A Comparative Review of CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May Editing

We don’t read action scenes for the action. We read to see how hard a character will fight for what they desire most.”

FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW TO PAY THEM A VISIT

If you’ve never been to AnotherHartmanAuthor before, then hi! My name is Leigh Hartman. I’m in the fourth year of my writing journey with an intense interest in Pennsylvania history. I realize the title for this post reads as though I’m part of Golden May. I am not. But I am honored they trust me enough to review their workbook, CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS.

Reviews. Whether they’re posted up on Amazon, Goodreads or here on my blog, a funny feeling washes over me each and every time. Did I say the right things? Who is this review really for – the writer? The reader? The publisher? In truth, reviews are for everyone. And that is a terrifying thought.

Why? Because reviews are incredibly public opinions concerning another’s work. Not only that, these days, opinions are picked apart and, if the individual on the receiving end doesn’t like what you have to say, the very real possibility of your review magically disappearing isn’t all that far fetched.

Why, then, am I reviewing CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May? The answer is simple: I love non-fiction. Okay, I love non-fiction and fiction. In my never-ending quest to find new resource materials, you better believe I jumped at the chance to review and see if another method of creating believable characters could work just as well, or better, than my current one.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to compare this guide with that of author KM Weiland’s character interviews to see which better matches my style. Because, in the end, you’ll never know what works best unless you try it out.

CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS can be broken down into three key parts:

01


Advice

02


Activities

03


Completion

Plot twist!

When Emily Golden and I connected over this opportunity, I told her initially that I would be using this to work on my WIP’s antagonist. However, upon further reflection, I realized I didn’t want to give anything away anything for Project Firedamp, especially anything about my story’s baddie. I will touch upon all four of the above points as this post progresses, working with my newest character named Lady Irene. She will appear in a new web story series I’m writing for this very site.

PART 1. The Advice

“All stories make a point, beginning on page one. Which means that as a writer you need to know what that point is, long before you get to page one.”

-Lisa Cron, Story Genius via workbook pages

Have you ever read a self-help book and thought, “Okay, get to the point. This is too much information”? Another thing a reader needs to consider is how they’ll receive what’s presented. What I first appreciate about this guide is its straightforwardness. There’s no beating-around-the-bush or anecdotes. The second thing I like about CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS is it was created by two editors with years of experience in the biz. Not only that, Emily confirmed the status of my grammar. I’ll gladly take that advice any day of the week!

PART 2. The Activities

Call me stubborn if you’d like, but I sometimes have a difficult time accepting change. After working with the character interview pages for Project Firedamp for so long, it was hard to switch gears. But did I liked the idea of activities over a list. Let’s begin.

The First Activity

Draft your story point. Consider why you’re writing this story, and who you’re writing it for. […] You’re aiming for a one-line statement: the message you want to share about how the world works.

Lady Irene’s heart is in turmoil. Her life, turned upside down the previous year, still affects her daily life. Stuck in a rut, she believes she’ll never go back to normal. Okay. This isn’t a single statement. Let me give it a real whirl:

Hope always follows fear.

Hmm – I think that’s actually pretty good! It matches the story’s overall arc which will, hopefully, be pertinent to 2020’s conditions.

It’s also at this point I’ll begin world-building. The opening scenes will play a very important later on in the story.

The Second Activity

Let’s take a look at the seven (or five, whichever you prefer) stages of grief. They are:

Shock
Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Testing
Acceptance

Lady Irene, in deep grief, absolutely refuses to acknowledge she’s passed any of these stages. She’s alone in her journey – though perhaps not as alone as she thinks. Irene’s setting herself up for a spinster existence, one no one else wants her to experience. She believes she’ll never escape this, nor the expectations placed upon a Victorian woman in 1853.

What beliefs can you think of that are in direct contrast to your story point? List them out and consider which which one is the most succinct, holds the greatest emotional impact and stakes, and will provide your character with the most intriguing struggle.

The Third Activity

What internal and external goals can you give your character that are incompatible with their inner obstacle?

Internal Goal: Our lady wants to get out but hasn’t realized just how desperately she needs to figure herself out before it’s too late.

External Goal: She wants the strange happenings and her tears to end, and things back to what they were.

The Fourth Activity

Lady Irene feels her time slipping away. Everyone abandoned her… including her Julian.

