The Blank Page and Writers’ Block

white book page on yellow surface

Hello, my readers. How are you doing during the lockdown? Okay, I hope?Today, I’ll discuss the dreaded Blank Page that haunts every writer at one point in his or her career. I’ll also mention the tricks and tips I’ve used in overcoming writer’s block.

A new story always begins with a blank page or screen. This is the beginning of the writing process and it can seem daunting to any writer. What do we do? What do we write? Failure to move forward is often called the Writers’ Block.

Writers’ Block: The Daunting Prospect of Beginning

“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” —Picasso

Just like with a blank canvas, a white page can be overwhelming. It’s a door into infinity, where God gives us the keys and allows us to create our own universe. Yet we hesitate out of doubt and uncertainty. Why is this?

The Social Facet of Writing

To quote another writer:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” —Jennifer Egan

As humans, we are social creatures. Any creative works we share with our family and peers. We hope for the approval and validation of what we are, our talents, and our direction in life. Rejection is like a knife to the gut and we become a failure—or so our ego wants us to believe.

Questions and Self-reflection

Because of these social mechanisms that wire the brain, we may hesitate in front of a blank page. Emotions of confusion, wonderment, procrastination, or anxiety also arise.

  • What will I write? I can’t think of anything.
  • Will the final product be good enough?
  • Am I wasting my time doing this?
  • How do I start this blasted process?

These are some questions we, as writers and artists, may ask.  Five minutes pass, and then an hour. The page is still blank and the creative process is stuck at a deadlock.

aerial photo of vehicles in the city

Anyone can break through this block, and I’ll provide the tools to do it. When a writer enters a realm without blockage, the clouds clear and the creative subconscious regenerates.

Here are some techniques I use when dealing with writers’ block.

1. Time and Space

Establishing a quiet area where I won’t be disturbed for writing is crucial. I make sure it’s comfortable and quiet. I ask my living mates not to enter for a designated interval. This is my time to center—and I consider it a part of the writing routine.

2. Relax

Before I tackle a blank page, I learn to relax and let go. I fight against the urge to think about anything, even my story. It can be difficult sometimes, but regulating my breathing using a technique called pranayama certainly helps.

Dedicate a part of your day to meditate or even stretch your body, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Some people do better at night, other people in the morning. Meditating or stretching before you begin writing may be ideal. Find a time that works best for you.

3. Creative Tools

I’ve used things like music, essential oil fragrance, and colors to enhance my creative focus. Some authors produce amazing work listening to music—others with no sound at all. Everyone is different; experiment, and find what works for you. It certainly took me a while to develop my creative toolkit. Don’t rush it—remember to relax.

4. Have Fun—Stay Positive

Any sense of competition or raging ambition within my mind creates anxiety. There is an urge in my ego to write perfectly and I compare myself to professionals. Believe me, it can get discouraging.

When I look at writing from a positive perspective, things get easier. I now write because it’s fun and I want to share my stories, no matter how good or bad they are.

5. Creative Exercises

Sometimes I try a short exercise to get my creative juices flowing. A small poem or haiku, as I mentioned in my previous article, has worked wonders for me. Here are some additional ideas from Vicky Fraser.

6. Simplify

A messy workplace or disorganized writing portfolio is the worst. I keep all my writing projects organized in a portfolio for routine review. This shows me how far I’ve come and encourages me to keep writing.

Having an organized portfolio also gives ideas from previous projects to use in newer ones. Simon Lund mentions some similar methods Hemingway used for his writing projects.

7. Acceptance

Improvement comes naturally with time and I accept that I will never be the best or the worst. When I surrender to this idea, my creative juices run wild.

Acceptance and surrender don’t mean that I make myself a doormat for life, nor should I lack healthy ambition. I accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to create the things I can, and develop the wisdom to distinguish the two.

Once I realized this, I started happening to life, rather than life happening to me. I need to remind myself of it, of course. The ego is constantly trying to one-up me.

The solutions for writers’ block and the Blank Page are numerous, and I encourage you to seek out your own methods. I hope this article has given you some good ideas to start with. Thank you very much for reading and I’ll leave you with this quote:

“He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
To visit him to-morrow or next day:
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to
meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be moved
To draw him from his holy exercise.”

William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

white and gray floral ceramic cup and saucer near black typewriter and book

I’m currently expanding my platform onto Mailchimp to develop a mailing community. Members will receive free poetry, special deals, and short stories once Mailchimp is up and running. For more details on my current projects, visit my portfolio. I also have an online store, selling t-shirt designs with quotes from characters in Blade of Dragons. Many are inspirational and spiritual in nature. Be sure to check them out here.

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My Favorite Music While Writing

woman sitting on grass playing ukulele

Music has a powerful influence on the human brain, particularly with creativity. The mileage varies from person to person, as some prefer silence—which is its own type of music. I’ve found that my creative process increases when I play certain tunes. In this post, I’ll share with you some of the genres and bands that I listen to.

I listen to different types of music depending on my mood, activity, and environment. In this way, I view my playlists as a toolbox, allowing me to select particular tools to help me with an activity. That said, sometimes I deviate, but the list below gives a general idea of what I prefer and why.

