Reading Rec: Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right

Overall Impression

5/5 – Even though I’m absolutely not the target audience of this book, I still learned a lot.

Summary

You may be familiar with the terms “plotter” and “pantser” floating around the writing community. If not, plotters are writers who prefer to outline their stories before starting a draft, pantsers are writers who prefer to discover their story along the way, and plantsers are somewhere in between. Those of you who have been around this blog long enough might be familiar with my neurotically overcomplicated outlines, and exhaustive editing process, from when I shared blank templates of both documents. So why then, did I read a book dedicated to the improvisation masters in the audience?

I was curious.

In each of those posts, I tried to clarify that this is just my process. I have methods that work, so feel free to try them if you want. People asked; I answered. Big Blinking Disclaimer: Results may vary. Pass go, collect your $200. I have a goldfish brain so I need to write everything down to remember a thing, and I think in loose webs of connections and pictures, so I need everything externalized in order to put it in order before I start anything. This also applies to real-life in case you hadn’t noticed from my habitual list-making. Doing it any other way sounds terrifying, but it works for TONS of people, so there’s got to be some merit here that I’m missing. Who knows, maybe I’ll try writing without an outline for my next short story, and see how it goes?

If you’re one of these mysterious discovery writers, this book is for you. Patricia McLinn discusses how bad-faith, dogmatic writing advice and industry standards constantly made her process feel inadequate, until she met others like her. She provides useful tools, tips, dos, and do nots for learning how to experiment with different models without losing her own course, and how to think critically about your writing habits to continue improving them. Part 4 is full of advice for approaching story-structure, character arcs, themes, and file organization from a top-down view, arranging the pieces in order once you have created them, rather than building from the ground up. She also includes brain-hacks to motivate yourself to write and how to avoid guilt.

As I’m slogging through my Storge and Runaways revision, I could sympathise with many of the struggles she mentioned, looking back at the story and realizing you would need to completely restructure parts of it to work properly. Even the most detailed of outlines can’t save you from developmental edits and many of her tips helped me think about my problems from a different perspective and unlock new solutions. It was fascinating to hear from a discovery writer how hostile the market is to their process, despite her huge success and dozens of published works. I want to try and make my corner of the internet inclusive and a space for discussion and sharing resources, because we all have so much to learn from each other. No matter your writing style, I highly recommend checking out this book.

You can find Patricia McLinn and her other fiction books (mostly mystery and romance genres) on her website. Thanks for reading this review! If you like my blog and want to support my writing projects, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi. Next week I’ll be sharing a recently edited excerpt from Storge. Until then, Happy Writing!

How to Finish What You Start

This video by Thomas Frank inspired this blog post. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time! It’s generalized to any creative process, but I want to offer resources and exercises for authors to do to help us finish our WIPs! Many of these are tried-and-true methods for beating writer’s block, so let me know if you’ve tried them before, and how they work for you!

The Problem: Paralysis of Choice

Tell me if you can relate: You sit down for a writing session. Worlds are at your fingertips. You’ve snatched an hour of time for yourself. Crack your knuckles and prepare for the most productive word sprint of your life. Open the document. Open another document. Open another document. Scroll through the last two chapters of three different stories. Hem and haw for fifteen minutes over which one to choose. Consult your writing buddies to decide. Flip a coin. Change your mind because you disagree with fate. Check the clock to set your pomodoro time and… realize that you’ve only got 10 minutes left.

Not you? How about this: You know exactly which WIP you want to write. You fire up the laptop, pull up a blank page, and… now what? Do you write in order? Follow an outline or go swinging into the wilderness of the plot jungle? Should you jump ahead to the scene that’s been festering in your brain for weeks or finish the stalled chapter that only needs two more pages? Which character should narrate? What POV works best for this story? Maybe you should rewrite the entire thing in present tense instead of past. Maybe you need to fine-tune the first chapter. Again.

Solution: Create Self-Imposed Limitations

The problem in both situations is the spectacle of options available to you. To take the best advantage of the time you have and make effective progress on the project, you need some boundaries.