If Lady Irene cannot solve the mystery behind things which never happened before in her home, she fears she’ll go insane before her twenty-fifth year. She must discover whatever the messages left behind for her mean, lest she remain in her grief stricken state forever.

Okay , this needs some work!

What dire thing does your character fear will happen (whether real or imagined) if they don’t achieve their internal and external goals? Are they serious stakes? […]

The Fifth Activity

Now this is where I’ll end things because
No writer wants to reveal too much!


PART 3. Completion

Within the last pages of the guide there are charts you can work from to build your own. It shows how each of the previous parts works together to clearly showcase your character’s main motives.

While I may have done these pages differently from the intended results, the guide did force me to look past the interview style of building up a character.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Where’s this duel? Where’s the comparison part she promised us?”

So how does CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS
differ from KM Weiland’s character interviews?

Craft Complex Characters

1. Looks at motives from the smallest to overall
2. Focuses more on the protagonist’s obstacles
3. Guides the writer to zero in on why they’re writing the story

Character Interview Method

  1. Details character’s mannerisms, demographics, personality, etc
  2. Can be used for protagonists, antagonists and secondaries
  3. Easily modifiable to fit your characters’ needs

Do I think they’d make great companion resources for creating well-rounded characters?
Absolutely!

As it turns out, both guides were created with very separate goals, but still the same overall one in mind: to help you finish your story and finish it well.

With all that being said, keep your eyes peeled for a Victorian ghostly tale coming next month to this site –
THE GILDED CONSPIRACY, featuring our Lady Irene.

And don’t forget to check out CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS by Golden May Editing, available for purchase this weekend. Be sure to vote in the poll below, and feel free to let us know in the comments below what tools you use to create your characters


I Unplugged the Television For A Month. Here’s What Happened.

We humans make choices every day. Sometimes collectively, but mostly individually. We are creatures of habit and prefer sticking to our routines like flies on poo. Unless something dramatic happens and our simple pleasures suddenly disappear, we’ll follow that path indefinitely. I’m one of those creatures with a terrible case of procrastination.

Procrastination has truly had a profound impact on my writing (or lack thereof). Since this self-revelation, the one that showed me I proudly I wore that procrastination on my sleeve over the past few months, I’ve also come to realize how disappointed I am in myself. I’m writing, but blogging and working on other things. None of that work’s been directly connected to my manuscript.

Change. It’s such a short yet daunting word. One that us creatures of habit try to avoid as much as possible. I’ve worked retail and food service for fifteen years, so you’d think I’d have an easier time with it as change is so constant.

Then March 2020 came in the United States. A time when life changed life for us all. With everyone else indulging in Netflix, Disney+, and more social media than ever before, I wondered if it was time to finally conduct a no-television experiment. Let’s see what happened:

WEEK 1. April 1-11

You may wonder why this week is extra long. Honestly? Because I completely forgot about this experiment. But an organic change already happened during Week One, plus a few weeks before that, and I wouldn’t have noticed unless I hadn’t opened my Kindle. Apparently, less TV time equates to more book time. Imagine that!

It took a damp, drizzly March evening to get me to crack open a book for the first time in a while (one that wasn’t non-fiction), and my mouth dropped when I read its insights page. Of course it’s clear to you that I’ve never explored this function, and set a low reading goal for myself – to read twenty books in a year. 500 books in a year sounded like an absurd goal to start with. Better to set expectations low and work up!


WEEK 2. April 12-18

I used to have a huge “to be watched” list on my Netflix account. Now it’s down to two items – Merlin and a Korean drama called Mr. Sunshine. The only shows I have on repeat are old Star Trek series I can’t help but watch over and over again. It’s a simple thing, but they bring me joy.

I also used to religiously watch The Price is Right in the mornings, but even that annoys me now. Too many Type A personalities. So my TV remains turned off, and I’m slowly whittling down my “to be watched” on Netflix. But honestly? I’ve no desire to. Why? My focus has shifted completely back to books, writing, and learning more than ever before.


I’m also incredibly happy to report that I’ve updated the “On My Bookshelf” page here on my website, something I actually have to do yet again. Yay!

WEEK 3. April 19-25

Week three. Not only am I watching less television, even with the family, I’m watching less YouTube as well. Beauty community drama videos, kpop music videos, and old episodes of Judge Judy were constantly in my “Watch Later” list. Now it’s filled with more practical videos like organizing and new recipes to try.

Update 1: I’ve removed my subscription from several more channels. I’ve even removed many more shows from my Watch List on Netflix; I no longer have the desire to even start new ones.

