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Monday, December 19, 2016

10 "Fantastic" Details You Probably Missed

I already did a post about 7 "Fantastic" Things I Can't Stop Thinking About, and I thought that would be good enough for my blog. But alas, I have caught on to more details that I had missed the first time I saw the movie. And I needed to get them out of my system. Some are very small, but some carry great significance. And by the way, don't forget to enter my blog birthday/Christmas giveaway. One of the prizes is Newt's scarf, so if you didn't win it the first time, you have another chance. I'm picking the winners in two days. ^_^

1. The Second Salemers' Banner

I feel stupid I didn't really realize it earlier, but the Second Salemers' banner. I knew it had to do with the Salem Trials, so I understood all the fire. The Salem Witches, as we know, were burned. But I just thought the other thing was wood being broken for the fire. But it's not. It's the snapping of a wand.   -_- Why I didn't get this earlier is beyond me, but glad I finally figured it out. And one of my friends who is an even bigger Harry Potter fan than I am, didn't pick up on it either, so I'm assuming many others didn't. And do you see the magic coming out of the wand? Yeah.

2. The Grindelwald Poster

When the main characters are bartering with Gnarlack, the goblin, when the camera shows the wanted posters on the wall, there is one shot with a wanted poster of Grindelwald, but his face has been scratched out (would have been mighty weird to randomly see Johnny Depp on a Wizarding Poster.) It's show when the MACUSA come, and the poster is on the right side of the screen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why Rowling Rocked the Briefcase Mix-up and How You can Rock Your Own Tired Tropes

Note: Don't forget to enter my Christmas/Blog Birthday giveaway, where you can win Newt's Hufflepuff scarf, a Sherlock mug, or the Emotion Thesaurus. 

If you saw Fantastic Beasts and you were like me and probably 95% of the audience, you knew the moment you saw Jacob's briefcase that it was going to be mixed up with Newt's. Similar things have happened in dozens if not hundreds of stories--usually in film and television. It's a trope, one used so many times in such identical ways, it feels cliche.

But as I mentioned in my post Using Cliches in Your Writing: Why, When, and How, there are three ways to get away with pulling off a cliche: personalize it, put a fresh spin on it, or use it to draw your audience into a surprise.

Another way that overlaps with these is to change the temporal (meaning timing) of the trope. Rowling may have used this trope, but she understood she was using it, and decided to take advantage of that to tease her audience. (She makes a point to do that every once in a while, if you haven't noticed.) So she has Jacob run into Newt, both dropping their suitcases. This is the traditionally prime moment to have the whole mix-up happen. This is where it happens in almost all films and television shows. Rowling knows this. So she teased us with it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

These are a few of my favorite things . . . (Giveaway)

**Now Closed**

This season is a special time of year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fantastic Beasts, Sherlock--er, I mean, New Years . . . blog birthdays.

Yes, blog birthdays! Exactly four years ago, I started my blog. And you know what this all means?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Tips on Writing Your Own Fantastic Beasts

Give it relateable behaviors. (bonus: that doesn't mean making it a dog)

Have you guys ever noticed how many creatures are actually dogs in disguises? A dog in an alien body, a dog in a bug body, a dog in a dragon body, a dog in an alien body (because that happens so much). Everything is a dog!

Monday, November 28, 2016

How to Publish Yearly

As some of you know, I'm a pretty slow writer, and by the time I'm done with a scene and have it singing, I don't regret it. But not everyone writes like I do, and not everyone wants to write like I do, and I sure as heck don't expect everyone to. So today I have Paul Silver on my blog as a guest. Paul has made a goal to write one book per year, and he's going to share how he does that for anyone else out there hoping to do the same. He recently published a new book Shadow of the Arisen, that you can learn about here.

Also, real quick, this is your last chance to enter my Fantastic Beasts giveaway of Newt's vintage Hufflepuff scarf. I'll be selecting the winner on the 30th. Anyway, here is Paul:

Finishing a novel is no small accomplishment. Often, it takes well over five hundred hours to complete and the work involved is not easy, sometimes stretching you to your creative limits. I’ve talked to plenty of writers who wonder if there’s some sort of “secret method” to constantly publish a book every year. For the past five years, I’ve published one to two books each year. I’ve found that secret formula for myself at least. I’m sure the particulars about publishing yearly differs from writer to writer, but here are five core principles that should help any writer out when working on publishing yearly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

7 "Fantastic" Things I Can't Stop Thinking About (SPOILERS)

I wasn't going to do a blog post this week because I just put up my spoiler-free review of Fantastic Beasts over the weekend (by the way, I'm also giving away Newt's vintage Hufflepuff scarf, so you might want to head there to enter). But . . . I couldn't stop thinking about the movie, and I have been really wanting to get some thoughts out of my system, most of which are spoilery. Here are some things I can't get out of my head: Queenie and Jacob, Obscurus (did Dumbledore's sister have one?), Grindelwald (what was with that?), Leta Lestrange (BTW we have some official backstory), all the U.S. wizards used silent spells, the MACUSA death sentence adds evidence to an interesting fan theory about the Hallows and three brothers, and Credence is actually still alive.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and How to Watch it (Review + Fantastic Beast Giveaway)

Eeeek!! It's here! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is finally out!!

And in honor of that, I'm doing a giveaway of Newt's vintage Hufflepuff scarf. (Sorry to everyone who read the title and thought I was giving away a fantastic beast--no nifflers or bowtruckles here 😞)

To enter, all you need to do is "like" or share this blog post from my Facebook Page (do both to enter twice), like or retweet this blog post on my Twitter (do both to enter twice), like or reblog this blog post on my Tumblr (do both to enter twice), and (you guessed it) like (+1) or share this blog post from my Google+--that means you can enter eight times. You must be follower of me on one of my platforms to win. The winner will be selected November 30th, and the giveaway is open internationally.

(Also, if you want to like and share my posts, but don't want to be entered in the giveaway, just go for it, and if you win, tell me you aren't interested, and I'll give it to someone else.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mastering Stylistic Tension

Hey everyone! Last week I did my first post on Writers Helping Writers. So instead of doing another new post on here today, I want to send you guys to that one. In it, I talk about mastering stylistic tension. Here is the beginning to get you started:

One of the first things writers learn is to start a story with conflict. Some writers have bombs go off. Others start with a death. Or a break-up. But over the years, looking at unpublished material, I’ve learned and relearned that how such conflicts are rendered on the page stylistically can often be just as important as the conflict itself, and sometimes even more important.

I’ve seen a lot of stories start with the dead or dying—a topic that is universal to the human experience. And yet, stories that promise a content-minor conflict on something like, say, a character losing her job, seem to have more tension. Why is that?

Often it’s based on how the writer handles the conflict stylistically. In some ways, it’s not the conflict itself that draws readers in, it’s the promise of conflicts. A story that opens blatantly with death often isn’t as interesting as a story that opens with the promise of death—whether that death happens on the first page or last page of the story.

When you begin a story with a death itself . . . that’s it. It’s all there, on the page. But when you begin a story with a promise of death, the reader feels the need to read on to find out about the death and discover whether or not is actually happens.

 . . . Keep Reading

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Mechanics of Rendering Mysteries and Undercurrents—How to Withhold Info from the Reader Right

For months (years?) I've been saying I'm going to post the mechanics of writing mysteries. And today it's finally here! I'm a huge fan of stories that include a good mystery--if not as a main focus, as a side line. Last month, I did a whole post on crafting killer undercurrents. It's worth noting that the techniques needed to render mystery are the same techniques needed to create a strong undercurrent! Win-win!

In the future, I will be doing a post that argues that you absolutely can withhold important information from the reader (even if the viewpoint character knows it)--as long as you do it the right way. That article will reference this one for techniques.

Selecting the Experience You Want for Your Reader

Conscious Mysteries vs. Subconscious Mysteries (works for Undercurrents too)

There are different types of mysteries. A conscious mystery is one that (as you may have guessed) the reader is aware of. In whodunnit stories, the mystery comes from the reader (and protagonist) trying to figure out who the murderer is. It's on the page. The reader is very aware of it, and trying to solve it with the character. In the Harry Potter series, Harry trying to figure out who opened the Chamber of Secrets, who put his name in the Goblet of Fire, and what Malfoy is up to, are all conscious mysteries. The reader is actively looking for clues and hints in the text to find answers.

Monday, October 31, 2016

3 Characters You should be Psyched about in Fantastic Beasts

Last time I blogged about Fantastic Beasts, I listed the beasts we need to see in the films. Today I'm blogging about the characters you should be most excited to meet, and why.


Newt Scamander

Okay, I know this sounds obvious, but can we seriously take a moment and revel in how wonderfully and well done Newt's character comes across in the trailers alone?! I feel like I can already tell you all about him, and I love him! And you should too.

When I saw the first trailer, I also saw a characterization aspect that I love and hope to one day create in my own work: a character that is likeable, but you aren't sure you can trust. And Newt does just that. Just watch the trailer again and you'll see it. And the actor, Eddie Redmayne, brings the perfect subtext and expressions to render this. He's got this kind of smile and unconcerned demeanor. He believes everything will be fine, and he goes with the flow. Newt is not the kind of guy you'll see stressing out over his exams or . . . about his deadly animals wrecking havoc on New York. Or at least not as much as a normal person, and he only shows his stress in subtle ways, not harsh shrill ways.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Generic Dialogue—Staaaahp

Sometimes when I'm editing manuscripts, and usually this happens in very good manuscripts, I run into generic dialogue. Often it comes from a villain, or a hero in a heroic moment, but really, any intense emotional moment can be prone to it.

Generic dialogue isn't bad dialogue, per se. It's just "blah" dialogue. Sometimes it sounds showy or theatrical, but doesn't feel that way because we've heard it in dozens of other stories. Things like the hero saying, "Pick on someone your own size," or "You're going to regret you ever did that!" and the villain saying things like, "Don't let them escape!" or "You'll wish you had never been born."

