Friday, September 22, 2017

Why You Should Let Your First Draft Suck (And How to Do It)

I've always had a fear of writing first drafts. A paralyzing one, honestly. We're talking Ron-Weasley's-horror-of-spiders level of fear.

I love writing first drafts, but there's always a terror that accompanies this love. The thoughts that run through my head as I write go something like this:

"What if I accidentally weave in a massive plot hole? Wait, this character's arc just changed half way through and now she has an inconsistent personality. Is this subplot dumb? Darn it, the pacing is off. Oh, look! A typo!"

The amount of doubt that courses through me each time I write a first draft is huge. I start to doubt my ideas and skills. And, sometimes, it makes me freeze up. I'm so fixated on making my first draft good that I can't move forward.

You've probably experienced this. Most (possibly all?) writers have. It's a huge pain, isn't it?

Well, have no fear. I discovered something that has helped me overcome this issue.

The solution is: I need to allow my first drafts to suck.

What? You're telling me that doesn't suddenly whisk away all of your fears? You don't find that a comforting thought? Pffft. Please. Let me explain to you why this is, in fact, an extremely freeing concept:
Why You Should Let Your First Draft Suck (And How to Do It)
1. There's a reason they're call "first drafts." First drafts. FIRST. This word indicates that there will be later drafts. There is no Writing God who says: "Here, I'm giving you one shot at writing this book. You get to write it once, then you have to offer it up to me and, if it sucks, you're going to die." If this were true, our need to get our initial draft perfect would be justified. But this is not, in fact, true. We're allowed as many tries as we want. Whatever horrible mistakes we make in the first draft is absolutely fixable because we get to write a second, a third, even a twelfth draft.

2. Freedom to write horribly means freedom to experiment, play, and enjoy. You don't have to worry about making mistakes. You get to just sit down and write. You can test out that new writing style, play around with story setting, and enjoy the sheer act of creation. Rather than sweating nervously as the cursor blinks back at you, you can get to sit down and have some fun. Every action gets to be an act of creation. Hamilton would be so proud of you.

3. It allows you to get all of the bad ideas out of the way. For every good idea that I have, I experience about 394 bad ones. I'm not suggesting that I write all 394 of them down. Some of them are glaringly terrible to the point that I know not to put them on paper. But some aren't revealed to be horrendous until they're sitting next to something not-terrible. Giving our first drafts the room to suck means that we now know which directions we shouldn't take our stories in. This is very valuable because it means our next draft can focus on polishing the not-terrible ideas and burning the hideous ones.

4. It means you're more likely to actually finish. If you're constantly trying to keep your first draft from sucking, you're having to refocus valuable creative energy into putting a damper on your own mind. You are also in a state of mind that is hypercritical and questioning everything you write, which often turns into doubting your talents and thoughts. This can cripple you as a writer to the point where you won't be able to move on...or you'll move forward with your draft at a Jabba the Hut pace. These are all avoidable issues if you just give yourself the room to write what you want without getting tangled up in the "but doesn't this suck?" mindset.

Now, perhaps this is all sounding logical to you. You see why it's okay to write a sucky first draft. Great. But how do you actually execute this plan? Here's what you need to do:

1. Go in with a plan. Have some idea of where you want this story to go. If you're a pantster, check out this blog post for ideas. If you're a plotter, put together an outline. You are licensed to write a sucky first draft, yes. But going in completely blind is never a good idea. But full-length novels do require some amount of plot, character, and world planning before you jump into that first draft, otherwise editing will be a nightmare. However, do not fixate on your plan. . I can guarantee that you won't stick to it 100%. That's fine. Healthy, even. Your plan is not a rule book. It's more, well...Barbossa will explain:

2. Write the first draft for yourself, and yourself only. This draft is for your eyes only. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Don't let anyone else see it. What happens in your first draft stays in your first draft. When you are writing it, you shouldn't think about how anyone else would see this draft. It's for you: It's helping you kick start an idea, get words on a page, form a story that will be refined in a later draft. It's not for anybody else. If you find yourself writing this and thinking about what your beta reader would say, what your friend would say, what your creative writing teacher would say: Shut that thought down. They don't matter right now. Right now it's just you and the page.

2. Keep moving forward. Be as swift as a coursing river. Do not try to go back and edit what it was you just wrote. Move forward. You can go back and fix "mistakes" later. They are not your concern at the moment. Right now you're just trying to finish the first draft. If you find yourself looking back at what you wrote for any other reason than to remember where you left off, you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. And that's not progress. And no progress means no finished book, which means no book deal, which means no money, which means no caffeine, which means Unhappy Writer. Can't argue with that logic, can you? I thought not. So keep moving forward.

3. Be proud. Do you have any idea how hard it is to write a book? It's hard. Really hard. And yet, here you are, taking on this behemoth of a task of your own free will. You're completely crazy, what are you thinking? turn back now! awesome. Okay, maybe what you're writing isn't perfect right now. That doesn't make you bad or stupid. Don't let the concept of writing something sucky make you think that you are sucky. You're not. You should be proud of what you're doing because it's hard and it takes a lot of guts. Keep at it. You're going places.

4. Remember that you can fix it later. Rewriting and editing. Perhaps you've heard of these terms? Yes? Well, they are lifesavers. After you write this first draft, you get to go back and rewrite the plot to fill in holes, flesh out characters, and make the voice, themes, and pacing coherent. Then you get to edit to make everything look all shiny and pretty. So don't worry about the mess you're making right now. You can clean it later.

Nobody said your first draft had to be perfect. It just needs to be written. That's all. So go and write that first draft with a boldness and craziness and messiness that makes your heart smile.

What do you think? Do you agree with the concept of allowing your first draft to suck? Why or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
Controlling Your Plot Bunnies: How to Write a Novel From Start to Finish

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Character Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them

I'm terrible at remembering people's names.

I can remember the way they talk and walk. I can remember the ways they fidget. I can even remember special features about their appearance: Their hair, the type of glasses they wear, the tattoo on their wrist.

But I can't remember names.

And, unfortunately, neither can a lot of readers.

Think about the last book you read and actually enjoyed. Do you remember the names of all of the characters? Possibly not. But you do remember specific things about each character: Their quirks, their likes, their dislikes, phrases they used a lot.

You remember their character tags.

And that, my friends, is what we will discuss today. Character tags.
Character Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them
What is a character tag? It is a specific device that we, as writers, use to label a character. It is a unique action a character does that immediately calls to mind that character's personality. It is not a replacement for character development: You still need to develop a character and make each one different from the rest. Character tags are simply a way to aid in this process. For example:

Meet Fred. Fred is a very bubbly, excited person. We know this because of how you've presented him in your novel: He's always optimistic, he smiles a lot, and often gets into enthusiastic discussions with others. His character tag? He waves his hands around when he speaks. A lot. Now you can have a character walk into the room and start waving his arms and your reader immediately knows: That's Fred.

