Category Archives: self-indulgence

Archetypes and why we use them

I hear you telling me that your character is 100% completely original and doesn’t fall into any kind of “archetype”, and I’m just gonna sit here and nod politely and force you to agree to disagree with me.

Archetypes aren’t a bad thing.

Archetypes are easily recognizable characters that are patterned in a certain way to fuel their desires.

Understanding the character you’re creating and where they fall in the 12 Common Archetypes (oh, yes, there’s more than 12, but I’m trying to keep it simple for you here!) can really truly help you in making a character who is multi-dimensional and realistic.

For example, if your character falls under the Lover Archetype, they’re  going to be more social, more passionate and their ultimate goal should be to be in a relationship or work situation that they love. A Lover craves intimacy and experience, and yeah, you’ll probably get to write some steamy love scenes with this type of character.

Understanding the things that drive your character is so important when it comes to building a character who is more than just words on paper. Even if you don’t memorize every single archetype there is out there, you can always go have a look and decide if your character is a Sage, or a Ruler. Is your character driven by selfish needs, or does s/he care about others above all?

And don’t forget, you can always bend these Archetypes and reshape them like putty in your hands.

Sure, you might have a Ruler who craves nothing but power, but instead of being a Heroic-ruler, he might be evil and vile and mean. Or, you could have a completely Benign Ruler, a champion and a hero with a dark and hidden past. It’s all about understanding your characters, understanding their motivation, and using that to build your character into something loved (or hated) and ultimately memorable.

Archetypes are not a bad thing, they’re building blocks. Like LEGO. What you do with them is up to you.

The world you create isn’t just your oyster, it’s more like an all you can eat buffet. You have the tools to build and create, and your only limit is yourself. Your characters bow to you, you are the creator god. You’re Odin and Zeus and Ra and Isis and Osiris all rolled into one.

And look, I even have a link for you.

Now go forth and use these Archetypes to help you create the characters you wanna create.

Tell me: how do you use Archetypes? Do you subvert them?

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Character Development: DESTINY

Yay for character development! This is one of the key things that you need to put your characters through; making them more than just words on paper.

There’s probably a million blog posts talking about ways to make your characters seem “more realistic” and “more relatable” so instead of talking about that sort of crap, I’m gonna talk to you about things that we writers love to throw in our characters’ stories that we usually overlook.

Today’s topic? Destiny.

From King Arthur, to Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker, all of our favourite characters have some sort of destiny that they are expected to live up to.

Why do we keep doing this? Why is this so standard? Why do we love a hero (or villain) with a pre-ordained future?

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, to be honest, I can only speculate about why it’s so common for our characters to have a destiny bigger than themselves.

But that’s not what I’m here to do.

Let’s talk about destiny. A pre-ordained future given to (us) our characters by a bigger power (us writers) like the gods. This is such an important event to happen in all forms of storytelling. We see it in TV, movies, video games, books… everywhere, throughout history.

So, how do you avoid cliche with something that big?

As far as I’m concerned, you don’t. You embrace the cliche. So what if this was a task given to your hero by the gods? That’s not the part of the cliche that you need to be worried about. Embrace that. Embrace the fact that this is something that has happened in history before. Work that point into your story.

Then make the task set out by the gods original. Make the part where the hero overcomes his challenge something that has never been done before! That’s where your task lies, dear writer.

Break the mould, make it yours. Make it new and spectacular and embrace that cliche!

Now go forth and tell me in the comments how you keep your characters’ destinies from getting stale!


Damn, That’s a Spec Script

I think it was Chuck Wendig who suggested that all novelists try their hand at screenwriting and all screenwriters try their hand at noveling.

It’s funny to me because I started writing screenplays when I was 11 ish and I switched to books at 13 and switch back and forth between the two whenever I’m inspired.

The thing is, I’ve completed a bunch of TV spec scripts, a couple of movies, and a couple original pieces for both TV and film.

I have a pretty good portfolio.

It’s funny because I find that for me, I can do a script way way way faster than I can do a book. It might honestly be because I have a lot more practice writing scripts, and there’s a lot less words, but I dunno.

