The Heroine

She can wear many hats: she can be an explorer, a CIA agent, a hunter of evil, or (especially recently) a teenager. She takes one look at the glass ceiling, gets a hammer, and shatters it. She is…the Heroine.

She is my favorite of the character types, because there are so many sides to her. Still, my breakdown for her tends to be at least slightly similar to her male counterpart, the Hero:

The Classic Heroine: Now, there’s a reason why I didn’t give her the “Traditional” title like I did the Hero. Often, the Traditional was in fact male. The Classic, however, should not be confused with “ordinary,” or “benign.” She is anything but. The Classic is a self-starter, the alpha female. She is often powerful (or has connections to powerful people) in some form or another, is extremely intelligent, usually attractive, and has at least one area of expertise. There’s a reason why a character like Lara Croft is so popular (outside of her body type); she is the epitome of the modern Classic.

The Everyman Heroine: Like her male counterpart, this Heroine starts out very typical. She can be many types: mom, student, manager, and/or business owner. Regardless, she often sees or stumbles upon something that she shouldn’t have. Now, Ms. Everyday has to become Ms. SurviveTheDay as the villain either comes after her or unfolds their plot that only she knows about. Like the male Everyman, she has to use every resource that she has, every connection and skill, in order to win. Unlike the male Everyman, she often doesn’t have any type of combat experience.

The Damsel: This female, to me, isn’t really a heroine as much as she is an accessory to the Hero, but she can have some of the Heroine traits. Her standard method of operation is to get into trouble, get saved by the Hero, and then come back to save the Hero during the villain’s last-ditch effort. She usually has a clever one-liner during that scene as well, showing that she has some promise of becoming a full-fledged Heroine. If she never shows this potential, she often dissolves into a Mary Sue; it is best to avoid that fate.

The Hunter/Supernatural Heroine: This one has popped up so much in the last decade, she deserves her own category. She is a subset of the Classic Heroine, but has very specific traits. She is often a loner, either by choice or by circumstance. Half of the time, she is unaware of her talents in the beginning. The Hunter comes from a lineage of hunters/supernatural beings, something else she may or may not be aware of in the beginning. She sometimes feels out of place in the “real world.” Her love interest is either a fellow Hunter, or one of the very beings she hunts. She may have a “calling card,” and almost always has a favorite weapon (that is often not a gun).

The Heroine has many other categories, but I’ve noticed that the ones in my favorite stories tend to fall into these. Creating a complete Heroine is one of the toughest jobs of a writer, I think. You want her to be strong, but not too masculine; compassionate, but not a push over; resourceful, but not dependent. It’s a fine line to walk, but she is also one of the most fun characters to create. Do it right, and (like the Hero) you’ll have a character that  may lead you down the rabbit hole of a book series. Difficult? Yes. Worth it? Always.

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The Hero

The slayer of beasts, the voice of reason in a world of insanity, the One: He goes by many titles, but in the end, he is simply Hero.

(Note: Before you even ask, next week will be about the Heroine, because she deserves her own post.)

I have my own categories of the hero, as follows:

The Traditional Hero: This is the hero of legend and myth, the human (or non-human, depending on the genre) usually possessing above average strength, intelligence, or skills. He can also be a hybrid, half-human and half-super human (God, mythical beast, Angel, etc.). Within his first introduction, you know that this is the hero. He tends to make an entrance. He also rarely turns down a battle. If he loses, you can bet that he’s going to go find whatever tool he needs to come back and kick ass (this is the traditional Hero’s Journey).

The Everyman Hero: This hero could easily blend in with society, and that’s because he is blending in…at least at the beginning of the story. He has the same everyday problems that we do (relationship drama, bills, a family). Unlike the Traditional, who is himself an unusual circumstance, the Everyman gets thrown into an unusual circumstance. He may not have the special tools the Traditional has, so he has to think on his feet and maybe recall some skills from a current or former occupation.

The Anti-Hero: He defies all the traditional values of a hero. Stuff like loyalty, honesty, and fighting for the common good? Not for him. He is the rebel, the one who identifies with the antagonist more than a reader would care to admit. Still, he may have a hint of a soft spot, something that gives him a reason to help the poor schmucks that are annoying him with their cries for help. He’ll help, if only to shut them up. He has at least one potentially crippling or deadly flaw, like excessive drinking or drugs.

The Unlikely Hero: This one is bit different from the Anti-Hero. The Unlikely is not usually cast into a hero role. This could be a non-threatening character, a shy or meek type person who really doesn’t think he’s up to the task that is being put on him. He’s not alone, because no one else believes he can pull it off, either. At least Anti-Hero has the luxury of being a badass; Unlikely has all the odds stacked against him from his first introduction. He usually succeeds thanks to substantial help, divine intervention, or sheer dumb luck.

Not all heroes fit perfectly into these simplified compartments: the newest upgrade of James Bond would probably be a combination of Traditional and Anti-Hero, for example. Harry Potter could be Unlikely with a touch of Traditional and Everyman.

Where does your hero fit?

