Friday, September 25, 2015

Guest Post with Madeline Osigian: What I Need to Know About My Characters

Hey guys! I haven't continued the heroes series this week but today I have a character building related guest post. This comes from Madeline Osigian, a young writer and friend of mine. You can read more of her posts on her blog at . Enjoy her words of wisdom!

I know it sounds crazy, but I love talking with my characters in my head. It helps me give them different voices and antics. And I learn a lot about them.

Sometimes I create scenes for a character, and sometimes I create a character for a scene. Either way, I need to know a few things from them before I write them in a part.

1. Appearance. This can be general, such as hair, eye, and skin colors. I feel like this helps me get a sense of what their personality should be. For example, a brunette guy with green eyes might tell me that that character should be stern and serious. A blonde girl with blue eyes might tend to be more fun-loving but not as adventurous as she might be if she were a brunette. I’m not saying my characters are always these stereotypical, but knowing what they look like gives me a good jumping-off point to discovering the rest of their character.

2. Name. I love names! Seriously, I spend hours on baby names websites, so I have a good list of all my favorite names. I like to know my characters’ names: full names for main characters, first and last for secondary characters, and either first or last for minor characters. Villains (and even heroes, I suppose) could have multiple names, and it’s good for the writer to figure them all out at the beginning so the reader doesn’t get confused.

3. Age. If the book(s) span several years, you need to know what their starting ages are, birth dates or birth months, and what time of the year your story starts out in. The key is consistency. You want your reader to know you have an idea of where your characters are in their lives. That way Bilbo doesn’t have his 40th birthday in May and his 111th in December.  Minor characters can be vaguer: “an ancient man with a withered beard” or “a lanky teenager.” Remember that “a baby” can become a walker, a talker, and then a little kid if your book(s) span three years or so.

4. Personality. I prefer to figure this out before I write even their first scene although there have been times a character surprises me and wants to be something different. Is this person honest, thoughtful, and soft-spoken? Are they really what they appear to be? What will make them reveal their true colors? Do they get overwhelmed when faced with change? What are they most afraid of? What do they want most? Are they confused about their life’s purpose? Minor and secondary characters might not even need so many questions, but your primary characters most certainly do. Knowing someone’s personality will help with writing dialogue, actions, thoughts, and everything else that person does.

5. Past. Orphaned as an infant? Abused as a child? Apprenticed at twelve? Spoiled only child with adoring parents? First husband died? Moved from another country? Even if your characters and readers never find out the past, you as the writer should have an idea. The villain and main characters should all have a small part of the past that affects them because that’s how it is in real life. We may never see that little Johnny was scared of the dark growing up, but you bet it will make him avoid men dressed in all black today.

6. One little quirk. A secret. A habit. A dislike. A passion. A hurt. A thing for knives or stuffed animals or books. At least one something that makes them different from your other characters.

And then you’re off to the races! Er…writing. And writing. And writing. And eventually, you will find your characters refusing to do things you wanted them to in the beginning, and you’ll just have to go with it! This is just a starting point. These are just the few things that I like to discover in the beginning.

After I’ve written the book, I love finding my characters faces. This means searching the web, Pinterest, and IMDB for faces that look like whatever you’ve pictured in your head over the months or years you wrote your book.

Good luck!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Hero Spotlight: Alice and Sam

Today on the spotlight we’re looking at two classic heroes, both Fishes out of Water in their own way. Alice and Samwise Gamgee.

Alice is the classic fish out of water in Alice in Wonderland (and every remake, spinoff and sequel that spawned from it). She comes from the logic driven real world but wonderland operates on chaos and illogic. She must learn to handle each new creature she comes in contact with but for all her learning, the world never makes sense. Its really fun to watch her argue and reason her way through Wonderland and her journey inspired many other fish out of water stories in the process. 

Some retellings of the story change things up and make Alice actually from Wonderland, which I always thought steals the spark of the original. The reason wonderland works is it plays off a logical source. Madness is sometimes difficult to read if we don't have some sort of relatable, grounding character. In this case, Alice is that character.

Samwise Gamgee is not the victim of a portal related accident, but he is a hobbit in a very big, new world. Hobbits, by nature, do not interact with the outside world, content with a simple existence. So when Sam joins Frodo on his quest to destroy the ring, he encounters all manners of unfamiliar things, including elves, dwarves and orcs. He faces this new world not only with fear but with wonder as well. He’s hopeful and tries his best to keep up with the others.

