Writing basics

Editing tips for novelists

So you’ve finally finished your novel? You’ve typed those immortal words, ‘The End’ and you feel on top of the world. After weeks, maybe months of toil, no social life, and too much coffee, you feel wonderful. You have created something unique, something unlike anything else in existence, and you know that you will be rich and famous within six months. Not to put too fine a point on it, you feel like a god.

Then you look around and notice your messy home, the thick layer of dust blanketing everything beneath, the rolags of pet hair that have collected along the edges of the room, the piles of mouldering dishes in the sink, and your hairy armpits. You and your home may have suffered writer’s neglect, but you don’t care, you’ve been doing something far more important than mere housework.

After the initial glow of completion settles, you get to thinking about publishing your creation. The problem is, you can’t just publish right away and wait for the royalties to flow in. There is much to do to your new baby before you can begin to think of publishing. What you have in front of you is not a novel but a first draft. It requires further work to turn it into a book worthy of publication.

You’ve done the easy bit, now the real work begins.

There are several further steps on the road to publication you must take. You may not need to take every step, but it is probably best that you assume for the moment that you will have to. That way, it won’t be a shock later. These further steps are as follows:

Proof read

Re-write (if necessary)

The above two steps may be repeated several times, so be prepared!

Edit (either yourself or via an editor you’re paying)

Re-write

Edit

The above two may also be repeated more than once.

Final proof read

Formatting

Publication

It’s a lot of further work isn’t it? What? You didn’t realise all this was necessary? Welcome to your baptism of fire my child. This is the life of the writer.

You can do all of the above yourself if you wish or if finances make it necessary. You can also pay others to do every step of the above but unless you’re rich beyond the dreams of avarice, be prepared to do a lot of it yourself. The problem with hiring editors and other writers’ services providers is that you have no way of knowing just how qualified they are when you hand over what is going to be a large amount of money. Don’t assume they’re on the level just because they advertise their services with a slick looking website, or have a list of authors willing to endorse them. Take nothing for granted, the internet is a den of iniquity and being scammed is as easy as falling off a log.

Read books in your genre and while you’re reading, look for mistakes. Are there spelling errors, grammatical errors, plot holes, or timeline anomalies? Does it look and read like someone took care enough to make it as perfect as possible, or does it come across as amateurish? Get others you trust to do the same and ask them what they think. If all seems well, approach the authors on their social media and ask about their editors. You can then approach the editors concerned and ask about the process, their fees etc. The cost is usually along the lines of so much per thousand words, or per page etc, and remember, the cost will be high. This will be your biggest expense so it pays to take your time, do your research properly and not get scammed. Another thing to remember is that there are different types of editing service and you will have to pay separately for each one. Some editors can do some or all of the different types, others can’t and you will have to find other editors for the other types of editing.

Copy Editing – this is usually the least expensive type of editing and usually concentrates on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Line Editing – The editor goes through your manuscript line by line and analyses each sentence. They will consider your word choice, the power and meaning of the sentence, syntax, and any trimming or tightening that they feel needs to be done to improve it.

Mechanical Editing – This type of editing is where the editor applies a particular style to your work when editing, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Style. The clue is in the name; they will concentrate on the mechanics of your writing, spelling, capitalisation, abbreviations, punctuation, and any other style rules.

Substantive Editing – This is concerned with how your work is presented, the big picture. It works at anything from sentence level to chapter level and involves any big restructuring that may be necessary to tighten your work.

Developmental Editing – This type of editing goes into every aspect of the work. It looks at the big picture, the pace, characters, timing, point of view, tense, plotline, subplots, and dialogue. The editor concentrates on making the book enjoyable. They want to know if the characters are likeable, if the story flows well, if there are any places where information is missing or wrong, if the chapters are in the right order, and many other aspects that will hopefully enhance the reading experience. This is the most extensive and costly form of editing.

Some editors lump several of the above together into one, others do not. As with everything in life, be sure to ask for details.

If you’re planning to pay for an editor, there is much to do to your manuscript before sending it to an editor. This will not only save you money but will show the editor that you have an eye for details and are someone worth giving their time to. That’s another thing, just because you’re willing to pay them, doesn’t mean they will agree to do the work. They can refuse you if they deem you unworthy. It’s a bit of a cliquey crowd so be aware.

If you write your novel using Word, then I cannot recommend highly enough that you download and install WordTalk. It is a text-to-speech add-on to your Word system and will ‘read’ your work back to you. I have no words to adequately convey my love and gratitude to whomever invented this wonderful thing; how I ever managed before I discovered it is beyond me. With a few clicks, you can sit back and listen to someone reading to you, and you will notice a gazillion more mistakes than you ever could by reading your work yourself. Believe me on this, I know. There is something about listening to someone else talking that allows your brain to ‘hear’ mistakes far more easily than it can ‘see’ them when you read the work yourself.

