Tag Archives: creative

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: ????

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

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.

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.


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.


Next time – Paxton, a boring human.

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A Simple Little Flow Chart

I was thinking a lot recently about cliches and how hard it is to avoid them.  Romantic cliches are particularly tricky.  In order to illustrate this, I decided to create a nice, little flow chart that explores some (but not all) of the common romantic plot lines that can be found in books and movies.

You’re gonna want to click on that image to make it bigger, obviously.  Don’t worry — it’ll open in a new tab.  You should also be able to click on it once it’s open in a new tab to zoom it in even more.  I think you’ll be happier with it then.  Have fun!


Please note the disclaimer in red in the lower left corner.  I just couldn’t cover everything.  This process was exhausting enough as it was.  Hell, the computerized version wasn’t even my first draft.  I did it all on paper first.


I threw my ruler on there for a size reference.  I had no banana for scale.  (Very few people are going to get that reference, I fear)

I threw my ruler on there for a size reference. I had no banana for scale. (Very few people are going to get that reference, I fear)

But the reason I did this was to show you that avoiding cliches is hard, and you shouldn’t be expected to do it perfectly.  That’s why I talk about taking a cliche and making it your own.  At this point there aren’t many more options.  You’ll note I didn’t really have examples for the “They’re both gay” storyline.  That could use some exploring.  And, of course, my own novels — Hellbound, Grotesque, and The Dreamcatchers — can be found in there.  Because I am not above these cliches at all.  I just try to make them as fresh as possible.  You will also note that many titles appeared multiple times.  That just serves to further illustrate how complicated something as seemingly simple as a relationship between two people can get.  It might also help you to develop some ideas for your own characters and stories, I hope.  Try exploring multiple story arcs at once, or turning a cliche on its head.

Also I did not include the following story line for what I hope are obvious reasons.

Boy and Girl Meet —-> They do not develop a relationship —-> They never see each other again

In a story, if you bring up two people meeting, it has to be relevant somehow.  So….yeah.

I want to talk a little bit about the art of criticism next, so that’ll be coming up.

Ta ta for now!

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This is my brain on movies

Sometimes I wonder about my own brain and why I’m creative and why I want to write.

I just finished watching a movie you may have heard of called Stranger than Fiction.  I like it a lot because it’s about writing and the creative process.  It also happens to be the only one of Will Ferrell’s movies that I can actually stand.  I like him in this movie because he proves he can act, and not just as some ridiculous caricature of a person, but as a realistic, believable human being.

There are some movies out there that just set the creative part of my brain to whirring the moment they begin.  Stranger than Fiction is one of them.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because, as I said, it’s actually about writing.  But I really think that it’s just that type of movie.  It’s supposed to be thought-provoking, which for me means that I end up wanting to write really badly.  Unfortunately, it’s 1:52 AM right now, so writing is not something I can really do, at least not well, because sometime after 1:00 AM, my brain does this:

Despite that fact, my brain also feels the desperate need to write, and it’s very hard to convince it that maybe writing isn’t the best idea when it gets like this.  I’ve already forgotten what I was saying….OH right, okay, so what do I do when I want to write but my brain has shut down?  That’s right, I turn to blogging.  At least here I can be a little more informal, but I can also be writing and stuff, so maybe that’ll satisfy my creative urges.  (No I don’t know why I capitalized “bunny,” but maybe if you look at the picture of what my brain is doing right now, you’ll be able to forgive me for that small slip-up)

Here’s another thing about Stranger than Fiction: It’s all about an author whose main character is alive, and that character seeks out the author and they have a nice chat.  Now, not all authors want to meet their characters, (I’m sure Stephen King sleeps better at night knowing that his creations are going to stay firmly embedded in the paper) but I think I would love to see some of mine come to life.  It’s something I’ve often thought about.  What would I say to them?  What would they want to ask me?  How would we get along?  One of the requirements would be that they understand that they are fictional and that I am the author and that’s just how things go.  Otherwise there could be thoughts of rebellion, and I’m pretty sure most of my main characters could kill me quite easily.  There’s also the fact that I’ve killed some of their loved ones, so they might feel a little sore about that.  And then there’s Serrafiel.  I feel like he might be a little miffed that I knowingly brought him into a world of torment and servitude…

It’s a scary thought.  But also so cool!  Anyway, I think I’ve got the writing bug out of me, so I can finally go to sleep.



Shut up, brain.

Word of the Day: Trebuchet (n) – a medieval engine of war with a sling for hurling missiles.


