5 Things to Remember When Crafting a Strong Female Lead

Let’s face it: no one wants to read about a weak hero.

Who stays weak. And never learns how to pull himself together and deal with whatever’s coming his way.

No matter the gender, if you’re writing a change arc, protagonists always start out weak somewhere. If your protagonist has no weakness, well, not only is s/he an impossible dream whose story must wholly consist of other people’s mistakes, but s/he is also not ever going to develop. And what kind of lame story is that?

So you want to write a good, strong story with a good, strong protagonist. What’s more, you want it to be a female protagonist. And obviously, since females are more oft-overlooked than males (even in fiction, it’s either that or reversed), this female protagonist of yours has got to be able to take care of herself… or at least be getting there, anyway. She’s gotta be strong and capable but relatable. Right?

It’s really not that hard, if you know what makes a female protagonist strong. (At least, not any harder than writing usually is, you know?) So here’s a bunch of things that might be helpful with that.

#1: What traits make her a strong woman

Far too many authors seem to portray their “strong women” as always fierce, ferocious, and snarky. Now really, there is nothing wrong with a female who knows how to kick butt. But why is it that these same strong women don’t know how to comfort people? Why do they not recognize the power of mercy and compassion? Why do they get away with saying rude or disrespectful things to their superiors?

Some traits that, simply put, make any protagonist a strong protagonist: compassion, patience, kindness, gentleness, courage (which is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to overcome it), understanding of weakness, humility… I could go on. You can refer to the Bible for a full list, if you like. Besides that, to my understanding, many other popular religions do mention these character traits as well. (Although, of course, being Christian, and writing on a God-centered blog, I would obviously recommend the Bible as the most reliable source of this kind of information. 😉)

#2: She cannot rely on herself to be strong

This is one of the more controversial topics in this list, though I don’t see why. Most authors should be able to see that inner strength isn’t exactly something you can draw out from within yourself. If that were so, no author would need an entire team of supporters getting their book out into the world!

My point is, you can’t rely on yourself to be strong. Your main character would be no fun to read about if s/he could draw strength from within themselves. (After all, what then would be the point of awesome side characters?)

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that strength does not necessarily come from flawed love. Her boyfriend/male love interest may be supportive of her, but people do not draw strength from other people, either.

#3: There’s a difference between softness and weakness

Compassion and empathy are some of the most important traits of being strong, whether your character is a man or woman. Humans are empathetic creatures; that’s what makes us more than creatures, among other things. Believe it or not, compassion is not a sin. Moreover, it’s not a weakness.

The ability to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness is true strength (and again, that doesn’t come from within her!). Why are authors so opposed to compassionate characters when our own God is a God of endless love and endless mercy? A strong female character would, obviously, strive for the character of God, rather than going the opposite way.

#4: She doesn’t need to “beat” the boys to be a hero

This is kind of tricky. Women are used to being considered “weaker” than men. In lots of situations, they do fight their way to the top. While I’m not opposed to working hard to achieve their goals, I do believe that actually fighting or being cruel is pretty detrimental in this “strong woman” case.

While there’s nothing wrong with a girl charrie proving she’s capable of defending herself, that’s not what’s going to automatically endear her to your readers. That’s an old trick, and we’re not gonna fall for it that easily. As with all tropes, make it yours. Don’t beat up the poor guys for no reason. (And don’t make it unrealistic, either…)

#5: She can’t start out all strong and ready

Unless you plan on writing a static character, in which case the story will end up centered around the plot rather than around her. Static characters (characters without a change arc) are perfectly fine, whether as side characters or even main characters, if you play it right. But again, if you want the story to be her story, then she will change. And let’s hope for the better.

No one can be 100% strong in all areas; it doesn’t work that way. She can start out strong in some areas and, throughout the story, learn how to grow in those areas as well as become stronger in her weaknesses. Reversely, no one at the beginning of the story is 100% weak in all areas. That would mean there’s no hope, and there’s no such thing as no hope.


Remember that even if your character is strong, she’s not perfect. Even in her strongest areas she can still be weak and stumble sometimes. But that’s human. (Even if your character isn’t biologically human.) It’s relatable. That’s what makes them strong, because they’re able to keep going even when they’ve fallen too many times to count.

So go on and show the world what she’s made of!

Until next time,

So you want to write a book…

I would wager that over half of you guys are novelists. Dreamers, writers, cheaters of sleep. There are millions of ways to say it.

Every writer aspires to became the next J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan. They have the idea in their head, but their fingers fail to put that idea into words. Well, I have the solution for you.


Get your idea

Every great story starts with an idea, and I’m sure there are thousands of wonderful ideas bouncing around in your head. So pick one idea and stick to it.

Let’s say you decide to write a novel about a girl and her desire to bike across Canada. You have the main character and basic plot line already!

Flesh the idea out

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself when fleshing out a plot.

  • Who will the story be focusing on?
  • What is the character’s goal?
  • What/who will get in the way?
  • How will it end?

Yeah, that’s basically the summery of a best-selling novel right there. If you can answer all four questions then the only thing you need is to write it all out.

So this story will be about Meredith who wants to win a bike race across Canada. But then there’s a guy named Tommy who keeps sabotaging her equipment and causing all kinds of trouble. And the story ends with Tommy bing caught and Meredith winning the race.

By now the novel is half written.

Write, don’t write, and stress about writing

Now for everyone’s favorite and most awaited part of the process. The action of sitting down at your desk ready to write and ending up staring at a blank page for two hours and falling down internet rabbit holes.

For draft one I would advise to write whatever comes to mind. Write and write and write no matter how awful it may be later. The important thing to keep in mind is that you can always come back another time.

Edit the beast

So now all your sleepless nights have paid off and you’re holding a completed first draft. Great.

Go throw that draft in the shredder and whatever words come out whole are the lucky few who don’t see the delete button.

Just kidding. But it is time to get out the red pen and make all the corrections and critques. That includes lots and lots of re-writing, groaning at stupid spelling mistakes, or frantic brain actitivy when you try to remember the eye color of extra man on the left who you gave a whole backstory to one night.

If you’re real brave, you can even throw the book out to beta readers and let them pick it apart. And after months of rewriting, you’ll be left with maybe 0.001% of the oringal story. You believe in your abilites, think this story will never get better, and am certian Meredith’s journey is something everyone needs in life.

That’s when you hit the fork in the road.

Publishing

Do you take traditional publishing and risk every publisher rejecting your small child, or do you self-publish and risk having boxes of books sitting in your garage because no one bought a copy? That is the question of the century.

I would reccomend looking into both options before choosing the one you think would work best.

And that my friends, is how to write a novel.


I hope everyone has a wonderful day and writes those first words of chapter one.

2 Ways to Add Suspense! + Winter Short Story Contest Info

Hello, dear readers! Its good to be back to the blog after our little Christmas hiatus. I hope you guys had a wonderful holiday season!

Many of you have been awaiting the arrival of the new short story contest, and trust me, it’s totally worth getting excited about! Stick around to the end of the post (or scroll down, read it, and come back up) to find the details and theme for this season!

Now, let’s talk about suspense. Suspense is VITAL to a story, because it’s what keeps readers reading. In this post I’m going to be talking about two ways of adding suspense, but they are by no means the only ways.

The first way is very easy to incorporate in most stories, as it lines up very well with the basic plot mountain. I like to call it the make-it-worse approach. You simply take an already tense situation and you make the result more and more personal for each person involved, and the situation seem exceedingly dire as the story progresses. Each time you worsen the situation for your character is like a plot beat during the rising action. The climax is generally when it either all falls apart on them or they find a solution to their problem.

The second way is fairly common, and it’s using dramatic irony. Give the reader information that one or more of the characters don’t have. The reader knows the character(s) will have to find out at some point, and so they wait on the edge of their seat for the big reveal they know is coming.

Now, here’s the best part of these two suspense-adding-strategies: combining them makes them more powerful. By making the consequences of a big, immanent reveal worse, the tension also increases.

Let’s come up with an example. Say there’s this guy… we’ll call him Jeff. Jeff has a secret. If it gets out it could ruin his reputation. Now, we can both add dramatic irony and make it worse for Jeff in one fell swoop by adding another little detail. Jeff has a girlfriend. She doesn’t know his secret. Now if the secret gets out it will ruin his reputation AND his relationship. We can keep making it worse by putting Jeff in positions where he has to lie to keep the secret hidden or making the secret something that will specifically affect Jeff’s girlfriend. There are endless possibilities. Now that was a fairly generic example, but I hope it helped you learn something about suspense or give you some ideas for one of your own pieces of writing.

If you want to read a book where both dramatic irony and the make-it-worse approach are both used masterfully, I encourage you to check out the Renegades series by Marissa Meyer.


Alright, now it’s time to reveal the details of Lantern and Spark’s Candlelight Contest for Winter of 2020! If you don’t know who Lantern and Spark are, they’re our mascots that run our Instagram account.

Now, for the theme…. it’s twisted fairytales, people! Twisted. Faiytales.

We’re doing it a little differently than we did last season. Instead of having prompts, we have this nifty form. If you click on that link it will take you to a Google form where you will answer some questions for us. Based on your answers we will assign you a fairytale to put a spin on for your short story.

If you’re interested in joining, we need you to fill out that form by February 1st, so we can get you your fairytale assignment ASAP. The submission date for your completed short story is March 12th, so you have from when you get your fairy tale assignment (no more than a week after you fill out the form) until March 12th to write your story. We will announce the winner on March 29th.

We also have some AWESOME guest judges this season. Along with Abigail Harder, who is our official story judge, we also have the winner of last season’s short story contest: Hannah Schuck. You can read her winning entry here if you missed it. Joining forces with those two awesome people are Oceane McAllister, Skye Hoffert,and Lila Kims!

This contest also comes with prizes! The winner will win a copy of The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson*, as well as a couple other little goodies!

We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! Remember that the official contest rules and information on how to submit are over on our Short Story Contest Page.

*This contest is not affiliated with or endorsed by Melanie Dickerson


Until next time,

How to read more books this year

We have all seen this on the book dragons’ New Year Goals: to read more books.

They go into the new year with high expetations envisioning themselves churning through their lengthy TBR. But around February life catches up and the book reading goal is cast aside.

And then suddenly it’s November and they’ve only completed 35% of that goal.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can read 200 books in one year if you do it correctly.

Tip number one

Audiobooks. They are the perfect way to pass the lonely commutes to work or school or good background sounds when cleaning the house.

I would reccomend borrowing audiobooks from your library using the app Overdrive, but that only works if your library permits it.

Tip number two

Take reccomendations. You’re at a loss of what to read and am neglecting the TBR list. What’s the wisest thing to do?

Ask your friends for some reccomendations and read their favorite book. it’s a good way to find new genres, authors, and series.

Tip number three

Reread the old favorites. You aren’t sure what to read and none of your new books are pleasing you? Well, pick up your battered and dog-eared copy of Harry Potter or Keeper and read.

The memories that surface from reading a childhood favorite are so lovely and you know for sure that you’ll love the characters, plot line, and friendly banter.

Tip number four

Now this may not work for everyone depending on the amount of free time they have, but I would reccomend it nonetheless. Go sign up for a local book club or form one yourself.

There’s nothing like sitting around with friends and tea reading a classic or horror book. Plus you can discuss the books’ events later on and fight over who get’s the handsom protagonist.

Tip number five

Find time. If there’s one thing that stops me from reading, it’s the lack of time. Now if I got off the internet and read, then there’s nothing stopping me from reading 3 books a day.

But since I have the tendancy to not feel creative until 9:30 at night, that leaves a large portion of the afternoon empty. Find the time in your schedule where you can sit and read a handful of chapters. Maybe your afternoon is full, then try before bed.


Well I suppose that draws the post to an end. Today is the second last day of 2019 and I hope you all thrive in the new year.

Have a lovely day everyone!

Song & Book Tag + Giveaway Winner!

Hello dear readers! I wanted to do a book tag today, so I scoured the internet and found this one over at Bookishly Rebecca. I thought it was awesome how it incorporated music and books, since the two often go hand in hand for me.

The winner of the TotLS Blog Tour giveaway will be announced at the end of this post, so stick around for that!

Without further ado…

My Jam: A song and a book that will never get old, no matter how many times your read/listen to it

Song: Honestly, any song on my playlist. I’m a listen-on-repeat kind of girl. Right now, I really love anything by Faouzia or Cimorelli. Just… all of it.

Book: I’m the kind of person that re-reads books ALL. THE. TIME. However, Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (and everything by Ally Carter, to be honest) is a go to for me. Its the third book in the Heist Society series and I love it so much.

Replay: A recent song you have on repeat and a recent favorite book

Song: I’m going to this interpret this as a song that’s new to me, even if it’s been out for a while. I found Everything Everything on Abbie Emmons’ 100 Days of Sunlight Playlist and have been jamming to it ever since.

Book: A book I read recently is Supernova by Marissa Meyer, and it was an amazing read! It was a great way to end the Renegades trilogy, even though I am sad that its over….

Gets Me: A song that is literally me and a book that is me in book form

Song: Maybe When Will My Life Begin from Tangled, although it probably changes based on my mood on a day to day basis.

Book: Maybe Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli or I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter, because I relate to Stargirl and Cammie a lot. Maybe also Tessa from 100 Days of Sunlight.

