Too Many Main Characters: 3 Tips to Fix Your Story

In the first draft of your story, it’s not uncommon to introduce too many characters, especially too many main characters. That is exactly what I did in mine.

I wanted to write an epic story after all, and you can’t do that (you can) without having multiple combating characters your readers can root for.

While you can have different independent plot lines and protagonists, what you need to do is make sure that the way you organize your story, where you choose to transition from one character’s point of view to the next, is clear and purposeful in moving the entire story along and driving the characters’ arches. Without clear organization and thoughtful transitions, the story can end up being fragmented and convoluted.

Although it may still be a great story, it wouldn’t achieve its full potential.

In this video, I offer a few tips to help you manage the different protagonists so your story can be read and enjoyed smoothly.

  1. Have one POV character per scene or chapter
  2. Make sure readers know which character they are following ASAP
  3. When all characters are together, pick an ultimate main character, the one with most scenes

Word of the video: “Dinkus” (noun): three consecutive asterisks or ***

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

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How to Invent Your Own Measurement When World Building

Weight, volume, speed, and time: there are many aspects of daily life that we have to measure in order to function and communicate with those around us.

An agreed-upon unit of measurement is essential in society, and the way we measure things says a lot about our culture. It’s only natural that when we start writing and world building, we feel encouraged to invent our own type of measurements to create a more unique society. It’s much like creating a new language.

The thing is, in order to have an immersive world, we need to understand how different units of measurements are invented. We can do this by learning about the history of some units of measurements.

In this video, I take a quick leap back in time to get some inspirations… and then I take a crack at explaining the ones I created in my epic novel. I hope this video can show you what works and what doesn’t work when inventing units of measurements.

Have fun!

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

This Is My First Time In Space

I didn’t know what I expected to do once I’m up here. I guess I’ll enjoy the view?

Look outside and see the great expanse of the universe?

Good stuff. This trip has gone exactly as planned so far, and I always worry when a trip goes EXACTLY as planned… you don’t remember it.

There is a beauty when things go wrong because then there is a “crisis.”

We, people, recollect crisis better than moments of tranquility. Think about it, last time you spent the whole weekend chilling at home, and someone from the office, probably Frank, asks you what you were up to and all you said was, “Nothing…” Nothing. You were doing something… and it was awesome — and nothing went wrong.

You aim low and you achieve your goal and then there is nothing interesting to talk about.

See that’s the thing about stories, a good story needs to have a conflict. Man against man. Nature against man. Or my favourite, man against his inner self, like in that Woody Allen movie, you know, the one with the nervous guy. There needs to be a conflict in this trip, otherwise, I’m not going to remember it once I return to Earth.

Oh? I guess you’re right. I’m totally having a man vs self-conflict right now, aren’t I?

It’s not the celestial expanse that is against me nor my spaceship-mate, Astro. Yes, my partner on this trip is named Astro. Funny, huh?

Me? What’s my name? Oh equally or if not more space-related, my name is Flying Saucer. First name Flying, last name Saucer. It’s French, it’s pronounced Saucey-ée. Flying Saucer and my partner Astro. Anyways, back on topic, I’m most certainly having a conflict.

I’m unable to enjoy this trip because once I get back I’m not going to have anything to talk about. When my wife asks me how was it, I’ll say, “Oh it was wonderful, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about coming home and having nothing to talk about, so I stressed about it the whole time.”

Yeah, she’ll love that story, at least she’ll pretend to. I mean, our whole love is a sham anyway. She’s not fooling anyone. She’s a trooper though. She doesn’t complain or demand a divorce like some women. She hates me, but you know what she hates more? The mysterious abyss that is the dating scene. Ha! I’m so much more courageous than her. Here I am in space, and there she is living in my home, resenting me for my bravery. Either way, she couldn’t do this, the same way she couldn’t divorce me. To divorce me is like going into space, you just simply can’t be certain that you’ll get back — get me back. The dating scene is merciless. She never online dated a day in her life, she is not ready for this new world. This brave new world.

What was it like to be in space?

Oh, it’s cool, I spent a lot of time up there thinking about how my wife won’t divorce me, it was pretty awesome!

space

Yeah. That’s what I’ll tell the guys. They’ll love that nugget. Except for Johnson, who is still jealous that I’m more successful than him. He’ll never openly say it. Nobody ever admits they are jealous, you simply have to read it in their face. I can read it on Johnson’s face all right. I can read it all day. Flipping the pages back and forth. Highlighting the best passage, his dumb lips. Circling a good quote, his furrowed eyebrow. I will scribble little notes in the margin, his left dimple. Fuck him! Jealousy…. know what it is? Jealousy is like taking poison and hoping someone else will die. Yes. I like that. It’s so true about Johnson. He’s killing himself. I don’t need to worry about him at all. I can continue being me. Loveable ol’ me.

Who knows when I’ll get to hang out with those guys any more. Everybody is so busy these days. Even Johnson, to be honest. Me and Johnson used to be tight. I would wake up around noon, give him a shout, and we would meet up for coffee and then hang out in his parent’s basement. Can’t believe that used to be what I did. Chilling. Now look at me, I’m an astronaut in space. I’m literally in space. Still chilling, though. Different setting same shit.

All that hard work and I simply found a cooler place to chill. Not that much cooler, Johnson’s parent’s basement did have an infinite amount of snacks. Mrs. Johnson is unreal. I don’t get that woman, she was pretty much that wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel. I mean, she herself was not wicked. I mean, she was wicked cool, but not wicked as in wanting to fatten me up and eat me. Maybe she did want to eat me and I didn’t get fat enough, fast enough… My crazy metabolism. That is something to ponder about later. Not now.

I mean, I was pretty polite, I didn’t go over there and eat the snacks. I hung out with her son as well. Johnson. Good guy that Johnson. It’s just that we had a falling out. He became an accountant or something, and I became a man of space and wonder and imagination and hope for the future. He makes sure that the government of one of those little countries on that little planet gets 30% of some hard working freelancer’s money. I get it. I get it. No, you’re right, I shouldn’t diss accountants. Taxes are unavoidable. I’m not angry at accountants. I’m cool with them. They’re an awesome occupation, and totally a job I couldn’t do.

See, I’m good with numbers, of course, I’m an astronaut. You think I used the calculator app on my iPhone to get me up here? Ha! Good one. No. I did some math and calculated the exact fuel and trajectory to get me into this orbit without blowing Astro and myself up. Blowing Astro (say that out loud, if you are reading in your head). Ha! Didn’t mean for those two words to come so close together. That can be dangerous if you know what I mean.

Anyways, I’m technically skilled enough to be an accountant, I just can’t stand the business culture. Wearing a suit and having small talk with your colleagues. Oh, small talk is a nightmare. I hate having small talk, I never have anything to say. “What did you get up to last weekend?”

“Oh, I was in space?”

“Really? How was that?”

“Oh you know, just spent a lot of time up there thinking about how my wife won’t divorce me, it was pretty awesome!”  

 

What you’ve just read is the seventh post in a series entitled “A Fan Fiction of My Life by My Number One Fan, Me.” Please check out the first five posts from the series:
Me, A Doctor
I Am A Controversial Artist, AMA
A Well-Respected Elderly Man, It’s Me
Bringer of Bad News, I’m the One
Yes, I Am Blind with a Broken Heart 
I Drive a $160 Million Ride

10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019

As a writer, there is no better way to support a literary magazine and the writing community than to submit your work into a contest.

Writing contests are also a great way to get you focused on completing a piece of work to the quality where you get that little spark of hope that maybe (just maybe) it’s good enough to win, be published — and earn you some sweet sweet spending money.

Looking ahead to 2019 (OMG! Can you believe it’s already the end of another year?), I’m planning to return to my tenacious roots of accumulating rejection letters.

Winning a contest is a big deal because in a world where the hardest part about being a writer is being read. Having a revered peer not only read your work but regard it as worthwhile is something nobody can ever take away from you. That being said, it’s always just someone’s opinion, so whatever, right? The important thing is loving the process, not the accolades. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have some motivation.

So here is my challenge: enter as many contests as I can in 2019. I hope you will join me in this endeavour. Maybe I shouldn’t encourage you since you will end up being my competition. Either way, that’s not the point. The point is to write more, improve as a writer and yadda yadda. Good luck!!  

