Friday, August 18, 2017

10 Tips for Writing Characters with Anxiety

Ah. I see you are writing a character with anxiety. Or at least thinking about it, since you clicked to read this article. Or perhaps you were just curious. Either way, welcome. 

If you are, indeed, writing a character with anxiety, allow me to let you in on a little secret: You’re probably doing it wrong.

Now, don’t panic! You’re probably making very normal mistakes. Writers tend to stereotype characters with anxiety or get the symptoms wrong. Thankfully, these are all pretty easy to fix. Here are 8 tips for creating a character with anxiety:
10 Tips for Writing Characters with Anxiety - Anxious about writing a character with anxiety? Don't be! Here are 10 tips to help you depict anxiety accurately.
1. Know what anxiety is. Anxiety is not just stress. It is not just nervousness. It is an almost innate unease and/or panic brought on by any number of events, sounds, or surroundings. There are different levels: From an inability to think clearly to full-on panic attacks. It looks different for everybody, so there isn’t really a cookie cuter "anxiety" label that you can slap onto your character. Yeah, I know that makes things harder for you. So sad.

2. Understand that anxiety is not a defining characteristic. So your character has anxiety? Well, that’s not fun for them. But that doesn’t mean that they have no other personality traits. Your character is allowed to enjoy working out. She’s allowed to enjoy college studies. He’s allowed to like cooking. They can and should have interested and defining character arcs that go beyond simply having anxiety. You don’t write anxiety and make it a character. You make a character, develop them fully with likes and dislikes and backstories, then give them anxiety. This rule applies to writing socially awkward characters, depressed characters, characters with chronic illness, and more.

3. Understand that anyone can have anxiety. Both your introverted and extroverted characters can have anxiety. Any of your characters can: Kings, cat ladies, professors, soldiers, children, athletes, thieves, punk biker dudes (somebody please do this), business executives. Anyone. It is true that some personality types may be less prone to anxiety, so don't shoehorn it in. But while you shouldn’t randomly slap anxiety onto any character that comes along, you shouldn’t be afraid of giving anxiety to a character-type who wouldn’t traditionally be expected to anxious. In fact, that could be a good interest point.

4. Choose the level of anxiety. Is it a mild issue? Or one that can be debilitating (such as an anxiety disorder)? Or is it one that’s usually mild, but can be pushed over the edge during certain events? Choose the one that makes the most sense for your storyline. For instance, a detective with anxiety could feel tense and wired at a crime scene, but it wouldn’t make sense for him/her to have a massive panic attack each time they go to work.

5. Pick the symptoms. Everyone reacts to anxiety differently. Keeping your character’s level of anxiety in mind, choose some symptoms. Here are a few, but there are many more:
  • Brain fog
  • Trembling
  • Inability to focus or make decisions
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Self-conciousness 
  • Immediately going to worst-case-scenarios in stressful situations 
  • Getting extremely quiet or extremely loud (depending on the personality) 
  • Fatigue. Because clearly, being anxious is a full-time and rather exhausting occupation. 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Sound sensitivity 
  • Racing mind/always feeling wired 
  • Muscle tension
  • Irrational fears
6. Decide why they have anxiety. Your character may have developed anxiety because they have a stressful life and were not given the tools to deal with it correctly. Or he may have always had anxiety for no definable reason because anxiety doesn’t always make sense. Maybe she only experiences anxiety in specific situations because of past negative experiences.  

7. Decide when their anxiety comes on (or is at it's worst): Maybe random things set him/her off, such as: Loud noises, being alone, being in a crowd, heights, speed, etc. Or maybe they're just in a constant state of slow-burning anxiety. Maybe only very specific events trigger panic attacks. You get to decide. But try to make it make sense to the character and the plot. Extraneous details that don’t add to the character or the storyline serve no point and should be discarded.

8. Do your research. If you don't have anxiety, yes, you absolutely can write a character with anxiety. If you're having trouble understanding his/her mindset, don't give up. Nobody likes a quitter. Just do some research. Either online or by talking to people who do have anxiety. 

9. Take breaks while writing. If you are writing a character with high levels of anxiety (especially if you're writing from a deep POV), then this is especially important. Writing panic attack scenes or just a very anxious character can (and often does) give writers second-hand anxiety. So don't forget to get up every once in a while. Drink some tea. Go for a walk. Don't panic. Do you hear me? Don't. Panic.
Note: In this gif scenario you are Ariel and I am a less-musically-talented version of Sebastian. Also: I don't have a Jamaican accent. So, basically, the only thing Sebastian and I have in common is that we're always vaguely annoyed with everything. And you probably don't have much in common with Arial because I assume you're not dumb enough to sell your voice to a witch to meet a random dude with good hair. *sigh* This was a terrible gif usage. I'm sorry. Moving on.

10. Remember that anxiety has to be the focal point of the story. I see a lot of books where the focus of the book is a character overcoming anxiety. It’s almost always a contemporary YA novel. Unfortunately, you cannot write a character with anxiety in any other genre. My fantasy novel has one, but shouldn’t because we all know you can’t be an assassin with anxiety. Your murder mystery novel can’t have one, because detectives can’t have panic attacks. Aliens don't have anxiety, so you can’t use this character trait in sci-fi. Even if it fits into the story, adds to a character, or will help your readers, you cannot give a character anxiety and not make it the point about which the entire story revolves. It simply isn’t done. Sorry.

Got it? Okay. Now get back there and start write a character with anxiety! Calmly. And rationally. 

Have questions or tips of your own? Please share them below! Also: Who is your favorite fictional character that struggles with anxiety? I must know.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah and have them answered on my Youtube channel

Related articles:
Writing Introverted Characters: 8 Things You Should Know
8 Different Kinds of Strength to Give Your Characters
Writing Characters with Depression: What You're Doing Wrong

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Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard

You were so excited when you started this story. You just knew you were supposed to write it. You had plans: You were going to write on these specific days, you were going to keep to your outline, and you were going to create something beautiful.

But that was then. This is now and everything has fallen to pieces. Writing? Please. That's the last thing you want to do. Your story's kind of a mess and work has been hard or there's family trouble or school is killing your soul or depression decided to come for a visit and just won't leave. Or all of these.

You just don't have time to write. And even if you did, you really wouldn't want to. Frustrating doesn't even come close to explaining how this feels.

How are you supposed to stay motivated to write even when nothing is going your way? Here's how:
How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard - How are you supposed to stay motivated to write even when nothing is going your way? Here are some helpful tips!
Recognize that life sucks. What? You thought I was going to be super cheerful, didn't you? Well, you were wrong. I'm just going to be real: Life is hard and upsetting and always trying to shove you down. You need to recognize this so that you can stand up for yourself. If you go into your writing expecting things to be happy and fluffy and good, then you're going down and you're going down hard. You can hope, but don't expect. So how do you stand up for yourself?