Why are they helpful? Because, as mentioned before, readers often forget a character's name. And, if you have enough characters, sometimes they all start to blend together in your readers mind, especially if there are characters with similar outlooks, goals, or names. A character tag helps remind your reader, "Oh, yeah! That's that guy! He's always happy. I know because he's always making excited gestures with his hands."

How can I use them? I'm so glad you asked. There are, in fact, dozens of different types of character tags. Let me walk you through some of the main ones:

Physical Traits

Hair color, eye color, height, voice. Take a unique physical trait and connect it to something unique in the character.
  • Notable Example: Merida. She has wild, fiery red hair. This is not only a tribute to her Scottish heritage, but is also connected to her wild personality and fiery disposition. Of course, other characters in this movie do have red hair, but it's not quite as red or as untamed as hers. 
Seriously, Disney, nobody's hair moves that way in the wind. STOP IT.
It's worth noting that this is the weakest type of tag. Why? Because people don't really have any control over their physical traits, so they aren't generally indicative of personality and thus not always helpful for character building. That's not to say you can't use this tag: It just requires some extra thought. Also: perhaps consider using it in addition to another tag.

Dialogue 

Speech patterns, slang, vocabulary, repetitive phrases, and accents all fall under this category.
  • Notable Example: Yoda. Only speaks like this, he does. Whenever we hear people speaking in anastrophe, we think: "Ah, yes. Yoda, Jedi Master." Or, depending on our level of commitment to the Star Wars fandom: "That creepy-looking green puppet from that one sci-fi movie." 
Speech can tell us a lot of things about a character. The dude who says "yo" all the time is memorable....Even more memorable if he is, in fact, a very intelligent though very casual professor. The character who uses large words is unique....Even more so if she is six years old. These tags help remind your readers of who the character is and what makes them special.

Body Language

Hand gestures, arm folding, slumped shoulders, constantly fidgeting with hair, etc.
  • Notable Example: Heath Ledger's Joker. Throughout the movie we see the Joker licking the sides of his mouth. This enforces his appearance of insanity while also making us wonder more about his scars because they appear to be uncomfortable to him. 
Not only should body language character tags be noticeable, but they should also tell us something about the character. Lots of hand gestures? Oh, that's the excited character. Folded arms? Mr. Grumpy Pants. Always stands with heels together and feet pointed out? That's the ballerina. Rubbing temples? He's the stressed-out one.

Possessions 

You know. That one thing that your character is rarely seen without. It's either an article of clothing or  something that can be carried around with them.
  • Notable Example: Peter Quill. He always has his walkman with him, so much so that it is elemental to his character. Not only does it have an unique backstory (his terminally ill mother made it for him), but it defines an important part of his character (his free, somewhat off-kilter spirit matches the music on his walkman tape). 
This is the most common character tag and arguably the most fun to write. The item often has a backstory, but doesn't necessarily need one. It almost always is an elemental part of the character's personality, but sometimes it's just this weird, unexplained thing a character happens to like. Have fun with it. 

Scent 

Errr. I don't really know how else to describe this? The way a character smells. Which sounds weird, but bear with me.
  • Notable Example: The Pallid Man from the 12 Monkeys TV series. We don't even know his name, but we always know where he's been or if he's nearing the other characters. Why? Because he smells of jasmine and lavender. Two nice scents that now have a very negative connotation to the characters in this series because the Pallid Man is a killer.
The best usages of this character tag is usually when it's done ironically. When scents that should mean one thing (lavender = peace) end up meaning something very, very different (lavender = death). But, of course, you can do whatever you want. I'm not the boss of you. 

What are some issues to avoid? 
  • Stereotyping. I see a lot of very stereotyped character tags: The innocent girl with blue eyes. The villain who always wears black. Let's get a bit more creative. 
  • Overdoing it. If your character tag is stuttering, you don't need your character to stutter every word. If it's a person constantly tapping his foot on the ground, he doesn't have to do that all of the time. You want to avoid using repetitive terms or cramming tags down readers throats. It's okay to be subtle. 
  • Relying on character tags as a substitution for character development. This is a character development aid, not a replacement. You still need to give your character a memorable personality and arc.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are some of your favorite character tags? I'd love to hear from you!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career

Your book on a shelf. Somewhere (a bookstore, a friend's house, a library), somehow (hopefully not one involving bribery). That, ultimately, is every writer's goal. We have a story to tell and we want to tell it. Now. Right now.

But life gets busy. School is hard, but we're pretty sure we need it because that's what people keep saying, so we go to school and keep our stories in the back of our minds. Work is annoying, but eating is kind of nice, so we head off to work while dreaming of our notebooks and word documents. Family is important and a social life is (presumably) necessary, so we take time out for that, too.

What happens to our story? It gets pushed to the side. An overwhelming feeling arises: I need to write it. I need to write it NOW. 

But we're never quite able to write as much as we want...or when we want to. And, so, we feel like failures. Like we're not doing enough.

Have you ever felt this way?

Well, here's the thing:

You shouldn't.
Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career
I look around me and see so many writers rushing after publication: They need it, and they need it now. I get it, because I often feel exactly the same way.

But you know what else I see? Authors publishing stories prematurely, then crawling under their desk in shame when they realize that they just blew their shot at a first impression. Writers spending sweat and tears querying only to receive rejection after rejection because agents or publishers don't want a rushed book.

And I see something else, too: Writers looking over their shoulders, seeing other authors and thinking, "They wrote that book in 6 months! I've been working on mine for years. I must suck."

It's not a good mindset, guys. I'm not completely sure where it came from, but I do know that it needs to stop.

Maybe the mindset comes from our fast-paced society. In which case: This same fast-paced style birthed cheese-in-a-can (because who has time to cut cheese?). Do you really want your book to be the equivalent of Cheez Whiz? I thought not.

Maybe it's a need for instant gratification. Well, I have news for you: It's never going to be enough. You publish one thing quickly? Great. The excitement will last a while, but then you'll find yourself needing more. And then you'll be off again, chasing after some unachievable feeling and invariably trip on something, spill your coffee all over yourself, then topple into a bookshelf and be buried alive. Not fun.

Maybe it's a desire for money or fame. Errrr. No. This is terrible motivation for writing a book. Or doing anything else, really.

Whatever the reason for this frantic need to publish, it's absurd.

This is not a race. You write your story. Yours. You take as much or as little time as you need to make it into something complete and beautiful and worthy of pride.

