Friday, November 17, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Listen to Writing Tips Blogs

I see you're already not taking this post's advice. It says don't listen to writing tips blogs and, yet, here you are, reading this post. On a writing tips blog. What are you doing?

Fine. If you're not going to take this title at face value, I'm going to have to explain things to you in a little more detail: 

You shouldn't be listening to writing tips blogs. They have caused some alarming issues within the writing world that include (but are not limited to): Lack of originality, brainwashing, fear mongering, and all stories sounding the same. 

Yep. 

They're terrible. 

And I know me writing this post is the equivalent of Yoda saying that the Jedi high council is stupid and needs to disband. Errr. No. That's overestimating my importance. It's more like Obi-Wan Kenobi saying that. Actually, I'm probably more similar to Jocasta Nu, that one member that only really smart, dedicated fans know about. 

Anyway. I recognize that I'm about to degrade my own platform, but that's okay. Friends don't lie, so I'm not going to lie to you about this: Writing tips blogs aren't all that great. Here's why:
Why You Shouldn't Listen to Writing Tips Blogs
People rely on them to much. Don't know how to write dialogue? Read a blog post. Don't know how to write multiple POVs? Blog post. Trying to avoid teen character cliches? Post. Do you see where I'm going with this? People have become so reliant on reading writing tips blogs that it's taking away your need to think and read critically. Rather than choosing to think outside of the box with your dialogue, you get your information from somebody else (who probably got their information from somebody else). Rather than putting your own unique spin on POV writing or teen characters by pulling from your own brain or books that you've read, you're going to a secondary source. Ever wonder why so many books sound the same nowadays? This is one of the contributing factors. 

They're run by people with biases. We bloggers sure do come across as nice and smart and kind, but you know what? It's a lie. You have no idea who you are dealing with. You want to know what we're doing? We're persuading you. Persuading you to like us so that you will trust us so that we can somehow get money out of you. This persuading invariably leads to changing the way you approach writing. You didn't know this was happening, but it is. Good luck trying to work your way out of what ideas are yours and what ideas have been fed to you over the years by that favorite blogger of yours that you thought you could trust....Unless that blogger is me, in which case: You can totally trust me.

Or can you?

They preach rules that don't always need to be followed. Let's see how many of these sound familiar to you: "Said is dead." "Don't use prologues." "Don't use fragmented sentences." "The word 'was' is of the Devil." "Show, don't tell." "Don't go a long time without dialogue." "Write what you know." You know what? All of those rules are crap. Sure, sometimes they're good to follow. Sometimes they aren't. It depends on who you are, what you're writing, and why you're writing it. But a lot of writing tips blogs don't tell you that, do they? Nope. They just tell you what you can and can't do. Who are they to give you orders? They aren't the boss of you. 

They lead to lack of diversity. Because the above three points, they lead to writers all writing in the same ways. Nice little soldiers following the rules, relying on orders, and marching to the beat of somebody else's bias. Congratulations. Join the club of authors whose books all look and read the same. 

They are secondary sources of information. Why are you bothering to read these, anyway? You know the information us writing tip bloggers are giving you? It's just trickle down knowledge from books we've read. Novels we've studied. Human traits we've observed. Some of it gets lost in translation. Writing tips blogs are the equivalent of using Google Translate to translate something instead of going and talking to your bilingual friend. Read some books. Study them. That's where all of the information really lies.

And there you have it. You can go ahead and unsubscribe from all of the writing tips blogs you follow. Go on.

Wait, wait! What are you doing? Are you unsubscribing from my blog? No! Wait. I'm not finished yet. *quickly thinks of way to salvage the situation* Ah. Got it.
Writing tips blogs are not evil. But they're not the end-all of writing knowledge, either. It's alright to follow them, but it's not alright to follow them blindly.

And it's certainly not alright to use them as a way to avoid critical thinking. The truth is out there. Find it by reading some novels on your own. All of the information you'll mine from them is the same info you'll find on a writing blog...you just have to look a bit harder. But it'll build brain muscle, which you can then use for writing.

So go. Read your writing blogs if you want to (especially if it's mine. Mine is good). But use your own brain, too.

If you want, of course. We've already established that you probably shouldn't be listening to writing blogs, anyway, which also probably applies to this post. UNLESS that means that you shouldn't listen to this post about not listening to writing blogs, which means that you technically should listen to writing blogs.

