Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly
and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your
darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t
necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or
This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early
writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did
my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good
number of those words were not needed.
This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment,
“Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been
given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when
editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had
even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d
felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally
Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that
the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild”
off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it
as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at
most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.
That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although
this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t
serve much of a purpose.
When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”,
the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.
So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as
well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know
personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After
all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.
Many young children love to play
make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A
handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like
As a little kid, I would imagine
fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware
of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.
When I was around 7 years old, I
read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose
who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.
That had inspired me to write my own
version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.
Later I evolved Spike into a child
polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a
spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a
jungle with talking animals as her friends.
At about 10, I abandoned the idea
of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back
into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one,
except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I
removed it from the market.
No matter how much you love and
value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do
little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in
reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.
As you get older, you realize
certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you
were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.
So, while other writers tell you
to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with),
unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful
with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll
also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the
progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop
my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good.
Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the
less-than-great books off the market.
I’ve had such a bad habit of
publishing when I thought I was ready, but really wasn’t. Now I have a bunch of
books on Amazon that are unavailable, but sadly, still listed because
hardcopies stay on retail sites forever. Now I have given myself a rule to not
publish paperbacks unless my reviews are great, not just good or decent.
But that’s another post.
Before publishing my books, I have
pre-tested them to see if they received satisfying reactions. They have. But
after I published them, while many reviews were good, the overall ratings were
That’s what you want when you
publish. Fantastic, wonderful reactions. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve experienced
receiving just good enough reviews. And believe me, they aren’t as satisfying
as they sound.
So, now I have a second version of
one book published and a third version of that story’s sequel on pre-order. It
took me seven years to find my writing voice and for it to mature. I’ve had a habit
of wanting to share my stuff with the world, even if it was no good. Now I’ve
learned to hone and make my works the best they can be before letting anyone
see them, unless it’s for editing or critique.
So, before you get excited about
letting the world see what you’ve made, pre-test it with others, and see if the
feedback is excellent. I mean that. If it’s only okay, you’ll regret your
decision later. So, take your time with your ideas.
Many authors base their characters off of people they know.
A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences.
However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.
One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and
straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from
For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde,
and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a
typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2,
so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t
cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the
sad moments in my life.
I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the
novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to
purchase the books.
Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more
fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if
we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I
could be wrong, though.
Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for
growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu
characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also
get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.
While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never
base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being
said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall,
though, I differ from other writers.
Warning: contains spoilers for the following films***
Avengers: Infinity War
Into the Woods
The Little Mermaid (both original tale and Disney movie)
Tarzan (both original tale and 1999 Disney movie)
When people watch a movie, they not only expect a good story,
but also a lot of conflict. Because every fictional work, visual or written,
needs problems and obstacles, many audiences expect satisfying endings, where
the protagonists achieve their goals. If they don’t, then it’s either because
they realized those goals weren’t what they wanted all along or they weren’t
the right kinds.
Rarely these days are film endings unsatisfying. One example
includes “Avengers: Infinity War”, where the characters dissolve into dust. But
there is a part two now. I don’t know how it ends and I won’t look it up now.
Anyway, the other example of a movie with an unsatisfactory ending is “Into the
Woods”. The baker’s wife dies and so does the witch after her curse was undone.
I understand that the point is that there is no such thing as “happily ever
after”. But it was still unsatisfying, especially coming from Disney. Disney is
known to sugarcoat their film endings.
Like in “The Little Mermaid”, where Ariel marries Prince
Eric as a human. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, she dies at the
end and the prince gets another bride. I read that the creators of the Disney version
found that sad. They felt that in order to make their adaptation more
kid/family-friendly, the ending needed to be happier.
Another example, although probably not as sad (I could be
wrong, though), is Disney’s “Tarzan”. While Jane and Professor Porter join
Tarzan in the jungle, in the original novel, Tarzan is brought back to civilization.
Audience and genres also contribute to how the films should
end. Horror films often end a certain way. The ones I saw didn’t have very satisfying
endings. But there likely is a purpose for that. Horror movies are not intended
for families or children. Kid-friendly films have different standards from
mature movies, besides cleanliness. Also, many young people yearn for happy
endings. So do older crowds.
Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything
significant about your work until long
after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy
time after writing the projects.
For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly,
“From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails,
who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs
ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.
In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry
Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At
the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical
context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.
Another unintentional message I ended up making in that
installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything,
of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book
does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary
magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This
ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and
feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of
witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her
sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities,
and more (I won’t give away anything else).
I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in
my third book. But hey—it might happen.
Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some
opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong
things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.
