on characters

Some might say that a good plot is the most important thing in a book. And don’t get me wrong, the plot is important. In a mystery, or a crime novel, you have to be able to construct a good central ‘case’ for your characters to navigate, one that makes sense, and the conclusion can’t have your Reader throwing the book across the room. Or, it can, I suppose it depends on what sort of reaction you really want to create.

All books have a plot of some kind, if it’s a case to solve, or a hero’s journey to save the kingdom, but in order to tell the story of the Quest, you need a Character to take it on. Your book is going to live or die according to how well you can create a character. Your plot could be flawless, but if you populate your book with two dimensional people you’re not going to have much at the end of the day.

So, let’s talk about characters. Your character should have the strengths that she needs to get through the book, without swinging too far into “Mary Sue/Author Insert” fantasy fulfillment territory. If your main character, or any character, has no flaws, then they’re not a realistic person. Everyone has regrets, weaknesses, and personality flaws/quirks. I’m not talking about a YA heroine who “doesn’t know how pretty she is, and is oh so clumsy and awkward yet somehow also graceful” – I’m talking about a character who feels real.

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Not on MY watch…

Once upon a time there was a friend. This friend asked me to join a contest, and I didn’t think about it too much and just did it. First mistake: had I known what I was getting into, I would never have pulled the trigger on Inkshares in August ’16 and started the journey that culminated in a publication deal in March ’17.

Second mistake: She asked me to join another contest, this one a flash fiction writing contest from Sci-Fi-London (the 48hr Flash Fiction Challenge), and I did that too. On April 8th I opened the site to view my story requirements. A title, a line of dialogue, and an optional bit of science. The maximum word count was 2,000 words, and I had just two days to write it in.

Except I worked all day on Sunday, so I really had just one day. And then I knew that in all honesty I probably just had Saturday morning to write it. The good news was I already had a pretty good idea what I wanted to put to paper. I popped open Scrivener (worth it’s weight in gold), wrote out descriptions for about seven story points, and then just…

…wrote.

I finished up a little over 2k words before noon, trimmed it down, sent it to some friends to read, edited the mistakes, and then sent it off. I’m not sure how I got that word count done so fast, but my brain was sizzling with ideas and I just let it get on with it.

Title NOT ON MY WATCH
Dialogue When the clouds are this low it can be a nightmare to get a clean signal
Science (optional) Augmented reality becomes so good we neglect reality, when the system to fails, the decay is revealed.

And now YOU can read it! I published the short story through Pronoun, making it available for free on all major ebook retailers’ sites, and you can access it here: NOT ON MY WATCH.  If you download it, please rate and review it! It’s only 8 pages, so it shouldn’t take you long at all. Every review or rating helps boost it’s status among other ebooks, and in return gives my author page more recognition, and all of this will help me when Fae Child comes out.

I don’t know if I’ll win the Sci-Fi-London contest, but hey, stranger things have happened? And those things I listed as mistakes at the beginning of the post? Actually they were probably the best decisions I could have made, regarding my writing. Thank you Jenny!