I’m going to do a feature where I introduce my upcoming characters. I just decided this and it starts today. Instead of starting with main characters, I’m going to go with some side characters just for fun.
Up to this point, I’ve only written humans (or human-like people.) In my fantasy comedy, Legends of Auhlg, that’s changing. I have two animal characters.
First is Blaze, a cerulean hellhound. What’s that? Well, imagine a dog that can breathe fire and then imagine that dog is blue and breathes blue fire. Blaze is the animal companion to one of the main characters, Melysoni the sylph.
He doesn’t speak and is protective and loyal to his mistress. Despite being terrifying to look at, he’s a good boy.
Blaze is a lot of fun to write. As a non-verbal character, he communicates through body language and the sounds of a regular dog. By mixing his expected behaviors with his magical abilities, it creates a realistic dog character with bonus features.
The second animal sidekick is Gary the Arrogant Unicorn. I posted an excerpt of him here on my blog when I first came up with the idea. Gary is a verbal character and he also lends to the comic relief.
Gary, however; is not a human and is of the equine family. He doesn’t have the same physical cues to his dialogue. Unicorns don’t sigh, for example. This helps to change things up a bit when writing dialogue tags. Again, giving him a mix of realistic horse traits mixed with human language and dialogue presents a new challenge to writing.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. I decided to post about my current plans and writing.
Right now, I’m working on two projects. The first is Book Three of my Darkness Falling Trilogy. I’ve been having some trouble with it and it’s slow going. But it is going. Hopefully, I’ll be close to completing it in the falls. My plan is to have it out before the end of 2017, the 20 year anniversary of when I first started writing.
Secondly, I’m working on my fantasy comedy: Legends of Auhlg. I’d also like to get this story out this year or early next year.
How do I work on two things at once? Well, I’m writing on whichever I feel more inclined to write on every day.
I’m also still working on The Hunted, but it’s more of a back seat right now.
Anyway, that’s my update. I’ll be posting on the blog again but not sure if I’ll post every week like before.
This post contains spoilers from the episode of The Walking Dead which aired November 13, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, you have been warned.
Today I want to talk about creating and holding tension in storytelling. It is both a difficult and necessary part of telling a good story, specifically in the horror and thriller genres, both of which The Walking Dead fit into. Creating and holding tension is something that this show struggles with. Either they do an amazing job or they do a horrible job. That’s because tension itself must either be amazing or horrible. There is no “middle ground” for tension, kind of like being pregnant. You either are pregnant or you’re not. Something is either intense or it isn’t.
Tension requires the perfect combination of acting, writing, and directing when it comes to television or movies. In writing, it falls fully on the writer. This episode was a television version of exposition. Exposition has its place, but a full ninety minutes of it is a bad thing. Once again the story was told in a weird order instead of linearly. Linear can be a good thing, and at this point of The Walking Dead, it could help to build tension.
Let’s start with the biggest problem first. We don’t get to see Rick and Company return to Alexandria. We don’t know how many days have passed. Michonne sneaks out to do some target practice so that she can become a sniper. Rosita and Spencer are headed out to scavenge. Eugene is “building them a radio,” although I bet his bullet building skills would be worth more to them if they knew.
Negan shows up right at the top of the show. They were supposed to have a week but now the Saviors are early, with Daryl in tow as a visual reminder of what is at stake.
This would all be great, except for one problem: The population of Alexandria seems totally clueless.
“Who is this guy? Why is Rick freaking out?”
Did Rick really not tell anyone anything? Is he trying to pull an Ezekiel, because that’s not going to work. Negan considered our crew of survivors as a threat, which is why he’s put on such a big display.
Remember – we don’t know how much time has passed. It’s been enough time that Daryl looks the same as he did at the end of last week’s episode, beaten up and broken down. That alone makes it feel like more than one night has passed.
Another reason it feels like he must have told someone is Father Gabriel. The idea of telling Negan that Maggie died, and her grave, means some planning has occurred.
By the time Rick gathers everyone together at the church, it feels like a reminder, not an explanation. The whole thing is convoluted and confusing.
What would have worked better is if the episode starts with us seeing Rick tell the Alexandrians about Negan, to see their grief or shock over what happened to Glenn and Abraham, to see Rick still raw. They then begin gathering supplies – setting aside half their food, lamenting that there isn’t enough and what are they going to do? Then, as we feel the dire reality that Alexandria doesn’t have much to offer by way of food and Rosita and Spencer are heading out to scavenge; knock knock, Negan is early!
