Now, while many readers that get truly involved with the stories we write online are mostly involved in the sometimes exaggerated drama of the situations we put our main characters through...I feel that it is often the tension delivered in a few key scenes, sprinkled here and there throughout, that truly captivates a reader's attention and brings them to the edge of their seats. It's this grinding on the nerves, along with a few tugs on the heart strings, that can really allow your audience to lose themselves in your writing and become fully engaged in every word of text in front of them, craving to read more as soon as possible.
If you can pull this off as a writer, then you have developed a very persuasive gift that you can use to carry you through many more stories in the future. Writing is a gift, but the stories you create and the way you build them up have a specific 'science' to them. It's just a matter of learning to apply an instinctual formula to fit the context of your story in a variety of different ways. Tension in a story can make your work unbelievably addictive if done right! Once you learn the literary 'mathematics' of it all, you can write hundreds of new and amazing chapters and change things up enough to avoid becoming repetitive or predictable.
That being said, hehehe...my apologies to any of you who ever lost sleep trying to burn through any of my previously available chapters when you had other, more productive, things that you could have been doing with your evenings instead. It's flattering, believe me. But I hope it's not keeping you from work or school or family or anything else meaningful. That wouldn't be a good thing.
Before I jump right into it all, let me start by sharing this particular scene with you guys. This is from the 1996 movie, "The Rock". To this day, I still regard this particular few minutes of film to be some of the most intense moments in any movie that I've ever seen before. (There are others, sure. But I didn't want to post anything that might have spoilers involved. If you haven't seen 'Seven' with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman? Yeah, the end of that movie is INSANE as well! WATCH IT!!!) When viewing this scene, the tension starts off being pretty 'action movie accurate' from the get go, simply because of the ordeal itself. But notice how, minute by minute, things are elevated to some serious 'Holy SHIT' levels while watching everything unfold! The flawless acting, the motion of the camera angles, the swell of the music in tone and volume, the heated dialogue...soon being shouted at full volume, in what seems to be a no-win situation. To me, this is the perfect example of what creating and escalating tension is all about! Give it a look!
One thing that I really love about this scene is the fact that the tension is being pulled SO damned tight before a single bullet is fired! It's not the action that creates the tension, but the build up to it. By the time the actual fighting begins, your audience is already wound up and ready to explode! Giving your scene the kind of power that you need it to have to set off the bomb that you've got planned to go off at any moment. Like..."JESUS! Where is this going??? This can't be good!" This is what I like to call 'punchline tension'. It's designed to build up to a major turning point in your story, and the tension created is all about the 'payoff'. VERY effective, because your readers can see it coming, but they hold on, regardless. Listen to the dialogue. It's a chess game, basically. Both the General and the team leader begin by trying to reason with one another and inject a few logical points to get their opponent to consider changing their mind. When that doesn't work, the team leader (Played by Michael Biehn) attempts a different approach by talking to the other soldiers in the room instead. However, the general (Played by Ed Harris), counters by reminding them all of their elevated and advantageous position. This is when people start yelling to force their point home. However, neither side is willing to back down, and once things have reached their most volatile moment...it doesn't take much at all to set acts of extreme violence into motion! When the scene finally drops the hammer on the audience, the impact of it is crazy!!! You almost want to cringe and shout, "NO NO NO!!!! Ahhhh!!! Shit! This is BAD!!! SO BAD!!!" Congrats! You now have yourself a captive audience! Just keep in mind that the build up to a major moment in your story is just as important, if not MORE important, than the moment itself. This is how you lock your readers in. Think of it this way...
If your readers are sleepy and need to get up for work or school the next morning? If they have to go to the bathroom? If they're due to perform open heart surgery in a few minutes...but they choose to finish your recent chapter instead? Then...SUCCESS!!! As it should be!
(By the way...don't EVER delay open heart surgery for a story! LOL! That's IMPORTANT! Jesus, what kind of monster are you? ::Giggles::)
To visualize...tension in your fiction is the ability to place two opposing forces at an equal distance of a line drawn in the sand. At first...they're far enough away to possibly solve their conflict without losing control of the situation. However, as each side takes another step forward, pressure is applied, and things get more intense. They eventually end up in one another's faces, and they keep inching forward until one side or the other eventually crosses the line. And that's when all hell breaks loose.
This particular building tension is all about the eventual payoff. That's the focus. Draw your readers in and keep 'tightening the screws' until they're ready to snap. And then...Boom!
There are other slight variations on the idea of creating high tension, however. So, while I have your attention, let's touch on the majors.
Another scene that I would like to share with you all is from the 1989 movie, "Aliens"! I wish I had a clip that includes more of the build up to this moment, as I have always felt that it was truly brilliant. But, you know...Youtube! To this day, the sound of that 'Aliens' motion detector thingy creeps me the fuck out! GAH!!! Hehehe! Basically, there are alien creatures that are overrunning this deep space facility, and even though an entire team of well trained, heavily armed, soldiers, have been deployed to handle the situation...it is immediately clear that their enemy has been underestimated, and they find themselves completely overwhelmed by what's going on! The tension, like every other part of the story, has an arc to it. It builds, it reaches its peak, and then shit hits the fan and it's all a roller coaster ride downhill from there. Take a look...
Now, unlike the scene in "The Rock", where all of the tension comes before the big action set piece...THIS scene takes the action and places it, center stage. When writing a hardcore action scene like this, the tension is built through pure chaos, instead of suspense. There's a difference.
What begins as a very quiet, anticipatory, moment...suddenly gets boosted up to level 100 once they realize what's really going on! Figuring out that the 'animals' they expected to outwit are smarter than they seem? That escalates tension. Having a young child now put in harm's way? Escalated even more. Having a 'traitor' in their midst that they can't trust with Burke? Another level of tension. And then, (R.I.P. Bill Paxton) when one of the main characters actually DIES during one of his most heroic, and totally badass, moments in the entire film...well that just shoots the tension through the ROOF! Because it lets the audience know that the stakes are so high that not everybody is guaranteed to make it out of this alive. Beloved main character or not!
Increasing tension rule? Take the plot armor off! TV shows like "Game Of Thrones", "24", and "The Walking Dead", have used this technique to perfection. Yeah...that favorite character that you loved so much? They might not survive this episode! So keep biting your nails until you know they're safe for sure! Give your characters multiple problems to handle all at once! HARD problems! And put a timer on them as an added bonus! They've only got a few seconds to do...'whatever'! Hehehe! It'll be awesome, trust me!
Action scenes like this one demonstrate the value and serious 'gut punch' that tension can deliver to your audience when you need to give your story a powerful boost, and let your readers know that outcomes can be a bit more unpredictable than they think. For heavy action scenes, I find that creating many different levels of uncontrolled chaos works wonders.
There is a scene in "Gone From Daylight", where the main character has gone to save a friend of his from a drug induced stupor on the edge of town...and he finds him, barely conscious, with the love of his life helping him out. As well as two of his friends, who are experts at fighting off enemies. The scene begins with people trying to stop the main character from taking his friend home, and a giant battle ensues. But it's not just that one fight that is the focus of the scene. There's an overwhelming series of events that all begin to take place at once. A dangerous fall, a rickety fire escape, a deadly battle between his best friends and an enemy of great strength, the need to protect his love interest...all of these things are going on simultaneously. With the focus, rapidly, shifting back and forth from one major emergency to another to keep the readers as wild and frantic as the characters in the scene. Putting your readers into the same panic that your main character is going through can also make an exciting scene so tense that they won't be able to look away until they see how it ends! Watch the "Aliens" clip again! See how they bounce and back and forth from one big problem to another. Quickly! Zoom, zoom, zoom! So, for action scenes, use a flurry of different dilemmas in unison, and switch between them to keep the tension party going strong!
So...what if you're not writing some kind of 'punch in the face' action scene in your story?
Well, I believe that all conflict, whether argumentative or displayed through a physical confrontation, is simply a harsh dispute and an even more harsh defense of differing ideologies. That always makes for the BEST conflicts, and the greatest moments of tension in whatever story it is that you're trying to tell. (More on 'Conflict' in a future post, and how it differs from tension, as I explain it here.)
This type of tension is created mostly through dialogue, and may not result in some massive shootout or hand to hand combat scenario...but biting and well delivered dialogue can have the exact same effect if done correctly. As we all know, words can hurt more than any kick or punch delivered physically. Again, the same rules apply. You have two people approaching a line that's been drawn in the sand, and one of them is eventually going to CROSS that line in an attempt to bully their opponent out of their opinion, and give up. This can be accomplished by giving some real thought to how both sides of an argument feel that they're in the right, and are desperately trying to convince someone else to see the light. These kind of conflicts start off as an attempt to reason with the person standing in their way, and tension rises as the different ideologies begin to clash in a frustrating manner. The idea of "WHY can't you see my point of view???" Builds to a crescendo, and...of course...a line is crossed. A writer can do amazing things when their readers can see and possibly sympathize with both points of view. By creating tension in this way, you force readers to tackle the conflict within themselves, and they may not know who to root for right away. Which can only make your story and it's main conflict all the more engaging in the long run.
This scene is taken from season 2 of the Netflix show, "Daredevil"! It displays the clash of ideologies perfectly, in my opinion. You have two men that are, basically, vigilantes. They both work outside of the law in order to bring justice to their city. However, has one of them gone too far in killing the 'scum' that he sees no redemption in? Or is the main character deluded by the 'good' he thinks he's doing, while allowing the crime and the murder to continue? Listen to the conversation they have, how it builds, and see if you can see the point in both sides of the equation?
Now...99% of that entire scene is just a conversation on a rooftop. With two determined characters trying hard to make their point. There's a desire to feel vindicated. They feel that there is something to 'win' by shouting it out. But when neither side seems to be making any leeway with the other, tension builds, and drastic measures have to be taken to end the argument. Because logic and reason isn't working anymore, and the line was crossed when one of the parties has given up on a diplomatic solution. They'll never see eye-to-eye, and attempts to reach any common ground are over and done with. A slight variation of escalating tension, but it still works wonders, depending on the story you want to tell.
Now...ONE more, before I stop blabbing! Hehehe!
This method involves two sides that seem to be equally matched, but when pressure is applied and the heat gets turned up...a great truth is revealed. Creation of tension in this way comes from your audience siding with your protagonist, and truly ENJOYING the badgering and bulldozing of another character until they get the answers they're looking for. This can range from beating a criminal suspect up for information, to a heated courtroom confession...as is brilliantly displayed in the infamous scene below...
Now, this might sound a bit weird to you, but it's true. Words in a story have a 'speed' to them! Weird, right? If you want to have a calm, romantic, moment between characters after sex...where they're just laying in bed and enjoying the afterglow? Then make your sentences long, and poetic, and highly descriptive. Draw the out, and capture the nuance and detail of the moment. But...when it comes to tense situations, heated arguments, or immediate threats? Keep it short! The shorter the sentence, the faster your audience will read it. Keep them dodging back and forth from one hyped up scene to another. Like ducking to dodge a bullet fired in their direction. It may sound silly, but it's true. A 'period' in a sentence during a tense scene is like an editor's cut during an action scene in a movie. When action happens, the cuts become quicker. More frantic. They create 'energy'. That's what you want to do with your words.
So shorten your sentences. It helps in creating a feeling of tension. It seems like such a small thing, but it works. People who argue interrupt one another. They SHOUT! They make insults and offensive comments. They say things to regain the upper hand at any cost. The 'back and forth' between characters is a weapon that you have at your disposal when trying to bring the stress and fury that your readers are looking for in the most crucial of moments. Shorter sentences, description, dialogue, creates a faster feeling of momentum in your writing. This is you, turning the volume up on the stereo and making this scene stand out as something to pay attention to.
Just don't drag it out for TOO long! Anxiety can be exhausting. And it gets tiresome if you wait too long to give the audience what it's looking for.
Anyway, that's my take on creating and escalating tension in your work. As with everything else, it takes time and practice and a lot of 'trial and error'. But once you get it down...it's going to add some spice and flavor to everything you write from that point forward! So consider it a skill that you want to study and keep close to the hip for later use! Cool?
As always, I hope these little self-learned lessons over the years will help you guys out in some way! Good luck! And I'll seezya soon!
December 8th, 1980...
A true musical icon was gunned down by his ′number one fan′, according to his assassin. Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon that night by shooting him in the back, and this was not long after he had just given him a personal autograph earlier in the day. And he didn′t run afterward. Instead...he sat on the curb, and read from J D Salinger′s novel, ′A Catcher In The Rye′. A book that he says inspired his heinous act. One of the saddest days in American history, in my opinion.
Now, of course...there isn′t ANYTHING in that book that would suggest killing anybody, least of all a musician who seemed to be dedicated to ending war and violence in all of its many forms. But, it begs the question...when you′re writing a story and putting it out there for the whole world to see...do you feel that you are officially stepping up to claim some responsibility for the messages that you put into the words you share with others? Do you find a moral obligation to be ′careful′ with what you write? Or do you find that limiting on your creative freedom...and therefore, the antithesis of truth and honesty in your art?
Not an easy thing to tackle, but let′s give it a shot, shall we? This week...let′s talk writer responsibility!
I will be the first to admit that I really don′t censor myself when I′m writing a story. I don′t hold back. My emotions pour forth, and I follow my personal muse as far as it will take me if I think it will paint the kind of picture that I wanted to paint. However, when my creative energy has been spent and the dream factory closes up for the night...the ′editing′ part of my brain takes over, and I feel that other choices have to be made in order to feel good about putting the stuff that I′ve written out there for an unknown public to read. Please, don′t ever think that I write anything without a sense of conscience. I do. As much as I champion freedom of expression and challenging other mindsets to accept and embrace concepts that they might not be willing to let invade their comfort zone...I am always careful with what I say and how I say it. Many of my stories deal with some very heavy issues. Abuse, suicide, heartbreak, coming out, bullying, terminal illness...and people are actually absorbing what I write. Every word. And no author knows whether their story is going to be taken as an emotional roller coaster ride that leads to an impact on someone′s life...or if it′s going to be the next ′A Catcher In The Rye′, inspiring them to do something foolish. Maybe even criminal.
It′s something that I always keep in mind when I′m putting a story together. It would KILL me to know that something that I wrote caused somebody to hurt themselves or somebody else. To make a bad decision, to risk unprotected sex with a stranger, to take advantage of a minor, break the law, or to contemplate suicide...simply because they read it in a ′Comicality′ story. I couldn′t live with that. That was never my intention and it never will be. And yet...how much responsibility can an author take upon him or herself when it comes to how their stories are interpreted by others? Where should the line be drawn?
I don′t want my teenage readers being afraid of sex. I don′t want them to shy away from it or to be embarrassed by their desires or ashamed of their pursuits. But...at the same time, I don′t want to have my stories building fantasies around dreamy boys and easy relationships where you never fight, never need a condom, and everybody lives happily ever after, no matter what, either. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. A compromise that allows them to think for themselves according to a particular situation. And that′s where I try to keep my writing centered. In the middle. Yes, there are good times, and yes, there are bad times...but there are no pleasurable deeds committed without possible consequence, and there are no downfalls into misery without a sense of hope and redemption. There′s a balance to be maintained. I always strive to show both sides of the coin so everyone reading can make positive choices based on who they are as a person, and not just based on what I wrote in a story that was meant to be used for entertainment purposes only. Thoughtful, inspiring, motivational? Definitely. But entertainment, just the same. I have to take some personal responsibility for the content of my stories. Especially now that the ′Comicality′ brand has a bit of notoriety online. I have to be more careful than ever. I never know who is reading. I have no control over how they take my message or what they do with it. So, I take all of these things into account when I look over my stories and get ready to hit ′send′ to share it with the rest of you guys. I′ve been through violent abuse, I′ve suffered heartbreaks that felt like I′d never ever be able to smile again, and I′ve been at death′s door myself, not to mention, losing a very close friend of mine to suicide when he was only 17 years old. It hurts.
But that puts me right in the middle of a conflict that I need to wrestle with if I′m going to truly be passionate about the content of my stories in general. Can I be responsible in my presentation of ideas, and yet still be honest enough to capture the hearts and minds of people out there who need to know that someone understands their struggle, and has the courage to speak the words out loud so they can stop feeling so alone? It′s a thin line. But one that I think every writer reading this can walk if they really feel the urge to do so.
I think the goal is to keep your readers in mind, younger and older alike, when going over some of your most emotional scenes. I try to imagine how someone else my read the scene. I want to be raw and brutally honest about the severe pain associated with a broken heart. I want it to be visceral and disturbing and emotionally moving in a way that will remind and possibly bring up past feelings for readers who have gone through something similar. They can feel that torment as if it was brand new. The truer you are to your feelings and memories in your writing, the more connected your readers will be to your project. We′ve all been there before, right? But what about the college boy who′s currently going through a serious heartbreak or rejection at the exact same moment that he′s reading my story? What happens if I′m digging around in his backyard and end up doing more harm than good by triggering emotions they′re not dealing with in a healthy manner? I wouldn′t want that. There are times when I think about certain words or phrases that I use in my stories, and I go over them to ′soften the blow′ by using words with a little more finesse instead. If one of my characters gets their heartbroken, I might avoid talking about how much ″I want to die...″ or ″I could KILL him for stealing my boyfriend from me!″ It may be something that I write while I′m in the moment...but sometimes my conscience pops up and says...let′s not phrase it that way, Comsie. People are reading. Have any of you other writers ever experienced that in your stories? Please feel free to leave your thoughts down below. I′m curious.
The other side of that coin, of course, is that the gritty details of certain serious issues are needed for the story to have the kind of hard-hitting impact that I want it to have. If I write a scene in a story where a boy is getting violently bullied, dragged into a high school bathroom, and beaten up with no one to come to his rescue...I want it to be unsettling. It′s meant to be a disturbing scene. I don′t want to hold back and deny the readers who have experienced hardcore bullying in their lives an honest portrayal of what it′s like to have to live through something like that. When I talk about suicidal feelings or childhood abuse, it comes from a very personal place. And readers who recognize those feelings immediately feel a kinship for the descriptions going in to the scene. And for many, it can be a very therapeutic exercise to relive some of those moments and finally lay them to rest. I have gotten so many emails over the years from people who just want to say ′thank you′ for telling the truth and helping them to come to terms with what they′ve been through so they could move on. I don′t want to fake it or sugarcoat some of the harsh realities of what′s going on. Otherwise, what′s the point of the story itself? Am I going to have the stones to say what needs to be said or not? If not, then I can leave the heavy content out of the story completely and write giggly fairy tales all day. Why not?
Hehehe, sorry. I′m rambling a bit this weekend. But it′s something that′s awkward for me to think about sometimes. So, any thoughts on this? Please leave your comments below if this has sparked anything for ya!
Bottom line, I feel a duty to be honest in my writing, but that doesn′t mean that responsibility gets tossed out the window. I don′t think any author should take a ′devil may cry′ attitude with their stories. Words have a power that we, as writers, definitely understand. Words can be used to empower us, enrage us, break down barriers and blockages, and inspire us to do great things. But those tables can turn quickly if we don′t at least put some thought into how the message is received...instead of just how it is delivered.
Anyway, food for thought! Thanks for trying to decipher my weirdness! Hehehe! And as always, I hope this helps!
While an extended story with multiple chapters and layers of depth may give a writer enough breathing room to truly build and explore the lives and personalities of the characters they′ve brought to life, I think it′s still a good practice to occasionally go back to writing short, self contained, stories to keep that particular part of their creative muscle strong. Short stories and flash fiction can teach you things than the ′wide open canvas′ style of writing can′t. It can help you to focus your talents, work on self editing, and keep your storytelling less complicated than your average epic saga. Over the past year, I′ve been trying to write more, one-shot, short stories and smaller mini-series, myself, in order to do exactly that. Strengthen my ability to condense and control my writing skills in order to quickly and effectively get to the point without making any grand plans for an entire ensemble cast of characters and any big dramatic plot twists and turns that won′t happen until much much later in the story. Sometimes...keeping things simple is a good thing. And with just the right words and just the right characters, you can create something truly sweet and inspiring without having to make a 72 chapter blowout! Hehehe!
So, let′s talk about short stories, shall we?
The skill involved in creating a straightforward, one time, story is all about selecting a single situation and describing it in a way where only that single moment matters. Maybe you′re writing about a boy′s first kiss, and that′s great. It can be a moving story that gives your readers a really warm and fuzzy feeling inside when they read it. But (at least for me), my gut instinct is to create a relatable main character, then flesh him out through his actions and dialogue, then introduce the love interest, and then allow the readers to peek in to see how they got to know one another. How they relate to one another. How they get along and ultimately build up to that first kiss...giving it meaning and value and a giddy sense of relief. But, with a short story, you don′t have the time and space for all of that. Find the ′punchline′, and zero in on what′s most important. And only what′s most important. If you decide you want to give some background details about what led up to this miraculous kiss... that′s great! But do it in just a few sentences or perhaps a few, well worded, paragraphs. And tell it, almost, as if it was a flashback. This is who he is, this is how we met, and now we′re ′here′. Done. The idea is to concentrate on the kiss. That′s what the short story is about, right? That′s the punchline! Awesome! Keep it that way. Start your story ten minutes before the kiss happens, and end the story FIVE minutes after the kiss happens. Any bonus details that you add about what led to this moment and what hope there is for future events down the road are welcome, but mostly unnecessary. Practice restricting yourself from getting too far into details that will ultimately lead to ′other′ story elements that aren′t related to that one particular moment in time. For example...if the two characters sharing this kiss grew up together and have been best friends since they were in Kindergarten, and are now celebrating their seventeenth birthday together alone with a movie marathon in their bedroom...cool. All relevant information. However, if you mention parental divorce, or an illness, or ex-boyfriends, sexual confusion, religious constraints, or anything like that...those are details that have more ′story′ behind them. Those are elements that may need extra explanation for them to be considered important to the plot itself. And if you just mention it and then don′t do anything more with that info...then it isn′t important to the plot itself...in which case...why bring it up? Eliminate it from your narrative. Get rid of it. Keep things tightly wound around the special moment in question.
