Archive for the Writing Category

Tips to Improve Your Story by Writing Better Characters

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Toy Story on Writing Characters

I don’t care whether you have a sci-fi, fantasy, western, action/adventure, mystery, drama, or other genre. The characters in your story are just as important as the story’s plot. Without characters, you have nothing. With mediocre characters, you have a mediocre story. You could almost get away with a mediocre story if you have excellent characters. So how do you build great characters? Here are some great tips:

Write Their Backstory

When I began writing The Guardian of Destiny, I had a very difficult time writing the main character. I just couldn’t get into him. It wasn’t until I really got to know him by writing his backstory from his childhood to the present that made me really understand who he was. When you tell your actual story, you don’t have to provide your character’s entire backstory. Just include the parts relevant to the story and/or a few of the interesting parts that reveal why your character is the way he is.

Physical Characteristics

I’ve noticed some writers include very little character description and let the reader fill in the blanks. As a reader, I kinda prefer this myself. But I’ve come to realize that most readers want at least a little bit of a description. So make the descriptions unique or interesting. This is especially important when you have multiple characters. The more characters you have, the more difficult it will be for your reader to keep up with them all. So give them a unique feature or two. Perhaps one character has thick eyebrows or one has a unique color of eyes. Go beyond facial features. Perhaps one character has a limp or one is overly tall.

Ben Affleck

J.D., the character in my new sci-fi series, has a crooked smile. I like to think the smile looks a little like Ben Affleck’s. Jori has a Japanese look, though I never state this because of the genre. I try to hint at it with the color of his skin and hair, with the shape of his eyes, and with the fact that he occasionally uses Japanese words.

Gestures, Habits, and other Noticeable Characteristics

Speaking of the words a character uses, this is another way to help individualize your characters. People watching is something writers do all the time. It’s a great way to pick up on the little things people do that make them individuals. Perhaps you notice someone who taps their foot all the time or someone who plays with their hair. Habits can include someone who smokes or someone who is always drinking coffee. J.D. strokes his chin a lot. Jori and Terk curse a lot, Terk more so.

Strengths and Weaknesses

List your character’s most prominent strengths and even a few of his weaknesses. If a character has nothing but strengths, never does any wrong, it makes for a very boring character. No one is perfect, so even the best characters will have a few things they’re not good at. Jori has a lot of things going for him. He’s highly intelligent, has a lot of common sense, and is greatly athletic. He even has a tendency to be modest and considerate, though you wouldn’t know this in the beginning of the story. So it seems he’s practically perfect. But he’s not. He has a bit of a temper, which sometimes gets him into trouble. He also has a tendency to keep his feelings to himself, which makes other people think he’s an emotionless jerk.

I admit I’ve read (and liked) books where the hero seems to have no character flaws. It’s true some people like a story with a perfect white knight hero. So if this is your character, make sure your story makes up for the lack of character conflict in other ways, such as with a great plot and interesting twists.

Stand by Me Movie

Relationships

How the character relates to others says a lot about them. What are their relationships like with their parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, and others? Do they have a lot of friends, or few? Are they loyal to one spouse or do they like to sleep around? Depending on your story, you may even want to consider your character’s relationships with animals. One character I particularly like in my story is Mik Calloway. He’s a complete ass. And one way you can tell this is by how he is with his coworkers. Even though he’s hanging out with them, he only thinks negative thoughts about them. And he only admits that he’s hanging out with them because he doesn’t want to drink alone.

Occupation

Be sure to consider the character’s occupation when writing their character. Stereotypes exist for a reason, so think about the stereotypical dentist, racecar driver, jock, lawyer, cop, and so on. But be careful about making your character cliché. Even though people tend to fall into certain stereotypes, they are still individuals. Jori, for example, is immediately viewed as a stereotypical warrior with a bad attitude and hot temper. But as you will see later in the story, there is so much more to him than that. Use stereotypes to your advantage by perhaps making your characters see other characters in a stereotypical way, but then have them learn a lesson by learning otherwise later on.

