Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing Tips: Food in Fiction

10 Sep

Announcements:

Read Watch and Think read Take Me Tomorrow and asked, “Why do I have a feeling that the author hates the fragile nature of my brain?” She reviewed my latest novel by stating, “I have a feeling that there should be a sequel. (In case there in no sequel planned, the author can totally expect me to camp outside her house till she writes me one….either that or she decided to calls the cops or unleash her dog to get me off her property.” And you can read the entire review by clicking here or check out my latest novel by clicking here.

Into the Written Word also reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, recommending to it to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels with cliffhangers (and action!) Click here to read everything, including why they want a sequel, but this is where Shannon reminds everyone that a sequel is up to the readers sharing, reviewing, and spreading the word about Take Me Tomorrow.

Minutes Before Sunset was featured on Underrated Books by Confessions of a Book Geek! You can check the full list of books by clicking here, but here’s a quote from her explanation, “I really enjoyed this action-packed, paranormal story (with a difference) and I’m looking forward to reading the whole trilogy.” Thank you, Book Geek!

Writing Tips: Food in Fiction

55365451.jpgI love food. I love it so much that I often feel like Usagi in the 90’s Sailor Moon. Black cat and all. But this post isn’t about my obsession with my favorite manga. It is about food in fiction and how it can shape characters, settings, and more. (What?) Yes. Believe it or not, food can be that important.

So, grab a snack so we can start chatting! (Nom-nom-nom)

How can food shape characters?

Think about your favorite foods. (Spaghetti? Cherry turnovers?) Consider your favorite type of food. (Chinese? Mexican?) Now, think about why, and go beyond “I just like it.” Are there memories associated with these foods? My mom used to always cook lasagna, and my dad still talks about it over a decade later. I always have a coffee in the morning, but my favorite breakfast is bagels, and for about a year in my childhood, all I ate was bagels. (No exaggeration.) My brother loves Goldfish.

These little quirks can do a lot for a character. Not only can it show one character’s preferences, but it can also bring characters together. In Minutes Before Sunset, Crystal and Jessica have a “girl’s night” with peanut butter and chocolate. I put quotes around girl’s night because Robb is there, too. But food went beyond that in the trilogy when Eric obsesses over his stepmother’s lemon cakes. Even though he struggles to talk to her, her cooking gives him an excuse to approach a mutual moment of discussion. So – if you can’t find another way for two to come together – consider bringing your characters together over food. It happens in society all the time.

If you need another reason to consider food for a character, it can just be funny. For instance, I HATE spicy food. If there’s even a slight pinch of pepper on anything, I lose control of my face. It’s not cute. But it might be a good excuse for comedic relief.

All of this food has been seen in The Timely Death Trilogy

All of this food has been seen in The Timely Death Trilogy

How can food affect a setting?

Oh, in so many ways.

Think about how food changes from one table to another, from one day to another. Heavier foods might insinuate colder weather outside or fancier foods could mean they’re celebrating a holiday or a birthday. Certain food might show cultural differences from one character to another. But you can take even further.

If you’re super detail-oriented, it might be a good idea to Google how a character refers to a soft drink based on the setting. Is it soda, pop, or Coke? Names can shift over various areas and time. It might be something to consider, but that’s not all! (What? There’s more?) Yes. There always is.

If you’re writing science-fiction or fantasy, throw in a new food or consider renaming a food we eat today. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just have fun with it! You could even create traditions around food. (Like how the U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving with a turkey.)

Food in fiction is fun, but it is also important.

Don’t be afraid to explore possibilities (or the kitchen) for your characters. After all, we want characters to be as realistic as possible, and real people need to eat if they are to maintain healthy and energetic lives. Who can be a superhero with an empty stomach? Speaking of which, I am starving now that I’ve written this. I’m off to eat my midnight snack, but I look forward to reading your thoughts about food in fiction. Comment below!

~SAT

When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

6 Sep

Announcements:

I have a couple announcements today. First, I would like to thank The Opinionated Woman’s Musings and Books for Fun for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Lovely Blog Award. I nominated six blogs on my Facebook page to keep it going!

