Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 19-25, 2020

Welcome to tipsday, your source for informal writerly learnings.

Angela Ackerman wonders, does your character’s behaviour make sense? Then, Lisa Hall-Wilson supplies one quick fix for telling in deep point of view. Writers in the Storm

Jan O’Hara explains what cows and writing competence have in common. Dave King had a solution to absent friends. Heather Webb is navigating an evolving writing process: writing on a boat, with a goat. Keith Cronin: on getting it and showing up. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland examines the two different types of lie your character believes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Tim Hickson on writing first person. Hello, Future Me

Christina Kaye explains how to write a killer villain. Jane Friedman

Nathan Bransford shares nine ways to spice up your characters. Later in the week, he wonders, what does it mean to be your “real self” online?

Leanne Sowul wants you to use the power of habit to achieve your goals. Then, Bronwen Fleetwood wonders, should you use pop culture references in MG and YA fiction? Gabriela Pereira interviews Constance Sayers: stitching together multiple timelines. DIY MFA

Agents Sara Megibow wants you to make a list of personal influencers. Fiction University

Jami Gold considers how to make your protagonist more proactive.

How to introduce your characters, part 1. Reedsy

And part 2:

Chris Winkle examines six effective animal companions (including droids and baby Yoda). Then, Oren Ashkenazi critiques eight instances of sexism in The Witcher. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies when to use canceled and when to use cancelled. Writer’s Digest

And that was tipsday. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you took away something you need for your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends 🙂


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Mar 24-30, 2019

Here we are in April (!) and here’s another week’s worth of informal writerly learnings.

Susan Spann explains how to prepare and use a DMCA takedown notice.  Liz Michalski is biting the bullet (journal) and tracking her writing habit. Barbara O’Neal: spring planting for writers. Heather Webb answers the question: no, really, why do you write? John J. Kelley wonders, whose character is it, anyway? Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shares four pacing tricks to keep readers’ attention, courtesy of Captain Marvel. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten tips for writing your first chapter.


Jules Horne drops by Jane Friedman’s blog to discuss writing for audio: understanding attunement.

Joanna Penn interviews Damon Suede about strengthening your writing with the power of words. The Kobo Writing Life Podcast interviewed Damon a couple of weeks ago and it was both informative and entertaining 🙂 The Creative Penn

Manuela Williams: seven questions to ask when building your author brand. Gabriela Pereira interviews Samantha Downing, Barbara Poelle, and Jen Monroe about the author/agent/editor relationship. Laura Highcove lists five steps to create agency in your writing life. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle examines six stories sabotaged by their tone. Then, Oren Ashkenazi covers six common villain mistakes and how to avoid them. Mythcreants

Alison Flood looks at the rotten side of self-publishing: plagiarism, “book-stuffing,” and clickfarms. The Guardian

I hope you found something you can use in your creative practice or business.

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty inspiration.

Until then, be well, my friends!


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 16-22, 2017

This will be my last Tipsday for a few weeks, but it’s a good ‘un 😉

K.M. Weiland delves into writing voice and the six things you need to know to improve it. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sacha Black visits Writers Helping Writers: myths and misconceptions of villains and mental health.

Then, Dario Ciriello drops by to discuss plotting for pantsers. Writers Helping Writers

Janice Hardy continues her birth of a book series with developing your characters. Fiction University

Jerry Jenkins stops by the BookBaby blog: become a demanding self-editor.

Annie Neugebauer explains why thought triggers are the Chekov’s gun of writing tricks. Writer Unboxed

Louie Cronin: stupid advice I have taken about writing. Writer Unboxed

Orly Konig Lopez: the shifting priorities of your writing career. Writers in the Storm

G. Myrthil: when life throws your writing routine off balance, remember these three things. DIY MFA

Linda Bernadette Burgess shares five things to remember when your manuscript hits close to home. DIY MFA

Oren Ashkenazi lists five magic items that break their stories. Mythcreants

Joanna Penn interviews Jeff Goins on the Creative Penn podcast.

Frank Miniter offers a no nonsense guide to marketing your book. Forbes

Kim Fahner talks about the Raining Poetry Project on CBC’s Morning North.

Nicole Brewer speaks of the influence of Anakana Schofield and Miriam Toews. Many Gendered Mothers

Constance Grady rereads Jane Austin’s most romantic scene: “I am half agony, half hope.” Vox

Christina DesMarais lists 43 embarrassing grammar errors even smart people make. Inc.

The 2017 Sunburst Award Shortlist.

Liz Bourke, Sleeps with Monsters: stop erasing women’s presence in SFF.

Nikki Vanry lists five SFF novels with badass middle aged heroines. Book Riot

Hillary Kelly: our biggest questions after the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere. The Vulture

Eeeeeee! Emily Asher-Perrin announces the 13th Doctor!

And moar eeeee! Leah Schnelbach shares the thrilling new trailer for Stranger Things 2.

So much good stuff is coming out of SDCC 🙂 Germaine Lussier shares the latest Thor: Ragnarok trailer. i09

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty 🙂

Until then, be well.


Ad Astra, day 2 (yes, still): What makes a great villain?

Panel: Ada Hoffmann, Matt Moore, Rob St. Martin, Thomas Gofton

AH: I write short stories and other things.

MM: Science fiction and horror writer.

RSM: Author of three horror, three urban fantasy, and five steampunk novels.

TG: Film producer, actor, and editor. Heroes are no fun to play.

RSM: Do villains drive the plot? What makes a great villain?

AH: The villain opposes the hero, but in some way, is secretly like the hero.

MM: A good villain is someone readers want to know more about.

RSM: The villain is the active force in the novel. The hero is reactive. Nobody thinks they are a villain. Villains are the heroes of their stories.

MM: Villains can be forces of nature, like Jaws or the T-Rex in Jurasic Park.

TG: It’s great when heroes have to dip into their inner darkness to defeat the villain. A great villain inspires fear. Mordred, for example.

RSM: The villain should instil fear in the reader. What will happen if the villain wins?

TG: Sometimes a villain never gets comeuppance. There was one character in The Messenger who was an absolute prick, but he gets off Scott-free.

MM: Think of great villains, like Hannibal Lector, or the Joker. They are completely foreign to the audience, fascinating. The universe is not necessarily just. It has no morality. It’s realistic.

TG: In terms of comics, the DC villains are cool while the heroes suck. In Marvel comics, it’s less black and white. Xerxes from 300 is a great villain, too.

Q: What traits do you choose?

MM: Look at some of your favourite villains, Beloque from Indiana Jones, or Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Pair your hero and villain, give them opposing character arcs. Everybody wants something. If the hero and villain want the same thing, but for different reasons, it gets interesting. Villains should be larger than life.

RSM: Hannibal is a monster, but he’s so charming. His relationship with Starling is what draws us in. Lestat was originally a villain, but he became the hero in later Anne Rice novels.

Q: What are your thoughts on moral greyness? For example, the monster as hero, the human as villain?

RSM: Look at King Kong, or Godzilla.

MM: After 9/11, everything became grey. Can the villain rehabilitate? Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons is a great example and a redemption story.

AH: Work out your novel’s morality.

MM: Alfred Bester from Babylon 5 was a fascinating character study. I’d like to point out that every human villain we’ve discussed so far has been a man. What about women villains?

A brief discussion ensued about the stereotypes of women villains, Disney’s wicked stepmothers and witches, which led into a discussion of some truly awesome women villains, but I must confess I became so engrossed by the discussion, I forgot to take notes (!) Now, a month later, I can’t remember what was said 😦

Mea culpa. I have c.r.a.f.t. disease: can’t remember an f-ing thing 😉 I’m too young for this shit.

If any of the panellists care to weigh in, please comment and fill in the gaps.

Other than that, if you, my dear readers, have some examples of absolutely fabulous, or terrifying, women villains, please share.

The Initiate of Stone rogues gallery

Previously on Work in progress:  Character sketches part 1: Ferathainn Devlin; Character sketches part 2: Eoghan MacDubghall; Character sketches part 3: Dairragh McKillian.

So the deal is this: as I started to write, all three of the above emerged as protagonists to one degree or another.  Ferathainn remained my primary protagonist, because it was her story that everything else emerged from, and I intend to adhere to that.

Eoghan and Dairragh were strong supporting characters, though, and I felt I had to provide them with antagonists (antagoni?) of their own.

Originally …

The character that became Khaleal was Ferathainn’s main antagonist.  He was the servant of Kane, who is known as The Black King, but Khaleal was only a servant, and acted wilfully and maliciously in Kane’s service.

The initial origins of the favrard people (they can have viable offspring with Tellurin and are therefore not a separate race/species from my perspective) were that they were created, from time immemorial, to be predatory.  Their genetics are dominant, but they needed a non-favrard to mate with, someone who possesses power, and similar physical traits, to reproduce.

Originally, this was the impetus for his rape of Ferathainn, because she was a suitable subject for the continuance of his people.  It was a biological imperative, and eventually, this seemed to me to be too contrived.

Kane was the mastermind behind the war that Khaleal is a perpetrator of, and he experimented on people.  Initially, this was a purely scientific experimentation: how much weight could a healthy specimen hold before his or her strength gave way and she or he was crushed?  How far could various joints be bent before they broke?  Things like that.  Kane was just plain cruel.

Yllel was originally called Greymon, or known to the peoples of Tellurin as “The Grey Man.”  He was the traditional devil figure and tricked people into selling their souls for various dispensations.  He was always imprisoned to prevent him from harming people/destroying the world, but initially his passion for destruction was mindless.  It just was.  There was no reason for his need to bring the world to ruin.

Eventually, I conceived of a way to bring these three villains together when I thought about the deities of Tellurin and its magick system (yes, they’re both coming in future world-building posts).

For Eoghan, Kane and Yllel (as Greymon) were the people he was assigned to defeat because as the Kas’Hadden, it was his duty to protect the world and fight the people who posed a threat to it.  Khaleal would be an obvious antagonist because of Eoghan’s love for Ferathainn.  He wants to protect her.

When I developed Tellurin’s religious system (also coming in a future post), I realized that organized religion would also be an antagonist for Eoghan.

I gave it form in the personages of Archbishop Hermann Manse and High Inquisitor Alphonse de Naude (which I will not be offering sketches of here).  Later, I also instituted a rival religion for the Faithful, the adherents of the Holy Mother Church, of whom Queen Amalthea became the main antagonistic figure.  She does not appear until the next novel in my series though.

The Fathithful could be equated to Christianity in general.  They share the most in common with High Anglican practice, but there are points of divergence.  The Faithful do not really believe in the existence of the gods, but perpetuate belief for the better governance of the people.

The HMC is more of a political body.  They believe in the gods in the clock-maker sense.  The gods set everything in motion, but the Tellurin are the ones who rule the world on their behalf.  Magick and its practitioners are blasphemous.  The Faithful are blasphemous.  Any people not purely Tellurin are blasphemous.  They are looking to foment holy war.

In thinking about Dairragh and his potential conflicts, I decided to make Halthyon into his primary antagonist.  They have a long and strange association.  As I mentioned in Dairragh’s sketch last week, Halthyon enters Dairragh’s life when he is very young.  The sourceror seduces Aline, Killian’s wife, impregnates her, and then leaves.

Not having any knowledge of where her lover went, Aline eventually runs away when Killian realizes that her baby is not his.  Halthyon returns years later and Aline willingly runs away with him, but he is not interested in her, only the child she bore.  Aline refuses to disclose where she left her baby, and dies at Halthyon’s hand.

Halthyon leaves her body for Killian and Dairragh to discover and disappears again.  When Halthyon returns to Gryphonskeep a third time, it is as the captain of a regiment.  Dairragh recognizes him, and tries to kill the author of his life’s tragedies, but only succeeds in setting off the attack, destroying everything he knows and loves.

Dairragh is also at odds with Killian, who, after his betrayal by Aline and Halthyon, becomes abusive and cruel.

When I decided to make Ferathainn and Dairragh half-brother and sister, I knew Halthyon had to be her father.  That got me thinking about how he could also play the antagonist role for Ferathainn …

Raven Margrove is Dairragh’s cousin (born Nicholas de Corvus), and a minion of Kane’s.  He is the one responsible for the destruction of Aurayene, and he leads the largest company of the Black King’s army.  It is his goal to kill King Romnir Raethe and assume the throne of Tellurin.  Eventually he and Dairragh come into direct conflict, but not in the first novel of the series.

The sketches

Name:  Khaleal bin Nasir

  • Birth date/place: 30 suns ago

    Think Oded Fehr, but with auburn hair.

  • Character role:  Secondary antagonist
  • Age:  30
  • Race:  favrard
  • Eye colour:  Green
  • Hair colour/style:  Red, long and wild.
  • Build:  Athletic, 6’ 2” 200 lbs
  • Skin tone:  dark, sun-weathered
  • Style of dress: armour, articulated plate and chain
  • Personality traits:  Khaleal is insane.  The dark god Yllel has insinuated himself into his mind as he has done with all favrard since the race sold their collective souls to him.  Khaleal is an honourable man and tries to be true to himself whenever he can, but the near-constant pressure the god can exert on him has unbalanced Khaleal to the point where he no longer has control over his own actions.
  • Background:  Khaleal was raised by his amah, Illiden, in seclusion and had what would be considered a normal childhood until he came of age.
  • At the age of 12, Khaleal felt the first stirrings of Yllel in his mind.  Over the course of the next months, Khaleal was twisted by the dark god until he was driven to seek out and kill his own mother.
  • After that, Khaleal was Yllel’s slave.
  • He harbours the secret wish to free his people from Yllel’s slavery.
  • Internal conflicts:  Insanity/Yllel.  Tortured by the things Yllel forces him to do.  His rape of Fer is what starts to send him over the edge.
  • When he sees Fer, he feels that she will be instrumental in the defeat of Kane, or Yllel, or both.  Why else would Yllel want to subvert her to his purpose?  He determines to use Fer to achieve his goal (the freedom of his people) if he can.
  • External conflicts: The Black King seeks possession of Yllel’s soul contracts and thus control of Khaleal and all his people.  Khaleal sees this as an opportunity.  Kane will certainly be easier to kill than Yllel, and then his people can be free.
  • Ferathainn wants revenge for the slaughter of Hartsgrove and her rape.
  • Eoghan and Dairragh want to kill him for Fer’s sake.
  • Yllel possesses and tortures his slaves frequently.

Name: Kane

  • Nickname: The Black King

    I picture Kane as Marlon Brando/Kurtz from heart of darkness. Just give him black eyes and pale skin, and that’s pretty much Kane.

  • Birth date/place: Thousands of suns ago
  • Character role: Secondary antagonist
  • Age: Kane’s not even certain
  • Race: Once Tellurin, but years of magick abuse and experimentation have turned him into something else.
  • Eye colour: black
  • Hair: None
  • Build: obese, 265 lbs, 5’8”
  • Skin Tone: White, so pale, it’s almost translucent
  • Style of dress: Immaculate, reflective of his self-endowed title: King.
  • Characteristics/mannerisms:  Perpetually nervous, paranoid, physical tics throughout his body.
  • Personality Traits: Methodical, cruel, patient.  Megalomaniac.  Aristocratic.  In modern psychological terms, he’s a psychopath.  Power and its exercise over others is his sole goal and the only thing that can give him any pleasure.  War and physical violence are beneath him, but he will resort to such methods if required.
  • Background: Kane was once Tellurin, became a sourceror, studied hard and learned all that he could, and then became to experiment with the source, extending his life, becoming something that was no longer Tellurin.  He developed the technique of binding to the point of perfection.  Then he began to cultivate an interest in mechanics.  But to what end to use all of his knowledge?  Kane began to quest for something worthy of his new skills.  The domination of Tellurin seemed to be the logical next step.
  • He battled and slew his fellow sourcerors, gathering source enough to sustain himself and his experiments.  Kane spent the next years experimenting on people, creating living weapons from them that were utterly subservient to his will.  He calls them grotesques.  Everyone else calls them abominations.  He made various artefacts and mechanical weapons by enslaving the souls of other sourcerors within them.
  • Eventually, Yllel found the sourceror.  Kane learned of the god’s incarceration, resources, and desire for revenge.  Kane offered to free the dark god in exchange for a piece of the world remaining after Yllel was done with it.
  • Kane’s true ambition is to free Yllel from the void only to trap him in an even more impenetrable prison: the Machine.  The instant that Yllel made his deal, the idea of the Machine rose into Kane’s consciousness.  He knew already from his earlier experiments that machines naturally dampened the flow of the source.  A maze-like Machine that was carefully sealed to control whatever source it contained could effectively imprison Yllel forever.  Or at least as long as the Machine could be maintained and repaired.
  • He fabricated the Machine from his brother’s beloved, Laleina.  He lusted after her, but prefers her ghost in his machine to any physical form of intercourse.
  • He began to create his “army” of misshapen creatures, once Tellurin, eleph, okante, or whatever other basic material came to hand.
  • All he needs now is control of Yllel’s soul contracts.
  • He plans to take control of the soul contracts, then Yllel himself.  He will not just have a small piece of the playground.  Kane will own the entire thing.
  • Internal conflicts: Fear of discovery by Yllel.  As powerful as he is, the god could still kill him.
  • External conflicts: Yllel doesn’t trust him and can kill him if Kane doesn’t watch himself.
  • Ferathainn, Eoghan, and Dairragh all want to stop the war and prevent Kane from freeing Yllel.
  • Once Kane holds the soul contracts, Khaleal will have to kill him to free his people.  Halthyon wishes to kill Kane because he is an aberration.  Halthyon also sees Kane as one of the impediments to his own goals.

Name: Yllel

  • Appearance: currently formless, but he can appear in any form
  • Background: Created by Auraya and Auremon along with Tryella his sister, Yllel is actually a piece of Auraya.  Inadvertently, the goddess instilled in her son all of her worst qualities.  He too, is psychotic.
  • Auraya, Auremon, and Tryella devoted themselves to Tellurin and its people.  Yllel had no such interest and saw their absence as abandonment, then a betrayal.  He killed his father after Auremon relinquished his godhood and became mortal; he killed his sister, Tryella, when Auraya trapped him in the void.  He’s been plotting his escape ever since.
  • Thought is the only way he can affect Tellurin now, but a god’s thoughts carry a great deal of power.  The Way Between the Worlds that leads to his prison must be opened from the outside and for that, he has recruited Kane.  He uses his enslaved peoples to work his will in the world.
  • Yllel’s goal is to escape the void and destroy Tellurin while his mother watches.  This alone might kill her, but he hopes that she survives so that he can do the deed with his own hands.  He hasn’t given much thought to what he will do afterward, but will likely recreate the world in his own twisted image.
  • Lately, he’s been plagued by visions of a girl.  She has power.  Not a god’s power, but more than most Tellurin will ever have.  He wants to possess her, and failing that, he will destroy her.
  • There is no image for Yllel, because he can look like anyone he wants to …

Name: Halthyon Morrhynd

  • Birth date/place: Thousands of suns ago/Elphindar

    I think of Halthyon as a cross between Luke Goss as Nuada in Hellboy 2 and …

  • Character role: Secondary antagonist
  • Age: unknown
  • Race: eleph
  • Eye colour: Ice Blue
  • Hair: Beautiful, luxurious, white hair.  Long and flowing.
  • Build: 6” 160 lbs.  Tall, slim, but very strong, though he rarely uses his physical strength.
  • Skin tone:  Lovely ivory skin protected from the sun.  Perfect complexion.
  • Style of dress: Flowing robes, traditional, elaborate sourceror’s garb.
  • Characteristics/mannerisms:  A flair for the dramatic.  He likes to think he is the director of the lives of others.  He’s taken a particular interest in Dairragh.
  • Personality traits:  Confident, quiet, necessarily cruel.  Halthyon takes some

    Harry Lloyd’s Viserys from Game of Thrones.

    pleasure in the work that he does but not from meaningless cruelty.  He also takes care with everything he does.  Meticulous planner.

  • Background:  Much like Kane, Halthyon is a self-made man.  As a child and bearing a name he has since discarded, he suffered heinous abuse at the hands of his father, Galag, who he suspected also killed his mother.  When Halthyon came into his power, he killed his father and determined that no one would ever be able to abuse him again.  His quest for power was driven by this need.  His history draws him to Dairragh, who has also been abused by his father (though not to the same degree, so there is contempt too).
  • Exiled from Elphindar (after a failed coup attempt), he wandered until he found one of the fabled Ways Between the Worlds.  He used it to travel to Tellurin where he found himself a kaidin, or eleph sourceror, in a world rich in the kaides esse (powers that be), and among a people who had great talent to manipulate those powers.  The Tellurin had already discovered and learned to tap the source.  He studied long and diligently and learned everything he could about sourcery in his new home.  Interestingly, as he taught the Tellurin, the Tellurin taught him.  He too, learned about the battle of the gods and Yllel’s incarceration, but from arcane sources (Halthyon is also a bit of an archaeologist).  He, too, was able to prolong his life sourcerously.  Eleph are already long-lived.  He didn’t have far to go to achieve immortality.  The source of other sourcerors and magi is his primary sustenance.
  • Halthyon was present when Auremon sacrificed his godhood and released his source into the world, permanently rupturing the Ways Between the Worlds.  He watched his people spill over into Tellurin in terror.  He watched them battle with the Tellurin and withdraw into the Deep Forest.  Halthyon watched as Auremon became a great teacher among mankind.  Halthyon watched as Yllel approached his divine father, disguised as a student, and murdered Auremon.  He watched as Yllel slowly gathered his power and then struck out at his grieving mother and sister.
  • Halthyon observed as each act of godly creation or destruction diminished the gods.  He began to study the ancient philosophers, some of whom posited that the Gods would eventually become as mortals, and as mortals became more powerful, they would eventually become gods.
  • Halthyon believes that he is destined to become one of these new gods.
  • He will be rid of Kane, the aberration, take Yllel’s power for himself by using Kane’s Machine to siphon off the dark god’s power, and then he will ascend.
  • Halthyon also suspects that Ferathainn, as his daughter, could become a new god and he wishes to have her by his side.
  • Internal conflicts: Conceited, a bit of a megalomaniac.  Thinks entirely too much of himself.
  • He has to be careful to maintain his deception.  He has to appear a willing and devoted servant of Kane and Yllel.
  • Childhood molestation by his father resulted in Halthyon committing patricide and permanently messed him up.
  • External conflicts:  Dairragh wants revenge.
  • Everyone else believes he is working for Kane to help conquer Tellurin and free Yllel.  When the truth is revealed, however, even Kane and those who see him as an ally will be his enemies.

Name: Raven Margrove (Nicholas de Corvus)

  • Date/Place of birth: 35 suns ago in Aurayene.
  • Appearance: Black hair, brown eyes, otherwise, he and Dairragh could be brothers
  • Background: Raised in a family that was devoutly Faithful (a de Corvus was the first Kas’Hadden to be called), but possessed of magickal talent, Nicholas was torn.  His father and uncle were both magi, but deemed his talent insufficient to develop (truthfully, they found his personality unsuitable—Nicholas would use his power to hurt others).  His mother wanted him to become a priest, but Nicholas wasn’t interested in a life of sacrifice and self-deprivation.  He wanted to be a mage.
  • To fulfil what he believed was his destiny, Nicholas left home and went in search of a master who would be willing to train him.  There were no takers on the continent.  Eventually, he took to the sea and found his way to a barren and desolate island.  There, in the midst of horrible creatures and marvellous inventions, Nicholas found Kane, who promptly agreed to train him to the degree his talent allowed.
  • In return, Nicholas chose a new name, Raven Margrove, and pledged himself to serve the only man who saw fit to grant his fondest wish.
  • In Kane’s service, Raven learned first the necessity of cruelty, and then the love of it.  Kane has made him general of his largest company, and field marshal of the army.  He’s promised Raven the crown in return for his service, and Raven intends to have it.

For the visual, please refer back to my post on Dairragh last week.  They could be brothers.

Next week: The cadre of secondary/supporting characters.

TTFN!  Have a great Victoria Day Weekend everyone!