Cardinal Richelieu of the Three Mustketeers

Beliefs

Your character’s beliefs go beyond just what their religious preferences are. Think about the core values of your character? Does he believe each man for himself or does he believe in helping others? Is he open-minded or stuck in his ways? Does he tend to see the best in others or the worst? Is he a strictly by-the-book kind of guy or will he break the rules to right a wrong or to get ahead?

A Character’s Journey

Whatever happens in your story, whether your hero is out to save the galaxy, meets the love of his life, destroys the evil warlord, or catches a serial killer, these events are going to change your character forever. Hopefully, they are going to help your character grow. Even the bad guy could learn something new. When you develop your story, think about what your character is going through and what lessons they can learn from it. Think about how their lives are changing and will change as the action progresses.

Create a Character Journal

I forgot where I learned this from, but it has been the most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to writing characters. The character’s journal consists of everything listed above, plus a few extra if you’d like. If your character journal is a physical one, cut out pictures of what your character might look like or what he might wear. If you can draw, draw the pictures. Draw his home and/or his favorite things. If your character journal is a digital one, like mine, attach images. One person I know uses Pinterest to collect pictures that fit their characters.

Conclusion

The more you think about all the aspects of your character, the better chance you have of creating a deep and memorable character. And the more memorable your character, the better chance you have of creating a memorable story. If you have any additional tips for creating great characters, please feel free to comment below.

Go Beyond Telling Your Story – Show It and Make the Reader Feel It

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2016 by Dawn Ross
Cinderella's Slipper

A talented writer can show you and make you feel this magical scene.

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome as a writer is learning how to show the story rather than tell it. Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can make the reader feel like they are actually a part of the story. So how does one write in such a way as to bring the reader into the story? Let me start with showing you the difference between telling a story and showing a story.

 

The prince slipped the glass slipper onto Cinderella’s foot. It fit. The two smiled at one another and then hugged. They lived happily ever after.

 

Short and sweet but not very engaging, right? First of all, it happens too quickly. I could drag it out more by describing more of their actions. But ‘dragging’ a scene out isn’t what separates showing from telling. There is so much more to it. Here is my rewrite:
The glass slipper glided easily onto her foot, sending a shiver up her spine. This was happening, this was really happening. But would he recognize her in these rags? Would he be able to see her through the soot and grime on her face?

He raised his head. Her breath caught as his blue eyes locked onto hers. Goosebumps prickled across her arms. She smiled tentatively, hoping against hope.

His eyes twinkled and a grin spread across his handsome face. Warmth flooded through her and her eyes burned with tears. He remembered her.

But no. This had to be a dream. It couldn’t be real. She looked down at her soiled clothes. Her nose twitched at her own sour scent. There was no way he could love someone like her. She was just a servant, a simple nobody.

She squeezed her eyes shut and brought her dirty hands to her face. A piteous sob escaped her throat. Her chest heaved and hot tears pushed their way out.

The warm touch of his hands as he cupped them over hers magically settled her. She let her shaking hands fall and hesitantly opened her eyes.

His face was a handbreadth from hers. “It’s you.” The warmth of his sweet breath whispered across her lips. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” His fingers gently wrapped around hers.

Dream or no, she couldn’t resist the tenderness in his eyes. She let go of one of his hands and delicately brushed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. He was real. And somehow he still saw her in the same way he had on that enchanted night.

He enveloped her into a longing embrace and she melded into the strength of his passion. All the world around her disappeared. It was just him and her, lost together in a whirl of everlasting joy.

 

This rewrite showing is obviously much longer than the telling part. But perhaps it didn’t really seem like it because hopefully you felt like you were a part of the experience. As stated earlier, it’s not because it is longer that makes it more engaging. Here are some things that helped show the story:

Emotions – Cinderella shared her emotions. And she didn’t just tell the reader she was nervous, ashamed, or relieved. She showed her emotions with her actions, gestures, internal sensations, and internal thoughts. Actions, his blue eyes locked onto hers. Gestures, she delicately brushed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. Internal sensations, warmth flooded through her. Internal thoughts, she didn’t think this was real.