Take time each day to do something that makes you happy. This something cannot be writing. Writing is great, but you need variety. If this "happy activity" can be unrelated to electronics, that's even better. Here are some things you can try:
  • Pray
  • Exercise 
  • Go for a walk
  • Prepare a yummy meal
  • Read a book 
  • Sit down and drink some coffee/tea 
  • Color
  • Take a bath/shower 
I know that things are probably pretty tight for you time-wise. But if you want to stay sane, you need to take some time to de-stress. Even if it's just for a few minutes. This is a nonnegotiable. Your life will try to tell you, "No, there's no time! We need to work on these life things or we'll get behind and things will be worse!" And you need to be able to stand up for yourself and say, "No. That's wrong. I need to take a step back and regroup." Don't let life bully you into believing that taking time for yourself is somehow a bad idea. Stand your ground. 

Remember why this story was important to you. Make a list. Remember why you wanted to write this story in the first place. What about it was special to you? Why did you enjoy it? Make a list, print it out, put it somewhere you can easily find it. This will help you re-orient yourself when you look at your writing and think:

Know that you'll probably feel better after writing. Look. There are days when you won't want to write. You'll write anyway and really not enjoy doing it. But, once you're done, 90% of the time you're going to be glad that you did. What about the other 10%? That's what this next tip is for: 

Know that sometimes writing sessions are going to feel empty. You're going to spend time on your story and walk away knowing that what you just wrote wasn't any good. You'll feel frustrated and unfulfilled. That's okay. Step back. Take a deep breath. Know that you can fix it later. Now go and do something that makes you feel happy. Even if you've already done it once today. 

Understand that motivation has nothing to do with writing. Yep. You really don't need to be at all motivated to write. And that's your motivation. Savvy? No? Okay, let me try again: You are a writer. And, as we all know, it's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you. So if you're a writer, you write words. Even when you're tired or stressed or just not motivated, you know: It doesn't make a difference. You are a word warrior. You can press forward no matter what. You can write no matter what because you are a writer and it's what you do. Motivation? Who needs it? Not you. So take that, life! 

Be okay with writing sucky pieces. Seriously. It happens to everyone. Don't let it scare you away. A sucky paragraph is better than no paragraph. A sucky paragraph can be edited. A non-existent one cannot. A sucky paragraph can be learned from, can be used to jumpstart thoughts, can be used to get out all the bad ideas to make way for good ones. Non-existent paragraphs can do none of these things. So write away and don't be annoyed or ashamed by how "bad" your piece is. You're moving forward and that's what matters.

Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself. I'm a big advocate for scheduling your writing time. But what if you just can't do that? What about those times in your life where everything is up in the air and your schedule is always shifting? Should you still try to write an hour each day at exactly 9 AM? No. Let me say it again: NO. The goal is to finish your book, not fry your brain and crack your soul. Recognize when you're going to have to change your writing time from 9 AM to 9 PM. When you're going to have to fit in 20 minutes of writing instead of 60. When you're just going to have to throw up your hands and not write at all today. Full-time writers can write everyday. You and I? We don't always have that luxury. And that's okay. 

Be proud of yourself and your writing. Do you have any idea how hard it is to just be a human? It's hard. Really, really hard. And yet, here you are. Alive and human-ing. That's a massive accomplishment in and of itself. Okay, so maybe you're life isn't pretty right now. Mine isn't, either. And I'm okay with that. Why? Because this messy life and this wreck of a book? It's mine. And I work hard each day to make it into something better. And I'm proud of that. You should be proud of yourself, too. Hold your head up high and know, "Hey. I'm doing my best." Because that's really the important thing, isn't it? That you're still fighting. That you're still trying your hardest. Maybe you can't see it now, but what you're doing is pretty amazing. Keep being you. 

Do you have tips for how to keep writing even when life gets really hard? I'd love to hear them! Please leave a comment below with your thoughts. 

Related articles:
How to Write Even When You Don't Feel Like it (yes, I realize this article would appear to be on the same topic as this one. They are slightly different. Slightly. But yes, I did forgot this one existed. My bad)
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity 
How and Why You Need to Schedule Your Writing Time

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Building Your Writing Platform: 13 Tips for Winning at Twitter

Ah, twitter. The fast-paced social media that requires one to be clever enough to create and post clever content that will been noticed among thousands of other tweets....Oh. And you have to do all this in 140 characters. Want to sign up?

Yes. Yes, you do.

Believe it or not, twitter is one of the best places to connect with other authors on a personal level. And personal connection is one of the best ways to gain valuable followers who will read your material, share it, and help you succeed.

So yes, you should get on twitter. But you're going to need some help. Allow me to show you the ways of the Little Blue Bird.

Below are 13 tips to help you learn to use twitter in a way that will further your writing platform. First, you may find it helpful to read this post on how to build a successful writer's platform. Got it? Okay. Let's roll:
Building Your Writing Platform: 13 Tips for Winning at Twitter - Thing you need to be doing (and absolutely need to NOT be doing) to succeed on twitter
1. Start now. It's never too early to start working on your platform. It doesn't matter if your book is still in the outlining phase. The sooner you get onto social media, the sooner you can build connections. It's easier to make friends now versus hopping on social media after you have a book, then chasing after strangers screaming: "Read my book!" However, if you've already published and aren't on twitter: That's okay. The below tips will help you market without scaring people away.

2. Write a good bio. Do NOT leave it blank. Do use all available space. Do NOT use a random quote. Do write something eye-catching that fits the mood of your tweets and explains who you are and what you do. Do NOT advertise your book or website in the bio. There are other places to do that....See tip 7. Do feel free to list off your interests. Do NOT write the bio in third-person. That's impersonal and outdated.

3. Decide what to tweet about. Here are some common (and good) things to tweet about: Articles about writing, social media marketing tips, book recommendations, your recent writing adventures. Now personalize based off-of who you are. Me? I'm nerdy and sarcastic, so I'll occasionally tweet about movies or make some jokes.

4. Stay on topic. You're building a writing platform, okay? A. Writing. Platform. Which means you shouldn't flood your feed with cat pictures....Unless you're writing a book about cats, in which case: A bit is fine, but please diversify. It also means you shouldn't be raving about politics, trolling actors you don't like, or tweeting only quotes by Ghandi. Yes, I have seen all of these. Yes, I do unfollow people who do this and so do lots of other twitter-ers. Good luck connecting with people if you aren't tweeting about what your bio has suggested you'll be tweeting about.