However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I
have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I
feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At
most, she may do a few wrong things
and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized
filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.
Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.
One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first
edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave
badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from
the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements
had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable
around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have
stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being
treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do
really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling
her emotions. But I will stop there on that.
Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached
to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone
told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.
Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits
to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would
probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got
sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However,
you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just
drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious
injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.
Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in
fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In
fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.
I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.
In Beauty and the Beast,
after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her
new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later
Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted
rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her
and forces her out.
At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human,
Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.
If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not
prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted
in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have
changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he
would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.
So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let
that help you.
Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the
storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking
their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen
to how people speak.
Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade
characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is
tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re
stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help,
either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their
But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having
characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I
write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters
react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have
said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s
However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from
editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised
to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I
changed the words.
Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot
of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave
differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find
reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.
I’m an author and authors constantly write. However, I am
weak at multi-tasking, even with writing. For years, I could only work on one novel at a time. But that meant only
one publication every few years. And that is not very fair to fans or readers.
I’ve been doing research on writing more than one story at a
time. Many writers can do it. Some do it because they have too many ideas
floating in their heads. Others do it because they want to meet deadlines
sooner, especially if they have agents.
I’ve tried many times but have failed… until now. I am
working on two works at this time. Well, technically three as I am having one project
edited. But this is a huge milestone for me. It’s not easy. I am glad that I
started with a small step of only adding one extra project. There is a
technique I read about somewhere called drafting. That is when you work on one
story draft at a time with different projects. For example, you write a draft of
story a. After you finish that draft, you do a draft for story b. Basically,
you work on one story at a time, but go to another one after finishing a
certain draft rather than spending a long time on just one story.
I am not really doing that, though. I have been working on
my third novel for over three years, although the first two years were spent
trying to figure out the story. I am now working on the third book and the
first draft of my fourth book at the same time. Sometimes I am designating certain
days for one story. Other times I am working on whichever I feel like.
If you want to work on more than one story at a time, I
would definitely recommend you go for it. In fact, many big authors work on
more than one book at a time. If you’re serious about publishing, then I would
emphasize on this even more. If it’s traditional publishing, depending on the contract
you have with an agent or publisher, it may work. However, traditional
publishing takes longer, and you have no control over the process or time. If
you’re self-publishing, you have total control over your projects, when you
publish them, and the time it takes to publish. If you do Amazon KDP, you can
choose a release date up to three months (I think) ahead if you choose the
The reason I want to work on more than one novel at a time
and write faster is because I don’t want to keep people waiting. Plus, I don’t
want my final installment to be ready when I’m, like, 40. Not that I have
anything against publishing at that age (many authors are, at least, that age).
Plus, my writing will likely be more mature by then. I just don’t know where I
will be in life then. I’m only 25 after all.
My goal is to have my entire series published by my 30th
birthday. No, I am not looking to become the youngest author with a full
series. I just want to keep readers up to date more often. Plus, I have a
better idea of where I’ll be in five years versus fifteen. I know I can make this
Characters come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and
much more. So do the ways they are developed.
Many writers base their characters of real people they know.
They also develop them like the folks they know.
Want to know how I develop my characters? Yes? All right.
Here I go. I often develop them as I develop my storylines. I get to know them as
I draft. I unconsciously develop them through other story elements too, like
dialogue and actions.
Now these are not the only ways I develop my characters. Sometimes
I plan their personalities, even if the characters don’t make it to the final
drafts. I also might base them off other fictional characters from other franchises,
sometimes myths and legends. For example, in one of my works, there’s a
character inspired by the Grim Reaper.
Unlike many authors, I never really base characters off
people I know. However, I do often develop
them like those in my lives. This was especially common in my earlier works,
when I was still learning how to develop my characters. I developed a couple
like my cousins at that time and one like my brother back then.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all way to developing
characters. It is, however, important to make your characters believable, round
rather than flat, crucial to your story, imperfect (they should have at least
some flaws), and change at the end of your tale. This is especially essential
for you main or major characters.
This technique also takes a while to learn. It took me,
like, seven years to discover my writing voice. A similar amount of time might happen
for you if you’re new to creative writing.
If you search for me on Amazon, you’ll see that I have published
five books, but only one is for sale. That is because the others weren’t
exactly the strongest. Except for one, I did pretest the others to make sure
they were good enough to please strangers. They were. But I felt the novels
could’ve been better.
So hang tight as you learn to develop your characters. If you
need assistance, there are character development worksheets you can find online
and use to answer questions about your characters. Sometimes I’ve interviewed
my characters, answered questionaires about them, or even wrote short stories
from their points-of-view. This might help you. Something will.