Other Senses – Cinderella doesn’t just tell us what happened. She shows us what she sees, smells, and what she feels both internally and externally. Engage your readers by trying to include two or more of the five senses – sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste.

Adjectives – Adjectives have a way of putting more feeling into nouns. They help to bring those nouns to life. Consider Cinderella’s piteous sob, sour scent, and dirty hands. Consider the prince’s warm touch, blue eyes, and sweet breath. Consider their enchanted night.

Conflict – Conflict somehow has a way of really engaging the reader. Conflict keeps the reader guessing and keeps them hoping for the best. It creates setbacks and gives heroes the opportunity to show who they really are. And it makes things more real. Although the Cinderella story is a fairy tale, I’ve made her more real by showing her internal conflict. In real life, a man and a woman don’t just fall into easy love without some sort of internal doubts. Conflict can be external as well as internal. After studying how to show a story rather than tell it, consider doing some research on the many ways you can add conflict.

Word Choices – Consider the words you’re using when you’re setting a scene and showing your story. Use words that support the emotions. Consider sharp words when there is strong negative emotion or lots of action, or soft words for slow-paced scenes or gentler emotions. When Cinderella looked down at her soiled clothes, hopefully the word ‘soiled’ helped convey her doubts about herself. When she delicately brushed the prince’s cheek with the tips of her fingers, hopefully the word ‘delicately’ showed how she was still uncertain but beginning to believe. When they hugged, hopefully the words ‘longing embrace’ conveyed how relieved both of them were to be together again. Somehow, I don’t see the words ‘strong hug’ doing the trick.

Sentence Lengths – The emotions of certain scenes can sometimes be conveyed better through the lengths of your sentences. Action scenes or other scenes meant to be fast paced can be written with one-syllable words and short choppy sentences. Longer sentences help slow the momentum of the story. Love doesn’t happen quickly so love scenes like the one above do better with longer sentences.

Don’t Overdo It – Sometimes, showing can get a little out of hand. I thought about adding more to Cinderella’s doubts by having her speak back to him and being more hesitant to believe this was real. But sometimes enough is just enough. You don’t want to bore your reader with too much detail. And you don’t want to dwell on one emotion for too long.

Telling Has Its Place – Sometimes telling is actually appropriate. Telling could be used to skim over boring parts that have no real value in the story other than to get your character from one place to another. An example would be if one of your characters just experienced an event and is now telling another person. Rather than go into dialog relating events the reader already knows about, the writer can tell the reader, “Jack told her everything in a rushed breath.”

But use telling very sparingly. There are better ways to transition a character. You can end the chapter at one scene and begin a new chapter in another scene. You can have your character thinking about something important as they move from one place to another. Or you can insert a sub plot so that something happens as the character is going from one place to another.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned about showing a story and engaging your reader. I hope I’ve covered all the points but if I’ve forgotten something, please feel free to add a comment or two.

How to Write Unique Character Voices

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2016 by Dawn Ross

Yoda and Bad Grammar

Have you ever read a book but couldn’t get into the story because the characters were so flat? There could be many reasons why a character is flat, but the one being discussed here is in regard to the way they speak. When everyone speaks in the same way, it makes it difficult for the reader to see them as individuals. It also makes it difficult for the reader to tell who is speaking if there are no tags present.

If you’ve been reading my sci-fi story, you have probably noticed that I’m in no way an expert at making each of my characters speak differently. But I’ve been studying the subject intensely and have been trying to apply what I’ve learned. Here are some general ideas on how to make each character sound unique:

Word Choice

Different people often use different words for the same things. Example 1 – One person may go around saying ‘awesome’ all the time while another may say ‘cool’ or ‘nifty’. Example 2 – One person may use a lot of big words while another person would use simpler words. Example 3 – One person could speak in a more formal manner while another uses more slang. Example 4 and the one I’ve used for a few of my characters – One person never curses while another curses all the time.

