January Special: An Interview with Katelynn Koontz

Welcome to January’s Special Feature! Today I’m talking with one of my great writer friends about how she writes complex and compelling character arcs! Katie is an accomplished author who writes across several genres including Fanatsy, Sci-fi, Horror, Poetry, and Contemporary summer reads. She also does art, and drew the illustration of her OC, Bolte, for this post’s header/preview image. Katie is active in the writing community on tumblr and is one of the nicest people I’ve met there, so I’m happy to be able to share her fantastic personality and advice with you today!

Question 1: First, can you tell me about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, and what you write?

Katie: Absolutely! I’ve been “writing” as a hobby since I was about ten – I got into writing Sailor Moon fanfiction for fun, and it went from there. I’ve been writing full time since I was about sixteen, when I opened my first fiverr account. I was using it to bring in extra income to go towards the horse that I owned at the time. I used to work at horse farms for a living – I trained hunter/jumper’s from the ground up and was on the way towards showing them full time when I started having health problem and switched gears fully into writing.

Katie: I like to write anything that has a found family base to it. Fantasy is where I thrive, but I also enjoy anything that has a “summer read” vibe to it. Road trip stories, and that sort of thing. Groundhog Day has been my main WIP for about three years and I’m hoping that it ends up being finished at some point this year!

Etta: Perfect! I know you used to work on horse farms but it’s cool to learn that you were writing too in order to make that happen. And I’ve loved following Groundhog Day so I’m super excited to hear that you’re hoping to finish it soon!

Question 2: When you start a WIP, are most of your characters built from the ground up, and then you let the story form around them? Or does the plot come first and you create characters to fit into the story you want to tell? Or is it a combination of both, depending on the WIP?

Katie: I usually make the characters first. The story itself might alter how those characters behave as I develop them, but I almost always have at least a general idea of the character when I start writing. I’ll decide that I want to write for a character that has a certain trope as their main trait, or a character that fits a certain role, and then I’ll start building up the story around that character.

Etta: That makes sense! I know you have a lot of WIPs and even more OCs, so it’s really neat to see how that development process works for you.

Katie: The one downside is I end up making OC’s…and then having to make new WIPs for them to go into! XD

Question 3: What are your favorite types of character arcs to write?

Katie: My favorite types of arcs are the ones that allow the character to under go a lot of growth. I want to see characters that heal; they start in a bad place, learn a lesson, and end up growing as a person by the end of the story. Arcs that can’t be solved with just one character interest me a lot, too. A character that thinks they need to face the world on their own…and must learn that they need to accept kindness and the help of others to proceed. I’m also a huge fan of the character arcs where the big “jump” so to speak is overcoming a tragic backstory, or learning to accept their past so they can move on and start building their future.

Etta: Growth and healing are two themes I’ve noticed a lot in your stories and part of why I really enjoy reading them! It’s so wholesome and inspiring to see those characters overcome the horrible situation they might be in and find their place among their friends and in the world at the end of it. And what a perfect lead in to the next question!

Katie: Yes! It’s my favorite thing to write about. I think that the world needs more stories about hope, recovery, and finding light in the dark. I promise happy endings to all of my stories for that exact reason!

Question 4: Before we started the interview, I asked you to pick an OC to talk about for the rest of the interview. Would you give us a quick overview of who they are and their story?

Katie: Bolte is one of the main characters in my WIP Groundhog Day. He’s the general of the Royal Army in Fara Falls – a fictional RPG video game based world, in which the kingdom has all but collapsed under the tyrannical rule of their current queen, Midnight. He specializes in fire and bone magic – often using his magic to form armor made out of bone, and fire as a main weapon in his fights. Bolte is a character who has been fighting from the time he was a kid, and who sees no end to that battle. The world he lives in – constant danger, where kindness is a weakness and weakness can get you killed – has taught him to use anger as both a weapon and a shield. He comes off as a mean, sharp tongued person with few redeeming qualities…but he cares a lot, and is constantly trying to keep his childhood friend – an injured paladin named Red – and his boss/only friend – Captain, head of the Royal Guard – alive. In his story, he’s tasked with keeping Blue, a traveler from another version of Fara, alive and locating his own paladin in the process, inadvertently getting tangled up in a war to save Blue’s home.

Etta: yesss! Bolte is one of my favorite OCs of yours and the parallel worlds of Fara are such a creative setting for this paticular conflict. He’s a great example of someone who starts out in a really bad place. Your description is perfect you’re already setting up some of the next questions I’m going to ask you about and that’s great

Question 5: What motivates your character?

Katie: Bolte’s character is very complicated, but his motivation is actually very simple and straight forward. Bolte wants to keep Red alive, and he’s willing to do absolutely anything to make that happen. He’s willing to give up any other comfort – food, health, his own wants, his own safety or interests – if it means making sure that Red has a relatively safe place to live. That’s his character motivation, and I’ve also used it as his main driving force through the story. Bolte is originally only willing to work with Blue because that’s the easiest way to ensure that he’s able to return Red to their own world and keep Red safe. While that does broaden as his character grows, it’s always the Core Focus of his character’s driving force.

Etta: Bolte’s devotion to Red is one of the things that originally caught my attention for this story and this character, especially because it’s such a pure goal compared to some of the messy difficult choices and actions, he has to go through to make it happen. And I love how he never loses that core even as he grows as a person and his motivations broaden

Katie: It’s what’s made him one of my favorite characters to write for too, honestly. His mindset is always a lot of fun to get into and work with.

Question 6: What do you think are [OC’s] greatest strengths and faults?

Katie: His greatest strength is his perseverance. I’ve always thought that you can’t have hope if you’re not determined, and the core element of determination is being able to persevere. To look at a world that doesn’t want you to live, to look at a situation that is bleak and dark and often even painful, and to make the decision that you’re going to find a way to keep fighting, you’re going to find a way to break through that darkness and into the other side. Bolte doesn’t want to save the world.

Katie: He doesn’t want to save the kingdom. He wants to keep himself and Red – and as the story grows, his small group of friends, his important people, Blue and Locke and Captain and Aba – alive and as safe as can possibly be. It doesn’t matter what happens. Bolte will face any danger or threat and keep going. He’ll get up any time that he’s knocked down, and find a way to make the situation livable.

Katie: But that’s his greatest fault, too. Because Bolte is from a world that has taught him “kindness is weakness” and has spent his entire life knowing that he would have to fight to survive, he doesn’t understand the concept of letting someone else help him. He keeps his pains – his HEARTsickness, his mental stress, his physical aches like his bad knee – to himself. Even when he’s put into Fields of Fara later on, where there is access to so much more in the way of kindness and health care, Bolte doesn’t know how to look at someone and just admit “I need help”. It does get him into some rough situations, and ones that might have been avoidable if he’d thought to tell someone else how bad off he was at the time.

Katie: I’m a fan of characters who’s greatest strengths end up playing into their greatest fault a lot, actually XD

Etta: Bolte’s selflessness and love make him such an endearing character to read, and it’s interesting to see how he can only extend it so far, and to the point that it becomes good-intentioned self-destruction. And I know that Intent plays into your magic system too, so it’s especially interesting to see how that makes his fighting – both in literal battles and also just to survive every day – so much more complex!

Katie: Yes, it does! Intent directly affects how strong someone’s magic is, and how that magic affects them on a physical level. Bolte’s strong will to survive has, at times, been the only thing to keep his HP (being a video game world, the characters do have a set Health Point rating, unique to each individual) from hitting zero. And describing him as having “good intentioned self-destruction” is incredibly fitting and accurate. It’s what I find so interesting about him; a determination to live and keep others alive that often causes himself more damage than might otherwise be necessary.

Etta: On one hand my first response to that is “Oh no! He’s that hurt!” and on the other hand it’s a radio announcer voice in my head going “Local Man Too Stubborn and Angry to Die” :’)

Katie: Honestly? That’s valid. I hear it being said specifically in John Mulaney’s voice, honestly! And it’s very accurate! Because Intent is powered by emotions, Bolte simply found a way to use his anger, and on a deeper level his fear of losing Red, to keep himself moving even when he shouldn’t still be able to move.

Question 7: What sort of circumstances prompt [OC’s] character arc to really get rolling? Do they have to make any big and character-defining decisions?

Katie: The moment that Bolte realizes he cares for Blue as a friend and not just a “means to finding Red” or a “means to an end” is what prompts his character arc. Bolte’s arc is heavily based around learning how to accept help, and changing how he deals with other people, accepting that their kindness is genuine, that people care about him and he cares about them. So realizing that he genuinely cares for Blue, it’s an absolute shock to him, and starts shaping Bolte’s mindset into something that goes beyond just “whatever it takes to keep Red” alive, sort of broadening his view of the world and of people.

