burningwords

Eight bad characters

1. The Foreknowledge Fiona. The Foreknowledge Fiona has vast stores of intuition that are never wrong.  She just knows to hide information from somebody who’ll turn out to be a bad guy later on.  The giant monster’s weak spot is easily guessable for her.  All of the author’s knowledge about the plot is hers to command.  It often manifests itself in little impulses that always work out.

2. The Solver Sarah.  If there’s a puzzle that a large tribe of people have been working on for thousands of years, expect the Solver Sarah to stumble upon the answer with no help in an hour.  This might be acceptable once, but the Solver Sarah will then proceed to find the culprit behind a string of murders all by herself.  She seems to be a staple of detective series.  Remember: the more people who are working on finding something, the less likely your protagonist will be the one to do so.

3. The Obsessed Oswald.  The Obsessed Oswald is only bad in a cast of similar characters.  The author has decided that when they give a character a trait such as “likes cereal,” the character must then love cereal with a passion.  Everything the Obsessed Oswald likes, he loves.  Everything he dislikes, he hates.  It’s fine to have one character like this, but the Obsessed Oswald usually likes to bring his other obsessed friends along for the ride.

4. The Correct Carl.  The Correct Carl lives only to give sage advice.  The magical sage advice he gives is always right.  When characters follow the Correct Carl’s advice, it works out well for them.  When they don’t, they get in trouble. Unless you’re writing about Jesus himself, nobody is going to give the right advice 100% of the time.  The Correct Carl is at his most annoying when he works as a relationship counseler or matchmaker.

5. The Quiet Quinn.  There is nothing at all wrong with having quiet, introverted characters.  To accurately represent humanity, some of your characters should be quiet.  The problem arises when you portray introversion as inherently better.  The Quiet Quinn is always smarter than his loudmouth companions.  He’s able to notice things that they miss.  He’s more polite and more caring.  Often, the Quiet Quinn will only really open his mouth when there’s a wise figure around to ask questions to, because the Quiet Quinn is also more curious than those idiot extraverts he has to put up with.

6.  The Dark Damien.  The Dark Damien tries to fit the dark and brooding character profile, but he doesn’t actually have anything to brood about.  His past was pretty nice.  Instead of just cheering up because he has a pretty good life, he broods about philosophy.  This is always a bad idea.  If your character broods about philosophy and has a bad past, that’s fine.  If it’s just philosophy, you’ve created a Dark Damien.  Unless you go to great lengths to portray him as just a whiny emo, you’ll create an annoying character who’s really hard to like.  People can sympathize with a whiny emo.  Many people were whiny emos at one point.  I don’t think there’s anybody who can sympathize with a legitimate, serious dark and brooding character with nothing to actually brood about.

7. The Evil Ella.  The Evil Ella doesn’t just run an evil empire and hate the heroes.  She also steals pocket change and draws dirty pictures on bathroom walls.  The Evil Ella is rumored to be a cannibal as well, and she keeps a whole room full of small, furry animals just so she can punch them when she feels bad.  There comes a point when if you made your bad guys do any more bad things, they’d become funny instead of scary.  This is to be avoided.

8. The Dialog Diana.  Oh, no!  There’s a battle happening, but nobody’s around who’s not fighting so that it can be talked about!  Call the Dialog Diana!  The Dialog Diana is like a second narrative voice.  She talks about all of the stuff that should be conveyed in the narrative.  The Dialog Diana voices her opinions on everything, right as it’s happening.  She turns books into plays.

The follower of the day is mayoremanuel.

I am a writer,“ I say.
They smirk through their teeth.
“I am a poet.” They laugh.
“What do you write about?” They ask
with eyes full of disdain.
“I write about love,” I say, “and
politics, and feminism, and
the world and myself.” They laugh
again. “Love.” they echo
like it is the most simple thing,
like it is the only thing to fall from my mouth.
“Of course. You’re a woman.”
What does that mean? I think
to myself. “What does that mean?”
I ask their wolfish teeth.
They sip their whisky, loosen the top
button of their shirt
and look at me like I am five years old.
“You are a woman. You are not
a poet. You are a woman who wants
to write the way men can and do.
You are not a poet.”
It is then my turn to smile.
“I am a human being,” I explain
as slowly as I can,
as though I am teaching a very small
baby to drink from a bottle,
“I am a human being,
but my veins are full of fire,
and when I put my hands on paper
it bleeds out as poetry.
I write about love. Love writes
itself out of my fingers
because it is too powerful to be contained
in my heart.
You are foolish men. You are scared
Because you do know that women
can do exactly what men can.
I pity you so, because you also know that
A woman with a voice is more powerful
and more dangerous than any man
with a thousand voices,
and you are so scared.
—  writinbyella | your body was built inside a woman
30 days of introducing a speculative fiction element

So you want to write a science fiction, fantasy, horror, or other speculative fiction story.  This means that your story will deviate from the real world in that it has gadgets, magic, monsters, a dystopian society, aliens, or whatever else you plan on bringing in.  This is not to be taken lightly.  Any significant differences that your story has from the real world need to be fully examined.  Go down this list and answer one question every day to develop your speculative fiction element to its fullest.

