Tag Archives: advice

The danger of letting excitement make your decisions for you

You may possibly have noticed me raving a little bit about my short story, Ailith’s Gift, a few times on my blog. You can hardly blame me: it’s my first story to be published. Well, my second, but the first isn’t viewable any more because the ezine it was published in vanished at some point in the last 5 years. Ailith’s Gift was published in Myths Inscribed back in December; I worked hard to meet the deadline and then to improve it with help from Myths Inscribed lead editor Derek Bowen.

Recently I returned to look at it, and found a few errors, a few things I didn’t like about it any more. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still incredibly proud of it and myself, and for the main part I’m still happy with it, but the distance of time and perhaps a little extra experience has granted me a more objective perspective, not just on the story, but also on my frame of mind at the time I was writing and editing Ailith’s Gift.

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Review: The Mythic Guide to Characters by Antonio del Drago

The Mythic Guide to Characters is a book which looks at character creation with a different perspective to a lot of writing advice. It looks at various different ways that personality types have been categorised in the context of real people, and examines how this can be applied to fictional characters. In each case, examples from well-known fictional creations, including Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, are used to illustrate how personality types can be applied to fictional characters.

Different facets of character design are examined, from the most internal to the way characters approach challenges and interact with others. The book is well structured and well paced, with the ideas presented logically and fully explained using clear, concise language.

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A guide to writing female characters for those who struggle

Occasionally a forlorn male writer posts somewhere on the internet that he struggles with female characters – he just can’t get into their heads, he doesn’t understand women. And occasionally I read a book by a published author for whom this is clearly a problem. You know the type: where the sole female character with more than a line of dialogue is described as sexy and sexual, and sure enough eventually sleeps with the male hero.

But, to be honest, it’s very simple:

You write her like any other character.

Now, if that was all I had to say, this’d be a very short blog post. So I will expand by describing a few ways in which you can write a believable female character, with some tips on how to avoid attracting criticism of female characters.

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How to deal with clichés in fiction

The topic of cliché is one I have brushed upon in my earlier article on Mary Sues. In that context, I argued that being cliché doesn’t automatically make a character a Mary Sue. The link between Mary Sues and clichés that has been made by some commentators implies that clichéd Mary Sues are bad because clichés are bad. But this isn’t necessarily so.

There are many sides to the cliché debate. There are those who see clichés as an automatically negative element within a story, like the Rinkworks Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, which implores writers to abandon novels that contain certain cliché elements. There are those who see clichés as tools to construct a story and manage reader expectations. And there are those who believe that whether an element of a story is cliché or not is irrelevant and that the focus should be on how well the author tells the story, not on whether its been done before.

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The Dreaded Mary Sue

The topic of the Mary Sue comes up occasionally in writing forums. Everyone agrees: you don’t want your character to be a Mary Sue. She’s the worst of the worst, beloved only by the author and despised by the reader. She is the undeniable sign of the bad writer, the demoness, and once part of a story she cannot be expunged; the whole story is doomed to the deepest pit of hell.

But what is a Mary Sue? Now there’s a question.

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Building worlds alongside stories

Worldbuilding is a huge part of fantasy writing. For some – like Tolkein – the story comes about as something to showcase the world that has been built. But for those of us just starting out, it can be daunting to think you have to create an in-depth world for your readers from scratch.

Of course, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are myriad cultures from Earth’s history you can use to inspire your world. Research therefore can form a good starting point, a foundation. Don’t necessarily go for the obvious cultures – medieval western Europe, the Romans, the Aztecs and so on. Pick a time in the last 6000 years, a place anywhere in the world, and see what you can find out about the culture that existed in that time and place. You might be surprised – and inspired. Ptolemaic Egypt, Bronze Age northern Scotland, post colonial Mexico, the height of Great Zimbabwe or China at the time when the Silk Road first opened trade routes with the Roman Empire could all hold gems of information that help you to create an interesting, varied world to set your stories in.

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Show vs Tell

At the risk of treading already well worn ground here, I thought I’d write about the difference between showing and telling, and why that difference is important. New writers are repeatedly told they need to show instead of tell, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that means you should be drawing a comic or making a TV show instead of writing prose. But showing and telling are about the language we use to build up a picture in the reader’s mind of what is happening, where, and how characters feel about it.

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