Make Life Really Freaking Hard For Your Hero

There comes a point in your hero’s journey where stuff has got to become very, very difficult. In the beginning, we’re meeting her for the first time, and life doesn’t have to be so super duper hard right now. But something’s gotta go wrong shortly. Once we’ve got a taste of her “ordinary world” what life is like normally for her, that’s when we throw something at her: the inciting incident–and then just keep pounding her with bigger and bigger problems–consistent resistance, obstacle after obstacle, one step forward, two steps back. BUT, don’t forget that leading up to this incident and its problematic cousins there must be tension. Nope, we don’t need an action packed fight scene showing off her nifty moves. We don’t need a bunch of interior monologue info-dumping her life to the reader, but we do need that sense of tension, of something brewing, or something off, or something looming.

Then, when that inciting incident happens, life suddenly becomes harder and harder for the hero. Beat her up. Let her go through the ringer. She’s gotta feel the pain so your audience feels it with her and is itching for justice, for relief, for the answer, for things to finally work out for her.

The death alarm sounded, that phantom punch in the gut I always dreaded. I touched the metallic gateway valve embedded in my chest at the top of my sternum–warm but not yet hot. The alarm was real. Someone in my territory would die tonight, and I had to find the poor soul. -Reapers, Bryan Davis

BAM, the inciting incident hits you immediately, wonderfully, and then every sentence is dripping with tension, dread is oozing from every word. I think this is one of the best examples of a not-so-ordinary world with a very quick, in fact, and instant inciting incident that gets the story rolling and this snowball only grows larger and larger–things begin to get harder and harder soon, but first we get to know Phoenix a bit more. We see him in his dingy apartment, gathering important items for his mission; we get insight into his dystopian, supernatural Chicago life by the environment not only inside his apartment, but outside of his window where a ghost who doesn’t know it wanders by a street corner and then the interaction Phoenix has with a fellow “reaper” who lives in the apartment building directly across from his.

The next scene arrives and it’s one difficulty that leads to another and then another, and all the while the tension is like a hissing tea kettle and, in my opinion, is actually more gripping than a wild battle.

He crosses a dangerous park where baddies lurk, you sense this whole area, this whole walk to find who is dying is ominous, but then he arrives safely to find it’s a little girl on the brink, and he’s only got one pill to offer her. First, she struggles to take it. The family is dripping with desperation and the tension is rising as this little girl just can’t swallow the darn pill. But then, a DEO shows up, a death enforcement officer who isn’t here to try and save little Molly from death–she’s here to enforce it. Now Phoenix has a very difficult problem because she also isn’t just any old DEO, she’s also an Owl–she’s got supernatural abilities and a high government position. But there’s more. She finds the pill and oh snapping turtle–it’s illegal to smuggle medicine so now Phoenix’s problems are really piling up. And THEN someone–I hope by now you’ve got the point so I can stop spoiling this amazing novel for you.

In fact, reading and studying how Bryan Davis wrote Reapers would benefit you more than this blog can–and leave you flipping pages into the wee hours of the night even though you’re a sleep-deprived Momma who’s bound to be woken up early the next morning by her other kiddos.

Happy writing!

Coryn of Bellsferry: Blood Thieves -Chapter 5: Unexpected Guests

Hunter aesthetic! 

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Coryn Aesthetic!

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Chapter 5 of Coryn of Bellsferry: Blood Thieves is here! Check it out on Wattpad!

“I shivered, despite the summer heat. What if something happened to me? What if the Blood Thieves got to me? What would that do to my daughter, losing the person closest to her? She barely knew Gunner and Dixie. She’d be devastated and scared, and the security and joy of her childhood bubble would burst and she’d be thrown into the dark, confusing maze of this dangerous world. Death was banging on all of our doors, especially mine and Krista’s, and who knew when it’d break through and seize its loot. It could happen tonight…”-from chapter 5

Chapter vibes:

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Coryn Aesthetic!

