Posted in how to write

What Makes Anime Characters so Popular?

I am constantly struck by how Anime stands apart from other popular media presented to teens. It’s often not only something you need to be in the mood for, but also something that can bring people with no other common interests together in ways that books never seem to do. At conventions, thousands of people pay money to dress up as the characters and talk with other people who enjoy the same shows in a way only the harry potter books seem to do. So I’ve started to analyze what sets it apart from American media.

The first part that I’m struck by is how in every arch, one season, the characters not only go up against their worst enemy but they truly believe they will fail before discovering an even greater power. In YA books this is often saved for the climax or the end which can still be effective but not nearly as powerful.

You see the important part about this is the compounding effect. The reader always knows the character will make it out alive in the end, but when we see the breakthrough moment instead of a montage it truly makes the viewer believe that the character has gotten stronger. So when, with new power/control/knowledge, the MC faces a new terrible, amazing villain, we can hardly believe that they will win. Both the characters and we believe that’s all the tricks the character has until the creator pulls a fast one on us and shows there’s more power left in the character after all.

The other big difference is that the characters often want to be there. In much of American media, the MC is forced on the quest by another factor (blackmail, repaying a favor, prophecy ect.) While on a lot of anime not only does the character have a backstory that motivates them to complete the challenge but sometimes to create their own goal that they strive for. I’m constantly surprised by how many times the main character is told to stay out of the fight or to not get involved but is to motivated to not fight.

While anime will always have its advantages with how easy it is to consume in mass, novels can take a page from its structure and characters in this way.

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Posted in how to write

The Secret to Making Your Setting More Than a Backdrop

I studied set design and construction for film in college, not writing. But that makes me the most qualified person to tell you that you’re probably doing plot wrong. When creating the world of a film we don’t just think about the physical place, but how it dimaz-fakhruddin-521665-unsplash.jpgreflects the characters and how it’ll influence the emotions of the viewer. We pick out every piece of furniture meticulously and work in teams to create not only makeup, wardrobe, props, furniture, rooms, but also build worlds from the ground up and they always have to make sense and be believable.

Without setting, everything is taking place inside 4 white walls, and while there’s more left to the imagination in a novel than a film set, you can’t expect readers to world build for you. So what’s the secret to making a setting really have an emotional impact and be more than just a backdrop?

Treat your setting like a character.

Have the setting change over time, whether that’s getting cleaner, messier, or burning to the ground. Describe it in ways that make people fall in love with it, despise it, or be disgusted with it. Have the weather react to news, and interact with the characters. Create physical blocks with it, the way another character might try to slow your hero down.

element5-digital-645849-unsplash.jpgDon’t be afraid to spend a couple of sentences describing a new place when you come to it, but return to old places as much as you can. In film, every location change and new set costs thousands of dollars, so we see the characters returning to the same place again and again. This will let you fully explore the room and let the characters fully probe the room without dumping information on the reader. Let your characters use all five senses, pick up items, smell burning bread in another room, see something sitting on the mantel. Let them move through the world not just stand in front of it.

Flesh out your world and it’s backstory the way you would a character. There’s a story behind old buildings and the way they were treated by their owners. Homes say a lot about the people who live there and give you a great opportunity to show instead of tell.

Posted in how to write

How DnD Changed the Way I Write.

Call me a nerd, but I’ve heard several authors say that playing DnD helps them write better. It really helps to fully get into character and see exactly what your motivations are even when the task at hand doesn’t involve the overall plot. Roleplaying shows you all the different facets of a person and how others react to this behavior, it makes you think on your feet and decide what’s right and wrong without consequence.

It would be very difficult to explain all the different character interactions and what I learned about human phycology in just a few sessions, but I can tell you about how I’ve come to interact with objects.

In case you haven’t played, let me give you an overview.  You and your friends create characters that will move through a world and complete quests based off of the whim of the game master or DM. So as you’re playing the DM will tell you about the world but obviously, he can’t explain everything so it’s up to the players to ask more about things they are interested in.

Different characters will react to the same room differently. Here’s an example:

A lizard Nobel, a wandering knome riding a dog, a giant raven necromancer and a trifling thief in disguise walk into a kings bedroom while he isn’t home. The room is described as: a big open room with a king sized bed, a wardrobe, and a chest or drawers, it looks like whoever was here left in a hurry because the bed isn’t made and the drawers are open.

brennan-martinez-729517-unsplash.jpgThe Nobel is familiar with this type of room and is bored, he’s to rich to steal anything so he takes a nap on the huge bed. The knome’s priority is to rummage through the wardrobe and see if there are any clothes she can steal, while the necromancer is checking drawers to see if there’s anything he can use in spells. The thief is right behind him trying to find anything of monetary value. All the while we are having a conversation about why the teifling is in disguise.

So in short, every character is after something different even if it isn’t directly related to the ultimate goal. They all have quirks. And even though the best thing we got out of the room was the conversation, it only goes to prove that your characters shouldn’t be standing still even if the discussion is heated.

If you want to get into dnd or even just think more about characters and backstory I’d recommend you get the players handbook.

If you liked this post you might also like Your Characters Aren’t in Enough Danger

Posted in how to write

Your Characters Aren’t in Enough Danger

In the age of video games where it only takes a click of a button for your favorite character to respawn, it’s easy for new writers to fall short when trying to create rising action. Lucky for us, there is one very simple thing to keep in mind to make sure your action actually rises and isn’t just in the same state of panic the whole time.

The plot has to build on itself based on the characters decisions.

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If the choices your character make don’t change the way the plot progresses, the villain acts, or other characters respond then they have effectively done nothing. There has to be low tides and high tides, times of internal and external conflict, and one thing must lead to another.

I suggest picking three main events that lead up to the climax and making sure that at least those points have some kind of consequence. Even if the character succeeds, at what cost? Does this big event change the way your main character thinks, acts, or respond when in danger again?

Please let me know if you struggle with this as well. If you want to read more articles by me, I’d suggest starting with

Posted in how to write

What Makes a Powerful Antagonist?

There has been an influx of underdeveloped antagonists in our current society. Between TV, movies, books, and (the main culprit) video games, villain characters have become inhuman and unrealistic. The reason behind this shift is the overwhelming increase in violence and a need to justify it. If the enemy is faceless, nameless and has a generic motive it makes it easy to side with the hero and (if you’re playing a video game) kill without remorse.

But there are some stellar villains out there. One of the most impactful antagonists as of recent is Thanos! While I wouldn’t put him in my top 10 best villains, people have really been impacted by his character type. He’d be very stereotypical if it weren’t for the fact that we sympathize with his goal.Empire_March_Cover_IW_6_Textless.png

The villain needs to be a fleshed out person with a past that makes sense for them but if we (the reader) can’t logically or emotionally connect with the reasoning behind the crime, the villain falls short. When writing your antagonist you should be able to think about the whole novel from his point of view. All the steps he takes should make sense in that order. And most importantly, if the book was written from his point of view, the villain would be the hero.

Do you see this trait on any of your favorite antagonists? What other traits do you think are important? Please start a conversation in the comments below. If you liked this article you might also enjoy All Main Characters Have This Trait

 

 

What I’m reading right now:

Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice

Novelist’s Boot Camp: 101 Ways to Take Your Book From Boring to Bestseller

Posted in how to write

The One Thing All Writers Forget About When Creating Characters and Plots

What’s the difference between a page turner and a book you never finish? Well aside from the way it’s written and what the book is about, there’s one major difference you’ve probably never noticed.

Does the character interact with the plot or do they shape it?


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I’m willing to argue that this one wording difference makes a book so much more engaging. But first let me explain what I mean. Many authors come up with the plot and then stick characters in, often times before they’re fully formed. While this isn’t innately bad I can make the consequences less thrilling.

What makes a novel truly spectacular is when the character’s actions change the perceived outcome of the plot. For instance having a character not kill the bad guy because he was surrounded by dogs (and your main character is afraid of dogs) half way through the book will be so much more psychologically traumatizing for the character because it was within their grasp. This is just one example, but I think that incorporating your character’s backstory into the plot can make the difference between passive characters, and those who are truly engaged in the plot.

This post was inspired by the book Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice

If you found this interesting you might also enjoy last weeks post: What Makes a Hero and Why Is It So Hard to Write One?

Posted in how to write

What Makes a Hero and Why Is It So Hard to Write One?

This article is written off of an idea presented in The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter page 115. Please enjoy.

Why do writers find it so hard to write certain conflicts? Have you ever known what scene needs to be written next but just can’t seem to write it? Or maybe you have a character that is constantly avoiding conflict? Well, the root of this problem isn’t with your ability as a writer instead it lies in the quandary of being a writer.

In life, we actively avoid all the conflicts we would put in our books. So it can be tricky to find a reason why your character would just walk right into danger. Writing depressed characters can often be the hardest as the author may not be able to convince the character to stay alive.

A hero is really the person or character that sees danger and finds a reason to walk right into it. They save others before themselves and don’t get stressed about having to make hard desitions.

It can be hard as a young writer to draw the line between fiction and reality. We can find it hard to not be the hero and end up putting ourselves in bad situations because we didn’t proceed with caution. Or else we might end up with flat characters.

I find this whole idea very interesting and somewhat out of my league. If you have anything to add please do so in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this then you may also like my post The One Trait All Main Characters Have

Posted in how to write, Publishing

Kindel Direct Publishing (KDP) Tips, Tricks and Secrets: a Resource Guide

Planning to release an ebook on Kindel Direct Publishing? Here are all of the resources I’m using to publish my novel ok KDP.
First, here’s the link to Amazon’s help guide.

This video shows how to be very successful with any book you publish, traditional or self-publishing.

He first starts talking about building a brand. I would definitely do more research on this. My favorite books from published authors on niche building are:

Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform

Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book

Wild Ink : Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market

(Note: These are affiliate links)

This next link is very useful for understanding the Amazon algorithm! It goes over writing your description, synopsis, getting reviews, and promoting your content.

https://www.gedcusack.com/5-successful-kdp-book-launch-tips/

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If you are looking to create something more like a publishing company, this video goes over how to write nonfiction ebooks (though you can use it for fiction as well). He covers how to research profitable niches, higher ghostwriters, places you can get the cover made, and ways to maximize how much money you make!

This next website has a lot of information and really give the basics on all the steps to be successful. The most useful information is about how to set up your promotion plan.

http://skipjackpublishing.com/10-tips-to-take-your-book-to-1-in-a-free-kdp-select-promo-beyond/

The next video is a long-winded explanation but it was created earlier this year and seems to be quite up to date. He explains all of the basics about your book very clearly as well as marketing, brand building, and how it all connects.

 

This is a video from 2016 but it’s a quick video and covers major topics like how to price your book, how many reviews you need and free promo.

If you want to go the traditionally published path then you should take a look at The Publisher’s Spreadsheet it’s a planning and organization system taught to me by one of my favorite writing teachers.

Posted in how to write

Tricks to Get Through the First Draft of a Novel

Many people aspire to be writers and authors but many fail for the simple reason that they are not in the right mindset. The best of them get 30,000 words in before switching to another project. But there are people just like you who have writing novel length works. This is a simple guide to the mental game behind completing your first draft.

1: Remember That It’s Just a First Draft.

It doesn’t have to be perfect or even good. Even if you put your all into every sentence,  you might end up not needing the scene. But at the same time, you don’t want to write awfully because that will make it very hard to edit. It can also affect your stamina in finishing the draft. For me, knowing the first part of the book is poorly written or will need major edits makes me not want to write anymore and I will often end up abandoning the project.mistakes-1756958_1920.jpg That’s why NaNoWriMo works so well for me. I’m able to write quickly but well. I’m not worried about the quality of the draft but I also know any given scene could be vital or dropped. It makes it so I don’t put too much pressure on myself but can’t go back to edit the first few pages (because that doesn’t add much to my word count).

2: The Dreaded Deadline

Having a deadline is a great motivator for most authors. Having a self-imposed deadline can keep your mind from wandering off to other projects. I know that if I work on one project too long I’ll get bored of it and won’t want to keep working on it. So you can work as quickly as possible.

You could also decide to work on one project for two weeks and the switch to the other. This works well for people who can’t focus on one draft because they have two may other possible ideas. But make sure you always revisit the project at the end of the deadline.

If writing fast isn’t your thing I have a couple of suggestions as well.

3: Write The Most Important Parts First.

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It can sometimes be the most beneficial to write only the things you need for the first draft and then fill in the rest later. You can still write in chronological order so that you understand the build to the climax but dropping the less important scenes will keep yourdraft shorter and more fluid. Then you can always go in and fill in the rest later.

4: Plan a Big Reward or Party When You Finishing the Draft.

Giving yourself a reward is the opposite of the deadline. Allow yourself a special gift, trip, or break only if you complete the draft. Alternatively, you could set smaller rewards for finishing chapters or getting halfway through the project.

5: Make it a Habit

Sometimes the hardest part is just starting. Sit down and tell yourself you have to write one sentence and then you can do something else… or you can keep going. Alternatively, block out 15 minutes and say you can’t get up or look at anything except your draft until the time is up. One of these tricks should boost your mojo.

 

I hope some of these tricks helped you out! If you know of any other tips please let me know in the comments below!

Posted in how to write

Will There be More LGBT Best Sellers Like Love Simon?

With Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and it’s accompanying movie Love Simon hitting the mainstream I begin wondering if there will be any LGBT best seller books being released soon. This is one of the first novels with an openly gay main character that has reached such a wide audience. But will this trigger bigger publishers to start excepting more LGBT works?

I do think that bigger publishers having seen the wide success of Love Simon will be more likely to except these kinds of stories. But of course, publishers always have to be concerned with what will sell. And so though there might be a slight increase in novels being produced for the LGBT community, Love Simon was primarily marketed at teenage girls and gay guys. The problem with this is that teenage girls are often going to pick up a straight romance, so it is less likely to have a big sale if it is LGBT friendly and teen gay guys don’t make up a significant portion of the market making them less likely to be targeted.

On the other hand there has been a huge surge in popularity of gay romance is in those communities animes such as Yuri on Ice as well as TV shows and movies such as Moonlight. Each successful release of a new gay romance will trigger more and more publishers start to start accepting them. The soonest we will probably see a surge in LGBT works will be next year due to the long timeframe of publishing novel. But whether or not this will be a lasting trend will only be told by time. There have always been LGBT novels and there will always be more as the community is more accepted by the rest of the world.