The point is that yep, I’ve completed yet another spec script. I think that makes 3 this year. I dunno, I kinda lost count.

Don’t go laughing. Screenwriting is just as difficult as noveling. In fact, I’d say it’s more difficult because there’s a whole different pace and tone to the way a screenplay flows in comparison to the way a novel flows. There’s a lot less room for play in a script. A TV spec should be around 42-43 pages. PAGES, not words. And then there’s proper formatting to consider. (Thank GOODNESS for Scrivener, it’s so much simpler to format that anything else I’ve tried.)

And let’s no forget to mention the language used. You want to keep your language terse and tot he point. It has to flow and description isn’t the screenwriter’s job. You only need to put in the important details. Like, if there’s supposed to be a shot of a dead body on a hotel bed with blood on the sheets. You don’t need to describe the room dressings, because you’re not the set dresser. That’s not your job. It’s only your job to tell the story. The actors then make your words come to life. The screenwriter is only responsible for writing the story. It forces you, as a writer, to reevaluate what’s important in your dialogue, in your cues, and in your visuals.

If the antique vase in Great Aunt Mildred’s room isn’t important to the plot, don’t write it in.

I feel like writing screenplays has really influenced the way that I write novels. I find that my novels are almost always coming up short on the desired word count because I’m used to the flow and pacing of a screenplay. I write in prose that gets my point across without being flowery. I choose more powerful words than ‘pretty’ or ‘nice’ to describe my things in my books (most of the time, I mean, we all have lazy passages and word count padding tricks, right?) I find it difficult to get most of my stories above 80,000 words, just because of the way that I write, and the way that screenwriting forces you to think. Hell, even my short stories are oftentimes below word count minimums because the screenwriting methods are so ingrained into my mind! It’s a great way to get your point across without being wordy and long-winded. It’s probably why it’s next-to-impossible for me to write high fantasy anymore!

I really do think that it’s fabulous practice for ANYONE who considers themselves a writer. Even if you never show it to anyone else, except maybe a beta reader or critique partner, just for feedback, the things you’ll learn about pacing and writing from writing a screenplay are completely invaluable.

So now you know, if you see a film or TV show and the STORY sucks, that’s on the writer. Bad acting is on the director and the actors. It really makes you take a look at film in a new light. Try it. Separate the story from the acting and visuals and see if it changes your opinion of the movie or TV show you’re watching.

Am I off my mark? Do you think screenwriting and novel writing can go hand in hand?


My Scheduling Process

Continuing the trend this week about how I work, I thought that I would share with you how I schedule my time.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

I don’t.

What I DO schedule, is projects by priority.

I know how long it takes me to finish the first draft of a project (Usually it’s 4-6 weeks.) I also know that my personal editing takes about a week, and that I can’t edit a project immediately after I’ve finished it. I also schedule time to plot, time to edit, time to query and time to work on other stuff.

I talk a lot about my “whiteboard of writerly doom” on Twitter, and it’s basically a simple outline of what I want to get accomplished. Right now, it has January through June on it. I erase things as I go, but I keep a book filled with my accomplishments so that I don’t forget how far I’ve come and how much I’ve managed to do in a year. It keeps the negative stuff at bay to be able to look back and say “I wrote five novels this year, and maintained a blog, and worked three jobs, and shot a guy in Reno just to watch him die.” I also started a book journal to track how many books I’m reading (one in 2014 so far because I’ve been busy and not giving myself time to read and relax!)

Anyway, the whiteboard is probably my best tool right now. Combining it with a day timer to track appointments and stuff really keeps me focused.

