Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Characters’ Physical Appearances as Written

As a writer, I have to follow creative writing rules and standards in order to please readers. As much as I’m okay with most of the craft guidelines, there are a few aspects about readers that I wish were different. That is how I wish readers would be more okay with characters’ physical descriptions. Please note that I am not criticizing anyone who believes the opposite of what I do. I respect others’ opinions. But this is how I actually feel.

Just because there are no pictures in novels (excluding graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the writers shouldn’t physically describe their characters. However, most experts say to keep the descriptions to a minimum or only describe what is important and let the readers picture them their ways. In fact, some people have even said that they will rebel against the characters’ description and picture them their own ways. For example, one might picture a blonde character dark-haired, which I think is silly. What if that blonde character is from a bestselling book that becomes a movie and that same character is also blonde in the film? It’s not like you could file a complaint to Hollywood for that.

But I really disagree with the guideline of not describing your characters a lot. I would say that authors should get to describe their characters however they’d like and have as many physical attributes as they want. That being said, they shouldn’t describe everything. That’s because it would be too much to remember and would bog down the narrative. The only time I’d understand readers getting upset over physical descriptions is if the traits were offensive (i.e. never say something like, “Mr. Yang looked at me through his squinted eyes.” That’s a big no-no!).

I have a feeling that readers forget that characters’ physical appearances get presented to them all the time outside novels. They see how characters look in movies, TV shows, live performances, comics, picture books (if they are, have, or work with small children), and graphic novels. If they’re okay with Wonder Woman having dark hair or Timmy Turner having blue eyes, I wish they would feel the same with a novel character being described with red hair, or green eyes, and so on. But even one person said that they still didn’t like being told what the characters look like and said, “We have movies for that.”

Which brings me to my next point: the readers don’t own the content—the writers do. Therefore, I think they deserve the right to describe the characters to their readers. If only the readers would acknowledge that the characters are somebody else’s creations, property, and copyright. Therefore, if only they would accept that another person created the content and gets to have a say in their appearances. If readers really like a certain physical attribute of a person, they should create their own characters with those. You know the old saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”? I wish I could apply that to readers when they find out about a character’s physical appearance.

Writing

You Can Turn Clichés into More Original Ideas

While pretty much everything has been done before, some ideas are too overdone, according to the general public. Some of those include phrases, metaphors, descriptions, and types of creatures or humanoids.

When I researched for my fantasy stories, I came across how so many typical elements, such as dragons, are considered overdone. So, I made up my own magical entities in my writing.

One cliché I used, however, was having wizards in my novels. But there are no old ones with long white beards in long robes. The magicians are also modern and even post-modern at times. They have their own technology far more advanced than the regular kinds in my books.

Another overdone element I’ve included in my series is a skeleton character. In fact, in early drafts, he was more of a stereotypical skeleton where he was pure evil and carried a scythe. But as I learned more about the writing craft and discovered that pure-evil villains don’t often work (they probably can sometimes), I softened the skeleton’s personality. I’ve developed him to be depressed and insecure about his appearance as well as make him desperate to be human. I’ve also made him afraid of dogs. And no, not because he is built with bones.

Those are just some of the changes I’ve incorporated into the clichés. You could do it, too.  

Writing

A New Process Has Come for My Writing: It Involves More Outlining and Fewer Drafts

I wish I had come up with this technique earlier. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I suppose it is worth trying.

Why am I choosing this process, you might ask? It’s because I want to write my novels a little more quickly, but also keep the quality high. Okay, okay, I get what you’re probably thinking. Writing a good book takes time, and sometimes, that can mean several years.

I agree with that. There have even been authors who worked on their novels for at least ten years. But for me, writing my third installment of my fantasy book series for nearly four and a half years, and still not being finished with it, is now tiring. Of course, I will keep at it until it’s the best it can be.

However, for my next installment, the fourth book (no title yet), I don’t want it to lag. So, I’ve decided on a new way of producing the following story and all future books. Here is the plan:

1: Write a super-sloppy and short first draft (I’ve done that already).

2: Write and revise synopses for the WIP until I am satisfied with one and think it’ll work.

3: Write the story using the best synopsis at the moment, but let the writing be sloppy and weak, if necessary, just so the words can get on the page.

4: Strengthen the writing to a good-quality kind, and once it feels right, submit it to an editor.

5: Repeat steps 2 to 4 until the story is completely great and is ready to be published.

If you want to try this process, it’s better if you already know the writing craft rules and have excellent skills at it. And that can (and almost always) take several years.

I started learning the writing craft when I was about eighteen and it took me over seven years to produce great-quality stories with great writing.