Why would this work better? Because it would give the people of Alexandria a chance to show us their emotional response in a more realistic manner; even if they think Rick is crazy and don’t think it’s that bad. Even if they want to fight back or are confused when Negan shows up and starts taking chairs and mattresses instead of food.
I had a lot of hope for Michonne. Smuggling the rifle out in the morning for target practice was a good idea, but ultimately, her story this episode was pointless. If she has left the rifle out in the wilderness it would have been a great opportunity. If Rick hadn’t seen her taking the rifle it would have been even better. Why? Michone the Sniper would be a fantastic secret to have not only from Negan, but also from Rick. Giving characters secrets only makes them stronger, it builds possibility right into the story.
Another problem with Michonne’s story is Negan’s reaction to her return. He just had Alexandria turned upside down to find two guns, then Michonne walks in with an undocumented gun and he gives Rick a verbal warning. This is completely out of character and also stupid. Even if there aren’t any more guns out there, the bold faced lie that Rick told him should have resulted in something terrible. Instead, he shows leniency.
As he said to Olivia, guns are life and death. Not flipping his lid over one undocumented gun makes no sense.
You Ain’t My Daddy!
Carl’s attack on Negan and his men was one of the worst scenes in the whole episode. I didn’t believe a minute of it. Sorry, Carl, but the tough guy attitude fell short.
It was also pointless.
As pointed out by Rosita, it was already pretty clear they were going to take the guns. Why else did Dwight take her gun, other than being a jerk? Guns were on the menu. Hilltop doesn’t have guns. The Kingdom has guns, but Ezekiel is better at diplomacy than Hilltop’s leader, as we saw last season. We didn’t need Carl to throw his teenage angst on the fire for Negan to take the guns away.
The most important part of the episode is understanding what Negan took away from Alexandria. He left their food out of “kindness,” but he took away their safety and comfort. Alexandria has been very comfortable for a long time. Even with the threats of last season, they still had fancy houses to live in and could pretend that everything was semi-normal. The addition of discomfort is a blow to their moral and is very manipulative.
Taking the guns leaves Alexandria is helpless, not only from Negan but from other threats, and he wants them to be helpless. He wants them to need his protection. He left their food because although they are upset about losing their mattresses, it could have been worse. He wants him to be grateful to him when he’s merciful; so that they constantly teeter between fear and relief.
This builds a strange type of loyalty, something similar to what you would see in an abusive relationship. Without the guns, Alexandria is helpless. Negan will protect them. Negan can also destroy them. Play by the rules and everything will be fine. Break the rules and someone gets hurt.
I really hope Rosita is finally going to get a storyline. She’s been a background character for a long time now and I would really like to see her develop. Of course, it’s also likely she’s just going to get killed.
I miss Carol, the Angel of Death. I’m starting to feel like her mental breakdown was a contrivance because this version of Carol didn’t exist in the comics and they had to eliminate her to make the Negan plot work. There are other ways Ezekiel and the Kingdom could have been introduced to the story.
I really hope Daryl is going to earn respect from some of the Saviors because I think one of the best ways to take Negan down is from the inside. Dwight may or may not be helpful in this, considering he’s on a power trip.
Do You Like this Feature on my Blog?
Thank you for reading. This may be the last episode that I’m able to address on a Monday. Watching the episodes live isn’t easy for me, and it may be that I will have to start watching them after they air. If you find this feature to my blog interesting, helpful, or otherwise enjoyable, please let me know in the comments. I will move it to Tuesday if I’m unable to watch on Sunday. Otherwise, this may be the last time I share my two cents on the subject.
Many writers are very organized people, and they are called plotters, making their outlines and using bullet points before really setting down to write.
Other writers use their intuition to guide them. They are called pantsers because they “fly by the seat of the pants.”
Then there are those of us who do a little of both, one way or another.
The funny thing about my NaNoWriMo project is I have the whole thing planned out in as close to an outline as I can get, but I’m not able to tell the story.
For me, outlines are very bad.
I didn’t intend to “plan” the story. I wrote down my idea so that I wouldn’t forget while I was working on Book Two of my trilogy. This has tricked my brain into thinking that I’ve already written this story and now I’m struggling to actually write the story.
Instead, as I try to push through and find the words, I end up researching. I’ve spent hours
reading up on Mesopotamian history and culture, and I’ve learned some amazing things. My story doesn’t take place in Mesopotamia, but a place inspired by it. All of this research is great, but it’s putting a damper on my actual writing time. I already don’t have much time to write to begin with considering I work 40 hours a week, have a family, write a blog, and of course get caught up in the random distractions we all have.