He is not a naturally heroic hobbit but he is a loyal friend and will push through all obstacles to protect Frodo. He fights Shelob for goodness sake. That’s a huge freaking spider. Only the bravest would do that.

And Tolkein always saw Sam at the most relatable character in the Lord of the Rings. That’s just what the Fish out of Water supposed to be. Relatable and willing to face change with a strong heart and a smile. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Heroes and Heroism: The Fish out of Water vs. A whole new World

Welcome back everyone! Today we’re looking at the fish out of water trope.

This is a classic trope, especially in fantasy, and it’s not hard to see why. Introducing a whole new world becomes much easier when the hero is just as confused as the reader. This makes the fish out of water relatable and sympathetic all at once.

The defining conflict of the Fish Out of Water is, of course, the land. The surreal world unlike anything they’ve ever seen. They must adapt quickly to different laws and principals in order to survive, usually struggling to keep up with their fellow characters.

Take Harry Potter for example (who I know we used in the last example but, hey, he fits more than one trope), a boy who doesn’t know he’s a wizard until a half giant comes knocking on his door. and tells him so.

Suddenly he’s thrown in the wizarding world of which he knows nothing about. Of his two best friends, one is a pureblood wizard and the other is muggle born but also a genius who knows everything there is to know already. This was a brilliant move on Rowling’s part because not only is Harry lost in this new world, he also has people around him to guide him and answer his—and the reader’s—questions.

This is the thrust behind portal fantasies as well, in which someone from the real world is sucked into another dimension. Take the Chronicles of Narnia or Vision of Escaflowne.

If done poorly, this hero can come across as cliché, boring or a cheap way to make world building easier. But if done well, it can be a lot of fun, especially in young adult. High school, college and the prospect of adulthood is confusing and scary. Everyone at that age feels at least a little stranded on land. It’s nice to have someone in a fictional world that feels the same. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hero Spotlight: Harry Potter and Vin

Welcome back! Today we’re taking a look at two great examples of chosen ones: Harry Potter and Vin.

Unless you’ve been living at the center of the earth for the past few decades, you know who Harry Potter is. My generation in particular has been inundated with wizarding culture. We practically grew up with the characters. So it’s only fair to give a shout out to Harry Potter, a chosen one in every sense of the word.

Some people take issue with Harry Potter as a character. Usually when they do, it’s for illegitimate reasons. Like the fact he has flaws. Or acts like a realistic teenage boy. Or doesn’t respond well to the pressure of losing everyone he loves.

And while I don’t have time to defend Harry against critics, I do want to use him as an example of the crushing pressure of the weight of the world on chosen ones. Because of a prophesy he didn’t ask for, Harry loses his parents in his infancy and is forced to grow up in an abusive environment. When he finds out he is a wizard, everyone he meets lauds him as some fantastic wizard, the only wizard to survive a killing curse. He is supposedly destined for great things.

But Harry is also an eleven-year-old fish out of water. He’d rather live as a normal wizard without so many expectations but he is constantly pushed into situations no child should face. He stands up to them of course, but with increasing consequences as he gets older. He even ends up with PTSD after the events of book 4.

I love these books because they show how screwed up it is to hail someone as a chosen one, especially a kid. It can have a lot of internal and external effects, all of which are explored in the books.

While Harry Potter is a prime example of why you shouldn’t build someone up as a chosen one, the Mistborn trilogy shows the inherent difficulty of interpreting a prophesy at all. One thousand years ago, a great hero was supposed to save the world. He did, but enslaved it, so we can’t really call that a win, can we? The story is set in the aftermath. But who is the real chosen one? Who was really supposed to save the world?

There are a lot of possibilities brought up throughout the books, but Vin is certainly one of the prime candidates.

Vin is one of my favorite main characters in anything ever. I love her. I love her so much. I love how she’s a survivor who wears tomboyishness and femininity with equal strength. I love to watch her work through her trust issues. I love how street smart she is. I really, really love her, just like I really, really love these books.

Not only does everyone rely on Vin to make things better, some even organize a religion around her. It’s a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t even believe in her own capabilities. All the while, it’s hard to nail down exactly what the prophesy means or whether or not it’s even accurate. For fear of spoiling it, I can’t go into more detail, but it’s brilliant. Really. Mistborn takes a classic trope and questions its very foundation.