1. Epic Music

Who doesn’t like epic or opera music? These tunes encourage excitement, creativity, and wonder in my brain. When I’m writing a jaw-dropping scene or a tense battle, this music is ideal. I like the bands: Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, and Ivan Torrent.

2. Chill Lounge

This is a slower, melodic music that allows me to space out and relax. When I’m talking with friends, co-writers, blogging, or writing a soothing scene, chill lounge is my first choice. Bands I like here are: Jjos, Alexander King, and Electro Pump.

3. Smooth Jazz

Smooth jazz speaks for itself. Like chill lounge, this genre helps me unwind, but without losing too much concentration in my writing. I view it as the middle way between epic and chill; it is also great for romance scenes between characters. I don’t have a particular band that I listen to with this genre—all smooth jazz is good!

4. Lofi

A genre of music that I discovered recently, lofi has happy tunes with a steady beat. I find this music to be best for travel or adventure scenes without a lot of action. Some lofi is very beautiful and helps me when I’m in a creativity jam. I find myself listening to oriental lofi when I write Tempest of the Dragon for that East Asian feel. There’s also video game lofi that I enjoy. No particular bands here.

5. Classical

Classical is a nice way to unwind while, like smooth jazz, keeps a steady beat to maintain concentration during writing. Sometimes I alternate between smooth jazz and classical. I enjoy: Chopin, Mozart, Vivaldi, and many more.

6. Anime/J-pop

This is cartoony, upbeat music that is perfect when writing comic scenes between characters or working on Tempest of the Dragon. Some of these tunes can also be similar to epic music. Favorites are: Kogarashi, Senso, Sakuzyo, and Konbanwa.

7. Progressive House

Progressive house is a melodic, curious genre (somewhat like trance in my opinion) that “raises my spirits to new heights” and gives me energy. I find this genre to be good when I need to brainstorm or work for very, very long periods of time. It’s basically audio coffee—if that makes sense. I like: Shingo Nakamura, Epicuros, and Gregory Esayan.

8. Chiptune

Remember that music you heard when playing Mega Man, Zelda, or Mario as a kid on your NES? That’s chiptune! This genre had been forgotten for years since its introduction in the 80s and 90s, but now it’s making a comeback. Chiptune has a comic flair like J-pop, but with a swift beat. It’s a good music for fast-moving, action or battle scenes. My favorites are: Tombofry, Rolemusic, and Sasakure.UK.

9. Psybient

Psybient is an…acquired taste. It has a deep, alien feel that works for bizarre or mysterious scenes. The music may leave you wondering about yourself, your characters, and where they are all going. My top choices are: SiebZehn, E-Mantra, and Johnny Blue.

10. Dark/Deep Tribal

I listen to this genre if I need to write a shocking, or dark atmosphere to encourage visceral emotion in the reader. Most deep tribal also have a steady drum beat, likened to the heart, and are mysterious like psybient—or even pseudo-erotic for intense romance scenes. Some artists I’ve listened to are: DJ WOPE, Moshic, and Mundeep.

Yes, I listen to a lot of music. Each genre holds a unique function to me, as I connect with the tunes on an intimate, and almost spiritual level. The music alone can transport me to another reality, engrossing my mind in its creative juices. I love music, as much as I enjoy writing.

What types of music do you listen to? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

person using microphone

 


I’m currently expanding my platform onto Mailchimp to develop a mailing community. Members will receive free poetry, special deals, and short stories once Mailchimp is up and running. For more details on my current projects, visit my portfolio. I also have an online store, selling t-shirt designs with quotes from characters in Blade of Dragons. Many are inspirational and spiritual in nature. Be sure to check them out here.

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Brandon Sanderson Lecture 2020 Notes

Bestseller of fiction: Brandon Sanderson

Hello, my readers, I’ve got quite a gift to share with you today. The other week, I watched Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lectures on creative writing. The whole playlist runs several hours, but I’ve put together a concise list of tips that I found helpful. Enjoy.

(Note, the lecture # is just how I organized the notations, not which lecture videos they relate to.)

Lecture 1: On Writing

  • Always chase publication and book writing with a passion, but don’t be attached to it.
  • Just enjoy telling stories.
  • Try things, if they don’t work, try something else.
  • Pantsiers vs plotters; both work.
  • Know when to ignore the rules or the professionals.
  • With experience, you gain intuitive writing ability.
  • Make good habits for writing consistently. (This tip I bolded for emphasis)

Lecture 2: Plot and Character

  • Plot, character, and setting are glued together by conflict.
  • Setting is the least important of the three.
  • Stories make promises.
  • Introduction shows the promises.
  • Remember to detail a character’s desires and goals.
  • Indicate what kind of plot the story is about.
  • Promise–>progress–>payoffs.
  • Plot expansion twists can work.
  • Check out the Hero’s’ journey by Joseph Campbell

Lecture 3: Plot and Character II

  • Start the intro fast and explosive.
  • Sympathize the audience with your protagonist ASAP.
  • Multiple POV cast is a double-edged sword. It is good for variety, but readers will polarize towards certain characters and dislike others.
  • Subverting expectations and promises isn’t a good idea.
  • Exceeding expectations can make some subversions tolerable.
  • Escalate rather than undermine expectations.
  • Satisfying endings are better than a twist.
  • Writers’ block solution: don’t stop writing, finish the story.
  • Epistularies at start of chapters is a viable strategy.

