Category Archives: art

Character Bible Part 1 – Joss

Now that you received some background on the story in the form of my last post, I can begin my character bible.  This is a YA Sci-Fi which, for lack of an actual title, is called Bamboo Pole.  It is called that because I had a dream about a girl who had a bamboo pole that she kept with her at all times.  She had a list of rules associated with it, something you’ll notice I tried to mimic in its first draft.  Anyway, I woke up and forgot everything except Girl+Bamboo Pole.

So the girl in question is Joss.  Here is what I typed up about Joss in the Word doc I made for the characters:

Name: Joss

Age in Earth Years: 18

Species: ????

Powers:
Basic telekinesis.  Mostly used to fly/hover, but can be used to deflect melee weapons.

Backstory:
Her mother was a refugee, fleeing from her oppressive homeland in a basic shuttle.  Unfortunately,  she flew too close to the prison planet, Burg.  The planet’s automated defense system shot the shuttle down, and she crash landed.  The mother survived with her newborn (Joss) for several days in the wild.  She had managed to guide the shuttle into a cave where it wouldn’t be immediately obvious.  Unfortunately she couldn’t make repairs and she was injured.  Eventually she was found by Enforcers, who took her into custody.  The baby they were going to kill when they heard reports of rebel activity in the area.  They decided to set up a trap using the baby, knowing that would lead to the baby’s death as well as a rebel or two.  The woman was taken away, to be executed.  They never found her shuttle.  The shuttle was recording the incident from inside the cave so Joss could eventually find it and learn the truth about her origins.

Joss is found as a baby by Kanid and Thea and is brought back to Rath’s* camp where she is raised to become a rebel.  She is profoundly deaf, but makes up her own sign language and proves to be very skilled with staffs for fighting.

Appearance:
Coppery skin and light brown hair with some golden strands that glow in the sunlight.  A little on the shorter side, but very sturdy.  Muscular.  She has pointed ears and orange eyes.

After drawing my best approximation of Joss, I realized two things.  1. Copper doesn’t come across too well in Photoshop Elements.  2. Copper skin and light brown hair tend to blend in to one another.

So I kinda gave her dirty blond hair, and you’ll have to imagine her skin is a little more coppery.

Joss

She was drawn with a bamboo pole because I still haven’t decided what her staff is going to look like.

When I think about Joss, I think about someone who  is mischievous and headstrong.  She is one of the main characters because she is an alien among aliens.  (The prison planet has many species of alien on it, but Joss’ species is not among them, hence the ????)  Her deafness does not prevent her from becoming a good fighter and friend.  She is intelligent enough to develop her own sign language, so that says something.

A couple notes: First, if you ever see a name with an asterisk by it, that means I want to change the name but haven’t come up with a suitable replacement yet.

Second, profound deafness is actually incredibly rare.  Usually Deaf people hear some sounds, but not enough to make out speech.  In this case, I’m taking artistic license to make Joss one of those rare people who hears nothing at all.  Also, she’s an alien in a fictional universe so… yeah.  She probably doesn’t follow human rules.

I think one of the main things I have to concentrate on with Joss is why the story follows her half the time, instead of one of the other characters.  Part of it is that she and Paxton both hold pieces to a puzzle that solves the rebels’ problems.  Her mother’s ship is transportation and proof that other species can still make contact with the prison world.  Paxton’s part you’ll find out next time.

But other than that, I don’t have a character arc for Joss right now.  She will struggle when her adoptive father gets captured, and when she finds out what happened to her mother.  However, that doesn’t create a character arc.  She needs to have flaws and weaknesses (besides a hearing disability) or something else about her that changes as the story progresses.

I will think on it more.  Safe to say this blog character bible idea is working, because I didn’t realize the aforementioned problem with Joss’ character development until I started typing out my thoughts on her.

Neat.

Next time – Paxton, a boring human.

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Title That Indicates I’m Going to be Talking About Romance Novels Again

I’ve been doing some research into romance novels.  This research has stemmed from a renewed attempt to figure out the genre, and how I can produce a work that fits the parameters of same.  In the interest of said research, I read one and a half new romance novels, bringing my total romance novel consumption to about twenty and a half, probably.  Maybe more.  I never stopped to count how many Sherrilyn Kenyon novels I’d read, because I wanted to maintain whatever shred of self respect I had left.