Now when I say great, I mean it. Books with just good or decent writing didn’t satisfy me when I published them. They were good, but not excellent. I ended up removing them from the market. The experience was not as satisfying as I’d predicted. It may be different for others, but it wasn’t for me.

Anyway, if you are a writer with great writing abilities, it is probably okay to find a shortcut with getting your story down and ready for publication more quickly.

I’m actually teaching myself to work on two projects at once. In the past, I’d only work on one at a time. But I’m changing my mind about that. I don’t want to keep readers waiting too long for the next installments of my series or any other books I may write. So, I’m working on both my third and fourth installments at the same time.

Writing

Why Names Rarely Have Purposes in My Writing

Many authors choose names for their characters based on their personalities. The names often have meanings for each character based on their behaviors and backstories.

I, however, am not normally like that. I usually choose names for my characters simply by how much they appeal to me. Of course, I take into consideration the characters’ races, religions, ethnicities, and generations when I name them.

While I never name characters based on their personalities, there are a few times my characters’ names had purposes.

For example, in book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, the main antagonist is Beau Duchamp. I chose Beau so that kids could pronounce his name more easily for a French man.

Another example is Errol, the villain in book 2 of my series. He was inspired by the Grim Reaper. He was also originally named Peril and was eviler in early drafts of the story. However, editors have said that he wasn’t wicked enough to be called “Peril.” So, I changed his name to something that rhymed with his original name.

In my third installment, the main villain has a made-up name: Boo-Champ Corey. The name represents a combination of two other bad guys from my series world.

The final character is a wizard mentor called Mr. Reuber. He was inspired by Hagrid from “Harry Potter”, so his last name sounds similar to Hagrid’s first name, Rubeus. Of course, he isn’t a representation of J.K. Rowling’s creation and he does differ from Hagrid, as well.

However, since book 3 hasn’t been published yet, I don’t know if those characters will make it to the final draft. Hopefully, they will.

Other than these examples, my characters’ names were chosen purely based on what I liked.

fiction

7 is a Magic Number in “Harry Potter” and I Have 7 Unique Questions About it

I am not making up the fact that the number 7 plays an important part in the “Harry Potter” series. People have said it many times. There are 7 books in the main series, 7 Weasley siblings, 7 years at Hogwarts, 7 players per Quidditch team, and 7 horcruxes.

Anyway, here are 7 unique questions I have about the franchise.

1: Do Ilvermorny Students learn French and Spanish?

It was great to learn that there is an American wizard school. Everyone even got to learn about it in the 2016 film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” However, it serves not only wizard children in the US, but also all of North America. That means Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

I did research on this school on a Wikia site and saw that they learn the same subjects British and Irish children learn at Hogwarts, like transfiguration, potions, and so forth. But if it’s all of North America, where some people speak Spanish or French, how do students and staff communicate with everybody?

2: Why aren’t national anthems sung before Quidditch games?

In real life, the country’s national anthem is always sung at sporting events before the games start. But in “Harry Potter”, no national anthem has been sung before Quidditch games. Obviously, muggle-borns know their country’s national anthems, but do kids who grew up in the wizarding world know them? Could the International Statue of Secrecy have gotten in the way?

3: Does Dumbledore know Harry’s handwriting?

When Harry’s name comes out of the goblet of fire in the fourth installment, everyone accuses him of cheating. But he didn’t enter. Someone else entered for him.

Although Dumbledore has a ton of responsibilities, and can’t keep track of every student’s information (such as their dates of birth), he seems to think Harry put his name in the goblet of fire right after it comes out.

I don’t remember if Harry’s handwriting was described. But does it really mimic or resemble similarities to the actual person who entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? At the very least, Harry would have recognized his own handwriting and may have convinced Dumbledore and everybody else that he didn’t recognize the handwriting on the parchment if it differed from the person who entered him.

4: Could Harry have forged Uncle Vernon’s handwriting for his Hogsmeade Permission Slip?

In “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry has his third year at Hogwarts. Third year students can visit the local village, Hogsmeade, as long as they have a parent or guardian’s permission. Harry convinces Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form, but he refuses unless Harry behaves. But Harry gets angry at Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, and he unintentionally causes her to blow up like a balloon and fly away. So, there went his chance of getting his form signed.

However, what if Harry forged Uncle Vernon’s signature? Yes, it’s dishonest. Maybe magic has a way of detecting forgery, but I could be wrong. While the trace detects underage wizardry, I can’t imagine that it or any other magic that monitors wizards tracks every action a magician takes.

5: Why is the age of consent 17 in the wizarding world?

Authors usually have reasons behind details in their stories, especially J.K. Rowling. She chooses names and other elements carefully and with meanings. But it seems to be a mystery to why wizards are legally adults when they turn 17.

6: Who takes care of the students’ animals when they’re in classes?