Word Order

Yoda from Star Wars would be a great example of word order. Instead of, “You have become powerful. I sense the dark side in you,” he says, “Powerful you have become. The dark side I sense in you.” Another example would be in Spanish versus English. In English, we say, “The yellow book,” but a direct translation from Spanish “El libro amarillo,” is “The book yellow.”

mordor-grammar

Grammar

Have you ever noticed that not everyone speaks in proper English? Someone had pointed out how one of my characters said, “From who?” instead of the proper, “From whom?” How many people do you know who actually say the word ‘whom’? There are a few, I’m sure. But I personally seldom ever hear the word. Also, how many people say words improperly, like ‘irregardless’ or ‘supposably’? It’s okay to have misspelled or mispronounced words when a character is speaking. However, be careful not to overdo it or it will annoy your reader. Here is a great resource for words that are often pronounced incorrectly – http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/style-and-usage/mispron.html

Idioms

If you’re writing in close-third person, even your descriptions should be closely aligned with the character. For example, one of the characters in my story describes things or uses idioms related to animals. So when he describes a color, he describes it in a way that relates to an animal. Some characters may also speak their idioms out loud, such as, “knee-high to a grasshopper” or “uglier than sin”. Keep idioms in mind whether the character is speaking them, thinking them, or describing the scene around him.

Foreign Words

One of my main characters occasionally uses foreign words. Make sure to use the foreign word so that the reader can still understand it based on its context. The reader might not know what the word ‘koshinuke’ means but in the right context they might realize it means ‘coward’. As with misspoken words, be careful not to use too many foreign words or it will annoy your reader.

Filler Words

Filler words are meaningless words. Perhaps one of your characters says, ‘um’ a lot. Or they may begin almost every sentence with, ‘Well…” Also, perhaps they also end just about every sentence with a word or phrase such as, ‘ey?’ or “ya know?’. Here are some great examples I’ve found – http://blog.brandyourself.com/product-tutorials/6-filler-words-that-wont-get-you-hired/

Other Ideas

How about a character with a lot of faith? Perhaps they say, ‘Thank God’ or ‘Thank the Lord’ a lot. Maybe they give a lot of blessings or offer prayers. Other ideas – overly polite characters, blunt characters, characters who talk a lot, characters who keep it short and simple, characters who mispronounce certain letters, characters who sigh a lot, and so much more!

Listen to how different people speak and take note of the different words they use. Does a doctor speak differently from a farmer? Does a policeman speak differently than a politician? Does someone whose native language is Chinese speak differently than someone from Australia? Listen and learn and you too can develop unique character voices.

*****

In addition to writing unique character voices, here are four ways you can show which of your characters is speaking:

Three ways to tell who is speaking:

  1. With tags like ‘he said’ or ‘she replied’. (Note, avoid using too many creative tags like ‘he insisted’ or ‘she hissed’. Readers tend to skim over the more common said and replied tags and get hung up on creative tags. Besides, the character’s actions and the construction of their speech should speak for themselves. Another point is people don’t hiss or growl words. So if you use a creative tag, use it sparingly and use it appropriately.)
  2. With actions. For example, instead of “Don’t do that,” Mike said, say, Mike shook his finger. “Don’t do that.” Incidentally, different gestures might be another way you can distinguish your characters. For example, perhaps Mary crosses her arms a lot or George twitches his mouth when he’s thinking.
  3. With the character’s unique voice. Take Yoda, for example. For anyone writing fan-fiction, there is no reason to say, Yoda said. Simply writing in the unique way he speaks will tell the reader who is speaking.
  4. With tone. Perhaps this is just my own technique, but in some situations I like to describe the tone in which the speaker is speaking. I don’t use this technique often. It’s usually only used when I want to emphasize how a character might have a different sounding voice or when my character is using a different tone than usual and I can’t seem to find any other way to convey it. For example, “If you ever do that again…” Mike’s tone rumbled from the lowest octave. Another example, “So, what’cha up to?” Jake’s voice was naturally gruff, but there was a friendliness to his tone. Here is a link I found on other ways to describe a tone of voice – http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/thesaurus-category/american/words-used-to-describe-someone-s-voice

If you have any other ideas on how to write unique character voices or to show who is speaking in your story, please comment below.