Using WorkTalk, go through your work and correct any spelling errors. Don’t trust the in-built spell checker by itself as it often gets things wrong. It is designed for American spelling and will flag British spellings as mistakes, so be aware all you British authors out there. One of your best friends is Thesaurus.com which you can use not only to check spelling, but for when you wish to find a different word that conveys the same meaning as the one you originally chose. Sometimes it’s worth finding a slightly more sophisticated way of saying what you want to say and this website will enable you to find such alternatives easily. I also use it to find the right words for my book titles.

Punctuation is very important and you must pay adequate attention to getting it right. It is through punctuation that the reader knows how to read each sentence, when to take a breath, and helps our brains to understand what it is reading. There are many books and websites giving in depth information on punctuation rules, so I won’t go into too much detail here. There are a couple of things I will mention though.

Use commas, they tell the reader to take a breath. Try reading a sentence without them, it’s jolly hard work.

Get your apostrophes right. This is worth taking the time to research properly, as getting them wrong makes you look like an idiot. There are few punctuation mistakes guaranteed to annoy more than this one.

When punctuating dialogue, speech quotes go outside commas or full stops, always. Each person speaking must be on a new line, (not punctuation I know but this has just occurred to me).

Avoid exclamation marks. Although they accurately display surprise and astonishment, for some inexplicable reason they are frowned upon at the moment.

A question mark takes the place of a full stop at the end of a sentence. You don’t need to use both. One or the other only.

At the end of a sentence, use one space between the full stop and the first word of the next sentence. This is the only area where I, as a British novelist, have given in to the demand to do things the American way. The British way is to use two blank spaces, but demand to use just one is so high that the vast majority of editors will flag this up as an error, not knowing that it is actually a difference in cultural style rather than a mistake. Ho hum.

The above points are just a few important things you should make an effort with before sending out your manuscript to an editor, if you’re using one. It is worth making the effort, for it will not only increase your own knowledge, but showing a willingness to make the effort will endear you to your editor. The subject of punctuation is so much wider than just the above, and if you’re doing the editing yourself, take plenty of time to research the accepted rules and plod through your work gradually. Some aspects of punctuation are a little archaic and can be safely ignored, others will be difficult to understand but work at it, it’s worth it. Many of the websites will give not only definitions of the rules but provide examples too and this is very helpful when trying to make sense of what the hell they’re talking about. If, like me, your childhood education was a little (or a lot) lacking, this will be a big learning curve.

Dialogue tags are the subject of much debate among inexperienced writers. These are the, ‘he said, she said, he replied, she nodded’ that you see at the end of pieces of dialogue. Whichever terminology you use is your own choice, but there are some things worth pointing out. You don’t need a dialogue tag for every single piece of dialogue in an extended conversation. This is a mistake many writers make and one I made myself until I took the time to learn and experiment. You need only such dialogue tags as are necessary to help the reader know who is talking at any one time. In a back and forth conversation, the details of the conversation will largely tell you who is talking and you can limit tags to every third or fourth line of speech. For instance.

“But what about Harry?” he said.

“He’s not coming,” she replied.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because he’s visiting his sick mother,” she shrugged.

“That’s inconvenient,” he snapped.

“I know but he sends his apologies,” she said.

 

See what I mean? It’s clumsy isn’t it? Now try this.

 

“But what about Harry?” he said.

“He’s not coming,” she replied.

“Why not?”

“Because he’s visiting his sick mother.”

“That’s inconvenient.”

“I know but he sends his apologies.”

 

Much better isn’t it? You know who is talking all the time but it flows nicely and allows you to concentrate on the story being told rather than how it’s being said. Try it with your own work and see what you think. You can copy and paste bits of dialogue into a blank Word document and play with it before changing your manuscript. Use your WordTalk app and listen to how it sounds. This can be life changing when you get it right.

When analysing your writing, you must learn that there will be much you can cut out. A lot of what you write is unnecessary and you will find that by cutting these things out, your writing will sound more sophisticated. One of the most important is the issue of adverbs. An adverb modifies a verb. If you remember from your school days, we were taught, (in my school anyway) that a verb is a ‘doing’ word. It is a word that tells of action. Run, walk, sit, talk, laugh, jump, smile, cry, skip, build, scratch, fall, talk, sleep, all these are things you do and are verbs.

Adverbs modify verbs such as those above. Run quickly, talk slowly, sleep deeply etc. Many adverbs  can be identified by the ending ‘ly’ but not all. There are a few, such as, always, often, sometimes, seldom, and never, which do not, but the ‘ly’ trick is very helpful.  The vast majority of adverbs can be cut out without the need for further modification of the sentence. Take the sentence below as an example.

He ran quickly to the end of the street.

If he is running, then he will be moving quickly. You therefore don’t need to point this out, we can work that out for ourselves. Go through your manuscript sentence by sentence, identify the adverbs and take them out if possible.

Avoid beginning every sentence with the same personal pronoun. A personal pronoun is I, he, she, it, they, etc. You will find as you read through your manuscript, that you have long passages where every sentence begins with I, he, she, etc one after the other.  Changing this is important but slow work and will require you to think about how to re-word the sentence. It is worth the effort though, as you will find when listening to your work later.

I looked up at the sky. I noticed it was getting dark. I decided it was time to go home.

I looked up at the sky and noticed darkness approaching. The lengthening shadows told me it was time I was getting home.