Update 2: I’m also incredibly happy to report that I’ve updated the “On My Bookshelf” page here on my website, something I actually have to do yet again. Yay!


WEEK 4. April 26-30

By this week, I didn’t want to even turn on Netflix except for a few episodes of Star Trek here and there. You’d think, because I began my two weeks off work due to statewide pandemic mandates, that my viewership would increase. I’m pleased to report that it, in fact, went down. The majority of my entertainment now comes from, surprise surprise, actual books again. And I think that was the desired outcome of this experiment to begin with.

Whenever I find myself craving entertainment, my TBR (to be read) pile called my name. The only time I even look at a television now is after family dinner nights and The Masked Singer is on.

This last week is also the week I’ve worked more on my own novel series than I have in the past two months. “I don’t have time,” I’d say. When, in reality, I let my “procrastination” get in the way of real productivity.


There’s more to life than always airing your grievances on social media. There’s more to life than always being connected, on top of pop culture, or indulging in drama videos about people on YouTube you truly know nothing about.

Truth be told, this “experiment” began in late March. They say time changes habits, be they good or bad, and this past month certainly proved that to be true. Conclusion: television and media and other media outlets do not, should not, control your life. For the longest time I let it control mine, and I’m done complaining about political ads.

We all have it within us to write our own narratives. We don’t always have to keep to the status quo, especially if our life’s status quo doesn’t make us happy anymore. And I wasn’t happy. I thank God every day for my desire to write stories.

It’s time to use, and I mean truly use, this gift He’s given me.

The Proof is in the Reading Timeline!


We all have it within us to write our own narratives.


How I’m Improving My Craft

Are you brand new to the wonderful world of writing? Then welcome! You’re in for a mighty wild ride. If you think you’re going to just be able to sit down and write the next great American novel in one sitting, then you’ve definitely been lied to.

I’m a doubter. I’ve always discredited my God-given talents, and that includes writing. However, self doubt is something every writer struggles with at one time or another. That little worm weaves its way into our thoughts, adding discouragement and fear into the rotation.

STOP! Don’t let that little worm ruin any writing aspirations you have! Take a breath. Think what’s missing from your routine. As such, I realized three things missing were missing from mine. So here are the three things (because everything, it seems, comes in threes or fives on this site) I’m doing to improve my writing.

1. Reading more fiction AND non-fiction.

Do. Not. Forget. To. READ. And not just fiction. Find some informative non-fiction pertinent to your content and run with it. To be completely honest, I didn’t read for nearly a year. What happened? I nearly lost interest entirely.

The combination of reading, writing, and learning brings out the perfect storm of productivity, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that missing piece to the puzzle.

There was also a time when I didn’t want to read. I was afraid other stories would influence my own, and I’d somehow be accused of stealing someone else’s idea. Not only that, but I didn’t want to find my own story within another. As the saying goes, there’s “nothing new under the sun.” However, we can’t, as writers, be afraid to explore other stories, characters and worlds.

2. Writing longer blog posts.

If you maintain a website, you know how hard it can be sometimes to come up with content and keep things fresh. A website is also a very public extension of yourself, so it’s best to be as professional as possible when communicating with your readers and anyone else you may connect with. In 2016 I had very little to say. Let’s bring in some stats. For the past four years, my average word count per post was less than 900. I plan to change that for 2020.

“Why?” you ask.

Because I want to learn more, and hone this content creator skill that fell into my lap when I decided to share my journey with you. And yes, I am aware that longer posts don’t always equal great content. I’ve needed to push myself out of my comfort zone for a long time, and 2020 is the year of change, so why not?

3. Learning more grammar.

American grammar is no laughing matter. My eyes still glaze over whenever I read phrases like “past participles” and “perfect continuous,” and see warnings to not use too many adjectives, too many verbs, or too much of everything else. Did you know there are, technically, twelve tenses in the English language?

Even though my writing journey resurfaced in late 2016, I had admit to myself that I needed to learn the basics of grammar all over again. You wouldn’t believe this, but there’s also an ongoing debate over how commas should/shouldn’t be used online. I may be in the minority here, but both methods have merit. (Oxford comma vs. no Oxford comma).


Personally, I try my best to not get involved in such debates. It’s all part of the learning process, and you must learn for yourself what’s best for your own writing journey.

Did you catch on to a word used the most in this post? If you thought “learn,” then you’re correct. Writing is a learning process. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked on your own craft; there will always be something you don’t know right around the corner.

What are the things you’re doing to improve your craft? Leave them in the comments below!


Two Introverts Walk Into a Conference

I am an introvert and creature of habit. Everything in my home has purpose and a place to go, a structured schedule gives me life, and I’m in my element when alone.

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”

Audrey Hepburn – source

Let’s face it. The title of this blog post sounds like the opening of a pretty bad joke. However, that’s really what my mother and I are like among a crowd of people. I get my introversion from her. You wouldn’t believe it if you knew everything we’re involved in. Volunteering, working in retail, and coordinating projects are just a few examples. I’d call us “high functioning introverts.”

Two weeks ago mom mentioned she had to go to Delaware through a non-profit we both volunteer with and I went as her travel buddy. “I’ve never been to Delaware,” I said. “Let’s go!” The event was the Christian Product Expo, and my mom helps out with ordering and making connections for the non-profit.

Ironic, right?

I mainly wanted to go to interact with the publishers – Harper Collins, Barbour Publishing and DaySpring, just to name a few – and see what books they showcase at this kind of event. However, as soon as we stepped into that conference hall both our hearts dropped.

There were so. Many. People.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here, but with five rows of vendors and publishers, we knew we needed to regroup and make a game plan for the day.

“I think a lot, but I don’t say much.”

Anne Frank – source

Mom and I manage to get through two rows before we’re mentally exhausted. Cue information overload. I can’t imagine traveling around with any conference or expo for a living. So we took a break and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the lobby. She went over booklets, contacts and the like while I worked on this blog post.

I must say that I’m proud of myself for gathering the courage to talk with the reps from the publishers that really interested me. I got just three business cards, but I discovered who carries the books of one of my favorite authors of fairy tale retellings – Melanie Dickerson! That made it easier to connect over books and hopefully opened the door for future contact. I’m getting ahead of myself here….

The Lessons Learned

Neither my mom nor I knew what to expect going into an event like this. That’s what daunted us the most about the experience. Here’s what I learned.

  1. Do Your Research – find out what publishers are looking for, who they represent, and read those books before going to an event. It’ll help conversation flow and show them you know the market. This is something I need to start working on!
  2. You Are Not Alone – you’re wrong if you think you’re the only introvert walking into that expo or conference. Don’t sell yourself short either – you’ve got props for just showing up! Yes, there are folks who’ve done things like this far longer, but most are extremely helpful.

Two introverts walked into a conference and came out feeling a bit more confident in themselves. “We did it!” Mom and I both said. We didn’t cover all the booths, but it was, overall, a really good learning experience. I don’t know if we’ll attend again in the future, but now I know at least some of the etiquette that comes along with it. Don’t pressure yourselves into thinking you must do it all and meet all the people.

Just let you shine through.


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

Five Booktube Channels I Recommend

To be completely candid here, I’ve been less excited about books lately than in years past. Inspiration comes in many forms, and some bookish inspiration was needed. So I headed to YouTube and looked for a few channels to get started.

As a long time viewer of beauty community drama (it’s my guilty pleasure), it’s only logical to assume that other YouTube communities aren’t immune to the “spilling the tea” phenom. I don’t know anyone save for two channels mentioned in this post, so that gave me an unbiased look into this new realm.

It’s funny; during my time on Twitter I’ve stayed out of as much writing drama as possible, save for a few opinions and problematic accounts. It’s impossible to ignore bad advice when it’s given. Below are six booktube and authortube channels I recommend (in no particular order).

Natalia Leigh

Sub Count: 10.4 k
Links: Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Website

From what I’ve seen so far, Natalia is a well grounded author who takes the time to look into what kind of writer and content creator she wants to be. My first video of hers was actually in reference to some Twitter drama that happened in early 2019, and I appreciate her kind of honesty. We may believe in different things, but writing is one of the things we’ve got in common. That transparency is why I recommend Natalia. It also doesn’t hurt that “Leigh’s” in her name as well!

bytheBrooke

Sub Count: 4.96 k
Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

New Adult author Brooke Passmore also hooked me with her honesty (you’ll find this to be a common thread with these channels). I’ll admit that my first video of hers also came on the heels of online writing drama (surprise surprise), but her demeanor is what kept me watching. As a thirty-four year old viewer of entertainment, I don’t need over-the-top personalities and crazy editing many 2019 content creators seemed so fond of. Simplicity is the best medicine, and, well, her background’s PURPLE! I love purple…