Writing a Book for NaNoWriMo

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2016 by Dawn Ross
NaNoWriMo 2016

November is National Novel Writing Month @NaNoWriMo, nanowrimo.org

Do you have an idea for a book in your head but just haven’t sat down and written yet? The prospect of writing a novel can certainly be daunting. Where do you start? How do you find the time? What if it’s bad? Here’s how NaNoWriMo can help.

What is NaNoWriMo?

November is National Novel Writing Month @NaNoWriMo, nanowrimo.org. It is a non-profit organization set up to encourage new writers to write. Signing up is easy. And it also helps you find writing groups in your area who can help give you encouragement.

Where to Start

There are two types of writers. There are planners and there are those who just write by the seat of their pants, aka pantsers. I am a planner. I have my book entire mapped out and know exactly where I’m going to start on November 1st. If you’re just now thinking about NaNoWriMo, then it may be a little late to plan. But that’s okay. Surprising things can happen with your characters when you wing it. And believe it or not, a lot of writers write this way. So don’t let the fact that you don’t have a plan stop you.

How to Find the Time

This can be a tough one, especially if you’re trying to juggle work, school, kids, home, and whatever else comes up in your life. Joining NaNoWriMo.org and finding a writing group in your area can help. They often meet for what is called write-ins where everyone sits together and writes. Having like-minded people around you can not only provide encouragement but can also make you feel accountable. Write during your lunch break. Get an app on your phone so you can write while waiting in lines. Ask your family to give you time. Find time after the kids are in bed. These are just a few ideas. You can do it! 50,000 words is 1,667 words a day, which is less than a chapter a day!

Don’t Worry About Quality

November is just about writing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, prose, plot holes, boring parts, or anything else. Just write! Some NaNo writers have been known to get halfway through a story and realize they hate how it’s turning out so they start over. But they start over with another story. They don’t start over with their word count! Anything you write when writing your novel counts towards your 50,000 word count. Don’t cheat and write nonsense. But just write it and worry about fixing the story and editing it later. The most important thing in November is to write 50,000 words for your novel.

About Me

November 2015 was the first time I joined NaNoWriMo and it was the best thing I ever did. I wrote Book Two of the Kavakian Empire that month. No, it’s not published yet. I’m still working in fixing Book One so I can make it good enough for publishing. This November, I’ll be taking a break from fixing Book One so that I can write Book Three of the Kavakian Empire: Warrior Outcast. Find me on NaNoWriMo by searching author dawnross, all one word, all lower case.

To finish writing a novel is a very satisfying experience. Trust me. I know. So just sit down and write and you can finally get that story out of your head and on paper. Write it in November and then spend the rest of the year perfecting it for publishing. You never know, you just might be the next best-selling author!

p.s. I may or may not post what I write in November. But I will try to post something.

Rewriting the First Chapter of StarFire Dragons Novel

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2016 by Dawn Ross

Serpent Spaceship

As you may know from my previous post, I am getting conflicting feedback on the first chapter of my sci-fi novel. Many of my beta readers liked how it just jumped into the action. These beta readers were regular readers. They weren’t writers or writing experts. When I did submit my first few chapters to someone considered as a writing expert, I was told that I needed to ground my character in his normal world first and give the readers a chance to get attached to him. So which is correct? A writing expert can’t be ignored, but neither can the genre of science fiction readers.

I’ve been doing some research. Here is a site that I found the most helpful – 6 Ways to Hook Your Reader From the Very First Line. Of the four things this helpful writer’s article says they find the most annoying in the first chapter, I committed two of them. I started with dialog and I introduced too many characters at once.

One of the six things this article suggested I do to hook the reader was to begin at a pivotal moment. This seems to conflict with the writing expert’s feedback I received. How can I possibly start with a pivotal moment if I’m taking time to ground my character in a normal world?

This article on hooking the reader has other suggestions that might help. I could make the reader wonder, I can create an interesting picture, I can introduce an intriguing character, I could start with an unusual situation, and/or I could begin with a compelling narrative voice. Let’s visit each of these options.