Day 1) What fuels your speculative fiction element?  Magic has to come from somewhere, creatures have to eat, and inventions need energy to run.  Every society needs to get its food from somewhere.  Does your element need a special type of energy or can it be powered by means that already exist?

Day 2) Where is your speculative fiction element located?  Most science fiction inventions are pretty much ubiquitous, but societies and monsters will have very specific locations.  Entire magical species will probably have specific habitats, because it’s unlikely that unicorns could survive both in swamps and in deserts.  Aliens will have home worlds and specific places where they meet people.

Day 3) When and how did it start?  Has the land always had magic in it, or did something happen that created magic?  When did your society start?  When did the haunted house become haunted?

Day 4) How does it impact the environment?  Just saying that your speculative fiction element is “bad” for the environment without giving details or explaining why is a cop-out, by the way.

Day 5) Who has the most control over it?  Of the people who don’t have any power over it, which people are trying to get more power?  If something exists, there will be people who want to own it.  Remember that these people aren’t always bad.

Day 6) How does it impact the economy?

Day 7) What is the stance of the government that your protagonists live under on your speculative fiction element?  What are the stances of other governments?

Day 8) What do major religions think of it?  Remember that all people of the same religion will not think the same way.

Day 9) Does it impact people’s day-to-day lives?  If so, then how?  If not, then why?

Day 10) If it were shown to a normal person from present-day Earth, what would their initial reaction be?

Day 11) Can it/one of it be killed or destroyed?  If so, then how?

Day 12) If there is an afterlife in your story, how does the use of your speculative fiction element impact where people go?

Day 13) How can it benefit people’s lives?  How can it harm them?  Even the most evil or the most lovely things have the potential to do both.

Day 14) What does it look like?

Day 15) What would a broken/defective/mutant version do? (This question might not apply.)

Day 16) Are there any rumors or legends about it?  Are there any rumors or legends that involve it?

Day 17) Do the lower class, the middle class, and the upper class have different reactions to it?

Day 18) Similarly, how expensive is it to own, to meet, or to live in?  What problems does that cost cause?

Day 19) How large is it?

Day 20) Are there any people who don’t know about it?  If so, who and why?

Day 21) If somebody owns/interacts with/lives in your speculative fiction element for an extended period, what are the long-term effects?

Day 22) Is there a black market that sells it or parts of it?  If your speculative fiction element is a society, does it contain a black market?

Day 23) Do parents allow their children to play with/in it?  What restrictions do they place?

Day 24) Is it possible for it to kill somebody?  If so, then how?  If not, then why not?

Day 25) Does it cause or heighten any divisions between people?  Does it bring people together?

Day 26) People are stupid.  This is a known fact.  What are the stupidest things that people could do with your speculative fiction element?

Day 27) Is there anybody well-known for being associated with it (the leader of the society, the slayer of the monster, the inventor of the gadget, the best gryphon rider, etc.)?

Day 28) How commonplace is your speculative fiction element?  Is there only one of it?

Day 29) If your speculative fiction element were taken away, how would your world react?

Day 30) Is it possible to commit crimes with/in your speculative fiction element? 

The follower of the day is meganrulestheworld.

EDIT: Please send me an ask if you actually do this, because I would love to see!

EDIT AGAIN:

Bonus day 31) What are the views of the general public on your element?

Bonus day 32) What are the views of the lunatics and conspiracy theorists on your element?

You & Me

We used to dance—
better than
the way palm tree leaves 
beautifully sway
to the whispers 
of the wind;
better than 
the way our fingers
teasingly play tango 
with the keys 
of magnificent pianos; 
better than
the way the bristles 
of an artist’s paint brush 
gracefully perform ballet 
on the stage 
of a canvas board. 

We have our moves
etched
into the walls 
of our foot bones.
& never will her prints
be able 
to match 
mine. 

(She’ll never
be me, love;
she’ll never
be me.) 

