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writing

A Villain: At Odds With The Hero

It should be said that conflict can make or break a book. So, in a book where the villain is the main conflict, it’s important that they really sing to us. It’s important that they permeate every page (or almost every page) of the text. It’s important that we know not only that they are there, but also that they live up to being worthy of punishment or absolution by our protag. So, here are tips to writing your villain as someone who’s at odds with the villain.

The first biggest and most important tip to writing a villain is to make them believable. And, nothing is more believable than a person with their own motivations and goals. Especially when those goals come at odds with those they’re facing. Thus, a villain as a hero opposed to the protag is strong and feels entirely real.

Perhaps they aren’t the villain? Perhaps they’re trying to do something good for the world? However, they are at odds with your POV character. And that’s what makes them the “villain” of your story. What are some stories you’ve read with a compelling villain who was ambiguously a villain?

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writing

Fantasy Should Include You Too

Why do you read fantasy? I, for one, read and write fantasy to try and understand the real world: relationships, social dynamics, and struggles for power. It’s uncharted territory with familiar landmarks. And I love it. But, what I don’t love is how minorities of all kinds don’t seem to make their way into fantasies.

Well, that’s not gonna cut it. I need some experiences different from my own here, please. Also, if I wanted to read about a recent college grad who’s feeling left out of the job sector… well… I’d probably write it as a Wizard fresh out of wizard school instead. But that’s beside the point.

Basically, why isn’t this fantasy story about you?

I’ve been delving around the internet for a hot minute trying to sort this out. And, I’m certain that I’m going to fall short in my attempt to piece this together, so bear with me and feel free to add your two cents in the comments. Basically, I wanna talk about why and how fantasy should include everyone.

Fantasy Belongs To Everyone

As if you have to be a certain type of person to truly escape the hard, cruel, realities of the world. Fantasy should be for everyone, not the select few. You shouldn’t have to be a certain kind of person to see people like you living happy lives. Why should all our protagonists follow a certain pattern? Why should they all be from a certain class, sexual-orientation, race, or anything else?

Media is beginning to address this and I love it. I love everything that is subverting norms and throwing people who’ve sat out for so long onto the center-stage of literature. There’s plenty of good conversation happening in literature and it’s wonderful.

Because, voices need to be heard.

Fantasy Gets You Where It Hurts

“Several reliable, peer-reviewed studies show that people who read fantasy fiction are better problem-solvers, more empathetic, more creative, and more adaptable than those who don’t. Reading fantasy equips you to respond to real life.”

– Austin Hackney, On Desiring Dragons: Why Read Fantasy Literature?

As much as people seem to think that fantasy is “childish” and not to be taken seriously, it teaches us so much about real life. It teaches us how people see each other. To name just a few topics, we can confront issues of classism and social expectation in visceral and yet impersonal ways.

An Example:

Risve faces a Pharaoh to win back her family’s honor.

It’s both interesting and safe to read. Why? This is an experience we are pretty sure we’ll never have to face. And yet, what makes it so compelling? Well, that’d be crossover.

The Crossover Between Fantasy And Reality

We know that there will be times that we have to face our economic or social superiors to get something both precious and important. So, somehow, Risve’s story touches us as we watch her struggle through the discrimination and dismissal. We get that. Those feelings are so painfully familiar that it rips us apart when done properly.

Now, Risve might be an actual character in a story somewhere—coughs nervously—but my point is… what does Risve look like? What is her sexual orientation? This isn’t ornamentation to be layered over her character, but this can be plot relevant and compelling stuff.

Do we assume Risve looks and talks a certain way? Maybe. Well, fantasy should have some people like you and so maybe Risve is like you. Maybe you imagined that Risve was like you? Did you? Or did you imagine something else?

Why can’t Risve be like you? Why can’t you be like Risve?

The Problematicness of Everything

And yet, we’re in a time of sticking to our own lane. We shouldn’t write outside our own experiences, now should we? We could never approximate or understand what it’s like to be like someone else. We cry for complexity in literature and yet undermine it simultaneously.

I’ve found a million and one articles about Amélie Wen Zhao and how she chose to pull her debut. I haven’t read the manuscript, but it sounded like a huge misunderstanding and she was nothing more than a scapegoat. Maybe I’m wrong? But… it sounded like her experience was appropriated over another, which was appropriated over another, which got turned into appropriation. It sounded awful what happened to her. For just one article on what happened to her check out this article from the NYTimes Y.A. Author Pulls Her Debut After Pre-Publication Accusations of Racism. It’s rough, and it wasn’t just her. So, what should we do?

Hire Sensitivity Readers

Now, I’m A HUGE SUPPORTER of sensitivity readers. If we’re writing outside of our own experience then it’s just gonna be a must for that book. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s becoming industry standard these days. We need eyes on what we’re saying because with 80,000 words or more we’re gonna mess up. We’re gonna say something that we didn’t mean to say or that sounds insensitive or that is just straight up wrong.

I think it is not only good, but very needed, to write outside of our own experience. Because writing outside of our experience means we need to research and understand others. We need to see beyond our own prejudices and open our eyes to a new way of seeing the world.

It’s a time for self-reflection and, in some cases, self-reflection. So let’s encourage the quiet voices without silencing our own. Because we need all the voices to be heard to fully understand each other.

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writing

WIP Update

Here’s a short update on my WIPs.

1. The Titaness of Bone (working title)

It has now officially finished draft 1 with just over 60,000 words. And now? It’s on the back-burner because that is where drafts go once they’re done. Basically, it needs to cool off for a month or two and so I’ve set it aside.

2. Magus Kadius (working title)

I let it sit and I realized that I really just didn’t like at all how I’d executed it. So, I’m tossing aside those 20,000 words and I’m going to shoot for something a little different this time around. I’m hoping to get the dirty draft pumped out by the end of this week.

3. Everything Else

I’ve set down everything else for the moment. But it’s paused but not forgotten. I’m too in love with the ideas to let them sit for too long. I’ll be back to them soon, undoubtedly.

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Reviews writing

Beta Readers: Work Shouldn’t Be Free

Ah, as a writer I know things are tight for all of us. We aren’t paid nearly enough for the work we do and it wrecks me to know that I’ll make so little return for my sweat and tears. But you know what else irks me? The stigma against paying good and honest workers. So, let’s talk about Beta readers and why their work shouldn’t be free.

Beta Readers, A Debate

Beta reading is a passion, but it’s also a job. This post by Nat Russo is enough to prove that. The post is 4 Things Every Writer Should Know About Beta Readers and I was quite enjoying what the article had to say about Beta reading. Yes, you need to be specific with your beta readers. Check. Yes, you need to look for good beta readers and develop a relationship with them.

But then I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Under NO circumstances should you agree to pay a beta reader. That’s simply not how it’s done. If someone approaches you to beta read your work and tells you they’ll do so for a fee, run in the opposite direction.”

Nat Russo

I reread it.

I mean, I know that this has been a charged topic for a while in the industry. But here, in an article with such a business-like and driven tone, to see this blatant disregard for paying people for their labor I was taken aback.

If you’re sending your document to a Beta reader you’ve done everything you can possibly do in your own power to make it better and now you need someone (I agree with Russo in that is should be a fellow writer if possible) to go over it with unbiased eyes. You need a beta reader. And if they’re expected to take hours out of their day to read over and break down your work, how is that not a job worth paying for?

The Policy Of Not Paying Passion

Wouldn’t it be worth paying someone for that kind of time? They’re giving you their time and, if they really are a fellow writer, they’re giving you time they could have spent on their own projects. I don’t wanna hear the they should do it for the skill they’ll gain or that they’re paid in the pleasure they get from their work arguments. That justification is the very thing that keeps creators from getting paid in real wages. Somehow people think that satisfaction will pay the bills. If only, if only.

Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that people try this stunt all. the. time? Watch this comical but mildly horrifying skit by a pianist. Yes, things really are like this in the creative industry. And no, it’s not okay. And what’s worse, in not paying Beta readers we are merely perpetuating the issue in our own industry.