5. Be personal. "What? You just said to stay on topic!" *screams and splashes water at you* I know what I said! Listen to what I'm saying now: While you do need to stay on topic, you also don't want to come across as a robot. Tell people about interesting things you're doing, tweet about crazy family stories, make some jokes. Yes, it's best if they are writing-related, but sometimes it's okay to break out of that. You don't want to be too on topic and you don't want to be too off-topic. There's a grey area, and that's where you operate.

6. Don't auto-DM. You don't want to be doing that, mate. Some people will automatically unfollow you. Others, like myself, never respond or engage with auto DMs. You are on twitter to interact with people, not slam them with sales propositions.

7. Auto-advertise your website and book politely. How do you do that without DMs? By linking your website/blog beneath (not in) your bio and pinning a tweet about your book to your profile. Like so:
Note: Don't be like me and have an old promo tweet pinned to your profile. Be not-lazy and pin a new one every once in a while.
See? So easy. And not annoying. Also, feel free to create a banner image that promotes your books, blog, or writing in general. That's also easy and not annoying. 

8. Don't be egocentric. Your tweets shouldn't all be about you. Your book, your blog articles, your pictures, your cat. Retweet occasionally. Share other people's blog posts and books. Respond to other people's tweets. Tweet out questions to engage and get to know your followers. At least 50% of your content should be about somebody that isn't you. You know how people always avoid that one person who just won't stop talking about themselves? That aversion doesn't just magically go away on social media. If anything, it gets worse. Share. Be nice like that. 

9. Share original content. ORIGINAL. This means no mass retweeting...That's a good way to divert people away from your stream and into somebody else's. Why would they follow you when they could follow the original? This also means no sharing massive amounts of quotes. People want to get to know you, not the dead people who's words you're tweeting non-stop. Share original content direct from your mind or somebody's blog. No, this doesn't mean you can't sometimes retweet or share some quotes. Just don't solely rely on those things.

10. Go say hello to other writers. Don't just follow them. Respond to their tweets. Be encouraging. Be helpful. Make sure they know you exist by interacting with them, sharing their content, tagging them when you tweet about their books or blog posts. Your ultimate goal is to connect with people, make friends, and gain a loyal following. Like mine:

It's called having epic, loving followers. Or, you know, a cult following who will one day take over the world. Whatever you want to call it.

11. Use hashtags. And use them correctly. As in, don't use more than two or three per tweet. And don't be passive about it, either. Use them in your tweets, but also pop them into the search bar to find other writers with similar taste. Here are some good hashtags to help you get started:

  • #amwriting
  • #writingtips
  • #writetip
  • #writerslife
  • #amreading 
  • #amediting
  • Pretty much any hashtag on this list.
  • #ChatWithHannah *winks* *nudges* *shoves towards Youtube channel* Subtlety has never been my strong point. 
12. Post frequently. Every day, absolutely. Two tweets per day at least. Five is good. But you can do more and it'll be fine. Twitter, unlike other social medias, requires more frequency because of the fast-paced style. You tweet something and it'll be gone from a person's feed very quickly, so they may not see it. Use tweet schedulers if you have to....I like Hootsuite, but there are many other good ones. 

13. Don't be nervous. Twitter can be a bit intimidating at first, but keep at it. Don't worry about messing up. It gets easier and more fun, I promise. Try to keep twitter more about connecting with others and less about stressing out over marketing. You'll do fine. 

And there you have it. If you're new to twitter, about to join twitter, or need help on twitter, just send me a tweet: @_HannahHeath. I'd be happy to connect with you and will absolutely introduce you to other cool authors and help you get oriented. 

Have questions or comments? Leave them below! 

Related articles:

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples

There is a serious lack of good good guys in books today. No, I didn't just accidentally type "good" twice. I just felt that "good guy" doesn't mean what it used to mean, so I have to add the extra good.

I'm not talking about "good guy" as in protagonist. As in main character. As in character-you're-supposed-to-root-for. Because these characters have recently taken on a darker tone: Protagonists are often no longer good people, main characters have lost their humanity, and I often find myself rooting for character-you're-supposed-to-root-for because he/she is slightly better than the antagonist.

Nope. I'm talking about the good guy. The upright hero. The character who you always know is going to try to do the right thing no matter what. I'm talking about Samwise the Brave, Captain America, Moana, Obi-Wan, Neville, Newt, Hiccup, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man (the Tom Holland one....The others don't qualify. At all).

Sure, I love anti-heroes. Crafting villains is one of my favorite pastimes. And dark stories? They're my jam.

But the world is a dark place and I think it's time we start reviving the light. We are always in need of a character we can look to and be inspired by. The type we can point to and say, "Yeah, I want to be like that!" The one that shows us we can be better, braver, stronger than we ever imagined.

Some say these character types are boring. I say that's because you're simply writing them wrong. Let's start with the basics:
Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples - How to write characters that show us that we can be better, braver, stronger than we ever imagined.
1. Mix some interesting heroic traits. In this post, when I'm using the word "hero" I'm talking about goodness. Yes, your hero will be a good person. But what besides that? Is he extremely loyal? Does she have good manners? Is he selfless? Is she brave? Patient? Humble? Empathetic? Pick a few that you like. Then choose at least one other trait that can be positive, but may not be necessarily heroic (reckless, rule-breaker, sarcastic, etc). Write all of these chosen traits somewhere next to your hero's name. Refer to it whenever you're trying to decide how he/she will react to a situations.
  • Example: Obi-Wan. One of my personal favorite heroes. He, unlike me, is extremely cultured. He, unlike me, follows the rules. He, very much like me, is incredibly sarcastic. He is also very empathetic and loyal. He possesses many classic hero traits, but the sarcasm really brought it all together to make him both inspiring and relatable.
2. Decide what caused them to be good. Why are they so upright? Where did they gain their morals and why are they so determined to stick with them? No, the reason can't just be, "Naw, he was born that way." That's a good way to create a flat character.
  • Example: Spider-Man. He was raised by a loving Uncle and Aunt who worked hard to instill him with good morals. When his uncle died, he felt a responsibility to make his uncle proud and not stress out his aunt.
3. Decide why their goodness is important to the story. Like most overarching personality traits, it's a good idea for your character's heroic-ness to have a purpose to the plot. There needs to be at least one moment (hopefully multiple ones, though) where they come up against something difficult and their good qualities are what enable them to make it through. Show your readers that upright living is worth something. People like to know that the good guys do, in fact, win.
  • Example: Moana. She's brave, strong, and never gives up. She's willing to stand up for the little people (or, you know, baby turtles) and can see people for who they truly are. That's why the ocean chose her to take the heart back to Te Fiti. Her goodness is also a perfect foil to Maui, who's a bit rough, proud, and ready to give up. She keeps him going and thus keeps the story moving forward.
4. Decide why they think their goodness is important. Why are they so determined to stick to their morals? Why is it so important to them personally that they're never willing to budge when it comes to what they believe is right? It takes real courage and perseverance to be strong in who you are. Goodness doesn't come from nowhere, and it certainly doesn't stay without a person choosing to work hard to maintain it. Give your heroes a reason for fighting for their morals.
  • Example: Neville Longbottom.
    It was always important to him to be brave. Even if he was afraid, he always tried to do the right thing. And he was always loyal to his friends. Why? Because he knew that his parents had been brave. He knew that they had lost their minds rather than give up their friends. So, to him, loyalty and bravery were important because he wanted to uphold what he'd seen in his parents, who he was proud of.
5. Give them a struggle. Good people go through horrible things. It's a fact of life. An unfortunate one, yes. But there's nothing more inspiring than watching a good person come through a hard situation by sticking by who they are and what they believe.
  • Example: Wonder Woman. At first, she is eager to go to war. She wants to stop Ares and put an end to the world's suffering. But she soon learns that it's not that simple. She can't save everyone. In fact, some people refuse to be saved. She struggles with her frustration at the nature of humankind and finds her spirit crushed by experiencing the cruelty of the world. But, ultimately, she decides to continue to do what's right.
6. Give them a character arc. What, you think good characters can't have an arc? Don't be a dollophead. An arc doesn't always have to be a character fixing a negative trait (though yes, your hero can have flaws). The arc can be about how they deal with a conflict, how they interact with other characters, etc. But please, for the love of goodness, do not have their arc be how they slowly learn to let go of their morals. We have enough messed up characters in fiction (and enough bad people in the world). Show us the good guys and don't tear them down just for kicks.
  • Example: Captain America. I've heard some say Cap is a flat character. These people are wrong and I will fight them. Cap actually has several arcs. His first is deciding to go from "circus Cap" to "soldier Cap." His second is his struggle to figure out where he, the old-fashioned good guy, fits into the 21st century where Tony Starks and other such morally ambiguous "heroes" are beloved. His third is choosing between saving his friend Bucky over sticking with the rest of the Avengers. Three arcs, guys. Three. And there are more. Don't you try to tell me he has no depth.

7. Remember that they don't have to be the main character. People often think of "hero" with a capital h. But sometimes the best heroes are the ones that aren't front and center. They absolutely can be a main character, but they don't have to. In fact, a secondary character as the hero can be excellent if he/she is playing across from a less-upright main character. Secondary hero characters are also perfect for the darker stories that need a strong light to keep things from going into the land of Death and Despair.
  • Example: Samwise the Brave. Possibly my absolute favorite hero: Kind, compassionate, perserverant, strong, and a warrior to be reckoned with. He sticks by Frodo no matter what. His bravery saves his friends multiple times. His goodness inspires those around him and gives strength to Frodo when he needs it most. He's not technically the main character, but he's the hero. 
It's time for more heroes, people. We need good guys to cheer for. Characters that fill us with courage and inspiration and hope. Let's work hard to craft stories and characters that uphold heroic qualities and showcase the strength and beauty of integrity.

Who are some of your favorite heroes? Tell me a bit about the hero that you have in your book. If you don't have one, do you think your story would benefit from one? Why or why not? Let's discuss!

Related articles:
8 Different Kinds of Strengths to Give Your Characters
7 New and Improved Versions of the Chosen One Trope
The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Strong Female Characters

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Friday, July 21, 2017

12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Writers are an odd group of people who have odd ideas about the writing life. We only write if we have a cup of coffee in that black mug with the chip in it, but claim not to be superstitious. We believe it's important to be open-minded, but some of us are willing to go to war over whether or not ebooks are the end of the reading community. We claim to love being writers, but spend a large portion of our time avoiding writing like Superman avoids kryptonite.

No, we're not crazy. We're just steeped in a writing world that clings to writing myths without even knowing it. And, as fun as it can be, it also causes a lot of problems.

So, today, I'm here to dispel several writing myths. You may not like it, but it's time to unlearn what you have learned.
Hannah Heath: 12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing
1. You need to be "inspired" to write. Pffft. Please. Do you know how much I felt like writing this post today? I didn't. But I knew I needed a post for this Friday and this topic was one of ten topics I have on my whiteboard. So I chose it at random and here I am, even though I'm a bit stressed and not at all inspired. Why? Because writing is important to me. I have set times each week that I write whether I feel like it or not. And you know what? My writing isn't a complete disaster. In fact, there are days I consider it to be very passable. So if I can write with zero inspiration at the drop of a hat, then so can you. Writing is serious business. Being an author is a job. Treat it like one.

2. Writing is a secluded activity. Do you have any idea how much networking it takes to become a published author these days? You need to be on social media to sell your books. You need an email list. Blogs are super helpful, as are writing conventions. You need to be willing to hand business cards to complete strangers without having a heart attack. Writing is not just an excuse to be a hermit.

3. Writing is just a hobby. No, bro. No. Just because you enjoy something or are passionate about it doesn't make it a hobby. Hobbies don't require dedication. Hobbies don't make money. Writing is a job.

4. You aren't a "real" writer until you've published something. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you write something down but nobody else has read it, are you actually a writer? Yes and yes. There's no such thing as an "aspiring writer." Can you put letters on paper to form words? Do you do it? Then you are a writer. Own it.

5. You need a bunch of fancy tools. Scrivner. Digital whiteboards. Word count apps. Are these helpful? Maybe. Do you need them? No. How do you think Hemingway wrote his books? He didn't do it using the Hemingway app, I can tell you that. You really don't need anything other than a computer or paper and pen to write. I'm not saying you can't use them. Do what works for you. But don't for one moment believe that you can't write without them.

6. Writing comes naturally. Heh. That's cute. Writing isn't easy. There are day when we writers forget how to spell or don't use proper sentence structure. There are days we can't for the life of us write anything that doesn't make us feel like crying, then burning it. Good writing takes work and practice.

7. Writers are crazy, sleep-deprived, and addicted to caffeine. Writers are not crazy. In fact, the argument could be made that we're not even the weird ones. And, as mentioned before, writing is a true job and, as such, does not benefit from lack of sleep or being addicted to anything. Don't go ruining your health so you can look like a "real" writer.

8. You need to "know" something before you can write about it. I wrote an entire post about why this isn't true.

9. You need to be any English major. Uh. No. You really don't. I'm not saying an English major is a bad idea. If that is what's calling you, go for it. However, if you want to be an author but don't want to major in English or anything along those lines, that's fine too.

10. Your characters and book are in control. While writers like to joke about "Oh no, my character ran off in the wrong direction," it is in no way true that you don't have the power to grab them by the ear and put them back on the right path. You created this book and these characters. You da boss.

11. Social media isn't necessary. Dude. How do you plan on marketing your book? By going door-to-door? You really didn't think this through. If you need help, read this post.

12. You'll never make it in the writing world. Don't listen to this one! You can make it. How? Dream hard. Work harder. Never give up. Never surrender.

These are just 12 of many writing myths that you really, really shouldn't be believing. Which is your favorite? What are some good ones that you don't see mentioned? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Related articles:
10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Writer (Until It's Too Late)
Inside the Creative's Mind: 9 Things You Should Know
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity

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Friday, July 14, 2017

9 Tips for Handling Violence in Your Stories

I don't like Hallmark movies. Pure romance is not a genre I tend to read. Me deciding what type of movie to watch or book to read looks something like this:

Are there swords?

Do things blow up?

Will there be multiple action sequences?

I like "yes" to be the answer to at least one of these questions. Preferably all of them.

But I also ask other questions, too. Like these:

Is there gore?

Is human life devalued?

Do the action sequences pose no purpose?

I do not like "yes" to be the answer to any of these questions.

As a fan of action movies and a writer of Fantasy that centers around assassins, I like my action scenes and, clearly, violence plays a large factor in these portions of the story. But how much violence is too much? How are we, as writers, supposed to portray death, battles, and bodily harm? These are questions I'm constantly asking myself, and one that, hopefully, other writers are, too.

I have the answers, but they're classified. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

Just kidding. Here are some good tips to keep your violence from crossing over from realistic to harmful:
Hannah Heath: 9 Tips for Handling Violence in Your Stories
Note: This post is not touching on sexual or domestic violence. These very serious issues deserve their own posts.

1. Gore isn't a good idea. There is a difference between violence and gore. Violence is saying that somebody got sliced across the stomach with a sword. Gore is detailing how the...er...insides look as a result of the slicing. Violence often has a purpose in the story. Gore is usually gawking at (or, at worst, reveling in) brutality. Gore is not something you should be using for two main reasons: 1) Gore will alienate a large portion of your audience. And, more importantly: 2) It indicates that you feel the need to rely on something other than your own writing style to convey fear, capture your readers, and show the ramifications of violence. Yes, gore is realistic, but you can find other less harmful (and gross) ways to convey realism. If you need blood and guts to hold your audience's attention or impact your reader, then you need to go back and evaluate your story.

2. The violence needs a point. Did you get that? Needs. NEEDS. NEEDS. NEEDS. NEEDS. Don't make me say it again. Any violence needs to either be moving the plot forward or impacting the character arc. Preferably both. Inigo Montoya's hunt for (and consequential fight with) the six-fingered man is a perfect example of this.

Yes, the point can be to show the horrors of an event (war, genocide, murder, etc). It is to make this point that bloody violence can sometimes be appropriate. But use it to provoke thought. Use it to invoke disgust. Use it to encourage right-thinking. Use it for the correct audience. And use this technique sparingly. 

And, in case you're wondering: No, "raising the stakes" isn't always a good reason for violence. Can it be used to raise the stakes? Sure. Should it be your go-to? Nope. Why? Because every time you use violence in your book, it has less and less meaning. The eighth character death will mean almost nothing compared to the first. A character getting into a fight at every turn will become expected, thus lowering the emotional investment of your readers. While your violence does need a point, that point shouldn't always be to raise the stakes. If you need ideas on how to raise them without stabbing being involved, read this excellent post.

3. Know your audience. Know who you are writing for and judge how much violence you should be using. Marvel does an excellent job of this. They know families go to watch their PG-13 films, so while there is a lot of action and some intense scenes, there is very little blood. Be like Marvel.

4. Remember that violence is "louder" on paper than on screen. Seriously. Tone it down. I'm sure you've heard about desensitization. Don't add to the problem.

5. Don't forget about perspective. A disaster survivor may block out the gore around them because they become fixated on a missing shoe that looks like their brother's. A person on a battlefield may notice their friend bleeding heavily, but will not take the time to take detailed notes on the way the corpses around them look. A first responder may take a more clinical view of a bloody situation. Show violence in fragments, not whole pictures. Not only is it more tasteful, but it's more realistic and more powerful.

6. Watch the body count. Tons of nameless characters getting hacked to bits? Congratulations. Your massive body count has simultaneously devalued human life and decreased the impact of your writing. I hope you're proud. Seriously. I'm tired to reading books and thinking:
If people need to die, fine. If your book centers around war, then yes, there will be pain. But don't have your characters killing faceless people right and left without touching on the fact that, "Hey, those were people with lives and families and maybe their deaths should be taken more seriously."

7. Your characters need morals. Don't let your characters kill without purpose or thought or remorse (unless it's a villain...and even then, maybe think about deepening the character). Don't let your characters lash out as a sign of strength or "coolness." Violence is not a good behavior, though it is a real (and sometimes necessary) one. Please give your characters morals, checks and balances, lines they will not cross. Otherwise your violence means nothing. And thus your story stands for nothing.

8. Don't glorify violence. Just don't, okay? Nothing good comes out of that. Depict violence, sure. But show the ugliness of it. The severity. Don't play it off as funny. Don't make it look cool.

9. Don't forget to show the ramifications. So many stories ignore this. They show the acts of violence, but not what comes after. Show the painful treatments and long recoveries after brutal fights. Show the negative mental and emotional effects of having to go through a traumatic experience. Show the personality changes that comes from constantly engaging in violence.

Hopefully these tips help you when it comes to writing violence into your stories. If you have questions about anything I said...or comments about anything you think I got wrong, leave them below. If not: Have fun storming the castle!

Related articles:
Using Context and Subtext to Raise the Stakes in Your Story: A Guest Post by Malcolm Tolman
Darkness in Fiction: 7 Tips for Writing Dark Stories
Keeping it Classy: When is it OK to Use Profanity In Your Fiction Writing?

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Friday, July 7, 2017

"Write What You Know:" What This Advice Means And How to Apply it

"Write what you know."

It's a phrase that every writer has heard at some point or another. And it scares most of us because we're honest enough to admit to ourselves:

"I don't know anything."

