Making a Character Death Make Sense

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I’ve spent way too much time this month rationalizing and over-thinking a character death in my story that I knew was definitely coming. Fortunately, after talking it through with my human sounding board (my wife), I think I’m ready to write The Death Scene.

And I’d like to share some insights I’ve picked up along the way. Continue reading “Making a Character Death Make Sense”

Leaning into the Discovery Draft

I’ve been known to self-edit when I write… a lot. For the first draft of WoEM, I think I wrote and rewrote the first couple of chapters three or four times before I made any real progress on the story.

I’ve been knee-deep in the discovery draft of my short stories for a couple months, and it’s taken a while to convince my brain that it’s only the discovery draft.

So I just wanted to talk about some things to keep in mind as you write a discovery draft. Continue reading “Leaning into the Discovery Draft”

Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story

For the first time in my authorly endeavors, I have two major works in progress… in progress.

I’m 60k words into The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy, a sequel-ish novel of 180-200k words that I know I’m not finishing this year.

Simultaneously, I’m 6k words into a duology/novella of about 60k words that I damn well better finish this year.

And after much deliberation and introspection, I can confirm: writing a short story is different from writing a novel. Continue reading “Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story”

#Review: THE ENCIRCLING SEA Continues to Intrigue in Roman Britannia

36350564. sy475 The Encircling Sea is the second book in Adrian Goldsworthy’s historical fiction epic about the Roman presence in Northern Britannia.

I listened to the first book in the seriesVindolanda, on Audible last month, and it was not a difficult decision for me to jump right into the second.

The Encircling Sea is an excellent sequel that establishes its own narrative while clearly connecting its characters and its plot lines to the first story. Continue reading “#Review: THE ENCIRCLING SEA Continues to Intrigue in Roman Britannia”

On Being an Expert in Your Own Writing Style

Expertise is a weird concept. It can’t really be quantified, but it’s used to qualify pretty every facet of life, at least in terms of a person’s performance in a particular role, or with a particular skill.

When I was unemployed, I gave a lot of thought to my own expertise, mostly related to my professional career, but also my writing career. It might be difficult to identify your own expertise in anything. That kind of label is likely bestowed upon you by others. Anyone can call themselves an expert in something, but when someone else calls you an expert — that’s a good sign you’re headed in the right direction.

Expert storytellers, expert editors, expert linguists or “wordsmiths”. These are the types of qualifiers used to describe respected authors. It may seem strange to refer to yourself as such — I definitely do not feel like I’ve earned any of these — but you should at least be an expert in your own writing.

Know Your Writing Style

Once you’ve written more than one story, with different characters, different settings, maybe in a different world, you start to notice your own writing quirks.

If you’re writing your first story, it may be hard to identify your writing style. You’re just trying to get words onto paper and figure out how to build a narrative. And that’s okay.

But I think here are still some ways you can reflect on your writing and pick out your style — and enhance it. Think about the following patterns in your writing style.

  1. How do you describe characters?
  2. How do you describe settings?
  3. Is your dialogue short and direct, or long and flowery?
  4. Do your characters use a lot of mannerisms or facial expressions when they talk?
  5. Are your scenes broken up by chunks of more expository or narrative writing?
  6. Are your chapters or sections a consistent length, or does each one vary by more than a few pages?

Become the Expert in Your Style

There are no right or wrong answers to any of the above questions, but thinking about as you write can help you pick out your tendencies.

For instance, I tend to start character descriptions at the eyes, at least when the characters are standing near each other. I like reading people’s eyes when I talk to them, trying to understand their mood or their mindset, and I’ve projected that interest into a lot of my characters.

I also tend to use two ways of describing setting: I either use the POV character’s senses to “see” their immediate surroundings, or I take a broader view, almost looking down on the character from above to provide more of an atmospheric description.

Once you understand your tendencies, you can start to vary them so your writing doesn’t become stale or predictable. This can also just make your writing more interesting to you. After all, there are only so many ways to describe a forest.

I like to describe my characters’ facial expressions and mannerisms as they speak to liven up the dialogue. However, I’ve found that short, direct dialogue with little description can be used to pick up the pace of the story.

Understanding that initial tendency and trying to change it up depending on the situation has helped me create urgency in scenes that require it, or slow down and lean on more detailed conversations that really enliven the characters.

During your revision or editing sessions, try to pay a bit of attention to these types of questions and understand your own habits as a writer. You may decide to alternate your style depending on the scene, the character, or the story. If you’re happy with what you find and want to reinforce a certain pattern, then that’s great, too.

As long as you’re becoming an expertise in your writing style, it will feel natural to your readers.

Steve D

#Review: VINDOLANDA Hit All the Hallmarks of Historical Fiction

I love finding great things in unexpected places.

Vindolanda is the first in a series of historical fiction novels about the Roman Empire in Britain circa 98 CE.

I found this novel when searching for books about the Celtic goddess Brigantia. Not exactly related, but what I found was a compelling fictional story that had the detailed approach of a history book. Continue reading “#Review: VINDOLANDA Hit All the Hallmarks of Historical Fiction”

#Review: THE SISTERS, by Dervla McTiernan – Quick Detective Listen with Great Characters

If you’ve been paying attention to my Goodreads recently, you know I’ve polished off a couple of Audible’s Originals — short stories published exclusively on that platform.

I’m rather impressed with what Audible has put out on that front, including “The Sisters,” by Dervla McTiernan

Having read very little in the crime-detective genre, I was intrigued by “The Sisters,” mostly as a gateway story to the larger Cormac Reilly series by McTiernan. This story is somehow a prequel or a prelude to the larger series, so I was interested to dip my toe in. What I found was an interesting story with great characters, and I sort of just want to read more about them.

Airfric and Carrie are sisters, a barrister and a garda respectively, and both are eager to make names for themselves in their careers. Carrie becomes entangled in a suspicious murder case that Airfric is defending, and ends up helping to solve it against the wishes of the detectives in her squad.

Honestly, by the time the real detective aspect of this story got under way, it was halfway over. I really enjoyed both Carrie and Airfric as POV characters, but I wanted this story to have more meat to it.

A few weeks removed from listening to this, it feels like the first third of this two-hour listen was just Airfric going about one particularly bad day as a junior barrister, until she stumbles into this case.

Again, I loved Airfric as a POV character. McTiernan’s style is easy to grasp but not lacking in emotional depth. I think she excels in brevity that somehow carries added layers to it. I just wish I either had more time to spend in this story, or that the real story had begun sooner.

Just as you get used to Airfric’s voice and get into her part, the POV switches to her sister, Carrie. Carrie, the garda, was also a great character. Aside from their slightly different accents (both achieved by the narrator and noted in the story by other characters), it’s easy to glimpse of bit of Carrie and Airfric’s relationship, and hear the lifelong bond. Still, both have distinct narrative voices that play off each other well.

Once Carrie really digs into this case she’s not supposed to be involved with — because obviously — the story moves even more quickly and then ends, rather abruptly.

I think this could have been a novella, or even more, with the care that is given to these characters’ personalities and background. That’s really my only gripe with this story: it’s too damn short.

Aiofe McMahon was also a fantastic narrator. Who doesn’t love a melodious Irish accent? But for real, I’m finding that I will actively search out books narrated by specific people, simply because their voices are so pleasant to listen to, and they are talented vocal actors. I will definitely be listening to more of her McMahon’s work in audiobooks.

Steve D

Well, Now I’m Playing Dungeons & Dragons

I’m just now realizing that I probably should have taken a picture of our little table on Saturday, strewn with papers, journals, pencils, various-sided dice, and a few beer cans.

After talking about it a few times over the course of the last year or so, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends, and we had a great first night! Continue reading “Well, Now I’m Playing Dungeons & Dragons”

#Review: THE ISLAND by S. Usher Evans – A Light Survival Adventure

I used my time at the beach last week fairly well, if I do say so. I managed to read about 85% of a book in about six days, which is a much faster clip than I usually make.

The Island by S. Usher Evans is the first in her Madion War Trilogy, which I picked up at Awesome Con in April. After talking with the author for a few minutes, I decided to buy all three books at a discount.

After finishing book one, that seems like a pretty good decision. The Island is a solid adventure story that was easy to digest on a lazy vacation. Continue reading “#Review: THE ISLAND by S. Usher Evans – A Light Survival Adventure”

Exploring the Story – World of Warcraft

I’m not a huge gamer. The most recent systems in our house are a Gamecube, which I’ve had for over 15 years — maybe 20, which is scary — and a PS2, which we just took from my in-laws’ house because my brother-in-law didn’t want it anymore.

However, there are a few games that I will always love to play. The main one, if you hadn’t guessed, is World of Warcraft, an MMORPG that first came out in 2004. I started playing in 2005, and I played off and on until about 2014.

Once again, the drums of Warcraft are beating in my heart, and I’m probably about to start playing again. There are a thousand reasons why I love this game, but the primary one is my love of exploring this world.

Continue reading “Exploring the Story – World of Warcraft”