The second example sounds more sophisticated, it rolls off the tongue in an easy flow, whereas the first is clunky and akin to driving a car with square wheels.

Make sure you use your words correctly. Do not use, ‘affect’ if you mean, ‘effect’ for instance. There are many examples of such word pairs and although many are spelled alike, they have distinct and important differences in meaning.

Some other examples of such confusing word pairs are as follows.

Accept/except

Altar/alter

Desert/dessert

ie/eg

Farther/further

Good/well

Its/it’s

Lay/lie

More/most

Past/passed

Than/then

That/which

There/their/they’re

Your/you’re

Two/to/too

Toward/towards

There are other pairs of words that people often get wrong. They are not interchangeable and to use the wrong one serves only to make you look bad. Do your research, google is your friend here. Go through your manuscript and find each example and make sure you have used it correctly.

One of the fundamentals of telling a good story is to make sure all of your facts are right. This is where lists are helpful. It matters not whether you are writing of real places or inventing another world in a science fiction epic, your facts must be consistent throughout your work. If you say Henry is twenty years old in chapter three, then in chapter ten you say he is twenty five, but only a few weeks of time have elapsed in the story between those two chapters, you look like a dick. People will notice. Believe me on this, there is always that one person who notices and points it out.

Your geography must be correct and consistent, whether you are using real places or imaginary ones. The timeline must flow properly throughout your work. If your hero says he will do something in three day’s time, you must make sure any action between that declaration and the action takes three days. This can be difficult to keep track of and I have spent many an hour reading and making notes to make sure it was indeed six days as my character had already said, rather than five as I thought. Keep a list of events and divide it into days/weeks or whatever is appropriate for your work. Enter points in the appropriate day/week and in this way you keep track of your timeline.

If your work is set in today’s time or the past, your science has to be one hundred percent correct. You cannot say your hero drove a Ford Escort if he lives before they were invented. If your work is set in the future or in another galaxy, you can invent most of your science, but again it must be consistent throughout the work. Make more lists and enter details of every gadget, gizmo, engine, and component you invent, their name, basic make up and functions. This will save you hours of time searching for wherever it was you mentioned it before.

Anything medical must be right and appropriate for the time and setting in which you’ve placed your work. If someone falls ill and is cured, make sure the cure was actually available at that time. Research, research, research. Then research some more.

I write science fiction space operas and what I do with anything science or medical based is simple. I begin with a foundation of today’s accepted knowledge and invent on top of that. I find this gives the work a subtle but important authenticity that helps the reader accept it without questioning it. Let’s face it, in real life our knowledge and skills build on what we knew previously and I do the same in my writing.

A large proportion of any novel is what is known as descriptive. This is scene setting stuff like details of the location, the weather, how the characters are feeling, what they’re thinking etc. Novels need descriptive so don’t avoid it. By the same token, don’t go overboard with it or you will bore your readers. We want to know about the rustling trees, the chill morning air, the way your character’s nightmare disturbed him, the architecture etc but we don’t want a thousand word essay on the shape of the clouds. Hitting the right balance of descriptive is something that comes with practice. This is where reading helps. The more books you read, the more you will get a feel for the right amount of descriptive.

Finally, avoid info dumps like the plague. Again, the clue is in the name. An info dump is where you give a truck load of back information about your character or some other aspect of your story, all at once. This will bore readers stupid and they will just forget it anyway, so don’t do it. We want to know your character’s back story, but give us little bits throughout the story. If we find out everything about him right at the start, there is nothing else for us to discover about him, he has no mystery to captivate us.

When you meet new people in real life, you don’t find out their life history within five minutes of meeting them. You learn about them over time, through conversation and by being with them consistently. Keep this in mind when introducing us to your characters. Let us get to know them in the same way we get to know our other friends, gradually. It’s the same for any other aspect of your story, whether it’s a space ship engine, a house that has been lived in by seven generations of one family, or a secret family recipe for haggis. Give us the details bit by bit and you’ll keep our interest.

 

This is in no way meant to be an in depth guide to every aspect of self editing and should not be taken as such. I mean this to be a few basic but important points on which you can build your own wealth of knowledge and experience. Whether you intend to self edit or pay someone else, the above will give you a starting point from which you can fine tune your raw draft into a sleek and beautiful work of art. It is your legacy, it is worth taking the time to make it as perfect as you are able.

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Show and Tell is not just for school

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How many times have you been told, “show, don’t tell,” when people have read your work? Yeah, me too. It’s something most of us know about but often forget or just don’t know quite how to do it. It helps to know how to recognise each of them first.

Telling

Joe was a tall man, with greying hair and a habit of chewing his lip when nervous.

It was cold, at least minus ten and a thick layer of ice covered the lake.

Sophie walked the streets looking for David but couldn’t find him anywhere.

The spaceship came into land and everyone was glad the long journey was over.

He looked like a businessman with his leather briefcase.

Showing

Joe towered a good head and shoulders over her, forcing her to crane her neck to look at him. She longed to run her fingers through his black curls and thought the greying threads at his temples gave him a distinguished air. A slight smile fluttered at the corners of his mouth as he chewed his bottom lip like a frightened child.