Peter Likes Books

Sub Count: 21.7 k
Links: Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

I’ve known about this channel for quite a while due to Peter’s beauty community drama channel. His honesty on subjects other than books is what convinced me to give his booktube a chance, and why I am thinking about beginning a history themed booktube channel myself. If you’re looking for someone to tell you like it is, I’d give Peter’s videos a shot! Variety is the spice of life, and Peter certainly lives up to that 🙂

Kate Cavanaugh

Sub Count: 29.8 k
Links: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Patreon

Kate’s channel was one of the first I stumbled upon in my quest to find booktubes, and the first video of hers I viewed was “I Tried Writing Like JK Rowling for Two Days.” While entertaining, it really drove the point home that every writer needs to find their own methodology. What’ll work for one individual may not for the next. Take a look at some of Kate’s videos below!

Sara Lubratt

Sub Count: 95
Links: none

In YouTube talk, a small channel like Sara’s would be called a “micro channel” as she only has 95 subs. Even with little over a dozen videos to her name, I can see returning to this channel time and time again. We all have to start somewhere, right? Sara’s story is just beginning. As far as I can tell, she has no other social media links to share. And that’s okay!


One of my goals for this post was to find a group book lovers and authors at varying stages in their careers and ages. While I don’t know yet if watching booktube will become part of my daily writing routine, it’s good to engage with other writers and opinions. That’s what makes the book community such a rich one, and it’s vain to think you don’t need anyone else to accomplish your own goals. So no matter your routine, beliefs or demographic, I hope you’ll explore the channels above with an open mind and who knows, maybe you’ll find a kindred spirit or two!

Happy writing/reading, friends!


Eight Things I’ve Already Researched by Jan 8th

The new year’s just begun but I didn’t take a break from researching at all. In fact, since removing one of my villains late last year, my work level increased ten fold as other characters rose to the challenge. With this change came the need for deeper character development, and the need for more research. No “histfic” writer would be worth their salt if they didn’t dive deep into their chosen time period. As such, I’ve already researched at eight new things that may (or may not) affect the story or my characters in some fashion.

  1. German confections
  2. Secret orders that really existed (or did they?)
  3. Small town populations of Southwestern Pennsylvania in the 1890s
  4. How to candy almonds
  5. Merchant supply lines
  6. A history of American currency
  7. Known allergens in the 1890s
  8. How to create character arcs

With historical fiction, one always seems to take two steps forward and three steps back. And even though my genre is historical fiction, I’d still like things to have accuracy. This way, I’ll know the kind of world my MCs could’ve come from, and the world the’ll end up in at journey’s end. Whether you write historical fiction or another genre, what have you learned so far in 2020?


The Writer Tag | Take Two

The Writer Tag has been around for a long time. In fact, I already did one this February, which is why this is The Writer Tag Take Two. So I thought, on this day off of work, I’d revisit it and answer ten questions instead of twenty.

Do you socialize with other writers?

Mostly on Twitter. I can’t seem to work up the courage to get out there in person. I tried doing a Meetup group at a local library here in Pittsburgh but life got too crazy for various reasons. My introverted nature often kicks in and I’m much more comfortable being online behind the keyboard than in a room full of people. That won’t bode well for if I’m ever lucky enough to go on book tour, does it?

I also haven’t been able to get into “Authortubes.” Great discussion happens in the YouTube comment section, but I haven’t quite found that channel I’d instantly want to subscribe to. Sounds, uppity, I know. I’m quite a minimalist when it comes to that kind of thing.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully published in some form or another. It doesn’t have to be in book form – though that is preferable. But if I’m able to get a story or two in a magazine while I continue work on my series, that’d be fantastic too. I also hope to still be blogging away on this site, and perhaps even collaborating with other writers on projects.

Do you use your writing for social advocacy?

Social advocacy is not my forte. While writing historical fiction can be seen as its own form of social…ness, I’m sure it doesn’t compare with those who write POC (people of color) or LGBTQ characters. Perhaps in the future, but I certainly don’t feel qualified enough to really dive deep into those genres without flubbing up on some point or two.

What genres do you write?

Historical fiction, more specifically Industrial Revolution and Victorian era Pennsylvania. However, I am dabbling in fantasy and science fiction as well. A wide variety, but it keeps things interesting!

