Don’t Have Stupid Characters

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The post title is pretty self explanatory but let’s delve into it a bit shall we? How many of us as readers get annoyed when we figure something out long before the character and then the story drags and drags as mentally we just keep saying “Come on already. They totally should’ve caught on by now!” It makes what could’ve been a great experience into just an okay one, and a just okay book into down right awful.

Most of the time as readers we like to be given information that the characters don’t know, however, when there’s an event or a situation that should’ve been a light bulb moment and the character is just clueless and still doesn’t know? That’s a problem. This reads untrue to any semi-smart human being and even if you have a dopey/stupid character — fine — but make them that way all the time, with all decisions. When characters don’t learn or realize things for an extended period of time it feels like the author is extending the conflict because there’s nothing else going on.

This falls right along with giving your characters some common sense. When they take everything at face value and don’t question what they’re being told, yeah it feels fake and contrived, like the author had no other ideas for conflict. The trick would be throwing in an instance or two as a subplot when a lapse in common sense raises the stakes (especially in an already high stake climax plot wise).

Yeah, No.

Being too easily manipulated also comes to mind, and it can really ruin the realism of any story. So don’t fall into that trap. An example? The Prince in Mirror Mirror, he seemed pretty smart and with it (And I actually kinda liked him) until he took the Queen’s word at face value and wouldn’t listen to Snow White. Yeah I’m aware it’s a spoof type movie and fun, but really? They couldn’t give him a little more intuitiveness? And then turning him into a guy who acts like a dog didn’t help either. I definitely want some more good prince characters out there à la Prince Henry from Ever After. So I guess I’ll just have to write those stories myself but more on that later.

We relate to stories most easily when the characters are relatable, have faults, and make mistakes, but this doesn’t mean making them blind to all possible flashes of insight and inspiration. Let’s give our characters some life and make sure they aren’t acting stupid in very convenient places just to extend plot and word count.


Make sure to check out the latest DanielleWAM post When Your Writing Gets a Burst

Talking About Your Next Big Idea. Amateur or Professional?

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Doesn’t matter what subject it is, there will always be differing opinions. Fact of life. But as writers we have to wade through so much garbage, that I’d say every single person out there who has any aspirations of being a writer needs to take any advice about writing/publishing with a huge grain of salt. As in like a massively sized boulder piece of salt.

Essentially you gotta work your way through everything and pay attention to things that are said consistently, but read the opposing views, and then do what works for you and what feels right. Read lots and research lots about writing and the skills required for the craft. However just because a best-selling author says something doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. Suggestions and posts I make might not be everyones cup of tea either, so read even my posts with a discerning eye.

Ya or nay? Discussing your WIP

Where am I going with all this? Well, I’m having a bit of an inner debate on whether or not I, as a new author, should be discussing -in detail- my current novel with others. In the last little while I’ve seen a lot of opinion regarding talking about your current WIP (that’s work-in-progress for all you newbie/non-
writing folks) and there seems to be a split right down the middle.

Many seem to feel talking about an idea and what you’re currently in the midst of writing is amateurish and screams of insecurities. Others say that in fleshing out ideas and discussing your project with others is the sign of a professional as you’re building up an audience and garnering interest.

My opinion? For the longest time I felt like I could and should be talking about my book as much as possible. As I came across more articles that addressed this and said that I shouldn’t be talking about my WIP I shifted my view to try and see their points. I think that in this day and age of rampantly expanding e-books/self-publishing and the astoundingly far reach that is social media, an author would be doing their book more harm than good if they kept quiet about it.

To clarify though, I think that if a writer’s idea is in its infancy and their novel is just barely started out, I’d be leery of how much and what you share with others. I would say don’t start talking details until the novel and its basic plot and theme are set in your mind. When you start to second guess yourself and let others influence your imagination and thoughts, it can be confudelling. Some have said that a good rule of thumb is to not discuss anything until your first draft is written. This is a good basic rule of thumb I think. But for me personally it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I hashed out and plotted an entire series of four books (which later turned into six) before I was done chapter two of Book 1. So my ideas and themes were pretty much nailed down. On the pro side for discussing before your draft is finished, sometimes those who are totally removed from the world you’ve created can solve problems that you had no solution for. This happened to me with one specific detail I couldn’t quite get to work. Talking about it over dinner with my husband and our two roommates at the time, I had a solution before dessert. Discuss what you want and be open, but be wary and don’t allow too much influence, this is your work, your voice! It’s when you get a lot of different ideas and advice from a ton of people and you try to implement them all that you run into trouble. If you hear the same thing from 3 different people it should receive due consideration, but if its a single person take the advice as simply that one person’s thoughts.

At the same time have a short pitch of specifics things to say to friends and family. (ie an elevator pitch) Be enthusatic, love it and own it. It’s your work. You SHOULD be excited about it. So I say share it! (after you’ve nailed down the basics in your mind of course. :D)

What say you all those other authors out there? Sound off in the comments below.

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Comparisons Sometimes Can Help. My Villain vs Voldemort

By | Publishing, Website stuff | 2 Comments

Many times when a person starts comparing themselves to others the outcome isn’t good. However when it comes to character development I find comparisons to be invaluable.

Now I was in the shower when I hashed out some really key details about my main villain. Maybe it’s just me but I tend to get my best thinking and brain storming done about my novels and my characters while in the shower. Go figure its always when I’m surrounded by water and nowhere near a computer or notebook. (Not that I could use them while wet anyways). Thankfully I was able to retain most of the thoughts I had until I got the opportunity to write them down.  
Lego Voldemort – Sweet

What I’d done was compared my main villain to Lord Voldemort. As far as literature goes, he’s one great bad guy in contemporary work. And as I’m extremely well aquatinted with all things Harry Potter it made sense for me to flesh out the flaws and motivations for my main villain in comparison to Voldemort. What an amazing character JK Rowling developed! He went from a sociopathic, attention seeking teenager (who murdered his father) to someone with devoted followers who wanted to place himself as supreme ruler and to subjugate all Muggles.
Now I agree with many others in the writing sphere that when promoting or trying to sell your novel it is probably best not to compare your work with some internationally recognizable names. But I find it immensely helpful with my own characters. The more I thought about Voldemort and his history and all of his motivations the easier it was for me to flesh out my villain. 
In thinking about how my villain was different from Voldemort I nailed down some very essential characteristics and motivations. Was my villain a sociopath? Was he(she) an attention seeking teenager? Did he commit murder at a young age? What was her childhood like? Did he want a large following of people who worshipped him? Or did she prefer to work from the shadows, manipulating people in an underhanded, hidden behind fake names kind of way? By taking the details I knew and understood about Voldemort and then putting that in direct comparison with my villain I got some great work done, and was a huge eye opener at the same time. (You’ll notice I alternated between referring to my villain as a he or a she. This was so there’s no spoilers. 😀 )

What you read can have huge impacts on your writing see What You Read Will Always Affect Your Writing, but in addition you can analyze great books and great characters that you love and use them to grow and develop your own characters and writing. Happy Writing all! 😀

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Writing & Editing Like Mad. Harper Voyager Taking Unsolicited Manuscripts.

By | Publishing, Writing Tips | 4 Comments

So this is going to be a very short post because I need to get back to my manuscript, but suffice it to say I am very excited. Not too long ago I found out the Harper Voyager is accepting unsolicited manuscripts from Oct 1- Oct 14, 2012. (Which starts today! :D)

I made the decision that I would submit. But this meant that I needed to go back and rework all those things I wanted to adjust after great feedback from the workshop I went to in Aug. (see here) I also need to add about 10,000 words because they state it has to be at least 70,000 but prefer 80-120,000. I’ve done some serious editing but I’m sitting at about 60,000 words right now so I might possibly even have to add 20,000 words. A daunting task to say the least.

This opportunity is unprecedented (as far as I know) and I am so happy I can be a part of it. Here’s to all the other writers out there! Keep on keeping on. And WRITE!