I’m a bad news (sort of) up front kind of guy. When I woke up today, I saw a one-star review for The Journals of Bob Drifter. You can see that here. You can’t please them all. Still, I’m truly grateful the reviewer took the time to offer not just a rating, but a line of review. Any review is a good review. This reader 1) purchased my book, which supported me; 2) rated my books, which helped my visibility; and 3) left a review, which also helped with my visibility.
To any who might feel compelled to defend me, please don’t. I truly mean that. I ask every reader to offer a review, even if they hate it. It is helpful, and it is kind to leave a review, even if that review doesn’t sing my praises.
So not only is that news not really bad at all, but there is good news. I’m happy to announce that the audiobook for Sojourn in Despair is pretty much undergoing editing as we speak. Courtney Sanello was selected to narrate the book, and I’m eager to see how she takes her fantastic audition and converts it into a full audiobook. She’s already submitted the first fifteen minutes, and I honestly think she’s about wrapped up with the rest pending my notes on the first fifteen.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Sojourn. I felt you all deserved an update. Sojourn was a project I jumped on when the other members of Slush Brain thought it’d be a great idea to work on an anthology together.
The truth is, it was a good idea. They’re all amazing authors, but that’s part of the problem. They’re busy indie authors with projects and deadlines all their own. While all of us love each other and still love the idea of putting something together when the stars align, it just isn’t happening anytime soon.
So what do I do with a novella I’ve already gotten ready to go? Easy, I release it on my own. That’s right, Sojourn in Despair is scheduled for release this November. I’m still incredibly proud of that story, and I hope you all come to love it as much as I do. I have huge plans for Elele and a few other members of that cast.
If you click any of the above links, you’ll be able to find more information, but let me give those who’re just hearing about this some information.
One of the larger sagas I have rooting around in my skull is a series called Perception of War. The series revolves around the crew of the Shepherd, a forward operating warship and the only ship conducting operations in the Var’lechen system. Each book will star a member of the crew. I was halfway through the first book in the series when the idea came about to work on a novella. Well, the first book in the series is huge, like several hundred thousand words. But while drafting that beast, I fell in love with another character, Elele. She’ll also have a book of her own in the saga, but this idea gave me a chance to set the scene for her in the saga. She’s not remotely who she’ll become, and there’s a reward in that for me.
This is sort of a prologue unique to that character. It’ll lead her from her confrontation with the god of her alien species all the way to the moment we see her in the first book, Images of Truth. Of the three great (as in large) sagas I have planned, Perception of War is the biggest. There is a timeline (or the outline of a timeline), but it’s my intent to visit this universe whenever the mood strikes. I’ll be sure to get the larger story done, so readers know how this galactic war begins, develops, and ends. However, All of these races, characters, locations and history is something I plan to explore whenever the mood strikes.
The story is already done. The cover is under development. I’m going to look into a map relevant to the journey happening in the book, but that’s only an idea at the moment. I’ll release the other parts of Bob first, but Sojourn will be out in the world by the end of 2018.
Again, I love this saga and this character in particular. I’m so excited to bring this story to you, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Their feedback was honest, sometimes painful, and always helpful. Good Alphas do that for you.
I’m a huge fan of this project for a lot of reasons, and I honestly feel like this project has put me on another level.
So, what’s next? Well, while I wait for my developmental edit, I get back to redesigning The Journals of Bob Drifter. I’m also starting the development of my next writing project, tentatively called The Truth of Emotion. ToE is a short story told from Kaitlyn’s point of view. Kaitlyn is one of the main characters from Caught. ToE is meant to bridge readers from the end of Caught to just a bit before Caught’s sequel (which had a title until I realized I need a new one, so give me a minute on that). The JoBD re-design will take the bulk of my attention, but I should make a bit of progress on those other things as well.
I’m glad to be moving forward on this. Progress always makes me happy.
I’ve been talking about my progress on this project since my first blog post. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate with some amazing authors in an anthology. I finished the discovery draft of Sojourn in Despair over the holidays, and I just wrapped up what I call the first draft.
What this means is it’s finished, and it’s in English. I feel very good about it, and I think the story itself is fantastic!