Another reason I think I’m struggling is because I’m trying not to edit. That’s a “writer rule,” and one that I don’t follow at all. I edit while I write. By the time my first draft is done, every chapter has been edited for content at least once. NaNo rules say “No Editing!” but that’s like telling me “No breathing!” My mind is gasping for air as I try to create the new without fixing the old.
The point of NaNo is to build a writing community and to teach young (or new) writers how to be disciplined and finish something. I’ve never participated before. I have finished things I’ve started – stories, articles, and novels, – doing things my way.
While I struggle with my NaNoWriMo project, my chaotic mind still needs to write something. I’ve been working on part eight of The Hunted. I also started a short story for a contest, because of course I did. The project I thought I would be working on is simmering quietly, taking shape, but also fighting me. With my chaotic mind, I could suddenly find the right thought and it will send me flying through the narrative.
At least you can all expect another episode of The Hunted next week.
Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.
This post will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead which aired November 6th, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now!
Last night The Walking Dead took us along for the ride with Daryl and his adventures with Negan. These adventures include being locked in a dark closet and tortured with super happy music all day. Sometimes Dwight, (also known as Burned Face Guy,) would take Daryl for a stroll in the yard, which consists of a big cage full of zombies and prisoners. The Savior’s main compound is big and prison-like, but if Daryl is a good boy and decides to join Negan, he’ll get a studio apartment including a bed, chair, kitchen, and even a TV so that he can watch himself on The Walking Dead. (I know they probably have a DVD player or something, but it was funny to see the TV in that room.)
We did get to learn a little bit more about Negan. He’s just as crazy as he first appeared, a real tyrant ruling over his army of loyal ants. How loyal are those ants, exactly? We also learned what happened with Dwight and his wife Sherri after her sister Tina died in the woods and they betrayed Daryl. This came via tell instead of show, where the villain gets to share a customary evil bad-guy speech.
Tina was supposed to be Negan’s fiancé, but she didn’t want to marry him. He was just being a nice guy allowing her to marry him so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard for her insulin anymore. Of course, Tina didn’t like that idea and the three of them ran off. Tina was eaten by zombies; Dwight and Sherri stole Daryl’s crossbow and motorcycle and returned to Negan. In order to save her husband, Sherri married Negan and Dwight worked himself up to being a big dog in the Savior’s army. Of course, he still had to have his face ironed. That’s unfortunate.
If we base the timeline of The Walking Dead on the age of Judith, who is still a baby under a year old, all of this has happened in the span of maybe one or two months. Negan is way more forgiving than expected! It’s fine that they didn’t spend a whole episode hanging with Sherri and Dwight, because last season had a lot of other important things going on. This type of storytelling is lesser than if we’d seen it happen, do we really care about Dwight and Sherri when they are torturing Daryl, who we all know and care about already? I’m guessing we’ll get to spend more time with Sherri and Dwight before it’s all done, but at this point, it’s their fault for returning to Negan instead of going with Daryl to Alexandria.
Also, I’m not the only one thinking “There is only one Negan vs. many unhappy people.” No matter how many people claim to be Negan, there is only one. As the escaped guy told Dwight, if there was an uprising he would be screwed. Too bad Dwight doesn’t seem to be the leader they need, not yet, anyway.
The leader they do need is Daryl.
Last night’s episode was another great look at the characterization from a fan favorite. Daryl is a prime example of how strong characterization can not only shape a story, but uphold it through dark times.We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.
We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.
Daryl knows what is at stake, but he won’t give up, and this is something we’ve seen from him since the first season. He could have turned against the group after Meryl was lost, but he stuck by them and continued to survive. When Negan asks him “Who are you?” he answers “I’m Daryl,” because he knows who he is at the core; he doesn’t need a false identity to know what he’s capable of.
Daryl is a true survivor, which probably isn’t true for a lot of Negan’s followers.
Negan lets him live. Why? Negan is building his character for us as well. Yes, he’s a crazy man with a baseball bat, but he’s also smart. He was smart enough to see the weaknesses in people and build the Saviors around fear. He also knows that there is only one Negan, which is why he’s trained his soldiers to say “I’m Negan.” By giving them a new and shared identity, he’s making them feel part of something bigger, pushing back against possible rebellion.
Those who do not wish to live under the tyranny of the Saviors need someone like Daryl, but Negan also needs Daryl. Killing him would be easy, but breaking him would prove a point to those witnessing the process.
If Negan’s soldiers can see a man like Daryl break down and change, then any misgivings they have about Negan will be quelled. It’s a dangerous game, and one I don’t think Negan will win, at least not in the way he wants. Daryl is walking a very fine line. Either he needs to start gaining support from Dwight and Sherri and others, or he’s probably going to die. A crazy man only has so much patience.
