Government regulations said they had no choice. 17-year-old Philadelphia must stay on Earth in the care of complete strangers while her father is sent against his will to Mars. When a benevolent official allows her to accompany her father, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to Earth. But when a search for her deceased brother’s Bible leads her into a hallway that isn’t supposed to exist, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer – the choice between returning to Earth or destroying it.
Within the first chapter I was impressed by the pace. During the second chapter I realized there was no way I was going to put it down soon, despite that fact the dishes were waiting. And had been waiting. I think I may have honestly told myself, “I’ll just start this new book late at night and then I’ll get to the dishes.”
I put it down half-way through only because I’m attempting to break a habit of staying up past 10 o’clock, and it was 11. I finished the rest the next morning, made a gushing note about it on GoodReads, then went to those dishes.
Pacing contributes heavily to an un-put-downable factor, but pace alone does not keep me stuck within a book’s pages. I must feel with the characters, be there inside their heads. Aubrey’s ability to make even minor characters feel rounded and real. I was fully invested in the main character and her goals and problems.
And the story! I feel like giving much beyond the blurb will be a spoiler, but I found it unique and interesting. While some twists I predicted, many more I did not.
Currently, Red Rain is only the third self-published work I think was worth the read. (I’m noticing a pattern of self-pubbed novellas being of better quality than self-published novels.) Niche genre, niche length, well-edited. I didn’t notice a single grammar or spelling error, when I normally catch a neat handful in the most well-edited self-published works. (Aubrey, I know you’re reading this. How’d you do that?) As a unique trait, every couple chapters there are very beautiful illustrations of a character.
I present to you my attempt at a weekly round up, that is, a conglomeration of good posts from the last week. This will be too long because I follow too many blogs. It will also be too much coolness to handle in its entirety, so just scroll through and open whatever catches your eye. 😀 If this isn’t too painful in the creation, you will get more.
- News & Noteworthy
(As if every single one of these links isn’t noteworthy. My headings need work.)
The eye-popper of the week award goes to A Follow’s Not a Book Sale (Though It’s Really Nice), which asks “Does social media affect sales AT ALL?” via The Intern
Pretend you don’t need 3 Ways to Keep Social Media from Taking Over Your Writing Time. Just pretend. I dare you. via Author, Jody Hedlund
- Writing Advice
Here’s something with the provocative title of Writing Multiple Books in a Year– It Doesn’t Take as Much as You Think. via Mystery Writing is Murder
This is about changing the way you view subplots forever and Grey’s Anatomy. via Novel Rocket And to continue mining TV shows, Lessons from Downton Abbey.
We were gifted with two brilliant pieces on Io9: How Not to Be a Clever Writer and 8 Unstoppable Stories for Writing Killer Short Stories.
EditTorrent talks about what three varied writers need to start. Once the push from what you need to start a novel wears off, Janice Hardy has So Where Were We? Finishing Manuscripts. She also has Under Development: Ways to Create Characters.
Nifty little things that have been around since the dawn of time I am only now discovering because I live underneath a rock. It’s dark here.
Solving the “I don’t have the money or the oomph to travel” excuse for not attending writer conventions is WriteCon, an online conference for KidLit, MG, and YA authors. It’s free.
Donna Macmeans has compiled a list of Rooting Interests, the things that get readers behind characters.
I present to you The Michael Hauges Story Concept Template. In fact, this is going to be the All-Important Reader Engagement Moment of the Week. Fill in the blanks with your novel and post it in the comments below so we can see what each other is writing! iva Jill Williamson
My twitter stream was filled by people tweeting their Hunger Names this week. It gives you your precinct, the number of your game, and the way you die, too. Yes, this is under “fun.”
A fellow aspiring writer takes the amusing route in announcing a vacation. Which I should do instead of not posting for a month without notice.
Enjoy. Don’t forget to leave the your Michel Houghes Story Concept Template in the comments so we can learn about each other’s plots!
[A note to my subscribers: this post was originally published in October, but wordpress hiccuped and the post was down within the day. Some of you will remember it and some of you will not. I just now made this re-post.]