Katie: He comes to realize this when Blue helps him at no gain to himself; Blue puts himself in harm’s way to save Bolte, despite it not helping Blue at all in the long run.

Katie: Bolte’s story is a series of character defining decisions that he just…doesn’t notice until later, when Blue quite literally points them out to him. There are two scenes in particular that stand out as examples – one where Bolte chooses to go against the Queen’s orders to locate Captain, who is injured and lost in The Wilds, and then opts to take on the temporary role as captain, something that puts him in a lot of danger and puts him in frequent close proximity to the queen but keeps Captain safe.

Katie: The other is when he chooses to involve himself in the war in Fields of Fara because he just…doesn’t want to see Blue face it alone!

Etta: Bolte’s devotion to Red is sweet, but the other big thing that first brought me into this story was how you wrote Blue and Bolte’s dynamic, because Blue is now unexpectedly stuck in a world where everything is a lot more scary and deadly than his home and Bolte’s missing the person he’s done everything for and so they don’t like each other very much at first. And seeing that clash grow into friendship was amazing to see through the story and your writing style as their conversations become less combative and more camaraderie.

Katie: And yes! Blue and Bolte’s developing friendship is one of my favorite parts of GHD. They have very conflicting personalities, and the story is set up in a way that they shouldn’t get along. And they don’t! Blue is sarcastic, and scared, and he doesn’t understand this world where people kill so quickly and easily, just like he doesn’t understand the mean, angry persona that Bolte has developed as a defense mechanism over the years.

Katie: And Bolte is terrified that he has finally messed up and lost Red, that he wasn’t there at the right moment, and it’s cost him Red. He’s also very bitter towards Blue, who is a constant reminder of all the things that Bolte wasn’t able to give Red; a healthy paladin who has never had to kill to survive, who has never gone hungry. It makes him so angry! They spend the first half of the story clashing heads, until they’re able to learn to look outside of their own immediate view point. They go from being antagonistic towards each other to willing to do most anything for each other. In fact, it’s Blue who Bolte ends up going too when his HEARTsickness gets to be too much. I greatly adore how they interact with each other, and how they have to grow into being friends.

Question 8: – Why does OC’s arc resonate so much with you? What do you hope other people get from the story and reading this character?

Katie: Honestly, I like the parts of his character that don’t give up. He’s the strength that I want to find in myself; that no matter what happens, he doesn’t quit trying. That he’ll face anything thrown his way and find out how to come out alive on the other side. Bolte is never whole. He’s broken long before the story actually starts. But that doesn’t stop him from surviving. No matter what the world throws at him – and it’s a lot, one thing after the other – Bolte manages to keep going. I think about that a lot and work on those scenes a lot when I’m feeling low or overwhelmed in my own life, honestly. Bolte is strong and determined, and I like that about him. When I think about people reading my story, and think about them following along with him, I hope that’s a lesson they take from him. That you can find strength, no matter what. But I also hope they look at his character, and his arc, on a broad level. Bolte cannot survive on his own. He needs help. And his character has to learn how to accept that help, how to let others help him through problems, how to accept that he needs to sit, to take a breath. Bolte is supposed to show people that they can ask others in their life for help, and that there’s no shame in needing to rest.

Etta: That’s such a wholesome message and I admire you so much for taking the care and time to write it into the story so well. I’ve seen some of the insane daily wordcounts you pull for your work writing, so I can absolutely believe you have his strength, and I hope you have the support of friends helping you keep going too

Katie: Thank you! It took me a long time to learn this message, and I’m excited to share it through Bolte’s character. And I do – I have you, for one! And other people that I’ve met through the writeblr community, who have just been an endless supply of support over the last few years. <33

Etta: The writeblr community is incredible! it’s always a joy to be able to interact with other creative people there 😀

Chapter 9: Do you have any advice for other writers on creating a compelling character arc?

Katie: For me, I’ve found that finding the character’s driving force and lead to an easier establishment of a compelling character arc. With Bolte, once I realized that protecting Red was his driving motivation, I was able to find the faults in his character. Once the faults are established – doesn’t ask for help, puts himself in danger often, ignores personal problems – you can figure out what those faults have caused. For Bolte, it causes poor ability to ask for help, and a lack of friendly or familial relations. That means his character arc has to be about over coming those things; learning to ask for help, getting friends, and understanding that it’s okay to rest. I use that same thought process for most of the character arcs that I make. Compelling character arcs show the highs and the lows of a character, I think, so learning what those points for your OC are can help you develop your arc.

Question 10: and last but not least, where can readers find you and your work?

Thank you! I post art, short stories and chapters to longer stories (Starboy most often, but also occasional chapters of GHD) on patreon.com/abalonetea.

I have three books published! These are Putrescent Poems (a horror poetry and art Collection), Dandelion Fluff (a fantasy summer read about friendship in the Land of Monsters), and We Come Undone (a found family in a post apocalypic world, set on the last farm in the country).

And of course, I post short stories and writing excerpts on my tumblr! This is where you can find updates on Groundhog Day, and other WIPs like Starboy, Just Keep Breathing, Swimming in Stars, NeonP!nk.

Thank you so much to Katie for agreeing to be a guest on today’s post! I learned a lot from her during this conversation and I love Groundhog Day and all the characters in it, so it was a special treat to be able to ask all of these questions and get the detailed thoughtful answers with So Much character background! If you liked reading about GHD, I highly reccomend going to check out the rest of her work and supporting her if that’s possible for you. The writing is beautiful and you won’t regret it. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week 🙂

Storge’s First Scene

It was far too lovely a day for a riot, but not even the cool breeze flapping the fabric of the trader’s multicolored tents could prevent Luca from taking advantage the fact that there was, in fact, a riot. No one was quite sure who noticed the Atilan erasing and inscribing the new tax decree onto the massive slab of sandstone that served as the city’s news board. No one was really sure who started shouting obscenities first. No one was entirely sure when the Atilan threw magic into the gathering crowd. No one was completely sure how many Debilan they had injured. 

It mattered little now. The body of the Atilan messenger lay motionless in the street.

Luca ducked and dodged through the throng. Red-faced shop keeps chanted curses against their rulers for this new grievance. He fixed his eyes on the ground, searching for valuables dropped in the scuffle. A dull gleam of polished stone caught his eye. He snatched the prize and stuffed it into his satchel without stopping to check what he had found. 

As the Atilan guards flocked to the scene, Luca glanced up at the brief distraction, and so did the wealthy-looking merchant standing to his side. The shouts rose to a roar as workers charged onto the platform. The smells of blood, sweat, and anger hung in the air as the bodies pressed together. Someone stumbled into the merchant. Coins tumbled from the purse that sat in his open hand. Luca stooped to pick them up before the man could stop him and mumbled an apology. Shoving the newfound loot into his knapsack, he flipped the cover shut, escaped the crowd, and hurried along a twisting side road. Luca ducked under the outside staircase of an old tenement building, searching for any onlookers. Satisfied that everyone else was off protesting, he sprinted up the stairs and onto the flat roof.

A girl waited for him in the shade of a makeshift canopy, focused on the brouhaha below them. She was young, with ruddy brown and freckled skin and curly dark brown hair in a braid that reached her waist. Her simple dress had long lost its creamy white color, and it was torn from an old fight. When she heard Luca mount the stairs, she tore her attention from the seething crowd to look up at her brother.

“They attacked the Atilan!” she hissed. “Did you see that!?”

“Kills the mood, huh?” Luca beckoned his sister towards him, away from the edge of the roof. “I thought I told you to stay out of sight.”

“If riots are distracting enough that you’re safe to go stealing, then I’m sure I’m safe aaalllll the way up here, watching your back.” She glanced down at the street before moving closer to him. “Find anything good?”

Luca nodded and flopped down next to her as he dumped out the bag, pushing back his hair as it fell into his face. They pocketed the coins first, before sorting through the rest of the oddities. Grace occasionally looked to the street. With mages conjuring a wall of magic, the guards pushed the rioters out of the plaza. A couple lingered to watch them collect the messenger who stumbled to his feet, disoriented but not wounded. The watchers scattered when the largest of the three guards pulled his seax knife from its sheath. 

Grace frowned and turned her attention back to their work. “Most of this stuff is junk. Enne would probably like this button. Pretty pattern, and you can feel the texture. Does it match the ones on the frock she’s making?” She held the button up to the early morning light, and the shiny metal glinted in the sun. 

Luca shrugged in reply before handing her the stone he had picked up, eyes gleaming with hope. “What about this?”

As Grace took the pebble, her eyes widened in surprise. Her fingers shocked with magic, and she dropped the thing back into Luca’s hands like a hot coal. “A charm! Not a powerful one, so don’t let me have it. Where did you find that?!”

“A few paces from the shops. My guess is that one of the Atilan dropped it in the scuffle.”

