Bringing out Humanity in Non-Human Characters

Hi Jim,
I’m currently writing a sci-fi fantasy novel. Right now, I’m in the process of coming up with characters and want to add a non-humanoid to the cast. Admittedly, I’m having trouble making him relatable. I really love this character and want people to enjoy him. This isn’t going to come out right, but how do I make him more human… without making him a humanoid?
Thanks,
Ned

 Hi Ned,

 

 

I think I understand what you’re trying to say. If I’m wrong, email me again and we can talk behind the scenes. My advice to you is to give that character a description early on in the story, and then leave it at that. Mention his physical attributes only when necessary. Let that character work with the rest of your group as though he’s no different.

I’m currently working with a similar issue in my newest book where one of the main characters is a dragon. The way I’ve written that character, I often forget that it’s not human and have to go back and rewrite certain aspects to suit a dragon as opposed to a human. I think that’s the best way to go about it. Write your character in a way that almost makes your audience forget what that character is so that they can focus on who that character is, because that’s what’s really important in the long haul.

This is a huge difference I’ve alluded to in other posts… when you focus on the skin deep attributes of a character, you’re going to write a superficial character. This is the difference between writing a dynamic -relatable- character, and writing an archetype or stereotype. Unless it’s for a specific narrative, usually the latter is never the way you want to go.

So I hope this helps, but I’m going to turn it over to my readers and see if they have any advice for you as well.

Thanks all,

Jim



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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Encouragement… The Good/The Bad!

Hi Jim,
I have a book I’ve been working on. I want to get it published, but everyone around me… my friends, family, etc. have all said that I’d just be embarrassing myself. They said that I’d put it out there, it would get bad reviews and I’d never be able to live that down. The worst thing is that none of them have even read what I’ve written. I’ve worked hard on my story, but now I’m feeling self-conscious. I don’t know what to do. I’m having so many second thoughts, I’m not sure I even want to try. I’m so frustrated, I’m not sure what to do. What do you think?
Thanks,
Jeanine

 Hi Jeanine,

 

 

It always disappoints me when I hear stories like this… and believe it or not, you’re not the only one who has to deal with things like that. When I was younger, any time I worked on an art project, I’d literally have people come over to my desk in class, take one look at it, and say “You traced that.”

When I finally got sick of it, I confronted one of those people and said, “What makes you think that I traced it?”

“Because you couldn’t possibly be that good.”

Note that other people in the class did similar work, but never got such accusations. So it was pretty obvious what they meant.

I also get many people telling me similar stories from people they’ve had to deal with in the comments section of my blogs.

So here’s the deal. I often post about how you shouldn’t let your friends and family be your editors because… well often they won’t be the most critical (unbiased) eye out there. However, that doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility to be encouraging and supportive.

I usually don’t take such a hard stand on my responses, and some of my readers will no doubt disagree with me… but anyone saying things like that is no friend to you. Anyone who automatically assumes you can’t do something, just because, based on their own narrow view of you, you’re incapable of accomplishing anything on a grand scale that they would be unable to, is someone who needs to be put in their place.

Let’s be fair, they may not even know they’re doing it. In some cases, it could be a well-meaning family member that doesn’t want to see you get hurt and thus attempts to coddle you. Even in that scenario, the person obviously doesn’t have a very high opinion of your talents or your ability to manage your own affairs should you fail.

These are what I call venomous relationships. They’re of no benefit to you. The first thing I would do is confront those friends who are saying such awful things. Stand up for yourself and challenge them. Ask them how they could possibly say something like that without even reading your work. Tell them how their lack of confidence in you is hurting you. Be prepared though, because in all likelihood, these people will either dismiss your feelings or try to make you look like the bad guy for overreacting when they’re only trying to help you.

At this point, it would probably be best to cut ties with these people. With family members, it’s not that easy, I know. So in those cases, you’re likely best to just take them as seriously as they take you. Dismiss their opinion as easily as they dismiss yours. Who knows, it might make them see the error of their ways (unlikely, but you never know).

Jeanine, I want you to look through my blog. Here, you’ll find everything you’ll need to know about editing and publishing your work. Find objective people to look it over, do some editing work, be ready to make serious changes where needed, and then decide how you want to go about publishing it.

If you wind up having problems finding resources to publish your work… reach out to me again. I’ll edit it for you and give you my honest opinion.

