Just a little tidbit for Alen’s birthday…

Hey, kids, listen up! I have a very important announcement.

Today marks one year since I published Alen’s War!

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Now, I’m characteristically forgetful about anniversaries, blogiversaries, any versaries… but this year I somehow remembered. So, luckily for all y’all, I was able to prepare a little celebration.

I present, for your consideration, a personality quiz: Which character from Alen’s War are you? (I made it myself, which means it’s 100% scientific and psychologically accurate.) If you’re curious, you can head over and take the quiz to find out! Oh, and please do share your results in the comments below. I want to see just how many villainous revolutionaries we have running around.

Also, if you happen to have any other ideas for how I can celebrate my book-versaries in the future, let me know that too! Fanart contests, Twitter trivia threads, more Ship’s Log… I want to hear all your ideas.

That’s it! Have a happy Friday.

Very Young Writers: What Characters Do

Hello again, VYWs (and all other writers)!

This is totally unrelated, but  do you remember Ship’s Log by Brandis, that little Alen’s War fanfic I wrote (except it’s canon because I wrote it and I’m the author)? Well, school is done, and I finally wrote part two on Figment. Go check it out.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about characters. You probably know by now that I like ranting about what makes a good or bad character, but writers rarely talk about the basics. However, the question is worth asking: what jobs should characters do in a story?

That depends on many things. Characterization has a lot of sub-categories and requirements, and not every character adheres to every one of those requirements (after all, sometimes we break the rules).  There is so much more to writing characters than I can put down here… but it can be simplified. You can find a few components in almost every single character ever written, and those components just depend on what role the character plays in the story. For now, let’s look at the two most basic roles: the protagonist and the antagonist.

The Protagonist (usually, the good guy)

The protagonist is the main character (who is probably also the hero and your viewpoint character). A protagonist should do three things:

  1. Be likeable
  2. Work to reach a goal
  3. Have a “eureka!” moment where they discover the truth

Now for some explanation. Being likeable just means that readers have to like the character; otherwise, they won’t stick around to see what happens to him. A good example is Gru from Despicable Me (who isn’t actually a good guy!). He may be a cruel, mastermind-y sort, but he’s likeable because he wants to prove himself to his mom and, later, to his little girls. That’s something with which we can all identify.

Having a goal means that the protagonist doesn’t sit around and do nothing, but stands up and tries to get the thing that she wants. For example, Heidi (of Heidi fame, obviously) has one goal: to make people’s lives better, and she works toward it no matter where she is. She makes friends of the goatherd Peter, encourages Clara to learn to walk, and brings her grandfather back to God. As a reward for working toward her goal, Heidi ends up with a group of lifelong friends.

The “eureka” moment is a scene that happens somewhere between the middle and the ending of the story, when the protagonist has to realize the truth she has been missing all this time. Rapunzel from Tangled is a good example. She thinks her dream was to discover what the real world is like, but at last she realizes that she was really searching for her true family all along. And she finds it, with the king and queen and with Flynn/Eugene.

Antagonist (usually, the bad guy)

An antagonist, usually a villain, has a few different requirements:

  1. Be understandable
  2. Cause trouble for the protagonist
  3. Be a different version of the protagonist

Being understandable means that while we don’t necessarily have to like the bad guy (although likeable bad guys are fun too), we should understand why he does what he does. For example, nobody actually likes the Elvenking from The Hobbit book. He’s generally nasty and not very helpful to Thorin and Company. But we do understand why the Elvenking wants Thorin’s gold: he thinks that the dwarves of the Mountain had stolen some gems from him, and he wants them back.

Causing trouble means that the antagonist’s goal is totally opposed to the protagonist’s. For example, in the movie Brave, Queen Elinor (who is an antagonist, but not really a bad guy) wants Merida to marry into one of the clans to preserve peace. That’s opposite to what Merida wants, namely, to stay single and let her hair flow in the wind as she rides through the glen firing arrows into the sunset. (Did you see what I did there??) Neither of those goals is absolutely wrong or absolutely right, but they are completely opposite to each other. This is what causes the conflict.

Being a different version of the protagonist means that the antagonist should be like the hero in some way, only gone wrong. This is a little harder to do, but it adds depth to a story. Star Wars is a spectacular example. Luke and Anakin both have the chance to be the Chosen One, the one who would restore balance to the Force. They both save the galaxy multiple times, they both train as Jedi with Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi… they even use the same lightsaber. But Anakin chooses the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader, while Luke chooses to do the right thing. Same character type, different decisions- like two sides of a coin.

So that sums it up.

There are many more ways to characterize the protagonist and antagonist (like backstory ghosts, character moments, and quirks) and many more kinds of characters (like antiheroes, impact characters, and love interests), and obviously I can’t list them all here. But the protagonist and antagonist are a good start. Characterization is complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Ultimately, your characters should seem real enough for the reader to go on the journey with them, and if these lists of three components help you do that, awesome.

