10

Dang, I’ve been a terrible blogger, haven’t I? I even missed IWSG for the first time ever this month! Life has been getting in the way of blogging–and writing–and I have so many lovely readers following me that I feel bad about it. I’m glad you’ve stuck around I’m sorry for the lack of content lately. My New Year’s resolution is in part to get back to regular writing and blogging, so I’m starting this week in the hopes that by the time January rolls around I’ll be able to keep the resolution because I’ll already be in practice. Flawless logic, am I right? Start early, keep at it.

I’m going back to updating this blog twice a week, starting this week. It’s going to be a mish-mash of writing articles and stuff about my own life, so buckle your seatbelts. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me ramble about, just drop a suggestion in the comments.

Also, Hidden is the cover of The Romance Reviews’ December ezine! You can download it for free by clicking on it there at the link. There’s an article inside with more about the book starting on page 18. How exciting, huh? I’m still doing something!

To finish, here’s a picture of my Christmas tree! If you celebrate Christmas, do you have yours up yet?

12

Summer is here in my part of the world! Finally. Summer is my second favorite season, after fall–only because I love the colors so much in fall. Although, spring is pretty too…

Let’s just say I like any season that ISN’T winter, shall we?

I probably like summer so much because we tend to have mild, temperate summers. It can get scorching hot, but only for a few days at a time here and there, usually not until late July and August. Other than that, it’s mostly in the 70’s and low 80’s, which to me is the perfect range of temperatures. Summer is great–it’s a time to open windows, when everything is green, and going outside doesn’t involve 15 minutes of putting on multiple layers like it does here in the winter. Maybe I just need to move somewhere it’s summer all year around. But then I’d miss fall.

Are we just going to talk about the weather all day?

I have a new book coming out Wednesday! I’m excited about it. You can check out the cover reveal I did last week to learn more about it. I have a book out on submission too, this one a paranormal romance–much as I like writing contemporary and will continue to do so, paranormal is my first love. I’m writing the sequel to it and also plotting another Man Catalog book. Between work and other stresses in my life, I’m afraid I might lose my mind this summer if I don’t have writing to keep me busy. So I’m trying to do just that!

How is the weather where you are? Got any plans for the new season, or any writing plans?

9

Last week, the IWSG question of the month was about coming up with titles–and boy, does it hit close to home right now!

Titles are something I struggle with, except when I don’t. Sometimes, wonderfully, the title comes to me along with the story. I start getting an idea for the plot and my brain says “and by the way, this would be a perfect title.” That’s always an amazing thing and I bless whatever muses decided to bestow such a gift upon me. But, that only happens about half the time. The other half, it’s like the muses forgot I exist and lost my phone number.

I was struggling to come up with a title for the book I’m looking to submit soon, and I think I found one, but…it might change before I actually go through with the submission. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with it. Ugh! Why does it have to be so difficult? I wrote an entire book, surely I can come up with one measly little title!

The problem is, titles are a BIG DEAL, even if they’re the smallest thing about the book. They have to do a lot of things: be catchy, be interesting, encapsulate the book, and be appropriate to the story, genre, and the feeling you want to convey. No pressure! It’s only a huge marketing tool, after all. And we’re supposed to be creative, right? We should be able to do this. Well, as I said, sometimes we can, and sometimes it’s a struggle. Also, sometimes my own personal feelings about the story make it so I don’t think anything I come up with is worthy of the book. I need something grand and perfect, but I just can’t find it.

Here’s a few suggestions that might help you come up with titles. Feel free to also use the “pulling your hair out and screaming into the night” method, although I’ve used this somewhere between ten and five hundred times, and it doesn’t really seem to help.

  • Brainstorm. Sometimes it helps to just throw anything out there that comes to mind, in the hope that while you’re dumping the trash you come across the diamond earring you lost. Let it all flow no matter how bad it is, putting random words and phrases together, testing ideas. Something might pop out that works. It doesn’t have to be practical, either–just throwing anything out there, including silly stuff, can really jog your brain. And who knows, ‘The Story About That One Thing That Happened That One Time’ might turn out to be a bestseller.
  • List your themes. Make a list of major themes and plot points in your story–things that are important, including people, objects, ideas, places, and emotions. Something might be hidden there that will spawn a title. And dammit, we’re writers, we should be able to connect things and make metaphors work on multiple levels, right? So looking at what our story is ABOUT should help us tell readers what it’s about in one catchy, amazing phrase, CORRECT? Please let me know if this works for you or if it’s just me that has a brain that immediately goes on vacation the second I type the last word of the book…
  • Look at other titles. Browse other titles in your genre with similar themes or plots, and see what they’ve come up with. Unfortunately, this may lead you to discover someone else already stole THE PERFECT TITLE and more tearing of your hair. The good thing is, multiple books can and do have the same titles, but if there’s a popular book already named that you’ll probably want to try something else.
  • Title generators. There’s lots of book title generators on the internet, but I’ve never honestly come up with a title from one. I have, however, amused myself with the ridiculous titles they come up with sometimes, so if you need a break from the stress and a good laugh, these are a fitting place to look.

TITLES are HARD. May your muse be kind and give you plenty of good ideas. And while they’re at it, tell them to stop by and visit me, huh?

9

Recently, I read an article in which an editor talked about what sort of fiction is popular right now. They said the best selling thing right now is “suspense with an unreliable narrator.” I admit, sometimes I really enjoy a story with a well-written unreliable narrator–because it can be so complex, layered, and really force you to think–so I see why readers are enjoying stories like this and want more of them.

But what is an unreliable narrator?

It’s too simplistic to say an unreliable narrator is a POV character who is lying or omitting things from the story, because it’s more complicated than that. If you’ve never heard the term before, it means literally that your character can’t be trusted in how they’re living in and experiencing the plot. In other words, the way the story is being told is a lie, or at least, not quite honest. It’s not always about lying, though–sometimes, the character is simply telling the reader their version of the story that they personally believe, even if it’s not the truth of the matter.

Have you ever had someone you know tell you about an event and make themselves look good/like a victim/make it sound like it wasn’t their fault–and then later, you discover their version of events is not quite how it happened? That’s an unreliable narrator. They have their own best interest at heart when pleading their case. In fiction, the character can also be mentally impaired in some way, imagining all of it, or delusional. Remember Fight Club?

One of my favorite instances is from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. In Interview With the Vampire, Louis is an unreliable narrator because he’s telling the story of his life with Lestat through a skewed lens of hate and anger. In The Vampire Lestat, Lestat refutes much of what Louis said as being either exaggerated or untrue–but again, perhaps Lestat is unreliable too, because he’s telling things based on his point of view and his own feelings. It’s very much a “vampire said/vampire said” situation. Just like in real life but with more blood and fangs.

Reading and writing an unreliable narrator can be fun. Here’s a few notes about this type of character:

  • The reader needs to realize they’re unreliable. You’re probably going to make readers angry if you write a whole story and then just reveal at the end it was all a lie. There should be clues that the narrator is not exactly being honest–or at least, you should give your readers reason to doubt and question along the way.
  • The narrator should still be engaging, interesting, and/or sympathetic. Even if they’re telling a big fat lie, we should have reason to want to continue reading. Not many people like a liar, but if we’re made to understand and even sympathize with the reasons they’re lying, it’s going to make us want to keep reading.
  • It doesn’t always have to be lies. As I said, feelings skew a person’s perspective. It can make them misremember and misunderstand things. We all have our own way of viewing events–even if, objectively, that viewpoint isn’t correct or accurate. In the narrator’s head, this could all very well be true because of what they personally believe.
  • The narrator can be unreliable due to circumstance. This is especially found in books based around younger people–children and teenagers often misunderstand the world and the motivations of adults and others, leading them into convoluted, unreliable situations. The narrator can also be sick, impaired, or forced into some situation that skews their beliefs. Unreliable doesn’t always mean malicious–it just means their version of things isn’t quite right.

There are many kinds of unreliable narrators. Have you ever written one? Do you enjoy them in fiction? What do you think makes a good, and engaging, unreliable narrator?

10

For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a series of posts on the conflicts that can be found in a narrative. Today is the final one! Depending where you look, and whose advice you ask, there’s anywhere from 4-10 types of conflict that can drive a plot. I’ve only covered six, though. Those being:

Character vs. Machine/Supernatural/Other

The final conflict we’re going to talk about is one that I often write, and is found in paranormal, sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy, and speculative writing. These are fantastical stories about things that don’t happen in the real world, like zombie invasions, robot uprisings, and doing battle with powerful wizards. People like fantastical fiction because it gets us away from the real world for a while. For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been telling ghost stories. As technology advances, the paranoia that it might turn against us is a common theme in society. This sort of conflict also covers things that PROBABLY won’t happen in the real world in our lifetime–like a worldwide sudden ice age, or finding aliens. This sort of conflict is a lot of “what if?”

When we see characters banding against something that we can’t even imagine happening in real life, it’s also an opportunity to explore humanity in a way we can’t in real life. The way people who are in constant conflict in the real world would band together against an “other,” outside force is interesting to think about. It can also be a way to explore how we’d get creative with our resources if something non-human threatened us. It’s a way to put ourselves in an entirely fake world and still enjoy the sort of human themes and conflicts we’re familiar with. Even if your characters are elves or aliens, they’re fighting against something, fighting for something, and desire a certain outcome. That helps us connect with fantastical fiction.

Genres like horror and sci-fi have always been big sellers, I think because those imaginary things tickle our brains. Even people who grew up fearing the monster under the bed now want to know more about the monster. Sometimes, this non-reality is actually a reflection of ourselves. Unreality can be very human.

Character vs. Machine/Supernatural/Other needs:

  • An element without basis in reality. From supernatural creatures to a fantasy world or alien planet, the story is set in some universe where these things are a fact instead of fiction, and may be a major part of the conflict. It could also be our world, after a huge disaster, natural or otherwise.
  • A conflict not based in reality. Maybe your characters have to kill vampires or werewolves, or maybe they have to stop an intergalactic force from destroying planet Earth. This sort of conflict is great for stretching your imagination.
  • Realistic motivations. No matter what your characters are, where they are, or when they are, we understand why they’re doing the things they do–we understand their struggle, and we even support it.

This is my favorite type of conflict, as I write a lot of paranormal stuff. This is also my last post on the subject! Did you enjoy this series? If you’d like to check out the other posts, click on the links at the top. Thanks for reading!