What’s next though is something big. I always try something different every time I write a project. I’ve always had AN alpha reader. Ben is my best friend and brother in law. He reads EVERYTHING I write (poor guy). But I expanded my alpha reader pool to a few others.
Alpha Readers to me have always been people I can go to with questions about concepts or ideas. I don’t know the first thing about a lot of things, so I find alpha readers who are knowledgable in some way about some aspect of my story. This story’s topics are: The Jewish religion, mathematics, and evolutionary theory.
That said, if there’s someone out there with a PHD in either math or evolutionary theory, I’d appreciate an email in that regard. I’d be overjoyed if someone with expertise in those areas could give this a glance and make sure I don’t look foolish on a scientific level. I have one alpha who’s looking at it for math, but no one to look at the science of this planet or its species.
As of now, I have five alpha readers. Each bring something unique and specific to the table. They’re all offering invaluable feedback that I’ll put to use in my second draft (the draft before it goes to the editor for developmental review). Two of those alphas are our very own Jenn Moss and Quintessential Editor. So if you’d head over to their sites, give them some likes, shares, and follows, I’d appreciate it as they’re REALLY helping me out.
I just wanted to share my joy at this most recently finished project before I start my next one (because that’s sort of what I do). What’s that you ask? The layout and design of The Journals of Bob Drifter so I can re-release that book at a lower price with another edit done. I’ll keep you all posted.
Thanks for checking in and all the support you’ve shown me. I hope you’ll all preorder Caught or snag a copy of it Jan. 28!
I’d mentioned earlier this week that I had intended to do a post going over my schemes for the next little while. I wanted to do that today because there’s a lot happening.
First, I’m happy to announce the discovery draft of my short(ish) story, Sojourn In Despair, is finished! I wrapped that up Dec. 22. So I’ll wait about a week before I try to revise that into a first draft that Alphas wouldn’t want to throw out of a window.
I’ve learned a lot this past year. I wanted Caught out in March of 2016, and I couldn’t make it happen until 2017. This is because it’s not about releasing a book for me, it’s about releasing a GOOD book readers will enjoy.
Revising always takes me an extremely long time, and I wasn’t anticipating a fifth and sixth draft. I want to say this because writers are in love with their work, and they’re either in too much of a hurry to get it out (normally me) or too afraid to put it out there. There’s a balance to this I hope everyone finds. You have to be willing to stand behind it.
When I sent Caught to Marco for an edit, he gave me a lot of information that I think made this book that much better. But it meant taking time to apply that feedback. This is part of the art. This process also taught me a lot about how to look at work. I’ll be using this process again in the future.
I want to help other authors avoid mistakes I make. I want each project I release to be more successful than the last. So I hope this information helps those who are afraid to show their work to many people. Get lots of feedback. Hire. Professional. Editors.
I feel far more confident about Caught than I did about Bob. I also feel more realistically optimistic (not an oxymoron I promise). But, now that Caught is scheduled to hit the digital bookshelves, I have time to do more stuff. So here’s a list of my projects in order of priority:
Sojourn in Despair: Elele’s story is drafted, and now I have to do the work that takes a solid idea into a well-told story. I’ll take a week off (maybe accidentally write a short story and submit it, Hi J.R.). But once that week is over, I’ll do another draft of Sojourn. This one will still go by quickly, but each draft will take exponentially longer than the last.
Re-release of The Journals of Bob Drifter: I’ve been quiet about this, but it’s time I start talking about it. I feel this was a great story, but I made a lot of mistakes in how I published it. There are also some glaring typos I want to fix. The story will not change. The main priority of this effort is to bring the cover price down and gain more control over pricing. I want Bob to be more affordable to my readers. I’ll chip away on this in between drafts of Sojourn.
Images of Truth: This book is going to be wonderful. I was about halfway done when Caught revisions became my soul purpose in life. Elele (from Sojourn) is in this book. She’s one of four primary characters, but this book focuses on Jammin, a young aspiring photojournalist who finds himself a stowaway on a special forces spacecraft in the middle of a secret war effort. Sojourn is the story of how Elele came to be where we find her in Images. I want to finish this discovery draft quickly. The release of this book is a long way off. But I like having a draft done.