How are we supposed to write orphaned characters if we're not orphans ourselves? How are we supposed to write about Paris when we've only seen pictures of it? How can we capture the essence of the Roman era when we do not, in fact, own a TARDIS? How? How???

That phrase "Write what you know"? It doesn't mean what you think it means. If it did mean what you think it means, it would be absolutely terrible advice that you should not follow, no matter which smart writer may or may not have said it.

I see so many writers worrying about and being limited by this phrase. So if you've ever thought about this rule and screamed, "But I know nothing!!!" this post is for you.
Hannah Heath: Write What You Know: What This Advice Means and How to Apply It - So you think you don't know enough about anything to write about it? Not true. Let me tell you why.
Note: Some sections of this post are copied from different conversations I've had with various writers via email and social media. So if any of it sounds familiar, it's because I'm plagiarizing my past self. 

This phrase is about personal knowledge. For instance: Maybe, unlike your hero, you've never had to watch your entire village burn down. You have, however, known what if feels like to lose something or somebody important to you. You've experienced the emotion of having your world turned upside down, whether because you moved to a different state, watched your parents get divorced, started a new and challenging job, had somebody close to you get sick. You know fear and you know pain because you are human. You were, unfortunately, raised with the knowledge of such things. That is personal knowledge. And that is what you know. It is what you use to write about your hero's loss of a village.

It's about knowing your characters. So you're worried that you won't be able to accurately describe what it's like to live in Singapore because you've never been there? You've seen pictures, but you don't really know what it looks like. You've read descriptions, but you're not positive about the sounds of the city, the mood of the people, the smell of the food. That's fine. Why? Because everyone has a different experience. If we all went to Singapore right now, we'd all come back with different impressions. We'd have noticed different things because we're different people and because people don't generally "know" things. They feel them, see them through their own special lens.

Ultimately, a story is about how events and settings affects the character: How it makes them feel, act, believe. Not what they know. And certainly not what you know.

So find out who your character is. Collect a few of the big facts about Singapore. Now drop her into that new setting and show us how she feels.

It isn't about making you doubt yourself. So how do you write what you know if you don't know anything? Well, first of all: You'd be surprised at how much you actually do know. It doesn't matter how old you are. It doesn't matter if you've lived in the same place your entire life. It doesn't matter if you feel times have changed and left you behind. You do have knowledge. Maybe not big facts or grand histories. But you know emotions because you are alive. You know creativity and love and hope and sadness and beauty and fear.

You know enough.

Don't ever let the idea of not knowing anything stop you. If you ask any honest person, they'll admit that they don't know what they're doing, either. I know I don't. We only come to know things by simply being alive. It's how we learn. We writers have our minds and our imagination. Knowledge is secondary.

It's about being willing to admit when you need help. So maybe there's something you know nothing about. Maybe you're writing a story set in ancient Egypt even though you only ever saw a clip about ancient Egypt on the History channel that one time. Maybe you're writing a character with Down Syndrome though you don't have and don't know anybody who does. Maybe you're writing hardcore science fiction and the only science you know is from Star Trek and you think it possibly isn't a very reliable source (good instinct, by the way). 

That's totally fine. Go read up on ancient Egypt. Talk to people with Down Syndrome, along with their family members. Crack open a science textbook (or go ask your nerdy friends some questions). Explore (but do not implicitly trust) Wikipedia. 

There will be times when you're going to write about things that you know nothing about, but need some knowledge of so that you can give your story a realistic feel. Don't let that scare you off. Read some books, watch some documentaries. Go up to people who you know have knowledge in the correct area and say "Help me, you are my only hope." 

You can do this. 

So yes. Write what you know. Write about what it is to be human, to be alive, to know so little and so much at the same time. If you get stuck, as for help. Just don't be afraid. And never give up. 

What are your thoughts on this phrase? When are some times when you've been afraid of your lack of knowledge and how did you work through it? Let's discuss!

Related articles:
Challenging Writers to Write Honestly 
Why There's No Such Thing as "Just A Story" 
Write What You Want to Write: Why You Shouldn't Follow Current Writing Trends

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

3 Year Blogiversary: Announcements and Youtube Channel Launching

Today is my blog's 3 year anniversary! That's right, people. 3 years ago today, my blog went live.

It has grown a lot since then, something I credit to you guys and your amazing support....And the healthy lifestyle I've been teaching it: Nerd references (for the nerds), good writing tips (for the writers), gifs (for the followers with attention span issues). I also like to think that my sweat and curses have also contributed (HTML and I do not get along). 

Yep. This blog has gone from crawling to toddling to walking and I am very proud. I also want to take a moment to applaud you all and say:
Thank you to all of my original followers: You clearly have a high tolerance for sarcasm and nerd references, which puts you way up high on my "People who are actually pretty cool and not as annoying as most other humans" list. I appreciate you sticking with me for this long. 

Thank you to all of my new followers: You are very brave for joining the club. You also obviously have very good taste. I'm excited to get to know you, so leave a comment and say hello! 

Thank you to my regular commenters: Yes, you. The people who always leave comments on each post. Don't think I hadn't noticed you. You're awesome and I love reading your thoughts. Keep it up! 

Thank you to my regular social-media sharers: You always share my posts around social media and help me link up with other amazing people. I appreciate this to no end. 

Thank you to the lurkers: I know you're there. You show up and read posts every week, but never say anything. Just silently support....Or judge? I'm not really sure because you never say anything. Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to read my articles. And don't be afraid to say hello! I don't bite. Not usually, anyway.

I love writing this blog and am excited for all of the new things that are coming. What are the new things that are coming? you ask. Let me show you....
Hannah Heath: 3 Year Blogiversary: Announcements and Youtube Channel Launching

Reader's Corner

As you can see, after an epic battle with HTML and CSS, I redesigned my blog. This new design includes a left sidebar called "Reader's Corner." And yes, I realize it's not technically a corner, but we're all just going to pretend that it is. 

What's the point? Reader's Corner is a place for indie authors to advertise their amazing books. It's also a place for readers to find their next awesome read. 

For those of you who are concerned that I'm "selling out:" Pffft. Please. Don't be such a clotpole. 

Here's how it works: 

Ad spaces are sold to indie authors (very cheaply, I might add). That being said, not every applicant is guaranteed a spot. There are requirements: 
  1. I need to have read the book and verified that it follows the ideals of this blog. Why? Because I'm not about to let people advertise bad books to my precious followers. I want you all to feel that you can safely read any of the books on Reader's Corner without encountering inappropriate content. The "ideals" of this blog are fairly obvious if you've been following it for a few months, but the full rules are laid out here
  2. The book needs to have a minimum of 3-stars. If I've read it and it wasn't good enough to garner a 3-star rating, it doesn't get a spot. Why? Because, again, Reader's Corner is a place for you all to find good reads. Not sub-par ones. 
If you are an indie author who is interested in buying a spot (or simply a reader who wants to know more about exactly how this will work), you can check out the guidelines here

I love the indie publishing community and want to be able to boost their readership. I also love my fellow readers and want to help them find some good books. I'm really excited to see Reader's Corner grow and help both causes. 