“Do you think they’ll come looking for it? If we’re caught-“

“No. Look, it’s so small. They won’t miss it.”

Grace nodded in agreement, when a sudden loud voice interrupted from behind them. “I don’t suppose you were planning to return that?”

The two kids jumped, spinning around to face the newcomer. Perched on the edge of the roof was an Avian. They were bird-like people who lived in the canyon cliffs along the river, and this one was taller than most, standing at seven feet tall. Four huge wings folded behind his torso – two at the shoulders and two at the waist. The reddish-brown plumage that covered nearly his entire body, save the palms of his hands and face, mirrored the color of the clay dirt of the desert. He wore a vest and loose breeches with several pockets that seemed stuffed with all sorts of strange things. Belted around his waist hung a stained artisan’s frock. Another harness strung over his shoulder, between his wings, and around his hip so that it could hold a large assortment of chisels, hammers, and knives. He wore no shoes; his taloned feet curled over the ledge of the roof to keep him balanced as he hunched over the two kids with his hand extended for the charm. Solid bronze eyes with sharp black pupils set deep in a human-like face, squinted in anger. The feather tufts at his ears pressed back against his head.

Luca clasped the charm to his chest as dread and panic mounted. He shifted his weight onto his feet and braced himself against the stairs, ready to run. He pulled Grace to his side, not for her own protection, but for restraint. She snapped into a fighting stance, and had her hands balled into fists, though they stayed by her sides. Neither answered the question.

The avian seemed to notice their discomfort. He forced a smile and lowered his wings, as if trying to appear nonthreatening. Luca, still threatened, forced himself to smile back. The avian repeated his question. “Are you going to return that?”

Reading Reccomendation: Character Voice in the Chronicles of Prydain

Welcome to the first of this blog’s reading reccomendations! In keeping with the theme of the month, each 3rd Friday, I’ll bring you a book that really shows off a certain aspect of storytelling that writers can learn from. Is this just a thinly veiled excuse for me to ramble about my favorite books? Absolutely. But there is something to be said for learning from other authors, so today, I’ll be sharing experts from The Chronicles of Prydain to show how Lloyd Alexander uses voice to introduce his colorful cast of characters. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it’s a pentology of children’s high fantasy books that follow the life of a young man named Taran, an assistant-pig-keeper who stumbles into adventures where he helps protect his country from the evil forces of Arawn Death Lord.

[Image ID: The cover of The Book of Three, showing Taran hunkered down next to a tree root looking up at the Horned King. He’s a figure in red riding on a black horse, wearing an antlered skull mask and holding a sword above his head. End Image ID]

Summary and excerpts will be included to give context to the characters being introduced, but I will do my best to keep these posts spoiler free as possible, so that way if you like them and want to go read the books for yourself without knowing the end, you can. In the first book of the series, The Book of Three, the reader is introduced to Taran with this scene:

Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes. And so it had been horseshoes all morning long. Taran’s arms ached, soot blackened his face. At last he dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching him critically.

“Why?” Taran cried. “Why must it be horseshoes? As if we had any horses!”

Coll was stout and round and his great bald head glowed bright pink. “Lucky for the horses,” was all he said, glancing at Taran’s handiwork.

“I could do better at making a sword,” Taran protested. “I know I could.” And before Coll could answer, he snatched the tongs, flung a strip of red-hot iron to the anvil, and began hammering away as fast as he could.

The Book of Three, Chapter 1, page 3

From the first lines, we learn a few important elements of Taran’s character: he romanticizes warriors and wants to make a sword so he can be a hero like them, he’s a simple farmboy who needs to learn how to labor, and he’s enthusiastic, if a bit reckless. His language is also simple and straightfoward – unlike some of the other more flowery or eloquent speaking characters who you meet later in the story – which makes him a grounded and relatable main character. Who hasn’t daydreamed while doing a boring difficult task?

Soon after we’re introduced to Taran and Coll, the reader meets the other residents of their little farm, Dallben, an ancient sorcerer, and the oracular pig, Henwen, who’s just escaped from her pigpen. Oops. Taran goes chasing her down, only to unluckily run across riders of the Horned King – one of the warlords of Arawn. When he comes to, he finds himself being cared for by a strange man who’s kneeling beside him, holding out a flask.

“Drink,” he said. “Your strength will return in a moment.”

The stranger had the shaggy, gray streaked hair of a wolf. His eyes were deep-set, flecked with green. Sun and wind had leathered his broad face, burnt it dark and grained it with fine lines. His cloak was course and travel-stained. A wide belt with an intricately wrought buckle circled his waist.

“Drink,” The stranger said again, while Taran took the flask dubiously. “You look as though I were trying to poison you.” He smiled. “It is not thus that Gwydion Son of Don deals with a wounded…”

“Gwydion!” Taran choked on the liquid and stumbled to his feet.

The Book of Three, Chapter 2, page 16

And thus we meet the greatest warlord in all of Prydain, dressed in common traveling clothes and acting as babysitter and nurse. From the confidence, language (“it is not thus”), title drop, (and Taran’s helpful exposition in the next paragraphs), we learn that Gwydion is a distinguished prince and great leader. From his phsyical description, we learn that he’s also used to roughing it on his own, not demanding pomp becasue of his station. From his kindness to Taran and knowledge of medicine, he also learn that he’s compassionate and somewhat stern.

As Gwydion and Taran start traveling together, it doesn’t take long for our impulsively courageous young protagonist to encounter the next member of the party when he dives face first into a thornbush after a weird sound. That sound turns out to be Gurgi, a creature that’s somewhere between man and beast, with twigs matted in his hair and smelling of wet wolfhound. When Gwydion scolds them both for being reckless, this is his response:

“O mighty prince,” the creature wailed, “Gurgi is sorry; and now he will be smacked on his poor, tender head by the strong hands of this great lord, with fearsome smackings and whackings…”

” I have no intention of smacking your poor tender head,” said Gwydion. “But I may change my mind if you do not leave off that whining and sniveling.”

“Yes, powerful lord!” Gurgi cried “See how he obeys rapidly and instantly!” He began crawling around on hands and knees with great agility. Had Gurgi owned a tail, Taran was sure he would have wagged it frantically.

“Then,” Gurgi pleaded, “The two strengthful heroes will give Gurgi something to eat? Oh joyous crunchings and munchings!”

The Book of Three, Chapter 3, pages 26-27

Gurgi has one of the most distinctive voices in the book and I love him for it. The third person, the couplet rymes, the whining combined with well-intentioned action, and as we see later, the enthusiasm for doing what he can to help his friends, make him such a memorable and endearing character. He’s stuck between very simple motivations like food and comfort, and wanting the wisdom to be part of something bigger than he is and his language reflects that in an earnest childish sort of way.

After they meet Gurgi, the protagonists go through several misadventures and when we meet the next of the main cast, Taran is stuck in a dungeon. A small golden ball drops through the grating, followed by a girl with bright blue eyes.

“Please,” said a girl’s voice, light and musical, “my name is Eilonwy and if you don’t mind, would you throw my bauble to me? I don’t want you to think I’m a baby, playing with a silly bauble, because I’m not; but sometimes there’s absolutely nothing to do around here and it slipped out of my hands when I was tossing it…”

“Little girl,” Taran interrupted, “I don’t…”

“But I am not a little girl,” Eilonwy protested. “Haven’t I just finished telling you? Are you slow-witted? I’m so sorry for you. It’s terrible to be dull and stupid. What’s your name?” she went on. “It makes me feel funny not knowing someone’s name. Wrong footed, you know, as if I had three thumbs on one hand, if you see what I mean. It’s clumsy.”

The Book of Three, Chapter Six, page 50-51

And as their conversation continues, later we get this proper introduction…

I am Eilonwy, Daughter of Anharad, Daughter of Regat, Daughter of – oh, it’s such a bother going through all that. My ancestors,” she said proudly, “are the Sea People. I am of the blood of Llyr Half-Speech, the Sea King.”

The Book of Three, Chapter Six, page 55

Right away, we’re struck by her talkativeness and the long, somewhat rambly sentences. She’s a girl who says exactly what’s she’s thinking, and no less, which can lead to her being blunt with poor tied-up Taran, but she also starts by saying “please” and introducing herself politely, as if she’s been trained to do that before going off. We also find out later that she is, indeed, a princess, and was probably raised to be formal, even though she has a hard time controlling her tounge. She also has a penchant for speaking in simile, which is a really fun verbal mannerism that none of the other characters use and shows her cleverness for coming up with such analogies on the spot. She’s a friendly but awkward girl, and her contrast with Taran makes for some entertaining conversations and interactions throughout the series.

There’s dozens of other characters I could mention that come up throughout the books, but either because of spoilers or the fact that this article is already ridiculously long, I’m going to include an honorable mentions section instead to give you a taste of the variety of characters and voices Lloyd Alexander writes over the course of the series.