Readers, I know a lot of you have had this issue (your comments have indicated as such). How do you deal with this kind of criticism? Let me know below!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Telling a Story vs. Glorification

Hi Jim,
I have a rather unique issue. I’m trying to write a story dealing with my grandfather. Let me give you some background.
My parents immigrated here from Germany, I’m a 1st Generation American. My grandfather was part of the North African Campaign during World War 2. He was a member of the Afrika Korps. My story is partially fiction given that I don’t know absolutely everything he did during the war. However, I wanted to tell his story as best I could, so I took a little literary license based on what I knew of him. I’m very happy with how my story came out, but I’m worried about publishing it, given that people might think I’m glorifying Nazis. What do you think I should do?
Thanks,
Francis

Hi Francis

(Geeking out, non-history buffs can skip this section).

Your grandfather was in North Africa???? Please email me! My grandfather was with the 320th Glider Division of the 82nd Airborne! I’d love the compare notes and share stories!

(Okay I’m done.)

So… in all seriousness… That’s admittedly a tough one. I can certainly understand your concern. The problem with who knew what/where/when and who participated in what is still a subject of heated debate even to this day.

So honestly, full disclaimer to my readers, I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of what happened. My grandfather (as stated above) not only fought in the war, but also aided in the liberation of Wobbelin, which was a concentration camp that housed roughly 5,000 victims at its height. He never spoke about it, but I dug up as much information as I could find. The Holocaust was a terrible tragedy that can never, and should never be denied.

That being said… the first thing you want to do is go through your book and see if, in your opinion, you’re glorifying anything or anyone that shouldn’t be glorified, in your opinion. If yes, my advice would be to consider a rewrite. If not, then I would say go ahead and publish it. Without actually seeing your book, or knowing your grandfather’s specific history, I can’t tell you either way.

There is a difference between telling a story and glorifying a certain group of people. The problem is that where that line is drawn is constantly being skewed. So where does the line fall? Where should it fall? Well… that’s extremely arbitrary.

One school of thought says that glorification is painting a person or event in any positive light, or even just making said subject sympathetic.

Another school of thought is that glorification is as simple as making a person or event the central focus of your story, regardless of whether they’re portrayed positively or objectively.

The final school is probably the most obvious one… where said person or event is blatantly heralded as a hero and portrayed as the moral ‘right’ in the story.

Honestly, IMO the line should be drawn somewhere between that first and third schools of thought. The people who fall into the third category would just assume that these people never be written about at all… which is the antithesis of everything the subjects of history and literature should be.

If you just want to tell the story of what your grandfather did/saw that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not saying you won’t get blowback, you might. So you’ll want to be ready for that.

Personally… I don’t think it should be a problem though. The commander of the Afrika Korps was Irwin Rommel and they were never accused of war crimes (At least not based on any of the research I’ve done. If there have been new developments, please let me know). The people who would likely read your book would be able to put that into context.

I hope this advice helps in some way. The best thing to do in this case is do a little soul searching and ask yourself a couple of questions;

  1. Who was my grandfather?
  2. Do I know everything I can possibly know about where he was and what he did?
  3. Why do I want to publish this book about him? What is my goal here?

Regardless of your answer, legally (At least in the U.S.) no one can stop you from publishing it if you want to. However, there is also the line between legal and ethical.

So I apologize if this is all over the place, but I’m really struggling to give the best answer I can on this one. I guess in summation, all I can tell you is that as long as you’ve documented everything as historically accurate as possible, and are putting it out there for the right reasons, then I would go ahead and publish it. There’s always going to be detractors and people who are looking for controversy where none exists. That’s just how it goes.

Please let me know when it’s published. I’d love to look into it a little and definitley shoot me an email as I’d love to get your insight into your grandfather’s experiences from the other side.

Readers… this was a fairly touchy subject. What do you all think? Should stories be out there where the central focus or “Hero” is a German Soldier from WW2 or should that be left for the history textbooks? As always, I’m very interested in your thoughts, let me know in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Writing Advice: Granting Someone Else ‘Godhood’

Hi Jim,
I’ve been writing for years and have a book series out that I’m completely finished with. I’ve moved onto other stories, but one of my friends and a fellow writer wants to write a sequel to the series. He has a really great idea for a story set in the world I created, with both my characters and some new ones.
While I like his idea, I’m not too sure I want to hand the reigns of the novel over to him. I’m also not sure of anything legal I’d have to do, given that my stories are in print and copyrighted. Can you point me into the right direction on any of this? What would you do if someone wanted to write a sequel to one of your books.
Thanks,
Jackson.

