Friday, May 15, 2020

Factoid Friday #6: About Jayel's Name

I've always really liked Jael from the book of Judges. A woman who is badass enough and collected enough to pull off killing the general of an army? Yes please.

I decided to name my Flames of Courage protagonist after Jael because they have similar traits: They're both smart, justice-oriented, and they're both brawlers.

Here's the thing about the name spelling: Jayel was a character I originally created a good ten years ago. At the time, I'd heard the story of Jael recounted in sermons or read aloud to me by my parents. As a twelve-year-old, I had never personally read the story with my own eyes, so I didn't realize that the name was spelled "Jael." I assumed the name was spelled like it sounds: "Jayel."

It wasn't until a few years later that I learned the correct spelling of the name, but by then it was too late. She was Jayel in my mind, not Jael.

Luckily, Jayel is a pretty cool looking name, so it all worked out in the end.

Related articles:
Factoid Friday #1: About Wanderer's Name
Factoid Friday #4: About the Colors...

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

Friday, May 8, 2020

6 Things in Harry Potter that make NO sense (Part 1)

Whether your love or hate Harry Potter, there's no denying that it is full of incredibly bizarre, nonsensical characters and world-building points. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I'm here to talk about my favorite (and least favorite) things in Harry Potter that make absolutely zero sense.

What are your favorite nonsensical Harry Potter facts? I'd love to hear about them!

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Friday, May 1, 2020

Nonlinear Character Arcs: What They Are, Why They're Epic, and How to Write Them

If you've been writing or reading for any amount of time, you've probably heard of the two main character arcs: the positive character arc and the negative character arc.

If you're not familiar with those terms, you're definitely familiar with the general idea. Positive character arcs describe a character who overcomes a problem and comes out the other side as a better person (think Bilbo Baggins...or pretty much any other protagonist of, well, anything. It's a very common arc).

A negative character arc is when a character comes up against a problem and, rather than overcoming it, is crushed by it and ends up as a somehow worse person than when they started (think Harvey Dent).

But what about nonlinear character arcs? Arcs that show a character becoming better, then worse, but then better again (yay!), but then backsliding (noooo!). Rinse and repeat over and over and over.

Let's talk about how to write that type of character arc.

Nonlinear Character Arcs: What They Are, Why They're Epic, and How to Write Them

Why write a nonlinear character arc? 

Nonlinear character arcs are far more realistic to what your average everyday person experiences. 

Most of us have a high moments and low moments and, as much as we'd like to think that we learn from them, we often end up repeating the same or similar mistakes. Rather than having a clear, smooth, linear trajectory that represent our personality development, our "arcs" tend to be very messy. Life is full of switchbacks and ups and downs and sideways movements. 

Because of this, readers are able to personally relate to nonlinear character arcs in a way that they may not be able to with others. Sure, positive character arcs are amazing because you get to cheer a character on and be inspired by their progress. And negative character arcs a really interesting too, because they're full of emotional impact. 

But nonlinear character arcs? They meets us where we are at. We get to see characters who act very similar to us (or people we know). This has great emotional impact because we are able to see that people make mistakes, and that's okay. We get to see that, no matter how many backslides we may experience in our lives, it's always possible to pick ourselves back up and move forward.

It also keeps readers engaged because we're never quiiiiiiite sure how a character will behave, whereas with a negative or positive character arc, we generally know what choice a character will make.

How do you write a nonlinear character arc? 

1. Let your characters make bad choices. This can be difficult for some writers because they are afraid of writing a character that is so flawed that they become upsetting to the reader. But you know what? You can't let other people dictate your storytelling process. Rosa knows:

Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn 99 saying: "You can't let other people's opinions get in the way of what you want. Especially because other people suck!"

Just kidding.

But seriously. The good thing about nonlinear character arcs is that readers know that, even if the character does make bad choices, they will end up making better ones at some point in the future. Rather than being off-putting, this can make readers want to stick it out and hope to see the character triumph, even if it is temporary. 

It's relatable, so don't feel the need to sugarcoat it. 