Now get back to writing!

Of Surveys and Updates

Well.

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We haven’t talked for awhile.

I apologize that I’ve almost completely disappeared from the internet over the past few weeks. School leaves me nearly zero time for writing or blogging (not to mention sucks away my motivation for it), so it may be a little while before I’m back to my normal pace of weekly posting. In the meantime, though, how would you like some updates and things to do while I’m gone?

First, you can help with a survey on books and authors. A friend of mine from Kingdom Pen is gathering info from book-loving teens about reading and books and all other literary things. That sounds fun, doesn’t it? It is. So, if you’re a teenage-ish bookworm, click on this link and take the survey! Many thanks to you.

Well, once you’ve done that (don’t worry, I’ll wait), allow me to thank you for participating in the Indie e-Con Book Awards. It was fantastic to see authors and readers come together on the internet to talk about some of our favorite things. I didn’t get to attend that much thanks to school, but I know everyone had fun.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s chat a little about Alen’s WarThat is to ask, how in the world did you like it? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I like talking about my books. By the way, if you really really liked the book, go ahead and rate or review it on Goodreads or Amazon. I love reviews, so thank you kindly.

Finally, some things to compensate for my unprecedented appearance. Have you been to my Resources page? That’s where I’ve compiled a lot of helpful articles and blogs, as well as some books and videos. You should check it out. For now, I recommend the Write About Dragons channel (by Brandon Sanderson!) if you want some brilliant writing advice, or the Rafflecopter blog if you want some tips on marketing.

And I promise I’ll be back within five weeks at the very worst. It’s almost the end of the school year, guys. Hang in there!

In Which I Reveal a Title, Plot, and Characters

Life struck last week, and by life I mean wisdom teeth surgery, clep tests, and some form of head cold. Maybe it’s time for a nice easy update. Oh, I know- how about a writing update? This is a writing blog, after all, and I did promise to write blog posts about my works-in-progress.

So here you go: this is the first official post on the subject of my non-sequel, and I have few bits of news to share. Hang onto your hats, kids, because it will be an awesome ride.

First and foremost, I have chosen the title. Drumroll…

ALEN’S WAR

Yes, Alen’s War it is. I was trying so hard to avoid YA-cliche titles and still score decently high with this neat little titlescorer that I overthought it. At last, after boiling the story down to its essence, I’m satisfied that this title does the trick.

Secondly, what on earth is the story about? Right now I can only give you a rough summary. Yet who knows? I might end up keeping this as the basis for my official blurb.

Alen, the son of the king of Agran, is given a simple secret task: find an insurrectionist named Galer and bring him back quietly to the capital for trial. Yet with one tragic mistake Alen destroys a town and helps Galer to set off a full-blown rebellion. Soon Agran is embroiled in civil war and Alen himself is captured by raiders, who only lead him to wreak more havoc on his homeland.

When Alen finally returns to his father, he realizes that Agran is out to have his head and that his only hope for acquittal is to do his part and fight to end the war. He recruits Brandis, an old companion from his raiding days, and Turomar, an ill-disposed surveyor with a brain for strategy. All three of them want to end the war, but their own dark secrets haunt them at every turn and foil their plans.

Finally, characters. I have a small cast this time, at least compared to the twenty named characters in Son of Ren. (Why, yes, I did write an encyclopedia of names; how under the sun did you guess?) This time I have room for a few details on the characters themselves; namely, a picture of how I imagine them, their personality type, and a few thoughts about them.

Alen is a little older than this, but it’s close enough. (image credit)

Alen: ISFJ. I love writing this young esquire because he is so much like my sister Grace Olivia. Alen is innocent and pure-hearted, yet it is his fierce loyalty that causes him so much trouble. And he’s adorably naive about pretty much everything except literature and crossbows. My hope is that we can all identify with Alen to some extent.

Galer: ENFJ. The aforementioned insurrectionist was the hardest to figure out. Even as I type, I still have questions about the finer points of Galer’s personality. At heart, though, he and Alen are one and the same: they both are pure-hearted and loyal to their country. It’s just that their loyalty leads them to fight on different sides.

Brandis: ISTP. I chuckle every time I think about this raider. He loves weapons and has a dark sense of humor, yet he still speaks with the vocabulary of Shakespeare and keeps dark secrets hidden behind his smirk. Even in my imagination he was such an enigma that I had to figure him out.

Turomar: INTJ, the schemer. He’s just an architect in a seaside town, yet he has the mental capacity to end wars. At the same time, Turomar has a lot of emotional and ethical issues to work through. He has a dark past and focuses all his strength on making his own future bright, and he thinks no one can be trusted to help him with that.

That is all I can tell you right now. No more spoilers.

Want to share about your current project? Do you have any questions about mine? You can write it all in the comments.