His breath turned to ice, making rainbow coloured diamond dust that fluttered away in the light morning breeze. Half a dozen brave ducks padded across the frozen lake and he wondered why their feet never stuck the ice. The forecast said it would be at least minus ten by dawn and as he drew his scarf tighter around his neck, he knew it was colder still.

The rapidly darkening sky brought a mood of gloom that settled over the city and Sophie shivered. The shadows cast by the newly lit street lamps leapt menacingly, every one a serial killer waiting to pounce as she crept past. Music blared from bars, drunken crowds gawked and several wolf whistles reached her ears. Walking these same streets in the light of day brought no such terrors for Sophie and she wondered at the power light has over the emotions. The early afternoon sun had still been warm when she set out to search for David, but now, in the threatening darkness and with blisters on her feet that bit painfully at every step, she turned for home alone.

The still calm of the morning was rent as the roar of engines approached. Looking up, he saw the spaceship approach and smiled with relief. Dust flew in whirling turmoil, stinging his eyes and coating his robe as the ship began its final descent. Leaves, wrenched from the ancient oaks that lined the landing strip, flew like a cloud of butterflies and covered the ground in a lush green carpet. The journey has been arduous, the mysterious engine failure almost costing the crew their lives and their late but safe arrival was reason for celebration.

He strode along the street, the understated but elegant grey suit moving with him as if moulded around his body rather than simply being manufactured. The white shirt was plain and devoid of extraneous decoration, as was his silk tie and matching pocket-handkerchief. Quality speaks for itself and needs no assistance from fussy details, he would always say when standing for a fitting with his tailor. The water buffalo hide briefcase swung silently as he walked and he remembered his father giving him his first briefcase on his first day at the company. “Only cheap leather creaks,” the old man said.

**********

See the difference? Not only do we know more about the characters and settings, but they come alive for us. We are really there when we read the ‘show’ examples. The ‘tell’ examples give us the information but we can’t connect with it on an emotional level and that’s what you want your readers to do.

Show us the character, show us his emotions, his feelings, his physical state. Bring the environment alive. Don’t just give us a photo, take us there.

When you show rather than tell, your writing will often be longer too, which is always good for word count, but don’t let that be a reason for unnecessary waffle. If you try to show everything in such detail, it becomes annoying and people will get bored waiting for the action. There is often benefit in telling rather than showing, to get to the action for instance, when your character is going from A to B. We know he needs to get from home to the hospital, but unless something along the way is important, just tell us he goes to the hospital. Sometimes you need to cover ground quickly, ground that would harm the story if you left it out altogether and in such cases, tell us about it and move on.

You can also avoid the ‘adverb/adjective’ crime by paying more attention to showing rather than telling. Rather than telling us the old house was spooky, show us the shadows dancing, let us hear the creaky doors and floorboards, let us feel the cobwebs on our skin. How do we react to the dark, the noises? What is our imagination doing? Don’t just tell us the car was racing along the road, give us the wind in our hair, the adrenaline rush, the G-force as we are pressed into our seat. Words like, ‘paranoid,’ ‘sadly,’ ‘grand,’ force us to work harder to bring them to life. I don’t have to work so hard if you show me the shadows leaping and dancing. Let me feel the weight upon my heart and the sting of tears behind my eyes and I will understand. Give me doric columns, marble staircases, and gothic arches and I’m there in your grand hall with you.

Working on showing and telling makes you think about your writing in a new way. It’s good discipline and forces you to think much deeper about not only what you’re writing, but how you’re writing it. It can sometimes feel as if it’s taking away from the purely creative aspect and making it more ‘mathematical’ but it needn’t. Keep in mind that it is not stopping you from being creative, it is allowing you to be even more creative.

Creation inspiration tool – random word inspired story.

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I like to constantly challenge myself, to exercise my creative ability so that it remains strong and capable. I treat it like a muscle and assume it will respond positively to regular exercise and will keep functioning for me as a demanding user.

One of the ways I do this is what I call, The Random Word Inspired Story. I close my eyes and open a book, any book will do. Flip the pages and stop anywhere. Then I skim a finger over the page and stop anywhere. I open my eyes and whatever word my finger points to is my Random Word. Obviously, if I get words such as, him, her, and, it, etc I have another go.

This word then becomes the inspiration for a paragraph story.

Today’s word is, GLANDULAR

Troy thought back to when this all began. Six months, is that really all it was? It seemed like years since the first of the sick began to trickle into the local hospitals, all with identical symptoms which were at first diagnosed as Glandular Fever. That was before the death rate became apparent. Once it did, the medical profession realised that whatever they were dealing with here, it was not a simple case of Glandular Fever. Since those first news broadcasts announcing the outbreak had been aired, Troy had seen all but seven people in his local community perish, most of them within the first month. He and the other six quickly banded together, hoping to find strength and mutual support as a team and it was with an admirable but evidently doomed optimism that they set out to seek other survivors in neighbouring cities. One bus driver, a single mother with toddler, a liquor store manager, an overweight company director, a used car salesman, and Troy, a wheelchair bound veteran with fresh nightmares of world war three still keeping him awake at nights. Not the kind of group to inspire hope in times of trouble but it was all they had and Troy hoped their skill base would grow before they died of hunger, or worse.

