Thursday, July 26, 2012

Today, author A.K. Flynn will be providing her unique take on things as part of the Literary Plus Blog Tour!

Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

Character Creation Conundrum
There two different kinds of writers: plot writers and character writers. For plot writers, you first come up with a story, and then make a main character. For character writers, you come up with the character first, and develop a plot for the character. I am for one a character writer! I need to figure out my characters and then the world I will plop them into; for me this makes sense and works out better for me, but to each their own.

You've heard the old maxim before... “A character can make or break your story.” Okay, okay, so you want to write an interesting character. You've got some plot ideas, you know a little bit about your world, but now you need your characters. And not just any old characters - no, these have got to be the most original, most interesting characters your reader will ever come across.

Ah yes, such is the desire of all writers. And yet, how is it that in classic fantasy we see the same heroes and villains generated over and over again? We've got the rugged wanderer who keeps to himself, the kid who's suffered amnesia and just happens to be royalty, the elf who despises the dwarf (and it's mutual), the reluctant hero who's handsome, brave, and self-sacrificing, the girl who's very beautiful but never gets along with the hero until the end of the story, and the evil overlord type of villain who cackles maniacally whenever things are going his way; this is your typical entourage of characters, and for the most part it works just fine. However, what does it take to create such enthralling character personalities that we grow to love?

Coming up with a character is a long process, and even though the “typical” character read by many seems familiar they usually take on different forms and personality of the writer. No two characters are the same regardless if the plot or character is similar, as the traits of the writer are infused with the main character. When a writer intertwines their personality into a character, the character becomes more personable and will form a rapport with the reader. This rapport is crucial as it will ensure that your audience does not start yawning after chapter one. To help in the process of original character formation, I've gleaned from just about everywhere some tricks and tips to share with you , and so with no further adue here they are.

The first rule of creating fictional characters: Make the readers care. Make them care if your characters... Win or lose. Succeed or fail. Live or die.

Second what kind of personality do you want your character to portray? This is the most important part of your character this is where you will be building rapport with your reader. My current list of personalities are mostly a list of imperfections, as these types of characters are easier for the reader to identify with, and I can create humour out of them in the process. There are many different personality types and it is impossible to go through them all, so here are some of my favourites.

•Sarcastic or cynical. Maybe it's just me, but I'm a sucker for guys who are constantly insulting everyone in a very funny way. Try to decide why the character is sarcastic, though... What makes him moody or bitter in his humour? What happened in his past to make him insult everyone now? Is he afraid of relationships or wary of trust?
•Egocentric. Let the character think she's better than everyone. If other people can do something, she can do it better. She's also much more intelligent than everyone, and, of course, the most beautiful. She's fun to write and fun to read, because you love to hate her.

•Easily fascinated. I just love a character that will stare at balloons forever and delights at a passing butterfly. They're flaky, they're shallow, they're generally useless, but they're so funny to watch. They spout off the most random pieces of knowledge and don't know when to shut up.

•Fierce or hot-tempered. This one is becoming a bit overdone, but I still enjoy a girl who's more likely to knock you out than allow you to rescue her. If you go for the gender-role-reversal thing, a fierce girl is a lot more fun to write than the usual damsel-in-distress. Hot-tempered guys can be great too. He may be easily provoked or loses his temper at the mention of his father. But don't overdo it. How many people got really annoyed by Harry's constant angst in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?

•Mysterious. You have to be careful with this one, but sometimes it's interesting to have a character who you can't predict and whose thoughts and actions you don't understand. It can get annoying, if the character knows more than the reader. So be careful.

•Hyperactive or flamboyant. A character that never seems to run out of energy or questions can be amusing. Maybe he has an obsession with trying to get the other characters to dance with him. This is a fun one if you like gender-role-reversals. Guys who are easily excitable and like to give big sloppy kisses don't come along too often, and we love to laugh at their antics.

•Melodramatic. The drama queen (or king). This is a character that exaggerates everything and makes tiny events seem like huge catastrophes. She's fun to write and even more fun to read. This is the character that jumps to conclusions and thinks everything is way funnier than it is.

•The bully. Personally, I like the guy that pushes everyone around. He thinks he's cool, but maybe he's secretly really insecure. A good example would be Sirius Black and James Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

•The nerd. Okay, so it's fun to have a girl who rattles off physics equations in the middle of battle and tries to predict events based on scientific calculations... Especially if she's wrong or no one ever listens to her. Another variation of the nerd is the kid who's rather the swot and always likes to be right.

•Accident prone. She screws things up because she trips over her own feet. She's clumsy. She gets in the way, and she can't be stealthy no matter how hard she tries.

•Forgetful or absent-minded. He's sort of dim, gets teased a lot, and puts his shoes on the wrong feet. Perhaps he's brilliant but can't remember more than two things at once. He can't remember why he's in the kitchen or where he put his glasses.

•Compulsively lies. She rarely tells the truth. Lies are so much more interesting and it's not really lying, it's just a form of acting. She may give her companions wrong directions and after a while they may not trust her very much. Useful if you like the boy-who-cried-wolf type of story, where she doesn't tell the truth until it really matters and then no-one believes her.

•Awkward. He's nervous and a little paranoid and doesn't know what to do with himself when a girl is in the vicinity. He may trip over his own tongue or be fearful of revealing anything about himself.

•A hypochondriac. She's convinced she's dying. A splinter becomes life-threatening, and she cannot travel if she has bruised her knee. Occasionally she crashes into hard surfaces “on accident” and sustains grievous injuries. She always thinks she's ill or coming down with something contagious.

•A kleptomaniac. He compulsively steals things. His companions don't understand why their shoestrings and coins seem to disappear. Most of the time, he doesn't either.

•A pyromaniac. It doesn't get much better than a fire-obsessed girl who likes to experiment. Whoever knew that the hero's boots burn such a strange shade of blue? Or that unicorn hair won't burn unless you douse it in beer?

•Anything that ends in -iac. Noticing a theme, aren't we?

Thirdly what I find helpful in building characters is choosing a name with meaning for them. It helps bring forth the personality traits. If you still not sure of how to figure out their personality then interview your character, ask it questions, build a profile for your main(s) what hobbies they like, what their favourite food is and so on; these aspects of your charter are important so that your readers can relate to your character by building empathy for them.

Adding quirks and originality to your characters can be a challenge, but it is definitely worth the time it takes. So, go forth and write! Spend sleepless nights tapping away at the keyboard, write notes to yourself on your arms in permanent pen, and daydream in class. Do what writers do. Write your characters, listen to their suggestions, and allow them to take on their own life so they may jump from your pages and enthrall the minds of people they touch. Also keep in mind “A procrastinator’s work is never done!”

Monday, July 16, 2012

That One Thing

I watched a video the other day, (yeah, like that doesn’t happen every day!). This particular video was an interview with Warren Littlefield, the NBC exec who greenlighted Seinfeld.

He talked about how cool it was to give the go ahead for a show that had no precedent, with a star who was barely out of his comedy short pants. How thrilling it was, so glad he said yes, yadda, yadda, yadda.

At the end of the piece, where the gushing interviewer undoubtedly asked him about the secret to success, Mr. Littlefield gave a very pat answer. He said that the secret of success was to caffeinate, (because you’re going to have to keep going) and, and this was the part that made me take notice, he said to “pick one thing.” Pick one thing, focus on it, and make it happen. Find your strength, that thing you really like to do, and do that. And keep doing it until someone is willing to pay you a ridiculous amount of money to do it, I guess was the point.

Well, that got my attention! It wasn’t the fact that it was the most over-used piece of advice in the history of advice-giving. It wasn’t even the fact that he couldn’t have been safer if he had told me to look inside myself and go with my heart. No, what made me take notice was the fact that I don’t want to do just one thing.

I started reflecting on how many “secret to success” books, articles, videos, etc. I have absorbed. Let’s just go with “a lot”. They all say the same thing… pick one thing and do the crap out of it. I never do this, hence, I have not achieved what they describe as success.

To do one thing, day after day after day and get rich doing it would KILL ME… no matter how much I was making. Even if it was something that I loved doing, like writing, I don’t think I could do it exclusively day in and day out. I would be homicidal, (Note: not suicidal. Homicidal).

