After the Arena

This scene comes from Chapter 4 and shows the fallout from the attacks in chapter 2 from the villain’s subplots. Keenan is a unique side character who bridges the gap between the Atilan court and the ordinary Debilan that make up most of the city and poses a foil to Luca when they meet later in the book. This scene is his introduction! If you aren’t familiar with the story, you should first check out the WIP page. I hope you enjoy reading!


The guards stumbled on the battlefield as their targets vanished from behind their spears and attackers disappeared mid-blow. Keenan tripped over another guard and hit the ground with a grunt. On instinct, he pulled his shield over his head, but when no attack came, he cautiously lowered it again. The fallen soldier beside him groaned and pulled himself to his feet before extending an arm to his squad leader.

“Where’d they go?”

Keenan searched the area. The anarchists left glassy patches on the sandy floor of the arena where they stood. Scorch marks from their spells. What magic let them vanish without burning alive? No matter. They left. The fight ended. Now he had bigger problems to face. Spectators trampled each other to escape and piled against the locked gates. Dead bodies littered the two sections where the Atilan sat.

“It doesn’t matter! Get those doors open!”

The soldier armoed and ran. How many soldiers did he have left? Two unlocked the gates. The others recovered from the shock and made their way to him. At first glance, four fallen. Among the carnage stood Atala Lyss—one of the council and the highest-ranking lady among the Atilan and the city. Blood splashed her white dress, but whether it was hers or someone else’s, Keenan couldn’t tell.

“Captain!”

He spun to face her and made an armoe. “Are you injured?!”

“The others are. Remove the council to the palace infirmary. Where are the anarchists?”

“They’re not in the arena anymore. We don’t know how they escaped. A flash of magic and then-“

“Send someone for the investages so they can figure out what this means. What about the rogue fighter?”

“The one with wild magic? A Debilan boy, I think.”

“Where did he go?”

“I didn’t see. I was across the arena in spear formation with my squad. He probably escaped with the crowd after the anarchists disappeared and we opened the gates. I apologize, I thought it was for the best if- “

“No matter, you chose right. We will find him. Bring the injured Atilan to the temple for healing. They will receive treatment after the council. Later, we will send officials to identify the murdered Debilan.”

“Velis.” Keenan made his acknowledgment of her requests with another armoe and hurried to direct his squad.

Medics came with stretchers soon after, and he moved with them into the temple, where enormous statues of Daza and Nymbi glared down upon their worshipers.

What is this? Their eyes asked. A new sacrifice? We want more.

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Book Review: 8 Steps to a Side Character

Overall Impression

5/5 craft book with an easily accessible style that gave my poor frazzled engineering brain a much needed break from academic drivel, extremely useful summaries that made writing his article about 1,000,000x easier, and rock solid advice I will immedietly be adapting into my ever-expanding Storge excel outline.

Content Summary

Step 1: WTF is a Side Character – This chapter explains the kinds of roles a side character can play in a story. Every character is a plot device; they are vehicles we use to tell the story, but side characters have to do their job from the sidelines, which leaves them in a unique position to meet needs we can’t get from our protagonists. Sacha explains the difference between cameos, minor, and major side characters, to help authors understand the amount of attention each deserves.

Step 2: The Web of Connectivity and Theme – The plot, characters, setting, motifs, and metaphors you use in a story all work together to create your theme, regardless of if you know what that theme is. It’s worth building these pieces with intentionality to make sure they thread together as seamlessly as possible. This chapter discusses how side characters can contribute by challenging the protagonist, representing the theme through their choices, or flipping the script as part of their arc. It also talks about believing theme lies vs theme truths, and how you can use these juxtapositions to create complex inter-character dynamics.

Step 3: Flesh and Blood – Why are your side characters here in the first place? Why are they described like that? This chapter unleashes the inner two-year-old to interrogate your cast for their motivations, positive and negative traits, backstories, and the descriptive details that make them interesting and memorable. It also talks about how to pull off flashbacks, surprises, humor to deepen their POVs and hone their voices. But with so much work going into these guys, it’s also important to understand how to anchor them in the reader’s memory so they don’t get lost among a large cast, and how their relationship with the protagonists takes shape. If you need a primer on creating a side character from the ground up, this chapter is a good place to start.

Step 4: Voice of an Angel – Here resides the most useful definition of Author vs Character Voice I have ever found. I always assumed Voice was some nebulous assesment of your writing style that was a pass/fail scenario. You have a unique and interesting voice, or you don’t. It’s impossible to quanitfy and incredibly difficult to intentionally develop if you don’t know what kind of voice you want to have. This chapter breaks down the process in a way that FINALLY makes sense. It talks about how to use a hero lens and split it into action, dialouge, thoughts, and feelings to convey the character beneathe the words.

Step 5: What do they do anyway? – This chapter details the common archetypes that side characters take in a story, such as the sidekick/best friend, mentor, foil, comic relief, etc. Each role covered includes structure tips, mistakes, and both good and bad examples for you to reference when slotting your side characters into these spots.

Step 6: Arc Weaving – This chapter breaks down all the different types of arcs you can give your side characters: Positive, negative, static, change, growth, and fall. It also talks about how to set up the stakes in order to give the story momentum and the reader a reason to keep turning the page. Character development through the story is what makes them so compelling, so knowing now to build arcs that intersect with plot beats is essential to mastering pacing.

Step 7: Killing your Darlings – Following the idea of establishing the stakes, this chapter shows you what can go wrong if they don’t meet their goals. Side characters are unfortunetly, by nature, more expendible than our heros, so it’s important to make these deaths count in order to carry the emotional weight. This chapter goes over intangible deaths – important losses that hurt the character but leave them breathing, and properly putting them 6 feet under. Sacha shares shit and solid reasons to kill characters, how to make them work before, or during, the story, and how to deal with the reactions of the other characters. Following this guide ensures no character’s death will be without consequence.

Step 8: Fight to the Death – This chapter deals with conflict and how to most effectively cause problems for our beloved fictional children. It goes over inner, micro, macro, and story conflict, and how to build tension to the story’s complex to resolve in a satisfying ending.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to take their writing craft to the next level of professionalism, who’s endeavoring upon a 2nd draft, or who’s side characters have hijacked the plot and taken it careening off a cliff. A warning that it’s quite sweary for anyone who minds that, but I think Sacha understands how to write with intention, and the cusses served to illustrate a point, which I appreciate haha. You can find Sacha’s other books on goodreads, listen to her Rebel Author Podcast for more advice from industry experts during their interviews, and find all her other info on her website.

Thanks for reading! Next week I’ll be sharing a Storge excerpt from the perspective of one of my favorite characters, Keenan, who’s a Debilan guard in the Atilan court. If you like my blog and want to support my writing projects, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi. Until then, happy writing! 🙂

Meet the Storge Side Characters!

I’ve done introductions for the main cast of Storge, links on the WIP page, but a year and a half into having this blog, finishing the draft, half rewriting the story, and re-writing half the story, it occurred to me you’ve never met the rest of the cast! It wouldn’t be an epic without a glossary of people to keep track of, right? Never fear, here’s a quick color coded reference: Gold characters are allies of my protagonists, friends and family members who don’t get their own POV. Purple characters are Atilan – the ruling class that oppresses the Laine’s religion and the Debilan population. Red characters are anarchists – rebels who seek to overthrow the Atilan and often hurt the Debilan in the crossfire. Blue characters are avians, usually the neutral party, who are unfairly pulled into the conflict. My goal was to create a believable world with realistic background actors who still felt like real people, and I hope you enjoy getting to know them today. So attempting to avoid spoilers, it’s high time I introduced you to the side characters of my high fantasy novel! (If you’re curious, my good friend Katie Koontz, who’s appeared on this blog before in an interview and in the gallery, drew the header image for today’s article)

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March Goals Recap

Hello dear readers. Over the last month, I’ve put a lot of thought into the direction my stories and this author’s platform are going, and realized they don’t measure up to my dreams. As you might imagine, engineering school takes a lot of time and energy, but that’s no excuse for shirking my duties to fiction. After some serious reevaluation of my past goals, I think I’ve landed on a new system that works for me leagues better than anything I was doing before. It’s amazing to see what I can accomplish when I just put my mind to it, and stop wasting so much time doing trivial mortal things, like sleeping. So without further ado, let’s see what I finished this month!

Won – 4/5 Goals

Secure book distribution rights for Runaways with the Seelie Court: This took quite a lot of contract revision, but thankfully, the time dilation works in my favor, as I call “losing decades of your life to a second in the real world” nothing but a complete win. We’ve decided on an agreement than works best for everyone, and it only cost me my circadian rhythm!

Made a movie deal for Storge: That’s right, this book is coming to the big screen in 2023! They accepted the draft half-finished, so there’s a chance I may just never finish the book itself. You’ll all be thrilled to hear it’s being made by the same team that produced the live action Avatar the Last Airbender. I’m so impressed by their work, and can’t wait to see this story adapted in the same way!

Move in with Keeper: This was one of the major lifestyle changes that allowed me to dedicate more time to my work. Living in the bottom of a black hole, there’s enough interference from the radiation disk that my professors cannot reach me until I choose to leave, and I’m aceing physics now by being immersed in the space past the event horizon. The star field is my favorite new writing spot, and Keeper is an excellent person to hold on to all my ideas while I’m not using them.

Finish outlining Laoche: I would have also finished the drafts in this month if it weren’t for getting distracted. I’m still debatably human, after all.

Complete five secret novels: I almost marked this off! I only finished three, but I think you’d have to be actually inhuman to do this on such a ridiculous timeframe. Maybe next month. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thank you for reading and happy April Fools! If you’d like to read my actual goals list, you can find it here. Sorry for those of you who get the wordpress emails for the multiple sends this morning. I wasn’t sure how to link these to go live at the same time, and have the actual list be private and linked instead lol. I hope you all have a very fun day!

March Goals Recap

Honestly, the fact that I finished this all shocked me, given the slow start to the month. I was super busy with social events, a bunch of exams and group projects, two trips to Philly, two flat tires (unrelated), and spring break, which was spent doing boring adulty stuff like taxes. From the look of this graph, it seems like I have a nicely defined and productive almost-daily writing habit, but the truth is most of this happens in adrenaline-inspired bursts when I should actually be doing my homework. Sorry, not sorry, Mass Transfer, fiction is much more fun.

Won across the board! 7/7 goals

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