  • Fflewddur Fflam – an “unoffical” bard and who consistantly adds a little color to the truth, and each time he exaggerates, his harp strings snap. Catchphrases include “Great Belin!” and “A Fflam is [adjective], but this situation is ridiculous!” First appears in The Book of Three.
  • Doli – a gruff dwarf who fits the “jerk with a heart of gold” trope. Catchphrase is”numbskulls and idiots!” as he bails his friends out of a sticky situation. First appears in The Book of Three.
  • Gwystyl – another one of the Fair Folk, who tries to get out of confrontation by apologizing, excusing, and saying good bye dozens of times in a single conversation. First appears in The Black Cauldron.
  • Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch – three enchantresses who are kindly threatening, caling the heroes “ducklings” and inviting them into their cottage at the same time implying they might eat them. First appears in The Black Cauldron.
  • Prince Rhun – an optimistic and slightly inept noble who greets everyone with a friendly “Hullo! Hullo!” whether they be friend or foe. First appears in The Castle of Llyr.
  • Queen Teleria – Rhun’s mother, tasked with the practical side of Eilonwy’s education, who inturrpts herself to correct the younger girl on the finer points of being a lady before picking up right where her sentence left off to continue what she was saying. First appears in The Castle of Llyr.

Thanks for reading! I hope this case study could be helpful for you if you’re trying to develop your own skill in writing distinct character voices and clever introductions. Have you read the Chronicles of Prydain? If so, who’s your favorite character? If you haven’t, what’s another story with great character voice you love? Here’s your free excuse to ramble about your favorite books like I did 😉

My Personal Process: Developing Characters

Welcome to the first of the Process Posts! This is a series that will be going live on the 2nd Friday of every month talking about how I personally develop a certain aspect of the writing process. Sometimes, seeing a different perspective on part of the writing process can be helpful in figuring out what method would work best for you, so I wanted to share mine! Of course, this is just my way of doing it, and I’m not claiming it’s the best that it universally works for every project, so feel free to chime in the comments with your own suggestions so we can learn from each other. 🙂

Step 1: Brain Dumping and idea gathering

As far as I can tell, there are two main approaches to character creation – ground up and plot down. Ground Up characters are the sort of OCs that pop into your head with a concept or image or premise, but you have to figure out how to fit them into a story. Plot Down OCs are the sort that arise out of a need for a specific role to be filled in the story, and then you have to create a character out of a few required traits to fit that the bill. This part of the process is where I’m just gathering ideas on how to turn a concept into a person and collecting them in one place. I use a lot of daydreaming, making playlists, finding aesthetics on unsplash and pinterest, reading through prompt blogs and saving everything that catches my attention. This is also the stage when they get a name and the beginnings of a personality.

I don’t know about you, but I hoard ideas like a dragon haha. When you’ve got several years of pinterest boards and phone notes and screenshots there’s no lack of potential for plot hooks and backstory. One of my recent favorite methods is going through my “Everything Playlist” (2114 songs and counting lol) and picking out songs that fit their story arc and point of view on the world. For the Ground Up characters, they help brainstorm what sort of character arcs work for them and how they react to certain situations, and can be the start of a backstory for Plot Down OCs. If you want an example of this, I have the playlists for all my Storge characters linked on the WIP page. I’m building playlists for the Laoche characters now, and Weswin has proved amusing because in-story, he’s a wandering bard. Coincidentally, he’s also the one with the longest playlist. 😛

Step 2: Listing!

When I first started writing, a lot of writing advice websites pointed me to character questionaires. There’s about a million of them but I’ve found that a lot go into a lot of extra detail about what’s in their sock drawer, which isn’t that important to me or the plot. Lists can be a good tool for collecting information about a character, but I find them to be the most useful whenever I’m into the thick of the outlining phase and just need everything in one place. Going through the list allows me to make sure I covered all the important parts of their person, so that way I don’t end up blindsided later with “oh, wait, that backstory I originally wrote down is actually OOC now that I’ve changed the plot.” These are the important things I try to cover!

Character Name: (including nicknames/epithets, if any, and how they got said nickname/epithet)

Category #1: Basics

  • Age, Sex, and Gender:
  • Race/Ethnicity/culture: Especially if they’re form a specific fantasy race, worldbuilding that culture will be important to the character’s worldview. If I’m writing in our world, this means lots and LOTS of research to avoid tokenism and make sure the cast is really diverse, without just slapping labels on them.
  • Appearance/physical details like height, hair/eye color, and general details
  • Other important details like scars, birthmarks, mobility/accessiblity aids, ect.
  • Clothing – style can say a lot about the character’s personality and background, and doing some research/worldbuilding on fashion can help round out the realism of the story.
  • Voice and mannerisms: if they have favorite sayings/catchphrases, use slang, or talk like a textbook, the character’s background will affect how they sound in the narrative of the story, so I like to start brainstorming that here, and writing little snippets in their POV.

 Category #2: Relationships

  • I know the orphaned hero trope is really popular, and I understand the narrative incentive to just handwave annoying questions like “why are there no responsible adults to stop the 14 year old from becoming a war criminal and saving the world?” but I’ll be honest, I don’t really get it from a storytelling point of view. Most people have families and a home life that significantly impacts their worldview irl, and so do my characters, so that sort of discussion goes here.
  • I discuss (briefly) each member’s personality (if they don’t have their own outline) and relationship to the character. This is also where work out how their friendships developed with other members of the cast. This is a good opportunity to get info down for side characters who might not need a ton of background but do feature in the story in some way.
  • I also note how the MC is generally perceived by his/her acquaintances and strangers, and what sort of reputation they have outside of their immedieate social circle.

Category #3: Romance

I’ll be honest, I rarely write romance, but if that’s going to be a major subplot in your story, it’s probably important to develop that here. Important questions to ask might include: Does this character have any past experience with dating that might affect how they approach this relationship? What’s their orientation? Do they want a relationship, and if so, what do they want out of a relationship? Do they flirt, and how do they flirt? What sort of misunderstandings would lead to obstacles in the relationship and how would they work to get past them? If there’s other distracting plot stuff going on (like solving a crime, fighting an evil king, or saving the world from reality unravelling, y’know, typical Tuesday stuff), how would they react to The Feels and balance their time between their romantic interests and their duty?

Category #4: Skills

  • General Skills: if they know art, fighting, other languages, ect, anything goes here. explain WHY they know that.
  • Smarts: This would be a character’s general approach to solving problems, thinking fast under tough situations, and general background knowledge. I’d also include schooling in there if it’s relevant, but education doesn’t necessarily correlate to intellegence.
  • This is also where I touch on their occupation and hobbies. It’s a fun way to round out a character and subvert expectations if they have an interest in something you wouldn’t expect on first notice.

Category #5: Fundamentals – the fun stuff, where I start drawing connections to the plot. At each major decision, I come back to this section and ask myself “what would they decide to do based on the following? Why?”

  • General Personality Categorical Stuff: like Introvert or Extravert, MBTI type, Hogwarts House, Enneagram, Alignment like in DnD, an excuse to makeup fun uquiz questions and figure out their general behavior and voice on a day to day basis.
  • Strengths: there are many different types of character strengths and I don’t have the space to summarize them all here, so Here’s an excellent blog article on types of strengths. to give you some ideas! I try to make sure that I include a few for my villains too becasue they need to be effective in their villainy, and to include a variety of strengths so that the characters can play off of each other’s strong points.
  • Weaknesses: These usually reflect what the strengths could be if taken to their extreme, and connect with plot points where the characters fail to reach their goals because of a mistake or choice they make.
  • Goals/Dreams/Aspirations: The driving motivation behind their actions in the story
  • Beliefs/Affiliations: If they’re part of a religion or have a certain philosophy that plays into how they behave, it goes here.
  • Fears/Insecurities/Mental illness: the angsty part of this outline, where the tragic backstories come out
  • Role in the Story: Why are they here and what do they contribute to the plot?
  • What are they doing after the story ends? If the story has sequel potential, that goes here
  • Any formative memories that might be important go here
  • What would they die for? How much are they willing to sacrifice? How far are they willing to go with their actions to meet their goals before it’s crossing a moral line for them?
  • If I have any motifs for them at this point, they’d also go here.

Step 3: Repeat for each character and Connect the Dots

At this point, my characters have usually changed a lot from the original concept, and now I have to figure out how they change in the story. While I’m developing them, I’m simultaniously working on the outline (which I’ll discuss in next month’s Process Post!) and as I work through the plot in each chapter, I’m also working through the character’s arcs. This is my favorite part of the creative process – when I get to see how the messy, complicated people come together with a messy situation and how they clash and world together and make their way to The End. This is a process borne of a lot of trial and error on my part, and so I hope that by sharing it today, it helps someone too.

If you’d like, take this as an opportunity to ramble in the comments as much as you’d like about your favorite OCs. I’d love to learn more about my reader’s characters, and about the stories they live. Thank you for reading, and happy writing! 🙂

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Goals, and Resolutions, and Updates, oh my!

Happy new year!! While yes, resolution setting is an endlessly talked-about and controversial topic, I – predictably enough – really enjoy this season because of the monthly goals that I keep. In retrospect, it’s gratifying to see how much I was able to accomplish on my personal projects despite the hectic day-to-day responsiblities getting in the way, and the faliures are put into a greater context which puts in perspective what really needed to be prioritized. Since it’s Jan. 1 and the Endless Impossible Year is finally over, this post will not only cover my usual monthly goals recap for December, but it’s also going to -surprise surprise – include my resolutions and plans for 2021.

So without Further Ado, let’s get into the goal recap and resolutions…

This month was especially difficult for my family, and especially busy with finals, Christmas preperations, and a new job on top of the family stuff, so I was surpised to see how much I actually got done in the 1 week before life went crazy, and the few days between the 26th and 31st. Winning a month of goals with only 12 normal days to work? I did what? To be fair, some of these were easy goals and I didn’t add any goals for certain projects and WIPs, but I had a lot of other life and family goals too that I was able to accomplish and so I’m taking it in stride. And this marks three years I’ve been keeping monthly goals, since I started in January of 2018, which is a pretty cool milestone too.

Figure out plan for authors website updates in December and 2021: See below!

Post to blog following schedule: This is only a seperate goal because I didn’t queue posts ahead of time and the middle weeks of this month were insane so actually making all the posts for December on time was a small miracle. I’ll be working ahead for this upcoming year (hopefully).

Find someone to interview for January on website: I didn’t have the chance to do this in December buuuuut, see below if you want to be on the blog!

Finish Words of Radience: This book. This book! Is the first book in a long time that I have actively stayed up until 4am to finish reading.

Do list of questions to start Laoche’s outline: If you’re following my my tumblr you’ll know that I finally got the chance to bust out the sticky note board, old 3 ring binder of composition books, and start braindumping for this series! I have made a lot of progress so far, but I have also found a lot of holes in the original concept (which I made when I was 14 so no surprise there) so there’s more work to be done in the future! It’s like before I had 6 duplo blocks and had put them together into a child’s house or something, and starting this outline was like knocking that off the table altogether and dumping out a whole tote bin of the little legos in it’s place. It’s awesome and fun and an absolute mess and there are no instructions included.

Draw 5 things: I had the chance to draw a few fun characters for the Writeblr Secret Santa and some doodling for my own characters! 5 exactly, and hoping for more next month.

Edit 10k words for Storge (allowed to skip chapter 3): *sigh* so this could have been done. I was partway through and going at a good pace, but then when the family emergency happened, not only did editing schedules get thrown off, but also the next chapter I had to cover hit a little too close to home for me to rewrite with an objective and critical eye. Even with the caveat that I later added about skipping it, I wasn’t able to get back into the story since that chapter is the immediate aftermath of the inciting incident, and just ended up tabling it for the new year. (I should say, my family is alright, it was a couple rough weeks there, but we’re good now.)

My top creative resolutions for 2021:

  • Finish editing Storge! I’m really re-writing it into a 2nd draft, and since the first one took me over 3 years, I don’t have high hopes for this goal, but I’m getting better at time management and I’m a better writer, so *crossed fingers* on this one.
  • Starting beta readers for this would be incredible but I have a feeling that’s a project for next winter break.
  • Finish Outline for Laoche Chronicles: This includes figuring out the plot and themes for the trilogy, backstories, motivations, and arcs for each character, worldbuilding for the world’s science/magic system, and cultures for 3 countries (8 subcultures if I count correctly). This is the most ambitious project I’ve ever tried, and though I didn’t have the skill to manage it when I was 14, I hope I’ll be able to figure it out this go around.
  • Read 24 books: I have a good mix of nonfiction, Sanderson, and a never ending TBR so only time will tell if I can pull this off!
  • Get my act together with this Author Platform buisness. I hope the plan that I have outlined below will be a good start on this, but I know I have a lot of research and learning ahead of me if I ever want to get these stories published, so this will be an adventure! That being said…

Now the exciting update!

I posted this on tumblr earlier in December when I actually figured it out, but not many people saw it there, and it’s relevant to the website itself so here it goes. My process for choosing weekly posts so far has been a mostly last minute array of “uhhhh what can I grab from tumblr today?” with occasional put-together content, but moving forward I have *trumpet sounds* a schedule! New plan, starting this month, is that I’m keeping to my once a week on Fridays update schedule, with each month having a theme and pattern:

  • The 1st week will be my usual monthly goals recap, both as accountability for myself and to check in with you and your progress because I like hearing about what you all are working on.
  • The 2nd week of the month is going to be a post about my writing process. This won’t be a “how to” post, since everyone has their own way of writing that works for them, but rather just sharing another way of developing a different aspect of the story like worldbuilding or characterization. I think it’ll also be a fun “behind the scenes” of what I’m currently working on, and because I have a series in development, a fanfic in drafting, and Storge in editing, all the bases are covered.
  • The 3rd week will be a resource reccomendation, similar to my last post. These will be links of books and that I think really exemplify the theme of the month and a brief analysis on how to learn from them, as well as a chance for you to give me your reccomendations. The last post and the first in this series was more general “how to write” resources, if you want to check that out!
  • The 4th week of the month will be some of my writing that keeps with the theme of the month – probably either a Storge excerpt or introduction to the main trilogy of The Laoche Chronicles. I’m excited for this, because it’ll force me to do drills and learn certain skills I need more practice on, in addition to helping me make progress on my stories and letting you see some actual content from my worlds!
  • Months with 5 Fridays will get special bonus content revolving around the community – hopefully either interviews/collabs with other writers, shoutouts, or something else fun that you pick! I’ll have polls up on my IG account (@ettagraceauthor) for these.

Now that that’s been explained, here are the themes for the next several months that I have figured out so far! If there’s something not here already that you want to see, leave a comment and I’ll add it to a future month. 

  • January: Character Voice/Characterization
  • February: Outlining and Complex Plots
  • March: Worldbuilding
  • April: Editing and Prose
  • May: Research and Adaptations
  • June: Developing Strong Themes
  • July: Poetry
  • August: Short Stories

That’s all I have for today, but I’m excited to see what this year brings. I enjoy interacting with the writing community and want to be better about reaching out to people in the future. I also want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void, and so if I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your reccomendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me on the 5th week in January, you can leave a comment below for both of those, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Also feel free to tell me some of your accomplishements in 2020 and what you’re excited to be working on in the future. I hope you all have a wonderful start to your new year and a happy 2021 🙂

Resource Reccomendations: Writing Help Masterpost!

Helllooooo there! I’m doing something a little different this week. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve recently finished uploading all of the relevant links and introductions for my main WIP, Storge, which you can find here. I’m also working on the sequel series which makes up the rest of the Laoche Chronicles, but for now, a lot of that is brainstorming and I don’t want to post that information until I’ve outlined and can avoid redactions down the line. So instead we’re doing this! You all seemed to like my other informational posts about the writing process, like this interview about starting an author’s platform and this one about staying creative when life gets busy, so I thought it would make sense to continue that trend with some Resource Reccomendations. Thanks to everyone who commented your favorites, and if you have another one that you don’t see here, feel free to leave it in the comments! Lets get started, shall we?

Youtube Channels

Hello Future Me: I’ve already talked about this one before on my IG, since it’s one of my all time favorite channels. Tim Hickson’s video series On Writing and Worldbuilding (and the book he subsequently compiled of the scripts) has been a massive help in teaching me how to tell a good story and create an immersive world. His research is second-to-none, the media analysis is insightful and helpful in learning how your favorite stories are built (specifically Avatar: The Last Airbender and Tolkien’s works), and you can tell a lot of work goes into each video. This is my go-to resource to learn about or brush up on the tools storytelling when I’m having trouble with a paticular element of my writing.

Jenna Moreci: This is one of the first channels I found and still one of my favorites. Jenna has a great playlist of videos teaching how to write specific types of scenes or tropes, but also a lot of great practical advice on the buisness side of being an author that’s serving as my main point of reference for starting my writing platform. She’s a ridiculosuly hard worker and her quarterly goal lists inspired my monthly goals lists, which I can vouch for as being an extremely useful tool. She’s fun to watch, and is very active in the author community, so her channel is also how I found many of the others on this list. This is my go-to resource for info on building an author’s platform and the self publishing process.

iWriterly: This is a similar channel to Jenna’s that talks a lot about the business side of writing – but this one is run by Meg LaTorre and talks about how to break out into the traditional publishing industry. She worked as an agent and just self-published her debut novel, and so she’s very knowledgeable about this paticular topic. I’ve been working through her videos on using Instagram for writers, which is a bewildering topic for me, and she presents the information in a clear and accessible manner. This is one that’s newer to me, but I like the content I’ve seen so far! I reccomend this channel if you’re looking to traditional publish or start seriously working on an author’s platform.

