Describing Your Disabled Main Character

With so many new writers today, everyone is trying to stand out and shift away from the norm. While in the last century, many novels focused on normal characters. Today we see all sorts from all different walks of life. Lately I’ve started to notice a trend of “disabled” characters.

Of course, with this growing trend is a growing number of insults. When something as serious as a disability isn’t written with taste, this can be pretty offensive to others. But this post isn’t for judgement. Rather, for tips as usual.

Anyway, if you want to focus your story around a character with a disability/illness, here are some tips on how to be accurate and respectful:

1. DO RESEARCH: I made this mistake in the first draft of my most popular novel, Knowing You’re There, in which Lia, my mc, is blind. Research the problem your character has. It’ll be a lot easier to write instead of going off mere assumption.

2. SHOW US, DON’T TELL US: While it’s always important Im general, this is extra important for introducing your mc. Instead of saying something like “I’m deaf,” show your character using sign language.

3. A DISABILITY ISN’T A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: people with disabilities are no different than anyone else. They have their likes and dislikes. Make sure not to focus your story around the fact that the person is disabled, and instead around what is going to happen to them.

Are Any Ideas a Waste of Time?

Talking to my boyfriend about a story idea I had this weekend had me thinking. As writers, we always get super excited about a new idea. We were sitting in the kitchen of my dorm on Saturday talking about Gasparilla, the Mardi-Gras-like pirate festival that takes place every January here in Tampa. People come from all over Florida to get extremely intoxicated and catch beads at the parade. Celebrities even show up. (This year I got to see Mario Lopez!)

Anyway, during whatever we were talking about, my brain suddenly exploded with this big huge idea: a normal college freshman (Jasper) goes to the Gasparilla festival with her friends. She gets separated and encounters a man in a pirate costume, who she thinks is one of the actors. It turns out, he is actually a ghost from the ship. For some reason, he hands Jasper a map to where Captain Gasparilla’s long-lost treasure is hidden. She finds it, then has to figure out who to tell/what to do with it.

My boyfriend’s response was, “Don’t make it about the media! Make it about the treasure hunt!”

I was very surprised that he didn’t like the idea. This has been a frequent pattern with many of my stories/ideas. This got me thinking: are some ideas a waste of time? Should some stories just not be written?

My advisor told me this. To not go back to stories which might not work. I disagree. If you have writer’s block and can’t think of anything else, why not write? You’re gaining more experience and practice.

Main point of this post: no. Nothing you write is going to be a waste of time.

What About Writing REAL Romance?

I promised a romance-related post today, and a sudden entrance into my room by my distressed suitemate served as a good inspiration. On Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about writing REAL romance.

Throughout my teen years, I’ve had a lot of friends, and I’ve seen a lot of people go through boyfriends. Most of the time, relationships DON’T work out! But yet, for some reason, love stories today somehow focus on two different extremes. Either someone dies (TFIOS, Romeo and Juliet) or they live “Happily Ever After” (The Notebook, and every Disney movie). Go figure!

Let’s go back to the real issue here. Relationships stink sometimes. Someone may cheat. Maybe the guy is possessive, or the girl is crazy. Couples get separated by distance. One partner may be lazy, while the other could be too controlling. And, most of the time, to no one’s surprise, people break up.

But yet, I don’t see these stories. Personally, I love stories that I can relate to, and the main course of my writing is trying to relate to others. Where are the stories where a couple has a pretty good relationship, fights every once in a while, then breaks up after a few months/years, and they have to recover and try to move on? Because newsflash–things like this actually happen.

This, in my opinion, is what I call “real romance.” I’d like to say that most of the time, handsome young teenagers don’t die, and most “happily ever afters” are unrealistic. Even the most picture-perfect couples can have issues. My boyfriend and I have gotten praise and complements from people about how “cute” we are, and although we don’t have fights (we try our best to talk calmly about things instead of yelling), we still have issues. (The things his parents do really drive me nuts, and he usually backs them up).

So, I think it’s time to change the notion of today’s romance stories. No more perfect/dead boyfriends! Get to the nitty-gritty of relationships: struggles, fights, making up, and working together to power through issues. Or breaking up, because that happens a lot too.

How (and when) to describe your characters

All authors love their characters. We love them so much that we can’t wait to tell our readers everything about them. But sometimes we jump the gun and start describing our main characters way too much, and way too early.

Here is a common description I’ve seen in a lot of stories written by teens:

I have long, curly brown hair that goes down to my mid back, with blond highlights. I have ocean blue eyes and tan, olive colored skin. I’m tall, but not that tall, like 5’8 or so.

If this is in your first chapter. Stop. Delete it, and try again. Remember, first chapters are for engaging the reader, not descriptions.

