A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

If you want to write a book, here are five actual tips. (Don’t quit!)

Okay, my fellow writers, we all know that Beast article sucked. Maybe it was trying to be a tough-love kind of motivation. (Yes, it takes dedication.) Maybe it was trying to relate a truth about writing. (Yes, it can be hard.) Maybe the author was just having a terrible time as a writer and wanted to ostracize the community he desperately wanted to become a part of. (Side-eyes the article again.)

Regardless, the article was poorly written, the author comes across as a villain, AND the “tip” he gives (write everyday) while good for some people, simply can’t work for others. The author’s idea of “if you want to write a book, write everyday or quit” is a terrible mindset to have. To that end, here are five tips if you want to write a book:

1.) Read. Read so many books, inside your genre and out, whenever you can spare the time. Why? It’s important to see what’s been done in the literary world, it’s a way to build your repertoire of words (sounds weird, but seriously, reading helps you build your vocabulary), and it’s also a great space to gain inspiration.

2.) Read your work out loud. Yes, this also seems weird and maybe don’t do this in a coffee shop or other public place, but reading the scenes out loud will allow you to figure out the sticky spots, the weird transitions, the too-long sentences. It can help with pacing, too.

3.) Consider having a Post-it note on your computer (or somewhere you can dig it up easily) with an inspiring quote from your favorite author or from your favorite book. It’s something you can look at when times are rough, or when that one scene just isn’t working, or when you can’t think of how to make this one MC amazing. For me, I have this quote from Patrick Rothfuss when he guest starred on Critical Role as Ker saved on my desktop: “There are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.” 

4.) Try not to edit your first draft while you’re writing. It’s hard, I know. I also want to go back and fix things, but if you do that, you’ll literally never be done with the first draft. Give yourself permission to have that first draft be shit. Write whatever the hell you want. There’s always the second and third drafts to pull it into the shape you want it to be in.

5.) And finally, my last tip is a tip of the hat toward the Beast article. If you want to write a book, write. Simply write. You can write everyday. You can write once every week. You can write for a marathon weekend or a marathon month. But if you want to write a book, all you have to do is write. Write when it’s best for you.

BONUS TIP: And please, for the love of all the writing gods and goddesses and muses in this world and beyond, please don’t give up. Your story is worth telling.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Warm regards,
Kellie

Inspiration: Where Do Stories Come From?

Stories. Where do they come from? What is that one spark that makes you traverse the long, windy road that is a completed story, whether it’s a poem, flash fiction, short fiction, or series of novels? That idea has to come from somewhere, right? It’s a question that authors get all the time during interviews and to be completely honest, that one “aha” moment can come from anything, anywhere, anytime.

Sometimes it’s a location that jogs the creativity. Or that couple walking down the street hand-in-hand. Sometimes it’s as simple as a sense-memory from your childhood or a dream or another book. Sometimes you have a really great one-liner that you just can’t stop thinking about. Sometimes—like in the case for Suzanne Collins—it came come from simply flipping through TV channels. Sometimes—like in the case for J.K. Rowling—a fully fleshed character walks into your mind like they’ve been there for years.

So, really, that spark of inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, anytime, and that’s the excitement of being a writer. You never know when an idea will smack you across the face and demand you pay attention. It can be the littlest of things that makes your creativity churn.

Case in point, here’s where the spark for the entire Cicatrix Duology came from. I had a short story due for my undergraduate writing club and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to write about. Completely stumped. Then, these three simple lines popped into my head:

“We have come to collect you, Mia.” Her left hand twitched. “We have come.”

That’s it. Not the scifi aspect. Not the plotline. Not even Mia herself. Just those three little lines. But those were enough to spiral my creativity into overdrive and start asking questions. Who wanted her? What’s with her left hand? How long had she been running? Why was she running? After that, the scifi aspect clicked into place, then the scar, then the character, then…well…everything else.

So here’s a little tip: Pay Attention. Write those things down. Even if you can’t get to the idea right now, put it in a ToWrite folder and save it for later. You never know when you’ll want to come back to it.