Well. I have inexplicably developed a headache, so I'm going to leave you now. But, before I go, riddle me this:

What do you think? Is this post correct or isn't it? What does it mean? Is it ironic or true? Or both? Can something be both ironic and true? You tell me.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing
12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#ChatWithHannah Episode 5: Writing grief-stricken characters and non-preachy Christian fiction

Today we talk about writing grief-stricken characters, writing playlists, writing non-Bible thumping Christian fiction, and helpful dictation tools.
The video where I talk about music I listen to while writing can be found here.

Recommended C.S. Lewis novels:
  1. The Screwtape Letters
  2. The Great Divorce
  3. Till We Have Faces
The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on December 20th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers.

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with Kyle Robert Schultz will be up on November 29th, so if you have questions for him, use the hashtag below or on social media to let us know!

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short story. Or both!

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block
Episode 2 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: Aria E. Maher + eBook Giveaway of The Tangle

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, November 10, 2017

8 Non-Writing Activities to Help With Your Creative Process

I think it's a given that writers shouldn't be spending every moment of their lives writing. It's not healthy physically, and it's definitely not going to help your creativity. While we writers seem to understand that on a logical level, we still spend an awful lot of time on the computer doing writing-related activities (writing, pinning character look-a-likes, working our social media platforms, reading writing tips).

So here are a list of things you can do that aren't directly linked to writing, but that will still help with your mental process:
1. Get outside. Go for a hike. Or a walk. Or just sit and look at some trees or fields or bodies of water. Whichever one. Anything to get outside and away from your computer. No, you're not allowed to check your text messages or send out a tweet. Not only is hiking or walking good for you physically (exercise), but the amount of inspiration you'll get from the great outdoors is unlimited. It's important to unplug. Instead of staring at a computer screen, go look at a flower. Rather than hunching over a piece of paper, look up at the sky. There's an entire beautiful world outside of your writing space. Take advantage of it. 

2. Learn about something new. A few summers ago I took a world religion course that involved reading through this fascinating book. Not only was this a interesting topic that helped me have a better understanding of people (and the world in general), but it also gave me a lot of ideas for world building. Is there some skill you've been wanting to acquire or some piece of the world you want to understand? Then go chase it down. Read something by Plato, sign up for an archery class (bonus points if you dress up as Legolas while taking lessons), learn how to play the piano, practice some underwater bilingual basket weaving. Whatever it is that looks interesting to you. It's good to learn new things and broaden your scope. Writing is not meant to be a sole hobby. 

3. Do something artsy. Redecorate your room. Hang up posters. Paint a mug. Make a really pretty dish of food. Play a song. Crochet a giant X-wing blanket. If you have no artistic skill whatsoever, you can always dump glitter all over your bookshelf. That counts as artsy, right? Do whatever it takes to stop writing while still engaging in something creative. 

4. Do something with your hands. Gardening, cooking, washing dishes, rearranging your bookshelves, playing with a rubiks cube. There's something good about being able to unplug from everything and just engage in a simple, straight-forward task.

5. Watch a movie or TV series. I'm hesitant to include this one because it doesn't help with getting you away from a screen. However, on the off-chance that you're not feeling well: This is a good option. Try exploring foreign films or watching TV in an entirely different genre. This can help give you some fresh thoughts to bring to your writing. OR you could just watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight over and over again. What? You're trying to tell me that that would get boring over time?? All I can say is....

6. Exercise. You know all off that caffeine and sugar you're consuming because you're convinced it makes you more of a writer? That stuff isn't good for you and needs to be burned off. And you know how writing for hours on end hurts your posture and can even cause you to develop carpal tunnel syndrome? That can be prevented by stretching out a bit. Whether it's yoga or martial arts or cardio or weight lifting, exercise is really important for your overall health. And there's something about the hormones released during physical work that can clear your head and give you new ideas. It's a scientific fact. I'd explain it to you, but...I don't want to. Ask Google. He seems to have more time on his hands than I do.

7. Talk to other creatives. Go have coffee with fellow writers, artists, photographers. Visit comic cons and chat with the vendors in artist alley.  Join a writing group. Leave your writing desk and seek out other people who are like you: passionate about their acts of creation. Their energy and ideas will rub off on you, feed you, give you a new perspective. If you're feeling particularly introverted: Try visiting a bookstore, an art museum, an amusement park. Look at the work of other creatives, study them, learn from them. Be inspired. 

