finding my style

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do longer posts, because I’ve gotten quite a large workload. Usually I think of a handful of topics over the weekend and write something on Monday. The last one I wrote I did put a bit of feeling in; this one I thought up on the spot. I was between two and I settled on talking about my process of creating my own style for writing. Now when I talk about my style, I mean how I write my novels. When I’m at work, I have to keep the style consistent with the other stories, so there is a bit less creativity when it comes to how I write. However, when I sit down to write my own stories, the style is completely up to me.

When I first started writing, I tried to adopt other styles that have proven to be successful. This is how We Stood Alone is written. I remember that at the time the Divergent series is what inspired me. Back then, I didn’t have nearly as much experience as I do now. Somewhere down the line, I felt like there was no creative spark inside the style. An artist’s brush strokes are unique to them just like the words I put on a page. I know that’s an unorthodox way to put it, but the way you write should reflect your own unique style. What makes your style stand out? Is your style too niche to become popular? These are questions I’ve asked myself and I’ve found a simple solution.

What Style Do I Use?

Before I talk about the solution, I want to talk about my own style. In my book series Heroes and Vigilantes I’ve created a unique style. It took a lot of practice and tweaks before I came up with a solid concept. I’m fully aware that it won’t be accepted by a large group, but I think there will be those who realize it works. The unusual thing about my book is there isn’t a defined protagonist. There are a lot of characters and each chapter seems to jump into a new character. (This isn’t guaranteed as I do stay with one character across multiple chapters when it’s necessary) Tackling the questions that I asked earlier; what’s my solution? Well, after I came up with my style I had to ask myself one more question: why? Why did I choose that style? What does it add to my story? I mean, I could always just make one of the multiple characters my protagonist and call it a night. To answer this I’m going to pull something from one of my previous posts. The post talking about writing female characters. (You can find that post here) I mention this post because I’m going to talk about a series that I bashed in that post. My inspiration from this style comes from Fairy Tail. Where I think the female characters are written poorly, I can’t deny that that series is fantastic at writing character backstories. It seems like each character has their own big moment. That has always been something I’ve wanted to do in Heroes and Vigilantes. I want each individual student to have their own moments and ambitions. If I focus on just one student as my main character, then the reader is tethered to that person. For example the closest character in the first book is Ellie. She gets a lot of development in this book, but if I stuck the readers inside her head and only her head, then you’d never experience any of the other kids’ experiences. To answer the question of why it’s to tell the stories of multiple characters. I’m sure there will be issues with there being so many perspectives, but I think it works. There’s a flow to my style and I hope readers don’t discredit it upon seeing how different it is.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet. I can’t promise that they will get more in-depth over the next few weeks. I got a big workload on me, but I’m going to keep my promise to update weekly!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week 🙂

Tackling serious issues

After a rather eventful week for me (and playing way too much Persona) I completely let my mind slip about this week’s blog entree. It wasn’t until I saw a specific video that I had an idea of what I should write. It’ll probably be shorter, but this week I’ll talk about tackling serious issues in writing. These can often be relevant topics to what’s going on around us today or issues that may seem out of place when it comes to your usual style. The perfect example comes from the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the episode titled Moo Moo. Despite the show’s rather comical nature, this episode tackled a real world problem in a tasteful way. Where there are jokes sprinkled in, the issue isn’t overlooked. It’s surprisingly serious tone at the end shows that the writers gave the message the attention it deserved. I’ll link a video down below to show exactly what I’m talking about. Hopefully it skips directly to the moment I want. If not, start around 2:24 in the video. The scene I’m talking about ends around 3:06.

I’m going to talk about a couple of points that I pulled from the writing in this scene. When writers (especially comedy writers) have to talk about a topic that has a more serious tone to it, they tend to ruin the message with badly timed jokes. It’s a way to talk about something serious, yet keep up with the lighter tone that they’re going for. Marvel is known for doing this. They are in no way known for their comedy (outside of maybe Guardians of the Galaxy) yet they find themselves taking you out of a scene with a badly timed joke. That’s something that doesn’t happen in this scene. For the next thirty seconds, we feel the emotion behind the scene and it isn’t killed with a badly timed joke. Terry conveys his anger for the situation that is, in our world, a real problem. As Terry puts it, bad cops do in fact exist. They do racially profile people and as someone who is mainly Caucasian, it’s something I’ll never understand. I’ll never get stopped on the side of the street because of the color of my skin. However, as a writer that shouldn’t stop me from talking about the issue. As writers, we can make a difference with our words. If there’s an issue we can speak about and spread awareness, then we should. When we do talk about these issues, we also have to respect them.

