Tag Archives: round characters

Not All Villains Think They’re Good

17 Apr

“Every villain is the hero in their own story” is a common, popular writing tip, and while I agree, I think it is sometimes confused with “Every villain thinks they’re the good guy.” There’s a difference between thinking you’re a hero and thinking you’re a good guy, and not every villain thinks they’re a good guy.

Though the word “hero” in itself has a positive connotation, I argue that villains can still be a “hero” in their own mind while also being aware they are doing something wrong or harmful. Take revenge plots as an example. Most often seen in thrillers, a protagonist could be solely out to seek revenge, whether or not that revenge is warranted. In fact, many believe revenge isn’t “justice” and therefore isn’t heroic. But, at the same time, a revenge-seeking protagonist will think of themselves as a hero without believing they are a good guy. A good example of this is Gerard Butler in Law Abiding Citizen. While he is seeking revenge for his family’s deaths, he kills many people who probably didn’t deserve to be hurt at all. And he’s aware of it. In fact, he uses it as a weapon against others. Therefore, he is a hero for his family, a villain to a lot of innocent people, and definitely the protagonist. But a good guy? I think he gave up that concept a long time ago.

Good guy? Bad guy? Who knows?

Granted, don’t get me wrong, I love a villain who thinks they’re the good guy. I love villains who tiptoe on the good/wrong line more. But I wish we saw more villains that were simply villains—bad guys doing bad things because they want to. Their psyche can be just as deep as someone who is doing bad things for “good reasons” or someone who thinks they’re doing good things when they’re in fact doing bad ones. But we’ve sort of obsessed over “bad guy thinks he’s good” recently…when I think we should be focused on making villains round characters.

Round someone who thinks they’re good all the time.

Round = character who does good and bad things based on many types of motivation.

People aren’t so black and white. No one is purely good or thinks they’re good, and no one is all bad either. One of my favorite, eerie quotes is that, yes, serial killers sometimes help grandma cross the street. In fact, serial killers are often some of the most charming people around. But if you study serial killers, (and you’re a True Crime junkie like I am), then you know serial killers are generally aware that what they’re doing is SUPER messed up…yet they do it anyway. And then, they go to work and school and raise families and so on and so forth. Aside from killers like Charles Cullen* (no relation to Twilight), they hardly ever think they’re being a good guy.

Villains can be bad guys who know they’re bad and do bad things regardless. Just make sure they’re 3D while they carry out those dastardly deeds.

Instead of “every villain thinks they’re the hero of their own story”, let’s change it to “every villain thinks they’re the protagonist of their own story—whatever that entails.” In fact, keep this is mind for every character. Your novel will love you for it.

*Charles Cullen, also known as ‘The Angel of Death’, was a nurse in a hospital who killed over 400 patients. He thought he was “mercy killing.” Keep in mind that many of his victims were in good health. He is currently considered the biggest serial killer in American History.

~SAT

My latest Bad Bloods book recently released! I hope you check it out. 

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What are readers saying? 

“I LOVE this! I am a sucker for great characters, and July Thunder has no short of them.” –The Book Forums

“From the start, Thompson grabs your attention. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat until the very last page.” – Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories

“Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!” – Babbling Books

If you haven’t started this series yet, don’t worry. Book 1 is FREE.

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#WritingTips How to Use Real-Life Stories in Your Novel

24 Feb

This seems simple. Using real-life stories—especially your own real-life stories—should be pretty black and white when you want to implement them into your novels, but it’s not. In fact, it can be very gray and confusing and downright frustrating to pick and choose…and well, remember. So, here I am to help with some writing tips.

First, I wanted to tackle the idea of using someone else’s real-life story in your book. Maybe they are your best friend or maybe they were some random guy at a bar you met. Either way, they shared a FASCINATING story with you about their life, and you loved it so much, you were already picturing where it would be in your current WIP. Stop right there. Personally, I am big on getting permission, especially if the story was deeply personal and unique (which, generally, people’s lives are). Get permission or even ask them what they would like you to change…or ask them permission for what you are already planning on changing. That’s just me though. There are many who would argue with me, and you can read their opinions on their blogs. But I see it as an ethical issue. I am not going to put a personal story about love gone wrong down to the gritty, dirty details in one of my novels when that person put themselves out on a ledge as friend (and human being) to tell me about it. That story is not mine to tell. Now if I get permission…Hell yes, run with it.