I will always be madly in love with you. Madly, because me in my right mind would never cut my heart out of my chest and give it to you. Me in my right mind would never stay up until the sun rises writing shitty poems that all say the same thing; “I still love you.” Even after I stabbed my own heart and spilt the blood on your hands. Even after you kissed her on the evening of the day you told me you loved me for the twenty third time. I tried not to keep count, but that’s what mad people do, isn’t it? Count the things they can’t touch, watch their fingers fizzle into calculators; their skin littered with tally charts -

Twenty three lines on my ears for each time you told me you loved me. Sixty five lines on my lips for each time we kissed. Seventy two lines around my mouth and eyes from every time you made me laugh or smile. Thirty lines on each breast from where you touched them. Fifty seven lines on my waist from your arms late at night. Forty lines on my neck from where your lips found new land. Five lines on my chest for each time you broke my heart. Four lines on my chest for each time we got back together after everything went wrong. One, long line on my chest from when I first fell in love with you.

I don’t think that line ends. I have tried looking into the horizon to see if there is a full stop anywhere, but no matter how hard I squint my eyes, I cannot see an end. The line stretches out beyond the lives we lived together, beyond the lives we will live without each other. You see? I’m mad. I’m sat here in my bed at half one in the morning talking about lines, to you - and you’re not even here; I don’t even know where you are or who you are anymore. But I can still see it now, this line, wrapped around me like a giant ribcage.

See? Mad. Madness. I’m crazy. You’ve driven me crazy and jumped out of the drivers seat, but this carriage is still going; there’s enough fuel in this bad boy to last a millennium. I’m travelling at the the speed of crazy and I can’t stop; I was mad with you and I am forever going to be mad without you.

I will always be in love with you. No matter what. No matter how many times you shatter my heart and find love between some other woman’s legs. And really, I deserve better. I know I do. But I am a train wreck without you, I am, I am, I am. I can’t help but need you, even now. I should be mad at you - I should hate you, but I can’t; I’m just mad. Because me in my right mind would never cut my heart out of my chest and give it to you. But you stole my brain the day you kissed my heart, and now I will always, always be madly, ridiculously, crazily in love with you. With the one person who can destroy me with just one look. No words, just one glance into your tangled forest eyes and I’m dead. And if that’s not insanity, colour my brain with all the reasons I should stop loving you, because right now I can’t find any.

—  writingbyella | I Found Bedlam In Your Heart


I wish I could bottle the sun
and swallow it- and it would
burst from my fingertips and
through my pores-
then maybe the flowers
and the trees and…
you
will lean toward me
rather than away for a change.


“Swallow The Sun”- 3-6-14- jessicagadziala

for you I'd shoot

I would aim for the sun and burn
all of these silent fields to ashes
just to prove my promises were true

and yet you’re still one thousand light years
away, and your cold eyes never open–
I wonder if that heart of yours ever thaws

I would shoot the moon and gather
every single speck of stardust debris
just to prove I’m all for you

and yet you never look–and I know this
so very well; and yet you never listen–
and I know this all too well

Customizable settings

Do you know what one of the biggest draws of zombie apocalypse-style books is?  People often read them so that they can later imagine themselves and a group of their friends in a similar situation.  The setting just lends itself to such things.  How would you rig a house to keep the zombies out?  What weapons would you use?  Where would you get your food?

There are several other stories that inspire the same kind of thinking.  How would your Pokemon journey go?  What items would you alchemize in Homestuck?  How would you fight if you were picked for the Hunger Games?

The magic of these types of settings is that it makes people think and talk about what you wrote long after they finish reading it.  Not every setting lends itself to speculation like this.  The standard fantasy setting, for example, only has room for the heroes in the actual story.  They are the chosen ones and nobody else can come.  What’s worse is when a map is provided at the beginning of the book that only shows the places the characters go.  I don’t know about other people, but I certainly love it when there are unexplored areas on the map that I get to fill in with my imagination.

When the story is still being molded and the setting isn’t firm in your mind, try to think of a way that more than just your main characters can be heroes.  Aim for a process where people can become heroes so that literally anybody can become one if they really want to.  In Homestuck, for example, all somebody has to do is buy Sburb to engage on the journey.  In The Hunger Games, people can volunteer themselves.

It also helps to hint that the story world is bigger than just what the characters have to traverse.  Give your readers little areas to call their own that your characters haven’t touched.

The follower of the day is kylasedai, who is awesome and also a person that I follow.

maybe she can love you better
since she learned as a child
that men
were a safe place to land
because her daddy hung the moon
while mine was too busy looking
for messages at the bottom of
empty bottles and 
passing out with me and my sister
on a boat
when we were one and two years old-
and he let us go without a fight-
and hasn’t seen us since-
maybe I learned that men were 
raging rivers
and if I wasn’t a strong swimmer-
I would sink and never be seen again-
so I learned to always swim away.
Maybe I cant trust you
because you have eyes like his
and your hands look so strong
but I’m sure that they will
always reach for something 
more important than me-
so maybe she can love you better
like you put the stars in the sky
because I am always too busy trying
to keep my head above water
to see that you drew my name
in constellations.

“constellations”- 6-21-14-jessicagadziala