Character Growth
Today, I was looking at forums, and saw someone ask a pretty important question.

It's no doubt that your character grows. It should be natural for it to happen. You should put your character in so many different situations, that they naturally just grow. Of course, it's the publishing biz, and nothing, absolutely nothing, is as easy as "natural."

So, first you have to define your character. Let's take my MC, Bryce, as an example.

The first chapter opens up, and you're introduced to this...

womanizing, arrogant prick.

Before you can hate the boy too much, I put him through a pretty brutal situation. His mother is sprawled across the kitchen floor -- lifeless in her own pool of blood. His father had just been shot, but wasn't dead. Instead, his father sat on his knees suffering from the pain of the wound. He can't speak, and the only sounds made are the gargle of his own blood.

It's tragic. It's something meant to be so terrible, it'd stick with him for the rest of his life, but of course, I wanted to paint out his character.

The demon who held the gun that put the bullets through his parents puts the cold metal into his palm.

"Humans, interesting to say the least. Will you use the last bullet to put your father out of his own misery? Or, will you turn the gun on me?"

So there's the decision. Shows two completely different personalities. Compassionate, caring, considerate versus resentful, vengeful, and violent.

Bryce chooses to turn the gun on the demon, and that decision, forever shaped him. Without family, without a real committed relationship, and without any dreams -- he sacrifices his life to gain the power to kill this demon to extract revenge for his parents' death (of course, when he turned the gun to the demon, he didn't kill her).

Throughout the book, he'll have a couple more situations where he could help someone or get revenge, and each time he chooses the route of revenge.

It isn't until many bad decisions later, that he realizes revenge isn't everything to life. That killing the demon won't bring his parents back, and a saved life is more important than anything else in the world.

The growth is important, not only because it makes the character more likable. The entire book Bryce is struggling with his past, not his parents death, but the fact that he is the devil. As the story builds, he lives his life just like the Devil once had. Hatred and revenge fueled his every move, which eventually caused the fallen angel to turn into the devil. Once Bryce learns the value of a life, and that it is more important than getting revenge, it's his first shining hope that he won't become the one thing he's been fighting against: evil.

Now, there are a few things about a character's growth that you should take into account.

When does the character finally grow?

Let's put the book into four quarters. If your character acts one way 25% of the book, then goes through dramatic changes after the first quarter, and acts "changed and enlightened" the other 75%, it's not going to be obvious growth.

If your character acts one way half way through the book, and the enlightened way the other half, it means you resolved your plot way too early, honestly.

Personally, I think your character should change 75% through the book, while his change is the reason whatever major plot point was resolved.

How do you personally like the character's change to come through?

Anyone that knows me knows I'm a passionate person. And I like drama (at least.. in books). I think a character's growth should be BIG. Personally, I mapped mine out like this:

  • Define the character.
  • What must change in order for the character to achieve his final goal?
  • Name three HARD decisions the character must go through before his growth happens. What all does he lose before he realizes he must change?
  • How is he ultimately rewarded when he does change?
Back from the wee bit of a break. =)
So, once again, I'm back.

I ended up getting incredibly sick for almost three weeks. After a couple doctor visits, and lord knows how much medicine, I'm all better. =)

Then, I had to spend way too much time doing make-up-work at work. I'm all caught up, finally! So, I'll be able to give writing a closer eye.

I left off in the middle of my query. When I was sick, I couldn't do much writing (I dosed in and out of sleep every hour... was terrible). So I spent my time reading.

Normally, I enjoy books. Not as much as I used to since I have a critical eye, but I do. I rarely ever enjoy someone's novels so much that I want to write about them, though. And ladies and gents, I have to tell you, if you enjoy romance in the least bit, give Monica McCarty a try.

She's got three trilogies going (not what I'd call your traditional "trilogy," but three books with the same characters, just different stories and MCs.) I'd suggest Highland Scoundrel for the first of her books. It's phenomenal, especially for a romance.

I believe anyone writing from any genre could appreciate Highland Scoundrel. Monica has some of the best tension I've ever seen, and her plot/set-backs are perfect. As I said, I very rarely promote a book, but for educational purposes, I think everyone should give this a read. Phenomenal author, and the golden story to represent her.
Query Process 2
Note to self: when your eyes are goosh and you are considering putting something up for review.


After working hours to do my query, there were tons of elementary mistakes. My query just got rocked, hah. Although it's embarrassing that I put such trash under my name, I'm going to try and make it a positive.

But on a random side note, it seems like when there are elementary mistakes, more people give you feedback. When my second version of the query was up there, I had one comment in 4 days. This was up for about 12 hours and already has 5. The more feedback the better.

So far, this is what the feedback looks like after I corrected the grammatical mess I started with.

Their thoughts are in red, mine are in blue.

Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor haunt the helpless seventeen-year-old, Bryce Bourbon. With his parents dead, Bryce attempts to kill Becca, the sadistic demon who murders his family, but fails. He knows her name? Perhaps I'm wrong, but a query should be told from the stance of the author, not the character. I'll have to look into it.

Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden city in the Philippines, the Abyss. You introduce three different locations in one sentence. If he never goes back to NYC, it *really* doesn't need to be mentioned. You also need to carefully consider whether it matters that the hidden city is in the Philippines, too [See, and I was told to be specific where the Abyss was in previous feedback. It could be in the garage or alleyway somewhere..? Not sure what to do here.] Despite Bryce's accident-prone nature, the war academy What war academy? You only mentioned a hidden city [And that's why I'm giving you more information about the hidden city =( Guess I should make it omega infodump?] successfully trains him as an elemental-wielding assassin. With avid experimentation he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb so it blows things up using fission? Really? [Actually, yes, yes it does. That's my worlds form of magic.]that only one person was known to manipulate: the Devil. I think this should be capitalised, if we're talking about the ultimate devil. Agreed, so I did.

After utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he uses the wicked magic, the more these nightmares come. When he sees the devil's reflection, Bryce realizes the scenes weren't simple illusions -- they are memories. His memories.

Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca blackmails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains. Screw Becca. She's the antagonist. Stick to Bryce. // Why are we suddenly thrown into her POV? [Once again, conflicting feedback. Someone tells me that my query is bad because it doesn't mention enough about the antag, and this one is telling me to fuck her. *cry*]

With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp before her plans to massacre humanity are carried out. There's one problem: he's becoming the very evil he's fighting against. I'm sorry, I don't get this at all. If Becca's intent is anti-humanity, why wouldn't she be trying to *enlist* Bryce to her cause? [Because she's Queen Bee now. If the devil shows back up she loses that spot. I'm going to need to figure a short snappy way to get that across so it doesn't confuse the reader.]

Ah. That stung. I'm late for work. I'll ask a couple questions about the conflicting feedback, and see what people have to say.

Don't give up, don't give up.


One of the critters gave me a bit of amazing advice (well, her entire crit did, but she added to it!)

The POV switch - While I wasn't told to do a POV switch, I was told that I needed to show the antag and the personal threats between her and the protag. I figured it would best be done from her point of view.

Answer: Yes, we need to see the antagonist and the personal threats - but we need to see the impact it has upon the protagonist.

Hopefully, your villain is the hero to her own story. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the filter through which the protagonist sees all this. Is he rocking in a corner and hiding coz he's terrified of what she's doing to his friends? Is he so bent on revenge that even though she's *actually* as cute as a kitten he's gonna rip her to shreds anyway? Does every move she make only piss him off more? That kind of stuff is what we need to know.