Now, moving on.

Why would it be difficult to put your own real-life stories in one of your novels? Well, for one, it can involve other people, which goes back to the point above, but you can also be TOO close to it. You might want to explain every little detail and moment leading up to the short story, and now you have a subplot instead of a little tale to push into your book. Try to focus on WHY. Why is this story so interesting? What about this memory is important? Is it the emotion? Is it the lack of emotion? Depending on the situation, one little section might be the only part worth mentioning.

Now how to choose. I’ve spoken to a lot of writers who are struggling for inspiration. They often tell me their lives aren’t exciting enough to use in novels, but once I start talking to them, I am pointing at them—practically jabbing them with my finger—and screaming, “THAT DETAIL. Use that detail.” Your grandmother who used to love to make liver and onions, even though the rest of the house hated it. Your mother who hairsprayed her hair into beautiful ringlets every morning…only to pin it up with a giant clip. Your father who took you to a golf course one day and you accidentally drew the club back…right into his forehead…and then he got RIDICULOUSLY upset…more so than you’ve ever witnessed before in your seven years…and then he calmed down and told you a story of how he lost a friend in childhood that way. It was the first time you heard your dad speak of death outside of the family or death in childhood or the fact that you just did something by accident that has killed someone before. Sadly, this is a real-life story from yours truly.

A little peek into my real life growing up

A little peek into my real life growing up

Little stories in your life that seem mundane aren’t. Everyone has life lessons, and those life lessons can be used and shaped to give your characters those same life lessons. If you’re struggling to remember which stories to use in your life, I would suggest keeping a notepad in your back pocket. Next time you’re talking to a friend or a family member, you might be surprised by how much you all bring up in everyday conversations. (I actually do this myself! I take notes on my own freakin’ life, and it helps! It allows me to have a file I can go to when I’m writing, rather than trying to conjure up a memory when I’m in the middle of a scene.)

So, study your life. Reflect on your life lessons. Here are some examples from my life.

When did you realize what death was?

My dad had to kill a bunny in front of me when I was four. My new husky had broken its back, and my dad was trying to put it out of its misery with a rake. I still won’t forget the sounds it made. (In my dad’s defense, my mother was trying to get me to go inside, but I was four. Enough said.)

What was your first funeral like?

As a three-year-old, I got ahold of the stage’s microphone and started singing Shania Twain…and got kicked out. I was just trying to cheer everyone up. My great-grandma Juanita took my cousin and I to her house where she let me make him cheese and crackers so I felt like I was helping still. (Because cheese and crackers are SO difficult to make.)

When was the first time your heart broke?

When I lost my first friend when I wasn’t moving. I was used to losing friends. I moved every two years. But when I lost a friend and I still had to go to school with her, I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t fathom how two best friends could just pretend not to know one another anymore. I still miss her.

All of these scenarios I could use in a story. It was my first experience with understanding death, not understanding death, and loss without death. Now those are pretty grim, but I would have to bet you have some interesting life lessons swirling around your mind, and if those don’t work, you can always listen to a friend (and get permission)!

Inspiration is all around you. It might even be in you.

~SAT

My editing services now have example prices. A few of you mentioned confusion on how to calculate the cost, so I left an example for 80,000-word novels. That being said, if you ever want an estimation, they are totally free through shannonathompson@aol.com. (A sample edit is also free, and you’re not obligated to work with me afterward.) I hope these updated listings help everyone out! Ex. Content Editing/Developmental Editing ($3 per 1,000 words) would cost $240.00 for 80,000 words.

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Minutes Before Sunset: book 1: FREE 

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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Have you checked out this amazing gift basket Clean Teen Publishing is giving away this month? It has over $130 worth of goodies including a Kindle Fire, several print novels, sweets, swag, and more! Enter to win here.

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Author in a Coffee Shop, Episode 8 starts on Thursday at 7 PM (CDT) via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT! What is #AuthorinaCoffeeShop? It’s just how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my author thoughts (and talk to you)! See you then!

Writing Tips: Play Character Games

9 Dec

So this isn’t my usual kind of advice, but I shared it on my Author Facebook Page, and I thought it would be a fun idea to put on here.

As a writer, I sometimes have days where I am simply burnt out on writing. Because of this, I’ve had to find fun ways to spark the imagination again, and my main way is by playing games. Yes, it might seem childish. Yes, I’ve known fellow writers that said, “No way this is for me.” But most of those same people who tried it out, ended up letting me know how much they enjoyed it – they also said it helped them discover more about their characters. So I’m going to share a few examples and why it helped. Hopefully, you might check it out yourself 😀

Here are things you can learn and/or get inspiration from taking a moment to play a fun game:

1. Basic and detailed descriptions, including common facial expressions.

Jonathon with Rinmaru

Jonathon with Rinmaru

On Rinmaru Games, specifically the Manga Creators, you aren’t limited to changing their clothes and their hair color. You can often move limbs, facial expressions, backgrounds, and more. To the right, you should see my example of Jonathon in The Timely Death Trilogy. In this case, this game allowed me to manipulate his eyes, so that each eye had a different color. He is blind in one eye, which you can see through his glasses. This was the main reason I chose this game for him, but it’s also a little sneak peek into Seconds Before Sunrise – and a little to do with writing and technology, which I wrote about before. In SBS, you will see Jonathon with his phone. The question is: what will be on it?

2. Interaction with other characters

This is probably my favorite part of Rinmaru. There are plenty of games to chose from that have more than one character – sometimes, three or more – that are interacting with one another. If you’re familiar with The Timely Death Trilogy, then you can probably guess that the photo below is of Crystal Hutchins and Jessica Taylor at lunch – often seen during the school scenes. Granted, the school doesn’t look like Hayworth High, and Crystal is more of a burger and fries chick than a bento box girl, but – hey, that is exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re playing it, you might hear your character say, “I wouldn’t eat that. I don’t even know what that is.” while another character might be more adventurous and ask to try it.

Crystal and Jessica

Crystal and Jessica

3. Their style, hair, and wardrobe 

Camille

Camille

Okay. So I know I’ve been talking up Rinmaru, but this is when I generally go to eLouai’s Candybar Doll Maker 3. I’ve shared this game before. It’s an endless stream of characters, hairstyles, clothes, pets, and all kinds of things.  It’s especially good for fantasy and science-fiction, because it has things like wings and fangs. For instance, my example to the right is Camille from The Timely Death Trilogy. This game allowed me to get the completely black eyes that I needed for her half-breed, “Light” appearance. Think of this game like figuring out what they would wear and wouldn’t wear – what colors they enjoy wearing – what they wish they were confident enough to wear – what clothes remind them of, like other characters or their childhoods.

So I hope you try it out and find out something new about your story while also having fun. On my Facebook Author Page, Ky Grabowski tried it out and said, “Love this! Thanks for sharing. It was fun to create my own characters using this. It makes them more real I also like this because you’re not choosing a real life person to portray them. It allows imagination.”

Have fun! 

~SAT

Writing Tips: Hobbies & Talents

13 Nov

A writer has many goals when creating a story–one of which is making the characters as believable as possible. The main way to do this is making them relatable. I do not mean to say this in the sense that an author should make a character relatable to everyone in every way. What I mean to say is that an author often forms a believable character by adding qualities real people have; therefore, allowing real people to relate to a character on either a personal or “I know someone like that” level.

There are many ways to do this. Generally focusing on a character’s age, background, attitude, and physical looks come first. But what about digging a little deeper?

This post is about deciding on hobbies and talents–as well as why they are different.

Hobbies:

A hobby is something we do because we like to do it. It could be gardening or cooking or anything really. It generally gives people solace, time to think, and adds joy in their life. Having a character with a hobby can broaden the spectrum of their personality by showing more of what they like and possibly what they want out of life. It can also warp the way they look at the world. For instance, someone who really loves running will look at a hill differently than someone who like flying kites. They see the same hill that can be used in different ways. So knowing a character’s ultimate hobby (or passion) can be a fantastic way to figure out their personality, perspective, and goals.

