Wednesday, May 9, 2012


With such beautiful weather outside, everything seems to be looking up. My progress on Oko has been very fast lately, mostly due to an agent contact that caught me unawares and unprepared. I decided that next time I get a letter, I will be prepared with a complete manuscript. So, off I write. The Dead Walk crossing is in full swing, and the clouds are gathering, making Kadri "man up" to her challenges to prove Iliya wrong (he'll secretly enjoy it).

In today's over-sated market, it's very important to keep the focus on the strength and depth of the character - there can be only so many interesting plots, but the possibilities of an interesting character are endless.

The most important thing however is to create an active character. Some of the comments I've received from my beta readers lately was on passiveness of the main character in some instances of a story. Once I fixed those areas where the character loses his "character" and starts reacting where he should've been acting, the character got a much better response from the readers.

Here's an excerpt from Orson Scott Card's "Character and Viewpoint", where he addresses the issue of a passive character:

"Beginning writers often make the mistake of having their hero always react to the events of the story. The hero's reactions may all be perfectly reasonable, but the result is a character who seems to have no initiative -- a puppet being pushed around on the end of a stick."

An active character takes action. We need to read about a person who takes action to achieve his/her goals.

"When the story is about character's plan -- a quest or caper story -- or when the story is about the character's need -- as all character stories are -- then this tool makes the character almost irresistibly sympathetic."

Keep in mind that taking action doesn't necessarily mean the character is not vulnerable. In fact, vulnerable and flawed characters are the ones that readers sympathize with the most. But if a character has to get over obstacles such as fear and guilt to take action, that's even better.

The activeness of the character has been much discussed when the topic of "damsel in distress" comes along. Feminists have long argued that the character who is rescued may appear weak in the story, and since most of them are women, this creates a stereotype. I agree with this notion, however, just because the character might need rescuing, there is no need to make her appear weak.

I've recently watched the movie "Raven" where Edgar Poe wrestles with a killer who took his precious lover and committed a series of murders based on Poe's stories to boot. The movie didn't work for me for many reasons that are better addressed by movie critics, however, one scene in particular worked really well for me and it ties in with today's blog.

When the main character's lover first appears on the scene, she sparks a little interest, even though, of course, she's quite an attractive lady. She does sneak around behind her father's back to be with her lover, but this didn't quite sell her to me completely. However, once she is kidnapped by the killer and put in a wooden box with dirt sprinkled on top, she shows a real initiative to set herself free. After a scene of crying and uselessly beating on the lid, she takes a rib out of her corset and pokes a whole in the lid to get more air. She is terrified, of course, once a killer's eye appears in the same hole, but I absolutely loved it when she tried to get him in the eye with the same rib. My companions felt the same, crying an excited "Ow! Get 'im! Right in the eye!" Before that scene I couldn't care less whether she lived or died, but her initiative and fearlessness made me root for her survival.

And now back to ruining my eyesight in the never-ending pursuit of a writing career. Last thought -- definitely set goals for yourself. If you don't get everything done, you'll at least get something done, and in writing, paragraphs and pages add up quick.

Friday, April 6, 2012


First entry in “Oko” blog. Snowing today, Utah weather is highly neurotic with weather rising and dropping 20 degrees within couple of days. Currently working on chapter 18, the Dead Walk. For those of you who are familiar with the setting of “Oko” should know that Dead Walk a wasteland that was once the Finnish Gulf, but thanks to the bombing of the underwater factory in WW4 is now dried-out and uninhabitable. As Kadri embarks on her journey, I have plenty of trouble saved up for her during the crossing. As if she doesn’t have enough already.

Received the revisions for “Suume” today, a laundry list of items to change in the story. Some very good suggestions from the editors, and I can’t wait to fully dive into them this weekend.
Lately I have been doing research on writing an effective villain. As I’m fleshing out “Eks”, I have picked up a few interesting things about creating memorable villains. My main source of reference is the fantastic book by Jessica Morrell “Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches”. Here are few handy things I’ve picked up in my recent readings:

1. Learn your main character’s fears. It’s important to create a villain who will make sure to exploit those fears and terrorize the character to the max.
2. Know how far your villain will go. By knowing his limits, you can create a situation (closer to the climax) when the villain loses it and takes the threat to the next level.
3. Make sure your villain is at least as powerful as your main character. He has to make the reader genuinely worried.
4. Give the evil in your story a face. Even if it’s a powerful organization, make sure to select one person in particular who is actively involved in making your protagonist’s life a nightmare.
5. Know your villain as well as your protagonists. By writing out a detailed bio, you will ensure that the bad guy is alive in your head so he can be alive in your reader’s heads.

The research of fear can also valuable. By knowing some basic things like fight-or-flight reaction, types of phobias, and levels of sociopathy you can reach into the depth of your readers’ fears and create some truly memorable, and terrifying, bad guys. 

Here’s to the bad boys and gals! By the way, those of you who truly want to experience the bad guy you want to strangle in his sleep, give Kathleen Duey’s book “Sacred Scars” a read. Somiss could turn a bunny into a killing machine. Happy writing!