One step closer. Now, I need to get my mind screwed on straight and apply the advice. Woot.

Okay, after getting some lunch in, I decided I was going to apply the advice. Attached is the revisions I need to make, and I'll probably give it a day before I try to tackle it.

Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor haunt the helpless seventeen-year-old, Bryce Bourbon. With his parents dead, Bryce attempts to kill Becca, the sadistic demon who murders his family, but fails.

Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden city war academy in the Philippines, the Abyss. Despite Bryce's accident-prone nature, the war academy he successfully trains him graduates top in his class as an elemental-wielding assassin. With avid experimentation he learns [weak verb] he can conducts Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb that only one person was known to manipulate: Lucifer [instead of "the devil"].

After utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he uses [weak verb] triggers the wicked magic illusions, the more these nightmares come. he perceives these nightmares as memories. His memories. Bryce is the reincarnation of the Devil. When he sees the devil's reflection, Bryce realizes the scenes aren't simple illusions -- they are memories. His memories. [Personal preference, I liked the reincarnation of Lucifer. Seems a bit more specific than memories.]

Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca blackmails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains.
All feedback suggests staying in Bryce's POV. I'll have to re-write this paragraph entirely.

With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp before her plans to massacre humanity are carried out. [Too much on the plate, plot wise.] if he wants to stay alive. There's one problem: he's becoming the very evil he's fighting against.

The Query Process - experience mine first hand.
*Chants* I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

Welcome to my personal space of hell. Usually I write about things I'm comfortable with. Things I'm good at. Tricks that help me. I rarely expose myself in this manner, but for the sake of your journey, I'm offering you a special insight to mine.

Here's the query I've been working with:

Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor is only there to haunt him. The seventeen year old arrogant womanizer, Bryce Bourbon, is forever changed after his parents were shot and killed before his helpless hands. Finding out their murderer was no human, instead a demon, Bryce becomes desperate for power.

He accepts his one-way ticket to the Abyss. Far from being home sweet home, the war academy for elemental-wielding assassins teaches him the one thing he continues to live his life for: Revenge. Obsessing over the new found powers, Bryce masters every element and chemical equation given. In the process, he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has been fabled to manipulate: the devil.

After accidentally utilizing Aether, visions of murders, rape, child molestation, and religious manipulation overcome Bryce. Insanity corrupts him once he realizes these aren't just glimpses into the past, they are memories from his previous life as Lucifer. Plagued by the horrid sins he once committed, Bryce is determined to obliterate more than the imp that killed his parents; he yearns to slaughter every demon.

What he doesn't calculate is the web of fiends stretches beyond his imagination. They are political leaders and religious figures planted across the Earth, plotting World War III.
Stopping the vile beings from painting the world with blood isn't his only worry. Bryce must balance the destructive, unstable power of Aether. Using this magic brings him closer to who he was. He must resist the seduction of sin Aether forces him to crave before he becomes the evil he's fighting against.
First off, just looking at it, I can tell it's way too long. Here's my first edit with personal thoughts and feedback from others.

Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor is only there to haunt him. [Feedback told me this was too much cheesy imagery. Very rarely do I go against feedback, but this is how I write. This is a slight insight to how I write. After much thought, I decided to keep it.] The seventeen year old arrogant womanizer, Bryce Bourbon, is forever changed [Weak verb. He needs to be doing action, not having action done to him.] after his parents were shot and killed before his helpless hands. [Feedback said drop "before his helpless hands." I'm on the fence about it. I'll make a decision next edit.] Finding out their murderer was no human, instead a demon, Bryce becomes desperate for power. [Add: power strong enough to...]

He accepts [weak verb] his one-way ticket [cliche phrase] to the Abyss. Far from being home sweet home, [cliche phrase] the war academy for elemental-wielding assassins teaches him the one thing he continues to live his life for: Revenge. Obsessing over the new found powers, Bryce masters every element and chemical equation given. [Given is confusing. Change.] In the process, he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has been fabled to manipulated: the devil.

After accidentally utilizing Aether, visions of murders, rape, child molestation, and religious manipulation
[Feedback showed people didn't like this too much. Think of something better.] overcome Bryce. Insanity corrupts him once he realizes these aren't just glimpses into the past, [Feedback suggests Bryce would assume they are hallucinations, which he does. I need to re-word.] they are memories from his previous life as Lucifer. Plagued by the horrid sins he once committed, Bryce is determined to obliterate more than the imp that killed his parents; he yearns to slaughter every demon.

What he doesn't calculate is the web of fiends stretches beyond his imagination. They are political leaders and religious figures planted across the Earth, plotting World War III. Stopping the vile beings from painting the world with blood isn't his only worry.
[Feedback suggests I stick to the two plots I have: revenge for parents and controlling aether. I also need to introduce the antag. After taking some time to think, I agree.]Bryce must balance the destructive, unstable power of Aether. Using this magic brings him closer to who he was. [You can tighten this up.] He must resist the seduction of sin Aether forces him to crave before he becomes the evil he's fighting against.

After doing that to myself, I'm suddenly overcome by the horrid memories of my English teacher's obsession. MUST MARK EVERYTHING IN RED. WITH UNDERLINES. AND CAPS. BECAUSE I'M YOUR TEACHER AND MY WORD IS LAW. (But I'm still going to give you an A!)

Remember. Breath. One sentence at a time. I've been edited and reworked about 5 of these, roughly four hours. My eyes are goosh (yes, I just made up a word). I'm not sure if I could spot good writing from bad at this particular moment, so I'm going to call it a night with this thing. Here's where I ended up. I'm debating if I should put it up for criticism or give it a day or two to see what I think later on. Hmmmm. Decisions.

Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor haunts the helpless seventeen year old, Bryce Bourbon. With his parents' dead, Bryce attempts to kill Becca, the sadistic demon who murdered his family, but fails.

Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden city in the Philippines, the Abyss. Despite Bryce's accident-prone nature, the war academy successfully trains him as an elemental-wielding assassin. With avid experimentation he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has manipulated before: the devil.

After accidentally utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce's mind. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he uses the wicked magic, the more these nightmares come. When he sees the devil's reflection, Bryce realizes the scenes weren't simple illusions -- they are memories. His memories.

Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca black mails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains.

With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp before her plans to massacre humanity are carried out. There's one problem: he's becoming the very evil he's fighting against.

I just re-read it for the billionth time, and I have to say, I'm pretty damn happy with it. I was able to work a bit more voice into it than the info-dump-from-hell I had, while keeping the imagery. I think I like having Becca's view too. I'm a bit concerned about the vagueness in the beginning, but I clarify it in the next paragraph. Going to throw it up in Query Letter Hell and see what kind of response I get. Cross your fingers for me. I hope this damn thing works out.
Query - the how to
Get ready for the biggest post that I've ever written.

THE QUERY LETTER (dum.. dum.. dummmm)

Good God, I'm not even sure where to start. I guess I'll start with a bit of inspiration:

This shit sucks. It does. But you've gotta keep working on it. You've done all of the hard stuff. You've written your baby, and you want to get published. If you're anything like me, you want an agent, which means you'll have to focus on a damn good query. Guess what? You can do it.

The most helpful piece of advice is to leave your pride somewhere far, far away from your computer. It's easy to get defensive about your work, which leads to you dismissing some really, really stellar advice.

