A while back, I saw an interesting question posed on Twitter.

Imagine you’re talking to movie producers making a movie of your book. They want to change your MC’s sexual orientation or race or both! How would you feel about that?

And the answer is… well, it depends.

Thinking of main characters like Adrian in Necrotic City, it wouldn’t bother me a whole lot. He was designed to tell a story. He could be a person of color. He could be gay, or bisexual, or asexual. (And in fact, I deliberately never said that much about his orientation for that reason.) Changing those things about him wouldn’t fundamentally alter the story I wrote.

That’s the key concept here, though: it wouldn’t fundamentally alter the story.

Continue reading “Would You Be Willing To Change Your Main Character’s Identity?”

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The author is tired. Not the “wow, that was a long day!” kind of tired, but the “struggling to keep up with an avalanche of deadlines and obligations month after month after month” kind of tired. The tired that comes from never being able to get caught up, and from an Other Job that’s perpetually short-staffed and disastrously managed.

If you’re one of the author’s Patreon supporters, you may have been reading the Iceball Planet stories. They’re inspired by the hellish conditions, poor management, and rampant safety violations at the Other Job. Management keeps saying things will get better, but they never do. They get worse.

The author is tired, and he has reached his breaking point. Last night he considered, for perhaps the first time in his life, just not going back. Poor planning from upper management means that things are about to take an abrupt turn for the worse… and the author is far too tired to deal with this.

To that end, the author is going to take a brief break from blogging to job search and evaluate his options, and will return in 2020. There probably won’t be a post next weekend, and possibly the one after that (but we hope the author will be back before then.) Posts to Patreon and social media should continue as they normally would.

The author would like to thank you all for reading this blog and supporting his writing. And if you’re not already subscribed to his Patreon feed, you should definitely check it out! There’s a lot of cool stuff over there, from monthly short stories to excerpts from works in progress, deleted scenes, and insights into the author’s writing process. Signing up costs as little as $2 a month.

Looking forward into 2020, the author hopes to get caught up and bring you more awesome short fiction, published novels, and interesting articles. We also hope he’ll regain his sanity and stop referring to himself in the third person. Until then, please stay safe and be kind to each other.

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Recently someone I know asked, How important is it to have positive male role models in your work?

I find this question interesting on a number of levels. The first is the obvious qualifier: male role models.

I and my childhood friends may have grown up in the ‘80s, but we escaped a lot of the gendered BS– You know, the that’s for girls/boys, you can’t have that. Or, you can’t act/dress like that, people will think you’re a *gender other than the one you were assigned at birth.* (Not to say that those attitudes weren’t, and aren’t, still alive and well– just that we escaped them.)

So I find the emphasis on male role models peculiar. Wouldn’t a good role model be a good role model for everyone? Or are we specifically talking about good examples of how to be male? The latter seems weird and unnecessary.

As a child, I looked up to a wide range of characters. I liked Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but I also greatly admired the crew of the Pride of Chanur in CJ Cherryh’s Chunar Saga. I considered both Morgaine and Nhi Vanye, of Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle, to be equally good role models. *

Good science fiction smashes the pointless constructs of our present day and age, or turns them on their ear, or points out where we are headed if we continue on as we are. Like it or not, gender roles are one of those constructs. I think it’s more important that a main character be a relatable person with positive attributes than a good male/female role model.

If you remove the gender qualifier, you have another interesting question. How important is it to have positive role models in your work? And the answer is, I’ve never really thought about my characters like that.

I generally want my main characters to be people the reader can both associate with and look up to. Basically, if someone loved my work so much that they tried to emulate one of my main characters, would it make the world better or worse? I enjoy writing characters that would make the world a better place if they were real.

I definitely think that characters which exemplify positive characteristics, without being unrealistic, are important. Art is a reflection of society; but at the same time, society is absolutely influenced by the art and media it consumes. Authors have something of a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it– not only by giving readers an escape from the horrors of the world, but also by showing how people can make the world a better place.

*Editor’s note: sorry for the Wikipedia links, but they’re the easiest place to find all the info about a book’s characters, setting, and plot in one place.

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This wasn’t the blog post I was going to do, but the other post is still in production and this piqued my interest. I was scrolling through Twitter and came across this tweet, and it made me think.

“I feel so lucky to be writing at a time where there’s the Twitter #writingcommunity for support. This process would be so much lonelier & so much more discouraging without it.”

My first response is one of puzzlement. Wouldn’t we all write anyway? There will always be the attention seekers who wilt if there isn’t a steady supply of praise and encouragement, but I like to think those are a small minority among the author population. 

Continue reading “The Writing Community”

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I know I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks keeping you up to date on the dumpster fire that is the Other Job. Now it’s time to update you on the good stuff– otherwise known as what I’ve been writing.

Inspired by real-life events, I’ve been working on a series of short science fiction stories about the experiences of a Load Master working for Baron Cargo, a fly-by-night freight hauling outfit operating on a backwater iceball planet. Lowered Expectations went live on Patreon on November 19th, and highlights the often catastrophic results of the “we’re not going to worry about this problem right now– it’ll be fine” style of management.

Continue reading “Looking Ahead”

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This isn’t the post I planned to write, or even the one I really wanted to write, but the Other Job has once again eaten my week. Now I’m staring down the barrel of a short weekend crammed with writing obligations. (Not that I usually spend the weekend doing anything else. But it’d be nice to at least have the option to take an afternoon off.)

Those of you who read my last post might be wondering what became of the mutiny. Was it successful? Did HR and upper management listen to the many well-corroborated complaints against the supervisor? Has this toxic individual been removed from the company?

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Hey, folks! Remember when I used to have a blog post up every Friday? I do, and I miss it.

What the hell happened?! you ask.

Well, to be perfectly honest, the Other Job happened. It’s like that workplace is determined to beat the will to live out of me– or just kill me with exhaustion. Here’s a short recap of events leading up to the blog schedule failure.

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This article examines a small, empathy-deficient subset of the writing community. However, the advice given can help anyone who wants to ensure that their characters possess depth and realism.

Have you ever read a book where the protagonist, no matter who he’s supposed to be, sounds like an old conservative white guy? And you think, Ok, he’s not very relatable. In fact, he’s kind of a jackass. But maybe this character’s going to learn something and grow into a better person as the story progresses.

Then you realize that the plucky young Latina sidekick also sounds like an old conservative guy. And so does the working-class Joe who helps them escape from the antagonist. And the down-on-her luck single mother at the diner who waits on them. And their cab driver… And you start to feel like, instead of writing a flawed protagonist, the author is maybe only capable of writing one type of character. And that character is very flawed indeed.

The problem is, the author doesn’t realize it because (surprise twist) he’s an old conservative white guy.

Continue reading “Creating Realistic Characters: Empathy Is Essential”

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This article was inspired by a discussion in a writing group, and a series of questions that were posed about the inclusion of trigger warnings in books. But first, a word on what trigger warnings are –and what they aren’t.

Trigger warnings attempt to forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People with PTSD have physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that are triggered by stimuli that is similar to the trauma the individual experienced. Hence the “trigger” in trigger warning.

Individuals do not have control over what triggers their PTSD, but many have personal strategies to cope with triggers when encountered. Those strategies work best when the trigger is expected, hence the importance of warnings: they give people the forewarning necessary to put on their metaphorical armor, or to decide not to partake in that particular media.

Trigger warnings aren’t meant to warn people of content they might find offensive. Unfortunately, the rise of “Lol ur triggered!” troll culture has led to a shift in how the term is perceived.

Continue reading “Trigger Warnings In Writing”

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I don’t check my blog’s spam filter very often, so there was a lot of material in there when I peeked into the bin of gibbering nonsense the other day. Whoever said spam bots are utterly useless was not entirely correct– they’re occasionally good for a laugh.

An old post from February of last year, Tackling More Questionable Writing Advice, has been bizarrely and inexplicably popular with the bots. Over the last month they’ve left hundreds of comments on it. (If anyone has any idea why, I’d be happy to hear your theories. What’s the point of spamming a post that’s over a year old?)

Today I’m going to respond to some of the most hilarious, ridiculous, insulting and asinine comments, so that you too can have a laugh at spammers’ expense. (Content warning for blistering comebacks, random humor, and occasional profanity.) 

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