HOW IMPORTANT IS ENVIRONMENT?

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Picture this: Your characters are in a gun fight. Bullets flying through the empty air. Nothing but white space all around them. No people running out of the way. No glass to crash through. No busy streets with gridlocked traffic to trap the fight and build tension. No buildings to jump off to avoid the inevitable explosion from a well hidden bomb. No breeze. No season of the year,(Colored leaves scattered over the ground, knee high snow drifts, or sweltering heat from the never ending laser beam of the sun.)

Your environment paints a picture of your world. It pulls the reader in and says to them, “This feels real.” Leave it out and you have the above white space floating around in their imagination; nothing but white space.

How do you choose environment for your characters? That depends on genre of the story. If it’s sci-fie, you might consider a spaceship or an alien world. Romance, Paris or an empty park filled with flowers and colorful trees. Action, I prefer environments we can relate to in everyday life. Offices are not a bad choice. The bank you pass every day. Maybe the school or college you attended.

Pictures are very helpful. Google has a wonderful source of reference, just remember not to use them for commercial use. Then you get sued and you end up like the guys in the first paragraph. (Maybe you take less drastic measures.)

We’ve established that environment is connected to Genre. It is also connected to character type. For instance, You might not find the homeless man who witnessed a murder hanging out inside a jewelry store. You might not find the well dressed assassin hanging out at Walmart.

Where you place your characters tells us a lot about them. How they live. What kind of money they have. What kind of friends or enemies they might have. How they might live. All of these things play on each other.

We humans have been building places to exist since the beginning. We’ve thrived in every environment from the deserts to the swamps. In the mountains and even underground. It’s our job to put our characters in a place they belong.

Can these rules be broken? Yes, break these rules. Maybe your character being in an environment they don’t belong in is part of your story. Maybe they don’t know they don’t belong there. Maybe part of their journey is coming to know that fact.

Weather is definitely important. Is it raining? Is it cold outside? If so, can we see their frosted breath? (Little kids at a bus stop pretending they’re smoking, pushing their breath out with their fingers holding imaginary cigarettes.)

When writing about your environment, remember your six senses. (Yes, SIX) Smell, touch, hear, taste, see, sense. Have you ever walked into a room and had a weird feeling like you’re being watched? SIXTH SENSE.

How do you use the senses. You can use them all but It’s not necessary. A few should be more than enough. Some author’s like to write a paragraph or two and set the scene before their characters interact with the environment. A great example of this style is used often in a book called: Of Mice and Men, a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. It is also a great example of writing accents.

I prefer to layer my description between dialog and action. I find it makes for a story that flows and is never interrupted by a constant output of information. The last thing I want is to push a reader out of the story to talk about a tree for three pages. Total overkill will make someone close your book.

When writing, try to find your own path. Use the method that works best for you and if you’re ever unsure how to handle your environment. Step away from the computer and go take a walk, environments are all around you.

UNLIKABLE CHARACTERS

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What is the deal with people these days? They want us to believe that everybody is a drug addict looser who is so awful you don’t want to even look at them. They portray men as wimpy feminine sissies who are incompetent and woman are selfish evil reptiles with nothing on their minds but sex and hate.

What are we letting them turn our heros into? I won’t stand for it and neither should you. There is nothing good on TV anymore, they show us something that has a sliver of interest, then you get to know the characters and you become disappointed and detached.

What is the problem? Well, that’s simple. Everybody in almost every story of this age has become completely unlikable. They will argue that people have to have flaws. Okay, I get that. What is with all the drugs? Has everyone become some kind of lawless hack that has no talent and can do nothing but be disgusting? NO! But that’s what they want us to believe.

Ever notice that anything that sparks your imagination gets canceled and any shallow piece of garbage that you have no interest in goes on for years before someone wakes up and strips it away?

Even your villains should have something that makes you like them. What is the point of writing about such horrible creatures that no one could possibly like? If you pronounce your “ing’s” at the end of your words and are clean and sober they say you’re all high and mighty. The truth is that those sick people are just weak. I don’t want to read a book or watch a TV show or movie about such pathetic idiots.

I will not step down and be weak because that’s the common decision. Neither will my characters. You should love your characters, even the bad guys. Your hero’s need to be bigger than life. Your villains need to have a reason for being.

Would Batman still become Batman if his parents were not murdered by a mugger? Probably not. Give your characters a reason why they act the way they do.

The men and women I write about are powerhouses who effect everything around them. They are soulful and alive, with dreams and aspirations. They are who I want to be, how I want the world to be. You can be anyone, do anything. So why can’t your characters?

Death to unlikable characters! BOO! We don’t need them, I don’t want them. I understand having one or two in a story but not all of them. That just sucks the life out of you and makes you not want to watch, read, or write them.

Have some courage and just be yourself. Let your characters do the same. If every character in every story was nothing but a mass of flawed mess, why would we ever want to read them? Not every man is a sissy and not every woman is a soulless bovine. Don’t let them ruin our heros.

DON’T LISTEN TO LAZY WRITERS!

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Unfortunately there are some authors who are lazy and really don’t care anymore. They will say things like: “I never describe my characters. I leave that for the imagination of my reader.” OR “I never describe my environment because I want the reader to picture the story anywhere in the world.”

The above is what I like to call a big unhealthy load of lazy writing. Don’t listen to these people. They are obviously dead inside. You can call them out on it and say, you don’t describe these things because you can’t picture it.

The market of Independent authors is full of people who just don’t even want to try, which makes it harder for the rest of us. I urge you to imagine your characters and locations.

I don’t know what your method is when you write but My story unfolds in my mind like a movie. I see very vivid scenes and people who are alive and struggling in the world. You should feel like these characters are important to you. These places have to mean something to these people you are breathing life into. They live in that world, give them somewhere to exist.

These lazy writers will tell you to only use “he said, she said,” as dialog tags. That is incredibly boring. I don’t care for those kind of books. That tells me that the author couldn’t be bothered to imagine their characters actually speaking or what their mannerisms would be. What a snore-fest.

They will tag all these stupid rules onto your art with no purpose other than to draw a line in the sand. Your words are a warhead, blow up their sand into oblivion, having the whole beach rain down over their lazy heads in white hot sandy grains and jagged shards of fire forged glass.

When I am creating a character, I will often type in a description and download a picture of a stranger from the internet. I will look at their face and decide what kind of person they are. Then, I will look at cities, pictures of towns, bus stations, busy streets, and create their environment. You need the steam rising from the manholes. The grey sky smothered in gathering clouds. You need the faceless strangers, heads down, pushing through the traffic, just trying to get to work. It’s our world, don’t let lazy writers take it away from you.

Indie Author War

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Being an indie author is a lot of hard work. We are in a war against posers, scam artists, and publishing companies who want us to fail. Between all the haters bashing us all over the internet and the publishers afraid they are becoming obsolete, things tend to look bleak. The only thing you can do as an author is write, right?

Wrong!

As an indie author, you are expected to create the absolutely best work you can for very little money (if any at all.) If someone can sift through the scams and garbage that has littered our beloved internet to find your masterpiece, which you have priced insanely low so someone will read it, they may be skeptical to purchase your book.

How can you get them to buy your ebook? Good question. First off, many great authors are not graphic artists, often their covers suck. If you cant make an enticing cover, you need to have $50 to give to an artist. There are so many ebook cover artists out there. Some are good and some are just expensive. What can you do? You need amazing cover art.

They say, never judge a book by its cover. REALITY CHECK! People do, it’s how we make decisions. In the stores, we look at the cover, then we read the back. If it seems interesting enough, we may open it up and read a few pages to get a taste of the author’s voice, if it still held our attention, we buy the book.

Online, they see your cover first. Some sites allow you to write a description of your book. If they are still awake by the time they finished reading your blurb, they scroll down and read what other people say about it. If there are no reviews, it’s slim that they will buy your ebook.

Trying to get someone to leave a blurb is often like pulling teeth. I often get emails from people telling me how much they love my work. I ask for a blurb but not many people write one. Why is it that people are afraid to leave comments? I see it all the time. Please leave a blurb, tell your favorite author that you like their work where it can help them.

As indie author’s we have to do all the networking, all the marketing and advertising. If you tell anyone about your book in a convo, it is dissected by your reader, searching and prying for those self selling monsters. The worst thing is to be labeled as a spammer. There are so many scam artists out there ruining the names of indie authors one must wonder if they’re hired by scared publishing companies.

