Being a Better Writer: When Characters Fail

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday Being a Better Writer post! Today we’ve got a request topic, one that hopefully I’ll be able to do justice to the satisfaction of the one who asked. In addition, it’s also one of the last topics left on Topic List IX! We’re close to Topic List X, and I’m glad, because I’ve already got some pretty neat topics on there to go over.

But that’s in the future. For the now, let’s get going on today’s topic: When Characters Fail.

I’ll admit, I bounced around a bit on topic titles for this one, and not without good reason. For a moment it was “Failing to Succeed,” and then almost became “Letting Characters Fail.” But finally, I settled on When Characters Fail, rather than on letting, and I think that distinction is important.

See, if we go into our characters failing with the mindset that we’re “letting” them fail (and in fact, are), then we might be approaching our story in the wrong way. Sure, we’re giving our characters the “try/fail” cycle that they need, and they’re going through it, but here’s the thing about “letting” them fail. When we “let” our characters fail, then they’re not the ones acting on the try/fail cycle. We as authors are. We’re looking at our story and going “Okay, you can fail here, this is a good spot for it,” and letting the failure happen where we decide it works, rather than simply letting the characters be free to fail when their own choices drop it on them.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Rolling Sale – Round 3!

It is time! Round 3 of the Rolling Sale has BEGUN!

Which means, if you’ve been following along, that Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is now 50% off! Huzzah!

Even better, in the tradition of the Rolling Sale, a purchase of Unusual Events this week is tracked on the counter to the left of the page there. As that counter continues to move up, it in turn boosts the sale of the next title in line: Colony! So right now, when Colony‘s turn arrives, it’ll be at a 13% discount. However, once more than three copies of Unusual Events have been sold, that discount climbs to 25%! And so on, upwards through eight tiers. The last of these? Colony becomes free.

So, what are the numbers to reach of each tier? Take a look!

  • 0 – 3: Tier 1 – 13% Off
  • 4 – 9: Tier 2 – 25% Off
  • 10 – 15: Tier 3 – 37% Off
  • 16 – 22: Tier 4 – 50% Off
  • 23 – 30: Tier 5 – 63% Off
  • 31 – 40: Tier 6 – 75% Off
  • 41 – 60: Tier 7 – 88% Off
  • 61+: Tier 8 – FREE!!!

Now, a quick reminder. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited customer, you don’t need to worry about buying a copy to contribute to the Rolling Sale. As before, each read of Unusual Events through Kindle Unlimited will count as a unit moved as well, so there’s a metric for that! Load Unusual Events up and start reading!

Or, if you’ve already read it, you can still contribute to the tiers moving up by leaving a review on Unusual EventsAmazon or Goodreads page! Each review will count as five units moved for the rolling sale! So even if you’ve already read it, you can still kick in and help!

Or, you know, you can just share the news about the rolling sale on Facebook, Reddit, or any other site or place you may hang out on online or in real life. The more the word is spread, the higher that number can climb!

You’ve got one week! Good luck! Let’s see that discount climb!

Only a Little Time Left!

Those of you who were looking to pick up a copy of Dead Silver while the sale persisted are going to need to make your move soon. As of right now, there are less than twelve hours remaining on it’s slot in the Rolling Sale, so act now, because soon that discount will be gone!

Of course, grabbing a copy doesn’t just net you a pretty sweet mystery set in the deserts of New Mexico. It also adds another unit moved to the counter on the right side of the site, moving things ever closer to upping the discount rate of the next title in the sale. Which in this case, happens to be Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection. The current unlocked deal is 50% off, but if Dead Silver moves seven more copies, when Unusual Events takes its spot in the sale next week, it’ll be 66% off!

Whatever you do, do it fast! This week’s iteration of the Rolling Sale is almost over!

 

Classic Being a Better Writer: Pacing

Welcome back to another classic Being a Better Writer post!

Confused? New around here? Don’t be! Being a Better Writer is a weekly writing guide posted to this site every Monday designed to help writers of all experience hone their craft. Beginning or experienced and in need of a refresher, BaBW has been a staple of Unusual Things since actually before the site existed. You could say it’s one reason my site exists.

Anyway, although each post is carefully tagged and organized, as well as searchable via the site search function, there’s still a lot of material to go through after the years. Classic posts are a way to bridge the gap and make it easier for some to find the topics that they’re interested in.

This week? Pacing! An oft overlooked by quite vital aspect of any story.

Pacing—
Have you ever seen a film or a read a book where things started out with a bang and just kept exploding? Or a tense film that just stayed tense and never gave you a moment to relax? And by about halfway through, you’re actually bored with both of them? That’s because the pacing was poor. You can only keep an audience in a constant state of tension/suspense/action before the audience is tired of it. They need a moment to relax, to digest. To think about what’s happened. They need a slower moment where they can catch their breath, and if they don’t get it, they’re going to stop enjoying whatever it is they were watching.