2. Model your characters after real human behavior. Often times, riders will fashion their characters after other heroes in books or movies that they like. It's why we have so many common archetypes: The Reluctant King (Aragorn), The Chosen One (Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter), The Rebel (Katniss Everdeen, Jyn Erso), The Comic Relief (Pippin). 

But the truth is that people's personalities and choices in real life are not that clear-cut. People are full of inconsistencies, inspiring bravery, and heart wrenching cowardice. We humans are hard to nail down. Even the most likable people can sometimes disappoint, and even the most frustrating people can have moments of surprising goodness. Think about the people in your life, then consider modeling your characters after the behaviors that you see around you. It will lead to a rich, layered, complicated character that your readers would love to engage with. 

4. Set the stage. You want to be sure to establish from a fairly early point that your character is not going to have the traditional arcs that readers have come to expect. This is important because you don't want to disappoint your readers. If you don't lay the groundwork, they may label your character as inconsistent rather than complex. They'll be irritated, you'll be upset, and I'll be disappointed because I gave you the tools to avoid this problem, but did you listen? Noooooo.

David Tennent's Doctor Who making a disgusted face. #JudgingYou flashes beneath him.

Walking this line can be tricky, but if you are very intentional it should work out. For example, my vampire character from Vengeance Hunter has a nonlinear arc. I set the stage for this right off the bat by showing her inconsistencies within the first few pages: 

The opening scene shows her hunting down and killing somebody for their blood. This is obviously not a great thing to be doing. She almost seems to enjoy the hunt, but also appears to be vaguely disgusted by herself and her fellow hunters. Immediately afterwards, I show her giving this blood to other people in her society who are hungry and need it to survive. She seems to do this of her own accord, indicating a certain goodness within her, but this is undercut by the fact that she seems to be turning a blind eye to the fact that her activities are clearly immoral. All of this signals to the reader that this character is not a traditional hero, nor is she a villain. She's confused, hurting, and is consistently making contradictory choices. 

Be sure to set the precedence for your character's nonlinear nature within the first few pages of the story. Not only does the complexity and mystery of it draw readers in, but it will also make sure that they know what they're getting into.

3. Read up (or binge) nonlinear characters. Study their patterns. You'll start to notice that these characters have a sort of predictable unpredictability about them. Don't make a series of decent choices, only to make a few terrible ones. Or they'll make a lot of terrible choices, and then one massively excellent one. They continue in this pattern for the entire story and there ending arc generally is fairly open. It's not clear whether they will manage to get their lives fully together, but there's just enough of a hint of hope to keep the readers happy. 

My personal favorite examples of nonlinear character arcs? Here are a few. Yes, most of them are from the TV show The 100. Those writers know how to do a nonlinear arc like nobody else. 

1. Octavia Blake from The 100. It's no secret that she makes a lot of terrible, damaging, violent life choices. But she also occasionally does some amazing things, and often is operating out of a desire to keep her loved ones safe. 

2. Severus Snape from Harry Potter. This guy's arc is all over the place, but in a good way. He simultaneously makes some great choices, but also lots of bad ones. One moment he's risking his life to save others, the other moment he's terrorizing small children.

Snape gesturing like, "I do what I want."

3. Han Solo from Star Wars. One moment he's a scruffy-looking nerf herder with a heart of gold who risks his life to go stuff his friend into a dead Tauntaun. But fast forward a few decades and he's let his not-super-stable friend give his son a glowy-death-sword and then abandons his wife when that inevitably goes south. Sheesh. Tighten up, dude. 

Other examples include: Tony Stark (Marvel), Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter), Abby Griffin (The 100), Red Hood (DC), and Loki (Marvel). Not to mention a whole plethora of my own characters: Ishtaka from Vengeance Hunter and other ones I can't mention because *spoilers.* 

(Please note the lack of female characters with nontraditional characters arcs. Now go forth and populate the earth with them. Thank you) 

And that's it! Your Nonlinear Character Starter Pack. You're welcome. 

Do you like nonlinear character arcs? Who are some of your favorite examples?

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

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Skies of Dripping Gold Audiobook Coming Soon!

Yes, you read this blog post title right. Skies of Dripping Gold will be coming soon to Audible!

Yep. Skies of Dripping Gold, my first ever publication. The first installment in the Torn Universe. The YA Christian dystopian that is guaranteed to make you cry or Feel Things.