*******************************

Hope you all enjoyed it and if anyone finds it inspires them, feel free to use it. To those here in the UK, have a wonderful Bank Holiday tomorrow. Be safe if you’re on the roads.

Common themes for your protagonist and antagonist

A rather tongue in cheek checklist of the most often used characteristics for leading characters in novels.
ProtagonistAntagonistchecklist

Feel free to add more in the comments.

Observation exercise for character development

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There’s no getting away from the fact that your story will need people. You will need to invent characters to populate the imaginary world within your stories. Making them honest and believable can be hard; I’ve read books containing characters that seem like robots, so devoid of honest emotion are they. So what can we do to make our characters more real? You practice observing real people, that’s what.

Go into the busiest part your nearest big town or city, find a seat, sit on it, and watch. Have a notepad and pen with you, and an ipod if you must. Watch the people passing you by and ask yourself questions.

What is their mood? How do I know this? What gestures and facial expressions are they making to show me their mood? What is their gait like? Write down the mood you think the person is feeling and everything they’re doing to show you that.

For couple or groups, watch how they interact. What is the group dynamic? What place do each of the people hold within the group? Who’s the leader and who’s the wallflower? What are each of the participants doing to show you all of this? Their facial expressions, gestures, gait, tone of voice, speed of speech, words used (if you can hear their conversation). You can even write each of these things down as a keyword if you find it hard to remember what to look for.

If you see a couple arguing, fantastic. Note those expressions, gestures, voice characteristics etc and see how they differ from the other people you’ve watched. Parents with children will have another unique set of expressions, gestures and voice characteristics. Are they telling the kids off? How are they showing their frustration, irritation, anger?

Groups of youths will interact different from senior citizens, groups of men will be different from single women, police will be different again, stall holders, newspaper salesmen, market traders, every person will have their own unique set of facial expressions, hand/arm gestures, body movements, and voice characteristics to show you their moods. By watching, asking yourself the right questions, and making notes, you will build a valuable store of information to help you show your characters’ moods and interactions in more believable and true way.

This may seem like basic baby-steps kind of stuff, but it’s amazing how little notice we take of each other these days. Our society has become so insular and self centred that we have forgotten how to interact with each other. Everyone seems to be texting or talking on their smart-phones and everyone’s head is permanently turned downwards to look at the little screen in their hands.

We’ve forgotten how to recognise the non-verbal language of our own species, and this is a simple way of getting that skill back again.

Word of the day – Artifice

Noun

A clever trick or stratagem. A cunning, crafty device or expedient. Wile. Trickery. Guile. Craftiness. Cunning. Ingenuity. Inventiveness. A skillful or artful contrivance or expedient. Subtle deception.

Synonyms

Subterfuge, deceit, deception, duplicity,

No matter what genre you write in, your plot needs some artifice to keep it real and maintain your readers’ interest. This word always makes me think of the antagonist in a story, due to its inferred connection with untruth, but there is no reason why your protagonist can’t use artifice as he makes his way through the story.

Maybe your protagonist needs to use artifice in order to prove a lie and to maintain his position of truth and honesty. A side character might use artifice in such a way as to manipulate the protagonists onto a certain path, whether for good or bad.

Artifice in all its forms, due to its position as part of normal human behaviour, is a necessary part of all fiction. To leave it out would be to take away a certain realism, a feeling of authenticity, from your story.

Check out Artifice on Thesaurus.com

The (not quite) Definitive Guide to Females in Fiction

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So you’re writing a novel? Making a movie? A TV play maybe? Whatever type or genre of fiction you’re creating, the chances are good that you will be including female characters. Women play many roles in works of fiction and their presence is a necessary part of a balanced dynamic within the team of characters. In order to make your work of fiction both entertaining and plausible, your females must play the correct roles in the correct way. Those male writers out there wishing to create the best work possible for their audience, creating believable female characters can be a nightmarish task. Men find women difficult to understand in their real lives, so creating believable fictional ones is an added layer of anguish that they don’t need. Writing any work of fiction is hard work, so anything that can make the process a little easier is welcome, right?

In order to help those male writers negotiate their way through the minefield that is the female, I have drawn up the following Guide to Females in Fiction. I have separated the guide into the following sections:

The pre-teen female.

The teenage female.

The beautiful young female.

The plain young female.

The older female.

The alien female.

This guide is written from the point of view of a male team leader.

The pre-teen female.

The very young female child character will be  streetwise and emotionally strong way beyond her years. She will be clever and show the sort of basic common sense that always tends to evade her older counterparts. As the dominant male, you will probably be her father or her mother’s long time boyfriend. Discipline is not your forte, and she will never obey you when you tell her what to do, but will always do her own thing. This will tend to get you and your team into all sorts of trouble, but she’s a kid and you won’t mind her undisciplined outbursts.