If you’d like to read the Cicatrix Duology, you can get Finding Hekate here and the (newly published!!) Losing Hold here.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Fantasy Inspiration (A Song You May Find Familiar)

Inspiration can come from anywhere, as we all know, and I’m inspired by a lot of things when I’m walking around or just going my daily business. (Like trees and people and flowers and conversations. You know, the usual.)  I scribble things down in a notepad or the Notes section in my iPhone and go about the rest of my day, thanking myself for jotting down the gem to use later on because I KNOW I won’t remember it.

But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing the story? Well, that’s a bit different. I tend to gravitate towards certain things…okay, one certain thing…

And it’s probably because my current WIP is a fantasy and this is a fantasy-based song (obviously) and lets just admit that I love the LOTR soundtrack, but honestly, it’s so much easier to write when I have this on in the background. I dunno why, it just is. So I go with it.

What kinds of songs do you listen to while writing?

I hope you’re having a lovely Sunday night!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Ten Writing Tips

Writing can sometimes be hard. Here are some of my favorite writing tips to make it easier:

1)  Give yourself treats for writing something. (I know, I know, it’s like kindergarten all over again. Do something good? Get a little gold star on the corner of your paper!) But sometimes motivation is hard to come by and little treats (like a new pen, a new notebook, a new character sheet, or let’s face it, that new show you’ve been dying to watch) can make it easier to actually sit your butt down and write.

2) You don’t have to write linearly. Some writers swear by writing linearly; they write out a huge outline and just plow on through it. And that does work for some authors, but certainly not for all of them. Feel free to skip around. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, leave that and go to a different section. You might find that writing out an entirely different scene helps you finish the sticky one.

3) J.K. Rowling once said, “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” We tend to think writers spend all day writing their lovely prose and intense characters, but honestly, we all have other things to do like juggling full-time work, friends, and chores. Find spare moments to write, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minute pockets throughout the day to write down a character trait, an idea for a specific scene, or that specific scene itself.

4) Always carry a spare notebook. No, seriously, always have another one somewhere because when you lose your trusted red notebook that says Keep Calm and Carry On you’ll be super upset. (I know this from experience.)

5) Don’t shy away from painful scenes. Emotional, psychological, physical. Any of kind pain. They can be a bear to write, but they can be vastly important to growing a character. I had some scenes in Finding Hekate that were really hard to write, especially the flashbacks, but I knew it would deepen her story.

6) Have a dedicated writing time or place. When you’re there, block everything else out and write. This is your craft and like any other artist, you need time to do your work.

7) Look around you for inspiration. Seriously, see that random person drinking coffee? They could be your next character. Remember that one guy who always sits in the corner of the library? Use that mindset to create a mysterious background. Those flowers you saw on the way to work? Craft a new flora in your world. Inspiration is everywhere. Dialogue, setting, plots, and characters are all around you, so if you’re stuck in some anti-writing mud, look around and listen.

8) Set a goal for yourself. Even if it’s just 200 words per day, set it and keep it. Even if they’re a crappy 200 words. Even if you won’t use them, write them anyway. Once you start writing regularly, like any habit, you’ll want to continue writing.

9) Neil Gaiman once said, “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” It’s true! Write your story the best way you can, in whatever form you can, on whatever subject matter you can. It’s your story, no one can tell it better than you.

10) Stop using little words such as very, really, just, and that. They’re useless modifiers that bulk out your word count when you don’t need them to. Here’s an example of how you can remove “very” from a sentence. Instead of writing “She ran very quickly to Sarah’s side.” write “She rushed to Sarah’s side.” Doing so will tighten your work.

What are some of your favorite writing tips? I’d love to know in the comments!

I hope you’re having a lovely Friday! Stay safe out there.
Warm regards,
Kellie

LifeGoals in 2017

Well, here we are. There are only two more days in 2016, and as this year comes to a close, I’m left to wonder what my goals are for the new one. To that end, I’ve complied a list of goals I’d like to complete in 2017:

Secure a Job
This one’s a no-brainer for me. It’s been my goal since I graduated PSU, but since 2016 was a little harsh, this one has to be the first one on the list. Here’s hoping 2017 will bring more opportunities!

Create and Stick To a Fitness Plan
Note how I didn’t say, “go on a diet.” Diets are tricky and they have a bad connotation in my mind because they remove food that I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, my fitness plan will still cut back on the unhealthy foods—cookies, I’m looking at you most of all—but it won’t remove them entirely. (I hope to create healthier versions of the unhealthy food.) My plan will also include finding workouts I enjoy—like zumba, step, or swimming—and doing them more often in order to lose weight and become stronger.

Write More/Launch Losing Hold
I’m currently working on the first book of my fantasy series! It’s the first draft so it’s just me getting the story on the page at the moment, but I plan to have the draft done by end of March/beginning of April. Why? Losing Hold is slated to launch in April and that was the perfect deadline for me. Launching Losing Hold is also a goal for this spring, so I’ll be working on a marketing plan and then initiating it, too. I also plan on writing more in this blog, as I seemed to have fallen off the wagon a bit.

Do More Activities
I sway to being a homebody more than anything else. This isn’t exactly a new discovery; I’ve always liked hanging out at home. After all, I have tea, a computer with internet access, food I can cook into something yummy, and my two cats…it’s a cozy and comfortable space. Plus, since I don’t have a job, going out and paying for things I don’t really need—like a drink or a book or a meal or a movie ticket, etc.—seems unwise. I do take walks and go to free things, but I hope to do more activities in the coming year. Meetups come to mind! And wherever I get a job I hope to engage in after-work activities and really try to put myself out there more often. It’s something I always want to do, but don’t do nearly enough.

Make New Friends
This one goes hand-in-hand with the “Do More Activities” idea. Since graduating from PSU, my friend circle has diminished quite a bit. A lot of my friends moved away to bigger and better things (namely: jobs) and I’m quite happy for them, of course! But it means I don’t hang out with friends nearly as often as I probably should. Because of that, I plan on making some new friends this year!

Annnnnd that’s all the goals I’ve formulated thus far! I might add more as time goes on, of course, but I like how the list is shaping up. They all seem like accomplishable goals for me, and I’m excited to learn what opportunities 2017 has in store.

What are some of your life goals for the new year? I’d love it know in the comments.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday this weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

#FavoriteSciFiStory – Last Day To Enter!

Hey guys!

I’m doing a bunch of social media giveaways—one on Instagram, one on Twitter, and one on Facebook—for free signed copies of Finding Hekate, three total. I wanted to share the love of science fiction by having this giveaway feature the hashtag #FavoriteSciFiStory.

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There’s only one day left to enter, so do it soon! Here are some specific information about how to enter for each platform as well as a link:

Twitter – Tweet what your favorite science fiction story is and why, use the hashtag #FavoriteSciFiStory, and tag me at @Kellie_Doherty.

Facebook – Like and Comment on the #FavoriteSciFiStory post about what your favorite science fiction story is and why.

Instagram – Like and Comment on the #FavoriteSciFiStory post about what your favorite science fiction story is and why.

Sooooo….go do it right now! The contest ends at midnight today, and I’ll pick the winners and announce them tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon. I look forward to reading the responses and sharing the love of science fiction with everyone!

I hope you have a fabulous Saturday!
Warm regards,
Kellie

#WIPJoy

 

One of the great things about social media is the chance to communicate and connect with people across the globe. Another great thing about social media are the hashtags, because it allows you to pair down all the posts and really see what people are talking about concerning a specific subject. It allows you to join in a conversation more easily.

A hashtag I’m particularly enjoying this month is #WIPjoy. Started by fellow scifi/fantasy author Bethany A Jennings, #WIPjoy is a month-long celebration of your current work in progress (WIP). The writers follow a specific set of guidelines for their daily posts (including #WIPjoy and usually the specific day, example: #WIPjoy D22) specifically about their writing and then can look at what other authors are doing for theirs. Here are the guidelines this year:

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It’s a great hashtag to join in and look through because it connects you to other writers online, it allows you to really dig into your current work in progress, and you can see all the cool things other writers are doing. Plus, it’s fun! It’s a celebration of writing, how can it not be fun, right?

It’s especially good for me since I needed a boost this month to think about my current work, a five-book fantasy series I’m tentatively called The Broken Chronicles. My folks are visiting and we’ve been doing a ton of adventuring in this state of mine, so I haven’t been able to work on my novel very much. This #WIPjoy allows me to keep my mind on it, if only for a short time of the day.

It’s been a lot of fun. If you’re participating, shoot me your Twitter handle and I’ll send you some love! If you’re not participating (or don’t use Twitter), what work in progress would you talk about if you were?

I hope you have a lovely day!
Warm regards,
Kellie

35 Thoughts I Had While Reading Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss is a fantasy writer. A good one. A great one even. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about his work. And since I’m currently working on building a fantasy series, I decided to give his first book The Name of the Wind a read. Here are 35 thoughts I had while reading his book.

*SPOILERS*

  1. Man, I love fantasy. Time to get lost in another world.
  2. Wow, he uses a lot of similes.
  3. Is this omniscient POV?
  4. Hmm, this is starting out a little slow. I’ll keep going, though.
  5. Demon SPIDERS? Juuussst great. I hate spiders…
  6. Oooo, I like Bast!
  7. Wait, wait, wait, don’t tell me the guy is called Chronicler and he’s a SCRIBE? *sighs* Please tell me he has an actual name later on…
  8. Chronicler has an actual name—yay!
  9. Of course Chronicler is going to write down this Kote/Kvothe’s story. It’s the perfect vessel to have backstory on this character.
  10. Wait, THREE DAYS? This guy’s a bit full of himself, isn’t he? This isn’t going to take forever is it?
  11. Ughhhh, I don’t want to know Kvothe’s backstory anymore! What about the demon spiders? What’s going to happen to this little town? Put me back in the present!
  12. Abenthy is pretty cool, though.
  13. Learning magic is hard…and a bit tedious to read about. Hmmm…
  14. So this kid’s a child genius then? Okay.
  15. Ooo, I stand by my earlier liking of Bast. He is EVEN COOLER! Some kind of Satyr creature? I love it.
  16. Man, I want to skip these backstory parts and just get to the present already. But no, Rothfuss wrote this story specifically like this so I will continue reading.
  17. Cute family and such, but let me guess, this whole trope AND the parents are all going to die?
  18. Yup.
  19. Why can’t there be a main character who has a good backstory, with great parents and friends and family who don’t die?
  20. Okay, so maybe the backstory is interesting.
  21. I like this guy’s descriptions! Like poetry. Or, like music. Rothfuss = new writer goal!
  22. Don’t really like how the women are being portrayed in this.
  23. Amended #22: Danna’s pretty cool, though.
  24. Okay, I get that he’s obsessed with her already.
  25. So apparently “nice young ladies” without families can only be the servant-type of character? Hmmm…
  26. Okay, gotta love the descriptions. Sometimes they’re repetitive, but I don’t mind at all at this point.
  27. So after making light of common story-like instances and then intentionally going the opposite direction, he just manages to find Denna, the “only survivor” of this horrible attack? I call bull!
  28. Sometimes calling attention to the “story-like instances” and then deliberately going the opposite direction, makes the times this story is like other stories way more apparent. I like it and I don’t like it.
  29. Exciting times for this kid! And he is just a kid, a teenager, so I can forgive him for his horrible mistakes.
  30. Dragons! No, of course not dragons. I wish it were a dragon.
  31. Ughhh, too many similes, dude! Stop it!
  32. Nice flourish of an ending to the backstory, though. A bit too quick of a summary of the fall term but not bad.
  33. Oooookay, so Bast is my now my FAVORITE character of the WHOLE BOOK!
  34. Overall, this is a good story. I can appreciate the hype. Nine out of ten stars.
  35. Well played, Rothfuss, well played.

Honestly, I had a good time reading his book. It’s an unusual (but almost classic) format, with interesting characters, and a twisting plotline.

Should you read The Name of the Wind? Yeah.
Will I read the next one? Of course.

I hope you’re having a lovely Friday evening!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Critical Role Rolls Right Into My Geeky Heart

Hello fellow geeks!

Have you heard about Critical Role? It’s a Geek and Sundry show where a bunch of voice actors play D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, for those dice novices out there). If you’re at all interested in roleplaying games, or great acting, or amazing storytelling, or geeky subplots, or creatures of the dark, or anything at all, really, you should watch it.

Now I’m the first person to tell you that the first episode is kind-of slow. I had a rough time getting through it, but I was also late to the game, joining the party about three months after it had started and after it had built a pretty substantial fanbase. The audio on that first episode is crazy. The storytelling is a bit odd. And the characters seem way outta left field. But give it a chance. When you get to episode two and beyond, once they fix the audio and spruce the place up a bit, it’s an amazing show. See, at Critical Role’s core, it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and playing a D&D campaign. They crack jokes. Laugh. Eat pizza or chicken or donuts. Compliment each other on their acting. And that’s how Critical Role started out, an at-home game between friends. Now, it’s a show with thousands of viewers (aptly called Critters) who dominate Twitter when it goes live on Thursday night on Twitch. It’s a show that spawns gorgeous fanart and risky fanfiction. One that brings people together, in person and online. One that transcends continents, even.

How can a D&D campaign get so popular? Well, a few different facets make this particular gem. The storytelling by Matthew Mercer, the dungeon master of the campaign, is amazing. He brings such life to the game, with his plot twists and turns, his many NPCs (non-playable characters) where each one has a different voice, and his ability to allow the other players do epic (and often humorous) stunts with a simple, “you can certainly try.” He’s the mastermind of the group, and a driving force of why so many Critters out there want to be DMs. Because of his storytelling, they’ve had a range of quests, from epic battles facing beholders to simple bar hopping adventures. His merry band of adventurers have faced death, been forced to make tough choices, and yes, even fallen in love under in his story spell. There’s action, adventure, romance, drama, and humor all rolled into one. His words paint a picture so clear, any writer would be jealous. (I certainly am, but I’m inspired, too!)

But he’s certainly not the only reason why Critters love the show. The other voice actors—the half-elf twins Vax and Vex played by Liam O’Brien and Laura Bailey, the human gunslinger Percy played by Taliesin Jaffe, the druid Keyleth played by Marisha Ray, the barbarian Grog played by Travis Willingham, and the gnome Scanlan played by Sam Riegel—form the band of adventurers called Vox Machina. They’re at the core of what makes this show so great. Their easy banter during the quiet moments make even shopping for potions memorable, and they play their characters so well sometimes I forget that Marisha’s name isn’t Keyleth. Sometimes, like in a particularly harrowing moment in Episode 44, I forget that Vax and Vex aren’t actually “real” but because of Liam and Laura’s portrayals, the characters feel real to me. And to everyone else who watches the show. Their conversations span everything, like professing love in an awkward manner nearly everyone can relate to and apologizing for setting a death trap off to how a certain someone can keep smiling when everything seems to go to hell. They’re as relatable as a druid, half-elf, barbarian, gnome, and human can be. They’re obvious concern for one another makes the show worth watching, their interactions and character dynamic keeps the show moving forward, and honestly, the way each character balances the rest out is fascinating to watch.

They sometimes have guest actors join in the fray, too! Here I’ll add in Ashley Johnson, who plays Pike, as a constant reoccurring character. (So much so, she should probably be considered part of Vox Machina but because of Ashley’s current work schedule, she can’t be around as much as she’d probably like.) There’s also been Will Friedle and Mary Elizabeth Mcglynn. It’s always fun to see someone else join the campaign, react to the characters, and be completely awed my Matt’s words. (Other than the thousands of Critters watching.)

Okay. I’ve gushed about this show enough. But really, there’s never enough. Critical Role celebrated its one-year anniversary on Twitch in April, just had it’s its 60th episode as a highly successful liveshow and will be doing another one at GenCon, and (hopefully) still has many years to come. It’s made D&D cool to the mainstream audience. Made geeks and nerds who like spending time imagining themselves as wizards and fighting dragons feel accepted. Spawned many, many other D&D campaigns. Clearly it’s rolled right into my heart and thousands of others. Will it roll right into yours?

If there are any fellow critters out there, leave me a comment about who your favorite character is and why! To all the newbies I’ve successfully turned on to the show, let’s chat when you’re a few episodes in!

I hope you have a lovely Friday!
Warm regards,
Kellie