Fantasy Book review, Mistborn #1: The Final Empire

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Hello to my readers. Cheers to another book review. I read a fascinating series weeks ago and thought I’d share my thoughts on it. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.

With that said, let’s delve into Brandon Sanderson’s world of intrigue, magic, and adventure.

Mistborn, the Series

Premise

Mistborn is an epic fantasy series that spans multiple books. The story also incorporates some dark fantasy elements. Each book is long—and well worth it. Expect to invest time in each installation if you so desire.

If I could describe Mistborn in three words, it would be—gloomy, epic, and intricate. There is a strong sense of adventure too, though most of the plot takes place within a capital city. This didn’t stop Sanderson from developing detailed worldbuilding.

Characters

The main character, Vin, struggles to understand herself in a turbulent world of war, oppression, and darkness. She meets many characters in her journey, most that popped out of the page for me, the reader.

Sanderson did an excellent job with the characters. The cast came off as likable and amusing. There were a few scenes where I laughed and had to reread for the fun of it. Sanderson knows when to cut the tension with old-fashioned comedy relief—an essential element in manuscripts, by the way.

The villains were sadistic enough—and arcane enough—to warrant interest. The antagonist in book 1 is practical a god who survives decapitation, experiences immortality, and can manipulate thousands of people at will. Talk about a challenge for the protagonist!

Magic System

The magic in Mistborn is intriguing—an alchemical system where a person burns metals within the body. Each metal provides a specific power when burned. The effect is usually temporary and limited by the metal resources at hand.

Superhuman feats are common in Mistborn, so, expect some Avengers-grade thrills. The action blew me away and kept me reading. It is refreshing to see supernatural action mixed it for once rather than the usual sword or gun fighting.

My one complaint is that the action is a little confusing with all the unique terms. Brandon Sanderson could have improved on the readability during these scenes. I sometimes skimmed over the fight scenes because they weren’t easy to follow.

Romance

The romantic interest for the main OC, Vin, starts late in the book and builds up gradually. It may not read like the best romance novel—and came off a little flat to me—but it fits in well enough with the plot and characters.

Romance does play a stronger role in the second book, Well of Ascension; admittingly, Sanderson did a better job of it in the second installation.

Conflict

Mistborn is rife with conflict—another good detail of the book. I couldn’t go ten pages without feeling sympathy, pain, or anticipation. Sanderson knows how to keep the pages turning—never a dull moment.

I sometimes compared the feeling to Dragonlance—another favored series of mine.

Overall Summary

The Good

The characters, magic system, conflict, and atmosphere of the book are my favorite elements of Mistborn. It set the proper tone for a dark fantasy epic novel. I imagine I’ll be rereading it again in the future.

The Bad

The action/combat scenes were confusing, and the romance was not deep enough. I feel Sanderson could have developed these scenes more. Regardless, they weren’t terrible and never impeded the book’s flow beyond a few pages.

The Ugly

There were a few graphic scenes in Mistborn, some which made me pause (not in the wrong way, mind you). I’m all for gore and blood if it helps add dimension and immersion to a book. That said, this book isn’t nearly as extreme about it as Song of Fire and Ice (another excellent book, by the way).

Still, Mistborn isn’t for the light of heart. After all, it is a dark fantasy novel to some degree—and I still enjoyed it.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars—outstanding

Thank you all for reading. This review post was a first for me. If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, let me know in the reply boxes below. Love and gratitude to my readers. 🙂


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10 Tips on How to Write a Protagonist

 

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A protagonist is the central character of a story. Unlike side characters, the hero influences the story the heaviest. Because the hero holds the plot together, developing a solid character is vital.

Below, I’ll discuss some tips on how to write a protagonist; things that should assist you with your hero’s development. These are guidelines, as the majority of the hero’s creation comes from the author.

How to Write a Protagonist

When learning how to write a protagonist, there are several things to keep in mind. How each parameter lines up can influence both the protagonist and the plot.

1. Gender

This is one of the more prominent points when you write a protagonist, as the POV can change considerably with the hero’s gender. I read an enlightening series of forum posts that discusses male and female characters. You can check this and this for additional information.

Stay true to your character’s quirks and personality. Don’t let traditional stereotypes interrupt that creative flow. If you hit a roadblock, ask a reader of the opposite sex. Often, he or she can add some insights to your character design.

2. Race

Whether your hero is Caucasian, African, or some fictional alien race, have that racial background define who they are and their ordeals. Maybe a particular breed of space elves are hated in society, or they lack a specific trait that humans take for granted.

3. Height, Weight, Body Mass

Maybe your hero is a short, fat dwarf or a lanky human. How they appear to other characters can influence how the hero comes off. Perhaps a tall protagonist looks formidable and therefore commands respect.

Maybe give your hero some facial scars, a distinguishing feature that sets them apart. Make them unique, as the main character should be.

4. Secrets

Any reader enjoys secrets; even better are secrets within secrets. What I mean is, wrap your main character in mystery. Give them an enigmatic past and don’t give out the answers too quickly.

Have your secrets evolve as the hero progresses through the plot. This evokes intrigue and helps pull the reader in.

5. Character Flaws

“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

Tension is fundamental on how to write a protagonist. Incorporate conflict into your characters, whether in their backstory, gender, race, or physical limitations. You can also give them technical flaws, like the inability to perform a skill or a specific action.

Giving them too many perks and too little flaws result in a bland, uninteresting hero. You want to challenge your hero, not make them a god; nor do you want them to fail in their quest.

6. Attributes

As in video games, especially RPGs or tabletops like D&D, a character in a story has a given set of attributes. These parameters define what the actor is good at, what he or she may fail at, and perhaps unique modifiers that make the character stand out from other characters.

First, define what kind of a character, or class, the actor is. Take your stereotypical warrior: they—usually—have high strength and resilience to trauma. Warriors may not specialize in other fields of ability like magic or stealth, but they have their toolbox of skills to make up for it.

Characters like the warrior fit a niche in a company of heroes, whereas others party members address their shortcomings. Having one character do all the work often comes off as lazy and boring. Give your characters a challenge that pushes them to their limits.

7. The Hero’s Journey

The hero should be someone who struggles through the impossible. The protagonist should suffer but persevere. This is a reflection of the journey we all go through—the Hero’s Journey.

It is vital when writing a protagonist that the hero is relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with the hero. Plot out your story using the Acts found in the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell did an excellent job in his novel, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I highly recommend this book.

8. Antagonist

An antagonist complements the protagonist, forming a wholesome plot. The villain often provides the tension and challenge to the hero. In traditional works, the antagonist is a reflection of the hero with exacerbated personality flaws. It could also be a father figure.

9. Leveling Up

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As a character progresses through a story, they level up or gain additional attributes. With games, the hero adds new parameters to their character sheet. In a novel, leveling up is more subtle. The author may demonstrate this as a character acquiring a new artifact/weapon for study, graduating from school, or finishing a spellbook.

The development of new experience enriches the character’s worldview and the way they handle problems. A rookie fighter may view a few brigands with horror, while a veteran would display confidence.

This system of progression enhances characters and leaves a player or reader with a greater sense of appreciation by the end of the story. Typically, characters begin with little to no experience and graduate to seasoned fighters by the end of the plot.

10. Tropes

If you’re still struggling with how to write a protagonist, check out TV Tropes here to browse a list of familiar character tropes. That may give you some idea of what you’d prefer in your character.

As an example, the farmer hero trope is heavily used in fantasy settings, but it still works. My main hero of Ethereal Seals starts out as a half-dragon farm girl who trains into a knight by the end of the story, yet she fails at some tasks that others take for granted.

There are endless variations to this trope alone, and putting your original spin on it will help it stand out.

Conclusion

Learning how to write a protagonist can be a complicated process. There are certain factors to keep in mind, like gender, race, body proportions, and flaws. Tropes provide a convenient starting point for character creation. Remember to challenge your hero—introduce some tension.

I hope this article has provided a good idea of the thought and time put into a character. For more information, please check out the provided links throughout the page.

Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude. 🙂


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What is creativity?

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This is a revised version of an older post. I wanted to revisit the idea of creativity. Through the books and media I have consumed since then (months ago), I developed a deeper sense of what is creativity.

