Justice (Deck of Lies, #1)

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Judgment (Deck of Lies, #4)

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Hope's Rebellion

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Writing 101: It's All Greek to Me

Star-crossed lovers, destined to never be together. Revenge that becomes twisted and ugly, turning back around to go the other way. The mother who kills out of jealousy and rage when her husband takes a younger woman. If you think you've come up with a plot so twisted, so dark, so gory and tragic that no one can top it, guess again. Whatever you write, the Greeks probably wrote it first.

 

Been There, Done That

 
Incest. Debauchery. Infidelity. Murder. Self-mutilation. Patricide. Matricide. Whatever it's called when you kill your own son. It's not a new show on HBO. It's your basic Greek tragedy.

Most modern storytelling was shaped by those early Greeks, who went on to inspire Shakespeare, James Joyce and countless others. The Greeks took their characters into Hell, sometimes literally, and saw them ripped apart by plot twists, sudden reveals and betrayals of all kinds.
 
If you're looking for new story inspiration, try turning to some of the oldest stories ever written down. All the plots have already been covered, all the twists already sprung and lots of the good ideas have already been explored. But you can still put a new twist and a modern take on all these old stories and make something completely your own. Many, many writers have turned to the old stories to create new ones. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Writing 101: Epic Stories

The oldest recorded story is an epic tale of adventure. It's fraught with passion, death, battle and love. It's a tale of a heroic journey. And in this regard, it's pretty much like every other epic story. 


The ancients loved their epic adventure tales. Hercules, Gilgamesh, Beowulf and their ilk continue to capture the imagination and inspire new retellings of their stories. But when it comes to modern storytelling, is writing an epic an epically bad idea?

The Long, Long, Long Tale Of…

Epic tales, whether they come from the ancient Middle East or J.R.R. Tolkien, tend to have some elements in common. There is usually a hero who is often tested, and frequently. There are dragons to slay, unusually metaphorical but sometimes actual (looking at you, Beowulf). Action, adventure, romance, good versus evil...you get the idea.

But epic tales often have yet one more thing in common: they’re long. Like super long. Like the fourth Harry Potter book long. And if there’s one thing traditional publishers don’t like so much, it’s publishing super long books.

Self-publishing is a perfect way to get your epic story out there without worry about rejection from traditional publishing houses. The success of stories like the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series proves that super long, epic tales still capture the public's imagination. There is still an appetite for these adventure tales that are packed with plot, characters, failures and triumph. 

Unleash your long tales and tell epic stories, because the modern writer has one huge advantage over all those who have come before: you can publish whatever type of story you want on your own and put your work out there for millions and even billions to read. So when it comes to publishing houses...luckily, you don't really have to worry about pleasing them at all.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Writing 101: Hitting Them Over the Head

There's a well known episode of "Star Trek" that depicts a conflict on a planet that is being visited by the crew of the starship Enterprise. The people on the planet are embroiled in war. One group of people has bright, white skin on the left side of their bodies and black skin on the right side. The second group has white skin on the right side and black on the left. Because of this, they are gripped in bitter war. And as we know, "Star Trek" aired in the 1960s, during time of great racial strife. And this is what we call hitting readers (or viewers) over the head with a metaphor.

  

Also known as being heavy-handed, hitting your readers over the head with your point is a sure way to get that point across. But is it also a sure way to annoy your readers?

Beating a Dead Horse

There are lots of metaphors for overstating a point, even when it's a plot point in a story. That's because it's a thing that many people don't like.

However, re-stating a plot point is a truly time-honored tradition in storytelling. The oldest stories ever told were not written down, they were passed along orally, spoken aloud into groups. In order to make sure specific information is stuck in listeners’ minds, storytellers would repeat the same information over and over again. This style of storytelling can still be seen as a lingering tradition in many of the oldest written stories. Homer's "Odyssey," for example, is repetitive on several points.
 
There are tens of thousands of words in the average book and certain information will stick with some readers and not with others. If you want to make sure that they retain specific points of information, repetition is the best way to make that happen. However, you can be repetitive without being boring.
 
You can present the same information over and over again but in different ways, using different words. If it is important to know that a character is a coward, for example, show the readers a cowardly act committed by this character. You can also show the reader the character's thoughts about the event afterwards and in this fashion, show the cowardly action again in a slightly different way. There are many ways to give the readers the same information. You can also do it through dialogue by having a character relate a story to another character and have the character repeat the tale, using somewhat different words, to yet another character. 

You can also use an extremely transparent metaphor, such as the one used in the "Star Trek" episode mentioned above, to make sure a point sticks out. When the point is thinly-hidden like this, you won't need to use repetition to get the point across. Readers may roll their eyes, but you as the writer don't have to worry that they won't "get it." They will.

Sometimes, hitting readers over the head may be a necessary evil. But if you do it well and craft a story that readers love, they won't mind.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Writing 101: Reading the Classics

Classic literature. This is a phrase that everyone has heard and most everyone can name at least one story that's considered a classic. They're the biggies, the books you have to read in school, the authors who are studied and regarded as something beyond regular writers. But honestly...who's got the time to read them all?

That's Classic

Outside of school and the occasional Hollywood blockbuster, classic literature doesn't get discussed much. However, classic stories are actually everywhere. Many authors, books and TV shows borrow from the classics, borrowing the plots, characters and settings to re-work them for a modern audience.

This has happened way more times than anyone can list and way more times than you realize. That adorable love story with Renee Zellweger. That suspenseful TV show about the wronged woman seeking revenge. From the fun rom coms to the dramatic films about frenemies, cases of mistaken identity and children switched at birth, many of these seemingly fresh pieces of entertainment are based on stories that are decades, centuries, even millennia old already.

With even a cursory look at Greek literature, you may come to realize that there are no new plots. They wrote some of the most salacious stories and they truly ran the gamut when it comes to human emotion. The themes, plots and morals found in classic literature can't be beat. This is why so many authors use them to create new stories. This has been done throughout history, with everyone from Virgil to Dante to Shakespeare to Helen Fielding borrowing from the classics. 

Studying from the classics and even borrowing from them from time to time can be a great way to write a new beloved story. If all the plots have already been written, won't you be forced to repeat them anyway? Greek myths, Sumerian legends and writers like Dickens provide lots of rich plots, great settings and strong characters that are truly timeless. Re-working these classic themes and stories into new material is a time-honored tradition. For many writers, it can be a great way to deal with writer's block as well. Once you've got the main themes and characters already in front of you, the rest is a lot easier.