Make Your Reader Wonder

I think chapter 1 does a good job of making the reader wonder. Why are the Tredons running from a race of scavengers? What will J.D. find on the planet?

Create an Interesting Picture

I was told by many of my beta readers that this story has the feel of Star Trek. While many sci-fi readers probably love Star Trek, is this what I want? Perhaps I should try to create a world that is at least a little different from Star Trek. But how can I make it interesting? I’m at a bit of a loss here. Really, the only thing I can think of is to make the history a little different and focus more on the characters.

To make the history a little different, I took into consideration other feedback about how I used too many Earth terms in my story. Everyone in my story is human. Earth became uninhabitable many centuries ago. The human race traveled to other worlds, terraformed them, and started over. Starting over took time. Over many more centuries, the populations on these planets grew and the people evolved (or in some cases, devolved). Although space travel had been known in the past, they did not travel during this period. It wasn’t until they were fully developed again that they began to explore and seek one another out. That’s where the Prontaean Alliance comes in.

Of course, I won’t explain all this in the first chapter. But I will hint at it.

Introduce an Intriguing Character

One of my beta readers told me that Jori is the best developed character in the entire novel and that everyone else falls short. I’ve known this and I’ve been trying really hard to make J.D. just as interesting as Jori. I did this by adding his insecurity about his new position as commander because of the Kimpke incident. However, this seems to have made him weak-minded and not very compelling. I’m still brainstorming about this.

Start with an Unusual Situation

I think I’m on the right track with this one. I’ve got the reader wondering why the Tredons are running from a race of scavengers. But I think I need to enhance it a bit more. J.D. is wondering this, but I need to put more feeling into it.

Begin with a Compelling Narrative Voice

I rewrote the first chapter at one time to set the scene. I used a lot of flowery words. But a compelling narrative voice doesn’t just mean using flowery words. Since my story is written in close-third, the narrator is J.D. and J.D. isn’t a man of pretty words. So somehow, I have to catch the reader’s attention through J.D.’s voice.

Begin at a Pivotal Moment

This story isn’t just about how J.D. and Jori evolve from being enemies to being friends. It is also about how J.D. learns to fit in his role as commander. So my pivotal moment doesn’t have to be about how J.D. and Jori first meet. It can begin with J.D. feeling out of place.

Now that I have all this information, I’m going to try and tie it all together when rewriting the first chapter. I won’t start with dialogue. I’ll only introduce a few characters rather than several at once. I’ll try to create an interesting picture with J.D. being more intriguing with a compelling narrative voice. And I will try to make the pivotal moment be more character driven rather than action driven.

Stay tuned! I will try to get the first chapter rewrite for my novel posted next week. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your ideas on how I can make this story better.

Plan for Rewriting Part One of the Kavakian Empire

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2016 by Dawn Ross

How-to Book "How to Create Character"

#1 Make the characters deeper. How am I going to do this? I’ve been reading a lot of how-to posts online as well as how-to books. The best and most thorough help so far is a book called, “How to Create a Character” by Logan Mathis. Basic tips it gives is to get inside their head, make sure they have a strong desire/goal, give the characters meaningful names where applicable, describe the characters physical appearance, give them unique features and/or character habits, reveal backstory but only a little at a time and only if relevant to the story, consider different patterns of speech for each character, create character relationships and character conflicts, and so on.

Some of these things I feel I have done, some I need to do better, and some I will need to do because I didn’t do them at all. Did anyone notice that I seldom described characters’ physical descriptions? If you went on to read part two of my sci-fi novella, then you may have only just learned that Terk and Jori are Asian in appearance and that J.T. has sandy blond hair!

I am also going to be more consistent with Jori’s character. He appeared to go back and forth between being a brat and being good. I don’t think I explained why well enough. So I am going to have him consistently snotty in the beginning until his wall finally comes down when Terk nearly dies. Even then, he may still be a bit moody, but it won’t be until that point that he truly feels safe and truly feels like he can trust J.T.

J.T. will have a little bit of a more complex background. Since he is new to the ship, he is not yet sure of his position as second in command. Although he will be a capable commander, he will reveal uncertainty in his head. And this will be more evident between him and Robert.