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Failure is Just Another Word for Success

So a friend of mine, Alan, shared a link with me on the Facebooks.  It is funny and involves writing, so I am posting it here for your amusement:

For those who don’t have three minutes to spare for this video, here’s the gist: Success is hard to come by, but if you work at it, you’ll eventually get there.  This guy, John Green, is speaking from experience.  He wanted to write, he took some menial jobs after graduating, and eventually he found a mentor who helped him write and publish his book.  This is very great for him.  BUT, because there’s always a but, I can’t totally appreciate the happy message in this video because I have trouble with other people’s success stories.  Honestly, I do.  Because A) I am a person who is very prone to jealousy, so I am literally jealous of every successful author on the planet, and B) my brain is prone to anxiety, depression, and exaggeration, the last being evidenced by point A.  So when I see someone else’s success story, I tend to view it as them taking up my chance at being successful.  Like, I see success as a finite resource, and I work myself into a nervous frenzy thinking that if I don’t jump on that train soon, all the success is going to get used up and then I won’t have any chance at it ever.  Here is an illustration of this crazy view, in chart form:

Yes, I know that this is a crazy way to look at things, but hear me out.  In other careers, there is at least some guarantee that new positions will open up for newcomers because the old hats will retire/die.  But with authors it’s different, because authors can die and their books will still be published and put on the shelves and held as a standard that new authors must live up to.  It’s maddening!

And now I have officially been a Debby Downer for too long, so let’s move on to some lighter material.

There is this thing called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that runs every year.  The submission period just opened, and yesterday I submitted one of my books.  I did this last year, too, with a different book.  And I didn’t even make it past round one.  But I didn’t give up, see?  I’m trying again with a different book, because I do believe that true failure only occurs when you give up, or worse, never try at all.  So I’m going to keep trying, and if I don’t make it this year, I’ll try again next year.  (I’ve got a lot of books to work with)  And if I make it to Round 2 this year, but not Round 3, then I’ll still consider that a win on my part, because that’s better than I did last year.  Also, I have to remind myself that this contest is very subjective.  Just because I don’t make it doesn’t mean my idea or my writing isn’t good.  It just means that the judges weren’t looking for that particular idea or style of writing.  So no, don’t give up.  Ever!

I don’t want this post to go on too long, but I realize some of you might be curious as to what books I submitted to this contest, so their summaries will be below the Word of the Day for those who are interested.  Not their official summaries that have to be all concise and carefully worded.  It’ll just be whatever I come up with at this particular moment.

Word of the Day: Perseverance (n) – Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Summary of Ink Stains, my 2011 submission:

Riley doesn’t know her last name or her parents’ names or anything like that.  She has some pretty bad amnesia.  But she does know how to kill a man with her bare hands.  She works for this super secret organization of vigilante-types, and she has a tattoo for every life she’s saved.  The best part is that she’s the only woman in this group of vigilante do-gooders, so the other guys give her a rough time, but some of them only do it jokingly (her friends Aaron, Joker, and Kris) and some of them, and by “some” I mean “one,” are really jerks (Paul).  So Riley does stuff along the lines of catching criminals, bounty hunting, body guarding, etc., but then someone starts leaving her little notes.  And these notes are totally creepy, like the person leaving them knows more about her past than she does.  And Riley is used to being on top of things and one step ahead, so when she’s put in this position where she’s suddenly the prey instead of the predator, it wigs her out.  And there’s also the fact that she has to figure out who’s leaving all the creepy letters before they do something seriously harmful to her or the people she cares about.

Summary of Hellbound, my 2012 submission:

Way back when, I did a post on books about dreams.  This is one of them.

Aiden is the son of Tor, who is better known as the Devil, and a human woman.  He lives in Tor (both the name of his father and the name of this Hellish dimension) which is also better known as Hell, and he hates it there.  Every now and then, a person conducts a ritual that allows a soul to escape from Hell/Tor and bind themselves to that person on earth.  It’s Aiden’s job to go to Earth and find the person who is possessed and bring the soul back to Hell.  But Aiden loves it on Earth and hates it in Hell, so he tries to prolong his stay on Earth by not doing his job.  If he doesn’t find the escaped soul, he doesn’t have to go back to Hell.  With me so far?  So yeah, the book starts with Aiden getting sent to a high school to find an escaped soul.  And at first he thinks it’ll be really cool because he’ll get to be around other kids “his age.”  It’s in quotes because he’s 366 years old, but since he’s immortal he still looks and acts like a teenager.  Right, so Aiden goes to school and tries really hard not to do his job, but then he meets this girl (as often happens in these types of stories) and starts to fall for her.  The problem is that this girl, Elysia, is clearly tied up in the evil soul’s plot, so he’s faced with this dilemma because saving her means he’ll get forced back into Hell, and then he’ll never see her again.  But if he doesn’t save her, obviously she’s gonna be in constant danger.  There’s also more to Elysia than meets the eye, though she is completely unaware of that, and I won’t reveal what that means because it’s supposed to be kind of a mystery.