8. Do nothing. Watch rain run down a windowpane, crash on your bed, take a shower, go sit out in the sun. Don't bring anything with you. No books. No phone. No paper and pencil. Just give yourself some time to relax and think.

In addition to these 7 activities, I recommend you read and implement this post full of tips for a healthy lifestyle. It's by friend S.M. Metzler, who is a fellow writer. She knows what's up. 

A lot of writers feel guilty when they spend free time doing things that aren't related to writing. Don't. It's good for you and it's good for your writing. So get off of your computer and go do things that those weird non-writer people like to do on their free time. It'll work out. I promise.

But, before unplugging, leave a comment below with your favorite non-writing activities! What are some things that get in the way of you engaging in them? How can you overcome these obstacles? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard
7 Tips for Balancing Writing with the Rest of Your Life
Why You Need to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Writers (And How to Do It)

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Episode 2 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: Aria E. Maher + eBook Giveaway of The Tangle

I know, I know. #ChatWithIndieAuthor videos are only supposed to come out on the fourth Wednesday of every month and this is not a fourth Wednesday. So what's with the post?

I made a special exception for this video so that I could be part of Aria E. Maher's blog tour for her new release: The Tangle.

The Tangle is an amazing paranormal suspense novel that I instantly fell in love with. So much so that not only did I give it a rave review here, but I also have decided that I want to host an ebook giveaway for it.

Yup. The first ever giveaway on this blog. How exciting. This giveaway will run from 11/08 to 11/15, so if you're visiting this post between those dates: You're in luck! You get a shot at a free ebook. If not: Bummer. You should've stayed on top of reading my posts, shouldn't you have?

But, before we get onto the interview and giveaway, an announcement:

#ChatWithIndieAuthor is now available on iTunes as a podcast. *throws confetti* Now you can listen to me when you're out and about doing things like driving, washing dishes, or eating chocolate in a corner somewhere instead of writing your WIP. Awesome, right?

Now, on with the show!

The Giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Video 


Aria E. Maher talks about her newest publication (The Tangle), scaring herself while writing, inspiration for writing paranormal fiction, and more.

Giveaway for an ebook copy of The Tangle is taking place on my blog between 11/08 and 11/15: Enter for a chance to win a free copy!

Check out her newest release on Amazon.

All of her past publications can be found on her Amazon page.

Are you following her online? You should be. Swing by and say hello:
When is the next #ChatWithIndieAuthor episode? I'm glad you asked! Wednesday November 22nd will bring us a chat with Kyle Robert Schultz. Have questions for him? Leave a comment below or on social media using the hashtag!

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short story. Or both!

Related articles:
Episode 1 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: S.M. Metzler
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is NaNoWriMo and Why Should You Participate? - A Guest Post by Rae Elliott


Yep. A post in honor of NaNoWriMo. You can thank me in the comments. Actually, thank Rae Elliott. She's here today to give us a talk about NaNoWriMo: What it is, why you should participate, and how to succeed. It's an epic post and helpful for everyone, not just people who are joining in on NaNoWriMo. So take a quick break from stressing out about NaNoWriMo or feeling sick after eating too much Halloween candy and read this post: 

“We wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists… I think the scene—full of smack-talk and muffin crumbs on our keyboards—would have rightly horrified professional writers. We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party. We called it noveling. And after the noveling ended on August 1, my sense of what was possible for myself, and those around me, was forever changed. If my friends and I could write passable novels in a month, I knew, anyone could do it.”

-Chris Baty creator of National Novel Writing Month and co-founder of Nanowrimo.org 

It’s amazing that a simple bet between friends eighteen years ago has snowballed into an annual tradition that now encompasses more than 310,000 adult novelists, plus an additional 89,500 young writers across the globe. Chris Baty and his gang expanded this annual event to 651 Municipal Liaisons in 595 regions, 650 Come Write In libraries and bookstores, and 2,000 YWP classrooms.

So what then, officially, must you do to be involved in this global event? Who can participate? What does one have to do to get their novel on board?
What is NaNoWriMo and Why Should You Participate? - A Guest Post by Rae Elliott

WHAT IS NANOWRIMO?


