Guest Blogger: Adrienne Garvin Dellwo

May 8, 2018 at 2:39 am (Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

I”m happy to host a fellow writer who delves into the realm of the superhero story.  She has a few things to share about character development:

Some characters come to life in just a few words while others remain as thin as the paper they’re printed on. What makes the difference?

You can analyze the writing and learn a lot about description, dialogue, etc., but a key element of creating great characters is something you don’t see on the page. It has to do with how well the author knows the character.

In my upcoming superhero novel, The Hero Academy, I had to create a lot of characters and find effective and efficient ways to communicate them to the reader. Going over notes from someone who read an early draft for me, I noticed she kept commenting on a particular character. She loved the way he talked, his mannerisms, his attitude. He wasn’t even one of the primary characters, just a classmate of the protagonist. I knew right away why he seemed so vivid to her—he’s based on my son. I’ve known that guy for 16 years.

That proves a point you hear authors make a lot: you have to know far more about what you’re writing than ends up in the book. Building a world? You may never talk about the economy, the history of a region, or the particular lilt of the local dialect, but if you don’t know those things yourself, the world will be less believable. The reader feels a writer’s lack of knowledge and enjoys the story less because of it.

No matter your approach to creating characters, before the manuscript is anywhere near ready for an audience, you’ve got to know who those people are. Some writers get in-depth with their main characters before they start writing, creating character profiles, building backstory, even creating inspiration boards. I don’t do any of that. It’s not wrong, it’s just not what works for me. I prefer to start out with a rough idea and then let the characters take shape as I write.

My method does lead to more work in the second draft, but it also gives me some flexibility. Some of my best characters start out incidental, such as Misty Michaels, an intern in The Hero Academy. I needed someone for the brilliant neuropsychologist to bounce ideas off of, and at the beginning, I believed the doctor was the important character.

Before long, though, I found Misty more interesting and realized she could play a significant role in the story’s climax. As important as she became, though, she’s still in relatively few scenes and I knew she was underdeveloped.

Then came a call for stories. A group I’m part of, the Pen & Cape Society, was putting out its fourth themed superhero anthology, The Good Fight 4: The Homefront. It didn’t take long for me to decide I wanted to write Misty’s backstory. I had a vague idea about some deep, dark secret in her past, and I wanted to know more about it and see how it played into who she became later on.

I wrote Misty’s story, “Impulses,” and it made it to publication before the book. Homefront, which explores the day-to-day life of superheroes, came out May 1. (It’s full of great stories—you want to read it!)

After “Impulses,” when I revisited Misty’s scenes in The Hero Academy, I found it easy to add all kinds of new depth to her character because I know her better. I know why she hid her powers. I know why she went into medicine. I know the struggles that shaped her. I even know why she always carries too much stuff, which leads to lots of jostling medical charts and spilling coffee. It’s not all in the book. It’s not all in “Impulses,” either, and it doesn’t need to be. I know her better, so the reader will understand and, I hope, relate to her better.

A full 90 percent of an iceberg is under water, and you don’t need to go scuba diving to appreciate the beauty of what you see above the surface. So when creating characters (or worlds, or whatever), remember that what you put on the page is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Much more is beneath the surface, and that’s the foundation. Without all that down there as support, nothing floats.

Many thanks to Adrienne for sharing her wisdom.  You can find out more about Adrienne and her books at her website.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Word: Mentralysis

December 15, 2017 at 1:44 am (dark fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Review – House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis – by Ren Garcia

I’m a true fan of Ren Garcia and I’ve read all of his books to date (well, I’m working on Kat now.) Mentralysis started in a very puzzling way. I was very intrigued to see where it was going. Ar first it seemed similar in some aspects to his other books, but off in a way, straying from some anticipated norms.
Then it took a turn to a place darker than any of the others and I found that more than a little disturbing. I thought: “This book is nasty! Nasty, nasty, nasty! I love it….”
Understand, this is coming from an avid reader of all speculative fiction, who especially loves both horror and fantasy. I found the storyline of this book the most creative and original of all Ren’s books, and considering he’s a master world-builder, that’s saying a lot.

In addition to an edgy and moving storyline, the new characters were delightful and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Laika, a Haitathe – quite a force to be reckoned with and one of the pivotal components of the story. Ren also turns some of the pre-existing characters on their heads (with a well-thought out explanation, of course.)

He presents his heroes with conniving villains who provide some exceptional challenges. They offer up equally exceptional resolutions in return.

If you are looking for some genre-bending, speculative fiction with a fresh approach to a great story, this book’s for you.

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Women in Horror – Shared Pages: Megan Tregler

February 6, 2015 at 2:50 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , )

Megan TreglerI chose this female horror writer for my spotlight because I found her story “Hello Again” in the First Time Dead anthology both chilling and entertaining – a wonderful first-time contribution to the horror genre. Reviewers describe her characters as well drawn and believable and her atmosphere as superbly constructed. I hope to see more from her some day.

In addition to being a woman in horror, she is also a self confessed full-time flibbertigibbet, and a liberal/progressive conspirator who happens to like zombies and vampires.

Find out more about Megan here: https://twitter.com/megler3000

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10 Simple Questions – Bellator Edition – Jessica Nicholls

July 30, 2014 at 3:04 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , )

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the charity anthology, Bellator, Word Blurb has me chatting with some of the contributing authors. First up is the lovely Jessica Nicholls:

1) Who are you?

 

My name is Jessica Nicholls.  I’m a writer, I’m a wife and I’m a mother. 

 

2) What have you written and in particular, what have you written for Bellator?

I have (completed) a short novel entitled Into the Arms of Morpheus.  I have written various short stories (two of which are published in the respective charity anthologies Reaching Out and Here Kitty Kitty.)  I have a couple of other ongoing manuscripts as well, BUT my contribution to Bellator is a short story entitled ‘With Our Own Blood’.

3) I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but why do you write?     

It’s a release, it gives me a sense of purpose and I like to think I can bring enjoyment to other people as well this way.

4) Do you have a preferred theme or topic?  Are warriors your typical thing?

Not necessarily, but I like characters who are passionate about something, to the point of being obsessive.   Warriors are not my typical thing but I’ve always loved reading about them, and to write about them was both a challenge and a joy.

5) Are you a pantser or a plotter and why?

I’m a wannabe plotter.  I try but I’m a pantser by nature.

6) What do you like most about writing?

When the characters become real to me, I start to really like them and feel there is a chance that others might like them too.

7) What challenges you the most about writing?

Getting it all to fit together.  It’s the hardest, but most worthwhile bit.

8) Who or what inspires you most?

Other stories, films, general fantasies that come to me.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to work on a novel length manuscript that I wrote for NaNoWriMo.  And I’d really like to get the word out a little more for other charity anthologies I’ve been involved in.

10) Why Bellator?

It was a fantastic opportunity.  I’ve spoken to a lot of people who feel the same as I do about real-life warriors and how really we want to just go up to them, give them a hug and say ‘thank you so much’.  Of course, a lot of us are shy, or just feel silly for some strange reason.  But contributing in this way to a fantastic cause like the Wounded Warrior project in this way is so special.  It’s a way to say ‘thank you, I am grateful for the sacrifice you have made.’ Warriors are so inspirational.  We do need them, and Wounded Warrior project reminds folks that they need that ‘thank you’ very much.

Want to learn more about Jessica’s work? Check out these links:

Into the Arms of Morpheus: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Arms-Morpheus-Jessica-Nicholls-ebook/dp/B00M3MEVOE

Reaching Out: http://www.amazon.com/Reaching-Out-Anthology-Abigail-Owen-ebook/dp/B00K9QPJAQ

Here Kitty Kitty: http://www.amazon.com/Here-Kitty-Star-ebook/dp/B00FNGABKA

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October Submission Blitz – Flaying Alive

October 9, 2013 at 2:43 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , )

Today’s submission was “The Maw” to a flash fiction anthology.

I’m making good progress with “Laying on Hands” and I hope to have it done in a couple of days. It has a longer lead in, but it is necessary to properly present the situation and the characters involved. It has good potential – I hope I can reach it.

My horror trope for the day is flaying alive – a concept carried over from medieval times and torture. It’s one of those outrageous threats some people throw around to exaggerate the extent of their rage “I’ll flay you alive.” It’s a pretty gruesome process, so the appeal to use it in horror fiction is understandable. The flaying incident I remember best was in one episode of Buffy, when Willow yields to a dark desire for revenge after the death of her lover.

Yikes!

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A Current Endeavor – Summer Slacking

July 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm (Sam, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I have to admit, I have a hard time staying disciplined when it comes to writing posts for blogs in the summertime. I much prefer going to the beach and gardening to sitting huddled in my stifling living room or descending to the musty but cool bowels of my basement to type up something other than Sam’s latest (and rapidly darkening) adventure. Or sometimes I’d just rather hang around watching bad movies with a cold beer in hand. Nevertheless, while not posting consistently, I am posting. That must count for something.

I’ve also been working overtime and trying to hustle to get extra work done before I go on vacation next month. I’m sure many of you working desk jobs know what that’s like. There’s no one to replace you when you’re gone. If you don’t clear away more than you would on an average couple of workweeks beforehand, the backlog you come back to after “relaxing” will often seem overwhelming.

When I’m feeling overworked, I often tend to write more (but do less of the promotional things…like blogging – I feel like I’m doing enough work already.) The truth is, writing helps me relax, and as long as I’m not stressed to my breaking point, I’m better able to write when I need that escape. I’m happier to lose myself in the plot and characters. I find solace in details and background story. The fiction becomes more real for me.

So chapter 13 is coming along nicely and I can see the end of Endeavor quite clearly in my mind’s eye from here. The characters have been playing with me and I’ve had to rewrite parts of the outline, but I think it’s for the better. I have discovered plot threads that will lead me into book 6, Dominion, and beyond. I’m also laying the groundwork for the end of the series, which culminates in book number 9.

My conclusion? Summer slacking’s not so bad, and with regards to Endeavor, it’s proving to be reasonably productive.

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A Current Endeavor – The Importance of Failure

June 19, 2013 at 1:15 am (fantasy, Fervor, Sam, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’m reading an interesting book at the moment that discusses the growing need for innovative thinking in our world. It points out that not only do innovators have to be creative and willing to use divergent thinking, constantly asking questions rather than just looking for the one right answer, they also have to be willing to try new things with an awareness that they are risking failure. A good innovator will fail, and often. The thing that makes a person a great innovator is the willingness to accept that failure and see it as merely another challenge – the opportunity for a new question…”How do we find a way around that next time?”

Failure can be a very important element to a story plotline as well. If the hero always succeeds, there usually isn’t much to the story. Failure builds character. Failure presents problems and creates conflict. Failure makes a protagonist someone we can relate to. Failure convinces us the story is real.

I was thinking about this because I work failure into my story threads on a regular basis. Sometimes my fallible characters are the cause of their own dilemmas, which is what happens to my protagonists in my upcoming Prisoners of Fate novel (Masters & Renegades #3). They are responsible for the accident that sets everything in motion, and forces them on to the path they follow to try to repair the damage they have caused.

Sometimes, like in my Fervor series, the failure is just the result of an unfortunate turn of events. In Providence, the latest novel in the series, the problems start to multiply for Sam and his cohorts. He tries to prevent things from escalating, but despite his earnest efforts, bad things still happen. With the spirit of a true innovator, he doesn’t give up or accept defeat, instead, he takes on the challenges as his own personal responsibility and he asks the difficult questions that eventually lead him to solutions.

But more often than not, what appear to be failure can turn out to be blessings in disguise. The protagonist in my “The Trading of Skin” novel, yet to be published, seems to fail at almost everything he tries. But when the truth comes out, many of these perceived failures are in truth just a matter of a differing nature, and not really failures at all – just a lack of understanding who he is. Once he comes to see his true strengths and weaknesses and knows from where they originate, he starts to view his achievements or lack thereof in a different light.

Failure is a part of exploration and creation, and both of these are necessary for tale-telling. They’re also a part of taking on the risks involved in trying to tell your stories to the world at large. You risk rejection, you risk criticism and you, will fail more than once. What matters is the willingness to try despite those risks, and the ability to pick yourself up and try again when failure comes your way – which will happen as you learn – with more resilience than you had when you started.

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Edit Fest – External Effects

May 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm (Fervor, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

We got a glimpse of sun today, but it’s not forecast to last. The rain we’ve been having lately is a real downer. It’s hard to get excited about anything when your mood is as soggy as your surroundings. I’m starting to understand what I put my poor characters through in Providence. But they had a rainy season to contend with, whereas we have winter. How is it fair to have to endure both?

The fact is, one thing that definitely affects me and my enthusiasm for writing is my environment. If life is good, the weather is fair and I’m feeling happy, I’m going to be more productive – writing included. This year has been crappy in almost every aspect of my life and this has clearly been reflected in my level of productivity. I’ve written a handful of chapters for a novel I’m not inclined to finish and a handful of short stories – not my usual prolific output. Maybe when the sun comes out and my life brightens a little, I’ll get back to my usual self. Then again maybe not.

No news on any other stories from the submission blitz, but I may be resubmitting one of the rejects to a charity anthology. I’m just waiting on a listing of the anthology specs to find out if I have anything that would be a good match.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Zombie: Lockdown

May 21, 2013 at 1:46 am (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

I’ll do my best to do this anthology justice, but I’m still coming down from my Star Trek high (I just returned from watching In Darkness). Then again, this book gave me a bit of a zombie high. I really enjoyed all of the stories which, despite their common prison theme, had a surprising amount of variety and differing flavour from tale to tale. This was due in part to the spectrum of main characters, ranging from typical prison tough guy to much more placid intellectual criminal. There was gore, some of the stories quite visceral in places, but a lot of the horror came from that sense of isolation and entrapment, from hopelessness in the face of a grim and likely brief future.

Choosing favourites from this group was difficult, but there were three that slightly edged out the others (only slightly, mind you):

No God Waiting by T. Fox Dunham – I really liked the superman/experimental aspect to this story. It gave the tale a historical feel. The main character was somewhere between a creep-show comic book character and a dark champion . This was one of the more gory tales, but it seemed appropriate based on the nature of the story

Isolation by Rebecca Brown – This one offered up a real element of claustrophobia, along with deprivation and desperation. I found this one particularly chilling.

Death Row by Joseph Rubas – The story at the top of my list. The main character is both despicable and oddly moving at the same time, and I found myself quite invested in him by the end of the story. An impressive achievement, considering circumstances.

If you enjoy zombie fiction this is a great read. A firm thumbs up for this one.

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Edit Fest – Lost

May 11, 2013 at 1:18 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , )

I got so lost in my edits today I almost forgot about this blog post. Nia is one of my favourite characters (although most find her somewhat distasteful) so I’m really enjoying revisiting her. That’s one of the few perks of editing, intermingled with the frustration of fixing the obvious mistakes and digging out the not so obvious ones. She’s going to be at the centre of the ninth book in my series, but I don’t get to come back to her in my writing until the fifth book in the series is published, per the hubby’s demands. I’m still waiting for book three to make its appearance, and Victims of Circumstance, the one I’m editing now, is book four…so I have to continue to work on other things. Meanwhile Nia and friends sit in limbo.

From the weather reports, I’ll be facing a lot of rain for the weekend. My soon-to-be-very-soggy hubby took the car and went off camping for the weekend, which means I’m stuck home with the kids and likely stuck inside too. This means some painting and lots of editing between bouts of housework, but probably no gardening. So far the kids have been good – but we’ll see how frazzled I am by the end of Sunday. If I’m too stressed by the time the hubby returns, I may get lost in a different way and celebrate Mother’s Day with a goodly amount of red wine.

Until then, more editing.

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