Tag Archives: characters

When A Character Does Something You Dislike

13 Jan

I read a lot. I also read reviews, though I tend to read reviews after I have read a book myself. Why? Well, I used to rely on reviews to pick books, but now I tend to rely on a trusted few (and my own gut) to pick and choose. Even so, my interest in reviews never completely faded, so I tend to set time aside after I finish reading to skim book reviews.

One of the reasons I stopped reading book reviews was the obsession with tearing characters apart.

Don’t get me wrong. Characters are so, so important in fiction. However, I think many have forgotten that characters are supposed to reflect real-life people. They aren’t supposed to be perfect. They shouldn’t do things you agree with on every page. They will make mistakes, even mistakes that seem ridiculous to you.

Sometimes, your hero isn’t going to act very heroic.

Staying on the path of “when characters make mistakes that seem ridiculous to you”: As the reader, you might know more than the character. Or you might understand the tropes of your genre, so you expect certain things to happen (ex. a best friend’s betrayal, a love triangle admission, a mentor figure’s sudden death). However, to that character, they live in a world that doesn’t come with trope warnings (just like we don’t). So when their best friend betrays them and they’re shocked (and you’re not), I don’t think it’s fair to call that character stupid or naïve or etc. Even with dozens of clues, that character loves their best friend. They trust their best friend. As humans, we often lie to ourselves when the truth is looking us in the face. We make mistakes.

As much as characters are designed to entertain, they are also designed to be honest, ugly, thought provoking, loving, twisted, and more. In fact, if you design a character really well, they will be all of those things—sometimes in one scene.

As an example, I recently finished Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and holy hell, I love it. I thought the voice was so honest, even though Dumplin has some seriously shallow thoughts. This was the main complaint I saw in reviews. Many called her hypocritical and hard to cheer on. And guess what? Of course she’s hypocritical. Of course she’s hard to cheer on sometimes. And that’s what made her believable. Dumplin’ is a teenage girl struggling with how the world judges her weight. Between that and the recent death of her beloved aunt, her contemptuous relationship with her mother, and her first (confusing) summer fling, I completely understood and sympathized with Dumplin’s emotional struggles. Does that mean I agreed with everything she did and said in every scene? Hell no! But I don’t have to agree with a character in every scene to love them in the end.

How many times has your sister annoyed you, bothered you, done something you thought was incredibly thoughtless? How about your parents? Your grandparents? Your best friends? But you still love them in the end. You give them second chances. You let go of the idea that everyone in your life must take your advice to heart. You understand everyone lives their own life their own way, and that sometimes you won’t agree with it, but that no one needs your approval. In fact, how many times have you done something that wasn’t perfect? How many times have you done something out of character? I know I’ve disappointed myself before. I still do. I’m human. I have moments of selfishness, of jealousy, of anger, of irrational depression. But does that make me worth tearing apart? I would hope not.

I expect characters to disappoint me at some point. I try to sympathize with flaws, but also understand that some flaws are going to be out of my realm. I cheer them on when they’re good and hope they redeem themselves when they’re bad. (And sometimes, I enjoy a good story where a character is never redeemed.) All I ask for is consistency—a sense that, no matter what the character does or believes, I understand them in that moment, even in the moments where they aren’t quite themselves. I need to believe they are real, and if I can believe that, I will more than likely enjoy the journey.

In the end, I want to enjoy the story—and sometimes, stories are told by those you might not understand. Maybe even by someone you would hate. But that doesn’t automatically mean the story is unlikeable.

Let’s be a little kinder to characters, especially character flaws.

We all have them.

~SAT

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A Writer’s Best Friend is Google

18 Nov

As an author, I LOVE helping fellow writers. In fact, I encourage writers to message me whenever they want with whatever questions they have. But don’t forget, folks.

Google is your best friend.

Recently, maybe due to NaNoWriMo, I’ve received A LOT more messages than usual. The most common one: “How can I get my book published?”

When I search “How can I get my book published?” on Google, the first three articles are actually pretty legit. One is about how to self-publish on Amazon. Another is a list of self-publishing tips by Forbes Magazine. The third is a step-by-step guide on how to get traditionally published. (No results were vanity presses, yay!) My favorite article that popped up toward the top was Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman.

