War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

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As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

Make Your Readers Give a Damn: 7 Steps to Winning Over Your Readers

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do so affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do some affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Do I mean that 1) it revolved around the officer’s bodily fluids? or 2) that Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age book is way more action packed than you originally thought? No to both. Here’s what I mean.

All new authors are going to struggle with the basics. Lord knows I still do. New authors also flounder around on the page trying to find their footing. Fine. Yes, this is part of the process. But what shattered my very soul was the way in which the story was presented. There was no conflict, and the whole thing read like a journal entry.

The main protagonist was revealed to be female, but like ten pages later. Note: I have zero problems with female protagonists. In fact, I’m currently working on a story with two female protagonists. My issue here is it took forever to know who I was reading about. My second problem was the sheer amount of details given about everyone’s past. And finally third, after diving through the first two chapters NOTHING HAPPENED.

I tore it to shreds. Absolutely took a metaphorical machete to it and then sent it through a metaphorical wood chipper. I wanted a literal one but I want to keep my laptop. After finishing up I sat back and thought how many more of these are out there? Is my stuff like this? I thought hard about what was the one core problem with the story and it finally hit me: I just didn’t care about any aspect of it.

Maybe that’s the problem with your writing. You may have completely finished the story and it’s done to what you believe to be the best of your ability, but the reader just shrugs off all 80,000 words. Your audience needs to care. You have to light a fire under your reader. They need to stay glued to the page and that isn’t going to happen if you fill them with apathy. Here’s seven tips to make them care about your story.

 

The Narrator’s Burden

Whether your narrator is an omniscient third party or the main character themselves, the narrator has the misfortune of knowing more or less everything. Because of this the temptation becomes the narrator sharing this god-like wisdom with everyone. Don’t. I don’t need to know what the character did ten years ago. I need to know what is happening now. I don’t need names for the gas station clerk who is never going to make another appearance. I don’t need to know what brand of the shirt a background character that was only barely mentioned is wearing. Flesh out the world, but make sure to do it the same way you see the real world. Do you try to remember the names of cashiers when you know you’ll be back at that store? Do you ask strangers about their past? Do you try to figure out who the old woman feeding ducks is wearing? No. You don’t, and neither should your readers.

The Devil’s in the Details

I didn’t even know who I was reading about until much later in the first chapter. This was disorienting to me. It was like being shoved into a dark room where a lit flashlight was lying on the ground at the back wall. I knew I would eventually be able to see what was going on, but I felt lost for a while. And then when I did finally find out who my protagonist was I was hit with ALL the details. Reveal them slowly. I don’t need a full list of a character’s stats when I meet them. Peel the onion layers back one at a time, don’t just cram it all into my face. Otherwise it comes off like a trading card.

Encyclopedias Aren’t Chapters

This was not the first time I’ve seen a piece of writing where I had paragraphs upon paragraphs and pages upon pages of information that I neither wanted nor needed nor cared about. Yes, information is necessary. You are painting a picture without paints. You have to get inside the reader’s head and show them an entire universe with only text. I get it. But there is such a thing as too much.

One thing I’ve recommended to someone struggling with not cutting enough detail was this: create a set of notes about background information for you characters. Make those notes just for you. The reader never sees them; they never know that the main character’s best friend’s cat died in 3rd grade. But as long as they see how protective she is over her current pet they’ll know something’s up. Hint at the details. Show why the characters are what they are. But don’t cram 10,000 words into a backstory about a character we aren’t even going to see again.

Build the Tension

I have a feeling that later on in the story there was some tension/conflict. But there was none in what I was handed. Books can pretty much be split up into two different types of chapters: dialogue/exposition heavy chapters and action heavy chapters. Both are necessary. If you have a book of all dialogue or all exposition it’s going to read like a Jane Austen novel. Which was entertaining like 300 years ago but not to our smartphone-addicted audiences of today. Likewise, if you have only action you have a book adaptation of a Michael Bay film. You need to find the right balance, or else your book is going to be boring. And boring books don’t have readers.

Where’s the Action?

This story I read was about a bounty hunter fighting corrupted police. In two entire chapters not a single bounty was hunted. If you hand me a book as a friend and say “Oh hey this is a real cool book about a bounty hunter” I’m expecting COPS-level action. I’m expecting Boba Fett-level antics. I want scumbags busted. And I was left pleading for action. Which is the story of my life, but that’s a whole other ordeal.