Revisions of 1,200: 1,200 is the story of a homeless veteran who is secretly using his recently-discovered magic to help the rest of his fellow homeless veterans. I want to revise this sooner rather than later, but if Caught does well, this will be the project that falls father in the back burner.
The sequels to Caught: I have a confession to make: I accidentally outlined a short story about Kaityln. Not outlined exactly, but she’s such a wonderful character. She whispered in my ear (I’m not crazy; I promise) the whole flight to Arizona, and I got off the plane with a great little story just for her. This isn’t part of the trilogy, but her short story will be released in 2018. When in 2018 is something else entirely, but it’ll be out. Books Two and Three of the Oneiros Log will be revised and drafted accordingly. It may be ambitious, but I want all three projects AND Images drafted by the end of 2017. I don’t know when I’ll publish them. So much depends on releasing a book, and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. Once Images is drafted, these will be the books I outline and draft. What I will promise is that as soon as these books are ready, I’ll get them to you.
The plan is to rotate edits between Sojourn, Kaitlyn’s story, Oneiros 2 and 3 until all of them are ready. 1,200 isn’t the biggest priority right now, but it’s a great project to step away to when I’m feeling bogged down. I may also decide other characters from Caught need their own stories. This depends on how loud they get in my imagination and how successful Caught and Kaitlyn’s story are. I do intend to release short fiction (novellas 40K or less) more regularly. This is so you all have stuff from me to read while I work on the larger books. For other young authors out there, this also helps me keep product hitting the shelves and earning income which will fund edits, covers and revisions for the larger products. I feel this was a solid idea on my part, and it keeps me writing.
I’ve been writing since I was 7 or 8. It’s been my dream to be an author since I was 17. Even now, what I’m doing is a dream come true. However, I’m never one to settle. I don’t just want to be a published author. I want to be successful. I want one day for this to be my primary source of income. That said, in a way, you all are so amazingly important to me. You’re here now, in the beginning, when it’s hard. You’re here for me when I’m up at midnight writing a blog or drafting a story. I can’t tell you what you mean to me. I can’t tell you how amazed I am that you’ve shown an interest in my dream. I hope you’re as excited about these projects as I am about getting to work on them.
So, I’ve been particularly blessed this Christmas, because every single time one of you shows interest in my work, that’s a gift you give me. Aside from the love of my friends and family, that’s truly the greatest gift I could ask for. I hope you all have the happiest of holidays and New Years. Thank you!
For today, and the days that follow, thank you for reading,
Big Break Studios posted a blog recently about genre busting, and that got me thinking about the interesting divide between science fiction and fantasy.
Fantasy and science fiction fans have an oddly antagonistic side. I think part of this is due to what makes fantasy and science fiction fun. Who was the best Doctor? Which craft would win in a race? Which craft would win in a fight? Which character would win in a fight?
It wasn’t until I really started finding my stride as an author that I noticed this strange habit of fans of one genre not appreciating the other. How big is it? How prevalent? I don’t know, big enough to notice? Anecdotally, for every fan I hear that screams at the other genre, I hear another that just enjoys a good story. The inspiration from this post is that the very fact that these two genres aren’t more closely linked surprises me.
So I thought I’d sit down and talk about the largest areas of contention. NOTE: All of this is anecdotal, I’m curious if anyone has a more analytical example.
Possible vs Impossible: The Science in Science Fiction.
Speculative science is the heart of any science fiction novel. A science fiction writer is bound by unwritten contract between himself and his readers (I’m a guy, so I’m using the male personal pronoun). Things have to have rules. There must be an explanation for how, scientifically, this story is plausible. I actually FIRST encountered this in high school science. The teacher was quite admit about disproving any and every science fiction movie out there. As he continued to dispute each movie, I couldn’t help but realize he must have ACTUALLY watched them. Weather he did that just to disprove it or enjoy it is really more of a personal issue, but the point is he watched them. Brandon Sanderson mentioned a discussion he’d had on a panel regarding magic systems and then released his “Laws” on magic. This brings me to the point of contention:
Science fiction fans want a plausible, scientific reason to justify the possibility of the story. Fantasy fans want a sense of wonder. Feel free to argue and debate this point, but I’ve already said this evidence is anecdotal and these opinions are mine. It’s also my opinion that the reason science fiction fans demand plausibility is the very fact that they want to believe this story could happen. One (fantasy) is about escape where the other (scifi) is about hope. (And let the debate on that assertion begin).
