Sunday, October 14, 2018

Good Advice on Writing: Characterization



Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with them.
-Mel Brooks

In the world of genre fiction, the character is most likely the center of the story. Sometimes the story can be about how the world treats a character, or how the character is affected by the world or other characters, but it is still the journey of a made-up being(s). Things like world-building are important, but the reader is ultimately here to read about THE CHARACTER(s). 

I like Mel Brooks' quote above about characters. I think that writers have an innate desire to bring to life characters to tell the stories they most want to tell, and this is a gift. Writers should spend as much time getting to know their characters as they do understanding the plot of the story. Often, writing a gripping character is more important than writing a gripping plot-line.

As readers know, I am not a writer who tends to plot out storylines in any kind of form. I don't sit down and make outlines and character boards. But this doesn't mean I'm not paying attention to my characters. Because characters are the center of my stories, I must know them as well as I know myself. What are their motivations? What drives them? Who are they?

Ray Bradbury said, "Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left behind in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through."

If writers are like me, they sit down at the computer and pour out their ideas onto the page with little concern for the intricacies of things like characterization, plot, foreshadowing and such. We write from a place of action, where nothing is certain except the place we are going. Often, I find that my characters grow with me on this journey, beginning as a shadow someone and ending as a flesh-and-blood representation of all that we have suffered. This is an exciting, frustrating, and painful birth for us both, but again-- we are headed to incredible destinations!

However, many authors prefer to build their characters like men of clay, molding them all before placing them carefully on the page like chess pieces. In this case, Eloise Jarvis McGraw has the best advice for knowing the character you want to create:

"Start with a character. Choose the person you want. When you've chose him, ask yourself:

1. What does this person want?
2. What prevents him from getting it?
3. What does he do about this obstacle?
4. What are the results of what he does?
5. What showdown does this lead to?
6. Does he get what he wants, finally, or does he not?
7. Now- exactly what have I SAID?

I guarantee this recipe."

Shall we discuss a few of my characters and how they came to life? First, I'd start with Icarus Kane. Readers may know him as the intrepid alchemist and Warden of London from The Alchemist's Kiss. To be fair, Icarus began with a name. It's fantastic, isn't it? Icarus Kane. What kind of man, but an interesting one, could bear a name like that? I pictured in my mind a blonde-haired man with the face of an Adonis and the disposition of a cactus, and I laughed. Yes! But a man such as this would, of course, have a loyal best friend. And so, Archimedes Merriweather was born. Archie is everything that Icarus is not, and yet they compliment each other so perfectly that I knew in my heart this was an epic adventure. Of course, Icarus needed a woman to bring him to heel, as he was headed down a path of darkness that even Archie could not derail. And so the red-haired, stiff-spined Cora Mae Jenkins was born. She was everything that would compliment Icarus, challenge him and nourish the parts of him that were still so raw. When the three were set, it was time to put them in the middle of an uprising, and the threat of a dark mage. I wanted to see exactly how strong they were, you see, and their challenges were many. As I'd hoped, they were everything I imagined and more! What fun!!

Many readers have fallen in love with Jacks Baine from Bound to You. The two stories are worlds, and years apart, but their characters began similarly. Jacks began as a shadow without a name. A man who had experienced something heart-breaking, a man who was tired of being special. A man who was ready to quit. He had lost faith in who he was, and his ability to protect the people he loved. Lia Bernardi was a woman born of structure. I liked the dichotomy of a roughneck man who had something that prim Lia needed, and she was forced to tolerate him so she could get it. Jacks and Lia bloomed, their bond and their personalities growing with every chapter. Some of the characters in Bound to You surprised me! Darva and Kev, for example. The two of them are worlds apart, and yet they forged a strong bond that shocked me. I wasn't anticipating that two of them would escape and find themselves friends, if not more. This was a perfect example of characters running away to do the exact opposite of what the author expected. I was surprised, but it made the story that much richer and more emotional. This is also the only book I've ever written where a dead character has just as many fans as the live ones. Layl was a ghost, an echo that helped Jacks and Lia but somehow he stole the show! Everyone wants to know when they'll see more of Layl... but he's DEAD! Could I give them what they want? Well.... maybe!

I spend hours when I'm not a the keyboard thinking about my characters. Often, I'm asking myself the 7 questions Eloise recommends we ask. Who are they? What do they want, both intrinsically and emotionally? Where have they been and where do they want to go? What drives them to succeed when others would fail? Once I know these things (often played out in my head in dialogue and scenes that never make it into the actual manuscript) I know what my character might do or say in most situations. Every character/story has a theme song, and I rely on the emotions brought up by the song to help mold the character on the page. 

Are you a seasoned writer? How do you create your characters? Any advice for new writers?

Are you a new writer? Did any of this make sense? What other questions about creating relatable, 3-dimensional characters do you have? I'd love to hear from you!

AR DeClerck is a wife, mother and adventure romance novelist. Her stories span genres, galaxies and centuries, but she always brings LOVE to places where darkness dwells. 

You can find her at: 



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cyborgs and AI: My Obsession with the Implications of Artificial and Augmented Life

My Obsession with the Implications of Artificial and Augmented Life



As many of you know, I've been working with the Takamo Universe group on a sci-fi romance series about cyborgs called Aeon Project. What you may not know, is that I have a slight obsession with pondering and writing about the ethical, moral and scientific implications of creating artificial and augmented life. I've always been fascinated by the idea of humanity as the Creator, and what that means for us in terms of accepting and understanding our creations. 

I'm a pretty bleak thinker when it comes to this idea. Unfortunately, I harbor no warm and fuzzy hope that humanity as a whole would treat cyborgs or fully AI beings with any more kindness and understanding than they currently give their fellow man. Am I saying that all humans are scum? Of course not! I'm simply saying that we are not at the point in our society where things like kindness and understanding are the universal norm. 

How does this color my writing about cyborgs? Well, let's take the first book in the Aeon Project series, An Enduring Sun. We meet Sharyn, a woman who has a big heart. She wants to bring comfort and happiness to the orphaned children of war in her part of the galaxy and she isn't above fighting for it if she has to. Sharyn comes into contact with a mysterious man named Ren, who has no obligation to be kind to her. In a compelling turn of events, Ren's kindness ends up getting him hurt and Sharyn even farther in his debt. Something about Ren and his family is different, but Sharyn knows that keeping secrets can mean the difference between life and death in her line of work. Still, she comes to like and respect the men who keep her safe even though they owe her nothing. Ren worries that Sharyn will pull away from their growing bond when she finds out what he really is. This fear is at the heart of the emotional journey for the characters in Aeon Project. 

I can't give away the entire plot, but I will say that past experiences have led Ren and his family to understand the truly vile nature of human greed and thirst for power. Ren views the past actions of his family as symbols of a stain that will never leave them, but many others see their loyalty, kindness and strength in the face of such adversity admirable. Despite having endured much pain at the hands of humans, Ren and his family are willing to fight to protect them. 

Something about this idea that a creation should be cherished but rarely is-- that life is precious no matter the physical form-- has stuck with me for many years. I think back to stories about AI like I, Robot, AI, Terminator, Chappie, and Ghost in the Shell and they all have a common theme. Humans, when faced with the fear that they might be usurped in the pyramid of power, always turn against the things they fear. There's hope in these stories as well. The few who stand with the AI and cyborgs, who find friendship and love and respect, are the characters who really matter. The characters who forsake the standard hatred and look beyond it to see something beautiful--those are the stories I love to write. Of course there are all the stories about how the AI decides that the only way to protect people is to control them, or destroy them to protect the Earth, but then it becomes a question of nature vs nurture in my mind. Would such a being view humanity in this way if one person showed it kindness? If one family embraced it as one of their own? 

The myriad of layered emotions, thoughts, worries and relationships that can be built from these questions is what really drives me to write about cyborgs. Of course I adore science fiction, and I love the HECK out of a good romance, too. Why not combine all these things into a story that encompasses it all? 

I'll quickly guide you through the Aeon Project series so you get an idea of what you're getting into.

Aphelion-A Duet: Children are disappearing across the galaxy and no one cares. When Kellan and Rae escape, he promises her he'll always come when she calls. / Klevessans travel the galaxy looking for the next score, but this ship has more than just loot on it's mind. It's going to save the universe.

An Enduring Sun Book 1: Sharyn and Ren: 5 men desperately trying to hide their identities and live a quiet life meet a woman who just wants to go home to her children. When their past comes to call and threatens Sharyn and her boys, the men will do anything to protect them and the rest of humanity.

Dark Star Book 2: Primary One goes back to where it all started, looking for the thing he cherishes most. His wife. **COMING SOON**

Decaying Orbit Book 3: With a bomb in his gut, Vex's only hope for survival is a pink-haired pixie with an attitude and a pocket full of medical supplies. **COMING SOON**

Resonance Factor Book 4: Sevyn is ready to die and there's only one woman who's worthy of the chance to make it happen. He'll chase her across the galaxy to get what he wants. But is what he wants really her? **COMING SOON**

Terminal Velocity Book 5: Q listens to the airwaves every night, hoping for some way to quell his nightmares. When a sweet voice crosses his frequency, he'll do anything keep her talking. **COMING SOON**

The Stomper Chronicles: (Short Stories) Aboard their advanced AI-controlled ship, Qer Ansel and Turk Prim are always on the move. They're the only family they need, and it's always about the next job. But when it really comes down to it, they can never say no to a charity case. **COMING SOON**

Of course there's more to the stories than I've said here. Political intrigue, the possible elimination of all biological life in the galaxy, spy work, and more. But it's the relationships that really matter, right!? 

What do stories of cyborgs and AI make you think about? Do you wonder if we will treat them with kindness? Or will they rise up to destroy us all?


Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Dark Tower & Other Musings




Like many readers, I find that there are some books, more than others, that leave a part of me within the pages when I am finished reading. This has never been more true than with Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Now, to be honest, not every book in this series has the same effect on me, but the series as a whole is utterly spellbinding and a true work of writing craft. 

I have an old copy of The Gunslinger I purchased in the second hand book shop here in town. It's the one with the pictures tucked between the pages because the first book is quite short and I'm sure they wanted to give the reader a little something extra for the price. Most King fans are aware of the first line of this saga, "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." This is just the start to many memorable lines that litter their way through the pages. But why am I enamored with this story? It's not a pretty story, to be certain. It's not full of princes and princesses and white knights who save the day. As a matter of fact it's a tale of darkness and the decay of all the worlds in this universe. But I love it. 

I'll be honest. I hated Roland Deschain when the story began. Probably, I hated him through most of it. He's designed that way; to be unlikable. He has an unwavering dedication and a loyalty to his quest, and everything and everyone in his path suffers because of it. This "hero" of the story is stained in blood and death because his heart, his mind, is set on reaching the tower. The characters are good, but the story is the best part of this tale.

This series is apocalyptic in a time when no one realizes what has happened to their world, only that it has slowed worsened, a disease that has infested the ground, the sky and time. Roland is moved forward in time *I won't spoil how* and awakens to find that his world, Mid-World, has passed another century or two while he slept. What was decaying is now full of rot, and still Roland continues on. Of course there is the meeting of the boy Jake, who died and woke up in Roland's world. The drawing of Eddie Dean and Odetta/Detta Walker. Those things happen but it's the truth of what fate awaits the universe that really makes this story shine. 

The Tower. At the center of all reality stands a tall black tower surrounded by a field of roses. Trapped at the top of this tower is the evil Crimson King. He is darkness to God's light, I suppose. His minion, Walter, is the man in black. The Crimson King's purpose is to stop Roland from reaching the tower, because the prophecy states that Roland can destroy the King and save the universe from his growing darkness. Spread out from the tower were many beams of energy, and at the end of each beam lay a world. A different reality. Many beams have broken now, due to the influence of the King and his minions, and only a few remain. Among them are Roland's Mid-World, though it is dying because of the damage to its beam, and Key Stone Earth, the place where the author lives.

There's too much to go into with this story, but it's a rich world with depth and imagination to spare. There are some things I don't like about the story, and others I know must happen the way they happen because otherwise the story wouldn't flow the way it's supposed to. There are references to another world where Arthur of Camelot had descendants who upheld the virtues of "The White", and where gunslingers protected the people and the land when swords would no longer do. Whenever I'm in need of a reminder of what it's like to open a book and fall into another world I'll pick up The Gunslinger and read those fateful words, "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

Many readers will tell you that the ending of this saga was not what they wanted, and that's true. It's definitely indefinite, and that's the way it should be. Not because we deserve an ending for reading all the way through, but because this is a tale that cannot be ended until every detail is right. If you like fantasy, post-apocalyptic tales of woe, stories of friendship and bonds despite personality flaw, then this tale is for you. 


GO THEN, THERE ARE OTHER WORLDS THAN THESE.



Other Musings

I wanted to take a moment after chatting about The Dark Tower series to talk about my next book. I'm working on book 2 of the Shadowlyte Shifters Saga. The book will be titled "Whisper of Syn" and features Wang Lei and a lovely but troubled woman named Asynja. Readers who enjoyed Dogs of War will find more background about the Warwick siblings and their father, and we will see the path set out before the Shadowlyte Clan in darkest London. I look forward to sharing this story with you in winter 2018. Until then,

READ ON, FELLOW TRAVELERS. READ ON. 

AR DeClerck



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Real Writer: When You're A Plantser And Things Go Wrong

The Plantser Delimma


As many of you know, I'm working hard on the third book in the Aeon Project series. As a bit of background, Aeon Project is in conjunction with Takamo Universe (a MMORPG that will offer players stories for more immersion in the gameplay universe). In any case, these are complicated stories that are not only romance-driven, but also highly politically charged. There is an entire canon of information already written for the universe and that means... staying within the rules of an established history. 

I'm a pantser. This means I don't normally outline or plan my stories much more than knowing what's going to happen in the next chapter. Most of the time, this method serves me well and I don't have too much trouble keeping up with the story. For Aeon Project, however, I decided that there was just too much to keep up with in my already-busy brain. How was I going to keep up with everything and maintain my spontaneous and often dramatic twists and turns in each story? I decided that I would need to build a comprehensive timeline of the series, incorporate important details in the history and make sure my dates, times and ages all lined up, and work from there.

And.... I screwed up. I discovered that some (albeit small) details of book 1, An Enduring Sun, didn't line up with what I'd decided to do in the rest of the series. AHHHHH! But, thanks to Takamo Universe having already pulled the series down to revamp with a new publisher, I had the perfect opportunity to make the minor changes needed so everything fits together the way I want. This was a REALLY close call!! Now I know why authors with very large series keep story bibles and series bibles to keep all the details straight. 

This little foray into plotting isn't going to keep me away from my pantser tendencies, as I can already see myself adding to the timeline I put together. That's the fun in writing fiction! These characters are dynamic and full of interesting history themselves so it's not hard to go off on tangents from time to time. I can't wait for everyone to meet Ren, Vex, Sevyn and Q and all the other wonderful characters of Aeon Project. 

Hopefully, I can learn from this project and become a better author with the ability to both plot and pants whenever the story calls for it!

Real Writer Out!


Find me at 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Exclusive Drabble: Just for You and the Apocalypse

Some Drabble Just for You


Drabble: (n.) a short work of fiction, usually not more than 100 words in length


For You in the Apocalypse

Young Joel Leen had never known the feel of the sun on his face, or the smell of freshly mowed grass after a spring rain. He had never bathed, had never known relief from the relentless hunger that was now a dull ache in his belly that he thought was normal. He knew no other children, he only knew that he was the last live birth in his tiny village. The next eldest person was Henry Call, and he was almost twenty.

In the last days of the planet Earth there were approximately nine hundred thousand humans remaining, spread out in small outposts situated in pockets of clean atmosphere. The sun was a tiny pinprick of light, barely visible through the clouds of ash that swept across the landscape. Water was a precious commodity, and none of it was clean. Recycled bodily fluids and whatever condensation could be captured from the heavy passing clouds sustained the last remnants of humanity.

Children rarely lived past infancy, so the ones who survived were cherished and cursed in equal measure. Caring for yourself in a dead world was hard enough, but caring for a life that could not care for itself was torture.

Joel stood on the rocky cliffs overlooking the vast desert that surrounded his village. He did not look up when his grandfather approached.

“What occupies your mind today, Joel?” Grandfather asked. He leaned on his cane and turned his brown leather skinned face toward the scant rays of the sun. Every day it grew darker and colder, and Grandfather cherished what little light he could find.

“What’s out there?” Joel pointed at the endless brown desert.

“Sand and death.”

Joel squinted at Grandfather and chewed on his lip. People said he looked like Grandfather, with his light blue eyes and fair hair. Grandfather was so old now, it was hard to tell.

“Tell me what troubles you,” Grandfather ordered.

Joel wondered whether or not he should tell Grandfather about the ideas in his head. Should he lie? He decided against it, because Grandfather could usually tell when he was lying. “I don’t want to die,” he said at last.

Grandfather looked into Joel’s eyes for a moment, and then he returned his gaze toward the sky. “Everything dies.”

“I don’t want to die. I’m afraid.”

Grandfather’s gnarled hand found its way to Joel’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “A man has many choices in his life, child. He can be afraid, or he can be strong. He can be gentle and kind, or angry and mean. What becomes of you is up to you.”

“I want to live. I want to save the world, but I’m afraid I don’t have enough time.”

Grandfather’s gaze locked onto Joel. “You can have eternal life, or you can make an eternal impact. You have the choice.”

Joel wondered how much time it might take to bring this barren planet back to life. More time than any of them could spare, he figured.



** A note from AR DeClerck

I wrote this part of Joel's story for our bi-weekly writer's meeting exercise and it stuck with me. What do YOU think happens next? Does young Joel get to see what lies beyond his village? Tell me in the comments!
                                     ~AR


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Podcast Interview: Bec McMaster Steampunk Romance Superstar!




Podcast Interview: Bec McMaster

Steampunk Romance Superstar!



  



PS blog/podcast fans: Bec is one of my favorite steampunk authors! Her London Steam series was one of the first I read that got me hooked on steampunk romance!
If you haven't read her work-- definitely look her up!
~AR

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Two New Releases!

TWO NEW RELEASES!


I am so excited to announce that I have two new stories released just today JUST FOR YOU!! These are fun, but different, types of stories. There's a sweet angel romance and a feisty amateur sleuth and both are waiting for your favorite reading device. 

Wayward is the sequel to Between, and part of the Key Holder series. 4 angel brothers, Gabriel, Uriel, Noah and Michael fought in a battle against an evil angel who expelled all the angels from Heaven so he could control the power of the River of Life. For their sacrifices, each brother was given a gift from God. Uriel's gift was a chance to find his mate, Anah. Anah lost her memories of being an angel when she fell, and Uriel has to find her and help her remember before her chance to return to Heaven is gone forever. I just ADORE Anah and Uriel. They have SMASHING fashion sense, and they have an enormous love for Mischief the cat. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did!





Murder and Mistletoe is a completely different kind of story, especially written for lovers of mystery and history. Paris, 1936. Seamstress Franny Calico wakes to find her friend has gone missing from a speeding train and she knows that something is afoot. With the help of the handsome conductor Warburton Smith, Franny decides to go to any length to find her friend, even if it means her own life is at risk. 

This story is the first in the Franny Calico mystery series, and the next story is called Death & Decopage. If you love this story, just wait until you see what happens next!




As always, thanks for reading! Readers like you are the reason writers like me keep writing. Please stop by your favorite retailer and tell everyone if you enjoyed these stories (or even if you didn't). Reviews are the lifeblood of today's author!
~AR


READERS NEEDED

ARC Readers Needed!

Do you love to read? ARC readers get exclusive access to books before they're published. If you like science fi...