Diversity in Writing

Earlier this week was International Women’s Day. While using my incredibly bad artistic skills to draw a picture of all the main characters from my books celebrating, I noticed how different many of them were. All different heights and shapes, all with different personalities, but what stood out to me the most was the array of different colored faces.

Since I started writing novels at sixteen, I made a promise to myself that I’d have “something for everyone.” I wanted every person to like at least one of my books, so I set out doing all different genres, from comedy to horror, from fantasy to action. I also wanted to have characters with different backgrounds, from rich to homeless, from regular two-parent households to those with single parents or being raised by someone else. I’ve had characters that were adopted, characters that lost a sibling, and characters with up to five siblings.

Most importantly, my goal was to feature characters of different races and abilities. So far, I’ve made main characters that are Armenian, Native American, Asian, African American, Latina, and in my upcoming book, Indian.

Diverse doesn’t necessarily have to mean a different race, it can also be someone who goes through life differently than us, from a mental illness to reduced mobility. Two of my main characters suffer from a physical issue, like Lia who is blind and Violet who is a little person. I’ve also had characters with mental health issues, like Arabella with social anxiety and Freya with depression. Billions of people go through life with the same issues, and I want them to have relatable characters too.

I started thinking about famous modern novels, ones that you see or here about everywhere and have been adapted into movies. Most, if not all, of the main characters are similar. It makes me wonder why there aren’t more ultra-famous novels starring characters of different backgrounds. Mental health issues seem to be covered, but main characters with a physical disability are few and far between. When you think about it, our world is diverse. In a room full of people no one looks the same, so why should our characters?

Get to the Point…of View! 

For this week’s post, I wanted to focus strictly on the point of view, or POV, in a story. Here’s the rundown of what options you have when writing, as well as some tips for how to execute them properly. 

These are four of the most common POV types: 

1. First Person

This is, as I’ve said before, my go-to when writing just about all of my stories. This POV is told from your main character (or characters if you change narration throughout your story). This narration uses “I” during a story. Just remember, while there’s no I in team, there is an I in First Person. 

2. Second Person

To cut to the chase, second person POV is “all about me!” And by me, I actually mean “you.” Second Person POV refers to the reader directly by using “you.” While it is technically uncommon, I’d love to write a book in second person. This narrative puts the reader directly into the action of the story. 

3. Third Person Limited

Third Person Limited is similar to First Person in the sense that you’re only following one character. However, the narrator refers to the character they’re following as he/she/they/their name. In this scenario, the narrator only knows as much as the author knows. 

4. Third Person Omniscient

I call this the “all-knowing” POV. The narrator knows everything going on with everyone, narrating again from the he/she/they perspective. The thoughts of every character are open to the reader instead of the thoughts of just one person. 

Tips to Remember: 

• Don’t suddenly change your POV mid-chapter with no transition

•If using narration from multiple characters, keep the transition of who is talking consistent (every other chapter, etc) 

• Stick to the plot: if you’re talking through different characters, make sure the storyline is continuing on

Five Steps to Help Start Your First Novel

When I tell people that I’m a writer, sometimes I get the response, “Oh, I’ve always had this great idea for a book!” or “I started a book years ago that I just never finished.” 

Writing a book and then finishing it is an incredible feeling. I’m always excited and extremely proud every time I finish a book. I want everyone to experience the joy of writing a book. 

If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, here are five steps to get started on your book writing journey. 

Step One: Plotting Your Plot

Before writing books myself, I thought writers instantly thought of their whole story when they got an idea. A lot of my stories came from just a sentence, like, “I wonder what living in a mobile home park is like?” or “This is so good, it’s like I died and went to Heaven!” As long as you have an idea, your plot will build around that. 

Step Two: Insert Main Character Here

I would say don’t just think of who is starring in your story, but what their aspirations are and how they’ll change at the end of the story. 

Sometimes writers name their characters accordingly with what they do in the story. In my book Saving Flight 926, my main character’s name means “heroine”. It’s fitting for a girl who saves the lives of her classmates. 

Step Three: This is InTENSEifying! 

A story can either be told in past or present tense. Personally I just prefer past becuase it’s easier, but I have written a story in present tense. If your story is full of “in-the-moment” action, you may lean toward present tense. 

Step Four: You, Me, or a Fly on the Wall? 

After picking your characters, decide how you want your story to be told. Point of view, or POV, can be in first, second, or third person (aka the fly on the wall perspective). I prefer first person because I feel like I can better connect with my characters that way. If you want to be more neutral, choose third person. Writing a choose-your-own-adventure story? Then second person is the way to go. 

Step Five: Sitting Down to Type

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting that first chapter. Sometimes writing can be so scary that you don’t want to start. Just remember that this is a first draft, and it’s okay for it to not be perfect. 

So don’t worry when writing your first novel! It may seem scary or overwhelming at first, by following these steps and writing a little at a time, you’ll be on track to finishing your first novel in no time! 


The Seven Deadly Sins of First Chapters

A first chapter can make or break your story. In the publishing world, the opening line of your story could mean the difference between the person judging your story moving on or setting it aside in the rejection pile. After being an online editor and critic for nearly five years, I’ve seen my fair share of bad story openings and have compiled this list of openings so terrible that they’re practically sins. 

1. The Alarm Clock

I’ve seen many stories starting of with things like “the alarm clock started ringing” or even “BEEP! BEEP!” The first line of your story should be exciting and drawing the reader in. Instead of the noise of an alarm clock, start off with your character being late for something important. It’s still extremely cliche, but at least a little more exciting. 

2. The Fashion Show

Most of the time after said alarm clock goes off, I see teenage characters getting ready for school. The authors tend to get a little carried away, describing the character in full, including each individual element of their wardrobe, including jewelry, makeup, and even nail polish. Remember, first chapters need to hook the reader. I’m sorry, but as nice as your character’s outfit is, it’s just not that interesting, and as a matter of fact, neither is the whole school thing, which brings me to my next point:

3. School Time!

I’ve seen way too many normal characters heading to normal high school on a normal day, which makes for a very uninteresting first chapter. Of course, there’s a lot of exceptions, like being a new student or having something exciting happen at said school. 

4. Being Different and Letting Everyone Know

As writers, all our characters are special in their own way. Every main character has something we love about them that sets them apart from everyone else in the story. That’s why we chose them to be the star. Every main character in every story is different from the rest of the population in that story in some way. Never start off with your main character explaining how “different” they are. Stay focused on action and leave all those explanations where they belong, in chapter two. 

5. Breakfast

I’ve had to critique and edit stories where all of the above happened except for the character actually getting to school. Unless your character’s breakfast is crazy or something really important happens during it, the best thing to do is just save those sit-down meals for a later time. 

6. The Big Backstory

A lot of things need to be explained in stories, including a character’s background. However, every detail of your character’s life doesn’t need to be said in a first chapter. Again, save all the mundane details for the second chapter. 

7. Super Exciting Letdowns

Imagine reading a great first chapter. It’s interesting, exciting, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. You’re reaching the last few lines of the chapter, ready to turn the page to chapter two, and suddenly the character has just woken up, about to get ready for school. A word of advice: readers do not like being disappointed! 

Fellow authors, I guarantee if you stay away from these writing sins, your first chapters will benefit! 

When Your Character’s Snoring is Totally Boring

While doing some rewrites on my novel Misconception this week, I noticed a common theme. A whole bunch of chapters ended with Taliah, my main character, falling asleep. At first this seemed fine. Taliah traveling into dreamland at the end of all these chapters was a great, easy way to wrap things up for the time being. 

It wasn’t until last night that this particular thought ocurred to me: Does this ending make my readers want to read on? 

No! No it doesn’t! This is terrifying! How else am I supposed to to wrap up a chapter? If this applies to you, I’ve got you covered. Here are some ways to wrap up a chapter other than your character simply falling asleep. 

1. A Forshadowing Nightmare 

Yes, it’s very cliche, but a nightmare that leaves readers questioning will prompt them to keep on turning those pages. 

2. An Interruption

Imagine just about to close your eyes after a long day, settling into bed, turning off the lights, and then there’s a knock on the door. Or a crush coming from downstairs. Maybe your character forgot something? Or perhaps, someone else is in the bed. An unexpected surprise will leave readers on the edge of their seats. 

3. Make It a Sleepless Night 

A chacarter that tosses and turns is a lot more lively than one who just lies there. Ending your chapter with a character occupying their sleepless self can help you transition into the exciting stuff that happens in the next morning. 

4. Just Think of Something Else

If it’s nighttime in your chapter and you really just want to wrap things up, skip ahead to the next morning or find a different exciting way to end your chapter. 

I used all of these methods to get Taliah out of bed and on her way to doing something exciting. Try them out and see if they work for you guys too. See you all next week. 

When Your Story Feels “Lame”

Today was day 4 of my publishing journey. I worked on edits of chapter 4 of my novella Knowing You’re There.  On the first paragraph of the chapter, I wanted to stop reading. Something about the way I’d written it just felt…well…lame, corny, cheesy.

I’ve had a similar problem with some of my other books. The writing style just feels really unnatural and uninteresting. I try to make my characters interesting, but instead I’m telling instead of showing and not captivating readers at all.

So what do you do when you’re rereading your story and it sounds lamer than a bad horror movie? Try some of these suggestions:

Copyedit: it won’t have super great results, but it’s at least something. Fix some grammar mistakes and change some words around. Maybe that will make it sound at least a little better.

Start Showing: I know that most of the times when my story feels lame, it’s when I have long paragraphs of my character telling the reader a story or explaining something. Show an example of what they’re explaining. Ex, I changed my scene from Lia explaining how she punched her bff Sarah’s boyfriend once to her actually punching him.

Just Write Something Else: back when I was editing my story Hype a few years back, there were parts that sounded so terribly lame and unimportant that I just deleted them. I don’t recommend this as a first option, but in severely cheesy situations, it might be best to just delete the lame part and write something else in it’s place.

Hopefully these tips are helpful.  Happy writing!

Necessary, Fluff, or Necessary Fluff?

Today I began my 3rd day of edits on my novella Knowing You’re There.  In case you have not seen my 3 previous posts, I am currently in the process of editing it for publication and found out that my word count was extremely, extremely lacking. About 22,000 short of 50k, the minimum for YA novels.

Anyway, today I started editing chapter 3, and I am pleased to say that the word count has officially moved up to 29k! (whoopee!) While a 500-word extension is great progress, there is one important question in mind: is what I’m adding just fluff?

I think any author would consider every part of their story to be important, unless it’s something extreme. Today I added better transitions into new scenes. Instead of just saying “two days later…” I put a few sentences about what happened each day.  I would kind of just call this “necessary fluff”. The events weren’t super important, but they were necessary to make a better transition to the next scene…right?

So, with that, I have created 3 definitions to separate the additions that writers may want to include in their work:

Fluff: not needed. Excess details, information that serves no purpose.

Necessary Information: character development, moves the plot along, shows the reader something that they need to know.

Necessary Fluff: extends the word count of the story, but also offers slight character development and more specifics.

And there you have it.  Stay toned for more updates as I tackle chapter 4 tomorrow!