If the writers who had emailed me had Googled their question first, they would’ve had these amazing articles at their fingertips…and as much as I wish I could deliver long, thoughtful pieces every time someone messaged me, I simply don’t have the time. I will ALWAYS try to point you in the right direction, but honestly, Google is often better.

Whether I’m researching publishing news or searching for information I’ll use in my books, Google is almost always open on my computer.

Don’t get wrong, though. I get it. I do. Publishing is hard. And there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming/contradictory/seemingly impossible to navigate on your own. But guess what? 

Learning how to navigate your publishing journey is going to be key to your success.  

Why do I say that? Because I’ve been there. Publishing has confused the hell out of me, too. And I still have days where I get confused, because aspects of publishing constantly change. Knowing how to research and determine what is true/false/helpful/scam is going to save you a lot of time and pain. Asking others might not always work, because others also fall for false information and scams, so you need to be able to sift through information to form your own opinions. But don’t worry. You don’t have to navigate everything alone.

No one can get a book published by themselves. It takes a team to get a book from an idea to a draft to an editor’s pick to a novel on a shelf. There’s beta readers, proofreaders, sensitivity readers, reviewers, and more that will help you get from step one to step infinity. So you will need writer friends. You will even need their help. But before you message an author/editor/publisher, try to answer the question yourself. Why? Because you’ll probably find the answer to “How do I get my book published?” but then come across publishers that—no matter how much you research—you’re still unsure about. THAT is the perfect time to message a fellow writer (preferably a writer who is associated with said publisher) and ask them if they recommend that house.

If you are reaching out, specifics are a lot easier to answer. “Would you recommend this publisher?” is easier for me to give my opinion on than when I’m asked “What type of publishing should I go for?” A lot of questions I’m asked are, quite frankly, not answerable by anyone other than that writer. Choosing how to publish is a very personal choice. I can’t make that decision for you, no matter how much I want to help.

Show initiative in your pursuit of publication. Be brave. Research. But don’t read this article and think you can never reach out ever again.

If you were about to message me about how to publish, I won’t bite your head off. (Maybe just your fingers.) And I’ll still try to point you in the right direction—though there are lots of directions to consider.

Here are some of my favorite resources for writers.

Writer’s Digest: The go-to online resource for writers. If you’re starting out, set a goal to read a couple articles once a week.

Publishers Marketplace: This lists current sales and other important publishing news. Some pages on this website cost money, so if you can’t afford it, sign up for Publisher’s Lunch, which is free.

Janet Reid: She blogs every day about various topics and creates an amazing community of writers to rally behind. I still read her blog every day. It’s how I start my morning.

Pub Rants: A blog by Nelson Literary Agency. One of my all-time favorites. Her Agenting 101 class caught my eye in 2006, and I’ve been following it ever since.

BookEnds Literary Blog: Another blog from a literary agency. They talk about lots of topics as well, but mainly about getting agents and the publishing process afterward.

Query Shark: For learning how to query.

Query Tracker: For keeping track of querying. (This website is free, but you can also pay $25 per year to look at extra information.)

An Alliance of Young Adult Authors: Lots of helpful tips from fellow YA writers, whether you’re self-publishing or going traditional.

Oh! And right here. I try to blog about various writing and publishing topics every single Saturday. Use the search bar at the top of this page to look up topics I’ve discussed in the past. (Because, trust me, I’ve been blogging since 2012, I’ve probably covered it.)

If you have a topic you want to see me blog about, I always take suggestions. I’ll even blog about a topic I’ve discussed before if the article is outdated and/or not detailed enough. (And, yes, you can send the suggestion via email.)

But while you’re online, I suggest opening Google and becoming best friends again.

I think you’ll love the friendship more than you know.

~SAT

Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft

3 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process, so if you haven’t checked out the first part— My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process—check it out. Today, I’m continuing the writing journey by explaining what happens after I finish writing a first draft.

1. Review Your Notes & Plans

Hopefully, you took a break between finishing your first draft and this step. Why? Because you’ve been really close to this manuscript for a while now, and you need to clear your mind in order to see issues you couldn’t see before. Think of writing a book like creating a painting. You were painting one bit, inch by inch, but now you need to step back to take a look at the whole picture. Once you step back—and reevaluate—make sure your notes are in order, so you can create a clear plan for moving forward. (Caveat: It’s okay if you don’t have a clear plan yet; you can rewrite your draft as much as you need to.)