Here are 10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019 (in order of deadline):

The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction

Prize:

  • $1,500 grand prize
  • $600 runner-up
  • $400 2nd runner-up

Deadline: January 15, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CDN
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45

Max Length: 6000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Let Down Your Hair Contest

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1000
  • Second prize: $150.
  • Publication in an upcoming issue of EVENT
  • All entries will be considered for publication

Deadline: January 20, 2019

Entry Fee: $32.95

Max Length: 1,800 words

More details at Event

 

CBC Literary Prizes – Nonfiction

Prize:

  • Grand Prize: $6,000, publication in CBC Books, and a two-week residency at The Banff Centre
  • 4 finalists: $1,000 each

Deadline: February 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $25.00 (taxes included)

Length: 2,000 words

More details at CBC

 

The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

Prize: $1000

Deadline: March 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40

Length: No word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction

Prize: $1,000 (CAD)

Deadline: May 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $25 CAD
  • USA: $30 US
  • International: $35 US

Length: 3,500 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

The Grouse Grind Lit Prize for V. Short Forms

Deadline: May 15th, 2019

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $500
  • Runner-up: $150
  • Second runner-up: $50

Entry Fee: $15

Length: 300 words

More details at PRISM international

 

The Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award

Prize: $1000 and a one-year Duotrope Gift Certificate ($50 USD value)

Deadline: May 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40 

Length: no word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Room Creative Non-fiction Contest

Prize:

  • First prize: $500 and publication in print
  • Second prize: $250 and publication in print
  • Honourable mention: $50 and publication online

Deadline: June 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $42 USD

Length: 3,500 words

Note: Open to women, trans, two-spirited, and genderqueer people.

More details at Room Magazine

 

Prism CREATIVE NON-FICTION CONTEST

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1,500
  • Runner-up: $600
  • Second Runner-up: $400

Deadline: July 31, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 6,000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: Aug 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 2,000 and 3,000 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

Bonus:

Here are some notable writing contests that haven’t posted their set 2019 deadline yet. I will keep you posted when those are up.

Annual Lush Triumphant Literary Awards – Contest Opens Jan 2019

More details at Subterrain

Short Grain Contest – Contest takes from Jan-April

More details at Grain

 

Know of any other Canadian writing contest? Please share it in the comments.

 

Naming Your Characters: 3 Tips

Naming your character can be challenging. Unlike naming your pet or your children, a character comes with their own experiences and history.

While it might seem like a name can be something you can tack onto any person, that is not so.

A name can alter the way other people interact with your character and how your character thinks about themselves.

In order to find discover or create a name that fits, we must think less like the writer and more as the parents or guardians who named the character. Once you know the naming conventions of that society, the family within it and what external factors influenced the choice, you can be assured that the name you have given your character is one that fits.

When I wrote my story, I didn’t dwell too long in coming up with names for my character. I simply needed to get my story down and introduce my characters. Well, here I am at the editing stage and it’s time for me to think a bit more about what my character’s names should be.

In the video, I highlighted three characters, whose names were mere snap decisions. I decided to delve a little deeper into those names, understand why I picked them initially if I can unlock any hidden meanings behind them, and massage them to discover another level of creativity that might fit those character’s personalities better.

The 3 tactics I took — that you should try as well — towards finding a perfect name for my characters included:

Understanding the etymology and meaning of the name

One of my character’s name is Delaine, which means “a lightweight dress fabric of wool or wool and cotton made in prints or solid colors.” However, my character doesn’t resemble the traits of being lightweight or soft. He is tough, gritty, and vengeful. I should consider giving him a name that correlates to his personality… or I can keep it as such and find the irony in his name.

Thinking from your character’s parent’s perspective

Imagine what it would be like to be the parents of your character. Were they proud of their heritage and wanted to ensure that certain names were passed down from generation to generation? Or were they hippies and liked to give unique names? Getting into the mindset of the actual people naming their children will give you a clear direction on how to name someone or something.

Combining different words together and changing the spelling

My character Bernard Barnwell is a farmer: Barn-well. That’s by no means clever, but that was literally how names were created in the beginning. People simply received names through recognizing who they are or what they do. Such as Johnson, means John’s son. Nevertheless, here is where you can attempt to be a little more creative. Take Barnwell for example, what I decided to do was make it less obvious. So, I found the Old English word for Barn: Bearn, and combined it with the Norse word for skill (replacing well) skil. Combined I have Bearnskil. A name that is, generally speaking, unique.

Are you writing your story and having a hard time coming up with a suitable name? Give these three tactics a try and see if you get a spark of creativity. Don’t forget to have fun, and enjoy the process.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

The 3 Rules of World Building

So you want to build a world, well, like anything, there are rules you have to follow. A world cannot function any which way you want, there are certain elements and mechanics that you have to understand first in order for your intelligent readers to accept what you have made.

When you think of the world you live in it is easy to see all that is around you as a series of random events, but in reality, everything that exists and occurs is the result of something else (cause and effect). Mountains do not simply appear out of nowhere, an Earth-shaking event had to occur in order for the mountains to sprout: tectonic plates. In every event or with every existence, there is a cause.

Nothing happened by accident. Everything follows a rule, and so does world building. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about 3 rules you must be aware of when you start building your world.

The 3 Rules of World Building:

  1. The environment – landscape, plants, climate, animals
  2. The intelligent life – race, culture, language, religion
  3. The impending change – climate change, approaching war, a death of a family member

These are elements you will have to follow in order to have an interesting and believable place for your characters to inhabit. Hell, even thinking about these aspects will be enough to launch you in many ideas for your world. That’s the magic of world building. So much of it, you haven’t even thought about yet.

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

Can Society Exist Without a Government?

World building is hard.

You don’t realize how little you know about the world you live in until you start writing about it. In my story, I wrote a sentence stating that a town has no government. What does that even mean?

Can a society exist without government? Or will leadership form from those with the highest influence?

In this video, I explore this question, diving as deep as I can into the topic without getting too political. Staying at the very surface of what government means to me, I decide whether that sentence still fits in my story or will I have to rephrase that to better interpret what I meant when I wrote “no government.”

Verdict: Government is hard to define, but to me, the government means leadership. Think of yourself and your friends, is there a member that makes decisions?

“Hey, let’s go to Portland this weekend, I’ll drive, just chip in for gas money.” Is there someone in the group who creates plans for everyone? That guy or gal is the leader, like it or not. It might even be yourself, you high achiever, you.

The point I’m trying to make is that government will form as long as there are plans and decisions needed to be made. If something is broken in the house, who decides to buy a new one? Probably dad. He is the leader. He is the king. He decides.

If we can live in a society where there are no crimes, no deterioration of infrastructure, and no plans for the future… then yes, we can find a society without a government. But we can’t.

There might be a brief moment in history where a definitive government might not be clear, but eventually, the person or group with the most influence will take over and fill the void.

 

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

How to Describe a Setting: 3 Tips

Settings can be a powerful way of exploring culture, nature, and history — it can also be a way to show the internal joy and pain of your characters who reside within the setting.

Think about the setting you are in: are you enjoying it or are you wanting to leave? How the setting affects us says a lot about who we are. Keep this in mind the next time you write your character into a setting.

Do they want to leave or have they finally made it?

If you want to create a realistic setting for your characters to interact with, consider these 3 aspects when writing:

1. What are the physical elements?

Can you point out where this place is on a map? Are you able to describe the floor plan? Knowing where your setting is located will help you determine how far your character needs to travel to get from one spot to another or where they need to go to retrieve an item or find someone to talk to.

2. What does the place look like?

The appearance of a setting can help the reader learn a lot about it. Does the setting have well-paved roads or are the infrastructures in ruins? Has there been a recent war or is this place prospering? Is the kitchen clean or is it gross and messy? A setting can tell the reader a lot about the history and those that reside there.

3. How do the characters feel?

Does the character want to be there? Does it bring back wonderful memories or has it been a prison for him? What your characters do within that setting will give more details into the relationship between the person and the place. In the end, you can describe the setting all you want, but if the character is not responding to those details appropriately, you will lose your readers.

 

Interested in learning more about writing and editing? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

I Drive A $160 Million Ride

jet plane for war

I get it, it sounds like bragging, but It’s not like I get to ride it wherever I want.

I’m like a glorified bus driver. Taking orders and executing it to perfection. That’s what I love about bus drivers, they are the heartbeat of a community. Think about it, how do you get your broke-ass around the city? You take that awful cramped smelly bus. Someone has to drive that awful mortuary on wheels, and that person is called a bus driver.

Earning trust isn’t easy. Earning so much trust that someone will let you drive something that expensive is unprecedented. Think of the last time you let a friend drive your car. No car? Okay, think of the last time you let a friend ride your bike. No bike? Think of the last time you let your friend borrow your Pulp Fiction DVD. A part of you knew you would never see that DVD again.  

You have unreliable friends. I’m simply going to leave it at that. You’re no better. They say you become the people you surround yourself with.

I’m not saying it’s your fault. There really isn’t anything you can do. But listen, you can only carry so much in your life, and if you want good things, you’d need to drop some of the bad. If you want to have a $160M ride, you’d need to get some cooler, more reliable – or at least richer — friends.

That’s what I did.

Look, I’m not a motivational speaker or a life coach or anything like that. I’m simply one of the most successful jet fighters in the academy.

When something needs to get nuked — and get nuked fast. They call me. I tell them to give me a two-week notice, but they always call me last minute, and believe me, as I get into the plane, I’m a bit resentful, but heck, not everyone can do what you want. And that’s why I don’t think you will listen to me either. Who am I anyways… I’m just an employee.

But I think I have a pretty good job. I know this because, whenever I tell people what I do, they perk up and ask, “How do you become a warplane pilot?”

It makes me feel pretty good. I know that accountants don’t get that same type of fanfare. “How did you become a CPA?” We all know how to become an accountant: by killing yourself from the inside. JK accountants are cool. Crunching numbers and all that good stuff.

I always wonder what it would be like to have a simple job and a simple life. You know, wake up, brew coffee, play with my children and teach them the importance about following their dreams but not doing so myself, go to a job where I sit at a computer, talk about my fantasy team with my colleagues, meet my monthly quota (whatever that means, I hear it being said on the television sometimes), and then come home eat dinner and do it all over again.

Would I trade a day of my life with a paper pusher? Absolutely. I think I can sit at a desk and open and close browsers, and pretend to be working by emailing myself thoughtful musings. I would be the employee of the fucking month.

I’m what you would call an over-achiever. Whatever scenario you put me in, I am going to over excel. I remember when I was a little boy, playing doctor dodgeball. The objective of doctor dodgeball is simple — you remember the movie, Hacksaw Ridge? It’s like that but in dodgeball form. So, while war is raging and casualties are falling, the doctors will come and retrieve the fallen elementary school students.

Was I a doctor? Fuck no. I was the slayer of the enemy’s doctors. Kill the doctors. Win the war. That mentality has stayed with me into adulthood. That is how I overachieve. You don’t try to be the person who mends and heals and talk nicely to people. You need to be the person that destroys your enemy’s top resources. You can say that is how I got into this gig: I kind of fell into it.

After the dodgeball game, a talent scout came up to me and said, “Wow kid, I see a lot of potential in you.”

I told him I can give him an autograph but if he wants to negotiate a deal or discuss my future, he would have to contact my attorney and management team.

My manager, Travis, got back to me about a week later with a simple proposal. Flying jet planes. I said, “That sounds like fun.” And the rest is history.

Look, a lot of people are going to tell you that all you can amount to is someone who helps people who sit at computers for a living file taxes, but listen! That’s not true. If you have this secret desire to kill people and express it in a way that can attract the government, and be lucky enough to exhibit that skillset in an arena where federal officials are present, then you too can have an awesome ride and an awesome life like me.

I drive a $160 million jet plane to and from work every day. My office is in the skies over the Middle East. I love my life. Do you love yours?  

 

What you’ve just read is the sixth post in a series entitled “A Fan Fiction of My Life by My Number One Fan, Me.” Please check out the first five posts from the series:
Me, A Doctor
I Am A Controversial Artist, AMA
A Well-Respected Elderly Man, It’s Me
Bringer of Bad News, I’m the One
Yes, I Am Blind with a Broken Heart

 

Did you enjoy it? Yes, subscribe to this blog, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter, stalk me in real life to get the latest update. 

3 Tips for Introducing a Character in Your Novel

Introducing a character in your novel is a lot like introducing a friend at a party, you shouldn’t tell everybody everything, but rather, just the essential.

From there, you allow the character to engage with his or her surrounding, thus letting everyone else experience the character in action as opposed to you telling the audience everything up front.

When examining how you’ve introduced your character, ask yourself, is this detail relevant? Do the character’s actions show their personality? If so, avoid exposition. Trust that your readers can paint the picture of your character themselves, simply give them the colors they should use and set them off. This is especially important at the beginning of a story, as you don’t want to overload your readers.

How to introduce a character in a novel:

  1. Don’t over describe your characters
  2. Use actions to show traits
  3. Exhibit the character’s flaws

In this video, I’ll give some character introduction examples and gives some writing advice to improve your story.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!