In other news, P.S. Bartlett interviewed me, and we discussed my writing process as well as how my works differ from other words in my genres. Check it out by clicking here. I also did another interview with The Examiner, but I will be talking about that today. So let’s get to chatting!

… 

When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

This is actually inspired from one of my latest interviews. If you haven’t had a chance to read my interview with The Examiner, here is the link, but in case the link doesn’t work, we spoke about topics in Take Me Tomorrow that I didn’t write about in great detail despite the fact that it is a huge factor to the setting, time, and lives of my characters. If you’ve read even the back cover of Take Me Tomorrow, you know there was a massacre prior to the story taking place. After the massacre, the State – a.k.a. the government body – enforced stricter rules on the citizens to prevent another violent uprising. That being said, Take Me Tomorrow is told from one perspective – a 16-year-old girl named Sophia Gray – and she doesn’t get into much detail about the massacre. The Examiner asked me why, and I explained in our interview:

‘I wanted to show more information on the massacre, but Sophia was very young and still is when the novel takes place, so it didn’t come naturally,’ Thompson says. ‘I thought about 9/11 when I considered the event. I was 10 when that happened, and it took me many years to finally grasp it or understand the importance of the event, but I definitely didn’t understand it when it happened. So I took that approach with Sophia.’

I would also like to add that if a sequel is published – which is up to the readers – the massacre as well as many other questions will be answered, but in terms of Take Me Tomorrow, readers are right. I didn’t explain it in great detail. But there was a reason behind my decision as well as many other decisions I made, particularly with Noah telling the story. Although he did in the original version, I had to cut his voice, because of many reasons – the main one being that it isn’t his story. It’s Sophia’s – but the secondary reasons revolve around his character. (Spoiler alert) When he’s on drugs, his voice makes no sense, and when he’s sober, he tells way too much information. Like way too much. Like the ending too much. Mainly because he can see into the future. But that’s another aspect entirely.

So where am I going with this?

Authors are often struggling with characters. We love them, but the characters – not the author – are in charge, which means they make decisions we don’t like, but we ultimately accept them because they are the ones telling the story. There are four instances that authors deal with in terms of characters, and those four things are listed below.

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Sometimes characters don’t want to talk

I’ve mainly had this problem with my dual-perspective novels. I’ll wait for the boy to talk only to realize he is just not interested, and then, I realize I am going to have to write the entire novel from one perspective. But – eventually – he pops up, and then, I have to go back and add him later. Worst case scenario, they never talk at all, and I struggle to find a way to get around it or to coax them out. But I’m sure many authors have dealt with this, even labeling it writer’s block. I like to call it character’s block – because it’s them, not me – and I wait patiently for them to get over whatever is blocking them. Yes, I realize these are people in my head, but trust me when I say – sometimes – they won’t even talk to me.

Sometimes characters want to talk too much

This is when authors start screaming, “Shut up! Just. Shut. Up. You cannot tell everyone who the murderer is on the first page. Idiot. Then, we don’t have a story.” It happens. Oh, it happens. A character wants to give away everything the second they get a chance to speak. But it can be an easier problem to solve. A simple, “Hold back a little bit.” can solve everything, but it is still difficult when a character insists on exposing information an author wasn’t planning on telling until the end. Most of the time, I bite my lip, listen to the character, and hope they have a reason. They normally do. That being said, I have had to censor a character here and there for giving too much away too quickly. We need some suspense, after all.

Sometimes we (authors) force it

When I say “force” – for once – I don’t mean this as a bad thing. Sometimes, authors get lucky. We find spots that we can slide information in without having to destroy our character’s honesty in the process. I am referring to characters finding newspaper articles or television sets explaining certain events that characters might not understand. This helps because an “outside” source can explain what is happening without the character necessarily being involved. That being said, we don’t try to create these moments. If they happen naturally, fantastic, but we also don’t want to rely on these at every moment we are tempted to do so. (Because we are oh, so tempted.) But this can often lead to info-dumping or other uncomfortable circumstances if authors aren’t careful.