At the very end, Daryl makes his first move with Dwight. He understands. Dwight had to think about someone else, so he gave up. Daryl says that’s why he can’t, and at first it may seem like he’s saying “I don’t have anyone else to think of,” but I actually think this means the opposite. He has a lot of people to think about, everyone at Alexandria, and he can’t become a Savior because he can’t turn on them, even if it costs him his life. Again, this is the same characterization we’ve seen from Daryl before. He had an opportunity before to join a villainous group, but he can’t and he won’t.
Poor zombie nerd guy might have been a good ally if he knew about Daryl.
Sherri is in a prime position to do bad things to Negan, like poison or a knife to the throat if she has the guts and opportunity. Andrea never did with the Governor, but we don’t know Sherry very well.
Speaking of Sherri, I bet she’s going to be one of the first to rebel and possibly die.
Thanks for reading! If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.
This week I started up my National Novel Writing Month project on November first. That means spending time in a whole new world with a whole new cast of characters. These characters have been in my head since January, building up some basic background information for me to work with as I get started. Despite that, I’m just getting to know them and learning how they interact with each other.
One of the easiest ways to write a story is to know your characters. Stories consist of two key elements: an event and a character’s reaction to that event. A character’s motivation will dictate their reaction. By allowing your character’s motivations to drive the plot, the story moves forward organically. When stories move organically, they are more believable to the reader.
Motivations are discovered by character development. The character’s role in the story is only the first step of characterization. The antagonist’s role is to create a problem, and the protagonist’s role is to solve that problem. But why? The answer comes from character background, personality, and current events; a complex combination that produces motivation. Side characters also have motivations, and they are created in the same way. They can either help or hinder the protagonist, but either way, those reactions need to make sense based on the narrative of their characterization.
I already knew who was playing which role before I began writing. I knew the backgrounds for my protagonist and antagonist. I knew the background of the primary side characters. I knew the activating events. Now that I’m putting the characters on paper, they begin to develop their personalities.
What I’ve learned in my first week is that my protagonist is not only intelligent and willing to ask questions, but is also playful and caring. It will be interesting to see her grow and change over the course of 50,000 words knowing what is happening around her. I’ve also learned that the antagonist is much colder than I expected, even when he’s attempting to hide his true nature.
Another type of motivation comes from character relationships. When two characters connect, it builds emotional investment for the reader. The more a character resembles a real person, the more a reader will connect with them. Real people have friends, family, or lovers that they connect with, and so should your characters.
It also gives the characters deeper levels of motivation; it may cause them to act when they would otherwise be still. Producing driving forces through the people they care about is another organic way to drive a story forward.
What I’ve discovered this week is that my protagonist is quite close to her younger sister. Not only does it give her motivation to act, it also adds to her personality. By allowing the reader to witness this relationship, they are given another reason to care about what happens in the first few chapters.
Organic motivations make it easier to move a story forward
Motivations are created through personality, character background, and relationships with other characters
As of today, I have 4,950 words on my NaNoWriMo project, which puts me a little behind but I’m worried about it. I’ll catch up.
Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add please feel free to leave a comment.
That’s right, you’re hearing it here first (unless you follow me on Twitter.) I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time every. (Hurray!)
Because this is a writing contest and technically Book Three has been written before (it’s just very dismembered and in need of much repair,) I will not be working on it for NaNoWriMo. Instead, I’m going to be taking on an entirely new project that has been simmering for some months.
As you may know, I’m a “plantser.” I don’t really plot and I don’t really fly by the skin of my teeth, but I do a bit of both. This is a rare instance where I’ve actually a pre-written synopsis of the story. It’s not an outline, but it is. Sort of. A disorganized organization type of outline, my favorite. I don’t do that very often, or ever, so that was a sign that this project needs to get off the ground.
What is this project, you ask? It’s a fantasy with hints of mystery and horror. Set in a non-Western inspired civilization, it has a loose comparison to 1001 Arabian Knights with a female protagonist relying on her wits to get her through unexpected situations. Unlike Sharaezade, however; my protagonist will be up against forces she doesn’t fully understand.
What does this mean for my other projects such as Book Three and The Hunted? Well, The Hunted will continue to get updated through November, perhaps once or twice. I’ll be starting on Book Three once NaNoWriMo is over, so December or January. My goal is to have it out by the end of 2017, as that will be the 20 year anniversary of its inception.
If you’re also participating in NaNoWriMo you can find me as RR Willica (shocking, I know!) I’ll be leaving updates on the blog with my progress.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment.