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Posts Tagged ‘characterization’

Did I Forget Something?

My last blog post was about my current work in progress, The Goblin Queen. It was a good update and the book has advanced considerably since then. In fact, it’s nearing the novel length and I’m perhaps halfway through it. But that’s not what I forgot.

It occurred to me the very next day after posting it that I mentioned a bunch of characters by name. Most of them are reasonably well known by my readers (I hope), based on sales of the original Blades of Leander series. I sold tens of thousands of those books (if not more), allowing readers to partake in the adventures of Alto, Patrina, Garrick, and so many others. But what about readers that are new to my book or blog? Or readers that stuck with my science fiction and haven’t tried my fantasy books. No doubt the character names were confusing. Well, here’s my attempt to fix that!

Kroth – First off we have Kroth. Kroth is not a character, it is a world. The world of Kroth, wherein Alto and his friends live. By and large it contains all of the Kroth adventures, but that’s not the extent of it. Kroth is also a world in my Voidhawk setting, which readers of Voidhawk: Broken Shards and a few others will no doubt remember. The most exciting part about this Voidhawk tie-in is that if one world in the void can host so many stories and adventures, then how many others could I one day write given the void touches countless inhabited worlds?

Alto – Alto was born the son of a mercenary turned farmer. He never knew of his father’s violent past until after tragedy struck. Alto’s own foray into the life of warrior and adventurer began after a surprise attack by a tribe of goblins injured his father. He tracked them down and fought them alongside a group of mercenary’s known as the Blades of Leander. In short order he joined them and began his training as a warrior. From there Alto went on to rise to become their leader and make a name for himself until, one day, he seized the opportunity to establish a kingdom of his own bordering on the western reaches of the Northern Divide mountain range.

Patrina – Patrina was a runaway princess of the seafaring kingdom of Kelgryn. She was rescued by Alto in his earliest days of adventuring in a cave filled with goblins. Shortly after, she turned around and rescued him right back. They fought both together and against one another until their love for another became too great to fight.

Karthor – Karthor began as a young priest serving in the Blades of Leander. He is also one of Alto’s earliest and closest friends. His steadfast friendship and calming influence has helped countless people over the years. His chief source of strife are his father, a well-known and powerful wizard named Kar. His mother is a witch named Arcturia that lives in Mira, the desert empire that borders the Sea of Broken Shards. As of The Goblin Queen, Karthor has been named high priest of a temple to Leander he commissioned in the Kingdom of Altonia.

Kar – A wizard that fits many stereotypes. He loves his pipe, his food, and to talk about magic and theory. He also loves to experiment and borders on hazardous displays of magic while counseling others to do no such thing. He’s lived a long and colorful life and shows no sign of slowing down. His son is his greatest enigma- for all the magical phenomena he can understand and explore, he cannot fathom how a boy born of two great magic wielders could turn from wizardry to the priesthood.

Garrick – Garrick was born on the frozen tundra north of the Northern Divide. From his earliest days he hunted rabbit, caribou, and reindeer while being hunted in turn by hungry packs of wolves. When Alto and Patrina were forced into this harsh wintry land they met Garrick and his clan. It was a difficult time, given the barbarians interest in Patrina and the rivalry that grew between Garrick and Alto. With time and understanding, Alto and Garrick overcame their differences and became fast friends. Garrick still fancies Patrina, but his love for her is that of an adopted sister while he still searches for a woman that could be his equal rather than a mere night’s pleasure.

Namitus – Namitus is a half-elven minstrel and rogue. He always has a tale to tell or a tune on his pipes to play, and that is how he found himself a “guest” of the Kelgryn and an indentured friend and tutor for Patrina. With her rescue from the goblins came his, and Namitus quickly formed a bond with Alto just as strong as what he shared with Patrina. Now he works with and for them, traveling the lands and searching out trouble before it can rear its head.

Gildor – Gildor is a relative newcomer to the books of Kroth. He is a guide and archer whose skill is often sought out in the southern lands. One day he rescued a babe from a village that had been raided and destroyed, only to keep her and raise her as his own daughter. He has since suffered greatly at the hands of the Order of the Dragon, but since being rescued by Namitus, he’s thrown his lot in with Alto to do what they can to foil the Order and defeat them.

Grishna – Grishna is the latest introduction to the world of Kroth, though she was not born on Kroth. The Goblin Queen introduces Grishna as the last remaining survivor of a voidship that crashed many years ago on Kroth in the Sarana river far from its steamy headwaters. Grishna’s mother was a human slave that was owned by Zorrik the Merciful, an orc chieftain that sailed the void as a merchant. Unlike her mother, Grishna is a free woman, even before her father and all of her clan perished in the crash thanks to the claws of a massive dragon.

Celos – Sir Celos Lyonsbane is holy knight of Leander. A paladin whose mission in life is to defend his church and strike down darkness and evil. He is an esteemed member and considered by many to be the sword-arm of the church, or at least the leader of it. His life is spent in quest, seeking to banish one evil after another. His wife, Dame Aleena Lyonsbane, often tempers his zealous faith with wisdom, compassion, and mercy. Together the two are a sight to behold.

Aleena – Dame Aleena Lyonsbane is another holy knight of Leander, although she was once smitten with Alto and fancied a means of trapping him to be her husband while she was a serving maid at her father’s inn. When Alto chose Patrina instead she ran away to the church of Saint Leander and, in doing so, discovered her true calling. She trained under Celos and served as his squire until she was deemed worthy of being knighted and proclaimed a paladin. Along the way her purity and goodness earned her the friendship and service of Moonshine, a unicorn.

 

I think that’s the majority of the characters. Quite the crew! Just writing this snippet about each of them makes me remember the great many trials they’ve been through and the many sacrifices they’ve made. With each hardship overcome they’ve grown into someone stronger and better, for the most part. They’re more than just the voices in my head, they’re the kind of characters that feel like friends. The type that you love to read about, and hate to finish a book for fear you won’t hear from them for a while.

 

So I’m almost 50,000 words into this book and writing hard, but in no rush to finish and lose touch with them again! Rest assured though, I will finish it and worry not, I have other plans to keep them close by… but that’s another blog post.

 

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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Please Hold…

September 28, 2016 Leave a comment

For fans of the Voidhawk series, I imagine you’re getting plenty frustrated. First I started #9 and then I took a break to work on something else (Symbols). Now I’m back on it, but it’s taking forever to write. Entirely my fault, but not due to lack of interest or desire. Just increasing demands and, arguably, less than optimal time management. But damn it, I am working on it! Just last night I finished off another 4000 words in fact. The end is near, my friends, but still a week or so out.

And that brings me to my next discussion point. I’m 99% sure I know what my next project is. This wasn’t what I had planned, but for these characters and this series, it’s usually how it works. I’m returning to my Wanted series for another installment. No idea about the title, but I’ve got some wicked-cool ideas on plot and an even more amazing idea for a new character to introduce.

This character has been rattling around in the back of my head for a while, but they never real took on a lot of substance. Some reading I’ve been doing has reestablished the need for this character though, and that in turn helped me flesh them out. Originally I was thinking it would be a woman because that’s a little less common / mainstream, but then I realized poor Carl is surrounded by women and he could really use another guy on his side. Once that decision was made, the character more or less popped into life.

I’d spend time writing more about it, but I need to get back to working on Voidhawk (amongst other things). So consider this a teaser!

Oh, and not to worry, Vitalis and Dark Universe are not abandoned, and neither is my wife’s latest series, Continuum.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Time for Change

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been too busy, really, and using what writing time I have to focus on…well, writing. It’s been a struggle this year. Lackluster book sales and a busy schedule have combined to reduce my output and put a bit of a heavy weight on my shoulders. Add in a sinus infection and crappy Michigan weather and I’ve got lots of excuses, but no real justification.

Meanwhile, I’ve stumbled across a new idea. Not for a story, but for a character. The last time this happened I struggled and finally ended up finding a home for the new character. She ended up starting up a series in my Dark Earth setting and, over the span of the last five years, has been responsible for bringing in a little of sales and happy readers. Here’s the funny part – those books would have done a lot better if they had a woman’s name on them instead of mine.

Waving my finger at the way in which we pick books to read aside, I’m still pretty darn happy with how Katalina Wimple and The Lost Girls turned out. I still love the character and what she’s been through and accomplished. It’s because of her that my new idea is gaining more and more traction in my head.

So who is this character? I don’t know yet. I do know it’s a she. I also know she’s in a sci-fi setting because she’s been in some pretty rough stuff and only survived because of very advanced medicine. Probably injuries comparable to something Darth Vader-esque. Except she’s not nearly as whiny and obnoxious as the shmuck that was Annakin Skywalker.

So where does she go? Vitalis? Dark Universe? Something new? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but I’m leaning towards Dark Universe. Not what I had intended for book three in that series, but I might introduce her there. Set the stage, so to speak, so that she can start things up after book three is over and I’ve told the major story arc I had planned for Aden and the crew of the Uma.

Or maybe another idea will come along and I’ll do something else with her. It’s hard to know, honestly, but I do know I really like her and she’s here to stay. My wife’s books aren’t doing as well as they did last year and she’d disappointed by that enough that she’s slowing down. That means, hopefully, I can focus more on my stuff. For lovers of Dawn Michelle don’t worry, she’s not giving up and going away, just slowing down and thinking things through.

On that note, book three of The Lost Pack is due out soon, perhaps by Monday. Book 4 is close behind, maybe another week or two. Books five and beyond are coming too, she hasn’t gotten to them yet though. I’m pushing to help her get them out, the sooner we do the sooner I can turn back to Dark Universe and Voidhawk, in particular. I really want to start my next Voidhawk book, but I’m also dying to continue the Dark Universe setting. Decisions, decisions…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Breathing Room

September 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I just took a lot of pills. Not the scary pills that put you to sleep for a long time, I’m talking about cold medicine. Came down with a head cold today (thanks, kids) and while it’s no more brutal than any previous head colds, the current one always feel the worst.

So anyhow, whether induced by a cocktail of anti-sinus, anti-congestion, and anti-feellikepoo medicine or because I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, I decided to toss out some random writing tips.

I’m working with a promising young man that I believe has a lot of unpolished talent. We’re writing a novel together, the first of – I hope – many. In the process of doing so I’m helping him fine tune his craft and finding myself reminded of many things I learned along the way. It also helps me make sure I stay sharp on my own prose!

To that end the first item I think is worth mentioning is character detail. It is essential to flesh out a character for a reader. Flaws and quirks need to exist and be described, otherwise how will a reader become intrigued, enamored, or annoyed by them? This emotional connection is necessary – yes, even the annoyed one – because it means the reader is invested. He or she has acknowledged your story at that point and it has meaning to them. It’s worth something. They will read more because they want to know more. And beyond that, the odds are better that they will share their thoughts with others, who will in turn become intrigued and want to find out for themselves.

But showing how Adrian gets red faced and goofy every time a girl smiles at him is one thing. Telling ad nauseum how each smiling girl has blond / brown / red hair to their shoulder blades and C / D cup breasts in 34 / 36 / 38 inch bras above there 22/24/26 inch waists and—oh, you’re eyes are glazing over and you don’t care? Exactly. If she’s got a noteworthy rack then have the character notice it (trust me, if it’s a male character, gay or straight, he’ll notice it). Don’t go into great lengths about crap that won’t stick and don’t matter. It slows the story down and does not improve the experience.

A further reason for showing how a character is without listing their resume is to allow some ambiguity. How many times has a book been made into a movie and the readers find out that the actor playing their favorite character is NOT right. The character is supposed to look like x, not y. The list goes on. Well, we can’t increase the available talent at Hollywood to fit every possible character, but we can open it up to allow the readers to connect with the characters in their own special way.

For example, if I tell you that Carl is a weathered looking man that stands stiffly against the wind in his army jacket, you probably paint a picture in your head of him being older (weathered), and either active or, more likely, retired military. The picture in your head might even have him holding a rifle of some sort (for the record it’s probably an M4). If it’s relevant to the story I might add a line where someone notices his green eyes stripping away their smile to dig out the real person they are. Now you know he’s got green eyes and a gaze that can make a person uncomfortable. The rest of it you’ve made up.

Does he have combat boots on? Are his hands chapped and his finger nails broken and rough? Does he have any scars or maybe a chipped tooth? If it’s not important in the story I don’t know. But you do. You’ve drawn the picture in your head by assigning bits of pieces of people you’ve seen that fit the description with what you’ve been told or imagined. You know what Carl looks like, and your Carl may not look like my Carl. That’s okay. That’s better than okay because that means you became invested in Carl, and by proxy, the story itself. A reader has to have room to breathe with a character so they can interact with them in their own way.

Writing is a lot of work, but it’s work that’s shared with the reader. We, as humans, have the greatest appreciation for the achieving and accomplishing things that are challenging to us. Writing a book is a challenge. Reading a book is too. Don’t scoff, think back to that first big novel you read and how you felt when you closed the last page. You were emotionally moved, not only by the words in the book, but by the fact that you had just managed to read all of a big ass book! And you liked it!

Reading is more than just interpreting words. It’s more than comprehending them. It’s also about tying in what you know with what you’re being shown. You create the picture and the story, the book is just the script for the movie in your head. The more work you do without realizing it, the more it means to you as a reader. That’s the job of a writer, to give you all the tools you need to create an epic story that thrills, excites, titillates, upsets, scares, and fulfills you. The more easily our words are crafted to make it possible for you, the reader, to do that, the more successful we are.

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

How to Write a Fantasy / Scifi / Paranormal / Whatever

November 30, 2011 2 comments

I had a question on Twitter last night that I had to think about. Somebody asked me if I had any tips for writing a fantasy story. I kept thinking of tips that apply to everything and that was when I realized I’d figured out how to answer the question!

If you want to write a story you’ve perhaps already defeated yourself. If you want to write about some characters, then you’re on the right path! Start with your characters. Make them believable and realistic, and that means flawed. Every person I’ve ever met (starting with myself) has gaping holes that stop them from being perfect. We call them personality quirks and sometimes they can be endearing (like mine). Regardless of how full of it I may be, characters need to have them too or your audience won’t be able to bond with them.

Once the characters have been figured out, start writing about them! If the book is supposed to be fantasy, then put the characters in a fantasy setting. If it’s sci-fi then make the environment sci-fi. If you’ve got to much teenage drama taking place in a graveyard filled with zombies and vampires…well, toss the poor characters in the meat grinder. Then let the characters show the reader how they’re going to survive, learn, act, and evolve throughout the environment you chose.

Genres don’t make for best-selling stories, characters do.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

If You Can Dodge a Wrench…

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw anything. This, instead, is my belief that anybody who wants to write can learn how to do so. It might require some hard work and even some time spent in awkward or uncomfortable places though. And no, I’m not talking about the back seat of a Volkswagen.

People write for different reasons. Some of us think it’s a patch to money and fame (and boy are they wrong!). Others do it because they’re trying to change the world. Still others do it because they love doing it. There are as many reasons as there are writers, but what’s the most important is figuring out why you want to write. I recommend this to every person who wants to get into the business: take some time and write up a short essay on why you want to write. This can and should be a personal document, and by personal I mean something you write about yourself, for yourself. Start with that, you’d be amazed at the understanding you gain just from putting it down on paper.

The next part is all about the mechanics of writing. You have to learn how to write. Not the secrets to technique or story flow, rather the ability to string words together into proper sentences. This can be taught in classes, by practicing, or by reading. It will probably be the worst part of the process, but it’s a necessary part and one that all writers are constantly doing.

Once you’ve learned the correct rules of grammar, the advanced class is in learning when to violate them. Don’t think you can skip step 1 to go to step 2 though. Blatant disregard for proper grammar on a repeat basis is also unacceptable. Think of a PG13 movie – they are allowed to drop the F-bomb twice in a movie like that. The trick is to find the scenes with the most impact and deliver it then and there. The same thing applies with breaking proper syntax structure.

Once you know how to write a sentence the trick becomes learning how to string those sentences together. This is called maintaining a proper flow through the manuscript. The best way to figure this out is once again through practice and through reading. Write something up then find a masochistic friend. Have them read what you wrote and listen to what they think of it. And by listen I mean bend over and grab your ankles – it’s going to hurt the first few times because you think you’ve written the best thing ever, when in fact it probably reads like a fingernail on a blackboard.

You’re ready for the big time now. You can write sentences and paragraphs, but what about scenes? These can be all or part of a chapter, what’s important is that they have a purpose and a tone. Every part of a story should advance that story in some way, whether it’s by exploring the character or actively promoting the plot. Figure out what you want your scene to be and move through it. Don’t be bothered if it changes before your very eyes – that’s typically how my stories work out. Some times I feel like I’m just taking dictation from the voices in my head.

String those scenes together, maintaining a proper flow and explaining to the read what’s taking place every time you switch scenes, and before you know it you’ll have a book. It may not be a good book, but it’s a starting point. From there you just have to keep doing it. Perseverance is the secret, not only in writing but in life.

I skipped over an important part, the book’s concept. I did that on purpose because there are probably as many ways of conceiving and writing a book as their are writers. My idea is as unique to me as every other writers is to them. I may share common themes, but ultimately each one is our own. I know I’ve got something really good when the character(s) take over the story and tell me what to write. It’s awkward, being used by fictional voices in my head, but it also gives me plausible deniability in case they ever find the red stiletto heel boots in my closet.

I’m kidding about the boots, by the way.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.