I personally have no problems with the publishing companies. I’m not looking to be a publisher. They do some very hard work and they have whole teams of people to put out one book. We have to take the weight of the world on our shoulders and do all that work ourselves.

It is a huge learning curve and a mistake can cost you months or even years of hard work. If your work is edited to perfection, your story is incredible, your cover is beautiful and gleaming, people may still not buy your ebook. Why? Another good question. Marketing your book will eat up a lot of your time, figuring out what is spamming and what is advertising is a shaky bridge that is hard to cross. There are no real rules to this business yet. You will buy many books that will argue that there are, some will be good and others will be $12 of pure filler that leaves you no better off than when you started.

The only thing I can give you is this: Be a sponge, soak up every bit of information you can get, good and bad. File it in your brain until you forget your name. Never quit because you will regret it. Write three times, edit six.

Good luck

Write it once, edit it forever!

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Being a self publisher is a lot of hard work. You have to pay for everything yourself. If there is a single mistake in your creation, it is all your fault. In the end game, there is no one to blame. You have to own it. You have to edit it.

That being said, creating the book is the part most people pull their hair out at. I love that part, sometimes I can’t sleep for days. Every moment is spent thinking about the next scene and note jotting, plans of how I can slip in secret messages for the crafty reader.

The most horrid and vile part of this business is finding out you missed something. There it is, up on amazon, or where ever you publish. Your cover looks great. You have a published author who wrote your prologue as a favor. It has so much promise. It’s shining like a star on the world wide web. You decide to give it a read, and oh the horror. There on the first page, you have a lower case letter after a period. How did that little sucker get in there?

It happens to the best of us. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read loaded with mistakes, even large publishing companies have some slip through the cracks. It is the stuff that keep us up at night. My god, we are all just a bunch of souls trying to find relevance.

So we found that mistake, what do we do with it? For an ebook writer, that’s easy. We edit the original document. What does that entail? Simple, we read that whole manuscript from the title page to the last line in the document. Biting our nails and swearing like sailors the entire time. Some of us who have a little bit more money may take this time to think about buying a new computer. If your files are safely tucked away on a usb stick, feel free to pull out your club, and or katana blade and destroy your computer. It’s always great to upgrade!

We read each line like it is the only thing in existence, researching our grammar and punctuation, just incase. Rewriting the lines we thought that were extinguished from mediocrity. Besides, we want every word to shine like a sparkling jewel, don’t we? I like to add descriptive lines I call ‘poetry’ to my action.

So we have exterminated the evil black marks in our book other people call MISTAKES, what next? Here comes the great part. Go into the settings of your bookshelf. Re upload just the manuscript over the other one. You’re done, the terrible goblins are dead, we have liftoff, you’re cooking with gas. All this awful darkness is behind you.

What have we learned? EDIT, EDIT, EDIT! Will it ever happen again? If you are a bit of a loner like I am and you don’t really have much in the ways of a good reading group, the chances point to YES. Don’t lose sleep over it. Just do what we do in life. Fix your problem and move forward.

Thank you,

Ivan Desabrais.

Authors, The Ritualistic Creature

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What complicated creatures we are. Most don’t even know it, but we practice rituals every day. Each person is different but they carry their little ticks and oddities with them where ever they are. Some rise early, have to have that tea, coffee, etc… Maybe you have to have your theme music playing. Often, and especially when I’m stuck in a story, I will listen to music, any kind really. Some kind of sound that speaks to me and says, ‘Ivan, this is the scene, quick, write it down before it’s gone.’ That’s how it feels doesn’t it? We are like photographers trying to catch a moment before it slips a way.

Some of us need to be around people, we get in our cars, on the bus, or walk to where ever it may be. We plant ourselves near them, the norms, the ones who are out there struggling, living their surreal lives. They are fighting to climb the corporate ladder, or maybe driving a cab. We gotta watch them.

Our friend the notebook in hand, coffee close by. We wait, capturing that moment. Maybe that beautiful woman, she’s mature, but strong, glowing with power, striding through the street and the sea of flesh parts for her because in her world, she is god. We need these people, they drive us, they are part of the ritual.

Sometimes, we can be deep. I find that a lot of people have lost that spiritual connection to their words. Our voices are power. We need to collect the mana that thrives in our cities, in our little towns, in our schools, our businesses, we need that life essence, that force that connects us all to breath into our characters and make them real.

My eyes open, sometimes it’s still dark. I roll over and take a look at the red numbers on my clock, a little blurry but they soon form. It’s four AM. What the hell am I doing up? I roll over and toss and turn until somewhere between six and seven thirty. My many little worlds on my mind. Will I work on Lasalle’s story today? Maybe Carver, the Bounty-hunting cowboy, out for revenge. Perhaps I will try my hand at something new, always so exciting.

Nice shower, a little colder than I’d like but it will wake me up. Catch up on a little news while I devour my cereal and the coffee brews. What is it about that brown nectar. I don’t drink it every day, nor do I have more than half a cup but it’s part of the ritual. I let the dog out, by the time I come in, it’s time for coffee. Two sugar, three cream, sometimes just hot and black. I take that cup down to the office, my Mac beaming back at me. Then there’s that first sip, is it good? Too sweet? Bitter? No, perfect.

It’s a proven fact that it doesn’t really do much to keep us awake, some can sleep right after having a cup. It’s that smell, that texture, that sinful little desert in a cup. It does something to me, it says ‘Time for work.’

If my brain is still foggy I hit Youtube and type some keywords from my story to see what kind of music comes up, any genre, I don’t sway to one specific sound, music for me is like souls talking to each other, the artist to the listener. Sometimes I can pull an image, or a mood from the song, it sets my tone.

My word-processor comes alive and my fingers dance across the keyboard, perfect. Lasalle is a fun character to write, her power, her naive mind forging like a great Japanese sword-master. Her gun ready, her heart on her sleeve. She tries to be sly and save the world. She cares that much that she would risk all for you and me.

Our rituals prepare us to enter another state of mind, they free us from the mundane and take us into that place we need to reach to see everything. They open the third eye and magic begins to flow, our passion rises like a burning white fire up from our bellies, and we blow it like majestic dragons over our blank screen or in our tattered notebooks finding that peace, that nirvana we all search for. In those hours that hole that’s in us all is full, that empty ugly spot has light and it’s shining bright for all the world to see.

Where would we be without our rituals? We are ritualistic creatures.

Fatigue & Writer’s Remorse

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One of the worst things to fight during story building is fatigue. If you’re too tired when you’re creating your master piece, you run the risk of ‘writer’s remorse.’ You will create tons of pages, maybe some will be good and you can bet that some will not. You will find yourself writing ‘double paragraphs.’ Two paragraphs, usually one after the other, saying exactly the same thing but in different ways. You want to avoid this.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that you won’t be able to use any of your work that you create during your foggy minded typing. What I am saying is that you won’t be able to tell if it truly is good or if it belongs in the bin, as Gordon Ramsey might say. It’s underdone, put it back in the oven.

Writer’s remorse is YOU plugging away at that amazing story and ending up with choppy scenes, unwanted characters, bad plot, flat people, no environment, maybe no reaction. REACTION drives your characters. Without it, you have flat characters. I once read a short story where a guy was stabbed and he didn’t even grunt, no cursing, no “AHHHH! You stabbed me!” Nothing. What the hell, some guy stabs you, you’re gonna make a fuss. Right?

Maybe you completely forget to mention your environment. What? Your world has no weather? No people in it except the talking heads? No obstacles? Why would you ever want to read a story like that?

Eventually, you get some rest. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you sit at your overlord, COMPUTER and open your story, start reading what ever it was you wrote the night before to find all of the above. You’re left sitting there, staring at this mess that’s got a goofy grin staring back, mocking you, maybe the story flips you off and says, “Deal with it.”

What do you do? You suffer from writer’s remorse. Now you spend the next month, cutting, editing, rewriting, adding tons of time onto your goal. Before you know it a year slipped by and your friends and allies wont talk to you because you’ve ignored them all this time to right this horrible wrong. You could never let that story see the light of day or you would loose all face as a serious author.

To avoid all of this, get a note book. Write your whole story in it, planning it in scenes before you even type a single word. When the time comes, you write the whole thing in a couple months and call it a book. That’s life, a world you create, without writer’s remorse.

Good luck, and put you’re tray in the upright position, we’re landing here people.

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