I don’t really care about this particular sticking point, as I believe both genres do what matters most: They show readers who they can be, if only…If only we strive to travel the stars, we could learn so much more. If only, to me, means nothing more than, “when we.”
Try this experiment: Go to a convention. Find a pair arguing about weather the Falcon could beat the Enterprise in a space battle. Go to them and explain it doesn’t matter because a team of dragon riders from Pern could take them both down at the same time. Before they get going. Make sure you specify that these “dragons” are in reality nothing more than genetically enhanced alien lizards that evolved through cloning and gene modifications. Call this your control group.
Then, go do the same thing with another pair of fans, but don’t explain the genetic modification tools. Try not to laugh as this pair of individuals debating the military characteristics of non-existent spacecraft looks you in the eyes and says, “it doesn’t matter because dragons aren’t real.” I’ve done this experiment, but I failed to avoid laughing. I’m sometimes a petty person.
Most of the derision I see across these genres comes from that particular fissure in the genre planet. A few authors are doing fantastic things, and that’s inspired me. What if fantasy authors worked a little harder to make their magic plausible? What if science fiction authors worried a little less about how possible things are? I have two projects in the works that I think pay tribute to both genres. They’re primarily fantasy in terms of marketing but when I can explain something scientifically, I do. The magic systems in each project (Perception of War, the series Sojourn in Despair comes from, is one of them) is fairly hard (if you subscribe to Sanderson’s First Law).
I think there’s a trick to that though. That trick is commitment to your core genre. You want to avoid Deus Ex Machina whenever possible. A story that ends on an overly convenient plot device, regardless of genre, isn’t going to go over well with the fans. But this divide I’m discussing, I think, comes more from this assertion:
Fantasy fans are more willing to suspend disbelief than science fiction fans.
So, if you’re writing fantasy, I wouldn’t recommend taking three chapters to dissect your magic system right up front. Fantasy readers usually stop at, “Guy can fly.” It’s wonderful to weave in a few explanations of powers as the story progresses, especially if that ability is going to be the key to saving the universe (see Sanderson’s First Law). Science fiction fans demand more details. They’ll want to understand how things are possible sooner, and are therefore more willing to accept large data chunks in the story early on, (accept and larger are dangerously unspecific terms).
What are your thoughts? Which side of the line do you fall under? Also, I meant what I said. A wing of dragon riders of Pern, and I’d argue a single dragon like Ruth or Mnementh could take out both starships. Seriously.
Possibly the biggest opponent to fantasy and science fiction is the concept of Deus Ex Machina. literarydevices.net gave a description of the term, but I’d like to add to that. When something arises that the reader isn’t prepared for to resolve the conflict, the reader will be unsatisfied with the ending. Let’s be honest, as readers, we WANT to believe the ending is plausible. We’ll take some pretty hanky explanations as background or foreshadowing.
In The Two Towers, Gandalf basically said, Just hold off for three days and I’ll come kill whatever bad guys are left. They fought for three days. Gandalf saved the day. No one batted an eyelash.
I’ve been speaking with Quintessential Editor about his book, editing mine, and outlining Sojourn in Despair. That means I’ve been talking about magic systems like crazy. Corey and I were talking about it, and I’d mentioned Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. I’m telling you, if you haven’t read these, and you write fantasy, stop writing and read this. It’s a solid group of guidelines. Sanderson’s First Law is, “An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.”
I love fantasy. I love Sanderson’s work in particular. The reason I love it though is because it has a sense of wonder. Bad fantasy destroys that sense of wonder with a sense of impossibility. So when I read that law, I translate that to mean, “The better the reader understands the magic of the world, the more likely he’s going to accept that magic solved the problem.”
In The Journals of Bob Drifter, I took great care easing the reader into the magic system. Some say I took too much care. But I take a great amount of satisfaction from the fact that no one has (as of yet) complained that the ending was too easy. I spent some 110,000 words building up a villain that seemed unstoppable. But as Grimm was doing dastardly things, I was explaining through a few characters how his power worked while also explaining how Bob’s power worked. I feel if I hadn’t have done both, people would have called me out. Actually, I was more concerned the reader would discover the trick too soon. If that’s happened, no one said so yet. If you’ve read the book feel free to comment below regarding your thoughts.
I’m wracking my brain trying to determine a book that really failed at this. I’m sure it’s out there, and I’m sure I’ve read it, but I can’t honestly recall. But how do you prevent it? Should you?
Should you? Well, not necessarily. (OK, you should TOTALLY prevent Deus Ex Machina, but you don’t always need a magic system which requires a degree in physics to understand). Refer to the rule. “An author’s ability to SOLVE conflict….”
What if you wanted to CAUSE it? Children’s, and young reader fantasy stories do this a lot. No one sweeps in and saves the day with magic, but quite often magic is the cause of the problem. I’d argue this is the case with Lord of the Rings. Magic is far more responsible problems than it is solutions (Gandalf’s rescue included). So…if you’re working on a story where magic is getting thrown around like crazy and all it does is make life miserable for the characters, GO FOR IT! I don’t care how the magic system works. It’s magic!
But what if the man is going to rely on magic? Well then, the degree with which that magic is going to be relied upon must be that understood by the reader. Here are a few things I try to do to avoid the problem.
One: If Three is Good Enough for Tolkien, it’s good enough for me: I consider this the LEAST an author can do. I use this with foreshadowing and magic plot devices. I make sure to mention the “trick” at least three times. (Free autographed copy of my book if you can name the three instances I did this in The Journals of Bob Drifter.)
Two: The Mentor Magic Learning Montage: I’m less and less a fan of this every time I see it and use it. In 1,200, I took the mentor away JUST to avoid this. Inevitably in most fantasy sagas, there’s the “mentor” who appears JUST as the guy develops his power. How handy he shows up just in time to teach the guy how to become the hero. It’s a common thing and not really a “sin” in writing. I’ve just personally grown tired of it. (Though I did use a mentor archetype in New Utopia. Even then, I added a twist just to be different.) What this mentor can do is teach the user, and through him the reader, how the magic system works. In these types of stories, there’s usually a “hint” (see above) at how something thought impossible could happen. Or at least they do this next trick.
Three: Hang a Lantern: When the character does something impossible, and another character goes, “How could that be!” The reader gets a clue that this is an intentional thing. Then calmly waits for the explanation on how that should happen. If you use this, you NEED to explain that later in the story.
Four: Internal Dialogue: This is the last one I use. I used it most in 1,200, but I like it because it’s different. The author can use conflict and internal dialogue to express learned experiences and ideas. You can use the point of view of another character as well. In New Utopia, one of my upcoming books, the hero, Wilum, does something impressive. His mentor character (mentioned above) notices, then considers how it was done. You actually see this quite a lot in Anime.
How do you avoid Deus Ex Machina? Do you have a trick I don’t know about? Please share it.
Character development is a fluid process for me. I consistently try new things and keep what I feel worked and get rid of what I don’t like. Sometimes I bring those things I don’t like back because as much as I don’t like them, they help me create more realistic, sympathetic characters.
I put a lot of thought into how to present this because of how fluid my process is. I thought about taking you through how I evolved and what I tried. I can do that if anyone is interested, but what I think anyone would use this for is to put what I know I’m going to do when I start writing my eight book (Sojourn is a short story and Elele is already developed).
Quintessential Editor covered some ground with hisblog about using dice to create characters. This comes in handy mostly because of the character sheets for me. I did this a few times. It worked, but I thought it was too time consuming, so I dropped the sheets. Now I’m brining them back because some books have WAY too much for me to track. I have word processing character sheets, and I may adapt those, but I need something that helps me track my characters, particularly physical attributes.
I also took full advantage of Brandon Sanderson’s online lecture about Character Creation. That helped me mostly as it came to plotting. (Note: Today, I’m talking about development. That way, I can talk about plotting later.) But it does give me a snapshot, and it helped me streamline (in my case too effectively) my character sheets.
My character sheets start as simple pages in a word processing document. They get larger as I start plotting the character.
A note on archetypes. I outlined Caught using archetypes. While I want to know the role my characters play in the book, what I found this ended up doing was make my characters too cookie cutter. They fit their role in the plot, but it made them plot devices and not characters. I think what I’ll do next time is add the archetypes to the character sheet, though this still scares me. (NOTE: As I publish this, I’ve again decided against it.) I’m a very literal, linear thinker, and I don’t want to force my characters in a direction they wouldn’t go just so they fit some standard archetype.
Where my ideas come from: I teach my students about this concept where a writer has an idea for a story. I got it from one of my sources we used to develop the course, Telling True Stories. They call it the glimmer moment. I exist in a constant state of glimmer infinity. I constantly have flashes of imagination or insight that I think would be amazing. I jot them down or commit them to memory (let the debate on memory begin here). When enough of those ideas arrive to formulate one consistent narrative, I know I have a story. The idea for Caught came to me when my mom told me about a nightmare she had had. (Am I a bad son?)
I mention that because sometimes the main character develops clearly in my mind. Sometimes they don’t. What I mean is I have a sense for the emotional description of the character, but not the physical one. When I see the character clearly in my mind, I don’t fight it. When it doesn’t matter, I let chance determine those characteristics. For Perception of War, the flip of a coin determined the gender of my character. A four-sided die determined his ethnicity and color. I’ll probably post a blog about this one day, but I think characters are people.
There are several fantastic stories out there where race, religion, and gender are arcs. When they aren’t I feel silly developing a white male character simply because I’m a white male. Sal, the main character in Caught is a protector and a Soldier. He was always a man in my imagination, but I’ll tell you frankly the majority of the service members I respect most happen to be women. It’s not a knock on one over the other, just a point I’m trying to work to. He was a man, because of the dynamic I wanted to create with a few other characters. He was white because my four-sided die said so. He’s from Philly because that’s where my finger landed on a map. When these traits matter, writers should take great care. They always have significance though because they’re parts of what make a person who he (Sal) is. None of those characteristics affected the plot, so I let chance decide because it’s fast, and in my mind, it’s the best way I have so far to make sure the diversity in my books comes anywhere near the diversity of life.
That brings me to character sheets. Like I said, I’m going to bring more elements in, but here’s Bob’s character sheet.
Bob Drifter : Robert Drifter
Light brown hair
Bob’s exactly what I named him. He’s a drifter. In personality as well as occupation. He’s accepted who and what he is, for now at least, because it’s all he’s known. He’s kind and takes it upon himself to be more of a guide than a conduit. Others in his field don’t take such measures, but a part of who Bob is demands a certain courtesy. He doesn’t remember anything at all about his life before his work. A part of him is curious, but, given his nature, he accepts things without much argument. Things are. Part of this stems from his belief that change isn’t possible for him.
Now take a look at Elele’s. This is her character sheet from Sojourn. Please know I’ve absolutely deleted a few spoilers, and that may cause some confusion, but I’d like people to read the book and be entertained by some of the twists. Note the differences between her character sheet and Bob’s:
(The trouble with Sefaram is that they all look essentially the same. Hair is a thing. But they’re very hard to tell apart unless you look at their Faline. These fractal patterns are the way Sefaram see one another. Where humans look at skin color facial shapes (shapes are a thing for Sefaram too), Sefaram rely most on the inner-most ring of the faline.)
Hobby 1) Travel
Hobby 2) mathmatics.
Height: 60.8 inches – 5’1”
Weight: 161 pounds
Build: Sleek. (She’s twiggy even by Seferam standards.)