Usually, fantasy and science fiction names come easily to me. But for some reason my current WIP does not want anything in it named. I was having a headache of a time, so I decided to do a little research. Maybe you aren’t having as bad a time as I was – you just need a fantasy character named, without the writer’s-naming-block. Well, you’re in luck. Fantasy name generators are a half-penny a dozen on the internet. Just google search, pull up a site, press “generate” until you find something you don’t hate, and presto, fantasy name. Go on. What are you standing around for?
Still here? Good. That means you understand enough to know no generator can possibly supply a quality name, specific and tailored and an enrichment to the rest of your fantasy world. You know a generator can not supply originality or the specific need of your story. Yay!
- Quick: What NOT to Do
I found this humorous piece while researching. In short, it gives a good run-down of how not to make a fantasy name. Since humor does every so much better a job at explaining things (especially why things are wrong), I’ll just link. How Not to Make a Fantasy Name. It’s a quick read.
- Methods of Creation
I found many authors sharing their method of playing with words and sounds in order to come up with something they liked. I suppose this is what I always did before; it just came naturally to throw together sounds. Lots of writers look through baby name sites and then manipulate a name they like. One author said she would take a word, and then change it one letter at a time until she had what she wanted. At first glance just playing with sounds doesn’t sound like a good method, but don’t dismiss it too soon. This mainly relies on your ability to decide on a name that “feels right.” Which comes to my next topic. . .
- Connotations of Sounds
What makes a name “feel right”? It’s not psychic. It’s not random. Sounds have connotations around them. Yes, this is scientific. Think about softer sounds versus harder sounds. S and L versus the hard G and K, for example. When a word, especially a name, sounds like what it means, that’s perfect. So play with sounds. . . but know what you’re doing when you play with them. If you have the time – and I highly recommend you make quite a bit of time if you don’t have it – explore the site at http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/, which deals extensively with this subject.
- Fitting in the Language
Names are part of a language. Names from the same country are going to come from the same language. Grithinlot and Tien are different fundamentally because they do not sound like they come from the same language. Brandon Sanderson, an author of fantasy, detailed the way he came up with different languages in one of his novels, and I highly recommend the source – anything I say would probably be repeating him. http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Elantris/page/35/Creating-the-Languages-of-Elantris. Why do you need to think about an entire language when all you want are character names? Well, what else will you need to be naming? Cities? Animals? Foods? Maybe you need a magical phrase. All words are part of a language, and you can’t ignore that while worldbuilding.
As mentioned earlier, many writers have their own methods for giving their fantasy characters names. What is your method? What is one fantasy name you particularly like? What is your favorite fantasy name that you created?
I received an ARC copy of The Scorpio Races a couple weeks ago. I am ever so glad I got my hands on this book.
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He loves the sky and the island and his horse. Horses and racing are his job. Sean races to win.
Puck Connolly is different. She joins the races as a desperate move to keep her older brother on the island a little bit longer. Puck races to survive.
The premise grabbed me, and the story didn’t let go. This is a tale of courage and carnivorous water horses. The island of Thisby is a salty place like the sea. Here, and only here, do the bloodthirsty Capall Uisce come to shore. They’re the menace of the island, claiming lives both from sheep and loved ones, but if you capture one and train it you have a mount of liquid lightening. The November sea stirs a Capall Uisce’s blood more than any other month. In November they are the most dangerous, the fastest. So in November the Scorpio Races are held.
Sean and Puck live separate lives. Sean is quiet and serious. If he has any doubts he keeps them to himself. His one love and fear is Corr, his water horse – except Corr is owned by the island’s breeding tycoon and Sean’s employer.
Puck is a stubborn orphan managing with her two brothers, the older of whom is tired of the island. She joins the races in a wild attempt to keep him around long enough to change his mind. She is the first girl to join, and will use her regular island pony instead of the much more capable Capall Uisce, partly for principal – the Capall Uisce killed her parents, – and partly because money leaves her no other choice.
Do I need to explain how these two characters’ interaction is marvelous?
Sean and Puck meet each other with mutual admiration and wariness and forge and unlikely friendship. The stakes rise, and they both find the things they hold dearest depending on the race, but only one of them can win. Right up until the last few pages I was unsure of how Maggie Stiefvater could take her story to a satisfying conclusion, but she did.
The Scorpio Races is the only book I’ve read that I could call “slow and gripping.” The pace is slow, with only a few tense actions scenes scattered about until the climax. Even they seemed slow. But the story and scenes are gripping, literally; I have a tendency to shift my weight around and grip the sides of the book when I am excited. Part of this are the skillful POV switches between Puch and Sean.
Maggie Stiefvater’s eye-opening description and phrases also pulled me into the pages. Her craft is flawless, and a beautiful model as well as an exciting read. The one thing that could have made The Scorpio Races more perfect would have been the use of past tense instead of present. I’m one of those people who finds present tense distracting. But in all, The Scorpio Races earned itself a place on my favorites shelf. I’m going to step out on a limb perhaps shakier than my twitter branch and say I see The Scorpio Races enduring time and becoming a classic.
Recommended for ages 15 and up for mild gore/violence and language. 5/5 Stars
It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die.
Well, your least favorite genre out of those listed. 🙂 Yes, I intend for this to be a difficult decision.
September’s poll is closed! See the results.
For more polls, ongoing and closed, visit my polls page:
What is a Mary Sue?
There are several definitions of a Mary Sue. Usually a character that makes people say, “Mary Sue!” has some combination of the follow characterizations:
- A Character Based Off Yourself
Named after you, working at the job you wish you had, possessing all your good qualities, dressing, thinking, and acting like you, this is the beginner’s Mary Sue. When I first started writing as a teen all my protagonists were copies – maybe idealized copies, but still copies – of me. Trust me, this is a bad idea. You will get too attached to your character, not allow them to grow and 3D-ize naturally, and will squish the story to fit the character, instead of the other way around.
- A Perfect, Unbeatable, Fantastic Character
She is gorgeous. She will whip anyone in a fight. She can not lose. She gets all the guys she wants. If she’s got a fault it something like “a little clumsy when not on the battlefield.” She’s a Mary Sue. These are the characters that annoy people. Unfortunately, these Sues also tend to masquerade as Really Cool characters. And it’s really temping to make your favorite character Really Cool.
- A Character With Cliche Qualities, Backstory, or Plot Points
She was abandoned by her parents, has strange eyes that see into your soul, and will die in her lovers arms to be brought back to life at the Crucial Moment. If you’re wondering how you could possibly write a character this terrible. . . well, maybe not that terrible. But letting “little” cliche attributes pile up is easier than you think, especially if you are not well-versed in cliches.
Despite the female name, Mary Sues do not have to be girls. Guys can have the qualities too. Now, whether you call a male Mary Sue a Gary Stu or Murray Sue or Marty Stew is subject to some debate. For the sake of simplicity, however, I will only use “she” in this post. Substitute “he/she/it” in your mind.
A Little History
Originally, Mary Sues referred to original fanfiction characters. Even more originally, it referred to original Star Trek fanfiction characters. A short story mocking the abundance of young, perfect, attention-stealing insert characters coined the term. It is viewable here: http://www.fortunecity.com/rivendell/dark/1000/marysue.htm The term “Mary Sue” has lost a lot of its meaning in fanfiction due to general overuse and definition fuzziness, but plain fiction writers have happily adopted the term.
How can I tell if one of my characters is a Mary Sue?
Well, the easy way is to try a Mary Sue test on the character. Now, in no way is a simple yes/no test perfect, but I’ve found such tests very useful. I’ve compiled links to the tests I’ve found most useful. They are intended for straight fiction characters (many tests you find will be intended for fanficiton characters).
- The Original Mary Sue Test for Fiction Characters
[Note: the original original Mary Sue test which the above test was based off of was for fanfiction characters.]
- The Exhaustive, Recommended Test [Slight language and references to sexuality. For a PG to PG-13 audience.]
[Note: on the same site is a Mary Sue test for created races.]
- A Shorter Test
[Note: the “summary” after the test is humorously unreliable, but all the points are something to think about.]
Oh dear. How do I fix my Mary Sue?
Fixing Mary Sues isn’t too hard, as long as you’re not too attached. What exactly you need to do to fix your Mary Sue depends on what is wrong. But first, let me define “fixing.” I do not mean going, “OK, maybe I can cut that out,” and de-checking boxes on a Mary Sue test until you are down to a reasonable score. I mean taking a grand look at your character, picking up the worst problems one at a time, and figuring out what should be there instead.
- Copy of You
So, she’s actually you, huh? Here’s a quick tip: change her (or his) name. I mentioned above that all my first protagonists were coppies of me. Well, one of those protagonists has since been rewritten (along with her accompanying story line) into someone else entirely who can carry a novel on her shoulders. The first step was to change her name. Then figure out how much of your storyline was pandering to the fact she’s you – and cut it. Leave her alone for a few months. Come back and figure out who she really is.
Backstory is perhaps the easiest to fix, and it’s even easier to fix if you’ve yet to start writing (this is why you test for Mary Sues in the development stage). Just. . . change their personal story. If you’ve already begun writing, you may need to add or delete scenes, but trust me, it’s for the better of your novel. This only gets tricky if you have a bad backstory giving a character their motive or something for integral to the story. In this case it’s back to the drawing board: your character is underdeveloped. Decide what is really causing Mary Sue to act.
- Character Traits
Ditch the purple eyes and raven hair and the out-of-time-and-place clothing. Make sure she has a real character flaw – or three or five. Realize she is not going to stay calm and collected no matter what, and certainly not when everyone else is panicking. Take a look at your character arc: how has she changed by The End? Or did you make her perfect at the beginning and leave no room for development?
- Cliche Development
If you just realized that Mary Sue easily switches from being an apothecary to leading the rebel army, if Mary Sue never gets honestly beaten or makes a mistake (without a reasonable excuse), if Mary Sue develops amnesia, and becomes royalty. . . hopefully you’re only outlining. 🙂 Take bad plot points out and figure out a better way to get from the A before the point and the B after the point. Add good plot points (your character receiving the consequences for being a smart alec, for example). Think carefully about realism, since many Mary Sue plot point borderline the fantastic.
If you find that a character is just too deep a Mary Sue to keep alive and just can’t make it in your story, that’s OK. Sometimes its easier to start over from the beginning rather than try to revise the unrevisable. Just last year I scrapped a complete draft and started over from the beginning. It was that bad.
Things To Remember So You Don’t Huff And Ignore Everything I Just Said:
~Those tests are for symptom of the disease. Not every point is to be avoided like a hurricane; Mary Sue characteristics – when used with restraint – can be done well. See below.
~Yes, it is possible for you to see Mary Sue qualities in a character from your favorite or a classic book. If you are a really, really good writer, you can pull off a great story with a Mary Sue. And I mean J. K. Rowling good (try doing a Mary Sue test for Harry Potter).
~Every writer has made a Mary Sue in their day. You will too at some point. You are not J. K. Rowling. If you think you are, there’s a name for that psychiatric condition.
This is the first post in a serious on characters. You see, in my planning for NaNoWriMo, I’m fleshing out my main and supporting characters. So it’s all in self-interest. May you never write another Mary Sue again! (I wish the same for myself.)
A list of prompts has been floating around on the internet – I was told it originated on DeviantART – and after having successfully used the prompts, I share them with you. You pick a list (I have two right here) and write something for each theme. Poems, drabbles, short stories, journal entries, anything. A group of us from Holy Worlds are using the list to outline an entire novel to be written for NaNoWriMo. I just finished my outline today. 😀 You would be shocked to find how easy it is to create an entire, round, detailed plot just by using each theme to create a scene.
The Original List
3. Making History
12. Dead Wrong
13. Running Away
15. Seeking Solace
20. My Inspiration
21. Never Again
25. Breaking Away
26. Forever and a day
27. Lost and Found
33. Seeing Red
34. Shades of Grey
39. Out of Time
40. Knowing How
41. Fork in the road
43. Nature’s Fury
44. At Peace
45. Heart Song
48. Everyday Magic
51. Troubling Thoughts
52. Stirring of the Wind
54. Health and Healing
56. Everything For You
57. Slow Down
58. Heartfelt Apology
62. Irregular Orbit
63. Cold Embrace
65. A Moment in Time
66. Dangerous Territory
68. Unsettling Revelations
70. Bitter Silence
71. The True You
76. Summer Haze
78. Change in the Weather
80. Only Human
81. A Place to Belong
86. Picking up the Pieces
90. Nowhere and Nothing
Find your key emotion; this may be all you need to know to find your short story. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Emotions List
Do you take the challenge?
While looking back at my drafts, I found this post, made to complete a series I wrote on science fiction and fantasy subgenres. Originally I was going to include adventure subgenres in this post, but on further thought I decided they will get their own post. Thrillers have some general characteristics: focus on plot, non-stop pace, high stakes; but this is enough material for several subgenres. Until I did my research for this post, I had thought of thrillers under a general category, and wondered “How many divisions could there possibly be?” Silly me.
Thrillers are usually defined by the mood they elicit (hence the name). “Sensational and suspenseful” stories and stories creating “fearful excitement” are two definitions I found. Because of this, thrillers are crossed with almost every other genre. I’ve tried to only include mash-ups when their combination falls under my definition of “interesting.”
Take any other thriller subgenre, give it’s defining elements a back seat, and focus on the action, and you have an action-thriller. This is more common in movies than novels because of the visual appeal of explosions and violence.
In this subgenre the protagonist must confront a large, powerful organization whose threat only he sees. Usually he must do so alone.
This subgenre focuses on crime, and is usually from the criminal’s point of view. Physical action and eluding the police take the place of gathering evidence and trying to discover the criminal.
In this subgenre a (usually) natural disaster is taking place, and the antagonist is either trying to stop the disaster, the extent of the disaster, or just save themselves before time runs out and the disaster has run its course.
In this subgenre the protagonist must stop a threat to the environment (man-made or natural) that will have consequences for society if left unchecked. The damage could be local, but nation or even world-wide stakes are more dramatic. 😉
In this subgenre the protagonist(s) are forensic scientists whose involvement in an unsolved crime threatens their lives.
This subgenre takes place in and around the courtroom. Usually the protagonist is a lawyer who has found their case threatening death for either them or their client.
This subgenre involves something usually used for medical purposes becoming a deadly weapon. Often it is a virus that is leaking out to the public. The protagonist or antagonist or both are doctors.
This is a subgenre of both mysteries and thrillers. It differs from a regular mystery by being much more fast-paced, with the protagonist on the run and the threat of another crime serving as the “ticking clock.”
In this subgenre political relations or the whole government is at stake, and the protagonist is employed by the government to stop the decline. The protagonist may have been low-level before having attracted attention.
A personal favorite. In this subgenre a lot of the conflict is mental, rather than physical. The protagonist has become involved in a dangerous situation which literally threatens their sanity. They must use mental prowess to overcome their opponent, whether the battle is inside their own head or it a battle of wits.
This subgenre uses the history and myths of religion. Usually a religious artifact or historical secret is discovered, and different people and groups vie for control.
This is a subgenre of both thrillers and romantic novels. The plot line follows a typical thriller’s tension, suspense, and excitement, but a main element is the growing relationship between two characters.
It’s hard to call this a genre mash-up when spy novels almost have to be thrillers. At any rate, this subgenre focuses on the high adventures of field agents. It is usually set against the backdrop of some war.
In this subgenre otherworldy elements are introduced, usually as an antagonistic force, but just as in the romantic thriller, the plot line and feel or distinctly that of thrillers. Some characters may have psychic abilities and other supernatural novel elements may be present.
This genres is a cross between near-future science fiction and thrillers. Cutting-edge technology plays an important role, either as something to obtain, or working for or against the protagonist.
What types of thriller subgenres do you enjoy most? Have you ever dabbled writing thrillers? Anything I missed? Many thriller subgenre lists I found on the internet were incomplete, and I’ve done my best here, but I’m always open to additions.