Other times we (authors) don’t force anything

This is what happened with me in Take Me Tomorrow. I could’ve forced information in, found a way to blame the information on the surroundings, but I realized many things when I contemplated that: The State wouldn’t leave documents of the massacre laying around for a 16-year-old girl to get her hands on. (That’s why the only info she does receive is from her father.) The news wouldn’t talk about it, and even if they did, Sophia spends too much time out in the woods to watch the news anyway. She might be oblivious to some of the political situations, but she is 16. Not only is she busy being 16, but she is busy surviving in her environment. Worrying about her dad, Lyn, Falo, and Argos is more important than understanding something that happened when she was 12, even if it was only a few years ago. I also had to keep in mind that she wasn’t directly affected by it at all in terms of her comfort zone (her family and friends.) If she had been, I would’ve been looking at a different situation. So I left it out because Sophia would leave it out. That being said, she is a different person at the end of the novel, and she might figure these things out in the sequel if it happens. But refocusing on not forcing it: sometimes characters need to be true to themselves, even if it is slightly destructive to the story. I don’t regret not having this information involved because I know that I was true to the circumstances, to Sophia, and to the world she lives in. And that isn’t destructive at all.

Sometimes authors have to make big decisions, but most of the time, characters do that for us. We just have to accept it and do the best we can do with their decisions.

Have you ever had these issues with a character? Experienced character’s block? Ever wondered why a character didn’t say something earlier on?

Talk about it below!

~SAT

Changing Character Names

2 Sep

Announcements:

The Examiner posted their 3-minute review of Take Me Tomorrow, stating, “‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is a fast-paced, character-driven thriller that drops the reader into the middle of a simmering American revolution guided by a well-developed but unknowing protagonist who’s as unpredictable and complex as the plot.” But you can read more about how the “rebel heart beats strong” by clicking here for the full review (or here for the novel on Amazon.)

I would also like to thank Deby Fredericks for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the One Lovely Blog Award. I filled out my seven facts on my Facebook page (which includes a pretty crazy story about Elvis Presley) but here are my three nominees: Fiction Favorites, Joyce H. Ackley, and A Writer’s Life for Me.

Changing Character Names:

Now, I’ve talked about this briefly before in my post, Naming Your Characters, and I think it’s important to check that out if you’re struggling to pick out names. I explain how to consider history, time, culture, and websites to help you find appropriate, memorable, and symbolic names for your characters. But today, I’m going to go beyond that and assume you now have names. Even if you get a list of symbolic names that fit the characters’ needs, there is still some work that has to be considered. Most of the questions below are ones I have to ask myself, and most of the time, I have at least one of these problems, and – yes – I rename characters when that happens (unless there is a purpose, which I will get into below.) But it’s important to follow step one before continuing.

Create two lists with ALL of your characters names

All includes minor. It even includes that random girl at the coffee shop your protagonist called by name because he read her nametag. It includes that barista, even if you never see her again (or she dies the second she appears.) Why? We’ll get to that in a second. First, you need to make the two lists. One list needs to be an alphabetized list. When characters begin with the same letter, keep them in the same line. When I use Minutes Before Sunset, a small section looks like this:

  • James, Jessica, Jonathon, Jada
  • Luthicer, Linda, Lola
  • Mindy, Mitchel,
  • Noah
  • Pierce

The second list organizes your characters by importance. (It can get tricky, and this one isn’t exactly necessary, but it does help when you’re trying to rotate, cut, or change names and you know you have to sacrifice someone else’s.) Again, if I were using Minutes Before Sunset, that small section above would be very different.

  • Jessica
  • Pierce, Jonathon
  • Luthicer, James
  • Mindy, Noah
  • Linda, Lola, Jada
  • Mitchel

This might help later on if I wanted to cut an “M” name, and I saw Mitchel at the bottom. (He’s actually a student we only see once in Seconds Before Sunrise.)

Original picture by name berry.com

Original picture by name berry.com

But now that you have the lists, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in sound?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in the beginning or ending?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in syllables?
  • If they are similar, is there a purpose behind it?
  • Have you used these names before?

Now, unless there is a reason – like two brothers having similar names because they’re named after the same person – then, these issues are…well…issues, especially if 13 or your 20 characters start with the same letter. But there is no reason to panic. (Even if you are attached to the names you picked out, it’s okay. I promise.) I know I have had almost all of these problems, and when I faced them, my cast of characters became easier to decipher and understand. In fact – here’s a fun fact – I write almost all of my novels with the exact same character names: Magatha, Laurel, Tyler, Anthony, “D” names for the male protagonist, and “S” names for the female protagonist are just a few of my habits. This almost always happens, despite the fact that the characters aren’t similar to previous characters at all. So I write my novels without worrying about it, but I force myself to go back and change everything later. Why does this happen? I have no clue. I think it’s just how my brain works. But I know that I can’t have the same names in every book (even though the name Noah appears in both The Timely Death Trilogy and Take Me Tomorrow) and I know I can’t have too many similar sounding names. For instance, in the original version of Minutes Before Sunset, the Stone brothers were named Brent and Brenthan. (Yes. That seriously slipped my mind.) However, in the published version, the Stone brothers were renamed Jonathon and Brenthan. I kept similar endings to retain the similarities I wanted for the brothers, but I changed enough so that they were no longer confusing. Do I still accidentally type Brent every now and then? Yes. It’s embarrassing when an editor finds it. But I change it and move on, and I fall in love with their new names, slowly realizing how confusing their similar names once were.

But – speaking of similar names – you might have noticed that there was a new name on the list I used from The Timely Death Trilogy. Jada hasn’t been seen yet. She will be introduced in Death Before Daylight. For those of you who are wondering, I hit the 40,000 word mark yesterday, so I’m about halfway through, and I have updated the progress bar on the right side of my website.

I’m looking forward to giving you more updates, but I’m also looking forward to seeing your writing tips! Share your experiences with changing names once you chose them below, and we’ll help others who are struggling to find that perfect fit.

~SAT

Website Wonders

29 Aug

Announcements:

Before we get into August’s Website Wonders, I wanted to thank two lovely reviewers for sharing their thoughts on Take Me Tomorrow and Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy.

Bookish Lover Reviews started us off by reviewing Take Me Tomorrow, “If you liked Delirium series and Divergent, this is something in between. It has great action with lot of twists and a little bit of romance but enough to fall in love with story even more. I recommend it to everyone. Please pick it up, because this book deserves bigger audience.” The full review gets into detail about romance and action.

Tranquil Dreams posted their thoughts on the paranormal romance, Seconds Before Sunrise, “There is nothing better than a novel that delivers a believable story with an alternate reality/fantasy world intertwined and while giving us a love story also gets us to wonder what happens next. Thats what Seconds Before Sunrise is.” But she gets more into detail about the personal struggles Eric and Jessica have to face in her full review.

If you’re interested in reading either of these novels, here are the Amazon links to Take Me Tomorrow and Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy. Be sure to let me know about your review. If you want me to share it, I would be more than happy to. Comment here or send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com.

Website Wonders:

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of August’s Website Wonders categorized as so: Reading, Writing, Inspiration Art and Life, and For Fun. Between each category is a photo. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Reading:

What Classic Novel Describes Your Life? My life is described by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. How about yours?

J.K. Rowling Releases New “Harry Potter” Story, Characters, and Song (Video)

4 Ways “The Giver” Turns A Beloved Novel into Just Another Dystopian Teen Movie: So sad. Just so sad.

10 Novels You Need to Read and Why – For Dummies: The neat part about this list is how different it is. It isn’t the “best” or “for moms” or “to enrich your life.” It’s just a list that changes constantly.

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes to Start Your Week: “Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

Vintage Books and Anchor Books

Vintage Books and Anchor Books

Writing:

These Writing Tips from George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb are just Epic

29 Words That Mean Something Totally Different When You’re a Writer: “Writing” means doing literally anything else.

Synonyms for the 96 Most Commonly Used Words in English: Maybe a list writers can use?

French Phrases: I found it sad that she called it pretentious, but I think this is a good list to go on if you’re looking to incorporate the French language into a story or character.