I indicated that Terk will wake up, but I never really wrote about Terk in part one. I skimmed his adventures. So I will go into more detail on him in part one. This way, when you read part two of my story, you will already have a good idea of what he’s like.

#2 Add more sensory information to scenes. I need to do better at including not just what is seen, but what is felt, heard, smelled, and tasted.

#3 Propel the reader forward. I need to keep the reader on the seat of their pants by making them wonder what will happen next. One way to do this is to create mystery to make the reader ask themselves questions that they want to learn the answers to. So one major change I am going to make is that Jori will not reveal who he is. The Odyssey crew will have to figure it out for themselves.

#4 Create more conflict and uncertainty for the protagonists. I think you all remember me saying that there is no one antagonist, just several small ones and those ones are too small. So I need to make some of the smaller ones bigger.

Robert’s conflict will be intensified as I also make his character deeper. I will add just a tad of background story on him and explain why he has such a pressing need to avoid war. I will also make the threat of war more real.

J.T.’s conflict will be intensified by the uncertainty he feels in his new position. He will also have an added desire to create a family someday. His inner conflict will be with his desire to move up and with his desire to settle down. He wants children someday, so this way his relationship with Jori will have more meaning.

The Grapnes are going to cause more trouble. And there will also be conflict because before Robert finds out who Jori is, he finds out Jori and Terk have a bounty on their heads. This will also create more mystery because no one knows what the bounty is for. So it won’t just be the Grapnes coming after Jori and Terk, it will be others as well.

When Terk wakes up, he will be a new conflict. And Calloway will have more of part to play in making trouble.

#5 Consider renaming some of the places and characters. Okay, I realized about halfway through writing part one that J.T. was too similar to James T. Kirk. He’s nothing like Kirk so I don’t really want to give that impression. I’m thinking of going with J.D. instead. The Alliance Core is also a generic name. I didn’t give it much thought because I just wanted to write. But now I realize it is too boring of a name. Also, I’m wondering if Kavakian is the right word. Even though it is the longer name for Kavak, Kavakian sounds too much like Kevorkian. Anyone remember who he is? It’s a cool name, but again, it might give the wrong impression about who the Kavaks are. I also want to rename the title. I’m thinking, “Edge of the Dragon’s Shadow”. The dragon being the Kavakian Empire since we learn in the part two saga that Emperor Kavak’s ship is named the Dragon. The word edge could indicate how close the two peoples are to war or it could indicate that Jori and Terk are like the sharp edges of the Dragon Emperor. What do you think?

I know there is a lot more that will need to be done, some of which I mentioned before. But this is the gist of it. I’m going to create a new subcategory for part one revised. So if you haven’t read part one of my science fiction story before, I suggest skipping the unrevised version and reading the revised one as I post it every week or so. Keep in mind that just because it is revised, it doesn’t mean it is perfect. I will still welcome your feedback.

Okay, So I’ve Learned My Writing Needs a Lot More Work

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 2, The Kavakian Empire, Writing on January 9, 2016 by Dawn Ross

Wake Up Call

I just received a horrible review of my story. One of my beta readers said they couldn’t finish the story because it was too boring. My characters were flat. There were no questions that propelled the reader forward. And my descriptions were not visual enough.

What I thought was really good turned out to be really bad. I’m heart broken. I feel like a failure. A part of me wants to give up. But you know what? I’m not. Now that I know what’s wrong, I’m going to try fix these issues.

But knowing what’s wrong and knowing how to fix them are two very different things. I am self-taught. I read how-to books and I find information and tips online. But I’ve never taken any formal classes. I’ve never had anyone give me any real feedback before.

Now that I know, it’s back to the drawing board. I just finished reading and taking notes on a how-to build characters book. While I do understand how important it is to get the reader to ask questions that propel them forward, I need to try to figure out how to do that. And I need to remember when I write to show, not tell, so that the scenes are more visual and reach out to the other senses.

If anyone knows of any how-to books or any website resources that can help me, please share them here.