Settings: five easy tips for beginners

If there’s one thing that writers never give advice on, it would be the setting. That’s probably because it isn’t that hard to do. But yet, I find myself giving awkward descriptions of stores and restaurants. So to save you from the same tragic fate, I will share all that I know.

1. Less is more

When I first started writing, third grade me though you described everything. The reader apparently needed to know the colour of the chairs to the amount of desks in the room and every single students physical appearance. No no no.

Don’t become like an old classic book where they give you the backstory to all the objects in the room. People in the 1900s might be interested but in the twenty-first century people will swap your book for their phone if you rattle on about a clock for two pages. Less is more.

Give a brief description of the room and keep it simple. Compare these two examples.

The small living room held a small cream couch with a stack of yellowed newspaper overtaking the side table. The windows on the opposite wall only got washed when it rained. There was a stained rug on the floor, faded from years of pacing. A couple of cushions were thrown into a corner next to the flickering floor lamp.

In the small living room, there was a couch that had been torn up from the family’s cat, Paws. A couple of patterned cushions were thrown to the side. On the opposite, there was a bunch of windows, dirty and full of dust bunnies. There was a big rug on the floor, covering most of the space, and it was covered in stains and dusty footprints. A floor lamp in the corner glowed yellow, it’s lightbulb flickering and dying. A big clock was on the brick wall, long since dead. Lots of family pictures on a side table were covered by a towering stack of old newspapers.

Tell me which one is better. Personally, I think the first one is; you can see it all in your head without being overwhelmed.

2. Big to small

A good tip is to go from the biggest things in the room to the smaller details. So from room colour to bed location to dead body on the floor to the snapped pearl necklace.

It flows nicely and zooms into the finer things.

3. Use all five senses

When describing things, I tend to forget my other four senses. I typically rely on sight, neglecting smell, touch, hear, and taste. And while you can’t taste the room, there is plenty of things to touch and hear.

Instead of using only sight to tell the story, immerse your reader. What does the hot dog stand smell like? Is the cave wall rough or smooth, wet or dry? Can you hear the laugh track through the thin walls of your bedroom? Using those things helps the reader envision the scene and get more hooked.

4. Reference photos

I don’t think everyone in the world has been in a castle or the cold dungeon in Mongolia. So instead of assuming what it looks like, google it. Pinterest has plenty of reference photos you can use. Browse real estate websites to get a feel of what a rancher’s home would look like.

There are thousands of resources at your fingertips, so use them.

5. Timing

It all comes down to when to describe your scene and when not too. Would you start off describing the room when a character enters it? That all depends on what is going to happen.

If you’re going to start the scene with action, the boy running away from the murderer through the school hallways, the chances of you spending a paragraph or two describing the place, are slim. That breaks the flow of the scene.

But the character is just introduced to a problem, say they’re kidnapped and wake up in a log cabin, then I think a little description is needed. The readers know what a school hallway looks like, the empty cabin not as much.

If you’re struggling when to describe your setting, ask yourself this: Will it break the flow of the scene?


That my friends, are a handful of tips that can help you out with writing. If you have anymore to add, let me know. I’d love to hear your advice.

As always, have a lovely day and see you next time.

Writing playlists

I’m a fan of music if you couldn’t tell already. I like music, I like writing, and when I combine the two wonderful things happen. Namely, I get inspired to write.

I’m always on the search for new music to write too, so I thought I would give you some song recommendations according to the theme/genre of your writing project.

And if you want to take a listen to the songs, just click on the titles that will take you to a Spotify playlist I made.

The scholarly essay that you’re writing four hours before it’s due–

Decisions by Ntr.Mnd

First Date by Frad

A brief moment of silence for the lack of better words by Stream_error

Chamomile Tea by Chance Thrash

The Approaching Night by Phillip Wesley

Declarations of love in the pouring rain or just like, at Disneyland or somewhere–

Always, I’ll care by Jeremy Zucker

Talk to Me by Cavetown

If We Have Each Other by Alec Benjamin

Silly People by Blanks

Tear in My Heart by Twenty One Pilots

Teen misfits going on adventures in the middle of the night–

I’m Born to Run by American Authors

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

With a Little Help From My Friends by Wallows

Runaway Kids by HARBOUR

Idle Town by Conan Gray

Wild Things by Alessia Cara

The same survival story where at the end the guy wakes up in the hospital after being found dead on the side of the road by a farmer or hunter–

Til the Day I Die by TobyMac and NF

Opening Titles by David Arnold and Michael Price

Not Gonna Die by Skillet

The Maze Runner by John Paesano and Pete Anthony

Unstoppable by The Score

Death and break ups–

Lost My Mind by FINNEAS

i think we should break up by Hollyn

How Could You Leave Us by NF

I Miss My Mum by Cavetown

Before You Start Your Day by Twenty One Pilots

Down by Jason Walker

i don’t like u myself by Presence

Mind is a Prison by Alec Benjamin

The escape scene with things blowing up behind the characters who are walking away in slow-mo instead of running like a normal person would be doing–

#SherlockLives by David Arnold and Michael Price

Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees

Ready Set Let’s Go by Sam Tinnesz

Howlin’ for you by The Black Keys

Immortals by Fall Out Boy

Eye of the Tiger {but it’s the cello version} by 2Cellos

A guild of delicate fairies, mermaids, and a few brooding werewolves on a journey–

Misty Mountains by Richard Armitage and The Dwarf Cast

Dawning of Spring by Anson Seabra

golden thing by Cody Simpson

Woodland by The Paper Kites

Bloom by The Paper Kites

Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron

For when the creepy next door neighbour reveals his true intentions which are luring puppies into his house and then killing them–

Game of Survival by Ruelle

Heathens by Twenty One Pilots

Castle by Halsey

Hide and Seek by Lizz Robinett

Panic Room by Au/Ra

Dig the Crazy by Faith marie

At the End of Time by Atrium Carceri

Some other genre/topic that I happened to miss–

Snake and the Prairie Dog by Cavetown

Seaside by Blanks

Learn to Fly by Surfaces and Elton John

Unfortunate Soul by Kailee Morgue

最強の囮 by Yuki Hayashi and Asami Tachibana


That brings this blog post to an end. If you enjoyed it, please let me know. Also, if you have any song recommendations I would greatly appreciate that.

Have a great weekend everyone!

We Wrote Like Jonathan Stroud for a Day

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to the 50th post on Tales of the Lonely Sun! Today we’re doing a little collaboration with me (Jorja, here) and Mya.

Mya and I both love the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. We’ve both talked about it on this blog before, because it’s amazing. Go check it out if you haven’t!

Recently Mya was on Jonathan Stroud’s website and found his writing schedule. You can check that out here. We both thought it was awesome and decided to try it out.

So you can keep us straight, Mya will be in bold and I’ll be in normal text.

One day. 5 pages. A whole lot of tea.

Jorja’s Writing Day:

My writing desk. Ooh. Aah.

My usual daily word count goal is an easily attainable 500 words. I picked this number because its something I can hit even when I’m not feeling motivated, which allows me to make continuous progress. 500 words often ends up being about a page to a page and a half of writing per day (unless I feel like writing more). 

All that being said, five pages is a lot for me. Especially because I use a fairly small font (Fanwood Text in Google Docs) and single space my work. So I had my work cut out for me. 

One thing I knew I needed to do was to plan out what I was going to write the night before. I do this every night because if I don’t… I don’t write. I’m becoming more and more of a “planner” as time goes on. So that’s what I did. The night before I planned out much more than I usually do, trying to make sure I could get five pages out of my outline for the day. I finished that up at around midnight. 

The next morning I had some work to do, separate from writing, for my church. I got a bit of a later start than Mya, but I decided I would just write a little longer if I needed to. I got started writing sometime between 10:30 and 10:45. 

For the most part, the writing day went great! I was in the zone most of the day (that doesn’t always happen, it was a nice surprise) so I didn’t stop to check the time. I remember I ate a sandwich for lunch, but the break wasn’t more than 10 minutes. I knew I needed to get back to writing as soon as possible, to keep my streak going. 

I had minimal interruptions, a steady stream of music playing in my headphones, several glasses of iced tea (its 100-degree weather over here, hot tea is not an option), and five total pages by around 3:00. My total word count came out to 2,750 words, over 5x my daily goal. 

I made a lot of progress in my story, including introducing a character I love, working out the details of my magic system, and deepening the motivation for several of my main characters. 

I considered this a total success! While I won’t be writing this way every day, it helped me gauge a lot about my personal process. I now know my capabilities and more details about how I can make my writing day as productive as it can be. 

“Getting that first draft out is a horribly hard grind, but that (perversely) is where the joy of it lies. There is nothing better for me, nothing more uniquely satisfying in the whole process of making a book, than the sensation at the end of each day—good or bad, productive or unproductive—when I look over and see a little fragile stack of written pages that weren’t there that morning.” -Jonathan Stroud

Mya’s Writing Day:

I don’t have a consistent writing routine or daily goal (yet), but I usually write late at night. Jonathan Stroud’s routine starts at 9:30 am and ends at around 5. Which is a significantly longer “work day” than I usually have. 

At 9:30, I sat down with my laptop on the back porch. Technically Jonathan Stroud says he likes to write inside, but I didn’t feel the need to make everything exact. I went through two mugs of tea during the first phases of the day: staring out the window, rereading yesterday’s work, and attempting the first line multiple times. I wasn’t expecting words to come easily to me in the morning, but they actually did! I was quite productive up until lunch and had a good time. 

Then came after lunch. I moved inside due to the heat and tried to begin writing. This is when brain-deadness set in. Stroud seems to get back to work right afterward, and I did also, despite feeling kind of stuck in my story. I pushed through until around 6, which is later than he ends the day. My progress was a lot slower during this chunk of time and I got distracted easily. 

In total, I wrote 1530 words, which came out to four pages. A page short of how much Stroud tends to write everyday, but for me personally it was a pretty good total.

“Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.” -Jonathan Stroud


J: I encourage any of you writers out there to try something like this. Pick one of your favorite authors, see if you can find their writing schedule online, and try it out! You can learn a lot about what works for you, and what doesn’t. You may find a trick that you would never have thought to try that works super well for you, or you may spend the day not writing anything. Either way, experimentation is super helpful. There’s a channel on YouTube called Kate Cavanaugh where she tries out the schedules of many famous authors, and she has a lot of helpful tips. 

M: It’s a great way to see if the routine is something that helps you, even if you think you already know how and when you like to write. I was surprised that I worked so well in the morning, so I will probably start working then on a regular basis. The afternoon was not a good time for me, so I would stick to late evening writing sessions as well.

J: Another positive part of this is you can sometimes do more than you thought you were capable of. Maybe you can write 5,000 words in 4 hours. You’ll never know unless you try.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” —Christopher Robin

M: The routine wasn’t perfect for me, but it was definitely worth trying. I ended up writing more than I usually do and thought about how I want to go about scheduling my writing. I only did it for one day, but it still had a positive impact on my novel.

J: Doing it with a buddy can also be super helpful. Mya and I had a steady dialogue throughout the day, updating each other on word counts and struggles and scenes. It was great for motivation. We even did some writing sprints with Carlye. 

M: Plus, it was fun to experience firsthand the process my favorite author uses to write his amazing books! In general, writing with friends can be super helpful and a good bonding experience. 

J: All in all, it’s a total adventure and I totally recommend it!

M: I’m planning to follow more of my favorite authors’ routines in the future and see how else I can improve my writing sessions.


(Quote sources: https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talk-from-jonathan-stroud; https://parade.com/935628/parade/winnie-the-pooh-quotes/ ) 

First Chapter Formula

Hello dear readers! Today I am sharing the results of my research on the topic of writing the first chapter.

I recently tackled the first chapter of my book because what I had previously written as my first chapter was, in a word, boring.

To combat this I read the first chapter of several of my favorite books and took notes on what they included. Once I got about six books in I began to notice a pattern. Then I checked my notes against 9 more books. I read the first chapter of 15 total books and came up with the following “formula”. Formula is used loosely in this context, of course, because when it comes to art, rules are made to be broken. But this “formula” is tried and true and can be used as a great springboard for your story.

Most of the books had most of, if not all of, the following things:

Main Character’s Personality:

Arguably the most important thing to showcase in any first chapter is your main character’s personality. If you will be writing from several point of views, you may or may not want to introduce this in the first chapter, but make sure your reader starts to get an idea for who the main character is. One book that does this really well is 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons. (you can read my review here if you haven’t already). She makes sure to showcase Tessa’s fierce independence very quick;y so that the readers know who Tessa is and what her struggles are.

An Average Day:

Eleven of the fifteen book I studied began with the main character going about an average day. One example of this is Cinder by Marissa Meyer. When we first see Cinder she is living her normal life. Struggling with her cybernetic limbs, working her stall in the market, and generally having a rough time. Which brings me to the third part of the formula…

Main Character is Dissatisfied:

This is another common component of first chapters. The MC is living their normal life, but they are often dissapointed in one way or another. Take The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. We see Percy Jackson on a school field trip, a relatively normal activity, but for Percy as a character, he hates it. He hates school in general, he’s getting picked on and he is not happy with that aspect of his life. This is often a bridge to…

Internal Conflict:

Something commonly introduced in first chapters is the internal conflict of the main character. Even if it’s only hinted at, this aspect of the first chapter, if included, is a great way to keep readers interested in your story. Internal conflict is what makes readers relate to and empathize with the main character, so its often used as a hook right at the beginning of a story. For example, in Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. We see Sophie, on a field trip and not exactly happy about it (I just now realized how its kinda like The Lightning Thief). We instantly see Sophie’s desire to belong, to be a part of something, to fit in. It acts as a very effective hook.

Tension:

Next up is introducing the main conflict. This is very common to introduce in the first chapter, since it sets the tone for the whole book. Maybe it’s a glimpse of a larger problem to come, maybe it goes as far as including the inciting incident.

Sometimes the conflict introduced doesn’t relate directly to the main conflict, but it causes suspense anyway, which can help convince a reader to keep reading.

One example of this is in Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. When Stargirl, a quirky new girl, shows up at Micah High School, there’s a noticeable buzz. Everyone is whispering about her in the halls, and the other students aren’t quite sure what to do with her. This sets up the events of the whole book, since the main conflict is the school’s reaction to Stargirl’s eccentricities.

Something Unique:

Every story brings something to the table that no other book has done before, or at least presents something in a different way. Advertising this in the first chapter is used as a hook in many stories.

As an example, these are the first few lines of I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter:

“I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they could just disappear. Well, that’s me – Cammie the Chameleon. But I’m luckier than most because, at my school, that’s considered cool.

I go to a school for spies.”

This is obviously an unusual thing. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to a school for spies (or do I?). It’s worth mentioning that these first few lines also serve the purpose of introducing the internal conflict, how Cammie feels invisible. Which makes them ingenious in my opinion, but I digress.

This “unique aspect” can be a situation the character is in, like in the quote above. It can be a part of the world, like in The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. It can be a writing style like in Heist Society by Ally Carter. You know what makes your story unique, embrace it!

And Everything Else…

The rest of these things showed up less often in my research, but might also be fun to include:

  • Introduction of the main love interest
  • Introduction of other major characters (family, best friends, mentor, etc.)
  • Backstory
  • A prolouge
  • Main character’s hobby
  • Allusion to future events
  • Allusion to past events
  • Big, mysterious questions

Here’s the thing about this “formula”: ignore it if you want to. Or ignore parts of it. Don’t start your book one way or another because other people do it that way. As Merie said last week, You Do You. If you want to start your book out by blowing up the Earth, do it. Including the things I mentioned above can be helpful, and there is nothing wrong with using any or all of them, but in the end, your story is your story. And no one knows how to tell it but you.

Until next time,

Publishing young | What I learned

Publishing young is an ideal for many young writers. There is a pressure to not only finish writing a book, but to release it to the world by a self-set deadline. And some young writers, like myself, do just that. But at what cost?

Why do we feel the need to rush to publication? Because the dream of having beautifully bound pages filled with your story is an exciting one. I for one couldn’t wait to have readers to call my own. I daydreamed of fanart, book signings, and sequels. I wanted to be a published author, and I wanted to make that come true as fast as possible.

Unfortunately for my smol infp-t self, my aspirations were a bit unrealistic–especially for a fourteen year old publishing her first novel. I made a lot of mistakes and later on have realized what I should’ve done, so these are the experiences and takeaways I will bestow upon you today.

Publishing the first novel you have ever written isn’t the brightest idea.

The exception is if you wrote your first novel, wrote a few more, then came back to your first idea and majorly revised it with more experience. Even this doesn’t always work, but it can.

This can be really hard to accept, especially if you’re absolutely in love with your book and can’t understand why it should be kept to yourself. And you don’t have to keep it to yourself… let family and friends read it if you want. Recruit a team of beta readers or find critique partners to give you feedback. There is nothing wrong with sharing your story and learning and growing.

But publishing is about putting your best work out for readers to be impacted by and enjoy. Readers pay money and commit time to reading a book. If you plan to have a career as an author, you want to make a good first impression. So selling your first attempt at something likely won’t live up to their expectations for what a good novel is, and you’ll likely feel disappointed later on.

And there’s no need to. You don’t need to be young to succeed in the publishing world. You need to start writing and stay committed, but you should be focusing on learning how to write well instead of expecting to master it on the first try. Of course, you’ll never write a perfect book, but you’re fifth novel will be a whole lot better than your first. So keep on writing new books, experiment with different techniques, and find your writing voice. Learn something new in every scene you write.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Don’t think that your novel only needs a couple rounds of edits and it’ll be good to go.

Because editing isn’t just about grammar and typos! (shocker) It takes hard work and lots of time to sort through all the plot holes, character development issues, and world building deficiencies. It would be impossible to go through your novel two or three times and catch all the errors. Shannon Messenger drafted Keeper of the Lost Cities twenty times before it was published. Her efforts and persistence definitely show.

There isn’t a need to rush through edits. Take a break between drafts and editing rounds. Give yourself time to step back and evaluate your work from a different perspective. If you scrunch all your later drafts, revisions, and edits into a two month period, chances are they won’t be very thorough.

Though you can do your best, you can’t rely on yourself for all your edits. Find beta-readers! Ask a writer friend if they want to swap manuscripts for critique. Don’t be afraid to ask for help–the writing community has got your back. Whether or not you’re publishing your book, getting advice from other writers and readers can definitely help you improve in the craft.

Recruit Professionals

At the time Hide and Seek was first released, I had done almost everything myself–the editing, formatting, cover design, and launch tour. Bad, bad choice.

I thought that I had the editing skills to make my book nearly perfect and an editor would be of no use to me. No, frens, no. I haven’t hired any editors yet, but I know now that every self-published author should get one. Your own editing, and your friends’, can only go so far. An editor is experienced and unbiased, and they are wonderful beings who make messy manuscripts shine. It is a worthy investment that I plan to make when I next publish a book.

Cover design is key. I later on realized that the cover I made on Canva sucked, so I hired a cover designer to make a new one. She made a great cover for a good price, and I totally should’ve done that from the start. People do judge a book by its cover, so don’t expect to sell a book with your amateur design skills slapped on the front. Find something that’ll appeal to your target audience.


If you’re feeling discouraged, don’t be! This seems like a lot, but it’ll be worth it. Keep on pushing through that outline or draft or editing round. Lose and find yourself in the stories that call you to put them to paper. There is no shame in being a learner or a beginner. Enjoy and savor this season in your writing life.

Stay safe, and find loveliness in the everyday things. 🙂

So the story isn’t coming to you, huh?

Writing is basically finding different ways to combine 26 letters into a clear meaningful story. So why do we writers find it so difficult to write a story?

Well, because we humans don’t like to take the easy route. As a Masterclass advertisement from Neil Gaiman said, “Writing a book is like driving through the fog with one headlight out.” And I must agree with that.

Writing is hard and stressful. But it’s also a perfect way to unwind and relax. So let’s suppose that you have hit that mythical beast known as Writer’s Block. Or maybe you’ve been procrastinating writing a certian scene. Or can’t think of what should happen next.

You have come to the right place my friends! I, Carlye Krul, is offering you free advice with the purchase of one like.

So, what is this ‘advice’ I speak of? Well… *rubs hands together eagerly*

Slay the beast

There is no better way to combat writers block then to physically kill it. Now, this is not a prompt to go kill your hamster that keeps distracting you. No no no.

Figure way the inspiration isn’t hitting you. It could be an annoying character (I’m looking at you Rowan), a scene that doesn’t seem right, or your plot isn’t thick enough there. Whatever the problem may be, figure out the solution. Hopefully that solves the issue.

Go hunting for inspiration

No, this isn’t an excuse to look at memes on Pinterest for seven hours. You are permitted to use Pinterest for novel related ideas only. Make yourself a board with photos that display the majesty of the novel.

For those talented in the music industry, create a playlist for a character or scene. That should get the inspo flowing.

Or, you could even do something that your characters do. Within a limit of course. I’m fairly certain my parents wouldn’t let me sneak out of the house in the dead of night to go skateboarding. But instead you could do something else fun. Go overthrow the government or cut your hair with a knife in a single slash. The possiblities are endless!

Get out of the house

This is me being a hypocrite sitting at my desk even though it’s amazing weather outside and I’m not quarantined.

But if you’ve been sitting and staring at your computer’s blank document, I would advise you to get out and do something different. Now we introverts find peace in staying home.

Sadly, I must say that even the biggest of hermits should get some fresh air. Go take a walk or a jog or a run or whatever verb you want to use. Maybe call up your friends and hang out with them. Or you could chill by yourself with a book in the sunshine.


So there are three lovely ways in which you could get writing again. I apologize in advance of none of the methods work, I’m sorry, but hopefully they do.

Now everyone, have a lovely day and stay healthy!

3 Pacing Tips

Hello dear readers! I’m excited to say that there is officially 100 people following us here on TotLS! Thanks to all you lovely people!

On another note, today we’re talking about the basics of pacing. When I read other people’s writing, especially those who are just starting out, pacing is often overlooked. Don’t feel bad if your pacing is off, no one’s writing is perfect all the time. I struggle with pacing scenes all the time, but if it’s done right it can change stories for the better.

#1 Sentence Length

Sentence length is key to pacing. As a general rule, longer sentences are best used in slower scenes and shorter sentences are best in faster scenes.

Think about what movies show during intense fight scenes. They show attacks, short bursts of activity. The camera doesn’t stop and zoom in on a tree in the background, it stays focused on the action.

When you go into a scene try and think of what you’re trying to convey.

#2 Sometimes… Do the Opposite

Sometimes shortening or lengthening sentences doesn’t work for specific instances.

For example, lets say you’re writing a slow scene. Maybe a character and their love interest are just sitting and talking. Maybe as they’re talking one leans closer. In order to draw attention to the reaction of the other character, you could shorten the sentences.

They sat together, talking about nothing and everything. Somehow, in the midst of the conversation, she didn’t notice how close he had gotten.

Her heart beat faster. Her cheeks heated up. Their eyes met.

Is it cliché? Yes. But it gets the point across. In order to bring attention to a specific instance within the slow scene, I shortened the sentences. This contrast shows importance.

It works for fast scenes as well. Say a protagonist is fighting a small group of pirates (or something). During the fight, an important object falls out of their bag. In a movie, it would slow down and zoom in as the object falls. We can achieve a similar effect in writing by lengthening sentences.

One of them drew a sword. I drew my own, just in time. He stabbed. I parried. He slashed again and I jumped back.

Although I remained uninjured, the blade cut through the strap of my satchel. I tried to catch it, but it hit the deck. It’s contents spilled out, and the amulet glinted, almost tauntingly, as it slid away.

The amulet is obviously important, for some reason, and by taking the time to describe it in the midst of a high pressure situation it conveys that to the reader.

#3 Conflict & Cause and Effect

The past two tips have been about pacing in individual scenes. However, pacing also applies to the plot as a whole. How fast important scenes happen in comparison to other scenes is very important.

However… there is not one way to pace a story as a whole. My best tip is to always think about the cause and effect of a scene. Important events have important effects. However, they also have smaller, more personal effects. After a big battle between two sides of a war, for example, will have political impacts and effect entire countries. But, if someone close to your main character is injured in the battle, it is likely they will want to address that before the large-scale effects. This will balance out the pacing because it will have a fast paced scene followed by a slow paced scene which will make the story flow nicely and the pacing even out.


That’s all I have for you guys today! If you have more tips on pacing, drop them in the comments, I’d love to see what you guys think!

Until next time,

The 7 Deadly Character Sins, Part 2

Last-last week we discussed three character flaws that need to make more appearances in fiction. Today, to complete the discussion, we’ll be talking about four more!

As I mentioned in the linked-above post, no character struggles with only one major flaw. And as I can’t stress enough, some flaws make appearances to only some people, depending on both the character and the people in his/her life. So do keep that in mind when you’re working with character development.

#4: Unreliability/untrustworthiness

Often the main character in a large cast is shown as a dependable person. They’re totally willing to shoulder the burdens of anyone around them. Other characters trust them– usually they’re the ones with trust issues.

Let’s change that around and say your MC trusts the people around her and wants them to trust her too… but they don’t. Not because of her race, background, their own pasts, or other common foundations for trust issues– but because she’s displayed signs of being unworthy of trust. Dishonesty, for example. Betrayal. Maybe she’s too prone to accidents and has to prove that she can handle whatever they’ve got for her.

Being considered unreliable in a group of people whom you consider reliable is a hard thing to persevere through. It also gives room for backstory– what did she do wrong, or what is she doing wrong, that other people think she’s not worthy of trust? This is such an unexplored issue, and it’s real, too. Plus there’s a number of positive traits needed to push through this kind of situation, so it makes for a pretty arc!

#5: Blind loyalty

This could apply to so many situations. I’m actually quite surprised it doesn’t show up very often in the dystopian books I’ve read (then again, I don’t read that much dystopian, despite what I say about my appreciation for the genre!). Generally speaking, the [quite few] dystopian heroes I’ve read begin with a neutral worldview concerning their situation. By the end, at the part where they endeavor to break free of it, there’s no love lost. It would be pretty interesting to see more instances of blind loyalty to a corrupted regime, especially if they’ve never even had exposure to a different kind of life.

On the flip side, blind loyalty applies to good guys, too. Sometimes good guys get confused 🤷 and then their followers, who want to do the right thing, end up going the wrong direction! (Confused good guys is one of my favorite tropes!) To be honest, blind loyalty on good guys is more of a naïvety problem than anything else, I think.

#6: Greed and Discontentment

Yet another one of the actual 7 Deadly Sins! Some people just always want more. It could be anything– money, fans, land, fame, books…? I mean, how hard is it really to just be content with what you have? We always want more. Sometimes that leads to some unsavory situations. (And not only villains are greedy! Remember, one point of these characters arcs are to show that villainous inclinations can be overcome! Good does overpower evil)

#7: Foolishness

Also known as the opposite of wisdom. There are so many ways to interpret this idea, but in short, humans are fools 😂 And that means book characters are too.

This is not the same as stupidity– which is such a controversial subject I’m not even gonna go there (and it doesn’t really count as a flaw). Likewise, wisdom and intelligence aren’t the same thing either, so there you go.

Wisdom is something that comes from God and, essentially, getting on with life (though even those two are different types of wisdom).

That brings us to an interesting dilemma… Fools can’t write about wisdom, can we?

Is this entire post a sham?

That’s up to you to decide.

Always be a happy camper,

~ Merie

The 7 Deadly Character Sins, Part I

Flaws… every character needs them. And yet sometimes it can be so difficult to lay even one on someone you wish was perfect.

So sometimes, we take it easy and lay “small flaws” on them. Mya calls them “justifiable flaws,” and I couldn’t agree more. By justifiable, it means we don’t have to dislike the character because anger can be justified (which extends that idea to anger management issues, justifiable or not). Worry can be justified (in the sense that we all worry, and it would be strange for someone not to). Feelings of worthlessness can be justified (is this even a flaw at all? rather, it stems from several flaws and becomes a troublesome mindset that further enhances the flaws that fuel it).

Sometimes, we give our character only ONE major flaw. But can you really look around at the people in your life and say that they have one core flaw that’s the bane of their existence? I like to think about it as four, sometimes even more, separate sides of a character: the person they see, the person they want others to see, the person others actually see, and the person we, the author or readers, see. Each side could contain different flaws or different aspects of a flaw. Some of them are concealed to the character himself, others to the outside world or even us writers. (And now that I think about it, this is a topic we should definitely save for another time!)

Think about villain backstories. A lot of stories carry that ominous feeling with how a character starts out with one small flaw that slowly takes over them and turns them into this villain. Sometimes they’re irredeemable, and sometimes they have redemption.

But what if, just what if… your character begins his or her arc with full potential to become a good or a bad guy?

Here are seven character flaws that could turn your hero into a villain.

#1: Envy/Jealousy

Behold the green-eyed monster that overtook some of the most infamous villains in literature! In fact, I reckon the vast majority of antagonists all had, at some point in their lives, experienced envy that drove them to the deep end. (And it’s an actual one of the 7 deadly sins 😉 )

But here’s the thing.

The green-eyed monster doesn’t always win.

And envy…. happens. A lot. To people who seem content, who no one would guess feels resentful about anything, who are 100.99% supportive on the outside. And yet they don’t end up like the Wicked Queen. They struggle with it, yes, but in the end they don’t lose themselves to it.

Perhaps we all need a reminder that envy is only as dangerous as we let it.

#2: Laziness

Also one of the actual 7 deadly sins, laziness is commonly overlooked in modern fiction as befitting a main character’s arc. And yet it is such a thing with bad guys who let their henchmen do their dirty work, and lazy rich people who make the common people labor for them, and that side character who doesn’t really do much but is there for comic relief and that’s all good. Right?

Why?

I’m one of the laziest people I know (now you know why this post came out so late -_-). I procrastinate. I feel unmotivated. And I certainly don’t have all (or any) of the grim determination it takes to save the world, which is exactly what our characters do every day. Imagine how much… harder… it would be to… save the world if your character wants nothing more than to sleep in ’till mid-afternoon… or to stay indoors and read all day, or… I don’t know. I’m strangely not feeling motivated enough to give a third example…

#3: Cowardice

Ah. Now that’s a word that makes us all cringe.

Let’s face the truth. We don’t want to write about a cowardly character. A coveting one, that’s hard but we’ll manage. A lazy one– hey, at least it’s relatable. But cowardice? No… why?

Why, I ask you, are we afraid to write about cowards who learn to not be cowardly?

The truth is, we want to write about noble characters who do noble things and have noble arcs. Hey, I understand that. I cringe when a character is described as cowardly. But most people… well, aren’t exactly born noble (by blood, maybe, but not by heart).

Many characters learn how to be noble from their family or from past experiences. But sometimes… you know, sometimes we can be bold and see what happens to a character who is not only accused of being a coward but who also actually is one.

And only bold people write impactful books.


That was a long post, so I’m splitting it in half and delivering Part II to you next time. Until then, I hope you find this post interesting and helpful! 😉

Always be a happy camper,

~ Merie

How to Create a Three-Dimensional Character

Greetings! I hope your Monday is going well. If you’re currently working on a book, or you want to see what writers do to create their characters, you’re in the right place. While I certainly can’t cover everything there is to character creation in one post, today I’m going to share some of the different areas that stand out to me the most.

One of the first steps in creating a three dimensional character is making his or her past. Every well developed character needs a backstory. Things that happened to a character in the past affect how he or she sees the world today. For example, a character who has survived a serious illness may get excited about the little things he missed out on while he was sick, like going on long walks in the morning or playing in the snow. Or they could be paranoid and afraid to go out in public for fear of catching it again. A character’s choices and reactions can usually be linked to something he has endured before. Unless he is an infant, a character has already gone through some life, and therefore has grown and adapted because of certain situations. The start of a novel is not the start of the character’s big picture journey. This does not mean that you should explain this character’s entire history to your readers! They do not need to know everything that’s ever happened to a character before. Stick to the most impactful events or ones that reveal something about the character. Those can be revealed through dialogue, thoughts, or memories. Just remember to not let it distract from the present story and bog down the pacing with irrelevant info-dumps.

Even with past growth, a character will NOT be perfect… even if he is a ninety-nine year old man at the start of the story. A character does not need to be perfect to be a good role model. A developed character makes mistakes, faces the consequences, and ultimately learns from them. The characters who are the strongest and most relatable have flaws that they struggle with over the course of the novel. Some character flaws are cowardice, anger, deceit, manipulation, pride, selfishness, and impulsive or irrational behavior. The key is for the character to develop; though he won’t reach perfection at the end of the novel, he should improve and grow stronger as a person. No one will want to read the story of a character who has zero good qualities. Sometimes flaws and strengths can be two sides to the same characteristic. A character could be confident and outspoken but sometimes prideful or unaware of others’ feelings. Another character could be humble and a good listener but too afraid to speak up and act when it’s necessary. 

Another important step in developing a character is giving him a more or less skewed worldview. Deep characters should believe something about themselves, others, or the world that isn’t true at the start of the novel. The more the character’s misbelief ties in with his past, his flaws, and his strengths, the more coherent and deep a character will be. The events of the story expose the wrongness of this belief and reveal the truth to them. For example, a character could originally believe that she is incapable of being loved. Throughout the story she could encounter characters who prove they love her for who she is and genuinely want to make sacrifices for her sake. She could also witness other characters who she believed were “better” than her making mistakes and still being forgiven and accepted. In the end she realizes that even though she can never be perfect, that doesn’t mean that she is less than everyone else and unable to be loved. This misbelief will be what a character is blinded by during the story. Other protagonists, as well as the plot, will try to challenge it.


Of course, character development is talked about over and over, but sometimes it takes a while to let it sink in and decide what aspect you need to focus on to improve your characters. I hope this post got you thinking! Feel free to share what other advice you would give to writers new and old.

Have a beautiful day. 🙂