For some odd reason, students are allowed to bring animals. They have owls for delivering mail. They can also bring a cat or a toad (and a rat in Ron’s case until something about that changes). But where do the animals go when students can’t be with them? How do they act? When do they get their food, relieving breaks, and so forth?

While Hagrid is the gamekeeper, he can’t possibly take care of every single animal, especially cats since they make him sneeze. Hmmm…

7: What happens if a wizard child moves to another country?

When a wizard kid is born, his or her name is added to the respected wizarding school list of their nation. Obviously, they have to grow up and be 11 by September 1st before they can attend. But schools, like Hogwarts, are only available to children in the UK and Ireland.

So, my guess is that if a magician kid moves to another country, his or her name is crossed off the old school’s list and added to the new one. For instance, if a child moves from England to France, maybe their name is removed from the Hogwarts’ list and added to the Beaubaxtons list.

That’s it for all the questions I have about “Harry Potter” that I can’t find elsewhere.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Why Hasn’t Anyone Been Nice to Harry Before His 11th Birthday?

Poor Harry is forced to live with abusive relatives for his own safety from Voldemort and death-eaters. Like many, I have wondered why no one has reported the Dursleys to authorities and why Harry hasn’t been taken away from them. Some say that the way the Dursleys treat Harry, especially making him sleep in a dirty cupboard under the staircase, would get social services involved. Others say it wasn’t bad enough for that. After doing extensive research, I found out the sad truth, besides that Dumbledore would block any muggle from taking Harry away from his relatives.

I came across an article that discussed child protection laws in the 1980’s, when Harry grew up (he was born in 1980). There were few cases reported and they involved deaths. It wasn’t until the 90’s that child protections laws became stricter and added more unacceptable ways of treating children. But if “Harry Potter” were set today, in recent years, or even the early 2000’s, I am pretty sure the way the Dursleys treated Harry would have gotten him involved with authorities long before Harry turned 11.

I also find it odd that Dumbledore gets to have a say in where Harry lives. Yes, Harry is placed there because of his mother’s protection and it’ll only work if he is with a blood relative of his mom. It remains there until Harry comes of age as long as he calls that place home.

But honestly, no child would call an abusive household “home.” I also don’t think any kid would really be safe in a home where they’re mistreated the way the Dursleys mistreat Harry. Frankly, I don’t think Harry is safe either way. I’ve read that a child who is abused can be in danger both physically and psychologically. That type of treatment can impact brain development.

Not only do I think it’s inhumane to force a kid to live with harmful people, like the Dursleys, but I also find it hard to believe that nobody would have felt sorry for someone like Harry. People have said that they found it bizarre that Harry’s abuse signs were overlooked when he went to muggle school. Some have said they weren’t surprised.

Since Little Winging was (probably) not a small town in the middle of nowhere, there had to be a lot of non-residents or new residents, whether they moved to the area, visited people they knew, worked there, and so forth. I am pretty certain that somebody would have noticed how horribly Harry was treated and wanted to take action. At least one or more people (excluding Hagrid) would have been kind to him and would have tried to help him. Or they would have wanted to.

Writing

Developing Protagonists and How I Did it

Every writer develops his or her protagonist his or her own way. Some are inspired by real people, which is how I think Lewis Carroll developed the character, Alice, for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. According to a magazine, His heroine shared the same name with a real girl, also called Alice.

While many of us know that J.K. Rowling came up with the basic idea of “Harry Potter” on a delayed train, she used some of her own life experiences to build Harry.

As for my protagonist, Alyssa McCarthy, the development of her goes back further than anyone could imagine. In fact, the inspiration for the character dates back to when I was in 2nd grade, and it came from a source that nobody would have expected: An early reader book.

That was “Morris Goes to School”. After reading it, I got inspired to do my own version of that story, but with an upright polar bear named Spike. I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who went to school with human children. One of those extras was a girl with long blonde hair, who got her own spinoff in my mind, where she lived in a house in a jungle and had animal friends. The girl could talk to those creatures, too. I envisioned that creation from maybe third grade and all through fourth grade, but abandoned the idea in fifth grade. Like my MC today, her name was also Alyssa.

For the next several years, I lost interest in creative writing since everything I thought of sounded no good after. However, that changed in early eleventh grade.

While in the shower, the same idea of what I daydreamed about in fourth grade of a girl called Alyssa with long blonde hair who had a supernatural ability hit my mind. After that, I brainstormed ideas and wrote a story similar to my childhood imagination. Sadly, no one else liked it.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college and I scrapped the original idea and turned it into something more appealing. It took a while to create another tale of a girl named Alyssa with long blonde tresses, but with better ideas from me.

While she does have a few similarities to me, such as her sense of style and some food tastes, Alyssa, my current protagonist, is also quite different from me. I developed her personality with a combination of some of the Disney princesses. I also got a ton of inspiration from the “Harry Potter” series for Alyssa’s life and the events that happened to her as well as what goes on in the stories. In fact, readers have constantly compared my “Magical Missions” series to the “Harry Potter” franchise since they share a lot of similarities, but not enough to be exact.

That is the true history of how I developed my main character.

Writing

Don’t be Shy and Give it a Try: Research by Asking Real People

With research, you look for more than just the craft rules. Those include the setting your story takes place, the laws of that society, and much more.

While I have researched common things like how detention works in schools, one thing I needed to learn more about involved a minor backstory error in both the first and second installments of my novels.

However, I am resolving it by adding a twist to that mistake in the third book. It will reveal how that incorrect statement had been false the whole time.

If you can’t find anything relevant to the research needed for your project, sometimes it is best to ask someone who is an expertise in that specific field. Just give him or her enough information about your project as well as your question. I did that for the little error I made in my books due to not performing careful research on it.

You can also join writing forums for help, as well. The one I participate in when I have questions has a research section. That is where I asked about things I had to know, and would be harder to seek through Google.

That is also where I found out how detention works in schools, since in my series’ second installment, my main character lands in it. However, I never got detention in school, which is obviously a good thing. But I still received useful answers.

Another topic I needed to learn more about was how much stress it would take for somebody to end up in shock. Unlike the detention subject, though, this element did not make it into my first book, where it was intended to go.

While the Internet may be there 24/7 (for the most part), you can always ask real people for research questions whether it’s one person or on a forum.

Writing

When Should You Describe Voices in Your Writing?

Image from Pixabay

Every character should have a unique voice. And by that, I don’t just mean speech patterns, words, attitudes, and so on, I also mean physical voices. For instance, are they high, low, nasal, etc.?

I used to describe what my characters’ voices sounded like in my earlier writing days. And in my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” I do say what a few characters’ voices sound like. Two of them are described with deep voices and one is said to have a high voice. However, those were mainly done for comedic purposes. I originally published “The Frights of Fiji” in 2013 as “From Frights to Flaws.” I now refrain from explaining how my characters’ voices sound, unless it’s important to the stories.

Even my main character’s voice noise isn’t revealed. In the sequel, there is a scene where she sings a certain song. Although I state that she takes chorus at school, I don’t specify if she is an alto or soprano. That is because I want readers to use their envisions to what her voice sounds like.

Many people dislike when characters’ physical appearances are described unless they’re important, otherwise, the readers should get to picture them their ways. I happen to be the opposite with that. I am an advocate for authors to describe their characters with whatever traits they want, as long as it’s not too many (since that can bog down the narrative and be too much to remember), or offensive. I not only believe that writers deserve the right to physically describe their characters, but I also cannot picture characters clearly unless the narrators say what they look like.

That being said, it’s the reverse for voices. Since I first wrote Book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, I learned more about the writing craft, and chose to give up with explaining how characters’ voices sound, except when it’s crucial. I would recommend that to all aspiring writers. A few voice sounds revealed here and there probably won’t matter. Just be sure not to overdo it, or else, it might overwhelm your readers.

Writing

Coming Up with a Terrific Title

Image from Pixabay

Ah, titles, you’ve got to love them—or dislike them. Titles matter a lot for a book to sell, whether it’s commercially or self-published.

In traditional publishing, the publisher comes up with the titles for books. But in self-publishing, the author is responsible for his or her book title. And that can be a big challenge.

If you don’t know, authors who take the commercial route have to give up control (if they even get accepted, which is super-difficult) for their manuscript. The publishing house decides everything. But if a writer chooses to self-publish, he or she gets to retain full control.

That being said, he or she needs to do homework and research on what would work for getting his or her book to sell. While self-publishing is receiving a better reputation that before, unfortunately, it still has a kind-of weak one. Too many indie authors don’t take careful consideration for their products and will decide on ideas that just appeal to them.

That was an issue with me when I first published the beginning installment of my “Magical Missions” series in 2013. I wanted to use alliteration, so I titled the story, “From Frights to Flaws.” Little did I know that it was a weak title and people said that it hadn’t made sense. When I revised and re-published the new version in 2018, I kept the original title, but added 2nd edition to it. Sales improved, but not to my satisfaction. Once again, I was told that my title made no sense.

So, I did a poll somewhere and came up with an alternate title, “The Frights of Fiji”. The new title pleased people more and got the most votes. I then changed the title, as well as made a few minor updates to the cover, blurb, opening chapter, and even got to have the story be perma-free.

Titles can be difficult to brainstorm. So, now I come up with a few ideas and have people vote for which they think is the strongest. This can be a good idea for when you need to title your book(s).