Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Inhabiting Your Characters – Cosplay

Hey everyone!

If you keep up with my fiancee’s blog, you’ll have read that we recently attended Anomaly Con, a Steampunk convention in the Denver, CO area.  And as part of our time there, we were in costume!

Tinker and L3GEND. Photo by Death’s House Productions. Makeup by Beck Stewart.

Specifically, on Saturday Beck painted us up to be like robots!  In fact, if you’ve never heard of them before, we were specifically ‘fan bots’ from the Steam Powered Giraffe music group and their fictional universe.

And I’ll say this…it was a unique experience for me, for many reasons.  A couple of weeks before, Beck did a test run of my bot’s makeup on me, and it was a surreal experience when the makeup was done and I looked in the mirror.

I was someone else.

That’s how it felt.  Like, for a moment, I seriously felt like I was the fictional character we had made up together, named L3GEND.  And then interviews with characters from sci-fi and fantasy movies started playing through my head, about how they felt the same when they first got into the full makeup and costume from their characters.

In fact, we just went to the Denver Art Museum’s Star Wars Costumes exhibit, which is part of why I’m a day late on this weekend’s post.  While waiting in line, they showed videos about the costumes, including Natalie Portman talking about how she felt donning Padme Amidala’s costumes, and it sounded like she had a similar experience.

And it got me to thinking something for writers…

Inhabiting Your Characters in Cosplay

I’ve toyed with the idea in the past, and Wayne Adams has even mentioned trying to find cosplayers to portray my characters at conventions when I have a booth.

Photo by PixieGoddess Cosplay and Art. Wig styled by Beck Stewart.

But what if I worked on creating costumes for some of my characters, and actually wore them?  Would this allow me to ‘get into their heads’ so to speak?  More than I already am, any way?

In and of itself, that might not be enough reason to, but then there are the reasons of being ‘in character’ at cons when I have tables, not to mention, if the costume is impressive enough, it might garner more interest in the novels.

But I want to go back to the original point: inhabiting my characters.

Maybe doing so would give me ideas about different directions I could take their characters.  Maybe even totally change the story direction, as has happened more than once already.

I can’t do this for all of my characters, but maybe the primary protagonists.  Cardin Kataar being the most immediate character I’m thinking.  But which costume?  His tattered rags and worn out, mismatched armor from The Sword of Dragons?  Or his newer armor from Burning Skies?

Cover by Christian Michael

To be honest, that matters a little less than the actual prop itself, the Sword of Dragons…how in the world could I construct such a large weapon?  Especially to make it acceptable to take to places like conventions, where they have very strict rules on what they will allow for prop weapons?

And then the armor itself…thanks to an artist I hired last year to start doing character sketches, I actually have a sketch of Cardin Kataar I could go off of for the armor.  Could I learn to make the leather pieces myself?

It’s an exciting idea, but also a time-consuming one.  I am intrigued enough at the idea that I might at least do some preliminary research into it.

What do you all think?  An intriguing idea?  Any authors out there ever do this before?

Thanks for reading! :)
-Jon Wasik

I’m Engaged!!

Hi everyone!

I am so very happy to announce that on Thursday, January 26th, I proposed to my best friend, my writing partner, my dear and wonderful Starshine, and she said yes!!  :D

16265633_10101359792377461_526650228680585726_nIt was a special day, celebrating 6 months together!  I took the day off of work and we went to the Planetarium together to catch a show, and then explored the Science and Nature museum, checking out gems, mummies, and the wilds together.  It was a perfect adventure for two geeks :D heheh.

Afterwards we splurged and had a wonderful dinner together, before going home, where I brought out a photo album I’d put together for our relationship.  At the end of the photo album was a poem I wrote, before she turned the page to a picture of me kneeling with the ring presented.

The crazy thing is I wasn’t nervous at all…until she started looking through the album.  Then all of a sudden my heart started pounding like crazy and my hands started shaking.  A friend had let me borrow his GoPro to record the event, and in looking back at the video, I was so freaking nervous and fidgety!