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric’s hobby is his love for cars. He loves reading about them, driving his, and hopes to have more in the future (if he can even consider the future.) I learned from this because driving is often a form a freedom, and Eric doesn’t have any. Driving is his only freedom. But I particularly love talking about hobbies because it’s a major theme in Seconds Before Sunrise, particularly with Jessica and Jonathon–also known as Pierce. (I cannot wait for the cover reveal Dec. 1) I love it when my characters discover more parts about themselves, and discovering their hobbies allowed me to learn more about who they are as a person and who they will become as an adult. It also allows them to see it for themselves.

Below is my personal example: I played a lot of sports in school. I played track and basketball in middle school and tennis in high school. I still have my tennis team’s photo, but I wanted to share it because I loved playing tennis. I wasn’t fantastic at it. But I still had a great time playing. It was a hobby rather than a talent, but it still shaped me, and I learned a lot from it:

I’m the glowing one.

I’m the glowing one.

Talents: 

A talent is something we excel in, sometimes with little to nor effort. It could be painting or education or even convincing people to listen to you. Yes, a lot of people’s talents are also their hobbies (or vice versa) but it can be really interesting to see a character who’s very good at something they hate. (Or really bad at something they love.) But I’d like to clarify that there is nothing wrong with someone having a talent and loving it at the same time!

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric has a knack for lying. Does he like doing this? Not necessarily. Does he use it to his advantage? Absolutely. This “talent” became fun when Jessica decided to have a “talent” for knowing if someone is lying or not.

How to choose what hobby or talent to use:

Well, Discover A Hobby, of course! It’s a website dedicated to opening opportunities for informative learning on all kinds of new hobbies (even ones you might not have known existed.) I think this website is great for helping decide on hobbies as well as talents. Just to name a few on their website:

Soap-Making, Palm-Reading, Tai Chi, Wood-Working, and Novel-Writing. (See? Even us writers made it on there.)

Happy Hobby Hunting!

Do your characters have hobbies and/or talents? Are they generally the same or different? Did you learn anything about your characters when they choose that hobby or talent? 

~SAT

Writing Tips: Character Chart

31 May

Over the past two days, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving two more reviews of Minutes Before Sunset and one interview about the behind-the-scenes of the work. And I’m here to share it with you all before I begin my “Writing Tips” sessions.

On May 29, Nada Faris, author of Before Young Adult Fiction, Fame in the Adriatic, and ‘Artemis’ and other Moms wrote a five-star review on Goodreads: 

“…This story has twists and turns (even the prophecy changes). It has magical powers, romance, and some funny moments. As a young adult novel, it will satisfy its readers. All in all, the first book in A Timely Death series, was promising. It sets the stage for more conflict. Seconds Before Sunrise, Book 2 of the series, is scheduled for release in fall 2013.”

Read the rest of her review by clicking here.

The five signed copies of Minutes Before Sunset are in the mail for the winners! Congrats!

The five signed copies of Minutes Before Sunset are in the mail for the winners! Congrats!

On May 30, Tina Williams, host of A Reader’s Review, wrote an analysis of my recently released novel while also expanding it with an interview/guest post: (Click the links to read more.) 

Review: “…Minutes Before Sunset is an original and compulsive read. The tale is told in the first person, with chapters told from the perspective of Eric and Jessica. This is effective in terms of both advancing the plot and giving depth to the characters. I particularly enjoyed the maturity and selflessness of the hero and heroine, Eric and Jessica, and found their growing attraction and love for one another both believable and sweet. The novel ends in such a way that I am chomping at the bit to read the next installment. Minutes Before Sunset is a magical, if slightly dark tale, containing romance and adventure, which explores fate and free will and self-sacrifice. I recommend it to readers of both adult and young adult paranormal romance.”

Interview: “As a much younger child, I often suffered from nightmares and night terrors (I honestly couldn’t differentiate between reality and dreams) so my mother had me turn them into stories in order to cope. My latest young-adult paranormal romance, Minutes Before Sunset, is actually a result of the same thing, but it was a different series of dreams. I was in a very dark time in my life, and I had dreams of a boy visiting me at night—just to talk. He’d ask me about how I was feeling, what I was going to do next, and what my hopes were for the future. When I got through that dark time, the dreams were quite literally ripped away from my conscious, and I was distraught. Despite my happiness, I still wanted him as if he was a real person, so I created a story explaining his visits. And Minutes Before Sunset was born.”