Anyway, at this point I believe I’ve come to some conclusions about a typical romance novel.  “Typical” in this case means “a straight man and a straight woman fall in love despite some obstacle or another.  And there are probably werewolves involved.”  I made notes in my phone.  Before we continue I am issuing a warning that there will be no graphic imagery but there will be sexual content in the writing that follows.  If the idea of this upsets you, stop reading.  I will forgive you!

Okay, here are the notes:

1. Each character must act like they’ve never before seen a member of the opposite sex that they were attracted to.

Match Made in Heaven

2. There must be a constant inner monologue from both characters’ perspectives about how attractive they find each other.  Remember to really beat that into the reader’s head.  I have to wonder what one person is doing while the other is weighing out all the pros and cons of having sex with them.  All I can think of is a scenario that goes something like this:

Offer-of-Sex

3. Women must be saved from their emotions.

4. Men must curse their emotions (in that said emotions lead to relationships, which men either fear or believe they don’t deserve due to their dark and brooding past).

5. (This is exactly how I typed it into my phone last night) A man waiting for consent before doing a sex is super gentlemanly and attractive.  If he both asks for consent and is ridiculously hot, then it is ok to have sex with him within 24 hours of meeting him.  A lasting, loving relationship is sure to ensue.

Note on #5: I have read two novels so far that treat consent like a novel concept.  The first did it horribly wrong, where the male lead – the love interest! – was undeniably assaulting the female lead, but she decided it was okay because, hey, at least he’s hot and deep down inside she really did want this, didn’t she?  I was appalled.  The second got a pass because the female lead had been raised in an emotionally abusive environment with people who constantly belittled her, so she was truly learning that consent was a thing she could expect and ask for.  Still I mean… let’s just get past this, okay?  I think it’d be a great help if romance novels just took consent as a given, and didn’t tout it as some sort of proof of the man’s character.  “He didn’t rape me, so he must be a gentleman!” just doesn’t work.

6. Men are always upset (at least once per book) by the unfortunate combination of their stiff and/or tight jeans and their erections.  It’s super uncomfortable for them, and the reader definitely needs to know that.  It is crucial to the plot.  The sexy, sexy plot.

Manhood

7. No butt stuff.  Butt stuff is neither romantic nor a symbol of twue wuv.  Only oral and vaginal sex are loving forms of sexual expression.  Reading the previous statements may very well have made you uncomfortable, and therein lies the root of the problem.  Sex with a stigma attached to it is not sexy.  Therefore it is not mentioned, hinted at, or overtly used in any way.

8. Every eleven words, at least one character thinks about how much they want to have sex/pictures the love interest naked/is actively having sex with that love interest.

9. A real man knows it’s his duty to bring a woman to orgasm before he has his own climax.  That’s just common courtesy.  Conversely, the woman does not owe the man pleasure.  His orgasm is not brought on by her actions, but is rather his reward for seeing to her needs first.  And because she’s hot.  He gets to orgasm because she is very attractive, as his inner monologue should have pointed out several times already.

So there you have it.  The results of my study.  If you were thinking about writing a steamy romance of your own, now’s your chance.  You have a handy little guide right here.

I’ll be writing soon about my second rewrite of Grotesque!  Ta!

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Grotesque Success

Phew!  After many grueling days of procrastinating, I finally managed to:

  • Rewrite the first half of Grotesque.
  • Edit the second half of Grotesque to accommodate the rewrites.
  • Reread Grotesque twice in order to edit, proofread, and check for continuity errors.

It’s finally done.  And I am so much happier with the result than I thought I’d be.  It’s honestly very difficult to write a book without rereading at all until you’re done, because the whole time you’re writing, you’re thinking…

Book Ruiner

My fears were assuaged after my first read-through of the completed draft.  I’m not exactly going to post a compare-and-contrast look at the old manuscript and the new one, but here’s a list of problems I addressed:

  • Historical inaccuracies
  • Forensic inaccuracies
  • Pacing problems
  • Repetitive/formulaic plot
  • Unresolved subplots
  • Underdeveloped characters (namely the villain and love interest)
  • Unbelievable scenarios (Grotesque waking up with instant knowledge of the world around him, ability to walk, talk, eat, etc.)
  • Other things as well, probably.

What I want to talk about in this post is the method I used to bring the changes I wanted to see into fruition.  My friend Evelyn taught me a method of outlining called “story beats.”  It’s my kind of outlining because you literally just write a numbered list of things that are going to happen in the book, in the order that they happen.  You can use casual language, and you can write out details that will help you to write the book, even if those details are never explicitly stated in the manuscript.

I’d like to provide an example from the story beats I wrote out for Grotesque, so what you’re going to see is two story beats (written in block quotes so you can identify them easily) and then the corresponding section of book.  It’s amazing how much you can get out of just one paragraph of quick description of a scene.  The text of the book sample is going to be in italics because this part of the book happens to be in all italics.

2. Bastien returns home after a long day, ignores his parents as he goes straight to his room. He opens and closes the door very quickly. His room is strewn with books, and there is a large shelf stocked with potion ingredients. A small toy knight is sitting on his bed waiting for him. When it sees him, it jumps up and down, making tiny clanking noises. Bastien urges it to hush and calm down. His parents can’t hear what he has done because it was illegal.

3. Flashback: Bastien remembers going before the council. He has been researching the art of creating life for years, and he believes he can master it. He believes that with the right technique, certain objects could be made to understand and carry out tasks, maybe even help fight should another war begin. Some of Bastien’s cold ruthlessness begins to shine through as he talks. The Council is outraged by his speech and they tell him if he ever attempts anything like that, he will be banished or jailed or something.

That job had taken much longer than he had hoped. The moon and stars were shining brightly from the inky black sky as he walked home.

“Sweetheart, you’re back late,” his mother said as he pushed his way through the front door.

Bastien didn’t even glance her way as he headed to his room. He slipped inside as quickly as possible, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Little Lance was sitting on the bed, his tiny metal feet dangling over the edge of the mattress. He jumped up when he saw Bastien, ran over to him, bounced excitedly. Bastien tried to shush him. Little Lance was small – his head barely made it to Bastien’s shin – but his every movement resulted in metallic clanking that was loud enough to draw suspicion.

“Hush now,” Bastien said, patting the knight’s tiny helmet to calm him. “We can’t let Mother and Father hear you. Why don’t we do some quiet reading?”

The knight nodded its head excitedly, its miniscule visor flapping up and down with the movement. Bastien lifted him up and put him on the desk. The knight used his miniature lance – for which he’d been named – to help him balance as he crossed his legs and sat down. Bastien took off his robe and hung it by the door. He looked at the gold bands on the sleeves and the crown that was embroidered onto the right shoulder. A symbol of his rank. He was one of the most important crafters on the council. But it didn’t matter. It hadn’t mattered at all in the end. When he’d gone to them, asked them to listen to him.

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

“Manus knew it, too,” Bastien had said, referring to the man who had trained him in this trade. “We are taking on too much responsibility, Head Councilman. Many people here work the jobs of three men. I have been studying this subject for years. I can do it. Think of the possibilities!”

“That is enough, Councilman Garrison,” said Head Councilman Stefan Wiel. “Just saying these things out loud borders on illegal. You have been honored with the position of Royal Healer. Your lack of gratitude is disgraceful.”

“Why should I be grateful for a job that was forced on me?” Bastien demanded.

Stefan’s eyes had gone cold. “You will do a job that is worthy of the crown on your shoulder, or you’ll be stripped of your title and your council status. We will leave you with nothing. Do I make myself clear?”

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

Bastien let the memory fade as he reached out and ran his hands over the robe that had been made just for him when he was inducted into the council.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” he said, turning to Little Lance.

The knight cocked his head at him. Bastien sighed and shook his head.

“You wouldn’t understand. Don’t worry about it.”

[End book passage]

There you have it.  Hopefully you were able to see the difference between a story beat and the polished writing that comes out of it.  I highly recommend this method because it helps to prevent writer’s block before it even happens.  You set up the entire plot ahead of time, and it’s much easier to edit and tweak the story because instead of changing an entire book you’re just deleting/editing/moving a bullet point.  Over all, this method makes it much easier to put words to paper.  I am going to use it from now on.  That’s right.  I’m finally going to start outlining.  Hell probably just froze over.

That’s all!  I’ll write again soon.

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