Deadlines/Time Pressure: Writing sprints are great for this, just start small, and challenge yourself to beat your word count each time or compete with friends. I’ve seen them used most often during National Novel Writing Month (which is a deadline itself), but you can use them anytime, and I know several youtubers, such as Kate Cavanaugh and Sarah Sutton who sometimes host virtual writing sprint livestreams. This is also the inspiration behind my Monthly Goals: maybe I don’t write every day but by the end of the month, the words are done. If a plain vanilla timer isn’t good enough for you, I recommend the Forest app/browser extension combo which locks you out of the internet, and Write or Die, which will shock the fear of the reaper into your bones.

Scope: If you find yourself frustrated by tinkering away with the same project for yeeearrs on end, the issue might be that your skills are not yet up to par with your tastes, and you need to go back to the basics. Shelve the epic and get some practice finishing smaller-scope projects. Maybe start a new short story that’s a character study set in your protagonist’s backstory. Write a field guide entry about an element of the world, as if it were an in-universe textbook. Scale down. If you struggle with too many active WIPs, choose one that’s easy to finish and mark it off your list before starting any new ones. The satisfaction of finishing a small project and the brain-refresh of doing something different will also give you more motivation to go work on the big one again.

Tools: This one calls me out specifically. It’s similarly related to the above point about scope. Do you really need 8 POVs, 4 subplots, or 7 books to tell your story? Are 3 outlines and 4 edits really necessary? Can you hand it off to 5 betas, instead of 20? Could you trim down the number of nations or religions or magical schools to simplify the world-building? Sometimes the answer is no – you need to go through due process in order to complete a quality project. Other times, you might overcomplicate things for yourself. Take a step back and decide what’s really necessary.

Restrict Your Ability to Undo: This strategy is to get rid of perfectionism. If you don’t like what you’ve wrote in a session, you might find yourself deleting those words and ending with no more than when you started, even if you’ve been sitting at the keyboard for hours. Perpetual editing cycles are evil traps. This may seem counterintuitive, especially if your typing speed is much faster than your writing, your handwriting is messy, or you struggle with writer’s cramp, but shut the computer. Forcing yourself to crack open one of those fancy notebooks and commit ink to paper will get your brain unstuck and moving forward. Write in pen. Do not cross out. Don’t write on scrap-paper or regular school loose-leaf, in case you’re tempted to rip out the page, crumple it into a ball, and pitch it in the wastebin. You might slow down at first, because you have to stop and seriously think about how exactly you want to word that next sentence for maximum impact, but you’ll be more likely to keep it. Slow but steady forward progress is better than deleted progress.

Peer Pressure: I’m adding this one since it wasn’t originally in the video but I think it’s one of the most effective if, like me, you are a people-pleaser who takes promises very seriously. Promise that you WILL have something done by a certain date, and if you don’t deliver, their disappointment will haunt you to your grave, or you owe them a soda, or something. Starting this blog and my mailing list keeps me accountable because no matter what other nonsense is going on in my life, I know people are expecting weekly posts and quarterly new stories and victorious goals reports every month. Writing sprints are 150% more fun when you can compete with a friend, share your work, and receive immediate validation. If you’re limiting scope, or tools, try submitting your short story to a magazine or anthology, which often have a certain prompt or theme. Participate in something like Inktober or MerMay but instead of drawing, post flash-fiction. Bring your fancy journal and pen to a coffee shop and make sure that you look busy for the passer-bys. That last one might be more weaponized-social-anxiety, but it works for me at least haha.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this a useful reference. What’s a project that you want to finish soon? If you like my blog and want to support my writing projects, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi. Next week I’ll be sharing a book review of Patricia McLinn’s Survival Kit for Writers who Don’t Write Right. Until then, happy writing!

April Goals 2022

So I don’t know about you, but in my corner of the universe, time is hurtling ahead at a truly breakneck pace. Spring is tentatively here, after several late frosts, and getting my work done is less a task of time management, and more an exercise in staying focused long enough to not get lost outdoors. I’ve had quite the busy month, with course registration, housing selection for next school year, a bunch of STEM outreach events through the college, Easter travels, and backyard mad science experiments with my friends. It’s funny to see the giant gaps in my writer tracker that prove just how sporadic my habits actually are. Never let it be said that you have to write every day to be a productive writer! It’s about finding a rhythm that works around your other obligations.

Won by 2 points – 6/8 Goals

Catch up on Tumblr drafts – I took a fast from social media for Lent to reclaim my time and stop scrolling mindlessly and while I found I didn’t miss Instagram at all, all my writing friends are on Tumblr. Every Sunday when I checked in, I would save all the posts someone had tagged me in to my drafts folder, so I could answer them later. I’ve caught up on all the cool writing and games I missed in the last month and I’m happy to be back in our little community.

Decide how to monetize blog – I want to be clear about this goal: I write and maintain this blog because I love it. I love talking about writing, being active in a community of like-minded folks, and accumulating resources that other people might find helpful. This won’t be going anywhere. I debated for a long time whether or not I should monetize this hobby. My financial situation is relatively stable, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit one of my reasons for pursuing an engineering degree was the salary. I’m not a starving artist (yet).

But I haven’t graduated yet, and as I move forward with the publishing process for Runaways, I realized I need to budget for the self-publishing costs, such as hiring an editor, proofreader, formatter, cover artist, ect. This blog doesn’t cost me a lot of money to maintain, but it is an enormous time investment, and it would be worth it to set up some kind of monetization, however small, sooner rather than later. I don’t like the idea of cluttering up my corner of the internet with ads (though I’ve heard WordPress ads are a joke anyhow), and I don’t have the energy or time to run an exclusive subscription model like Patreon, so I decided the best course of action was a tip-box.

You might have noticed on my last couple posts a link at the bottom to my new Ko-Fi. If you feel so generously inclined, that is now available, and any donations are greatly appreciated. I promise I won’t be annoying or pushy about this beyond the end-post link, but here’s the formal announcement that it is now a thing that does, in fact, exist!

Set up runaways dnd game – In a completely contrived and self-indulgent excuse to have my best friends from home meet my uni friends, I offered to DM a one-shot for all of them. In a completely contrived and self-indulgent excuse to make illustrations for my book and show off my OCs, I set the game in the feywild. I’ve put a bunch of new illustrations on my Gallery page if you’re interested in seeing some of my prep work. This one is my favorite; these are the Semivera Twins, who feature in the most recent story on my mailing list, which you can read when you sign up.

Twin teenaged brothers standing back to back, wearing fighting gear without the helmets. Marco stands in front with an eager expression, holding his sword out. Matteo stands behind, point to ground, looking at a lantern with a worried expression.

Get caught up on reading goal– My reading goal for the year is 50 books, and right now, I’m at 11 (including those which are not counted on Goodreads). This puts me 5 books behind my goal. This summer, I’ll be driving quite a lot for an internship, and I should hopefully be able to put on audiobooks in the lab, so I plan to make up for lost time soon enough.

Website and Instagram schedule – I abstained from posting on Good Friday out of respect for the holy day, but other than that week, I posted every week this month.

Runaways beta check in and timing warning – I will officially start editing this summer! We’re getting closer! I’ve also combined all of my comments into one document and it’s positively plastered in colors.

Edit 25,000 words in Storge for Camp NaNoWriMo – I did 30K! I broke this goal up into two chunks because A) I usually track edits by chapter, not word count, because often editing involves removing words or adding a paragraph of description here or there, rather than rewriting/2nd drafting from scratch, and B) 50,000 words is pretty arbitrary and I have never “won” NaNoWriMo during the school year. This gave me a chance, and that’s 30K more words than I had on April 1st.

50,000 words in Storge for Camp NaNoWriMo – This could have been totally doable if exams hadn’t kicked my butt in the last two weeks. I don’t know what kind of masochist professors want to grade extra midterms less than a week before finals because I certainly don’t want to take them, and yet here we are.

I’ve finished through chapter 9/28. Excluding this upcoming summer for Runaways edits, I’ll have to do roughly 2 chapters a month in order to finish by the time I graduate. Should be doable!

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite spring activities? What are you working on this month? Next week I’ll be back with a writing advice post, but I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void. 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 recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Happy Writing!

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! 🙂

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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6 Ways DnD Has Made Me A Better Writer

This is a random topic compared to my usual posts, but it’s one that’s been knocking around in my brain for a while. I’m currently in five campaigns (that meet with varying degrees of regularity), I’ve finished several one-shots and two long-running games, and have two more on deck for the summer, so I’ve had plenty of experience coming up with whacky characters and navigating the dilemmas that the DMs throw at as. I’ve only DMed a few times myself, but I am always in storytelling mode, so this was really just the natural result of exposure to the clicky-clacky-math-rocks. This is less focused on mechanics, and more geared toward player dynamics and character creation, but I hope you find it useful!

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February Goals Recap

Hello everyone, and happy March! I am more than ready for spring, and it’s already nice to feel my energy picking up as the days get longer. I really am just a plant. Seasonal depression sounds fake until the first warm day when you can smell the grass growing and you suddenly feel you can conquer the world. This was a busy month for me, with school hitting full stride, but I’m quite pleased with what I could accomplish so far!

Won by 2 points – 6/9

Do faebruary marker arts – For those who aren’t familiark, #faebruary is a monthly drawing challenge focusing on different fae! Sometimes there are daily prompt lists, or weekly themes. I featured three fae from my middle grade portal fantasy, Runaways, and one illustration of Jayel, who is a character from Faye Fight’s story Flames of Courage! You can see these up on my instagram.

Start Mistborn – Outside of rereading The Terebinth Tree Chronicles for my review and interview with Faye last month, I have not picked up a book since coming back to campus. Part of that is being super busy and no longer having an excuse to listen to audiobooks at work, part of it is laziness from scrolling through social media. However, I am giving up social media for Lent, so hopefully this will change for next month.

Read OOTI for Lila – Same as above. Order of the Ice is the 2nd book in a trilogy by one of my good friends, who you can find @writeblrfantasy on tumblr!

Take a stab at rereading the fanfic while runaways is out with beta readers – Yet again, I ran out of time.

WordPress tags, fix up posts– Would you believe I’ve been procrastinating this for over 4 months and it took 4 hours to finish? Anyhow, check out the tag cloud to see if there’s anything that catches your fancy!

author interview author platform book review changelings character development Character Introduction children's literature classics creative writing editing education epic fantasy fairy tales folklore high fantasy horror indie author indie books magic magic system middle grade fiction Monthly Goals my writing newsletter outlining plotting productivity reading recommendation Runaways science fiction short story siblings Storge story structure storytelling the count of monte cristo The Laoche Chronicles WIP excerpt work life balance worldbuilding Writing Advice writing community writing goals writing resources writing tips

Website and Instagram schedule – I scheduled AHEAD this month – you’ll be getting a Storge excerpt next week that continues to tie into February’s fighting theme.

Play at least one session of each dnd game – For context, I am currently in 5 different dnd games with three different groups of friends which all meet with varying regularity. I love collaborative storytelling, and when we’re not in session, we talk for hours about the dramatic backstories and reveals. I also do a ton of art for my PCs, so I made a new tumblr blog to ramble about those! You can find me @spitebears. That url is a long story haha.

Rewrite chapters 1&2&3 of Storge – I completed chapters 1 and 2 and got distracted from 3 by a new space-set-dragon-riders story called World Wanderers, but I wrote a ton of words in brainstorming that effects Storge, so I’m counting it as a win anyhow!

Check in with remaining Runaways Betas – They’re getting there… One of my new group has finished already, another new beta is making their way through at a steady pace, and my mother and family friend from home are… getting there, haha. However, the story (all two chapters of it) is kid-approved so far by my little siblings, so I’m taking that as a good sign!

That’s all I have for today, so thank you for reading! What are you working on this month? I 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 recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Happy Writing! 🙂

Torn Universe: An Interview with Faye Fite

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Faye Fite, one of my longtime writing inspirations, and the author of The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, which I reviewed last week! I am thrilled to have her on my blog today to talk about developing characters, specifically fighters. This was such a fun interview, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!


Welcome! First, for a general introduction, can you tell me about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, and what you write?

Faye: Absolutely! My name is Faye Fite. I’m a disabled author of Christian speculative fiction and author of the Torn Universe, an expanded universe of science-fiction and fantasy short stories containing such things as desert elves, Aztec-inspired vampires, and sci-fi mermaids. I primarily write YA fantasy with tough, raw characters, vibrant cultures, and themes of strength, courage, and brokenness. I have been writing long before I knew how to spell properly. In my spare time, I am a college student studying nutrient metabolism and research assistant studying nutritional metabolomics.

Etta: Ah, that’s such a good pitch! It absolutely fits what I’ve seen of your work so far, and I love you say you do college “in your free time” haha. Big mood there. I’ve most recently read your Terebinth Tree Chronicles, so I’m most familiar with those characters, but if you think another character fits better for the questions, feel free to tell us about them too!

When you start a story, are your characters built from the ground up as the story forms around them, or do you start with a plot and create characters to fit the story you want to tell? Or is it a combination of both?

Faye: That’s a great question! I almost always start with a character first, as well as a theme or a question I want to explore, and then the story falls into place around them. Because my characters have such strong personalities, and because my world-building is very specific, I’ve found that letting them lose into the world results in a fairly instantaneous plot.

Etta: That makes sense! The themes in your stories are also super interesting and I want to circle back around to talk about that later. I love that you’re able to make your characters both so dynamic and distinct so it’s cool that they guide you through the story as you go. I can absolutely relate to that feeling.

What are your favorite types of character arcs to write?

Faye: I really enjoy writing angry, hurting characters who mean well, but don’t always know how to direct their emotions in a healthy way. As for arcs, I tend to enjoy writing what I refer to as “non-linear” character arcs, in that the characters don’t follow a clearly improving or backsliding trajectory, but instead take steps forward, mess up, try again, fail, rinse and repeat. These types of characters are interesting to write because they feel like a more honest reflection of most human beings, and also help myself and my readers learn how to pick ourselves up after we fall.

Etta: I respect that perspective, it great that you’re trying to capture the more nuanced and messy parts of life in your fiction – because that’s what makes the characters feel real and relatable. I especially noticed that personality with Jayel, especially in her fight with the magician. She’s doing her best to make a positive change in the world but is as often a victim of her own impulsive decisions as dire circumstances, putting her in that place where she has to act. It’s compelling, because there’s not always a right answer. The three books in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles all set up these characters’ arc and leave you with a satisfying conclusion of one arc, but you can tell they still have more growth ahead of them and I’m cheering them on.

Faye: Thank you for that awesome summary of Jayel! She is my beloved disaster child. I’m glad to hear you’re excited to see where their stories go next. I’m looking forward to publishing them!

Etta: Ahaha, “beloved disaster child” is such a fun way to describe her! I’m super excited to see her dynamic with Wanderer that you teased at the end of Flames of Courage. They’re a fun duo.

Tying into the comment about angry hurting characters who mean well, you write a lot of fighters, which I think is super cool! They face a ton of challenges in their world – be they physical threats, societal pressures, disabilities, or spiritual attacks. How do you decide which battles to give to which characters?

Faye: This is always one of my favorite parts of character creation! All of my main characters have some form of a disability (except for Ishtaka from Vengeance Hunter in the Phoenix Fiction Writers Antiheroes anthology), as I am disabled myself and am working to increase disability representation in sci-fi and fantasy. So the disability is pretty much always a given. The other circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change. For example, Wanderer faced a lot of societal pressures in Colors of Fear because he is a fearful character who needed something to spur him into finding his purpose and his strength.

Etta: I love that, “circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change”, what a succinct way to sum up character development, wonderful writing advice right there I will definitely take to heart. Wanderer’s story especially resonated with me when I first read it in high school working on college admissions. Maybe it’s not the same as joining the hunters, but the competition, anxiety, and “three in five” motif really hit home. And yes! I’m so glad you brought up the disability representation, because I was going to ask you about that next. It’s one thing that initially drew me to your stories and the indie author space as a whole, since you don’t see a lot of characters like that anywhere else!

When you write a character with a disability you don’t experience yourself, what do you research to represent the experience accurately?

Faye: I love this question! I do a combination of things. I watch YouTube videos created by people with those disabilities and read blog posts by them. I also tend to follow a lot of disabled people online and am always actively learning from them, so I absorb a lot that way. Additionally, I am involved in a lot of disability activism at my university and thus work alongside many other disabled people, so sometimes I will ask them for insight about their specific disabilities (if they are open to that). It’s a lifelong process and I’m always in “educate myself” mode.

Etta: Oh, that’s awesome! I can ditto following disabled folks online – I have a blind character in my book Storge and Molly Burke’s YouTube channel has been such an invaluable resource. Completely agree with lifelong learning, it’s great to connect with other people like that.

Another general character development question because now I’m curious about your process. How are your character’s strengths and weaknesses related to their motivations?

Faye: I often like to take a look at how people have the tendency to try to push through their weaknesses when they should instead by asking for help. This means that my characters are motivated to “overcome” obstacles that are usually of their own making….or that their motivations stem from them trying to fix external problems so they can ignore internal ones. I also like to play with character dynamics so that one character’s weaknesses result in them relying on another character’s strengths to ultimately succeed.

Etta: That’s interesting! On some subconscious level, I understood the tension that comes from conflicting internal and external, but hearing it articulated like that just made something click for me, wow. I also really like that “no man is an island” message. Team dynamics are always a ton of fun to explore and that setup is great for pushing characters to grow in ways that are outside their comfort zone.

You often have rich supporting characters who are fighters in their own rights. How do their lives affect your protagonists, and would you want to tell their stories too?

Faye: Yes, I love me some fighters! Often they are there to push my protagonists in a specific direction, either through inspiring them, teaching them, or showing them how not to behave. Many of them are characters that we will see later on, such as Fendred from Colors of Fear and Shelumiel in Flames of Courage. In fact, Wymund from Sounds of Deceit is making an appearance in the 4th Terebinth Tree Chronicles: Taste of Rage. These are all characters I’m excited to explore further.

Etta: Yay! Oh, oh, oh, now I’m so excited to see more of Wymund in the fourth book. That’s the first time I’ve heard the title, and it sounds so intense! And that’s cool how all the characters we’ve met so far are all there for a deeper purpose and will reoccur in the series. I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories all tie together. It’s like that saying, everyone is the protagonist of their own story.

Faye: Thank you! Character creation is always my favorite part of the writing process, so I love getting to pull side characters back into the spotlight in later stories.

Do you have any advice for writers about creating a compelling character arc?

Faye: Oooo. Yes! Don’t be afraid to be bold. Remember that people in real life are complicated, messy, contradictory, and that they don’t exist in a vacuum. So let your character have real highs and real lows, let them think they know what they want only to realize it’s not what they need, and remember that character arcs are often influenced by the arcs of surrounding characters.

Etta: Ah, that’s great to remember. Thank you so much! I will keep that in mind as I’m editing Storge and working on the arcs. My first draft suffered from hesitating and not going for the hard emotional beats, so it’s good to hear that reminder. 🙂

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! This was super informative and interesting and I’m glad I had the chance to chat with you! Where can we find you and your work online?

My website is my one-stop-shop to finding me and my stories. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram (@_FayeFite).


Thank you again to Faye for agreeing to do this interview with me and for sharing such thoughtful and thought-provoking answers! If you enjoyed this, be sure to go check out her other work. Thank you for reading, and until next time, happy writing!

Reading Rec: Terebinth Tree Chronicles

Hello everyone and welcome back to another reading rec! This month I want to talk about an author that I’ve enjoyed for quite a while now: Faye Fite. I found her blog back in high school when she still wrote under her other name, and the perspective she shared in her writing advice inspired me to get serious about my writing. Her books introduced me to the indie publishing space and the worlds of possibilities that open when you can control the content of your stories. Faye writes Christian speculative fiction that isn’t preachy and features badass disabled characters.

The Terebinth Tree Chronicles is a series of high fantasy short stories that share the backstories of Wanderer, Jayel, and Ailith – the future protagonists of an epic who are on a mission to assassinate the dark lord that’s plagued their world and ruined their families. Currently, three books have been released in this series: Colors of Fear, Flames of Courage, and Sounds of Deceit, but there are more on the way! Faye also has a few standalone books, including Skies of Dripping Gold, and So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One, which are both part of the same expanded story-world as the Terebinth Tree Chronicles, called the “Torn Universe.” I’m not sure how they all connect yet, but it’s a really cool concept! Faye is also a member of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, and has published three short stories in their anthologies.

I can wholeheartedly recommend all of her writing, but today I especially want to focus on the characters in the Chronicles and how their arcs are set up to have satisfying conclusions within each backstory book, but leave enough open-ended questions for the rest of the series to continue building.

Colors of Fear

The first book in the series follows the story of Wanderer, a desert elf who’s desperate to join the Hunters – an elite group of fighters dedicated to taking down the dark lord, Elgar. Three out of five Hunters dye within their first year of service, but he has a family to protect: his mother and chronically ill younger brother, Twig. While his brother wastes away from the disease that plagues their world – called Muria – Wanderer recovered, only to be left with a strange ability. He sees emotion as blinding color.

“Some days, he couldn’t even see the sky through his fears.”

When the colors choke his vision and make him stumble on the qualifying obstacle course, the Hunters turn Wanderer away, and force him to find a different path. He must choose between staying home, and watching his brother suffer, or leaving, following the orange strings, pulling him West, and putting his life on the line to kill Elgar and end their suffering once and for all.

Flames of Courage

The second book in the series follows Jayel – a partially deaf she-elf who also wanted to join the Hunters. Despite a perfect run, she’s turned away for her half-blood status. Boiling with anger, she returns to town, where she finds a slave trader abusing another young half-blood boy. Jayel springs to his defense, and when she escapes the guards and makes it home to her mentor Shelumiel, she’s concocted a new mission: bring justice to her people. Shelumiel warns her she won’t be able to accomplish her goals alone, that her plan is half-formed and that she must learn how to wield a sword. Unwilling to be dissuaded, Jayel sets off into the desert alone.

A day’s journey and a sandstorm later, she finally reaches the Spirit-Arch, a gateway to Maiah’s afterlife. There, she’s attacked by a human magician, and a slave, sent by Elgar to kill her. In self-defense, Jayel’s fire powers erupt, and betray her true identity as one of the Athelan – the Holy Warriors of Maiah. Upon realizing that she’s fighting slave, Jayel tries to persuade the magician to surrender. The woman reveals that if she doesn’t bring Jayel back to Elgar, he will kill her village. There are no right answers, and no innocent parties. When the fight finally ends, Jayel is left mourning the stranger and holding her blade.

“It was a lie. I don’t protect. I just… fight. For me. Not for anyone else.”

With her plan in shambles, Jayel follows the last directive she has left – learn how to use a sword. She continues West, and encounters a familiar figure – a fellow fighter, an elf cursed by colors, and a partner in training. The story ends with a hopeful, resolute tone. We don’t know how their stories will end, but we know that there’s a cause worth fighting for.

Sounds of Deceit

The third book in the series doesn’t take place in the same desert as Wanderer and Jayel’s stories. In a city controlled entirely by Elgar’s forces, Ailith and her brother Durran are ex-Hunters who struggle to survive by taking dangerous jobs from the remaining Faithful. Her powerful magic lets her perform incredible feats at the expense of her sanity, as the cacophony of noise that accompanies each spell causes her incapacitating brain-fog. She takes impulsive risks to distract herself from the lies and fear that rule her life, but that changes when they’re approached one night by Wymund – an acquaintance from their Hunter days. He asks them to join the group that plans to assassinate Elgar, but the siblings refuse to break their self-imposed exile.

As Ailith watches the suffering in the city, she keeps her head down. In the shadow of the clock-tower, she hides when she could help the Faithful being persecuted, because she is afraid of her magic, and is losing faith herself. With the encouragement of her elderly priestess friend, Nyara, and the long pressures of her past, she reaches a breaking point.

“I want our pain to be worth something… I want to stand tall.”

That night, they take out the guards, free the Faithful caged within, and destroy the clock tower that tormented her with its noise all along. She’s taken the leap of faith, and though we don’t know where it will take her, there is a promise that her power will prove to be a blessing in the end, when she joins forces with the other protagonists to set their world to rights.

If any of these stories sound interesting to you, I highly recommend you check out Faye’s site and read her books! These are just some of a wonderful universe to explore, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the characters. Make sure you check back next week to read our interview, but until then, Happy Writing! 🙂