Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Official Notice: Upcoming Absence

Hello, readers.

Briefly, I considered posting this two days from now (as that would be the day marking the first month since this blog was created), but for practical reasons, I decided against it.

Within the next week and a half, my family and I will be moving. In short, that means we’re going to be crazy busy (to borrow the colloquialism), and I’m going to have to cease posting until the move is completed. I simply will not have the time, and you deserve better than half-thrown together posts with very little thought put into them, and that’s all I would be able to manage.

I probably will not be absent for any more than a fortnight at the most, but since I try and regularly post on here, I wanted to let you know that I didn’t disappear off the face of the planet, nor was I abducted by aliens, and I will return fairly soon.

Until then, namárië, au revoir, adios and farewell. Thank you for reading, and I hope to write again soon.

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Writing Prompt – 03-21-2014

Writing Prompt - 03-21-2014

Origin: “The Day We Left Earth” by Alex Cornell.

If you’d like to write something from the prompt and post it in the comments, feel free to. I’d love to read it.

(Also, I was wondering if you like these…? Should I continue posting these prompts, or cease?)

The Youngest Characters

Writing realistic children is something that many authors, even very talented ones, struggle with. I’ve read novels where there are excellent story-lines, well-rounded characters, and epic villains, and yet, the moment a young child steps into the room, the author has trouble.

Many authors have no trouble writing characters. They know people well, but when it comes to a child… People don’t know what to make their characters do. I think that, living with so many brothers and sisters in the house, I have an advantage over other young writers. I can look at the young children around me and learn from them on a day-to-day basis.

What I have found is, that there are many things that authors should have been told to avoid, but were not, and many things that authors should have been told to do, but were not.

Avoid the Sweet Little Girl. Really. I know authors and know of authors who have little children who are way~too~sweet. Children are more than smiles, hugs and victims who are pathetic and need rescuing. Give them more then smiles and waves. No one can love a cardboard cut-out. I’ve found that, unless your child is really a villain, don’t make them perfect. Don’t even make them seem perfect. Throw in a temper tantrum or two if the need arises.

Some children seem to be strangely independent for their ages. While I know one little boy who always wants to be held, more are willing to be set down on their feet and run around. They’ll want to show your readers and your other characters how adorable they are by running around and showing off. They’ll find a ball and run back to an older character to tell them “Ball! Ball!” If it’s in their character, let them show off.

Children show their emotions. When children are happy, they laugh. When they’re angry, they yell or cross their arms and glower at their adversary. When they’re excited, they clap their hands if they’re young, or bounce up and down on their toes when they’re older. They have less worry about what people think of them, and are more real. If they’re shy, they don’t stammer and avoid confrontations like older people do; they find a trusted person they can hide their face in.

Yet when they get older, they want to be “big kids.” The main character in my current novel is a twelve year old. When children start to reach a certain age (different for every person, but usually somewhere between seven and twelve), they start to want to be seen as an adult. My character, Carlie, doesn’t want to cry. She’s too old for that; or so her pride says. Children have an odd sense of pride. Little boys are more likely to decide they’re too old for crying when they’re younger, but I remember as a child hiding my face in the cushions of the couch so that no one would see my cry (it never occurred to me that people noticed that and knew what it meant). Little girls might be more likely to shove their toys in a box and pull out a book she finds to be exponentially boring when visitors arrive.

Children are not adults. Try not to write them as such, unless there’s something unusual about them. Children don’t need to know who another person is before deciding that they should be friends. If someone will play with someone under seven, usually they’ll be friends, whether they’ve exchanged names or not. Children, unless they’ve been emotionally scarred, are less suspicious than adults.

Sometimes children misbehave. I know, I know; it’s a novel thought (but that is what you’re writing, is it not?), to have a child you weren’t intending to make a “naughty child” do bad things. But all children make mistakes and break the rules sometimes. Some more than others, some rarely ever. But in very young children, they simply don’t understand sometimes; in older children, sometimes they’ll break the rules because they think they can get away with it, or if they simply didn’t think before doing it. Children are impulsive.  They might not think before they act. Some children might be the type to hug a villain because he used his words very nicely to make the child feel sorry for him. Some might be the type to charge a villain and physically attack them if the villain is making the child angry or afraid. (I have a character who has done both of these. Different villains, though.)

Children pay attention. This particularly goes for younger children, because there’s so much new things everywhere. They see so much around them that’s new and exciting that they’ll notice inconsistencies in the way people act. If brothers and sisters suddenly start acting strange, a young child will notice it. Children might not be able to figure out what exactly they noticed, but they easily pick up on the fact that something strange is going on, and they’re highly attuned to emotions.

Children act how they’re raised. My youngest sister is not yet two, but she knows that when the dogs bark, you tell them “Hush;” when someone is hurt you ask them “Okay?”; when food is on the table, you tell people “Come eat!” They don’t necessarily copy things exactly, but they pick up on the behavior they’re raised with, whether they know why they’re doing it or not.

And yet. Children have characteristics just like older characters. They’re not all the same. Every child has a different identity and different actions. Sometimes they’re shy and need to have words coaxed out of them, and if you manage, you’re amazing. Sometimes they simply won’t stop talking, and if you can make them be quiet for five minutes, you’re more amazing. When children have experienced trauma in their lives, they’re more withdrawn and less likely to trust people; if they grew up in a position of high authority, they’re more likely to be arrogant.

Children grow up at different times in their lives. I have a young man who is eighteen who I refer to as a “boy,” and have had a fellow of twelve years who was a “man.”

There is way more that could be said about children, but since I’m more interested in keeping readers interested until the close of an article than inspiring people to re-paper their walls, I will abstain from trying to go to the end. Spend time around children. Find books that seem to represent children well. Two that I know of are Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Vieled Rose, with young Leo being a rather realistic child, and N. D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards series, with Anastasia appearing rather believable, if a little bit un-sweet at times. Remember who you were when you were young. How did you think? How did you react to things?

If you put children in your stories, it is important to show people realistic children, whether they’re exactly normal or not (because who has a child who stays normal throughout an entire novel?).

What are ways that you write children? Do comment. Thoughts go in the box!

Character Interview: Stori

Happy Tuesday, readers. Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Stori, Companion to Hope Hunter in Caiti Marie’s (who happens to be my awesome sister) episodic Saturday Stori.

Hello, Stori! Welcome to Red Lettering. I’m honored that you were willing to answer some questions. I know you’re very busy–something about saving the world?–so I’ll make it brief.

To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Stori: *stills, staring into space as she considers the question, then gives a quick laugh* I’m sorry. I don’t introduce myself very often. My name… *forehead wrinkles* You know my name. Well… *quiets for a moment* I was born in Rivervale. You’ve probably not heard of it— It was a tiny village nestled in the South of the Liliwhit Mountains. I am Companion to Hope Hunter, a girl from earth I met a little over eleven years ago.

Actually, I have heard of Rivervale, though only brief mentions. I do know your name. Which brings me to my next question. Your name is a bit unusual… Was it your given name?

Stori: Of course it was. *laughs* Not given by my parents, though. Names… Names are special things where I come from. *lowering her voice, she shifts her gaze to the floor* I have had several. I have traveled many worlds, and collected many mistakes and names to go with them. When, by the grace of God, I was reborn, I was given a new name— A name to help me remember that He is writing my story, and that even when things get dark, I am promised an eventual happy ending. *murmurs* And things get pretty dark sometimes.

Names are special things here, though few know of their importance. You mentioned before that you’re a Companion, but while most of us might have had some experience with Companions, most of us are uncertain about what exactly a Companion is. Could you clarify about that?

Stori: *quietly* A Companion is a servant. We are born to serve and to die. *shakes her head* Not everyone chooses to, but at the heart of it, that is our purpose. We have some… Some… abilities that you do not. *touches her temple* Our abilities are usually reflected in our eyes. Dark blue irises with pale blue pupils, like mine, indicate the ability to control water. Jed— He is a friend of mine— Has green eyes and red pupils. The red pupils indicate that he can control fire. I’m trying to put it in a way you would understand… We would say he is fire, because it is his very nature, though it costs him dearly to control it. Another difference… *lifts the crystal hanging on a chain around her neck* Every Companion has two of these. One we always wear, because to be separated from it is death. The other… *dropping the crystal, sweeps a strand of hair off her face* The other we call the Twin, and it is given to the person we wish to serve until death. I gave mine to Hope. Some people choose to keep their Twin for the power and security it lends them. *curls her fingers into a fist* I should not judge them.

I see. I wonder if it might be slightly ironic; for you to be water, and he to be fire. I may know the answer to this question already, but…is there anyone you would die to save?

Stori: Hope. There are others, of course— I would die to save anyone who needed me to. But Hope. I would die to save Hope without a heartbeat’s thought.

Hope was the person I suspected, with your explanation of Companions, and your saying that you were Hope’s Companion. Opposite of the previous question, do you have anyone you would consider a personal enemy?

Stori: Personal? No. There are a good many people I am not on pleasant terms with, but most of the people who had reason to hate me died a long time ago. Though there is one person… *she looks up, her voice hardening, the skin around her eyes tightening* There is one person I can say I despise. Her name is Tamal. She is… *rubs her hands across her arms as though wiping away filth* I’ll let you think of the words.

I’m afraid I can think of the words; Tamal and I have had indirect run-ins in the past, and she is not, shall we say, my favorite person around. …What do you fear?

Stori: The past. I fear the past repeating itself.

I see. Do you have a family? Where are they now?

Stori: *after a long moment, draws in a slow breath through her nose* I had a family, once. More years ago than I can guess, both my parents were killed in a raid that destroyed Rivervale. I remember very little of their lives. After that, it was only my brother Ivon and I… Now it is only me. My brother is dead. *quieter* He is.

I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t know whether to tell you an overused phrase that’s tossed around far to frequently, or if I should tell you that not everything is always as clear as it seems. What is the first thing you remember?

Stori: *starts a bit* Oh, my. *with a laugh* That’s a difficult question. I’m not quite as young as I look. My first memory… *pause* I remember my father’s beard. Only that: His beard, which swallowed up his Crystal. I suppose my earliest real memory was playing in the mud with Ivon. He was making mud pies, which I tried to eat… I must have been two or three. Have you ever tasted mud pies? I remember the taste so clearly. It’s not true what they say about dirt having no taste; it did. It tasted of salt, and… and… I don’t know what. Ivon was kind enough to laugh at my expression, so I… *chuckles* I put a mud pie on his head. I don’t remember how it went from there, only that we were covered in mud before we had done. *silent for a moment, lost in memory; then she turns* I had not thought of that in years longer than you can know. Thank you.

Oh. *snickers* No… Thank you. It must be such a special memory. Thank you for sharing it with us. Do you have a favorite season?

Stori: No. I have seen many seasons in many worlds, and they all run together. I have no favorites.

Now that I think about it, I’m aware that you’ve traveled many worlds, so that might not have been the perfect question to ask, seeing as how different the same seasons can be in the different worlds. I suppose I should let you go now… But thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you agreeing to spend time with us today. 

Stori: Thank you for inviting me. *scowls* It was worth it just to get away from certain company. I’d like to avoid committing murder, however justified.

To avoid becoming part of a debate (where we would undoubtedly take the same position) I’ll just nod and let you go. Thank you so much for being here. I hope the next few months go well for you.

Many thanks to Caiti Marie for allowing me to interview Stori, particularly since I was late this week and gave her such short notice. Saturday Stori can be read on Caiti’s blog, Blossoms and Thorns, where you can also find more about her, her writing, and her life. Also, on the Writing Prompt for March Sixth, she commented with a section from Stori’s past.

      Caiti Marie is a Christian, and a storyteller with a penchant for pen-names and an accidental habit of creating sympathetic villains. She lives at the top of the world surrounded by wind and trees, where the stars go to hide from bright lights in the city and stay because it’s the most beautiful place on earth. In other news, she is the third of eleven children and may or may not have developed a bad case of paranoia from reading copious amounts of fiction. It is entirely plausible that she has a steel rod in her pillowcase and is not afraid to use it. She blogs at blossomsandthorns.wordpress.com
If you would like to have one of your characters interviewed, leave me a comment with your email address and the link to your blog if you have one. Your comment won’t be published, but I’ll email you in a couple of days.

Author Interview: Bryan Davis

Ladies and Gentlemen, Authors and Authoresses. Lend me your ear (or in this case your eye) for today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Bryan Davis, author of Speculative Fiction books that have collected recognition in the world of Christian Fantasy. In 2007, Eye of the Oracle was number one on the Young Adult CBA best-seller list, and The Bones of Makaidos won the 2010 Clive Staples Award. I have been a fan of his books (particularly the Echoes from the EdgeDragons in Our Midst, and Oracles of Fire series’) for many years, and it is a great honor to have him on my blog today. 

Hello, Bryan Davis! Welcome to Red Lettering. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Bryan Davis: Hello, everyone. I am the author of seven fiction series, 23 novels so far, nearly all of them involving some sort of speculative fiction—fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc. I have been married to Susie for 33 years, and we have seven offspring, ranging from 16 to 31 years old. I live in western Tennessee with my wife and two of those offspring, as well as one dog, four cats, and about 40 chickens.

What first made you start writing?

Bryan Davis: I began writing as a way of trying to get my kids interested in writing. We wrote a story together, and when I saw how the storytelling motivated my kids toward courage, sacrifice, and other virtues we put into the story, the process created a passion in me to write. I hoped that I could do the same for other readers and make an impact on the world. The journey was longer and harder than I expected. It took ten years to get published, and I received more than 200 rejections along the way. Now I am glad of those rejections, because they motivated me to learn the craft and get much better at writing.

Do you ever get “writer’s block”? How do you deal with it if you do? If you don’t, how do you think people might avoid it?

Bryan Davis: I don’t get the common form of writer’s block, that is, a lack of ideas. I get too many ideas and sometimes have trouble choosing one. I have found that going back and editing a previous scene helps a lot. Also, if you stop writing for the day in the middle of a scene, it is much easier to pick it up again. Emotive music is another good way to get the creative juices flowing.

What is the worst piece of writing advice that you’ve ever heard?

Bryan Davis: Just about any advice that includes “always” or “never.” Always use “said” as a speaker tag. Never use adverbs. Always use show, don’t tell. Never use “was.” Such absolutes are misleading. There is a time and place for just about anything in writing … except for missing motivations. That’s my only “always” rule. Your point-of-view character must always have a perceivable motivation for any action that he or she does. Otherwise, you reader will lose intimacy with the character.

Since random questions are always fun, have you ever stood on your hands while doing jumping jacks and eating peanut butter? If the answer is no (which I suspect it will be), which do you prefer, coffee, or tea? (If the answer is yes… What on earth were you thinking?)

Bryan Davis: No, I haven’t done that, but I do eat a lot of peanut butter, so I am an expert in that activity. I don’t drink coffee, and I rarely drink tea, so I suppose I have to choose tea. Can I add Pepsi Throwback to the options?

Outside of your books, which fictional work is your favorite?

Bryan Davis: To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel. Harper Lee’s ability to see through a young girl’s eyes and still present complex themes was extraordinary. Her writing was superb, and her portrayal of a widowed father as a heroic figure who stood against the prevailing opinions of the culture moved me deeply.

Which of your books was the hardest for you to write?

Bryan Davis: Eye of the Oracle was the most difficult. I told a story that spanned 5000 years, and I wanted to tie it together with a thread that provided a feeling of a continuum. It took six months to write, which is a long time for me, since I am a full-time author. Also, the emotions in the story stretched me in a dozen ways. When I finished, I felt like a wrung-out dishcloth.

I’ve heard that you’ve done some interesting research for your novels in the past. What would you consider the most exciting bit of research you’ve ever done?

Bryan Davis: I went to England to do research for Circles of Seven. Before I left, I purchased a book about Glastonbury and the secrets of Avalon—a look at the legends of King Arthur and some connections with the mysticism in Glastonbury. When I visited one of the tourist sites in Glastonbury, I entered the site’s bookstore and saw the author’s sequel to the book I had bought. I mentioned this coincidence to the shopkeeper, and she asked if I wanted to meet the author. She directed me to his house around the corner, and the author was there. He gave me many more insights than were in the book, and I was able to include some of the cool stuff in the story.

Do you have a verse, or a group of verses, that you would consider your writing anthem?

Bryan Davis: And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5)   God makes all things new. God also makes us new creatures,  freed from bondage to sin and resurrected to new life. This transformation a major theme in my stories. Since God says to write about these things, I try to faithfully obey that command.

You’re in the park, and you meet a character from the novel you’re currently working on. Who is it, and what would you say to him or her?

Bryan Davis: I meet Phoenix from Reapers and tell him to trust Singapore. No matter how treacherous she might appear to be, she has a good reason for her actions. She just can’t tell you yet. You can and should trust her.

What is an important piece of writing advice that you don’t hear often?

Bryan Davis: Your entire story should be tied together in a series of motivation/reaction units. The action of the point-of-view (POV) character in a paragraph should have an apparent motivation that can be found in a previous paragraph, preferably in the one immediately previous. Even the actions of the non-POV characters should have apparent motivations in nearly all instances. Some motivations for non-POV characters can be hidden at times, but you should have good reason to withhold that information.

What novel are you currently working on? Give us a reason to want to read it.

Bryan Davis: I just finished and published Reapers. It is a dystopian tale with a supernatural twist. Taking place in a futuristic, urban setting, this first book in a planned trilogy will appeal to readers of The Hunger Games and similar fast-paced stories for young adults. Along with a blend of real life and imagination, it delivers action, danger, and suspense through the adventures of three teenagers—Phoenix, Singapore, and Shanghai—Reapers who collect the souls of the dying or already dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination … or so they are told. Here is a link to the first chapter – http://www.daviscrossing.com/Reapers-chapter-one.pdf

Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Davis. I am looking forward to being able to read Reapers with more than a little bit of anxiousness. I  know that your books have touched the hearts of many, and led people to Christ, and I am honored that you would take the time to allow yourself to be interviewed on my blog.

      Bryan Davis is the author of the following young adult fantasy series: Dragons in our Midst, Oracles of Fire, Echoes from the Edge, and Dragons of Starlight. He also wrote I Know Why the Angels dance, a contemporary novel for adults. After laboring as a computer geek for 20 years, Bryan followed a dream to become an author. He began by writing a story to motivate his seven children to gain some excitement about writing, and that story grew into a novel. After spending the next eight years learning the craft and enduring more than 200 rejections from publishers and agents, he broke through with his best-selling series Dragons in our Midst. He is now a full-time author and lives with his wife, Susie, and their children in western Tennessee. Bryan’s novels have been readily accepted in schools worldwide, whether public, Christian (Protestant or Catholic), Jewish, or otherwise. Such is their wide appeal. For more information, see his website – http://www.daviscrossing.com

Writing Prompt – 03-14-2014

Writing Prompt - 03-14-2014

Origin: I first saw this on Pinterest, on a storyboard of someone who I follow, so nothing is really entirely certain. I looked around and found that this is a picture by LuLebel (DeviantArt), inspired by A Game of Thrones. I do not know either of them, so I would urge caution in any other action regarding this picture.

If the picture inspires you to write something in any way, I’d like to hear about it if you would be willing to comment.

Procrastinating and Deadlines

Before I started this blog, I decided that, instead of making things up spur-of-the-moment and trying to pull together a legible blog on writing with regular posts and no planning, I wanted to put together a schedule for at least three weeks before opening the blog. So before the opening post, before even the blog was created, I had three weeks of posts planned to be written.

The only thing that I missed was that, as most authors do, I have a strong amount of procrastination, which tends to interfere with deadlines and goals. Yesterday, I was supposed to write and post an article. Clearly that didn’t happen, and while I have excuses–even reasons–I doubted that you would like to hear them. While thinking today about whether or not I should just ignore the fact that I didn’t post it, post it today and apologize, or simply post it today, I came across something that I should have planned to post about, but didn’t.

Undoubtedly you’ve already guessed the topic of this post (the title also makes it fairly easy).

I don’t believe that I know of a single human being who has not, at some point, struggled from procrastination. Procrastination is a leading cause of failing to achieve…anything. But for writers, learning how to overcome procrastination is massively important.

I know of authors who have beat seemingly impossible odds to finish their books. While writing Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George was pregnant with a baby, had a baby, and spent time in the hospital while she and her baby had a potentially life-threatening disease. And yet she still finished the book. This shows an amazing amount of perseverance.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl entirely re-wrote her novel Veiled Rose in two months while being courted, proposed to, and planning a wedding. This shows an amazing amount of perseverance.

I see these things that writers have somehow managed to do, look at them wide-eyed for a second, and then shake my head. “There is no way,” I tell myself, “that I could manage that.”

I think that most of us couldn’t for the simple reason that we haven’t started training for it.

When runners run a marathon, they train. When knights prepared to fight a tournament or a war, they trained. When writers are serious about writing and being published, they should train also.

Being published means deadlines. Deadlines demand perpetual work, every day. Which means that procrastination has no place.

Since I have a goal to be published in the near future, this is something that I need to learn. As I am the Queen of Procrastination, I fear that it will take both a lot of work and a lot of will, as it does for everyone.

But, as writers, we have an obligation to readers. If we write blogs, we have a day-to-day obligation, and if we write novels that we plan on someday releasing to the public, we have an obligation to write them well and develop our craft and perseverance for the days we’ll need it (so that, ten days before a deadline, you don’t realize that you didn’t write a word of your novel).

As Christian writers, we have an obligation to God, to let our every task honor Him. Putting off writing does not seem to be the best way to do that. Do your best. If you’re going to take the time to write at all, do whatever you can to make it worth the time you’ve already spent. That includes not procrastinating. Make your writing worth having His name on it.

As people, we have an obligation to ourselves. If we avoid doing the things we ought to do, we reinforce bad habits in ourselves and cut down the quality of our writing by depriving ourselves of the time that it takes to perfect a skill.

Don’t keep what you’re going to do to yourself. Tell the world that you will be writing five hundred words by the end of tomorrow, and should your personality resemble mine in any way, you’ll be more likely to do it.

Train yourself. Get over procrastination. You won’t regret it in your writing or your life. I’ll do it with you.

What are ways that you deal with procrastination in your writing? Thoughts go in the box!

 

Writing Prompt – 03-06-2014

 

 

I have seen many writing prompts, but my favorite kind of writing prompts are not the kind that say, “Your character is…”, but instead, the kind that are inspiring. The ones that a story could spring out of with minimal help from a writer.

There are many of these floating about, so I’ll be posting one every Friday (barring an explosion of the world or other such catastrophes). If you’d like, write a few paragraphs and post it in the comments. If you wouldn’t, I’m trying to avoid exploding the world for at least three more weeks, so I’m fresh out of threats. If it inspires something you like, but would rather not broadcast to the public, I’d like to know if you used it, even if I don’t read it. And if it inspires a whole new subplot in your novel, or a new novel… I definitely want to hear about that. Some of them will belong to me, but others won’t, but I’ll try and credit the artist.
New Name

 

Beginnings

Image

There are very few things that are entirely obligatory to something written. A skilled writer might be able to manage a story without characters, and many unskilled writers write without characters (posing as characters are names and cardboard cut-outs). Many young writers have their stories without climaxes, and even published works have been found to be without endings sometimes.

But beginnings are entirely necessary. Good or bad, beginnings are always there; writers have to start somewhere.

I considered writing my first post on climaxes, or endings, just for the irony of it, but it wasn’t quite ironic enough for people to notice, so I decided against it.

I read three blogs dedicated only to writing that immediately come to mind, and probably five that have posts about writing well on them, but I don’t think that I’ve ever read a post on one of them about beginning a story. I have read posts about before you start writing, about assembling an outline, and about developing your characters before the start of the novel, but I do not recall ever reading one about the first few paragraphs of a novel. People often tend to ignore that beside the general, “Don’t begin a book on “a dark and stormy night,” or with your character waking up to the blaring of their alarm clock.”

Yet the beginning of a novel is important. Few agents or publishers will read past the first few paragraphs if they’re unimpressed by what they see there. Readers are more likely to continue, but once you make a first impression, it’s hard to change it.

The only question now being what makes a good beginning?

While there’s little on beginning novels, it’s not an entirely untouched subject, and there are some things that most writers know. The most obvious is to capture the attention of the reader. It’s exceptional advice… yet often, I think, writers take this a little bit too far.

There are many things that go into making a good beginning which won’t be touched here, but I think that the most important thing that I know is that people don’t care about your characters. 

Often I’ve seen both works-in-progress and published novels where authors almost immediately put their characters in danger. They leave us no time to get attached to the characters before expecting us to care if they die at all. We’re not heartless readers, but, truly, characters die all the time. We have no reason to care if particular characters die unless we’ve been given a reason, and if the authors immediately expects us to care, it only irritates us.

In Bryan Davis’s Raising Dragons, the story begins not in the middle of a battle, but in a normal, everyday life… that isn’t so normal anymore. Bryan Davis immediately shows us what is normal as well as showing us what’s changing the normal of the main character. For another chapter, the effects of the change are seen, but we don’t actually find the real, life-or-death danger until we care about the characters.

In Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s, Heartless, it opens with a brother and a sister playing by the side of a river on the edge of a forest that no one enters. A normal thing, but with a touch of mystery, of fantasy that makes us wonder, who is going to stumble into the Wood…or who is going to come out? After the prologue, we enter a normal day, a few years later, which is soon changed by the appearance of something out of the ordinary, but not something setting a blade to the character’s neck. It keeps us reading, and then the threat enters. By that time, we have found that, at some point without noticing, we got attached to the characters.

My favorite books have started by showing what is normal for the characters and threatening it quietly. Starting with a direct threat to the characters doesn’t seem to work for me, because I have no  interest in the characters, but if you show me something small that interests me enough to keep me reading until I’m attached to the characters, I consider it to be well done.  Sometimes there is a prologue, or a brief scene beforehand that shows a threat, but the books that I’ve remembered have not started with a sword-fight or the character nearly dying.

By the time characters are being shoved into close brushes with death, the reader should realize that they like the characters. They should realize that they’re ready to clobber the author if the character dies.

Then we, the authors, know that we’ve crafted a good beginning.

What are your favorite beginnings to stories? Do you agree? Disagree? What have you found about writing beginnings that’s helped you? There’s a neat little “comment” box below!

Character Interview: Errance

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Errance, Elf-Prince of Aselvia, from Hannah William’s (currently in the editing stage) book, Moonscript.

 Moonscript New Cover

Cover drawn by Hannah Williams

The Secret Was Safe With Him…But Only If He Was Saved First

Long ago, the elven king hid away his most precious book, the Moonscript, for only it held the secrets of the unreachable Higher World. Evil has long sought this knowledge…and now the heir to the Moonscript has vanished…

Such stories should have nothing to do with Tellie.
Young Tellie is a simple orphan girl with one desire in her heart—to find a family who loves her. But when dark strangers visit her inn, she discovers a mysterious treasure and is pulled into the outside world.

Her dreams of family and home are forced aside as Tellie is plunged into an adventure beyond her imagination. If she is to escape, she must rescue a fellow prisoner, the only person left alive who can keep the Moonscript a secret.
But which will be harder—rescuing him from dungeons….or from himself?

Errance-2

Illustration of Errance by Hannah Williams

(Note: To avoid spoilers, Errance was interviewed at a point in the story, not at the end of the novel.)

Hello, Errance! I’m honored to have you on my blog today. I’ve heard quite a bit about you, and hope that you won’t mind my asking some questions. To start with… Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Errance: *a long, heavy pause* I see you know my name already. If you know that, I suppose you know the rest already. Let me guess, you’re one of those—

*a young girl bounces up next to him* Tellie: Errance! Honestly! This girl is named Athelas Hale, and she just very sweetly wants to know about you! You are so suspicious. Just answer nicely. Or I will.

Errance: *with an annoyed expression, he obliges very stiffly* I am Errance, Prince of Aselvia.  I’ve been held prisoner by the forces of the Darkness for seventy years. But then…I suspect you already knew that.

Yes, I had heard something about that… But, onward. To begin at the beginning… What is the first thing that you remember?

Errance: That’s complicated. You mean when I was a child? All my memories from my life in Aselvia have faded over the years. But I have a recollection from when I was very young of… looking at the stars. Held in the arms of my father. His magpie bouncing along a wall nearby. And… *his voice trails away*

I see. You speak of your father… Who were your parents? Where are they now?

Errance: *raises an eyebrow* You mean you don’t know? Interesting. Very well. I am the only son of Rendar and Cerene. My father is the only Celestial elf left in the Lower World because…of an unfortunate choice he made. But since then he was made King of Aseliva. I never met my mother, a princess of the elves. She died in childbirth. I’ve been told she was always a delicate creature. As for my father…I won’t see him again either. Tellie has carried word of his death.

I never did claim to be all-knowing, please remember. But…I’m sorry to hear that. I imagine it would be difficult growing up without a mother and that must have been hard news to hear. If you could change one thing in the past, what would it be?

Errance: *a bitter laugh* Being born.

Tellie: Errance!

Errance: Fine. I shouldn’t have gone back for the Moon Medallion that night. I suppose I should never have left Aselvia to begin with. I don’t know. I don’t know what I could have done different to have escaped my capture.

Hm. I wonder how things would have turned out if you weren’t captured. I doubt we shall ever know. Is there anyone you would die to save?

Errance: *leans back in chair and crosses arms* Well. That’s a rather dangerous question, don’t you think? I don’t care to say. Perhaps it’s no one. Except, of course, all those Celestial Elves whose realm I am protecting. They don’t even know me, nor I them. Ironic, isn’t it?

Dangerous? To some people, I suppose. That’s love—the action, love—mixed with duty, I think. It often is ironic …I hear you have something to do with a mysterious book—the Moonscript? Could you tell us a bit about that?

Errance: No.

Tellie: *With an apologetic smile* I’m sorry, that’s the reason the villains have had him imprisoned for so long. They believe it could hold secrets to infiltrating the Higher World and defeating the Celestial Elves and since he’s the only one that can read it…well. It’s a touchy subject with him.

That’s all right. No need to apologize for him, Tellie; I wasn’t expecting an answer to that question anyway. Do you consider yourself worth rescuing? Why or why not?

Errance: *a blank expression…then a glimmer of uncertainty* I…I I’m not sure. In the past, I always dreamed my father would discover that I wasn’t dead and come flying to my rescue. I suppose my people would do the same if they learned I was alive. Worth rescuing? Because of my position and power alone, I suppose so. Though it’s not as if my imprisonment in the Darkness jeopardizes the world. Anyone would be an idiot to think I’d give in now after all this time.

Tellie: Of course, you’re worth rescuing! You’re amazing! And even if you weren’t, no one…*she shudders*…no one deserves the prisons of Tertorem.

Hm. I  think I would have to agree with Tellie on this; from what I’ve seen, you’re definitely worth rescuing.  Everyone is afraid of something—what are you most afraid of?

Errance: *laughs* Hm, pain and things people generally considering terrifying became rather common to me. *a shadow crosses his face* But…now that I’ve escaped from Tertorem…I’m afraid of being caught again…returning to that living death. But…yet…somehow…this outside world…this life I do not know is even more fearful. And when I think of returning home…to the paradise I left when I was just twenty years old returning to  people who will remember as who I once was, not what I am now…I…I…I’m terrified…

At least you knew what to expect in the dungeons, yes? But this is much more uncertain. Last question—did you have a favorite story as a child?

Errance: *A startled expression* Why would you want to know that?

Tellie: *rolls her eyes* You just finished revealing your deepest fears. Obviously, she’s asking a question that will make you feel better. She’s a sweet girl, as I told you. Now, let’s end on a cheerful note. Go on, what’s your favorite story as a child?

Errance: Well…like I said, I don’t remember much…but there were many interesting stories I learned. My father’s story…of the Fall of Darkness, of the Separation of Worlds, of the Wraith, the first Windsweeper…ah…but that was when I was older. It was too dark for a child. However…*smiles a little*…Father did tell me about the Daishas. There used to be so many before the Fall. Those who were left journeyed to the far North. But they fascinated me. They are great flying, talking beasts. They have a long body, tail, and neck, are covered in soft grey fur, and rather cattish manners. And though I said “beasts,” they really were a people. Not like us, of course, but they spoke and had a soul. I always dreamed of finding one and becoming best friends with him. I called him Roarwind and constantly pretended he was with me. And Father would play along. He once even ordered a raw deer to the dinner table for Roarwind. The servers were so confused…but then they caught on and pretended to carry one out to the table and…*suddenly cuts off and blinks in confusion* I…ah…yes. So that one. Um. Shouldn’t we be going now?

Tellie: *sniffles a little* Thank you, Athelas. It was so wonderful to have a chance to sit down and rest. I love your blog…what strange word and world…but Errance is right. We really should be going. Our other companions, Tryss and Kelm, will be looking for us. We have to continue our journey to Aselvia. I hope someday you’ll hear more of us and learn whether we reached Aselvia or not. May the One bless you.

Errance, you make me think of my childhood. Roarwind would be a wonderful companion to any child. You must have been proud to have him as your friend while he was your comrade. …Oh, yes—don’t keep your companions waiting. I’m sorry for keeping you so long, and Errance, I feel I should apologize for asking such personal questions. Thank you both for coming! It was a joy to speak to you both. I’ll be looking for news of you, and hope that you reach Aselvia, and that all goes well with you. And may both of you be blessed beyond measure. 

Many, many thanks to Hannah Williams, who allowed me to interview her awesome characters. You can find more about her and Moonscript at her blog The Writer’s Window.   (The name is clickable. I know it doesn’t look it, but it is.)

Hannah WilliamsHannah Williams is a seventeen year-old homeschooler living in the lush valleys of Oregon. She doesn’t mind the rain because it gives her an excuse to stay inside and write. She lives on a knoll with her parents, big brother, her grammie, and three dogs, five cats, six chickens, two guinea pigs, and one goat. Writing and illustrating epic stories of good and evil are her passions. She is a geek of all things Tolkien and Stengl and hopes to publish her own books with the goal of bringing glory to God. Learn more about her stories and interests at her blog,  http://williamshsj.blogspot.com/   

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