Things In Writing I Pay Attention To That Other People Might Not Care About

If Haskell gets any closer Nyxie will show him the consequences

Yes A Does Really Have To Get To B Eventually

Cause And Effect

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Unresolved situations are frustrating.

Example: If a character experiences trauma, they will be traumatized and then display signs of trauma as a result of the event.

To not experience trauma in response to a traumatic event indicates something other. This could be used as a literary device. If it is not being used as a device it is distracting and takes away from the work. Make sure all actions have consequences.

Does The Characterization Of Each Character Match Up With The Timeline?

Characters are on a journey. Each character is moving from A to B and some will go on to C or D. Along those paths each character is changed. This creates the timeline of a book. How a character is portrayed in a scene needs to match the point in the timeline a character is at.

Example: A character that is in her twenties thinks about bills and her job as opposed to a character in her teens that is thinking about school. Because of this, the relationships formed around these areas are most important in life and are the most emotionally impactful outside of family and those that might as well be family.

We Didn’t Go Anywhere

When the setting of a story changes it’s important to have some form of transition to show movement of time and place.

There are some stories that don’t include enough details about objective indicators of passage of time and check that they are consistent such that all of the details of the story align temporally.

There are some stories that don’t include them at all and it’s somehow eternal summer somewhere bizarre like Alaska.

There are some stories that include way too much detail. It’s overwhelming and distracting from the story. I am suddenly studying the passage of time and the changing of the seasons instead of the nature of man.

There are some stories that include lots and lots of details. So many details. All the details. But none of them align temporally, so suddenly April was both 6 months ago and 2 months ago with Winter only 3 months away. This is when I start getting headaches. James Joyce does this. A lot.

Characters Have Hidden Lives

It’s Okay To Have “Offensive” Characters

There’s a huge difference between an “offensive” character that upsets readers and an overdone inaccurate stereotyped character that upsets readers because it doesn’t resonate.

The best offensive characters speak to the group they’re offending because they are too accurate and too real. This will be upsetting to some people. That’s the kind of “offensive” I relish. There may be those that demand a content warning. Good – research is showing that content warnings increase the reads a piece gets much like good tagging because people are seeking them out.

I don’t care who the author is – I promise if you have done your research and shaped your character in a way that reveals truths in your observations, I will love your character even if people get really upset with you over it. Cut the wound deep and hit where it hurts, not where it’s been done ad nauseum unless it’s real. Reveal something no one else has, but remember that pen names exist for your protection.

Your Characters Have Conversations The Reader Doesn’t Know About And Doesn’t See

An author cannot document everything. They are writing down a snapshot of a potential alternate universe that could exist because someone thought of it, right? That means all of those characters have private inner lives the reader can’t possibly know in its entirety. This means characters can have relationships with each other that are implied instead of explicitly stated. All of this helps to create depth.

It helps to come up with a full backstory for every character in a story even if it’s never talked about or mentioned. This will influence how dialogue is written and how hidden relationships between characters are revealed.

Your Characters Have Moods

Depending on your character’s internal state they will have a mood. This mood will translate into action or inaction in response to a stimulus and that will result in some consequence. Moods and energy levels related to exhaustion as an effect of the story timeline should all be cohesive.

Your Characters Of Different Cultures Are Going To Have Trouble Getting Along

Culture clash is real. The minority of people will be peaceful and fine and that’s great, but your characters aren’t the saints you think they are. Nope. They are averse to change and other cultures and view other as dangerous. This goes all ways. Be real – your characters from different cultures are going to be uneasy around each other and hesitant to make friends for legitimate reasons evolutionary wired in (if they’re humanoid).

Settings Are Places That Can Only Be Known Through Experience

Setting Descriptions Have A Time And Place With Characters In Them

It is not uncommon that I run into setting descriptions that are detached from the story either by the characters not interacting with the setting features or by the characters existing completely separate from setting descriptions.

By integrating setting details with the story as a whole the sensory experience can be the focus. The integrated sensory experience of the setting provides the reader with a greater sense of passage of time.