Side note: It’s also my two-year anniversary since I started on Ethereal Seals! It’s amazing to think I’ve come so far in only a few years. Who knows what lies on the horizon for my story. I’m certainly looking forward to it. 🙂 Anyway, back to the article.

A Creative Introduction

What is Creativity?

“Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

―Robert E. Franken―

What is creativity or imagination? These elusive terms are difficult to pin down. Human imagination shows terrific promise. It accomplishes achievements while participating in humanity’s gruesome sins.

Human vision has no limits, save the ones we place. With enough ingenuity and patience, the strength of creativity can move mountains. Channeling one’s creativity is paramount as humans. It is our birthright and sets us apart from lower life forms.

Who uses creativity?

Creativity often links with artisans, such as writers, painters, musicians, and so forth. Yet imagination is so much more—even business people can use it.

Some may say creativity is an extension of free will. We choose the variables in a given system, for better or worse. The arts are akin to our souls experimenting and expressing our true nature to the universe. This ability to choose that renders us as creators, preservers, and destroyers.

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” 
Osho―

The Responsibility of Imagination

We are responsible for how we use this awesome power, ultimately determining our trajectory in life. What is creativity without a guiding hand to steer imagination’s wild nature?

Even so, there may be limited resources in place to restrict or test our creativity. Accumulation of these resources, whether it is money, food, or authority, strengthens our ability to choose.

We associate value with these resources, as they enable us. This ability to act may be coined power. Therefore, creativity fueled by resources and implemented through power builds the reality around us.

The Workings of Creativity

Creative Alchemy

Creativity is different from imagination. Imagination forms the creative idea—creativity transmutes the concept into a final product. Lacking one or the other destroys the creative cycle.

In this sense, the act of creativity is like alchemy—transmuting lead to gold. Birthing the creative gold takes work—and sometimes you may fail in the process. Commitment is a significant factor in the creative process.

The Components of Creativity

Here’s a diagram by Harvard Business Review ’98 that details the facets of creativity.

3-components-of-creativity

  1. Expertise is the logical, restrictive, and straightforward intellect. A left-brained category.
  2. Creative-thinking is the right-brained category of imagination, fertility, and freedom.
  3. Motivation is the commitment factor—the long-term objective; the journey wrought by the mind.

When these three categories mesh together, creativity ignites within us.

The Global Creativity Gap

Here’s another comparative study by Adobe regarding creativity and how people view it. I found it insightful.

Adobe-State-of-Create-InfographicWEB

It is ironic that our world values creativity, yet most don’t live up to their creative potential. We live in a society of mechanized production rather than free imagination.

What will the future hold for humanity if we continue at this pace? Will it change? How? Some questions to ponder after you finish this article.

How to Maximize Creativity

Here are some ideas for you, the reader, to try. Forming a routine with these steps could provide dividends.

Do Something You Enjoy

It was Einstein himself who proposed this idea. Performing a task that brings fulfillment can help ease stress, clearing the mind. Whatever it may be, include it in your schedule for that creative boost.

Do Nothing

Work and rest go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the greatest ideas come to those who unplug from our busy world.

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
—Alan Cohen―

If you’re out of ideas, try relaxing or meditating. Practice mindfulness meditation for the best results. Here’s an older article I wrote on the science behind it.

Exercise

Exercise stimulates brain circulation. Long walks are a great way to feed your brain that creative juice. This Standford study suggests that walking improves creativity.

Embrace the Absurd

Sometimes the craziest ideas have merit. Many writers and artists, like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, made use of the inane to fuel their creative works. Sometimes, from the depths of absurdity, genius can emerge. It can’t hurt, can it?

Another illustrative Diagram

Here’s a chart summarizing other ways to maximize your creative potential.

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Conclusion

Creativity is an elusive mistress, full of mystery and arcane prowess. Discovering the foundations of imagination may reveal untold secrets to humankind.

In an age rife with conflict and misery, perhaps the solution is surrendering to the creative child within us all.

I hope this article has helped you in whatever creative projects you have. That said, I’ll finish with one last inspiring quote. Cheers.