2. Start with Sweeping Changes

I always start with my biggest changes. Is Chapter Three now Chapter Fourteen? I move it and make sure everything else is in chronological order. That way, as I move through the manuscript, I can take new notes on what is revealed and in what way. After that, I move through each chapter, along with those chapter notes, and tighten everything, including my prose. I’ll keep grammar in mind, but the focus here isn’t to nitpick every little thing but rather solidify my story. This is also where I’ll make big decisions—decisions that, I hope, will be final. Maybe I’ve been on the fence about that one side character being five or eight. This is where I’ll choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change again, but I’ll try to stick with a decision throughout the final manuscript to see how it flows. If it doesn’t, I’ll try again. If I cut out whole scenes, I put them in an “Unused” folder, in case I decide to add them back later.

Much like you’d create a writing plan, create an editing plan and a deadline goal.

3. Address Weaknesses—Big & Small

Maybe you’re cringing at your kissing scenes. (Like I do, every time.) Or maybe you use the same word way too often. (We all have a crutch list, whether we know it or not.) Personally, I keep a small list of elements I know that I will have to look out for, no matter what. Example? I have a note to take my time on romantic scenes, because I often brush over them during first drafts. I go back and make sure to give each scene added attention to detail. I also keep a vocabulary sheet. This helps me track words I overuse and also reminds me of words I typically forget but are perfect words for certain situations. In some cases, I keep whole vocabulary sheets for sections of books, because the demanded vocabulary might not come as naturally at first. (I even keep notes on gestures, descriptions, etc., because it’s easy to fall back on the same notion over and over again.) Examples?

Crutch words to avoid: though, worse, curious, all the while, eyed

Gestures/Description Example:

  • Brow Action: pinched brow, lifted brow, raise one brow, a frown etched between her eyes, regarded her with a crease between his eyebrows, her brow narrowed, wiped his brow
  • Brow description: sparse, plucked, trim, thick, bushy, caterpillar.

Words about Light/Bright:

  • Prismatic: of, relating to, or having the form of a prism or prisms
  • Effulgent: shining brightly; radiant.
  • Phosphorescent: light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat
  • Scintillation: a flash or sparkle of light.
  • Refraction: the fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.
  • Luster: a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface:
  • Lambent: (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance: lambent torchlight

Words relating to the ocean: Aquatic, briny, breeze, barrier reef, bays, beach, birds, body of water, breaking, breakwater, buoy, climate, coastline, crustacean, coral, current, depth, dock, diving, froth, tides, waves, sand.

This method isn’t for everyone, but I love having lists of words that I can reference for fun—and helpful—reminders. It both challenges me and aids me when I have that word on the tip of my tongue but can’t remember it.

Once I finish polishing up my drafts into something I absolutely love, I know I’m ready for a “final” edit. However, there’s one more step. When I get that polished draft in my hands, I send it to a few trusted beta readers. Why? Because what’s the point in perfecting the grammar if my beta readers point out half of it needs to be rewritten? Granted, this is going to differ for everyone. Some beta readers, for instance, are going to want grammar to be as perfect as possible before they read, because they are also looking for grammatical errors, but I tend to have different types of beta readers: ones who help me with the basic story and ones who will read later and help me polish the technical stuff (and ones who do both). The key is to communicate with your beta readers about what you’re looking for and when they want to participate in your writing process.

So send off the manuscript to your beta readers, get some feedback, write/edit some more, and soon, you’ll be on your way to the next and final step: the final draft.

Next week, I’ll cover editing your “final” draft.

Stay tuned,

~SAT

The YA Protagonist’s Age: You’re 17? Me too!

15 May

The young adult genre is normally defined by coming-of-age stories, where the protagonists are often between the ages of 14 and 18. That being said, if you are publishing a YA story right now, chances are your protagonist is 17 years old.

So why are most YA protagonists 17?

Short Answer: The protagonist is old enough to be on the cusp of adulthood but young enough to still be considered a young adult.

Long Answer: Adding to the short answer above, 17 years old is also highly regarded because the target audience reading YA right now is not necessarily teenagers. In fact, most studies indicate that the main audience buying YA is 18-27. (Many teenagers are more focused on fan fiction online—another topic for another day.) But focusing on the older aspects of teenage years is currently more sellable than the younger teenage years of 14-16.

Basically, 17 years old seems to be the sweet spot in YA right now, especially for crossover YA, but I would love to see more variety.

In fact, I find it incredibly uncomfortable how much we are focusing on the age of 17. It’s almost as if every teenager on the planet will have a revelation in that year of their life…and that’s highly unrealistic.

Teenagers do not go through the same issues at the same time. Not everyone falls in love for the first time at 17. Heck, I’m pretty sure half my class was “dating” in middle school, and, yes, that “dating” included some pretty adult things. In fact, let’s talk about that.

Sex is being introduced to YA on a more often, regular basis. (And that’s another debate.) But I think this addition is one of the main factors behind the focus on aging up protagonists. The average reader might feel okay reading about a 17-year-old, who is practically “free” of childhood, but a 14-year-old might cause different reactions. But people face different issues at all ages. Let’s take historical fiction as an example. The average age of a Civil War soldier might have been 26, but boys as young as 12 served as drummers. You’re now talking middle grade fiction, let alone young adult. I think it’s especially okay to give younger protagonists bigger roles in YA historical, but 17-year-olds still take the center stage, and while I understand the marketing aspect, I wish we could get over it.

I went against the grain when I featured a 14-year-old protagonist in my latest YA series, because I think variety is important.

In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out and say one of the reasons young readers (actual teenagers) are reading less YA and focusing on Harry Styles fanfiction on Wattpad is because of how much YA is currently being marketed for older audiences. Ally Carter, author of the Embassy Row series, recently talked on Twitter about how “sweet” young adult fiction is all but missing from the main market. Darker, older, edgier materials are hot, and while that’s awesome for readers like me who enjoy those books, many teens are feeling left out of their own genre…and that’s not okay.

When I was young, I grew up with Cammie in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. Her character aged over a few years, and I loved it. The series starts off quick and short and sweet, and as Cammie grows, the content gets darker, more mature, and complicated. In fact, there were a lot of series like that when I was younger, and I LIVED for them. (Hello, Harry Potter.) When I’m at book signings and teenagers tell me how they struggle to “relate” to YA anymore, I feel for them. I truly do.

Teenagers deserve younger and older protagonists—all going through a variety of topics and struggles. They deserve to feel welcome in their own age bracket.

I lost my mom at 11. I moved for my seventh time when I was 12. I had a stepfamily when I was 13. I started high school and my first long relationship at 14. I got in my first car wreck at 15. Heck, I got my license at 15, because, Kansas. (Farmer’s permits—driving by yourself to work and school—were pretty common.) I started my first job at 16. I published my first book at 16! I graduated high school at 17. I turned 18 one month before I moved out and went to college. And sex? I was 19. All of these topics are seen in YA…but they’re mainly assigned to 17-year-olds. Why?

Not everyone has their first “coming-of-age/independent” moment at the same time.

So why are all of our protagonists the same age?

~SAT

November Snow Paperback Release & Sequel Sneak Peeks!

19 Sep

Today’s post is short and sweet.

The paperback of Bad Bloods: November Snow released!

So, who wants some sneak peeks? 😀

Bad Bloods: November Snow Paperback Release

Bad Bloods: November Snow Paperback Release

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Bad Bloods: November Snow

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

What are the latest readers saying?

“A powerful work of art. In November Rain, Thompson invites us into a world of secrecy, murder, and unlikely friendships that are bound to make your head spin with wonder.” – Lena May Books, November Rain

“I bawled like a baby at the end of this book. I highly recommend this story to all to read and enjoy!!” – Black Words, White Pages, November Snow

So what happens after Bad Bloods: November Snow?

July Thunder!

The sequel is underway! I’m working really hard, despite hitting a bit of a snag, and I released the first sneak peek of July Thunder’s very first chapter, told by Violet herself. For those of you who need a little reminder, Violet was a bad blood from the Northern Flock, she was the shadow from Shadow Alley, and now, she is a protagonist. The other protagonist will be a brand-new character named Caleb. I am so looking forward to readers seeing how he connects with the first book. (There are hints throughout November Rain and Snow. *hint hint*)

Check out the July Thunder/Lightning Pinterest Board!

This is a first look at brand-new cast members, as well as old ones, and the sunken bay, where most of the sequel will take place. The sunken bay is in Eastern Vendona. Niki from the Southern Flock originated from there (which you can read about on the Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad) as did a few other bad blood characters. Other important origin stories you should pay attention to? Ami. She was in the Southern Flock, and she will play a significant role in July Thunder/Lightning. But that’s all I’ll say for now! This board isn’t complete, so keep your eyes on it for additions.

July Thunder Pinterest Board Sneak Peek! See more photos at the link!

July Thunder Pinterest Board Sneak Peek! See more photos at the link!

And finally, the preview of July Thunder/Lighting!

This excerpt is from Violet’s perspective on July 1, 2090.

“Are you afraid of Caleb?” Daniel asked.

Levi tossed his head back and laughed. “Afraid?” he repeated. “Of course I’m afraid. But I ain’t here ‘cause I’m scared of him.” Levi dropped into the water with a dramatic splash. When he resurfaced, his glowing skin scorched an eerie glow across his eyes. “I’m here ‘cause I’m scared for him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.

Levi’s eyes met mine. “The sea?” he asked, and to make a point, he dragged his fingers through the water. “She talks to me.”

“Well, isn’t that sweet?” I mocked, but Levi’s expression only darkened.

“She’s far from sweet, sweetheart,” he said. “She’s gonna kill us.”

“What are you talking about?” Daniel growled, but Levi smirked at his tone, like a sailor to a siren.

“Caleb didn’t tell you?” he asked, then touched the water again. “We’re all gonna drown.”

P.S. I released a longer excerpt via my newsletter. If you missed it, sign up today. More sneak peeks will release in the future. (I won’t ever give your information away, and I send one newsletter a month – if that.)

Thanks for reading!

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Bad Bloods: November Snow

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

~SAT

#MondayBlogs My Protagonist and Illiteracy

5 Sep

My protagonist is illiterate. She recognizes a few letters, she can identify her name, and she loves listening to stories more than anything. But she cannot read.

Her name is Serena, and Serena is a bad blood.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

While Serena lives in a futuristic world where magical children like her are executed, illiteracy is a very real issue in our world today. An issue I wanted to discuss in my Bad Bloods duology. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding illiteracy—some of which I discuss in an article Tackling Diversity in YA—but the main one is the fact that illiteracy isn’t as uncommon as the average reader might think.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. (DoSomething.Org)

books-writing-reading-sonja-langford-large

For readers, this fact might seem startling. Readers generally know other readers, after all. And—on top of that—many of the characters in YA fiction love books, because readers love books, and it’s easy to relate to a character that loves the same things as them. For many readers, it’s impossible to imagine a world without reading, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings. I, for one, definitely struggle with that concept, but illiteracy is a reality for many young people, especially women all over the world. Granted, I will be the first to admit that I did not set out to write Serena as an illiterate person to spread awareness. No. I originally set out to write her as a character who didn’t enjoy reading due to severe dyslexia—something my brother and father deal with to this day.

As a child, growing up in a household where my two role models didn’t read was very difficult, especially when my late mother was a reader but no longer able to share that joy with me. That being said, we can relate to one another—readers or not—as people, and since so many characters are readers, I wanted to remind readers we can love those who don’t read, too (although maybe we can help them find the perfect book so they try reading again)! We can also understand how illiteracy happens, and hopefully, we can learn to sympathize with it and also help others learn to read in the future.

The issue of illiteracy developed with Serena’s character over time, but I wouldn’t change Serena for the world. She is smart. She is caring. She loves ice cream, her friends, and stories told beneath the full moon. She falls in love. She cries. She feels pain and sorrow. She laughs.

Serena may be illiterate, but she still has a story.

And so do the millions of people around the globe dealing with illiteracy today.

That is why she’s my protagonist.

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Bad Bloods: November Snow

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

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