National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

If you want to participate officially in the NaNoWriMo challenge, you can visit NaNoWriMo.org/sign-up where you can be one of the many writers putting a fire under their bums by sticking to the official deadline.

After signing up, writers are then welcomed to join a forum of fellow writers sticking to the same word count goal and deadline. The forum is a great way to get support, discover tips, talk shop, and receive encouragement from other writers just like you. Not to mention, being part of the forum also acts as a great accountability booster!

IS NANOWRIMO FOR ME?


Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline,NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever considered writing a novel (even if you’ve never written one before!)


Still not sure if you should participate?


OK SO NANOWRIMO IS DEFINITELY FOR ME, BUT I HAVE A LIFE. 

I CAN’T JUST PUT IT ALL ON HOLD TO WRITE A NOVEL!

I have fantastic news for you friend: that means you’re just like everyone else participating in this event. So how do you do it? You absolutely can follow the outline and still live your life- promise! How can I be so certain of this? Because writers just like you have done it- plain and simple. If you’d like to organize your NaNoWriMo writing routine, learn how to write an awesome 50,000 word novel, and still live your life, then check out the NaNoWriMo Kit.

WHAT IF I DON’T WRITE 50,000 WORDS IN 30 DAYS? AM I A FAILURE?


The best part about participating in NaNoWriMo is that no one fails. Yes, the objective is to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days, but if you don’t achieve exactly that, then you’ve by no means failed. You’ve challenged yourself in a fantastic way that benefits your writing technique in the long run. Besides you can absolutely participate again next year and then you’ll be doubly prepared!

Writing everyday for thirty days straight will still have benefited you majorly. How so?
  • You’ll have gained a finely honed writing voice 
  • You’ll have built a healthy daily writing routine 
  • You’ll have gained an appreciation for discipline with writing 
  • You’ll have gained an improved sense of self 
  • You’ll have greater confidence to challenge yourself in other unique ways
So if you’d like to gain any of those things, then NaNoWriMo is still for you.

GOT ANY TIPS FOR SUCCESS?


Having a well-organized routine prepared ahead of time can help you write for success. Episode 4 of #ChatWithHannah discusses awesome tips for NaNoWriMo. I personally appreciated “Have an accountability partner to smack you upside the head.” I’ll need a couple smacks myself, I already know it!

Just remember that NaNoWriMo helps writers like you show yourself what you’re made of. I know you’re capable of achieving exceptional things and that includes #NaNoWriMo2017!

ABOUT RAE

Rae Elliott is a sci fi and fantasy author, writing tips blogger, bunny hugger, barrel rider, snack hoarder, and geek. It’s her strong belief that anyone can write a fandom-worthy novel. Find out more about her organizational tool kit for authors participating in NaNoWriMo here and visit her blog barelyharebooks.com

Awesome post, right? If you want more awesomeness in your life (which you honestly should. If not...why???), you need to follow Rae on her blog and say hello to her on social media! 

Also: No, this week will not bring you two posts. Today is it. No post this Friday. Sorry. Not really. You get one awesome post per week. That's should be enough, right? No? Bummer. 

Related articles:

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Friday, October 27, 2017

5 Tips for Creating Complex Characters

Do you want to know why I love Batman so much?

Bummer. I'm not going to talk about that today.

I'm just going to talk about one of the many contributing reasons for my love of Batman. That one contributing reason is his complexity.

Complex characters are some of my favorite types. They are rich, layered, and contradictory in all the best ways.

Oddly enough, complex characters can give writers a difficult time, possibly because they require a lot of thought, possibly because their personalities come with a lot of moving parts, or possibly because writers are scared that complexity will translate to hypocritical and unlikable.

That's what this post is for: To clear up any issues you may be having with your complex characters and give you tools to move forward and create something that is a Batman-level of awesome.
5 Tips for Writing Complex Characters
1. Give them contradictions. No, contradictions in character doesn't necessarily mean annoying or hypocritical or bad. Everybody has contradictory ideas and acts in contradictory ways. It's human nature. By infusing this element of human nature into your character, you are making him/her more realistic and interesting.
  • Joyce Byers from Stranger Things is an excellent example of an amazing contradictory character. She loves her sons and wants what's best for them. However, there are times when she is very hard on Jonathan for not picking up the slack that she has created in their home life. And she buys tickets for Will and her to see Poltergeist even thought it will probably scare him because she wants to bond with him. These actions contradict her love for her sons, but multiple scenes throughout Stranger Things shows that there is nothing she will not do to protect her boys. While her actions are unlikable at moments because of her contradictions, overall it gives her a human, realistic side that makes her triumphs all the more precious. 
In giving your characters contradictions, you make them more human, more complex, more relatable, and, ultimately, you give your readers more to think about and cheer for.

2. Don't be afraid to give them unlikable qualities. Many writers shy away from contradictions and inner flaws because they don't want to make their character unlikable. Don't worry about this. Unlikableness (Spell Check says that's not a word, which only makes me want to leave it in) gives your character something to overcome, which is not only a good basis for a character arc, but also encouraging for readers. Win win.
  • Prince Arthur from Merlin is a good example of this. Clearly, the guy has issues. Sure, he has a lot of good qualities, but he can also be entitled, insensitive, and rude. However, these flaws are all ones we see him wrestle with throughout the series. And they are also evened out by his good heart and innate desire to do right. He has unlikable qualities, but they add to his character rather than detracting from it. 
If a TV series can do it, so can you. Don't be afraid to give your characters some flaws. 

3. Don't forget about subtext. What do I mean by subtext? I mean don't forget to give your character underlying themes, motives, and beliefs. What emotions guide your character that may not be explicitly stated? What are some beliefs that he holds that shift subtly throughout the story? None of these need to be actually explained in detail, just alluded to. 
  • Ron Weasley from Harry Potter is a character steeped in subtext. He's always been overshadowed by his brothers, thus creating rarely-explicitly-stated conflict between himself and Harry. Being poor has given him issues of self-esteem, which shows itself in his tendencies towards deprecating others and needing to prove himself. But he also comes from a large family with loving parents, which is one of the reasons he ultimately sticks by the orphaned Harry no matter what. 
Subtext isn't just important for dialogue, so make it a point to give subtext to the personalities and actions of your complex characters.

4. Be intentional with their background. Their background should feed into who they are today: Why they are flawed, contradictory, and full of underlying motives. However, remembering the importance of subtext, recognize that you don't have to be detailed about the background. Some characters may benefit from having little to no background revealed about them, while others need their information rolled out at very specific points in the story. Think carefully about your character's history and decide how and when you want to dole out their background information.
  • Nell from The Haunting shows the perfect balance of background information flow. She has a history of supernatural events in her life which is important because it means that the haunted house she is staying in has a connection to her. This we are told right off the bat. However, we don't find out until later that these supernatural events have scarred her and left her less mentally stable than most. We also don't know until later that she's carrying around a lot of guilt related to her mother's death, which also makes her more susceptible to the haunted house. All of this information gives her layer after layer after layer, none of which are revealed immediately in the story. 
Ask yourself: What parts of my character's backstory are important to who they are? Do my readers need to know this? If so, when can I give this information in a way that creates layers rather than information dumps? 

5. Remember that contrasting and paralleling is important. Parallel your complex character with somebody who is similar to them, though different in very stark ways. Or contrast with characters who are completely, entirely different. Or parallel/contrast with surroundings. Or all three. This makes their complexities into even more of a statement, giving them an extra interest point. 
  • Batman from the Dark Knight trilogy is a favorite example of mine (surprise. He's pretty much my favorite example for everything). His thirst for justice is parallel with Raz Al Ghul's, but contrasts because he isn't as heartless or depraved as the leader of the League of Assassins. This showcases his complexities in that he seeks vigilante justice, but also draws a line with how he goes about securing this justice...even if it is sometimes a thin one. This same parallel is drawn between his personality and that of Gotham city itself (they are both dark and disturbed entities, but Batman has morals and works to do good). A contrast is brought to light by his interactions with Alfred, who is far more grounded than Bruce and selfless on a more personal level, making us wonder about Bruce's choices and motives. 
Contrasts can highlight the epic complexities that you have built into your character, so if you're proud of what you've created and want to show it off, this is the way to go. 

And that's all I have for you. Why are you still here? Oh. Do you have something to say? Leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite complex characters....or tips you have for writing this character type!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles: 
Unreliable Narrators: What They Are and How to Write Them
Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Episode 1 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: S.M. Metzler

The first episode of #ChatWithIndieAuthor has arrived! And what better way to kick it off than to interview amazing friend and amazing writer S.M. Metzler?

S.M. Metzler talks about her upcoming publication (Fiction's Lie), her outlining process, plot bunnies, hobbies, and more:

Are you following Susannah online? You should be. Swing by and say hello:
If you liked this video and have an indie author you'd love to see on this channel, send them this video and leave their name in the comment section! We just may be able to make that happen. 

The next #ChatWithIndieAuthor episode will be release on Wednesday November 8th and will bring us a chat with Aria E. Maher. Have questions for her? Leave a comment below or on social media using the hashtag!

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel, share the video on social media, or buy my short story. Or all three!

Related articles: 

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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Writing Dialogue: What You're Doing Wrong (And How to Fix It)

I'm going to go ahead and take a wild guess and say that you, at some point in your life, have had a conversation with another person.

I'm also going to go out on a limb here and say that you've have more than one conversation. Not only that, but you've also listened to and read dialogue.

So it is extremely pathetic that you are writing dialogue and doing it completely, horribly wrong.

How is that even possible? *shakes head* Inconceivable.

Here are 7 things you are doing wrong when writing dialogue. And, because I'm feeling generous today, I'm going to explain to you how to fix them. Isn't that nice of me?
Writing Dialogue: What You're Doing Wrong (And How to Fix It)
1. You're being robotic. Your dialogue sounds similar to what two very poorly developed androids might sound like if they were to discuss the weather.

"It looks cloudy today. Do you think it will rain, Andy?" asked Rob.
Andy nodded. "Yes, I do think it will rain today, Rob. But that is good. I like rain. Do you?"
"No, I do not like rain," Rob said, frowning. "It makes me rusty, which does not feel good."

Really? Really? Nobody talks like that. Stiff, on-the-nose dialogue is one of the greatest sins a writer can commit. Yet people do it every day.
  • How to fix it: Read it aloud, act it out, compare it to real-life dialogue. Seriously. Read it out loud as if you yourself are having the conversation. Does it sound like something you would actually say? Or something another person might say? No? Then re-write it. And yes, this rule still applies if you are writing a conversation between people that are completely unlike you. If it feels stiff and isn't supposed to, you're doing it wrong. When I applied this rule to the conversation above, here's what I get: 
Rob looked upwards, neck gears creaking. "Do you think it will rain?"
Andy grinned eagerly and nodded, then paused. "Why, don't you like rain?"
"It makes me rust," he complained, scratching at a flaking spot on his chest plate.

Better, right? Of course right.

2. You're being too realistic. In trying to avoid writing robotic dialogue, you've swung too far to the other side, resulting in annoying, dragged out conversations. Do regular conversations include a lot of ummms, uuuhs, space fillers, pointless pleasantries, or unnecessary profanity? Yes. Does that mean that your dialogue should include all of these, too? Not necessarily. Chances are you're just bogging the story down and boring (or annoying) your readers. 
  • How to fix it: Cut out anything that doesn't serve a purpose. Ask yourself: "Does this move the story forward? Is this style of dialogue important for character development?" If the answer is no, delete it. Hyper realistic dialogue is only helpful in very specific cases, so be careful if you find yourself drawing too much from real-life.
3. There is no subtlety. Most people don't say exactly what they mean when they're talking. And yet, for some reason, you have decided to write all of your dialogue in a way that completely slaughters any and all subtext. Your dialogue is as obvious as Gollum's desire for the ring and it's really bringing your story down. Is that what you intended? If so, well done.
  • How to fix it: Be thoughtful and intentional with your dialogue. As you are writing, think about what it is that your character wants and how he/she is feeling at the moment. How comfortable is he/she with talking to the other character(s)? What are her ulterior motives? What is she driving at? How does what she is saying connect to the themes, plot, and pacing of the story? All of this subtext is crucial to a story, so try to work it into the way that your characters communicate with one another.
4. You aren't taking character personality into account. Your introvert talks in exactly the same that your extrovert talks. Your characters communicate with their peers in exactly the same way that they communicate with people who are or older or younger than them. Either none of them use slang or all of them use slang. Everyone speaks in exactly the same voice, which is not only boring, but also highly unlikely.
  • How to fix it: Decide on speech patterns for each character. Maybe your extrovert is long-winded, whereas your introvert uses short, hesitant sentences. Anne might use slang all of the time, but Brian only does when he's talking to his group of friends. Perhaps your straight shooting hero says exactly what he means, while your antihero says exactly the opposite. Put thought into making your dialogue diverse. 
5. Your dialogue tags suck. Did you seriously just use the word "said" to close out eight consecutive lines of dialogue? And then turn around and use super long, involved descriptive tags for the next five lines? Stop it! 
  • How to fix it: Vary your tags, and make sure they are relevant. Despite what you may have heard, Said is not dead. He's just been beaten with an inch of his life because people used him too often. It is okay to use said, but don't forget about retort, complain, shriek, and other such words. And remember to vary them with action, especially if it is important for the reader to understand the facial expressions and movements of the characters speaking. This is especially important when trying to add subtlety to your dialogue. Dialogue is never static, so don't forget to mention body language, hand movements, or actions the characters are performing as they speak.
6. You didn't do enough research. You're writing a surfer character, but your surf slang is way off. You've crafted a bilingual character, but didn't take the time to research bilingual speech patterns. 
  • How to fix it: Don't be lazy. Get online and read up about the character type you are writing. Watch some movies, check out some YouTube videos, go talk to people in real life who share things in common with the character you are writing. Take notes and apply them to your dialogue. 
7. Your dialogue punctuation is a mess. Commas and periods are outside of quotation marks, tags are disconnected, and over all your dialogue looks like you threw random types of punctuation at the page and hoped that some of them stuck to the right spots. Wow. It's like you've never read a book before. 
    • How to fix it: Go read a book. Seriously. Go find any traditional, nonexperimental novel and flip to a page that has dialogue. Notice common punctuation patterns, quotation mark placement, and tag usage. Or, if you aren't into critical thinking, go Google "how to punctuate dialogue." 
And there you have it. I bet you didn't know you were so bad at dialogue. Well, now you do. Don't feel bad. Just go fix it. Right now. It's hurting my eyes. 

Have any tips to add? I'd love your input! I'd also love to hear about some authors who write excellent dialogue, so please leave their names below. 

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related article: 
5 Steps to Writing 100% All Natural Dialogue - A Guest Post by Miranda Kulig

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block

Whaaaa? A post on Wednesday? Unheard of! This has never happened in the history of the Hannah Heath blog (I think? Maybe? I don't keep track).

So what's going on? Well, for those of you who don't know, I launched a Youtube channel back in July. That's right. A writer attempting to be a Youtuber. Who thought that was a good idea?

Anyway, this Youtube channel has two aspects: #ChatWithHannah, the series where you can write in questions and have them answered every third Wednesday of the month. AND the brand new #ChatWithIndieAuthor series beginning on October 25th where you can ask indie authors about their writing.

So what does this mean for the blog? These videos are going to start being posted here as well as Youtube. So now you can be lazy and just watch my videos here, rather than having to travel waaaaay over to Youtube. You're welcome.

Now, without further ado: Episode 4 of #ChatWithHannah:
Today we talk about NaNoWriMo, favorite movies, newsletter marketing, how to overcome writer's block (assuming it's real...which I'm not convinced of), and more.

Also, when I said "Perihelid came out today" I meant it came out on October 17th, which is the day I recorded this video, not the day I published it (the 18th). *facepalm* My bad. You can still get a copy on Amazon, though, so we're all good. 

Recommended books: 
Here is the blog post about writing sucky first drafts, in case you're interested.

The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on November 15th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers. OR email me here

The interview with S.M. Metzler will be up on October 25th under the new series title of #ChatWithIndieAuthor, so if you have questions for her, use the hashtag below or on social media to let us know! 

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel, share the video on social media, or buy my short story. Or all three!

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, October 13, 2017

12 Fiction Genres You've Probably Never Heard Of

Things are about to get really hipster in this post.

Like, hipster Josh from Blimey Cow hipster. Yes, I understand that a percentage of you won't understand that reference. Your loss.

You may think you read a lot. You may think you've read across many genres.

But, no matter how much of a hipster bookworm you are, this post is more hipster. This post is going to discuss all of the genres (and/or subgenres) that you've probably never heard of. So put down your specialized coffee drink and listen up:
12 Fiction Genres You've Probably Never Heard of
Note: I'm listing examples of books and movies for each genre, but some of them I have not read or seen. What? I only pretend like I know everything. Anyway, all of the examples that I have read (in case you care, which I'm not really sure why you would) are listed in green.

1. Wuxia. A genre of Chinese fiction that focuses on the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. I think you all recognized that this was a genre, but didn't know it had a name because you are uncultured swine. Well, now you know. You're welcome.
  • Examples: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or pretty much any of those Chinese action movies that have terrible English dubs that people pretend they've watched, but actually only caught the first twenty minutes of it before giving up. 
2. Epistolary. You know those books that are just a bunch of letters? No? Well, those are epistolary. It doesn't have to just be letters, though. It has expanded to emails, newsletter clippings, diary entries, etc.
3. Atom punk. A subgenre of punk that usually takes place in the 1945-1965. It typically deals with communism, space travel, and what the world would look like with the advancement of atomic weapons, atomic energy, etc.
4. Slipstream. This is also what could be called "weird." It's a genre that slips in and out of fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. It always has some type of surreal or clearly unreal elements, but also some that are very grounded in real life, thus giving it a strange feel.
5. Black Comedy. Okay, so maybe some of you have heard of this one. Calm down. I'm mostly including it because it's a slightly lesser-known genre that I adore.
It's a type of comedy that deals with dark, morbid, or taboo subjects in a comedic or satirical way.  
6. Robinsonade. Yep. This is an entire genre based off of the Robinson Cruseo book. Because apparently that's necessary. It's focus is on people (usually just one person) being stranded on some type of island (or maybe a really secluded area). It's a broad genre, okay?
7. Antinovel. The anti-villain of novels! Not really. It's just a type of experimental fiction that goes out of its way to avoid established conventional styles of writing a novel. It usually lacks a plot, traditional character arcs, linear narration, set beginnings and ends, and "proper" syntax.
  • Examples: *sigh* I don't know. Go ask that grungy, disdainful looking person wandering your nearest used bookstore. He/she will know. 
8. Jiangshi fiction. This is the long lost sister of werewolf and vampire fiction. It is a monster/horror story centering around the jiangshi from Chinese folklore. Jiangshi is a mix of vampire and werewolf: It cannot speak, shambles around, and, instead of drinking blood, sucks away people's chi. So there. That's a fact you now know that is clearly essential and not at all extraneous. 
9. Flintlock. A subgenre of fantasy that, rather than being swords and sorcery, is guns and shooting. Rather than a setting influenced by the medieval ages, it's usually set in a world similar to the industrialized period of the 18th or 19th century.
10. Mannerpunk. You may have heard of steampunk, but have you heard of mannerpunk? Of course not. It's a very tongue-in-cheek genre name that is also alternately named "Fantasy of manners." It is a fantasy novel where there is more of an emphasis on etiquette and social constructs than actual fantasy elements. 
11. Philosophical fiction. This is a type of novel where the plot and/or theme is based entirely off of a philosophical subject. They are specifically written to address a specific question within philosophy and are usually (though not always) pretty hefty and thoughtful. 
  • Examples: Pretty much anything ever written by Fyodor Doestoevky.
12. Cli-Fi. An emerging genre, cli-fi is short for "climate fiction." Put simply, it is sci-fi that deals with climate change. It can either focus on environmental sciences or climate disasters (usually man-made ones) or a negative futuristic projection of climate change or all of these. Because what better way to protest climate change than chopping down trees to make books? 
Bonus Genre: This one came to my attention after creating the cover image for this post and I'm too lazy to update it, so I'm just calling this a bonus: Bangsian Fantasy. Look it up. It's fascinating.

Now, in case you hadn't noticed: These genres are so obscure that their lines are very blurred. They have a lot of similarities to each other or with other, better-known genres. As such, there are a lot of very hipster arguments going on about which of these genres are "real" genres and which books actually fall into which genre. 

The answer to these arguments? Pffft. Like I care. It doesn't really matter. I just think these are fun genres to know about in case you ever find yourself wanting to read something weird and wonderful. Or if you ever want to sound really smart...or just really annoying. 

Which of these genres had you already heard about? Which are you interested in exploring? Do you have your own obscure genres to add? I'd love to hear from you! Get your hipster on and leave a comment below.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!
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