Pacing – Part II—
If I were to put it in my own words, pacing is the measure of timing that flows through your story. It is the rate at which things happen, the length and depth of scenes and sentences, and even the rhythm by which the events in the story flow …

… Because contrary to what a lot of young writers think, there’s more to writing than simply getting the right words down on the page. You can write a wonderful, otherwise well-written story full of heart, character, and adventure, and yet create something that fails to deliver to the reader at all because of improper pacing. There’s more to writing than simply getting all the right words out. You need to have the right length and timing to go with everything.

The Try/Fail Cycle and the Evolving Story—
Now, I’m going to preface things with a caveat here: We know that the hero is going to win. Usually. 95% of the time, it’s a safe bet that the hero will emerge victorious in some fashion or another. But on the journey there? A hero who simply crushes all in their path doesn’t really make for an entertaining read because the reader always knows what is going to happen. If your hero fights mook after mook, takes down trap after trap, and comes out on top every time, well, even if your action is written in an incredibly well-done manner, you’re still going to start running into readers who just start skipping over things. Why?

Because they’ve gotten bored.

 

Like what you saw here? Want to see more? Support via Patreon!

A Slow Start – Updated

Round 2 of the Rolling Sale is still going, but I’ll admit it’s off to a slow start, which doesn’t bode well for Unusual Events. Then again, there are still three days to go, counting today, so that’s still time for things to pick up. At the current moment, one more unit moved will launch Unusual Events into the 33% off category, while five more will put it at 50% off category.

Of course, those of you who have read Dead Silver can opt to leave a review instead, which counts as five copies moved and really kick the counter up.

Three days to go! If you enjoyed One Drink and are looking for something with quite a bit more bite, give Dead Silver a go!

 

UPDATE: Dead Silver has just unlocked tier 2 for Unusual Events!

UPDATE 2: Tier 3 has been unlocked!

The Rolling Sale – Round 2 Has Begun!

Those of you who are regulars to the site may have noticed the sudden color change that’s swept over everything. That dull red … it can only mean one thing …

That’s right! The Rolling Sale is in round 2! And Dead Silver is now on sale! You can pick up a copy at the 33% discount unlocked by the copies of One Drink that moved last week. Which works out to be $1.99.

Even cooler, each copy bought builds towards a new discount tier for the next book in the sale, Unusual Events! Currently the discount for Unusual Events sits at 17%, but once Dead Silver hits three units moved, that discount climbs to 33%! Eight units? 50% off! It just keeps going! You can check the breakdown on all the tiers here, but there are six of them in total. If Dead Silver unlocks the last one, Unusual Events becomes free!

Now, a quick reminder, while buying a copy of Dead Silver is the easiest way to make that counter on the left climb, you can make it go up in other ways. Especially if you’ve already purchased it. For the record, here are all the ways the counter can climb!

  • Buy a copy. That’s one unit moved!
  • Read Dead Silver on Kindle Unlimited. All you KU readers can pitch in!
  • Leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Each review counts as five units moved!

Of course, you can also share Dead Silver with any you think may enjoy it and point out that it’s on sale! That’s a good way to help unlock those higher tiers!

That’s all! Go! Buy! Review! Share!

Being a Better Writer: Forward, Pioneers

Today is Pioneer Day in the state I live in, a day when everyone celebrates the forward-looking, pioneer spirit of the old west that sent so many explorers forth. And I thought “You know, I can make a Being a Better Writer post out of that.”

Which brings us to the here and now, where I am. Writing this post. About pioneers. Man, that was a short recap. Like the thirty-second backstory of a cartoon. Anyway …

So, pioneers. Don’t worry, this is still a writing post. This is still about sitting down and putting hands to keyboard, pen, whatever, and creating a world of wonderful characters and adventure, tragedy, comedy, or what have you. But what does it have to do with pioneers?

Well, I’m going to take a step back further in history to look at an earlier explorer. Namely, a man who put his name on history for the ages by insisting that India could be reached not by traveling around Africa or over land, but by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we know this man as Christopher Columbus, who stumbled across the entirely unexpected Americas and got a lot of credit for discovering them in the modern eras. And yes, I know the vikings and the people that lived there beat him there, but Columbus was the one that put the Americas on the center stage and kicked off … well, just about everything that lead to the shape of the modern world.

Anyway, why do I bring up this story? For one reason, and one reason only: Most everyone considered Columbus insane. They thought the voyage he was attempting was going to be too treacherous. Pop-culture claimed that his detractors thought he would sale off of the edge of the Earth (despite people knowing back then that the Earth wasn’t flat). A lot of people simply thought he would get caught up in a storm and he and all his men die at sea.

Basically, there were a lot of fearful reasons that no one had ever attempted the journey west before. And if they had, they hadn’t made it back, so there was more to those fears.

Of course, we know the result of this story. Columbus secured his funding at last for his trading expedition. And as it turned out, his calculations were wrong. There wasn’t a direct, westward path to India because someone had put a blasted continent in the way (not that they realized this for a while). But soon they did, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. All it took was someone willing to take a chance on sailing west, against the “common current” that ruled the minds of the current climate.

Why I am I telling you this and what does it have to do with writing? Well, let’s look at one other success story first. Have you seen Stranger Things?

Continue reading