Paying People, A Good Way To Live

I see signs that the “paying Beta readers” stigma is going away, albeit slowly. In this article is says that most Beta readers are charging 10$ per 10,000 words. Honestly, that’s pretty fair because Beta readers are supposed to be less skilled than editors, they are supposed to be pre-production. So, charging .001 cents a words seems reasonable.

For more articles about paying Beta readers, check out this post Should beta readers get paid?

I’d like to see a day when creators are paid for the work they do, and so let’s start with the things we can control. We can do an exchange for the work our Beta readers do. We have control over that.

But, I don’t have money either!

I’m a writer and we also get paid so little for the work we do. If you really don’t have money, but your fellow beta reader is a writer as well, then perhaps you could exchange manuscripts? Perhaps you could work something out where you don’t have to pay the whole amount all at once? Perhaps, perhaps. There are options, but it’s really best to, if you can, pay them in money.

After all, that’s how you would like to be paid as well.

What do you think? Do you think beta readers should work out of the goodness of their hearts? Or do you agree that they should be getting some compensation for what they do? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.

Categories
writing

Don’t Worry, But I Do

Worry. I do it a lot and maybe you do as well. My worries are that I’ll not be financially stable enough to continue pursuing writing, that I’ll have to plunge myself so hard into my job that I’ll never have enough time or energy to write a whole book as it should be written. I recently read an article about not worrying. The article was All the Good Worry Accomplishes by Cynthia Rutchi. This article did, much to my delight, give a few tips on how to overcome worry, but here today I’d like to present a few more ways to kick worry to the curb.

Challenge Your Worries

The article How to Stop Worrying on Helpguide.org has many insights about worry and how to handle it. The section that stood out to me the most, however, was about challenging worrying. I once had a working partner who saw how stressed and worried I would get when things weren’t panning out the way we’d hoped. One day she finally sat down with me and said (this is translated to English, she spoke in Portuguese):

If you can fix it, don’t worry, because there’s something you can do to change it.

If you can’t fix it, don’t worry, because there’s nothing you can do to change it.

-anonymous

There are so many things that are outside of our control and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, it’s important to embrace what you can change over what you cannot. What you can change is what to take action on.

But, don’t forget, you can’t write a book faster than you write a book. So, I say this to myself and others, stop stressing. You’re working hard and learning along the way. When it’s ready, it’ll be ready, and all you can do is write and edit that thing.

Not Everything Is Cause And Effect

We like answers and reason. People want to know that their lives are within their control and that if they do A and B they will get C. It gives us a sense of security to know this. However, when things don’t go our way, it leads to the sense that we’ve done something wrong and we’ve failed.

But, not everything is cause and effect.

Timing, personal preference, there are so many things that lead to success and failure, especially in an industry that focuses on the arts and human understanding. And so, we sometimes have to accept that things are not within our control.

While poking around, I have noticed on the internet that many people talk about “embracing a higher power” to overcome worry. People like a being who, makes sense of nonsense, makes good things from bad experiences, and puts order to disorder. Hey, there’s nothing shameful in needing extra help in our lives. If you are overwhelmed by anxiety and you simply can’t overcome it, perhaps there is something to be said for embracing the unknown.

There is nonsense in life, nonsense out of our control, and we have to grow comfortable with that idea before we’ll really be able to let go of worry.

Learning To Suffer Only Once

Now, I know worrying is bad! I wholeheartedly agree that worry is more trouble than good. In fact, Newt Scamander’s line in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was on the nose.

Worrying means you suffer twice.

– Newt Scamander

I agree wholeheartedly, Newt. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I know how to stop worrying! Knowing something is bad, and not doing it, are two entirely different things. If additions to harmful drugs aren’t enough to show us that, I don’t know what is. So, hopefully the suggestions in this article will help you overcome your worries and only suffer once moving forward.

What do you do to stop worrying? Drop comments in the section below to share how you beat the heat of mental pressures.