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” 
Pearl S. Buck―

Thank you for reading. Have a great weekend, everyone. There’ll be more to come. 🙂


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Sources For You to Check Out:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/creativity

https://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/creativity/define.htm

https://www.creativityatwork.com/2014/02/17/what-is-creativity/

https://creativityworkshop.com/what-is-creativity.html

https://quotefancy.com/quote/761201/Alan-Cohen-There-is-virtue-in-work-and-there-is-virtue-in-rest-Use-both-and-overlook

https://www.mindful.org/apply-mindfulness-creative-process/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3057486/10-exercises-to-fuel-creative-thinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Mary Sue?

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“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

 

You’ve likely heard of this term before–I’m sure it’s been written about to death, but here’s my take. A Mary Sue is a female fictional character given a plethora of boons without many (or any) flaws. They come off as flat characters without much potential for growth. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for the male counterpart) are often author pets, and the plot or other actors may bend around the needs and wants of a Sue. A figure of this caliber is often unrealistic, as most humans are flawed, and this makes relating to a Sue or Stu difficult.  It is vital in fiction to create a character relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with a fictional hero. Here is an excellent article on Mary Sue traits.

You can garner interest within a character by giving a flaw or two. It could be a personality shortcoming like a short temper or a technical inability to perform an action. Whatever it is, have your characters struggle with it throughout the plot. Give depth to your characters’ flaws and weave it into their evolution. Don’t overburden your characters with defects. Otherwise, they may come off as incompetent actors who can’t move the plot at all.

Here’s a website for testing a character for Mary Sue traits. There are many other types of tests available, but here’s the first I found on a Google search.

While it’s okay if your character has some of these Sue qualities, try to keep the amount moderate. Some authors believe that Mary Sues can have a role in a story. While this can be true for side characters, your main actors should be the most interesting ones; if a Mary Sue serves a purpose for the protagonists or the plot, then it should be fine as long as it’s done correctly.

Here are some ways to add depth to a character:

  1. Play against traditional norms. Give your protagonist a unique quality that sets them apart, but doesn’t raise them up on a pedestal.
  2. Seed secrets within secrets. Utilize thoughts or dreams to evoke intimacy within a reader.
  3. Even if your characters are incompetent, give them agency. Have them act upon the plot and move mountains, figuratively or literally.
  4. Switch narratives. Have multiples main characters each with their own perspective. This adds depth to the plot and its actors. It may even sharpen one of your conflicts.
  5. Have protagonists relate to other characters and build trust gradually. This goes with the above tip, but trust does not happen quickly, sometimes not at all. If you find your protagonist garners a lot of respect and admiration from other actors for little to no reason, you may want to reconsider.

All in all, a Mary Sue can seem subjective to some, but there are hard guidelines to follow that help an author avoid this character pitfall. Be sure to get the opinion of multiple types of readers with different perspectives to ensure your character is as it should be.

Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂

 

On Pepper Slyhart, my OC: the warrior-woman path

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Pepper Slyhart is the main protagonist of my series, Ethereal Seals. She’s a young red-haired woman in her early twenties. With her sheltered lifestyle, Pepper begins as naive and short-tempered. As a farmer’s daughter, Pepper is athletic and physically capable of holding her own. She is a robust and reasonable woman who ventures into a broad world of mystery and danger. Her greatest opponents are her emotions, reflected by her draconic curse.

The warrior-woman story is one less visited. It is different and challenging because it twists the typical narrative of gender roles. I created Tarie Beyworth, her traveling companion, a secondary protagonist, and Pepper’s love interest. Instead of the man driving the story, I reversed the roles. While Pepper is emotional and insecure, Tarie is moderate and self-assured. Their polar opposites complement each other and allow both characters to grow from the other.

As the story progresses, Pepper learns more about the spiritual path from Tarie and her spiritual guides. This is symbolic of both the divine masculine with the divine feminine, going by new age terms. Pepper cultivates humility, patience, love, and gratitude as she grows. She treats her foes differently, gracing them with words of compassion and the steel of her sword if need be. 

Tarie also discovers his own inner insights, but that’s an essay for another time. 🙂

As a male author, developing Pepper on this path has been a challenge. I can safely say I know little about it, but I continuously strive to improve her and Tarie, with feedback from both men and women alike. Although I feel I should have been born a female myself, this gives me a chance to have my own children in a fictional sense, with Pepper as my daughter, but I digress.

 I hope you enjoyed this short reflective article. Thank you for reading. 🙂