How does travel affect your writing?

I wish I could travel more! I’ve been trying to plan a quick weekend trip out to one of the historical towns and stay in an AirBNB out there to write. But every time I change location, whether it’s a different table in my frequented library or going to another place entirely, I find I write a whole lot more. Travel gets the juices flowing, and travelling more for my novel writing is one of my writing resolutions for 2019.

Are you an organized person?

If I was asked this question a year ago I would’ve told you no. Absolutely not. But since diving into minimalism and getting rid of a ton of clutter, I can happily look at just my desk and be satisfied with what’s on it.

When it comes to organization while writing, I need order there too. I need an outline, or, at the very least, a small pile of notes to keep my thoughts in order. I’m not so extra that I have everything labeled. Life needs balance. Writing needs balance.

Are you published?

Short answer: No.
Long answer: I wish!

Have you ever thought about script writing?

For a time I did. When I was in college I even started a script called “The Queen of Hearts.” It was to be a retelling of ALICE IN WONDERLAND from the Queen’s perspective. Then, as life would have it, I never revisited it. I kind of wish I could find it again, but more than likely it’s long since deleted in one of my media purges. I still have the script writing textbook from college. One day, Queenie. One day…

Who’s your favorite character that you’ve created?

Edgar Kane. Ugh…just saying his NAME gives me feels! …I think I’m weird.

Do you need complete silence when you write?

It really depends on the day. If I’ve had a stressful, LOUD, crazy day at work, then I’ll opt for quieter music or no music at all. If it’s a day off, then something like Sabotage by the Beastie Boys gets me on the right track! (You may want to turn your volume down at first before blasting it!)

Well, that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading more about my hopes and goals in this Writer Tag. Do you like these kinds of posts? Are they far too common or would you like to see something different on this site? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think, or just to say hello!


All The Tropes I Want to Use But Won’t

When I first looked up writing tips, the word “trope” popped up everywhere – on YouTube, on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest. Enter in a whole new world of terms to sift through. Let’s begin discussing tropes.

To be unequivocally cliche here, Webster’s Dictionary defines a TROPE as: “a word or expression used in a figurative sense,” and “a common or overused theme or device.”

Storytelling is an art form that’s been around for centuries. Ever open a new book, get four chapters in, and wonder why it seemed familiar? Every genre has its own kind of formula and character traits to go with them – the love triangle in a Rom Com, the wizard who uses a wand to aid him in his spell casting, faeries who are based off Disney’s Tinkerbell from Neverland.

Are they completely untouchable?

What if the author wants to use them in some form or another? Since putting my #histfict series on hold to get this fantasy concept out, I’ve been revisiting the following tropes.

Different genre, different tropes, right?

Here are five tropes I really want to use but won’t

“Girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to adventure” via silverblade.net

“The main character’s parents die in an accident/in war/murdered” via HobbyLark

“The races/species are uniform” via Fantasy-Faction

“Characters with no experience are better than the experts” via mythcreants

“Going back to their small town to get away from something/rekindling old romances” via The Writing Cooperative

Pick a trope typically used in a genre completely different from what you write and rework it to fit your own genre.

An ever constant challenge: creating a story that isn’t completely trope-y!


A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Graphics in Seven Easy Steps

I’d like to preface this post by stating that I didn’t go to school for graphic design, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years. In college I wrote fan fiction for the television show, Supernatural, and I made banners and images to go along with them. Sadly, none of my early graphics survived my data purges (I’ve looked), but I can show you how I make my current images. But first, a few tips.

Step One: Choose Your Program
There are dozens of programs out there to choose from. So much so that it can be overwhelming. If you’re just starting out, here’s what I suggest. Take the time to play around with a few of them. They range from the super basic to advanced. Adobe Photoshop is still considered the king in graphic design, but if its interface is just too much (like it is for me), you can play around with free programs like Pixlr, GIMP, Inkscape and Paint.NET.

Those are more advanced for my taste. If you want something with an easier interface or one that’s web-based (if, for example, you’re using a netbook or Chromebook), you can try BeFunky, PicMonkey, and Ribbet.

My preferred program is BeFunky (post not sponsored. They have no idea I exist!). I’ve played around with Ribbet, PicMonkey and Pixlr. Photoshop’s intimidated me since college. I also pay extra for access to stock images, more design elements, fonts and filters. All for $6.99 a month. That’s definitely more bang for your buck than having a Netflix account (sorry Netflix).

Step Two: Plan Your Graphic’s Aesthetic
What’s your post about? Is it an informational blog? A personal one? Do all your graphics match each other? I do a lot of planning with this step. A graphic’s purpose is to draw readers in and provide the overall aesthetic for your site. It’s all interconnected.

Step Three: Will You Make Multiple Versions for Multiple Platforms?
If all you have is a website then yay, you only have to think about one graphic! Most people do that, anyway. But crazy little me usually makes two or three versions of the same thing.

Yes, I’m crazy.

Think about it, though. Twitter has its preferred image size. As does Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc etc etc. While I do have Pinterest, I hardly post there. So I make them for Twitter, the post itself on my site (obvs) and sometimes Instagram. I don’t have a YouTube channel or a Facebook page.

This is where preset templates come into play. And I can tell you that they’ve saved my butt more times than I can count! ESPECIALLY the Social Media Headers section. I’m terrible when it comes to dimensions. I am attempting to streamline all the graphics for my blog posts. I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.

I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.

Step Four: As with Applying Makeup, Begin with a Base
I’m going to show you how I made the graphic for this post (prepares self for taking a dozen screenshots). Under BeFunky’s interface I select Graphic Designer > Templates > Blogger Resources > Blog Titles.

I don’t use any of the preset background graphics, and I very rarely keep the fonts or phrasing they use. I’m just looking for the size. I chose the following because of the slightly opaque rectangle.

Next, decide which elements you’re keeping and which you’re deleting. In this case, I’m deleting the floral images and all but one line of text.

TIP: There are many free images sites out there,
but many of those can also, potentially,
have malware or spyware embedded in their downloads.
I've ruined, ahem, tech due to not being careful with that.
(Look at that. I'm already side tracked!)

Step Five: Choose A Background Image (or none at all)
I spend a lot of time looking through stock images. Sometimes it seems like I see the same writerly backgrounds used over and over again on social media. You know the one – the overhead shot of the MacBook Pro with a coffee mug and open notebook. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, of course, but I see it so much that I’m not intrigued.

Why do I feel terrible saying that out loud? It should be about the content itself, right? I think the old adage of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. And here I am, teaching you how to create a graphic!

Anyway…

BeFunky has hundreds, if not thousands, of images you can search via key words and phrases. You can also upload your own, in .png and .jpg format.

TIP: .png graphics are graphics with their backgrounds removed,
so they can be added in as a layer.
TIP: With BeFunky's interface, you can select multiple graphics at once 
and they'll be added to your list once you exit out of the search.
However, if you clear your browser's cookies and cache,
they will disappear.

Step Six: Place the Elements
Now that you know what image you’re using you can begin playing around with the elements of your graphic. Move things forwards, backwards, adjust the layering. If the image doesn’t work, keep the other bits in place and just change that out.

TIP: Play around with coloring, opacity, fonts,
and more tools to further fine tune your image.
TIP: Don't be afraid to experiment with text blending and styling!

Each photo editing program will have its own set of elements and overlays you can add. For example (Oculus Reparo. Don’t mind me. Every time I see the phrase, “for example,” I can’t get Hermione Granger out of my head!)

I digress.

BeFunky has a fantastic selection, including social media icons. It could do with a little updating, as Google Plus no longer exists. But they have everything from charges and infographics to basic lines, shapes, ribbons, and more!

TIP: Save. Save save save save save.
This is more for when you're building your blog post or web page,
and you'd think this would be a common sense kind of thing.
But I think forgetting to save (in general) is a human fallacy.
BeFunky has a fantastic autosave feature where, if you don't
clear out your cookies and cache as discussed earlier in this post,
it'll ask you if you want to continue editing your previous project.
Cool, huh?

Step Seven: Finishing Up
You’ve chosen your program (or programs). You’ve chosen your aesthetic, images, fonts and elements. They’re all put together the way you want them. All that’s left to do is save your work and upload.

As with any project, the more complicated the plan, the longer the task will take to complete. I figured I’d go the easy route, since the format for my blog posts is the one constant thing on my site.

Each graphic you create gives readers a sense of your style. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Start small. Learn, learn learn. And your skills with creating graphics, just as they do with your writing, will grow!

Happy creating!

UPDATE: I was going through some of my old files last night and I stumbled across a banner I made for one of my old Supernatural fanficts. I remember being quite proud of how this looked: