your story, never forget that.

25. Did you spend days, if not months or longer carefully and thoughtfully researching the traumas/hardships/handicaps/disorders your character has so you could write them as realistically and sensitively as possible?

Yes, I honestly do. I might not achieve this, but I do try.

End of Test

So my overall score, according to the website, was 7. This is considered a “safe range” by the site’s little blurb, but I’m not so sure. What this quiz highlights for me is that Taylor gets talked about and viewed in terms of her physical appearance a lot, and while she does suffer from various traumas and has a complex past, it’s not necessarily pulled to the surface, yet.

Dark Horizons was an erotic novel, however. It’s supposed to focus on the physical. That is to be expected of a story that features the characters banging more than anything else.

So why did I subject Taylor to this test?

Because I like her as a character. She’s grown on me a little bit, so much that I hesitated before answering that my characters are less like children and more like tools. As Rae and I start writing the sequel to Dark Horizons, I keep wondering what I can do to flush out Taylor and give her the same liveliness that she has in my head. I know characters are tools to convey a good story, but the most beautiful characters often become “people” that you can identify with, and Taylor isn’t quite there, yet, though I think she can get there.

What I hope this exercise has shown you all is that writers, even published authors, need to stop and reflect on their characters. We try to write these unique people into the world, and we struggle to keep them from being too cliché or too boring. Often, we don’t see what is salient in our characters until we step back. I didn’t think that Taylor’s physical attributes would be the most profound characteristic she possessed until I plugged her into this test. If you’re a writer looking to work on improving a character, do yourself a favor and use this test. It’s a fantastic source for writers everywhere, especially those of us working in genre fictions like fantasy or science fiction.

If any of you are interested in seeing this Taylor character (and reading about raunchy lesbian sex in a sci-fi setting) you can read all about her in Dark Horizons, or not. It doesn’t matter to me.

Leave a comment! We’ll chat it up! What did you think of the test?

Let’s Talk About “Faking It”

Yes, I mean the new TV show that people are obsessing over a little bit. I held out for four weeks before succumbing to the tantalizing gifs scrawling across my tumblr dash and caught up on the show. And you know what?

It’s not that bad.

What I think charms me the most about the show is how it so perfectly captures the essence of my high school experience in Flagstaff, Arizona, a blue town in a red state very similar to the show’s setting, Austin, Texas. Much like the characters in the show, it was hip to be weird and “different” and there was a new protest of some sort every week. I believe we elected a man Homecoming Queen my sophomore year because we felt like it. And we always strived to buy local whenever possible. My neighbors used to be buddhist monks and owned an antique shop specializing in incense and eastern musical instruments. 

But you get the picture. I was a gay kid growing up in the one place in Arizona it was cool to be like that. I immediately found the show relatable for that reason. After I caught up with it, however, I found myself liking it for more than the nostalgic setting. 

I’ll admit that when I first saw a gif set of two girls kissing from the show, I was a little skeptical. I looked up the plot summary online and got just a little more skeptical. We’ve seen a lot of shows/concepts that toy with the “lesbian-for-the-season” idea. Inevitably, the main character finds her true love, and it’s a guy. There’s nothing wrong with those characters. They’re written as destined for that one dude from the beginning. What I like about this show is that the main character, Amy (though one could argue Karma is the main character as well), is trapped in the dilemma that she’s gay. And while she does attempt to solve her problem by spontaneously kissing a lot of people, the show does not stoop to the pedantic plot device of giving her a boy to try and cling to for a season. Her default is “ladies” and that’s a refreshing change.

It also gives her character arc longevity, because we know from the first episode that she is in a doomed romance. Her love interest will not return those feelings, ever, but it will be a fun ride to watch her get over that initial heartbreak, because that’s something a lot of us dealt with growing up. The character Amy is interesting because we know she will fail to win Karma’s love in the end. What happens after is a mystery.

What I think I’m getting at here is that I’m relieved to finally see a show that does not hinge on the “OMG I’M A LESBIAN AND NEED TO COME OUT TO MY PARENTS, WAAAH” schtik. They got over that in the first couple of episodes. This show happens to be about a teenager handling her feelings for someone, and it’s very refreshing so far. Don’t get me wrong, I am paranoid over television in the first place, and am convinced this show won’t last in it’s glory for more than a season or two, but I’m going to enjoy it for while I can.

In the meantime, I hope that creators will still push for shows that accept being part of the LGTBQIA community (can we switch to spectrum? It’ll be easier) as a norm and then build their characters from there.

And now for some unrelated writing matters – the book I coauthored with Rae, Dark Horizons, will be available at the Golden Crown Literary conference in Portland for purchase if you’re going there. You can also meet our editor, a lovely person. I won’t be able to make it this year, sadly, but some day! My first solo novel, Chronicles of Osota: Warrior is set to release the first week of July. I will be making some frantic edits to it between now and then, but it will be well worth it, I assure you. Me and the editors have been making some tweaks to it over the past couple of months and it’s really coming together.

Anyways, that’s all from me now. Thoughts on the new show Faking It? Spectrum characters in television in general? I’d be happy to discuss in the comments

Another book? And there’s sex in it?

That’s right. With my coauthor, Rae D Magdon, I just released another book for purchase. This time around, we’ve gone through the publishing company Desert Palm Press, and let me quickly thank my editor and fellow writers for their support throughout the process. I should probably also thank Rae for putting up with me through all the drama of being a full-time student, employee, and writer. That’s kind of tough!

For those of you who have not been following, Rae and I worked together on a sci-fi novel (read: erotic novella set in a sci-fi universe) titled Dark Horizons. It’s now available in print and electronically, and I don’t know how to feel about finally being at this level. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I held the first copy of that paperback to my chest and sobbed when it arrived. Having something you wrote in print like that is seriously cool.

But I’m also conflicted. As the reviews for Dark Horizons pour in, I keep on noticing a trend. Like All The Pretty Things (which I only wrote like 1/4 of), Dark Horizons receives some flak for being too short with not fully realized characters. People also are commenting on the abundance of sex scenes and lack of other scenes. I guess this is because Rae and I wrote it as an erotic novel. It’s express purpose is to entertain people in the bedroom department. Normally, erotic novels are easy to recognize for what they are and people don’t expect much more from them. So, why do people so nicely ask for me and Rae to write something with a more involved plot?

I suppose it’s my fault. You see, I have a hard time writing strict erotica. I let the feels get in the way like no other. I also have a thing about character dynamics and helplessly long plot structures that I’m sure many of my readers adore just as much as me. Because of this, I took a lot of opportunities to cut out sex scenes and insert character development scenes, and as I imagine the sequel (YES, THREE-STAR READERS, THERE WILL BE A LONGER AND MORE INVOLVED SEQUEL :D), I can only think of plot points and dramatic dialogues, but I have a hard time imagining where the sex will go (NO ONE TELL RAE). Of course, the sex scenes will end up in there and hopefully it will be longer and more involved and hopefully Rae and I will find that balance our readers are seeking.

That paragraph basically meant to say that I tried to turn Dark Horizons into a sci-fi romance when it was originally just meant to be a smut novel. The final product is an item stuck in limbo that may readers still love, and for that, I am grateful. All you people out there who haven’t read it, go give the story a try, but know going into it that the premise of the story is “How do we get these two characters to have lots of sex?” And when you’re done, leave a reveiw because I do cherish all of your constructive criticism.

I do have one favor to ask. If you review, please stop explicitly describing the sex scenes in your comments. For some moronic reason, I told my mother my pen name and then forbade her from reading the smut novels. Instead, she reads the reviews you lovely people write about my stories, and some of you plainly tell her what Rae and I write those characters doing, and I don’t need that in my life am somewhat embarrassed to know my mother knows what those stories contain.

But readers will do what readers do. Any review left is appreciated, and you can be as explicit or not as you want. Thank you for taking the time to read this rant. I sincerely hope those of you who read Dark Horizons enjoy it.

UPDATE: My fantasy epic / romance novel is just about done. I’ll be sending it off to the editor April 1. You can look for Chronicles of Osota: Warrior this summer. For those of you who prefer a longer, more traditional-style romance novel with lesbians, this story will offer more of that. It’s also about 40,000 words longer than Dark Horizons, so if you like sprawling epics, it’s good for that, too.

Thank you all for reading. I’ll try to update this blog more regularly with helpful writerly advice now that some of my more ambitious projects are out of the way.

Exciting News!

Well, this happened a little while ago, but I suppose I should make some official announcement for it.

I am happy to say that I am now publishing with Desert Palm Press, a small publishing company devoted to quality lesbian fiction. My new book coauthored with Rae D Magdon will be released in March for purchase through Desert Palm Press. I’ll have more details about that closer to the release date, but for right now, let’s talk about small press publishing.

It’s a tricky business, getting published. I found it to be so tricky that I took the quick route and self-published. Despite my wild success at that (our book did fabulously; thank you all, my amazing, wonderful fans!), people were more excited to hear I got a book deal from a small, independent publishing press than they were to hear about how well my self-published book was doing. Why is that? Why is there something immediately more special about be acknowledged by someone else who lives off of judging writing?

Some would say it’s an honor, but I think there’s some monetary prestige built into it.

Now, I haven’t made an insane amount of money off my writing. I didn’t do bad, mind you, but I wasn’t JK Rowling or anything. Neither will I be with this small press. The way I see it, I’m taking a slight pay cut to reach a broader audience (and work with some wonderful writers and editors, never discount that experience). Yet why do people value this move in my career more than when I was doing all the work myself? That was pretty impressive, mind you.

I think there’s a nasty association of wealth with “publishing”. If you’re in with a press, you’re gonna be rolling in it, or at least that’s what the urban myth tells you. And people are welcome to believe that and to benefit off their writing. They should, actually.

What bothers me is when a writer loses sight of what they’re writing about and focuses on just money. This is a fairly idealistic, rose-colored argument, but I like to think that writing, good writing, should be about the conversation between a writer and a reader, not the overall monetary gain at the end of the day. I bring this up mainly because I see writers fall into the trap of seeking the perfect publisher for their story, but then never sharing anything because they’re worried they’ll miss their opportunity for “the big break.”

When a writer holds back from an opportunity to have readers see their work, whether it’s at a local contest or in a national magazine, they’re allowing themselves to think that the amount of “good” writing they can accomplish is finite. We as writers have so much to say and so much to give. That is simply human nature. Share your ideas. Share your drafts. More will come. Part of the publishing process is spending time in those little nooks and crannies of writing. Publish with the local anthology. Apply to that short story contest down the street. Get yourself writing to interact with others, not just a faceless agent. That is what the writing process is about, communication, a dialogue between writers and readers.

I suppose I’ve waxed poetic long enough, already. Before I end this post, I’d like to let you all know that if you’re looking for some interesting lesbian fiction, check out what Desert Palm Press has here: http://www.desertpalmpress.com/

AJ Adaire is fabulous, as are Stein Willard and SL Kassidy. As always, thank you to my readers who support my fiction, wherever they find it. If you’re curious Rae and I are releasing a sci-fi romance in March. I also have a fantasy novel on the table, but that will be released some time this summer. Chronicles of Osota deserves my full attention, which I cannot give in the middle of completing graduate school.

Lesbian Romance Book Reviews!

Back again? So soon? Yes, I am still free from the clutches of my other job, so I intend to provide more content for you all before I once again am sucked into the labors of a 9-5 job. Anyways, I have been spending my newfound free time goofing off researching by reading some romance novels and not-so romance novels. As a treat to my readers, I would like to leave some short reviews on these and explain what I found nice about them; perhaps highlight some takeaway points for aspiring writers. And, of course, they all feature lesbian couples as the main interests.

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Book One – A Place to Rest by Erin Dutton: This was the first novel I uncovered for my romance reading frenzy. I found it at a local bookstore, and picked it out mostly because it sounded relaxing. The synopsis on the back details the conflict for the main character, Sawyer, who finds herself attracted to the new pastry chef of her family’s restaurant. Sawyer’s pregnant sister ends up requiring help running the family business, and romance soon blossoms between her and Jori (the aforementioned pastry chef).

What do I think of it? It was cute, sweet, and low on the drama level. Positively predictable in terms of the happy outcome, but charming nonetheless in a low-stress way. I picked it out right before I went out to breakfast, and spent a few hours in the café with a cup of coffee while I read through it. Honestly, it was the best morning I had enjoyed in a long time. This is also probably an excellent indicator that I’m getting old. I actually enjoyed reading a book out a breakfast by myself. I reveled in it. My teenager self would have thought me pathetic. But I don’t care. It was bliss.

Anyways, back to the novel. I ended up giving it a five-star review on goodreads, but many people will disagree with that rating and give it four or three, which it is probably more deserving of. What I liked about this story was that it provided something soft for me to read while I was coming down off the stress-tornado I had been battling just a few days before. If you are looking for a cute story about two women in love with minimal sex scenes, this is a good one to go with.

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Book Two – Sequestered Hearts by Erin Dutton: Another book by the same lady. I liked the first one so much that I looked up some other books of hers on my nook and downloaded this one. The story features a journalist and an heiress / famous painter, and while the beginning of the novel is the most slow, painfully enraging thing to crawl through, the rest of the story became quite enjoyable once the characters attempted functioning outside of the private cabin they first got to know each other in. Overall, I found it deep, and a bit more of an emotional rollercoaster than the first one, but just as enjoyable. The characters were interesting once they got over their bout of stupid in the beginning, and their relationship development was interesting.

What I found interesting about this novel was that it played with a specific medical disability, but awkwardly introduced it in the beginning, though the premise seemed promising enough. What I would liked to have seen was a slower build-up in those initial pages, but for plot reasons the characters shared a kiss early on, which felt more forced than anything. What I’d like to emphasize here is that emotions need to be earned between your characters. The smooching can’t just start because you feel like it’s as good a time as any. You cannot also rely on it as a plot device at the expense of the characters, but I highly advise against this. Character’s actions and their believability must come first before anything else. Without it, how can we ask a reader to suspend everything else just to pay attention to what we have to say?

Overall, still a wonderful story if you want a romance novel with lady love.

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Book Three – Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien: I have read some works by this author before. In truth, this has been sitting on my shelf for a while and my partner has been pestering me to read it. After being less than impressed with O’Brien’s book Infinite Loop, I tended to stay away from her romance novels. Her erotica novel Thirteen Hours is brilliant, by the way, if you want something decently readable and basically just a bunch of sex scenes. Battle Scars proved to be a pleasant surprise with deep characters and an engaging dynamic between them. Ray is a veteran coping with PTSD, and Carly is a veterinarian. Their paths cross, and you can guess what happens from there.

Honestly, this book is probably the most tightly written compared with the previous two, and the stakes are the highest between the two characters, causing it to be  bit more intense of a read, but if you’re looking for something still on the fluffy side, it’s definitely a lighter romance novel, despite having stronger tones than the previous two. And there are adorable puppy dogs in it, and someone drew fan art of said adorable puppies with the main characters.

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And a Comic? Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Ever since the 5 issue Alabaster series ran with Dark Horse, I have been buying the Dark Horse Presents comic anthologies religiously to keep up with the “Alabaster: Boxcar Tales” featured in each volume. The Alabaster series follows Dancy Flammarion, a teenager with issues. In the first comic (waaaaaay back), she’s almost eaten by a lovely werewolf lady, who she kills. The werewolf woman comes back as a ghost, and the two quickly settle into the routine of busting up the antics of other monsters, killing the baddies, normal things that werewolf ghost / monster hunter duos do.

*Spoilers*

I know it sounds weird, but the story is intense. This is literature, not fluffy romance. It just so happens to feature a soul-crushingly, desperately longing unrequited love story between these two later on in the series.

And might I just say, I called it? It’s a beautiful story, and if you’re willing to track down all the loose Dark Horse comics (or digitally download them) it makes for a wonderful read, and you’ll feel better for it after, because the story is complex and leveled with metaphors I have a hard time keeping track of sometimes, but when it all comes together, it’s worth it. If you want some comic book lesbians that aren’t Batwoman (don’t get me started on the rage I feel about JH Williams leaving), this is a good series to check out, and it’s not too long, featuring only a handful of issues or short entries in anthologies.

*End Spoilers*

No More Books! That’s all I’ve read between last week and now. Not too bad, actually. Just wanted to provide some material there. What I’d like to say about these books in terms of writing is that they do a damn good job because they show organic relationships between the characters. With some very brief exceptions, nothing feels forced between the characters. They were created to naturally flow with their decisions.

This is what good writers do. You should never force your character to do something that feels off, or like they would actually do, for the sake of the plot. One way to tell you might be writing your character into this problem is if you keep writing around a scene, or tweaking everything else in the story to make this one cool idea you had fit. Think about it for a few days. Give yourself some distance, and if that idea still seems crucial to your story, look back and see how you can earn whatever it is you’re trying to make the character do.

Before I end this, I’ll offer a quick update on projects. Chronicles of Osota: Warrior is scheduled to release in January, still. I don’t have an exact date, but it will happen. I should resume normal updates on my side projects (ie, the free-to-read stuff posted on the interwebs) sometime in the next day or so. Just trying to catch up on everything. Leave a comment if you have questions or thoughts. What is your favorite lesbian romance novel? I’d love to read some more before the break is over. It helps me improve my own writing when I read a wider range.

Less Is More

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How many times have you heard that little piece of advice, hmm? A lot probably, but I want to talk about it again in relation to some of my recent activities. But first let me say, “hi, how are all of you? How have you been? My handful of regular readers, I’ve missed you!” Sorry for vanishing, but I was sucked in by this torrential force known as academia. While I was away I wrote articles for journals, arranged to go to a conference in Canada (and hopefully lead a panel), and learned more than I ever needed to know about Utopianism. Brain = full. Now to cherish my month of pseudo-freedom by goofing around on the internet.

But this is not goofing around. This is serious business. In my time away, I also sent a short story out to some different anthologies. It got rejected every single time, sadly, but I plan to keep trying. Recently, I got caught up talking to a colleague who used to run a journal in my field. He heard that I was sending this story out and failing to get in, and said I should read it for a class one day. That translates to me reading a reject story to fifteen of my peers and one brilliant pioneer of science fiction studies. No pressure, right?

So I sent the story out to some friends for some quick edits. The two that got back to me said the same thing, “We need more.” The emotion was not translating on the page, and they wanted to see the character’s feelings.

I struggled with this kind of feedback, because I always hated writing about my character’s emotions in excess. Nobody wants to hear what you have to whine about, protagonist. Shut up and do what you’re supposed to do. Your actions will convey the emotions. I always made sure to show something happening rather than say, “She felt sad” because really, how much more imprecise can you be after “sad”? Sad means something different for every single person, so I always try to show the emotions through physical actions. A person jumps. They frown. They have a nervous tick I describe comically. There’s something to tell what kind of pressure or elation that character might be feeling, and it certainly does not take place in the form of an adjective.

Now, this isn’t a hard rule. Of course the simple adjective gets out every now and then. It’s necessary for good writing to be varied. But I was having a hard time seeing how I could bring the emotions of these characters to the forefront without explicitly saying, “Character Y was pissed off”.

But I tried anyways, and I read the story to the class. Some of the changes I made worked really well. I changed the beginning to show the terrifying enemy my protagonist faces. It was an emotionally charged scene. It really sucked a reader in… And then there were some scenes that flopped. I added some inner dialogue from the protagonist like my readers suggested. It felt flat when I read it aloud, though. There were literally moments when I was reading when I thought, “Why the hell is this in here?”

At the end of my reading, the professor, my colleague, was impressed. He asked, “And have you published this, yet?”

So I explained to him the tragic tale of rejection after rejection I had faced. Before I started submitting it places, I had won some local readings with it, so I thought it would actually stand a chance. After the class ended, the professor gave me some advice, “You know. It’s really quite good, and this is coming from someone who reads a lot of fiction. My only suggestion for you would be this: less is more.”

So, this man who edited a national journal had found some value in the story. Granted, he’s probably more fond of me than an anonymous reader, considering we work together. But his comment makes sense. I was trying to add more where the story really did not need more. I added to the beginning, and that worked out, but nothing else really needed extra. In fact, there were some scenes I could have done away with entirely. They were dull. They did not contribute emotion or meaning, and so the readers who wanted me to add more reacted against these scenes.

What I think I am trying to convey is this: sometimes, the answer to bringing the emotion is cutting out the vapid and empty parts. It’s easier to tell more with less of a story when the parts there express so much already. This might seem like a ramble, or a really long way to say “less is more” but I think it is some valuable tips on writing that every reader or author could benefit from. I also thought it was the perfect way to resume regular updates, which I sincerely hope will stay regular.

Before I go, I want to fill my readers in on my schedule. Over the next month, I will be finishing a novel with my coauthor, Rae D Magdon, for publication within the next few months. I will also be working on my story Chronicles of Osota: Warrior, a fantasy novel to be released some time in the next few months. For those of you who are fans of my fictionpress or fanfiction.net stories, I will be updating those as well, hopefully. Anyways, happy holidays, and please comment if you have any thoughts to share on the craft of writing, this topic, or anything else you with to discuss.

Niche Markets

A blog by my friend Kellie. Sure, she mentions me in it, but she says some important things, too.

Have Pen, Will Pen

I recently read an article about how it’s better to write a ‘big’ first novel, then to write a little one. I don’t mean big as in 500,000-word wise, I mean one that is destined to do well with all the markets because it’s aimed at the markets. This writer actually says to stay away from writing a book that has a limited readership – meaning religion, gaming, fanfiction, etcetera – and to try to ‘launch big’ – get a high advance, sell hardcover books, and take the current literature tastes into account. If you don’t ‘launch big,’ you might become pigeonholed as a ‘small’ author.

My response?

Ummm… No.

While the article does bring up some good points about how the ‘bigger’ authors will get better slots (think J.K. Rowling back in the Harry Potter days or Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games), it got me thinking about the ‘smaller’…

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