Title Wave

Title Wave

Inspirational Art and Life:

12 Amazing Tree Tunnels You Should Definitely Take a Walk Through: What would be a Website Wonders post without my obsession with trees?

16 of the Most Magnificent Trees in the World: You know… because I’m obsessed with tress.

She Creates Miniature Paintings on EyeLids…THAT is Talent: There are a lot of fiction references, too.

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For Fun:

10 Uplifting Stories that will Warm Your Heart.

2048 Game: It’s addicting. I warned you.

25 Awesome Furniture Design Ideas for Cat Lovers

Rescue Me Ohio

Rescue Me Ohio

Hope you loved these as much as I did! I’m looking forward to sharing August’s Ketchup during my next post. September, here we come!

~SAT

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers

21 Aug

Announcements:

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in the second volume of an adult anthology collection, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. It is completely free on Smashwords, so feel free to check it out by clicking here.

Take Me Tomorrow was reviewed by A Literary Mind recently, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but check out this small excerpt: “I can’t say how refreshing it was to have a protagonist that felt real. Knife-throwing abilities aside, Sophia is like the rest of us; she’s stubborn, flawed, and simply cannot control her curly hair (I feel your pain!).”

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers:

I love beta readers. In fact, I consider my beta readers some of my closest friends (and secret keepers.) But they are close to me because we were equally careful in deciding whether or not we were good for one another, and that is what I’m talking about today: how beta readers can be both fantastic and destructive, depending on how your relationship is decided.

Why Are Beta Readers Important?

I hate to be egotistical and quote my novel when I say, “Sometimes an outside perspective is the clearer perspective.” But it’s true. (Shout out to Talk Show Host, Illuminating Now, for quoting Seconds Before Sunrise yesterday and inspiring this piece.)

But, yes, having an outside perspective is vital BEFORE the novel is published. Why? Because authors often get too close to the story. They understand too much. They know all of the answers to all of the questions, and because of this, they sometimes forget to clarify enough for a reader to understand. Beta readers prevent this confusion by reading, reviewing, and even editing as they go. If writers, publishers, editors, and beta readers were a team, beta readers would be your very first fan who still shows up to all of your games, even when you lose. And they always have great advice that even your coach didn’t think about.

Are they really THAT important?

I stand my ground when I say that the importance of editors should also be on beta readers. Like editors, beta readers are vital in creating a professional, understandable story. I think most people in the publishing industry would agree that editors must be chosen with care, but some think I’m extreme when I say that beta readers should be treated the same. Yes, it’s okay to have your friends and family read your story, but you wouldn’t rely only on them to edit, so don’t rely only on them to beta read. Find trusted colleagues or join a writing group. This might take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end. Their dedication, encouragement, and ideas might be the clarity you need.

My beta reader, Bogart

My beta reader, Bogart

So how can they be destructive?

Like any relationship, two people who are wrong for one another can be destructive to one another. In this case, a bad relationship with a beta reader can cause more confusion, a horrible change in a manuscript, and more. This doesn’t mean the beta reader is bad. This doesn’t mean the author is bad. It just means they are bad for one another. Just because two good people are in the same room, doesn’t mean they are meant to be together. This is actually relationship advice my father gave me when I was an awkward preteen that hated life in general, but it stuck with me because it is true. You must find a beta reader who likes your work as much as you do, but you also must find one who is willing to be honest about it (and an author must be willing to listen and consider.)

Is there anything else I should know?

Definitely! This small list is just an outline of basic advice I’ve given to fellow authors in search of a beta team. But the one that scares them the most is the one that scares me the most: you often have to find different beta readers for different novels. Sure, I have my go-to team, but – like readers – beta readers have genre preferences, and they work better when they focus on those particular types of novels. Just like I can’t expect a sci-fi cover artist to create a romance cover, I can’t expect my beta readers to jump on any piece of writing I hand over, and I definitely can’t expect them to praise it. You want them to give you constructive criticism so you can grow together as a team – which brings me to my last point:

Thank all of your beta readers

Even if they drop your manuscript after twenty pages, the outside perspective might suggest what type of reader will also drop the manuscript. Any advice is helpful. (Yes. Even if you hate it. Because it allows you to figure out what beta readers are good and bad for you.) Plus, having a beta reader to discuss your novels with is like having a best friend to write with, and I think all of us authors can use a few more people to talk to other than the characters in our heads. (We know how confusing they can be.) So take the time to thank them, and if you’re feeling extra thankful, put them on your acknowledgements page in your next bestseller.

P.S. I would like to take this moment to thank my beta readers past, present, and future.

~SAT

Guest Post: Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

16 Aug

Shannon, here, for a quick introduction. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Robert Morris from Ninja Essays. He wanted me to see the info graph Top Writing Tools of Famous Authors, and I am beyond grateful that he showed it to me. It is amazing. Seriously. Check it out by clicking here. But – onto the next part – I asked him to write a post for you all, and he agreed, so I hope you enjoy his post, Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About.

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

For writers, the usage of the Internet can go in two directions: it can either be a great resource for the work they are producing, or it can turn into a black hole that consumes their productivity by luring them with endless distractions. An average writer spends more than 50% of their time on the Internet nowadays. If you belong to that category, then you would surely want to be protected from the overwhelming interferences. The following list of tools will help you increase your willpower and start using the full potential of the Internet.

Anti-Social – Be honest: aren’t social networks the main culprit for your lack of productivity? Anti-Social is a tool that every contemporary author should start using (you hear that Salman Rushdie?). It will eliminate the temptation of checking what’s new on Twitter while you’re in the middle of writing a chapter. You can set the timer and become anti-social for the time planned for working.

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays – How many times have you wished for an affordable, but effective editor who would get their work done as quickly as possible? Hiring a personal editor is quite expensive, but it’s also something that gives you constant headaches. At custom writing service Ninja Essays, you can put the torture to an end by hiring an online editor who will do an amazing job without spoiling your work with unnecessary “improvements”. The best part is that this is the most affordable editing service you could ever hope for.

There is another way to use this website for the sake of producing better work: you can hire MA- and PhD-holders in nearly all fields of study and get relevant information about the plot you are working on.

OmmWriter – Now this is a real writing tool! Wouldn’t you love to be able to focus while working on your computer and simply ignore all online distractions? This is the right software for you! As soon as you start using OmmWriter, you will limit the fruitless hours spent on your computer and you will start using your time productively.

Xero – As any other writer, you surely have a practical side and you like getting paid for your work. However, not many writers are capable of managing their finances well, so they need a little help from the outside. Instead of hiring an accountant, you can start using Xero – an online accounting tool that you can access from anywhere.

10FastFingers – If you want to increase your productivity, you have to become a faster typer. This tool will help you test and improve the speed of your typing with awesome (and free!) games. This is the best way to spend your free time and use the Internet with a good purpose. Although the games seem silly at first, they will definitely enhance your productivity and train your hands to follow the speed of your mind. You can switch between various typing tests to improve your accuracy and speed of using the most important writing tool – the computer keyboard.

The Internet has a lot of potential. Start using it!

It would be a shame for a writer to have access to Internet and waste its entire potential without benefiting from productivity-improvement tools. You can not only type your novels in a safe and clean environment that’s free of all distractions, but you can also use the advantages of technology for all other aspects of your career as a writer, including editing, accounting, learning, proper relaxation, and everything else you can think of.

The selection of tools provided above will help you use your time at the computer more effectively. You and your readers will notice the difference!

- Robert Morris

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters

9 Aug

Announcements:

In my latest interview with eBook Review Gal, I discuss my favorite types of self-promotion, my novels, and more! A small excerpt is below, but you can read the full interview by clicking here.

“What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I quit publishing for five years. I honestly gave up all hope, and it took me a long time to gain confidence in myself and in my writing life again. If it weren’t for the encouraging readers on Wattpad, I don’t know if I would’ve found the courage to return. Readers are powerful. They are the best friends of authors, so I’m eternally grateful for every person who has taken even one minute to check out my work or email me.”

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters:

I spend a lot of time on the blogosphere. I read book reviews, comment on discussions, and stumble upon opinions that make me cringe. But – alas – we all have these opinions, and I want to share one of mine today. Bad things will happen to characters. Their past will be messed up, their present will be tense, and their future will probably take a tumble every now and then. This is a sign that the story is eventful and the characters are round. (#SorryNotSorry)

So why am I saying this? (Okay. I’m sorry for using a hashtag outside of Twitter.)

I recently read a list of popular cliché complaints as fans displayed them on my Facebook newsfeed, but only one stuck out to me. The reader was tired of seeing “damaged” protagonists. For once, they wanted a character that didn’t have a past that affected who they were, and they were definitely sick of seeing two damaged people coming together as love interests

What…the…actual…

Okay. I’m going to glue a pillow to my desk, so when I slam my forehead against it, I don’t get a concussion. But – first – I’m going to write this article.

Bad things happen to everyone. I actually loathe the phrase “bad things happen to good people” because it is wrong. So horribly wrong. Bad things happen to everyone. Every. Single. Person. (Especially if they live a long life…and if they don’t live a long life, I think we can count that as something bad happening to them.)

I get it. I understand that people might not be complaining about bad things happening to characters, that they are, in fact, complaining about stories in which those bad things become the glue, the foundation of a relationship. I can see how someone might think that is encouraging unhealthy beginnings, but – let’s be real – and I mean REALLY real – bad things happen to real people. Why wouldn’t bad things happen to characters, too? Because of this, I’m including more reasons bad things happening to characters can be a good thing for a story:

1. Round characters = Relatable characters

Okay. So the equation isn’t that simple, but round characters definitely contribute to relatable characters, and round characters include past, present, and future. If they had a perfect life, there would be nothing to talk about. On the flipside, bad events can build character, which means it can round out a fictional character, and it can make a person more relatable and real for readers.

picture

2. When bad things happen to characters, it reminds readers that bad things can happen to them.

This goes back to the complaints surrounding an abundance of dead parents and siblings in fiction. Of course someone has died somewhere in the book. That’s because everyone dies, and – unless the book takes place in a magical, immortal universe – I better see someone who at least knows someone who died or the threat of death isn’t present.

This correlates with bad events. If nothing bad has ever happened to a character, especially an older character, how could they have any perception of danger? Of life? Of happiness? Call me the cynical one, but how can you truly appreciate sunshine if you’ve never had to be locked out in a thunderstorm? (Figurateively speaking, of course.)

And lastly,

3. Let’s stop describing characters and people as “damaged”

This is when my evil demeanor to comes out – how dare we describe people as ”damaged” (especially when their trauma is beyond them.) This phrase seriously sickens me. We’re all human. Everyone has damages, sure, but we aren’t damaged. We aren’t objects. We are people. By describing a person or a character as “damaged goods” we have placed that second word on them: goods. Which they are not by the way. Goods can be bought at a store. People, in an ideal world, cannot be.

If we see a character that has a traumatic past that means they are round. Sure, a character doesn’t have to have a traumatic past to be round, but they do have to have a past, and – chances are – something bad happened to them somewhere along the way. That means they have depth. That means they’re more likely seen as a real human being.

So what do we want? A round character that had hardships or a flat character that knows nothing of the world?

Just to clarify, I am not hating on characters that have had nothing happen to them. In fact, in Minutes Before Sunset Jessica states, “I knew nothing of death, and for some unexplainable reason, I was beginning to feel guilty for that.” Yes. She’s had hardships but not of that kind (in her opinion.) But my point rests in the future. If a character has had nothing happen to them yet, but then something happens in the book, they should react like someone who has never had to go through anything. I, personally, cannot stand a story where a character who’s never held a gun picks one up and blasts away zombies like it’s nothing. Sorry. But I’ve spent time in a gun range. I see how people react the first time they pick up a gun, and I would hate to see how they react if it was a life or death situation. But – back to the main point –

Bad things will happen to characters in their past, present, and future. Just check out a Disney movie and see how many of their characters have happy beginnings. (Spoiler Alert: not many.) And hopefully – somewhere along the way – these events will shape those characters into people we can all relate to, look up to, and explore with. Hopefully, those bad things make them human, and good things will happen, too.

~SAT

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