Often, she will be the only one who knows what’s really happening and will have to resort to all sorts of tricks to get the rest of you to realise your new best friend is really a spy, a monster is hiding out a few yards beyond your camp, and that you really can’t trust Sheriff Jones after all. Neither you or your team will believe her, of course, until she single-handedly saves the whole team despite being only seven years and four months old.

Despite loving her Mother, she will be a daddy’s girl and she will view her place as being at your side during your most dangerous adventures. Being streetwise and clever, she will have no problem stowing away in a trunk of equipment to ensure she gets to accompany you on your latest mission. The more emphatically you explain to her that it’s too dangerous for her to come with you, the greater will be her determination to disobey you. Helpful tip – always be sure to thoroughly search all boxes of equipment, and never leave rugs piled in the back seats of vehicles.

If, once you discover your stowaway, you find she’s brought along her pet dog, you will need to be even more on your guard than ever. That dog will run away at the most inconvenient moments, and she will always run after it, even when it’s in no danger and even when she and all of you are in great danger. Yelling at her to stay hidden will do no good. She will dodge bullets and monsters as she follows the little hairy guy, and you will be forced to follow. You and your team may very well suffer injury and loss of life while hunting for the girl and dog, but due to her age and your secret admiration for her self-reliance, you again decide not to discipline her.

The child will, of course, become a captive of your arch enemy. This will force you and your team to divert from the mission in order to rescue her. Once again, you will probably suffer injury and loss of life. Your team is shrinking by the minute. You need not worry about her safety though, her charm and streetwise abilities will ensure she practically rescues herself and/or charms the pants off your arch enemy. The offending dog will help her in this. His sudden new found ability to understand the most complicated of verbal commands will ensure he is able to ensure her escape and incapacitate the bad guys. Having initially wanted to get rid of the dog, you will now begrudgingly accept that he deserves not to go to the pound after all.

As you are no longer with her mother, she will constantly try to find you another girlfriend. She will, of course, easily find the perfect woman for you, whom you will have always failed to spot yourself.

Your team members will never complain about her presence, or the way she keeps fucking up the mission. They will each love her like their own, and she will be on first name terms will all of them. You will trust them all with her implicitly, despite the fact that several of them are time served criminals and all of them have not had so much as a sniff of a woman in weeks.

The teenage female

The teenage female will always be an angst-ridden mess. She will either be a goth or a sex kitten, but whichever guise she adopts, her emotions will bring you and your team nothing but trouble. Her anguish will be a direct result of your treatment of her while she was growing up, combined with her reaction to you having divorced her mother.

Her presence on your adventure will be caused by her mother’s need for time away from her troublesome teen, to go on holiday with her new beau/complete a new contract at work/help her sick father or whatever. Having been dumped on you for the summer, she will resent your presence and regard your mission as a heap of crap.

The teenage female will think the new man in her mother’s life is a jerk, but she won’t tell you that. She will pretend he is the greatest thing since soft toilet paper, just to make you squirm. You will, of course, fall for this badly hidden artifice every time, and the guilt will ensure you do exactly as she wants, thus almost killing your whole team and scuppering your mission. She will refuse to believe your warnings of danger, and will happily put everyone in danger on multiple occasions. Due to your guilt at being a shit father, you continually refuse to discipline her.

She will be permanently plugged into earphones, through which she will listen to heavy metal/punk music to avoid having to listen to you. On occasions, she will spend hours texting her friends on her mobile phone.

If she has adopted the goth guise, she will get herself a criminal boyfriend and have him tag along with you all. You size him up immediately and warn her about him, but she ignores your warnings and indulges him just to annoy you. Pretty soon, he will rob you and try to make off with his ill-gotten gains. The loss of expensive equipment ensures you and the team are trapped in the middle of nowhere and can’t call for help. If you yell at the teenage goth female about this, she will say she hates you and run off after her criminal boyfriend. This will force you to go after her, thereby delaying your mission and causing further danger to all team members. She is your daughter though and going through the hell of her parents’ divorce, so you don’t mind really.

If she adopts the sex kitten guise, she will dress in figure hugging clothes that always expose her midriff and burgeoning cleavage. Your team members, all red blooded males, will never get turned on by her and you will never have cause to worry despite her inappropriate attire around them.

Like her goth counterpart, she will have earphones and the same tuneless music and ever present mobile phone, the latter of which she uses to moan about you to her friends.

She will have a boyfriend but you don’t like him. He will have once been a bit of a lad, but that is all in the past, he’s a nice guy now and only wants the best for her. Despite his continual reassurances, you refuse to trust him and try your best to keep him away from her. You will fail, and when your mission reaches its dangerous climax, it will be he who rescues the situation and helps ensure your survival. Only then do you realise he really does want only the best for your teenage sex kitten daughter, and welcome him onto the team.

As you are divorced from her mother, both of the teenage female types will have unresolved emotional issues with you. This will make itself apparent during your stilted conversations, during which she constantly accuses you of not understanding her, abandoning her, not caring etc. These conversations usually end up with her stomping off in a huff, earplugs in place and Metallica on at max volume. This also applies if her mother is deceased, forcing you into a position of permanent father.

At first, you will deny her claims, and when the conversation reaches the yelling stage,  the sex kitten teenage female will run away with the newly nice guy ex-convict boyfriend. Once she and the boyfriend get into trouble, she will realise she made a huge mistake. The monsters/bad guys with guns/landslide/tornadoes will however, ensure she can’t get back to you. Never mind, the ex-convict, newly nice guy boyfriend will keep her safe. This is usually done shortly before he returns to save your sorry ass.

The teenage female brings with her a lot of emotional baggage. She will claim to hate her mother for dumping her on you. She will claim to hate you for leaving her and her mother. Despite these normal teenage turmoils, her streetwise knowledge and partially remembered science project will be the only thing to ensure your mission’s success.

 

The beautiful female

She wants to come along on your adventure. You don’t want her to, but like the pre-teen female,  she stows away and you don’t find her until it’s too late to send her back. It may be that she’s the only one with enough money to finance it, so you reluctantly agree. She could be a reporter from some backwater newspaper or your nosey neighbour. Whatever her position in life, she wants in and she’ll find a way to get what she wants.

Once firmly ensconced within the team, she causes nothing but trouble. Despite being told to keep quiet, be careful, stay here, don’t touch, listen carefully, she will wake the monsters, get lost, get kidnapped, get trapped inside somewhere, and all manner of other scenarios. All the time she’s doing this, she will believe she’s doing the right thing and not once will she realise that she should’ve just done as you told her and sat down and shut up. You and the team will be forced to waste time and resources searching for her, losing vital equipment or supplies, and getting at least one useful member of the team killed. Despite being a total nuisance to everyone all of the time, you won’t mind because she’s beautiful and you’d like to have sex with her.

She will scream a lot at times when silence really is the best policy. Despite this habit causing the bad guys to find your hideout and/or the monsters to wake up, you won’t mind because you want to have sex with her.

She will fall over when running away from monsters and bad guys.

She will argue with you and denounce your mission as a waste of time, but you still want to have sex with her.

She knows you want to have sex with her, and might use your attraction to her advantage. While you’re having sex with her, another couple of your team members are dying. You mourn them, but ultimately you don’t mind because you hope to have more sex with her.

Your mission might necessitate you venturing into an environment where the average daytime temperature may be forty below zero. There may be mountains to climb or seas to swim across, creatures to wrestle, icy winds that blow down buildings and all manner of other horrors. Despite this, she will wear nothing more than a bra and g string with high-heeled boots and spiky leather wrist cuffs and will never complain of being cold. The acres of exposed flesh will never show so much as a single goose bump. You and your team members wrapped in layers of fur and leather should be in awe of her ability to withstand the cold.

She will never be troubled by the demands of a menstrual cycle, will never need to pee or shit, and will not end up stinking like a camel in a Turkish sauna. Her legs and armpits will remain hair free during the weeks of your mission, her mascara will never run, her facial skin will remain flawless and spot free, and her lips will display a constant rosy blush.

Once your mission is over and her antics have cost you every one of your far more valuable team members, you will marry her.

 

The plain female

The plain female will make up for her lack of looks with knowledge and skills that will help ensure both your mission’s success, and your team’s survival. Not having the burden of being the love interest means she is free to be a contributing member of the team. Her specialist knowledge and skills will do this for her and will more than make up for her lack of beauty.

Her presence will come about by accident. She will ‘stumble upon’ you and the team while in the midst of almost losing your lives and will use her considerable knowledge and/or skills to save your sorry asses.

You will not want to have sex with her and this will enable you to appreciate her skills and quickly realise her potential as a permanent member of your team.

She will know you don’t want to have sex with her and will be content for you to value her for her knowledge and skills.

Her lack of beauty will not bother her, for she has always been more interested in science/martial arts/astronomy anyway.

She will never wear makeup. Her hair will most often be kept short, but if not, then it will always be tied back in a low ponytail or braid.

Despite her lack of beauty and subsequent lack of experience in romance, she will be uncannily wise in matters of the heart and will issue forth pearls of profound wisdom which ensure everyone’s relationships with everyone else thrive.

Her lack of beauty enabled her professor father to indulge her in a superior education of ancient arts and obscure mystical practices, at which she excelled. When he died in mysterious circumstances whilst in the far east, she inherited his journals that furnished her with yet more specialist knowledge.

Her father was spurned by the scientific community because of his weird beliefs and she has suffered by association. This experience gave her personality a hard edge and an ability to endure far beyond that of the beautiful female.

She never speaks about this earlier part of her life and she refuses to discuss the ‘awful things’ she has seen and come into contact with. Despite this reticence, she just happens to be exactly where you need her, when you need her, so that she can translate the artefact/explain quantum physics/reprogram the positronic brain of the artificial intelligence/mix the correct rare herbs/ predict the planetary alignment, which you need in order to succeed.

Once you and your team return from this current adventure, you don’t hesitate to offer the plain woman a central role within your team. She accepts without hesitation because she secretly loves you and knows you won’t survive long without her knowledge and skill.

She knows you don’t want to have sex with her, but she lives in hope.

