Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

Never Write a Boring Chapter: Tapping into Your Noob Characters

There’s something about that noob character that can turn a mundane, boring chapter into a wonder-fest. They approach a situation that may seem completely normal with the wide-eyed perspective of new-ness and awe. Because of this, they’re a great tool for a writer to use when approaching a hard-to-write “boring” chapter.

Make it All New Again

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Bilbo from The Hobbit

Are you or your characters completely uninspired by a specific situation or location? Do you need to write a boring meeting chapter? Maybe you DO feel inspired about a setting or situation, and you want the reader to connect to it the same way that you do.

Writing from the perspective of someone who has never been to a place or experienced a situation is a perfect way to drum up a sense of wonder, even for things that are already normal to you or other characters. When you put yourself into the shoes of a noob character, you can tap into the feeling someone gets when they first see the great sprawling city, the mysterious magic school, the sailing (or flying) ships, or the strange creatures or races that inhabit your world.

If you choose to write from the point of view of a child or child-like character, the character may also provide details and thoughts that wouldn’t occur to you when writing from a more experienced point of view. These types of characters also tend to provide a sense of honesty, sometimes being absolutely forthright with what’s good or bad about a situation.

Connecting with your Reader

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Bilbo from The Hobbit

There’s a reason that The Hobbit was written from the point of view of Bilbo instead of Thorin or Gandalf. The reader, much like Bilbo, has probably never been on a journey across Middle Earth, through Mirkwood to challenge a dragon at the Lonely Mountain. Because of that, the reader can better connect to the less experienced character, since the reader has just as much to learn about Middle Earth as Bilbo does.

In the same way, choosing a less experienced character for certain scenes can turn what might have been a ho-hum narrative from your grizzled veteran into an exploration of delight and curiosity for the reader. It gives the reader a common ground with the the noob character in your tale.

Likewise, it also makes it easier for you, as a writer, to explore, imagine and become excited with a chapter that you may have previously expected to be dull.

Ben’s Arrival on the Blue Planet

Ben is a character I developed who has a child-like fascination with everything around him, especially in the earlier days. That’s something I try to capture and hold on to, even as he’s developed and matured over the years.

It’s a lot of fun for me to jump into his shoes and try to see the human world from his perspective. Ben makes a lot of observations about the human race, often pointing out what is very normal for you and I with a note of curiosity or a sigh. It’s a great way to develop his personality while filling the reader in on the setting and the world’s culture.

For example, when Ben arrives on the Blue Planet for the first time in Chapter 1 of Darkstar, what was a normal, sunny day for us was an explosion of life, energy and song for Ben.

Grass spread its carpet at his feet. Trees shot up around him, looming tall over his head. A distant symphony played on the newly-budded spring leaves. A vast dome of blue sky sparkled further above. Soft drifts of powdered white meandered idly upon its face, leaving trails of mystery across his sight.

As his feet touched the solid earth, a song rose within his ears. A sense of familiarity drove his memory back to its origins. He found himself unable to do anything more than stare into the yawning heavens.

There was nothing magical happening here. He’s simply observing his homeworld for the first time in many years. But to his senses, which tap into the life-flow of everything around him, it was like a symphony of color, light and feeling.

So whenever you’re faced with what seems to be a “boring” chapter, see if you can’t get some help from your noob characters. This allows you find a sense of wonder that you may not even realize is there — because your world, cultures and people are beautiful and new to someone (including the reader).

Do you have any noob characters in your story? Do they help you write by lending you their perspective? Do you forget to tap into them and use their point of view as an opportunity? 

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

Never Write a Boring Chapter: Let the Character Take Control

In previous posts, I explored tackling those “boring chapters” that pop up in your story by either skipping or pushing through them. In this series, I want to argue that you can change what seems like a boring chapter into something that’s fresh, maybe even exciting, depending on how you change your own outlook and approach to it.

I’ve Never Met a Boring Chapter

Let me pose a question. If a chapter is indeed so boring that you can’t bring yourself to write it, does it really need to be written? I mean, if you’re completely bored with it, and you’re the one creating it, chances are, it’s going to bore your readers, too.

So what can you do about this? Well, first analyze the chapter and determine if you should write it at all. Is it something you can summarize without effecting the story flow? If so, cut it and move on. However, if you deem it important enough to write, it’s time to change your mind about the chapter to make it something more exciting for you and your reader.

How do you do this? Stay tuned as this series provides several options, starting with the most basic: character building!

Character Building

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SoYa and AsaHi from Runne

Do you have a lull in your story’s action? A looming chapter with the chance of boredom? It’s a perfect time to build character!

 

This is not something you want to spend the whole chapter doing. But if, for example, your character is walking down the street, and you want to give the impression of time passing, you can take the opportunity to get in the character’s head for a little while.

I suggest a bit of free writing at this point. Leave your expectations at the door, and just let your character think and observe and mull over his feelings for a while. This offers the chance for you to learn more about your character, and even gives the reader a glimpse inside as well. I find some of my most unexpected plot turns hinge on moments when I allowed my characters to talk to me a little while.

SoYa: An Example

When I first started writing my fantasy series, Dreigiau, I didn’t know a lot about one of the main characters, SoYa. I didn’t spend time developing him before I started writing. I had a sense of his basic starting personality — I knew he was somewhat timid, but he took his responsibilities seriously, and had the potential to be much more than he allowed himself to be. I didn’t understand what held him back. I didn’t even know he was a mind mage at that point! Once I did discover this fact, his character suddenly unfolded in front of me in so many unexpected directions.

SoYa revealed this to me in what is now Dreigiau Book 1, Chapter 2o. This was actually a much earlier chapter in the original version, but was moved to be mid-book in the newest revision.

I was writing a chapter where SoYa just returned to his home town, excited to tell his brother his newest discovery. His brother wasn’t home, so he spent some time walking through the town searching for him.

Rather than just skip this part completely, I allowed SoYa the freedom to look for his brother in the method he’d choose. To my surprise, he quickly displayed his ability to use mind magic for the first time by using a small spell that scanned the city to find the mind-feel of his brother’s location.

What followed went something like this…

Me: Wait. You’re a mind mage?

SoYa: Yeah.

Me: Why didn’t you tell me before?

SoYa: Because I don’t tell anyone about it. It’s a secret.

Me: How come?

SoYa: Well, people are scared of mind mages in this world — they’re considered to be a bad thing. My father told me to keep my power a secret, no matter what.

Me: So… is this part of what’s holding you back from claiming your rightful place as leader?

SoYa: It’s a big part of it, yes. People don’t realize what I can really do — they just think I’m a miserable healer. I guess I’m a disappointment to those who expected me to be a powerful warrior-mage like my father.

Me: But you COULD be a powerful mage!

SoYa: Yes. Maybe. I can’t let THEM know that, though.

So, within the space of a few paragraphs, I suddenly had a character who opened up a whole new dimension to his struggle, personality and motivations. This was all because I took what might have been a boring chapter, and let the character have control for a while.

So next time your character needs to do something mundane like fold clothes, walk down the street or fix dinner, see what’s going on in his head. You might be surprised what will come of it.

Have you ever just let your character take control of a chapter? What happened when you did? Did you learn something?

Important Note: This doesn’t mean I encourage you to let your entire chapter ramble with all kinds of character internal spew. Free write for a while, but make sure you return to this chapter and edit out what you don’t need. Remember, in rough drafts, you can leave notes to yourself and explore. But not all exploration should make it to the final draft!

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

The Write Order: Should You Write the Boring Chapters?

In the previous article, I discussed the pros and cons of skipping the “boring” chapters in order to get straight to writing the chapters that really interest you. Here, I want to talk about what I tend to do, pushing through the boring chapters and writing everything in plot order.

Writing Linear Plot

Pro: Consistency is the Key

You’re much less likely to forget about an important plot element or mess up consistency if you write in order.

Pro: Smoother Character Development

When you write chapters in order, you’ll have smoother character development. When you jump around and skip through time, character development won’t be as organic and smooth as it would be if you stuck it out and moved forward chapter by chapter.

boredcatPro: Carrot on a Stick 

I tend to use those chapters I really want to write as an incentive to write the chapters that are less interesting to me.

Pro: Discovery Along the Journey 

Sometimes if you put yourself to the task of writing what you think is a less interesting chapter, the characters will come along and spice it up with something you wouldn’t have expected. This takes the story off into uncharted territories, and might even change the outcome of those chapters you want to write. You might not get this effect if all you’re doing is filling in the plot holes between chapters you’ve already written.

Con: Production Slowdown

Man… this chapter is so boring. Do I really want to sit here and force myself to write it? I’m just not in the mood for it. Let’s see what’s new on Netflix…

Con: Complete Block, Project Setback 

I just can’t do it. I can’t write this chapter. I’ve tried everything! Maybe I should just put this project down for now. (Three years later, it’s still not done.)

Final Thoughts

Is there a correct method? Is one better than the other?

Only you can weigh the pros and cons between the two and decide for yourself. If you don’t think you’ll have an issue keeping plot events in mind while you skip through chapters, and it gets you out of a plot block, give it a shot. There’s always editing.

However, the better solution is to ensure that no chapter is a boring chapter! That’s right, you heard me! Next time I’m going to talk about what you can to do change your perspective on the so-called boring filler chapters, and different ways to approach that chapter that just doesn’t want to be written.

Posted in Writing

The Write Order: Should You Skip the Boring Chapters?

Just the other day, Moss asked a question in the Wayrift comments:

Quick question Aywren: When you wrote your books, did you write the chapters out of order or did you just write them back to back. ‘Cause I’m having a little trouble writing because some parts are really vivid in my mind but others are kind of vague.

While I responded to this question in the comments there, I felt that this could use a longer blog post, especially looking into the pros and cons of linear and non-linear chapter writing. In this section, I’m going to talk about skipping around in your writing.

Bouncing Around

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Why bouncing around is good… and bad

So you’re writing a story and you suddenly find yourself faced with the daunting task of wading through what feels like the most boring set of chapters ever. Just on the other side of this scene, you know exactly what’s going to happen. And man, is it going to be good! If only you could skip the boring parts and get to what’s most inspiring to write!

 

Pro: Getting it Done 

Some writers encourage you to skip to the best parts, especially if you’re facing a no-write situation where you’re just so stuck that you’re not making progress. After all, it’s better to write something than nothing, right?

Pro: Forward Momentum and Inspiration

When you’re writing the parts you enjoy, it builds momentum and maintains a level of inspiration. It keeps you working, and may provide the boost you need to return and tackle the less interesting parts of the story.

Pro: You Could Learn Something

It’s those pivotal moments when your characters step up and show you who they really are. You could learn something about your characters that will make returning to previous chapters and building foreshadowing more fun and interesting!

Con: Breaking Continuity 

This is a big one. When you start bouncing around your plot, it’s much harder to ensure everything flows and makes sense. If you’ve written chapter 10 and chapter 16 and chapter 24… well, you better make sure that all the chapters in between are consistent in both plot and character. This may be all the more difficult if your characters have moments of change during the big events.

Con: Missing Out on the Journey

Sometimes the “boring” chapters are the ones that push you to delve deep into your world and characters, especially since you’re looking for something to keep the story going. This can lead to unexpected discoveries, which you may miss if you’re so focused on writing to fill the holes between the more important events of the story.

 Con: Oh, Crap. Rewrite. 

So you’re filling in those chapters between the important event chapters and you’re suddenly hit with this ***GREAT IDEA*** from nowhere. It happens. But this great idea will change the way the important events play out. Oh, crap. Now you have to go back and totally rewrite parts of those big event chapters to make sure everything meshes together. See where I’m going?

What do you do when you’re faced with a writing block? Have you ever skipped right to the good parts? How did that work for you?

 

Posted in Gaming

A Noob’s Review of Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

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Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

Two quick points I want to make before I start this article:

  1. I’ve never been much of a strategy card gamer. I messed around with Magic the Gathering when I was much younger, but nothing serious.
  2. I wasn’t a WoW player. I don’t know much about the lore beyond what I played in Warcraft 3. That was years ago and I’ve forgotten pretty much everything.

So, here I am. A total noob to the game and most of the lore. This is my experience with Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft.

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone is a strategy card game, along the lines of Magic the Gathering and such, but based on creatures, heroes and lore from the Warcraft world. It’s free to play, multi-player and online.

Hearthstone is currently in closed beta, so you can only play if you have an invite. There is no NDA, which means we’re free to talk about it as much as we like.

I had my doubts about Hearthstone since I’m not much of a competitive player against others online. I don’t tend to have the quick wit and strategy that folks who have played these kinds of games for years have. However, I heard from many reliable sources that this game was a bunch of fun, so I tossed my name into the beta hat. It was drawn a few days ago, and I got the email that invited me to come and test it out.

How’s It Running?

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Looks nice to play!

So far, the game runs well. There were a few moments of lag here and there when selecting items from the menu, which made me wonder if the game was stuttering a bit, but nothing I couldn’t live with. The art style is warm and colorful. The creatures and heroes are what you’d expect from Warcraft artists (nice).

The game has its own atmosphere, making it feel like something you’d come and sit down to do with friends in a tavern somewhere near the hearthstone. Go figure! I think it certainly does a good job of this and of displaying a user friendly UI that got me into the game quickly, and taught me what I needed to know.

The only bug I ran into was that sometimes I couldn’t edit my custom card deck. Closing out of the game and coming back in fixed it. Slightly annoying, but the game boots up fast enough for this to be pretty painless.

Learning the Ropes

I found it to be surprisingly fun and pretty simple to pick up. The tutorial threw me into a card game instantly, and at first, I was concerned I was in the wrong place. The welcoming feel and the bantering of the heroes quickly put my mind at ease, and I began to learn how things worked bit by bit. The tutorial built on knowledge and walked me through increasingly more difficult challenges as I continued.

Hearthstone has the Warcraft sense of humor. You can see that from the start, and as you continue along. Oh, like this little gem:

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Thanks for telling me…

I did beat him, by the way. So, it wasn’t impossible.

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Booya!

PVP Time

So, I’m not a PVPer. At all. But once the tutorial was over, I was given several daily objectives to meet (quests), and didn’t realize I could fill those by doing the Practice mode against the AI. Nervous as I was, I put my pride into the hands of the match-making machine and tried my first games against other real players.

More often than not, I got my head handed to me. Be it rotten cards on my side, the fact that they had uber leet cards (I thought this was a fair match?), or they just really knew their deck, I was a noob playing my first day without extra cards in my hand. It was obvious some of these folks had time and experience on their side.

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😦

But even when I lost, it didn’t feel too bad. I still gained experience towards my next level and I often still met objectives that moved me towards completing my daily quest.

When I did win… well, that was just pretty sweet.

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|:D

The Decks

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New Hearthstone Deck

Yeah, I said this was free to play. So, as you know, there has to be a catch.

Looks like the game aims to make money from players buying decks or purchasing their way into the Arena play. You can also enter the Arena by the using in-game gold currency.

Decks you can earn in game by meeting certain quest requirements or purchasing with 100 in-game gold. You can earn gold by finishing quests and by winning in the Arena. So, it’s totally do-able to work your way up to a new deck of cards without using real money. It’ll just be slower.

I’m not sure how much of a disadvantage that’ll be for a casual gamer who doesn’t want to be in ranked matches, like me. If you just want to log in, throw out a few games and finish daily quests, you’re probably fine. Depends on how hooked you get.

Decks have 5 random cards each. Most of them are commons, but I got a few rares from the three decks I earned. Cards can either be class specific or neutral, so that means you may get cards for classes other than the ones you like to play. The current cost for real money transactions is $2.99 for 10 cards.

Personally, I don’t see myself putting money into it, since the game is fun, but not something I’m foaming at the mouth to jump head-first into. I’ll just stick with dailies and see what I can earn there.

Noob Verdict

Overall, I think I’m going to give this game a bit of my attention through beta and see what comes of it. I had fun, even playing against other players, which is unusual for me. It’s a game that gives you something to log in for each day for a little time, and rewards you for meeting achievements and goals as you go along. It’s got its own charm, a casual feel and quite a following already.

This may be a game to keep your eye on if you enjoy strategy card games and the Warcraft world.

Hearthstone_Screenshot_1.18.2014.14.43.29

Posted in Gaming

Like to Win Free Games? Hit Up Steamgifts

steamgifts1-300x225In the wake of a million Steam sales and tons of game bundles, some gamers have more Steam keys than they know what to do with. So what do you do if  you pick up the newest Humble Bundle because it has those one or two really good games (and you want to support a good cause), but the rest are either duplicates in your library, or just something that doesn’t float your boat?

Well, aside from giving the keys to friends and family, some gamers take them to Steamgifts where they can set up free giveaways for other gamers to enter. And, that’s right, you can win games there for free.

I know, it sounds too good to be true. I wondered if it was a scam when I first heard of the system. Turns out that it’s legit. I’ve even won a game from it (only one so far). I’ve also created my own giveaways, so I know how the site works from both perspectives.

So how does this work?

First, you must have a Steam account. Then, you sign up for a free account at Steamgifts, which is basically connecting your Steam account with Steamgifts. This allows Steamgifts to check your library and make sure you’re not signing up for giveaways on games you already own.

Everything revolves around an internal points system. When you sign up, they give you 25 points to start with. That goes really fast, trust me.

To get more points? Just wait. No clicking. No commenting. Nothing to do on your end. Just wait. Points are generated each time any user creates a new giveaway. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting your max number of points, which is 300.

To register for a giveaway? Just browse the list of games, click on the giveaway to navigate to the giveaway page, then click the green Enter to Win button. If you enter something by accident, you can always withdraw and you’ll get all your points back.

I usually log in to the site once or twice a day, unload my points on giveaways and let it run from there. It really doesn’t take much time. Though the odds on winning some games are tough, you certainly won’t win if you never try. And there’s usually some good games on the list if you look for them!

If you do happen to win, the person who created the giveaway will contact you with the key, either through email  or by friending you on Steam. Once you get the key and know that it’s working, you confirm that the giveaway has gone through on the Steamgifts site, which reflects on that person’s site rating. So folks just can’t go scamming other folks with keys that don’t exist (not sure why they’d want to… there’s no money involved in any of this).

Alright. Now that you know about it, go out there and be even more competition for me as I register for my Steamgift giveaways today… Or maybe be generous and make some giveaways of your own!

Posted in Blogging

First Post and Welcome

firstpostOkay, now that I got that out of my system, let’s move along.

Welcome to my first post! It’s not the first time I’ve written a blog, but I decided for this go-round, we were going to start it from scratch. While it’s far easier to launch a blog that’s already got imported content from previous iterations, I decided I wanted to try something different this time.

From Writer’s Blog to Reader’s Blog

It was about a week ago when I decided to put together a new writer’s blog on a different domain. I had a lot of doubts about launching it, though. This was mostly because I’ve been struggling through a case of creative block (which I was trying to overcome by forcing myself to blog), and because I looked around at all the crazy-awesome writing blogs which already exist. Does the world really need another writer spouting off tips on dialogue, character development and plot?

But that’s what writers do, right? Write blogs about writing? Makes sense on the surface, but turns out that’s not really reaching out the audience I want it to reach.

I ran face-first into an article last night that reminded me that I need to be writing to the type of people I hope will be interested in reading my stuff. Folks who would enjoy Wayrift and Dreigiau and all the other projects on the site.

While Sygnus does have its share of writer friends, simply because we have a lot of super creative readers, that’s actually not the only demographic I want to blog for. I mean, I just want to hang out with people who enjoy things that I enjoy — gaming, RPing, geeking out, being creative — all that kind of stuff.

The article provided several blogs written by published writers as an example. While some of them discuss their writing process, most of them talk about their real lives, hobbies and various other things!

A Different Kind of Niche

Years ago, I ran a random-type blog, somewhat like what I’ll imagine this one will be. I talked about art and games and music and writing and all sorts of things. It was pretty fun.

However, the more I learned about blogging, the more I had it drilled into me that a blogger had to find a niche and stick with a specific topic to be a good blogger. For years, I’ve struggled with the question “What’s my niche?” Every time I want to blog, that question looms large over me. Because, you know, to be a good blogger, you should have one.

But me? I enjoy so many geeky things! It’s hard for me to stay on track with just one topic. I end up running out of ideas and stressing about what to write next. That’s why I tend to just give up and roll along on my Tumblr where I can write about everything that I enjoy without annoying people too much.

These professional writers, though, blew right through this niche expectation. They blog like Tumblrs in their random topic way, just more… well… professionally. Apparently, it’s the right thing for a writer/creator to be doing! Throwing niche out the window.

I guess I was doing it right way back then all along.

Double Trouble

Another reason I’m making this shift is because Syn has expressed interest in blogging this year. I hope she will! I want to give her the platform to do it on when she finally does.

Everyone poke her for me. Let’s get her writing and being creative this year!

So now that the gates are wide open, what kind of topics do you want to hear us write about? I’ve got some things planned, but I’m always open for new things.