And that’s it!  If you want to know more about either of these books, or read some of them, let me know and I just might indulge you.  Oh, and if you want to know the dream that led to Hellbound:

In the dream, there was this guy and a girl who fell in love in that vague sort of dream-logic way, and there was this scene I remember clearly where they were kind of lounging in a grassy park somewhere, on a hill, under a tree.  And then this man – early fifties, bald except for some hair around the crown of his head – in a white suit approaches and asks the guy, “Aren’t you going to tell her what you really are?”  Then the boyfriend guy gets all angry and the two of them kind of…run at each other, and they both burst out of their skins into these huge, dog-like creatures with immense bat wings.  The guy in the white suit is white, and the boyfriend character is red.  And they had this epic battle, like they both used their wings to keep themselves steady while standing on their hind legs, and then they shot into the air and had a huge battle in the air, and then somehow the white dog thing went away and the girl asked the guy, who had turned back into a human, what he was.  His response: “I’m a Reditor.  The Hero of Hell.”  And I woke up and was like, “What the what?  How do you get to be the Hero of Hell?  Does that mean you’re evil because Hell’s Hero would be a bad guy?”  So I wrote a book about it.  Don’t know where the dream came from.  I swear I’m not on drugs.  Ok, now I’m done.  Phew.

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Ode to the Unbroken

So tonight I return to Syracuse, New York for my final semester of college.  Yes, this May I will be graduating.

While I was lying in bed last night, not sleeping, I got to thinking about poetry.  I don’t remember why.  My brain is kind of unpredictable at the best of times, and it gets worse at night.  The moment I decide it’s time to drift off into a peaceful sleep, this happens:

Which is how I came up with the idea.  Then I wrote the whole blog post in my head, planned what I’m going to buy when I get back to school, thought about a million other things, and two hours later I finally fell asleep.

So poetry.  I don’t write poetry, and I don’t really read a lot of poetry.  It’s not that I don’t like it.  There are plenty of good poets out there – Shel Silverstein, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson.  My favorite poem is “The Raven” by Poe.  I know I’m not the only one, but it can’t be helped.  I really do love that piece.  It flows.  It’s beautiful.  It’s eerie.  It’s just right for me.

In general, though, I tend to stay away from poetry.  For the most part, I think there’s something inherently wrong with being a Poet, because that implies that your job is to sit down and write poetry.  That means you’re making a conscious effort to make poetry happen.  You’re trying to create poetry.  And hey, maybe you’re really good at it.  But the problem is that when I read most poetry, it has that bitter aftertaste of Trying.  Even if that poem came from someone’s heart and soul, and they weren’t trying at all, and it just came to them one day while they were brushing their cat.  And then they titled their poem “The Cat’s Claw” and wrote about true pain that truly came from their cat’s claws as they tried to brush it.  I’ll still (probably) have trouble enjoying it.  And that’s all me, for the most part.  The only time it isn’t is if that person really was trying too hard, and sometimes that comes across to everybody.  Things like, “My heart fluttered like a butterfly caught in a storm,” might just have that forced effect no matter what you do.  But, as I said, I am the reason that I can’t typically enjoy poetry.  Doesn’t mean I hate poetry or poets or puppies or p…metaphors.  Just means that it’s not for me (usually).  I guess I just think that poetry should be spontaneous and…poetic, not commercial.  Not a career.  Natural, not forced.  And frankly I don’t think it’s for everyone.

That said, I did write one poem in my life.  I approve of it because it came spontaneously and naturally.  Out of nowhere.  I just sat down at a computer, started typing, and a few minutes later, I had a poem.  It is the only good poem I’ve ever written, and it is probably the only good poem I will ever write.  I can’t say for sure.  I can’t predict the future.

So I decided to post my only good poem in this blog, so maybe I can actually share it with some other people.  It’s called “Ode to the Unbroken,” and I wrote it for my best friend in our junior year of high school.  She was going through some tough times, and I wanted to write something that would encourage her and also reflect her strength and perseverance, because she really is one of the most steadfast and self-sufficient people I know.  This is what I came up with:

Do not turn away

You say

And turn to face the day

C’est la vie and

Come what may

Just words

No meaning

Somewhere someone is screaming

For help, for answers, for a God

In the endless sky

And you refuse to cry

And that is why

The Earth

Turns its shadowy side

To you

The view

Is much better

From where I stand

He says

See a girl



Stand up

Step Down


You scream

And when the world

Turns back

You open your arms

And embrace

A tear down your face

He is your friend

No moment apart can rend

The bond that you share

Somewhere someone is looking

Over a girl





Help only when needed

She has succeeded

– Rebecca Leviton 2/15/07

And that’s it!  Hope you liked it.  I certainly do.  Obviously.  But don’t expect to see any more!

Word of the Day: Ode (n) – a lyric poem typically of elaborate or irregular metrical form and expressive of exalted or enthusiastic emotion.

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