It′s a first kiss. Focus on the kiss and nothing else. Don′t add, ″By the way, the boy I′m kissing happens to be a contract killer for the mob!″ Hehehe, that is a detail that will take at LEAST five to ten more pages to fully explain! Five to ten pages that have absolutely nothing to do with this kiss itself. So...stay focused. K? Hehehe!
Short stories follow the same basic rules as the longer ones do. The situation at hand is just much more grounded and isolated in nature. The shorter the story, the more precise you have to be with choosing your moment. The story has to have a beginning, a middle, and (hopefully) a satisfying end. Just like any other. But you have to find ways to effectively narrow your vision as much as you can without sacrificing the essential details you need to get our point across. Some stories don′t lead to grand adventure and heartbreaking drama. Sometimes, I write short stories about a guy going to a gay bar for the very first time, or two boys that practice kissing on each other so they can be ready for ′girls′ later on, or about stalking a really cute classmate through his photos online. Those stories are short and to the point, without the need for much explanation beforehand, or much promise for anything afterward. It′s just a golden moment in time. A single snapshot of someone′s life, detailed in words, and then the rest is left up to the reader to figure out for themselves.
If you ask me, that can be even more endearing to a section of your audience, sometimes. They can finish building the rest of the story on their own, and they can make it whatever they want it to be. Hehehe, see? You get to deliver the epic romance feel without having to do all the hard work yourself. Awesome, right?
Anyway, the point is to occasionally return to your roots and try putting out a short story every now and then. Remember when the thought of writing 3000 to 5000 words in one story seemed like such an impossible chore? LOL! ″I can′t write that much! I don′t have that much to say!″ That was my feeling, at least. But, over time, I started adding details, expanding on my visuals, getting more comfortable with my dialogue and plot structure...and now it′s actually more of a challenge to hold back and keep things simple than it is to elaborate. I′ve learned that it′s best to find your particular niche and find a decent balance between being too broad and being too brief with my ideas. A taste of both is fun, but too much of one or the other can taint the ′broth′, you know?
So try it out! When you get the inspiration for a scene or a short story that doesn′t really lend itself to a much bigger project, try writing it out and posting it for your readers to see every now and then. I think it′s FUN, myself! Hehehe! But I′m a psycho, so don′t take my example as anything made of sound mind! But, not only does the practice keep your perspective clear and fresh from time to time, but you get the chance to experiment with new and unique ideas whenever you feel inspired. Different styles of writing...and it helps you to truly learn how to paint a crisp and clear vision in a single scene without losing sight of what that scene is all about. A skill that will definitely help you out when you′re writing your epic ′War And Peace′ sized novel...and want one major scene or another to stand out as the centerpiece of that part of the book!
Get it? Good! As always, I hope this helps spark a few ideas, and I wish you guys the best of luck! Seezya soon!
Whether you are using an auto correct program on your laptop or PC, or whether you have readers constantly pointing out some of the same errors in your stories, chapter after chapter...there comes a time when you need to take an honest look at your writing and your bad habits...and make yourself a ′low-light′ reel for yourself.
This is the opposite of a highlight reel, where you look at what you′re really good at and examine the best parts of what it is you do. That′s a good thing to do, and it keeps you inspired and pushing yourself towards excellence. But sometimes, a low-light reel helps a LOT more when it comes to reaching that higher goal of being a better writer.
When you′re putting a story together, I always stress comfort and natural flow over everything else. Follow your heart, let the words flow through you, and whatever mistakes you make along the way...fix them in editing after you′ve poured your emotion out on the screen in its most potent form. Get the emotion out first, while you′re still in the moment. That′s the most important part. The mechanics? You can fix and tweak those later, and hopefully give your story the shine and gloss that it deserves.
However, if you look at your project, and you′re constantly misspelling the word ′privilege′ or ′separate′? You should make that a part of your low-light reel. It′s not a typo or a random error. There′s a problem there. The sooner you get a hold on it, focus on it, and work to correct it...the sooner you can break that habit. And the sooner it will cease to be a problem, slowing your writing process down.
We′re on the internet! We have access to every spelling, definition, tense usage, known to mankind. If you′re writing off the top of your head, and you feel like you′re in a particular groove at the moment and don′t want to stop...write it the way you think is correct, and make sure that you come back later to look for it when you start the editing process.
As I′ve said in a previous writer′s article, I don′t think any author should just type out a story and then hand it over to an editor to ′fix it′ without going over it and doing some self editing for themselves first. Not ever. This isn′t your editor′s story. This is YOUR story. Own it. Go through it. What mistakes have you made? Have you made them before? Will you make them again?
Keep track of your mistakes, and do two or three minutes worth of research to correct your flaws so you can take them off the table as obstacles on the road to you being the best writer that you can be. Google it. Commit certain spellings and punctuation use and turns of phrase to memory. Copy and paste them into an email if you have to, so you can easily bring them up and remember, ″Oh yeah...I always spell the word ′occasionally′ with too many C′s or S′s or L′s, and I need to keep that in mind when I′m writing from now on. Don′t depend on your writing programs or your editors to catch your consistent mistakes. You′ll only make their jobs harder, and you won′t end up learning anything in the process. So those weaknesses will remain until you work to fix them yourselves.
In a lot of my earlier stories, I would often use the phrase, ″All of the sudden″. Or I used to write ′outloud′ as one word instead of two. And I thought that was perfectly normal. But I learned after a while and after some constructive comments that I was doing it wrong. So, I looked it up. I had a few minutes to spare, right? And, lo and behold, I had been doing it wrong all that time. Out loud is two words, and it′s ″All of A sudden″. So I had to try to add that to my loooooong list of grammatical errors that have repeatedly appeared in my stories from the very beginning. After creating a low-light reel for myself, I now keep a conscious and watchful eye out for those same mistakes. And even when my muse is on fire and I′m in a writing frenzy...when I get to one of those areas, I stop and think, ″Wait...let me make sure that I get this right on the first try.″ And eventually, I create new habits. Corrected habits. And everything becomes natural, to where I don′t have to look out for making that error anymore. THAT...is how you step your game up to the next level, one baby step at a time.
Something else to look for on your low-light reel? Cliché phrases that you may use over and over again, and don′t even realize it. Now, I have seen this in a lot of other writers′ work, and I′ve seen it in my own, so it can be difficult to notice unless you′re actively searching for it. When I say cliché phrases, I′m talking about those easy to rattle off ′connecting′ phrases that we may all use in casual conversation, but come off as unimaginative and unimpressive when you see it written in a story on the screen more than once.
Some of these phrases are:
″As a matter of fact...″
″If I had to be honest...″
″Well, before long...″
″On one hand...On the other hand...″
″I′m not going to lie...″
″You know what I mean?″
″If I had to guess...″
And of course...″All of a sudden...″
Now, I′m not saying that a writer shouldn′t ever USE any of these phrases. Just realize that it has become such a part of starting or ending a sentence in everyday conversation...that we may end up using it multiple times in our stories as well. And with the written word, it is MUCH more noticeable! If you often use the term, ″As a matter of fact...″ to start a sentence or to make a statement in your everyday speak? Go to your story, use the ′find′ function, and see how many times it shows up in your project. If it′s more than twice...then that may be a habit that you want to break. It might not be a full fledged crutch...but you′re definitely walking with a ′limp′ there. Hehehe! Make yourself aware of it, and try to find other ways to say the same thing, or find a way around saying it at all. If your audience keeps reading the same phrases over and over, it becomes tiresome. Get rid of anything and everything that makes you come off as anything less than AWESOME! K?
Another thing to look out for? The themes and plot directions for the stories you write. I wrote a ′One Life To Live′ article not long ago, and depending on who you are and what you′ve experienced in your life...you should take that into consideration as a writer. You′ve only lived one life, so you only have so many experiences to draw from. Some of you have been rejected in love before. Some of you have been cheated on in a relationship, or have been abused, or have had to make difficult discussions about whether or not you should come out of the closet, in the past. Now...this pertains mostly to writers who write multiple stories, either at once or one after another...but if the themes in your stories seem to be recurring or repetitive, try to change that up as well. This is something that I occasionally struggle with, myself. So if any of you guys have any advice on how to effectively accomplish this, please respond below and let me know! Hehehe! There are themes in my stories that repeat constantly, and I have made an attempt to avoid most of the blatant tropes that I′m known for, but there are some more passive elements of my stories that pop up again and again from time to time. The fear of coming out, the single mother, the feeling that the boy you like is out of your league, etc. Just like the cliché phrases I mentioned above...these things are hard to spot until you deliberately go looking for them. Something that I′m doing more often these days. (Wish me luck!)
So, take some time to make a mental note of all the places where you may stumble as a writer. What words do you have trouble spelling, what phrases do you use more than is necessary, what common themes do you have running through every story you write. Self analyze, figure them out, and then make an effort to correct those bad habits when you′re writing. If you have to make a physical notebook or webpage dedicated to the things that you feel you need to keep in mind...do it! No harm in that. Keep it close to you, and practice until you have it drilled into your brain where it′ll stay as a practical part of your writing process.
It won′t take long. Promise. And you can knock these constant errors down one at a time.
Hope this helps! And happy writing! ((Hugz))
Anyone who has ever read any of my personal story reviews of another author's story will almost always find a common theme popping up in my critique. Whether it's said in a positive or negative way, I am constantly pushing for people to give more and more detail in their work. (As a suggestion, of course.) Not in every single scene that they write about, but in a few choice scenes that I find myself wanting to dive deeper into as a reader. Now, that's just my opinion, and writers can take it or leave it as they see fit. But I can't help but feel like there are some events in the stories that I read where an entire chapter could be built around the scenes or plot points that writers sometimes choose to skip over. So, please feel free to absorb or dismiss this article if you want. Hehehe, no hard feelings. Promise. But as a reader and a lover of online fiction myself, this is what I see, and what I look for. And I'm hoping that I can give other writers something to think about while putting out new projects.
Imagine that you were watching a movie about the Titanic, or 9/11, or...hell...the life of Jesus Christ, as told by the Bible. And you're totally invested in the story being told...but, at the last minute...you got robbed of the (Sorry to say it this way...but...) the dramatic 'punchline' of the whole story? What if the Titanic hit the iceberg, and the screen faded to black, and then came back up to show a few people in a lifeboat saying, ″Man...that sure was a tragic experience!″ What the…? There was SO much that happened in the previous moments that, conveniently, got skipped over without any detail at all! You can't just 'skip' that shit! Hehehe! You can't skip the falling of the Twin Towers, or the Crucifixion. These are major parts of the story that you're trying to tell, and where your most potent descriptions will become the payoff for every person who had traveled this far on the journey with your characters and your writing in general. Choose those moments. Flesh them out. Don't build up to fake promises, if you can help it. There's SO much more of a story to tell in the small places that you might ignore or shrug off in order to get back to other parts of the story that you're more comfortable with, or may feel are more interesting. That can be damaging your storytelling ability as a whole in the long run.
So...let's talk details...
Read the stories that you've written so far. Go back, skim over them, reminisce over how awesome it was to finish those projects and put them out for a beloved audience to read. I don't want to suggest that there's anything wrong with them! Not at all. This isn′t about criticism. It′s about ′enhancement′. These stories might be truly incredible as they are...but is there a scene or two that you might have wanted to elaborate on? I know that I am notorious for being extremely 'wordy' and repetitive in my stories in many people′s eyes, especially the older ones that I wrote years ago. But even now, I regret not going into more detail about certain key scenes in some of my projects. I didn't know how to pick my moments back then. I was always racing to hurry up and get to the end of the story without really filling in the gaps that, ultimately, proved to really matter and stand out as some of the most memorable scenes that readers took to heart and ended up remembering in vivid detail. I didn't have the patience back then that I do now. I think lots of practice makes a difference.
When you're writing a story, it's easy to overlook a lot of details because the characters and storyline exist in your head before ′putting it on paper′. You see it so clearly. You know where it came from and where it's going, so moving from point A to point B is as easy as building a simple bridge between the two sides. 'This' happened, and then 'that' happened...and all I have to do is write some fluff in the middle to connect one big event to another. That'll work, right?
No. It won't. Not the way you think it will. Your readers don′t have access to the full picture the same way that you do. The translation of your ideas to an audience is where the true talent lies. You have to be able to get readers to see your vision. That′s the whole point, right?
I can't speak for everyone on this, but I can always tell when a writer is trying to rush from one major scene to another, and not really taking the time to focus on the cohesive situations that bind one moment to another. I can 'feel' it. I think that it's important to look at our own projects and find those 'passover' sentences that we use to progress the story forward, but don't really give the readers an idea of what those few sentences really mean.
″I haven't been the same since my parents' messy divorce. The way that it happened...it just ruined my idea of love, trust, and loyalty, in general. And that's why I feel hesitant to give my heart to Michael. Even though he's offered me a promising way out of my predicament.″
Nothing wrong with that short collection of sentences. It conveys emotion, and it progresses the story forward, where a lot is implied, but never said. Understandable. Sometimes, 'less is more'. I get it. However...when I read something like that, I immediately start asking myself questions. What's a 'messy divorce' in his eyes? The way what happened? What did he go through? How did he feel about it? What did Michael offer him as a way out, and why did it work? There's an entire CHAPTER worth of flashback information in there with the amount of questions that I have about what was just said. You know? It doesn′t take a 1500 word essay to explain it...it can be done in just a few sentences. But I kind of want to know what happened there.
A ′messy divorce′? Did one of his parents cheat? Did they just not get along? Was there a lot of fighting in the house? Was it abusive or just a scary experience from the main character′s point of view? Just a few sentences can give us a whole new perspective on his outlook on love and relationships and a whole lot more. It explains his discomfort in giving his heart away. It provides another layer to what he′s feeling, and how those feelings affect his behavior. So, if I personally read that in a story, this would be one of those moments that I′d be commenting on, and asking questions about. What happened there? If I keep reading...will this come up again later? Am I missing some important information? Will I find out more later on in the story?
Hehehe, I have a ′noisy′ imagination! Sorry. But I know that some other people do too, and they′ve called me out on some of the scenes that I′ve skipped over as well. And they were totally right to do so. I just didn′t see it until later.
I think the key is rereading the stuff you′ve written, and actively searching for places where you might ′hint′ at something exciting and important happening in your stories, but don′t really go into detail about it. Ask yourself...is there a ′scene′ in there somewhere? Something that will actually add something to your story?
Don′t get me wrong...if your characters are standing in a room...you don′t have to mention the temperature on the thermostat or describe the wallpaper. That′s not what I mean. It′s more like...
″My boyfriend and I had a fight earlier today. It just left me in a bad mood when I went to work.″
Raise your hand if you′d like to know what that fight was about! Or, if you′re ambitious...to even create a scene with dialogue and all to let your readers be a part of that argument! Sometimes, that tiny bit of detail can really draw your audience into the lives of your characters, even if it′s not the main drive of your story. Take a few moments and create a full experience, you know?
I hope this doesn′t sound like I want people to be more wordy when they don′t have to be! LOL! I swear that it′s not my intention. Just look at your work and see if you can pick out sentences here and there that target certain scenes that could use a bit more fleshing out. Be aware of your opportunities.
Funny story...one of my best friends was telling me a story that he saw on the news afew years ago, and I hadn′t heard about it yet at the time...and he was like, ″Yeah, there were these two naked homeless guys on a bridge, and one of them was doing this bath salts drug, and he was actually EATING the other guy′s face! The cops showed up, and he didn′t go down when they shot him, and they thought it was some ′zombie apocalypse′ type of stuff″ (That′s a true story, by the way!) But I just broke out, laughing hysterically! Like...WTF??? There is SO much more of that story that I′m not getting! You STARTED with two naked homeless guys on drugs on a bridge! There are like...25 steps missing before I reach the ″How the fuck did we get HERE???″ stage! LOL! That′s what I′m talking about. Some statements made in your storytelling might just need a ′touch′ of finesse to paint a full picture for your readers to jump into. Something to depict a more layered vision of what′s going on, and bring your readers in to peek behind the curtain and become involved in it. That′s all.
Keep asking yourself questions during the self editing process. If something was sad...why was it sad? If something tragic happened...what was it? Describe it for us so we can feel the weight of it all. If the main character finds someone super beautiful, or super annoying, or hilariously silly...show us why! Add a short scene to demonstrate that. Put yourself in the moment, and then expand on it so your audience can be right there with you.
It takes practice to recognize these moments, and nothing in art is perfect...that′s what makes it art. But if you′re looking to make a few baby steps towards making your stories a little more involving...give this a try. You might just enjoy it!
As always, I hope this helps! And I wish you guys the best!
Raise your hand if you′ve been on a roller coaster before! Hehehe, I′m just kidding. It′s the internet, I can′t see you raising your hand! Trust me, if I could set up spy cameras around you, it would be in the shower...not next to your laptop! ::Giggles::
Seriously, though...when riding a roller coaster, you experience certain peaks and valleys. You slow down in certain sections of the ride, left anticipating the next big ′dip′ with baited breath...and then everything speeds up and races through whatever loops and scream-inducing tricks you′ve got planned for your riders to go through. Roller coasters don′t just take you up into the Stratosphere and then let you race all the way down to the bottom in one fell swoop. I mean, that might be exciting for some, but...change it up a little bit, you know? A few twists and turns, a few loops, some variety! I think it just makes for a fun, and ultimately more realistic, experience in the stories we write.
Try this exercise for a week...
Starting on a Monday, take notes on everything that you did for that day. What you did, what you had for breakfast, interesting conversations you had, maybe some drama that you experienced...whatever. Just take notes, detailing your life for seven days in a row, and look at that list when you′re finished.
What happened during the last week of your life? Was there a huge betrayal of your trust? Was there an explosion at work? Was there a screaming match between you and a co-worker where somebody had a drink thrown in their face and turned over a dinner table in a public restaurant? I mean, the big theatrics are really entertaining in some stories...but is that real life? Or is that a reality show on prime time TV?
When I′m writing, even though I have a virtual FLOOD of ideas that I want to add into the plot to really make everything exciting and addictive and a ′roller coaster′ ride for everyone reading...I have to be aware of the reality of the situation. And that is this...
A story can′t be ALL drama, ALL the time! Hehehe, it just can′t. It can′t be all sex, it can′t be all action, it can′t be all horror, it can′t be all misery. I can remember when I first started writing...I wanted to write the sexiest, most explosive, stories ever made! Hehehe! But...that gets old SO fast if you don′t vary things up a bit with some character development from time to time. If you read my earliest stories, there was sex in every chapter. Sure, I tried to create a decent story to go along with it...but after a few chapters in each story, I mean...how many ways is there for the characters get ′naughty′ with one another? How many ways are there for me to describe the act? And if you have sex in every chapter, it becomes predictable and almost meaningless. For me, ″On The Outside″ was the first story on the site where sex didn′t happen in the very first chapter. That broke the mold. I took more time on the story and the characters and the conflict between being ′in′ or ′out′ of the closet. Most of my writing took a left turn after that. It was much closer to what I wanted to write in the first place. Stories where sex wasn′t the centerpiece of the story, but a fun little bonus to the romance involved.
With some of my other stories, I included a lot of ′soap opera′ type drama, which was always fun and challenging and I had a ton of fun with it...but even then, I had to learn that there have to be moments of normalcy in the text in order to make the drama stand out when it happened. If you′re writing a story, and somebody is dealing with a major tragedy EVERY single chapter, or a massive heartbreak, or an explosive secret, or the main character is blowing up an oil refinery...whatever...then, chances are, you′re going to exhaust your audience pretty quickly. How long can you keep up that pace and still captivate your readers′ attention? It works fine if you′re writing a short story or a mini-series that only lasts two or three chapters tops. But if you′re writing anything longer than that, it can become tiresome. Peaks and valleys are needed to provide a much needed change up to your narrative. It can sometimes feel like you′re losing momentum, or that you′re getting distracted from your massive ′push′ to reach the next big gasp moment in your story...but, trust me...stories work better when you introduce a little bit of downtime between jaw-dropping events. It′s one of the many things that I′ve learned along the way through trial and error.
Now, this is not a green light to find ways to slow down your story or get off topic when you′re writing. One thing you don′t want to do is waste your readers′ time! The best way for me to describe the big scenes in your story is to imagine it like the sentences you write in every paragraph. Every paragraph can′t be a joke or a ′zinger′. Build up to your key moments with a few sentences so the punchline has a bigger impact. Then...you settle down a bit to finish your thought, and begin building up to the next moment. Does that make sense?