I want to paint and draw and act and write plays and novels and snarky magazine pieces and build shit that barely works and videotape other people doing the cool stuff that they like to do, and then edit it, add music to it, create graphics for it and then paint some more. Then read to my kids, have them read to me, go shopping with my wife and roll my eyes when she asks me if I like something. Cook a steak, plant some flowers and then cut them and put them in a vase and take pictures of them and use all of the settings on my camera. Play with puppets and make them say really stupid things until my kids laugh and squirt milk out of their noses, which makes me laugh and squirt milk out of my nose.

If you are the type who can focus and do one thing, more power to you. I wish you success and big piles of money. I cheer your success, but, I don’t envy you. Perhaps it is a lack of discipline on my part. Maybe I should want to strive to make more, be more, acquire more.

Maybe I’ll never have the big yacht or the Lamborgini, but I’m ok with that. I’m too busy living anyway.
Today, author Len Berry will be providing his unique take on things as part of the Literary Plus Blog Tour!
Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

Len Berry
Vitamin F: Genesis to Revelation

Several years ago, I stood behind the third register of the bookstore, trying to think of new short story ideas. At the time, I was convinced that the only way an author could make a name for themselves was to write lots of short stories and then approach an agent and say, “Please represent me.”
Clearly, it was a different time.
In my pondering, I came up with a notion. I thought of a world where things were the opposite of what they are now, where there are more homosexuals than heterosexuals. I thought of a world that had a great deal more women than men. I thought of a lead character who would have to hide things about her life from the rest of the world.
It seemed too controversial, so I decided not to go with that particular idea.
Still stuck behind the register, I started to work on other ideas. In a little while, I had another idea, one that was so much better. I would have a totalitarian society, one built around genetic controls. There could be a catastrophe that altered the makeup of society, changing who was in the majority and who in the minority. I thought of a lead character who would have to hide things about her life from the rest of the world.
Once I had that thought, I realized two things. First, that I had come to discover the same idea from a different angle. Second, and more importantly, that I had to write this story, whatever it might turn out to be.

Any story requires thought and planning. To make sure I can actually build the tales I write, I’ll work through scenes and plot threads over and over. There’s nothing I write down at this point, everything is still internal, still part of my imagination alone.
As I plot and ponder, there’s one thing I quickly realize. This story isn’t a short story. It’s a novel.
Being of a mindset where I needed to write short stories wasn’t best frame of mind to start a novel, but this was an idea I discovered from two different directions.
I found myself soul searching at this point. I thought about all the different groups my new idea might offend and I had great difficulty making peace with the thought that I might offend someone with my story. Eventually, I had to decide if I was motivated to write the story or if I was more motivated to remain silent.
I’m a writer, that’s my motivation. When I’m down or I’m up, being a writer motivates me. That’s why I decided to push through with the story.

A few months later, I started to put together enough chapters to show coworkers. Yes, I was writing a story where the world was mostly female and the male population had to stay trapped inside sensory deprivation tanks to have their reproductive fluids farmed from their bodies. As I started showing my work around, one of my coworkers described my story as taking place in an Amazonian society.
That observation made everything snap into place for me. I was able to instantly accept what I was doing, casting aside all fears of controversy and offense. Having someone look at my work and see what I was doing was a godsend, especially since she was able to see what I was doing better than I could.
Clarity works wonders. It spurs inspiration and motivation. It can even make a writer like me work faster and with more determination than I’ve ever worked on anything before.

It took about a year to get through, but I finally finished a draft of this twisted story. By this point, I’d gone through two titles, eventually settling on Vitamin F, a reference to the medication the main character, Bridgett has to take each day. Getting through a draft of Vitamin F made me realize I could get through a draft of anything.
I knew I needed to let Vitamin F sit off to the side before editing it, so I did the next best thing: I started working on another novel. I became convinced that I could be a novelist, that I didn’t need a laundry list of short stories to my credit beforehand. I kept writing and eventually threw in some editing too. When the dust cleared, I’d come up with an assortment of story ideas I could work on, along with three novels that had at least one full draft finished.
I started in on query letters, trying to get the attention of an agent. I knew nothing of the publishing world’s internal workings, so I knew I would need someone to speak on my behalf. I made very little progress.
Vitamin F was too different, too daring. I got plenty of compliments on my concept, but not enough to make an agent want to take me on. In all my efforts, I was only asked for one partial and I was told my writing wasn’t quite ready.