Wut: A weird song that you like anyways and a unique book that stuck out to you for some reason

Song: There’s this song called Soldier, Poet, King by the Oh Hellos that I really like for some reason. It’s just fun to me.

Book: Spelled by Betsy Schow is the first book that comes to mind. Its the first book in the series and the books only get more unique as the story goes on.

Let’s Go: Pick your best pump up song and a book that inspires you

Song: Unstoppable by The Score, no question. Its what I listen to while writing fight scenes.

Book: How many times have I mentioned 100 Days of Sunlight at this point? A lot. But still, its my answer.

Chill: Your best chill or relaxing song and a book you’d curl up with on a rainy day 

Song: Anything by Kina Grannis. My favorite song by her is probably Gone, but any and all of her songs are beautiful and relaxing.

Book: Either Heartless by Marissa Meyer or Romanov by Nadine Brandes. Sad books for rainy days. Also, both of their covers are to die for.

Nostalgia: A throwback song you look back on fondly and a book you read and loved when you were young

Song: Anything that was on my mom’s road trip CD as I was growing up, and Little Wonders by Rob Thomas.

Book: This list is rather long, I’ve been a reader all my life. However, The Sisters Grimm series is still on my shelf and much beloved after all this time, so I think I’ll go with that.


I didn’t do all of the questions in the tag, because some of them I just could not think of answers for, but I hope you enjoyed the answers I gave! If you want to, check out any of the songs or books that I mentioned!


Now, I know you are all very curious as to who won the Blog Tour Giveaway.

The winner is…

Gemma K.!

We’ll be contacting Gemma about her prize package very soon. Congratulations!


Well, that about wraps up today’s post. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Until next time,

*All book cover images used on this post were taken from Amazon.com

Writing Prompts to Inspire you Today

Greetings! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the blog tour; it means a lot to us. Today I’m going to be sharing some writing prompts I made, but I’d like to clarify that these are not for the winter story contest. These are to inspire you to write something.

I challenge you to go write a short story (or a poem, if you wish) with one of those. Don’t second guess yourself; don’t worry about what other’s would think of it. Just write.

Have a beautiful day! Happy writing. 🙂

Announcing the Story of the Season!

It’s finally time for the post you’ve all been waiting for!

Our winter story contest will be announced later this month– keep an eye out for that; we’re really excited about it! Before we continue, we want to thank all who entered! Your stories are amazing, each and every one of them, and we offer our sincerest congratulations to the winner. 🙂

Now we’re going to keep this short and sweet.

And now… without further ado… here’s the story that won the contest!

BY HANNAH SCHUCK!

Congratulations, Hannah 🙂

For those of you interested in reading this story, click the graphic above and it’ll take you to the page! We hope you enjoy!

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway we’re hosting during this blog tour (U.S. and Canada only– so, so sorry, international folksies! Yes, this IS Merie here)!

~ CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY ~

Always be a happy camper!

Tales of the Lonely Sun Blog Tour + Giveaway

The blog tour has finally come! I cannot express the excitement I have, mainly because this is the first tour I’ve hosted.

First of all, I want to thank everyone that took the time to sign up and participate in the tour. We really couldn’t have done it without you.

Here is the lovely schedule featuring everyone who signed up.

Monday, Dec. 9

INTRO @ Tales of the Lonely Sun

Angela Watts: Blog Spotlight @ The Peculiar Messenger

Jenna Terese: Guest Post by Merie @ Jenna Terese

Kellyn Roth: Blog Spotlight/Guest Post by Merie @ Reveries

Kim: Blog Spotlight @ The Writing Process

Kristen Hogrefe: Guest Post by Jorja @ Kristen Hogrefe

Jennifer Guyer: Interview with Merie @ Fantasy Ordinary

M.H. Elrich: Interview with the Team @ M.H. Elrich

Tuesday, Dec. 10

Sabrina: Blog Spotlight/Interview with Jorja @ Confessions of a Writer

Elizabeth Dragina: Guest Post by Merie @ Elizabeth’s Corner

Mark Borne: Interview with the Team @ The Mark Borne Nexus

Wednesday, Dec. 11

Abigail Harder: Blog Spotlight @ Books, Life, and Christ

Grace: Guest Post by Merie @ Grace M. Morris

Thursday, Dec. 12

~ ANNOUNCING SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNER ~ @Tales of the Lonely Sun

Friday, Dec. 13

Diamond: Interview with the Team @ I Have 12% of a Plan

Abigail Harris: Guest Post by Merie @ Read Write Breathe

Saturday, Dec. 14

Ash Ronnel: Interview with the Team @ Ash Ronnel

Jo: Blog Spotlight/Interview with Merie @ Pananaw

Maya: Blog Spotlight/Interview with the Team @ Wandering Wordsmith

Isabel Olivetti: Blog Spotlight/Guest Post by Mya @ Chasing Fantasia


Now onto the part everyone cannot wait for:

The giveaway!

In order to enter the allotted amount of times and further your chances of winning, you must

  • Follow us at @talesofthelonelysun on Instagram
  • Follow this blog
  • Comment on a blog post
  • Read a book we recommend
  • And be a happy camper

If you win you’ll receive a signed copy of Hide and Seek by Mya, a hardcover copy of Romanov by Nadine Brandes, some bookish stickers, assorted tea bags, and a 10$ Amazon gift card.


Now have a wonderful day and don’t forget to tell all your friends about this blog tour!

Fleshing Out a Story: Side Characters and Subplots

Hello dear readers! NaNoWriMo is over, and my brain has still not fully recovered. I didn’t manage to hit the 50k, since a lot of life stuff stole my writing time towards the end of the month, but I still managed to make a lot of progress, so I’ll take it. Today I’m gonna be talking about how to develop a story world.

Now, after reading the title, you may be confused as to how it plays into world building. You may be thinking, “Jorja, ‘world building’ and ‘side characters and subplots’ are two different topics.” To which I say: “Usually, yes. But not today!”

Think about this: How many people are in the world? Billions. And all of those people have stories. People make up cultures, they make up countries, they make up worlds. Which means that side characters and subplots are both crucial to world building.

Think about the settings in your world. If its a contemporary, maybe there’s a school, and the mall. If its a classic fantasy, maybe there is a market, and a palace and a little hovel in the woods. What do all of these places have in common? They are occupied with people. People who might help your characters on their journey, or hinder their progress. People who might have a wonderful life, or might just barely be getting by. Incorporating these people into your story makes your world seem bigger and more complete.

Side characters and subplots go hand in hand, since subplots are basically the character arcs and journeys of the secondary characters. The important thing to keep in mind is that they have to be beneficial to the main plot of the story. If they don’t relate to the plot, or really affect your main characters in anyway, then it will feel disconnected from your story, and readers will dub it ‘unnecessary’. There are several ways to avoid this. Maybe your main character learns something from their encounter with the side character, maybe the subplot sparks a major plot event. Let your imagination run wild and have fun with it. The subplots in my current WIP are some of my favorite things to write.

There’s no one right way to incorporate side characters and subplots, but one way to make sure they are present is to never create a “throwaway character”. Every time you create a new character, consider the impact they will have on your characters or plot. Even if it’s something small, like them performing a kind act that reminds your main character that there is good in the world.

Make sure everything has a purpose.


Well, that’s all I have for you today. I hope you found this post helpful and incorporate some amazing side characters and subplots into your writing!

Until next time,

What makes Middle Grade Fiction Special

Middle Grade fiction is often overlooked in online bookish communities. Even though some of the most renowned book series are middle grade—like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Giver Quartet—the rest of the genre is more or less ignored. I’ve found that many MG books are not only great for younger audiences, but teenagers and adults as well.

One thing that is usually very apparent when you compare a middle grade and a young adult book is the content. With YA books you have to be careful if you want to avoid a lot of negative content. With MG you’re safer. There may be the rare book with a mild swear word, but for the most part MG is clean.

Story wise, MG also has some factors that distinguish it from YA. This can be expected, as they are intended for different audiences, but the themes presented in MG are important for any age group. One such is friendship and everything that encompasses it: loyalty, trust, love, sacrifice, etc. MG often includes close friend groups with diverse personalities and unique relationships between them. I love reading books with this. In YA, the main character usually has a few friends, but a couple of those are most likely love interests.

MG also showcases characters working together as a team. YA tends to value independence and inner journey, where MG focuses more on others and working together. Characters learn to balance each other out with their strengths and weaknesses, solve problems together, and get along so that they can work toward a greater good.

Middle grade is also more fast paced. Going into a MG I can look forward to thrilling adventure filled with twists and turns. Though slower paced books can be just as amazing, MG books are great for getting out of a reading slump or rushing to win your Goodreads reading challenge. Their fast plots make them exciting, fun, and all around entertaining.

If it’s been a while since you’ve read a middle grade book, I encourage you to pick one up! Even if they are under your reading level, they are still fun and offer some good life lessons. Let me know if you want some suggestions! YA books are great, but MG is also special to me.

Have a beautiful day, everyone. 🙂