The way I whiteboard outline is as follows and this is exactly how it looks right now:

PROJECT LIST

JANUARY 2014 – JUNE 2014
_____________________

January

  • Finish ARTHUR 13
  • Specs portfolio
  • look up/query TV writer talent agents

February

  • begin 2014 book queries
  • BLOOD AND THUNDER
  • Plot ARTHUR 13 series

March

  • BALDER’S GAMBLE
  • finish JASPER LYCUS
  • edit ARTHUR 13

April

  • LAWMAKER
  • Continue book queries (if no luck)
  • Continue TV queries (if no luck)
  • edit BLOOD AND THUNDER

May

  • ARTHUR 13 Book 2
  • edit BALDER’S GAMBLE
  • edit JASPER LYCUS

June

  • plot PANTHEON HIGH SERIES
  • plot JASPER LYCUS TRILOGY
  • plot LAWMAKER SERIES
  • finish additional edits

~*~

You might notice there’s a lot of jumping around. It’s partly to keep things flexible if something takes less or more time than I expect, partly to account for unexpected illness/busy periods at work/beta readers and critique partners taking longer than anticipated/other unforeseen circumstances and partly to give me enough time between projects to come back with fresh eyes. Queries also take forever, so that’s why I plan to do some in February and some in April, as the longest response time I’ve seen for queries so far is 12 weeks.

The day timer is to track appointments, as well as queries, who I queried, how long their turnaround is you know, all that fun stuff!

So yeah, that’s how I try to stay organized. I’m really not very good at being organized, but I’m getting there. I’m feeling a lot more confident in my process this year, so hopefully, the muses will play nicely!

Do you have any tricks that you use to stay focused and manage your time?


Tips for the Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions

It’s getting to be that time of year again, where we all make New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m not a fan because I usually disappoint myself by the third week of February, so instead of “resolving” to do anything, I switched to making goals.

As a writer, published or not, it’s a really important difference. Making a New Year’s Resolution to ‘write a novel’ isn’t the same as making it a goal. I can make a resolution to lose weight, but it lacks the same kick in the ass that making it my GOAL to lose weight does. In 2013, I made myself a list of goals to complete, along with monthly goals.

Quite honestly, I met every single one of my writing goals in 2013. (which was to complete the first drafts of 4 novels, write 3 scripts, and 2 novels completed to query.)

Except for maintaining my blog. I fell out of love with my blog earlier this year because I felt like there was nothing new that I could add to the writing world. But again, that’s just me being neurotic.

I only have a few tips, so I’m gonna get to them without further ado.

1. Make your New Year’s Resolutions a feasibly attainable goal.

If you only had the time to write one single novel this year, and you know that your next year is going to look very similar, then don’t make your resolution to write seven novels in a year. Even if you did a NaNoWriMo style writing marathon every other month, you’d still not make that goal and other areas of your life would suffer. If you think it is attainable, then make it a more realistic, “finish two first drafts this year.”

2. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon

This is always a problem. You start out strong with these resolutions and goals and then by March you’ve gained five pounds and given up on your Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-inspired slash fan fiction-like novel about a detective and the fancy gentleman he seduces. That’s okay, it’s only March. There’s still time. If you’re still serious about that resolution, then by all means, please, don’t feel bad. Get back up, do some cardio and pick up where you’ve left off. It happens, but you can recover.

3. A support system is nice, but don’t let them guilt you out.

Telling people what your goals are is awesome. It’s always good to have a support system in place to keep you motivated and on track but don’t share your goals with people who will tell you that you’re failing if you’re behind where you want to be. Don’t let people make you feel guilty for having a life. Some days, it’s a pain to get 100 words into your story, and someone guilt tripping you out isn’t going to help. Be strong in your convictions and you know, be respectful. Make sure your support system is actually supportive. It goes a LONG way.

And my last, most important piece of advice is this:

4. Do not make your New Years Resolutions/Goals something that is out of your control!!

This is the worst thing you can do, and I still find myself doing it, too. You make your goal “get published” or “marry a millionaire” or “become a movie star” or “get an agent and a book deal”. This is the path to the Dark Side. These are things that you can’t control. (Unless you self-publish, which is a different story.) These are goals that are outside of your control and if you don’t fulfill them, then you feel like a failure. Instead, make your goal something like “send ten queries a month.” This will increase your chances of landing an agent, that’s 120 different agents you’d be querying with your book. Don’t make goals that set you up for disappointment. Make goals that work with what you’re able to accomplish yourself. You’ll feel a lot better about it.