Hi there, Jackson!
Good questions. All right… for starters, you need to do a little soul searching. Go back and read the books you wrote. Decide for yourself if you want to hand over the reigns and if so, do you trust that person to remain authentic to the story and the characters? Do you trust this person enough to become God of the world you created? Keep in mind, you’re not under any obligation to hand over anything to anyone. If you don’t want him touching your story or characters that’s the end of it. They’re in print and you have them copyrighted, don’t be afraid to say no.
On the other hand, if you’re done with the series and are interested in seeing it continue, a fresh pair of eyes can often breathe new life into your world. If I were in your shoes, it really depends. If someone wanted to write a sequel to Magnifica, Soul Siphon, or Drakin, I’d likely say no. I still have sequels (or prequels) planned for those. Some of which may not come to fruition, but until I make that decision, I’m keeping them close to my vest.
That being said… if someone wanted to write another installment in the universe that Divinity set up, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. I’d absolutely want to see what they have in mind before agreeing to anything, but as long as it was along what I had envisioned, I’d be fine with someone putting a new spin on it.

Now onto your second question… in terms of handing over the rights… It really depends on your situation. If you’re self-published and have the works registered to you, then you shouldn’t have much of a problem. If, however, a traditional publisher holds the rights to your stories, you may have a bit of an uphill battle ahead of you.

In either case, I’d recommend contacting an attorney with an expertise in copyright law. They can give you the ins and outs, and help you draw up a contractual agreement dealing with rights, royalties, and credit. That’s about all I can offer in terms of advice as this isn’t a situation I’ve encountered personally. However, if you’d like to talk about it more, please feel free to email me.
In the meantime, let’s open it up to our readers. What does everyone else think? Have you encountered an issue like this? How have you responded? Did you allow someone else to continue your story?


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

To Focus or Let Inspiration Roam Free

How do you focus on one project at a time? My problem is I’ll be really into writing for one novel and I’m in it but then I lose my inspiration for it and I get inspired to do something different and I get into that but then I get inspired to do something else and it continues on where it feels really difficult to get anything done. So how do you focus?

Hi Sally,

I don’t.

No, I’m actually not even kidding about that. I am a total scatter brain with between 5-10 different processes going through my mind at any given moment. Believe it or not, the first two chapters of Drakin were written while I was finishing up Soul Siphon.

If you’re finding it hard to focus, forcing yourself to won’t solve anything. Unless you have some kind of major deadline coming up, I’d highly recommend against it. Whenever I’m writing and I find my mind going off in a different direction… either there’s a topic I want to blog about or a new story that’s just too good to pass up, I stop what I’m currently working on and spend a few minutes here and there working on that. Does it slow down production of my books? Maybe a little… but not nearly as much as it would if I tried to force my mind to focus and it’s slowed down because the juices have been diverted to other topics.

You can’t always control when your mind is going to get the creative juices flowing. It’s a reality that we all have to live with. There really is no point in fighting it. Make sure you keep yourself on a schedule and try to put some time into your current project every day, but don’t stifle the creative juices. This was a hard-learned lesson for me when I was working on Divinity. I ignored the creative juices to focus on what I was working on and the result was a bad case of writer’s block.

Some may say that this is bad advice, but from my perspective, I believe that it is better than the alternative. Stifling your creative juices will not get your story written any faster. However, keep in mind, this is just how I approach the problem. You may be different and creating a schedule and a place to hide away from outside stimulus so that you have to focus on what you were working on, may benefit you. Try various methods and see what works.

Hope this helps. Readers, how do you focus? Do you have any advice for Sally? Let me know in the comments.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

My Biggest Obstacle in Writing

Hi Jim,
I just started reading some of the advice you give out. I don’t really have a specific issue that needs to be addressed, but I was wondering what you consider to be the biggest issue you encounter when writing and how you overcome it. As a writer, I’m always interested in hearing about the experiences of other writers.
Thanks,
Lauraine

Hi Lauraine,

Always happy to share my experiences. So honestly, there are a number of issues that I encounter when I write. I can’t say that there is one particular recurrent issue that I encounter. Usually when I have an issue, I figure out a workaround that I can apply in future writing. However, I can give you an example of one I’m currently going through.

Between other projects, I’ve been working on a prequel to Magnifica. Whether or not I ever publish it, remains to be seen. I just really wanted to explore the story behind Toby and Lia’na’s parents and how their decisions landed their children in the middle of a struggle for survival. So the problem I’m running into is that I keep rewriting scenes that deal with norms of the 80s. It really hold me up from progressing further because I want to get the scenes perfect. I have very fond memories of the 80s and wanted to properly portray them in my writing. Sometimes when writing these scenes, I find myself willing to give almost anything to be back there again. This has unfortunately slowed the progression of that novel to a halt.

The only way to deal with it is to stop and either work on something else, or if I’m determined to get through the current chapter, sit back and flick on some calm music from that time period. Something that adds a little atmosphere to the nostalgia. It’s not perfect, and honestly that’s why this story has been ongoing for two years now, but it’s how I deal with the urge to constantly rewrite those scenes. Sometimes taking a break can also be helpful, but that only prolongs writing the book even further.

Anyway, hope this gives you some idea of what I encounter when I write. Readers, do you have a specific issue that you encounter when you’re writing that has proven to be a bane? Let me know down in the comments.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Phoenix Effect: After Being Burned by Bad Reviews

Hi Jim,
I’m really upset about the feedback one of my book has been getting. For the most part, the reviews have been constructive, but they’ve mostly been negative. The book in question is a sequel to one that got a lot of positive reviews. The story had a great following, but now I’m afraid the sequel may have ruined it. I was really hoping to turn this into an ongoing series, but now I’m worried that if I try to publish another sequel, no one will want to read it. Do you think I should abandon the series?
Thanks,
(Confidential by request)

Hi there,

Oh boy, that’s a tough one. My sympathies on the negative reviews, they’re always tough to get through. Fortunately for you, it seems like most of them are genuinely trying to help by providing you constructive criticism instead of your run-of-the-mill “This Sucks!” or “The Author Needs To Stop!” and so on.

At the same time though, the reviews with constructive and legitimate criticism are next to impossible to ignore, and I wouldn’t recommend ignoring them either. It’s a bit of a balancing act that you have to perform. On one side, write how YOU want to write. You don’t owe your audience anything on characters and stories you created. On the other hand, you have to remember that audiences vote with their wallets. So if you’re hoping to actually be able to sell the book, you do need to at least reflect on said criticisms.

For starters, I would read through them, find some recurrent themes. What are the major complaints about the story that people didn’t like? Did you do something that didn’t make sense? Is there a major plothole, or did the story simply take a direction that the audiences didn’t like?

When you figure out what the pattern of negativity is, you can go from there. Write down the primary complaints, keep them in your mind and then go back over your thought processes, experiences, and feelings when you were writing that book. Try to pinpoint what made you take the directions you did and where your inspiration came from.

Then you have to decide where to go next;

  1. You can invalidate the previous book. To do this, you need to retcon what happened in the previous book, but then have your characters find a way to undo whatever happened (time travel is usually a pretty good way of handling this), or you can do what Roseanne did and make the previous story a figment of someone’s imagination or something like that. There are some creative ways of doing this… but I don’t recommend it. This is a pretty shallow way of handling the problem and it’s something audiences can see right through.
  2. Stay the course. If you think you’ve got a solid story and that bad novel was pretty much just a way to bridge two good stories, then you have the option of weathering the criticism and pressing forward. I’d recommend a press release in this case. Actually tell your audience. A few simple words for example:
    “Okay everyone, I wanted to address the negative feedback I’ve been getting. I know a lot of you are concerned… look, all I ask is that you give the next book a chance. I promise that this whole thing is going somewhere and hopefully you’ll like where we end up. That’s all I can ask.”
  3. Change direction. Look at the criticism, see where things went off the rails for your audience and turn it around. Find ways to restore certain characters who were altered or end plot points that people didn’t like.

I wouldn’t worry about audiences not buying the book. The thing about readers is that they tend to be very forgiving, especially if everything ends well. In the end, you’re the only one who can decide which way to take the story. It’s your story and it’s entirely up to you.
If you think about it the right way, this could actually work out pretty well for you. Your story took a beating, crashed and burned, it disappointed your audiences and crashed and burned. Now imagine if it rises from the ashes and surprises everyone by being awesome? You play with their emotions and their lack of expectations make them love the story even more. I call it the Phoenix Effect. Your story went from being good, to crashing and burning, yet out of the ashes it is reborn more radiant than it started.

Anyway, I hope this helps you in some way. Hopefully you have a little perspective on where to take your story next.

Readers, do you have any advice? Let us know in the comments!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim