Antagonists and Villains in Fiction

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Hello, my readers, to another installation about fictional worlds! It’s been a stressful time for all of us, so I wanted to entertain you with another post of mine: Villains in Fiction!

Last time, I discussed the purpose of disease in fiction. In many ways, disease is like an invisible antagonist that cannot be seen—but what about the villains that can be seen? What are they all about? What different types of villains in fiction are there? Let’s dig into it!

“Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.” — Roger Ebert

Throughout human history, each movie, each story tale, has a villain. Some love them, others hate them, or even love to hate these nifty characters. They are the individuals who forge dynamic prose and brilliant screenplay—epic scenes and heart wrenching moments.

Antagonists

While a villain is selfish, naughty, or seeks to harm people, an antagonist—strictly speaking—is the opposing force of the protagonist, the lead of the plot with sympathic values towards the audience. Quite often, villains are the antagonist. However, you can have a villain as the protagonist—or even a hero as the antagonist!

Antagonistic Perspectives

An antagonist can help drive the narrative forward, develop the protagonist, and add color to worldbuilding. A villain is seen as “evil” to the eyes of the hero, but this is subjective. You could, for example, have a character appear as a villain from the viewpoint of most of the characters, but to others the villain seems neutral or even righteous.

Here are some types of villains I’ve chosen to examine. This list is by no means exhaustive.

I. The Anti-hero

In the case where the villain is the protagonist, you get an Anti-hero. Although evil, the Anti-hero believes in doing what he or she thinks is right. The Anti-hero establishes sympathetic relations with the audience and drives the plot forward through heinous acts. An Anti-hero usually has three important traits, which you can read more about here.

2. The Anti-villain

Conversely, an Anti-villain is a character with strong morals, yet accomplishes evil in the long-run. Perhaps an Anti-villain is a priest, wishing to purge “evil”, but he or she commits heinous acts to achieve this. Once again, “evil” is subjective to readers and other characters.

3. The Visionary

The Visionary sees the world in a demented state and wishes to fix it. These types of villains believe they are doing good—despite the fact they may be collapsing economies and killing millions, and they see the hero as an “evil” interloper.

4. The Madman

These types of villains are psychopathic and enjoy being evil, causing mischief, or hurting others for the fun of it. The Madman may have a sense of humor, in the case of the Joker, or even a ruthless, calculating demeanor like Lex Luthor. They will throw whatever resources they have at the hero, even if it costs them their life.

5. Femme Fatale

Seductress, siren, temptress—the Femme Fatale is a female character with malicious intent. Often she seduces the hero in clever ways, provoking him/her towards actions of moral ambiguity. The Femme Fatale may promise the hero power, clout, wealth, or even sex for surrendering to her.

6. The Beast

The Beast is a feral animal or a monster, with a desire to feed, gain territory, rampage, and reproduce. It has a primitive mind and cannot be reasoned with. Some beasts may appear justified for their rampage, like in the case of Godzilla. Others are confused and lost in modern society as with King Kong.

7. The Machine

Similar to the Beast, the Machine has one motive: disrupting the hero’s plans. The Machine is pure logic and can be even more dangerous with its lack of morals and emotions. See the Terminator series as an example.

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8. Evil Incarnate

Some villains are pure evil by nature. Dark gods or devil embodiments do heinous acts because it’s what they do. Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is innately evil, and opposes Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring. Sometimes these types of villains have certain morals they follow, a code that guides them to destroy.

9. The Outsider

The Outsider is an outcast or disliked minority, detached from the world. Though intelligent and experienced, the Outsider is bitter towards society and holds a degree of vengeance. Outsiders may also have a cult following who champion their cause. Motivated by this revenge, the Outsider is led to commit vile acts, often opposing the society-accepted-protagonist—whom the Outsider also despises.

10. Nature

Nothing can oppose the will of Mother Nature, and unlike other villains, this variant can seldom can stopped. The hero must discover how to mitigate the damage, whether from a storm, a virus, or violent earth changes. Fortunately, conflicts caused by Mother Nature typically resolve on their own once balance is restored.

11. The Authority Figure

The Authority Figure is in charge of a lawful system, and he or she seeks to maintain said system through rules. This villain symbolizes restriction and control, whereas the hero may want freedom. Authority Figures are seen in a wide variety of genres—and they can be anything from a school principal, a police chief, or an emperor. While not wholly evil, Authority Figures only wish to maintain the status quo and do their jobs.

Other Villains in Fiction

There are numerous categories of villains in fiction, such as the Mastermind, a criminal overlord; the Henchman, who follows the Mastermind—and others. Some villains fall in multiple categories—they are a difficult breed to classify, and considerably more interesting than the cliché heroes that are often repeated. I encourage you to check these two articles out for more information.

An original hero will often break away from traditional stereotypes and establish his or her own set of moral values, not necessarily agreeing with society. Perhaps this is why an audience finds Anti-heroes more engaging and reflective of human nature. Anti-heroes also struggle more internally and this plays better with the audience.

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more content during this Quarantine with yours truly—and stay safe. 🙂

#fiction #worldbuilding #writing #reading #literature #villainsinfiction

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Reading Habits Questionnaire

As creative writers, we share a common habit, one that drives us into untold worlds, dimensions, and adventures. It’s a ritual shared by many for generations.

Reading.

It makes us what we are.

A writer friend was curious about her own reading habits and started a questionnaire. I decided to do the same. For me, reading is a pleasant pastime. It has its charms and can easily draw me in. I can’t go a day without reading, in fact! Anyway, onto the questions.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Not particularly, though I prefer outdoors in the sun, my bare feet dug into the earth.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I use a taro card. The taro are imbued with mystical properties—the one I use associates with abundance and wisdom. I find it’s ether helpful in my reading journeys.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter / a certain amount of pages?

I prefer end of chapters or scenes. It’s convenient. Sometimes I stop midway through a scene, but rarely.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

Heavens, no! I prefer to separate the two rituals. For me, food time is sacred, as is reading time. Mixing the two dilutes the experience of both—although some water is fine.

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

Sometimes I play music to suit the tone of the chapter. Otherwise, I avoid it; see my above response.

6. One book at a time or several at once?

I prefer one book at a time, but I’ve done up to three at once. Again, I’m not much of a multitasker, as it dilutes the experience.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Anywhere. Reading is a portal, transporting you away from reality, so it doesn’t matter for me.

8. Reading out lout or silently in your head?

Silent and sweet to myself; it adds the sugar on top, so to speak.

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

Never. Should a hero or heroine dodge a quest and rush for the ending? The richness, the nectar, is found in the journey itself.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I try to keep my books as neat as possible, but my hand often bends them anyway.

11. Do you write in your books?

Only in non-fiction. The notations are helpful for future reads to highlight specific details. For fiction, I wouldn’t dare.

12. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, whenever you get the chance or all the time?

Afternoons and evenings. My mornings are reserved for meditation, yoga, and juicing.

13. What is your best setting to read in?

Quiet, peaceful, relaxed. This puts me in a zen-like state to absorb the book best.

14. What do you do first – Read or Watch? 

Either or.

15. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book or physical book?

Physical books, followed by e-books, and then audio books. I’m more visual, so physical novels work best.

16. Do you have a unique habit when you read?

Popping my right thumb, afflicted with Gamer’s Thumb. I blame it on too many video games in preceding years.

17. Do book series have to match?

Yes. I follow series chronologically to make the best sense of it all.

18. Favorite Genre? (added in some questions of my own)

Fantasy and Sci-fi for fiction. New Age and health for non-fiction.

19. Sub-genres?

Romance mixes well in Fantasy and Sci-fi for me. Epic Fantasy is wonderful too.

20. How often do you read? How many books, on average, a year?

I read everyday, aiming for one to two hours. Sometimes, when I’m busy, I only do 30 minutes. I’m not an avid reader, averaging 20 to 30 books a year, in addition to dozens of articles online. Many of the books I read tend to be 500+ pages due to my love of epic fantasy.


There you have it. Have about you, dear reader? Any reading habits or quirks? When do you find time to read or study? I’d love to hear in the comment section below. Also, if you’re blogger, consider yourself tagged!

Thanks for reading.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Dragon Champion

I came across a nice read at the library the other week: Dragon Champion by E E Knight. The characters and the plot were uniquely written, and the pacing fast and exciting, though it started a bit slow earlier on. I enjoyed the read, and may continue to the sequel.

Premise

The plot follows the life of a young dragon—named Auron—from birth, through war, dragon romance, and fellowship. The first half of the book was lacking in its plot depth, as it was Auron traveling the world. Granted, the first few chapters were better about it. The dragon protagonist explores new lands and encounters friends and foes in odd places. Many of the descriptions were splendid, and the fantasy immersion excellent.

Length & Readability

Close to 350 pages, Dragon Champion delivers a rich story in a reasonably-sized volume. The scenes and chapters read well, though some of the paragraphs were harder to read than others. Rewording various sections would have improved readability.

Characters

The characters are a mixture of humans, elves, dwarves, and dragons. The interesting part was the perspective of Auron and his draconic views coloring the story. As most stories follow the path of humans or hominids, I enjoyed the change.

Magic System

The magic felt underdeveloped in Dragon Champion. There were mentionings from chapter to chapter, but little of it was shown. As with my previous book review, the story could have done without it. Although it did help fill in for fantasy ambiance and worldbuilding, so I wasn’t overly concerned.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were excellent. It drove the plot from chapter to chapter and gripped me better than most books. Developing challenges for a dragon provided an atypical approach to tension. I appreciated how creative the author was in this regard.

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The Good

Dragon Champion had wonderful tension, action, and a slew of colorful dragon characters that interested me. The lore and story were rich and enrapturing.

The Bad

The first half of the book—sans the intro—was sluggish and the plot on the weaker side. Some of the chapters were harder to read than others, and I found myself backtracking to understand it all. Other characters—mainly the hominids—felt lackluster, boring, or undeveloped.

The Ugly

I don’t have anything to add here. Dragon Champion was a solid book, with its share of strengths and flaws.

Auron’s story was a worthwhile read, and I am considering the sequel. Its fine dragon characters, unique PoV, action, and worldbuilding made up for its rough start and average readability. If you’re a lover dragons, be sure to check out E E Knight’s work. You won’t regret it.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Wonderdraft: A Mapmaking Tool for Writers, Artists, Gamers, and More

A while back, I did a post on GIMP for fantasy mapmaking. Since then, I’ve experimented with another program, Wonderdraft. Like its kin, Inkarnate, Wonderdraft has some useful tools for building that beautiful, jaw-dropping map just past the cover title of a novel.

Wonderdraft is software purchased online that can produce maps with a wide variety of styles and settings. Unlike GIMP, Wonderdraft is more specialized for map making, and Inkarnate more so. From what I gathered:

  • For clever artists and techno-geeks: GIMP
  • For mapmakers, writers, casuals: Wonderdraft
  • For hardcore DnD GMs, players, game designers: Inkarnate

But overall, it’s up to whatever suits one’s interests and goals. I’ve seen writers produce excellent maps with Inkarnate, and GMs work wonders with Wonderdraft.

What Makes It Unique?

Wonderdraft stands out with its versatility and community-driven addons. Moreover, the software requires a single payment of $30, while Inkarnate is $25 a year, and GIMP is free. For its price, Wonderdraft brings a truckload of options for mapmakers, with easy-to-learn tools that anyone can understand. The software is also offline, installed on a computer, whereas Inkarnate requires a wifi connection last I checked. GIMP also has a learn curve if someone wants to use it for mapmaking.

To summarize, Wonderdraft is:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • A one-time $30 payment to own for life
  • Community support, addons, and more
  • Offline access

To begin, open the program. Select new highlighted in the image below. A menu appears with settings for the new map! Go with the defaults. If a computer is powerful, it should run the higher resolutions without an issue, otherwise it will lag.

A user can play with the styles and templates, for each has a different feel and can be changed later.

For this tutorial, I’ll go with the default settings, the theme being Terra. I’m greeted by a menu of options as seen below. First I selected the landmass wizard to the left. A menu popped up on the right.

The landmass wizard is a tool that auto-generates a randomized piece of land every time it’s used.

This is the landmass I got from the wizard. To adjust the preferences for the landmass generated, play with the menu options on the right. Next, I’ll color the land to give it depth using the landmass color brush. I used the jungle palette for this, but it can be anything that suits the color scheme of the map.

Custom colors are also possible using the brush tool. Select brush size, opacity, and velocity as desired.

Next, I added in some water for realism. Using the lower landmass tool I gouged pieces of the landmass. The result is a series of lakes. The raise landmass tool does the opposite: it creates land from water.

The mountain brush is self-explanatory. With this tool, there are a plethora of mountain symbols to pick from. I went with transparent mountains, which match the color of the landmass.

The symbol tool is where the fun starts. Everything from buildings, directional arrows, towns, and cities are here. Using the symbol scale, I set the relative size of each object. Custom and transparent colors are also an option.

I added in some yellow landmass in the upper left.

The label tool is where I put my captions for each symbol or land region. Various fonts, font sizes, and colors are available. I can set the text curvature, auto-generate names, and add in bright font outlines to bring out certain captions.

I selected the frame tool below to add in a border for my map. It isn’t required, but it looks fancy, no?

The box tool within the labels tool creates legends and cut-outs for important information in the map. Below, I used it to credit the author.

Played with the theme tab along the menu at the top. Switching from terra to pastel produced the following result below. While the map looks better, the directional arrows faded into the background. I left it in to serve as an example; be sure to take this into account whenever switching the theme or color scheme of the map.

And with that, the map is—relatively speaking—finished!

Wonderdraft is a fantastic tool that is easy to use, as seen in the tutorial above. There are yet more tools included in the software, in addition to community contributions and addons that expand on Wonderdraft’s capabilities. For only a single $30 payment, Wonderdraft is gift to creative writers, artists, and gamers.

I’ve created a couple maps for my upcoming novel, Blade of Dragons, plus some custom fantasy maps that popped into my head. Each one was a blast to make.

With that, I hope you’ll give Wonderdraft a try. Have any other questions about Wonderdraft? I may be able to answer, so leave them in the comments below. Enjoy!


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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False Starts and Introductions to Novels: Too Cliché or A Forgotten Skill?

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“At dawn, the sun either shines itself or hides behind clouds, promising what the day will bring. So it is with introductions in stories.” —anonymous

Most agents and editors would balk at the suggestion of a false start intro. On its own, there’s nothing wrong with an exciting beginning, so long as it’s done well. Then again, the last time I read a false start in a novel was years ago. Is it now a forgotten technique, shunned by writers? The problem is that false introductions are usually poorly done and give off a flat feeling for the rest of the book.

First Paragraphs

The first few paragraphs of a book introduce an author’s style—his or her prose rhythm, subtle insecurities, and other narrative patterns. A book is like an onion; it has layers of emotional and mental components embedded into the prose.

This is especially the case in early drafts, where the author is still figuring out what he or she wants to do with the story. Analyzing one’s writing patterns in drafts can lead to improvement and growth for writers. It’s what I do. I read and reread over my manuscripts to analyze them.

A Handy Exercise on Introductions in Prose

There’s an exercise in this article that I recommend. An author examines the first 250 words of the story. Heavily. Dissect it, break it apart, and ask:

  1. What is the purpose of this introduction?
  2. Why is it set up like this?
  3. Is there a hook for the reader?
  4. Is the introduction short enough for the sake of clarity and pacing, but long enough to express its purpose?
  5. What patterns does this intro reveal about the book as a whole?

These questions are by no means exhaustive. Invent questions and discover how many perspectives and shades of grey the introduction can produce.

The first 250 words are crucial to the rest of the story and should let the reader know what they’re in for. Most readers picking up a book at the store—or skimming it over on Amazon—will do this to see if the story interests them. If it’s worth their time, money, and energy. Books, writing, and reading are all about an exchange of energy.

Can the author provide a worthwhile exchange for the reader?

Keeping Introductions to Novels Interesting

I once heard a fellow writer say:

“Stories are like skirts. They have to be long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep things interesting.” —anonymous

While that might not be the cleverest of examples, he did have a point. Stories, and particularly introductions—since introductions are a significant part of the prose—should be short and sweet, including everything that should be there.

Hooking Readers in the Introduction of a Novel

Here’s a helpful article on hooking readers in the introduction. The author mentions driving the prose with curiosity and conflict—elements that provoke the reader, tempting them to read further.

Internal dialog or exposition can hint at a character’s insecurities, flaws, or other issues. I’m not big on exposition myself—too many writers turn internal narration into a dry monologue that is boring to read, but that’s a topic for another time. Still, its a useful tool and it does have a place.

Stress is…Good for Readers?

Readers love stress and anxiety in a story; they hate it in real life—so, give them what they want, am I right? And do it early on, promising them the reward they will receive if they delve deeper into the story. Dangle that carrot! Gosh, sometimes I feel like a drug dealer with these dopamine-filled scenes. 😦

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Don’t be Afraid to Use False Introductions

Approach the introduction with a sense of clarity and purpose for the reader. Have a plan for the intro, and reflect that throughout the story. The promises made in those first 250 words should come full circle. Otherwise, the introduction is nothing more than a prop that can not—and should not—stand on its own.

Striking a Balance

A solid introduction to a novel is vital. Take time with it, and review it on a routine basis. Even after the twentieth read through, authors may discover new insights about themselves as writers. Even as souls. Each piece of the story, the characters, the scenes, are reflections of the author.

Ask:

  1. Is it long enough to cover everything?
  2. Is it short enough to keep it interesting?
  3. Does it dangle the carrot appropriately, leaving the reader begging for more?

If a writer can bond the reader with the main protagonist and the story within the first few paragraphs, then congratulations! That writer has accomplished a feat that most struggle with. Beginnings are, for me, the funniest part of a new story, but they can also be the hardest.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Sword of Fire

After finishing a long beta read and dealing with more hours at work, I’m ready to get back to blogging. In the meanwhile, I finished another fantasy book. The Sword of Fire by Katherine Kerr was an interesting read.

Premise

The story of Deverry is a generic fantasy with dwarves, elves, dragons, and humans. Here’s where it gets interesting. Politics plays heavily into the plot, and even the overall feel of Deverry. Several scenes take place in royal courts, towns, and conferences where lengthily dialog ensues. The dialog was excellent, and the character cues spot-on.

Length

At around 350 pages, the story wasn’t a boor to read. Chapters and scenes were well organized. The author also included a bonus short story at the end, explaining more of Deverry and its characters.

Characters

Many of the characters are politically motivated. Corrupt laws and loopholes riddle the land of Deverry, and aristocrats are often at war. One of the protagonists, a young law student (if those could exist in medieval fantasies; they’re known as bards here) goes on an adventure with sellswords to save the kingdom from the corruption. Other characters serve as nobility PoV perspectives.

Overall, the characters began shallow and dull, but they grew on me later on. Katherine Kerr has a unique way in how she bonds characters to the reader; subtle at first, but heavily towards the end.

Magic System

Dwimmer (sorry if I butchered that) is the soft magic system in Deverry. It isn’t seen much, but when it is, intriguing results ensue. Mind reading, telepathy, telekinesis, and elemental manipulation are some of the abilities used. Nonetheless, it didn’t contribute much to the story. Moreso, it felt like it was there for the sake of the genre: a fantasy.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were slow and gradual. There weren’t many jarring scenes; even the more brutal ones were mediocre; though there was one scene that struck me. The ramp in tension towards the end of the book was, at best, underwhelming.

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The Good

The Sword of Fire has charming characters, a unique premise in Deverry—mixing fantasy with political intrigue—and good throwbacks to history. The Silver Dagger faction, a clan of dishonored mercenaries, was fun to read about and played well into several character arcs.

The Bad

The magic system, while interesting, did little to enhance the story or characters. In fact, the plot could have done without it. Tension was underwhelming and poorly executed into prose.

The Ugly

Some of the old English terms seemed amusing and sometimes awkward. I wasn’t particularly a fan of their usage, but they still established a nice “historical fiction worldbuilding” feel.

The story of Deverry was decent. With its premise, characters, and political issues, The Sword of Fire offered much potential for its worldbuilding and story arcs. Despite this, poor tension, pacing, and an awkwardly executed magic system made the read tedious at times. I enjoyed it, but won’t be reading the sequel.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Ethereal Seals Blog Update 4/12/21

It’s been a while since I shared an update. Editing book one of Ethereal Seals, working on the manuscript for book two, a long beta read, lots of health and healing research, plus increasing hours at my day job—I’ve been quite busy.

Edits and Revisions

After another read through of Blade of Dragons, I’ve finished edits as they relate to changes made in book two: Heart of Dragons. Most noticeable was Gerald Highmane’s character arc, changed from a minor villain to an antihero with his own story.

I’ve added breadcrumbs and Easter eggs—messages if you will—from certain authors I admire, like Arnold Ehret and David Hawkins. The majority of these messages relate to spirituality and health. Needless to say, Ethereal Seals is a New Age life improvement book disguised as a science fantasy.

Publication

I am satisfied with how the book reads. After passing it along to a professional editor and/or proofreader, the manuscript should be set for publication. Then I’ll need to find a cover artist to polish up the book cover.

I’m hoping to expand upon my mailinglist and perhaps hire a freelance agent to help spread word of mouth before I officially publish. This may take a while, but I’m in no hurry. Book two—and perhaps book three—will be well on its way by the time book one is released.

Exploring Atläs

It’s been fun revising the manuscript from its older self. I’ve realized there’s too much worldbuilding potential to squeeze the story into a trilogy. Four or five books is what I’m aiming for. If I could describe Heart of Dragons in one word it would be thus:

Exploration.

There’s plenty of worldbuilding with new kingdoms, villains, and protagonists. I delve into Gerald’s backstory more and explore his connection to the other characters. Tarie Beyworth and Pepper Slyhart also see a sizable degree of character growth. The prose retains its rich worldbuilding, coupled with tense action scenes and romantic feel.

Maps and Word Count

I’ve also finished the beta map for book two. I use a program called Wonderdraft, an excellent program for DIY fantasy maps. I’ll plan to do an article on the program soon.

Unlike Blade of Dragons, set at 130k words, book two will hover closer to 150k. The theory behind the word length is: if your readers loved book one, they won’t mind—and may love—the content in the second installment. Many writers have told me you can take more risks with book two. Whether or not it works, we’ll see.

I’ve enjoyed helping my beta with his second installment of his Eternal Defenders series, a classic fantasy story. As I may have mentioned, sci-fi and fantasy are among my favorite genres to read. There’s something about Thomas’ series that grips me, perhaps the way he structures his world. It also reminds me of some older video games, like Warcraft, Zelda, and Morrowind. He’s come a long way in improving his writing, so be sure to check him out here.

The past several weeks have been brutal for me, from a healing perspective. I’ve finished several short water fasts, plus a nigh 3-day water and salt only fast. My gut felt all twisted up, aching, yet by the time I finished, I felt renewed. Reborn. I’ve also hired a trainer at a local gym to help me rebuild my body on feeding days.

Though still a neophyte to cleansing, the more I read about it, the more I realize how crucial it is. For everyone. We’ve been inundated with so many toxins, poor lifestyles, and childhood traumas that it takes effort to dig through it all. The more I detox, the better my creativity and ability to brainstorm and worldbuild.

Some of the books I’ve read through recently on healing and nutrition are up on my Goodreads page.

It isn’t my passion, but I’m grateful that it’s a low-stress retail job—with a health food niche added in. I’ve applied for additional hours in other departments. With the added income, I’ll manage my expenses better and pay off my worthless college degree student loans.

Thanks for reading. May your cup overflow with abundance, creativity, and joy.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Brandon Sanderson Lecture 2020 Notes

Bestseller Brandon Sanderson

By popular demand, I am reposting these lecture notes given by Brandon Sanderson of last year.


Hello, my readers, I’ve got quite a gift to share with you today. The other week, I watched Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lectures on creative writing. The whole playlist runs several hours, but I’ve put together a concise list of tips that I found helpful. Enjoy.

(Note, the lecture # is just how I organized the notations, not which lecture videos they relate to.)

Lecture 1: On Writing

  • Always chase publication and book writing with a passion, but don’t be attached to it.
  • Just enjoy telling stories.
  • Try things, if they don’t work, try something else.
  • Pantsiers vs plotters; both work.
  • Know when to ignore the rules or the professionals.
  • With experience, you gain intuitive writing ability.
  • Make good habits for writing consistently. (This tip I bolded for emphasis)

Lecture 2: Plot and Character

  • Plot, character, and setting are glued together by conflict.
  • Setting is the least important of the three.
  • Stories make promises.
  • Introduction shows the promises.
  • Remember to detail a character’s desires and goals.
  • Indicate what kind of plot the story is about.
  • Promise–>progress–>payoffs.
  • Plot expansion twists can work.
  • Check out the Hero’s’ journey by Joseph Campbell

Lecture 3: Plot and Character II

  • Start the intro fast and explosive.
  • Sympathize the audience with your protagonist ASAP.
  • Multiple POV cast is a double-edged sword. It is good for variety, but readers will polarize towards certain characters and dislike others.
  • Subverting expectations and promises isn’t a good idea.
  • Exceeding expectations can make some subversions tolerable.
  • Escalate rather than undermine expectations.
  • Satisfying endings are better than a twist.
  • Writers’ block solution: don’t stop writing, finish the story.
  • Epistularies at start of chapters is a viable strategy.

Lecture 4: Magical Systems and Worldbuilding

  • Sanderson Law One: your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.
  • Soft magic: unknown cost or outcome of a magic.
  • Sanderson Law Two: flaws and limitations are more interesting than powers.
  • Sanderson Law Three: before adding something new to your magic or setting, see if you can instead expand what you have.
  • Use world building in service of character and story building, not solely for showing off or building a world.
  • Use more concrete methods through the eyes of the characters to worldbuild.

Lecture 5: Characters, Dialog, and Humor

  • Characters as living tools to tell your story, the plot’s message.
  • Establish empathy between characters and readers.
  • Show others characters liking them.
  • Establish motivation: show something they want, but can’t have. Connect personal desires of a character to the plot.
  • Show character progress. How are they going to change? Show flaws or the journey taken.
  • Characters ruled by: likability, proactivity, competence.
  • Iconic hero does not change during the course of a story.
  • Flaws: things to be overcome.
  • Handicaps: the character does not have control over these.
  • Quirks: things that make the character imperfect, but unique.
  • Don’t write characters to a role.
  • Avoid bland monologues.
  • Dialog should convey likability, proactivity, competence, character arc, motivation, and humor.
  • Dialect: is a personal choice, but less is better.
  • Use dialog beats to slow down scene to focus on subtext.
  • Telepathy: italics with ‘said’ tag, but up to author’s choice.
  • Women in the Refrigerator: characters (especially female) killed off, tortured, or raped to further the plot or protagonist’s arc.
  • Killing a character properly fulfills an arc, or it is the direct cause of the character’s choices.
  • Wikipad, Dropbox, Hemingway are good programs to use.
  • Humor is difficult and subjective.
  • Comic drops to cut tension and induce humor.
  • Comic juxtaposition: contrasting qualities to create humor.
  • Repetitious scenario can create humor.
  • Rule of three cycles of humor with gradual escalation.

Lecture 6: Publishing Traditionally and Indie

  • Agents take 15% publishing profit, but do a lot of the business work.
  • Query letter->synopsis–>sample chapters->full manuscript.
  • Vanity press charges money to publish your novel. Stay away from them and agents who funnel to them.
  • A good agent will never charge you money.
  • Book offers with loan advances 10-20k for new authors split between costs.
  • The bigger the advance budget for publishing a novel, the better the publisher push.
  • Editors want to help you improve the story and make suggestions.
  • You can pay back advance and cancel contract if you change your mind.
  • Indie published authors get 70% of profit.
  • Platform writing via blog posts or website is important to have an online presence.
  • Need a good cover for your novel (300-500$ suggested).
  • Also need good copyediting (0.007-0.009cents per word suggested).
  • Content edits (0.012-0.015 cents per word).
  • Proofreading (0.003 cents per word).
  • Cross author promotions with other authors is a good idea.
  • Mailing lists like Mailchimp are important to form an audience and fan base.
  • Recommended Amazon price for epub novels is 2.99 to $9.99.
  • Be wary of scams or vanity presses.
  • Amazon is now a pay-to-play for advertising ebooks: thousands of dollars a month to advertise.
  • 10-15% of cover contract for Hardcover sales.
  • 6-8% of cover Paperback sales.
  • 10% of cover Tradepaper sales.
  • As a traditionally published author, you want advances that you can earn out in a couple of years.
  • Indie publishing undercuts markets.
  • Less $ for lower word count, more $ for higher on indie publishing.
  • Book signing to improve reputation and make connections, but it is a lot of work and money to pay for travel, rent, etc.
  • Sales within first week is significant, especially for best seller list.
  • Niche genres: mashing two genres together.
  • Free short stories do work to promote for indie publishers, but not for profit.

Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Farseeker

Farseeker, by Joanna Starr, presented a story I’ve rarely read elsewhere. Filled with new age concepts, classic fantasy tropes, and more—the story was worth the read. Let’s dig into this review, shall we?

Premise

Farseeker is a science fantasy, with a blend of sci-fi and classic fantasy tropes. The story begins as a straight fantasy, but quickly transitions. Everything from dragons, unicorns, to extraterrestrials are present. There are a few Doctor-Who like themes such as time travel. With so much going on, the plethora of themes is a double-edged sword for the story.

Length

The book is long, at around 500 pages. Scenes organized chapters well, but sometimes chapters carried on longer than they should have. There were also some—in my opinion—unnecessary scenes that didn’t add much to the plot or characters.

Characters

Thaya, the main protagonist, is the sole PoV of the story. Her scenes were good, but lacked sufficient depth for me to connect with her character. Granted, a few scenes were excellent and marked the zenith of her arc. Overall, she was a balanced heroine with cool abilities, high amounts of action, and mediocre exposition.

The side characters were interesting, but some vanished from the plot, only to reappear much later. This made it difficult for the protagonist to bond or relate to them. Other characters like talking unicorns were amusing to read about.

Magic System

A soft magic system rules the universe of Farseeker, magic of a whimsical and unexplained nature. Thaya gains new abilities as she progresses through the story, some abilities with humorous outcomes like nauseous spatial travel. There’s also technology, with adds a nice twist to the whole fantasy-magic trope.

Conflict

The tension flowed great between chapters. The monsters and enemies were mysterious, unpredictable, and frightening. This made for a dynamic story and challenged Thaya from start to finish. There was some romance introduced late in the story, but it was underdeveloped and not particularly interesting. This may be a device for book two, however.

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The Good

Farseeker has an excellent blend of fantasy and sci-fi themes. The high tension kept me turning the pages, and offered plenty of excitement. Magic battles were flashy, satisfying, and helped with the story’s immense worldbuilding.

The Bad

Thaya came off as an protagonist who could have been excellent, but fell short. The lack of internal exposition and emotional depth—while not bad—felt mediocre. Side characters were there, and then they weren’t. This added a chaotic and disorganized feel to the plot flow.

The Ugly

There was a rape scene I didn’t care for, although it added an interesting detail to Thaya’s arc. Much of prose was somewhat unpolished and could have been condensed better.

Despite its excellent worldbuilding and level of tension, the chaotic plot felt rattling and confusing at times. The characters could have been fleshed out better, the prose polished, and unnecessary scenes deleted. Still, the story had some fascinating information in it and unique blend of themes, which bumps my overall rating to four stars. The new age concepts presented in the plot made me smile, and I love it when I find these types of Easter eggs within fiction.

For the curious and patient lovers of science fantasy—or new age fans like myself—, this is a perfect read. For those who prefer simple plots and deeper characters, you may want to look elsewhere.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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New Thoughts on Creativity

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“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent, with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”

—Henri Matisse

Throughout time, we humans have expressed creativity with a passion. Whether through art, writing, music, or other media, creativity is what drives us to live.

To aspire to new heights.

But what exactly is creativity? How do we define this exotic beast and its role in our lives?

“Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

―Robert E. Franken

Creativity and imagination. These elusive terms are difficult to pin down. Human imagination shows terrific promise. It performs miracles while participating in humanity’s gruesome sins. Human vision has no limits, save the ones we place. With enough ingenuity and patience, the strength of creativity can move mountains. Channeling one’s creativity is paramount as humans. It is our birthright and sets us apart from lower life forms.

Who uses creativity?

Creativity is often affiliated with writers, painters, musicians, and so on. Yet imagination is so much more—even business people can use it. Some say creativity is an extension of free will, akin to our souls playing with our true divine nature, as co-creators of reality.

The Divine Wisdom of Imagination

What is creativity without a guiding hand to steer imagination’s wild nature? There is a certain degree of divine wisdom that handles the process. It’s an unconscious, intuitive ability, one that our rational minds cannot comprehend. One simply picks up a pen or brush and begins painting. At some point, we no longer create art—the art creates us.

All art becomes an inner reflection of our soul.

The Components of Creativity

Here’s a diagram that details the facets of creativity:

3-components-of-creativity
  1. Expertise is the logical, restrictive, and straightforward intellect. A left-brained category.
  2. Creative-thinking is the right-brained category of imagination, fertility, and freedom.
  3. Motivation is the commitment factor—the long-term objective; the journey wrought by the mind.

When these three categories mesh together, creativity ignites within us.

The Global Creativity Gap

Here’s another comparative study by Adobe regarding creativity and how people view it:

Adobe-State-of-Create-InfographicWEB

It is ironic that our world values creativity, yet most don’t live up to their creative potential. We live in a society of mechanized production rather than free imagination.

What will the future hold for humanity if we continue at this pace? Will it change? How?

Here are some pointers on upping your creative game. Forming a routine with these steps—along with commitment—could provide dividends.

1. Do Something You Enjoy

It was Einstein himself who proposed this idea. Performing a task that brings fulfillment can help ease stress, clearing the mind. Whatever it may be, include it in your schedule for that creative boost.

2. Do Nothing

Work and rest go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the greatest ideas come to those who unplug from our busy world.

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

—Alan Cohen

If you’re out of ideas, try relaxing or meditating. Practice mindfulness meditation for the best results. Here’s an older article I wrote on the science behind it. Sometimes when we rest, our minds our fermenting, priming for a creative surge.

3. Exercise

Exercise encourages body circulation. Long walks are a great way to feed your brain and stimulate creative juices. This case study alone suggests that walking improves creativity.

4. Embrace the Absurd

Sometimes the craziest ideas have merit. Many writers and artists, like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, made use of the inane to fuel their creative works. Sometimes, from the depths of absurdity, genius can emerge. It can’t hurt, can it?

5. Another illustrative Diagram

Here’s a chart summarizing ways to maximize your creative potential:

stimulate-creativity-infographic_32181

Creativity is an elusive mistress, full of mystery and the arcane. Discovering the foundations of imagination may reveal untold secrets to humankind. In an age rife with conflict and misery, perhaps the solution is surrendering to the creative child within us.

That said, I’ll finish with one last inspiring quote:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” 

―Pearl S. Buck

Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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