They're generic.They're stock. And they don't really do anything for the story.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Really Cool Announcement

Hey guys, I have some great news! As some of you who follow my writings tips know, I'm a huge fan of The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I'm not exaggerating when I say I refer to it almost every week when writing, and if I'm not referring to that, I'm referring to one of their other awesome thesauri. And overall, they just have a really great website for writers: Writers Helping Writers.

Earlier this month my blog got listed as a top writing tip blog on their website, next to other amazing writing blogs that I've gone to and learn from, like K.M. Weiland's. But that's not even the really cool announcement.

Back in September, Angela and Becca contacted me out of the blue about a new program they are doing on their site, where their followers can learn from other writing coaches. And guess what? I'm so excited to say that I'm one of those writing coaches! And all of the other writing coaches are freaking amazing! (Honestly, way more amazing than me.) You can see the super cool line-up here. No really, you want to see everyone else involved. James Scott Bell is a #1 bestselling writer who has published numerous books, both writing craft books and thrillers, and he's taught writing in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Michael Hauge has worked in the writing industry for 30 years and consulted on scripts such as I am Legend, Suicide Squad, Hancock, Concussion, The Karate Kid, and others. Roz Morris is a fantastic writer, and as a ghost writer, she has sold more than 4 million books. She's been working in the industry for more than 20 years.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Crafting a Killer Undercurrent for Your Story

Sometimes I imagine the plot of a story like a cross stitch, with the front of the stitch being what the reader actually sees; it's the surface of the story. Everything is nice and neat and clear and nearly perfect. But then there's the back of it, where you can see the real work beneath the surface. I like to call that stuff the "undercurrent"--which I guess implies that I also see the plot of a novel like a body of water. There's the surface. And there's the undercurrent.

The undercurrent can be big or small, but it should always be there. In your story, the true plot should be bigger, with more knots and underworkings, than what we see on the surface, otherwise it will feel flat, get boring, and worst of all, leave a reader feeling uninvested in the book.

I see this happen in unpublished stories from time to time. There is no undercurrent. It's a tiny, tiny surface stream of a story. Everything is just as it seems. Everything is straightforward. Everything is visible the first time through. Sometimes with stories like this, readers can't tell exactly what's wrong, but they just know they don't want to read more. They aren't interested. They don't care what happens next.

Every great story has some size of an undercurrent--the backside of the cross stitch, the bottom of the iceberg--or whatever metaphor you prefer. But there is a whole spectrum of sizes.

Monday, October 3, 2016

7 Fantastic Beasts We Need to See in the Films

"A Wizarding World movie comes out next month" is something we can say now. And I'm getting super excited for Newt Scamander. ^_^ And of course, to see some magical beasts! I wrote this post weeks ago, but it's so timely that a new trailer came out last week that showed us a BUNCH of magical beasts. Here are seven of them I need to see.

Swooping Evil

When the plot for the first movie was released, I wasn't the only one making connections to the Pokemon franchise--and the Swooping Evil just cements that.

The Swooping Evil is a new beast added to the Wizarding World. It's some kind of butterfly creature that comes out of a cocoon or small object. You can see it come out of said object in Newt's hand above. How cool is that? It seems like a friendly beast, one that would be useful in the movie. . . . In much the same way Pokemon that come out of pokeballs are useful to their trainers.

Lethifold (a.k.a. Living Shroud)(a.k.a. Your Worst Nightmare)

If you don't want to have nightmares tonight, I suggest you skip this creature. But personally, I love having the dark, evil, and terrifying things make an appearance in stories, and I know the Lethifold is set to make its appearance.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Privilege of Picking Your Problems

My dad has a mantra of sorts when it comes to life: "It's never as bad as you think it's gonna be, and it's never as good as you think it's gonna be." And while you will find exceptions to this rule, it's actually pretty accurate.

A few months ago, I was reading a book that pointed out there isn't a golden threshold where you've "made it" and everything is near-perfect in your creative career. Instead, the reality is, you just exchange one set of problems for another set of problems.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rendering Temptations

I'm not sure how I got on the topic, but today I was thinking about temptations in fiction. Unfortunately, when I hear people talk about "temptations," I automatically think of shallow or cliche temptations used in fiction. In fact, usually I think of the sex symbol love interest you can often find in blockbusters that have a lot of action but little character development. Sometimes, though, I think of a protagonist who is having an affair.

But good temptations aren't shallow and they are heck-a-tense when done right. Sure, we understand that Frodo and many other people are tempted to keep The Ring for themselves--but that temptation becomes very powerful when employed in a key moment, like when Frodo makes it to Mount Doom, and no longer wants to throw The Ring in. You may have heard the story enough times that that moment of temptation might not have such a significant impact on you, but think back to the first time you witnessed it. After all the struggles and hardship, Frodo finally makes it Mount Doom, and we see him tempted to keep The Ring. We hate it. Maybe we almost even want to hate Frodo, but we can't really, because we understand it.