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Writing Books I Like

I was looking over my books, and I was amazed at how many writing books I have acquired over the years. I wanted to share some of my favorite books with you guys. One or two of them may not be books about the writing craft itself, but they are differently aimed at writers. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

Any of the Elements of Fiction Writing series: I looked one day and realized that I have this entire series, and I love it. These were the first writing books I ever got, and I still look back to them at times. My two favorites in the series of nine are Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and Beginnings, Middles, and Endings by Nancy Kress. All of them are solid books, though, and great for beginning writers or seasoned writers who want to freshen up on the basics.
Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen, and David L. Hancock: Awesome book for self-publishers who would like some ideas for selling and marketing your work that are either free or low-cost. I have the second edition, published in 2010, and I believe this is the latest edition. Marketing can scare writers, but there are some great, creative ideas in this book.
How To Blog A Book by Nina Amir: I am currently reading this one. While it focuses more on non-fiction, it is a lovely book that explains everything step-by-step, from picking a blog host to increasing readership. Short, sweet, and to the point.
The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Nevermind the fun you can have just looking up the names of everyone you know, this is an excellent resource if naming characters can be daunting at times for you. It is divided by nationality, gives common surnames, and even includes a list of the top ten United States baby names from 1880 to 2003.
Manuscript Makeover-Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon: I hate proofreading. There, I said it. I cannot stand having to check spelling and grammar. That being said, this book covers more than just that. It actually addresses possible issues with the story itself. I was able to correct a glaring problem with a main character thanks to this book (she was too passive).
Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein: I used to have the first edition of this book, and it walked out and disappeared. I now have the second edition. Being in the mental health profession, I loved how this book combined the two. Mental disorders, substance abuser characteristics, and even birth order traits are all covered.
How To Write A Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey: This book was very helpful while I was writing my first spy thriller. It covers a lot of the basics, but it also does well with folding in the elements of a great thriller. There are some nice examples in the book as well.
Writing The Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper: I first got this book a few years ago when I was working on a vampire-like book. Then vampires became a big trend and I abandoned both my project and the writing book. Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I stumbled upon the book again. I started looking through it, and I realized that I could reference this book for my Fae story as well. Like the previous book, this one covers the writing basics but includes concepts unique to paranormal books.
Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell: I am also currently reading this one, because multitasking is awesome at times. This book is strictly about creating a great villain and/or anti-hero. I got this book because I wanted help with creating a female villain for my spy novel. I am looking at it now for my main villain in my Fae story.

I have a bunch of other books, but these are favorites of mine. Do you have any favorite writing books? Tell us in the comments!

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Rules Are Made To Be Broken

A word of caution: This entry was written at 2:15am, and therefore may not make one ounce of sense. I was bound to have at least one of those, right?

I just heard several of you practically scream at that title, “Ahhh! A cliche!”

I have an entire bookshelf (okay, two) dedicated to writing books. They range from craft (creating characters, plot, setting, genre-specific) to publishing (indie publishing, Writer’s Market, blogging, self-publishing) to writing for profit (freelancing). All of these books have one big idea in common; they give you guidelines and rules for how to write the perfect piece, submit that perfect piece, and make money from that piece.

Here’s the funny part: all of the rules and guidelines have been broken. There are bestsellers that feature a Mary Sue character (I’m looking at you, Twilight), award winning articles that didn’t follow the reverse pyramid writing template, and centuries-honored poems that don’t follow any of the basics of grammar. Do you know why?

The people that we are writing these for don’t really care about 75% of what’s in those writing books. I can think of dozens of books that, following the so-called rules and guidelines, should have never seen the light of day. They should have been about three feet deep in the Reject or, if lucky, the Slush pile.

People want a entertaining story. Editors and agents are paid to look over our words and dissect them. In the end, though, our success depends on the people you see browsing the bookstore, looking for something to get lost in. I know I made that sound easy, and I know it is hardly easy. But aside from one person (who was a writer), I have never heard anyone go into a bookstore and say, “I’m looking for a cozy thriller that is at least 75,000 words. It has to involve two subplots, and the antagonist has to have a height complex due to the fact that he’s short…you know, to make him seem human.” Sounds insane, doesn’t it? That’s how we talk to each other in this field, and to the typical reader, it sounds robotic and flat.

So, I did all of that rambling to finish with this and somehow get back to the point: By all means, read up and study your craft. Once you’ve done that, forget everything you read and just write. If you tell an engaging story and are passionate about what you are writing, someone out there will read it…and love it.

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Balance

That word, balance, annoys me sometimes. It reminds that I have a hard time maintaining it, or even reaching it at all.

For most writers, we have to constantly try to keep some sense of balance. We have our regular jobs (you know, the one you plan to drop like a bad habit as soon as you get a bestseller), our families, our social circles, and we have our writing. The writing, sadly, almost always gets put to the back burner first in stressful situations…at least, that is what happens for me. It’s a sad cycle; if I can’t write, I am stressed. If I’m stressed, I can’t write.

With my now not-so-new job picking up in intensity, it is becoming more and more important that I maintain my writing habits. I have to set clear boundaries (stop bringing work home), make a schedule (from 7-9pm, I am writing and nothing else), and recognize when my stress engine is overheating (which seems to be a lot lately).

I now have two blogs to maintain. There’s this one, the general writing blog, which I have neglected terribly as of late; then there is the new one, The Fae Sight Series, dedicated to my first blogged novel. My goal is to maintain them both weekly, updating the Fae Sight blog on Saturdays and this one on Sundays.

This is how we have to be with our writing. I know, it sounds much more romantic to just write when the spirit moves you, but the spirit doesn’t feel like moving a damn thing at 7:45pm on a weekday night when you’ve just gotten home from work after battling traffic for over an hour. *Ahem* Sorry, I was having flashbacks…

Anyway, this is what separates the “hobby writers” from the published writers. “Hobby writers” talk about writing, read about writing, attend conferences about writing, lament about how they don’t have time to write…they do everything except write. The writers who got published? They sat down in a seat and wrote (they didn’t edit for 20 years, either).

I mention this often because it needs to be mentioned often. All of us creative types have to work on our craft, even when life tries to pull us away from it. We go a bit insane if we don’t. If that means creating a “restrictive” schedule so that we get our novel, poems, paintings, blogs, and sculptures done, then that’s what has to be done. In the end, it comes down to finding a balance between our imaginative worlds that exist in our art, and the real world that really doesn’t care about those other worlds you’re working on. One doesn’t have to destroy the other, though. There can be a balance, if you are willing to work at it.

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Between The Raindrops- Lifehouse ft. Natasha Bedingfield

Aaaaand I have found the love theme for the first book in the Fae Sight series. Even the video has a feel of magic to it. The song and video capture the budding and challenged romance between the leads in the first book, Jaymes and Samantha.

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Of Nanowrimo and Fairies

 

And just like that, November is upon us.

For regular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) participants like myself, this means that we only have about a day left to visit friends, catch up on TV episodes (sorry, True Blood, Season 4 will have to wait), and prepare for the toughest but most amazing month of the year.

Most of this blog has been focused on one book, BLAQUE. I have written, slept, and bled for this book since 2010. The book wants me to leave it the hell alone for a while. That’s what this blog absence was about. There really wasn’t anything new going on writing-wise, and the real world was giving me enough to think about (a new, more positive spiritual outlook and a new job being the two biggest changes).

Then last week, it hit me.

I wasn’t even thinking of competing in Nanowrimo this year. In fact, I was intending to avoid it like the plague, especially since I barely escaped with 50,000 words in 2011. Then, my muses plopped a single word into my head:

Fairies.

I know, a far cry from the Korean spy world. But as I started to research fairy lore (because I didn’t know jack about fairies), something incredible happened. Characters began to materialize, and with them came a pretty decent plot…a plot that could, you guessed it, sprout a sequel.

So now, less than 30 hours before Nanowrimo starts, I have a strong outline, a cast of colorful Fae and human characters, and that familiar sense of happy anxiety I always get just before the gunshot on November 1st.

Before I go, a bit of advice for any new Wrimos that stumbled upon this blog:

Hit the ground running. This is my 5th dive into the Nano pool, and trust me, having a surplus word count now will save you later. To be precise, it’ll save you right at Week Three.

More on Week Three: This week will literally feel like Hell. This is usually Thanksgiving week, and this is what determines the winners. If you can push through this week and still maintain your word count (or surpass it!), the odds are in your favor.

Pace yourself. My math says that you have to write about 1,667 words a day to guarantee a place in the Victory Circle. That target will get your there with a few words to spare.

Write. Every. Day. This nearly killed my chances last year. Having a nice 1.5 day cushion of words, I took Thanksgiving and the day after off last year. Yeah, huge mistake. I still won, but that was the most stressful final week I have ever experienced. Please don’t put yourself through that. Even if you have a five-day cushion, keep writing!

DO NOT EDIT. You are going to be very tempted to do this, but that’s what December (or 2013) is for. Don’t even look at spell check. Your thesaurus can wait, too. If it’s not adding words to your count, don’t bother with it.

Personally, I’ve been very successful in years where I did a detailed outline. I usually shun outlines, but for this competition, they can be helpful by giving you a road map. That being said…

Allow for creativity as well. What saved me last year was that one of my characters did the complete opposite of what I expected, and it sent the novel in an entirely new direction…three days before the deadline. It gave me a ton of words, though.

Get a cheerleading squad. Fellow writers are very good for this, but so are people in your life who respect and appreciate the insanity you are about to embark on. My friends all know what Thursday means, and my best friend is gunning for me to be done before Thanksgiving so that it doesn’t screw with my visit to see her. You know, priorities…

Set aside or schedule time every day to write. This has been another life saver for me. My usual time is from 7ish to 9ish, sometimes longer if I’m on a roll or way behind. Turn off the TV, phone, and Internet during this time.

Finally, remember that this is not life and death. In the end, you are competing against yourself. You are trying to do better than you have before. You are trying to write a book. Okay, so 50,000 words is more like a novella, but it is a grand challenge to attempt, and if you win you get bragging rights for a year.

To the new Wrimos, good luck and may your plot bunnies be fruitful.

To the experienced Wrimos, good luck and may your plot bunnies not choke you.

Here we go again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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