Hair Color: Black (All Sefaram with hair have this)
Hair Length: Mid-shoulder
Hair Style: Rolled and braided. What would you call cornrowed hair that is braided into multiple braids…then braided again? (I don’t speak hair). (NOTE: I did some research and talked to a friend. The most accurate term I found was braided weave)
Eye Color: Black (All Sefaram)
Eye Shape: large ovals longer than tall. (deer eyes) (All Sefaram)
Face Shape: Round.
Freckles: None (Sefaram have none)
Moles: None (See above)
Scars: None as of Sojourn. (SPOILER DELETED INFORMATION)
Faline: Outter pattern (FAMILY IDENTIFIER): Four tear-drop-shaped loops in which the points meet in the middle. Inner Pattern (INDIVIDUAL IDENTIFIER): A pattern resembling a seven-pedaled flower blossom. (NOTE: Faline are ultraviolet patterns on the mid-section of each Seferam. Think of them as luminescent tribal tattoos that follow fractal patterns).
Clothing: (All Sefaram leave their faline exposed. Men usually go bare chested. Elele wears what are considered prudish clothes. No style or fashion (especially since the bad guy’s arrival). She were’s a simple outfit that ties around the neck. It covers her breasts. Cloth covers her sides and becomes a mid-calf length dress. It’s always a simple color with no ultraviolet patterning (a common fashion trend these days). She wears simple leather shoes. (SPOILER INFO DELETED)
Jewelry: None. Sefaram don’t wear it. Their bio-electro-magnetic power plays hell with metal.
faline: For Seferam, they’re an emotional cue. They pulse in different ways the way humans blush or flush.
You’ll see a lot of elements from the above-mentioned Sanderson Lecture there. Like I said. I can promise you that second hobby gave Elele a dimension I never really expected. Little things like that help me get deeper into her character. I didn’t realize math was going to be such a huge part of her character until I gave her that hobby. It then became her occupation. It’s now one of her key assets to how she sees the world and progresses in her plot.
Not all of this became cannon. (Note the picture, she looks very different now that she’s all fleshed out) I left in some of my self-notes. They’re my musings, motivations or research sites for me to get a better feel. I did delete a bunch of my self notes because they were far too spolierific for me to include.
So my next evolution will blend all of these to help me develop a character in terms of physical attributes, motivations, archetype, and plots. Where Corey uses his D & D sheets, I was always a Rifts man myself. I’ll let those character sheets provide the physical attributes. I’ll let the Sanderson lecture round the character out. Then I’ll let them work together to make the character more realistic. Then I’ll let the plotting provide the finishing touches.
I feel this needs a summary:
1) Identify character. Leave what speaks to you alone and let chance determine all other physical attributes. For Elele, I knew she was female, and I knew what species she was. I also knew what culture I would borrow from most heavily for that species.
2) Name the character. (I’m all over the place here. I do everything from a quick study of names, to popular names of other cultures. Sometimes I look for what a name means in a language I best feel fits the culture of the character. When all else fails, I use arandom name generator. For Elele, I realized I liked the idea of palindrome names. There’s a mathematical significance to that (and also one of the other species in the book) that I felt was appropriate.
3) Fill in physical attributes. This includes race, species and other aspects of the character’s background.
4) Establish occupation, hobbies and goals. (this is where some plotting comes in).
5) Begin plotting. This is the most critical step. Every character is the main character in THAT character’s mind. So I plot as if this character is in her own story. I’m not married to this plotting or outline. Elele’s actual arc has some significant differences from the outline, but not who she is or what she does.
This gives me the freedom to get to know my characters in my own natural way. I’m a discovery writer at heart, and I need some room for that to work. What I don’t ever do is start plotting before I get a sense for the core of my character. When I outline one way, then realize my character wouldn’t do that, I don ’t fight it. Early on in Elele’s arc in Images of Truth, Elele was supposed to act and work in one way. Then I realized she wouldn’t handle that situation in the outlined manner. Her decision was more heroic, and led to better conflict and emotional payoff.
(NOTE: I’m talking about her role in Images of Truth, not Sojourn. Sojourn is a prequel to Images.)
Every character has a core just like every person. I find that core by gifting them traits. I take something from a character I love. I take something from someone I love. I take something from someone I don’t like very much. Then I take something from myself. I blend them together and it makes a new character I understand very well.
Let’s look at Bob: His part-time job and love of reading came from me. His drive to understand came from my mom. His love of quoting things came from Beast of the X-Men. I won’t tell you where his frustrating ability to mope comes from, because I’m not trying to dime out people I’m not actually a big fan of. (Note, I said people I don’t like very much. Me not liking a person in no way makes them bad or even unlikable. I feel naming said individual would borderline on slanderous.)
Doing that is what gives me a picture for how they would handle situations. We writers need to remember though that the horrible things we put our characters through is going to change them. If it doesn’t, it won’t feel realistic. I get a baseline from this, then let their experiences shape how they’ll handle future decisions.
I hope that helps. Honestly, it’s just the way I do it. How do you do it? Was this helpful? Any tricks or resources you like? Feel free to say as much in the comments below.
After more time and revisions that I could ever count, I’m so very proud to say that my second book is ready to send off for review and, more importantly, publishing! I don’t know that this feeling will ever get old for me, but I plan to enjoy every moment I can every time I reach this stage. About a year-and-a-half ago, I published The Journals of Bob Drifter. I had no idea what to expect, and I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to publish my book.
Caught is different. I’ve mentioned a few times. It’s darker, but I feel like it’s a step forward for me as an artist. I learned a lot from Bob, and I’ll always be proud of it, but if I’m not pushing myself to reach new levels of skill, I’m going to be irrelevant before I’m even heard of.
This process is still going to take some time, but it’s a matter of weeks now instead of months. I want to send it to some reviewers (Kirkus and Red City) for cover blurbs. While they take a swing at it, I’ll probably address some style issues and do another proofread. One thing I regret about Bob was not doing another proofread. It’s a problem that I’m not sure I’ll let stand for much longer, but I don’t have to make that mistake with Caught. So there will be a lot going on here in my life. I’ll be setting up my book for publishing, waiting for the reviews to come back, and taking that time to do another read-through just because I care that much about fixing any mechanical issues that may pop up in the book.
I don’t have a release date yet, but I’ll announce that as soon as I get a few things figured out. What matters to me is first that my dream has come true a second time. That doesn’t happen without God’s help, and a lot of help from some very important mortals as well.
I’d have to start here with my mom. The reason for that is she had a nightmare once. She told me about it. I filed the thought away and the result is this book. I love my mom. I think a lot of my creativity and drive comes from her side of the family, and this book is a result of her many conversations with me about stories.
Ben is my alpha reader, editor, best friend, and pretty much whoever else I need in life. He is and will ever remain the first person I send my books to. If I never sell another book (I’d rather sell a million), I’ll keep writing them so long as he enjoys them.
Rosa was the first person to read this book (and a very rough draft at that) after Ben. I’d just gotten to know her and she picked this up to read and wouldn’t put it down. She took it home and read through it. That was one of the first times anyone just read my work for the sake of reading. It was a big moment for me. This was before Bob came out, and I was very nervous about sharing my work. She’s of the opinion this book was better. I have a soft spot for Bob, but I’ll admit I feel confident this book is, at the very least, written better, especially after all the editing.
Marco Palmieri of Otherworld Editorial took what I thought was my final draft and showed me how to make these characters even more impactful. He did this during an incredible transition in his career and some emotional struggles as well. Even then, he and I sat over a phone call and hashed out the character and plotting of the book to find ways to amp up the development and growth of the characters.
Quintessential Editor did a few passes on my book. He’s my continuity editor on this project, and I’ll keep working with him as long as he keeps putting up with my random messages and Naruto interruptions. Corey, thanks for your unwavering support.
Peggy has become a huge supporter of mine after Bob. She’s read a few key scenes here and there, and I can’t wait to see what she thinks of the finished product. She’s a one-person sales and celebration team who I’ve come to admire more and more since meeting her.
There are more, but these are the people who I wanted to give special appreciation to as I head into the publishing process.
So what do you do when you accomplish a life-long dream for a second time? You start writing another story. I’ll plow straight into Sojourn in Despair so that project can be finished by deadline.