Temptations aren't just for the sinners, villains, and weaklings. Everyone has them, even people we admire, and they can be used for a powerful effect in fiction.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Salt Lake Comic Con Highlights and Pictures (2016)

As many of you know, I went to Salt Lake Comic Con recently. I absolutely loved it, even more than last year! Last year was my first year doing panels. Ever. This year went better because I knew what to expect and didn't have to do two panels back-to-back (with the second including a powerpoint). Instead, I had one thing each day. (Perfect.)

But I did have a new first this year: I moderated a panel--one on Fantastic Beasts. I think I did all right--either way, I got some good experience doing it. (And got to show some Hufflepuff pride by wearing Newt Scamander's scarf ^_^.) The fun part about that one, is we showed the trailer and everyone cheered after. I love Harry Potter audiences.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

6 Things I NEED to See in the Fantastic Beasts Film Franchise

As I've been getting ready for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them panel for Comic Con, I've also been getting really excited for the movie in November! In fact, it's led to me reread the (text)book and to write a few blog posts about the upcoming films. Here's the first one.

#1 -- Newt gives Dumbledore his Phoenix.  

Please! I need to see this! Dumbledore is the only professor who believed Newt shouldn't be expelled. How cool would it be if we could see the story of how Dumbledore got Fawkes? And Newt gave it to him? This definitely has some great, touching potential.

#2 -- Fantastic Beasts being Used to Battle the Antagonist and Help Newt (there will be death . . . probably.)

Not only is it cool that Newt has all these fantastic beasts with him, but I need to see him putting them to clever use. Is Percival the Auror chasing him? Use a Crup to nip at his ankles and slow him. Need to find something shiny? Use a Niffler to find it. Need to reach something up high? Use the Swooping Evil to get it. We all loved when Hedwig attacked the Death Eater in the Deathly Hallows movie, so give us more. And maybe . . . maybe . . . if we feel like having our hearts wrenched out (and we won't admit to it, but we kind of do) show one of Newt's loyalist beasts sacrificing itself to save him. Or, if the antagonist is pure evil, the antagonist killing it (which makes me already hate the hypothetical guy).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Come See Me at Salt Lake Comic Con! Here is my Schedule:

Next week is Salt Lake Comic Con, and I spent a good part of last week getting ready! And I'm getting excited. Salt Lake Comic Con is the third largest Comic Con in the world, and I get to be a presenter, moderator, and a panelist. ^_^

Here is my schedule:

Thursday, September 1st

2:00 p.m.

Room: 253A

15+ Tactics for Writing Humor

Learn the secrets to writing humor with over 15 methods that make readers laugh, with examples from The Office, Harry Potter, The Amazing Spider-man, The Fault in Our Stars, Zoolander, Enchanted, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Emperor's New Groove, The Series of Unfortunate Events, Elf, and more. Come prepared to laugh. Leave never having to feel clueless again.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pairing Behaviors with Odd Demeanors for Originality

When it comes to characters, writers, especially new writers, tend to match their characters' demeanors up perfectly with their behaviors. The bully is a straight-up jerk. A class clown is always laughing and joking. Someone who is brave tends to be a bit loud-mouthed.

But the reality is, people aren't really that clear cut and standard. Honestly, it's been since elementary school since I met a bully who was straight-up jerk. But we tend to want to match up demeanors and behaviors stereotypically.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Traditional Publishing: Short Stories and Poetry

This week is my last installment in my publishing post series, and this one is about the small stuff. Here is how to publish short forms of creative writing.

Short Stories

1. Write the story.

A short story is a narrative under 7,500 words. Keep in mind that short stories that are on the shorter end tend to have a greater chance of being printed, if you are seeking physical publication. This is because it's less costly for the magazine. If you are only getting published online, word count probably doesn't matter as much. If your short story is accepted into a printed anthology, word count will depend on the anthology. Whatever the case, make sure your story is short enough to stay interesting, but long enough to cover the important parts. Sometimes I see unpublished short stories that are too short--the story isn't properly developed or fleshed out. Other times they are too drawn out, the author including too much information. When writing short the powers of implying and subtext are your friends. But this post isn't about how to write a great story. It's about how to get one published.

Monday, August 1, 2016

So I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child . . . (Book Review)

(No Spoilers in this Section)

Initial Reaction to the News

When I first heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I had cautious expectations, and maybe even some skeptical ones.

First, adding more to an already satisfyingly complete story can do more harm than good.

Second, I know J.K. Rowling is listed as a writer, but she didn't really write the script, just gave the other guys a few ideas to run with. I've seen this done with another franchise I love and the result was terrible.

Third, it's really hard to pull off something like this. The audience usually has high, but very vague expectations, which makes it very difficult to deliver.

As for actually reading the book, well, there's a problem. It's a script. And really, scripts are meant to be watched, not read. I'm an English graduate, so I've read a few scripts in my day, and I almost never enjoyed it. The only exception was Dr. Faustus. So, again, I was skeptical, but I mean, let's be honest. This is Harry Potter, of course there's going to be something I like about it because I'm so biased toward it. I love plays themselves, I just don't like reading them.