Lecture 4: Magical Systems and Worldbuilding

  • Sanderson Law One: your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.
  • Soft magic: unknown cost or outcome of a magic.
  • Sanderson Law Two: flaws and limitations are more interesting than powers.
  • Sanderson Law Three: before adding something new to your magic or setting, see if you can instead expand what you have.
  • Use world building in service of character and story building, not solely for showing off or building a world.
  • Use more concrete methods through the eyes of the characters to worldbuild.

Lecture 5: Characters, Dialog, and Humor

  • Characters as living tools to tell your story, the plot’s message.
  • Establish empathy between characters and readers.
  • Show others characters liking them.
  • Establish motivation: show something they want, but can’t have. Connect personal desires of a character to the plot.
  • Show character progress. How are they going to change? Show flaws or the journey taken.
  • Characters ruled by: likability, proactivity, competence.
  • Iconic hero does not change during the course of a story.
  • Flaws: things to be overcome.
  • Handicaps: the character does not have control over these.
  • -Quirks: things that make the character imperfect, but unique.
  • Don’t write characters to a role.
  • Avoid bland monologues.
  • Dialog should convey likability, proactivity, competence, character arc, motivation, and humor.
  • Dialect: is a personal choice, but less is better.
  • Use dialog beats to slow down scene to focus on subtext.
  • Telepathy: italics with ‘said’ tag, but up to author’s choice.
  • Women in the Refrigerator: characters (especially female) killed off, tortured, or raped to further the plot or protagonist’s arc.
  • Killing a character properly fulfills an arc, or it is the direct cause of the character’s choices.
  • Wikipad, Dropbox, Hemingway are good programs to use.
  • Humor is difficult and subjective.
  • Comic drops to cut tension and induce humor.
  • Comic juxtaposition: contrasting qualities to create humor.
  • Repetitious scenario can create humor.
  • Rule of three cycles of humor with gradual escalation.

Lecture 6: Publishing Traditionally and Indie

  • Agents take 15% publishing profit, but do a lot of the business work.
  • Query letter->synopsis–>sample chapters->full manuscript.
  • Vanity press charges money to publish your novel. Stay away from them and agents who funnel to them.
  • A good agent will never charge you money.
  • Book offers with loan advances 10-20k for new authors split between costs.
  • The bigger the advance budget for publishing a novel, the better the publisher push.
  • Editors want to help you improve the story and make suggestions.
  • You can pay back advance and cancel contract if you change your mind.
  • Indie published authors get 70% of profit.
  • Platform writing via blog posts or website is important to have an online presence.
  • Need a good cover for your novel (300-500$ suggested).
  • Also need good copyediting (0.007-0.009cents per word suggested).
  • Content edits (0.012-0.015 cents per word).
  • Proofreading (0.003 cents per word).
  • Cross author promotions with other authors is a good idea.
  • Mailing lists like Mailchimp are important to form an audience and fan base.
  • Recommended Amazon price for epub novels is 2.99 to $9.99.
  • Be wary of scams or vanity presses.
  • Amazon is now a pay-to-play for advertising ebooks: thousands of dollars a month to advertise.
  • 10-15% of cover contract for Hardcover sales.
  • 6-8% of cover Paperback sales.
  • 10% of cover Tradepaper sales.
  • As a traditionally published author, you want advances that you can earn out in a couple of years.
  • Indie publishing undercuts markets.
  • Less $ for lower word count, more $ for higher on indie publishing.
  • Book signing to improve reputation and make connections, but it is a lot of work and money to pay for travel, rent, etc.
  • Sales within first week is significant, especially for best seller list.
  • Niche genres: mashing two genres together.
  • Free short stories do work to promote for indie publishers, but not for profit.

I’m currently expanding my platform onto Mailchimp to develop a mailing community. Members will receive free poetry, special deals, and short stories once Mailchimp is up and running. For more details on my current projects, visit my portfolio. I also have an online store, selling t-shirt designs with quotes from characters in Blade of Dragons. Many are inspirational and spiritual in nature. Be sure to check them out here.

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Writing a Good Query Letter

download

When it comes to writing, some writers dread the querying process. Unlike a manuscript, query letters are business. Similar to writing a cover letter for a job interview, this is your first impression to an agent or editor, so you need to make it count.

This article will talk about drafting a query letter and some helpful tips. Take these pointers with a grain of salt—they’re guidelines only, but I’ve found them useful.

Contact Information

Include any contact information before your first paragraph near the top of the page, right justified. This helps the recipient contact you if they need further information. It also breaks the ice—so to speak—and shows that you offer a professional medium of trust.

Personal websites are a big plus; these give the recipient an idea of what you’re capable of. Below your personal info include the agent’s information, left justified.

Salutations

Give a proper business greeting to the recipient. Use his or her last name with the suffix Mr. or Ms. respectively.  If you don’t know the name, use sir or madam instead—not recommended as it creates a less formal feel.

