Friday, January 13, 2017

How to Identify and Obliterate Sexism in Your Novel

I have something I want to talk about. It's not a popular topic in general (sexism in fiction), and the stance I'm taking is often frowned upon (that of common sense). So sit down, shut up, and pay close attention to the following words.

First off, let me explain something. Most people don't understand what the word "sexism" means. It means prejudice and discrimination against a person (or persons) due to their sex. People think that it pertains to prejudice against women. It doesn't. It goes both ways, though many dictionaries will include the fact that it is usually used in terms of bias against women.

Got that? You sure? Okay. Moving on.

Sexism is oddly common in fiction, specifically in fantasy and science fiction. When female characters display sexism, it's viewed as either "you go, girl" social justice or crazed feminism. When male characters use it, it's either seen as manly or piggish.

Let's get something straight: Sexism is always bad. It doesn't matter who it comes from. It shouldn't be in your stories unless you're trying to expose it as something ugly (and even then you better be doing it fairly).

So what does sexism look like in books? And how can you get rid of it? Let me show you.
Hannah Heath: How to Identify and Obliterate Sexism in Your Novel
Your characters are really good at objectifying other human beings. Your male characters ogle and hit on female characters. Books tend to show this as either romantic, terrible, or simply the normal state of things. Your female characters ogle and hit on male characters and it's either funny, romantic, or simply perfectly acceptable. It's pathetic that I have to explain this, but: Objectifying is bad and should be portrayed as such. It shows a basic lack of respect for the other gender. It shows that a person's appearance is far more important than personality or intelligence, that another person is only there to serve as something to look at and lust after. Do you know what that means? It's unjust treatment of a person based on gender, which is discrimination based on gender, which is sexism. Think about that next time you want to write out a scene where your female character lecherously eyes a dude she's never met or your male character can't seem to stop making passes at that lady he just saw.

Your female characters aren't allowed to be feminine. How many of you have read books where there's a strong, intelligent maiden warrior who looks with disdain at the giggling girl in skirts who likes to do needle-point? *raises hand* I mean, I understand that wearing skirts is probably a sign that a female character has no brain. And it makes sense that having basic skills like sewing and cooking couldn't possibly be a good thing. Of course, it's also physically impossible for a sweet, proper girl to know how to, say, fix a spaceship. But we can pretend otherwise for the sake of a good story, right? Right. I'm so glad we got that cleared up.

Your male characters talk down to females. "You can't do this because...because you're a girl!" Ah. The extremely original line used to raise storyline tension and simultaneously set up a brilliant future romance. *sigh* You're killin' me, Smalls!

"Men are Pigs" is a prominent theme. And maybe you don't even realize it is. For instance, I recently read a very popular book where a male character makes lewd comments to the MC female while the MC male stands by and does nothing. Not only does the female character take the comments, but the the MC male never expresses any regret for not stepping in. It's never mentioned again in the book, and the MC male and female become a couple. Because apparently the author thought that was normal. Not only for a male character to act that way, but also for nobody to find it disturbing. This is not acceptable. Your male character should not be allowed to act in that way without anyone else (especially the other male characters) saying, "Hey! That's not right!" The mindset that "men are pigs" is absurd. Some human beings are pigs, but all men are not. Portraying all (or even most) of your men as lustful and self-centered is grossly unfair to your male characters. And having your female characters just accept that behavior is setting up your female characters to be narrow-minded. Is that your intent? I hope not.

Your female characters always make the men look dumb. All women are always able to do the same things all men can, only quicker, smarter, and while looking prettier. Obviously all men just sit around on porches, grunting, drinking beer, and generally being a babbling, bumbling band of buffoons. Women are smarter. Unless they wear skirts and do needle-point, as we established above. But wait! Here's a novel idea: Perhaps both genders can be awesome without making the other look bad? Mind. Blown.

Stereotyping is common. 
You've got your Working Women, your Geeky Dudes, Stay-At-Home Mothers, Jocks, Working Fathers. They each stay very neatly inside of their labels, as people often do in real life. Heaven forbid your Working Woman be anything other than a hard-nosed caffeine addicts. The world would fall apart if your Geeky Dude plays football on Saturdays, and of course Working Father is always late for dinner and never rearranges his schedule to go watch his daughter's ballet performance.

Your characters are just walking gender signs. Their personalities were replaced with the colors pink or blue. You forgot that you're writing people, and instead grouped everyone into the "men" or "women" category. This NEVER works. You end up forgetting that both of these genders fall under the "human being" category and stop treating them accordingly. Which leads to your characters reflecting this idea that it's Men vs Women, not Human Beings vs Plot Conflict. This undermines your story and flattens your characters. If you've found yourself at this point: Redo the whole thing.

If you are writing a story to expose sexism...Well, good for you. Unfortunately, you're probably doing it wrong. For instance: Is the sexism one-sided? If you find that it is, think again. Does your story feature only one or two non-sexist characters? Widen your scope a bit, please. Is the sexism very extreme? Fine. It's not as if subtly has any place in fiction.

And there you have it. What do you think? Let me know if I missed any points or got any of them wrong. As Qui-Gon Jinn would say: The ability to comment does not make you intelligent. So please think before publishing a comment and keep it kind down there. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Related articles:
Writing Strong Female Characters: What You're Doing Wrong
Writing Awesome Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong
7 Cliche Characters in YA Fiction That Need to StopSaveSave

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Friday, January 6, 2017

The Q & A Tag: On Batmobiles and Lightsaber Skills

Happy New Year! 2017 is here and resolutions have been made by pretty much everybody except for me.

If I had made resolutions, they would have probably been something about time management and trying to write my posts further in advance (rather than the day before Friday). But I didn't. Which is why it's the first Thursday of the the new year and I have no time to put together a clever, helpful, or inspiring post.

And you know what? I don't even care. Why? Because I have a blog tag I can use to fill in this Friday. But not just any blog tag. A Q & A blog tag with questions by the talented Julius Bailey, who has posed 10 important queries. Two of which are in regard to Batman.

In case you don't understand the gravity of this, let me explain my dedication to Batman. Here are just a few of the Batman-related items in my possession:
Yup. I like Batman. So, on to the questions:
1: What is your favorite drink? Horchata. Hands down. If you've never had it, go find some. Also, if you ever walk into a Mexican restaurant that doesn't serve Horchata, turn right around and go somewhere else. Horchata is the sign of good Mexican food.