My WRITING goals are to send out a bunch more novel queries, begin the process of querying my screenwriting portfolio with the hopes of getting representation and eventually a TV writing job, make a better attempt at keeping my blog current and up to date (which probably won’t happen because I run out of things to talk about,) and to write at least 2 more novels that will be queried next year. I’m not gonna tell you about my personal goals because they’re rather mundane.

Do you have any goals or New Years Resolutions? Feel like sharing? Leave me a comment!


NaNoWriMo ’13 part 1

So, I’m not feeling the NaNo spirit this year. I have a lot of things on my plate and writing a novel in a month is at the bottom of the priority list, but I’m doing it anyway. Since I’m stuck and since the idea for this novel has gotten such great reception, I thought I’d give you the first draft chapter.

Here you go. Arthur 13 (title of the book to be decided upon later, current working title is ” The King Has Returned”.)

Enjoy.

-Kai

 

Arthur 13: The King Has returned

Chapter One

“Territory”

The sound of a tree trunk hitting stone echoed across the valley. It was soon followed by the thunderous crack of stone against stone. The sounds rang out across the night. Arthur sat on a fallen log and watched impassively. He was bored. Territory disputes between trolls were nothing new, and as far as Arthur was concerned, they were a waste of his time and talents.

He heaved a sigh and cupped his chin in his hand as he watched the ten foot tall monsters swing branch and fist at one another. Trolls were notoriously dull witted, despite having huge brains inside their massive skulls. They were primal things, never having evolved much past the lone wolf type of creature that they had been at the dawn of time. No one ever spoke of massive Troll cities, or the wonderful things that trolls produced. They weren’t delicate in any sense of the word. Trolls were massive beasts, some had horns, others didn’t. They were as diverse as the forests and mountains that they usually inhabited. Bridge trolls were the smartest of the lot, and everyone knows how the story of the Billy Goats ended.

They were enormous creatures. Each of the Trolls fighting in front of Arthur had to weigh as much as an elephant. Small elephants, Arthur corrected himself. The kind that don’t have tusks. He shook his head and tried not to fall asleep as the Trolls laboured on, determined to fight each other until some ancient, primal form of compromise or satisfaction was reached. Arthur wished that the old attempts to civilize the Trolls had worked; it would have made his task as Warden a lot easier if there was some form of protocol that he could just shout at the giant things. Instead he was forced to watch, to make sure that no one was injured in the fight. No one else, anyway. Not that there was anyone else around, Trolls were amazingly reclusive and the chances of one being spotted by someone who didn’t know what to look for was marginal at best.

Trolls fought slowly. They did almost everything slowly. They lived life at a pace that even the most laid back humans would find uncomfortable. They lived in hollows, in caves and damp places. They only moved to forage, and these huge things weren’t the kind of trolls that turned into stone in the sunlight. These were creatures leftover from the dawn of time and so solitary that they’d never even incurred the wrath of any mortal, immortal or deity in their long existence. They simply were.

Arthur jumped in his spot as the smaller of the two Trolls swung a fist and connected with the larger Troll’s knee. There was the crash of stone against stone and a howl of what Arthur assumed was pain from the bigger Troll. The smaller Troll stepped back a little bit, moving away from his opponent as he steadied himself and prepared for the next swing. It was like the slowest boxing match he had ever seen. And he didn’t even mention the smell.

The smaller Troll had regained his momentum quickly and was about to make another attack when the Troll with the club swung it around in a sweeping arc, catching the smaller Troll on the side of the head, stunning him in place. Another, secondary crack of the tree the bigger, greyer one of the Trolls was using as a club echoed through the night air. Arthur had to stifle a yawn as the branch broke in half and clattered to the ground. The Troll on the receiving end of the tree branch beat down staggered and dropped to his (it’s? Arthur wasn’t even sure what gender the Trolls were and he didn’t particularly want to find out) knees and grunted once before falling face first into the dirt. Arthur forced himself up from the fallen log where he’d been seated, running a hand through his dusty brown hair as the triumphant Troll bellowed it’s victory to the night sky.

“Are you quite finished, then?” Arthur asked, his British accent markedly picking out each syllable.

The big grey Troll turned dull, glittering eyes to Arthur, as if he had forgotten that the Warden had showed up. The Troll shrugged and grunted.

Arthur nodded. “So you emerged victorious, congratulations. Now, was this your territory to start with?”

The Troll nodded.

“You understand me all right, do you speak English?” Arthur pressed, trying to keep the annoyance he felt at having to deal with the whole situation out of his words. He didn’t feel like ending up on the receiving end of a Troll’s ire, especially not one who had just handily incapacitated another Troll.

The Troll held up his hand, pinching his thumb and index finger together in the universal symbol for ‘a little bit’.

Arthur flashed a smile, the same one he’d used to charm faeries off their toadstools and panties off of girls in the club. “Fantastic, so may I please start with your name?”

“Hamish,” the Troll grunted.

Arthur had to blink back his surprise. “I’m sorry, did you just say Hamish?”

The Troll nodded.

“All right, Hamish, erm, since you’ve won the skirmish, you understand now that I am going to call the Round Table to come in and clean up and relocate your… vanquished foe?”

Hamish nodded again.

“Why did this fight begin?” Arthur asked, pulling a notebook and pen out of his woollen trench coat and clicking the button on the pen.

“He came to my house without invitation,” Hamish said slowly, his face screwing up in concentration as he forced the right words. “Said that… Said that he needed to move in because I am too weak and my house is too… What is word?” he asked. “Word for more than not enough?”

Arthur felt his own teeth bite into his tongue to keep the laugh from escaping him. “Plentiful?” he suggested.

Hamish shrugged. “Said I not good enough to have this. That I am too old and that younger Troll need more for mate.”

Arthur nodded, though he’d never heard of Trolls mating and sharing territory. He made a note in his book to ask about that later. “All right, it sounds like this is a cut and dry case of territorial infringement. You need to stay here and when the Round Table comes, they’ll have to ask you a few more questions. You’re not in trouble, you’re clearly in the right.”

“Thank you,” Hamish said, bowing until his bulbous nose touched the ground. “You are a kind and noble king.”

Arthur snorted at that last comment. “Did you use that line on my last predecessor?”

“Three of them,” Hamish rumbled.

Arthur’s eyes widened in surprise. “Three?” he croaked. “You look good for your age.”

Hamish smiled, revealing his craggy, broken, obsidian teeth. “You are a kind a noble king to say such good things to Hamish.”

“I’ll remind you that you said that next time I need a favour,” Arthur joked.

Hamish nodded amiably and settled back down to wait for the Round Table operatives to arrive.

Arthur shrugged to himself and walked a few paces away, putting away his notebook and taking out his cell phone. He pressed a speed dial button and held the phone up to his ear. “This is Arthur. I need a clean up crew at my location. GPS coordinates will be arriving momentarily. It’s a Troll territorial dispute, bring transport.”

Arthur hung up the phone and tucked it into his pocket. A small cough caught his attention.

Standing right in front of him was a lithe gentleman in a long, grey cloak. Arthur knew who he was immediately, though the man’s name escaped him.

“You guys sure move fast when there’s Trolls involved,” Arthur pointed out.

The man in the cloak smiled and bowed. “Sir Lorrin at your service.”

“You’re not one of the regular guys,” Arthur pointed out. “You’re from the magic department. No laws of magic were broken here.”

“No, no! I know, that’s not why I’m here,” Sir Lorrin explained.

Arthur eyed the lesser wizard suspiciously. “Then what are you doing here?”

“Forgive me, sire, but I’m here to escort you back to Camelot.”

 

 

 


Ranty Pants continued: Addendum to WRITING IS HARD

YOU ONLY GET A WARNING BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.

This is part 2 of my last rant blog, so there’s more swearing and another virulent point that I need to make.

You can read more after the cut, or as usual, you can hit me up on Twitter or through email for the tl;dr no swearing point.

If you wanna read on and aren’t offended by my sailor mouth, hit the jump.

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