My last point will be about how I handle talking about these issues. Well, the things that I believe in I make themes in my stories. I show and not tell. I show kids who deal with trauma or abuse and their journey of overcoming it. The point is to instill hope to those who might need it. I also talk about racism and the benefits of standing against it without using violence. I believe it’s our responsibility to our readers that we tackle these issues. When we do, it should be done tastefully.

Alright, I think that’s all the time I’ve got for today. Sorry for the rather short post. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me this week, but I hope I can give you more next week.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week. 🙂

What makes a good villain?

Oh boy, this has been an interesting idea that’s been marinating in my brain all weekend. I really hope that you guys enjoy this one since I put a little extra work into it. It’s one of my favorite topics to write and talk about. I won’t waste any time–let’s get into my thoughts on how to create a well crafted villain.

I want to start off by explaining a bit of the backbone of this entree. I’ve recently started playing the new Final Fantasy VII remake. This doesn’t have to deal with the game at all, so don’t worry about spoilers. There will be spoilers for other series as I talk about different antagonists from a handful of other works of fiction. The reason I started thinking about this is that it was an interesting topic of discussion with a friend of mine. We were talking about the game, but eventually evolved into talking about villains. What makes a good villain and what makes a bad one. That’s what I’ll be talking about today. This entree will include two different examples from two very different people. I asked them a simple yet complex question.

Who is your favorite antagonist?

It’s such a loaded question, isn’t it? Fiction is such a splendid world that writers can let their minds wander to some fantastic places. Some of these worlds are bright and filled with hope, while others can turn quite dark. These characters that I’ll be focusing on aren’t just antagonists, they’re villains. What makes you like these characters despite all the depraved things they have done? Why are readers so intent on loving these people we should hate? What makes them so satisfying to read in a book or watch on the big screen? That’s what I wanted to find out and I picked two of my friends’ best answers. Without further ado, let’s begin.

The Crooked Man

The Crooked Man from The Wolf Among Us

I wanted to start with a character that can be a bit topical. Personally, I have never finished the game he comes from. What caught my attention from this character was his relatability. Writers love to relate characters to real life–even in works of fiction. What’s more horrifying than a character that could and probably does exist somewhere in our world? These types of characters have a habit of jumping off the page and into our reality.

What makes this man so evil? To put it simply: he takes advantage of people he’s oppressed. The setting this story takes place in is called Fable Town. This town is filled with people who struggle just to survive. There aren’t jobs for everyone and each citizen barely scrapes by while their government ignores them. In response to these poor living conditions, what does The Crooked Man do? He offers people jobs and financial relief. In return, these people live under his thumb. He knows poor citizens have no choice but to come to him for help, so they are all willing victims to his schemes. On top of all that, he has a rather convincing argument of his innocence. He goes as far as to get people to commit murder for him while absolving himself from all blame. After all, he didn’t pull the trigger. You don’t get arrested for someone else killing with your gun.

You might be wondering how this could possibly be relatable. Ask yourself this: have you ever had a crappy boss who holds power over you? It’s a little extreme, but it falls under the same category. I would stake my entire career on the fact that there are people like The Crooked Man in our world. The government’s shortcomings are a popular topic with everything going on. It’s not a new trope of displaying the evils of the government in characters. The Crooked Man might not be the government in Fable Town, but he definitely represents a crooked politician who can use his power to get away with anything–even murder. Doesn’t the sheer thought of people like him existing make the character scarier? I know I wouldn’t want my debt collectors to make me murder someone.

Emperor Nadav

The Cor Chronicles

We talk about someone relatable, so let’s shake it up by talking about my other example. Let’s talk about someone I hope doesn’t exist–Emperor Nadav.

When I asked my friend for his favorite villain, I just knew he’d give me one crazy answer. He’s an avid reader so he’s read his fair share of antagonists. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he gave me his answer, but I’m glad I asked him. The Cor Chronicles is not a series I’ve ever heard of before he told me about it. Leave it to him to give me probably the most depraved character description I’ve ever heard. It’s so horrible that I won’t go too far into detail about the character to keep it clean. Instead, I’m going to talk about why I think this type of character works for a villain.

Depravity is a common trait in an antagonist. A corrupt sense of morality. When a character does something so horrible that you feel a pit in your stomach just by witnessing it. Those moments where you have to put the book down or even turn off your screen. What could possibly be so redeeming about these types of characters? Why do they appeal to us? I don’t think it’s because we can relate them to our world, but quite the opposite. We love the fact that they stay on paper and in our imaginations. We’re supposed to hate them and hate them we do. The hatred for these characters makes it that much more satisfying when they finally get taken down.

What makes Emperor Nadav so special? In my personal opinion, it’s the way he’s introduced. For two books the readers were conditioned to hate someone else. Another depraved individual and when Nadav comes in, he not only makes a big entrance but shows you someone worse. By doing this, the writer turns it up a notch leaving the audience in a state of shock. It gives off the feeling of having the rug pulled out from underneath of you but in all the right ways. From the sounds of it, this author does a fantastic job at one-upping his previous villain. Writing an antagonist can be like pushing a boulder up a hill. The longer they exist in the series, the heavier that boulder gets, so each push needs to be stronger than the last. Eventually, you get to the top, but you need to make sure the pay off is worth it.

What’s My Point?

After presenting you with two very good villains, what am I actually trying to say here? I wanted to present you with two examples of what makes a villain good. The depravity of Emperor Nadav and the relatability of The Crooked Man.

When it comes to creating these horrible characters, the ultimate question I liked to ask is: were they worth it? Do their actions upset the reader and throw off the entire balance of the story? Did the set-up conclude in a satisfying way? Did you give the audience something to chew on or something that falls to ash in their mouth? I’ve witnessed my fair share of bad villains who leave me with a steaming pile of disappointment. After reading two other books, giving a reader a disappointing primary antagonist can destroy your momentum. It’ll grind the story to a sudden halt and can ruin the entire series. A solid antagonist can make or break your story.

Personally, I like to give insight into my villains. What drives and motivates them to do these horrible deeds. At the same time, don’t be afraid to make a character evil just for the sake of being evil. Not every single one needs to use the sympathy for the devil trope. We don’t need to always make the reader feel bad for the villain. Keep adding strength to every push until you stand at the very top of that hill. When you get there, make sure the ride was worth it. Give us a character we love to hate or hate to love. This goes beyond what you put on paper, it applies to our everyday lives. Have a goal and make sure you’re pushing your way towards it even if that boulder gets heavy sometimes. I think that’s the reason we love a good villain. They represent a roadblock for your protagonists just like life throws roadblocks in front of us. These characters find strength when they finally triumph over evil and through them, we can find our own strength. Keep on pushing, because that goal is closer than you might think and it’s waiting for you.

I think that’s all I got in my tank for this week. I hope you all enjoyed me rambling on yet again. Oh, I guess I never said who my favorite villain was. It is and always will be Negan from The Walking Dead. One last thing before I go. If you made it to the end, I have a simple question for you. Who is your favorite villain?

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week. 🙂

My Writing Process

Last week’s entree I put a lot of thought into and I’m hoping to more posts like that; so I thought about doing a similar post for this week. I’ve been asked a couple of times about my writing process and how I keep myself motivated to write. To put it simply: writing is hard. You’re taking something inside of your own head and putting it down on paper (or a word document) and that’s easier said than done. How do I write consistently? That’s what I’m here to talk about and I hope what I put helps you. Just read with a grain of salt, since this is my way to keep at it. Not everybody is the same and you should strive to find your own way. As some would say, cut your own path. (Only some will get that reference and I love you if you do)

My Morning

Now I want to start by saying that I get paid to write. I haven’t been getting paid to do this for very long, so a lot of this is new to me. However, for me, I’ve noticed that just rolling out of bed and writing never has worked. This takes a lot of brainpower, so I’ve always had to give my brain some time to boot up. Some people can just start their day running at max capacity, but I’ve never been able to do that. For normal people that aren’t me, I would assume a good breakfast is a great way to get your brain working. I’ve never been a big breakfast person and that results in me needing caffeine to get going. On top of not being a breakfast person, I also hate coffee. The taste of it is just putrid to me and I can’t stomach drinking the stuff. This means I take the unhealthy option: energy drinks. I’m not suggesting that because it’s incredibly unhealthy, but it’s what works for me. Once I’ve got caffeine pumping through my veins, I begin to get to work.

Motivation

How do I stay motivated? This is a difficult question to answer since motivation is a hard beast to describe. I’ve battled with motivation before and I know how hard it can be to stay motivated in your daily life. On top of that, not everybody gets paid for writing and money is a large motivator. Think about it; when your boss threatens to write you up at work for doing a poor job, aren’t you motivated? The same exists for me. I know that if I don’t do a good job, then I could wake up tomorrow with my writing career out the window. Before I got paid I found my reason to continue writing slipping through my fingers. What always brought me back was reading or watching the thing that motivated me in the first place. If you want to be a playwright? Then watch that piece that made you want to become one. A film director? Great, go rent your favorite movie on Amazon. How about a New York Times Best Seller? Go to the library and check out that book that you adore–if you don’t have it in your own personal collection. I’ve always made it a thing where I absorb the media that inspired me in the first place. This includes anime, visual novels, and books. Remind yourself why you want to write and remember the goal you set for yourself. I know that I need a constant reminder, so don’t feel bad if you do too.

The Process

I’ve covered my motivation and my mornings, so it’s time to talk about how I actually write. I usually write using Google Docs. I’ll seriously show you how much of a mess it is below.

I’ve censored some of the pieces I can’t share, but as you can see I have a lot of documents. If I kept scrolling, I would have had a lot more to show off. That isn’t even my work documents, those are just my personal ones. Every day I have a solid plan on what I need to write. Some days I work on projects for work and others I work on my blog entree like this one. I’m in the middle of writing right now and that makes explaining my process that much easier.

I start by opening my playlist on Youtube. I’d share it, but out of fear of getting judged by my weird writing music, I’ll keep it to myself. Just like before, I’ll show a quick screencap below to convey how much effort I put into my writing.

I ended up naming the playlist after my main series since that’s when I use it the most–when writing that book. As you can see, I have almost 400 songs dedicated to writing alone. I’ve found that having certain music that inspires specific scenes helps me tremendously. At the same time, this allows me to build a decent-sized playlist of music to write. Now, you might be different. You might not be able to write with such loud music. If that’s the case, there are plenty of calm playlists that’ll work a lot better. I find that listening to this playlist cuts me off from the outside world. I can’t hear the conversations going on a floor above me or my cat trying to bust her way into my closed door. I can isolate myself and get my writing done. I use Youtube’s paid service so I don’t have to deal with advertisements to make distractions minimum. Cutting myself off keeps me on track. For the last part of my process, I flick a switch in my head. I have a brain that’ll go a mile-a-minute and if I don’t turn it on and off, then I’d never sleep. So as soon as I open my documents, I let loose and allow my brain to explode.

That’s the bulk of my writing process. It definitely won’t be the same for you, but maybe you can take some ideas from how I do things. I’m nowhere near good enough to offer you advice, so please don’t think of me as a simple amateur trying his best to help. If you want some of the best advice I’ve studied, then I suggest a Youtube page called Author Level Up.

Notorious Writer’s Block?

I figured I would save the elephant for the final part. Writer’s block; have you heard of it? If you’ve written for more than a week, then you probably have. Simply put, it’s a block we put in our own minds to keep us from writing. This doesn’t just include writing, we block so many things in our lives. We block making up with someone to repair a damaged relationship and we also block working on homework. It’s my personal opinion that there is no cure for this since it’s a state-of-mind. How do you get over procrastination? You just do it. There are tips to help, but ultimately it starts with you. My personal experience with this is stopping for the day if I’m finding myself blocked. The best way to describe it is maybe a foreign reference. I’ve met a lot of my friends through playing a game called Destiny. In this game, there is an in-game activity that requires 6 people and a ton of teamwork. After a while, we’d find ourselves at a block and consistently failing. Even if we knew how to do it, we’d fail to the point of exhaustion. When it got that bad, we always stopped for the night and picked it up the next day. It’s funny how after so much failure, we could come back and finish it first try. That’s something I’ve used for my own writing. If I find myself struggling and forcing words out, I would stop for the day. Then, if I don’t find motivation in the middle of the night, I’d finish the next day. Take a deep breath, it’ll be okay. When you pick it back up, come out of the gate with twice the energy you had yesterday.

Conclusions

Well, this one went on a lot longer than I thought it would. I wasn’t sure I’d have the words to make a complete post. I hope this gave you a bigger insight into how I do things. I leave you all with one last piece of advice: keep going. No matter how bleak it may seem, just keep going. Who knows; maybe you’ll have a breakthrough.

As always, thank you all for reading and I’ll see you next week. 🙂