How To Be Yourself- While You Write Your Novel

On personally-motivating quirks.

Someone on Scribophile was asking about voice the other day. I said what I thought, which is this: voice in writing is the same thing as personality for an actor. Voice is the quintessential elixer of you; it’s the kinds of jokes you tell, and the manner of setups you create. It’s the flavor your soul gives to the writing.

In order to be yourself, you need to embrace all the quirks of personality that drive you. I, for example, am fond of quality tack for horses. Well-made bridles make my knees quiver. I am tempted to spend money on items that I literally don’t need, like barn halters and supple jumping saddles, just because they spark my imagination and fill me with childish glee.

I don’t need these things, because I currently have no horse to strap them onto, but I want them anyway. When I am an independent and wealthy person, I will have rooms of those wire saddle racks, neatly filled with superfluous saddlery items. At that point, of course, I will also have a horse upon which to use such equipment.

In the meantime, here is how to use your personality quirks to add strong voice to your writing:

  1. Think of something that you really, really like. Hopefully this thing has no practical use, currently, in your life. You just like it, because.
  2. Take your novel, and incorporate the object from step 1 into the scene you are currently writing. Allow yourself to get into the particular happy-euphoric state of mind that hovers around your special object(s).
  3. Let the warm glow of affection for your beloved item(s) shed freely over the characters, the scene, and the overall mood.

Tomorrow I will post a good and bad example of how such investment of self imbues your writing with your personality, and results in vigorous voice.

How To Fertilize Your Starter Idea Using Your Unique Circumstances

The idea stage.

When I started working on the book I used to call “the Ajalia book,” I was probably about nine years old.

I had an imaginary animal who went around with me, and I drew pictures of Ajalia’s adventures.

When I got older, I started to get more serious about writing all of it down. I’ve been working, on and off, on the Ajalia books for, oh, nearly twenty years now.

I used what I knew when I started writing; I put my imaginary animals into the books, and I formed people I knew into characters.

One of my favorite characters is formed from a personality chunk I peeled away from an active addict; the character is charming, but morally weak. His name is Philas. I super like Philas.

I could never have written Philas without knowing my addict friend deeply. The contradictions and subconscious lies of craving form the undercurrent of Philas’s mind, and I challenged myself as a writer by seeing if I could force him to change his poor habits in an organic, believable way.

Philas resisted my prodding, and remains his very strongly stamped self. He did start cleaning up his life, with significant help, in “The King of Talbos,” book 6.

Books 1-3 are available on Amazon today.

In Progress

ajalia-head-in-progress1

This is Ajalia, from The Eastern Slave Series (available now). I’m using a Wacom Tablet, and Sketchbook.

My cat is attempting to step on my keyboard. I have warned her that she will be confined to quarters, if she continues this egregiously disruptive behavior.

She has retreated, and is now curled into a tight ball, asleep. I anticipate a further skirmish involving her white-tipped paws this afternoon.

Have a jolly weekend,

Victor

How To Start Writing In The Next Five Minutes

Eliminate distractions ruthlessly in your mind and reading.

As many of you may have found, writing is complicated by distractions and, often, by your deleterious mood.

If you are having a hard time writing, stop reading for a while. The words will start to foment in your brain; they might spill over in unexpected ways.

Stop writing flash and short stories; only allow yourself to write words for your novel.

In other news, here is a centaur I am drawing for my new backburner series.

centaurhead

 

How To Pace Your Writing

On pacing.

Bad Writing (terrible, jostling pace):

Yori flung the saddle over the great black horse. He put the saddle bags down. Blue-face pushed open the door, shouting as he clattered over the wood floor.

“Hey, they’ve lost our deposit.”

Yori tugged hard at the leather piece.

“Argue with them,” Yori directed. He looked at the swinging door, where Gorm, the landlord, entered now.

“You’ve lost our money,” Yori offended.

“Not my fault,” Gorm said, wheezing. Blue-face glared at Yuri. The horse nosed at hay.

“How?” Blue-face demanded, whirling at last. The fat inn-keeper scowled.

“Those thieves will pay for what they’ve done,” Yori declared. Gorm’s face fell.

Good Writing (strong, steady pace):

Yori flung the thick saddle over the great black horse. The stirrups and girth strap jangled against the saddle skirts; the mare snuffled noisily, her pitch-black nose thrust into a net of hay.

Yori went out of the stall, and retrieved the saddle bags from a hook on the wall. Blue-face, his eyes popping with fury, and his magenta hair bristling with passion over his sky-colored skin, pushed open the door to the stable. The dyed elf shouted as he clattered over the wooden floor of the stable.

“Hey, they’ve lost our deposit, Yori!”

Yori glanced at Blue-face’s livid expression, and hid a smile as he slung the saddle bags over the mare’s back. He buckled the leather, and Blue-face let out an impassioned “tcha!” The colorful elf stomped into the stall, and fitted the girth strap through the ring. He tugged hard at the leather piece.

“Argue with them,” Yori suggested. A crashing of wood came from the end of the stable. Yori looked at the swinging door, where Gorm, the landlord, had blustered in.

“You’ve lost our money,” Yori observed.

“Not my fault,” Gorm said, wheezing. Blue-face glared at Gorm, and then grimaced at Yori. The black mare snorted noisily, and pushed her nose deeper into the hay.

“Half my silver has gone as well,” Gorm told them. The inn-keeper, Yori saw, had been staring at the obviously empty saddle bags.

“He thought it was us,” Yori murmured under his breath.

“Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish!” Blue-face said loudly, whirling on Gorm with burning eyes. The fat inn-keeper scowled.

“I’ll pay what I owe you,” Gorm said grudgingly. “I thought as you’d stolen my silver, we’d be pretty fair if I kept what was yours.”

“I didn’t touch your dirty old silver,” Blue-face snapped.

“I can see that now, lad,” Gorm said.

“Don’t patronize me!” the elf retorted.

“What will you give me, to find what’s lost?” Yori asked. Gorm studied his face, and a sharp gleam was in his eyes.

“Room and board up to a week, when you pass through,” Gorm said.

“Done,” Yori said. “Take the mare out to the stream for water,” he told the elf. “She doesn’t like the stuff here.” Blue-face took hold of the black mare’s lead, and began to back her out of the stall. “What if the thief is one of your own?” Yori asked. Gorm snarled.

“I will not harbor thieves,” the inn-keeper declared.

 

Writing A Charming Protagonist With A Map!

A likeable protagonist.

When writing genre fiction, it is important to remember that a bastion of the practice is escapism; literary fiction can do an honest delving into the ugliness and irritation of human nature, but genre fiction will need to have a protagonist that is either likeable, highly skilled, or both.

Bad Writing (repellent protagonist):

Curon laid the map over the heavy table. He placed a pair of fractured moonstones over the corners of the blue paper, and frowned at the glowing lines that squiggled on the surface.

“Can’t we just call in?” Xiro asked, watching Curon with cautious eyes.

“No, waste of time,” Curon said. He frowned, and wrapped his heavy arms over his torso. His face looked like a rock that is melting slowly on either side; Xiro glanced at the map, and pursed his mouth with annoyance.

“I could speak to them,” Xiro suggested.

“They won’t know how to get through. The main office never knows,” Curon snapped. He leaned over the map, and traced his finger over the broad yellow line that cut diagonally through the blue paper. “Here,” Curon said. “We’ll try the river first.”

“But our orders say the beacon was transmitting in the northwest quadrant,” Xiro exclaimed, crossing to the map and thrusting an impatient finger at the corner. Curon looked up at Xiro with one stiff eyebrow raised, and Xiro flushed. “I don’t think following the river will do us any good,” the young man persisted.

“We’ll try the river,” Curon said again, and he pushed the moonrocks aside, and rolled up the map.

Good Writing (likeable protagonist):

Curon handed the map to Xiro, who laid it over the heavy table, and secured the corners with a pair of fractured moonstones. Together they stared down at the squiggling, glowing lines on the surface of the map.

“Well,” Curon said hesitantly. His eyes trawled over the heavy mass of incomprehensible drawings.

Xiro put his nose close to the thick blue paper, and squinted.

“Is it any better close up?” Curon asked doubtfully.

Xiro shook his head, and stood up.

“I could call in to the main office,” Xiro said. Curon frowned, and twisted the map around. He looked at it upside down, and then sideways. Glancing at Xiro, and blushing slightly, Curon pushed away the moonstones, and turned the blue paper over.

“Oh,” Curon said, sounding relieved.

“That’s the river,” Xiro said instantly, putting his finger on a thick stroke of incandescent yellow.

“Yes,” Curon said, tilting his head.

“So we need to go here,” Xiro said, tracing the paper towards the upper left corner.

“No, the river is tilted this way,” Curon said. “Look, there’s a key. The beacon should be here.”

“I’m glad we didn’t call in to the office,” Xiro said, and Curon laughed.

How Male Characters Check Out Female Characters

Gender dynamics: scoping out the possibilities

When a person enters a room, and the person is not wholly satisfied in his personal romantic endeavors, he generally scopes out the area for available and desirable women.

Fiction often trips up in allowing the scoping, but failing to account for the action that inevitably follows such sniffing-out behavior.

Bad Writing (aborted scoping):

Henry came into the bar, and a smell of Ungolian manure washed over his face. He looked around, and saw a pair of sisters from the moons of Brian-on-Dell. The older sister had a pair of tentacles creeping from the sides of her neck, and the younger sister was coated in a thick layer of oozing black mud.

The oldest sister was holding a glass of Krag between her hands, and her left tentacle was snapping lightly against the surface of the blue liquid. Henry could hear the faint splish-splash of the Krag; the younger sister’s thick orange eyelids flickered towards the sound, and she frowned.

Henry walked through the dimly-lit bar; he veered towards the sisters, and when he passed the younger sister, he tilted his chin towards her, a light smile on his face.

“Bold man, that,” the older sister murmured, when she thought he had passed out of earshot. Henry grinned, and a satisfied squirm went through his hips. I’ve still got it, he thought.

Good Writing (scoping aftermath):

Henry came into the bar, and a smell of Ungolian manure washed over his face. He looked around, and saw a pair of sisters from the moons of Brian-on-Dell. The older sister had a pair of tentacles creeping from the sides of her neck, and the younger sister was coated in a thick layer of oozing black mud.

The oldest sister was holding a glass of Krag between her hands, and her left tentacle was snapping lightly against the surface of the blue liquid. Henry could hear the faint splish-splash of the Krag; the younger sister’s thick orange eyelids flickered towards the sound, and she frowned.

Henry walked through the dimly-lit bar; he veered towards the sisters, and when he passed the younger sister, he tilted his chin towards her, a light smile on his face.

“Bold man, that,” the older sister murmured, when she thought he had passed out of earshot. Henry grinned, and spun around. He slid into the booth beside the slime-covered younger sister, and breathed in deeply.

“I bet your skin is lovely under all that mud,” Henry said, staring straight at the tentacled older sister.

“Are you talking to me?” the older female demanded, her orange skin flushing harshly.

“No,” Henry said, smiling.

“Go away, Merdoth,” the younger sister murmured. Henry’s whole body, which had already been warm with the thrill of his daring, became positively volcanic at the velvety sound of the younger female’s voice. What had been a momentary whim on Henry’s part solidified into a fervent desire. I will have her, he told himself.

The older sister was glaring daggers at Henry.

“Excuse me, buddy,” she began, but the younger sister cut in with a long diatribe in another language. Merdoth’s face, already flushed, became unbearably vivid. She stood abruptly, clutching her glass of Krag in both hands, and swept away.

“Who are you?” the younger sister asked Henry, as soon as Merdoth was heading away. Henry turned, and met the female’s eyes, which gleamed from beneath the Ungolian manure.

Henry’s sense of adventure turned, in short order, into chilling fear. What if she was ugly, under all that?

“I’ve got a feeling about you,” Henry said, keeping his voice casual.

“How long do you think this feeling will last?” she asked. Her wide mouth was curved beneath the rough surface of the manure. A touch of pink was visible, under the rancid green.

“The more I hear the sound of your voice,” Henry said, “the more I think the feeling will never leave me.”

The younger sister smiled; her eyes were wary.

“I will meet you after moon-under time in the lobby,” she said. “You will have five minutes to convince me you are interesting. Don’t be late.” She pushed her slime-covered hand against Henry’s ribs, as though prompting him to slide out of the booth, to make way for her to leave.

“Why can’t I meet you now?” Henry demanded. Her touch sent shivers of desire through his bones. He could not see her face, but something about her intoxicated his senses, and made a river of fire run through his veins.

“I want to get out of this booth,” the lady said. Henry smiled, but his eyes were hard.

“I want to know your name,” he countered.

Relationship overtures have consequences; anyone can set up a meeting between two characters. Set yourself apart by following through on the initial maneuvering of your sniffing-about male characters.