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SYNOPSIS TIME!

“With long snaking roads enshrouded by dense woodland and only smatters of clarity along the rolling hills, the beautiful countryside of Bellsferry was the perfect place for predators to stalk.” Coryn knows fate when she’s pricked by it–she thinks.

In a world where American law has been overthrown, and wanna-be supernatural, self-made vampires exist–who by the way, are really creepy and demented and have started preying on the small town of Bellsferry–there also exists Coryn, a twenty-three-year-old single mother who’s just trying to survive through life–and give her daughter a somewhat decent one. But when Coryn is taken under her gunslinging neighbors’ wings and something…otherworldly happens, forget decent; she and her daughter’s lives are now even more dangerous than before. Sigh. That’s what happens when you accidentally become the only real nemesis to the deranged psychopaths who have iron-gripped your hometown.

Since before the demolition of law, Coryn grew up surviving through life, but now she has to protect not only herself and her seven-year-old daughter, but their entire town–doesn’t she?

 

Have you been following along? If so, what are your thoughts so far? Got a WIP you’re working on? Are you on Wattpad? Let me know! Happy reading! -Natasha

What is it about a book’s first page that keeps you reading?

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I’m curious:

What is it about a book’s first page that keeps you flipping?

Are you able to share an example of a book whose first page just grabbed you and held on until the last page? I want to know what book did that for you and why. Then I can go Amazon-“Look inside”-stalk and see if I agree with you or not. 😉 Happy discussing!

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Killing Your Characters

So killing off characters in your story: is it fun for you, or torture?

I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I can say that now, it’s leaning toward more fun. For me, there’s something about the shock of it, the later oh-so-hoped for justice, the real-ness it adds to the danger and the story in general, and of course, the emotions it stirs. But what say you? I wanna know your reasons as to why you enjoy killing characters in your story, or why you hate it. Let the discussion begin!

FANTASY FRIDAY: “THRINE’S ‘HELP'” – THROUGH ELISENA’S EYES PART 2, CHAPTER 4 (SHORT STORY)

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Read the previous chapters: Part 1, Chapters 1-2; Part 1, Chapters 3-4; Part 2, Chapter 1; Part 2, Chapter 2; Part 2, Chapter 3

Bewilderment’s haze fogged my vision while fear prickled my skin.

With my umbrella closed, the toxic emotions of whoever lurked behind my dormitory’s giant door pummeled me.

With a deep breath in, I opened my umbrella. “Elisena Dillion.”

As the amethyst stone in the door’s center glowed, the entry dragged opened. The large commons illuminated by four floating wooden chandeliers welcomed after a stressful, still unfinished day–but not for long.

By the twisting-cobblestone fireplace, two chattering girls occupied one of the swirl-backed, leather couches. A pale, big-haired girl spoke rapid-fire to the square-bodied blonde beside her, carrying an open scroll. “I just totally don’t feel safe here anymore. But Prince Nuelle is stunningly gorgeous in person so it really helped calm my nerves.”

I walked toward the spiraling staircase on the left. The blonde whipped her head toward me. “Interesting umbrella.” She scanned me while she continued, more slowly, as if speaking for a translator. “Have you seen him, too?”

“I haven’t.” I took a step toward the staircase.

“Well you may want to know about this then.” She held up the scroll.

As I approached, Big-Hair leaned back. “Not that you’ll be doing much dancing.” She pointed at my umbrella. “Clearly.”

Dancing? I frowned as I took the scroll. Pristine cursive marked the page.

Attention residents of the Tower of Meekness, 

You are cordially invited to a celebration being held in honor of the arrival of Prince Nuelle and his esteemed companion, Ave Purine. The festivity begins this evening at the Seventh Hour in the Banquet Hall. Servants’ attire is not required so do feel at liberty to don your finest.  

Truly, 

Overseer Enri Neitman

My heart racing, I handed the scroll back to chatter-mouth. She snatched it and hugged it against her chest. “I am so glad Aunt Belinda made me bring my sixteenth birthday gown. If that won’t seize Prince Nuelle’s gaze then”–she giggled–“what will?”

Big-Hair straightened and rolled her shoulders. “I also happen to have a gown. It belonged to Mother. She wore it at her Eve of the Covenant Union Dinner. I am certain Prince Striking will ask me for a dance.”

As they nice-girl argued with one another, I glanced up at the stairs. I hadn’t brought anything fancy–not that I had something like that anyway. The fanciest dress I owned was given to me by Ernaya down the mountain after she lost fifteen pounds adopting Javin’s vegetarian diet; a purple linen dress tight at the waist and then widens down to the ankles. I guess it’d have to do, though Prince Nuelle would never notice me anyway. I looked at the open umbrella in my grasp. Or maybe he would. My cheeks burning, I bustled toward the staircase. Of all the ways I’d want one of the Supreme King’s sons to acknowledge my existence, wondering why in Zephoris I ambled around with an open umbrella wasn’t one of them. Though I couldn’t possibly attend the celebration without it. And I had to go. Notice me for better or for worse, I want to see Prince Nuelle. Maybe I could even get a quick glimpse into his heart…

My own heart quickened like my steps. I ascended the stairs and turned into the floating lantern corridor on my right. I glanced inside the open bedchamber doors I passed. A few sat empty; others housed more busily chatting girls like the dueling duo downstairs, happy to meet new friends in this exciting new home they shared with new lessons and opportunities.

I shifted my attention ahead. I wonder if any of them had to deal with their personified past and the confusion and hurt he brought with it. Eldin would no doubt be at the celebration tonight with Thrine. A flutter tickled my gut while I winced. But after how he acted during Courtship–and how she reacted–would they actually show up together? Did she close the door on their relationship like she’d slammed the one on her early departure from the lesson?

As I reached my bedchamber, I frowned. The door stood shut. That probably meant no one was inside. Good for me since apparently no girls–except maybe Surta–cared to befriend the strange, chunky, umbrella girl. With a sinking heart, I opened the door.

My stomach jumped to my throat. On one of the six beds, closest to the large circular window on the back wall, sat Thrine. Her perfect, creamy-smooth legs lay crossed on the thin mattress as she read an open leather journal–my journal.

Every hair on my body rose as Thrine spoke the words I’d penned a few weeks ago.

“Peering into Eldin’s heart is my greatest temptation and greatest source of pain. He’s too good. Don’t mistake me; he is certainly not perfect—none of us are—but Eldin’s heart is unlike anyone’s I have ever known.” Smirking, she peered up at me. “I used to think the same.” Snapping the journal shut and then dropping it on a pillow, she stood. “But now I’ll let you in on a little secret.” Thrine stepped forward. As she neared, I squeezed my umbrella as if doing so would make her disappear. She stopped in front of me. Though we stood eye-to-eye, she somehow appeared taller. “You don’t have to be afraid of me, Elisena. Unlike Eldin, I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.”

“Help me?” my stupid voice squeaked.

“Yes. By sharing with you what I wish one of Eldin’s victims shared with me before I let him become my suitor.”

I swallowed, though it didn’t help the squeakiness. “Victims?”

Her head turned to the closest bed. She traced her fingers across the top of its rough footboard.

“After getting to know every part of my body, he started treating me like the harlot he turned me into.”

My mouth dropped. Eldin lay with a young woman before marrying her? He was always so respectful and modest. A few men in our village worked tunic-less–to their own scorn from the older women–but never Eldin. His heart held passion, naturally, but he always kept it tame. Or maybe that was just because he was around unattractive me. My temples throbbed. But with someone as blatantly beautiful and alluring as…

Thrine’s yellow eyes glinted with broken rage, so calm yet dreadfully fierce, like a graether enjoying the sight of its terrified prey before devouring it. “You would be shocked. Eldin’s barely laid a hand on you. That’s how he was in the beginning of our courtship. So chaste…but after spilling my heart like the fool he made me, telling him words he never deserved to hear, his voracious passion unraveled all over me.” She smiled, though tears filled her eyes. “He was intoxicating, addicting. Masterful. But…” Her smiled vanished. “That kind of love doesn’t last.” She lifted her hand, making me flinch. Smirk returning, Thrine flicked my umbrella. “Which you’ll soon discover.”

My body trembled as she slowly glided past like melting frost. “Enjoy the celebration tonight.” Her steady footsteps faded and I managed to trudge toward the nearest bed. Before I could sink onto the mattress, I fell to my knees on the wooden floor. The firmness caused a pang in both knees, but it didn’t hurt a quarter as much as my tearing heart did. Still clinging to my umbrella, I buried my face in my free arm and wept. I never want to see Eldin again.

Fantasy Friday! “He Peered At Me” – Through Elisena’s Eyes (Short Story) : Part 1, Ch. 3-4

*Click here to read chapters 1-2 if you haven’t already.

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He Peered at Me

6th of the Days of Warmth

Distractions are harder to dust off than I’d previously planned. Especially when they are a handsome, hard-working, six-day-a-week presence. And when I’ve given so much thought and attention to them for so long. Too long.

Eldin was here today, working on the farm with Father and Javin as always. However, today was different. Very different. From the outside, no one would notice the change. But being able to see inside, changes happen more often than you think. Some for the better, others for the worst. Today, it was both.

Father prepared to collect chump—chewed grass made savory and nutritious by the saliva of gurns—from our oldest gurn, Magenta. She had apparently swallowed more than she could chew because before Father could grab the pail to catch the chump, Magenta vomited grass the size of her head onto his lap. He called in Eldin to catch whatever chump remained, then Father went inside to clean off.

Did I mention Father had me brush leakers from Magenta’s fur? I tried desperately to ignore Eldin’s heart by overly concentrating on scraping off a giant, oozing leaker from Magenta’s rear, but then the change happened.

The usual loyalty, diligence, joy, kindness, and compassion poured from Eldin’s heart in warm waves that ignited my mind with thoughts of King Nifal, but I realized the horrible feeling of pity wasn’t prickling my skin. Sadness hung, heavy in the air. But bewilderment changed to curiosity. And then reality slapped me in the back like a pleased Gavrailian. Eldin hadn’t attempted to chat with me as he always did. He sat as quiet as I’d been since he replaced Father in chump-collecting.

I removed my stare from the stubborn leaker and looked over at Eldin, seated on the stool, pail in hand, catching chump. But he wasn’t just catching chump. He was peering at me, observing me as if I were some mysterious artifact.

My skin tingled. My stomach flopped. I never held gazes with his shimmering, deep purple eyes. They infiltrated my soul, making my knees weak, and heart pound.

I scraped so hard, brown leaker-insides splattered onto my face. I dropped the brush, my cheeks burning.

Eldin jumped to his feet and removed a handkerchief from his back pocket. He tried handing it to me, but I was so embarrassed, I just scurried out of the barn as Javin was entering with a pail of water. I crashed into him, drenching us both.

“Elly!” Javin grabbed me by the shoulders, his eyes lilac, mirroring the concern and anger consuming his heart. “What happened?”

“Nothing I—”

“What did you do to her?” Javin released me and strode toward Eldin. “Did you touch her?”

I bustled after my hot-hearted brother. “Javin, he didn’t do anything.”

“Really, Javin?” Eldin set his pail on the ground. “You think I would ever harm Elisena?”

“That’s ‘your sister’ to you,” Javin said.

Eldin smiled, yet anger kindled in his heart. “Elisena is much more than just ‘your sister.’”

Javin stepped close to him. “Maybe to our family, but not to you. So don’t you dare even think of—”

“Of what? Being her friend?” Eldin stepped forward as my heart ached at the mere friend response, while every inch of me cringed at the swelling anger in him and big-mouthed Javin.

Eldin continued. “You aren’t her father so you should stop acting like one.”

Javin shoved him. Eldin staggered, knocking over the pail of chump. Javin swung his fist. Eldin dodged and then rammed into him, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

Eldin raised his fist.

“Please stop!” I screamed. And cried. Eldin peered at me again. Remorse.

He lowered his arm, rose to his feet, and walked out of the barn.

I have a feeling more distractions are on their way.

for blogs incentive

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Did My Calling Just Knock?

11th of the Days of Warmth

Eldin hasn’t been back. It’s going on day four of his absence at our farm. Father said, “It’s best to give the boy space to forgive.”

Meanwhile, I am needing my own space to forgive Javin. Papa-twin is banned from roto-flying and has twice more work to do until Eldin returns—if—Eldin returns.

I pray Javin would at least attempt to work on his trust issues. He and Father are two unhealthy extremes in the trust arena. Despite all he’s been through, Father is quite trusting. Whereas Javin is the complete opposite. He doesn’t even trust Father because of how trusting Father is. It’s a deep-rooted heart issue that began when we were seven.

Father and Javin sat outside shearing the new purple fur that had grown on our youngest furth, while Mother brushed my hair in the cottage fore-room. I used to enjoy going on adventures around the farm. We own a few acres, and Ollander and his wife always let me venture into their land.

They have two big slinkpaws; a fluffy black male and an orange-spotted female. Rina, the female, loved to play with me. I’d hide and she’d come skulking. With a playful growl she’d pounce and we’d roll around in the grass. That day we actually rolled down a hill. My adventures always left a tangled mess of brown curls, but because of the hill-smashing, the knots were worse, and Mother had to untwine sticks and grass.

The brush caught on a knot. Mother cussed and yanked. Anger speared from her heart like a dagger into mine. She yanked again. More cussing. I started to cry.

“Well if you didn’t act like an animal and play with those beasts, you wouldn’t have this ugly, wretched hair!” She pulled so hard the brush broke.

I wailed. Mother threw the brush on the floor, strode to the closet, and shoved the curtain aside. Rage, disappointment, and something even more horrible suffocated the air. She snatched her satchel off a hanger and stormed out of the cottage, leaving the door open. She screamed at Father. I ran to the entryway and peered outside.

Mother stood across from him while he held back Javin with one hand, the other grasping Mother’s. “Lillian, please. Let’s go inside and talk about this.”

“Oh, now you want to talk!” She shook her hand free. “You’ve had years to get to know your own wife, but you put this farm before me.”

“I work for you, for our children.”

“Stop. Just stop it. It’s too late. You’re too late.” She turned to the right. Alongside the cottage, three sibling rotos and their mother drank from a water tray. She marched in their direction.

Father released Javin and trailed Mother.

“Mama!” I jumped off our wrap-around porch and raced to her, Javin following suit.

Anger, disappointment, and self-pity bombarded my seven-year-old frame, poisoning my thoughts. Good for nothing. How could he? I want nothing to do with him. 

Mother hopped onto the mother roto. She screeched and flapped her red wings.

I reached up and clasped Mother’s calve. “Mama, where are you going?”

Javin gripped the roto’s feathers. “Stay, Mama! Stay.”

Father’s voice trembled. “Lillian, don’t do this. Please. We need you.”

Grasping the reins, she looked down at Father, and something I didn’t understand then consumed her heart. “You need me. What about love?”

A crushing weight of defeat and jealousy shrouded Father’s broken heart. Tears spilled from his purple eyes. “Clearly, you know nothing of love.”

She kicked the roto’s side. She leapt into the air and they soared away.

From that day forward, Javin never trusted anyone, but me. We were the victims. We were the ones abandoned. Our own mother traded us for what she believed was love and chased that fantasy to another town. Word traveled fast about her adulterous relationship with a married man of seven children.

Father couldn’t protect us from that betrayal, but Javin believes he can spare us from another. And so he behaves accordingly, keeping people at a distance or pushing them away. He certainly shoved Eldin hard. I guess it was an answered prayer. No distractions now. Which reminds me…

Today is Invitation Day. All the gifted in Zephoris who have been chosen to attend Knight’s Elect Academy will receive a letter of acceptance and invitation. No one gets to apply to the academy. They have only to wait for the letter and choose to accept or reject it.

With all the thoughts of slapping Javin or pushing him into roto waste, I hadn’t thought about this day. Well, I somewhat forced it from my mind. How could my gift be used to serve the people of Zephoris? Knights are strong and intimidating. I’m short, somewhat hefty, and shy.

It’s hard to imagine King Nifal would want me to become a knight. I’m clumsy with a sword at best and downright hazardous at worst. Ask Javin. The scar at the end of his eyebrow and descending his cheek is a consequence of my terrible swordsmanship. After that epic failure, he and Father never let me lift a sword again.

One moment.

Hmm. Javin’s anxiety level is tearing through the walls of my bedroom and prickling my entire body. Even Father’s nerves are leaking in. Now intense anger from papa-twin. He’s yelling at Father. I’ll be back.

Back.

Javin received an invitation to Knight’s Elect Academy.

And so did I.


Click HERE to read part 2!

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Writing Craft Wednesday: Write to a Specific Audience

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Who in Zephoris is your audience?

The above photo is from my second time at the Florida Christian Writers Conference back in 2013. Everyone in this photo–minus Obi-Wan Brynobi–is in my target audience. I know exactly who I want to write for: teens and young adults. I remember seeing a teenage boy walking around Islands of Adventure in a Harry Potter cloak and thinking, that’s who I want reading my fantasy novel. I can still recall what he looks like. Can you say something similar?

Now you may be thinking: I want any and everyone to read my book. That’s great, I do, too! BUT, it’s important to be a little–a lot–more specific when writing your story. You have to be intentional about who you want reading your book most and then write to them.

Think of it this way: when producers are considering a movie to try and push on investors, the first thing the producers look at is marketability. Will this thing sell? And how do they determine if it will? They look at stats that include demographics and then are able to better determine if this film will do well at the box-office. I hate to break it to ya, but you’ve gotta consider the same thing when it comes to your precious novel.

All right, Natasha, fine. I’ll be more specific. But once I know who I most want reading my story, then what? 

Glad you asked.

Write to them. Picture someone you know in real life who is exactly in your target audience; your Star Wars loving twenty-something best friend; your sixth-grade, Harry Potter adoring little sister; your Lord of the Ringsseventeen-year-old fanatical cousin. Picture him before you write and imagine how you would relate your story to him. Would you recite your story to him the same way you’d recite it to your grandma? Probably not. Let’s close the age-gap some: would you recite the story the same exact way to your LOTR-fanatic seventeen-year-old cousin as you would to your twelve-year-old little sister? Maybe you’d tell it a little more similarly than you would the former, but still not in exactly the same way.

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Why do you think there’s a separation between Middle-grade fiction and YA (Young Adult) fiction? Not every middle-grader is on the same level as their high-school counterpart. And there’s even some places like Barnes & Noble who identify “teen fiction” because yes, there is typically a level of difference in maturity between a seventeen-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old (that’s even biologically, brain-wise etc.). 

So don’t fear that being specific means you’re automatically not going to relate to hundreds of thousands of potential readers. Harry Potter is beloved by child and adult alike, just as Lord of the Rings and Narnia are. A good story is enjoyed by many, but a generically written, non-specific and thus, lesser detailed and weaker-voiced tale can be read less, since it’s not speaking confidently to a certain audience. It’s better to have a group of people relating to and thus connecting with your story, than an auditorium of empty seats, of people who missed it. 

Until next time, happy helping!

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