16299512_1279067655448988_7129289445571238015_nAnd when her emotions swelled at seeing the picture, I almost couldn’t say the words because of how powerful the emotions were in me!  And when I finally did and she said yes, it was like my heart exploded in such ecstatic happiness!  :D

I am so amazed by the responses we received on Facebook, as soon as we posted pictures and the news, Facebook blew up with everyone reacting and posting congratulations and supportive comments!  It is so wonderful to have the support of our friends and families :)

Even being a writer, I don’t think I could ever convey through text just how incredibly happy I am, and how lucky I am, to be with such a wonderful person!  She really is my best friend, my soul mate, and to steal a quote, the Moon of my Life :)  We’ve built up so many incredible memories together, been through both dark times and good times together, and I cannot imagine my life without her <3

And for those with a sharp eye, that is indeed a Doctor Who Tardis-inspired ring :D

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Is Romance in Fiction Always Necessary?

Hi everyone!

One of my favorite movies!!
One of my favorite movies!!

Think about some of your favorite movies, TV shows, or novels, and tell me…is there a romantic plot or subplot to it?  The chances are good that the answer is yes.  Why?

Because just about every single fiction story out there has romance in it.  No seriously, think about it.  Think about every movie you know, ever TV show you’ve watched, every novel you’ve read, and how many of them have no romance in them what so ever?  I’m willing to bet it’s less than 10% (and that number is probably being generous.)

TreasurePlanetVHSSo I guess the question is…is this bad?  I started thinking about this after watching Treasure Planet with my girlfriend recently (psst: check out her author’s blog here!), and she commented how there had once been a plan to continue the story as a cartoon series, but she was annoyed that the series was going to give Jim Hawkins a love interest.  She liked that he didn’t have a love interest in the movie.

When she said that, it took me a moment of processing, and I realized she was right.  There hadn’t been a love interest for Jim.  Granted there was a very small romantic subplot between the ship’s Captain and the scientist (I’m horrible with names) but even that was highly underrepresented.

And yet, at least in my mind, Treasure Planet is a fantastic movie!

Image Source - https://fanart.tv
Image Source – https://fanart.tv

So in my opinion, romance is not necessary to make a great story.  However, some of my absolute favorite movies include very strong romance elements.  Stardust (a movie that has become dear to me :) ), The Princess Bride, and Star Wars (especially The Empire Strikes Back) all have romantic elements, and these are some of my all-time favorite movies.

However, just like any other trope in a fictional story, doing the same thing over and over again the exact same way gets boring.  It gets old.  Romantics like me love a good romance story, but even I get annoyed with the same old version of a trope.  While Prince Bride falls into the category of an old trope (damsel in distress,) Empire Strikes Back and Stardust did not follow the old tropes, and in fact Stardust even played with it a little bit with Tristan’s crush in the beginning.

This is why I love playing with tropes, and couldn’t resist doing just that in The Sword of Dragons.  For instance, a dragon in a cave guarding a precious treasure?  Okay, but instead of it being gold or jewels that a greedy dragon is hoarding, it’s an honorable creature protecting a powerful artifact from being used to wreak havoc. (Sorry, no Smaugs in my books!)

Romance in the Sword of Dragons stories

So, what of romance in the Sword of Dragons novels and short stories?  Did I fall into the same ‘ol fantasy tropes for romance stories?

Image Source - http://s1.1zoom.net/big0/102/318623-blackangel.jpg
Image Source – http://s1.1zoom.net/big0/102/318623-blackangel.jpg

Well in book 1, there was never a ‘damsel in distress.’  In fact, all of the women in book 1 are strong and independent.  So that pretty much eliminates that possibility right there.  No princess waiting for some gallant knight to save her.  Plus, without giving away too many spoilers, the hero doesn’t exactly get the girl (but he doesn’t not get her, either…  You’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens ;) )

What of book 2?  There definitely was a romantic subplot in it, and when I first published Burning Skies, I was a little worried about how people would receive it.  Yet I was pleased to find that all of the readers who’ve read it so far have enjoyed it, and are curious to see if it’s going where it seems to be…or if I’ll turn it on it’s head.

The inspiration for Sira's dress in Burning Skies
The inspiration for Sira’s dress in Burning Skies

There was also a scene that I absolutely loved researching and writing in Burning Skies: The Royal Ball.  Researching medieval formal attire for both men and women was fun.  But it was also a chance to bring Cardin and Sira closer together, giving them one special moment…

So what of future stories in the Sword of Dragons universe?  Where are things going with Cardin and Sira?  With Reis?  With Kailar?

Well, as the good Professor River Song says, “Spoilers” ;)  But I will say this: I seem to have a propensity to torture my characters.  If they ever do find ‘happily ever after,’ it will only be after they have been through hell and back again (a dozen times.)  If they ever get there.

What Do You Think?

So what do you all think?  Should there be more stories without romantic subplots?  Should romantic interests be left out?  Or are they appropriate or even necessary to have in fiction?  Leave a comment below to let me know! :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Starfest 2016!

Hi everyone,

I know it’s been two weeks since Starfest, but I’m finally able to sit down and take time to post on it!!  And what a blast I had!  :)  Thanks to my cohorts M. H. Lee and Wayne Adams (who shot the cover photo for this article, by the way,) it was a definite success :D

And as an added bonus, read to the end to learn some exciting news about Burning Skies!  :D

Starfest was a first-of-a-kind experience for me: for the first time ever, I was a vendor at a con, not a visitor!  That’s right, along with my friend M. H. Lee, I sat at a table in author’s row, actively engaging with customers, trying to convince them that my novel was worth buying.

20160311_155447This was definitely one of the most unique activities I’ve ever participated in.  First was deciding how to setup our table.  The only picture I took was our initial setup on day one, but it evolved often, and thanks to M. H. Lee’s awesome eye for putting up a store front, by the end we had a setup that really put our fiction novels at the forefront, and I think helped us sell.

20160312_105213We also had a GREAT spot, right next to the main passageway between the authors alley and the merchant section :D  So there was a ton of foot traffic that passed us by!

But most important was learning how to engage passersby.  This is something I struggled greatly with.  I tried to make eye contact with everyone who passed by, and even say hi or good morning…but this just wasn’t garnering attention or getting people to come buy our books.

So I observed my friend across from us, Marvin, as he effectively drew numerous folks in and helped sell several of his wife’s novels.  And I realized where I was falling short: I wasn’t trying to sell the novel.  I was being friendly and courteous, but I wasn’t drawing attention to The Sword of Dragons (a point M. H. Lee made to me as well.)

So on Sunday, I changed my approach.

“Oh, you like dragons?  Well then you’d love this book!”

“Do you like fantasy novels?  Then this book is for you!”

“Looking for a new fantasy novel?  Yes?  Let me tell you about The Sword of Dragons!”

And the result?  Well Friday I sold only one copy.  On Saturday I sold one.  But on Sunday, I sold half a dozen!  While I’m sure it wasn’t just because of my change in tactics, I’m sure it helped.

But I think that’s a lesson all writers can take away: sell your book.  Don’t be shy about it.  That’s why you’re there.  And I’m not just talking about conventions.  Spread the word, tell everyone about your book, tell everyone why it’s exciting and they should buy a copy.

After all, how can the word ever get out…if you don’t tell them?

Fantastic Cosplay!

Kaylee and the Doctor
Kaylee and the Doctor

I’m finding that the more I go to conventions, the more I am enjoying them :)  Hence why I’m going to Anomaly Con this weekend, even though I’ve not really gotten into the steampunk scene.  I met some amazing people at Starfest, made a new friend, and saw some incredible cosplay costumes!

I only cosplayed on Saturday, breaking out my 11th Doctor costume yet again, but I loved getting comments on it (even if it is incomplete) and I loved interacting with all of the cosplayers.

Here are some of my favorites from the con!

(This was my first attempt using the ‘gallery’ feature on wordpress, so bear with me if it turns out horribly…)

If you want to see more, check out my facebook page, I posted a ton there!  :)

Burning Skies – Final Proofread Complete!

Now for that news I promised: I finally finished the final proofread of Burning Skies!!  The results?…Well, I have a lot of work ahead of me…a lot…  But that’s going to have to be detailed in a future post ;)  But this is exciting news, this brings me one step closer to having Burning Skies ready for its end of May release!

So what are the next steps in prepping the book?  Taking all of my notes from proofreading and ‘fixing’ them in the manuscript, that’ll be a project in and of itself.  Also, I need to finish working on the cover so that I might finally do a proper “Cover Reveal” for you all :D

It also means I get to start posting more info about the story!  I am so excited, this was such an awesome story to write!  For all of the world-changing events that happen in The Sword of Dragons, they are nothing compared to Burning Skies ;)  So keep an eye out, this is just the beginning!

“A shattered world shall return to its people;
Darkness and fire will descend.”

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

In the Beginning – Starting Book 3

Hey everyone,

Image Source - www.popsugar.com
Image Source – http://www.popsugar.com

Guess who’s back!!!  …No, it’s no the Doctor, though anyone who haven’t watched it yet, season 8 of Doctor Who is now available on Netflix :D

After nearly another month, I’ve decided it’s time to start blogging again.  The last few months have been difficult, but I’m finally starting to feel like my old self again, and that means I will be focusing more on writing and blogging again :)

I want to say thank you to those who have sent me encouraging messages.  I know I’ve lost a lot of readership due to my long hiatus, so any of you who have stuck around and are reading this now, you truly rock for being so patient with me :)

Now, onto the meat of this blog entry!

The Sword of Dragons Book 3 – How to Start It

With Burning Skies (book 2 of The Sword of Dragons) only a few months away from release, and most prep work already done for publication, I’ve been free to start focusing on book 3.

For me, pre-production of a novel usually takes months or even years.  I often get the idea for a novel while I’m in the middle of another project, and so I buy a journal for it and I write down the initial idea.  Then, as I continue working on my current projects, I’ll write down more ideas as they come to me.

Book 3 has been no different.  I always write down the date on page one of the journal, and book 3’s first date is July 30th 2013.  Yep, that’s not a typo, I’ve been jotting ideas down for book 3 for two years!  And that time was much needed, the plot is the biggest and most complex I have come up with for any story yet.

Image Source: http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
Image Source: http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

But now, I’m at the point where I have finished developing the overall plot outline.  And the next stage is writing out chapter-by-chapter plot outlines.  (For those curious about my writing process, click here to read more :) ).  Only, I’m running into a bit of a road block: how do I start the story?

Actually, chapter 1 in this novel will be a little different.  Chapter 1 will start from a different character’s perspective, rather than Cardin’s.  And I already know exactly how that chapter will go.  So the question then becomes: how do I start the hero’s story in chapter 2?

river-song-profileOf course, I don’t want to give away too much here, because that would reveal too much about what will happen in book two.  (As River Song would say: “Spoilers!”)  But one of the basic themes of The Sword of Dragons is dealing with substantial changes, and something huge happens to Cardin in Burning Skies that he must come to terms with.

So that is how his journey must begin in book 3: learning how to cope with his new reality.  And someone very special will be helping him with that.  A character he met only briefly in book 1, and makes a comeback in book 3 :)

Image Source: iwantcovers.com
Image Source: iwantcovers.com

Shorter Blogs

I had thought of writing more about Burning Skies next in this post, but then I realized that most of my blog entries turn out to be super long.  It has been suggested in ‘how-to’ blogs that most readers prefer short posts, so it doesn’t take up too much of their time.  But then, most of you love to read novels, so perhaps that doesn’t apply here.

What do you all think?  Do you like my 1000+ word blog entries that I normally write, or would you prefer them to be more like this one, short, sweet and to the point?  I also would probably end up writing more blogs more often if they were shorter, to make up for the shorter length (cause there’s much to talk about :) )  Please comment below and tell me what you’d like to see here :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Women in The Sword of Dragons – Strong and Self-Reliant

Hi everyone!

Image Source: http://alicechan.deviantart.com/
Image Source: http://alicechan.deviantart.com/

It seems like it was once a staple in fantasy stories, or at the very least a cliche: the damsel in distress.  Often the prisoner of some gruesome, horrifying monster or villain, the proverbial (and sometimes literal) knight in shining armor must rescue her, and often falls in love while doing so…

I can’t write women like that.  Flat characters who are incapable of saving themselves, who need someone else to ensure their life and livelihood, who have no depth, no real personality.  All of my short stories and novels I’ve written, up to and including The Sword of Dragons, have featured strong and self-reliant women.

Strong women are becoming much more common-place in fantasy stories.  While I’ve not read A Song of Ice and Fire, I have heard that Martin writes female characters well, and there is a famous quote from him on this topic.  When asked how he writes female characters so well, he replies, “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.”

Image Source - Google Images
Image Source – Google Images

Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter,) Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games,) Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time,) Merida (from Brave.)  These are only a sample of complete, well written women in fantasy or sci-fi stories, and are some of the best characters I have ever encountered on screen or in books.

Another fact about these characters I like: they are not there for eye-candy.  They are complete, 3 dimensional characters, with dreams, fears, and a place of their own in society.

Too often you see fantasy art depicting women (especially elves, for some reason) wearing skimpy ‘armor.’  Breastplates that only cover the breasts, maybe a shoulder pad, and a skimpy little chainmail thong that makes Leia’s slave outfit look conservative.

Image Source - harrypotter.wikia.com
Image Source – harrypotter.wikia.com

While meant to attract men to the artwork, or video games, or movies, more often than not scantily-clad women are not well-developed, and will not stand the test of time.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the name Hermione Granger will be remembered long after “random scantily-clad elf #3” will be.

That is why I made the women on Halarite, the central world in The Sword of Dragons, 100% equal to men.  There is no limit placed on what they can or cannot do in society.  It is neither a patriarchal nor a matriarchal society.

river-song-profileOddly enough, I couldn’t find a word in the English language that describes such a society.  The closest I could find was Egalitarian, but that is not an accurate description of Halarite.  Egalitarian describes a society where all people are equal.  On Halarite, Mages are usually more privileged than non-magical people.  Oh but that is to be explored more in later novels.  As Professor River Song once said, “Spoilers…”

The Women of TSOD

Since I will be publishing The Sword of Dragons later this year, I thought now would be a good time to post some character profiles.  What better way than to start off with the prominent women of book 1 :)

Also, when I posted profiles of characters for Chronicles of the Sentinels, I included pictures of people who look similar to how I imagined the characters.  I received a very positive response to that, so I’ve done so here again.

Image Source - Google Images
Image Source – Google Images

Sira Reinar:
Sira trained all of her life to become a member of the Warriors’ Guild.  Her prowess as a Mage was evident from childhood, but she started at a disadvantage since neither of her parents were Warriors, so she entered as an outcast.

In The Sword of Dragons, Sira has become a respected leader in the Daruun Warriors’ Guild, her outcast status long-forgotten, overcome by her strength and leadership.  She carries a white-dyed claymore that has been her signature weapon since the day she graduated from training.

Although she considers her loyalty to her friends one of her greatest attributes, it does sometimes land her into trouble.  Never-the-less, it is that loyalty that ensures she is where she needs to be to help save her kingdom.

Image Source - geektyrant.com
Image Source – geektyrant.com

Kailar Adanna:
Once a powerful member of the Warriors’ Guild, Kailar abandoned her position when she became convinced that the Guild had strayed from its original mission.  Since then, she has sought a means to stop the Guild and to unite the four kingdoms under her banner.

Cunning, skilled, and possessing a keen intellect, she is a formidable opponent who will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals.  However, she does not trust anyone, and will only work with others when absolutely necessary.  Otherwise she spends her life completely alone, living in the wilderness, always on the move.

When she learns of the Sword of Dragons, she becomes obsessed with finding it, knowing it has the power to help her achieve all of her goals.

Image Source - wallpaperest.com
Image Source – wallpaperest.com

A Dareann Elf, Elaria is an explorer who wanders from one world to the next.  She has an insatiable curiosity, but has learned to be cautious, and has an uncanny ability to hide herself.  When necessary, she uses her two curved daggers to defend herself with great effect.

When she senses the growing power of the Sword of Dragons, she comes to Halarite to seek out the source.  But when she approaches Kailar, the wayward Warrior uses her powers to manipulate Elaria into helping her.

Now she must overcome Kailar’s grip on her will, before she destroys Halarite’s only chance for peace.


Thanks for reading everyone!  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into The Sword of Dragons :)  Stick around, because there’s more to come!

-Jon Wasik

Emotion in Fiction – Connecting to Your Readers

Hi everyone!

For many people, feeling emotions, especially when they are their own emotions, can be a frightening thing.  Yet for writers, not to mention actors, musicians, pretty much anyone who ‘puts themselves out there’ for an audience in some way, emotions are an essential gateway to connecting to their audience.

Image Source - http://www.rmfw.org/
Image Source – http://www.rmfw.org/

It was honestly something I never really thought about until I read an article recently on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website.  As I read this article, I realized how much it rang true, in every respect.  It also reminded me of some of the greatest moments in the last novel I completed, The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies.  Some of the most memorable stories out there evoke some of the strongest emotions.

Connecting to the Characters

One of the key aspects the article mentioned was breaking through the emotional barrier, and how many writers fail to do so.  Some don’t even try, perhaps because they don’t think they need to or that they shouldn’t.

But stop and think for a moment about storytelling.  What is it, exactly?  At the most basic level, it is relaying a sequence of events, whether in order or out of order, to another person.  Sounds rather dull and boring when you put it that way.

Go deeper.  What is it about stories that draws us in?  There are the typical tropes of wonder and imagination, especially in genre fiction like Fantasy and Sci-Fi, and that can draw someone in by itself.  However, I guarantee you it isn’t enough.

Image Source - www.sw-unity.org
Image Source – http://www.sw-unity.org

Think about one of your favorite TV show or movie.  What’s one of the first things that pops into your mind about that movie or show?  I’ll bet for most of you, it’s the characters.  When I think of Star Wars, I think of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  When I think of Lord of the Rings, I don’t immediately picture the One Ring in my mind, but I see Aragorn, or Frodo and Samwise.

My point here is that we think of characters, people.  They are what we remember, and that is because we are able to connect with the characters.  Even in stories written from the 3rd person, we inhabit their lives, their world.  We root for them, or we hate them, or we fall in love with them.

That link we feel for them, the one that makes us remember them, is an emotional one.   And that is because, in a sense, they opened up to us (even if they had no choice, mwahahah!)  We get to see those characters’ innermost thoughts and emotions.

Reaching Inside

With all of that in mind, breaking through the emotional barrier, for all artists, becomes essential.  When we do so, we’re able to realistically convey emotions that connect us with our audience.

Image Source - www.bridgetteraes.com
Image Source – http://www.bridgetteraes.com

Actors, at least the best ones, are masters of using their own emotions.  Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya in the movie The Princess Bride, revealed in interviews that when he was approached to be a part of the movie, he was offered any role.  He chose Inigo because Patinkin had just recently lost his own father.  So throughout the movie, he imagined that he was on a quest to avenge his own father, and in the final sword fight with the six-fingered man, he imagined he was fighting the cancer that killed his father.

The best musicians also do this.  My high school choir director always told us that no one wants to come to a performance to watch “dead fish” sing on stage.  She encouraged us to reach inside, feel the emotion of the song, and to express it in our performances.  Lindsey Stirling plays with incredible expression of emotion (just watch any one of her youtube videos for proof!)

Image Sources - houseofgeekery.com
Image Sources – houseofgeekery.com

Some of the greatest artists, including painters, were able to use their own emotions in much the same way.  There was an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor gets to meet Vincent Van Gogh.  Later, when speaking to a modern-day museum curator about Vincent, the curator says “He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty.”

Examples from The Sword of Dragons

As a writer, I’ve found that some of my best work also comes from reaching inside of myself and finding emotions that coincide with a scene.  Earlier I mentioned an example, a scene I wrote in Burning Skies.  One of the central characters feels broken, lost, utterly useless.  She’s trying to find her way, but despairs that she never will, and she spirals further and further downward in her emotional journey.

In one of the key moments of the novel, the character hits rock bottom, does something horrible, and when she realizes what she’s done, nearly goes over the edge.  As all of this plays through her head and heart, I wrote about how she expressed these feelings, and I found that as I did so, I reached back to one of the worst times in my life, remembered the emotions I felt, felt those emotions again, and wrote without having to ever think about how the character should or would act.

When the scene was completed, I found that I had actually started to tear up myself.  I felt a bit embarrassed about that, after all I do almost all of my writing at Starbucks.  But later when I re-read that scene, it and the scene following it turned out to be among the most powerful scenes in the novel.

It isn’t just about dark emotions, however.  This example can hold true for every emotion.  Love, joy, sorrow, sympathy, every single emotion can, and perhaps should, come from within the writer.

Breaking Through the Barrier

I realize that for many people, especially in this digital age, what I’m suggesting might be extraordinarily difficult.  It means acknowledging your own emotions, allowing yourself to feel them, intentionally evoking those emotions and the memories associated with them.

It can be an uncomfortable prospect.  However I strongly believe it is key to being a good writer.

So I’ll leave you all with yet another bold statement: emotions aren’t something you have to hide from.  Yes there is pain and sadness, and these can be uncomfortable emotions.  But there is also exquisite joy and happiness.  All of these various emotions hold an incredible beauty all of their own, and if you’re able to learn how to explore those emotions by feeling them, you’ll make yourself a better writer.

Thanks for reading :)

Query Woes – How Do You Describe Your Story?

There is one thing I struggle with consistently when it comes to the world of writing: how to describe my stories.

When someone asks me “What is your novel about?” my mind immediately turns blank.  It is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had, and it happens to me almost daily!  Someone recently reminded me of a Doctor Who quote that applies: “You know when someone asks you what your favorite movie is, and suddenly you forget every single movie that’s ever been made?”

However, it goes beyond this.  This isn’t just a “Jonny-on-the-spot” blank moment, this is a struggle that has extended into writing query letters, and is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles I face at the moment to finding an agent.

What is a query letter?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a query letter is a one-page presentation of your story and yourself that you send to literary agents in an attempt to garner interest in your work and, eventually, land an agent to represent you and your work.

Query letters have a basic formula that all writers are encouraged to stick to.  Trying any other format has been described as ‘trying to re-invent the wheel.’  There’s no need, the wheel works fine just as it is, and if you try to sell a reinvented wheel to GM or Mitsubishi, they’re just going to laugh at you and go pay lower prices for regular wheels.  Agents expect a specific format to your letter, and I have read that if you don’t stick to that basic principle, most agents will not even finish reading your query.

The format is simple: Hook, Mini-Synopsis, and Writer’s Bio.

The Hook

No, the Hook isn’t afraid of ticking crocodiles.  The hook is supposed to do just that: hook an agent’s interest and, for that matter, everyone else’s.  In one sentence (some leeway on that, but generally speaking it’s one of those rules you want to try to follow) you have to make your story seem interesting and unique, and give the agent a reason to keep reading.  If the hook doesn’t catch the agent’s interest, most likely he or she is going to stop there and send that dreaded rejection letter.

The Mini-Synopsis

This is exactly what it sounds like, a very short description of your story and the characters.  How short?  One paragraph.  How hard is it to condense your entire story into one paragraph?  Well, for a real challenge, try to describe Lord of the Rings in one paragraph.  Added difficulty: it has to be in such a way that it seems interesting, and isn’t just another fantasy epic that’s like the 50,000 other ones already out there.

Writer’s Bio

For published writers, this area is probably easy.  Describe your writing credentials.  Essentially, you’re trying to tell the agent why you’re worth the risk.  For someone who has nothing professionally published, this is pretty difficult to fill out (but that doesn’t mean you should leave it out of your query letter!)

My Struggle Writing a Query Letter

My first query letter is time stamped July 2013.  I have probably gone through 2 dozen revisions (including a few complete re-writes) and am still struggling to make it work!  I owe a lot of the progress I have made to articles such as this one.

I do realize that part of my struggle is my tendency to over-think and focus in on the details too much, but when you only have a paragraph for your mini-synopsis, focusing on the details is your worst enemy!  I also struggled with writing a 1-page synopsis, which some agents require for submissions on top of the query letter.

Until recently I’ve posted my query letters on my personal facebook page and asked friends and family for critiques, and they have been invaluable with helping me fine-tune it.  And yet I knew it still needed improvement.  The two agents I sent the latest revision to rejected my story, and I had the feeling that the query still needed work.

So I went to the forums I’d been lurking about for some time at Agent Query Connect.  I finally created an account and started responding to other writers’ posts, and then today I finally posted my own query letter for critique and advice.  I braced myself for the worst, knowing they would be brutally honest, and hoping for nothing less than that same brutal honesty!

I was not disappointed :)  Only two writers have critiqued my query letter at the time this article was written, and their critiques all touched on similar points.  My query letter is generic, it describes a story that sounds generic, and leaves the characters as unknowns.

This helped me to realize something.  In my query, I’m focusing on the story too much, and not giving enough attention to the characters.  Naturally I need to talk about the story, specifically the catalyst for the story, which is the titular Sword of Dragons, but for a moment, go back to the example of the Lord of the Rings.  When you think about the novel or the movies, what are the first things that come to mind?  Does the One Ring come to mind first?  Sure, its in the title, but is that all?  For me, it’s the characters that I think about more.  Frodo’s bravery stepping up to take the ring.  Samwise’s undying loyalty.  Gandalf’s fireworks and his love of Hobbits.  Aragorn’s steadfast leadership.  Merry and Pippin’s mischief.  Gimli and Legolas’s friendship.

The characters are what make stories worth reading.  The characters are what stick with us when we walk away from a story.  They are the ones who live in our hearts forever.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Realizing just how important characters really are, I intend to attack my next revision (or rather, rewrite) with the idea that I want to make the characters the focus.  The Sword of Dragons is the catalyst, yes, but the characters are the ones who make things happen, who fail or succeed.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my progress :)  Until then, thanks for reading!  Click “Like” below if you liked this article, and click the “Follow” button if you want to know when I’ve posted more articles!