I considered not reading it and waiting until the play came to the U.S., but I only considered it for a few seconds--I'm going to Comic Con next month as a guest, and people will expect me to have read it.

So, basically, I wasn't sure what to think about it and personally didn't expect much. But then months ago, I accidentally-on-purpose read some of the spoilers, because honestly, how much of a "spoiler" could they be? The main story is complete.

Man, was I wrong about being unspoilery. The two I read I did not see coming--and I loved them. So two points to Cursed Child on that--and I was excited to read it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Self-Publish or Traditional Publish? Why not Both?

September asked me to write a post about my experience with being a hybrid author, which (for those not in the know) means being both self-published and traditionally published. Many well-known authors are now hybrids, having years ago made their name as bestselling, traditionally published authors, and have recently released their backlists through self-publishing. Other authors make it big on their own and then are offered mega contracts by big New York publishers who can help those superstars achieve things that are difficult to attain through avenues open to self-published authors.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Insights on the Traditional Publishing Life

Today I have a guest, author Shallee McArthur here to tell us about her experience with traditional publishing.


Ah, the Land of Traditional Publishdom. So many of us want it, but those gates are closed pretty tight. I started knocking on the gates—AKA querying my book, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE—with trepidation. Querying is no picnic. Except…for me, it kinda was. Within a week after I started querying, my agent offered. Within another week, I had two more offers. I accepted my agent Hannah Bowman’s offer with glee.

This was it! The hallowed gates of Publishdom had opened to welcome me, and what a welcome! My publishing path was paved with gold!

But here’s the thing. There is no path of gold in Publishdom. Sure, it only took me a week to get an agent, but it took me almost a year to get a publisher. And then I did, and I squealed and twirled my kids around the kitchen! I signed a shiny contract and had a shiny editor! Which, honestly, there are few better things in the world than that moment. Then, many other moments came.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Traditional Publishing: What it is, How it Works, and How to Do it

Two weeks ago I did my post on self-publishing, and now it's time for its counterpart: traditional publishing.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is when a publishing house publishes your book. Here in the U.S. (sorry, I'm not researching every country) there are four (used to be five) large publishing houses called "The Big Four," they are Simon & Schuster, Harpercollins, Penguin Random House, and Hatchette. Each of these publishing houses have what are called "imprints." An imprint is a trade name the publishing house prints under. So, you may have noticed books published by Knopf (such as Eragon by Christopher Paolini). Knopf is actually an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Monday, July 4, 2016

My Reasons for Self-Publishing

For the next month, I'll be blogging all about publishing, particularly for beginners. Last week I wrote an article, Self-Publishing: What it is, Who it's For, And How it Works, and next week I'll write about how to publish traditionally. Today, I have self-published author Lucinda Whitney here tell why she chose self-publishing.

Lucinda Whitney was born and raised in Portugal, where she received a master’s degree from the University of Minho in Braga in Portuguese/English teaching. She lives in northern Utah. When she’s not reading and writing, she can be found with a pair of knitting needles in winter, or tending her herb garden in the summer. She also works part-time as a substitute teacher. You can check out her books here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Self-Publishing: What it is, Who it's For, And How it Works

I've talked about a lot of different things on here, but ironically, one thing I haven't actually really talked about is publishing and publishing options and quite a few of my readers don't actually know much about how the publishing process works. I will admit, I am not an expert, so if you are a published author and have your own opinions and advice, please leave it in the comments for others.

For the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about the publishing process. I also have a few guests who will tell us about their experiences publishing. Today, I'm going to talk about some bare basics. So, if you already know all this stuff, feel free to browse around my older posts. Here are some you may not have seen: Playing with Foils, The Value of Shock, Your Writing Eye.

Publishing Options

If you've written a novel and want to pursue publication, you really have two main options. You can self-publish or you can publish traditionally. Self-publishing is where you publish the book instead of a publishing house. Traditional publishing is where a publishing house does it. I can't fit the basics of each in this post (heck, I can hardly fit one into one post), so I'm going to focus on self-publication first.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The "Twins as Clones" Writing Epidemic

Let's be honest, people are naturally interested in twins and multiples. When my sister had twins, she could never make it through the grocery store without people stopping and talking to her about twins in general and twins they know. Conversations became something like this (newsletter subscribers, sorry, but you have to see the video off my blog):

But while we may find twins and multiples fascinating, it's important to remember they are each distinct human beings. Why this is so hard to grasp, I don't know, but for some reason this reality rarely ever makes it into the storytelling world. Instead, most writers I know opt-in for the "Twins as Clones" approach, where they are essentially the same person in each body. You could pretty much merge the two characters into one and nothing would change. Nothing would really change in the character, and more often than not, nothing would change in the story. The twins are like one person in two bodies. Heck, even Lyra and her daemon Pantlaimon are more different from each other, and they are one person in two bodies.

I think one reason writers make twins into clones is because they've seen it done this way, and it's been done so many times that it's cliche, and of course, cliches are the first things that come into our minds when we brainstorm. I also think it happens because writers sit down and say, "I'm going to have twins in my story," and they create the characters "together" instead of as individual people. (More on that later.)

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Here: Help Becca And Angela Celebrate!

Some of you may know from following my blog that I'm a big fan of the Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I use it in my own writing on an almost weekly basis. In my opinion, it's a must-have for the writer's library. So when I heard that Becca and Angela had two new thesauri coming out this week, I volunteered to help publicize it on my blog. Their books really are amazing, so helpful, and thought-through.

* * *
There's nothing better than becoming lost within the story world within minutes of starting a book. And as writers, this is what we're striving to do: pull the reader in, pull them down deep into the words, make them feel like they are experiencing the story right alongside the hero or heroine.

A big part of achieving this is showing the character's surroundings in a way that is textured and rich, delivering this description through a filter of emotion and mood. It means we have to be careful with each word we choose, and describe the setting in such a way that each sight, sound, taste, texture, and smell comes alive for readers. This is no easy task, especially since it is so easy to overdo it—killing the pace, slowing the action, and worst of all, boring the reader. So how can we create a true unique experience for readers and make them feel part of the action while avoiding descriptive missteps that will hurt the story?

Well, there's some good news on this front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds that a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers. In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Antiques Shop.

And there's one more thing you might want to know more about....

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Please Don't Write this Sentence in Your Opening

I regularly read unpublished work. A lot of writers have a cool idea for their protagonist's backstory, one that is meant to create a sense of mystery for the reader. I love stories like that. I love backstories. I even love a good flashback. But I cannot tell you how many times I've read sentences similar to this one in an opening of a story:

Jasper pushed the memories away from his mind.

To the average person, there is nothing wrong with this sentence. But when you read a lot, and you read that sentence a lot, you start realizing the problems in it.

There are many variations to this sentence, or at least lead-ins to this sentence. Here are a few others:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sanderson's 3 Laws of Magic Systems

I've never done a post on magic systems. The closest I've gotten to it is my post on writing magical items. One of the reasons I haven't approached magic systems is because others have done a much better job talking about them than I can, and to be honest, I haven't studied them that much. But my work-in-progress does have some magic systems in it, even though I don't always think of them as magic systems, and so today I'm bringing you the source that I use when I need help with magic in my story--and really, it's such a good resource that it deserves its own post on my blog.

Brandon Sanderson is one of the top-selling fantasy writers today, and what's even cooler is that he understands and is conscious of what does in his writing and can teach it well to others.

Monday, May 23, 2016

10 Cheats to "Tell" Well

Back in January, I did a whole post on when it is appropriate to "tell" something instead of "show" it. I talked about the difference between showing and telling, about how telling actually has in important role, and gave eight reasons you should use telling instead of showing. I touched on the fact that some telling is done better than others and also promised that in a future post I would give some pointers on how to tell well. Today is that future.

If you need a refresher of my post on telling, don't hesitate to give it a glance over.

In it, I gave this example of how boring, monotonous, and ineffective telling can be:

They went to their friend's house to see some cats. They liked them a lot. When they got tired, they called their mom to pick them up, but their mom couldn't come for two hours. It was cold out, so they went inside and got something warm to eat. Then they drew some pictures before watching t.v.

Ack! Who wants to read a whole story like that? Not me! One of the problems with telling is that it can be too vague and it fails to immerse the reader in the story. But that is an example of truly awful telling. Here are some techniques to make your moments of telling shine by lessening or overcoming some of those cons.

One approach is to use showing techniques when you tell.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Writing Advice for Middle-School Writers

Owl9710 asked: Do you have any advice for young writers like middle schoolers? I love your posts, you post such cool things for writers both young and old!

Thanks Owl! Here are my thoughts:

1. Write for fun.
I put this as the first point because I think it's the most important. If you love to write, write and have fun. Write as much as you want and whatever you want. If you want to write a nonfiction guide on keeping an aquarium, great. If you want to write fanfiction based off your favorite show or book, go right ahead. Science-fiction? Mystery? A love story? Sure. Anything you want. Explore your stories and characters. When you get closer to the professional world, writing can get more complicated and it sometimes feels like work. It's important to have lots of fun now, so that you can pull from those experiences when things get tough. You need to enjoy writing itself first. You don't have to finish all of your stories, but try to at least finish some.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Updates on Writing and Bloggery

Every once in a while I like to do an update on my writing and blogging life. And when I say every once in a while . . . I mean about once a year apparently.

The truth is, like last year, I don't have a whole lot to update on. About a year and a half ago, I started what turned into a massive rewrite of my novel. I'm rewriting everything. And the quality is so much better, I could sing. Seriously though, guys. I'm not going to say it's like the next great American Classic or anything (cause it's not), but I'm so dang happy with how I've grown as a writer and how much better my novel is! During this rewrite I have written some of the best scenes I've written in my entire life! I'm so, so, so pleased with them. (Let's hope those scenes survive to actual publication.) I feel like I gained full control over them and got them to behave just the way I wanted them to for a powerful experience for the reader.

There are other scenes I'm really happy with because they're just fun and entertaining. I know, I know, it's like I'm boasting about myself, but to me, it's not so much that I'm boasting about myself, as it is sharing how completely happy I am with how this novel has grown and changed and how much I have grown as a writer. And truly running this blog has helped me get to this point. Studying, dissecting, and writing down how things like micro-concepts and subtext and point of view penetration and humor work has helped me use them consciously and purposefully in my writing. And whenever I get confused, I can refer back to the articles here for a refresher. Understanding how great character relationships work has done wonders in deepening the relationships in my story.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Coming up with the Perfect Pen Name

Anonymous said: What is the story behind your name? (Love your posts btw)

Thanks, I’m glad you like my posts! Well, if anyone has come here looking for an interesting or cute little story about why my parents chose the name "September" or the roots of my last name, I hope you won't be disappointed. September C. Fawkes is a pseudonym. But hopefully in some ways that makes the story behind it more interesting.

Monday, April 25, 2016

To the Unpublished Writer: You're Doing Okay.

I see a lot of unpublished work. A lot. In some stories, I can tell that the writer needs to work on mastering a few elements: voice, or arcs, or style, or viewpoint. Others I can tell still have a very long road ahead of them. Once in a while, when I come across a story that shows that the writer still has a lot of growing to do, I think about the kind of harsh, even cruel, criticism they could potentially get from others. Once in a while, I might imagine the kind of damage that might do to that writer. They may feel emotionally wounded, even betrayed. They have poured their heart into their work, only to have it get shredded. They may quit writing altogether, thinking they don't have what it takes. Maybe it will paralyze them so that they feel mentally blocked every time they sit down and try to write. Maybe it will make them bitter.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Exactly How to Create and Control Tone

I'm going to be honest, tone is something I struggle with in my writing. In some scenes, it can be a huge stumbling block for me. I get how it works, but sometimes I just can't find it. Those days are over (hopefully) because now I have a post (this one) written out that explains it to myself, which will be better and more accurate than trying to pull it from my head when I'm already confused. So if you've had trouble with tone, no worries, this article nails it all down.

I'm going to cover what tone is, how to create it, how to keep control of it, what to do if your tone goes sour, and how to actually change or juggle tones in a scene. I'll also talk about how the right tone will let you get away with just about anything.

Maybe you are like how I use to be: thinking that tone isn't really something you need to worry yourself over. It'll just happen, you think. You'll just write your story and whatever the tone is, is whatever the tone is. It's what came naturally.

It's not that this attitude is wrong--I've seen plenty of published writing where the author couldn't have paid tone any mind--it's that you are cutting yourself and your writing short by ignoring tone. Maybe you already have great writing skills. Cool. But you can make them better by paying attention and mastering the element of tone.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Real Reason You NEED to Give Positive Feedback!

A few weeks ago, I got in contact with a writer who's novel is getting published. I had the pleasure of editing the manuscript last year. It didn't need much help--it was already really good and really polished by the time it got to me. But recently she thanked me for my feedback, and ensured it had been extremely helpful to her. One of the things she said was that she appreciated that I gave positive feedback.

Some people are under the misconception that positive feedback is only there to stroke the writer's self-esteem and ego. That's completely wrong. I admit that in some situations it's appropriate to only focus on what needs to be fixed--in my opinion, this is only when the story is literally being edited so it can be published or when the writer has already gotten positive feedback as to what is working. But for other parts of the process, positive feedback should not be skipped!

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Oft Forgotten Conflict and How to Make it Work: Man Vs. God

As I've mentioned in other posts, in storytelling, there are five kinds of conflicts:

Man vs. Man
Man vs. Self
Man vs. Society
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. God

(Okay, some sources say there are six, and include Man vs. Machine, but I usually don't see that on in the list)

Often when I hear these types of conflict brought up, I hear people say that Man vs. God isn't really used in storytelling anymore, and they kind of shrug their shoulder about it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

For Those Looking for a Historical Love Story ;) (By the Stars Blog Tour)

 Hello again lovely followers! March is a special month, because not only is my birthday in March, but I'm helping out with two special blog tours (both debut novels)! Today we're celebrating the release of By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson. When you get done reading this post, you might just want to check it out.

About By the Stars

He was lost. Lost in those deep brown, beautiful eyes. Then, as clear as day, Cal heard a voice inside his head: "That is the girl you are going to marry."

When Cal finally gets a chance with Kate, the girl he's loved since grade school, their easy friendship quickly blossoms into a meaningful romance. But World War II soon cuts their time far too short, and Cal prepares to part from her - possibly for good. With Kate's memory willing him on, Cal must put his trust in God to survive if he hopes to ever return to her. Inspired by a true story, By the Stars is a romance that stands the test of time and the most intense obstacles.

"By the Stars is an enchanting tale…of faith, destiny, and the life-changing power of enduring love." -Lindsay Maxfield, editor, Deseret Media Companies

"Present and past meld together in this richly crafted story…As I finished the last page, I closed the cover, hugged the book close to my chest, and sighed with contentment as my new friend Cal finished telling me his story, and oh, what a story." -Kelly Dearth, founder of

Get the book here.

Read reviews or add it to your GoodReads list.

 About the Author

Lindsay Ferguson worked as a PR and marketing writer for a computer software company for several years before resigning to focus on raising her family. When she felt the itch to attempt novel writing, a fascination with history created a natural inclination toward historical fiction, with a romantic flare, of course. She lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City with her husband and four children. By the Stars is her first novel. Visit her online at

If you like love stories, historical fiction, with an LDS flavor, check out By the Stars.

You can also see the other blogs participating in the tour here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Social Circles and What it Means to be Popular

All through my teenage years I did dance (jazz and ballet). I was never the star of the show. I wasn't one of the "best" or the "most talented," and when I tried out for company, I didn't make it. I wasn't a horrible dancer either. I mean, I got pretty good in a lot of ways, but I never made it to the cream of the crop. I remember watching and looking up to the girls who were more talented than me. At my studio, they were popular.

Now, I hesitate to use that word because it often has all this negative connotation attached to it. Often it's associated with arrogance, being stuck up, and not including others. For my post, I don't mean that. I mean "popular" as in "well-liked" and "well-known." So these girls were popular at my studio. Very talented. Great examples to look to.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Crafting Your Character's Harmartia

Hello lovely followers! Today's post on fatal flaws (your character's harmartia) comes from a guest, Kaki Olsen, who had her debut novel, Swan and Shadow: A Swan Lake Story, published by Cedar Fort last week! Everyone celebrate with her! This post is part of the book's blog tour. See the schedule of other blogs that are celebrating Swan and Shadow.

About Swan and Shadow: A Swan Lake Story:

Aislin is cursed. A regular college student at night and a swan during the day, Aislin can only break the curse by finding her true love. But when her beloved discovers the truth, will his fear override their love? This modern adaptation of Swan Lake will help you discover what love really means. Get Swan and Shadow.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Writing with #$@%&* Profanity

(The best part of the headline is that the symbols don't make sense)

When I was in 9th grade, we read Fahrenheit 451 in reading groups. I loved the book. It's a great classic, dystopian sci-fi. Since we were reading it in groups, we had to read it aloud, and I remember my teacher saying we were allowed to read the swear words if we wanted to, but we were also allowed to skip them. He told us though, that as we read, to think about if it changed the meaning of the what we read.

I didn't read the swear words. Today, I still don't like profanity. I don't swear. But I remember wanting to be able to say that cutting out the swear words didn't effect the meaning of the story. After all, they were swear words. But the truth was, it did.

I know some of my followers are reading this, thinking that this post is a little silly, and they use profanity all the time in their writing. Others reading this may argue that authors only use profanity when they have a weak vocabulary and can't find better words to express themselves. That can be true, but the reality is, that's just not always the case. Making that statement is an over-generalization. There are actually more sophisticated reasons for using it, as I'll explain. But whatever your opinion on profanity is, I promise you'll learn something new about swearing by the end of this post--and how to use that knowledge to your benefit.

Monday, February 29, 2016

How to do Research for Your Novel

Kerstin said: Hi, I recently stumbled over your blog when I was researching dieselpunk for our online rpg and not only did it answer my question, it also revived my buried passion for writing. Well done! 

But that also revived the old problem I always had when I sat down to put pen to paper: 

How do you do research for your story? 

I don't mean mere facts - we all know how to google. I'm talking of the little details in the setting and interactions of the characters that make the world you create "real."

. . . Say I want to write a sci-fi story that plays on a space station. The closest real world example could be an oil-platform, but to the average writer it's as exotic and unapproachable as the space-station itself. If you want to write something in a milieu that has nothing to do with your own life, how do you research that, especially when you're not an established author that can ask for interviews or an "externship"? 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Validating the Reader's Concerns

Sometimes in your writing, you might have a point in your plot or even just a tiny beat in your scene, where something odd happens. Maybe it has the potential to ruin your reader's suspension of disbelief. Or it feels too coincidental. Or maybe a little contrived. Or it's redundant.

Whenever this happens, you'll want to take a second look at it. See if you can make it less odd, more natural, more believable, more organic, or fresh. But sometimes in some cases, that point or beat needs to be there, and it needs to be right there. And you can almost hear your reader's disbelief, "Yeah right!" or "Of course, another monster--give me something new," or "How convenient," as you are writing it. Or maybe you're dealing with something vague, and it's obviously, noticeably, very big and vague. How do you pull that off?

Here is one way: Validating the reader's concerns.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When to Stop Being a Beginner

Over the last year or so, I've done a few posts on breaking writing rules, and how and when to break them right. I want to emphasize that these writing rules are very important for beginners, and if not a complete beginner, someone who hasn't mastered the writing technique yet. But there is a point where you need to realize,

you aren't a beginner anymore.