Overly Sarcastic Productions: This channel is run by a two person team going by the names Red and Blue. Blue does videos on history, while Red does videos on mythology, classic literature, and most relavant to writers probably: Trope Talks, which dissect popular tropes, how to subvert them, and how to do them really well. They make “boring nerd subjects” absolutely hilarious, the research and video production is top-notch, and they have a lot of other ways to engage with their platform too! They have a huge discord server (link in the descriptions of their videos), and even though I don’t interact very much in there, it’s nice to be able to read the interesting conversations and have fast-access to people in fields you might not know that much about if you need an answer for your writing research. They also have a more informal podcast (link below in the ‘podcasts’ section of the post) that discusses their recent videos and answers fan questions, and sometimes do collabs and video game streams. This is my go to for general research, inspiration, and understanding how stories change and grow over time.

Tale Foundry: This is a really creative channel that does deep analysis of certain genres and pieces of literature to explain what can be learned from their writing style! They have a smaller but very interactive community that does story-share competitions and peer review, and recently started a new video series called “Tale Tips” that talk about how to improve your prose. Also, the channel “character”/avatar, is a robot and the whole channel has a vaugely steampunk aesthetic to it that I love. This is my go-to for understanding genre, how to portray a specific tone, and will be my go to community if I want to try short fiction one day.

Brandon Sanderson (recced by @siarven on tumblr): I’m a little late to the party but Sanderson has quickly become my new favorite author after reading the first two books of The Stormlight Archive, and I was thrilled to find out that not only does he have an entire channel full of informal discussions and short writing advice videos, he also has a whole college class recorded and available for free on how to tell stories. If you need a good hour of discusson on his truly enviable worldbuilding in the background while you wrap presents, it’s here. Beware of spoilers for his books though! He likes to use them as examples. Great for if you need a crash course on how to structure a novel or want to hear Sanderson talk about his own writing

Shadiversity: This channel focuses mostly on historical weapons, tactics, and, military strategy, but its also a goldmine for writers looking for resources on how to write that big final battle or an awesome underrated weapon to give a character. He does a lot of his own demonstrations with the weapons, and also has a really fun series on “what weapons would be best for this fantasy creature” which inspired some of the Avians tactics in Storge. This is my go-to for researching anything that has to do with fight scenes or worldbuilding militaries.

Just Write (recced by @lunarmoment on tumblr): This channel does video essays analyzing popular media for their storytelling and demonstrating what writers can learn from them. It focuses mostly on movies, so if you’re looking to be a screenwriter or need to brush up on the three-act plot structure, this would probably be a good channel for you. I’ve watched a few of their videos, and from what I can tell, they’re all put together very well, like watching mini documentaries.

Kate Cavanaugh (recced by @inkwell-attitude on tumblr): This is a new channel for me, but from what I’ve seen so far, I really like it! Kate does vlogs about her writing process, challenges, and goals, and looks like a great source of some writerly motivation. I think she also does a write-in streams, which are a fun way to meet other writers and get in your daily word goals.

Shaelin Writes (recced by @gloriafrimpong on tumblr): Another new channel for me – Shaelin is part of the authortube community, talks about her writing process, has videos on writing tips, and talks about what she’s learned on her own writing journey. I’m looking foward to watching more of her videos in the near future!

Books

On Writing and Worldbuilding: Volume 1 by Tim Hickson: this is the one I mentioned above, under Hello Future Me’s youtube channel. I have this book and like to use it as a fast reference if I don’t have the time or access to the internet to go watch the original video associated with the topic I need. An audiobook version just came out recently, and he’s planning to release another volume eventually with the newer video’s scripts.

No Plot No Problem by Chris Baty: This little handbook is a fun crash course in novel writing by Chris Baty, one of the founders of NaNoWriMo. The first half is an introduction to the core elements of a novel and how to develop them before you start drafting, and the second half is a NaNo survival guide.

Anatomy of Prose by Sasha Black: I haven’t actually read this one yet, but it looks really good and I enjoy Sasha’s other work on her youtube channel and podcast. It discusses stortelling on a sentence by line basis, explaining how understanding grammar and vocabulary can improve your prose.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (recced by @zielenbloesem on tumblr): This book is partially a memoir and partially a self help book, talking about what it takes to be a writer and how to overcome some of the challenges along the way. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks interesting!

How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (recced by @uraniumwriting on tumblr): This book is something you might find in an English class, and talks about how people (professors specifically) interpret books. It discussess narrative devices, symbolism, and can serve as a helpful exercise to help you think about how your own writing might be percieved. I haven’t had to take an English class in a few years, but I’ll be checking this out for sure.

Blogs/Websites

Helping Writers Become Authors: The name really says it all, this website is a database of helpful articles on how to develop your writing style and other elements of the author life. I used this blog a lot when I was first learning how to write, and have since enjoyed going back to it to see what else there is to learn.

Hannah Heath: This is one of the first blogs I found when I started writing, and her articles have been a huge help in learning how to develop meaningful stories with strong themes. She’s a self-published speculative fiction author of not-preachy and super creative Christian lit, and also has a Youtube Channel where she vlogs about her favorite tropes and characters. I’m listing her here, rather than in the youtube section becasue I found her through her blog originally, and becasue that section was getting really long.

Name Generators and Meaning sites: There’s a million on the internet but they can be invaluable when trying to figure out what to call your fictional children or that place mentioned briefly in chapter 2 that’s definetly not foreshadowing or anything. Two of my favorites are Springhole and BehindtheName.

Krista Jain: Another great resource for folklore and inspiration! I met Krista recently through this blog, and I’ve really enjoyed reading about her inspirations and seeing the research she does for the folklore spotlights. I’m looking foward to using this site as a reference for worldbuilding as I outline the Laoche Chronicles!

Unsplash and Canva: These are free stock photo and graphic making sites that I use for all of my edits and aesthetic images! Both have a pretty broad range of photos and features to choose from, and they’re easy to use. While this doesn’t have to do with writing, they can help you promote your writing platform!

Podcasts

The Overly Sarcastic Podcast: as mentioned above! This is a newer channel development, so there aren’t many episodes yet, but they more than make up for it in the promise for more consistent content, their hour length, and the informal, unscripted humor.

The Rebel Author Podcast: Created by Sasha Black, this discusses How To’s of the writing life and how to create a successful platform for your writing. She often collabs with Jenna Moreci, and while I’ve only listened to a few episodes, I’ve learned a ton already and want to take notes so I don’t forget anything.

Hyba is Writing: I met Hyba on writeblr originally and while I still need to catch up on the newer episodes, I’ve enjoyed listening to her discuss her writing and self-publishing journey! The episodes have both a professional and informal sort of quality to them, if that makes any sense, like you’re listening to a friend who’s really clever and put together and I really enjoy how calm and friendly they are.

Catastrotivity by Exurb2a: This is hosted on youtube, but it’s essentially a 6 episode podcast that works as a series of personal ancedotes, sympathy for the difficult parts of the creative process, and a pep talk. This is actually the side channel of the creator, who’s main channel has other really creative off-beat videos that toe the line between existential sci-fi and motivational speaking. It’s really weird and really entertaining (in my opinon), and a great example of how you’re never alone in your creative struggles.

That’s all I have for now, but I hope you can use this as a helpful reference post the next time you’re looking for writing help! Do you have a favorite creator or resource that wasn’t featured here? Feel free to leave a link in the comments, and help this become a collaborative list for other readers! Thank you again to my friends who answered my posts asking for recs! I really enjoyed seeing what you had to share. Until next time, happy writing! 🙂

Storge Summarized: A Comic Sans PowerPoint

Cover slide: a background that shows a yellow rose on a green bush with comic sans text. The title reads "Storge" a comic sans powerpoint by Etta Grace. surrounding it are the phrases High Fantasy, no romance, magic and religion are related, snarky chapter titles, disability rep, sibling banter literally 24/7, fantasy political drama and themes and symbolism for days.
Slide 2, labeled Worldbuilding. It has two pictures of a city on the banks of a river and one of the petra edifices. It reads "There are two parts of a city state: human and avian. They're called maaren. they trade with each other-that's important later. Kind of in the desert. A river cuts a canyon through the mountains which have anti-gravity magic that lets the stone buildings tower into the sky like a jenga tower. not your typical high fantasy setting.
Slide 3: titled Politics (okok I know this is boring bear with me for two seconds) It is sectioned into 4 parts. 
The Atilan:
Upper class humans
Do magic
Better than You ™
The Debilan:
Everyone else
Generally poor
Can’t do magic, (in strikethrough) not allowed, idk what you’re talking about I’ve never heard of magic in my life
The Anarchists:
They don’t like you
Want to overthrow the government
Extra™
The Avians (not humans):
Want to stay out of drama
Generally pretty chill
Traders and crafts folk
Slide 4: Titled "Magic! How does it work?" 
What most people think – 
There’s a whole bunch of gods and the Atilan can do magic because they’re demigods and the “purest” one gets to be in charge
Debilan are mundane servants of the Atilan and the gods

What Actually Happens – 
Magic is a part of the world’s natural energy and can do all sorts of cool stuff
Anyone can do magic.
The anarchists have their own religion, and then there’s a small monotheistic group that’s in hiding because they don’t! conform! And the Atilan Don’t! Like! That! They both have different ideas about magic too but those aren’t relevant right now

To the right side is a drawing of Luca doing magic with golden lines floating around him with the caption "shameless art promo"
Slide 5: titled "Characters!! The laine kids" There are portraits for all 3 and read:
Luca
16
Lovable idiot
Impulsively heroic
Magic battery
Doing his best
Enne
19
Stressed older sister
Aesthetic queen
Can amplify magic
Btw she’s blind
Grace
12 (Not a baby!)
She is beauty
She is Grace
She will punch you in the face
Can silence magic
Slide 6: Characters (Avian amulearn siblings)
There are two pictures for the two characters. 
Acheran
21
Makes magical stuff
Looks mean, actually a pacifist
Socially awkward eccentric introvert
Kind of a mess (someone help him)
Chara
24
Politician/debater
Miss popular
Does not have the time for this nonsense
Slide 7: last slide for characters these are villains. Again, each has a picture.
Lyss Anray
Atilan queen
Used to getting her way
Stabby
Dramatics
Easily angered with little sense of humor
unfortunately
Esil
Anarchist leader
Stabby
Dramatics
Actually a pretty cool guy once you get pass the trauma and murder
A slide titled "our tangentially related stories stacked in a trench coat masquerading as a plot part 1" It reads as follows: 
The Atilan and the Anarchists hate each other and fight a lot. 
Sometimes the Debilan riot when they get caught in the crossfire.  
It’s a “fun” time. The Laines and Avians are trying to stay out of it. 
Luca and Grace make friends with Acheran when they accidently steal from him. Oops.
The trouble starts when Atilan capture the Anarchist leader and try to publicly execute him. 
The Anarchists object (obviously) and stage a rescue mission 
This goes HORRIBLY WRONG. 
Lots of people die and Luca and Grace throw themselves into it to save people using their magic.
This is bad for may reasons (obviously) 
It metaphorically dumps gasoline onto an already smoldering city
There is a text box with the first line of the story, which reads, "“It was far too lovely a day for a riot, but not even the but not even the cool breeze flapping the fabric of the trader's multicolored tents could prevent Luca from taking advantage of the fact that there was, in fact, a riot.”
The last slide, titled "Four tangentially related stories stacked in a trench coat masquerading as a plot part 2" It reads, "Lyss and Esil take over the Atilan and Anarchists respectively and begin antagonizing each other. It doesn’t take long for the city to slip into almost civil war
The Laine family goes into hiding because now people are searching for the magic Debilan kids and they don’t want any part of this mess
Lyss tries to bully the Avians into getting involved so Chara is thrown into political tensions while Acheran tries to decide what’s right and wrong
The story splits four ways to follow all the different groups and rotates between their points of view as they deal with the ~consequences~
Everything is more complicated than it probably needs to be
Plot! Twists! About! Backstory!
So…. Yeah!"
There is a conspiracy theorist man meme in the bottom right corner with my icon over the face, with the caption "actual footage of me outlining this book."

Hello Hello! If you’re unfamiliar with this format of story summarizing, the Comic Sans PowerPoint is a trend started over on writeblr by user @incadescent-creativity. I thought it would be fun to share an updated version of my original powerpoint here too as a quick intro to the story. If you’re new to my site, welcome! You can check out my Storge page for links to more detailed posts about this story, and feel free to ask me questions if you want to know more. If you’ve been following this site for a while, then welcome to the long awaited TL;DR of the last four months of posts! Let me know in the comments if you found this useful and informative (or at least entertaining lol).

November Goals Recap

Where did this month go?

My sense of time has been really off lately, probably because this month was one of a lot of changes in my routine. I finished my internship about halfway through the month and moved home, where I had exams for a week before going on a week of vacation with my family. (we did outdoors and socially distanced stuff, like swimming at the beach in 40 degree F weather haha). In any case, making goals was a little odd because I had to account for my normal schedule changing so often. I operate religiously on to-do list and calendars, so big shifts or a lack of routine has a tendency to really mess with my head, and I tried to do a combination of hard goals I’d inevitable have to complete, and easier optional things.

For all of that, I’m glad I got this much done! I won the month by four goals, making 17/26 of them! I’ve got a post on my studyblr detailing the rest of them, but I’m going to discuss my writing/creative progress for the month here in some more detail. I completed 5/8 creative goals which makes that a win as well!

Draw 15 things – I did more, but that meets the goal. You can see the story-relevant ones in the ‘my art’ highlight on my IG (@ettagraceauthor)

Do positivity event with Hannah (@hannahs-creations on tumblr)- I finished my part for the event in time, and the main post will be coming soon. I really enjoyed working with her on this, and I’d enjoy doing more collabs in the future both with her and anyone else who might be interested. If you have an idea, feel free to message me about it!

Get Way of Kings in a different format so I can read it  – I was listening to this from the library but becasue it’s such a long book, my hold kept expiring. I caved and got audible to finish it, but now I’ve binged through halfway of Words of Radience now. I love The Stormlight Archive and can’t reccomend it enough! I also did finish Dracula from last month.

Do one log for AI-Lia Antares – This is my epistolatory sci-fi story, and while I really enjoy working on it, I just couldn’t prioritize it with everything else I was working on this month.

Write/publish one chapter of CxC – This is my Newsies fanfiction, another story that I love that unfortunately slipped through the prioritization cracks. It’s currently on a semi-hiatus until I can come up with a backlog over winter break, which starts in a couple of weeks.

Create one thing for Laoche (worldbuilding, chapter outline, or character bio) I did a few things actually! I can’t double count this though. If you want to check out my progess you can find it in these posts on my tumblr:

Edit 10k words of Storge – This story is very complex, and I’ve decided to rework the middle so that instead of following roughly a three act structure with occasional scenes of the villains in the background, I’m going to follow the different characters on a chapter by chapter rotation. This will hopefully mean that the reader won’t lose track of any of any one player at once, and can see how the actions of one influence the others independently. It’ll also keep the narrative pacing consistent, with a nice ebb and flow of tension between scenes so it’s not just exhausting crisis after crisis. The change made to Lyss’s backstory will also help raise the stakes in some key scenes and I’m really happy with how the story is coming together. I think it has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to share it in a more complete form one day. The only downside is that I’ll have to rewrite the middle, and y’all are going to hate me for these cliffhangers.

The 10k words I edited bring me through the first chapter (which might be chopped up because that is a long first chapter. Some of the changes I made include:

  • Scrapping a really awkward and OOC filler conversation between Luca, Chara, Grace, and Acheran when they first meet
  • Adding a new scene introducing the readers to the rest of the Laine family, the kids’ abilities, and the followers of the Artist in a moment of relative peace before the inciting incident throws things on their heads
  • Adding scenery descriptions because I’m starting to learn I have Never Once Described a Thing In My Life.
  • The realization that I’m actually pretty good at descriptions when I bother to do them, but keeping calm scenes moving is a struggle. I’m much better at action/emotion description than just calm slice-of-life which is a problem for my pacing that I’m working on now.
  • Smoothing over general awkardness. Line edits to contend with grammar and delievering snappy sentences will come later but for now it’s slightly less elementary. 

Post 1 thing to website each week – As you may know from my lack of an update, I took a break last week for thanksgiving. I’m currently trying to figure out how I’m going to manage the Christmas/New Years situation in December now, since both holidays fall on a Friday, and scheduling those out in advance.

Now I have a few questions for you! Would you all prefer for me to post on a different day and still make 4 posts for the month or would you prefer a different type of post on those days? What goals have you been working on and what are you proud of doing this month? Is there anything I’ve been working on that you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments, and thank you for reading! 🙂

The Worldbuilding of Maaren pt. 2

Like it says in the title, this is the counterpart to an original post about some of the big groups that affect the plot of Storge. That first post got pretty long last week, so I decided to split it up and post the rest of the lore today! This will elaborate on some of the groups mentioned in part 1, so if you’re confused you can read part 1 here to learn about the background of the world, geography, Atilan, and Debilan groups!

The Avians

Hundreds of years ago, the avians used to be a nomadic group, but the cliffs of Maaren’s canyon provided the perfect place to build more permanent structures for weathering storms and resting en route. At the time, the land was controlled by the Atilan, and though they didn’t posses the technology at the time to retrieve the precious metals and magical elements from the cliffs, they didn’t want to give it up either. For a time it looked like the clash would turn violent, but the humans, knowing they could be devestated by attacks from the sky, and the avians, not wanting to resort to that violence, came to a different agreement.

A battle of wits would be held. If the avians won, they would be allowed to settle there and establish their own government. If the Atilan won, the avians would not only loose the chance to live there, but also the trade ties that provided them with food. Two competitors were chosen – the High Lord at the time, and an intellegent girl who was the scribe to the Avian leader. Their riddles were so evenly matched, the each had the first two correct, but they couldn’t reach an agreement for the the last one on loophole grounds, and they settled for a compromise. The avians could settle and begin building, with a council of their own, but they would need to answer to the Atilan council for any final decisions.

This system still exists in the present-day story of Storge. In the intervening time, the cliff city has become a thriving cultural hub for their people. They survive mainly off of trade, having a tradition of master craftsmen who work with the materials found in the cliffs. Avians cannot perform magic, much like the Debilan aren’t supposed to, but some are incredibly accurate at detecting it, making them invaluable in finding deposits of the materials and making them into charms and devices to be sold to the Atilan. Their society is matriarchial, though while only females may be educated at the prestigious new academy that trains girls in logic, history, law, science, engineering, and the humanities, a sharp wit and cleverness in your work is prized universally. While most follow Daziam, there are many followers of the Artist as well due to its emphasis on creation and beauty, and the smaller religion is not systematically stamped out within their city walls as it is in the human counterpart of Maaren. There are five Magistras on the high council, and they are chosen through a rigorous testing and apprenticeship program. Chara serves as the recently instated Magistra of Trade during the story.

The Anarchists

These are outliers – a very small and very violent group of furious Debilan and disgraced Atilan who hate the high council and have made it their life’s mission to disable the system. They would call themselves revolutionaries, but they operate through intimidation tactics and terror attacks, disregarding anyone who gets hurt in the crossfire in an attempt to get at the Atilan. They use highly illegal and powerful magic for massive amounts of destruction, and worship of pantheon of old gods that came before the Daziam ones – only known about from carvings found in ancient carvings in the tunnels and caverns beneath the cities. They focus on deities with an underworld or “madness” connection – death, drunkenness, and general chaos is seen as the great equalizer; magic is a way for them to tap into that power.

Despite being so violent, those within the group care for each other deeply and think of each other as family and there is order within the camp. They are led by a Master and a few of their close friends who serve as liutenants. Dying for the cause is understood as a likely end, but they are fiercly protective of each other and mourn their dead by celebrating their life and sacrifice with festivities. Over the course of the story, they grow more and more bold with their attacks in an attempt to force the Atilan’s hand, and the city is on the brink of war between the two sects, each trying to wipe out the other. In this conflict, the Debilan and Avians are dragged into the center of something they never started nor want to be inolved in at all.

That covers the 4 main groups of Maaren, their religions, and their magic! I understand it’s a lot, but in telling this story, I wanted to accurately reflect the complexities that exist in our society, to make world seem more realistic. This all plays into the plot in various ways, but is revealed in parts over the course of the story, so there’s no exposition dumps right in the first chapter. Again, this is meant to be more of a reference guide, so that those of you reading this blog before reading the story can know what I’m actually talking about.

I also have one redaction to make from one of my previous character introductions. In the process of editing, I’ve realized that one of the more complicated aspects of the formerly-known-as Lady Elize’s backstory isn’t really necessary to the plot, and by changing it to something simpler, not only can I make the backstory less confusing, but I can also make her more intimidating as a villain. I’ve edited that post to reflect this new change, and put a note at the bottom to explain the change, so if you want to read Lyss’s updated bio, you can find that here.

Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think or feel free to leave questions in the comments! 🙂

The Worldbuilding of Maaren pt. 1

Welcome to the world of Laoche! This is the home of all the stories in the (appropriately named) Laoche Chronicles, including a main trilogy (that has yet to be named) and the prequel, Storge. While all of these stories take place in the same world, Storge focuses on a conflict in one specific reason – a powerful city-state called Maaren. Because this is a socio-political conflict, I mainly focused on worldbuilding the class system, governmnet, and religions of the city, and that’s what I’d like to discuss in more depth today! In the future, I’ll elaborate some more on the lore, magic system, and flora and fauna of the world in the future, but for now this will focus on the main topics that are releveant to the understanding of the story.

All of this would be explained in-story as well as the reader follows along with the main characters going about their lives and navigating the conflict, so this isn’t strictly necessary to know before getting into the story. However, I’ve found that explaining it in an informational way like this helps people understand what on earth I’m talking about online, so I hope this can also be useful as a reference guide of sorts!

The Geography

Image ID: a map of the city I attempted to paint. It’s not very detailed, so I’ll explain below, but wanted to include it as reference. It shows a landmass with the Maariad Sea to the North, and a river emptying into the sea that cuts a canyon through the inland mountains. The city itself is on the coast built up along the river.

Maaren is home to two groups of people – a large human city on the coast that’s built up around the river and sustains itself on farming the banks, and the Avian population that lives in the cliffs. Avians are a race of bird-folk with four wings that live and work in the cliffs of the canyon (including the characters of Acheran and Chara – check out their bios or the fanart page to see what avians look like). They built their city by carving homes out of the rock, and constructing on top of the existing mountians with what they dug out, so that the buildings tower into the sky above the river. The cliffs are full of valuable mineral, gemstone, and precious metal deposits, which are used for creating magical as well as utilitarian things.

The Atilan

The ruling class of Maaren’s human city, consisting of a small number of noble families who have the privilege of using magic. Their position at the top of the social ladder is enforced by the leading religion, Daziam. Followers worship a pantheon of dieties that hold domain over common aspects of daily life, led by Daza, the god of the sun and fire, and his wife Nymbi, goddess of the river and ocean, who created the world and other dieties through their powers. It is belived that the Atilan are the only people who can perform specifically structured magic, becasue they are directly descended from or are otherwise chosen by the gods and using magic is a way of tapping into their power, while the Debilan exist to serve.

The government consists of a council of 5 Atilan, including one High Lord/Lady who is the tiebreaker on decisions and final say-so on important issues. These are chosen whenever the previous ruler dies through a tournament called the Trials. Young ambitious Atilan will compete in several challenges in which they fight, argue, and perform magic to show that they’re the most powerful and most in-tune with the gods, with weaker competitoris being eliminated and sent back home. The person that wins becomes the new ruler, and the four closest runner-ups become their new council. During the Trials, the entire city watches and celebrates and enjoys time off of work.

The Debilan

Almost everyone else in the city! This is a blanket term for any human who is not an Atilan, who cannot do magic, and labors for their living, and can range from street beggars to rich merchants that aren’t a part of the ruling class. They have little say in how the government operates, though they can air their grievances to a system of beurecratic channels created by lower-ranking Atilan that handle the problems and take the biggest issues to the council. Many concern themselves with providing for their families, enjoying the company of friends, and entertaining themselves at any of the plazas that serve as the social centers of the city. They also frequent the arena where the Trials occur, as well as plays, other smaller tournaments, and public punishments. Most Debilan follow Daziam in imitating the example of the Atilan, who’s magic abilities are revered and respected. Though most don’t even try attempting magic themselves, they still leave offerings and pray to their favored patrons in order to ensure blessings and saftey for their homes.

A small number of Debilan who have figured out magic however, have turned away from the Daziam temples to follow a single creator diety known only as the Artist. They worship in back alleys and underground catacombs for fear of being discovered, and actively practice their abilities with the other members. They believe that their magic can be a powerful asset and strong emphasis is put on the idea of creation – mothers are honored for raising and teaching their children, craftspeople decorate their spaces of worship, and they appreciate nature as being another part of the Artist’s creation. They also treat each other as one extended family, greeting and saying goodbye to each other with the phrase “Storge” – a wish for blessings with the connontation of familial love. The Atilan persecute this group as heretics when possible, and this is the faith that the Laine family practices.

This got pretty long when I was first drafting it, so I’ve decided to split it up into two weeks so it’s a little easier to read. Next week, I’ll be discussing more about the Avians and the Anarchists, two other groups that play important roles in the main conflict of the story. Feel free to leave questions in the comments if you’re curious about any of the information here, or let me know what you find most interesting! Thanks for reading!