Settings Indicate Culture

Think about it – In the United States, if I set a story in the South a reader is going to anticipate a lot of passive aggressive saccharine manipulation straddled by y’alls happening. If I set a story in the Northeast, there’s a more WASPy social norm puppet show expectation.

But that’s based on the dominant culture of an area. What about when you’re writing about an area’s subculture?

I like to refer to framing subculture structures in writing as “country clubs” – it’s exclusive, you need to know someone to be someone, and there are generally specific central gathering places.

TL;DR

  • Make sure everything makes sense temporally
  • Ground the reader in temporal details outside the character
  • Offend by speaking the truth and make very effort to ensure that truth resonates in an effective and impactful way with the audience
  • Characters have conversations the reader won’t see but totally influence what the final dialogue will be.
  • Characters have inner lives, states, and energy levels that change as a result of the story. Write that.
  • Culture clash is real. Observe it and describe it. Be curious and nuanced. This gives a story so much depth.
  • Details of setting can be added to show passage of time in the story and immerse the characters and action in the location.
  • Settings indicate dominant culture and can somewhat indicate subcultures.

Thank you for reading! If you like this post on writing please like and let me know. What are things in books that drive you crazy?

October 2019: “Kingdom of the Northern Sun” by Clara Martin

Summary (Warning: mild spoilers):
In a setting parallel to our own, the United States contains independent kingdoms ruled by powerful fae families interspersed with states. A disabled veteran, named Eileen, seeks to find a way to have independence, use her skills, and manage her own disability. She also finds herself fighting for the freedom of human slaves in a time when powerful magic and political conflict are at the forefront of debates in Washington, DC.

In this first book of The Revolution Series, Eileen finds herself caught up in a collection of political plots. While one group seeks to unseat a royal family in a fae kingdom, she is recruited to assist in coordinated espionage to free enslaved humans from these same kingdoms. All the while, she is reminded that everyone has ulterior motives, including the voices in her own head.

My Overall Response:
Clara Martin approaches neurodiversity and mental illness through Eileen’s experience providing the reader with insight often missed but desperately needed. Martin shows the importance of self-care, structure, and examples of the constant micro-aggressions people that choose to be open about their situations face each day. One of the impressive parts of the book is how Martin uses this as a way to share some of her personal experiences with the daily battles she shares with Eileen. Her representation is consistent with other personal accounts of schizophrenia, such as those shared on the Out of My Mind podcast, and adds to an ever growing narrative that breaks down the stigma.

The story has twists, turns, and plenty of fun to keep the reader interested. From double agents to dishonest romantic interests, the characters reveal themselves as distrusting of even the best-intended information due to their own prejudices.

A special bonus for describing the setting in ways that show the author is writing what they know. I much appreciate it when I read about places I know in ways that capture intimate details, such as how difficult it is to park in Washington, DC.

Additionally, Eileen is a strong female character working to overcome her inability to use magic in a world where magic is continuously used. This parallel provides the reader with some insight into the compensation and constant struggle many veterans face after military service when they return home with new disabilities. Martin acknowledges that many wounds are from training exercises, accidents, assault, and other non-deployment related injuries – an often forgotten piece of the daily struggles for veterans. Female veterans tend to be underrepresented in fiction, but Martin succeeds in bringing this perspective to the table while addressing the issue of sexual assault.

LGBTQA Friendly?
This book features an adorable couple as well as other examples, inclusive representation of the LGBTQA community.

Grammar:
This book has an easy reading style with content that is appropriate for ages 12+, but is also very enjoyable by an adult reader.

Overall the few grammatical issues included a couple missing punctuation marks and some inconsistent verb tenses. The punctuation could easily be missed due to formatting and the verb tenses are not inappropriate given common use. These errors do not interrupt the reader’s experience and may not be noticed by most.

Twilight Zone Moment:
Every book has at least one. These are the moments that don’t quite add up and throw a reader rolling down into the uncanny valley for a moment in an otherwise brilliant scene.

  • Charles calls and shows up even though logically, they are much farther away. The main character, perhaps due to exhaustion, doesn’t notice the inconsistency until after the character arrives and turns out to be someone else.
  • Somehow missed by Anna, even though she was already informed, an accused double agent kills someone to prevent anyone from using them for information. This scene seems like it should have garnered more attention than it received.

I don’t use rating scales (for now). I recommend reading this book and look forward to reading the sequel, Kingdom of the Western Wind.

If you’re interested in more information on Clara Martin, please take a moment to check out her blog, Clara Martin’s World or her twitter @WritesClara

September 2019: “Chasing Peace” by Alaine Greyson

Summary (Warning: mild spoilers):
Twin sisters are faced with different internal responses to the abuse they received growing up. We meet the coping mechanisms and masks of Samantha and Elizabeth Barrett under the manipulative iron fist of their mother, Portia. Elizabeth becomes engaged to a manipulative sociopath through an arrangement made by Portia, then disappears after the night of her engagement party. Samantha, while battling with a combination of her own addictions, failed coping mechanisms, and history of abuse, investigates the murder of her sister and the possible framing of a not-so-innocent drug dealer. Through this book, Samantha finds not only her real support network and severs toxic relationships, but also learns the importance of boundaries in friendship, family, and love. As an additional bonus, who doesn’t love a happy ending when it comes to character development?

My Overall Response:
Very few books can approach the tough topic of addiction without making me cringe as I try to force my way through. Alaine Greyson succeeds in not making me cringe. She is honest when it comes to the realities: coping mechanisms, cravings, cycles of abuse, support networks, and the steps it takes to get sober. First and foremost, I want to commend Greyson for her incredible representation of a character battling addiction and mental health issues without communicating judgment other than the experiences of the characters within the book. Additionally, I want to give high praise for her understanding of the healing process. These are not easy things to write about and deserve recognition.

This book tells an incredible story about recovering from grief, heart ache, abuse and addiction. It depicts multidimensional characters that show the capability of change and self redemption while also weaving together a mesh of genuinely good people that have made poor decisions. One of the best parts of the book are the moments of self reflection that keep the reader frustrated, yet also cheering for the characters as they grow.

LGBTQA Friendly?
This book includes major characters that identify as LGBTQA and touches on struggles in coming out.

Grammar:
The book has an easy to read style that makes it great for ages 15+. While there were some grammatical errors, for a small publication team these are not in any way extraordinary. After much consideration, the two editing issues that I found interrupted my experience of the book were:

  • The difference between a psychiatrist vs. a psychologist
    • A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor that has been trained in the treatment of psychiatric illness through the use of medications and medical intervention therapies. While sometimes these individuals receive additional training to offer counseling to their patients, they are rarely a primary therapist.
    • A psychologist is a Psych. D. or has a Masters in Counseling. These individuals receive training the treatment of mental illness through therapies and are unable to prescribe medications in most states. In some states, they can prescribe non-Controlled Substances only, such as SSRIs. In Maryland (the setting of the novel) only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, whereas a psychologist can offer therapies and supervise individuals during their 2 year training to receive their licensure.
  • The incorrect preposition on page 252: into vs. on to
    • “He splayed his fingers up her thighs and slipped them into her clitoris, massaging it with his thumb”
      As a reader, this word choice made me do a double-take because it takes an otherwise beautiful scene that I would describe as sexually enlightening for the characters involved, and makes me worry about anatomy. Contextually, I believe it is clearly an accident.

Twilight Zone Moment:
Every book has at least one. These are the moments that don’t quite add up and throw a reader rolling down into the uncanny valley for a moment in an otherwise brilliant scene.

  • Who lit the candles and poured the champagne?
    There is a moment toward the end of the novel where an event is being held at a location some distance from where the candles and champagne are. In my head, as a reader, I estimated approximately 6 hours of time elapsing prior to arriving at the apartment where poured champagne is still cold and a room full of lit candles hasn’t burned through the wicks and lit the apartment on fire.
    I recognize that this will not bother all readers because ,”Maybe they asked a friend to set it up for them” or “Maybe ______ was in on it”. I believe this would be resolved by adding a small bit of explanation.

I don’t use rating scales (for now). I’m sure I’ll become more predictable at some point. For now, know that I recommend reading this book and look forward to reading the sequel, Wanting Peace coming out in February 2020.