Why? Because your pride took a shot.

Don't be that person. Be thankful. Take all the advice you can. Depict and understand the advice given.

What do you need before you start your query:

  • A polished, completed manuscript.
  • A list of agent(s) you wish to contact for representation, and their specific submission procedure. Every agent is different.
  • Make sure you have your word count (if it's 72,101 words -- just say 72,000) and genre (don't do that confusing shit: High Fantasy Paranormal Romance...)
  • If you have a previously published book, you need to include the title/publisher/year.

The Query Format:

As per Agent Nathan Bransford (if you have any questions about queries that I failed to answer, this is the #1 place you want to look.)

Dear Blog Readers,

This is how you format an e-mailed query letter. Note that I did not begin with the recipient's address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail. I also am not indenting because indenting and e-mails do not mix.

I am using block formatting. I double space between paragraphs but otherwise the query is single-spaced. It is written in a default font, it is left-justified, and the font is a normal size. If I have copied from a word processing program or past e-mail I am careful to make sure the fonts and sizes match. I haven't added pictures or tried to get fancy with anything because I want the agent to see that I'm confident in my words and don't need any gimmicks to make my query stand out.

Believe it or not, less than 25% of the e-queries I receive are properly formatted. While you won't get rejected if your query is incorrectly formatted, if you accomplish this simple task correctly you will convey an indispensable aura of professionalism. And remember: the amount of time you spend formatting, coloring, bolding, italicizing, and adding pictures to your query is inversely proportional to how professional it looks when you're finished.

Nathan Bransford (note that I didn't leave space for a signature since it's an e-mail)

My address
My phone number
My e-mail address
(optional: my website/blog)

Where the hell should you begin with a query?

Here's where shit gets sticky. Please note, queries are much like the English language: exceptions are everywhere.

If you're starting at step one, here's where I suggest you start.

  1. Protagonist - name/short description.
  2. What does your Protag want?
  3. What must your Protag do in order to accomplish this goal?
  4. What happens if your MC fails?
If that isn't your thing, Agent Bransford has a format of his own:

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal]
**Realize these are mere skeletons. You'll have to add some meat to those bones.

Okay, I've answered the questions. Now what?

Now you add to it. You want to be aware of a couple things while doing this:

  • Add voice.
  • Get rid of anythinggg vague. If it's slightly confusing, the agent will assume one thing and form their opinion on that one wrong assumption. Why? Because you were vague. It's just not worth the risk.
  • Try not to write flowery descriptions. I'm a sucker for imagery; so I have to remember to keep it short and to the point.
  • Write as well as you can.
  • Let's face it, when we hack our lovely piece of art into a couple short paragraphs, it's going to sound a bit cliche. "Oh, sounds like your average revenge plot." "Oh, sounds like the typical end-of-the-world plot." "Okay.. so boy-meets-girl... and how is this different from anything I've read?" Make sure you add the elements that make your story unique.
Here's the hunk of junk I've come up with. Next!

At this point, I'd go have a margarita. Extra shot of tequila. Or if you don't like margaritas, get a good night's rest. You'll probably ignore that bit of advice and go straight back to work. I did. And I'll tell you, obsessing over this... isn't the smartest thing. I wish I would've had that drink.

Anyway, the next step.

Remember, you're wanting to keep your query around 200-350 words. So you've done one of two things:
  1. Over written
  2. Under written
And no, your word count doesn't have everything to do with this. You could be right on the money at 280 words, and still need to edit.

So, scratch out the crap you don't need. (I suddenly wish I didn't save over my original start with my query..) Here's a quick example:

Every Pirate agent has supernatural powers.[I'd delete this sentence. 1.) I would assume there is something "special" about these agents if you're writing about them. 2.) It isn't about the plot/setting/character.] Some agents stop time, some exercise mind control, others manipulate objects with their thoughts. [Once again delete. I'd rather hear about the main character than a vague group of agents.] So, when the agency [I've seen agent/agency 3 times in 3 sentences. Start finding new words.] receives intel on a mystical ancient document rumored to contain the means for identifying, tracking, and [there have been a bit too much description in the paragraph, especially description in 3s. All the literary agent needs to know is that it enslaves.] enslaving people with these powers, Joe is tasked to retrieve it. [Yay! I see the main character finally!] He knows it’s a big deal. [Delete. It's obviously a big deal.] Terrorists could use the manuscript to brainwash an army of paranormal assassins into killing foreign dignitaries, or to identify and imprison innocents [Once again, description in 3s. You've got to mix up your writing.] with supernatural abilities – people like Joe’s mom. [Oh Oh! That's exciting. Plot twisttt.]
As you can see, it's a well written paragraph. BUT, it still needs to be edited through. Add what needs to be added. Cut what needs to be cut.

While in this editing stage, start making adjustments to your query.

  • Keep it between 200-350 words.
  • Write in 3rd person present tense.
  • Make sure you try to avoid using the same word as much as possible. For example, I talk about killing a lot. So, instead of using kill 200 times. I could say slaughter, murder, obliterate, erase, execute, annihilate, liquidate, massacre, slay. You get the point. The dictionary is big! Use it.
The Pitch

Pat yourself on the back. You're working your way there. For this part, I want you to set your query aside. Focus on this. One sentence to tell your entire story.

I wish I knew the secret to an amazing pitch. In fact, I wish someone was there to tell me exactly what angle would make the best pitch.

Since I am really, really weak in this field, I'll give you links to absolutely wonderful sources that can help you much better than I can.
Nathan's first.
Nathan's second.
Nathan's third (this guy is a saint, isn't he?)
Agent Kristin's first.
Kristin's second.
Kristin's third. (If you go to these links, scroll down towards the bottom of the blog, you'll see Pub Rants: Blog Pitch Workshop. There she has many, many examples that might help you.)

Are you bubbling with excitement yet?

If the answer is no, it means you're not ready to take it to the next step. I'd suggest to set your query aside for 2-3 days. Come back to it later with fresh eyes. If you don't feel better about it then, work from a different angle. Try writing it in first person instead of third. Try writing it with a brand new opening paragraph. Something. Mess around until you see what works for you. Don't. Give. Up.

If your answer is yes, good for you! You think that you have the next best thing. You've worked your ass off, and now you're ready to send it to your dream agents, who will all contact you the next day begging to represent you.


I suggest going to a website to get some feedback from experienced writers.

Write Water Cooler's Query Hell (you must have an account to enter.)

Please remember the first piece of advice when entering. Leave your pride at the door. Accept and analyze all pieces of advice. This is going to sting a bit after all your hard work. Unless you're brilliant. If that's the case, you should be writing this! >:[

After you've gotten that damn thing all shiny, you're finally ready to send it out. I really wish you the best of luck. =)

QUESTION: Are other questions which describe things such as your setting and your character's motivation completely irreverent? (In other words, leave most of the meat off the bone in order to keep the query as short as possible?)
ANSWER 1: A query should tell a story. Your setting and motivation should reflect the needs of the story you're trying to sell. For example, the fact that my protagonist is left-handed isn't normally a big deal. But if I mention that my protagonist is the first southpaw to go squirrel hunting, then being a lefty is a big deal. So setting and motivation matter only for the needs of the story. Another way of looking at this would be what does the setting or motivation matter to your character. If it matters to your character that the story is set in Maine, you mention it. If the same thing would have happened to your character regardless of whether they were in Maine or Mexico, then you probably shouldn't mention it.

ANSWER 2: It depends. If you are telling an agent something they could reasonably be expected to know, or work out, you don't need it in there. If you are telling the agent something which doesn't show them anything about the characters or which isn't mentioned again in the query, you probably don't need it in there either.

ANSWER 3: Not at all. But you have to decide what aspects of that to share that will give the query the best punch. It's all about making the reader/agent want to read the story. Queries read a lot like cover copy, but instead of glossing over the details (so you don't give them away) you give the details to show your story specifics. If your setting is important, use it.

QUESTION: When cutting your story into 300ish words, it's hard, and there are certainly elements you'll have to skip over. I've skipped over a ton of stuff which I would think of as a huge selling point. Is that normal?
ANSWER 1: Yes. You'll see the forest. You need to bring this down to a little twig. And you should be aiming at 200 words for the story, not 300. But if something is actually a selling point, then it should go in the query. The question is what makes you think it really is a selling point? So often what the writer thinks is important isn't. Writing a query needs to be done from a long distance view.

Yup. This is why we begin with the three questions. It's a simple way of working out what the storyline is at its most basic.
What I'm trying to do with mine (which is a LitFic character study whose MC doesn't want anything), is focus on a particular event which happens about a third into the novel. It's not the most important thing in the novel, it's not an original selling point, but it is a good moment to show the shift in relationship between the main chars. It sets up the MCs problem, again, at its most basic. My pedantic soul cries at the marginal innacuracies suggested by my Q, but...this is how Q's are written.
Work out a progression through your story and try writing the Q around it. What happens which you can use to explain things?

Totally. You're not trying to sell the whole book in the query. All you want is for the agent to get intrigued enough to ask to see more. If there's something in there that would really hook them, mention it, but don't feel you need everything. Usually, it's the set up of the book and why it's important. Your inciting event.

QUESTION: My character's personality feels completely left out of my query. Instead, it feels like I'm going to bitch smack someone with the info-dump stick, but if I don't, it'll just be way too confusing. Any suggestions?
ANSWER 1: Yeah. You figure out the one or two words that will nail your character as he or she matters to the query. You learn how to get to the point, instead of slowly meandering your way there. You'll discover that a picture isn't worth a thousand words, when you can show it in ten.

Show, don't tell, even in a Q. Try and get as much voice as you can into it. Have hankies ready to mop up the blood, sweat, tears and beverages you hurl at your screen.

Edit. Yeah, I know, great advice. But seriously, you can get your voice in there if you work at it. That was critical for my query, and I used phrases she used and pretending she was the one telling the query if that makes sense.

Queries that worked!

Attached are a couple links to queries that worked for published authors.

Janice Hardy.
Her agent's take on her query.
A big thread on it.
Nathan's good examples.

And for every great example, Query Shark can give you thousands of bad. Learn from their mistakes. Learn how agents think. And begin thinking like they do.

Urgh.. back... to work on mine. I'll give you examples of my journey on here. Best of luck with yours!

Remember. You can do it.

Inspiration from Agent Natalie Fischer's Blog:
Today, I stumbled across a great blog! It's the blog of agent Natalie M. Fischer. Before I share something that I found absolutely heart warming, let me share that she's having a contest! It's the first contest I've ever decided to enter. Why? Because it looks fun as all get out.

Here's more about the contest if you're interested. For the contest, you'll have to write the WORST QUERY IN THE WORLD.

Be warned, I'm a natural. >:D

Back to the reason I'm posting. Every now and then I come across a tid bit of inspiration. A couple posts down, Natalie shared this. Hope it makes you smile like it did me. =)

I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.

On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.

My mom gave me a print out of this story when I was twelve years old. I tacked it to my wall, next to my computer, and whenever I was in the midst of any sort of “Why do I suck at life, my writing sucks, I should just give up” breakdown, I would look at that printout – and try again.

There used to be a motto of, “you never know – you may be only 35 cents away from that acceptance.” Now, it’s more like, “you never know – you may be just one email away from ‘the call’” – which is totally even more worth it than 35 cents, by the way.

At the end of my senior year of college, I was convinced I wanted to go to grad school to get my PH.D. in English Literature. I spent months preparing, taking tests – and at the end of it all, I was rejected from every school. I was mortified, disheartened, an absolute wreck. I decided I would just “be lost for the rest of my life.” Being lost was ok, right? Lots of people are lost.

In the meantime, the more practical side of my brain tossed out an email to my old internship, asking them to keep me in mind for any openings. No matter what, I’d spent so many years with rejection (in my querying days, I got over 100 rejections, and still kept going) that I’d built up enough of a spine to not give up, no matter what I was mumbling over shots of tequila.

I could have painfully been making my way through THE CANTERBURY TALES – in old English – and writing papers to the light of the midnight oil at this exact same time this year. Instead, I’m rambling on online conferences, building careers, and reading client work to the soft glow of my Mac computer. I couldn’t be happier. I finally realized that the only reason I’d applied to grad school in the first place was because I was terrified of what to do next.

The universe works in mysterious ways. But it always turns out in the best way for YOU. It may not be what you want, or expect, but if you allow it to throw curveballs at you and don’t stomp off the field and demand them to be thrown straight (maybe a sports analogy wasn’t the best way for this princess unicorn to go…), trust me – you’ll be rewarded in the end.

Don’t believe me?

My client, Roseanne Thong, had her manuscript with her editor for six months. Not a peep. A letter arrived from a very lovely librarian, complimenting her last book with Chronicle. Two weeks later we had an offer.

Agent and writer Mandy Hubbard recently tweeted about how she sent out PRADA AND PREJUDICE to twenty publishers, before she completely re-wrote the book from scratch – and got two offers.

These amazing stories are out there because of perseverance. It takes guts to stick it out – but that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to succeed in this business. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to rant and moan and bitch and scream "Why do I SUCK at LIFE?!"

Just don’t. Give. Up.

Who knows – you may be an email click away from the next story on my blog. ;)
People come to life in your book
Let's face it.

We've all got that one character (or two... or three) who have somehow found a way into our story!

People think it's wrong. Or we're not imaginative enough. Well, here's something for those people: you're wrong.

I always tried to avoid having a character represent somebody because, well, everyone told me you just don't do it. I'm a glutton for following terrible advice.

I saw this little bit of advice given to someone today, and it bothered me. First off, there's no wrong or right way to write a novel. It either works or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, there's bound to be more than one fuck up in it.

So, back to the topic.

As a human being, you're naturally attached to people or things. There are moments and qualities that are irreplaceable in your heart, and that passion comes out in your work. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

One of my favorite characters, Tony Martini, started off exactly how I planned, but as time went on and situations not in the outline occurred, I found out that Tony Martini is a shiny replica of my daddy.

Not everything about him is the same, but the way he cares for people. The way he gives advice. The way he never gives up. The way places all the stress he can on his shoulders so others don't have to worry. He's my father, and I didn't plan it that way!

If you've come across something similar to mine, you'll realize you can't change it. You'll try, but it'll feel like a void. Something will forever be missing with that character.

Now, after having a character evolve into someone I know, if someone asked me if I'd write a character based on someone/something I knew, heck yes I would. And I have!

The dragon in my story has changed dramatically. Let's face it. I love my dragon, and he's not going anywhere. BUT he has to grow with the story, and the way he was, cannot be the way he has to be.