2: What is your least favorite book?
This may make a lot of people upset, but: Ella Enchanted. I've read it all the way through, but it has always bugged me. I've never really liked the plot of the original Cinderella (who wants to marry a dude who can't remember what you look like and instead has to try your shoe on every girl in the kingdom? So Ella Enchanted not only has a plot I dislike, but it is always upsetting for me to read about how Ella was mistreated. It left me feeling like casting the Avada Kedavra spell on multiple characters. 

3: What's the longest distance you've ever traveled on foot?
About 10 miles. My family and I used to go on a lot of road trips and hikes when I was younger. One such hike was in Yosemite. It had about 10,000 switchbacks. Uphill. It was hot. And dusty. And did I mention the switchbacks? But the view at the top was beautiful and worth it. 

4: If you could own one of the batmobiles from any one of the live-action Batman movies, which one would you choose?
Okay. So. If we're talking the batmobile I would use to fight crime (such as hunting down people who don't return books they've borrowed, don't use oxford commas, or use the wrong form of "your"), then I'd choose the Batmobile from The Dark Knight. That thing is completely awesome. But if we're talking about the one I'd own just to drive around, then I'm going with the 1966 Batmobile. On top of having extremely functional gadgets such as the bat-tering ram, the super-powered bat-magnet, and the inflatable batmobile, it's really pretty. Just look at it:

5: Would you rather be chased by human eating snakes or human eating spiders? Snakes. Spiders scare me. It probably has something to do with all of the fantasy novels I read, but snakes scare me less than spiders. But, honestly, if both of them eat humans, I probably don't stand a chance either way.

6: Would you rather have awesome kung fu skills, or awesome lightsaber skills (with a saber included)?
Oh, sweet! A way to defend myself against the afore mentioned human eating snakes! Thank you. I have to go with awesome lightsaber skills. Because Star Wars. Also, lightsaber skills tend to include kung-fu-like skills. Think Darth Maul.

7: If you had to be stranded fifty miles out in either a desert, the ocean, or the north or south pole, which would you choose? Do I get to bring my lightsaber and batmobile with me? No? Then probably the ocean, because, being a Californian, I'm more familiar with it than deserts or the north/south pole. Though technically California is a desert. *shrugs* I'm fairly certain I could survive because I've seen a lot of stranded-on-the-ocean movies. We all know how accurate those are. 

8: What do you consider to be your greatest skill?
Perseverance. I think that this is not generally considered a skill, but I think otherwise. I consider it my greatest skill because it has allowed me to survive and succeed in certain areas of my life (blogging, college-ing, publishing, and fighting Lyme) I would not have been able to without it. 

9: What's your dream job?
Being an author. Ideally, not only would I publish works of fiction, but I'd also start up my own a transmedia group (a team of coders, musicians, writers, actors all working together to create stories across many different media platforms). I'm not sure what that title is. Self-employed? Entrepreneur? 

10: What did you think of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice?
MARTHA!!! Every time I think of that movie, I think of this scene from I Love Lucy. Beyond that, I actually like that movie. *hides behind laptop* I understand that it was a total mess, but I liked it: the scary Batman (minus the killing people part), the soundtrack, Lex Luthor. In fact, I wrote an entire review for it here, if you're interested in my full thoughts. 

This is where I'm supposed to come up with my own questions and tag other bloggers to answer them. But I'm too busy with my new batmobile and lightsaber (which is purple, by the way) to do that. 

If this looks fun, feel free to use the above questions and be sure to credit J. Bailey. And let me know, too, so I can read your post! Also, don't forget to look around J. Bailey's blog. He likes Batman, so he's immediately cooler than a lot of people. 

What about you? What batmobile would YOU want? Leave your thoughts below!  

Related articles: 
The Liebster Award - In Which I Answer Random Questions and Link Over to Other Epic Blogs
Blog Tag: 15 Things I Love About Being A Writer
Why Writers Should Strive to be More Like Batman

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Blancmange Inspired by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

I think we all have that one character that we grew up with that was (and maybe still is) eerily similar to ourselves. We have the same personality, the same dreams, the same flaws. And, because of this, we've read their book over a dozen times and have a copy of it proudly displayed on our shelves.

My fictional twin is Jo March from Little Women. She's a tomboy, never quite fits in but doesn't usually mind, is a writer who works hard and dreams even harder, has a bad temper and a problem with saying things out loud that most people just keep locked up in their minds, wears her hair short, gets into trouble but generally is able to blunder her way back out, and has a good sense of humor.

Jo is pretty much me with the exception of our height (she got to be tall and I still struggle with reaching things on the top shelf) and our cooking skills (I can actually make pretty foods).
Of course it's no surprise that Little Women was (and is) a favorite of mine. I grew up reading it and I'm always inspired by Jo and her fight for her writing career. In case you don't know what this story is (in which case....Christopher Columbus! What have you been doing with you life?), here's a brief synopsis:

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. These four sisters couldn't be more different: the elegant grown-up Meg, the tomboyish Jo, the musically inclined yet extremely shy Beth, and the impertinent Amy. They each have their own dreams and set backs, but when their father goes to fight in the Civl War, they work together with their mother to keep the house up and running. Whether they're putting on plays, braving different society circles, waiting to get published, or forming secret clubs, they are united in their desire to grow into women that will make their parents proud. 

Funnily enough, as I sat down to write this post, I started thinking of all of the reasons I don't like this book. I'm sad that Beth died and will never get over the fact that Jo and Laurie didn't get married. WHY??? They could have made it work! Grrrr.

So I had to ask myself: Why on earth do you like this book? My answer to myself: Because it upset me.

I got so attached to the characters that the going ons in their lives affect me emotionally. I care about the book and the people in it because the writing is good and the characters are better. It's the kind of story that you can easily attach yourself too: laugh over it, cry over it, be inspired by it, and never ever forget it.

Basically, this is a story I love even while disliking parts of it. I'm assuming we all have a childhood book like that. Right? Right??

Anyway, I've always been curious about a food that appears in this book: Blancmange. It's a dish that Meg makes for Laurie when the March family hear he's sick. Jo takes it over to his house and explains that it slides down easily and is good for a sore throat.
I've always wondered about this food because: 1) I have no idea what it is. 2) I have no idea how to pronounce it. 3) It seems to show up in almost all books written in the 1800s.

Well, as it turns out, blancmange is a dairy and cornstarch pudding (usually vanilla flavored) and is pronounced "Blah-mahnj." Gotta love French.

It is of British origin, though it has a long history. At one point it had meat in it, then evolved into a pudding with the thickening agent being pigs feet (yum!), went meatless around the 1600s where eggs were used to thicken it, then, in the 1800s, arrowroot was used as the thickener. Arrowroot was later replaced with cornstarch.

Funnily enough, arrowroot is growing in popularity today and is used by a lot of hippy organic people like me. So I decided to make blancmange using arrowroot and almond milk. The idea is to have a pudding that is so thick that you can place it in a mold, set, then invert onto a plate with the pudding still holding itself in the correct shape. Mine? Well...we'll get to that part.
Ingredients 
  • 2 cups of almond milk 
  • 1/3 cup of maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons of arrowroot mixed with 4 tablespoons of almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I actually forgot to put this vanilla in because I'm an idiot and always forget important things (did I mention I'm a lot like Jo?). So I suppose this technically makes the vanilla optional, though it is traditional. 
Directions

1. Heat milk and maple syrup in a medium saucepan until the syrup is dissolved. 

2. Pour in the arrowroot mixture and whisk. Put heat on medium high. Bring to a boil, whisking continuously, and allow to boil for about one minute. The mixture should be fairly thick at this point. It should thickly coat the back of a spoon. 

3. Pour the mixture into molds. I didn't have any of those pretty silicon molds, so I used glass punch bowls. 
They either worked just as well as molds or were the cause of the impending disaster I will show you below. 

4. Allow to cool, then let set in the refrigerator for about 3 hours or until firm. Once done, they are ready to eat. I threw some cherry sauce over mine to make it prettier and give it a nice flavor. Cherry sauce is incredibly easy to make, so just hop on Google and pick one. I pretty much used this one, but withheld the cornstarch and used 1/3 cup of cane sugar for sweetener. 

Now, generally, blancmange is set in molds, then inverted onto a pretty plate like so: 
I'm honestly not sure how this is possible. Maybe I didn't use enough arrowroot? Or maybe the above picture is lying and it's not real blancmange. I suspect the latter is true, as the internet is full of images of failed blancmange or blancmange simply left in their molds. 

Anyway, I tried to invert mine onto a plate, knowing full well that it wasn't going to work. I ended up creating what looks to be a distant cousin of the Blobfish (No, I didn't just make up that fish. They're real. Look them up): 
I think I would have made Jo proud. 

Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what blancmange tasted like, but this seemed pretty close to the real thing. It didn't taste very good, which, honestly, I wasn't really expecting it to. I mean, it's a descendant of foot jelly. 

I never share recipes on here of foods that don't taste good, but I though I would today because: 1) I thought it was funny. 2) I do think that some people might like it. I personally don't enjoy jellies or puddings, so I can't judge this one accurately. 

Have you ever had blancmange? Please tell me what you thought of it. And don't forget to tell me about your favorite sister from Little Women!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Challenging Writers to Write Honestly

Writers have a tendency to hide behind their stories when they write. I get it. It's easier. Instead of saying, "Here's what I think," we get to say, "Here's what my character thinks." Instead of saying, "Here's how I feel," we get to show what our characters feel.

It's not as scary: When people peer at our stories and glimpse a real person inside of it, we can just say, "Oh, that's just my character come to life. Not me. Totally not me."

And there's something to be said for that. After all, characters shouldn't be carbon copies of their authors, nor should every single thought and feeling in a book be the exact thoughts and feelings of its creator.

HOWEVER. Sometimes authors get so caught up in hiding themselves that they hide everything else, too: genuine feelings, important thoughts, provoking ideas. They stuff away the parts of the story that matters in an attempt to help themselves feel safe.

But here's the thing: Writing isn't about feeling safe.
Hannah Heath: Challenging Writers to Write Honestly
If you want to feel safe, then go park yourself behind a desk somewhere with a schedule and steady pay. There's nothing wrong with that. It's simply not what being a writer is about.

You shouldn't write to become rich and famous. That takes a long time and doesn't really benefit anyone, except possibly yourself if you are very lucky. You shouldn't write to tell people that the sky is blue. People could just look outside. You shouldn't write to only entertain mindlessly. There are thousands of apps that can do that, and that's about a thousand too many.

You should write because you have something to say. Because you have a message people need to hear, a problem to discuss, something beautiful to share. You write because you have a truth to tell.

Maybe it's your truth. Maybe it's the truth of a friend, or one that you saw on the news one day and just couldn't get out of your mind. Whatever it is, it's there. You can see it, and, because you have the words, it's up to you to make sure that others get a shot at seeing it, too.

But you can't do that unless you're willing to be honest: both with yourself and your readers.

Let me give you an example. I'm a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ and I want others to, too. I also have Lyme disease, which means I'm in pain all of the time. And I see other people all around me who are in so many different kinds of pain: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. And you know what? That bothers me. I don't understand why God is allowing that to happen.

But I'm not supposed to talk about that. Not if I want other people to believe in Jesus too. Right? Right???

Wrong. I am a Christian. And I am a writer. God has given me questions. And he has given me words. So it's up to me to write about the problems that I have within my own faith. No, I don't have answers. I wish I did. All I have is pain and anger, love and faith. So that's what I write about in my stories.

And it's hard, because I put these themes into my stories and I know: People can see me. They are reading about my struggles and thoughts and emotions, albeit in different forms and with slightly different takes. But that's me nonetheless.

This was a main concern of mine when I first started fiddling with the idea of Skies of Dripping Gold. I knew that, if I was going to write this story in a way that matters, I was going to have to take the pain and the anger and abandonment I felt because of my sickness and channel it into that story. I'd also have to infuse it with the desperate faith and confused hope I felt.

I thought: "This will be too much." Too much truth. I looked at both myself and my potential readers, my insides screaming:
But then I realized something: Why on earth wouldn't people be able to handle my truth? I couldn't possibly be the only person to struggle with believing in God in the midst of a broken world. And I had the idea that, perhaps, if people could see their struggles on paper, maybe they wouldn't feel so broken by their problems.

So I wrote the story. It hurt, because I had to thrust my hands deep into the darkness and stare directly at all of the ugly problems and scary questions that people like to pretend aren't there.

And you know what? It helped. It helped me with my own pain. It allowed myself (and some of my readers) to look at and fix the anger and fear we didn't think we were supposed to acknowledge. And that's when I decided: If I write, I will write honestly or not at all.

So you know those things that bother you? They aren't going to go away just because you won't acknowledge them in your writing. They're just going to sit inside of you and rankle, just as they sit inside of your readers and eat away at them.

You, as a writer, are not asked to have answers. You aren't expected to know everything or save everyone. You aren't Batman.

You are, however, expected to write truthfully about what matters. It is your job to explore ideas and topics honestly: Write about problems head on, explain beautiful truths so that people can see them clearly.

If you are a writer and don't pursue yours stories honestly, then what good are you? You'll provide some entertainment, maybe even provoke some thought. And then people will put down your book and you'll be gone from their mind. You will have made no difference, helped nobody. Not even yourself.

Write to be remembered.
Do not write to be forgotten. Write to help, to expose, to love, to explore and fear and be courageous. Write to be remembered.

When you sit down before your story, you don't have to pretend. You don't have to make things look better or worse than they are. You don't have to be afraid of what people might think, afraid of whether or not you'll be able to get your point across, afraid of tearing open old wounds. You don't have to say what other people are saying. You just have to say what is true. And you have to say it honestly.

Write long and hard about whatever it is you know that others need to see. Maybe they won't understand it. But you know what? If you try your hardest, it doesn't matter. Because at least one person will see it: You. You have saved at least one person, and that is more than many will do in a lifetime.

What is it that you have to say that you haven't written before? I'm challenging you today: Write honestly. You were given this talent for a reason. You have the words, you have the means, you have the conviction. Do not let it go to waste.

Related articles:
Challenging Creative Writers To Be More Creative
Challenging Writers to Create Stories With Meaning
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Friday, December 16, 2016

7 Tips for Writing in Deep POV

There's nothing better than getting lost in a good book. Except maybe finding true love. Or a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that.

Anyway.

Getting lost in good book. That's something that readers love, and something that writers strive for. There are a lot of different ways an author can go about making sure that their reader gets lost in their story (lost in a good way...not a creepy Court-of-Owls-maze kind of way).

A personal favorite of mine is writing in Deep point of view (POV). This is the epitome of showing rather than telling. We see the story from inside of another character: we feel their emotions, see what they see, think what they think. It's as if we've crawled into the character's skin and are allowed to live there for a little while.
Hannah Heath: 7 Tips for Writing in Deep POV
It can sometimes be an exhausting form of writing, and it often takes a while to lock yourself into that mode. But once you get it? You're in. And ready to conquer the literary world.

Unfortunately, it can take a bit of work to get to that point. As my current WIP is written in Deep POV, I've found some ways to stay firmly in that perspective while writing. But first, let's explain what exactly deep POV is:

What is Deep POV?

Allow me to provide you with two excellent paragraphs. They will have the same high-stakes storyline, but one is in Deep POV and one is not. Read: 

Margaret clenched her fist, feeling her nails biting into her palm. Noticing the squirrel inching forward towards her MLT sandwich, she watched as its nose twitched, revealing its sharp yellow teeth. With a panicked jolt, she realized that it meant to steal her lunch. Looking around for a weapon, she saw a water bottle. Snatching it up and letting out an angry cry, she rushed forward to save her MLT. She would not let the squirrel win. 

OR: 

Margaret's nails bit into her palm as her hand clenched into a fist. The squirrel inched towards her MLT sandwich, its nose twitching, yellow teeth bared. Her heart thumped, sending jolts of electricity through her limbs. This squirrel meant to steal her lunch. Snatching up a nearby water bottle, its metal cold and hard in her hand, she brandished it above her head, blood on fire as she screeched out a battle cry. This squirrel would not win. 

Which one do you think is a in Deep POV? Go on. Guess. 

That's right. The second one is in Deep POV. It shows us what Margaret is thinking and feeling by allowing us to experience her emotions.

That, essentially, is what Deep POV is. It takes the "show don't tell" rule almost as far is it can go, it removes the author from the entire picture, and limits the narrative to one character at a time. It is tight, concise, and emotional.

How Do You Write in Deep POV?

1. Show me! Don't listen to Loki, no matter how much he screams at you.
Do NOT tell me. Show me. Show me what the characters are going through: Let me feel the way their blood is pumping, show me how their hands are shaking, make me happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad. Showing should be in the here and now, exploring thoughts and actions and emotions and senses. No info dumping or long descriptions of people, places, or events.

2. Cut the thought and sense words. The what? Words like: Thought, realized, felt, saw, noticed. Also avoid naming emotions rather than describing them. Below, all of these no-no words are highlighted in red.

Margaret clenched her fist, feeling her nails biting into her palm. Noticing the squirrel inching forward towards her MLT sandwich, she watched as its nose twitched, revealing its sharp yellow teeth. With a panicked jolt, she realized that it meant to steal her lunch. Looking around for a weapon, she saw a water bottle. Snatching it up and letting out an angry cry, she rushed forward to save her MLT. She would not let the squirrel win. 

3. Get out of town. And stay out. You, as the author, should not be in the picture at all. Your reader should not notice you are there. All they need to see is the character. For example:

She would not let the squirrel win. vs This squirrel would not win. 

The former sentence is not in Deep POV because I, the author, am telling you what the character is thinking. The latter sentence is all coming from Margaret, the character. That's what you're going for. You'll also want to avoid dialogue tags such as: said, asked, whispered, screamed. Instead, try dialogue with no tags at all (this usually only works when there are only two characters present) or with attributive tags (Her lips curled. "I despise squirrels.")

4. Avoid the passive voice. Don't know what this is? I can explain it fairly simply. And I can do it while remaining in keeping with my evil squirrel theme (I'm in too deep to stop now. Send help).
I really don't like this movie. But the picture fit, so there you have it.
If you can put "by squirrels" at the end of your sentence and it still makes sense: It's passive.

A decision was made....by squirrels. My MLT sandwich is being eaten...by squirrels. I will be murdered...by squirrels. 

Got it? Don't use a passive voice. It will pull people out of your story.

5. Be careful with description. A good way to make readers remember that they're reading a story is to use too many words or to take a moment to describe something out of the ordinary. For example: in Deep POV, you can only describe things that your character would notice in the exact way that that character would notice it. Your mercenary may not notice the stylish heels that lady has on, but he may notice how un-calloused her hands are. Your maiden warrior may notice the heels, but only how they make the lady teeter, not how stylish they are.