Barbie is a Toy, Not a Character

Yes, I am aware that after all these years she does have her own films, cartoons, games, etc. What I mean here is that Barbie has represented the “perfect”/”ideal” woman, for better or for worse. Do I necessarily agree with them? No. But that’s what she is. And this is what I mean but not having a Barbie character: your character cannot be perfect. None of your characters can be perfect. If you insist on making one perfect then they need to be imperfectly perfect.

In order for characters to be realistic they have to be like real people. They need to have flaws, even your protagonist. They need to have flawed morals or philosophies. They need to royally screw up. They can’t be anywhere near close to perfect. When characters are perfect no one cares because nothing bad can happen, thus all conflict and tension gets sucked out the window.

Split Personalities are a No Go

Unless your character is supposed to have multiple personalities, this needs to be avoided. In this particular story the protagonist was this gritty hardened female who had tired of corruption and who felt a strong sense of justice. And other times, usually with dialogue, she was a preteen. Not literally, of course, but the way she spoke and carried herself. You can’t have a character not commit to one character. It doesn’t work having them try to straddle the line like this. Can you have an immature character? Sure. But they have to be believable. A woman in her mid-to-late 20s, especially a law enforcement officer, is not going to speak like a 6th grader.

Writing is difficult; it’s an art that you have to perfect. And this is tough, especially when you’re just starting out. That’s why I offer my writing and editing services. I can assist in the creation process, edit your finished story, and more. For more information or to book your project with me visit Write Now today!

A New Hope: How Star Wars is Fighting Sexism

The first Star Wars anthology film Rogue One finally dropped a trailer and it’s bringing out a lot of good and bad. On the one hand, it looks amazing. If you’ve read any of my posts you know what a huge Star Wars fan I am. I was worried that The Force Awakens was going to be amazing followed by a bunch of not so great movies, but it’s nice to see Lucasfilm keeping the momentum going. With their new female CEO.

The first Star Wars anthology film Rogue One finally dropped a trailer and it’s bringing out a lot of good and bad. On the one hand, it looks amazing. If you’ve read any of my posts you know what a huge Star Wars fan I am. I was worried that The Force Awakens was going to be amazing followed by a bunch of not so great movies, but it’s nice to see Lucasfilm keeping the momentum going. With their new female CEO.

But you will not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the Internet. The Neckbeard Collective dusted off their fedoras and have taken to moaning and complaining about the fact that Hollywood had the audacity of having a woman be the main character. If you looked at Twitter yesterday, it was like a million voices crying out and then were suddenly silenced when they realized no one cared about their sexist opinions.

Sci-fi is important because it has a rich history of exploring diversity. By setting franchises in galaxies far, far away we see characters that look like us interacting with species who are much different. We see it in Star Wars, we see it in Star Trek, and we’re going to see it for years to come. That’s what makes sci-fi great; it isn’t the hyperspace, it isn’t the laser swords, it isn’t the mystical Force powers; it’s the promise of a better future through exploring and celebrating diversity.

Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without it’s strong female lead characters. Anakin Skywalker’s mother had a virgin birth and raised her son as a single mother. She was then enslaved, freed, and then kidnapped and tortured to death by Sandpeople. She endured so much pain and showed so much inner strength.

Padme was probably the only woman strong enough to love Anakin romantically, matching his wit, his strength, and accepting him at his worst (until he became Space Hitler). She then died in childbirth bearing the children of the man who attempted to kill her by choking her out and the only reason she didn’t survive is because she chose to stop living.

Princess Leia watched her entire planet explode after enduring torture for hours on end and she still didn’t break. Even her Slave Leia get-up is still empowering; as a slave to the disgusting Jabba the Hutt she still shows how strong she is by killing one of the most dangerous gangsters and looking amazing doing it. In Force Awakens we see her struggling with surviving watching her family fall apart by having both her husband and son become estranged to her. She is arguably one of the strongest  characters in the series.

And now we have Rey, who appears to be orphaned not once but twice living alone on a godforsaken desert planet selling scrap parts for meager pieces of food. She can hold her own against Kylo Ren, who appears stronger than Vader ever was. And she stops at nothing to complete her mission. She could have been cold and mean but she is loving and kind despite all she has endured.

The idea that Star Wars only has men as main characters is ridiculous, and to suddenly be afraid that a woman is taking the helm of one of the movies is crazy. Star Wars is about the constant struggle of good and evil; it’s about redemption; it’s about family. These ideas are not limited to men. Star Wars, just like Star Trek before it, celebrates diversity and accepts everyone as fans. And not just the men. The women and the children too.

If you’re afraid of women somehow ruining your beloved franchise you need to read up on how George Lucas’ first wife Marcia single-handedly saved Star Wars and how without her the prequels suffered. Don’t be afraid of women infiltrating the precious boy club that has been sci-fi. After all, fear is a path to the Dark Side.

Part 2: 5 Things Your Good Guys Can Learn From Jedi

Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

How are they similar and different from their evil counterparts, the Sith?

1) They surround themselves with people.

The Sith like to operate with only two members at a time, a Master and an Apprentice. This way they can stay hidden in a galaxy because it is like finding a needle in a haystack. The Jedi try to increase their numbers. Their headquarters in the prequel trilogy was on the busy planet Corusant, which is a singular giant city teeming with people and aliens. They are not necessarily outgoing people and are very reserved, but they do seem at home around others.

2) They resist negativity and the seduction of power.

As we learned last time the Dark Side is a pathway to achieve power faster through using anger and other passionate emotions, but it is not necessarily faster. True Jedi know this and resist the urge to fall to the Dark Side. This is why in Episode III we see Darth Sidious, who it is assumed that he has been trained in the Dark Side for a few decades, whose fight with Jedi Master Yoda, who is nearly 1,000, end in a stalemate. The Jedi prefer slow and steady to quicker and a corrupted body and mind.

3) The Jedi are spiritual.

As has been noted time after time, there are some very strong Buddhist overtures in Star Wars, or the very least the Jedi Order. In fact, this list points out 10 references in Episode I alone, and it’s easy to see that Yoda’s appearance was based on Master Buddhist Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche.

The Sith are more political; they want to enslave the galaxy and then put into place a military unit to keep them in power. The Jedi want to teach and protect. They do not use the Force as a weapon and they want to bring peace to the galaxy. They typically dress in simple beige or white robes, like a monk, and spend a great deal of time meditating and becoming one with the Force, which connects all life in the galaxy.

4) The Jedi are dogmatic in their belief.

The Jedi have a strict set of rules, and they do not tolerate deviation from them. They do not allow marriage or feelings of love or affection towards others. They do not allow anger or hate. They hold fast that they are the “good guys” even though much of the time they are seen as meddlers. They do not see that they can be viewed as a cult-like military that is not held accountable by any government entity. Basically, it would be like if the Church of Scientology had its own military force. Chances are they don’t want to start any trouble, but at the same time it would make a lot of folks nervous.

5) The Jedi are hypocritical.

The Jedi do a lot of great work for the galaxy. But they have a lot of rules that are frankly contradictory. Firstly, the statement that only a Sith deals in absolutes. This feels like a very firm line in the sand that could lead to paranoia in the group. Also, that statement feels very absolute. Not to mention that the Jedi have a lot of black and white rules that they love to pull.

The Jedi want balance, but wouldn’t balance include the Dark Side? Wouldn’t living in harmony with those who use the Dark Side be balance enough? No. They consider all Dark Side users evil, whether or not they truly are, and meet them to either convert them or kill them. Again, fairly absolute and not very peaceful.

Thirdly, they pick and choose when to become involved in the affairs of the galaxy, and it’s usually to their benefit. In Episode I we see Qui-Gon Jinn cheat his way to freeing Anakin from slavery, but does nothing to save his mother from the same fate all because Anakin would make a potentially good Jedi.

 

The Jedi are a group of protagonists who want the best for the galaxy but do have their flaws. And this makes them human. Take some of these notes and apply them where you can to your good guys, and thank the Maker later!

Happy writing and may the Force be with you!

Part 1: 6 Things the Dark Side Can Teach Your Villain

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

The bad guys, the Sith, are the anti-good guys, the polar opposite of the Jedi. Their Code is the opposite of the Jedi’s code:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

As you can tell, they don’t play nice. Especially when they create an imperial fascist government that enslaves every man, woman, child, and creature in the galaxy. They are obsessed with power and they don’t care how they come to it. But they also go a little deeper than that.

  1. Dark Side users do not think of themselves as evil

Good is a point of view, Anakin.” The Sith honestly see the Jedi as evil. They don’t necessarily see themselves as good, but they don’t see the Jedi as a source of good in the galaxy. This is a good perspective for your big bad. Maybe he thinks he is a good guy. Maybe he thinks that the good guys are just like him, and thus need to be destroyed so that no one stands in his way. Or maybe they’re just obsessed with more power.

 2. The Dark Side is not more powerful, but they believe that it is

“Is the Dark Side stronger?”
“No. No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.”

If your story involves powers, good and evil is going to come up. And honestly, evil powers have always been flashier. Heck, in Star Wars Force Lightning looks way cooler than Force Push. This is a bit of a trope. Even in Harry Potter the more sinister spells look cooler than spells used to levitate feathers or repair glasses or share memories in some weird messed up meta Facebook-like post of pulling them out of your skull and handing them to someone. Seriously, that’s sort of messed up if you think about it. So it’s up to you if you want to continue the trend of “bad” powers looking cooler than “good powers” or if you want to tweak that formula. But if you’re going to continue a trope, you need to have a reason. It can’t look cool just because. Justify it.

But underlying the nature of the Dark Side shows the traits of your villain. They crave power and they want it faster. The Dark Side is not stronger, *but* gaining power through it cuts out the pesky few decades of hard work and dedication to the Light Side for an equal amount of power. They want to fall to the seduction of evil. They want a means that leads to an end faster. In Episode III Anakin falls to the Dark Side to save his wife. But does he really, or is it just a matter of gaining power for selfish reasons, and that is a lie he tells himself? These sorts of questions, these self doubts, help grow your villain past just being bad.

3. The Dark Side corrupts its user

Palpatine states that he looks the way he does after becoming disfigured by an assassination attempt by the Jedi. But it is actually his true corrupted nature of giving his body and mind fully to the Dark Side of the Force. Using the Force for evil corrupts its user. This is seen time and time again in fiction; the one ring left Smeagol looking like a washed up naked mole rat when he himself used to be a Hobbit. Having the body and mind decay from the use of evil helps show just how far someone is willing to fall just to gain power. It also shows how dangerous the power they are using is, and how dangerous they have become.

 4. Fear is a major factor

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This could be the progression of an protagonist or an antagonist. How did they wind up being the person they are today? What series of events befell them to make them this way? Why are they so hurt and angry? Why are they obsessed with whatever it is that they are chasing after? It does not have to be explicitly stated, but having this backstory will help shape them.

5. They have a vendetta against the “good guys”

The Sith truly believe that the Jedi are the one enslaving the galaxy and they will stop at nothing to kill them all. Even the Younglings. They are driven by a constant fear of being overruled and losing all the power that they have gained. Will your hero be able to match their viciousness? How far are you willing to push your bad guys? What are the consequences of their actions, and do they care? Which brings me to my final point:

6. They do not value life

Usually being evil in Star Wars is a very dangerous job, usually leading to swapping out some, if not all, of your body parts for machinery. Going to the Dark Side ultimately means giving up all humanity. And not to mention how the Dark Side treats other living things. I mean, Vader blew up an entire planet just to call a bluff. If you needed any proof that Vader is Space Hitler, this is it.

The Dark Side provides some great character details and flaws for a villain, fallen hero, or antihero. They are evil with a purpose and have no qualms about corrupting their own body and giving up their humanity just to gain some cool flashy powers. Use these lessons well, but do not fall to the call yourself.

May the Force be with you. And if you enjoy these posts, please like, comment, and share!

 

Your Fav is Problematic: You Shouldn’t Love Your Character

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Dear sweet 8 pound 6 ounce Baby Jesus where has this month gone. I feel like I am finding less and less time to write because of work, family, birthdays, Christmas, Thursday night D&D with the gang, and finals. Hopefully if and when I survive to January I can get more work done.

So, this week I’d like to talk a little bit about your characters, specifically your protagonist(s). I had finished my first draft and I am reading through it to make editing noted for the first revision. I am reading the interaction between the two main protagonists, Aki, the Autumn Mage and Minda, the female soldier and part-time healer. They got along famously. It was as if they were brother and sister, constantly looking out for each other and being very cordial and making a wonderful team. It warmed my heart at how close they were and how well they worked together. I sat back in my chair and I screamed on the inside.