A lot of authors have different methods for different things. I will tell you my method for description, which I call the “Sly description.” In this method, I slowly introduce the features of my main characters without breaking the text.

For example, instead of telling the reader someone is short, show them having difficulty reaching a high shelf.

Here is an example of how to show readers that a character has red, curly hair:

I grabbed the brush, struggling to pull it through my knotted mess of red curls.

Okay, it’s not the best example, but it’s better than saying, “I have red curly hair” in the middle of the text.

Eyes are tricky, in my opinion. I don’t think they really need to be mentioned until a crucial part of the story. Ex: I stared into Desmond’s piercing green eyes as he moved in for the kiss. As for the main character, I don’t think they need to be mentioned at all.

However, if the eyes are something special, of course they can be talked about. In my horror story KrawL, Gianna, my main heroine, has a gene mutation that caused her to have black hair and blue eyes. The theme of mutation is relevant throughout the book.

That’s all for today! I’ll try and have something romance themed for tomorrow.

Writing a Great Beginning (Part 2) First Sentences

If you ask me, the first sentence of your story is the absolute most important. This determines whether a publisher or reader stays with you, or not. Instead of going on lengthy explanations again, I’ll do some numbered points like yesterday. So, here are some numbers to remember when writing your first sentence:

Be exciting or interesting, but also keep it short. No lengthy explanations in the first chapter. Here are some examples:

It was a pleasure to burn. -Ray Bradbury, Farenheight 451

Mother died today. -Albert Camus, The Stranger

Of course, the first sentence can be a little longer:

Behind every man alive now stand thirty ghosts, for that it the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. -Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odessy

And, in case you want some examples from someone who isn’t super famous. Here are some beginnings from an ordinary aspiring writer, me:

“There was no good reason to leave Costa Rica.”

“Nobody really knew Christopher.”

“The lavender-painted fingernails Emily had wrapped around the trigger reminded me of the balloons from recruitment.”

“Sometimes I look through this barrier holding me in and wonder if there is more to life.”

As you can see from the examples above, they are far from boring. Stay away from things like wheather, alarm clocks, and all around boring things. HOWEVER, you can include weather if you’ve got something really great after it.

Ex. I went insane on a sunny afternoon in March.

You can also include weekdays/times of day. (But only if they are important to the plot). Ex. On a Sunday morning, I poured blood in my coffee instead of milk.

I’ve read a number of stories that start by “Let me introduce myself.” Or “My name is Emily Thomas.”

Try to stay away from introduction with a name or the “introducing” thing. But it CAN work if you have something good after it:
Ex: My name is Emily Thomas, ruler of the sirens.

Names could also work as a second sentence: “Everyone knows my name. I’m Emily Thomas, or the Scranton Strangler. The accused Scranton Strangler, that is.”

Tomorrow we work on descriptions. Write on, everyone!

How to Write a Great Beginning (Part 1)

For me, the first chapter is the most important part of the story. If a publisher doesn’t like it, your manuscript is in the garbage with all the other rejects.

So for the sake of this post, I created the “3 Bs of Beginnings” Shall we get started?

Beginnings have to hook your reader immediately, starting with your first sentence. Save all that descriptive stuff and backstory for chapter 2 where it belongs.

Remember, no backstory unless it is of extreme importance. For example, the day a character’s mother died or something like that. But remember, this backstory must me RELEVANT to the rest of the plot! If you’re starting with a description of a past event, remember to ask yourself, “does the reader NEED to know this?”

No big descriptions in chapter one. Save the description of how beautiful that Apple tree in the front yard is for some other time.

Tomorrow we will get into first sentences! Happy writing everyone!

“I’m Going to Write a Trilogy” –The Delusion

As many of you know, I’ve met a lot of different people on Wattpad. And of course, there are many young, excited, and I hate to say it, but clueless teen authors. Over time, I noticed that a popular topic for some is having multiple books.

Just this morning, I had someone post on my thread, not yet finished with their 1st book, telling me the plot was, not might, but definately will, span out over 3–4 books. Something needs to be done about these psychics! They’re predicting the future!

Of course, that future is extremely distorted. Main idea: how can people blatantly say they are going to write a trilogy or a series when they either A. Haven’t started their first book, or B. When they haven’t finished their first book?

Do writers really know how long their plot will last? Because I don’t, and I’m not sure how anyone can. I’ve had books that I thought would have sequels wrap up in one novel. Then, for my Angel Trilogy, I had one book, wanted to write a sequel, and then it turned into a trilogy. The plot was so long that I even picked out a title for a 4th book in case I needed it.

So, writers, don’t get too cocky you have about that trilogy or five book series you have in your head. Because when you sit down and start writing it, you never know what twists and turns can happen in your plot. At least on your first draft, no one can guess exactly how many pages their plot will turn out to be.