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 tag “Letters to Characters”

Dear Female Warriors

Dear Female Warriors l

Dear Female Warriors (and eavesdropping authors),

Occasionally, there comes a time where women must become warriors. Those times are few and far between (and usually come up because your author is borderline feminist), but without a doubt, they do occur. As you sit in your armor (which has been properly constructed to guard your internal organs, not to look cool—right?), in the midst of your war camp reading this letter, you have apparently come upon such a time: you, a woman, must become a warrior. Possibly no one else stepped up and became a warrior at this time; perhaps you are the Chosen One who is destined to save the world; perhaps you are in a unique political situation which forces you to be the one to take the reins and lead your country to victory. Perhaps you live in a world where female soldiers are the norm (in which case, you’re likely not in the midst of your war camp wearing medieval-style armor), or you’ve been drafted into the military; perhaps you’re simply a young lady who ran away from home and joined the army.

Whatever your reasons, you’re the heroine, so you’ve probably made the right choice for your situation. If you haven’t made the right choice, you’ll surely figure it out later. I won’t ask for your reasons; the point of this letter is to slightly increase your chance of survival until you either have won the war, or regretted your choice and returned home to be reunited with your estranged parents.

First off—your clothing choices. We covered most of the problems in another post a few years ago, so this will be brief.

Remember that you are a female: you’re most likely smaller and weaker than most men. Consider carefully what kind of armor you’ll wear, and remember that on the battlefield, sometimes lighter is more practical for you. Remember (and remind your authors) that research is vital when picking what armor you will wear. What you know about the weight or flexibility of medieval armor may be incorrect.

If you do decide to wear armor, remember: your armor is meant to protect your vital organs, not make you look nice. I promise, no one is going to be admiring you in battle; to quote Father Christmas, “battles are ugly affairs”. Everyone is fighting for their lives, attacking, counterattacking, being thrown from place to place and focused only on the person they happen to be fighting right at that moment. People just don’t have time to be admiring your fancy armor. What the do have time for is noticing that you’re not wearing vital protection over your important internal organs. If you have the funding, by all means, get your armor custom-made so that it fits you better; but get it made well. 

Your long hair is an accident waiting to happen. You are not an indestructible Warrior Elven Princess*, and your hair will not fly out majestically behind you. Instead, it will get tangled; it will get caught; it will be grabbed by your opponent. As a woman soldier, you need to consider this, even when you aren’t on the battlefield. If you are the one leading the battle, expect assassins; if you have no political power—did I mention you’re the heroine?—expect assassins anyway. Either keep your hair tightly put up, or cut it off.

Skirts are most likely not the best choice for battle gear. That said, as a female soldier in what is most likely a Young Adult novel, you might be under the misconception that skirts get in the way, or that you can’t move in them. Madame, you are wrong. For ages, people—men, even— have worn robes, skirts, or kilts, even into battle. In formal clothing, you may have trouble with overly large or overly tight skirts, but simple skirts are unlikely to restrict your mobility too much as you go about day-to-day life.

If you’ve decided to become a warrior, you’ve surely trained. You’ve spent hours learning to fight, strengthening yourself, forcing your body to become a weapon. Now, you’re probably ready to fight. But you’re still female. 

Where I come from, typical males are not only taller than typical females; they also naturally stronger and weigh more. This may be different depending on your race and location, but it will be the case for most humanoids. You may have trained hard. You may be strong. You may have even trained hard enough to be the best fighter anyone has seen this side of Pluto.

But the moment you meet a male foe who has the same amount of training and dedication as you, you have met someone who is not your equal—you’ve met a fighter greater than you. Always look for unconventional ways of fighting that will turn the fight to your advantage; don’t allow yourself to get locked into a combat that depends on your size and strength. If you’re a high-profile political lady who is leading your armies into battle, consider investing in a bodyguard to help you with the aforementioned assassins. There is no shame in recognizing your limits and finding ways to compensate for them (so you can stop giving me your typical warrior-female glare and snappish, “Thank you, I think I can manage”).

Another undeniable limit that you’ll need to be aware of is your emotional state. Whether or not females feel emotions more strongly than males is a question that can be disagreed on and debated for ages; what is not in question is that females feel emotions differently than males. And in many females, that makes it very difficult to fight in a war (not to say that men are wired to go around violently ending each other, either; no human (and therefore, I assume no other sentient creatures, since I have seen no data suggesting otherwise) was intended to fight in a war, and it deeply effects and changes any person who must do it).

Female warrior, you are about to go through the most grueling, emotionally and physically challenging thing you have ever gone through. You will be tested on every level. You will break and break again in the dead of the night when the trauma of what you’re going through is going to come back to you, keeping you awake though every exhausted bone in your body begs for rest. You will see comrades and friends slain before you; you will slay your opponents. Your body will be unbalanced, allowing your emotions to run through you more fiercely. You will forget what it means to be okay. 



It’s true that some people handle stress and trauma better than others. You’re probably one of those people (congratulations! There are some benefits to having an author who doesn’t want to write hard PTSD). But you were not designed for war, and on top of everything else, your emotions are going to try to kill you, too. Isn’t being a woman fun?  (Sorry, males—I can’t write from experience for you, but I’m sure you have a great time with your emotions, too.)

You’re going to need to learn to balance your emotions, especially if you are one of the leaders of the army. You need to think rationally. You’ll need to learn how to recognize when your emotions are beginning to get out of control, and learn how to rein them back in. Learn to put off the emotional breakdown until after the immediate crisis is over. Recognize that your emotions are far out of control, insist on your author telling this unwanted part of your story, and then do your best to get them under control. When it comes down to it, you either must learn to recognize and control your emotions, or you will break.

Warriors, have you ever wondered why so many people seem to have romantic subplots in the midst of their end-of-the-world scenarios? It’s because emotions run high in times of deep stress, and people forget to be concerned about how awkward it is. Therefore, I stress to you here my last and most important point: Say no to mixed-gender divisions. 

On top of everything else, the very last thing that you need is a romantic subplot. Your emotions are out of control; so are the emotions of everyone else in your division. If you managed to be placed in a division with honorable men and an honorable system set up, that helps—but only with about half of the problem. Men and women like each other. They really like to impress each other. With a war going on and everything going wrong, you dearly need your people to not be attempting to impress one another with feats of bravery. You dearly need your people to not be competing for anyone’s affections. Because emotions are at peak strength, if you place men and women together under harsh circumstances, fighting side-by-side, living in close proximity to one another when they’re not on the field, couples will form; competitions will follow. Your units will cease to work together.

Aside from the potential disastrous romances that form in a mixed-gender unit, there are other problems. Notably, the difference in the physical capabilities of men and women will endanger the unit; part of training is to teach your groups to work together, at the same pace. Having both men and women in your group will cause men to be faster at some tasks, and women faster at others, putting the whole group in danger.

Another issue is that honorable men do not allow women to die. Several days ago, while conversing with a friend of mine, the subject of men and women fighting together came up. My friend said that part of the reason that’s a bad idea is because honorable men do not allow women to die; he stated that, if two men are fighting together, one can allow the other to die if they both see it’s the best thing for the cause for which they fight. However, an honorable man can’t allow a woman comrade to die. If you set up a group with men and women fighting side by side, when it comes down to actual combat, the men will be more focused on the women around them: their focus will be on keeping the women safe rather than advancing the cause for which you fight.

Distracted soldiers are dead soldiers.

Warrior female, if you must go to war, do everything in your power to be assigned to a female-only division. If you are in leadership position, set up your military so that men and women are separated into different divisions; not only will you bypass the problem of incidents from dishonorable men in your military (because there are always dishonorable men in every military), you’ll most likely increase the success rate of your army. If you are only a common soldier with no rank, insist that your commanders look at this situation. However, in spite of the fact that your commanders probably want to win the war, they’ll almost certainly ignore your request, because they’re military commanders (in their defense, completely rearranging an entire army is quite a hassle right as you’re going into a war).

Though a good deal of these suggestions won’t apply to those of you who have made the decision to go into battle disguised as a man, I hope that this letter will be of some assistance to the rest of you. Be safe. Win your war. Make it home to your estranged parents.


Athelas Hale
(Writer and President of the AfPoCR)


*If you are an indestructible Warrior Elven Princess, why did you just spend time to read this article when you can ignore all the advice herein, and not only succeed in all of your battles, but look fabulous whilst doing so?

(For my little sister who came over while I was writing and wanted me to put a smiley face in: 🙂 )

The Treatment of Henchmen

The Treatment of HenchmenDear Villains (etc., etc.,)

My name is Athelas Hale, the writer and president of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights (AfPoCR). Recently it has come to my attention that some of you treat your henchmen (etc., etc.,) in less-than ideal ways. While it’s not the AfPoCR’s job to regulate what villains or heroes do, technically, some of us here at the association were concerned about the way you’ve been operating. While, of course, being villains (etc., etc.,) you most likely won’t even open this letter upon receiving it, I do hope that some of you will at least peek at this missive.

Among other behaviors that I’ve noticed, I’ve seen that you have a tendency to kill off your henchmen. Or—worse, some say—you throw them in the dungeon and lock them up for the rest of time. Now, some of you undoubtedly don’t do this, understanding that life isn’t to be wasted (in which case, why on earth are you reading this letter for villains?) but some of you have done it in the past, and will do it again. I could not help but noticed that the logic of this is lacking slightly. Please allow me to explain.

As a villain, you must have a certain amount of henchmen (etc., etc.,) to do things for you. Some of you may prefer to storm the castle alone, but most of you will most likely need a bit of backup. As the treatment of henchmen becomes more widely known across the worlds, less and less people are planning to be henchmen. Some decide to turn into farmers, or heroes—some even decide to become supervillains themselves. The supply is slowly running low, and every time you kill a clumsy minion, you make yet another spot in your army that has no one to fill it. While you might be able to replace him, the fatality of your wrath will not only strike fear into the hearts of your other henchmen; it will also slowly eat away at their loyalty until fear is the only thing tying them to you. While some may consider this to be a good thing, I have found that when faced with two things they fear—you and your enemy who you are riding off to battle—henchmen usually take the easiest, most logical road. They run away from both. While some of you can manage with only a few or no henchmen, if you’re honest most of you will know that you would be proverbial toast without your vast hordes of minions to back you up. Worse, your henchmen might not only fear you, but hate you enough to be willing to stab you in the back when you give them the first opportunity (e.g. the untimely fate of Saruman.)

As for locking your minions up forever, who can afford that? I know most of you surely can’t—the budget has been tight these days for everyone. You either feed them or you kill them, and we’ve been over killing them already. Not only will you be obliged to feed your locked up henchmen, another possibility is that your enemy will be locked up and stuck in the same dungeon. Your henchman, who is now looking for a chance to relieve you of the burden of your head, will be able to not only help them, but be helped by them.

One thing that henchmen have recently been complaining about is their reputation. You, as their overlord, should be looking out for their public image. Henchmen have found a joke circulating around the internet (I’m sorry if that hasn’t been discovered where you are. Even in places without internet, henchmen are picking these things up) about their inability to aim, about their lack of intelligence, about their inability to tell the sound of a rock from the sound of a person invading your fortress. Now, these henchmen try very hard—they really do. Most of your men come from poor families with little education and no place to go, so their inability to read has branded them as unintelligent, and no one ever taught them the basics of patrolling a castle or fighting a war. Unless you’ve created your own version of the orcs (a very clever move on Morgoth’s part), be aware that your henchmen will not only get restless with the continued mockery of the common people, but they’ll also be needing a proper education to do their best at serving you. Train their ears, teach them to read, and most definitely teach them how to properly aim with their weapon. Also, avoid making your henchmen have long shifts while watching important prisoners, as they may grow tired and fall asleep, thus giving your prisoner an easy escape. Please be aware that embarrassed henchmen may hold you responsible for their bad reputation, and may grow too eager to prove themselves. Such plans on the part of henchmen can backfire and damage your whole operation.

We all know that some of you can grow very frustrated with the actions of your henchmen. Yet few of you take the time to move among your henchmen, be there for them when they need you, listen to them when they speak, and pay attention to what they think. Henchmen are most often sentient creatures that need a good leader as much as any of us do. Be that good leader for your henchmen. Give them someone to look up to, someone to trust. Let them know that you, their leader, will always be there for them. Pay attention to the way they think so you’ll know whether to be the caring father of the charismatic captain. Always know if your henchmen are frightened or nervous, and know how to allay their fears. They’ll not only follow you—they’ll love you. They’ll die for you, and not out of fear that’s easily broken; out of a complete devotion to you. Be their family, and they will be yours. Be loyal, and they will be loyal to you. Understand them, and you’ll not only find yourself getting frustrated less, you’ll also be able to teach your henchmen how to best go about the things you want them to do.

Beware, also, of threatening the families of your henchmen. Certainly they love their mum and would do anything for her, but that not only makes them hate you just a little more every day, it also gives your enemies a way of winning their affections. Should your enemy decide to simply rescue the families of your henchmen, you will have just lost your entire army.

Since I’m sure you all have certain supervillain-like duties that need attending to, I shall have to end this letter at that. Please remember, though, all of you villains, evil-overlords, criminal leaders, usurpers, and all the rest of you—always remember that henchmen are worth taking good care of. If you would like to know more, simply go to the AfPoCR’s website (if you can find it; I’m afraid it’s unavailable in many worlds, including but not limited to: Earth, Narnia,* Anthropos,** Amara,*** and Rudiobus****) where you can find a link to purchase the newest guide, The Care and Keeping of Henchmen: A Guide for the Busy Supervillain.


Athelas Hale

(Writer and President of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights. (AfPoCR))


*Narnia: From The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. No copyright is intended and no right is claimed to these novels.

**Anthropos: From The Archives of Anthropos, by John White. No copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.

***Amara: From The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, by Donita K. PaulNo copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.

****Rudiobus: From The Tales of Goldstone Wood, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. No copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.


Little Clothing Choices that Could Kill Characters


Dear Characters,

Today, we’re here to talk about clothing choices. These choices are the little ones, the ones you probably will never even notice, and that come naturally to you. It’s not your fault; in truth, it’s the fault of writers who don’t think through your wardrobe, and so call on you to pick outfits not suited to your adventure. Well, readers, the next time your author asks you to do something relating to clothing that makes no sense, tells you no one will notice the foolishness of it, and expects you to go along with it, say no and show your author this letter.

Since cloaks are considered cool, we’ll start with those.

Try to avoid sleeping with your cloak clasped. Now, I realize that sometimes you just can’t help it, but in those times you’re more unconscious  than actually sleeping, so don’t worry about it. At other times, however, especially when you’re on your grand quest and you take a break to sleep, do make sure that you unclasp it. If you don’t, you risk the danger of strangling yourself in the middle of the night or, if you expect to be set upon by your enemy in the middle of the night, you’ll regret leaving your cloak clasped. When the surprise attack comes, you’ll find that, rather than dramatically swooshing out behind you as well-behaved cloaks should, your cloak will be thoroughly tangled around you. Have fun fighting off attackers like that.

Don’t (don’t, don’t, don’t!)  pull your hood up for camouflage. I cannot stress this enough. I realize that you want to blend in with your surroundings, and your cloak is (either by the dye used to make it, or some unexplained, non-Earthly phenomenon) the perfect color to match the landscape. As soon as you do it, though, you give yourself a handicap; in effect, you’re putting blinders on yourself like you would put on a horse. If you want to blend in, use face paint. Your author will protest at this, saying that hoods look far nicer, but while painting your face green and black and grey isn’t glamorous, a hood is to keep your head dry. I’m afraid it won’t do much else for you without the cons completely outweighing the pros. Go with the face paint. After all, if you’re embarrassed, that’s one extra reason to be sure you blend in well and aren’t detected by whoever you’re avoiding or hiding from.

Avoid Long Cloaks in the Forest. I’m afraid only evil over-lords can get away with it. The moment you step into most forests in a long cloak, it will seem that every single branch, twig, thorn or tree is permanently attached to it. Unless your author wishes to thoroughly irritate you, or completely creep you out with cries of, “No! We love you, cloak! Don’t go. Stay with us!” from the forest, stick to short cloaks in the forest—or, better yet, go with a jacket. If you must wear a cloak, were one made of heavier, tightly-woven material.

This next part addresses mainly women, but you fellows who care whether or not a woman will come out of battle alive, might want to read this and insist on certain things (or, if they’re not listening, a prison cell is always an option).

Wear Armor. Women mainly have trouble with this, though occasionally men will go without vital pieces of armor. You should know that battles are not  calm affairs. In a battle, people will be everywhere, swords will be everywhere, and you will be injured. Be aware of this and make sure that your armor choices reflect that. While I’m aware that you may or may not be human, the neck, stomach, and chest contain vital organs for most of us. If you lack those, wear armor there anyway; you’re the hero of a story, and people will be watching. You wouldn’t want the rest of us to think we could get by without wearing armor into battle, would you? Our deaths would be on your heads.

Don’t Wear a Skirt or Robe into Battle. Out of curiosity, are you interested in coming out alive? If so, don’t wear a skirt. As far as I know, there are no Biblical commands against girls wearing pants. If you don’t want to wear pants, don’t enter the battlefield. The occasional Faerie Princess or century-old monk can get away with it, but most of us would die in half of a heartbeat. Don’t take the chance. Even if you can manage, your author’s credibility goes down considerably when you do, so support your author! Don’t do things most of us would consider ridiculous.

Watch Your Hair. First of all, I would like to offer a quick apology to any Elven characters who might happen to be reading this. I like your hair. I really do, but there comes a time when practicality takes over. If you’ll be navigating in a thick forest, running from people, hiding, battling armies, or shooting a bow, do something with your hair. Whether you want to cut it or put it up is completely up to you, but there are certain things that have happened to people because they did not take enough care to make sure their hair would not endanger them. It may seem small, but Absalom died because his hair got caught in a tree.

Most of you may or may not even know what your clothing is made out of, but if you do have that pleasure,  avoid cotton in cold areas. As soon as cotton is wet, you have officially lost any insulation against the cold you might have previously had. Since cold does bother most of us, when you’re planning to go into a colder area or don’t know where you’re going, choose wool over cotton. Of course, if you live in another world and your people don’t grow cotton, this probably isn’t something you need to worry about.

And, to those people on Earth: Avoid Wearing Flip-flops. You never know when you’ll end up in a medieval world and have to walk miles through wild land to get to civilization.

There are some other things that might need to go on this list, but since most of you are probably ready to head out and begin your quest, I’ll close here.


Athelas Hale

(A person very concerned about your survival)

Authors? What are some other illogical clothing choices you’ve seen characters make? Are any of these things that you’ve done? There’s a comment box just below.


Secondary Characters Have Rights, Too

Dear Secondary Characters,

I’m sure you must know by now. The way people write articles, speak, or write about you, it’s like you’re not important. Authors ignore you, or pull you into the story and then throw you out again as soon as they’re done with you. I know some among you have tried to stop these acts, and some have succeeded.

But some have not.

I admit, two years ago, I would have done the same thing. I didn’t care for any secondary characters; you all only served your purposes, and then left the novel, presumably to go back to your lives and be forgotten. I cared naught for your plights, your stories, even who you were. You were tools.

Then I met a young man named Swithin.

Perhaps it was the calm, cool way he gave orders, or the way that he was in the antagonist’s forces, but he did not follow the antagonist’s orders. Perhaps it was the way he treated his men, like they were more than he, or the way he stepped in and did the right thing when it needed to be done, and then, even when I tried to have him fade back out of the story, he refused. I decided to look into him. The deeper I dug into him, his character and his past, the more I found.

From that moment on, I realized (though there have been times when I have relapsed), you secondary characters are not tools. You are people. You are characters. You are the responsibility of the writers.

And we, most of the authors of this world, had failed in representing you correctly.

When you receive this letter, I don’t know what you’ll think–I’m sure that, some of you, will be glad and joyfully tell each other, “Finally! This is what we’ve been waiting for!”

Some of you, though, will look at it and shake your heads. “How will they manage that?” You’ll say, amusement evident on your faces. “No more secondary characters? They’ll be busy. How do you suppose they’ll find time to write the full stories of every character they come across?”

Truth be told, secondary characters, we won’t. I know the look you’ll be giving me, so, before you write back and say so, I’m not betraying you. I’m not going back on what I just said, nor do I suggest that any other authors go back to using you as only “minor characters.” Yet while some of us, as authors, would be able to write all of your stories, or show all of your personality, those are the super-heroes, the best of the best. Unfortunately, there’s not many of those, so we must come up with a compromise.

“A compromise?” You might say, so before you stop reading, let me continue. You might not be too pleased with what you see, but you might not hate the idea, either.

What if we stopped using you as tools? What if we stopped using you as the people to support the ideas of our main characters, or be those with their arguments shot down? What if we, as the authors, stopped treating you as nothing, and started treating you as characters?

Your stories are just as important as the stories we’re writing. Even though you star as supporting characters, you aren’t worthless, you aren’t simply there as a brief person we’ll use, and then throw away.

We’ll write you as characters. We’ll write you as people, as deep and real as our main characters; we just won’t be able to tell your story. We can’t show you as everything you are, but we can put work into you, because you’re worth it.

In return, you’ll be good to our stories. You won’t take over (not without permission, anyway), but you will be our main character’s support. You will play your part, willingly now, for from now on it will be your part. You won’t be portrayed as a cardboard cut-out. You’ll be there to add to the story and to assist or hinder the main character, but, whether we tell our readers or not, or whether you tell us or not, you’ll be people.

You’re characters.

Don’t ever let your authors tell you that you aren’t.


Athelas Hale

(Writer and President of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights. (AfPoCR))

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