What the heck Chris?!?! Aki is moody, reckless, and frankly, a bit of an asshole. Minda should have an air of superiority and class which should clash with how rough around the edges Aki is. They are not related. They are not siblings. Push. Everything is not going to be sunshine and roses with them. And then I looked at how Aki spoke to other main characters and he was too darn nice to them.

Writing is a process. There’s usually some sort of outline and then a separate outline for the characters and then a separate outline for locations and then a separate outline for just how crazy you should be by the time it’s all said and done. And if by the time you are on revisions and you have not strayed away from the original source or original outlines and everything is just a carbon copy of what you started with, it probably isn’t strong enough.

Now, going back to the title of this post: sure, you can “love” your character. I’m sure J.K. Rowling loves Harry Potter. The billions of dollars might have some sort of influence with that, but she probably still loves him. But using Harry Potter as an example: neither he nor Hermoine, the other sort of crowd favorite from Team Gryffindor, the bunch of whiny goody-two-shoes that I am in no way dissing just because I’m Team Slytherin, have some glaring character flaws. Firstly, Harry has a freaking piece of Wizard Hitler living inside of him, and a fan theory actually suggests that it is because of this that his adoptive family hates him so much (which has since been disproved by Rowling herself). He is arrogant and brash and impulsive, kind of the same way that Anakin Skywalker is in Episode 2 (but, y’know, less murder). And then we had CAPS LOCKS HARRY WHO SHOUTED AT EVERYONE AND JUST COULDN’T BE REASONED WITH. Remember that book? We had fun.

Hermoine, on the other hand, in the books and sadly not the films is what is referred to as a white girl feminist, who goes out of her way to tell people to be outraged about things they have no interest in and she has really not a lot of business getting involved with. I know she was just trying to go magical social justice warrior, probably in an attempt to fit in better in a world where she could actually experience a degree of racism in, but it really fell flat.

But this is how it should be. If your admiration for your own character lasts more than four hours, please contact your editor. Your characters should be flawed, because if they are they will feel more like people and less like people you wrote. Think about someone you really care about, and think about that one annoying thing they always do. Go with that. Or maybe think back to your lying, cheating, whore ex (sorry not sorry) and try to understand why they justified the things that they did. Use that as motivation for your bad guys. Your characters need to be relatable and they need to not be perfect.

The best villains are ones that show a little humanity. I hate slasher films because they’re dumb. It’s an hour and a half of an unkillable monster carving up horny teenagers. I can’t relate to that. Darth Vader? Hecks yes. A kid who grew up from a rough childhood who has a ton of responsibility thrown on to him who doesn’t know how to form healthy relationships and is constantly in some way or another a slave to others? That is relatable. That is human. The choking people out with his mind? Not so much. But his back story and his motivation are very human, even though he has completely lost his way and has become more machine than man now.

Your hero also has to be human. He or she can’t simply be an amazing fantastic wonderful person with no flaws. One, it’s boring. Remember Becki from 11th grade? Blonde, blue eyed, tall, athletic, straight A’s, debate team, cheerleading, voluntered, went to Harvard or something? Yeah, she was perfect. Remember how boring she was? Remember that one time you actually tried talking to her and all she could talk about was her cat and Taylor Swift? It was awful. Don’t write Becki. Write Chad. Chad was cool. Chad was thrown off the baseball team because he said all that pot at that party was his, even though he didn’t smoke any of it because he really didn’t want Jonathon to lose his athletics scholarship for next year.

Make them vulnerable. Make them relatable. Make them human. Every single one. If their boring to write, they will be boring to read. And if you’re not having fun your readers won’t have fun. Challenge yourself by challenging them. Give them moral dilemmas. Give them vices. Give them painful memories. I know they are your sweet, precious, children, but you need to torture them a little bit. Watch them squirm. Let them fail once in a while, let the bad guys win one. Make things interesting by making them interesting. You’ll thank me later.

If you’d like to continue reading my work in progress THE AUTUMN MAGE chapters three and four are now up on Wattpad. Give them a look, and please let me know what you think. And if you like what I have to say please like, comment, and share, and I’ll try to get more postings here more frequently.