Another year passed and I learned how to improve my writing. I fought through another draft and began to really contemplate something new: the e-book. In its infancy, the e-book was something I didn’t feel could go anywhere. I had no patience for it, since I thought digital approaches were peripheral at best. As the market for e-readers evolved, so did my opinion of the product.
Now that e-books have become a gateway for so many to get work published on the path to something more. Some authors use e-books to spread stories that clash with their regular publishers. Whatever the reason, e-books became something more than the new independent. They became the new gateway to a writing career.
Pushing through one last edit, I committed myself to making Vitamin F into an e-book, if only to get my foot in the door.

Last week, I stood behind the third register once again, this time with a piece of paper in my hand. On the paper, I read the information for an e-book anyone could order.
The author was Len Berry. The book was Vitamin F.


Len Berry a lifelong resident of Missouri studied biology before turning his imagination toward writing. In his spare time, Len enjoys drawing, watching anime, and playing an occasional video game. He is the author of the dystopian e-book Vitamin F, now available for Nook and Kindle. Since Len is an active blogger, you can find out more about him and his projects at

Len's Blog -
Buy it for the Nook: Nook version
Buy it for the Kindle: Kindle version

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dead? I Don't Think So

I wrote a one hundred thousand word novel on my phone.

Seriously? No. Of course not. Can't be done.

Now, I realize that as soon as I wrote that sentence, someone will have already written a two hundred thousand word book on their phone, and will soon be appearing on Ellen, the View or some other TV show. All in the effort to drag out the familiar, "The Desktop is Dead!" song.

Just as the previous generation wondered out loud, "Why would anyone need a computer?", some people of my generation wonder how anything meaningful can be done with just a phone or a tablet. Granted, many parent-aged people are living just fine with checking their mail, downloading apps and watching movies on an eleven inch screen. Even more are enjoying turning their barely reasonble photographs into Polaroid-like shitty ones with Instagram. But, some of us have work to do, and like the familiar feel of sitting down at the same location
"Slaves!" the modern hipsters cry, (are they still called hipsters? I don't know, I'm... well... not old, really, but...). "I can take my devices anywhere! Be connected wherever I go! Stay in touch, see the world and have lots more fun than you because I'm not chained to a desk!"

Bite me.

I do lots of creative-type stuff. When I'm not editing video, I'm working on a novel. When I'm drained of that, I work up sketches and color models in Photoshop for paintings. I might be building a website, or doing maintenance for those I've built for clients. I just wouldn't like doing any of that while constantly turning from the sun, trying to avoid eye-contact at Starbucks or going back inside, again, for any of the hundreds of reasons that crop up each day.

Years ago, I began my design career at IBM. Hence, I have PCs all over my house. I have three in my office, along with two laptops, (one of them is a MacAir, which is nice, but the software is too expensive and doesn't do anything more than the PC versions... sorry). The only time I use the laptops is when I have to go out and pitch a client, or I go on vacation. Both of these scenarios are rare.

So, when Microsoft released Windows 8, declaring, yet again, that the desktop is dead, I get a little perturbed. I don't need Windows 8, (truthfully, I was fine with NT, thanks very much). I don't need more cost for less functionality. I just want to sit at my computer and create. Oh, the Metro look is okay, I guess. But, what does it do that I can't do now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But, the companies that control stuff like this are going to move us all, kicking and screaming, into a world of watching more and doing less, until we all look like the people on the spaceship in Wall-E.

There are many good, solid reasons for desktops to be the staple of the workflow. Most have them have been written about in depth, to the point of being sick of hearing about it.

But, few things make me happier than the click of the keys as I type. I'm a terrible typist, by the way. My wife calls me Schroeder, because I keep my head down, staring at the keys as I hunt for the next one. I never learned to type because someone once told me that if I learned to type, then that's what I would end up doing all day. Gah! I said at the time. Not me! And now, if I don't find time write via keyboard each day, I just don't feel whole.

So... No, I say. You can't have my desktop. I'll buy into your e-readers, your smart phones and streaming entertainment. I'll pay my monthly fees and consume like a good little puppet. As long as I can boot up my machine at night, when the house is quiet, and get a few thousand words down, I'll be happy.

But, if you come for my desktop, beware! Beware my impotent rage! I may be so pissed off that I'll... I'll... I'll blog about it!

Yeah, that'll show 'em!