Narrator Brian Hathaway is an incredible voice actor who has brought Gabriel's story to life in a way I hadn't even realized was possible. Because Skies of Dripping was my debut publication (and because the story is highly personal), it was important to me that I find an actor who could convey the full range of emotions contained in this short story. I can say with 100% certainty that I found that in Hathaway's narration. You're going to love him. Lemme tell you a bit about his work:

Hathaway is an award winning stage actor in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. His favorite credits include The Producers (Leo Bloom), The Drowsy Chaperone (Aldolpho), and A Year With Frog and Toad (Toad). He is also a contributing voice actor for Funimation Entertainment where he has been heard in anime series such as One Piece, Attack on Titan, and Fairy Tail.

See? Like I said. He's awesome. You're gonna love his voicing of the characters.

I am thrilled to finally bring this story alive via audiobook. After all, the main character of the story has a severe form of dyslexia and therefore struggles with reading, so it only seems right to release this story in an accessible format. Gotta make Gabriel proud.

Now I know you all probably have a lot of questions, so I'm going to go ahead and try to answer as many of them as possible upfront.

When is the audiobook release date? 

Yeah. About that....

The audiobook is still currently in production, so I am not going to commit to a firm deadline yet. That being said, it will be released mid or late May, so you're going to want to keep your eyes peeled. I would recommend subscribing to my newsletter and joining my Torn Universe Facebook group so that you aren't the last poor sucker on earth to learn of it's release.

How long will this audiobook be? 

The total run time will be around 40 minutes long. A short run time for a short story. But don't let the length fool you: the story will still blow you away.

Where will I be able to buy it

This audiobook will be available on Audible and iTunes. You're welcome.

Is a portion of the sales still going towards charity? 

Yes. Like everything that you ever purchase from me (books, merch, etc), 10% of all earnings will go to Joni and Friends and Latisha's House. You can read more about why I chose those two specific organizations by checking out this post on my website. Thank you for helping me support the disabled community as well as victims of human trafficking!

Will you be doing audiobooks for your other stories? 

You betcha! I will be doing audiobooks for The Terebinth Tree Chronicles as well as for So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One. I recognize that audiobooks are innately more accessible to many people, and I am very excited to finally be financially in a place where I can integrate audiobooks into my platform.

That being said, the Terebinth Tree Chronicles audiobook will not being released until all five of the short stories are published. Yeah, that means you're gonna have to wait a year or two. It's fine, though. You can handle the wait. I believe in you. In the meantime, I did a live reading of Colors of Fear on YouTube, so if you want a read-aloud version of that, check it out. You are aloud to laugh at my questionable reading skills.

Aaaand I think I got them all. Have any other questions? Ask me below and I shall do my best to answer! 

Who else here is super stoked about this audiobook? Fangirl with me in the comment section!

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Factoid Friday #5: Why I First Started Writing YA

Note: I forgot to send out last week's blog notification, so here we go: Youtube video! Epic fantasy tropes! Go watch

I remember getting to about 12 years of age and just kind of...running out of stuff to read. I wanted fantasy adventures with swords and horses. I wanted friendships and family relationships. I wanted cool worldbuilding and thought provoking stakes.

Instead, I got some of those things, but also with a large heaping of love triangles and creeper romance.

I was not happy, Bob. Not. Happy.

So I decided to take things into my own hands.

And thus was born my propensity for writing YA fiction with all the sci-fi-and-fantasy bells and whistles, minus the romance. I've been pleased to find that there are tons of readers out there who are searching for that exact thing. 

What about you? What age do you tend to write for and why? I'd love to hear your story! 

Related articles: 
Factoid Friday #3: My Weird Writer Quirk

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! Or, in this case: Saturday. Thank you for bearing with me.

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

How to Come Up with a Story Idea

PSA: Today is the last day to grab your free ebook copy of Colors of Fear! Do it now.

This blog post is going to be a little bit different.

I was going to simply tell you how to come up with a story idea, but we all know the saying.

"Show, don't tell."

So, sure, I will explain the story generating process to you. However, I will also show you how I personally would go about coming up with a story idea from scratch.

Yes, this means that I'm going to build a full-on story idea while writing this post. You're about to get a behind-the-scenes look at how my brain works, so grab some popcorn and strap in.

1. Start with the one thing you have. Chances are, you have one single, not-super-helpful concept rolling around your brain. When I was beginning to write Vengeance Hunter, it was "Vampires." A more recent project (This Pain Inside) began with me just really, really wanting to write an underwater sci-fi.

Take that concept that won't stop bugging you and write it down. You'll need it later. It absolutely, 100% does not need to be fleshed out in any way. It can be bizarre, random, something that you look at and think, "That is not a story idea."

You're right: It is not a story idea. But it will be. Have patience, my young padawan learner.

My idea is in blue:

Starting with: A monster that steals everybody's left shoe

2. Pinpoint what story element is particularly important to you as an author. Do you focus on character-driven plots? Are themes a driving factor in your writing? Maybe you like twisting tropes? Most writers have a specific focus in their writing. The thing that shines in every single one of their stories because they like writing it and can't help but insert it into their stories.

For me, it's theme. Theme is very important to me, so I usually pick a theme I want to explore at the very beginning of any brainstorming phase. I know other authors who pick a world-building element ("what if a ring had the power to rule them all?") or a character type ("traumatized chosen one boi").

Why so sirius, Harry?

Maybe you personally really like playing with plot-driven stories. Awesome! Write it down.

Story element: plot-driven

3. Pick a mood. Do you want this story to be funny? Sad? Intense? Dark (yes, please!)? Romantic (you lost me)? Pick a mood. It can be random if you like, though hopefully you can match it with your starting point.

For instance, my above starting point (a monster that steals everybody's left shoe) has the potential to be funny. However, it could also be tragic or scary, depending on why the monster is stealing only the left shoe. Do your best to match the mood with the starting point. But also be sure to choose a mood that you are personally drawn to, because why write something you aren't interested in? For instance, I'm in a bit of a what's-that-in-the-shadows mood, so I'm going with...

Mood: Scary

4. Pick your genre. You probably already have a genre you're prone to writing. Do you feel like writing that genre again? Or do you want to try something different?

Make sure that this genre fits the elements you already have. For instance, I currently have a left-shoe-stealing monster, a scary vibe, and a focus on plot. This doesn't really lend itself to romance or historical fiction. It maybe lends itself to sci-fi or fantasy or, if we get real creative, a thriller. It definitely lends itself to horror and supernatural fiction.

Genre: Horror 

5. Start putting the pieces together. Let's see what we have so far. We have a scary, plot-driven horror story that will somehow incorporate a monster that is stealing everybody's left shoe.

Get out a pen and paper and start seeing how many different ways that story can go. Here are mine:

Villagers that rely on trading animal furs find the severed left foot of a strange, unknown creature in one of their traps. A few days later, the villagers' left shoes start to disappear in the night. And then their left socks. And then their actual left feet. [insert scream here] The village must rally and hunt down the beast before it continues to exacts its revenge.  

A bit goofy? Yeah. But give it the right twist (a mysterious, fairytale kind of vibe, perhaps?) and it could be something. Besides, I could even ditch the "everybody's left shoe" part of my idea and just go for this: 

Villagers that rely on trading animal furs find the severed left foot of a strange, unknown creature in one of their traps. The next night, a trader tries to leave the village to sell goods at the nearest city only to be caught in a horrifying booby trap that robs her of her left foot. The villagers soon find that their village is surrounded by traps. To leave is to risk maiming or death, but to stay is starvation. And with each night the monster grows bolder in its quest for revenge. 

Okay, not bad. But let's try an entirely new route, just for funsies. 

There is a monster outside Character's house, and it wants to kill him. He's seen it staring at him outside his window, heard its vicious howl. The neighbors say he's imagining things, but he doesn't think he is. If he just stays inside with all entrances locked, he'll be safe. 

But then one of his left shoes disappears. Then another. And another. Each missing shoe is replaced with something unsettling: a dead bird, a painting of a woman with her eyes scratched out. The creature is inside his house, taunting him. Character must find a way to escape from the monster before it kills him or drives him insane.

I personally like this idea, so I'll stop here. However, note that I could keep going if none of the above three ideas struck my fancy. I could also go back to my very first idea and keep tweaking it. Or I could swap the genre to, say, dark fantasy and see if that sparks any new ideas.

Keep playing with it until you find something you like.

6. Keep building out. You may have a basic story idea, but it's not ready yet. There will probably be some fairly large holes. Make a list of questions you have about your story and try to fit the answer with your current concept.

What is the world-building in this story? Well, the monster could be anything. Maybe it's real. Maybe it's imagined because Character is a little bit bonkers. Maybe Character is part of a cruel science experiment to see how the human brain deals with perceived supernatural events. The possibilities are endless. I personally like plot-twist type stories, so I'm going with the science experiment one. 

What is Character's backstory? I'm a sucker for broken, underdog character types, so let's say Character has always been a bit jumpy. He isn't the most stable person. He use to have delusions of seeing this monster in his closet all the way up until the age of seventeen, but he's been making great strides since then. He's now in his 30s, has a job, leads a normal (if not somewhat unhappy) life, and hasn't seen the monster again. Up until the beginning of my story, that is. 

7. Find your ending. Story ideas aren't particularly useful if they don't come with endings. Write down the first endings that come to your mind and see which one strikes your fancy. 

Character has a full breakdown, ends up stumbling across the scientists who have been putting him through all of this stress, mistakes them for the real monster, kills them, ends up in jail. 

A bit dark and pointless for me, so I'll pass on that ending. 

Character ends up almost losing his mind, but holds himself together through sheer will. The head of the science department finds out about this unauthorized experiment and shuts it down. However, it turns out that the monster is real because the scientists were stupid enough to get their experimental design from an old folk tale they believed to be false. The monster follows the scientists home and begins to torture them with similar mind games. The head of the science department goes to Character for help. Character must face his fears and find a way to stop the monster once and for all. 

Yup. I like that one. It's weird, it's interesting, it's scary. It has all of the elements I had originally wanted, and it only took me an hour to generate (30 minutes, actually, if we subtract the time it took me to explain the process while also coming up with the idea). 

Pretty awesome, right? 

There are a lot of ways to come up with a story idea, but this is the one that I've found to be the most effective. 

Want to give it a whirl? Leave a comment below and tell me what you come up with! 

And don't forget to stop by for my first live reading of Colors of Fear this Sunday!

Related articles: 

7 Tips for Re-Writing Your Story
8 Tips for Developing a Strong Theme for Your Novel

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Stay-At-Home Book Events: Free Ebook, Live Readings, and More!

The Virus That Must Not Be Named is going around (heretofore known as TVTMNBN). Maybe you, like me, are living under a mandatory stay at home law. Maybe you're bored. Maybe you're anxious. Maybe you're grieving. Maybe you just really need toilet paper.

I've got your back.

(except for the toilet paper part. Sorry)

I know these are difficult, stressful times for many, so I've decided to release a whole slew of fun events over the next month. A lot of these events are unprecedented, never-seen-before goings-on that I can guarantee will put a smile on your face.

Wanna know what they are?

Behold. My beautiful schedule:

It's a lot, so lemme break the awesomeness down for you. 

March 23rd - 27th: the Colors of Fear ebook is free! Head on over and grab your copy!

*throws confetti* If you've been following me for a while, you know that I never give my work away for free. I'm doing it this week because I know people are going through a rough time. There's a lot of fear circulating, so I hope that reading about Wanderer's fight against his own fears brings you strength. 

March 29th and April 1st: Live readings of Colors of Fear!

I'll read a scene from Colors of Fear on Youtube, then we'll have have a book club discussion. You can ask me questions, throw out fan theories, laugh and chat with fellow readers, and more. It's going to be a lot of fun. Invite your friends! Who says social distancing has to be tackled alone? 

Don't forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel and opt-in to get alerts when I go live. 

April 1st: 

Now here's the big one. The very-few-people-even-knew-I-was-working-on-this-novel one.

On April 1st, I will be releasing chapter 1 of So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One to Wattpad.

So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One is a a Mexican-inspired comedic Space Opera WIP that I've been working on for the last several months. It's about a happy-go-lucky mischief maker on the run from the law who accidentally kills her galaxy's Chosen One. But plot twist! This Chosen One is also her doppelgänger, so she does what an illogical, adventure-loving person would do: She decides to impersonate the Chosen One.

It's a mixture of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and dark comedy, but with tortillas and brujas.

You're going to love it. Go follow my Wattpad account so you can read it when it releases.

Now this is just Phase 1 of my Stay-At-Home book events. Stay tuned to learn about more fun events that I'll be rolling out over the next few months.

Do you have any questions? Requests for bookish events? I'd love to hear about them!

Remember to join my Torn Universe or subscribe to my newsletter if you want to be among the first people to hear about these kinds of events.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Why Tropes Are Awesome (And How to Use Them In Your Writing)

*rises from the dead* I'm aliiiiiiiive.

Kind of.

Actually, if anything, I'm mostly dead. But mostly dead is still slightly alive, so that's something.

Many thanks to everyone who was chill with my random, unannounced blogging absence last month. I've been having some super fun health complications (yay Lyme disease), but hopefully this month will be better.

Writing this opening really got me thinking about tropes. After all, I have now become the trope-y blogger who takes a hiatus then comes back and explains why they took a hiatus even though very few people asked. Soooo. I guess today is the day to embrace tropes.

Let's talk about why they're actually awesome...and how to use them correctly.

Why Tropes Are Awesome (And How to Use Them In Your Writing)

Why Tropes Are Actually Pretty Rad

First off, let's talk about what a trope *is* exactly. A trope is a recurring character type, theme, plot point etc that is generally specific to a genre. They're basically templates that get used over and over in different ways. 

For example: We've got the Chosen One trope in fantasy and sci-fi (Harry Potter, Anakin Skywalker). There's the "Oh, I'll just go down into the basement of this creepy house by myself, brb, it'll be fine" trope in horror movies (I have no examples for this because I don't watch that kind of horror). Oh, and the Stoic Killer with a Heart of Gold trope in action movies (Jason Bourne, Rambo). 

Readers of specific genres tend to love (and even look for) specific tropes. Using tropes in your story is a great marketing tool because it basically acts as a Bat signal for your target audience. It's a quick, fun way to draw readers in. 

It's also a great way to display your genius by taking a beloved trope and putting an awesome twist on it. 

OH. And tropes can actually be a helpful jumping-off point if you're struggling to create a character or plot point. Just pick a trope, then dress it up as your own. Some of your snobbier writers will say: "But Hannah. That's derivative. Originality is important." 

Yeah. About that. I got news for you, bud: Originality is an absurd concept. All original ideas aren't automatically good ones. Looking at you, person who designed these torture devices and then marketed them as desks: 

Plus, originality is almost impossible to obtain. You may think nobody's ever had this story idea before, but honestly? That's very unlikely. And you know what? It doesn't matter. Write what is important to you. It may not be "original," but if you love it enough and work hard enough, it'll be a good story. And that's all that really matters. 

How to Use Tropes Well

1. Familiarize yourself with your genre. What tropes are beloved? What tropes are falling out of favor? Read within the genre that you're writing to see what tropes are overused, underused, or need to be killed with fire (*cough* stalker romance in YA *cough* *cough*). Not only will this help you find your target audience, but it will also help you see gaps you can fill. What cool twists haven't been used yet? What tropes are common, but not being fully utilized? What are tropes that are so beloved that you'll want to be careful about tampering with? Find your niche and go for it. 

2. Make note of tropes outside of your genre. If you want to surprise your readers (while also attracting readers outside of your usual genre), read-up on tropes that are used in genres that aren't your own. For instance, when I wrote Vengeance Hunter, my Aztec-inspired vampire anthology story, I drew from several horror tropes. The story was dark fantasy, but I wanted it to have a slight horror vibe so I went for a play on the Horrible Truth Cover Up trope (Get Out) and That's a Lot of Blood trope (every horror ever, honestly). 

The one thing to be careful about is that, while mixing genres will make your story unique, it may scare off fans who were expecting one genre and got a bit of a taste for another that they don't particularly like. So just make sure you know who your target audience is and don't upset them too much. Or do upset them and then revel in their anger like a Disney villain. The choice is yours. 

3. Put a twist on it. *in Devo voice* Twist it! Twist it good! (sorry, not sorry) You don't have to use a trope as-is. I've written an entire post on all the ways to dress-up the Chosen One trope, so check that to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Of don't, and then live the rest of your life knowing that you've disappointed me.

Gif of Obi-Wan yelling "You were the chosen one!" in disappointment.

Twisting tropes is a really awesome exercise in creativity. It's also a great way to put your signature spin on something while also giving your readers a fun surprise. 

4. Re-use negative tropes to point out a problem. I made a jab earlier about stalker romance in YA, so let's use that as an example. You can use the stalker romance trope, except as the story progresses you shift from portraying the stalker as being "romantic" and show them for what they really are: Creepy and probably illegal (Edward Cullen breaking-and-entering to watch Bella sleep, The Flash/Barry Allen and all the weird watching/baiting he did to Iris). You're taking a negative trope and putting an interesting and helpful spin on it. 

5. Go cultural. A lot of common tropes we see are Westernized. There's nothing wrong with Western tropes, but if you're looking for something new, consider looking at non-Western stories. Watch some anime. Read some fiction by authors from Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, etc. You'll notice tropes popping up that don't seem to be used as often in more Western stories. For example, a lot of Mexican fiction tends to use the Magic is Real but We Just Abuse It trope that is only recently becoming popular in America (Bright is a good example of this). 

6. Start small and build out. Pick a very basic trope, then slowly start adding layers from there. Some of my favorite characters are basically just dress-up tropes. Take Loki, for example. He's your basic Trickster trope. Marvel added some extra depth to him by giving him a complex backstory, complicated relationships with other characters, and ever-shifting goals. So if you're ever stuck with a character, pick your favorite trope and build from there. Just put in the work and it'll turn out awesome. 

See? Tropes are actually super awesome. If you want to do a deeper dive into how you can fully utilize them, check out this PFW podcast I hosted on the topic. 

What are some of your favorite tropes to use in writing? Do you have any tips to add? Comment away! 

Related articles: 
Favorite and Least Favorite Tropes in YA Fantasy

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Friday, February 7, 2020

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories

Hola, guey!

If you're part of my Torn Universe group or subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I'm currently working on a few Space Opera stories that center around Mexican world-building. I've been having a TON of fun with it. I'm a quarter Mexican, so it's been awesome to connect with the Mexican culture and also learn about the etymology of things I've heard about from family members.

One of my favorite parts of the Mexican culture has been all of the folklore and mythological creatures. This is unsurprising given my fascination with spooky monsters and underused mythical beasts.

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite folklore and mythological creatures with you, so get ready for some chido tales:

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories


Source: JillianLambertArt 

I love these. Alebrije are like snowflakes in that every single one of them is a unique shape, size, and pattern. At first glance, Alebrije are just Mexican folk art, but the background is much richer than that. The original artist (Pedro Linares) saw visions of alebrije when he was close to death and, upon recovery, started re-creating these mythical animals. They now have taken on multiple meanings in Mexican culture: Some people think that each person is matched with a alebrije at birth (thus explaining why each alebrije looks different: It's because they're a mirror of a person's soul). Some see them as symbols as Oaxacan pride, as Oaxaca is known for being the place to go to create and buy alebrije carvings. 

Regardless of the meaning, they are straight-up beautiful. And, because their purpose is so ambiguous, they make for a great blank-slate for either world-building, a character, or a magic system. I'm a fan. 

Huay Chivo

Source: Nimrais

This creatures is basically what would happen if a chupacabra and a minotaur had a baby. It's part person, part goat(ish), usually has horns, and always has red eyes.

Despite looking like it will eat you as a snack, Huay Chivo actually doesn't consume people, only their livelihood. He's rude, but he's not a murderer. 


Source: Wiki

Duende is probably one of the most difficult words to translate. Talk to any Mexican and they'll each give you very different definitions of what it means (or stare at you blankly, as it doesn't seem to be a commonly used term).  My grandparents told me that it was the Mexican equivalent of Mr. Nobody: It's a little house spirit that goes around making mischief while nobody's looking. If you ever do something wrong (break a glass, stain a rug, etc), you can just say the Duende did it.

However, other people say that Duende like to live in children's bedrooms and clip their toe nails (because that's a normal thing, apparently), but sometimes mess up and chop off the child's entire toe. Yeah. I...have no explanation for this.

Still others say that duende is a type of emotion linked to passion and art. It's what gives you chills when you hear good music or watch a beautiful dance.

So. I guess pick your favorite version and run with it...? 

La Llorona

Source: focusnm

Ah, one of my favorites. La Llorona is a cheated-on woman who either intentionally or accidentally drowned herself and her children. She now lives in bodies of water while wailing loudly and luring children to their deaths.

If you want to keep your children from drowning, telling them this story is certainly one way to do it. Though you may end up giving your kids aquaphobia, so maybe don't do that.

La Llorona's story is definitely a very creepy one. However, it also is told from multiple angles (such as La Llorona just being lonely and not actually intending to hurt anyone), so it makes for great writing material. 


Source: Canijochaneque

Legendary creatures of Mexican folklore, the Chaneque are sprite-like beings that guard nature with a  vengeance. They protect specific parts of nature (trees, meadows, riverbeds, etc) and attack any intruders by scaring them so badly that their souls leave their bodies. The only way to retrieve your soul after such an attack is to perform a specific ritual. If you don't? You'll get sick and die very soon.

Of course you could just respect nature in the first place and the Chaneque will let your soul stay in your body where it belongs. They're nice like that.


Source: Roque Leão

Did somebody say "Ancient Aztec Giants"? Yep. I did. That's what Quinametzin are. They stand about ten feet tall and are credited for a lot of the impressive architecture in ancient Mesoamerica, such as Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Cholula (which, by the way, is the largest pyramid in the world. Take that, Egyptians! Just kidding. Though...why did we never learn about this in school??).

However, the Quinametzin messed up and angered the gods, so the gods just...killed them. All of them. Yeah. Seems a bit dramatic, but okay. 


Source: LeonelSaberTooth

This one is complicated. At its core, nagual is the term for a person who can shape-shift into a human. The superstition is that the nagual made a deal with the devil to gain this ability, but, like most folklore, this isn't the sole view. Tonalism and brujos come into play for the other versions, so feel free to look that up if you're interested.

However, the deal-with-the-devil is my personal favorite version because I think it would make a great story. After all, let's be honest: Who in their right mind would go to El Diablo so they can shift into an animal? It's not that great of a skillset...? Why risk that? What happened to make you think that's a good idea?? I must know.


Source: LuxDani

You've probably heard of this one before, but it's a good one so I can't not mention it. Sure, it technically originated in Puerto Rico and not Mexico, but Mexico has folktale about them, so I'm just going to go with it.

The word chupacabra literally translated to "goat sucker," a very fitting name considering that chupacabra's sole source of food is goat blood. Chupacabra have spines along their back, long teeth, and leathery or snake-like skin.

Oh. And sometimes they hop around like kangaroos. Because why not?

And there you have it. Which of these is your favorite? Did I miss any that you love? Leave a comment below!

Related articles:
12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel
10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories
12 Horrifying, Unbelievable Sea Creatures to Use in Your Writing

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Factoid Friday #4: About the Colors...

Ever noticed that colors pop up in my stories quite a bit? Colors of Fear, as the title indicates, is literally centered around colors. Skies of Dripping Gold has a color named in the title. Every single one of my stories has a color (or colors) mentioned in a significant way. Why is that? Well...

Yup. Colors play a large part in my life: I keep my hair bright blue (or red or green or whatever else I'm feeling like), I have a piece of art on every single wall in my room, and I almost always have a neon-colored pen in my purse or backpack. They make me smile and help me remember the good things in life.

Because colors are such a big deal for me and my mental health, they started leaking over into my stories. It was unintentional at first, but I chose to lean into it after a few publications.

So if a color is ever mentioned in any of my stories: Pay attention. It probably means something important.

Related article:
Factoid Friday #3: My Weird Writer Quirk

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