Don't look at what other people are doing: They're not you. They have different goals and writing styles and story lengths. To compare your writing career with another person is stupid.
Don't do it.

Don't look at what you haven't accomplished yet. Instead, look at what you have accomplished so far. Yes, this applies even if you've only written a paragraph. Look at that paragraph! It's yours and you wrote it. You picked the words, you put them in that order. Those specific words have never been in that specific order ever before, so be proud of what you've created.

Don't look at how long it's taking you. Look at where it is taking you. Are you learning new skills? Discovering new ideas? Then your writing has already taken you to a new, better place. It is already worthwhile. You don't need immediate publication to prove that you are spending your time wisely.

Never feel bad for taking a long time on a story. You'll finish someday.

Never feel bad for not having published yet. Your book will be on somebody's shelf someday.

All you need is time. Not any specific, set amount. Just time. That's all. Maybe a lot, maybe a little. Nobody can tell for sure, which is why you shouldn't feel the need to rush. Because what are you rushing for, anyway? What imaginary deadline are you chasing? If it's killing your story or your soul, then throw it out the window. You don't need it.

What you do need is the willingness to work hard, the heart to keep pushing forward, and the patience to keep yourself from butchering your story in an attempt to earn the title of "author" or "author of multiple books." (Okay, that last one isn't really a title, but we're all just going to go with it, okay? Thanks).

Oh, and you may need a little bit of chocolate. Okay. Maybe a lot of chocolate.

But the point is: Don't rush this. There's no scenario where rushing your writing will turn out well. But there are hundreds where working at your own pace will pay off.

What do you think? Can you relax now? Can you stop killing yourself to get your book off and published and instead focus on the act of creation? I hope so.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles: 

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Friday, September 1, 2017

11 Pieces of Encouragement Writers Need to Hear

Writers. If somebody tries to look over our shoulder while we're writing, we cover the words in horror and give the person a dirty look. Or turn around and say politely:

"Look, I don't mean to be rude, but this is not as easy at is looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me."

Though, mostly, it's the former.

Why do writers do this? Let me sum up:

We spend a lot of time up in our heads, asking questions, creating characters, and writing stories. We do most of this alone. We're so close to our own writing that it becomes a part of us: It reflects our time, our ideas, our skills.

So the thought of other people reading our writing is scary, because what if what we just wrote completely sucks? We just foolishly wasted our time. What if the idea is dumb? Then we must be dumb, too. What if the writing isn't clever or noteworthy? Then maybe we aren't either of those things, either.

And here's the thing: None of these things are true. We writers are not our drafts. We are not wasting our time, nor does a clunky paragraph make us clunky people. Sometimes, we know this. But sometimes most of the time, we need a reminder.

If you know a writer, then you can be this reminder for them. Here are 11 phrases that writers need to hear on a regular basis. So either tell your writer friend or, if you are a writer, walk over to a mirror and tell yourself.
11 Pieces of Encouragement Writers Need to Hear
1. *massive, impressed smile* "You're writing a book/story/poem? That is so cool!" Sometimes writers just need to be reminded that yes, what they're doing is cool. It's not doom and gloom and horrible and frustrating and all of the other things that writers think when their project gets tough. Not only does this make us writers feel appreciated, but it reminds us to appreciate ourselves.

2. "I'd love to read it if you ever need a second pair of eyes!" Note: Asking, "Can I read it?" can scare a writer about as much as shampoo scares Snape. Writers love to know that people want to read their work, but maybe they just don't want it read right at that moment. Thus, letting them know that you're there when the need arises is both helpful and encouraging.

3. "Your idea/book/poem/story sounds amazing!" Whenever they tell you about your story, this is the response they need to hear. Even if their descriptions were rambling. Even if they trailed off mid-sentence and turned the color of Merlin's scarf (neckerchief? I'm not sure). In fact, especially if that's what happened. Now, of course, if they told you their idea because they were asking for feedback, lead with this statement but also offer constructive help. Praise, but offer kind tips and thoughts. Unless they didn't ask for your opinion, in which case: Just be nice.

4. "I really liked ____ about your idea/writing." Mention at least one specific thing you really liked about your writer's idea (or writing...if it's published or if they let you read their work). This will convince them that there is something genuinely good about their work and that you aren't just lying about liking it. Because yes, we do often suspect friends and family of sparing our feelings. In fact, we often have to keep ourselves from squinting at them and saying:
Or maybe just whispering: "Friends don't lie."

5. "Just take your time. Do you know the number of times a writer will question a story that they've been hacking away at for years (or months...depending on how long it usually takes them to write a book)? The number is high. Very high. Some writers just need to hear that it's okay that their book is taking a long time to write.

6. "I would/will totally read that!" Don't say you will if you have no intention of doing so. That's rude. And say "would" if you actually would read it, but it's not published/completed yet. Not, "Yeah, I would totally read that if [insert excuse here]." That is also rude.

7. "Those idiots don't know a good thing when they see it." For when they're gobbling up chocolate in a corner after receiving an unkind rejection letter. Offering to help them burn the publishing house down would also probably be appreciated, but that's not moral or legal, so please don't. The more wholesome plan B would be to talk about all of the amazing authors that were rejected multiple times. Just Google it. There are an insane amount.

8. "I love this character!" Seriously. Knowing a person likes our character is not only exciting (because "oh my gosh, I love that character too! What a coincidence!"), but is also proof that we didn't completely fail in the character-creation department. You'll get major brownie points if you mention that you ship Character A with Character B. Major points. And possibly an excited squeal.

9. "This story made me laugh/cry." Seriously. If you read their story and it evoked emotion, TELL THEM. Causing strong emotion is a sign that the story was well-done, so hearing this from a reader is basically hearing that you have succeeded as a writer.

10. "I can't wait to read more!" If they let you read their precious project (or if it's published and you're writing a review/tweeting them/messaging them/emailing them/help-me-I-can't-stop-giving-examples), this is a massive compliment. You've just given your writer a reason to keep creating stories.

11. "You can do this." Simply telling your writer that you believing in them means more than they could ever express in an entire novel.

Beyond that, there are a plethora of things you can do to encourage your writer. Such as: Don't ask these 12 questions, try to understand how our minds work (but don't look too closely or your brain might explode), and help them find times to write.

If they're published authors: Read their book, review it, purchase copies to give to friends, and buy a hot air balloon and parachute copies of their work down into highly populated areas.

If you yourself are a writer: Try to tell yourself some of these words of encouragement. And absolutely go share them with your writers friends, both online and in real life. Dropping these pieces of encouragement randomly will make somebody's day.

Now, armed with this knowledge, go forth and free yourself and others from the shackles of despondent creativity. Go on. Go. Fly away, Stanley. Be free!


Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity
10 Reasons Why Writers Aren't the Weird Ones 
12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing 

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Fun Facts, Siblings, and Writing What You DON'T Know! - A Guest Post by K.L. + Pierce


Blog post on Monday? As my old and loyal followers may know, I only post on Monday's for special occasions or when I'm covering a topic I usually don't cover. Well, today's post falls into both categories  Something special is about to happen and it is a topic I don't usually cover: A book launching! 

Allow me to introduce you to K.L. + Pierce: An amazing indie author. She is re-launching her first novel: Two Lives Three Choices. It is a fun sci-fi novel with heartfelt themes and an awesome antagonist (anti-villain? I'm not sure. You'll just have to read it and decide for yourself). I've had the pleasure of reading the original novel and have to say: I am beyond excited to read the re-launched version. Pierce has a lot of talent and a lot of heart and I am proud to be able to host her on my blog. 

Today she's here to talk about Two Lives Three Choices: fun facts, themes, and characters. But this isn't just a post about her book. It's also a post about yours. Rather, some tips that Pierce has discovered during her publication journey that she's passing down to us. 

So sit down and get ready to learn about her book, sibling relationships, and writing tips. You're not going to want to miss this: 
Fun Facts, Siblings, and Writing What You DON'T Know! - A Guest Post by K.L. + Pierce
All right, let’s start with a couple of fun facts:

Fun Fact #1: My novel, Two Lives Three Choices focuses on the relationship between two siblings.

Fun Fact #2: I am an only child.

Which means I have a grand total of zero experience when it comes to siblings.

So how did I end up writing a book that focuses on that relationship? Well...guess what this guest post is going to be about? =)

While I don’t have any siblings myself, I know a lot of people who do. From various conversations I learned that there was:
  • A lot of teasing / bickering involved 
  • There was that one sibling who always got into trouble 
  • No matter what, you’re still family 
While I decided I was happy being an only child, I was always fascinated by the connection that siblings shared. Despite the bickering and fighting, a sibling could also be your most trusted friend. I always wondered how far that bond could be pushed. If two siblings went from being each other’s confidant to bitter enemies, would they ever recover from that? Even if they couldn’t, would they still love each other?

I didn’t know, so I decided to answer that question for myself.

And because I wanted to write Sci-Fi, I decided to raise the stakes on the whole bitter enemies front.

Let’s just say that the relationship between the siblings in my story mirrors the relationship between Thor and Loki in the sense that one of the siblings is the antagonist. Or maybe anti-villain. I don’t know. It really depends on the chapter.

Anyway, I took what little I knew about siblings, wrote up two sibling characters, and inserted them into my story. Which is totally as simple as it sounds. Ok, no. Those two characters were hard to write and they ripped my heart out more than once. But I love them to bits so it’s ok. Yes, I’m one of those writers.

After the first draft was done, I asked people who had siblings to read it. I wanted to make sure I was accurately depicting a sibling relationship, because it was such an important element to the story. After incorporating their feedback, I was satisfied my portrayal for those two characters.

Now I just have to get both siblings on the same side. And make sure it’s not the good sibling that switches…. Future books! =D

Anyway, that’s the shortened version for how this only child wrote a book about siblings.

A piece of advice before you go. Just because you’ve never experienced something (like having a sibling) doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. You have many resources at your disposal. Friends, family, peers, etc. Google is my best friend, whether it’s surviving college or writing the next best seller (a girl can dream)!

Besides, this is all part of the territory if you’re writing any sort of fiction. Do the research, and write as best as you can! My guess it’ll turn out better than you suspect it will! =)

Two Lives Three Choices will be re-launched on September 15th, so everybody go mark their calendar. Did you do it? Okay. Good. Now go bookmark her website, follower her on twitter, on Facebook, and pretty much anywhere else her website links over to. Did you do it? Okay. Good. Now join me in sitting here and stalking these networks for new book news. 

Also, while we're waiting, leave a comment below and tell Pierce how awesome her post is! Ask questions, talk about your own sibling characters, mention what it is that you're writing that you don't know about, etc. Let's chat! 

Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Get Your Book Read and Reviewed

There are a lot of methods for getting people to buy your book. Some good ones include clever marketing. Some less good ones include running after strangers and yelling, "Buy my book!"

Yep. There are a lot of ways to get people to buy your book. But we're not going to discuss those today.

Today we're talking about getting people to read and review your book. What's the difference between buying and reading? One is passive and the other aggressive. One engages the wallet for a few seconds and one engages the mind for hours. One will get you one sale and the other will (possibly) earn you several future sales.

You don't want somebody to just buy your book. You need them to read it. And then you need them to tell other people to read it by somehow getting them to review your story. You need them to be the one running after strangers and yelling "Buy this book!" Why be crazy yourself when you can brainwash other people into doing it for you?

The point is: Reads and reviews are an author's lifeblood. So how do you convert a buyer into a reader and reviewer (AKA: A fan)? I'll tell you:
Hannah Heath: How To Get Your Book Read and Reviewed - 9 tips for bringing in reviews for your novel

Note: All of these tips are relying on the fact that your story is, in fact, worth reading. If it's not, then some of these might not work. Sorry. My tips are good, but not that good.

1. Read other author's books (and make sure they know you're reading it). No, I don't mean tweeting frantically at J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman. Find authors who are in a similar boat to you. If you're an indie author: Find other indie books (like by checking out this exceedingly helpful list I've made for you). If you write fantasy: Find some other niche fantasy authors. You get the picture. Find your people and buy their books. Read them. And make sure the author knows you're reading them. Tweet about your progress and tag the author. Do updates on Goodreads. Post a picture of their book on your Facebook and mention their Facebook page. Do your best to make sure that author knows that you're reading and promoting their work. Without being creepy. Creepy is bad.

2. Review other author's books. And, again, make sure they know it's you. Do an Amazon review and make your reviewer name match the one you use on social media. Do the same on Goodreads. Tumblr. Your blog. Whatever other platform you favor. And then put the link to the review on social media and tag the author in it. Why bother with all of this? Because authors crave publicity and reviews. Not only are you helping another author out, but these authors (who have their own followers) now 1) Know you exist 2) Appreciate you and 3) Are more likely to read and review your book. Why? Because authors have this unspoken "We be nice to them if they be nice to us" Gollum pact going on. It's weird, but effective.

3. Be genuine. Regarding tips 1 and 2 (and, honestly, everything else in your life), be genuine. Only read, review, and support authors that you actually like and want to see succeed. And do it because you care, not because you're trying to manipulate reads and reviews out of people. That is mean and rude. You would appall C3PO.
4. Keep working on your platform. If you don't have one already, start working on it now. Here's a post to get you started: 11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform. If you have no platform? Well: You lose! You get nothing. Good DAY, sir. "But platforms look so hard, Hannah, I don't want..." I said good day!

5. Make people like and trust you. Why would somebody want to read your book if they find you annoying? Or if you've never displayed any particular skill in the writing department? Yeah. They wouldn't. So get out there. Make friends! If your books are funny, show people your sense of humor. If your books are sci-fi, engage with them about other great sci-fi novels that have inspired you. Build your credibility and fan base so that, when the time comes, they will become part of your army of crazed followers loyal fan base.

6. Ask for reviews. Did somebody mention to you that they've finished reading your book? Ask them to review it. Is this weird? Not if you're polite about it. Just ask them and mention how much you'd appreciate it. Do not pressure them, and certainly don't pressure them to give you a positive review. 90% of the time the "just ask" method does indeed work. I know it's uncomfortable, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

7. Ask influencers to read and review your book. When I say ask I mean: Offer to supply them with a free copy of your book for review. And when I say "influencers" I don't necessarily mean big-name reviews (Unless you somehow are connected to one personally, in which case: Can you put in a good word for me?). I mean people that you've noticed in your circle that frequently read and review other people's books. Maybe they're book bloggers, maybe not. They have their own loyal fanbase (the size of which doesn't necessarily matter). Now, don't just pop in and randomly ask or their help. If they have a book, help them out with it. Be part of their fanbase for a while. Engage. Make sure this is a person who has fans who will like what you are selling. Then ask. But don't do this too often. You don't want only reviews from people who were asked to review your book. This will just make your review section look like you paid a bunch of people to read and review your work and that will scare people off.

8. Make sure your book is presentable. So maybe you have a great book. But the blurb sucks and the cover isn't anything too special. Good luck with that. In a world where anybody can publish, you need to make sure that you don't look like an "Anybody." Do this by creating a great blurb and an eye-catching cover. Not only will this increase your chances of attracting readers, but it will make readers more willing to recommend your books to others. No reader wants to ruin their credibility by trying to convince their followers to check out an ugly, unprofessional looking book. So give them a reason to be excited and proud of your book so that they'll be stoked to share it with others.

9. Don't be manipulative. Yes, you are trying to get people to engage with your writing. No, you should not be using Mother Gothel techniques. There will be no hostages, no manipulation, no stalking, and no thug-hiring. Nobody owes you anything, so don't be presumptuous, pushy, or manipulative. That's a good way to alienate your readers.

Did this help you? I hope so! If you have any questions, just let me know! And if you're one of the brilliant authors out there who has gotten a good amount of reviews: Please leave your tips below!

Also: While we're on the subject: If you'd like to support me, how about reading and reviewing my short story? What? I didn't just write this entire post so I could plug my story. You can't prove anything.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah and have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
The 5-Star Rating System: What Book Reviewers Mean VS How Indie Authors Take It
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
Lessons Learned from my Indie Publishing Journey Part 1

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Friday, August 18, 2017

10 Tips for Writing Characters with Anxiety

Ah. I see you are writing a character with anxiety. Or at least thinking about it, since you clicked to read this article. Or perhaps you were just curious. Either way, welcome. 

If you are, indeed, writing a character with anxiety, allow me to let you in on a little secret: You’re probably doing it wrong.

Now, don’t panic! You’re probably making very normal mistakes. Writers tend to stereotype characters with anxiety or get the symptoms wrong. Thankfully, these are all pretty easy to fix. Here are 8 tips for creating a character with anxiety:
10 Tips for Writing Characters with Anxiety - Anxious about writing a character with anxiety? Don't be! Here are 10 tips to help you depict anxiety accurately.
1. Know what anxiety is. Anxiety is not just stress. It is not just nervousness. It is an almost innate unease and/or panic brought on by any number of events, sounds, or surroundings. There are different levels: From an inability to think clearly to full-on panic attacks. It looks different for everybody, so there isn’t really a cookie cuter "anxiety" label that you can slap onto your character. Yeah, I know that makes things harder for you. So sad.

2. Understand that anxiety is not a defining characteristic. So your character has anxiety? Well, that’s not fun for them. But that doesn’t mean that they have no other personality traits. Your character is allowed to enjoy working out. She’s allowed to enjoy college studies. He’s allowed to like cooking. They can and should have interested and defining character arcs that go beyond simply having anxiety. You don’t write anxiety and make it a character. You make a character, develop them fully with likes and dislikes and backstories, then give them anxiety. This rule applies to writing socially awkward characters, depressed characters, characters with chronic illness, and more.

3. Understand that anyone can have anxiety. Both your introverted and extroverted characters can have anxiety. Any of your characters can: Kings, cat ladies, professors, soldiers, children, athletes, thieves, punk biker dudes (somebody please do this), business executives. Anyone. It is true that some personality types may be less prone to anxiety, so don't shoehorn it in. But while you shouldn’t randomly slap anxiety onto any character that comes along, you shouldn’t be afraid of giving anxiety to a character-type who wouldn’t traditionally be expected to anxious. In fact, that could be a good interest point.

4. Choose the level of anxiety. Is it a mild issue? Or one that can be debilitating (such as an anxiety disorder)? Or is it one that’s usually mild, but can be pushed over the edge during certain events? Choose the one that makes the most sense for your storyline. For instance, a detective with anxiety could feel tense and wired at a crime scene, but it wouldn’t make sense for him/her to have a massive panic attack each time they go to work.

5. Pick the symptoms. Everyone reacts to anxiety differently. Keeping your character’s level of anxiety in mind, choose some symptoms. Here are a few, but there are many more:
  • Brain fog
  • Trembling
  • Inability to focus or make decisions
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Self-conciousness 
  • Immediately going to worst-case-scenarios in stressful situations 
  • Getting extremely quiet or extremely loud (depending on the personality) 
  • Fatigue. Because clearly, being anxious is a full-time and rather exhausting occupation. 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Sound sensitivity 
  • Racing mind/always feeling wired 
  • Muscle tension
  • Irrational fears
6. Decide why they have anxiety. Your character may have developed anxiety because they have a stressful life and were not given the tools to deal with it correctly. Or he may have always had anxiety for no definable reason because anxiety doesn’t always make sense. Maybe she only experiences anxiety in specific situations because of past negative experiences.  

7. Decide when their anxiety comes on (or is at it's worst): Maybe random things set him/her off, such as: Loud noises, being alone, being in a crowd, heights, speed, etc. Or maybe they're just in a constant state of slow-burning anxiety. Maybe only very specific events trigger panic attacks. You get to decide. But try to make it make sense to the character and the plot. Extraneous details that don’t add to the character or the storyline serve no point and should be discarded.

8. Do your research. If you don't have anxiety, yes, you absolutely can write a character with anxiety. If you're having trouble understanding his/her mindset, don't give up. Nobody likes a quitter. Just do some research. Either online or by talking to people who do have anxiety. 

9. Take breaks while writing. If you are writing a character with high levels of anxiety (especially if you're writing from a deep POV), then this is especially important. Writing panic attack scenes or just a very anxious character can (and often does) give writers second-hand anxiety. So don't forget to get up every once in a while. Drink some tea. Go for a walk. Don't panic. Do you hear me? Don't. Panic.
Note: In this gif scenario you are Ariel and I am a less-musically-talented version of Sebastian. Also: I don't have a Jamaican accent. So, basically, the only thing Sebastian and I have in common is that we're always vaguely annoyed with everything. And you probably don't have much in common with Arial because I assume you're not dumb enough to sell your voice to a witch to meet a random dude with good hair. *sigh* This was a terrible gif usage. I'm sorry. Moving on.

10. Remember that anxiety has to be the focal point of the story. I see a lot of books where the focus of the book is a character overcoming anxiety. It’s almost always a contemporary YA novel. Unfortunately, you cannot write a character with anxiety in any other genre. My fantasy novel has one, but shouldn’t because we all know you can’t be an assassin with anxiety. Your murder mystery novel can’t have one, because detectives can’t have panic attacks. Aliens don't have anxiety, so you can’t use this character trait in sci-fi. Even if it fits into the story, adds to a character, or will help your readers, you cannot give a character anxiety and not make it the point about which the entire story revolves. It simply isn’t done. Sorry.

Got it? Okay. Now get back there and start write a character with anxiety! Calmly. And rationally. 

Have questions or tips of your own? Please share them below! Also: Who is your favorite fictional character that struggles with anxiety? I must know.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah and have them answered on my Youtube channel

Related articles:
Writing Introverted Characters: 8 Things You Should Know
8 Different Kinds of Strength to Give Your Characters
Writing Characters with Depression: What You're Doing Wrong

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Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard

You were so excited when you started this story. You just knew you were supposed to write it. You had plans: You were going to write on these specific days, you were going to keep to your outline, and you were going to create something beautiful.

But that was then. This is now and everything has fallen to pieces. Writing? Please. That's the last thing you want to do. Your story's kind of a mess and work has been hard or there's family trouble or school is killing your soul or depression decided to come for a visit and just won't leave. Or all of these.

You just don't have time to write. And even if you did, you really wouldn't want to. Frustrating doesn't even come close to explaining how this feels.

How are you supposed to stay motivated to write even when nothing is going your way? Here's how:
How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard - How are you supposed to stay motivated to write even when nothing is going your way? Here are some helpful tips!
Recognize that life sucks. What? You thought I was going to be super cheerful, didn't you? Well, you were wrong. I'm just going to be real: Life is hard and upsetting and always trying to shove you down. You need to recognize this so that you can stand up for yourself. If you go into your writing expecting things to be happy and fluffy and good, then you're going down and you're going down hard. You can hope, but don't expect. So how do you stand up for yourself?

Take time each day to do something that makes you happy. This something cannot be writing. Writing is great, but you need variety. If this "happy activity" can be unrelated to electronics, that's even better. Here are some things you can try:
  • Pray
  • Exercise 
  • Go for a walk
  • Prepare a yummy meal
  • Read a book 
  • Sit down and drink some coffee/tea 
  • Color
  • Take a bath/shower 
I know that things are probably pretty tight for you time-wise. But if you want to stay sane, you need to take some time to de-stress. Even if it's just for a few minutes. This is a nonnegotiable. Your life will try to tell you, "No, there's no time! We need to work on these life things or we'll get behind and things will be worse!" And you need to be able to stand up for yourself and say, "No. That's wrong. I need to take a step back and regroup." Don't let life bully you into believing that taking time for yourself is somehow a bad idea. Stand your ground. 

Remember why this story was important to you. Make a list. Remember why you wanted to write this story in the first place. What about it was special to you? Why did you enjoy it? Make a list, print it out, put it somewhere you can easily find it. This will help you re-orient yourself when you look at your writing and think:

Know that you'll probably feel better after writing. Look. There are days when you won't want to write. You'll write anyway and really not enjoy doing it. But, once you're done, 90% of the time you're going to be glad that you did. What about the other 10%? That's what this next tip is for: 

Know that sometimes writing sessions are going to feel empty. You're going to spend time on your story and walk away knowing that what you just wrote wasn't any good. You'll feel frustrated and unfulfilled. That's okay. Step back. Take a deep breath. Know that you can fix it later. Now go and do something that makes you feel happy. Even if you've already done it once today. 

Understand that motivation has nothing to do with writing. Yep. You really don't need to be at all motivated to write. And that's your motivation. Savvy? No? Okay, let me try again: You are a writer. And, as we all know, it's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you. So if you're a writer, you write words. Even when you're tired or stressed or just not motivated, you know: It doesn't make a difference. You are a word warrior. You can press forward no matter what. You can write no matter what because you are a writer and it's what you do. Motivation? Who needs it? Not you. So take that, life! 

Be okay with writing sucky pieces. Seriously. It happens to everyone. Don't let it scare you away. A sucky paragraph is better than no paragraph. A sucky paragraph can be edited. A non-existent one cannot. A sucky paragraph can be learned from, can be used to jumpstart thoughts, can be used to get out all the bad ideas to make way for good ones. Non-existent paragraphs can do none of these things. So write away and don't be annoyed or ashamed by how "bad" your piece is. You're moving forward and that's what matters.

Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself. I'm a big advocate for scheduling your writing time. But what if you just can't do that? What about those times in your life where everything is up in the air and your schedule is always shifting? Should you still try to write an hour each day at exactly 9 AM? No. Let me say it again: NO. The goal is to finish your book, not fry your brain and crack your soul. Recognize when you're going to have to change your writing time from 9 AM to 9 PM. When you're going to have to fit in 20 minutes of writing instead of 60. When you're just going to have to throw up your hands and not write at all today. Full-time writers can write everyday. You and I? We don't always have that luxury. And that's okay. 

Be proud of yourself and your writing. Do you have any idea how hard it is to just be a human? It's hard. Really, really hard. And yet, here you are. Alive and human-ing. That's a massive accomplishment in and of itself. Okay, so maybe you're life isn't pretty right now. Mine isn't, either. And I'm okay with that. Why? Because this messy life and this wreck of a book? It's mine. And I work hard each day to make it into something better. And I'm proud of that. You should be proud of yourself, too. Hold your head up high and know, "Hey. I'm doing my best." Because that's really the important thing, isn't it? That you're still fighting. That you're still trying your hardest. Maybe you can't see it now, but what you're doing is pretty amazing. Keep being you. 

Do you have tips for how to keep writing even when life gets really hard? I'd love to hear them! Please leave a comment below with your thoughts. 

Related articles:
How to Write Even When You Don't Feel Like it (yes, I realize this article would appear to be on the same topic as this one. They are slightly different. Slightly. But yes, I did forgot this one existed. My bad)
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity 
How and Why You Need to Schedule Your Writing Time

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Building Your Writing Platform: 13 Tips for Winning at Twitter

Ah, twitter. The fast-paced social media that requires one to be clever enough to create and post clever content that will been noticed among thousands of other tweets....Oh. And you have to do all this in 140 characters. Want to sign up?

Yes. Yes, you do.

Believe it or not, twitter is one of the best places to connect with other authors on a personal level. And personal connection is one of the best ways to gain valuable followers who will read your material, share it, and help you succeed.

So yes, you should get on twitter. But you're going to need some help. Allow me to show you the ways of the Little Blue Bird.

Below are 13 tips to help you learn to use twitter in a way that will further your writing platform. First, you may find it helpful to read this post on how to build a successful writer's platform. Got it? Okay. Let's roll:
Building Your Writing Platform: 13 Tips for Winning at Twitter - Thing you need to be doing (and absolutely need to NOT be doing) to succeed on twitter
1. Start now. It's never too early to start working on your platform. It doesn't matter if your book is still in the outlining phase. The sooner you get onto social media, the sooner you can build connections. It's easier to make friends now versus hopping on social media after you have a book, then chasing after strangers screaming: "Read my book!" However, if you've already published and aren't on twitter: That's okay. The below tips will help you market without scaring people away.

2. Write a good bio. Do NOT leave it blank. Do use all available space. Do NOT use a random quote. Do write something eye-catching that fits the mood of your tweets and explains who you are and what you do. Do NOT advertise your book or website in the bio. There are other places to do that....See tip 7. Do feel free to list off your interests. Do NOT write the bio in third-person. That's impersonal and outdated.

3. Decide what to tweet about. Here are some common (and good) things to tweet about: Articles about writing, social media marketing tips, book recommendations, your recent writing adventures. Now personalize based off-of who you are. Me? I'm nerdy and sarcastic, so I'll occasionally tweet about movies or make some jokes.

4. Stay on topic. You're building a writing platform, okay? A. Writing. Platform. Which means you shouldn't flood your feed with cat pictures....Unless you're writing a book about cats, in which case: A bit is fine, but please diversify. It also means you shouldn't be raving about politics, trolling actors you don't like, or tweeting only quotes by Ghandi. Yes, I have seen all of these. Yes, I do unfollow people who do this and so do lots of other twitter-ers. Good luck connecting with people if you aren't tweeting about what your bio has suggested you'll be tweeting about.

5. Be personal. "What? You just said to stay on topic!" *screams and splashes water at you* I know what I said! Listen to what I'm saying now: While you do need to stay on topic, you also don't want to come across as a robot. Tell people about interesting things you're doing, tweet about crazy family stories, make some jokes. Yes, it's best if they are writing-related, but sometimes it's okay to break out of that. You don't want to be too on topic and you don't want to be too off-topic. There's a grey area, and that's where you operate.

6. Don't auto-DM. You don't want to be doing that, mate. Some people will automatically unfollow you. Others, like myself, never respond or engage with auto DMs. You are on twitter to interact with people, not slam them with sales propositions.

7. Auto-advertise your website and book politely. How do you do that without DMs? By linking your website/blog beneath (not in) your bio and pinning a tweet about your book to your profile. Like so:
Note: Don't be like me and have an old promo tweet pinned to your profile. Be not-lazy and pin a new one every once in a while.
See? So easy. And not annoying. Also, feel free to create a banner image that promotes your books, blog, or writing in general. That's also easy and not annoying. 

8. Don't be egocentric. Your tweets shouldn't all be about you. Your book, your blog articles, your pictures, your cat. Retweet occasionally. Share other people's blog posts and books. Respond to other people's tweets. Tweet out questions to engage and get to know your followers. At least 50% of your content should be about somebody that isn't you. You know how people always avoid that one person who just won't stop talking about themselves? That aversion doesn't just magically go away on social media. If anything, it gets worse. Share. Be nice like that. 

9. Share original content. ORIGINAL. This means no mass retweeting...That's a good way to divert people away from your stream and into somebody else's. Why would they follow you when they could follow the original? This also means no sharing massive amounts of quotes. People want to get to know you, not the dead people who's words you're tweeting non-stop. Share original content direct from your mind or somebody's blog. No, this doesn't mean you can't sometimes retweet or share some quotes. Just don't solely rely on those things.

10. Go say hello to other writers. Don't just follow them. Respond to their tweets. Be encouraging. Be helpful. Make sure they know you exist by interacting with them, sharing their content, tagging them when you tweet about their books or blog posts. Your ultimate goal is to connect with people, make friends, and gain a loyal following. Like mine:

It's called having epic, loving followers. Or, you know, a cult following who will one day take over the world. Whatever you want to call it.

11. Use hashtags. And use them correctly. As in, don't use more than two or three per tweet. And don't be passive about it, either. Use them in your tweets, but also pop them into the search bar to find other writers with similar taste. Here are some good hashtags to help you get started:

  • #amwriting
  • #writingtips
  • #writetip
  • #writerslife
  • #amreading 
  • #amediting
  • Pretty much any hashtag on this list.
  • #ChatWithHannah *winks* *nudges* *shoves towards Youtube channel* Subtlety has never been my strong point. 
12. Post frequently. Every day, absolutely. Two tweets per day at least. Five is good. But you can do more and it'll be fine. Twitter, unlike other social medias, requires more frequency because of the fast-paced style. You tweet something and it'll be gone from a person's feed very quickly, so they may not see it. Use tweet schedulers if you have to....I like Hootsuite, but there are many other good ones. 

13. Don't be nervous. Twitter can be a bit intimidating at first, but keep at it. Don't worry about messing up. It gets easier and more fun, I promise. Try to keep twitter more about connecting with others and less about stressing out over marketing. You'll do fine. 

And there you have it. If you're new to twitter, about to join twitter, or need help on twitter, just send me a tweet: @_HannahHeath. I'd be happy to connect with you and will absolutely introduce you to other cool authors and help you get oriented. 

Have questions or comments? Leave them below! 

Related articles:

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples

There is a serious lack of good good guys in books today. No, I didn't just accidentally type "good" twice. I just felt that "good guy" doesn't mean what it used to mean, so I have to add the extra good.

I'm not talking about "good guy" as in protagonist. As in main character. As in character-you're-supposed-to-root-for. Because these characters have recently taken on a darker tone: Protagonists are often no longer good people, main characters have lost their humanity, and I often find myself rooting for character-you're-supposed-to-root-for because he/she is slightly better than the antagonist.

Nope. I'm talking about the good guy. The upright hero. The character who you always know is going to try to do the right thing no matter what. I'm talking about Samwise the Brave, Captain America, Moana, Obi-Wan, Neville, Newt, Hiccup, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man (the Tom Holland one....The others don't qualify. At all).

Sure, I love anti-heroes. Crafting villains is one of my favorite pastimes. And dark stories? They're my jam.

But the world is a dark place and I think it's time we start reviving the light. We are always in need of a character we can look to and be inspired by. The type we can point to and say, "Yeah, I want to be like that!" The one that shows us we can be better, braver, stronger than we ever imagined.

Some say these character types are boring. I say that's because you're simply writing them wrong. Let's start with the basics:
Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples - How to write characters that show us that we can be better, braver, stronger than we ever imagined.
1. Mix some interesting heroic traits. In this post, when I'm using the word "hero" I'm talking about goodness. Yes, your hero will be a good person. But what besides that? Is he extremely loyal? Does she have good manners? Is he selfless? Is she brave? Patient? Humble? Empathetic? Pick a few that you like. Then choose at least one other trait that can be positive, but may not be necessarily heroic (reckless, rule-breaker, sarcastic, etc). Write all of these chosen traits somewhere next to your hero's name. Refer to it whenever you're trying to decide how he/she will react to a situations.
  • Example: Obi-Wan. One of my personal favorite heroes. He, unlike me, is extremely cultured. He, unlike me, follows the rules. He, very much like me, is incredibly sarcastic. He is also very empathetic and loyal. He possesses many classic hero traits, but the sarcasm really brought it all together to make him both inspiring and relatable.
2. Decide what caused them to be good. Why are they so upright? Where did they gain their morals and why are they so determined to stick with them? No, the reason can't just be, "Naw, he was born that way." That's a good way to create a flat character.
  • Example: Spider-Man. He was raised by a loving Uncle and Aunt who worked hard to instill him with good morals. When his uncle died, he felt a responsibility to make his uncle proud and not stress out his aunt.
3. Decide why their goodness is important to the story. Like most overarching personality traits, it's a good idea for your character's heroic-ness to have a purpose to the plot. There needs to be at least one moment (hopefully multiple ones, though) where they come up against something difficult and their good qualities are what enable them to make it through. Show your readers that upright living is worth something. People like to know that the good guys do, in fact, win.
  • Example: Moana. She's brave, strong, and never gives up. She's willing to stand up for the little people (or, you know, baby turtles) and can see people for who they truly are. That's why the ocean chose her to take the heart back to Te Fiti. Her goodness is also a perfect foil to Maui, who's a bit rough, proud, and ready to give up. She keeps him going and thus keeps the story moving forward.
4. Decide why they think their goodness is important. Why are they so determined to stick to their morals? Why is it so important to them personally that they're never willing to budge when it comes to what they believe is right? It takes real courage and perseverance to be strong in who you are. Goodness doesn't come from nowhere, and it certainly doesn't stay without a person choosing to work hard to maintain it. Give your heroes a reason for fighting for their morals.
  • Example: Neville Longbottom.
    It was always important to him to be brave. Even if he was afraid, he always tried to do the right thing. And he was always loyal to his friends. Why? Because he knew that his parents had been brave. He knew that they had lost their minds rather than give up their friends. So, to him, loyalty and bravery were important because he wanted to uphold what he'd seen in his parents, who he was proud of.
5. Give them a struggle. Good people go through horrible things. It's a fact of life. An unfortunate one, yes. But there's nothing more inspiring than watching a good person come through a hard situation by sticking by who they are and what they believe.
  • Example: Wonder Woman. At first, she is eager to go to war. She wants to stop Ares and put an end to the world's suffering. But she soon learns that it's not that simple. She can't save everyone. In fact, some people refuse to be saved. She struggles with her frustration at the nature of humankind and finds her spirit crushed by experiencing the cruelty of the world. But, ultimately, she decides to continue to do what's right.
6. Give them a character arc. What, you think good characters can't have an arc? Don't be a dollophead. An arc doesn't always have to be a character fixing a negative trait (though yes, your hero can have flaws). The arc can be about how they deal with a conflict, how they interact with other characters, etc. But please, for the love of goodness, do not have their arc be how they slowly learn to let go of their morals. We have enough messed up characters in fiction (and enough bad people in the world). Show us the good guys and don't tear them down just for kicks.
  • Example: Captain America. I've heard some say Cap is a flat character. These people are wrong and I will fight them. Cap actually has several arcs. His first is deciding to go from "circus Cap" to "soldier Cap." His second is his struggle to figure out where he, the old-fashioned good guy, fits into the 21st century where Tony Starks and other such morally ambiguous "heroes" are beloved. His third is choosing between saving his friend Bucky over sticking with the rest of the Avengers. Three arcs, guys. Three. And there are more. Don't you try to tell me he has no depth.

7. Remember that they don't have to be the main character. People often think of "hero" with a capital h. But sometimes the best heroes are the ones that aren't front and center. They absolutely can be a main character, but they don't have to. In fact, a secondary character as the hero can be excellent if he/she is playing across from a less-upright main character. Secondary hero characters are also perfect for the darker stories that need a strong light to keep things from going into the land of Death and Despair.
  • Example: Samwise the Brave. Possibly my absolute favorite hero: Kind, compassionate, perserverant, strong, and a warrior to be reckoned with. He sticks by Frodo no matter what. His bravery saves his friends multiple times. His goodness inspires those around him and gives strength to Frodo when he needs it most. He's not technically the main character, but he's the hero. 
It's time for more heroes, people. We need good guys to cheer for. Characters that fill us with courage and inspiration and hope. Let's work hard to craft stories and characters that uphold heroic qualities and showcase the strength and beauty of integrity.

Who are some of your favorite heroes? Tell me a bit about the hero that you have in your book. If you don't have one, do you think your story would benefit from one? Why or why not? Let's discuss!

Related articles:
8 Different Kinds of Strengths to Give Your Characters
7 New and Improved Versions of the Chosen One Trope
The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Strong Female Characters

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