That’s all for this late Hero spotlight. Will be returning next week to look at the fish out of water trope! Until then, happy writing!

Monday, September 7, 2015


Hey guys! Guys! Guess what? HOUR OF MISCHIEF officially comes out today!

I mean... wow. I never thought I'd get to this point. I dreamed of it but I never really pictured it so clearly in my head. Even when I did, I always thought of this day as some far off date. But here it is. I'm freaking out.

This book never could have happened without the help of so many people. My friends, my family, my agent, Laura Zats, my critique group, my publisher, Shared Worlds creative writing camp and all my mentors through out the years. It takes a whole lot of people to make a book. So I thank all of those people who made this happen for me.

And if you love Young adult fantasy, check out HOUR OF MISCHIEF on amazon today. Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heroes and Heroism: The Chosen One

Welcome back everyone! Today we’re talking about another very common hero trope--one that borders on cliché, especially in fantasy. That being the chosen one. No matter how far under a rock you live, you know at least one example of a chosen one. Harry Potter, Aragorn, Luke Skywalker. All three of these heroes are heroes foretold to defeat an ultimate evil, unite their people, or save the world. Or all three if the prophesy is feeling ambitious. They are the last hope and the ones everyone looks to in times of trouble.

However, unlike superheroes, who choose to use their powers to save others, Chosen one’s are sort of… forced into it. Their mentors or family tell them from a young age, everyone knows their name and they must train in order to rise to the occasion of the prophesy.

The Chosen one faces responsibility, of course, but more than that, they face the weight of the world’s expectations. When you’re a prophesied savior, everyone expects something out of you. Some expect power. Some expect kindness. Some expect wisdom. And some people just want to kill you. Usually the villain threatened by the prophesy.

But the dilemma for many Chosen Ones? They don’t want all of this fame or responsibility. Harry would happy live a normal life at Hogwarts as an ordinary wizard with his friends. Aang would rather play and have fun than become the Avatar. Aragorn is more comfortable as a ranger than a king. And yet, despite what they want, they are still needed by the world.

A lot of people find this trope cliché and stupid, mostly because prophesies seem like a cheap way to make a main character special through no merits of their own. I don’t hate on this trope quite so much because while there are plenty cliché ridden prophesied heroes, there is a lot of interesting conflict that comes from unwanted responsibility. If you’re a chosen one, you’re caught in the hands of fate and often feel like you have no control over your own life. Or you look at the weight of what you must accomplish and doubt that you’ll ever measure up. There are lots of fun psychological things to be done with this trope.

We’ll get into more specifics during the spotlight, but remember: just because a hero type has been written to death doesn’t mean it can’t be done well and with a new twist. Just make sure you use the trope to its fullest potential and don’t gloss over how heavy the world really is.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hero Spotlight: Batman and Captain America

Welcome to the hero spotlight! Today we’re looking at two of the most popular and enduring super heroes (one from DC and one from Marvel, just to be fair). Batman and Captain America.

Two very different characters with different obstacles to overcome, but both burdened with responsibility and principals that are difficult to keep when faced with certain villains.

Let’s start with Batman. When he was a kid, his parents were shot in front of him. This spurred him on a journey of self-discovery which eventually led to him dressing up as a bat to fight crime. Because… well, he’s not entirely emotionally stable. He fights his battles with state of the art gadgets and has a strict, no-kill policy, no matter how bad the person.

The villains he faces are, consequently, nuts. Split personalities, hallucinogenic happy weirdos and… This…

These are often villains with no principals, and no problem with killing. Some of them go specifically after Batman, trying to get him to fall from grace. Through all of it, Batman must stay strong in his own beliefs and keep these crazies from destroying Gotham.

He’s a memorable character and the definition of a hero whose identity comes from his conflict. Batman is known for facing amazing villains and each villain brings out a new, important side of him as a hero. We like to see him tested and we like even more to see him overcome.

Then there’s Captain America. The precious cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure. Steve Rodgers begins as a shrimpy kid with a big heart. He soon receives equally big muscles as he is turned into a super soldier.

A beautiful super soldier

This kind of technology could obviously be used for evil, but Steve Rodgers, chosen for the project because of his huge heart, wants nothing more than to help others. But since he is firmly entrenched in the military his obstacle is often irresponsible governments. And Nazis.

He fights corruption, especially when he is frozen in ice for several decades before being thawed out. He’s the old soul in a world that has started crumbling to pieces. He must stick to his principals no matter who he is faced with, whether new corrupt governments or his own allies, like Tony Stark in the Avengers.

We love Captain America because he stands for an ideal of freedom and helping others. He would usually prefer the diplomatic route, though he is a super soldier. He treats his powers responsibly.
And he’s adorable.

That’s it for today’s spotlight. Next week we’ll be looking at the CHOSEN ONE and their struggle against the weight of the world. Until then!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Heroes and Heroism: The Super Hero vs. Responsibility

We’re seeing a lot of super hero movies lately, aren’t we? 

With the veritable empire of films Marvel keeps putting out every year, and the sweeping popularity of the recent Christopher Nolan Batman movies, its hard to ignore the tight grip super heroes have on the popular conscious. In fact, they’ve always had a pretty tight grip. Comics have been big since the early 1900s. Some super heroes have been around since before World War II. Some became big as a result of it, like Captain America.

But looking at the relationship between Super heroes and history is a post for another time. Today I want to talk about what makes a super hero.

In a lot of ways, super heroes are the easiest to define of all the protagonists. They are individuals with amazing powers, or a lot of money, who decide to use their talents to protect others against crime or, more often, super villains. Super heroes become super because of their abilities and heroes because they accept their responsibility to society.

And there’s the key word: responsibility. No doubt if you’ve seen Spiderman, you’ve heard the immortal line from Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Cliché as the phrase may be, it does define the super hero.

Super heroes start in a lot of different places, though usually from a low point of some sort. Some are bullied outcasts, like Peter Parker and Steve Rogers. Some are lost, billionaire, playboys like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Some are just aliens like Superman. But what links them all is the moment they decided to take a stand and own their gifts. Peter Parker starts stopping crime. Tony Stark starts designing tech to help him get rid of the dangerous weapons he used to sell. Superman starts just… saving everyone. Unless of course you watch the newest Superman film where thousands died in the collateral damage of the climax.

If you think about it, responsibility also defines the villains super heroes must face. They are individuals with great power, intellect and skill who chose to use their abilities for their own gain. Or just for funsies, in the Joker’s case. However, because the superhero plays by a set of rules, that puts them at a disadvantage when facing the villain. They must take the higher road. Usually this higher road involves a no killing policy. Of course, not that all super heroes are like that.

Hi Deadpool

But the most of the classic super heroes, they must overcome a villain abusing their power and keep to their principals in the process, never backing down from protecting others.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Intro to Heroism: What Makes a Hero?

Well, after about three weeks away from the blog (oh life, you never fail to happen) I’m finally back and ready to kick off our new series on heroes.

This probably goes without saying but a hero is constructed differently from a villain. The hero is usually a force for good and the villain a force for bad, to put it in simple terms. But they’re also different in how they react to conflict. The villain creates conflict and the hero reacts.

While the hero starts off in their story having goals and plans for their life, the plot demands that their world be thrown off kilter. This is the classic hero’s journey. An inciting incident launches the story into motion and the hero must choose to accept the calling.

But there are a variety of different conflicts in every story. It is the personality and type of the hero that determines the obstacle they must overcome. Depending on the type of hero, they need a different obstacle to launch them on a journey of character growth. You only see a person for who they are when the world is crashing down around their ears. A hero is defined by their conflict and how they choose to face it.

So over these next weeks, we’re going to look different types of heroes, the conflicts they usually face, and how they must ultimately face them to complete a satisfying character arc and restore order. Know in advance that I could cover so many types of heroes but I’m choosing to stick with twelve basic archetypes. It should be fun so stick around and enjoy! Next week we’re kicking it off with SUPER HEROES!

Also, don't forget to check out HOUR OF MISCHIEF on goodreads and amazon!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Samantha Bryant Guest Post: There is no Black and White

Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to day to present the first GUEST POST on this blog. This one comes from the lovely Samantha Bryant, author of GOING THROUGH THE CHANGE. Today she brings us a great transitional post between our series on villains and our series on heroes. Enjoy!

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” –Oscar Wilde

When I was a little kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, I didn’t wonder why the bad guys did bad things. They were bad guys. That was reason enough. Nor did I ever consider that my good guys were anything other than right. Obviously Popeye was meant to defeat Bluto, Dick Dastardly was meant to be caught in his attempts to cheat, Wile E. Coyote would never catch the Roadrunner, and The Hall of Justice would trump the Legion of Doom every single time. It couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever be otherwise.

One of the first signs that I was growing up probably came while watching Scooby Doo.  I think the episode was called “Jeepers, It’s the Creeper.” I had watched it before. I had watched them all before. But for some reason, this time, I wondered why Mr. Carswell was robbing the bank, what exactly he wanted the money for. In Scooby Doo, the villains were usually out for money, but we didn’t always know why they wanted it. I wondered if he might have had a good reason. It was my first recognition that it might not all be black and white after all.

These days, I’m not much of a believer in hard lines between right and wrong, in my life or in my fiction. Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Good and bad are difficult to clearly define in any absolute way. It’s all about where you’re standing. Life is ambiguous. Black and white blur together into shades of gray (probably way more than fifty shades, too). You do the best you can.

My favorite stories now feature characters that are riding that line, characters that might well find themselves on the wrong side of it someday. Heroes like Batman, who is definitely in touch with his darker side, but still acts for good. Like Wolverine. “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” Or villains like Magneto, who was more right than the rest of the mutants wanted to admit about how mutant-kind would be received in the world. Or Mr. Freeze, who really just wanted to save his wife.

I wanted a story that let female characters ride that same line, and had trouble finding one. Female heroines seem to be mostly paragons of virtue and hard moral reasoning. Female villains are obviously crazy. Like Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So I did.

So, when I began to write my own superhero novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, it should be no surprise that there’s a lot of moral ambiguity in the story. One of the big questions of the book is whether the ends justify the means, whether it really is okay to break a few eggs so you can have that omelette.

The villain of my piece, my mad scientist Dr. Cindy Liu, isn’t all bad. She began in a good place, trying to extend and improve the lives of women. But her motives became muddied with a desire to prove something, and then with revenge. She had a complicated history with the world of men, with romance, and friendship. She’s definitely walking that line and finding that her boundaries have become very very messy and blurred indeed.

The heroes aren’t all good either. Gaining superpowers didn’t instantly make all of them altruistic and willing to act in heroic and self-sacrificing ways.  They were women with lives and selfish interests to preserve. They, too, have complicated histories and desires and reasons to reassess the boundaries they have lived within up till now.

So, Going Through the Change isn’t a traditional superhero story.  It’s full of moral ambiguity, bad decisions, and learning opportunities (some of which are taken, some of which aren’t).  It’s also full of interesting superpowers and some pretty awesome fight scenes, if I do say so myself.  It’s been described as part women’s fiction part sci-fi/fantasy and that seems fair and accurate to me. 

It’s a superhero story with grown women at the heart. And the heart can be a dark and lonely place, and at the same time, the very thing that keeps us alive.

Going Through the Change is going through a change in price for a couple of days in early August. On August 5th and 6th you can get the Kindle edition for free on Amazon. Check it out at:

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. You can find her online on her blog,  Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+

Monday, July 20, 2015


Its here, its here, its here! BEHOLD, the amazing cover for HOUR OF MISCHIEF~

I've been obsessing over this cover since I first saw it two months ago. Its absolutely gorgeous and really captures a lot of the aesthetics I wanted. Also, green never hurts :)

You can preorder it for your kindle as well here. Not yet a print copy. I'll let you know when those become available if you're holding out for one of those. Other than that, spread the word far and wide! Add it to goodreads. I really appreciated it!

Happy Monday everyone! And happy writing along with it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cover Reveal Monday!

Hey guys! No normal blog posts this week, obviously. This week has been really busy. Yesterday, I flew into South Carolina to work at Shared Worlds for the second year in a row. If that name sounds familiar, its probably because I've talked about it A LOT on my blog.

Shared Worlds was, of course, the fantasy based creative writing camp where HOUR OF MISCHIEF began. I owe my soon to be published status to that camp, the instructors and my fellow students. I love going back to work there now.

And speaking of Hour of Mischief, don't forget: the cover reveal for the book is on MONDAY, July 20th. The book also goes up for pre-order that day so be sure to order a copy. It would make me super happy :)

But if you don't have the money, at least join me on Monday to squee over the amazing, AMAZING cover art. Its awesome guys, really.

Until then, happy writing!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Villain Spotlight: Zuko and Jaime Lannister

Hello and welcome to the last villain spotlight! We’ve looked at a wide range of villains over these past few months and today we’re going to look at two of the most complex baddies out there. Ones who went from villain to hero. Or sort of hero in the case of the second.

First, a look at Zuko, the exiled prince of the fire nation in Avatar the Last Airbender. Zuko starts out with a bad haircut and an equally bad attitude. 

Yes... you do.
For the first season, he’s the main antagonist for our group of heroes, trying to capture Aang to regain his honor. By the second season, he becomes more of an antihero as his sister Azula, who we’ve already talked about on this series, takes on the role of main antagonist. From then on out Zuko struggles between his light and dark side, his desire to break free of his family and his desire to be loved by them. He has a few major slip ups along the way, even throwing away a few chances at redemption before he finally becomes a full on good guy. But eventually, he gets there, and the whole world cheers.

Awkward Zuko is adorable
Zuko’s character arc is masterful. From the very beginning we feel sympathy for him because, even though he is clearly an antagonist, he’s also just a kid trying to please his father and regain his honor. He’s a teenager trying to be bad when he actually has a soft heart. From season one, Zuko has the support of the audience, rooting for him to make the right decision and shouting at the screen when he slips up. But we never give up on him

The transformation is all very slow going, which is the brilliant thing about this show. Zuko’s shift to a good guy feels organic and he faces many obstacles along the way. Its not easy to change from antagonist to protagonist, so its essential to take baby steps.

Also his hair got better. Which is important.

With Zuko, the audience feels sympathy for him early on and there are well placed hints that he will make the transition. As such, its hard to ever hate him. Jaime Lannister on the other hand…

Okay, yeah, he's pretty, but when you push a kid out a window in the first episode, you garner the hate of every raging audience member. Who does that? Also incest is gross. Jaime Lannister is not a character you start off liking. Though there are hints of a complex character beneath the surface, through season one and season two, he’s pretty terrible. I was totally fine with hating him for the duration of the show.

But then… suddenly… season three happens. 

You said it.
Before I knew it, I went from hating to adoring Jaime’s character. Mostly because of his interaction with my girl Brienne. By the Bear episode (you know the one I’m talking about), I committed Jaime to my dangerous list of favorite characters.

How did this work so well? I think it helps that Game of Thrones is a morally grey world. Most of the characters have done bad things at one time. Plenty of villains are not as they seem. And some villains are so bad that everyone else seems fine in comparison. Jaime Lannister is a human being. He’s done bad things but he’s also done VERY good things that he gets no recognition for because of vows. He also, unlike most of the players in Game of Thrones, has no interest in the throne itself. Even Tyrion has ambitions for power but Jaime recognizes that its not his scene. There’s something pretty respectable about that.

Going back to watch the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, its easy to see the signs of Jaime’s arc. It happened so smoothly you didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. And now you have an OTP in Game of Thrones which is super dangerous because everything you love dies but they’re still alive but separated and you want them together again and I SWEAR, DAVE AND DAN, IF YOU KILL THEM BEFORE THEY MEET AGAIN I WILL END YOU!

Sorry. Got of track. What were we talking about?

Right. Well-constructed arcs. The transition is everything with these characters. If there’s a poor transition, the character won’t be as convincing or endearing. Make it gradual. Take your time.
That’s it for the last villain spotlight. Next week we’ll be starting a new series on types of heroes. Because those are pretty important too.

Also, in other news, the cover reveal of HOUR OF MISCHIEF is marked for July 20th. Mark your calendars because that’s also when the book goes up for preorder! *squeals and flails*

Until next time, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Redeemed

Alright, so here we come to our final villain type and one of my personal favorites. The redeemed villain. This is the villain that starts out bad. The villain that in the beginning you hate and want to see go down. But over the course of the story, you slowly warm up to them as you discover their motivations were grayer than you thought.

You can probably name off several redeemed villains off the top of your head. They’re everywhere throughout literature. It’s not hard to see why, either. All throughout this series, my continued mantra has been ‘make your characters human’. This trope capitalizes on that by breaking through an audiences initial first impressions and changing their minds.

Remember Severus Snape? Of course you do. The mean professor who was a red herring for half of the evil doings at Hogwarts? Who likes him? 

Well... a lot of people now. Because while Snape’s actions are still incredibly problematic and he really is a pretty terrible person for taking out his anger on children who he had authority over, by the end of book seven, we see the reason behind his actions. We see some of the tremendous good he has done through the tremendous bad. And we soften to him.

A lot of the villains I’ve talked about in this series get their redemption too. Lots of baddies from Once Upon a Time and Avatar the Last Airbender get their redemption (We’ll talk about Zuko in the spotlight). They have an arc that eventually leads them back to the good side. None of them start out evil, so they don’t have to end evil.

The key to pulling off a good redeemed character is to know where they’re going from the get go. That way you can smooth the transition and plan for it. You can add hints even at the beginning that your villain isn’t all bad. You don’t want a redemptive arc to just pop out of nowhere or it feels cheap and disingenuous. The result shouldn’t make the reader think, ‘what?’ It should make the reader think, ‘Of course! How did I not see the signs?!’

What’s so wonderful about this trope is it truly plays off the complexities of human nature. All human beings have a dark side, and some let it take over more than others. But it’s never too late to turn back and do good. It’s a hopeful trope and probably the one I use the most in my writing. These characters, the redeemed villains, are my absolute favorites in any given series. Because they make me so happy when they get back on the right path.

Thanks for reading. See you for the villain spotlight on Friday!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Villain Spotlight- Ruin and Johan Liebert

This week we’re looking at two terrifying, malevolent and very different Lucifer figures.

The first, Ruin, from the Mistborn series, is more typical of a Lucifer figure. For one thing, he’s actually a god, one who delights in destruction and chaos. He is also a master manipulator, able to pull strings without anybody noticing. His presence can be felt through every page of the series even before you know he EXISTS. I don’t want to spoil too much about him because he’s kind of incredible, but he is genuinely terrifying and utterly without mercy or human ties.

But he does keep to the shadows. The books rightly focus on his deeds and his subtle manipulations rather on him until the end of book three. Still, you’ll be hard pressed to find a greater presence than Ruin in these books, or a more malevolent one. Just when you thought you understood the real threat… you really had no idea.

Really though, why hasn’t everyone read these books?

The second villain is more atypical. For one thing, he might not actually be pure evil. Maybe. The show makes it unclear. And for another thing, he is a constant presence throughout the show Monster.
I’m talking of course about Johan Liebert. While Johan uses his fair share of other people to do his work, he’s perfectly content to carry it out himself. He’s a silver tongued devil in the disguise of a charming young man and everyone trusts him to a fault. No one is aware they are being duped until its too late.

But Johan is pretty constantly on screen. He takes up a huge chunk of the show, and only the golden hearted Tenma, the main character, has more screen time than him. It would be easy to make a villain like this so ridiculous and cheesy.

And yet… God, he works so well. I’ve talked about him before in my review of Monster and raved about him being one of the best villains in anything ever. And I mean it. There are very few villains who have matched his malevolence with any success. I highly recommend the show if you like psychological thrillers.

So there you have it. Two villains who take the crown for evil. Pretty dark stuff if you ask me. But let’s start climbing out of the pit. Next week we’re taking a look at The Redeemed villains, and after that, at the suggestion of a reader, I will be starting up a heroes series to look at the many shades of heroes.

Until then, happy writing!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Lucifer Figure

Hello and welcome back to the villain series where we’re tackling the many different shades of villainy and honoring some of the best representatives. Or… shaming them. Depending on how you look at it.

Today let’s look at the baddest of the bad. The trope that aims for hell more than any others. Yep, I’m talking about the Lucifer figure.

The devil is one of those things a lot of villains choose to emulate, mostly because he is the symbol of pure evil for many people. So many dark traits from this guy. He’s a deceiver and a trickster. He’s governed by pride and ambitious to a fault. He’s unrepentant and opposes all things good. A Lucifer figure is ALWAYS the big bad guy. Never a henchmen. They’re the one running the show and often the shadow on the wall, the puppeteer of all the other villains in the story.

Take Sauron for instance. We don’t see him much but we see his influence. We see the destruction his armies sew across Middle Earth. But we rarely see him or hear him speak really. It’s his presence that matters. It’s his work.

Or take Father from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He controls the homunculi and is the driving force behind most of the wrong doings across Amestris. His servants do most of his dirty work and he rarely gets involved in the action himself (except at the end), but we feel his power none the less.
And that, I think, is the secret to pulling off a good Lucifer figure. Unlike other villains on this list, you’re not trying to make them human. If you want a straight up, pure evil, nonredeemable villain, keep them in the background.

Its easy to overplay your hand with a super evil villain and they can become ridiculous if they get too much page or screen time. But if instead you focus on the destruction of their evil, we’ll feel their presence without even meeting them. It will make them over all stronger.

Sometimes its okay to have a pure evil villain. But don’t leave them in the spotlight for too long or it will seem like you're trying too hard. Let their deeds speak for them.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Word Doc episode 2- Cartography

New episode of the Word Doc today. We're continuing our world building series, focusing this time on the importance of maps and cartography. Get those pencils ready!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Word Doc- Episode 1

Happy Sunday everyone! Kicking off another vlog series this Sunday with The Word Doc!

This series is a vlog on writing and publishing tips. Each video is pretty short and sweet, so they shouldn't take up too much of your time.

This is episode one starting a series on world building. Because world building, as we all know, is a monster. But also a whole lot of fun.

Hope you enjoy and happy Sunday!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Villain Spotlight- Dolores Umbridge and Joffery Baratheon

Last week on the spotlight, I fangirled. This week? Its time for a rant.

Not that you haven’t heard a rant in this vein before. Because today I am discussing two of the most infamously hated villains of all time. Dolores Umbridge and Joffery Baratheon.

Oh my god, where to start.

I think it says a lot about a Harry Potter character’s evil when people want them dead more than Voldemort. VOLDEMORT! The main villain of the series. The monsterous man who ruined the lives of our young hero. But if given the choice? Oh yeah. Everyone would take out Umbridge. Because she is just the most unpleasant woman.

Oh sure, she hasn’t killed anyone (though she did help sentence several muggle borns to Azkaban in book seven). But she weasels her way into your soft spots and hits you where it hurts. What I mean by that is, she’s familiar.

Most people haven’t personally known a Voldemort. We’re pretty familiar with the archetype at least. But a lot of people have known an Umbridge. That person who is so bigoted and so ignorant and yet so very sure of their righteous intentions. The person who shames you and makes you feel lesser than them with just a condescending laugh. Plenty of people have had teachers or coworkers like this. Voldemort is a threat sure. But a far off threat.

If you don't get this last one, you haven't watched the Very Potter musicals. And you should

As one of my friends once put it: “Umbridge is personal”.

And then there’s Joffery. Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know Joffery. As far as evil goes, he definitely takes the cake from Umbridge for pure number of people hurt and kingdoms screwed up. He does a lot more damage with his power. He tortures people and punishes them for misdemeanors and makes foolish decisions that throw the seven kingdoms into war. Which destroys supplies. Right before a winter. And winters last several years in this world.

Not his brightest moment.

There are certainly people who do as much damage as him. Tywin Lannister for instance, causes tons of pain. But he doesn’t do it for the sake of causing pain but for some sort of aim. And also he’s not STUPID. At least he’s aware of what he’s doing. Joffery knows nothing and he causes pain for the fun of it. And even Ramsay Bolton (who is totally more twisted) at least is smart. That’s a redeeming quality right?

At least he gets slapped a lot

Joffery has no redeeming qualities. And that is why he is so hated. Though it will be interested to see who ultimately comes out of Game of Thrones the most hated. Because there are some recent new contenders.

*Cough* episode nine season five *cough*

Still, these are good villains. As much as I hate them, it’s really because they do their job to well. Because they get under my skin to the point where I can’t enjoy them. That’s a well written villain right there. Making villainy as disgusting as it is in reality.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The One you Hate

Remember how last week I talked about villains you just can’t hate? And how in general I’ve discussed a lot of villains on this series that I also love to hate or hate to love for all their delicious villainy.

Well this week, we’re covering the opposite of that category. Because there are some villains that are, objectively, great villains. They do evil things and they advance the plot wonderfully.
But oh my god, you’ve just got to hate them.

Just wait for the spotlight on Friday. Its coming

This week is less a type of villain and more a… category of response to villains. The spine tingling, stomach roiling disgust that you feel when you walk on screen? That’s one of these villains. And this is probably different for everyone honestly. Everyone responds differently to certain villains. But there are definitely some baddies that… no one likes.

Like Lady Tremaine from Cinderella. Don’t you just want to smite her when she gives one of those looks to Cinderella.
Or Hans. Does anyone not want to punch Hans in the face for deceiving us with his charm?

Get him Ana
These villains are, however, in a lot of ways, some of the best villains. Because in the end, aren’t you supposed to hate the villains? These are the ones that actually do their job. Often I’ve found myself in the position of liking a villain more than a hero because they’re more interesting.

With these baddies? I never have that problem. I guess it’s good to know that I have standards.