Special thanks to both of these talented and lovely ladies. I am proud and grateful to have such great supporters like you all. 

In case anyone is curious, Minutes Before Sunset is available as a paperback on Barnes & Noble and Amazon as a preorder. It will be shipped to you on June 14, 2013. Click the links to be directed to the website. (And don’t forget to let me know if you review it! I will put your blog right here.)

Now. ::takes deep breath:: The writing tips! 

I’m a big fan of graphs and charts. Seriously. I graph everything. (I’m sure I’ll do more posts on this later–you will not believe the things I can find ways to graph.) But why do I like to graph and chart?

Whether or not I expect it, graphs and charts show something–a pattern or lack thereof–and I think this visual information can help more than a writer (or reader) might originally think. So I came across one the other day called The Character Chart, and I wanted to share it with you all. I would take a screen shot and post it, but the website asks users to “link only” and use only for personal use, and I want to respect that. 

However, I will say that it is a great chart. It’s basically a questionnaire for you to print out and get in-depth with your characters about who they are, what drives them, and who they will become. I particularly like this one because of the detail involved (like self-perception compared to reality.) This is not to say that all of these details are completely necessary to know, but I do say this: this list will challenge you, no matter how well you know a character (especially minor ones), and you might learn something about your character you haven’t expected. I think this list is great for those who are also looking to bring depth to their character (or even to create an entirely new person!)

I’ll definitely be returning to it. Again, I’d share more about it, (I’d even share my answers for Eric or Jessica in Minutes Before Sunset) but I want to respect his copyright properly, so all I can really say is check it out :] And let me know if you’d like to see more interactive websites like this. I’ll be sure to share them as they come.

~SAT

P.S I hope everyone is enjoying the arrival of summer. I sure am! And I wanted to share a piece of my lake fun with everyone: Have a great (and sunny) day!

I'm on a boat...wait...a raft.

I’m on a boat…wait…a raft.

Writing Tips: Beautiful Characters

22 Feb

When I wrote about “Beautiful Creatures” last Wednesday, my follower, Wordschat, said “This looks so much like a Twilight wanna be but then again anything with ‘beautiful people’ will be.” (Wordschat’s blog reviews many aspects of his life: books, TV, movies, and novel–along with politics. Anything that effects his Canadian life, and I find his insightful writing to be a wonderful example of how we can take advantage of our technological world to communicate our opinions effectively.)

But–I wanted to discuss this “beautiful people” in novels, because, like many of you, I’m sure you’re sick of it. It’s repetitive, shallow, and, in the end, it’s impossible to relate to. Novels, it seems, go into this world where everyone (as long as they are a main character) is a walking super model (or a model in the making.)

What is with this and how can we, as writers AND readers, change this???

Readers: Demand a change. You have the power. Not the writer. Based on what you buy and react to, the industry WILL change. The industry HAS to adapt to what YOU want. But you have to demand it first.

Writers: Stop. It’s that simple. Instead of telling the reader how beautiful they are physically, explain the little things that make them beautiful to others. Use their personality.

Another way to show beauty is explaining what is beautiful to your character. This painting is beautiful to me. Not only does it depict my favorite actor (and cat!) but a wonderful painter took the time to create something lovely, specifically for me, and that gesture is beautiful.

Another way to show beauty is explaining what is beautiful to your character. This painting is beautiful to me. Not only does it depict my favorite actor (and cat!) but a wonderful painter took the time to create something lovely, specifically for me, and that gesture is beautiful.

Think of it this way: if you’ve ever had a lover yourself, what makes them beautiful to you? I hope your first thoughts don’t go straight to their physical aspects. It goes to their personality—who they are and how they continue to grow into the person you love. They aren’t set in stone—they are human—and they have flaws.

Personally, I find flaws are the most attractive part about a person. Not only do they describe a history, but they create a vulnerability that, when the narrator focuses on them, shows the endearing emotions of a character. This goes for all characters—not just lovers or protagonists.

I’ve created a list of attributes you can consider when thinking of how to create a “beautiful person” through personality rather than by physical forms:

Gestures: Actions speak louder than words. There is a reason this is such a popular phrase. Use it. Does a character go out of his/her way help, to show that they care? Consider creating a character who’s bad at explaining their emotions, so they, in turn, show it. Maybe they cannot make eye contact—so, in the rare moments they do, it means something.

Speech: Perhaps they are great with their words, but you cannot explain yourself in every situation, especially when a lot of people are around. Allow their conversations to change between different characters. Show how they change from one person to the next. This will show who they sympathize with and/or who they dislike. It will also create a relatable, emotional person, who may not even be aware how much they give away with their speech.

Physical: So they’re chiseled and their jaw line is impeccably defined. Great. I don’t care. Maybe I’m not attracted to that type of man, so why should I care? Keep your reader in mind. Use your narrator, and focus on the little things, THEY find beautiful. Consider using scars, birthmarks, injuries, or how they can never control their hair or expressions. Allow these physical aspects to create a beauty that is unique to the person, the narrator, and that will effect how the reader will respond.

I have one last disclosure: There, of course, are exceptions, but I want you to think about why they become exceptions. An example would be a novel about someone’s extreme beauty causes them disconnect. Their beauty puts them in situations where they cannot connect, because they feel as if people only like them because of their physical appearance. In this case, however, when you really get down to it, it’s their insecurities about connection that allow them to be beautiful. It shows a thought process. It shows an emotional response to the world. Use beauty in a way that readers will sympathize with how they are effected–not how they look. 

~SAT

If you're interested in how I'm doing in the Midwest snow storm: this is a carport in my apartment complex that collapsed beneath the weight of snow. Eek.

If you’re interested in how I’m doing in the Midwest snow storm: this is a carport in my apartment complex that collapsed beneath the weight of snow. Eek.

Writing Tips: Exposing Secrets

14 Jan

Ever since I posted “Writing Tips: How I Form Dialogue into Writing” I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking for other tips, so I wanted to talk about secrets.

We all have them.

Secrets can make us or destroy us—they can tear our relationships apart or allow us to succeed at our dreams. In reality, secrets can really form who you are by asking the question: Why are we keeping them? What is stopping us from sharing them? Are we afraid we’ll be rejected? Are we shamed? Could it ruin someone we love?

There is an infinite amount of reasons as to why we keep and/or tell secrets.

So what about your characters?

In my opinion, I think every character should have a secret. Even if the secret isn’t exposed in the novel, it will round them out and push them deeper into the plot.

However, your characters’ secrets don’t need to be exposed all at once. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. Secrets should be stretched over the plot, enticing the reader to relate while learning more about your story’s characters.

As an example, I’m adding November Snow character notes below this. First, you’ll see their name, a brief description, and then the page number where their biggest secret is revealed. November Snow is 600 pages long, so pay careful attention to how the secrets span out. Who is exposed first? Why do you think that is? How do you think the timing effects the other characters (and even the reader)?

….

Serena, the heroine, is the Southern Flock’s second-in-command. She’s a 17-year-old bad blood, and her POV is challenged by her love for Daniel. (Page: 573)

Daniel, the male protagonist, is the leader of Northern Flock, and his 18-year-old POV struggles against society’s hatred for bad bloods. (Page: 459)

Calhoun Wilson saved Daniel’s life when he was five years old. Despite being a former solider, he protects the Northern Flock from the government. (Page: 282)

Caitlin: Serena’s best friends and practical sister. (Page: 527)

Henderson: The candidate running for president of Vendona. He believes in equal rights for bad bloods. (Page: 275)

Ryan: A young bad blood in the Northern Flock who’s body heats up like fire. (Page: 585)

….

I hope this shows how secrets can be revealed over a span of time—rather than all at the end of the novel. Some should come early, while others shouldn’t be exposed, but these characters’ secrets are essential to November Snow by defining the characters, their troubles, and their hope for beating them.

As I wrote in November Snow: “No one wanted to die with secrets in their grave.”

~SAT

As an extra: November Snow‘s highest rated quote on Goodreads: “I would only blame myself if something happened to you.”

If you’re interested in other quotes from November Snow, click here.

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