When I first started (his name was Twilly, short for Twilight... but after the book Twilight, I decided I'd have to rename him), Twilly was more of a mentor. Bryce was a young, scared kid at the time, and he needed someone who was confident. Someone to guide him. Twilly was that person.

When I decided to change who Bryce was from top to bottom, well, that meant I had to change Twilly. Twilly could no longer be what I had originally intended him to be.

It was heartbreaking. Really. I sat around for hours thinking of how I was going to make this work. I wasn't getting rid of my dragon dammit!

Then, he came in. The he that I would base my dragon around. Tall, dark, handsome.... what the hell am I saying. He wasn't any of those.

Standing a whole 12 inches tall with nothing but black fluff -- a tail wagging, mouth breather intruded my story.


For those of you who do not know, Pookie is my baby. My little pomeranian.

The only dog in the world I loveeee to hate. He pisses on everything. Bites too much. Wakes me up at 2 am wanting to play. 3 am wanting to play. 4 am wanting to play. 5 am wanting to go outside... to play. He drools. His bark is like a girlish squeal.


That's Pookie. The only bad dog I've ever owned. And the only dog I've ever considered my precious wittle baby.

So, my mentoring, wise dragon suddenly became a fourteen foot Pookie.

I have never, ever had so much fun in my life. So, to answer your question: is it okay to write create a character based around a person?Yes, and you'll be surprised how much fun you'll have with it!
Yes, that's my Pookie-nator. He could only stay still for one photo -.-
What made me decide to write the genre I do?
I am a YA Urban Fantasy writer. That's a big title.

Why YA?
Hi, my name is Alli. I'm apart of the Harry Potter generation. When I first started writing, I wanted to do what KA Applegate and JK Rowling did for me: give me the love to read. I think between video games and TV, we need to give the younger generations a reason to love reading.

Do you realize the generations under me will never, ever twirl their finger in the telephone cord? They've never had a corded phone! They won't use VCRs. They'll laugh when they see superman dressing in a phone booth (Oh mi gawd, what is that?!) They won't remember the AOL sign on sound. Heck, even the "you've got mail" sound.

Anyway, back to the topic. My story evolved from my original intent. But, I've still got a reason to write for the YA crowd. I love quick paced books. I'm not saying I'm a sucker for a 1,000 page novel, but YA books tend to have excitement on every single page. I love feeling like a pinball in a pinball machine.

The endings in YA seem a bit more fairy-taleish. Out of the last fourteen adult novels I've read, none of the endings were satisfying. I'm not sure what it is anymore, but it's like so many writers try and add a shock value at the very end. MC just died. The world exploded. The lovers separated and saw each other walking down the side walk, the end. I really don't get it. You write this entire story, just to say GOTCHA! at the end?

I'll be honest, it's stupid to see a great novel ruined because you thought you'd fish out a tear from my eye. One of my biggest pet peeves is a writer trying to force emotion, when it just isn't there. Write better. Don't use cheap tricks.

As for why I decided to write Urban Fantasy... that one is easier to answer.

I read to escape from my everyday life. Don't get me wrong, I've got a wonderful life, but let's face it, I don't fight dragons. I don't ride off into the sunset with a knight in shining armor. I can't blow my alarm clock up with a fireball in the morning.

When I read, I want to connect to the character. The further the timezone is, the less I can relate. So having a character from this day in age that is able to escape their everyday mundane life to find adventure and story-book love -- that holds a wonderful magic to it. At least it does to me.

There are many styles out there to write. I didn't know mine when I first started, but I'll tell you one thing: when you give it a go, you'll know. Don't get discouraged!
25 types of romantic relationships
More on romance!

Won't you be happy when I get off this? I can't help it. I've somewhat got writer's block. Not that I can't write, but nothing I've written has been good enough for Bryce and Sami. Nothing! So, I write. Erase. Start all over. Research. Look. Think of something. Write. Erase.

It's not a fun marry-go-round. So, in case you ever find yourself in this situation, I'm going to try and get something together to help! I took this from this thread.

1. Love at First Sight
I guess this one describes the typical fairytale/standard romance. Think Disney, The Princess Bride, . Usually, the conflict seems to revolve around a quest or rescue mission. They fall in love fast, but some outside force is keeping them apart rather than tension within the couple.

2. “Oops!”
A strong-willed or career-minded character doesn’t intend to fall in love, and happens upon it by accident… with consequences that could destroy their dreams/career…undercover cop falls for a criminal, tabloid writer falls for subject of trashy interview, ect. (How of Lose a Man in 10 Days, Zoolander, Van Wilder movies)
Often, one character needs to choose between love and their career, or must find a creative way to obtain both!

3. Forbidden Love/"Romeo and Juliet"
This one seems to fall into paranormal romance, human/vampire (Bella and Mr. Sparkles) Sometimes its as simple as simple as a high school jock infatuated with a "nerd" character, or an office relationship, notable age difference, even step-siblings.

4. Love/Hate
The characters start off disliking each other, and we all know what that means!
Examples: Rhett Butler and Scarlet , Han Solo and Princess Leia

5. Childhood Friends
Characters have known each other since childhood. I think of Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert...(though it crosses into love/hate a bit :P
Sometimes the relationship is sweeter and involves a childhood promise. Many anime and romance manga comics feature childhood friends relationships.

6. Best Friends/ Friends First
The characters all ready know EVERYTHING about each other at the beginning of the story. However, something is keeping them from realizing their true feelings. Does anyone remember Dawson's Creek?

7. Rivals/ Protagonist vs. Antagonist
Sometimes this crosses into Love/Hate, sometimes not...I think of Xena and Ares from Xena: Warrior Princess, or if a protagonist character falls for the bad guy/girl.

8. Love Triangle
Pearl Harbor (bleh), Twilight (the whole Bella/Edward/Jacob deal). The main character has to choose between two suitors.

9. "Sorry, I'm Taken"
Usually, this one involves a couple that seems perfect for each other, but one of the subjects already has a nasty/ boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse they can't let go of...
Titanic comes to mind...

10. "In Disguise"
Shakespeare came up with it first (though he came up with most romance tropes, didnt he?) Think of "Twelfth Night" which inspired a variety of movies and books in which a girl character is in disguise as a boy,causing quite the confusion situation for the male love interest! I recommend a fantastic Asian drama called "Coffee Prince" for this one. The "disguise" situation could also happen for "undercover" characters like detectives, reporters, ect.

11. “Different Worlds”
Not necessarily forbidden, but this couple struggles with bridging the gap between their two worlds, sometimes causing friction when they don’t understand each other. The different "world" could be literal in fantasy and sci-fi, or could deal with "real world" issues such as class, race, religion, ect. I'm thinking of Pride and Prejudice, Ask the Dusk, or even funny movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

12. “ Second time around”
Two lovers who already knew each other (and lost contact or broke up) prior to the beginning of the story, meet again and the sparks fly...

13. “Tragic Past”
I see this on so many crime shows/shows geared towards men. Two characters click well, but one character cannot get over the tragic past of losing a loved one, ect. Usually one of the subjects lost a lover or spouse who died years before meeting their love interest.

14. "Long Distance Relationship"
One character is captured, goes away to war, college, and the chemistry between them is shown through letters or phone calls, leaving readers in anticipation of their reunion. Sometimes they are tested by temptation or other forces trying to tear them apart...
This probably works well for army stories.