Youtube Channel 

That's right. I'm finally taking the leap. Youtube is an absolute unknown to me. After all, I'm a writer, not a speaker. But, as of today, I've jumped into the world of Youtubing and now have a channel that you can subscribe to. I feel like Jasmine: 
Now, the problem with feeling like Jasmine is that if Jasmine is me, then the flying carpet is Youtube. And, as you can see, the flying carpet has no railings. And, unlike Jasmine, I don't have another person sitting next to me who has flown before. But I'm not going to worry because, like Newt Scamander, my philosophy is that worrying only means you suffer twice. 

Okay. I'll stop comparing myself to fictional characters now. 

The point is: I don't know what I'm doing. But I'm pretty sure we're all going to have a lot of fun. 

The Youtube Channel is #ChatWithHannah and its first video can be found here. In this video, I explain what the channel is. The first "official" video will be out July 19th, so subscribe now and change your settings so that you'll get a notification when each monthly video comes out.  

Videos will come out the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Why Wednesday? Because the first Monday of each month is when my Newsletter goes out. And Friday is reserved for my weekly blog posts. I felt that having any of my content come out back-to-back would be too much for you to handle. You're welcome. 

And those are the two new pieces of content that are coming into the Hannah Heath Blogosphere.  Though I guess now I can't call it a blogosphere....? Universe sounds a bit too flamboyant. Eh. Who cares? The Hannah Heath Universe it is. 

I'm really looking forward to these new changes and I hope you are, too. Thank you all for your amazing support! I'm excited to spend yet another year blogging. Let's make it a good one! 

Do you have any questions? Just ask! And, of course, use #ChatWithHannah if you have a question you'd like answered on the Youtube channel!

Related articles:
Reader's Corner Explained
My 2 Year Blogiversary! + A Survey

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Reader's Corner Explained

I see you're interested in Reader's Corner. Pull up a chair. Let me explain it to you.

Reader's Corner is a place where indie authors can advertise their amazing novels to equally amazing readers who are looking for their next good story.

Now, not just any book can have a spot in Reader's Corner. Why? Because this is my blog and I do what I want.

Just kidding. I actually have a more professional reason: I love my blog and I love my readers. Because of this, I do not want ads on my blog that do not align with the ideals held on this blog. Nor do I want ads that harm my followers.

So how do I keep this from happening? Rules. They are as follow:

Rule #1: The books needs to be indie published. This means: It was self-published or published through an indie publishing house. Reader's Corner is meant to promote authors who don't have the marketing power that comes with being backed by a large publishing house.

Rule #2: I need to read the book that is being advertised. As a potential advertiser, you'll need to send me a copy of your story (ebook or physical...whichever is most convenient for you). I will then read it and, if it aligns with the ideals of this blog, it will be approved for a spot on my site. You can contact me here if you want to submit a book.

      Not sure if your book aligns with this blog's ideals? Here are the general guidelines:

  1. No sexual content. Romance is fine. Kissing is fine. Sexual content is not. This means no sex scenes, foreplay, etc. If it would qualify for a PG-13 rating due to sex, it won't be allowed here. If you have something in your story that makes you question whether it qualifies as sexual content: It probably does. But you can absolutely double check with me just in case. 
  2. Unnecessary language. To learn about this blog's view on profanity in literature, click here. PG language is preferred, but it's understood that sometimes brief strong language is needed to set the mood for a story. That is acceptable. As a guideline: Think about the language used in The Avengers movies. Anything that goes above that in intensity and frequency will probably be rejected. Again, if you're unsure, just contact me and give me the foul language count. We'll go from there. 
  3. Unnecessary darkness. To read about how darkness in fiction is viewed on this blog, read this article and play special attention to tips 1, 2, and 4. As long as the darkness in your story has a purpose and isn't just depraved, it should be fine. 
If your book violates any of these, please don't bother contacting me and asking me to read your book. You don't want to spend resources sending me a copy of a book that won't be approved. 

Rule #3: I need to give the book a minimum of 3 stars. This is for my followers. It allows them to know that, if a book is showing up in the Reader's Corner, buying it and reading it isn't a waste of time and money. It also benefits you as an author because, if my readers trust that the books advertised here are good, they're more likely to purchase your story. 

      Not sure what earns 3 stars? That's okay. It differs from reviewer to reviewer. For me, it means this: This story had some problems. Maybe the writing style isn't great. Maybe there are some plot holes, problems with character development, or pacing issues. Maybe the editing isn't super thorough. However, there were at least a few things that this story was doing correctly: Maybe one particular concept (plot, characters, writing) is excellent. Maybe the message is good. Maybe the characters, world-building, series, or author has potential. It had enough upside to it that I would read more by the author. 

Rule #4: You need to be okay with not being approved. I really don't see this being a problem because I don't see myself having to reject a lot of books. However, if yours is rejected, please don't take it personally. 

And that's it. Just 4 rules. Not so bad, right? If you want to see your book in Reader's Corner, read on: 

All ads are sold through Beacon Ads. This means you'll need to set up a Beacon Ads account. It's easy and free, so don't be afraid. 

Your ad will be your book cover. The dimensions are 180 x 288 pixels. That's an aspect ratio of 8:5, which means that height of the image is 1.6 times the width. This is the golden ratio for book sizes, so your cover image is probably already in that dimension and shouldn't be too difficult to shrink it down, like so:
As for the pricing: Click here to see how much each space is sold for. Currently, I'm selling each space for a fixed 30-day rate rather than charging per 1,000 impressions*. This may change in a few months, which could result in a slight price hike, so it would be smart to jump in now. 

*Note: The estimated monthly impressions that you see are still in the process of being calculated by Beacon Ads, so don't pay too much attention to them. Translation: My blog gets a lot more views than what is currently showing, so those numbers will be larger by the end of the month. Which is good for you because it means your book will be seen by a lot of people. 

There are currently 5 spots available, but I may open up more spots depending on how things work out.

What do you think? Do you want your book in Reader's Corner? Yes? Well then:

If I have already read your book and given it 3 stars or more: Get started! Sign up with Beacon Ads and buy a spot.

If I haven't read your book yet, but you're interested in a spot: Yay! Contact me and we'll get this ball rolling!

Friday, June 23, 2017

12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)

You like to read, right? Yes? I thought so. People don't generally read this blog unless they're fans of the written word.

I'm a firm believer in reading across multiple genres: It improves the mind and will immensely increase your writing skills. So it's only natural that on my shelf sits classic literature, fantasy, sci-fi, gothic literature (which I still can't bring myself to like, but I'll keep trying), satire, mystery, British and Russian and American literature, historical fiction, and nonfiction spanning world religions, pro-life apologetics, English grammar, and American government.

Chances are you've read some books in at least one of these categories. And if you've read books in all of these categories: You are awesome. And also probably need to get a life.

Aside from your standard (or, maybe, not-so-standard) novels, I also have several shelves dedicated to comic books and manga. And it always makes me sad that not very many people (specifically writers) seem to be familiar with this form of story-telling.

Some consider the images distracting. Some consider them childish (there's a difference between comics and picture-books. Just to be clear). But 90% of the time it comes down to the fact that people simply don't know where to start.

Well, that's where I come in. Allow me to drag you into the world of comic books and manga....Or introduce you to some new titles if you're already a native. I've only been reading these story formats for about a year and a half, but I'm in deep, deep love and am pretty confident that at least a handful of the books listed below will be something you'll enjoy.

I feel the need to mention to my hardcore fans: I'm not recommending purely classic comics/manga and yes, I'm aware that the below list is not encompassing some very excellent stories. This is Part 1 in a very long series of posts I'll be publishing over the years and it is put together using an incredibly complex system that goes something like this:

*stares at wall* *tries to remember all the comics and manga I've read* *remembers random ones in no particular order* *writes them down*

Got it? Okay. Let's go:
Hannah Heath: 12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)
But first, two quick notes:

1) Each book cover is clickable, so if one catches your fancy you can read more about it on Amazon. You're welcome.

2) If you see a manga you like and decide to read it, remember: You open them "backwards." This is important. You don't want to open it the wrong way and have the end spoiled for you.

1. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns: Comic Book. 
Obviously, the very first book I'm mentioning is about Batman. Why? Because he's Batman. Frank Miller is credited for taking the goofier version of Batman (think Adam West) and turning him into a darker, grittier character (think Christian Bale). This one is my favorite Batman comic, so if you like darker stories, symbolic imagery, and great characters, this is for you. Miller's Batman: Year One is also good....But we don't speak of The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Ever.

2. Naoshi Arakawa's Your Lie in April: Manga. 
This is an absolutely beautiful story. And I'm not just talking about the artwork. I discovered this manga by watching the anime (which is equally stunning). It's centered around a boy's struggle to find himself in his music and is the perfect story for all of us creatives. Read it. You must. Just keep a box of tissue nearby. And I say that as somebody cries about as much as a rock.

3. Ryan Smith's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 1: Comic book. 
For those of you who want the exact opposite of Frank Miller's Batman. This is goofy, hilarious, and endearing. It's slightly juvenile and the artwork is very cartoonish, but that just adds to the quirkiness.

4. Jun Mochizuki's Pandora Hearts: Manga. 
This is by far the most intricate series I have ever read in any story format. There's intense world-building, time-travel, and about 20+ characters who are all excellently developed. Also, the artwork is gorgeous. In my opinion, Jun Mochizuki is the gold standard when it comes to manga authors. So yes. Try some of her stuff.

5. Jeff Lemire's Descender Vol 1: Comic book. 
Don't want to read any superhero comics? Well, you're totally wrong, but I'll humor you. This is a good place to start. It's sci-fi with stunning (STUNNING) watercolor artwork, endearing android characters, and great world-building. Also, here's a good rule of thumb: Pretty much any comic book you read by Jeff Lemire will be amazing.

6. Kei Sanbe's Erased: Manga.
Only the first two volumes have been released in English and I'm eagerly awaiting the next volume. This is a heart-rending series. It's a mixture of time-travel, mystery, and thriller. It's a dark story that deals with issues such as child abuse, so I suggest reading my full review first so you can be sure you'll want to read it. But, for those of you who can handle hard topics when they are written well (which Sanbe does), I absolutely recommend this.

7. Jody Houser's Faith: Hollywood & The Vine: Comic book. 
Allow me to introduce you to my favorite non-Marvel, non-DC superhero: Faith Herbert. She's hilarious, sweet, and throws around nerd-references that make me jealous. I love her and I think you will, too. I review her comic books frequently on Constant Collectible, so you can check those out here (The titles with "First Look" and "Hannah's Novel Notions" are my reviews).

8. Kafka Asagiri's Bungo Stray Dogs: Manga. 
Supernatural agency protecting their city. Nothing super unique there. But wait. There's a twist: All of the agents are based off of literary figures: From classic Japanese authors to classic English authors. It's amazing. Also, the character arcs, humor, and artwork are excellent....So far, at least. Only 3 volumes are currently in English, so I'm waiting on the rest. I feel I should just learn Japanese at this point. Would that be faster? Probably not...?

9. Jason Aaron's Vader Down: Comic book. 
Darth Vader in all of his badass-ness. That's really all I have to say on the matter.

10. Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist: Manga. 
Okay, so I haven't read the entire series. But the volumes I have read I've really enjoyed: The brother relationship is sweet, the alchemy system intriguing, and the plot is neat. If you like alchemy stories, this is a definite go.

11. Madeleine Holly-Rosing's Boston Metaphysical Society: Comic Book. 
Steampunk. Alternate 1800's history. Ghost and demon hunting. Yep. This comic is great. It also delves into interesting points such as the class system in 1800's America. I discovered this series at Stan Lee's Comic Con, 2016 and I am so glad I did. Full review is here.

12. Tsukumizu's Girls' Last Tour, Vol 1: Manga. 
Once again, the rest of the volumes are yet to be translated into English. But I really loved the uniqueness of volume 1. It's a hilarious mixture of post-apocalyptic and slice-of-life. You'd think those two wouldn't go together, but you'd be wrong. The setting is great, the characters are funny, and the artwork is quirky. Give it a shot.

I have SO many more to recommend (which is why the title reads "Part 1"), but I'll stop with 12, even though it hurts my heart to not be able to tell you about all of the other amazing reads.

If you haven't read this story format yet, I'd love to hear why. And, more importantly, whether or not you think you'll now venture out and try some comic books and manga. If you didn't see any storylines you liked, just leave a comment telling me what you're looking for and I'll see if I can recommend something.

Already a comic book and manga fan? I'd love some recommendations from you! I'm always reading, so send me your top picks and I'll try to check them out!

Related articles:
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 1)
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing

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