First Paragraph

Your beginning, like any book, should catch the reader’s interest. Show the recipient why they should continue reading when they have a hundred others letters to peruse. Use a hook to grab their attention. Stand out from the crowd. Mention the recipient’s credentials, information posted on their websites, or anything that shows you’ve done your homework and are serious about working with them.

Use your first paragraph creatively. Begin with some background that connects yourself to the agent. Illustrate your talents, achievements, and ordeals. Even flaws or setbacks can be spun positively. Usually, the first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the query letter. This can make or break your letter’s review.

If you don’t have a tangible connection to the recipient, skip into the action of your book.

Second Paragraph

Early on should be a brief summary of your book. Say a few things that help it stand out from ‘oh another fantasy fiction with swords, elves, and horses.’ Explain general plot ideas and the main characters, their conflicts, and so forth. Mention the premise, genre, audience, and word count.

“The main objective of a query is simple: Make the agent care enough about your protagonist and your plot that she wants to read more.” —source

Third Paragraph

Include any bio or additional credentials that help argue your cause. Keep it short and detailed.

Here’s an earlier article I wrote on novel length to help.

Final Paragraph

Conclude the letter by thanking the recipient for their time. Describe a few more positive features about your book to wrap up. Mention that you can send the first chapter if they’re interested. Sign off short and sweet.

A Good Fit

Before you query, make sure the recipient is appropriate for your querying needs. Explain why you are querying an agent, what makes you and the agent a good fit.

Readability

Use short sentences and paragraphs if able. This helps with readability, allowing the recipient a quick look at what you have to offer out of the hundreds of other query letters. Use simple vocabulary, don’t try to be impressive with complicated wording.

Submission Guidelines

Follow whatever requirements or recommendations the agent has on their webpage. Every agent prefers different criteria for submission.

Length

Some writers can fit everything in three paragraphs, but it’s not recommended to do it in less than three. The bulk of the letter should be about your story. Anything more than a page may be daunting to a recipient. Aim for three to five paragraphs.

Font

This is debatable. I use a standard 12 pt. New Roman. Some recipients may prefer New Courier or some other font. If you can’t find the recipient’s preference online, go with a font that is readable and distinct. Don’t use any color text. Keep it simple.

Grammar

This goes without saying if you’re a writer. However, I’ve seen many writers flub the rules when it comes to a query letter.

Look for mistakes like dangling participles or run on sentences. Even a small typo can turn an agent away. I use Word and Grammarly to double check my work. A proofreader wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Tone

A query letter is a business letter. Don’t get carried away with your personal background or your story’s description. Keep the formality. Avoid contractions for a more formal feel.

Credentials

Mention anything you have published, any degrees or significant achievements. Avoid details that fluff you up or make you seem unrealistic. Compare your story to another more notable example if it will help.

Writing a query letter can be daunting. While there is no set formula for a query letter, the guidelines above should aid in the process. Here’s a brief overview for those who want a synopsis.

Overview

  • Include contact information and the recipient’s info
  • Keep it formal with Mr. or Ms. and avoid contractions
  • Use a hook in the beginning
  • Describe why your story matters and offer to send in the first chapter
  • Keep the length to one page, 12 font is ideal
  • Check grammar and tone suited for business letters
  • Adhere to submission guidelines
  • Connect with the recipient

Perseverance

There’s a good chance the recipient will reject or even fail to reply to your submission. Don’t lose heart! Remember that tens of thousands of others are in the same situation.

Self-publishing

Even if you never query an agent or publisher, understanding the business is helpful. You may be called to do a contract or business deal in the future as an epublisher. Remember formality and clarity are king.


I’m currently expanding my platform onto Mailchimp to develop a mailing community. Members will receive free poetry and short stories. For more details on my current projects, visit my portfolio.

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Describing Sounds in Writing

brown and black gramophone

When we think of the word sound, the last thing we may associate it with are words and phrases. However, sound and writing go hand-in-hand. Recently, I learned from a writing class how important sounds can be for strengthening prose—what a shocker!

In this article, I’ll discuss the various definitions and techniques that are often used. Many thanks to Mark Nichol for the awesome advice!

1. Alliteration

Alliteration is the pattern of multiple words in the same phrase with the same consonant sound. Here’s an example:

“Squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the party’s mission.”

Notice how performances and promises ring together? It provokes the reader subconsciously, so to associate those two concepts together and highlighting a theme of success. Process and party could also be associated.

“They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.”

In this passage, distant, different, and difficult highlights the arduous adventure being described.

2. Assonance

Similar to alliteration, assonance involves the repetition of certain vowels, especially in stressed syllables, but with different consonant sounds.

 “Men sell the wedding bells.”
Go and mow the lawn.”

In the above examples, sell and bells followed by go and mow are what highlight the assonance.

3. Consonance

Can you guess what this term implies? That’s right, the repetition of consonants, particularly at the end of a word.

“Their maid has spread the word of their deed.”
Cheer and beer go with sorrow and tomorrow.”

Here, you have maid, spread, word, and deed. Cheer and beer with sorrow and tomorrow make another pair. The word pairs doesn’t have to rhyme, only share the final sound—rhyming comes later. 🙂

4. Onomatopoeia

When you have words that translate as sound effects, this is onomatopoeia.

“A splash disturbed the hush of the droning afternoon.”
“Her heels clacked on the hardwood floor.”

5. Repetition

Repetition is, well, repeating a word or phrase to emphasize the message of a passage.

“When we arrive at the store, we will buy something. When we buy something, we will pay for it. When we pay for it, we will take it home.”
“When I find you, I will catch you. When I catch you, I will cook you. When I cook you, I will eat you.”

These examples creates a percussive effect on the reader’s mind to push the meaning of the passage.

6. Rhyme

This one should be a given, or else the writer may be forgiven (hahaha ehem…). Poetry often makes use of rhymes, but normal prose can too!  In fact, here’s a nifty tool I discovered that helps with rhyme words. Enjoy.

7. Rhythm

With rhythm, the prose is altered to create tempo.

“The eager coursing of the strident hounds
And the sudden pursuit of the mounted men
Drove the bounding prey ever on.”

Here’s an example taken from Dr. Seuss:

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!
Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler
of all that I see!”

Shorter tempo creates a faster rhythm, and vice versa. With the proper rhythm, sentence length, and prose structure, a writer can add depth and even emotion to prose.

When we describe sounds, we lean on the other four senses (touch, taste, smell, and sight) to paint a picture. Here’s a list of ways to describe sound in writing. Credit goes to Amanda Patterson.

Words Describing General Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing Pleasing Sounds

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound

Describing Noisy Sounds

  1. at full blast – as loudly as possible
  2. almighty – used for emphasising how loud something is
  3. brassy – a sound that is loud and unpleasant
  4. deafening – a sound so loud you cannot hear anything else
  5. ear-splitting – extremely loud
  6. explosive – a sound that is loud and unexpected
  7. howling – a continuous, low, loud noise
  8. insistent – a continuous, loud, strong noise
  9. loud – a sound that is strong and very easy to hear
  10. noisy – a sound that is full of noise
  11. percussive – a sound that is short, like someone hitting a drum
  12. piercing – a sound that is very  loud, high, and unpleasant
  13. pulsating – strong, regular pattern
  14. raucous – rude, violent, noisy
  15. resounding – a sound that is loud and that continues for a while
  16. riotous – lively and noisy
  17. roaring – a deep, loud noise
  18. rowdy – noisy and causing trouble
  19. sharp – a sound that is sudden and loud
  20. shrill – a sound that is loud, high, and unpleasant
  21. thundering – extremely loud
  22. thunderous – loud
  23. tumultuous –  a sound that includes noise, excitement, activity, or violence
  24. uproarious – extremely noisy

Words That Help You Show And Not Tell

  1. babble – a gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river
  2. bang – to move, making loud noises
  3. beep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  4. blare – to make a loud and unpleasant noise
  5. blast – to make a loud sound with a car horn
  6. bleep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  7. boom – to make a deep loud sound that continues for some time
  8. caterwaul – an unpleasant loud high noise
  9. chime – a high ringing sound like a bell or set of bells
  10. chink – a high ringing sound when knocked together, or to make something do this
  11. clack -to make a short loud sound like one hard object hitting against another
  12. clang – a loud, metallic sound
  13. clank – a short, loud sound
  14. clash – a loud, metallic sound
  15. clatter – a series of short, sharp noises
  16. click – a short sound like the sound when you press a switch
  17. clink – to make the short high sound of glass or metal objects hitting each other, or to cause objects to make this sound
  18. cluck – to make a short, low sound with your tongue
  19. crash – a sudden loud noise, as if something is being hit
  20. creak – if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it
  21. drone – to make a low continuous noise
  22. fizz – a soft sound that small gas bubbles make when they burst
  23. groan – a long, low, sound
  24. growl – a low, unpleasant noise
  25. grunt – to make a short low sound in your throat and nose at the same time
  26. gurgle – the low sound water makes when it is poured quickly from a bottle
  27. honk – to make a loud noise using a horn, especially the horn of a car
  28. hoot – to make a short loud sound as a warning
  29. mewl – crying with a soft, high sound
  30. moan – a long, low sound
  31. neigh – to make a high loud sound like a horse’s neigh
  32. peal – if a bell peals, or if someone peals it, it makes a loud sound
  33. peep – if a car’s horn peeps, it makes a sound
  34. ping – to make a short high sound like the sound of a small bell
  35. pipe – to make a very high sound, or to speak in a very high voice
  36. pop – a sudden noise like a small explosion
  37. putter – a short, quiet, low sound at a slow speed
  38. ring – to make a bell produce a sound
  39. roar – to make a continuous, very loud noise
  40. rumble – a continuous deep sound
  41. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  42. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  43. screech – to make a loud, high, and unpleasant noise
  44. scrunch – to make a loud noise like something being crushed
  45. sigh – a long, soft, low sound
  46. squeak – to make a short, high noise
  47. squeal – to make a long high sound
  48. squee – to make a loud high noise because you are excited or happy
  49. thrum- to make a low regular noise like one object gently hitting another many times
  50. thud – a dull sound when falling or hitting something
  51. thump – to hit against something with a low loud sound
  52. tinkle – to make a high, ringing sound
  53. wail – to make a long, high sound
  54. wheeze – a high sound, as though a lot of air is being pushed through it
  55. whine – a high, loud sound
  56. whirr – a fast, repeated, quiet sound
  57. whisper – to make a quiet, gentle sound
  58. whistle – to make a high sound by forcing air through your mouth in order to get someone’s attention
  59. yelp – a short, loud, high sound, usually caused by excitement, anger, or pain
  60. yowl – a long, loud, unhappy sound or complaint

Writing sound is a fun process that adds depth and life to prose. Becareful not to overdo it, though. We should make sure sounds make sense, have a purpose, and relate to our writing. In more serious genres, less is better. Poetry and inane novels (like Dr. Seuss) can get away with it more.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the lovely Spring weather—well, it’s gotten warmer where I am at least. 😛


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Disease in Fiction

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Hello, my readers. Today let’s discuss something that’s been on all our minds recently. Yup, that’s right—diseases in fiction. Right now, the world is in flux over the Coronavirus. It has created a bizarre, paranormal society where we’re all confined to our homes, some of us without jobs. The Coronavirus is like this invisible antagonist, challenging all of us right now.

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people…” —Gabriel García Márquez

This makes one think: how would such events play into fictional stories? What examples do we see in published works for diseases in fiction?

Below is a list of diseases in fiction. These should give you ideas of how authors design them, both in fantasy and science fiction.

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1. Greyscale

If you’ve read Game of Thrones, you’ve run into this ailment. It’s a horrible disease that cause a person’s flesh—and later internal organs—to harden and die. Necrotic flesh coats the victim’s body, offering the appearance of cracked stone.

2. White Blindness

In the book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the disease robs its victims of eyesight. The protagonist is a woman who is immune to the ailment. Able to witness the world around her, the heroine must guide her comrades to safety.

3. Inferno

Created by Dan Brown, the Inferno virus renders people infertile. Used by the antagonists as a waterborne agent—and later an airborne one—this disease serves as a potent vector for conflict.

4. Nanoprobe Virus

No so much a biological virus as a form of nanotechnology, the Nanoprobe Virus is used by the Borg in Star Trek to gradually assimilate organic life forms. Victims become drones for the Borg Collective as nanotechnology slowly takes over their bodies.

5. Tyrant Virus

Also known as the “t-virus”, this disease defines the Resident Evil series. Developed by the Umbrella Corporation, the virus was designed as a eugenics project to cull world population and build an army of bioweapons—namely zombies. Umbrella eventually designed variants of the t-virus that affect victims in different ways.

6. Flare Virus

Found in the Maze Runner movies, the Flare Virus eats away at a person’s brain until they become mindless zombies. Like the Tyrant Virus in Resident Evil, the Flare Virus was designed by scientists to reduce world population.

Diseases are—surprisingly—versatile and useful in fictional worlds. An author, if clever, can use this disease as a plot device to strengthen characters and move the story forward. Disease can also be used to create conflict and established a degree of worldbuilding.

1. An Invisible Antagonist

Heroes can defeat a villain they can see and touch—but what about an antagonist that is invisible? Nothing evokes fear in a character like impotence. Finding a cure, or elixir, may be the only hope in defeating this intangible opponent.

2. Atypical Conflict

Diseases in fiction offer an unusual form of conflict—even better if the disease afflicts characters that the hero cares about. Mental illnesses can add further depth to the conflict, as the victim may experience situations that alter memory or cognition—even turning them into an aggressive mutant or monster. Now the hero may have to fight a loved one, offering moral conflict in the protagonist’s conscious.

3. Worldbuilding

A pandemic forces a society to explore its resources, introducing the reader to what’s in the fictional world. An economic slowdown—like we see in the real world—causes shortages of goods and services, forces people into a different state of mind, and encourages innovation in characters.

In short, a virus exposes the innards of a fictional world and allows a reader to become intimate with it.

Diseases in fiction—whether biological, artificial, or magical—drives plot and character progression in a fictional world. It creates atypical conflict that exposes the underbelly of a society—not just in the protagonist—and allows the reader to dissect the morals, financial resources, and technology of an afflicted civilization.


Thank you reading, as always! During these troubling times, perhaps we can derive some meaning from the Coronavirus and how it is exposing our society. Like the heroes of old, we too can defeat this invisible foe and establish a stronger, more orderly world if by learning from our own mistakes and what habits we have buried throughout the years. That said, maybe this virus can be seen as a good thing—a source of inspiration and growth for the human spirit.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And remember, we’re all in this together. 🙂

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Book Length, Word Count, Readability, and Free Goodies!

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Hello, my readers! Today I’m revisiting book lengths for authors. The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. Depending on the target audience, genre, readability, and book type, the word count in a book can vary.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets. If you’re a writer with questions about how long your writing should be, this article is for you.

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book lengths. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. Here’s a rundown of the age brackets:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3,000 words
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800 words
  • Play: 1,000 to 32,000 words
  • Middle Grade: 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • Young Adult: 50,000 to 100,000 words
  • Adult: 100,000 to 130,000 words

Genre

Book genres, of course, play another role in the word count.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world from the ground up. This takes time to describe all the new rules and phenomena associated with such a fictional universe.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries prefer a lower word count—of course, there are always exceptions.

  • Romance & Erotica: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000 words
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000 words
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 140,000 words

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief, but powerful. Novelettes are even larger than short stories. A novella is a story with a fleshed out story and characters, whereas novels are the largest.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 100 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 7,500 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words
  • Novella: 30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 to 100,000 words
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Quantity Versus Quality

Quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it probably won’t read well.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Reading Level

The average reading level for America is around the 8th-grade mark. If the author wants a book to read smoothly among a wider audience, then a book should read around this level. By using simpler and shorter phrases, the readability of the prose goes up.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion
  • Reader enjoyment

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either as that slogs the pacing and reduces readability.

I recommend Brandon Sanderson’s lectures from 2020 for prose concision and worldbuilding.

Chapter Impact

Chapter length can also have an impact on readability and word count. Short chapters organize a book better, improve readability, and leave readers with a sense of satisfaction. Shorter chapters also make for good stopping points when a reader needs to put the novel down.

Longer chapters are tedious, but sometimes necessary when a section of a book demands enough information or plot progression. In this case, scene breaks are good for breaking down long chapters.

Personally, I love frequent scene breaks and short chapters, as it provides convenient spots for me to park my bookmark. 😛

Reader & Writer Relationship

Half of telling a story comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment.

A book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader. If you can provide that opportunity—for a reader to have fun and explore—they will flip pages nonstop and won’t care about book length. This is especially true with worldbuilding using the iceberg theory.

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on audience, genre, book type, readability, and the author’s long-term goals. Authors who have built up an impressive resume of stories can skirt the rules.

Free Goodies

Here’s a free online program called WordCounter that checks the word count, reading level, speaking time, and word frequency. Just paste your work into the program, and it will analyze everything for you automatically. I also use Hemingway to check sentence length and readability. Grammarly is another great tool you can install into your browser. It actually works with Hemingway in your browser.

Thank you for reading and good luck in your writing endeavors. Stay safe out there! 🙂


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Blade of Dragons Update: Blurbs, Taglines, Longlines, and more!

Hello, my readers, I’m back with another update on my manuscript, Blade of Dragons! It’s been a stressful month (for all of us I would imagine), but my manuscript is approaching the end of the beta stage—at least I hope.

Anyway, I have some items to share that involve general manuscript preparation. Most any author follows this formula.

There are several tools an author uses to promote or describe a book. These include: blurbs, taglines, loglines, cover descriptions, and synopses.

Blurb

A blurb is a brief statement designed to promote the book. The blurb may be by the author, a reviewer, an editor, a publishing company, or anyone else. A blurb is designed to perk interest and add a silver-lining to the book’s appearance. A blurb may appear on the front or back cover.

Logline

A logline is a book compressed into a brief paragraph. It should be concise while packing a punch. The main character, antagonist, conflict, and any other relevant detail is included, giving the reader an idea of what the story is about.

Tagline

Short and witty, a tagline is a statement that doesn’t tell anything about the book. It’s more of a catchphrase or trademark to the author’s story.

Description

Book descriptions are like an expanded logline, often around 150 to 200 words. Besides the tagline and blurb, a description is meant to lure the reader into opening the book. First sentences are crucial in descriptions, as this will convince the reader to read the story.

Synopsis

Designed more for the eyes of an agent, a synopsis is a larger description, varying anywhere from 500 to 2000 words. Short and long synopses are both viable, but modern agents err more on the shorter side. A synopsis should mention the protagonist’s arc, showing the agent that you’ve built a complete, alluring story.

I’ll give examples of the manuscript tools I mentioned above using ones from my book. Mind, these aren’t official, nor are they polished. Still, they should give you an idea of each category.

Blurb

Exciting, hard-hitting, and exotic. Blade of Dragons is an action-packed story filled with vivid storytelling and likable characters that will hold you spellbound from start to finish.


This blurb reads promotional, coming from a reader who enjoys the story.

Logline

Pepper, a cursed farmer’s daughter, inherits her father’s sword, ancient technology that can save her planet from a dark goddess. But her draconic blood seeks to undo all she holds dear.


I kept the logline short. In a more compressed form, it almost gives a stronger punch, I noticed.

Tagline

The legend of a farmer’s daughter, cursed with the blood of dragons.


Perhaps not the shortest or wittiest tagline. Still, this one stuck with me, and it’s consistent with the other items mentioned above. It also invokes a good degree of intrigue.

Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark goddess that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet. 

But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?


Notice that I include certain keywords in the blurb. The reader will know that there are: swords, a dire quest, a dark goddess, a heroine, technology, and a dragon-like race. This suggests a science fantasy genre, the type of message I hope to convey. The beginning ‘trio-word’ technique I used is a popular strategy to create rhythm and intrigue.