15. “The Unobtainable Love Interest/ 1-sided”
Usually, one character immediately knows who they want and why they want them...but the other character doesn't seem interested, or has a secret reason for not expressing their interest. I find this love trope common in YA-usually concerning popularity or self esteem issues. Peter Parker and Mary Jane come to mind.

16. “Lovers in Denial”
Borders on love/hate where the characters tease each other, but in a more respectful playful way. They are often good friends at some point in the story, and get in general conflicts and playful arguments but don’t dislike each other, and often have respect for each other. Usually, one or both characters have a pride issue that keeps them from
confessing their love, or they don’t want to ruin their friendship or work partnership. They’re in love, and everyone else in the story realizes it except for them.

I’d say June and Johnny Cash are real life examples, Lois Lane and Superman, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from XFiles

17. “Passionate Lovers”
I see this in soap operas, dramas, and genre romance...revolves mostly around intense physical attraction/lust at first and sometimes develops into something more...

18. “Sweethearts Forever?”
Lovers that just click, seem sugary sweet, and almost too perfect for each other, usually one or both is/are hiding something…
Ashley Wilkes and Melanie from Gone With the Wind

19. "Opposites Attract"
Two different characters click and deal with each others differences at the same time… usually I see this expressed in YA-between an introvert character and extrovert character. If you've seen the musical, "Wicked", think of Elphaba and Fiyero.

20. "Similarities Attract"
Characters act very much alike, causing both tension and infatuation… Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood (passion for archeaology and similar tempers)

21. "Partners in Crime"
Two characters who work as a “bad guy” team…often do malicious things to those who get in their way, but are actually a loyal and devoted couple.
Think Bonnie and Clyde, or various soap opera teams and super villains.

22. “Dangerous Drama”
Passionate, twisted, intense..yet they always come back to each other... even though the couple needs therapy and the characters have done some pretty nasty things ranging from mind games to physical abuse (yikes!)yet there's something about these relationships that keeps viewers or readers waiting for more...
I see this in soap operas, TV dramas, and some YA (gossip girl) Usually involves betrayal, vengeance, dangerous characters, and life-threating situations...

23. “Arranged Marriage/Date”
Two characters are set-up and forced to be together by politics or family pressure, sometimes crossing into other love/hate, love at first sight...Did anyone see "The Fantastics" when the parents secretly set-up their children? ((Great musical!))

24. First Love
Usually a YA trope...the ups and downs of first love...the subjects need to figure out how to handle a relationship while trying to discover their own identities at the same time. I'm thinking of the classic 80's movie, "Say Anything".

25. Long-term lovers
The couple has already been together for awhile, sometimes married!
However, something other than another love interest (kids, adventure situation, family drama) either them closer together or causes tension
Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Now they could be several of these categories, but I think ScotchBonnet hit the nail on the head whenever she pointed these out.

As for Bryce and Sami? Forbidden lovers, Rivals (My favorite romances always had the antag and protag loving/hating each other!), and of course: Love at first sight!

How the hell am I going to get these two to work out?

Not fair!
Filling your world
This is dedicated to all of those fantasy and sci-fi writers out there.

What makes you decide what monsters make up your world?

Mine was pretty simple to figure out. Because it was based on so many religions, I had to stay true to those religions. Of course there are angels, devils/demons, fallen angels (which is different from a demon/devil in my book, Djinn (Muslim version of a demon). Those were the major races, but when I first started the story, I wanted more than just that. I wanted a real fantasy feel to it, because, well, I love fantasy. One way that I incorporated a fantastical feel is by giving the warriors "gifts" which are supposedly from different Gods. The first four were easy for me: a dragon (because I love dragons!), a leviathan (has a very Christian/Jewish feel to it), a phoenix (kinda like a dragon -- just love the damn creature), and I wanted a pegasus type horse. The last one I knew I wanted to deal with Egypt, but it took me a while to chose between an Anubinite and a sphinx. The first book dealt with the Anubinite, but while making revisions I decided to change to the sphinx.

Now outside of the gifts, there isn't much outside the angels/demons theme. You won't see a leprechaun pop up. You won't see fairies or mermaids.

So, if you're just starting out, and you're wondering -- where do I start?

Sit back. Close your eyes. Picture either your character or your world. Now imagine what can NOT fit. Get those out of your head, and start filling it with things that do. Nymphs? Talking trees? Winged horses? Gryphons? Maybe something else, something that's never been told of before. Start writing them down while keeping your eyes closed. Just make notes. Fill it up until you've got a bursting city or a raging war. From there, you can set rules of the land. You can set disputes between races. You can see how sexism plays a part in your world. You can see how your character is treated and what makes him/her special and different.

Having different races is more than just having a different race. It's about stepping into a book and seeing real characters that you adore even if it's a fluttering fairy or fire breathing dragon. It's about being able to do what no one else can, and most of all, it's about taking your imagination go for a joy ride.

Even if you do have something common, like I do, make sure you add some sense of wonder to it. You want to love this world if you're going to write it. Make it everything you've ever dreamed of.

More thoughts on romance
As I said in one of my previous entries, I don't do romance. I love to read romance, but I've always felt silly writing it.

Not to mention I've got a huge pet peeve when it comes to authors mistaking lust for love. Sure, there's a fine line, but after most romance books (or subplots for that matter) I rarely think the people will live for and love each other for the rest of their years. "Love" in most books feel shallow.

Since it's a pet peeve, obviously I don't want to do it. So I've been bothered by how Bryce and Sami will fall in love without making it feel like shallow lust, especially since Bryce is the epitome of shallow.

But something happened last night that opened my eyes.

You can have a strong physical attraction to someone, but it not be -the- thing that makes you different from every other man or woman.

There's something to love about everyone in the world. Every single person has admirable characteristics. But I'm starting to think there is only one. There's only one person that walks to the same beating drum. There's only one person who's mind is in the exact same place as yours. Age doesn't determine it. Gender doesn't. Lust and physical attraction doesn't. It's simply a freak-of-nature incident that has molded two people of completely different backgrounds to have the same unshakable beliefs, clever opinions, sunny sense of humor, and common wants/goals.

Even though I've always nailed myself as a hopeless romantic, in the world today, you've got to have a realist view on love.

When I was little, my stepdad used to tell me the same thing after a break up. "There are millions upon millions of people in the world, and out of those millions, there are thousands of people that you could love and would love you equally in return." Don't get me wrong, the advice is completely spot on. But because I believed in what he said so much, I had an idea branch off of it: there's something to love about everyone, but "the one" will be someone that you will accept the worst of and still love him/her unconditionally.

But I've changed my mind.

You really do have one. And it isn't just some hot babe. It isn't just going to be lust. He's going to want the same things out of life as you do. He's going to believe like you do. He's going share the same opinions as you, and not only accept your opinions and what you believe in -- but love each one of them.

I've "loved" a lot of people in my lifetime. All for different reasons. All in different ways. But once you meet that one, even if it's only for a little bit, you realize the relationships before hand were great, but they weren't perfect. They weren't "the one".

So, now that I've gone off on a completely romantic tangent. My eyes have been opened. A shallow womanizer can be turned into a fierce lover, and I intend on doing exactly that. I'll write more once I have it mapped out. Ahh outlines!
The idea that got away
So most of my ideas on what to post about on my blog come from either an agent's blog or Absolute Write Water Cooler. I try and answer as many questions as possible, because you see the same questions over and over and over and over. I figured if I could just answer them here, I'll always have a link to provide without repeating myself.