I definitely love writing stories where secrets are exposed, or where big break ups happen, or when extremely erotic scenes take place between characters. I love angst, I love scandal, I love action, and everything that comes along with it. But how can I expect those moments to have any real effect when I deliberately try to find ways to forcefully shove them into every single chapter that I write? Hehehe, it′s like watching a movie where an unknown character gets killed and you scream, ″Oh no! Not...′that guy′! Whoever the hell he is!″
Take your time. Think about how powerful you want your big moments to be. If you write a story where two guys become romantically involved in the first chapter, they′re having sex and moving in with one another in second chapter, and then he′s cheating on him in the third chapter, and then there′s a murder plot in the fourth chapter...ummm...unless your chapters are REALLY long and super descriptive in nature, I would say that things are moving a bit fast in my opinion. That′s a lot to handle in four chapters, and I′m not saying that I′m not guilty of it myself, because I most definitely am! Hehehe! Like I said, it takes time and practice and patience to get to a place where your writing instincts will tell you otherwise. Know when to push forward and when to reign it in a little bit. Give your readers a breather. Let them connect to your cast as though they were living the same kind of lives that you′re living in your seven days worth of notes. Chances are, they′ll relate better to your story, and it′ll come off as being a close representation of their lives too.
Remember, reader connection is fifty percent of the effort when sharing your art with an open audience. Don′t just put it on display...include them. They′re a part of this too.
So...keep in mind that I′m definitely not asking you to write nonsense or unnecessary filler to break up those big dramatic scenes that you might be so anxious and fired up to write and put out there for a big crowd reaction. That feels great for a while, but I′m telling you...it′s not sustainable. That gimmick will eventually wear thin. And if you don′t have likeable, well developed, characters and a decent story behind those ′soap opera′ moments...things can go South really fast for stories like that. Not for ALL stories, but I′ve seen it happen more times than not.
Anyway, I hope this article was a little food for thought! As always, these are all things that I′ve learned through years of trying to get it right! Hehehe, and I′m still not quite there yet, but there a few steps of trial and error that you can skip over if you know about the possible hindrance ahead of time! So good luck! And I′ll see you guys next weekend!
What is sex appeal?
Take a moment and really think about that. What is it that we find ′sexy′ about the people we dream about? Now, not everybody writes romance or sexually themed stories online, but that doesn′t mean that your characters don′t have some sort of appeal to them that acts as a direct interest to your main character. What is it that draws your protagonist in? What is the bait? Why this particular boy over all others? Today...we′re talking about sex appeal. What it is, what it isn′t, and how you can use it to get your readers to agree with you.
I think one of the biggest mistakes that an author can make is assuming that the fact that your love interest is ′pretty to look at′ is enough to make them sexy. Ummm...no. No more than it does in real life. Maybe back when you were twelve, that was enough to flip your life upside down, but we grow up. Our tastes evolve and our search for someone special becomes more nuanced and more complex. Your love interest might have the silkiest hair, or the bluest eyes, or the most mouthwatering ass that you′ve ever seen, and while that is tantalizing in a variety of ways...that appeal won′t last long. Even in a fictional story. At some point, your readers will think, ″Ok, so he′s hot. We get it. Now what?″ Usually, when I describe the love interests in my own stories, I try to do so through the eyes of the beholder. Now, is this boy the sexiest thing to ever walk the face of the Earth? Well, of course not! Hehehe! But to my PROTAGONIST, he is! He is precisely what that character finds attractive in another person. That is his personal vision of perfection and beauty. And that could change from character to character. I don′t want to ′dictate′ what is and isn′t beautiful to my audience, I simply want to put them in the mindset of the character they′re reading about. So, in terms of appearance, sex appeal is whatever the main character says it is.
And still, that′s not enough.
Depending on what you, personally, find attractive about someone...you can bring your love interests to life by bringing those traits to life through their actions and dialogue. Maybe you′re a sucker for a shy guy. Maybe you like the brooding bad boy type, with a hint of mystery. You might be attracted to a more confident and straightforward personality. An extrovert who′s always the life of the party. But others might like the quiet, homebody, type. Someone to curl up on the couch with, who you enjoy giving a poke or a tickle in order to get him to smile, even when he′s trying to hide his giggles from you. I believe that sex appeal is created by the bridge that exists between two people. What you want, what you like, and a few surprises that you didn′t even know came with the total package. Sure, he′s cute...but he likes the same music that you like. His top five movies and yours are almost identical. You have similar ways of seeing the world. Similar ways of carrying yourself. A similar sense of humor. And in the places where you are different from one another, it′s more of an intriguing opportunity to learn something new, as opposed to arguing over it. Sex appeal is all about connection. If you readers can envision your love interest and truly understand what makes him sexy beyond his physical attributes...then you′ve got them hooked!
Also, the smallest gestures can truly bring a character′s sex appeal to the forefront. The actions of your love interest can come off as adorable if made into a habitual character trait. I use this technique from time to time when I′m writing. Some characters might flick their blond locks out of their eyes every few seconds. Some lightly bite the corner of their bottom lip when they′re flirting, or might twirl their pencil when they′re being shy. Fidgeting can be really cute in a character, and a well-timed blush can create a sweet little ″Awww″ moment that will give your readers the appropriate warm fuzzies needed to stay connected to the character being mentioned. This is not to say that your dream boy has to be flawless. As, quite often, little imperfections and character quirks can end up being just as sexual appealing as any other gleaming attribute. Some of my characters can be really suspicious when it comes to being ′liked′, and they don′t understand why. Some characters can become extremely clumsy in tense situations. And some are just downright insane in the head. Hehehe! But that′s fine. Sometimes, being comfortable with your own imperfections can be just as sexy. Let them own it. Play around with it. It′ll be fun, I promise.
Just remember to always create a 3-Dimensional image when you′re attempting to create the ideal boyfriend for your story. There′s more to sex appeal than simply being easy on the eyes. And the best way to demonstrate that, is through the way he interacts with your main character. As you′ve heard me say a million times before...′show, don′t tell′. We don′t need your protagonist′s inner monologue telling us he′s cute, or he′s nice, or he′s funny. Well...prove it. Have him joke around and say something funny. Have him grab a flower out of his neighbor′s yard and hand it to your main character as a token of affection. Show us how he blushes and looks down at his shoelaces because he′s too shy to look your protagonist in the eye when he′s declaring his true feelings about him. The idea is to get your readers to fall as deeply in love with your romantic lead as your main character. There′s nothing like being able to wrap yourself up in the fantasy being displayed in front of your very eyes. Experiencing the joy involved when it comes to sharing some quality time with a boy that many would find so CUTE! ″If only I could find myself a boy like that! Wow!″
Bottom line, you can find more sex appeal in the glimmer of a set of bright eyes than you can in the sizable bulge in the front of their pants. Something as simple as a shrug, a kiss on the cheek, a witty conversation on a first date, or a smile shared from across a crowded room...can truly impact the people reading your story. There′s an intangible x-factor that hides deeply within the actions of your love interest. Bring it to the surface. Put it in the spotlight, and let your main character drool over it whenever he sees it first hand. Hehehe!
So keep that in mind, and you can build up the most lovable boys to ever grace the pages of the written word. With practice, of course! 😛
Hope this helps! And thanks for reading!
You know...there′s often a ′complaint′ that goes around about a lot of the Marvel Comic Book movies that I never really understood. That is the introduction of humor into their storylines. Now, there are some people that I know that could, quite literally, find something wrong with everything in existence. If God Almighty showed up tomorrow in white robes, 400 feet tall, with an entire symphony of angels singing His praises behind him, all surrounded with the brightest light ever seen by human eyes...there are people who would still shrug their shoulders and think, ″That′s it? I expected more.″ So sometimes people complain for the sake of complaining. But the same argument kept coming up over and over again. I hear friends say it, and family members, and people on youtube...I can′t help but to wonder...
What the heck is so wrong about having a sense of humor?
Why is that a bad thing? Have we reached a point where we all prefer to be depressed, angry, or somber all the time? I would, personally, like for my audience to have some fun with my stories the same way that I do. That′s not to say that I have to write a full-blown comedy, where there′s a joke every two or three paragraphs. But, even the darkest themed stories on my site have a touch of humor added to brighten the mood every now and then. Otherwise, they might come off as dreary and frustrating to many of the people reading. The key is to find clever ways to pick your moments, and deliver the appropriate wink and a smile when it will be most effective. So, I′d like to talk about adding humor to our stories today, and hopefully it′ll spark a few ideas to make your stories even more enjoyable than they were before.
Going back to the big blockbuster movie idea, superhero movies did not invent the habit of injecting jokes and humor into their scripts. ::Gasp:: Shocker! I know, right? ″Die Hard″ had humor in it. ″Predator″ had humor in it. Everything from ″The Matrix″ to ″Aliens″ to ″Nightmare On Elm St″ had humor in them! It′s ok to SMILE! Even when Jason Vorhees is hacking camping teenagers to bits in the woods...that doesn′t mean you can′t add a slight giggle here and there. The whole idea behind humor is to have fun! So that your readers can smile and think to themselves, ″I really had a good time reading that.″ We′re all human beings. Flawed human beings. And that means that we do some silly shit from time to time. We occasionally stumble over our words and say something goofy when we don′t mean it. We sometimes walk right into a glass door while looking at that really cute boy across the street. Sometimes we go to a job interview with spinach in our teeth and our zipper down. Hehehe, I don′t know! Whatever you want. It doesn′t have to be all knock knock jokes and witty one-liners. Sometimes it′s just a coping mechanism to deal with a potentially humiliating situation. Have some fun with your characters, and allow them a few golden moments of levity away from the misery of life so they can recharge their batteries and emotionally prepare themselves for what′s to come next.
When you really think about your life in general, I′m sure that you can find some times when something happened to you that, at the time, might have seemed like the end of the world. Times when you were mortified, or where you did something that you regretted...that you can now look back and laugh at. Not because it′s ′funny′, but because it′s life. Hehehe! I could write an entire novel full of those moments alone. I once joined the soccer team for a girl that I liked. I once had a crush on a girl and ended up sleeping with her brother! I used to dash out of class and practically RUN to the gym locker room because I wanted to see a cute boy from the class before me half naked and getting dressed! LOL! I′ve done some pretty ridiculous things in my life. Harmless, and perfectly logical at the time. But I can find the humor in it now, and a lot of those moments have found their way into my stories. Humor doesn′t have to make anybody double over with laughter, it just has to display some of the more ridiculous sides of life. It′s reality, reflected in a circus mirror. Use that as a tool. Stories can′t be all sex and drama. Keep it fun.
There are different kinds of humor that can be injected into a situation. For example, I have a character, ′Cody′, in the ″New Kid In School″ series who has a very sarcastic, almost abrasive, sense of humor. When used at just the right moment, that razor sharp tongue of his can make some pretty deep cuts. But I also offset that ′meanstreak′ by demonstrating that he has a good heart and is willing to stand up for his friends. So readers can forgive him for verbally ripping people apart from time to time. Hehehe! In the story, ″Shelter″, I have a young character named ′Preston′, who′s comical presence comes from his innocence and naivete. It′s offbeat and weird, but he′s too adorable to do much more than shake your head and think, ″Ok...whatever, kid.″ Having characters that you can put in charge of bringing some light to a dark situation can sometimes make them a crowd favorite. As long as you don′t overdo it. You don′t want to make them into a total cartoon. The need to feel like real people, just with a comic side to them.
If you′re adding humor to a story, and don′t have that comic relief character to work with, sometimes the situation itself is funny enough. Ever had your mom walk in on you while you were masturbating? Hehehe, NOT so funny when it′s happening to you! But having it happen to a fictional character in your story? There′s some comedic gold in there somewhere. Ever slip up and something stupid to someone you were head over heels in love with? Ever get a cramp in your leg during sex? Ever trip over your own feet and have a complete spill right in front of the object of your affections? Love makes us do crazy things sometimes. And if you′re able to view it from the outside, you can find the humor in some of our biggest romance failures...and bring them to your story in ways that are just as entertaining as they are refreshing.
The one thing you don′t want to do is have the humor take away from the dramatic moments and serious situations that you might be writing about. Like I said, you have to pick your moments. If you have a suicidal teen, crying his eyes out, and holding a razor blade to his wrist...that′s obviously not a place for a joke. Don′t try to inject humor when two best friends are locked in a terrible shouting match, or in the center of an abusive relationship. I mean, this seems self explanatory, but you have to be careful and make sure that you′re paying attention to what′s going on in the story at that particular moment. When you use humor, it takes center stage. Every time. So don′t use it during a scene when some other emotion or situation is supposed to be the focus. The humor will undercut everything and you will lose the tone that you created for that particular scene. So it CAN work against you if you try to force it. Only do it when it feels natural.
Now, I get it...not everybody thinks of themselves as being ′funny′. But you really don′t have to be a comedian to add humor to your stories. It can be very subtle. It can come from insecurity or awkwardness or outbursts of unexpected joy. Express yourself in the best way that you know how. Those awkward moments are something that we can all laugh at, because we can all relate. We remember. And looking back...hehehe, I wouldn′t change a thing. So never feel pressured to take the fun and humor out of your projects. Choose your moments wisely. And have some fun. Your readers will appreciate it. Even the ones looking for something darker.
The dark side can be funny too.
″His eyes were as blue as a half-melted crayon, his skin as soft as wet clay...with a smile that could warm my heart like leftover meatloaf in the oven. He was so beautiful.″
Hehehe, ok, so that′s not the best collection of phrases to demonstrate the use of metaphor and simile! LOL! But I write a LOT...so I need to save my best stuff for the stories themselves. But we can start here, just so you guys can get an idea of what I′m babbling about this week.
Easily put, metaphors and similes are the words and phrases that we use to further enhance the details of whatever it is that we′re trying to say. It′s like watching something on a regular TV screen, and then switching it to high definition for a better picture. (That′s a simile, by the way. It was meant to give you guys a better understanding of the straightforward sample of information that I had given you in the sentence prior. Finding ways to use these enhancements can add style and grace to your projects, and paint a more vivid picture for your audience to hold on to.
To get the most basic foundation of how to accomplish this...we must first recognize the subtle difference between metaphors and similes. They′re very similar in nature, but not one hundred percent. For me? I think the difference goes beyond the idea that similes use the words ′like′ or ′as′ in their descriptions. Even though that is often cited as the major rule when it comes to telling one from another. In your writing, these are tools that you can use to make comparisons between what you′re thinking in your head, and what your audience is reading on the page.
Whenever I see a description that seems very basic in a story...functional, but not overly telling...I always get this old comedy routine vision in the back of my mind. Hehehe! You know how the comedian on stage says something like, ″Man, my wife is SO ugly!″ And it′s the audience′s duty to all shout out, ″How ugly is she???″ And he says, ″She′s so ugly, she had to pay her own pillows to sleep with her!″ Cue laugh track. When it comes to metaphor and simile, keep that in mind. When you make a flat statement like, ″His eyes were so blue.″ And don′t go into any further detail...imagine your willing audience asking you to finish the line. This will get you to see the places in your work where just a little bit more info could really make the difference between a good story and a great story.
How blue were his eyes? What can you compare them too? What kind of picture can you paint, using just a few words, that will give your readers an idea of exactly what your love interest looks like? Think of all the many shades of blue there are out there. Are they a piercing dark blue? Are they a neon shade of light blue? Are they almost grey or silver? Picture your character in your mind...take that shade of blue...and draw a comparison to line up with something that your readers might recognize from their own lives. The idea is to get on the same page and have the same image floating around in your imagination. Your character is fictional. They haven′t seen his eyes. But maybe they′ve seen the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky. Use that.
″His eyes were so blue! Like the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky!″
Do you see what I mean? Your readers can take that simile, and match the exact color of your fictional character′s eyes to a color that they can clearly create a mental picture of, and you can both go on from there. This works for everything that you want to enhance along the way. His eyes might be as green as well polished emeralds. His hair might be as blond as strands of freshly spun gold. Or his lips may be as soft and warm as warm marshmallow. Whatever you come up with, take some time to match the ideas in your head with something familiar and appealing to your readers, stimulating their senses and bringing them further into your personal online portrait. Most of your readers know the feel of soft blankets against their skin. They know what heartbreak feels like, what fear of rejection feels like, or the smell of freshly baked bread. Whether your descriptions are surrounding something tangible or intangible...a little practice can make this part of the writing process SO much fun! Hehehe! Just sayin′!
Now...what I′ve been using have all been similes so far. Using ′like′ or ′as′ to cue the readers that the statement I′m making is a comparison, but not a literal one. Metaphors are slightly different. With metaphors, your statements are being made as if they were literal, even when the audience knows, deep down, that it isn′t. Metaphors might seem like they′re a little bit fancier, due to their wording being a bit more complex in some cases...but it′s really just a slight variation on the use of simile, where the comparison is more implied than told. It′s a bit more abstract.
For example, if your main character thinks to himself, ″The butterflies in my stomach went wild, their fluttering wings slapping against my heart while I fought for breath.″...ummm, that′s not literal. Hehehe, or, at least I HOPE not! Unless you′re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or maybe even horror...I′m going to assume, as a reader, that you′re using metaphor to describe a feeling of nervousness and discomfort. I′m not actually picturing a nest of insects in someone′s belly, nearly suffocating him as he struggles to survive. That would be...weird. However, this use of metaphor has the same effect. The idea of ′butterflies in your stomach′ is something that people can associate with when approaching a situation that they find nerve-wracking or scary. Readers can identify with the feeling of it being hard to breathe when talking to someone they′re infatuated with. So metaphor serves the same ′HD TV′ function as simile, it just uses a little more finesse to do it. Similar, but different.
″I may have a few dark parts within me, but his presence in my life was like a ray of sunshine. It′s like he brightens up everything with his presence alone.″
″He brightens up everything. His presence alone, a ray of sunshine to steal away the darkest parts of me.″
The first is delivered as an attempt to give an explanation to readers who may want a bit more clarity, while the second is delivered literally...even though it′s obviously not a literal statement. The end result is the same, and the message has been sent. Congrats, writers! You just connected to your readership, and your vision is now right there for them to use to further engage in your story! That′s awesome!
Now...that being said, you have to know when to use metaphor and when not to. Every word of your project doesn′t have to be some overworked stream of flowery text and Shakespearean poetry. It′s fun to show off every once in a while, but choose your moments. Sometimes, it′s better to keep things simple. You don′t have to say, ″There was a determined rapping against the wood at the entrance of my domicile, the familiar sound of covered bone connecting to a hard surface, trying to grab my attention.″ Hehehe, it′s ok to just say, ″There was a knock at the door.″ No need to get carried away with the little things. But, in those moments when you feel a little flair and finesse is warranted, get your thoughts together and swing for the fences! Picture the comparisons that you want to make, and then make them a part of your story. Try to get your readers to visualize things the way you see it in your head. The end result might not be exact, but the closer your connection is to your readers...the more powerful your imagery will become as your story expands on that original foundation. They′ll see it like you see it, and that makes it easier for you to get your vision across in the most potent way possible.
Give it a try! Or, better yet, pay more attention to the metaphors and similes that you′ve used in the past. I′m sure that it has come, quite naturally, to many of you authors out there. You may not even notice you′re doing. Signs of true passion and natural talent! Never feel weird about studying your own process. And once you take a closer look at your work, find ways to get even better.
Challenges are the ′fun′ part! Hehehe!
I hope I made some sense with all this! And I hope it helps! Take care! And happy writing!
There are going to be times, every now and again...when the written content of your stories may take a very dark turn, or veer off into situations that are somewhat uncomfortable for other readers to absorb as readily as they do some of your 'brighter' themes. This can be an intimidating atmosphere for you to thrive in. The gritty realities and graphic nature of the story that you want to tell may be too much for some of your readers to handle or understand. But, while there is the temptation to avoid darker themes and controversial material at all costs, especially with the sheer brutality of the typical ′internet comment section′ working against you...I say GO for it anyway! They′ll get over it. The people who pretend to be the most offended by the story you wrote have NO problem ripping the author to shreds with their opinions. So you might as well balance things out by treating them the same way when you′re writing what′s in your heart. Hehehe, that being said, there are ways to tell a ′heavy′ tale without having it totally wreck the lives of the people absorbing it for the first time. Still, there are some stories with sensitive, and sometimes disturbing, details that deserve to be told. Whether your reading public is ready for it or not isn′t your concern. They have the option to stop reading. Period. But, as a writer, you have the right to bleed through your words and tell your story any way that you see fit. You just have to find a way to keep things ′accessible′ so at least some of your audience can latch onto it, and appreciate it for what it is. That′s the topic that I′m going to tackle today. So let′s get DARK!
The thing about many of these darker themed stories you may read online...is that they often come from a very personal place in the heart of the writer. It′s not always an author trying to be dark for the sake of being dark. Sometimes, it′s a much needed healing process, translated into fiction and created to convey some kind of message or express some sort of personal tragedy. Stories of loss, heartbreak, suicide, rape, physical or emotional abuse...they can be extremely hard to digest for some readers. And if they take it too close to heart, they may end up turning away from the project instead of dealing with the turmoil the story is putting them through. That′s understandable. But if this is a story that you really want to tell, something you really want to put out there for public consumption, then do it. Why not? Get it off of your chest. Share it with other people who might relate and feel even closer to the work than you do. You may touch something deep within them that they haven′t fully dealt with themselves. So every paragraph may end up being a therapy session for the both of you. Again, these stories are often very personal in nature. You′ll never find a more exposed artist than one who is delivering you an unrestricted look at their pain. There′s a rawness in it. Strip every piece of armor away and speak from the heart. It connects to an audience in a way that your ′happy go lucky′ romance stories just can′t. So, if you′ve been holding off on giving a dark themed story a try...maybe you′ll change your mind and step up to the plate after you finish this article.
Hehehe, I′d love to read it! But, then again, I happen to be a very dark individual, myself, at times. So that′s just me.
There are a lot of readers out there who use fiction as an escape from the problems and stressful impact of the world at large. They may be looking for something cheerful, or uplifting, or inspirational. But that may not be the kind of story that you want to tell. And that can shake a percentage of your audience out of their comfort zone in ways that they weren′t looking for and don′t appreciate in the long run. When it came to some very painful memories about my own past, and I felt the need to talk about it and add them to one or two of the stories that I was writing for the site...I had some difficulty with it at first. I dealt with some extremely abusive memories growing up in a household with a father that was...ummm, less than fatherly. I remember adding ′elements′ of that abusive relationship in a few stories, but I clearly wasn′t ready to tackle that situation yet. Especially when I added it (Briefly) to ″New Kid In School″. If you notice, that plot point was rather quickly written out of the story, and never brought up again. I simply wasn′t practiced enough to take the theme head on like I wanted to. Not at that time. In ″Gone From Daylight″, I tried to do the same, but it was a side story until I was more comfortable talking about it. However...when the time came where I really wanted to tell a ′no holds barred′ account from my personal experience with physical domestic abuse...I started writing ″My Only Escape″, and that was the right time for me to do so. That was my release. A lot of that story is autobiographical, and I still have moments where I have to deal with the aftermath of what happened way back then, even when I would rather leave it behind for good. But it was a story that I felt was dying to get out, and since it′s first chapter, I have received sooooo many emails from people who could relate in one way or another. Emails of support, and sympathy, and encouragement, as well as messages of people who had gone through similar experiences (Or who were younger, and experiencing them currently). I have NO regrets, whatsoever, about finally writing that story, and waiting for a time when I was emotionally stable enough to get it right. If you have a painful part of your past that you want to bring to the screen, and tell from a perspective that only others in your position can truly understand...then don′t wait. Do it. Pour your whole heart and soul into it. Let your voice be heard, and know that your writing had an impact on your readers that they′ll remember. Good or bad.
Three things to remember when writing a story that may come off as a bit disturbing to your readers, are as follows...
Give it meaning! If you′re going to sink into some truly dark themes and bring that into your story, make sure that you′re doing it for a legitimate reason. NOT for shock value. Shock value doesn′t last long, and will ultimately just become a part of your story that people would rather forget about instead of taking it to heart. If you′re going to have a rape scene, or a drug overdose...a suicide attempt, or someone battling terminal cancer...then I think writers should make sure that it is actually a part of the main character′s growth and evolution as a person. Don′t just throw it in there as some kind of sucker punch to your audience. That′s just plain MEAN! Hehehe! If a character of yours has recently beaten Leukemia? Then have that be a part of his or her personality. What outlook do they have on life now? Maybe they′re super excited to get back to living their lives. Maybe they′re angry at the time they lost battling the disease. Who knows? That′s up to you. But let it be known that the dark circumstances of the story had some meaning, and some impact on how the rest of the story plays out.
Don′t go overboard! Scenes of extreme violence and sexual abuse are hard to read. If it′s a part of your story, and you don′t want to pull punches about the reality of what happened…then use your own judgment when it comes to what you say and what you don′t say. I′m not saying that you shouldn′t include some of the graphic details needed to get your point across...but keep in mind what your goal is. You don′t want to depress and disgust your audience. Evoking sympathy and an emotional bond, capable of getting your readership to cheer for your main character is great! But let′s not drag our readers down so low that they can′t recover. Learn to ′allude′ to certain parts of your story, and go into painful details about others. As always, its important to find a balance. Don′t ′bully′ your audience into sharing a truly disgusting experience in a way that overpowers every other aspect of the story that you′re trying to tell. I think it′s important to not let the dark content take center stage, when it′s the characters and how they deal with the content that should be the focus of your story.
Give us hope! No matter how horrible a character′s life may seem, no matter how graphic you are with the details of their suffering...readers will struggle through it if they think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Give us a few brief glimpses of joy. A possible solution to the tragedies they′re facing from chapter to chapter. If all you′re bringing to the table kis pain and murder and rape and misery...your audience will eventually get turned off and go elsewhere for a story that doesn′t make them feel like shit every time they read it. BUT...if you dispense some truly awful scenes here and there, but combine them with possible ways out of their situation...opportunities to experience some level of happiness if only they could get away...then people will keep reading. They may be disturbed and disgusted by the events that are currently taking place...but with just a few hints at a hopeful outcome, they will continue to read to see if things get better or that justice is served for the character involved. Be proud of that. It means that you told a great story and that people sympathize with your situations, no matter how dark they may be. This doesn′t mean that every story has to have a happy ending. It just means that you have to give your readers a break from the misery every now and then, to let them believe that things are not as dark as they may seem. At least for a little while. Think of it the same way as swimming underwater. Let your readers come up to the surface for a breath of fresh air every now and then before they drown. K?
The world isn′t always a happy place. Not by any means. And the stories of the abused, the less fortunate, and those in turmoil, are just as important as the uplifting stories that are told elsewhere. But there′s a skillful way to deliver that message without sending your audience running for the hills.
As always, I hope this helps you out! And I′ll be back soon for more! ((Hugz))
Not long ago, I wrote a short article on the concept of ″Show, Don′t Tell″, and made sure to add that both sides of the equation are needed to tell a good story. When it comes to exposition, it is the skillful use of both show and tell in unison that can give your story a smooth and natural feel, while still giving the audience the tools it needs to fully understand what′s going on. Finding a way to finesse both sides takes a little practice, but once you nail it down, it will pretty much become automatic in your writing process. So that′s the topic for today! Let′s talk ′exposition′!
Exposition is basically a way to fill your readers in on everything that′s going on with your story. Details like time, location, character details, what period the story takes place in, and more. Who are these characters? Where did they come from? What is their background? It′s fuel for the imagination, and it gets the writers and their readers on the same page as far as kicking things off and keeping them going from beginning to end. This is especially important if writing something from the supernatural or science fiction/fantasy genre, or in a story that takes place during some sort of past era or during a historical event. The world building aspect makes exposition super important so your readers can grab onto the rules of society and boundaries put in place for what they′re about to read. Now, exposition is a bit more ′tell′ than ′show′, but I′ve always thought that it was important to figure out how to find a decent balance between the two, regardless. Doing it out of balance can slow the entire flow of your story, and that′s not good. There are two ways of delivering exposition...narration (Or simply what you write about the characters and their situation) and dialogue (What the characters say out loud to one another). Without balance...giving an entire ′info dump′ of narration all at once can seem a little complicated and boring. While having a character deliver 100 years worth of backstory in one long winded speech can seem weird and unnecessary. It would be like randomly asking a stranger on the bus how they′re doing and having them tell you their life story without so much as taking a break to realize that you only wanted to hear, ″Fine. How are you?″ as a response. We want to give readers details, but we don′t want it to be a stumbling block in the story itself. Not easy, but possible.
One thing that I′ve learned over time is that exposition goes a lot smoother when it′s spread out over time. Not only does it keep your audience from getting bored, but it actually makes future chapters more engaging as your audience finds out a little bit more information as they keep reading. Things get a little deeper, layers are added, characters become more developed. It builds momentum in your storytelling. Much better than explaining everything all at once in the first ten pages of your story and having everyone try to remember it all for later use. Many readers look at exposition and treat a lot of the info as, ″Is this going to be on the test?″ So trying to cram a ton of details into their brain all at once can be a bit of an overwhelming experience. Trim it down. Think about what′s most important for them to know right away, tell them what they need to know to get started, and then add more details along the way. I′ve always found that it works out better that way in terms of reader involvement.
So, how do we choose between ′showing′ and ′telling′ when it comes to delivering the important information? And how do we trim it down in an efficient manner?
When I first started writing stories on Nifty, I used to always make sure that I mentioned the fact that my main character was gay. I was still brand new to writing gay fiction, and I always felt it was necessary to make that distinction so my readers wouldn′t suddenly be caught off guard. That...was totally unnecessary. Hehehe! I was writing gay fiction on a gay website for gay readers. There was hardly any ′surprise′ involved when it came to the fact that my main character was a homosexual. So I don′t feel the need to add that detail anymore. That can be ′shown′ to anyone reading, simply by stating the fact that this is a boy who finds another boy attractive. The fact that he′s gay is demonstrated through his feelings and his actions, and the audience will immediately come to the conclusion of, ″Oh, so he′s gay. Got it. Moving on.″ Done. The information has been delivered, and I didn′t have to muddy up the waters by explaining to my readers what′s going on. They got the memo, now let′s keep going.
You can ′tell′ your readers what they need to know without actually ′telling′ them at all. Use your prose to set up situations that will deliver the message you want them to receive. Like...you could begin a story like this:
′It was a particularly cold Winter night. I was huddled in a tent with three other soldiers, dreading the next battle against the Confederates that was sure to come just before dawn. I think about my dearest sister Eliza, back home...and I pray that her and the baby are alright.′ Now...in those first few sentences, you can cover a lot of ground in setting the stage for your audience. What has this small section suggested to us as readers? We know that it′s Winter time. We know that our main character is a soldier during a time of war. We know what side he′s fighting for and what side he′s fighting against. We know that he′s frightened and worried about going into battle. We know that a battle is quickly approaching. We know that has a sister, named Eliza, and that she has a baby back home, and he loves them both dearly. There we go. ALL of that information was given to your readers in the first three sentences of your story, and your audience is immediately engaged in what′s going on, and intrigued by what might happen next. You don′t have to explain the entire history of the Civil War, or talk about the horrors of combat, or mention that the soldier is straight or gay or anything like that. The audience has the foundation set for the story you′re trying to tell, and that′s all they need for right now. Later on, maybe you write a scene where the soldier wakes up the next morning, and while feeding on breakfast rations, your main character looks over and sees another soldier that he thinks is beautiful beyond words. (″Oh, so the main character is gay″) You can use that moment to mention that he′s been camping out with them for the past three months, you can give his infatuation a name and a description, you might hint at a few friendly moments between them that gives your audience a hint of their relationship...and then jump right back to the main plot of the story. Just give bits and pieces of information at a time when it′s useful, and keep your momentum going forward. Don′t stop for an info dump of details that aren′t directly relevant to that particular scene.
The same goes for all stories. At the very beginning of ″Jesse-101″, I started off with a bit of narrative exposition to detail an event that led up to the exact point where the story begins. Something that I felt was necessary to set the stage. But after those first few paragraphs, the main character, Tristan, is simply talking to his best friend, Lori, in his bedroom. While the opening scene is mostly dialogue, I tried to use their back and forth conversation to deliver the exposition needed for the audience to get a clear picture of what was going on and dive right in with no further explanation. Just from their banter, you learn that Tristan is in high school, he′s only out to his best friends and no one else, that he and Lori share a history of friendship together, that Tristan sees himself as being a bit ′sissy-ish′ and doesn′t have much in common with other boys his age, that he′s dealing with a recent rejection...that one conversation delivers a TON of needed information to the readers about the story, but without just having me write the details down in a narrative with no human interaction or emotional involvement. The bonus to giving exposition through dialogue is that you not only get important details and story plot points out there, but you get a sense of your characters′ personalities as well. You kill two birds with one stone, and you flawlessly move from ′tell′ to ′show′ without your audience even being aware of it. See? It′s all magic! Hehehe!
So...all in all, exposition is a part of writing a good story. It′s necessary. I know that there are critics who will pick it apart and try to make the ′E′ word something awful and lazy and worthy of dismissal, but it′s not. It is a necessary function when it comes to telling an effective tale and bringing people into the world that you′ve created. Don′t be afraid to give your readers a map to navigate through the situations that you′ve got planned for them, but don′t be afraid to have faith in their intelligence either. The actions and dialogue of your characters will infer and display the story details your readers need to know for them to understand what′s happening without you telling them directly. They′ll get it. ″Oh, this person is taking an insulin shot every morning before breakfast. He must be diabetic.″ Or, ″The main character is being woken up by his mom opening the shades and telling him to come down for breakfast. He must be a teenager.″ Or, ″This guy is wearing a skin-tight costume, and he′s perched on a rooftop looking down at the dark city landscape for criminals doing wrong. He must be some sort of hero or vigilante.″ Whatever. ′Tell′ in some parts. ′Show′ in other parts. And train yourself to know the difference, and what will be most effective in any given situation.
Ok, I′ve babbled on for long enough! Stop reading this and get back to writing! The world needs more of your genius! Hmmm...I wonder if this whole article counts as exposition. Food for thought, I guess. Best of luck! And I hope this helps!
When writing a story of your very own, I think there is an added effect that comes from using your own personal experiences as a blueprint for the writing itself. Your memories, your feelings, your beliefs, your personality...drawing from these sources gives the whole feel of a story a certain ′touch′ that can′t be achieved by just putting words on the screen. You may often hear the term, ″write what you know″ being thrown around a lot, and I couldn′t agree more. No matter what the content of your story may be, there is an underlying meaning and emotion beneath the surface that your audience can connect to if you′re speaking from the heart. For example, you may have never been to the Moon (I′m assuming. Hehehe!), but if you write a story about two people falling in love in a Moon based colony, set fifty years in the future...your readers can still relate to the story that you′re trying to tell. They recognize feelings of infatuation, and love, and awkwardness, and beauty, and fear of rejection. The more honest you are with the emotions you are drawing from, the more relatable your story will become...even if the premise is something that your readers previously knew nothing about. Tap into that deeper meaning, that hidden ′something′, that captures the hearts of all people.
This can be accomplished by using your own life experiences as a map to find a loyal and appreciative audience. Your joy, your regrets, your fears, your triumphs, and your mistakes. Weave it into every word you write and let it become a part of your project. The result will be worth it! Trust me!
However, while your life and emotions may be a powerful source to pull from...that source is not unlimited. We only have one life to draw from, right? (Hehehe, again...I′m assuming!) We′ve only had one childhood, one college experience, maybe a handful of relationships, one set of parents, a select cluster of good friends...our experiences and memories create our view of the world, but there are only so many experiences that we can use as inspiration. And for authors who are writing a bunch of different stories at one time, or those of us who are writing a variety of completed short stories, one after the other...′formulas′ begin to form. Ideas may repeat themselves. Characters may seem similar to one another. Dialogue may become repetitive, situations may seem overly familiar, and common themes may begin to tire themselves out. But I′m here to tell you that you can master your own formula and use it to your advantage! So let′s get into it, shall we?
Let me begin by saying that there′s nothing wrong with being yourself in the stories that you write. The idea of having a ′formula′ isn′t something to cringe and shy away from. I, personally, write a LOT of stories on my site. Hundreds of chapters, spinoffs, shorts, etc. And there will be people who will try to tell you that they′re all the same story. They′re not. Trust me. One story might deal with coming out of the closet, another might deal with financial differences, another might be a vampire sci fi story, and another might involve domestic abuse. The themes in every story change all the time. The obstacles the characters face are different. The interactions are different. Some stories have a darker tone, while others are more comedic in nature. It′s more than just changing the title and the character names to differentiate one story from another. It takes hard work and dedication to keep coming up with new angles to view life and love from. But it′s possible. Always keep that in mind. Like I said, we only have one set of personal life experiences to draw from. But the reason I write so many stories is because there are things that I want to talk about and issues I want to address that can′t POSSIBLY all fit into one story. It needs a story of its own. If I was just writing the same story over and over again, I would have gotten bored with it years ago.
I′ve actually learned to take the ′Comsie Formula′ comment as a HUGE compliment. To have someone recognize your particular voice and style in everything you write is incredibly flattering. Take what might be seen as a predictable formula and make it your ′signature′. Your stories are a part of you, and you′re a part of them. Take pride in that. Stephen King has a signature. Spielberg has a signature. Andrew Lloyd Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Elton John, and Pablo Picasso, have signatures. If it′s an honest expression of self, and your unique, literary, DNA has become evident in every story that you put out there, then isn′t that a good thing? People can read something and tell that it′s your work. Simply because your imprint relates to them in a familiar way that just feels like ′home′. Awesome! Readers will come back to read your stuff over and over again without question. Because you understand the underlying themes that bind us all together, allowing you to tell an infinite amount of stories that can, and will, hit every single time with your audience. Stick to what you know. Find ways to express what′s in your heart, and then work to get even better at it! The stories may vary, but the core remains familiar and entertaining, no matter what it is you′re writing.
I am a MASSIVE James Bond fan! I have been since I was a little boy, and I always will be! I, honestly, think that 007 is one of the greatest characters in cinematic history. The suave, charming but dangerous, spy...has been around since 1962...and they′re STILL coming out with another movie in 2019! Obviously, 1962 and 2019 have NOTHING in common! Hehehe! But the character evolves, changes, and reinvents itself, many times over...but still keeps the same ′feel′, without compromise. To the point where James Bond movies could feasibly go on forever! That is mind-blowing to me! Now, audiences have an idea of what to expect when they watch a Bond movie, but they may not realize that EVERY single movie has been following a very distinct formula since ″Goldfinger″! All of them. Same exact formula, and yet all of the movies, while the themes are similar, are vastly different from one another, and entertaining in their own right. Some of these formula ingredients are as follows:
Every Bond movie starts off with a mission that is mostly unrelated to the rest of the movie, and almost always involves a ′timer′ or ′countdown′ of some sort to get said mission completed.
This leads into the gunshot Bond intro, and an opening credit scene with a song by a currently popular artist or band, combined with a surreal montage of ′guns, gambling, and seductive women′.
Every Bond movie has an interaction with the Quartermaster (″Q″), who sets Bond up with a few technological spy gadgets that will ultimately come in handy later on in the film! (Remember my article on ′foreshadowing′? Hehehe!)
Every Bond movie has a meglomaniacal villain with a desire to take over the world in some way, and is accompanied by a special henchman. This henchman will have some sort of weapon, disfigurement, or ability, that makes them almost superhuman. A rival for Bond...but will end up dying due to Bond′s wits and skill. (Oh, and the evil base or lair ALWAYS blows up in the end!)
Every Bond movie has an extremely beautiful female character, who is there to help, hurt, or distract Bond from his task. This female will have a sexually suggestive name (Holly Goodhead, Plenty O′Toole, Pussy Galore, etc), and whether she is a friend or foe...she will end up having sex with Bond by the end of the movie.
Bond will meet the main villain for the first time, and beat him in a particular sport or game of chance. They will antagonize one another, but in a gentleman friendly way, and the villain will use that frustration to order Bond to be ′taken care of′ shortly afterward.
Every Bond movie, half way through, will have an intense chase scene of some sort. This chase scene will feature some variation of the original 007 theme! Yes...in EVERY movie! (Cars, boats, ski mobiles, tanks, trucks, etc)
And of course, the famous ″Bond...James Bond.″ line, and the vodka martini...shaken not stirred.
Here...take a few minutes and watch this short video, a montage of all the Bond movies combined...
Hehehe, God, I LOVE you, James Bond! LOL!
So, whether you′ve noticed it or not, decades of Bond films have all been closely connected to a core group of cinematic tropes that fans have all come to recognize and look forward to. To the point where we′d miss it if a part of the recipe was missing. Including Bond saying one of his famous quips after killing one of his enemies. It′s because there′s something about that formula that WORKS! It has been consistently successful for over 50 years now, and has appealed to a number of different generations without fail. It taps into that hidden space where we all relate and understand one another, despite our differences. Adventure and danger and sophistication and purpose. When you′re writing, no matter what your concept may be, always remember to return to those honest parts of yourself and make it a part of your project. That′s where your audience will find ′you′. And where you′ll find them in return. When reaching out to your readers, it′s that easy connection that can make or break the ′feel′ of a story.
Bottom line, draw from your real life. Something honest, something real. And no matter how many stories you write, no matter what anyone might say about you or your signature style...your fans will latch onto your story and truly feel in tune with what you′re doing. Your experiences share a lot more in common with other people′s experiences than you might believe. That heart and understanding is what will keep their attention. Every time. I′m not saying that you shouldn′t challenge yourself and try new things from time to time. I′m saying that it′s ok for you to be ′you′ in your writing. You′ve lived ONE life, and that story deserves to be told the way you want to tell it. Even if you tell it a million different ways. You′re a 3-dimensional person, with complexities and nuances that can be expressed in a variety of different stories. So go for it! Write a story when you′re angry. Write one when you′re heartbroken. Write one when you′re horny as hell! That′s three completely different stories right there...all coming from the same place. And if somebody recognizes your signature style...AWESOME! It′s a testament to your ability to become one with the text you type on a computer screen.
Let them see you. And allow your formula for success to carry you to new heights with every new release.
Hope this helps. And I wish you guys the best of luck!
Imagine that you're standing in the middle of a crowd of your readers and fans that absolutely love the stories you write and appreciate the love and energy you put into every word. Every single one of those loyal readers has a giant feather...and they surround you, lightly teasing and fawning all over you with those feathers, day and night. It's just a good feeling, you know? Hehehe, and there might ten, or twenty, or fifty, or one hundred, of them...giving you nothing but good vibes the whole time.
NOW...imagine that there is one person in that crowd...armed with a sharp, rusty, screwdriver. And that person runs up and STABS you right in the gut with it!
Hehehe, it doesn't matter how many fans you've got, or how many feathers...that's impossible to ignore. It hurts! And sometimes it cancels out everything else, and all you can focus on is the pain. If you're one of those people...then welcome to 'Part 2' of the 'Giving/Getting Criticism' blog post!
Oh yeah...it's our turn now!
Last week, I gave FIVE rules that I thought critics should keep in mind when reviewing stories online. That includes us, as writing peers, as well. This week, we have five rules of our own to think about when it comes to receiving that criticism. Hopefully, it will help us look at things from a different perspective, keep up our enthusiasm for something we love doing, and possibly take some of the 'sting' out of getting a few less than favorable reviews. So let's dive right in, shall we?
Writing can make you vulnerable sometimes. You may not even realize how much emotion you pour into the words you write on a screen. Feelings and memories and personal beliefs...desires, fantasies, hopes, and dreams. And when you're done, you've actually given birth to something that didn't exist before. You created something out of nothing, and it is so tempting to love that work unconditionally, no matter what anybody says about it. Don't feel guilty about that! It's a good thing. Be proud of what you done, and feel accomplished in knowing that there is a piece of you out there in the world that represents you as a writer and as a human being.
There's loving your story like a parent loves their child when they come home with a bad report card...and there's loving your work like the mother in the movie "The Bad Seed"! Hehehe! (If you don't know the reference, ummm...Google it) Fans and critics are two sides of the same coin. You simply can't have one without the other. It doesn't work that way. If you open yourself up to praise, then you have to open yourself up to ridicule as well. Your armor can't be selective when it comes to this, but if you stay in the right frame of mind, not only can you avoid some of the hurt and frustration involved, but you might actually come out better for it in the end. K?
So, here we go! These are my FIVE rules that every author and creator should take into account when getting criticism!
Rule #1 - Shields up! I realize that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve in order to tell an honest and emotionally engaging story...but the criticism will come your way. Expect it. And brace yourself for the impact. I say this because it's easy to make any negative comments on your work seem MUCH worse than they actually are. No one wants to admit to being sensitive, but let's be real about this...we're sensitive. There's nothing wrong with that. The harder you work on something and the closer it is to your heart...the more difficult it is to take criticism on it. At least for me, it is. Now, I happened to grow up with an abusive father when I was very young, and it was a very painful experience for me, trying to write that into the "New Kid In School" storyline. I approached it, but as comments came in, I found that I wasn't ready yet. I was much too close to the source and couldn't handle the critics' comments on that part of the story. Comments that weren't anywhere near as harsh as I made them out to be, originally. So, some of you may notice that the abuse element was quickly written out of the storyline and never mentioned again. I took another shot at it when I wrote "Gone From Daylight", where it is a side story to the main plot. And it wasn't until "My Only Escape" that I felt prepared to tackle the issue head on. And that took practice and a thicker skin to really tell the truth about some of the things I went through and was able to distance myself enough from the story to accept any and all comments about what was going on. When you have a tight connection to what you're writing, criticism can hurt. But DON'T take every unfavorable comment as a personal attack! It's not personal. To your readers, it's just a fictional story. We have to keep that in mind when reading their reviews of it. This is where you need to have your armor in place so that you can listen to what your audience is telling you with an objective eye and avoid making it personal. Have your shields ready! There are going to be times when you need them. Believe me.
Rule #2 - Shields down! Hehehe, remember when I told you to put your shields up JUST a few sentences ago? Yeah, well...you're going to need to take them down again! This is step two. The same vulnerability that you needed to tap into in order to create your story...you will need to tap into it again to accept the criticism you receive from readers, and improve as a writer. Again, this takes practice for some people. But there comes a time when we all have to be open to suggestions and try to see our own work through the eyes of the very people that we begged for validation in the first place. Hehehe, it's true! If you're asking for other people's opinion, expecting ONLY good news and nothing less than praise and worship...then you are in for a few harsh wake up calls in the future. And they won't be pretty.
One thing that you DON'T want to do is argue! Never get defensive and try to bully your readers out of their opinion. That is only going to make you look like a jackass. I've been guilty of that myself, and I regret it. I've learned better. If you feel the need to explain something to the reader that you think they didn't understand, then that's fine. Do so calmly and let them know why you made the choices you made. Or clue them in on the fact that you have a master plan in the works, and (without giving spoilers) they'll see the need for your story design in the near future. That's fine. But don't get into a war with your readers over how they truly feel about what you wrote. You won't change their minds and they won't change yours. It's an eternal stalemate before it even begins. Instead, thank them for their feedback, and examine their comments to see if they've made any valid points that could possibly point out weaknesses in your work. Try to look at things from their point of view. You're trying to be the best writer that you can be, right? Well, that means taking responsibility for your own flaws and blind spots...and then working to correct them. Writing a story isn't easy. Step up to the challenge. Your readers won't settle for anything mediocre when they're reading, and we shouldn't either when we're writing.
Rule #3 - DON'T get discouraged! Just because you get a few negative comments on a story, that doesn't mean that it's terrible and beyond redemption, or that you simply don't have the talent to write a story at all. As I've said in the past, the WORST reaction an author can get is 'silence'. If somebody is taking the time to comment and review your story at all, then you are already being given a gift that many writers never get. Even if the reaction is negative, you have captured the attention of a reader who took the time to let you know how they feel about something that you sat down and bravely put out there for public consumption. That's saying a lot. Appreciate that, and be grateful for the interaction. If you allow every negative comment to 'shut you down' in terms of continuing with the story...then you'll never get anything done, nor will you ever reach your full potential. Don't give up, don't put that story on the back burner or write it off as a loss, never going back to finish it. Have faith in your talent! Maybe you have a few stumbles along the way, but that's no reason to abandon the project. If you receive negative reviews on your work, make that an incentive to work even harder, as opposed to letting them beat you down. You had a dream to make your voice heard, and you're making that happen by expressing yourself your way. What's changed? Nothing. Keep writing. If you don't get them with 'this' story...you'll catch them with the next one. What's most important is that we all stay true to the stories that we want to tell. Do that, and we can conquer any criticism that comes our way. Always remember...we're creators. We create. Our job is already DONE before the critics ever get their hands on it. No apologies. K?
Rule #4 - Never be afraid to retrace your steps. Look at your feedback, both positive and negative, and see if there are any similarities in what they are trying to tell you. Whether they say, "AWESOME story! I think the part with the vampire unicorn was a bit weird, but other than that...I LOVED it!" or they say, "I didn't really like it. Sorry. The vampire unicorn thing? WTF was THAT about?"...there's an 'agreement' happening there. Hehehe! Go back and see why both positive and negative comments are stuck on the same problematic elements of the story. What did you do there? Can you see where they're coming from? Are there parts of your story that might need some tweaking or possibly need to be removed from the story altogether? Everything you write isn't going to be perfect. Even if you work hard on editing and revising it a million times in an attempt to do so. The whole point is to have your personal expression translated into words and feelings that someone else can understand and relate to. If that connection is broken, and they're not getting it...then you might want to go back and try to find a more accessible way of getting your message across. It's important that we really LISTEN to what our critics are trying to say to us. And that can really SUCK sometimes! LOL! But don't block them out. Because the worst, most hurtful, comments you'll ever receive might just end up bringing out the best in you. They may leave a few scars along the way, but if you come out better for it...then they're worth it, right?
Rule #5 - Know when to 'cash it' or 'trash it'! When you read criticisms of your work, and you've absorbed what it is what they had to say...you're left with a choice to make. Do I 'cash it'? And take their suggestions to heart in ways where I change up my way of writing and get better at doing what I do? Or do I 'trash it'? Because this person is just nitpicking and being rude without understanding how much time and effort I've put into making this story a reality? We have to know the difference. What you DON'T want to do is cave in every time somebody tells you that they don't like certain elements of your story! You can't please everybody. Don't try.
You will drive yourself CRAZY trying to chase the needs and desires of your audience. STOP it! K? You had a story in your heart that you wanted to write and share with people online. Write that story. You don't HAVE TO accept every suggestion that you get from your critics. Stand up for your choices as an author. Maybe you killed off a beloved character, maybe your story took on a darker tone, maybe you threw a monkey wrench into a previously 'perfect' relationship...wherever your instincts guided you in your writing, GO there! Why not? Just because your audience doesn't agree with your artistic choices, that doesn't mean that you have to change them. It's your story. You can do whatever you want with it. Follow your gut feelings and put out a project that you can truly be proud of...criticism be damned!
Me? I can be really 'wordy' in my stories sometimes. I make a lot of mechanical mistakes, formatting errors, continuity mishaps...I notice them a lot more now than I did when I was first writing my stories for the first time. So I'm still learning and challenging myself to do better with every chapter that I put out. But, despite it all, my goal is to maintain the flow and the emotion of every single story that I release. No excuses. And, while there are people who may not agree with some of the artistic choices that I've made, or the flawed presentation of the stories themselves...I hear your suggestions, but stick to my game plan. I'm stubborn like that. Hehehe! I think every creative mind reading this should be the same. Never let someone with a negative view on what you're written 'hijack' your story. It's YOURS! Own it. Both the good and the 'not so good'. Don't start kneeling down and surrendering to a group of people who think they know how to write the perfect story, and yet, all they do is instruct you on how to do all the hard work while they sit back and judge the end result. No. Stick up for your work. If you believe in it, and you think it truly represents your vision...then don't let anyone take that from you. Because there are people out there that will be overjoyed to read your story told YOUR way! Write for them instead.
So...there we go! As writers and artists, opinions and criticism is going to be a constant part of our lives, and while critics need to have a certain sense of grace and etiquette when approaching us, we need to display a certain sense of grace and etiquette when accepting and dealing with them as well. We can be a part of the problem too, and every critic isn't trying to cause you any embarrassment or emotional damage by letting you know that your writing could use some work. Be grateful for the feedback you get, whether it's cheers or jeers. K?
I hope this helps, you guys! Love you lots! And I'll be back with more soon! Later!
There are two sides to every story. And two sides to the critical review of every story, once it gets released. Hopefully, with a little bit of insight on both sides of the equation, I can help both the critics and the creators deal with their, often vastly opposing, views on what a good story is, and what it isn't.
This week, as the initial approach to a 'two-parter' blog post...we talk about giving and receiving criticism. Two sides of a coin that I don't think most people fully understand each other on these days. Especially on the internet, currently plagued by unprovoked rants and knee-jerk reactions. So I'm going to highlight FIVE points that I think both the critics and the creators need to recognize so we can all have a symbiotic relationship here. One that will ultimately be beneficial to both parties in the long run.
Now, seeing as I am a self-proclaimed author and one of the 'creators' myself, I'm going to use my insufferable bias and start off with the 'giving criticism' part of this article! LOL! Because, for every single person that has ever told an artist of any genre that they can't take criticism and are way too sensitive (I can't *TELL* you how many times I've heard that lame argument over the years), they need to look back at what they actually said to this person to provoke that particular response. Seriously. Some critics have gotten way out of control, and they have not been given the green light to be as hurtful and as brutal as they want to be to a writer, simply because they are viewing the extremely hard work of an individual and feel entitled to something more than what they got. So...with a certain level of grace, let's start with the rules of engagement aimed at the critics...
Rule #1 - Be constructive! For the love of God...have a point. When reviewing an author's work, think about what you didn't like about it, or what you thought could have been done better, and then give them your honest feelings on the matter. Simple, right? Not for some people. Don't just charge in like a wild rhino and send harsh comments like, "Your story sucks!" Not only is that not helpful in any way, but it's just plain rude and unnecessary and it makes you look like a total jackass. STOP IT! Take some time, read and absorb the writing as a whole, and find places where you think the story could use some improvement. What is it about the story that you didn't like? What turned you off? What questions did you have? What are some of the things that you felt were unfinished or needed more exploring. If you're taking the time to comment on somebody else's story, then we (as authors) should assume that you've put some actual thought into your critique, and have something more intelligent to offer than "I hated it, and you're not a competent writer because I didn't like it." Well...why? Explain in detail. If you can't make any valuable suggestions and articulate your distaste for said story...then you're not a critic. You're a 'heckler'. That's not the same thing. Also, along with the critique, feel free to mention what you liked about the story. You're taking the time to write a comment, right? Something about the story must have grabbed your attention and inspired you to review it. Make that a 3-dimensional part of your comment. "I liked the beginning, but I wasn't so crazy about how it ended." Then provide examples. While negative reviews might be hard to hear, this is the very purpose of feedback. "What did I do right? What did I do wrong?" Take some time and express yourself in your comments. It helps more than it hurts.
Rule #2 - The words you use? They matter. I'm sure that we all recognize the usage of words and the tone of voice in everyday conversation, even online. Not just as writers, but as human beings in general. Sometimes, there are language barriers that occur, worldwide, but try to be aware of what you're saying and how you're saying it, if possible. Use TACT when talking about the work of an individual who has just poured their entire heart and soul into a project that was meant to entertain you. NOT to ruin your day, or to frustrate you to the point of throwing a mini tantrum, simply because you don't like what you see. When reading a story that you think has a few flaws in it, feel free to be honest and let the writer know what might have confused you, or what might have been inconsistent from one chapter to the next, or if someone was acting out of character. These are criticisms that can actually help an author realize his or her mistakes and get better at their craft. But, please take a moment to calm down. The theatrics aren't necessary to get your point across. Why are you so angry? It's not an author's job to write 'your' story. It's an author's job to write their own story, and then share it with you. That's it. If you refer to an author's plots and their stories and their characters as...'stupid', 'annoying', 'weak', 'frustrating', 'cliche', 'contrived', 'bullshit', 'ugly', or any one of a thousand other negative descriptions that you would NEVER want to hear about yourself if you overheard other people talking about you, personally...then expect a backlash. Why would you do that? Every artist bleeds openly on the screen and reveals who they truly are in their writing, whether they know it or not. So when you make those nasty comments and use the 'just being honest' shield as an excuse, I think that's a cowardly way to express yourself. You can be honest and direct without being an asshole. Take it EASY, for Christ's sake. It's a fictional online story. Never forget that there is an actual person bearing the brunt of the humiliating rant that you're putting out in public for the whole world to see. Maybe you get off on hurting people for no reason. I do not.
Rule #3 - If you decide that you want to stop reading a story? If you decide to leave? Leave SILENTLY! Please, pay attention, because this is something that needs to be addressed. I'm SO sick of it, and I'm sure a lot of authors can agree with me on this one, even if there's a large group of readers out there who can't see it for themselves. If a story that you're reading isn't going the way you planned...if you feel the writing has gone downhill, or the plot is entering territory that you don't want to jump into...if you think the updates are too scarce or that certain story elements just aren't your thing...you may decide to stop reading. You might want to leave and find another writer that is more to your liking. And that is totally ok with me and with the authors that you've supported in the past. But...if you decide that their story is no longer an enjoyable read for you and you want to move on...then, just move on. Go away. Leave. It's alright. Just click on something else. No harm, no foul. Follow whatever story makes you happy.
Some people act as if they can't do that.
If you actually take the time to sit down and type out an angry email or post a nasty comment to specifically tell an author that you will no longer be reading their work because it's not what YOU want to read? Yes! I, personally, find that to be extremely rude, and you should stop thinking so much of yourself. Just leave. Why are you making an announcement about it? Why the big production? A reader that does this usually has one of three major motivations. One...they're trying to deliberately hurt the feelings of the author writing the story, and is just being cruel for the sake of feeling important. Two...they're hoping other people will see it and agree and feel empowered by damaging your story and your reputation as a whole. Or three...it's an empty threat that was made to emotionally manipulate you into writing everything their way instead of bringing your own personal genius to the written word the way that you intended from the very beginning. Neither one of these scenarios will make you look like anything other than a narcissist and a bully...so don't do it. There is content on the internet that you see every single day that you don't like, and you don't care for...but you don't feel the need to make some grandiose comment about every single one of them, do you? Why do it for THIS particular author? Why are you suddenly a 'warrior' for content that you don't agree with or enjoy? If you really care about the stories you read, and the authors that created them for your entertainment, then show your support for their hard work, and offer constructive criticism whenever you feel they give you less than 100% of their true effort. Don't INSULT them! And don't think that your departure from their readership is going to have some major impact on their fanbase that it didn't earn and doesn't deserve. That's your ego talking, and nobody asked you to walk away. There's the door. Exit of your own free will. We don't need to hear about it. Chances are, you never gave us any real love or support to begin with. No feedback at all. No comments. No emails. No word of mouth promotion. Nothing. So if your 'first' email to me is, "I'm not reading your stories any more!" My first reaction is probably going to be, "I didn't know you were reading my stories in the first place. Who are you, again???" What have I lost? Honestly.
Just stop reading. It's ok if you don't like a certain story. Nobody is faulting you for that. But it is an act of cruelty to go out of your way to shame an author just because a story isn't what you wanted it to be. Or because it takes too long to update. Or because the characters don't follow your idea of how they 'should' act and react to what's going on. I stand up for any author that has had to hear comments like these, and will continue to do so for as long as I'm alive. This isn't easy, writing and exposing your true feelings for a judgmental audience. Please, remember that. If any of you want a story done your way...then YOU write it. That's what I did in the beginning. Now you're reading writing tips from ME! Hehehe, and I'm a complete idiot. Trust me! So what does that tell you?
Rule #4 - Know your biases! One of the elements that is most endearing about well-written stories like the ones on GayAuthors, is the fact that we can all put ourselves into the stories and identify with the main characters and relate to the situations being put on display. We can reminisce over what it was like to be in that same position, to get that first kiss, or to experience those nervous jitters, or re-live that first time walking into a gay bar. The best stories take us back to moments when everything was so exciting and sweet...and we tend to personalize those moments and make them our own. I do it all the time. However, again...it's important to remember that it is NOT an author's job to write your life story. Writer's don't know you, personally. They weren't hired or contracted to build your fantasy and base it solely on your personality. Maybe you shared a similar experience, and that grips your heart and makes the reading all the more enjoyable, but don't burden the writers you love with the task of writing your personal fiction. Please don't. They are telling things from their perspective, and delivering a message that they understand as an individual. It's their story. So if the storytelling deviates from 'what would *I* do in this situation?' that doesn't mean that the story is unrealistic or wrong or lacking. I know that it's natural to connect with a story or a character and really WANT to take control and have your own personal motivations, ideas, and desires, take over and guide the story in a certain direction. I get that. It's flattering. But if you're giving serious criticism on a story or a character or a certain plot point...you have to make an effort to understand and recognize your own biases in your perspective sometimes. You need a slight disconnect. It's essential in how your comments are conveyed by other people.
I think "Billy Chase" is the one story where I've had the most trouble with this issue. And while I am HONORED that readers invest so much love and effort and can relate to what's going on...I have spent years trying to defend the poor kid and reminding people that it's JUST a fictional character and that the plot points and story arcs that I make are done for the sake of conflict and drama. It's IMPOSSIBLE to please every reader that comes across that story, and I understand that. But people that I've talked to in my emails have severe biases that factor in to how they view the series. And sometimes it's just not fair to fault the story itself for something that is so personal to that specific critic. I have to keep that in mind when I post new chapters, because Billy Chase was me when I was a 15 year old kid in the 90s. Shy, insecure, secretive, HORNY, hehehe! This is MY story, dangit! This is who I was back then. It's the foundation of who I am now. But not everybody grew up the same way I did. Some grew up in an earlier time, some are currently going through high school right now. Some grew up in a major metropolitan city like I did, and some grew up in a small rural area in the Bible belt of America. Our experiences are different. And since I'm the one piloting this plane...you'll just have to ride with me and hope for the best. Readers personalize the "Billy" character and then get frustrated and angry when he does something that they wouldn't do themselves.
Again...that's not fair to us as writers. We're not responsible for rewriting someone else's history. If they are so fired up about it, then they can sit behind a keyboard tell their own story. Don't let that get you down. K? Some people have been cheated on in a relationship, some people have made bad decisions while they were drunk, some people have had issues with drugs, or suffered through physical or sexual abuse, or simply have regrets over not going for the boy of their dreams when they had a chance. All of these things factor in towards how they read your story. It's baggage that some critics bring with them, and you just can't satisfy them all. It's insane to even try. They are triggered by certain situations and get flustered and full of rage, or deeply depressed and full of sorrow, and want to make your writing the culprit for making them feel this way. It isn't. That might be an unsolved issue that they need to take up with their therapist. That's not your fault. You're a writer. Take care of your own issues while you're writing. If you have something to say, then say it. And if critics disagree? So be it. You expressed yourself with honesty and integrity. So, by the time they read it, you've already done your job as an author. Be proud.
Rule #5 - Don't automatically expect an author to submit to your suggestions or demands just because you make them. I will admit, I have gotten plenty of emails with really GOOD ideas for stories, or for continuations of my own stories, and I was like, "WHOAH!!! That's a damn good idea! I wish I had thought of that!" Hehehe! Because there are a lot of fans and loyal readers that come up with concepts that never even crossed my mind. As writers, some of you guys might even incorporate some of these ideas into your story as time goes along. But don't feel pressured into using every idea that is sent to you. Like I said, you can't please everybody. Don't try. To you creative critics out there, we LOVE to hear your ideas, and I'd never discourage any of you from sending them in to your favorite author. But don't think that just because you hit the 'send' button and your idea is awesome, that an author is going to suddenly shut down their original game plan and follow your new path towards an ending that you're not even aware of yet. That's not how writing works.
See...some folks have an idea for a 'scene' or two. Something exciting and provocative and 'wouldn't it be cool if?' scenarios. But, when writing a story, those great ideas need a build up. They have an impact, and consequences, and have to fit into the rest of the plot . I can't speak for all writers, but I, personally, have a master plan in mind from the very beginning. And most times, other ideas, no matter how awesome they may be...don't fit. I'm thinking of my story as a whole, and I only make changes when they fit the narrative. For folks reading the story, they might think ahead and, again...think 'wouldn't it be cool if'? But those ideas only fit a scene or two, and then it skews from my timeline and leads to an ending of their design, not mine. Which defeats the whole purpose of me writing a story of my own in the first place. But who knows? If you think you've got a great idea for your author's project, maybe you'll inspire something great within them. But, if your ideas are far removed from what the author is trying to say or the message that they're trying to convey? It might not happen. If it's a fully fleshed out idea that you think would make for a great story...then take a shot and write it yourself. Don't say that you can't do that, because you already came up with the idea. That's one third of the battle already done. Maybe even HALF! Writing is very personal to most people. It is for me. I need to be connected to every part of it. Every word, every sentence, every phrase and metaphor. So, I may think your idea is fantastic and should be made into a story...it might not fit into my current expression. The story ideas were finished long before you guys got to read them.
So those are my five rules for critics that are reviewing and leaving comments on stories. I know that there are a lot of critics really don't mean to be cruel, but honesty doesn't mean brutality. If you think something is terrible, then the writer is going to assume that you know why it was terrible. So let them know your true feelings about it. Write your reviews as if you were talking to them face to face, instead of from behind the anonymous protection of a laptop screen. A true critic gives both positive and negative feedback if necessary, and concentrates on the writing itself without making it personal. Word choice is important, and you might be striking at a very sensitive nerve when you attack a story. So be civil. Have some class. And with a little coaching and true support...the writers you love will get better and better with every chapter or story they put out. That's what you want, isn't it? Give some encouragement when you can. It'll only make things more amazing in the future.
Alright! This ends 'Part 1' of this blog post! I hope it resonates with you all and will help out in the future. Don't worry, writers! It's our turn next! Hehehe, and we've got five rules of our own that we need to think about when it comes to criticism! So don't get too comfortable yet. See you next week!
You've written a story, you've gotten from point A to point B, and you made sure to wrap everything up, nice and tidy...but it's just not ready yet. Right? You want it to be your best work.
So you go back and edit it so that it'll seem like a much better, more professional, well-written story. You take a little more time with it, but even then, it doesn't seem quite right. So you go back again, and try to 'fix' everything that you think is wrong with it. You finish up...and it's OK...but...SHIT! Just before you go to bed, you toss and turn because you're thinking of a few more things that you want to say, and maybe a line of dialogue that you wanted to add to the third act. So you dive right back in and try to alter your project even more. You rephrase a couple of thoughts, add a little 'here', subtract a little 'there', and you wear yourself out trying to reach perfection. This is a natural, but often self-destructive way of handling your own writing in the long run. I know that sounds weird, but I've learned that this is a practice that needs to be recognized and avoided at all costs. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to art. K? If anything, it is the collection of imperfections that will ultimately set you apart from everyone else who is pursuing the same audience that you are trying to impress. There is such a thing as 'overworking' a story, and in your valiant attempt to improve on your original ideas, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you're not careful!
So...this week's blog is all about leaving well enough alone and not letting your scrutinizing eye eat away at your story, taking the feeling and emotion out of what you're trying to say. This week, we talk about 'overworking' a story.
Now, I can only speak for myself when I say that my writing is most potent when I am in the moment. While I have an idea and a game plan and an outline fixed in my head...the writing itself is very spontaneous in nature. Those thoughts and emotions come through me and get translated into words as I channel my muse as best as I can. There are times when my typing fingers can't keep up with what's going on in my mind and in my heart. It can be a rush, to just zone out and have a story evolve and blossom right in front of my very eyes. Then, once the story or that chapter is done, I take a short break from it to make sure that I can look at it with an objective eye, where I'm not still all buzzed and excited over what I just created. Naturally, there are going to be mistakes. Spelling and mechanical errors, dialogue mishaps, and a few things that could be delivered in a better way. So I go back to the beginning and try to give it that good old-fashioned Comsie polish so it's a smooth and enjoyable read for anybody who happens to stumble across it online. However...I have my worries and insecurities just like any other writer, and there exists this temptation to keep thinking about the story long after it's finished. As well as the need to jump back into it so I can fix it. One of the main reasons that I edit all of my own stories is because I would hate to drive an editor into a friggin' ASYLUM with the tiny tweaks and twitches that I'm constantly putting into my stories at the last minute. Hehehe, that just wouldn't be a fair fight for any human being who would try to figure out why some of these things needed changing at all. I still try to add little touches of 'last-minute magic' before posting a new story, but I had to train myself to stop agonizing over the tiny micro details of every chapter the way that I used to. It's not easy, but I feel it's necessary.
You see...when you keep going back to your story, changing this and that, trying to correct issues that weren't really issues to begin with...you begin to work against the spontaneity of your own muse. That gut instinct that was pulling you along and guiding you to speak your truth and express your honest feelings? It can get lost if you become obsessed with bending and warping the natural flow of what you were trying to say in the first place. I've seen really heartfelt stories turn into something slightly 'wooden' and less appealing, simply because the original version was overworked in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Sometimes, the search for perfection can drain the 'life' out of a project. That's never a good thing.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't strive to be at your very best at all times. Of course you should. But, at the same time, you have to develop some level of faith in your own instincts. That energy and that passion that you put into those phrases and metaphors and emotionally engaging moments is the very essence of a great story. It's raw and it's real and it says something about who you are and where your heart lies when talking about the situation at hand. Don't lose that. Think about some of the best moments in your real life. Take a second and think about those times when you fell head over heels in love, when you laughed until your belly hurt, or when you were totally surprised by a bit of good fortune. Did you plan for those moments? Or did they just sort of happen? Life is really a matter of 'winging it' from one moment to another, and having that same feeling expressed in your stories is only going to make it more relatable to everyone reading it. By going back and putting an extra gloss on every situation and word of dialogue can sometimes make it seem fake and unrealistic. That spur of the moment genius that you had while writing gets pushed aside for robotic corrections and stilted conversations. It can become a disconnect between you and your readers.
If you think your readers can't recognize a labored scene in a story, you'd be wrong. They can often tell right away. And that's not your best work, is it?
I, personally, think that there has to be a time when you let your work speak for itself. Leave it alone. In a way, I imagine it would be like raising a child. You want to give your story a good foundation and bring it to a point where you can be proud of what it can accomplish...but at some point you have to let go and let it breathe on its own. You won't lose any love for it, hehehe, promise. Go back, touch your story up in a few places if needed, and then let your heart take control and give your brain a rest. STOP thinking about it! Hit the send button and anxiously wait for the reaction. Your audience might surprise you. Remember, we can all be our own worst critics sometimes, and the mistakes that you think are so unforgivable when you're reading your own work...most readers don't catch the at all. They're too busy enjoying what it is you have to say.
I've reached a point now where I barely even remember half of the stuff I write. Hehehe, it's true! Sometimes, somebody will quote something from one of my stories and I'll be like, "Wait! I wrote that? That sounds pretty cool. THANKS!" LOL! Sad, but true. But, like I said, that's because I write 'in the moment' and don't look back when I'm done. I would much rather have the passion take center stage. Don't be a 'George Lucas' and keep going back trying to fix "Star Wars"! "Star Wars" is fine just like it is. The extras aren't necessary, and they begin to intrude on the simplicity and innocence of the original work. Spill your heart out, make one or two edits for content and mistakes...and then leave it alone! Too much is too much. Less is more. And whatever cliché you want to attach to the same idea. Have some faith in your talent and let your story say what it needs to say. Allow your natural instincts shine without being hindered by afterthoughts and insecurities. K?
The more love you have for your own stories, the more that love will be transmitted to the people watching. It's like the difference between hearing an artist or band on a marketable CD, and seeing them live in concert. The concert is an entirely different experience. Feel good about your initial gut feelings, and bring them to your audience without giving them that 'perfection' handicap. I think they'll appreciate it.
I hope this helps you guys gain some trust in your muses, wherever they may be. And I'll be back soon with more!
Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm going to go back over this entire article and scrutinize every last word and detail to see if it's ok for posting! LOL! What??? It needs 'fixing', dammit! I'm insecure. So sue me...
Who is this person? And that person? Who are the characters populating this fictional world that I'm reading about? What do they look like, what are their personalities, and why should I care?
These are all questions that need to be asked and answered with every new story that you put out, as you are trying to paint a vivid picture with the words you type on the screen. No matter how clear the vision of your main characters and love interests may be in your head, you have to keep in mind the fact that your readers only have your descriptions to go on when it comes to visualizing the people they're reading about. If you're looking to set the stage for your written experience, then you're going to want to give your readers a series of images to adhere to. Someone that they can picture walking, talking, and acting, in your little movie of the mind. So, this week, we're talking about character descriptions. Their importance, their effect on readers, and how to effectively translate the actors in your story to an eager audience.
Let's get into it!
Whenever I read a story for the first time, I mentally try to set the scene and imagine the characters to the best of my ability. If you mention that someone has amazing blue eyes, I put that in the back of my mind and picture someone with amazingly blue eyes. If you mention that they're an older man with a 5 o'clock shadow, then I picture that. If you mention a certain hair style, like a Mohawk or an emo fringe or a buzzcut...then I keep that with me. This works to further connect me to the story that I'm reading. Many of your readers are doing the same thing. They want to breathe life into the characters that they're meeting for the first time. I always think about a story as a cooperative experience between writer and reader. You are both creating the dream at the same time. You set the bare bones, and they fill in the details. This can make for a really engrossing read and can make your story more realistic and enjoyable through the sheer involvement of your audience in its creation. I can break this process down into three rules that have helped me out in the past.
'Suggest'. Don't control. If you are giving a physical description of the characters in your story...leave your readers some room to create their own vision of what they look like. Always remember the eye of the beholder when it comes to beauty. Usually, when I give details on a character, they're very basic. Eye color, hair color, general build, skin color or ethnicity, approximate age, style of dress...etc. Sometimes, if I have something or someone in mind specifically, I'll add a few extra details that I think will complete the exact look that I'm going for. But, I feel that it's important to let your audience define their own vision of beauty. I'm willing to bet if I asked them what some of my characters look like in their mind's eye...no two visions would be alike. That's a GOOD thing! Allow them to fall in love with characters that they, personally, find super attractive. Let them attach the physical attributes of the ultimate love interest to something or someone that they hold close to their heart. It makes for a more immersive experience while reading.
Only add descriptions that are necessary. As a personal rule, I never add certain details unless they're a part of the character himself or herself. If they fit into the scale of what is considered 'average', then I feel like those descriptions are readily assumed, and therefore not needed. But...if one of those details is a defining part of the character themselves, then I might make mention of it. As an example...if a character is your average 5' 7" tall, give or take...I won't make that a part of the story. However, if the character is extra tall? Then that is a trait that gives the character a unique 'extra' that should be a part of what's going on. This goes for other details that need to be known if it affects how that character is seen or how they act. If their overweight, or emaciated, or rippling with muscles, or very short for their age. If they have a disability or a visible scar...if they have freckles, or braces, or wear glasses...these are all things that might not be assumed by your readers unless you tell them directly that this is what they look like. So, unless their appearance includes features that are somewhat unique to them...leave them out. You don't have to mention height, weight, or anything of that sort if they're average or not a departure from your typical protagonist's appearance.
Let the character speak for themselves, it will show the reader who they are through their actions. Basically, this means that you don't have to 'tell' your readers who this character is through exposition or by using stereotypes to define who they are in relation to the rest of your story. When I started writing these stories, I felt the need to mention that the main character was gay. But that wasn't necessary. The main character is a boy, and he finds another boy attractive. That already explains the 'gay' issue without me having to announce it. That's a bit of fat that can be trimmed off of the story when I'm putting it together. I have written stories with characters who were blind, or deaf, or transgendered, and those details were needed to set up that particular character and initiate the kind of interactions that they were going to have with other characters in the story. But if I can describe them and their differences without actually saying it out loud...then it will work much better in the long run. This goes back to my article on 'show, don't tell'. Sometimes your characters can provide all the details needed through their actions and deeds, without the desperate need for you to spell it out for your audience. They'll get it. Just write the character with those traits in mind, and people will make their own assumptions along the way. Some details are self explanatory when it comes to the flow and direction of the narrative. So let it stand on it's own. K?
So, keep those three rules in mind, and you can create a character that you love and want to present to your audience, while simultaneously giving your readers an opportunity to personalize their own visions of beauty and attraction by filling in the details of the characters you've given them to work with. Everybody has an idea of the most beautiful person in the world! Let them make that the love interest in your story, and they'll follow you, chapter to chapter, until the very end. Participation in the creation of a good story is key to making it work. There's a give and take between reader and writer. Never forget that.
I hope this helps you guys get an even deeper understanding of your audience, and vice versa. Good luck to you all! And I'll talk to ya some more next weekend!
What drives a story? More importantly, what is driving you while you're putting the story together, piece by piece? It's not something that you really have to focus on or worry about while you're writing...but it's something that you will begin to notice more and more as you gain experience with your craft. If used right, you can structure your story in a much more effective way before your fingers ever touch the keyboard. It's something to think about while plotting out the events of your story or series, and it might help you to concentrate on what you're trying to do with it, as well as keep you from going astray with the overall feel of your project in general.
So let's get started, shall we?
There are three major ways that can drive your story from its beginning to its end. It can be 'character' driven, 'plot' driven, or 'theme' driven. And while these three things have a bunch of similarities, they're really pretty different in terms of telling the story you want to tell. So pay close attention...
I would say that this category is probably what most of my own stories fall into. Growing up with comic books as a kid, this was my very first experience with handling multiple characters and having them be the focus of the story while building an experience around them that could (potentially) last forever if I wanted it to. The best example of this would be "The Secret Life Of Billy Chase". Billy is a closeted gay teen in high school, who keeps a diary that documents his day to day adventures with his friends, crushes, parents, and everything that is going on around him. With this story, there are a bunch of different characters, a variety of different storylines, and a series of obstacles and problems that Billy has to face from one chapter to the next. However, "Billy" is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Everything is told from his point of view. Everything that happens is happening to him. He is thee character that is going to carry this whole series through thick and thin. So even if the storylines change, or older characters leave and newer characters enter the scene...everything revolves around the protagonist. This is why that series can have 400+ chapters and not really get tired or exhausting. You're following one character through his life. The problems he faces can change. He can evolve with every mistake he makes. And there doesn't need to be a definitive 'goal' for him to reach, because living alongside the character himself is the point of the whole story. Even when one storyline ends, another one can begin. And as long as the audience stays connected to Billy himself...that's ok. This can make for a very strong connection with the main character, and can give your audience more of a 'friend' than some guy they just happen to be reading about.
While characters are important in every story that you plan to write, some stories are meant to be more plot-driven, and work better that way. A lot of my shorter, 'one shot', stories fall into this category. These stories are based on an idea that I had and wanted to express in story form with a particular agenda in mind. While "Billy Chase" can have a TON of different story plots that rise and fall over time, these short stories have a specific goal in mind and work best when I have a smaller arc and a determined point to make. Some good examples of this would be "Between The Lines" or "Save Or Sacrifice". These stories were written with the intention of tackling a certain event or series of events that would lead to a definitive outcome. In these two series, the problem was introduced, and the storytelling was all focused on solving that problem to reach the end. As I said, the characters are still important, but the plot of the story is what takes center stage this time. If I were to take these characters and put them into different situations...it might make for a good 'side' story or a sequel...but it wouldn't be a part of the original story that I was trying to tell. That one moment in time has been addressed, that one problem has been solved, and the story has been told. The plot-driven story isn't as limitless as the character-driven story...but sometimes it's better to just be short and sweet and to the point. Don't let yourself get too 'out of bounds'. Say what you have to say, and then let it go. If you try to drag it out, people will be able to tell. Never a good thing.
And then we have theme driven stories.
Theme-driven stories can give you a ton of freedom, but it can be really easy to get lost in that freedom, causing you to go off on tangent and lose your focus if you're not careful. 'Theme' is a really direct, but also a really vague, way to create a story. A theme can be anything. A theme can be, say...drug abuse. If you want to build a project around that theme, you can write a story that takes place in a rehab center. You can have multiple characters involved, and each character can have their own plot-driven stories going on, independent of one another. But the main 'theme' is what connects them all, and as long as you keep that as the main reason for all of these people to be interacting at all...then it'll work. As far as my own stories are concerned, the best example for this would be "Skylight". It takes place in a high school, many different students who all have different backgrounds and different obstacles that they have to face. Some of them aren't related to one another at all. Some have never even met. However, when 'disaster' strikes the school...that disaster becomes the theme driving the story. Even though I'm, technically, telling many stories at once, involving characters who may not even know one another...the theme is the glue holding it all together. The theme is what makes the story cohesive for the readers, and they can follow along, seeing how each story grows and changes depending on how they all deal with the same tragedy.
So, taking a look at the story that you want to write...keep these three things in mind:
Character driven stories can have multiple plots and can go on and on until you decide you want to bring them to a close. Just make sure your character is likable enough for your readers to want to keep following him on his many adventures.
Plot-driven stories are clear, concise, and straight to the point. Decide what you want to say with this type of story, and say it. Address a single problem, situation, or idea...and then present a solution. It's used to capture a single moment in time. Start the story, build the story, then end the story. One, two, three...done and done.
Theme-driven stories can get messy if you don't focus. Figure out what your theme is. An Earthquake, an alien invasion, a hostage situation...whatever. Populate that event with your main characters and all of the individual stories that might define them...and see how they all react differently to the same event. Just make sure that the main theme remains center stage, and your readers won't get lost in the chaos.
Alright...that's all there is to it. If you get a chance, go back and look at some of your older stories and see what category they fit into. A lot of writers feel most at home with one variation or another, and if that's where you're comfortable, then that's awesome. But if you're ever looking to reach out or jump into something new, keep these three categories in mind, and let them help you build a structure that you might want to play around with. You never know how much you might enjoy doing something different every once in a while.
That's it for now! I hope this helps! And I'll be back with more! Happy writing, you guys!
For this article, I want all of you reading this to take your loving, sweethearted, humble, nature...all of your shyness and all of your shame...crumple it up and toss it over your shoulder! Because, for the next few minutes, we need to be a full blown 'ego machine'! Period!
Don't worry...you can go back to being humble again when you're done. It passes. It's like a flash fever, or a 24 hour flu. Use it to your advantage while you can.
Whenever you decide that you have your story looking exactly the way you want it to, polished and edited and ready for your audience to read...you've got to take the next step and market the HELL out of your own work! I'm not saying that you should just mention it whenever it comes up in casual conversation. No. You've got to actually make a real push to make sure that people get just as excited about reading your story as you were about writing it. In fact, you might actually have to work even harder to promote your story than you did to write it in the first place. The time for being passive or shy is over. You've got to be able to push that aside for a few short moments and express to other people that this story is just as amazing and incredible as you wanted it to be before you typed the first word.
Now...I'm not telling you to be Donald Trump about it! Don't go out there saying that every story you've ever written is as immaculate and divine as the Bible itself, and that you're the greatest writer that's come along since William Shakespeare! That's just...dumb. And nobody is going to believe you. So...like...why do it?
But, if you're honest and open about your work, and you make an effort to put yourself out there...you can catch the eye of some interested readers who might really like your style and the stuff you write. Not only that, but they might help to spread the word to their friends and family. Some of them have blogs, some have Goodreads accounts or something similar, and some belong to online forums or book clubs where all they do from week to week is talk about new stories and make recommendations to each other as to what they want to read next. All it takes is a few sparks to create a fanbase, and provided you're willing to keep them interested, that can lead to even more attention in the future.
How does an author go about doing that? Well, let's jump right in and see, shall we?
If you're going to take the time to write something from your heart (which is difficult to do), and gather the courage to share it with people that you don't even know (Which is even more difficult to do), then don't you want it to be read? Of COURSE you do! That's why you end up checking your post and email every ten minutes since you clicked the 'send' button! In order to get noticed, you have to advertise your product, and you have to be relentless about it. This is the only way for you to truly get your story noticed and your talent recognized. This is the internet. There are a BILLION different distractions going on at any given moment of anyone's time online, and the fact that you even stopped by to read the words I've written in this article is mind-blowing to me! Because that means it took a lot of hard work to get you here, and you decided to stick around. At least for a couple minutes. But imagine how hard it would be for anyone else to get you to pay attention to their story right now while you're reading this. Hell, even YOU aren't paying attention to the story you just posted right now! You're watching me instead. Hehehe, do you see where I'm going with this?
Please understand that when I say 'relentless'...I don't mean 'obnoxious'. There's a difference. You don't want to run around the internet spamming everybody with unwanted advertisements every time you pop up on their screen. That will get you the exact opposite reaction than what you're looking for. When you continuously bombard people with visual 'junk', they tend to start ignoring it. Or possibly putting you in their junkmail altogether. That's counterproductive. The difference between 'Obnoxious' and 'Relentless' is a matter of finesse and necessity. You don't want to FORCE your story down people's throats. That's obnoxious. What you want to do is make links and contact info available to them at all times. That's 'relentless'. You don't want to send unwarranted emails or make posts three or four times a week with the same information that you gave them just 48 hours ago. That's 'obnoxious'. But whenever you want to post a new chapter or story or update to your site, you can leave a reminder that you still have other projects available for them to read. That's 'relentless'. Getting the picture? Cool. I hope so.
You want to be seen, but don't let your promotion speak for your work. Your work should speak for your work. Period. And IF they like what they see...then there are links available to them so they can choose to follow you further. But leave that up to your readers. You can't force them to support you, and you'll only make a pest out of yourself by trying. Always keep that in mind.
If they're enjoying your work, then their support is merely a pleasant side effect of that. Keep writing. They'll keep an eye out for you. Have some faith in your audience.
Something else that I can't stress enough...answer your email! This may seem easy at first, but could get much more difficult over time. But it is a necessary part of the process. These people took the time to write to you and send you their thoughts and feelings on your project. Read them! And answer back. They are giving you their heartfelt opinion on what you wrote. What parts spoke to them, what parts they may not have understood, what parts moved them...all of these things can be used to get an outside vision of how your story looks to other people. Pay attention, and respond. True fans will comment at length about each and every chapter, and you can't ask for any better feedback than that! If you can find a few trusted voices online to review each story they read by you, you will be truly blessed. But you've got to do your part too. Even if it's just a note to say thank you and let them know that you're paying attention. That goes a long way, believe me.
Speaking of email...choose ONE email address and stick with it! Make it separate from all of your other email accounts, and be STABLE! I know some of you guys like to change your name or email addys every few months for little to no reason at all. STOP that! Stay still. When I started writing in the Summer of '98, I chose Comicality@webtv.net as my email address...and 19 years later...it's STILL Comicality@webtv.net! People who are just finding my very first story online right now, can write me at that email address and talk to me just fine. The harder you make it for your fans to talk to you, the faster they're going to turn away from you and go find some other author that doesn't take a treasure hunt to find online. Get something stable and stay there. Nobody's going to send out a search party for you just to give you a brief moment's praise. Trust me.
Also, build a virtual community around what it is you do. Social media is a huge part of that in this day and age. Get a Twitter account. Look at things like Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube if you want to get into that world. Find yourself a free mailing list so you can alert people to upcoming posts and updates. Allow your readers to find a 'home' where they can hear from you and locate your stories easily without having to search around the net for them. Remember, that 'backspace' button on the keyboard is NOT your friend! It only takes one click of that button to send you spiraling right back down into obscurity. Avoid that at all costs.
While all social media is a great way to talk to a huge number of fans at once, I personally prefer forums and chatrooms. Because I'm not just dictating messages to a random audience, I'm actually getting a chance to interact with them. The biggest reason that the "Billy Chase" series really took off the way it did wasn't due to my announcements or frequent updates. It actually came from me posting them on the Comicality Library forum. People began to leave reviews and comments, and they began to talk to each other about each and every chapter. That discussion every week ended up boosting that story into becoming one of the most popular on the site in a very short amount of time. Plus, I get to stop by and say hello every now and then, I get to have fun in the chatroom and meet my readers one on one so they get a feel for who I am and vice versa. I get to answer questions and get feedback in real time. AND...as long as were being 'relentless' I have my own platform to toss in the occasional advertisement whenever I feel like it. Hehehe! It takes some time to cultivate your own virtual territory when it comes to this kind of thing, but once you carve out your own little space online...well, as the saying goes...
"If you build it, they will come."
The most important part of promoting your work is putting a tireless effort into making your stuff available...but not shoving it into people's faces. If they want it...they'll come get it. Take my word on this. Add a 'signature' to the bottom of every email you send out, including your website link and return email. If you post on Nifty (A great place to get started), make sure you do the same. Email address, website link, social media contacts, etcetera. On EVERY post! Put it at the top, or put it at the bottom. I do both. Try submitting stuff to GayAuthors and try to get your work looked at there. Try Wattpad too. Let people see your name and get to recognize you. Encourage feedback, and make sure to REPLY when you get it! Don't ever think for one minute that your readers don't deserve your time and attention. They are just as important for reading your story as you are in writing it. Respect that relationship, and be thankful for it at all times. God, knows that I am.
Alright...I'm gonna stop now before I start rambling. Hehehe! But I hope this will help you guys out, and I wish you all the luck in the world in building a fanbase that you can truly be proud of! Happy writing, and I'll talk to you soon!
I believe that one of the biggest tricks you can ever hope to pull off in writing a story is the art of foreshadowing, which is a LOT more challenging than you might think it is. This is due to the fact that you have to be able to set up a series of major events in advance...without letting your readers know what those events are ahead of time. In fact, you don't even want your audience to know that you're doing it at all until you get the pleasure of landing that 'zing' moment upon them later on. It's one of literature's most impressive magic tricks! And hopefully, this little piece will help you to effectively pull it off without a hitch.
So...let's get started.
What is foreshadowing? It's the daunting task of secretly setting up future events in your story ahead of time without letting the reader in on the secret. For example...maybe your main character just happens to be a computer hacker. That might not have anything to do with 75% of your story...but as you reach the climax? You might have an issue where someone says, "If only we could find somebody with the ability to hack into the system!" Dun dun dun! Your main character just so 'happens' to have some hacking experience! Something that you casually alluded to earlier on in your story. Problem solved. The question is how do you set up that important payoff in advance without your audience rolling their eyes and saying, "Well, THAT'S definitely going to be a part of the story later on! Ugh!"?
It's not easy. Trust me.
Readers are much more savvy these days. People absorb sooooo much media in a single evening these days. They've seen every movie, read every story, heard every song...no matter how HARD you try, they will always try to outwit you and jump twelve spaces ahead of you to figure out what you're going to do next. Everybody's looking to be the first one to shout out, "CALLED IT!!!"...followed by them calling your work contrived and predictable, of course. (Sigh...I really hate that second part...) But when people are reading ten to fifteen stories a week, sometimes even double or triple that number, it's hard to surprise them with much of anything at all. You have to be sneaky about it. You've got to toss a banana peel on the floor. (Tosses banana peel!) And while I realize that giving some of my secrets away will now make readers even MORE savvy and it will ultimately make things harder for me to ever surprise them with anything ever again...I'm going to give them to you anyway. Because...why not? Hehehe!
The first part of the process is obviously the most necessary piece of the puzzle. PLANNING! Planning, planning, planning! This is something that can't be ignored, skipped over, or taken lightly with you story's foreshadowing. You need to know, ahead of time, what's going to happen, why it happens, and what impact it's going to have on the rest of your story as a whole. Remember, your readers already have a seriously unfair advantage when it comes to your creative solutions and set ups. So if you're going to write a story with any surprises at all...you're going to need to take their advantage into account. Because some people are just WAITING to tell you that your story sucks! Hehehe! And that they're smarter than you for figuring things out before you told them what was going on. They live for it. Be prepared for that.
Just kidding. They're not that bad.
Plan! And don't be 'vague' with your planning. You have to have a definite idea of where you're going to end up from the beginning. Before you even start writing a story where foreshadowing is a technique that you want to use, figure out what you want to reveal, when you're going to do it, and how you want to hide it. Vague and unspecific planning leads to severe plot holes and inconsistencies later on in your project. A good example would be the original “Star Wars” trilogy, where it is revealed that Luke and Leia are brother and sister...but were clearly seen kissing in the first episode. Ummm...yeah, so...great plot twist, but you might want to have a major detail like that worked out beforehand. Otherwise, it only causes problems in the end.
So, to avoid this...try to visualize your story fall the way through. Try to think of it as your own personal movie trailer. Seriously, if you were going to market this to an audience, what would be in the trailer? What happens in the beginning, what happens in the end, and how do you get from point A to point B in an entertaining way? Think of all the interesting major events that will carry your reader on the journey you want to take them on? Visualize it in your mind. Now, once you have the whole story in your mind (Don't worry, you still have enough flexibility to spontaneously change things around while you're writing. I know that inspiration can be unpredictable, but that's where some of your best work comes from.) it's time to move on to the second part of your magic trick.
Pick your moments.
When thinking about your completed story, ask yourself, “What are the events that stand out to you? Which ones are most important? Which events will have the biggest impact on the over all outcome of the story?” These are going to be your golden moments, and the ones that you want to concentrate on building up to. Great use of foreshadowing can really bring an already exciting moment to the next level. Imagine if your main characters are being chased by some kind of deadly enemy and they're trapped at the end of an alley with a locked door. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. What do you do? Well, what if the main character notices a special shaped keyhole in the door, and suddenly notice the chain around his neck...which holds a charm that fits the lock? Imagine him giving it a last minute try in a moment of desperation, and it opens the door...saving everyone from an untimely demise. Awesome! The hero wins again! But something like that can't just 'happen' in your story out of the blue. That would seem a bit weird, right? So, how do we fix that?
Foresha...DAMMITT!!! You guys said it before I did! See? Quit trying to jump ahead of me all the time!
If this is going to be a big moment later on in your story, you're going to want to make a few 'loose' references in it ahead of time. Maybe the charm on his neck was given to him by a lost parent when he was younger, or by an ally that he met in his journey's along the way, or maybe he took it from a slain enemy...however you want to work out the fact that he now has the essential tool that he needs hanging around his neck at the moment he needs it most, use that. It sets up that magic moment when he finally realizes why he has it, and everyone reading will say, "Oh yeah!!! I remember he had that from before!" Or...some of the folks who are skipping ahead will be silently screaming, "Use the charm! Use it! C'mon!" Both of these things are good for your story. So don't worry too much, either way. What you want to do is sufficiently set up the future scenes in your stories early, so when that big moment hits, your audience will be able to think back and trace the natural progression from one moment to another and have the big 'design' suddenly be revealed to them.
This method goes for whatever you're writing. If you're writing a romance story, you don't just want two people getting together and a few paragraphs later they're already making out and dry humping on the living room couch. I mean...where did that come from? You know? Romances use foreshadowing too, albeit a lot more visible. Maybe they meet, they smile at one another, the develop an interest for one another, they begin to flirt, then they get some time alone, and...when they finally share that very first kiss, you readers can go back and follow the breadcrumbs as to how all of this happened. That's all foreshadowing is...setting up the big events that are going to ultimately define the kind of story that you want to tell.
Now comes the hard part.
If you're foreshadowing consists of someone giving your main character a charm to wear around his neck and saying, "This will save you when you need it most."...then that's all your readers will be looking for from that moment on. They will have a whole 'Batman' board on their wall with pushpins and photos and strings, connecting one event to another, trying to beat you to the punch. You've got to be sneakier than that. Here...follow me into my secret Comsie lair!
(Laughs as you slip on a banana peel!)
Hehehe, do you see what I did there? If you go back and read the beginning of this article, does the mention of a banana peel being tossed on the floor seem odd or out of place to you? Just Comsie being dumb and goofy again, right? Good! That's the point.
The only reason I even put that sentence or two in this article was so I could bring it up again later and use it as a lame joke to prove what I was talking about. That's foreshadowing. Put it early in this post, and then go on talking until you forget about it, and then bring it back when you least expect it. So everyone reading this can go back to the beginning of this article later on and think, "Damn...you got me, Com. Bastard."
When hiding your foreshadowing clues, you want to simply mention them as though they're something insignificant. Something mundane that won't really mean much in the future of your story. A few good ways to do this is to hide it in some random dialogue between characters, or to perhaps have something much bigger going on at the time that it's mentioned. You use the 'shiny' object to distract your audience, and then slide the true gems right under their radar without them knowing it. The conceal and reveal part of the process is the fairy dust needed to make this magic trick work, after all!
This takes practice and instinct and it's VERY hard to pull off in a story anymore! As I said, people have seen every plot twist, every red herring, every distraction, by now...and trying to misdirect them is going to be an exhausting experience. And even then, some will spend a lot of time trying to figure you out and beat you to the punch. BUT...if you can make your clues subtle enough, do a little misleading, and then announce everything early enough to have your readers 'forget' about them by the time you're ready to spring the big revelation on them...it CAN be done. And if you can catch just a FEW of your readers off guard with a well executed secret...there's no better feeling in the world than that! Hehehe! Especially when you've been laying the breadcrumbs out ahead of time. You can practically hear their jaws drop all around the world. Hehehe!
To find some examples of expert foreshadowing, I'd recommend a few movies that I think did a great job of it. No spoilers, don't worry! Give these movies a look, watch them twice if needed. "The Sixth Sense", "Usual Suspects", "Frailty", "Seven", "Angel Heart", etc. Check out the way these movies build tension, give you hints, and then force you to go back and watch what you missed the first time around. This is what you want to accomplish. Study them and see what made them work. Then...go and do it better!
Being able to toy with your audience is a skill that has to be earned over time, so start today! Hehehe! Plan ahead of time, pick your moments, and be sure to hide your hints and clues as best as you can! It's all you can do! But the payoff is sooooo worth it in the end! So take a stab at it, and I wish you guys the best of luck!
Happy writing, you guys!
What would an involving and engaging story be without some sort of conflict written into it? And what could possibly be a bigger conflict in a romantic/erotic story than a direct rival for the love and affections of the boy of your protagonist's dreams, right? Here he is, making all the right moves, saying all the right things...and here comes some drop dead gorgeous stranger to throw a monkey wrench in the whole works and screw it up for everybody involved! Arrrgh!!! How upsetting is that?
Today, we're going to talk about 'love rivals' in our erotic stories...and how we can use them and the complex situations they bring with them to our advantage.
When you're writing about love, especially if it's young love or first love, there's an added intensity to the idea that you've finally found perfection in a mate of your choosing. What happens when that perfection is challenged? As I wrote in a past story once, when you're building something beautiful together...you have everything to gain. But once you've got it...you have everything to lose. And if you want a love rival to be a part of your story's conflict, that's something to keep in mind. Because it can take just one mistake, one moment of weakness...to destroy everything and send your happy couple right back to square one. The threat of that happening can be devastating to your main characters, so use that to twist the story into a knot and keep your readers engaged as to what might happen next.
What you want from a rival is a certain look or personality that is incredibly appealing. Not only to the love interest, but to the protagonist as well. There should be something about him that is instantly noticeable, maybe even addictive. Whether they be drop dead gorgeous, super rich and/or famous, really funny, or particularly charming. Maybe this other guy has a certain something in common with the love interest that the main character doesn't. Maybe they share a passion for something, or they spend an awful lot of time together. The idea is to raise suspicions and doubt as to what would happen if these two were left alone for an extended amount of time, and accidentally 'shared a moment' that they decided to surrender to. Write their interactions as 'innocent', but more than friendly. Put yourself in your characters' shoes. How would you feel if the love of your life was giggling and trading inside jokes with another guy who was just as cute as you were, if not cuter? Let the tension reach a slow boil, until questions have to be asked and lines have to be drawn. Done right, your readers will begin to take sides between your characters. Some will side with your protagonist, some will think he's being over protective, and some...will just end up falling in love with the rival because they like him best! (Hehehe, if only I had a nickel for every time I had THAT happen in one of my stories!) Either way, your audience will be more involved, and their further involvement is what writing a story is all about. You've got their attention. Spotlight, on. Now put on a good show.
While there are nearly infinite types of love rivals that you can use for your story, I'm going to talk about what I consider to be the main three.
Number one..."The Schemer"
Now this is probably one of the first love rivals that comes to mind, as it is one of the most dangerous. The schemer is an actual 'villain' in your story. He's devious, he's determined, he lacks sympathy or any sort of moral compass when it comes to breaking up a relationship in order to get what he wants. And what he wants is your boyfriend. Now, the important thing to remember when writing this kind of rival is not to make them TOO despicable. You want to intrigue your readers, not frustrate them. I've found that the best way to create the scheming rival is to play with varying degrees of 'evil intent', all while adding in a hint of purpose and reason into what they're doing. Meaning, they're not completely detestable just for the sake of being detestable. Maybe your rival has true feelings for his target and is just trying to snatch him up for himself. His affection is real, and he can't let it go. Maybe it's someone who's been hurt before, or someone who is manipulating the situation because he thinks he's a better match. It's fun to play with their dark side a little bit, but remember to make them human. The reason that they're an actual threat to your hero is because, despite their sinister ways, they are charming enough to possibly win your love interest over if given the proper opportunity. If he's just a jerk that nobody likes, there's no threat at all. Remember to make his presence an actual menace to the rest of the plot. You can only do that if your devil has a decent disguise.
Number two..."The Clueless Beauty".
Now this kind of love rival, I feel, works best when it's used to bring your main character's insecurities to the surface, creating an inner conflict that your readers might identify with. The Clueless Beauty is usually someone who is everything you're main character is not. Usually a total knockout in the looks department, firm body and a sexy smile. Often very popular, extremely witty, smart...the kind of boy that anybody would fall head over heels in love with if given the chance. But he's not a schemer. He just happens to be the dreamiest boy on Earth, and he's wandered into the lives of your main characters, creating a sense of paranoia and projection every time he's around. He may not have any ill intentions at all, but the very fact that he's around is a temptation in itself. A temptation that might make your protagonist crazy with worry that he's not good enough to hold on to his boyfriend with 'Mr. Perfect' always smiling in his directions. Now, there's a lot of ways that you can play with this kind of rival...it can create arguments between the two main boys, or it can cause a drastic change in your main character's behavior, or it can actually cause them to withdraw from one another. Whether you want to go as far as to have something 'happen' with this beauty during the telling of your story is up to you. But the idea behind the Clueless Beauty rival is that he's not there to deliberately create havoc between your lovely couple...even if he ends up causing it anyway.
Number three..."The Divided Heart".
Where the other two rivals are most often paired up with the love interest, leaving your main character to ache and worry about it, the Divided Heart rival is a challenge that is more attached to your protagonist than his boyfriend. What makes this rival so interesting is that he can either be a schemer or a clueless beauty or something else entirely. The idea is to have someone that develops feelings for your main character, and provides a temptation of his own that will challenge him to stay true to his boyfriend. There's an added intimacy here, because there's the obvious ego stroke of meaning so much to someone else, as well as an opportunity to dig deeper into the inner thoughts and feelings of your character. This rival should have an alluring quality about them that actually implants thoughts of 'what if' in your protagonist's mind. He's happy with his boyfriend...but there's a 'novelty' in this other person. Something that is attractive, and opens up that naughty part of the brain that is always looking for a way to have it all. Perhaps he fits into a tiny little spot of his heart where his boyfriend doesn't. Having even a slight interest in him could create some real tension in your story, as your main character struggles with the 'grass is always greener' idea. Maybe he feels bad about it. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe it catches him by surprise. Or perhaps it's an old love or a long lasting crush that he just can't seem to let go of. Play around with the way you write the idea, and have him sway back and forth between his admirer and his true love. Make sure to display why both choices are so tempting with your writing, and you'll be able to keep your audience swaying along with you.
So, there you have it! If the story you're writing is going to toss a love rival into the plot as an obstacle and a threat to the peace and harmony shared between your two main characters, try to keep some of these ideas in mind. Whether he's a conniving bastard, an innocent cutie pie, or a love struck dreamer, it can strategically add some playful drama to your project. And it will keep your readers thinking and talking about it after they finish the current chapter. That's always a good thing!
Hope this helps! And I'll seezya soon with more!
Sometimes...the hardest, most unbelievably difficult, part of any story...is the first five paragraphs! It is grueling, it is maddening, it is downright FRIGHTENING at times! And it's hard to really explain why that is to people who don't write all the time. It's a level of insanity that only writers and other artists will ever really know. Because this is the 'kickoff' when it comes to starting a new project. It's the equivalent of throwing the first punch in a fight. Like..."Ok! This is it! Here we go! I hope I know what I'm doing!" And while writing may seem like a relaxing, expressive, and therapeutic exercise in general...this first step forward can be more intimidating than any other part of the process. This is the leap of faith. This is telling yourself that you're actually going to take a shot at making this idea in your head a reality...and you'd better do it right. Because you can't be an artist without taking your armor off. You've got to be vulnerable. You've got to show people your true self, and HOPE that they approve. The world is watching now. I can't think of anything that could be more terrifying when it comes to writing my own stuff. So I'm right there with you, even after years of practice and experience.
The thing is...the pressure to get things right on the first try can create a feeling of dread in all of us...even if we don't recognize it as such. We begin to procrastinate. We tell ourselves that our ideas aren't ready yet, or that we're still 'fleshing it out', or we just start binge watching Netflix shows so we have an excuse to not commit until later. And while that keeps our mixed up creative minds calm and comfortable for the time being...it can stop our most gifted thoughts and emotions from ever making it on to the page. Or...the screen. Whatever. We need to recognize this subtle self intimidation for what it is so we can conquer it and actually get something done. Otherwise...your personal story is going to stay stuck in limbo for YEARS...if not forever!
So let's push that weirdness aside and get MOTIVATED, shall we?
First things first...sit at your keyboard, and open up that program. Whatever you use to write with...open it up, and let that harsh blank page stare you in the face until you come up with something to say. That's the hardest part. Think of your story as a whole, pick a golden spot to start from, and then word your first few sentences based on that idea.
Easier said than done, I'm sure. But that's the most important part of writing anything. Getting the ball rolling.
I realize that a million thoughts are going through your head at this point, and it's easy to feel like the entire story is weighing heavily on your shoulders, but you just have to dive into it without thinking too much. In our heads, we may be thinking of characters and story elements that are waaaaay down the road from those first few sentences. Twists and turns and romantic encounters and everything that we had planned out from the very beginning. But for right now, you just want to find that special jump off point. Nothing else. The rest will come naturally as the story progresses, so try your best to keep from feeling like you have to write an entire book In one sitting by the stroke of midnight. That only adds to the pressure, and before you know it, you'll be opening up your YouTube account in a separate window and you'll be right back to being lazy and distracted. Hehehe! STOP that!
For me personally, when I want to get a brand new story or even a brand new chapter of a continuing story started...I think about the main character and where I want him to be at that particular point of the story. Who is he? Where is he? How can I put this character in a place where I can provide the reader with some much needed information about him/her/them? I've written stories that start off with my protagonist's relationship with their parents, and some where they seem to just be hanging out with good friends. Sometimes, their life starts out normal and that beautiful stranger shows up later to flip their whole world upside down. Other times, the very first sentence of the story might be, "He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen." Boom! You're instantly drawn into the moment. You get a chance to describe the love interest, maybe give a brief history of where this beauty came from, and also have the main character show the audience who they are. Starting a story is all about picking the right moment. Different ways of doing this could be starting at the 'end' of your story, and explaining how the main character got there by having the whole story play out as a flashback. Or you could choose a moment that seems mundane at first, but is soon given detail and meaning through the first few paragraphs to follow.
But you want something that will grab your reader's attention right away. Something that will intrigue them and urge them to keep reading to see what happens next. Once you choose that moment, and you make that leap...you can settle in and begin molding your sculpture into something beautiful.
Find a moment that starts your main character off in the middle of his journey. At the top of the roller coaster, just about to take that first exciting dip downward...so that you, as a writer, can get excited about this story too. There will be an urge to start off really slow, thinking that you have to have a basic beginning before you get into anything more interesting. Don't. Get your readers involved right away, and if you have to go back and add some more details to your foundation later, then so be it. But, as I always say, an author's worst enemy is that 'backspace' button on the keyboard. You've only got a small window to impress your readers, especially if they're brand new to your writing. So don't take the 'slow burn' approach. Dive in, and have the dive right in behind you.
Once you begin writing, the momentum will build all on its own. You'll begin to feel your fears and tensions relax, and focus more on the flow and rhythm of what you're writing in that chosen moment. Simply pick your peak...and then ski down to the bottom of the mountain when your muse is all out of juice. Then...take a break. Don't force it. Allow the idea to be 'born' on its own. Your only job is to kick it into gear.
Visualize where you want to go, and force yourself to take those first few awkward steps towards getting there. Don't let the distractions and excuses stop you. Write a few sentences. Then a few paragraphs. Then a few pages. And the more you build upon what you started with, you'll find yourself pounding away at those keyboard keys until you almost don't want to break away to go to sleep for the night. You may not believe me now, but give it a try. I'm willing to bet you'll be surprised what happens.
Passion feeds on its own fumes...so get started. Because the longer you wait, the longer you'll WANT to wait. There will always be a reason not to write. Always. So don't think that you're going to be the first author in history to be 'called to arms' when the feeling hits. No...you've got to make that move on your own. Take the initiative. Deliberately step forward, and like gravity...the story will pull you in the right direction until the feelings in your heart have been expressed. Just push a little bit. Just enough to get started. That's all you need.
The rest will write itself.
I hope this helps you procrastinators get started with your newest projects. If you feel yourself hesitating every time you sit down to write...then take notice of that hesitation. Why won't you write? What are you afraid of? Just GO! Type! Do it! It's a small step, getting started...but it isn't easy. Be aware of that obstacle...then beat it.
Happy writing, folks! And I wish you all the best of luck!
It is, quite possibly, the WORST feeling in the world to have poured your heart and soul into a project...ALL of your emotion...ALL of your creative energy...only to have some kind of crazy computer glitch just 'zap' it right out of existence forever. Gone. Never to be seen again. The experience is heartbreaking! I've had it happen to me quite a number of times in the past. Either the 'Save' function didn't work like it was supposed to, or the file got corrupted...my laptop fizzled out on me, or my files got hacked, or my website was shutdown without any warning...I can honestly say that I've probably LOST just as much writing as I've posted on my website over the years. And it never ever gets any easier to deal with. Because, while writing takes time and notes and a game plan set into motion ahead of time so you know what kind of story you want to make...the actual writing itself is a very emotional and spontaneous act. You sit at your keyboard with a feeling and a purpose...and you 'bleed' through your words. Right then, right there, while you're in the moment. You search for just the right words. Just the right phrases. Just the right metaphors. And with your passion and focus working together...you create moments in your writing that express exactly what you're thinking and exactly how you're feeling at that particular time in your life. Once you lose that...even by accident...you can't ever get those moments back. It's like setting fire to a photo album full of your baby pictures. It hurts. Especially when it's something that you worked really really hard on so you could get everything just the way you wanted it. Yeah, there's no feeling in the world like losing your creative expression with a technological screw up or the click of the wrong button.
BUT...that doesn't mean that you have to give up on saying what you need to say with your work. If you want to take some time before starting over, that's fine. In fact...I encourage that. But when the anger and the frustration passes, you've got to pick yourself back up, add some wood to the fire, and get your ass back in gear. If this was a story that you felt you needed to tell the first time around... you still need to tell it the second time around. What's changed? You have something in your heart that you wanted to share with the world, and chances are that the world needs to hear it. So dust yourself off and get back to work. That story isn't going to magically write itself. Get up, soldier! There's work to be done!
Having been through this sad process myself many times before, I hope this article will inspire you guys to keep going, and take steps towards starting again, despite the harsh blow that our imperfect tech might have dealt you.
Step number one...'Grieve'.
Hehehe, seriously...take a short break to get over losing all of your hard work. The reason I say this is because it's a truly aggravating experience, and there will be a sudden urgency within you to try to jump right back into your story and start typing away before you lose all of the wonderful things you had in mind before they leave you! I can tell you from experience...this is a mistake. Any writer that is truly invested in their own work and writes from the heart 'exposes' themselves in their writing. It's automatic. The emotion flows freely and it affects your every word choice and description that you put on that page, and if you charge into rewriting your story with a head full of anger and frustration and despair...those feelings are going to come through in your writing. Your readers will feel it. And unless a pissed off author who just lost a lot of hard work and had to start all over from scratch is the vibe that you're going for...you're going to end up writing a very different story from the one you intended to write initially. So...it's gonna SUCK for a while, yes...but take a few days to breathe and get all that out of your system before jumping back into it. K? Your readers will subliminally detect your frustration no matter how careful you think you are about hiding it. Or...they'll just figure out the hint from the number of 'F'-bombs and heavy exclamation marks you use in this new version!
Step number two...'Look for your notes'.
I once made the huge mistake of keeping a majority of my notes and ideas for stories online. Needless to say, I don't do that anymore. I don't trust ANY online program to keep my hard work safe unless I absolutely HAVE to! Not a server, not a word processor, not my own email, not a 'cloud'...NOTHING! I've been screwed over by every last one of them in the past. So *FUCK* the internet! Hehehe! (See? That frustration? It's still there, and it comes out in my writing. Hehehe!) I actually go out, and I buy physical notebooks and physical pens and I jot down notes on my own where I can see them and hold them in my hand. So unless my house burns down to the ground, I don't have to worry about something like...WebTV suddenly ending their service and losing a TON of my emails and saved stories in the process! Grrrrr!
Keep personal notes on your spontaneous thoughts and feelings concerning a certain story, and keep them in a place where you have easy access to them. If the unthinkable happens, and you lose your story online...go back to the notes that you took ahead of time, and use that 'bare bones' structure you referred to in order to write the first story as a guide to start over again. Not only will you have access to your most awesome ideas, but after reviewing them, you might even come up with NEW ideas that you never even thought of beforehand. They will help to keep you in the same frame of mind, so always keep your notebooks close to the hip.
Step number three...'DON'T try to recreate your original work'!
I speak from experience when I say...that will never ever happen. I don't mean for this to sound depressing, but all of those thoughts and emotions and literary choices that you made 'in the moment' to create that masterpiece of yours? They're gone. Gone for good. And they're never coming back. This is something that you have to take some time to embrace and accept so you can move forward. You will drive yourself CRAZY trying to remember the exact wording of certain passages and dialogue that you wrote before. Trying to rewrite your opus, word for word, isn't possible. You will only end up weakening your own writing by even attempting such a thing.
Let your old project go. Keep the feel of it, but start anew. You have your notes, you have your passion and your focus, and while you may see many 'shadows' of your previous work in your new project...it'll never be the same. Don't go backwards and try to create a carbon copy of what you've already done. Move forward, and write something even BETTER. Otherwise, you'll just be rehashing old ideas and stale emotions from moments that have long passed you by, broadcasting your regret to your readers for not being able to effectively pull it off twice.
It's ok. There *IS* no effectively pulling it off twice! That's what makes writing so personal, and so unique. Have faith in yourself. You wrote a masterpiece before, you can write one again. Your talent hasn't changed, nor has your drive to tell a great story. So go for it! It'll be fine. K?
A quick recap...
#1 - Take Time To Grieve.
Don't rush to start writing again. Losing irreplaceable thoughts and emotions SUCKS!!! Take some time to wring that out of your system before you try to 'clone' your own genius.
#2 - Look For Your Notes.
The ideas and brilliant bits and pieces of or your original story might still exist in the notes you took before writing it the first time. Get yourself back in the same frame of mind and remember why you wanted to write that story in the first place. It might inspire you all over again.
It won't work. Don't try to build a story off of worn out feelings and 'spur of the moment' expressions. The best thing that you can do is build a brand new version of your original story, based on what you're feeling right NOW. Let it be just as heartfelt and spontaneous as it was the first time without looking back. Follow your heart. Let your muse speak to you without restriction. Your instincts won't let you down. K?
That's it for this particular article. I hope it helps. And remember to save save SAVE your work! Keep TEN copies in ten different places if you have to! Email it to yourself at three different accounts! Save it in LibreOffice, in Notepad, on Google+...ANYWHERE that you can save a copy...save one. After 'gay material' witch hunts on Tripod, and email malfunctions, and laptop or hard drive crashes...I have grown WEARY of losing some of my BEST work to technology. But...as much as it hurt...I had to keep going. And you guys can keep going too. So take some time, watch some TV, deal with the loss...and then give it a second try. You may end up topping what you originally had planned!
There are two schools of learning when it comes to writing erotica...some people want a full story with drama and tension and build up...and some people are rock hard already and want to find something hot to get off to! Hehehe, and sometimes we understandably flip flop from one to the other. Depends on the mood, I suppose. But if your writing a story, and you label it as 'erotica'...just keep in mind that no matter how intriguing the story is, no matter how adorable your characters are, or how talented you are with words, style, and metaphor...a great deal of your audience are going to be actively searching for the erotic part of that equation. And that means a touch of the 'naughty' between the people they're reading about. But when is the appropriate time for you to introduce sex into your story? You don't want it to be too soon, or it won't have the same 'umph' in the delivery. But you don't want to take so long that your readers get frustrated with the long wait either. So where's the middle ground? Let's discuss.
I started out writing stories that matched the stories that I used to read online. Super HOT! They were mostly short, one chapter, stories that had one hot boy meeting another hot boy, trading names, finding a way to be alone, and then shagging each other silly! Hehehe, and I LOVED it! Sometimes, I still get in the mood for a hot quickie, to be honest. There's nothing wrong with it. Sometimes, it's exactly what you're looking for and exactly what you need. In fact, I suggest you write a few yourself, just to get your name out there and use it as a draw back to some of your other stories that might be longer and have a little more depth and plot to them. However, many times those stories can feel like eating a handful of cookies to hold you over until dinner. It satisfies, but it's not as much nourishment as something that you might find a little more emotionally substantial.
I think that introducing sex into a story has a lot to do with how you, personally, view sex in general. No matter what your feelings are about it, tell that story. If you hold that level of intimacy to a much higher standard and think it should be something that your main characters don't take lightly...then take your time and tell that story. But if you think sex is just a normal expression of what you feel and don't want to dive into the whole 'angst' and slow build aspect, and would rather go forward with something sexy and hot without I being that big of a deal, then write THAT story too! Hell, try both if you want to experiment with the difference. But sex scenes in your story should truly reflect a very private and vulnerable part of who you are as a person. Allow yourself to explore the kind of sexual exploits that you would want to have in real life. If you could have it any way that you wanted it...what would you do? How would you do it? This is your self orchestrated wet dream, so go wild with it, right?
I like for things to take a very natural and realistic pace in my stories. But that pace is also set by the kind of story that I want to tell. Sometimes I want to write about someone who has spent the better part of their lives lusting over the one they want, and once they're given the opportunity to dive in to a situation...they go for it, full throttle, with no regrets. However, there are other stories that I write where there's a certain level of insecurity and intimidation that comes with having a sexual experience with the boy of their dreams. Especially if it's a virgin experience, which is something that I try to handle with delicacy and a bit of grace. I wrote an article on building up to the 'first kiss' in your story, and I feel the same way about sex in a story. Let it be a reward, not only for your main character, but for your readers as well, for sticking it out through the plot points that come before it. So there's a balance that you'll have to play around with and determine on your own. However, you want to play the 'long game' but still want to add some sex into your story before your audience gets too antsy, a good way to achieve this is through a masturbation sequence or a dream. Possibly even a series of naughty thoughts while staring at their love interest from across the room. That way you can add something truly sexy to your story without having to rush your main characters into doing the deed before it feels natural.
Also, since this is your personal fantasy, feel free to really express yourself through the type of sex you want your characters to have. Write it your way, and make it sizzle. The hotter it is to you, the hotter it'll be for your readers. If you want a slow, romantic, grind in the bedroom...then throw yourself into it and bring out the sensuality of that moment. If you're more of a 'rough rider', and want something fast and breathless...then try to capture the spontaneity and desperation involved. Do you want your characters to do something secretive, or in a public place? Maybe you want something more innocent and experimental. Or perhaps a bit more on the dominant/submissive side. Whatever your particular flavor is, you're running the show. And you want that first sexual encounter to be as erotic as humanly possible, as it's going to set the standard for every hot scene to follow it.
It takes a little instinct and a lot of practice, but if you can bring sex into your story at just the right moment, and you make it something explosive...your audience will be strapped in and ready to ride with you until the very end. So go on out there and put a smile on their faces!
So, you've done it! You put in the time and the energy and the effort, you've drained yourself creatively, and you've put together a story that you can be proud of. One that can touch and inspire as well as excite and arouse. Awesome! Now, all you have to do is put it out where people can read it so they can be thrilled by your genius. Just find a place to post your work...and wait.
And wait some more...
Ok, so what's going on here? Where's the praise? Where are the great reviews? You poured your heart and soul into a story that you think is really impressive and well put together. So what happened?
Well, while writing the actual story is a fun a passionate experience for a writer who's searching for an audience...it's not enough. That's not to say that your story isn't great literature. It might be a truly engaging story, filled with heart and wit and written with immaculate skill. But merely putting it in a place where people can see it doesn't mean that it'll get seen. That takes extra. Hehehe, don't groan! This part can be a lot of fun too! So let's talk about getting yourself out there, and getting some readers to notice your talent.
The first thing that I want to tell you, before we move any further...may sound a bit discouraging, but don't let that bother you. Ready? Here goes...
Chances are...I'd say that 85% of all the people who read your story online...will never send you any feedback on it. That sounds pessimistic, but I'm actually being optimistic by keeping it at only 85%. It's something that I've learned after many many years of doing this, and at first, it's going to be really disheartening. A part of you is going to think that if people liked they story, they'd tell you so. So the deepest cut of all for any writer is silence, because they immediately assume that you didn't like it or weren't interested. That's a mentality that you've got to break before anything else. Get past that. The internet is full of so many distractions that it would be impossible to even begin to appreciate it all. Think of all the Youtube videos you didn't like or share, or all the articles you've read, or the meme images that you laughed at and moved on. It's not that you didn't 'like' it, you've just got a lot more going on. So lose the idea that a lack of response is a comment on your talent or the quality of your work. That's not always the case. That kind of thinking will only demoralize you and keep you from moving forward. Got it? Good.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into the meat of it...
It takes more than simply putting your work in a public place to get noticed. You spent all this time on getting your story just right, so why not market it a little bit? Let people know how to find you among the thousands of other people who are doing the same thing. We can look at this in three layers. The first layer is on the surface. You want people to check out your story? You want to draw them in? You're going to need to catch their eye. You need to be the shiny object on the table in order to grab their attention. We start with a 'catchy' title. Something interesting, something different, but uncomplicated enough for a potential reader to commit to memory. If you title your story, "Gabe's Story"...well, there's nothing wrong with that, but will that grab your attention when somebody is scrolling down a page of 150 other story titles? Also, if you call your story, "The Unbelievably Annoying Chortle Of My Best Friend"...that's going to scream 'skip' to people who have never read your work before. Those titles can come off as wordy and a little offbeat to the point of turning some readers away. Once you establish a fanbase, that can change. But just starting out and building a name for yourself takes mass appeal. You want the average reader to take a random chance on you so you can show them what you're capable of. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover...but people do. And in cases of online fiction, a lot of times you don't even GET a cover! So the title is everything.
The second layer? WRITE!!! Write until your fingers hurt! Write until your back aches and your butt is flat from sitting in your computer chair for so long! If you can get up from your seat and not ache and feel stiff and worn out...you haven't written enough. Take a break and come back to it. A great way to get yourself noticed is through short, one time, stories. A story told from beginning to end, maybe somewhere between 3000 to 5000 words max. Something that will give you enough room to build character and a decent plot, but won't get too involved to the point where it takes half a novel to make your point. Think of it as a collection of 'extended examples'. And experiment with different genres and ideas. Keep a pocket sized notebook on you at all times, you'll need it for jotting down spontaneous ideas. The idea is not only to practice and hone your craft, but to have a variety of stories out there for people to find. If you have only 'one' story out there, no matter how amazing it may be, getting it noticed will be harder for you. Maybe you have a title that doesn't grab the reader's eye. Maybe you have a theme that a percentage of your readers aren't instantly enthralled with. Or maybe you just got passed over for no reason at all. BUT...if you have five stories on that list, somebody is about to find ONE of them. And when they read it, and discover that they LOVE what you have to offer...they'll immediately look for other stuff that you've written. By that time, you'll have a wealth of material that will prove to them that, "Hey, that story you liked wasn't a fluke! I've got more!" You want them to love 'you' as a writer, even more than your individual stories. Stand up and prove you're up to the challenge of impressing them with almost everything you put out. Build a 'brand' for yourself, one that people can believe in.
If you've written a high school love story...try a college story. If you've written a modern story...try something with a sci fi twist. Every time you try a new genre, you grab a new audience. And those audiences will all follow the breadcrumbs you leave behind to see what else you've created to give it a chance as well. This is how you build multiple fanbases. Except, since you're at the center of it all, all your fanbases combine into one entity. You may only write one story, but some people might enjoy it, and some may not. Write two stories? Some people might like one, and not like the other. Write five? You might get three stories they love, and they'll give the other two a try, even if it's not really their thing. The more you write, the more material you put out there, the better chance you have of getting your work noticed by new readers. Simple mathematics.
The third layer? Get involved with your readers! This is probably the most fun part, at least it is for me. You get to meet and talk to a lot of really great people, and get some feedback on your work at the same time. The first thing you want to do is have an email account where people can reach you. Make yourself readily available for comment and review. Even if you get criticism, that part is important too, because it'll give you a different perspective on your writing in general. Get a Twitter account! Get a blog! Get a mailing list! Find a way to build your own forum, and keep a constant presence in ALL of these places at all times! Be there. Get to know your audience personally. If they can take the time to say, "I liked your story", then you can take the time to say, "Thank you!" Let them know what you're working on next, listen to what they have to say and use it to get an even better idea of how your writing is being seen by other people. Adjust accordingly.
Also, make sure to add your contact and social media info on everything you write. Put it at the top of your manuscript, so people can see it before they read a single word of your story. And then add it again at the bottom of your story, so when they finish, and they have that big smile on their face and that sugary sweet feeling in their heart, they can look at it and go, "Oh yeah, I can actually 'talk' to the person who wrote this! Let me send them a quick message." Invite some sort of interaction between you and your audience. They are really COOL people! I've made some of my best friends ever through the stories I've written, so allow them to get to know you, and then you'll get to know them in return. Like I said, this is the FUN part!
So, a short recap...
Step 1 - Grab their attention with an interesting title and a well-written story.
Step 2 - WRITE! Get as much quality material out there as you possibly can! Let me put emphasis on the word 'quality'. Don't just put a bunch of mediocre fluff out there for the sake of having a bunch of stories online. That will only hurt you in the end. Don't rush. Do it right. Your potential fans will appreciate the extra effort.
Step 3 - Be social! Start by giving people a way to contact you directly, and then set up public ways to let everyone know when you have something new in the works and when it's getting released. Do this on your own. There are sites with automatic announcements and daily updates and the like, which is great...but that works best for the 'website' you're on. You want to actively connect with your personal fanbase on your own. Your direct involvement should be your main priority, and all other websites should be a very cool bonus in helping you get attention. Not the other way around.
Try out a few of these techniques, and I can guarantee you that you'll start increasing your fanbase within a matter of weeks. It takes time and effort, but anything that's worth it always does, right? It's not a 'trick' or a 'strategy'...it's simply a matter of you taking the passion that you put into your stories and extending that to the people who enjoy them. So don't take the self-promotion step for granted. Remember, a work of art loses its value if there's no one around to see it. Don't let your hard work fall into that category.