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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A New Year’s Blitz – January 2017

January 2, 2017 at 3:00 am (dark fantasy, horror, writing) (, , , , , , , )

chantal-headshotAfter taking it easy last year, I’ve decided this year I’m going to up my productivity. For the first year, I’ll be adding a submission blitz in January to get my annual submission total up to 100 (or more.)  I was lucky that Gamut is open to submissions today.  They close after receiving 300 submissions, and that’s usually within 24 hours, so I squeezed in a couple while the window was still open – one reprint and one original.  I only have so many unsubmitted stories at the moment, so in addition to hitting up reprint markets, I’m going to have to make an effort to either generate a few new things to put out or edit my novel manuscripts to resubmit somewhere new.

I’m not big on resolutions,  but with a big new challenge to deal with at my day job and seeing a lot of things that need organizing at home, I’ve decided the only way I can do it is to cut down on my time online and watching TV or movies.  I also want more time to read and perhaps start writing reviews again.  I was good about it today and got a few things done that needed doing and a few things read.  I just hope I can stick to it.  It almost feels like I’m trying to shake an addiction.

I hope 2017 shapes up to be a better year than the last one.  It definitely holds potential.  Let’s see if I can make the most of it.

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Summer Excerpt – Theme “Coffee” #3

July 14, 2016 at 11:36 am (fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , )

11794430_10155841286760032_4772023191227114902_o - EditedYesterday was a shopping day for me, which included buying some coffee for a coworker and a t-shirt with a coffee slogan for me. Today is a national holiday here in France so there will be music, good food, wine and fireworks. I expect it will be a fun evening.

This will be my last “coffee” excerpt. I’m revving up for a wine fair this weekend and I am, after all, in wine country, so appropriately, the next one will be “wine”.  This one is from my Masters & Renegades novel, Magic University:

Ebon was halfway to his destination when his map slipped away from his telekinetic grasp.  This had never happened to him before, but he had also never put such a demand on his physical reach before today.  He juggle the map with what little physical force he could still manage to muster, flipping it over so that he could at least memorize its contents.

He continued onwards, abandoning the map face up in the mud.  He had not expected this would happen, and knew it meant that he would have to feed, something he rarely felt the inclination to do.  This did not please him.  Feeding took time and energy, and he had neither.

Arriving at what he believed was his destination, he began his search.  He had no trouble locating the leather wallet that contained the token.  He could pick out with ease the two glowing magical auras surrounding the purse, and they smelt absolutely heavenly, like the aroma of fresh bread or strong coffee.  He salivated at the thought of absorbing all of that sweet, distinctly different energy.  The one reminiscent of coffee was harsh and bitter, but strangely satisfying, the other somewhat bland, but slightly sweet and very substantial.  That was the only one he intended to feed off of, absorbing what he could as quickly as he could.  This was the plan, but once he started, he could not stop.

He had not recognized his hunger, had not realized just how ravenous he had become.  He sucked back the spell’s energies, lost in the instinct to feed and absorb.  Before he had realized it, he had completely devoured the first spell and had started in on the second.  He had lost all track of time, and as the last drop of energy slipped past his ethereal lips, he stretched out, thoroughly satisfied and replenished.

Now I’m off to make myself some lunch.  ‘Til next time 🙂

 

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Summer Excerpts – Theme of the Week

June 29, 2016 at 1:10 am (dark fantasy, horror, writing) (, , , , , )

SEU2I have a busy summer, with extra jugger, gardening, swimming/beach trips, vacations and overtime at work all added to my plate. I thought this year, I might start regular posts of excerpts matching a theme – so I don’t end up with huge gaps between posts. Since I’m revving up for a trip out of country, I thought I’d start with a theme of “travel.”

My first excerpt, from my novel “Sleep Escapes Us” come from Chapter 4 – Refuge:

Zelmis spent many days weaving his way through the forest as fast as he could manage, in order to make his way back to Gil-Doba. He still had hopes of stealing back his Alina, without getting caught and punished for his crimes. Not that he expected Dentys to mistreat her, but the longer he waited, the more likely the peltast would be lurking in ambush for him when he arrived, or even worse – Muka would be there to confront him. At the moment, that was Zelmis’s greatest fear.

He worried that even with the hastiest approach, he would arrive too late. The peltast would have the advantage of travelling by horseback and they would not have to worry about where they would find food, drink and shelter for the night, all citizens obliged to provide them with hospitality when asked for it. Zelmis had to journey on foot, often having to deal with near impassable terrain, and sometimes having to stop to seek out running water or to take shelter from inclement weather.

Fortunately, Zelmis had two regular permanent shelters in the woods in which he lived during the hunting season, one located fairly close to the Bucagi Mountains. That allowed him to shuck off the bloodied ceremonial clothing that he had been forced to wear for the sacrifice and change into some spare winter garb he kept for colder temperatures. Travelling in them would be uncomfortable, he would perspire heavily and risk overheating because the weather was still quite mild, but better that than exposing himself for his crimes by walking about wearing Zalmoxis’s blood. As long as no one identified him as the man who had been selected in the lottery, he would not be turned in to the peltast.

He also kept spare weaponry in his shelters, and gathered up one of his extra spears as well as a bow and a quiver of arrows. That allowed him to keep himself fed along the way; otherwise he would have succumbed to hunger long before reaching Gil-Doba. He made do with as little as he could to get by, each hunting effort presenting a delay in his rush to get home. By the time he did arrive at his village, he looked like a wild-man, as ungroomed and as haunted as Cerzula, and leaner than he typically was – not that he was a large man to begin with.

Zelmis smelled the smoke in the air while he was still quite a distance from Gil-Doba and he could see a glow through the foliage and hear the screams before he broke through the trees. He did not go into the village, but merely hovered by the tree-line, watching the chaos erupting in the settlement and observing with shock and horror. Someone was attacking Gil-Doba.

The first thing that Zelmis wondered, as his heart sank into his stomach, was if what he had done had somehow been the cause of all of this. Without the support of Zalmoxis behind the troops from Gatae and the surrounding regions, they might have fallen before the enemy, who were now infiltrating the spaces within their borders. If that were the case though, he was surprised that they would have already made it to Gil-Doba, a very central location.

The second and much more painful notion that crossed the hunter’s mind was that the raiders may have already reached and invaded Muka’s home, raping Dentys and killing the children. He reminded himself of Cerzula’s words, that he was to give the scroll she had given him to Alina upon his death-bed and that he would see her grow to maturity. As long as the seer’s foresight held true, his daughter was alive, and he would see her again.

He had to choke back a sob at the thought, withdrawing into the bush as some of the flames surged before him, fanned by the wind. He was convinced that he had to reach Alina now more than ever, if only to make sure that she was safe. Just because she would live to adulthood did not mean she was not at risk of suffering horribly at the hands of the enemy.


I’ll try to post one of these every day – even on my own travels.  That’s all for now.

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April Blitz – Day 21

April 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm (dark fantasy, horror, writing) (, , , , , , )

I finished up my essay, finally, and sent it on its way (with two days to spare.) I don’t have high hopes of even placing as a semi-finalist in the competition, but it’s fun just trying. I’d love an outing to Toronto and the $10,000 grand prize would be like a lotto win.

My two other submissions since my last post include a Lovecraftian tale to a semi-pro venue and, after its second rejection this month, a dark fantasy story to a pro-rate venue. I have high hopes for the story. It got a “maybe” from one pro-rate venue that turned into a “no” and my latest pro-rate rejection came with a comment from the editor that it was a “perfectly good story” but that it didn’t have the feel she was looking for for the anthology (too dark perhaps?)

Only a week and a half to go and still plenty of short stories available for submission. Maybe I’ll try submitting novels in October.

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Friday the 13th – Update #2

June 14, 2014 at 1:53 am (fantasy, Fervor, Links, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m starting to think I’m meant to stick with my semi-pro/amateur writer status after this last blitz. It has been almost entirely unsuccessful. One firm yes so far and royalty-based only. I had a couple of “maybe”s, but one did not pan out because the kick-starter campaign, while meeting its goal amount, failed to reach its stretch goal and the other turned into “we’ll put it in the next anthology in this series” offer…which I guess does count as a yes in a way. Otherwise it has been a stream of “no”s, most arriving in form letters or with feedback leaning heavily on the negative.

Have I lost my mojo along with my muse? It’s possible. I don’t think I’ve written anything to my satisfaction since that ill-fated April. I can still connect with characters I created back in the day, so my Fervor series continues to be going okay, but nothing new has had the same magic. As a lifelong dabbler, I’m starting to think the time has come to figure out the next thing to delve into – maybe something a little less overly popular this time. Perhaps I’ll move into non-fiction. Or something completely different.

On a lighter note, I finally got the ebook version of the last novel in my trilogy up on Amazon (the paperback version has been there for a while.) Now I need to set up links and tabs and put a plethora of other things in place, as well as fix a few typos/formatting issues in the first two that readers reported before embarking on promotional efforts. I plan on doing a first issue freebie offer, when everything is ready.

I also will be posting a surprise as soon as I have permission to make the announcement, a happy outcome in an annual event. At least that much has made me smile.

And lastly, I sent Victims of Circumstance, Masters & Renegades #4, off to the publisher. I’m looking forward to seeing that one in print. It is a fun, but at times very dark, romp involving some of my favourite characters and while it does involve a few standard fantasy tropes, it dishes them out in a highly unusual way.

Happy Friday the 13th

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April Submission Blitz – Closing In

April 29, 2014 at 1:08 am (writing) (, , , , , )

Just a couple of days left and I’ll be done, other than the odd submission here or there, until October. I got back the final rejection I was waiting on from Simon 451. That ended as expected. I still have the three other novel submissions I’m waiting on. I know I don’t fit well in the big 5 box, but the smaller presses may like my quirky stories (quirky but epic, according to some.)

I like the challenge posed by this semi-annual goal I set for myself, but I’m pretty tired of submissions by the end of the month. I’m looking forward to just focussing on some editing and reading for a while. That and I’m bracing myself for the stream of rejections that eventually will follow. There’s a reason I only do this two months out of the year.

Almost there…

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April Submission Blitz – Getting Busy

April 22, 2014 at 1:12 am (writing) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been busy over the last couple of days. I recorded my audio entry for Horror Addicts’ Wicked Women Writers contest, but it still needs some editing because it’s running about a minute long. I hope to submit it on Thursday, as that day’s contribution to the blitz.

I also sent retractions for three stories I submitted a year ago. I got an automated response from one of the venues that they’ve suspended publication until they can get their finances in order. Unfortunately, their webpage doesn’t state this and nobody was courteous enough to inform those of us with pending submissions. This is one of these issues a writer runs into while trying to get their work out there. This is not the first time this has happened to me.

And I sent “Zuka’s Misfortune” out again after getting that automated response saying submissions were closed when I last submitted it. I got no such message this time. I also set up possible submissions for the next couple of days. That will leave me only a week’s worth of submissions left to make. If I get my WWW submission and Heaven Scent finished in that time, I have five other stories available for submission and three options for podcasts that accept reprints – more than enough. The way I see it, I’m all set to wind up this blitz successfully at month’s end, without any novel submissions required. That being said, I do have two novels from my two existing series that need a final polish and then they have to go out to MDP.

More tomorrow.

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April Submission Blitz – Double Ding

April 16, 2014 at 12:24 am (writing) (, , , , , )

So “Gaia’s Gift” is back out in the big bad world today, likely to come back as it is vying for a lone slot this time, and I started work on an adult variant of a fairy tale for another submission. Today also marked a double ding – two novel rejections within eleven minutes of one another. I wasn’t really holding my breath for an acceptance from this new offshoot from one of the big five, so there wasn’t much in the way of disappointment, but it was worth a shot. I’m still waiting on the third rejection, which I expect to come soon. It went into a different slush pile though, because it was in a different category, so I may not see it for another couple of days.

This marks the halfway point in my submission blitz and I don’t see any problem with reaching my “30 submissions in 30 days” goal. I haven’t even started retracting year old submissions to resubmit yet. I might be doing that towards the end of the month, but with the rejections coming in so far, I won’t be struggling with last minute flash fiction this blitz.

Back to more writing.

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October Submission Blitz – Perverse Puppet

October 27, 2013 at 11:53 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , , , )

When it rains it pours, and I could have used a rejection umbrella. Four rejections arrived in two days – one from a novel submission back in April. I’ve gotten used to rejection but they were all form rejection letters which is unpleasant. A little bit of feedback goes a long way.

Not that I would ever let that dissuade me. “Zuka’s Misfortune” went out along with a new podcast submission and a story that had been accepted as a result of the last blitz but came back to me when the anthology was cancelled.

Besides, this has been a year of firsts, despite having a surplus of grief. A few more steps towards that goal of good exposure, proper distribution and name recognition. A writer has to make the best of the positive and to shake off the negative. It’s easy to get discouraged in this industry.

My horror trope for today is the perverse puppet. Chucky might come to mind, but he’s more of a doll than a puppet. There are plenty of stories and movies involving ventriloquist dummies, haunted or possessed much like Chucky, who torment the protagonist or who go on a serial killer spree. I think there’s a simple transition here, because most of us find the dummies creepy to begin with.

Four submissions left to go and I have three things available to submit, so I need to work on one last short before NaNo begins. I’ll share this last story idea with you once I’ve figured it out,

Back to writing.

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