While I haven't seen too many amazing topics lately, one definitely caught my eye.

Question: Ever have an idea that you couldn't write before, but you feel like you can now?

Personally, I've grown an unbelievable amount in my writing. BUT (yes, there's a but here), there will always be the "idea that got away".

Something you may not know about me is that I am an omega-history buff. I love ancient civilizations. I love mythology. So, my first idea ever (I was fifteen or sixteen at the time) was about a soothsayer time traveling, and whenever he came back to his era -- time literally collapsed. All of the greatest ancient civilizations suddenly were overlapping. There were hundreds of different directions the story could go, and I felt completely overwhelmed by it. Honestly, regardless of how I've grown as a writer, I'm not sure I could ever conquer that project. =P
*Takes a deep breath* I'm back!
So, life's been crazy, and no -- that's no excuse to neglect my poor baby blog. Sorry!

Between tax season, a vacation, weeks upon weeks of catch-up work after the vacation, and a couple other interesting things -- I've had my hands tied behind my back.

I'm not the strictest writer in the world. I'm really hard on myself about the quality of writing, but as for keeping a set schedule, I just don't do it. I write when I want to, and I'm so in love and so involved with my story that it's always come easy. To keep this easy, I have one simple rule:

Before you stop, finish the chapter you started.

I broke that rule for the first time, and after being gone from my precious manuscript for two months, I'm kicking myself in the ass.

I turn on my laptop, read what I've written, and eagerly started to write. But I can't remember *exactly* where I was going with this scene. I know where it needs to end up. So I try and make it work. Re-read it. Delete. This has happened to me a whole three times now, and honestly, it's getting frustrating.

I'm going to get through it though. Writing challenges you in so many different ways. No matter what situation you're dealing with, there's only one answer to solve it: determination. Don't let anything stop you. You deserve to trip over your plot holes. You deserve to question your character's depth. You deserve to want to claw your eyes out after the third time editing. You deserve the seconds that turn into years whenever you send your query out. You deserve your heart banging against your chest when you are waiting for a publisher's response.


Because by god, after every step you've taken so far, you deserve it. As do I. So bastard chapter that won't let me continue, be warned. I'm going to get past you.
Lost in romance...
Now it's no secret that I don't do romance. I like blood, religious undertones, dragons, swords, magic -- everything that doesn't scream contemporary romance.

So doing the romance is making me think more than any other element of my book. We have Bryce Bourbon. He's a womanizing prick. We all know the type. The one we watch on the other side of the bar and roll our eyes at; in fact, I don't even know what bothers me more, the guy being that arrogant or the girl giggling with each lying, flattering word that spews out of his mouth.

Womanizing pricks go after the gullible or the slutty. So how exactly am I supposed to make my little Brycey Pooh fall in love? And I'm talking about real love.

There's lots to consider.

How does he treat this girl different than the other twenty bimbos he's slept with?

Does the girl start off being a superior, an equal, or someone that Bryce feels the need to save?

How does she act to demand his respect? How does she catch his eye? What makes her instantly better?

Will it be love at first sight? Love in denial where they won't actually "hook up" until the very end of the book? A friendship that blossoms into love?

While I don't write romance, I'm quite the romantic thinker, and I love anything that has to do with love at first sight. I love love that is out of control. But, I like love to feel as if it's going to last forever -- not just some freak obsession. Let's face it -- there's a really fine line between some undeniable love at first sight and a freak obsession.

Aside from trying to feel out that particular fine line, I also have to think about what is keeping the two from riding off on a white horse? Let's say it's love at first sight. It's undeniable. She turned this womanizing prick into a lifetime partner. What keeps them apart?

This is one of those times where I can't just do what I want. I can't just write what I want. I have to do what's true to the characters. No love at first sight for Bryce.

Ever been in this situation? How did it work out for you?
Teaser Tuesday 2!
My second Teaser Tuesday! This is the first part of the second chapter, right after Gabe's mother and father are killed. First Teaser Tuesday is here!

I couldn’t begin to explain the pain in my chest. Not because of the wounds from the bullets, but from my mother and father’s death. Old people talk about regret all of the time. I wonder if they ever told their mother to fuck off twenty minutes before she died. I wonder if they ever stood there weak as an infant while both parents were shot to death.

I wonder if they would do what I did. Run. Hide. Take the easy way out? Regret did have a positive, though. Nothing is final until you’re dead. Not a damn thing.

I never looked up to my father like every other American boy does. I resented him. Once upon a time, he was the American father. He taught me how to throw a baseball, catch a foot ball, and shoot a basketball. Then he changed. His easy going life as a salesperson wasn’t enough. He had to open a business and work close to fifteen hours a day.

His death hit me harder than my mother’s. I was surprised by that fact. I guess regret makes you do some pretty crazy things. Perhaps it wasn’t just his fault that things changed between us. Maybe I forced him to give up trying. Actually, there was no maybe about it.

I was fourteen years old when I overdosed on cocaine. That’s right. Fourteen. Numerous things happen when you get into that particular situation. You get high blood pressure; heart problems cause internal bleeding, and then the convulsions which cut off the air supply start. There are lucky idiots that don’t have all of that happen to them.

I wasn’t considered lucky, though. After my breathing had completely stopped, I was considered dead by the time the EMTs got me to the emergency room. Everyone around me ignored the science behind my saving. They called it a miracle. After the biggest trip of my life, I called it fun.

That was then. This was now. Pain electrocuted me with every breath I sucked in. I guess multiple bullets through your torso would do that. I didn’t call this fun. And I didn't give all the credit to science either. I didn’t have the nerve to lie to myself. Or the morphine. I’d call this a miracle.
Teaser Tuesday - 1
I've done some Teaser Tuesdays before, but I've dramatically changed my manuscript since. So. Here I am, with a Teaser Tuesday. This is the end of my first chapter. It's the first time Gabe has met the devil, and after their not so nice introduction, she (the bleach blonde devil) stops by Gabe's house. While this is going on, his body is literally disintegrating before his eyes. A mysterious voice is warning him, and the devil is trying to take the only two people Gabe loves.

She aimed the gun for my parents’ legs first. Simultaneously the two hit the floor, knee first. Blood splattered across the stainless steel refrigerator. My jaw quivered as I felt the bitch’s eyes on me. The screams were blurred out. The whisper came once more to me.

Let me take you, before you have to see," the Asian said.

“I – I can’t leave them!” I yelled aloud. My muscles were finally able to move under my command. Before my first step hit the floor, the gun’s shot rang in my head. Fear halted my entire body, I knew what that last bullet meant as my mother’s deafening scream was suddenly silenced. I saw the perfectly round bullet hole in the middle of her forehead before her limp body crashed into the floor.

My father began to mumble uncontrollably. I couldn’t make out if he was mourning or praying, but what I could make out was the feel of cold metal as my hand pushed the gun out of the way. The bullet sounded, but before I could look to see if I was the least bit successful, the blonde woman hit me in the nose with the hilt of the gun. I ignored the blood. I ignored the pain. My eyes simply fell heavy on my father.

The bullet had been shoved off of its path. What would have been a quick clean death, like my mother’s, turned into a painfully gruesome death. I had pushed the gun out of the way, only to make things worse.

The hole was to the left side of his throat. The sounds of gargling blood churned my stomach. I watched my father die – helplessly. “Let me take you,” the whispering woman said once more.

“Anything you want,” I whispered back. The cold metal forced my fingers to flinch while a tear trailed down my cheek.

“You can either make him suffer and try to save the dead man, or you can make his death quick and painless,” the blonde said coldly as she handed me her gun. “There’s only one bullet left.”

Acid began to burn my flesh. Shit. I looked down at the flaking skin. Not now. Don’t take me yet. I focused back onto my objective. My father withered in pain. He had lost too much blood. He would die one way or the other. I closed my eyes for just a second. I turned the gun from his body to hers. I would rather take revenge than attempt to stop fate.

First Chapter
So everyone says you need a damn good first chapter. It's true. Welcome to aggravating little corner where you have a competitive market colliding into ADD America.

The first thing about a good chapter is a DAMN good first paragraph, perhaps if you're talented enough a first damn good sentence. Here are some examples:

The adventure for Mr. Maule began in the fading daylight of a long June evening in Chicago, with the racket made by a terrified vampire pounding on his door. -- Fred Saberhagen, A Coldness in the Blood.

The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault. -- Jim Butcher, Blood Rites.

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. -- C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. -- William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own.

While there are some really brilliant opening sentences out there, I wasn't lucky enough to find one. I settled for having a damn good paragraph though. My first paragraph sucked. It was brought to my attention why exactly it sucked, and after the brutal enlightenment, I agreed. It did suck.

So, I went out looking for a change. I wanted something that would grab the reader instantly, and let's face it -- you don't learn much about my MC when you first meet him, so I decided it would be best to give the readers a bit of a sticky note about the character.

In the original version of my book, Bryce Bourbon starts off 15 years old. When I committed myself to the re-write, I up'd his age to 17. I didn't want him to seem like such a frightened child like he was. With the two year age different, my little frightened boy has grown up. I've turned him into a pot head and womanizer. Don't ask me why, but it just seemed to fit.

While I'm still getting a couple of opinions and I might change it around, this is how I started my first chapter:

It was convenient my boss's granddaughter lived only two blocks away from the Arcade; even more convenient that my boss worked almost all hours of the day. I zipped up my pants as Ash's strawberry flavored lips continued to kiss me. Everything seemed normal today. I aced none of my tests. I skipped school after lunch. I hooked up with Ashley, and I was perfectly on time by being twenty minutes late to work.

I would have never guessed such an ordinary day would be the day that I came face to face with the devil.

Instead of using some brilliant catch line, I opened it up about my character. I made sure it wasn't too long and was a bit upbeat. It got the point across without flowery descriptions, storming weather, waking up, and a mirror somewhere in there. My point was it was a normal day. Yep, normal, boring, ordinary day that the reader probably doesn't car-- oh a devil?!

At least that's the effect I'm hoping it'll have. I'm still learning this.

Once you have an eye-catching paragraph, you're going to need a damn good continuation.

You need to start your story with some type of tension. Understand, this does not mean you need to start it with a bloody fight or people screaming and a warzone. It doesn't have to be action-packed, it just needs to have tension to hook the reader.

So get your character(s) out there. What are they doing? What are they struggling against? Why are they even bothering? What happens?

As always, I'm putting my book up as an example. The first chapter has lots of break out moments. You meet the main character. You meet the main antagonist. Bryce's parents are killed in front of Bryce's eyes, and his body literally is slowly getting taken away. Everything I added in there was for a reason.

As the two main characters are introduced (the protag and antag), they're aren't sitting down having tea. They aren't shaking hands and writing each other's names down. He doesn't just become suspicious of her. Shit hits the fan. Yes. In the first chapter.

Not every book can do this. I don't see many romances able to have shit hit the fan instantly, but look at your story. Can it? I saw some good advice floating around Absolute Write where somebody said, "Your opener usually should be what you start writing in chapter three." It makes perfect sense. By the time you hit chapter three, you're comfortable with your characters and the world they live in. Action usually starts once you reach that plateau.

So the best advice for getting the best first chapter?

  1. Hook the reader within the first five paragraphs.
  2. Have constant tension.
  3. Put as much action in the first chapter as you can.


Things you should avoid? (Now, please, realize people can make things work. You might be able to, but by all means, these are standard "nonos." None of the don'ts are truly off-limit. Just use 'em with caution.)

  • Memory loss.
  • A mirror.
  • A question (No matter how cool you think it sounds, my smart ass remark sounds cooler. And I'll set the book down after I crack myself up.)
  • A dream.
  • A character waking up.
  • Info dumps (Don't do these anywhere, though.)
  • Flash backs.
  • The weather.
  • Vague shit ("My life will be over if THE package doesn't come in two hours after noon.")
  • A list.
  • Too many characters introduced.

Think I've covered it all! Good luck! And remember, if you want great reviews Absolute Write Water Cooler has a share your work area where other members give you feedback. Their opinions are invaluable.

Different voices for different characters
Voice Voice Voice.

If you've read some of my posts, you'll notice I brag about being good with something and terrible at the other 90%.

Here's one of those things I'm terrible at. Voice.

So what is voice? Voice is how a character responds. It sounds easy, until you've got 30 characters and you have to make each one unique. So, I've been working on this and this is a little exercise that I'm doing which might just help you too!

First, list five character's you're pretty damn comfortable with. Mine are: Bryce Bourbon, Hank Jager, Miss Bombay, Jive Mudslide, and Sapphire Sherry.

Now think of something, it can be silly or serious, that happens. Let's go with something serious this time around: abortion. Let's say Tony Martini (yes it's a guy.. I know, but I've got to add a bit of humor to such a serious topic) waltzes up to each one of them individually.

"I've decided to have an abortion." Now, you have to think how each individual character would respond. This means you have to know they're opinion, what makes them believe such a thing, and the shock/tone/voice they're going to express themselves in.

Hank Jager is the calmest of the group. His face rarely shows any emotion, and he keeps his cold stare on the hamburger he doesn't feel like eating anymore. "Are you sure about this?" his voice is as calm as his expression. "If you need anything, just let me know." He says the words knowing no one will come to him for help.

Missy's jaw tightens as her lush lips thin. Everything on her face shows disappointment and disagreement. "Fuck off, Tony. I'll take care of it if you refuse to." Her lean arms quickly press her body up as she stiffly walks away.

Sapphire's baby blue eyes burst into tears the second she hears the words tumble out of Tony's mouth. "Things happen for a reason. They do. Please... just don't do it. Have a bit of faith in God to lead your life. Everything -- everything happens for a reason."

"Man," Jive sighs the word as he tries to encourage his friend. "You're doing the right thing. You don't need a kid running around. You've got a damn good life without one. Plus, this isn't the best place to raise a child if you know what I mean."

"There's nothing stronger or better than family. You're throwing it away before you even get the chance to know if it's right for you." Bryce Bourbon's voice barely shook as he repressed his anger. "It's a gift, Tony -- not a burden." Instead of walking away, Bryce waits for Tony's retort, yet nothing Tony can say will change his mind.

So while they might share the same opinion, they each have different ways of conveying that opinion. It's probably one of the hardest things to me when it comes to writing. Most of the time I say what would fly out of my mouth, not theirs which creates a very, very boring dialogue. These exercises really, really helped me constantly keep in mind what would they say?
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