 

The older female

The middle aged older woman comes in two main forms. The first is an embittered hag. She mourns her lost youth and rails against ageing. She might be financially comfortable, but the money brings her no joy.

She will always wear far too much makeup in an effort to hang on to her lost youth, and will wear clothes more suited to a female half her age.

She will engage in sex with much younger men. She knows they are after her money but indulges them anyway for she knows that she is no longer the younger, more beautiful female. Once they tire of her and leave, she becomes an enraged harpy intent on ruining them for the rest of their lives.

She will fall in love with you and chase you shamelessly. Despite your protestations, she continues to chase you and may grant sexual favours to your team mates in order to gain access to you or information about you that she might use to her advantage.

You don’t want to have sex with her. She knows this and hates it.

She will drink far too much, usually because of some past hurt by a man she used to love who deserted her.

She will have a beautiful daughter with whom you will be in love, but she will not want to let you near the girl. This is because she’s jealous that you don’t fancy her instead of her daughter. If her earlier attempts to gain information about you bore fruit, she will use this in an attempt to convince her daughter that you’re not worth a damn.

If you continue to refuse her advances and pursue her daughter, she may try to thwart your plans or even try to kill you.

The second main type of middle-aged female, is the wilting waif who sobs a lot. The very act of living life terrifies her, and she needs her controlling husband to guide her.

Her controlling husband is often the central bad guy, but she will never believe it of him. After all, he’s always guided her and given her a good life. He can’t help it if she makes him angry sometimes, he works hard and brings in the money.

Her main reaction to problems is to drop into a chair and sob. With constant reassurances, she will dry her eyes and look to you to sort everything out for her.

She is a burden, but she is so nice that no one minds.

You don’t want to have sex with her.

The old, older female also takes two main forms. In one form, she is the landlady, the domestic help, the airplane passenger who comforts the scared beautiful female, the grandparent who spends most of her time reminiscing about her younger years.

The second type of old older female is the wise old crone. The ageing queen of her tribe, she rules with a firm hand and is the sole repository of knowledge of ‘the old ways.’ With her death comes a new age of modernism in the tribe, which often involves some of your team members remaining and marrying fur-bikini-clad maidens.

 

The alien female

The alien female also has different forms, like those of her Earth counterparts.

The alien female child always behaves with impeccable manners. She has an excellent education and is well versed in science before the age of ten years. Her relationship with her parents is one of respect and obedience. She never yells or swears, but can sob if something really terrible happens.

The adult alien female will always have large breasts, which are clad in nothing more than the flimsiest gossamer. She will wear this garment through wars and picnics, in all weathers and in all environments. It will never become inadvertently dislodged, showing a flash of alien nipple for your delectation, despite her having to fight an army of huge ruddy-legged bog-swagglers on a daily basis.

She will happily discuss her species’ sexual practices without embarrassment and will express a scientific interest in yours.

She will naturally know nothing about kissing or Earth style sex, and it is your sworn duty to teach her. You will of course make sure she knows this is an entirely normal way Earth humans greet each other, to ensure she grants you as much time as you feel you need, to ensure she has learned this most vital inter-species communication technique.

She will always fall immediately in love with you. She has been waiting for decades for her planet to be invaded, just so she can meet her ideal man – you.  Not one single male on her entire planet is good enough for her affections. Nope, you’re the one, buddy.

Despite having a far superior intellect, she will allow you to convince her to put her entire civilisation at risk to save you, just because you do that weird kissing thing she finds so amusing.

You may lose team members on her planet, who choose to remain behind with their new wives.

She wants you to stay with her but you realise that Earth needs you more. You have a tearful goodbye, during which you promise to return one day. She believes you and remains unsullied for the rest of her life, not knowing that you were fucking the beautiful Earth female just days later on the journey home.

**********

So there you have it my friends. The (not quite) Definitive Guide to Females in Fiction. I hope you find it helpful and educational. To those men out there writing fiction, know that your female characters will follow in the footsteps of those given life by generations of writers before you.  I leave it up to you to decide whether that would be a good thing or bad.

Word of the day

MUTABLE – liable or subject to change or alteration

This is the perfect word for today. It has been a mutable day. I did have plans, but due to other people’s plans changing, mine had to. I have accomplished today though, just not what I had intended. Instead of a busy day, I’ve had a day relaxing at home and just doing home stuff.

Mutable is a more sophisticated way of saying changeable, but one must be careful when using it in a novel. The type of character who would use this word would be someone with a good education and of a certain class. This word brings to mind mature scientists and scholars, definitely not the type of expression an uneducated redneck might use.

When writing our characters personalities, it is important that their mannerisms, habits, lifestyle, and speech styles reflect their social status. Whilst it is a good thing to try to make your word choice more sophisticated, you need to ensure you do so in the right way to make your characters authentic and believable.

 What kind of a day have you had, and what is the most sophisticated way you can think of to describe it?

Basics of World Building for Science Fiction

world building

When world building, there are a few basics that if followed, give your work added authenticity.  These are what we know as scientific truths today, but of course that may change as new discoveries are made.

How to be a self published author online – in 5 slightly over simplified lessons

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