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Found 14 results

  1. Comicality

    Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs

    Have you ever completed a story that you were truly proud of writing, that got a standing ovation from your readers and fans, and became one of the shining gems in your body of work? If so, let me add to the giant round of applause and congratulate you on creating something truly special for everyone to absorb and keep close to their hearts for years to come. It's not an easy task, believe me. So take pride in the moment. Sometimes the success of something that you've previously written, along with the rabid cravings of fans wishing that they had more to read, can lead you to a strong desire to continue on with the story that your muse once gave birth to. I mean, you know these characters like the back of your hand, right? You've lived with them long enough to build an entire world around their personal story and people reacted favorably to them. Creating another story with these same characters would be like revisiting an old friend, right? Can't go wrong with the idea of jumping back into the story to give the people more of what they want! Well…that's not always the case. There are some things that you've got to think about before returning to a story that has already been told. Sure, you have some advantages in place...but there are also some pitfalls involved. No matter how well a story does, no matter how beloved the characters are, we all have to be able to ask ourselves..."Does anything really need to be added to this?" And we have to be able to give ourselves an open and honest answer. Because, truth be told, if you add to a story that doesn't need adding to...not only can it come off as weak without depending on the original text...but it can actually end up ruining the power and the impact of its predecessor in a way where both get dragged down into the mud. Obviously, we don't want that. So, today we're going to talk about sequels, prequels, and spinoffs! Something I definitely have dabbled in enough times to figure out some of the flaws and fortunes in the process! Hehehe! Because 'trial and error' ROCKS! Let's start by thinking about what these three expansions really mean in terms of your original story. When writing one of these extra ideas on your original project, it's important to keep in mind that you are trying to give the reader something NEW. Perhaps even unexpected. Sure, you want it to be familiar enough to draw them back into the world that they cherished so much from the original, but this should be a new angle, a new perspective...it provides information that could not have been provided in the first story. The last thing that you want to do is go back and repeat old information that the audience could have easily gotten in the first story without any more description needed. Otherwise, you're just telling the exact same story over again. The problem with that is the readers already know how the story ends. One of the big mistakes that many Star Wars fans site for the release of "Solo" in theaters dealt with that exact concept. No matter how dangerous the mission, or how risky the mission...nothing is going to happen to Han Solo or Chewbacca, because they obviously show up in later chapters. So putting them in mortal danger during a prequel kind of loses its effect. It goes from 'Can they get out of this???' to the much more mild question of, "What do they do to triumph and come out clean on the other side?" It's not a boring or unimportant question...but it doesn't have the same punch. These are the things that we, as writers, need to think about beforehand. The elements of each idea are slightly different from one another, so let's go into the difference between a sequel, a prequel, and a spinoff, in terms of the stories that you've written so far. I've done all three, and I've enjoyed them immensely, but I still have much to learn. Let me split them up and tell you what I've discovered so far... Sequels The very first question that a writer should ask themselves before attempting a sequel to a story that they've previously completed should be, "What is it about this story that was left unsaid?" When you finished your tale and wrapped it all up in a neat and tidy manner...what is it that is motivating you to keep going? It can't just be the readers asking for more. I mean, that's extremely flattering and all...but if you said everything that you had to say with your first story, and have nowhere else to go...then why write a sequel? I totally understand that telling a story and giving it that 'happily ever after' ending is sweet, but it doesn't often work like that in real life. Hehehe, happily ever after? That's a pretty optimistic stance to take on the characters that you've built through multiple chapters of struggle and strife and had to fight to be together at all. I'm sure that they had a few other problems and conflicts in the future, some significant, some...not so much. But a life free of drama and obstacles from that point forward, in my opinion, is not only unrealistic, but it would be downright boring after a while. Hehehe! However, if you are looking to add a new chapter in your characters' lives and continue the story...there are some questions that need to be addressed in the planning stages. What's changed since the end of the last story? How have the characters grown since their happy or unhappy ending? And how will that affect their decisions in the future? Is the threat of new challenges in this relationship enough to carry an entire story? What will the impact be on the readers to follow these characters on their next big adventure? And will that impact be significant enough to tell that story and update your readers on what they're doing since the last story ended? If you're iffy on that last question, I suggest you abort that plan immediately and go back to the drawing board. Don't retell the same story you did before. If you said what needed to be said, no matter how long or how short the story was, don't be tempted into continuing it unless you feel it's really necessary. Like I said, you might just end up sapping strength away from your first story by doing so. Have you guys seen the new trailer for the "Halloween" movie reboot recently? Hehehe! Perfect example! It's basically saying, "Let's pretend that we had the original 1978 "Halloween" movie, and everything that took place after that NEVER happened! LOL! If that's not the definition of a true sequel, then I don't know what is! I have one or two sequels in the works at the moment, and I am taking everything that I've written here in this topic into account. Believe me. I've put a lot of thought into it, and I want to make sure that I do it right. One of those stories is a hidden secret for now! But, I will tell you that a sequel for the story "Gone From Daylight: Nightfall" has been in the works for quite some time now. It was a story that I have wanted to continue since the original was finished, and it takes place a number of years after the first one. "GFD: Nightfall" is on the site and the "Blood Bank" for free, but the ebook version has been redone from scratch, and it is a MUCH better version of the story that I was trying to tell, in my opinion! Consider that the 'director's cut'! Feel free to check it out when you get a chance, and look for an explosive sequel in the near future, with much higher stakes and a different dynamic that I think will enhance the characters and the storyline as a whole! Coming soon! Prequels Now, with prequels...you have to ask yourself some of the same questions as you do with sequels...but with a few slight changes in your perspective of it all. The most important, of course, being...'what story is it that I need to tell that couldn't have been (or hasn't been) explained in the original text?' If you're writing a prequel, then it is assumed that there are secrets and revelations that can explain and further demonstrate the thoughts and future actions of your main characters. The cool part about writing a prequel is that you get a chance to look at your original story, choose certain moments or character behaviors, and then go back in time to explain why those things took place, or why a character feels a certain way about themselves or why they reacted a certain way to a certain situation. It gives you the chance to say why a certain trinket might have some significance to your main character. Or why they have a particular phobia, or why a few situations might trigger a nasty response from them. Prequels give you an opportunity to go back and look at those first few dominoes that you set up before your main character became who they are. It can be a lot of fun! Especially when you get to draw from your original story and look at the questions and speculations that other readers had concerning the writing. Again, the goal is to answer questions without an answer. Otherwise, there's no reason to write it. I've written a few prequels on the Shack, and they have always been projects that I made sure were necessary and enjoyable, as well as informative, adding another level of insight into what was previously going on with the characters that my readers had come to know and love. Stories like "Ryan's Heart" repackages the very first chapter of "New Kid In School", but from Ryan's point of view. Not only that, but it reaches back to events that happened before meeting his future sweetheart, Randy, for the first time. And I even got to play around with a few special cameos that fans of the original weren't expecting. Hehehe, which is also fun. But that's the whole point! Can you give your readers something new and involve them on a deeper level with a prequel? If not...don't write it. I know that it's fun to rewind the clock and add a bit more information, but it can backfire on you if you're not careful. You can end up spoiling the untold motivations of a character that was better off being 'mysterious'. Or you can end up giving away secrets to people who haven't read the original text yet. Which is why, even though I don't really give any big secrets away in the "Gone From Daylight" prequel, "Taryn's Song"...I always advise everyone to read "GFD" first! These are things to think about before you begin, and if you still think your characters can benefit with a bit of detailed backstory, then go for it! Again, just make sure that you have a legitimate reason for diving into the background of your original story. If you didn't feel the need to do so the first time...why do it now? You can give backstory on your characters in a few paragraphs if you feel it's important to the telling of your story. That can be done in the original. Only tackle a prequel if there are multiple unanswered questions about the actual origin of the characters that you're focusing on. Questions that need an entire story to explain and bring to light for your audience. If the material seems thin? Don't do it. Let your original stand on its own merit. I think a lot of stories work better that way. Spinoffs Now, as most of you guys know...I'm an 80's kid! Hehehe, I grew up with comic books, and those comics taught me everything that I know about storylines, character arcs, plot twists, triumph and tragedy, etc. I can't tell you how AWESOME it is to see those same comic book characters being brought to life in the movies, and watching those movies make billions of dollars at the box office every year! Because of that, crossovers and cinematic universes are now seen as the Holy Grail of blockbuster movies these days. But stories have always done that in the past, not just in comic books. There's an isolated story that may exist in one book, surrounding a few characters and their journey through life...but there's still a whole world out there beyond that. The idea behind an effective spinoff is taking the opportunity to tell your readers what was happening outside of your original story. You may be focused on one or two characters in the main story, but what else was happening at the same time? If your main character falls in love and gets obsessed with his new boyfriend...what is going on in his best friend's life? How does HE see this new relationship? What does the character's mother or father think? Maybe he has a brother or sister. How do things look from their perspective? The world doesn't revolve around one or two people in a single story. If you want to do a spinoff, then it's important to make sure that you have strong, three dimensional, characters that can carry that spinoff on their own, and that their perspective is a welcome change to what readers can easily get from the original story. Nearly everything that I've written for the "GFD: Blood Bank" has been a spinoff that, in some small way, builds upon the world of vampires that exists in the original story. This is the peek behind the scenes for readers who enjoy the main series. This is what is going on before, after, and during, the story being told. It's assumed that this is all information that will be alluded to or mentioned later, and will have some impact on the main story. Spinoffs can be fun, as they let you explore different characters and flesh them out individually, while still having them be a part of the main project. I truly enjoy doing that. But it takes time. And you have to be sure that your focus is placed on a character that your readers want to know more about. One that is interesting enough to inspire readers to follow them on a journey of their own. Anyway, either of these three exercises can be an enlightening experience, for both the writer and the readers alike. Just make sure that it's necessary. Don't just do it for the sake of doing it. Provide another level of effort, some new revelations, and maybe even a few big plot twists that further enhance the appeal of the original story. It's a lot of fun...just be careful. You've got a 50/50 chance of making a great addition to an already popular story, or possibly dulling the applause you got for a project that might have been better off being left alone. I hope this helps out and gets you guys thinking of new ideas for your own projects! Take care! And I'll see ya next weekend!
  2. Comicality

    Creating and Escalating Tension

    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!
  3. Comicality

    Writer Responsibility

    Writer Responsibility 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. 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!
  4. Comicality

    Short Stories

    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!
  5. Comicality

    "Low Light" Reel

    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))
  6. Comicality

    Fleshing it Out

    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. Example... ″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!
  7. Comicality

    Sex Appeal

    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!
  8. Comicality

    Adding Humor

    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.
  9. Comicality

    Darker Themes

    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))
  10. Comicality

    Getting Yourself Out There

    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... 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.
  11. Comicality

    Set the Stage

    Imagine if you were watching a movie or a play for the first time. You've never heard of it before, you've never seen any advertisements about it, and you don't even know what it's going to be about. Now...imagine if you could hear the dialogue and everything that's going on...but the stage or the screen is shrouded in complete darkness for the first fifteen minutes. You can't see anything at all. You just have to sort of listen to the words and use your imagination to figure out what's going on. Well, the problem with that is...once you bring the house lights up, once the movie visuals actually kick in...the people watching may have your vision all wrong. And that can be a huge stumbling block. Writing is no different. In fact, putting out certain details as early as possible in your story is even more important. Because your readers' imagination is three-fourths of the whole experience, and the last thing you want is for them to spend too much time in the dark before you give them the basics. That's why it's so essential to 'set the stage' before getting into anything that will push your story forward. When someone clicks on your story, most of them are going into it blind. What will it be about? Who are the characters? When does it take place? For example, imagine if you read a story about a guy who's out in the park with his dog, and they're playing fetch, then he sees a guy that he thinks is absolutely gorgeous, and after a brief conversation they decide to go out to a local café for a drink. Seems simple enough, right? Now...imagine that your story has gone on for a few pages, and you don't start giving some basic details to your reader until they're already sitting down to dinner. Out of nowhere, you mention that both characters are high school juniors. Wait...what? Oh, maybe your readers were picturing them as being a bit older. Ok, well, they can deal with that. They keep reading, and you mention the dog was this giant Great Dane. Whoah! You might have pictured a dog that was a lot smaller, but...no big problem. Then maybe you mention that it's Winter time and there's snow on the ground, but your readers were imagining it being a nice Summer day. Then you mention that it's 8 PM at night, and the guy has a full beard and glasses and looks older than he really is...oh, and did I mention this story takes place in 1975? What could have been a very sweet beginning to a story has now baffled and confused your readers, because every time you add some major detail that they weren't told from the get go...they're forced to stumble, erase their previous ideas, and readjust their imagination to fit the details you're giving them. Which can sometimes be frustrating and it can give the story a clumsy start. Always remember, this is the internet. There are WAY too many options out there for you to have a clumsy start. The 'back button' is not your friend. Whenever I start a story, I try to use descriptions of that particular moment so anyone reading can get a real sense of where they are, who they're looking at, and when it's taking place. Now you don't have to spend paragraph after paragraph spilling every last detail at your reader's feet all at once, but you want to give them a sense that they can see what's going on. Because once your audience has dreamed up a solid idea of what everything looks like...that's the vision they're going to be instantly invested in. If you throw them a curveball after they've already made up their minds that the main character is a modern-day teenager from the suburbs, and you tell them, "No, he's really a gritty, chain-smoking, detective from 30 years in the future"...hehehe, we'll that's going to be a problem. If you're writing about a teenager, maybe have your opening scene start out in a classroom, or next to his locker, or at his best friend's sweet 16 birthday party. Maybe have his mother or father call him down to breakfast. These little cues will put the idea in your reader's minds that, "Ok, we're dealing with a high school kid here. Got it." And then they can continue reading, while emotionally attaching themselves to your vision instead of creating one of their own, and later having the two conflict with one another. In a future setting, maybe have someone fiddling with some sort of futuristic gadget, or describe some giant metropolis with floating holograms and hovering cars. If it takes place in the old West, maybe mention dirt roads and people riding past a saloon on horseback. Whether you describe a corporate office full adult businessmen, or a couple of kids sword fighting playfully with a couple of sticks in a Medieval castle, or walking through an apocalyptic wasteland...try to find creative ways to let your readers immediately know who, where, and when, before you get too involved with any other part of your story. That way you can be on the same page...pun intended. Hope this helps. Just remember that the faster and easier it is for your readers to get involved in the world you're trying to build, the more powerful your story will be. Set the stage first and then start building momentum from there. The last thing you want to do is trip them up right out of the gate.
  12. Comicality

    Character Flaws

    Are any of us perfect? I mean, I'm sure that a lot of us realize that we're not actually perfect...and the few that do believe they're perfect are often blind narcissists...hehehe, and therefore NOT perfect! Honestly, that's not even something that I would ever want to shoot for. If perfection is determined by some sort of direct formula or standard, if it's a bunch of little boxes that all have to be checkmarked to be considered a part of that group...then that would mean it's our imperfections that make us different. Unique. Hell, even mildly interesting. Who would want to toss that aside from a life free from stress, worry, and pain? Am I right? Hehehe! We're not perfect...our characters shouldn't be perfect either. Today...we talk character flaws. Now, when I say the word 'flaw', I don't you guys to start cringing and worrying and shouting out, "But I don't WANT my main characters to become unlovable douchebags!!!" Shhhh, calm down. It doesn't have to go that far. Ok? Character flaws can be minor. They can be human. And if you plan ahead and play your cards right, you can use those flaws and the flaws of your love interest, to build a wonderful story arc where your characters learn to battle those demons and overcome those flaws for an amazing story that can get your readers to think, evolve, and maybe even change themselves. It's all in the way you put it together in your story. So, what are flaws? What are we talking about here? That's the big question, right? Well, I happen to be a very flawed individual myself, and I'm fully aware of what those flaws are. That's what helps me maintain a conscience about them and try to fix them when they get in the way of me being a decent human being. Naturally, as a writer's creation is always a reflection of the writer, those flaws trickle down to my characters, and I use them as chess pieces to tell a bigger story and to hopefully have a deeper theme. Even if it's done in a slightly exaggerated way. It's easy to want your protagonist to be a good soul and a true angel, through and through. Even easier for your main love interest to shine even brighter and be even more magnificent, to the point where the entire choir of Heaven shouts down at you from the clouds above at his mere appearance. Ohhhhhhhhh, Hallelujah! But as tempting as it is to do that, you're going to end up running out of things to say VERY quickly. There would be no conflict. No adversity. No challenge. What would you do for the rest of the story? "I love you." "I love you more." "No, I love YOU more!" "Unh unh...I love YOU more, times infinity!" Yeahhhh...don't spend ten pages doing that to your readers. That's just plain mean. Hehehe! When I speak about character flaws, I'm talking about typical human traits that could somehow be used to add a touch of literary color to what you're writing. Maybe your main character is a great guy, but he has a bit of a jealous streak. He's involved in his first gay relationship ever, and his brand new boyfriend is talking to the star quarterback of the football team? How would you feel? I have written stories where one of the boys was 'out and proud', but his boyfriend wasn't. There's a slight friction there. I wrote a story where the main character was the victim of physical abuse from his father, and finds it hard to even believe in himself enough to approach his own boyfriend without being suspicious. I've written about people who have had their hearts broken before and are afraid to love again, boys who feel inadequate because of their financial status, or boys who think the person they're in love with is so far out of their league that even trying to ask them out seems like a waste of time. These are all HUMAN traits. They're situations that we've all dealt with in one way or another. Some people are painfully shy, some have a mean streak in them, some have religious constraints, some have age restrictions, some have problems with alcohol, or drugs, or just an unhealthy connection to their ex-boyfriend. These things can be used to enrich your characters and give them a added level of depth, they're not meant to ruin them or make them unlikable. Not at all. In fact, the very concept of dealing with these personality flaws can become the backbone of your story and make it an exciting read for everyone who's reading it. While the loving relationship, the breathless kisses, and of course...the mind-blowing SEX...is the centerpiece of most erotic stories, how much cooler would it be to also touch on a partner dealing with substance abuse? Or maybe cheating on their significant other? Or maybe keeping people at arm's length because he's scared of commitment? Everything from the insecurity of being with an online 'celebrity', to the aggravation and agony of a long distance relationship, can become an enthralling part of your project, and it might just touch people in a deeper way than you ever thought possible. To me? A super hot, super perfect, person...falling for another super hot, super perfect, person...doesn't hold much entertainment value. It's GREAT for a ten minute session of 'cocking the shotgun', hehehe! But once you clean up, who really remembers that? It's not that I don't understand the true intention of erotica, but if it doesn't feel like a real experience to your readers...then it becomes less about your writing and more about their fantasies. Which would mean...they could get the same thing anywhere. From anyone. If you want to stand out, never be afraid to add a little extra layer to your stories and have an impact. I'm not saying that you have to turn it into a soap opera about something else entirely, but drawing attention to little flaws and having them deal with it between marathons of naked sex-scapades will only help you to stand out even more. And it'll keep people coming back for the next story you write. And the next. and the next. I'm thinking that's a goal a lot of us are working towards.
  13. Comicality

    First Kiss

    No matter how hot and steamy the sex may get between your main character and his love interest later on in your story...sometimes the sweetest and most explosive moment of all comes from that very first kiss. Even if your characters are older and it's not their first kiss ever...it's that first delicate connection with the guy you're passing off as his perfect counterpart. If done right, a first kiss between characters can be just as erotic as every other part of your story, if not more so. So how do you make someone's awkward attempt at pressing their lips together for the first time seem like such a grand experience? Read on, and let's talk about writing that first kiss. One thing that always makes a scene for me, as well as the rest of the story, is the love and care put into the characters. That's rule number one. If people care about the characters, then they will care about what the characters are doing. Who they are and how they interact with one another is all a major part of the actual build up to a first kiss. Have them trade glances, talk to each other, flirt with one another...maybe even have them get nervous and back out of a previous attempt or two. The anticipation of a first kiss should be both adorable and maddening at the same time. I've written a bunch of stories where the emails and reviews were like, "Arrgggghhh!!! I hate you! I HATE YOU!!! When's the next chapter coming out???" Hehehe, but that's what we as writers WANT, right? We want the readers to get excited like our main characters get excited! That's a big piece of what makes telling a quality erotic story so much fun. It's not this kiss itself, but the events surrounding the kiss that give it its flare and true magic. It should be a blissful 'reward' for all of the fear and angst and confusion you put your protagonist through to earn it. Once you've successfully built the tension and you're ready for the big moment to happen...let that moment represent your character's personality just as much as any other part of your story. A kiss is basically a silent dialogue, continuing on from everything you know about these boys so far. A previously bashful guy isn't going to ram his tongue down someone's throat. And a stronger, more dominant character, wouldn't deliver a kiss on the cheek and shy away from him with a giggle. Depending on your characters, try to have it match the tone of the story. Have it match their personas as you created them. For example, if you're writing a really sweet dramatic fiction...maybe you have them stare into each other's eyes as they go silent. Then they lean in slowly, close their eyes, and experience something truly amazing. Soft and tender and special. Or, if you're writing a story that's super lighthearted with a lot of humor added to it, you might enjoy making their first kiss clumsy, with bumped noses and smashed lips and possibly a fall back into the bushes. Maybe that's not the story you're trying to tell...maybe you want the first kiss to come off as some repulsive, and you want to describe it in a different way. Maybe they're actually fighting with one another when it happens, and the kiss comes off as angry, but erotic, as their 'oil and water' emotions collide. Think about the overall tone of your story and the people involved, and write something that will reflect who they are. It works wonders. 'Surprise' kisses can also come off as being incredibly sweet. Whether it comes from the protagonist or the love interest. The idea that they're close to one another, and despite holding back originally, they simply can't take it anymore. Lunging forward spontaneously without warning can, physically, cause your reader's jaws to drop. And that's always a good thing! Hehehe! You could go a million different ways with it, but if you listen to your characters speaking to you within the context of the world you built for them...they'll tell you how it should all go down in the end. My own characters NEVER shut up! Hehehe, trust me! Now, once that magical moment happens...make sure you milk it for all it's worth! This is a monumental achievement happening here. This is that first dip in the roller coaster that will lead toward the exciting ride to follow it. So, make sure to get in your character's head and really use this opportunity to paint a pretty picture. What's he feeling? What's he thinking? Put yourself in his place, really visualize it, and describe it to the readers who are taking this journey with you. Let them feel the racing heartbeat, the heavy breathing, the jittery stomach, the slight rise in body temperature. Let them experience the softness of his lips, the fabric of his shirt as you gently hold onto his hips...let them read about the taste of the grape flavored popsicle he was sucking on just moments before. What do you do with your hands? What do you do about the obvious erection digging into his hip? How do you react to the feel of his tongue entering your mouth? What do you first hear a moan fill the room and you don't know if it came from him or from you? All of these little details can grab a few seconds of kissing and make it soar into orbit, making your fanbase just as dizzy and delirious as your protagonist. Make it last. Because, just as in real life...your story only gets one first kiss. Now, one last thing that I've learned over the years about the first kiss...let it breathe. Allow it to be it's own grand event in your fairy tale. I used to have a habit of letting the first kiss happen somewhere private, and then letting it transition, immediately, into that first sexual experience. If that's a part of the story that you want to tell, then so be it. But I find it more effective to just let my characters have that one special moment, truly let the readers appreciate it, and then allow them a period of time to glow and grin and smile up at the sky for a while before they come back to escalate to a naughtier level. I like it when first kisses stand alone in a story. There's nothing more endearing than having a character get just a taste of the possibilities, and watch him float home...enjoying the overwhelming 'wow' of it all. Give it a shot. These are the moments that really define a story as a whole. You don't want to 'blow your load' all at once, do you? As always...pun intended. I hope this helps. Just keep in mind that the first kiss in a well written erotic story is like those first rays of light breaking over the horizon at sunrise. It is, basically, the end of your 'first act' in a lot of cases, and you want it to have some power to it. By the time you get to anything more graphic, your readers will already be so in love with your two main characters that you'll be beyond the point of doing any wrong by them. So pucker up, and give your audience the magic they deserve.
  14. Welcome, everyone! Starting early in 2018, we will be posting weekly articles by Comicality and other authors every Saturday morning. I wanted to get this kicked off so between now and then we'll be posting links to previous Writing Tips, which can currently be found in our Stories Archive in the Non-Fiction -> Writing Tips category. Please be sure to check them out. Read and review! The three for this week are from Lugh:

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