October 23, 2020

The Many Forms of Conflict

If asked about conflict, I would describe myself as conflict-adverse. I would prefer to avoid it, but I will step up and fight if all other avenues have been exhausted. This stance makes writing about conflict extra tricky for me. Life is full of conflict (internal, external), and avoiding it in fiction is unrealistic (this coming from the person who writes about vampires, wizards, and fairies).


Internal Conflict

Character versus self conflict includes a moral dilemma or a mental health condition. It demonstrates a struggle the character has within her/himself. The conflict resolves when the character makes, and acts on, a choice. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is a great example of this type of conflict as demonstrated with the main character's interactions with his alter ego.

External Conflict

Character versus character conflict occurs when the needs and/or wants of one character contradict those of another character.   The characters are on opposing sides whether it's a straightforward fight or a complex power struggle. The conflict resolves when the characters needs and/or wants align or when one character defeats the other. In William Goldman's The Princess Bride, the hero Westley must defeat the prince engaged to Westley's true love Buttercup.

Character versus nature conflict is present when the heroine/hero must survive against poor weather, harsh environment, or natural disaster. The conflict resolves when the protagonist survives or dies. There is always a possibility that nature wins. For example, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, a story about a young man who decides to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness and dies.

Character versus supernatural conflict occurs when the character must battle a supernatural element, like ghosts, vampires, or other mythical creatures. The supernatural characteristics create a power imbalance which makes it even more impressive if the hero prevails. Often both parties possess supernatural skills, and throughout the story arc, the hero learns how to hone his/her power. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan immediately comes to mind as I picture the epic battles between the young demigod and the monsters he encounters throughout the books. As the books progress, he gains confidence and experience in his skills.

Character versus technology conflict occurs when a character must battle some form of technology. It can be a literal fight as in The Terminator (screenplay turned novel) where Skynet machines cause a war and nearly destroy humanity or a struggle for survival as in Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow about the pilot who landed a crippled plane in New York's Hudson River in 2009.

Character versus society conflict is present when the character opposes what is considered "normal" for the purposes of, for example but not limited to, survival, morality, or love. In George Orwell's 1984, Winston questioned the Party in his diary which was a crime ("thoughtcrime") punishable by death. He wanted the freedom to think which threatened the status quo of a tightly controlled society built and maintained on propaganda and outright lies.


Conflict is essential to drive a narrative forward. It is the catalyst for character growth. And it keeps life interesting.


October 16, 2020

Thinking about NaNoWriMo...

It's almost that time of year again. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For #preptober, I'm reviewing what I did last year and planning this year's project.

I prepped BIG TIME last year. I went from 95% Pantser to 110% Planner. This year, I'm planning on a lot less prep, but still some, so I'm aiming for 80% Plantster.

If you're unfamiliar with these terms... A Pantster writes by the seat of his/her pants—no planning whatsoever. A Planner plans everything before she/he starts writing, like plot outlines, character backstories, and world maps. A Plantster is somewhere in between... he/she has an idea and a basic outline before writing begins.

I already have my NaNoWriMo project idea. Book #5 of The Magicals Series. Since it's a continuation of a story line I introduced in Book #2, less planning is required. I know the main characters, their backstories, their goals and motivations—I even know how their story ends (loosely) since the timeline largely occurs behind the scenes of Book #2. But all the middle ground? I guess I'll find out as the story unfolds.


The Magicals Series


Book #1






Book #2






Book #3








October 9, 2020

Coming Soon to an eReader Near You (or Yours)

Anyone feel bad for Alina at the end of A Wizard's Choice, The Magicals Series, Book 2? I did. Characters, like children, often go their own way, making unexpected, er wrong, choices... When Kurtis picked Dee, I was blindsided. After all, I had handpicked his love interest from the beginning. Dee was the wrong choice for him. She was a selfish creature who used Kurtis and cast him aside without a second thought. Yet, Kurtis and Dee couldn't stay away from each other.

At the end of Book 2, Alina gets the 'Dear Jane' speech from Kurtis. She walks away from him, but I could imagine the range of emotions she must have experienced, including feeling all kinds sorry for herself. I set out to find her soulmate.




Alina's story continues in Book 3 as she embarks on a quest to reclaim the fairy crown stolen from her family more than a century ago and, you know, finds true love.

And you'll be able to read it soon as I just signed a book contract with Tirgearr Publishing!


THE MAGICALS SERIES


October 6, 2020

#TirgearrTuesday

Ancient and powerful vampire Corgan has been influencing struggling writer Marisa's life path. He wants to tell his story, before ending his existence, and chooses her to author his tale. But it’s complicated. Corgan knows his request will place her in grave danger. She doesn't.



Praise for A Vampire's Tale

"...I really enjoyed this story... Keep up the good work Maya." -- Graceli, Amazon

"...I really liked the premise of the book and the world the author created..." -- Julie, Amazon

"...This is an amazing contemporary paranormal romance with danger and suspense woven into it to make it even more enjoyable..." -- Suzanne, Amazon

Buy Now

Kindle US | Kindle UK

Smashwords

Apple

Kobo

Nook



A Vampire's Tale is Book 1 of The Magicals Series... Read Kurtis Warde's story in A Wizard's Choice.


October 2, 2020

A Look at Self-Editing

As a writer, I have this ingrained love of all things words. The pen is mightier than the sword, you know. And I love cliches, but that's a topic for another post. :)

Words are such an important mode of communication that it's crucial to use them in a way conducive to your audience's understanding. You're not going to use five-dollar words (there I go again) when speaking to a child (unless they happen to be a genius...), are you?

A writer writes. An editor edits. And, yes, there is some (a lot of) overlap. After the (dreaded) first draft is complete, the real "fun" begins. Not every writer enjoys the editing process. I admit it can be challenging to edit your own work. You knew what you wanted to say even if the words didn't come out that way. (The rhyme was so unintentional. I haven't written an actual blog post in soooo long.) A thorough self-edit is a must-have. I completed a two-year Editing Certificate in 2018 just to improve my own writing / self-editing process. I discovered I loved editing. I really do. There's something so satisfying about it. Learning about editing and, in conjunction, proper writing, really helped me. I think the language arts / English courses I took in school missed some important grammar lessons. I immediately took it upon myself to teach my sons some of what I learned. I bet they're the only kids in their classes who use semi-colons (properly).

Before I submitted A Wizard's Choice, Book 2 of The Magicals Series, for publication, I put my newfound knowledge to good use. I think it improved the editing process, and I'm sure my editor would agree. (Ironically, I adopt informal language in my blog posts.) I recently submitted Book 3 to my publisher... I'm still on pins and needles about its acceptance. << Fingers crossed >> Before I pressed "send" I put my book through my newly documented self-editing paces.

I let my book sit for at least a week before I begin self-editing.


Step One: Make an outline of the completed book

I write an outline as the book progresses, tracking chapter content and word count, so I can simply update this outline. Then I review the outline against the plotting tool(s) I used. In the case of Book 3, I used the Plot Rollercoaster, The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet, and The Three-Act Structure. Overkill? Perhaps. I definitely prepped more for Book 3 than any of my preceding books. Comparing an outline to a plot tool ensures the chapters are in the right order, and the plot unfolds in a logical way.

Step Two: Smooth and improve language

In this step, I complete another read-through to tighten up my writing. Eliminate unnecessary (filler) words. Identify, then avoid, common crutches (for instance "ly" words, overused words, was/were, passive tone). Show, don't tell. I have a reference list of commonly overused words—I included an excerpt below—and I use the "search in document" function to check when I've used these words so I can switch them out.

Felt

Heard

Noticed

Realized

Thought

Wanted

Wondered

Sensed

Began to

Step Three: Line by line check for writing mechanics and consistency

During this read-through, I ensure my writing complies with writing mechanics—the language rules—checking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency. There is a right and wrong answer in writing mechanics, unless an exception, a stylistic decision, is implemented. Choosing a specific style guide or using a style sheet to record your choices (for instance an unusual spelling of a character's name) helps with consistency.


Every author has their own approach to self-editing. A thorough self-edit is not a replacement for a professional editor. An objective pair of eyes will find errors in, and ways to improve, the manuscript that the author may overlook. Even multiple pairs of eyes may miss a mistake so be kind if you happen to find an error in a professionally edited, published book.

Authors, what's your self-editing process?

Readers, what's the most cringeworthy editing oops you've spotted in a published book?