Synopsis

Uhh, no, I won’t post that here—it’s way too long. Regardless, I do have a short (two page) and long (seven page) synopsis written if I need it. My synopses break down the story piecemeal, proving I have a solid and complete book. Any agent or publisher who reads it would get a good idea of what the story is about: the characters, conflict, the driving force of the story, and so forth.

Additional Items to Consider

My cover art (my own work) you can view at the top of the page. It’s still unofficial, and I may reach out to a professional to spruce it up. I included a map and glossary with my manuscript to provide additional reference material for readers.

When you design your own world, including a glossary or world map can help add depth to the story. I highly recommend it, especially for epic fantasy worlds.

Publication

I am unsure if I will go traditional or epub, but I am leaning more towards the latter. I may still find an agent to help me represent my book, as I am underread when it comes to marketing.

With that said, I hope you found this post to be informative and enjoyable. Good luck with whatever creative projects you might be working on.

Thank you for reading and stay safe out there.


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The Tolkien Hypothesis: Is Originality Dead?

 

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Hello, my readers, to another blog post from yours truly. Experts believe that everything has “already been written” or that originality no longer exists in the writing world. To abbreviate this notion, we’ll call it the Tolkien Hypothesis for this article—yes, I made it up, but bare with me.

 

—Originality in Writing—

What is originality, and how does it come about? If you look at stories written today, you can find several Harry Potter doppelgangers, a LOTR inspired tale here, and maybe a Star Wars look-a-like there. Even romance novels are produced mechanically with an almost predictable formula.

 

—Enter the Tolkien Hypothesis—

How do we explain this phenomenon? Are writers taking the “easy way out” and piggyback riding on successful, legendary writers? Is it true that authors are struggling more and more to produce original, creative content? Where do we draw the line between a story that is inspired and one that is copied? Whew! That’s a lot of questions to answer, so, let’s take it nice and easy….

 

Creativity and Springboards

Many aspiring writers, like yours truly, become fascinated with certain authors (ahem…Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, et al.) In our excitement to share in the celebration of creativity, many authors based part or—god forbid—all their story on these authors.

The intention may not be to copy, but we enjoy using these successful stories as springboards for our imagination. Sometimes, we may jump a little too high and hit the ceiling, so to speak. I certainly did when I finished my alpha manuscript of Ethereal Seals book 1 (which is now called Blade of Dragons).

After reviewing my rough manuscript, I realized—much to my horror—that I had basically written a sloppy LOTR with Star Wars themes inserted haphazardly. I had committed a Tolkien Hypothesis crime! After several revisions and harsh critique from readers my manuscript is now on its own path. It still has similarities to LOTR and Star Wars in it, but Ethereal Seals has a unique feel, something that makes it stand out.

Does this mean I regret creating my alpha manuscript? Certainly not. I actually cherish my old writings, because they were the springboards that I needed to get my own creativity juices flowing.

 

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Writer or Robot?

Some writers may intentionally copy story structures because they are employed by certain companies. There becomes a robotic need to churn out XYZ number of novels a year for a profit. In this sense, originality is purposely ignored for financial gain.

The other day, I was at the supermarket and I scanned a dozen romance novels on the self. They all had classy catchphrases like “The Italian Prince’s One-night Stand” or “The Duke’s Scandalous Heir”. It was almost as if I was looking at the same book reprinted with slightly different wording.

Even in the fantasy section, books with “Dragon-this” or “Dragon-that” seemed a little less than original. This is actually the reason why I changed my book title from Dragonsblade to Blade of Dragons. To me, it reads more original and still has a strong punch.

Anyway, I prefer to read books that have life in them—novels with heart and soul, not replicas retelling the same story with a few different plot devices. Not to say all mass market books at like that, but most that I’ve read are.

 

—The Road to Victory—

What is Success?

How do we, as writers, define success? An aspiring writer can finish a 2,000-word short story and consider it an achievement. Other authors don’t feel satisfied until they have an entire epic trilogy published—and then some. For me, success is subjective, and the milestones we set are our own. But it’s also important to pace ourselves and be patient with who and what we are.

 

The Whimsical Muse of Creativity

After years of pushing myself too hard, I’ve realized that my imagination is whimsical and volatile. Sometimes I enter a “writer’s zone” and can easily churn out a few thousand words within an hour or two; other times I struggle to get down a little as 300. It’s important, in my opinion, that we discover and nurture the personality of our inner muse. Once we do this, success is only a matter of time.

 

—In Conclusion—

From my experience, originality doesn’t come from copying off successful writers; nor does it involve a phobia of inspiration. We, as original authors, must forge our own universes through the springboards we acquire from others, while keeping the Tolkien Hypothesis in mind.

Much of the world is only focused on profits or time-constraints and may have lost sight of the human imagination. This doesn’t mean we, as writers, cannot express our inner muse to society. The more fun you have with it, the better—and we set our own milestones and victories. We don’t have to buy into the mechanical urges of corporations, nor should we forgo imagination for worldly success and money.

Originality and creativity go hand-in-hand, and neither can be rushed, lest we fulfill the Tolkien Hypothesis. Writing is as much of a growing process for the story as it is for the writer :). And with that, I’ll leave you a quote…

Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.
– Joseph Conrad

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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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