6. Keep it personal and vivid. Everything is up close and in-your-face. You want your readers to feel as connected as possible to your character and his/her emotions. So keep everything tight and tense and real. If you as the writer do not feel emotion as your write from a Deep POV (or read over the scenes), then you probably aren't going deep enough.

7. Use anchor words, images, or songs. It can be hard to keep from slipping out of deep POV....Or, if you are writing from more than one character's POV, it can be hard to keep each narrative unique to the character. That's what anchors are for: words, images (via Pinterest or a cork board on your wall), songs, or colors that convey the emotions, thoughts, and actions that are essential to your POV character. If you find yourself getting mixed up or unable to fully lock into their minds, go through these. It will help you orient yourself and allows you to fully submerge into their POV. This then allows you to write from inside of them, rather than to write as the author (thus breaking tip #3).

Writing in Deep POV requires a deep understanding of your characters, as well as the ability to get inside of your character's head. It takes time and practice, but it gets easier the more you do it. So if you find yourself slipping up at first and reverting to an omniscient or shallow narrative: Don't worry. It will come. Just keep trying.

Do you write in Deep POV? What are some of your favorite books that are written in a Deep POV? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Related articles:
7 Tips for Writing Emotion Into Your Story
7 Tips for Choosing Your Character's Appearance
8 Tips to Improve Your Descriptive Writing

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Friday, December 9, 2016

14 Signs That You Are Turning Into a Writer

Becoming a writer is a lot like joining a fandom. You think, "Oh, hey. This looks fun. I'll give it a shot!" Then, before you know it, you're sucked into a brand new world full of crazy ideas, sad stories, and insane people. And there's no way out.

Becoming a writer isn't really something you do, it's something you catch. Like the measles. Except there isn't a cure, and you'll spend half of your time wishing there was and the other half you'll spend having the time of your life.

That being said, it can be a nasty shock to wake up in the morning as a Writer. It'd be nice if you could ease into it, right? Spot the symptoms so you have time to prepare.

Well, luckily you can. All you have to do is learn to read the stars and watch for signs of impending writing. Or, if you're lazy, you can just read the below list:
14 Signs That You Are Turning Into a Writer
1. You drink caffeine. All of the caffeine. Most writers take theirs in the form of coffee, though some (like myself) prefer black tea. You may consume energy drinks, but it's generally understood to be more writerly if you're sipping something warm from a mug rather than chugging liquid from a can. Using some kind of cool or nerdy mug is optional, but recommended.

2. You know tons of words, but mispronounce a large fraction of them. Because you've read tons of novels and puttered at creating your own, you have a brain full of interesting words. You know how to spell words like "beneficence," "sophist," and "jocoseness," but you settle for easier synonyms when speaking because what are the chances that you'll say them correctly?

3. You suffer from crippling self doubt. Questioning yourself, your talents, and your reason for existence upon a regular basis is just part of your routine. But...

4. You keep grasping at your dreams anyway. Because you have a story inside of you and you think maybe, just maybe, somebody might need to read it someday. And that's reason enough to keep trying to write, right? Right??

5. You like to eavesdrop. There's no shame in this. Unless you get caught. Or try to blackmail somebody with information you overheard. In which case: Yes. Shame on you. Shame on your cow. But, generally, eavesdropping and people watching is enjoyable to you. People say the most interesting things and can provide multiple sparks of inspiration.

6. Your people skills are questionable. Listening in on conversations? Yes please! Actually being part of a conversation? Ew. I mean, sure. You can get along with people and even pass yourself off as a regular human being. But sometimes you have to reign yourself in. Like when somebody asks, "Oh, do you like to read?" and you have to say, "Oh, yeah. I really do." Rather than screaming, "jieoajdoajo;a! YES. YES!! I have a ton of bookshelves and a kindle and I read all of the time and do you like this book? You do?? Oh my gosh! That character is the BEST!" You'd probably yell all of this while imitating an excited Merida.
Unfortunately, that reaction tends to make people slowly inch away from you and towards a phone, so you've had to cut back. Some people just can't handle awesomeness.

7. You see stories everywhere. And I mean everywhere. On the street corner, driving along the freeway, watching the trees wave in the breeze, seeing a pretty rock on the ground. The world is full of stories and they're all shouting for your attention.

8. You tend to space out a lot. Which is unfortunate. Because then you'll have missed that important piece of information you professor just gave out. Or you'll find your friend has come the end of their story and is asking you "So, what should I do?" and you have to figure out how to worm your way out of the situation. But sometimes your brain is more exciting than your external surroundings. However...

9. When you pay attention, you pay attention. When you aren't being distracted by something else, you are a good listener and a good observer. Like Sherlock Holmes level of attention to detail. Because who knows? There might be a good story in this somewhere.

10. You like wikipedia. Okay, so maybe you're one of the few people who knows about armadillo girdled lizards or the history of gun powder. But that information may come in handy one day. Operative word being "may." And even if if it doesn't, it's still fascinating.

11. People around you ask for help writing things or spelling things. Because you have "writer" stamped all over you and everyone except for yourself recognizes your flair for words.

12. You are either very organized or very not-organized. There is a place for everything and everything is in it's place. You probably have an organizer and multiple journals. Outlines appeal to you, as do spreadsheets and carefully managed time. OR: your room is in chaos, you have sticky notes stuck to random walls, and ideas written on the palm of your hand. You live like a hippy and schedules and order kill your soul. I'm the latter, just in case you can't tell from the state of my room:

13. You are obsessed with odd things. When you like something, you like something all. the. way. You obsess and get absurdly excited, usually over things that other people don't get. Like a minor character from an obscure series. Or Chopin's etudes. Of the Valar from LOTR. Or all things related to Batman '66. Or sans serif font. Or Itty Bittys. You like them. Maybe they're weird, but you like them and they make you happy, so who cares if you go a bit overboard?

14. You love stories. A lot. Books, movies, songs. You spend your time delving into them, trying to learn, soak up new ideas, go on adventures, feel that spark of something excited and happy inside that pops up whenever you're around a good tale.

If you identify with an alarming amount of these, then you're probably turning into a Writer....Or have already become one. At least now you know.

Don't try to argue with me. Don't talk like one of them. You're not. Even if you'd like to be. We both know it's the truth. It's time to stop trying to fit yourself into the "non-writer" box. Let it go.

I'm not gonna lie about the ramifications of this discovery. Friends don't lie. So here's the truth: Being a writer is hard. And scary.

And completely and utterly awesome.

You have a story and a voice like no other. So go for it. Complete the metamorphosis. I may be biased, but the grass is greener over here. In fact, it's not even green. It's all sorts of beautiful colors, and it always smells like dew and sunshine. And there are unicorns. So come on over. We're excited to have you.

Related articles:
10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Writer...Until It's Too Late
10 Reasons Why Writers Aren't The Weird Ones
Inside the Creative's Mind: 9 Things You Should Know

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Why Not All Prologues Are Evil (And How to Write A Good One)

Prologues should be like John the Baptist. Awesome, intriguing, paving the way for an even greater written work.

But most of the time they aren't. They're more like those dreaded "Previously on" pieces of dialogue that come before a TV show that you usually end up forwarding through.

Prologues have accumulated a lot of hate over the years. People say they're too boring. They're info dumping. They're not necessary, they're too long, they're too short, they're outdated, annoying, they lower your chances of publication by 394%.

Pffft. You're not actually going to listen to those fools, are you? I bet they're the same people who laughed at Edison and said that the Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be stupid.
Hannah Heath: Why Not All Prologues Are Evil (And How to Write A Good One)
Allow me to explain to you all of the brilliant things about prologues:
  1. They set the mood and background of the story. It allows you to set the mood and the style of your world, people, society, conflict, etc by giving information in a way that is different from what you could have done with just a chapter. If you don't go overkill and drown your reader in backstory, this is a great capability to have. 
  2. They allow you to write from a different time period. You can set your prologue several years in the past, which is not as easy to do if your opening pages are within a chapter. This can help you set the stage. 
  3. They allow you to write from a different point of view. This lends a flexibility to the story, as it allows you to tell what is going on in a place (or a character's head) that is not generally accessible when using another POV. 
  4. They can tease the reader into the story. You can showcase your awesome style, give bits and pieces of your world away, and show your readers glances of the coming plot and conflict. Prologues are a great way to build tension and understanding of the story right out of the gate. 
I personally have always loved a good prologue. If you're thinking of using one in your book, or perhaps already have one but are thinking of backing out because of all of the stigma surrounding them, then you're in the right place. I don't care if everybody is looking at something in your story and screaming: 
I don't care if it's not popular. All that matters to me is whether of not it can make a good story. Prologues can and do. So don't listen to the naysayers. Follow me. I can show you the ways of the prologue, and how to craft one that readers will enjoy: 

1. Ask yourself whether you need it. Is this prologue necessary? What are you going to use it for? Is it something that can't be placed in chapter form (or sprinkled throughout several chapters) in a pleasing manner? Make sure you need it. Once you have decided that your book needs it, then it doesn't matter if the publishing and writing industry is telling you to change, to move your prologue to the trash. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, no. You move.

2. Decide exactly what it is you need in your prologue before writing. Do not sit down at that keyboard before having chosen exactly what information it is you are going to put in your prologue. It needs to be relevant to the story, it needs to be interesting, and it needs to make your readers care. So keep your information concise, clear, and cool. Alliterations are optional. 

3. Remember that your prologue can have dialogue. I'm not sure why this is, but many prologues are utterly void of dialogue. They don't have to be. In fact, dialogue can keep your prologue from being one of those scary blocks of text with very few spaces. Just keep the dialogue natural and allow it to have subtleties and nuances. 

4. Try to keep it short. Traditionally, prologues are kept under five pages. If your prologue is extremely long, people may get bored and wonder when the "real story" begins. Also, if it's long it's possible that you are info-dumping, which is a massive no. So try to keep it brief. If you need it longer and know you can do it without being boring or monologuing or breaking tip #2, then okay. I will cheer you on. 

5. Don't be afraid to write it from your villain's POV. Yep. I said it. You can open your book with a prologue, and you can open it from your villain's POV. Break two rules at once! Yay! Join the rebellion.
Think about it: It will help with your villain's complexity and it's a good way to convey tension and the conflict to come. I'm not saying you need to open your book with your villain, but if you feel so inclined, then full speed ahead! 

6. Don't you dare info dump. Don't even think about it. If you do, you will become part of the group of writers who are responsible for all of the prologue-haters out there. You will make the lives of us good-prologue-writers infinitely more difficult. Nobody will publish your book, nobody will read it. You will be rejected by your readers, the publishing industry, your fellow writers who you've made life hard for. We will hunt you down and drive you out. You will find yourself huddled beneath a bridge, coffee-less and wifi-less and cursing your stupidity. Sounds bad, right? That's because it is. So don't info dump. Thank you. 

7. Pull out all the stops. You know how you read about the importance of writing a really, really good first chapter? The same rule applies to prologues, only multiplied by ten. Because prologues are considered bad, you need to do everything in your power to prove that wrong. Write beautifully. Be intriguing. Craft your prologue with flair.
Make ever sentence necessary, make every paragraph flow, make the prologue your masterpiece. 

8. Go watch some movies and read a good prologue. Prologues are abundant in movies, and many of them are very well done. Marvel does some darn good prologues, as did The Fellowship of the Ring, The Dark Knight, Fiddler on the Roof, John Carter. Go study them, see what techniques are used, notice what works and what doesn't. Then try to apply that to your writing. You can also read some well-done prologues. My personal favorite is from The Name of the Wind. It's what made me fall in love with the book. 

9. Write it as a prologue and title it Chapter 1. I know it seems weird, and it certainly doesn't work for every prologue. In fact, I'm not even recommending that most people do this. However, if it works with your book and if you're afraid of people skipping your prologue simply because it's titled "prologue," then it's worth a shot. This is what J.K. Rowling did in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Don't believe me? Go read it. It is 100% a prologue: It takes place years before the story begins, gives valuable background information, and is written from a different POV than the rest of the series. It is a chapter in name only. But it works. Test this idea out. If it fits, feel free to run with it. Your book. Your rules. 

Prologues can be amazing. They can be beautiful and well-written and a wonderful set up for the rest of the book. Don't be afraid of them.

Still not sure if you should put a prologue in your story? Leave a comment below with questions, concerns, or your own tips for writing a killer prologue! And don't forget to tell me about some of the best prologues you've ever read!

Related articles:
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8 Tips for Developing a Strong Theme in Your Novel
Why Writers Should Strive to be More Like Batman

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Tea with Tumnus from C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Sardines on Toast, Madeira Cake, and Tea

Every time I go somewhere new, I always have the urge to check for closets and wardrobes for Narnia.

I grew up reading Narnia. I have the entire boxed set, complete with the advertising stickers saying "Soon to be a major motion picture." My siblings and I read them so many times that the spines are cracked and some pages are fighting for liberation.
Because they're favorites of mine, and because I always associate The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Christmas time, I decided to make it my book of the month for this November.

Which means I got to do a recipe inspired by said book. Which means I chose to do the Tea with Tumnus scene.

Which means I got to have over my favorite friend/writer/Tea with Tumnus expert: Susannah Metzler. Who has a blog called...that's right. Tea with Tumnus.
Her blog is completely awesome. She writes about writing, movies, books, filmscores, and pretty much any other awesome or nerdy thing that comes into her brilliant mind.

If you are not following her blog, you are making a terrible decision. Like, somebody-from-the-future-travels-back-in-time-to-warn-you terrible decision. So go follow her. Do not continue reading this post until you have followed her. Have you done it? Good. Onward! For Aslan!

I'm pretty sure we all know the plot of this book. If not, let me summarize:

A young, adventurous girl named Lucy stumbles through a wardrobe and into Narnia, a world frozen in eternal winter by the White Witch. The great lion Aslan has vanished, the people of Narnia live in fear, and there is always snow, but no Christmas. The rest of Lucy's siblings: Peter, Susan, and Edmund make their way into Narnia, but one of them is ensnared in the White Witch's web of power and deceit. All hope seems lost, but the return of Aslan brings about the beginning of great change...but at what cost to the great lion himself?

Both Susannah and myself are huge C.S. Lewis fans. We devoured the books as children and now, as writers, we look up to the author. There's something special about a book that young people read before growing up to become authors themselves. It pushes us to write harder, think deeper, to look back at what those books did for us as children and, in turn, want to be the author that propels other people into the world of writing and reading and magic. To Susannah and I, Narnia is one such series of books.

Needless to say, we were pretty excited about doing this Tea with Tumnus scene. We both got out our cameras. My Mom and I ran out to our local DAV to buy tea cups because I actually didn't own any and we all know that you can't do a post about a British book if you are void of tea cups. Susannah pulled out her British accent and I pulled out my recipes and we got to work.
In the Tea with Tumnus scene, Tumnus lays out a delicious-sounding table of food for Lucy: Sardines on toast, soft boiled eggs, buttered toast, sugar-topped cake, and tea. I decided that the sugar-topped cake could possibly be madeira cake, an English sponge cake often eaten with tea. And we also made pickled red onions to go with the sardines, because, honestly, eating sardines with just bread seemed a bit gross.
Susannah was really great about bearing with me and my recipe-making. When I do these posts I never really have an exact recipe in mind. I just...do things. And hope it tastes good. Which means there was a lot of wandering around the kitchen, me asking Susannah "Do you think this will work?" and us looking at each other, shrugging, and saying something along the lines of "It should be fine" or "Yeah, I don't think it will matter."

And it all turned out beautifully. Here, let me show you:

Sardines on Toast
Ingredients for pickled onions: 

  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of a mixture of vinegar. We use a mixture of red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Because apple cider vinegar is good for you. But you can use white vinegar if you'd like. 
  • 3 tablespoons of cane sugar. I didn't use my beloved coconut sugar because I think it would have given the pickles a weird molasses taste. 
  • 1 teaspoon of peppercorn
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved 
Directions: 

1. In a sauce pan, saute the red onions in the tablespoon of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Don't let the onions brown. You just want them to soften. This takes about 5 minutes. Also, don't put your face over the pan while cooking. You'll burn your eyes. 

2. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar mixture, sugar, and peppercorns to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. 

3. Put the red onions in a mason jar along with the halved garlic. Now pour your vinegar over the onions. Let this sit for about an hour and voila! Ready to go! 

They turned out really well. I think they should be able to store for about a week in the refrigerator, but I'm not sure. Susannah and I made them on Saturday and they were polished off by Monday. 

Now you simply toast some bread (we used sourdough), open a can of sardines (which I understand sounds completely wrong, but just trust us), and put them on the bread, topping with the pickles. Awesome. 

Madeira Cake 
This was an interesting recipe to develop because all of the other recipes I used as springboards were British and thus used ounces and grams. Also, English cooks seem to use a lot of "caster sugar." Which apparently is just fine white sugar, but with a Britified name. Who knew? Not me. 

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup of spelt, sifted. Spelt is an ancient, nutritious whole grain that has less gluten than modern wheat. 
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2/3 of a cup cane sugar. Again, I had to forsake my precious coconut sugar because it is too coarse and brown-sugar tasting for more delicate baked goods like madeira cake. 
  • 6 ounces of butter. We're both writers who are handicapped when it comes to math, but we were able to figure out how much of an 8.8 oz stick of butter we should use to get 6 oz. We're so smart.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest 
  • 1 drop of orange essential oil, and one drop only. This stuff is very strong, so you don't want to overdo it. 
Directions: 

1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamed (thoroughly mixed together and slightly stiff and, well...creamed). Once creamed, beat in one egg at a time. Next, add the orange oil and zest. Stir in the spelt and baking powder. The mixture should be neither runny nor doughy. 
2. Oil a spring form pan or cake tin. Pour in the cake batter. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

3. Allow to cool so that it's just warm, then dust with powdered sugar. It should be noted that the pan was still hot when we tried to dust it with sugar, which meant that Susannah was holding it with cumbersome oven mitts. It almost met a sad ending with the floor. So that's why you need to let it cool before trying to take it out of the spring form pan. 

Anyway, look how pretty it is: 
Soft boiled eggs

Or dippy eggs. Whatever you want to call them. All you do is bring water to a boil, then lower it to a simmer, add your eggs, and cook for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, immediately run under cool water. 

Next, use the blunt side of a butter knife to crack along the top of the egg, then remove the top. That simple. If you Google "How to make soft-boiled eggs" you will come across about forty two different ways to do it. So, if you like another method, go for it. 

Now make yourself your favorite type of tea. Susannah brought over organic Earl Grey tea and we drank it in our fancy tea cups. Very classy. 
As I needed pictures for this blog post, and because Susannah is an awesome photographer, we did a food photoshoot and ended up eating our meal semi-cold. But it doesn't matter, because it still tasted great and, more importantly, we got some awesome pictures:
I even got a shot of the photographer in her natural habitat: 
After photos, we demolished the food. 
It was just that good. We decided that the pickled onions were definitely something we would eat on a regular basis, thought the madeira cake was the best thing ever, and discovered the joys of Irish breakfast tea. I think if we had laid out this food next to a cozy fireplace, Lucy wouldn't have known that Tumnus didn't make it.  

Needless to say, we had a blast. All thanks to good food, C.S. Lewis, and friendship. Three of the best things on the face of the planet. 

Have you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? What is your favorite book from the Narnia series? Favorite C.S. Lewis novel? Please leave a comment below! And don't forget to follow Susannah's blog, twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. You don't want to disturb that time traveler, do you?

Related articles: 
Gluten and Dairy Free Seed-cake, Apple-tart, and Nut Round Recipes Inspired by The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienPumpkin Juice Inspired by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsGluten-Free Orange And Clove Scone Inspired by G.K. Chesterton

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Darkness in Fiction: 7 Tips for Writing Dark Stories

I enjoy dark stories. I like reading about characters that struggle, worlds on the brink of destruction and in need of saving, words that go into the deep, little-seen parts of the soul. I like writing them, too.

And that's why I'm so disturbed by what darkness in fiction has turned into. It seems like each year the books get darker and darker, and each year they become more and more abused by authors who don't seem to understand (or care about) the ramifications of their words.

As a writer and lover of stories with a dark side, I'd like to point out what makes a dark story good with the hopes that we can get away from the current "Darkness without meaning" trend that's running around like a rabid dog (*cough* or a certain DC director who thought it would be a good idea to turn a certain character into a murderer *cough* *cough*). So here it is: 7 tips for writing a dark story that's not just a black hole of death and depression and strangled puppies.
Darkness in Fiction: 7 Tips for Writing Dark Stories
1. The darkness must have meaning to it. This is the most important thing to remember about writing a dark piece of fiction. Do you know what it is that makes dark stories so good? The light in them. That may seem a bit counterintuitive, but it's not. Just stop and think about it for a second. Why do we like dark characters like Loki and Snape? Because we see broken people struggling against the world (and themselves). We see them fighting (or having the potential to fight) to make themselves better. Why do we like dystopian novels? Because we get to see a world or a people rebel and work hard to get out of the darkness. We like reading about characters combating tough situations because it inspires us and shows us that we can work through our problems, too. That's what makes darkness in fiction so alluring. Not the darkness, but what people can glimpse on the other side. The meaning, the purpose, the light. So if you're only going to listen to one thing said in this post, listen to this: Make sure there is a reason and a purpose behind the darkness in your story. Ask yourself: What are you trying to say? What do you want your readers to learn? Make it your goal to show the world something through the darkness.

2. Dark does not mean twisted, brutal, or gory. Keep that locked up in your mind. It's important. You don't have to have a guy cut people up with a chainsaw to make a story dark. Or a story told from the POV of a schizophrenic sadist. You do not have to stoop to gallons of blood and gore and general disturbedness (Don't start with me. My blog, my words) to make a story dark. So before you decide to stuff a fridge with dead people to set the mood for your story, think again. Try for some cleverness or subtlety and, well...

3. Try using a light mood. That's right. Dark stories can have a lightness to them. Your characters are allowed to joke. Your writing style is allowed to be funny. Your world can have rainbows and flowers and candy in it. You don't have to go overboard with it if it doesn't fit the story, but you also shouldn't be going full-on Dementor, either. Take The Book Thief, for example. It's told from Death's POV, which you'd think would make it extremely morbid. But it doesn't because Zusak gave Death a certain sense of humor and put in several funny scenes featuring Rudy's antics, while also weaving a dark, touching, and profound story. It's possible, it works, and it saves your readers from feeling like they're being drowned in dead dreams, children's tears, and a world void of chocolate.

4. Dark settings are not an excuse for lack of morals. You know of what I speak. The apocalyptic books where the teens decide it's okay to run off and have sex because hey, they'll all be dead soon, so it doesn't really matter. Or the fantasy worlds where the "heroes" kill people without a thought because this is war and those are just faceless characters. Seriously? No. Tough situations do not allow bad behavior. Which character do you want to read about: The one who's trying hard to do what's right even when everything is wrong? Or the one that's just going with the flow because everything's gone to hell already, so why bother? Which of these characters do you think is helpful and inspiring? And which is extremely damaging? Think about what it is you are writing. Words have impact and meaning. Do not abuse that.

5. "And they all died" is not a necessary ending. Some stories can end this way if that is their natural course, but don't just do it in an attempt to devastate your readers or the one living character. Death and unnecessary darkness does not make a good book.

6. Go deep and complex with your characters. This is something you should be doing with all kinds of stories, but it is especially important when it comes to dark stories. People don't make sense under normal circumstances. We are walking paradoxes, natural hypocrites, and a mixture of everything that is both right and wrong with the world we live in. This becomes more and more apparent when we're put under stress. Reflect this in your story. Your heroes do not have to be 100% good, nor your villains 100% evil. They each should have goals, contradictions, character flaws, deep, dark secrets, and admirable traits. This adds a realism that is an important component to dark stories.

7. Everything does not need to be wrapped up nicely at the end. The world is messy. It often doesn't make sense. There are questions we cannot answer and problems we cannot solve (or even fathom). Don't feel like you need to have an answer and solution to all of the darkness in your story. You need to have a point and something your readers can take away from it, yes. But you don't need to answer the question to life, the universe, and everything. All that really matters is that the characters find a way out of the darkness...or at least find a way to live within it.

If you're looking for good examples of good dark stories, I have a list.
In no particular order: A Monster Calls, Frankenstein, Dracula UntoldThe Knife of Never Letting GoThe Book Thief, The Patriot, 1984Crime and Punishment, PandoraHearts, The Dark Knight, Maus I and II, Wool, The Pearl, Gladiator, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Dark Knight Returns, I Am LegendHarry Potter, Lord of the Flies, The Grey, The Children of HurinLord of the Rings (both the books and movies had some dark elements to them)Okay, so maybe Harry Potter isn't particularly dark, but it has some semi-dark characters that I think were expertly handled (Snape, Draco Malfoy).

Also, shameless plug: Skies of Dripping Gold is a good dark story, too. And no, I didn't just write this entire post so I could say that. I promise.

If you want more, let me know. If you disagree with any of them, let me know. If you want to add some to the list, let me know. Basically, if you have anything at all to say about this post, let me know. I love receiving comments!

Related articles:
The Importance of Asking Why: 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself as a Writer
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