Writing Exercise: The 3 page Short Story

Hello everyone. Not much to update on this time around. However, while this brief opportunity is open I’d like to share another writing exercise with you. This one is called: The 3 Page Story

Rules:
1. The story must be 3 pages.
2. The story must have a story arc with a proper beginning middle and end.
3. The story must be readable, meaning if you print out the three pages, the average person can read it without squinting. Single or double space is up to you.
4. Apply at least one stipulation.
I’ve written a few below to get you started.

Stipulations:

A. E-PRIME: Do not use the following words: Am, Is, Was, Were, Are, Be, Been, Being, Become, Became

B. FANTASY: Dragons, Elves, Fairies, Castles, Orcs, King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Orc, Magic

C. SCIENCE FICTION: Hyper-drive, Warp drive, Starship, Spaceship, Clone, Teleport, Alien,

D. ROMANCE: Love, Heart, Soul, Wedding, Poetry, Rose, Kiss, Tender, Warm

E. MAN WITH NO NAME: the main character’s name is never revealed

F. EVOKE: List 10-20 random words you believe the story should have or shouldn’t have.

G. SWITCH TEAMS: Write from the opposite gender’s point of view.

H. RANDOM: Pick random words out of the dictionary or a hat, or a random word generator app.

I have other examples but 8 is more than enough. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen your writing muscles.

Got writers block? Try this and let your imagination run wild. Scene giving you trouble? Try writing it in 3 pages using a set of words that best describe it. Tend to over certain words and phrases? Try writing a 3 page story where you are forbidden from using those words.

The best art doesn’t come from comfort. Comfort means lazy. And a lazy brain is not challenged and therefore not stimulated. What stimulates writing muscles? Stipulations. Rules, limits, a mental cage. By forcing yourself to follow certain guidelines your mind starts working on finding ways to break those same guidelines or use them to your advantage. Can’t say ‘The light is red?’ Because your stipulations forbid you from using the verb ‘to be’. You find another way and say ‘The light turned red.’
The best way to build any muscle, the brain included,is by challenging it. So write your own stipulations and see if you can meet the challenge they present. The results might shock you.

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World Building 102: History

I never thought my blog on World Building will be my most popular page. Then again there are many things in my life I never thought would happen. Oh well. Moving on.

If there is one exciting thing about fantasy, or any kind of story is the incredible or at the very least, interesting back story that comes with the story you are planning to tell. In other words, History. What is the history of your world?

Rule 1: Always make sure you’ve smoothed out your back story first before implementing it into the story you’re writing.

The history of your world needs to be two things: it needs to be interesting and it needs to make sense. Bad writers and by extension bad stories tend to put little or no thought into their world’s back story which in turn leads to all kinds of terrible continuity issues and a disjointed history that not even the most dedicated scholar can follow. An even worse sin is that sometimes the back story is just plain boring. Some writers also make the history of their fantasy world about as exciting as a very boring history class. I’ve been in several boring classes. None were fun to be in and sit through. In fact one was so bad it took every ounce of my energy just to stay awake. Your story, regardless of which part, written or unwritten should never be that boring. EVEN IF YOUR CHARACTERS ARE BORED, THE READER SHOULD NEVER BE BORED. Otherwise, what the hell’s the point. I can waste my time doing something else boring. Remember, you want Red Dragon, not Hannibal Rising.

What makes an interesting back story? Well, look at the back stories of your favorite novels.

The events of Harry Potter come as a result of Tom Riddle’s upbringing in Hogwarts as well as his previous attempt to rise to power.

In The Song of Fire and Ice series, or the Game of Thrones series for everyone one else, the history of Westeros is a series of wars and invasions and so on. First were the children of the forest, then came the First Men, then the Andals, then Aegon the Conqueror, then King Robert’s Rebellion, then the war against the Iron Islands, then came the beginning of the Game of Thrones series. The present world of Westeros is interesting because its well developed past is interesting which gives me hope that the future of the series will be just as interesting and exciting. Just don’t get too attached to any one character.

In the Mistborn Series, a thousand years ago the Lord Ruler rose to power. Some years later a band of heroes tried to defeat him and lost…badly, plunging the entire world empire into permanent daytime ash falls and nighttime mist.

In The Wheel of Time series the pervious incarnation Lews Therrin if The Dragon went mad and broke the world. That story is too damn complicated for me to begin summarizing however when he was done, his entire family was dead, earning him the title Kinslayer.

Even in an Role Playing Game like Final Fantasy 6, a thousand years before the start of the game, there was the War of the Magi which pretty much destroyed the world. And what happens in the game? The world gets destroyed…again.

All of these back stories make interesting stories themselves. Some writers are afraid of telling interesting back stories because of fear that it’ll be more interesting than the main story. A logical fear but somewhat unfounded. The person telling both the story and back story is YOU. So it’s up to YOU to tell a more interesting present story than your back story. Your reader needs to know why you’re choosing to tell the story at the point you’re starting at and not a thousand years ago when that long remembered war with The Lord Ruler, or the three dragons, or the Magi happened. Do yourself a favor and set the bar high with an awesome back story and even more awesome present story. Cause if the story’s past sucks, chances are the present will suck and so will the future.

Rule 2: Pepper your world’s back story into your writing. Don’t try telling it in something as tedious and cliche as a long, historic prologue.

Most editors agree with this rule. Just start the damn story! If I wanted to read a story about all the things that happened in your story’s past, I’d read that story, or pick up a history book. Remember to show, don’t tell. And a long history lesson of your world is definitely telling. Not only that, you’re starting your book off with a history lecture instead of a story. So write the story and mix it into your novel, but ONLY when it calls for it. Don’t try to be clever and have the Hero’s grandpa dedicate an entire chapter to telling the world’s entire history. Just stick to the parts that pertain to the plot.

Rule 3: Wars and games
If there are two major aspects of history that have last through the ages it’s wars and games (or contests if you wanna get technical). Like I said in a previous blog, your story’s history doesn’t have to be just politics and laws, there can be fun and exciting aspects as well. Harry Potter has Quidditch, the Greeks have the Olympics AND a very long history dealing with several of the world’s greatest empires, the Middle Ages have jousting, archery, and the Crusades, and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has games such Stones or Dice whilst have a long and complicated history of different kingdoms rising and falling through the ages. Even Star Wars has pod racing, dejarick (the game where Wookies rip people’s arms off when they lose) and The Empire’s many conquests as well as its fall. What do people do for fun, past and present in your story? How have empires and religions and languages spread? These are questions you need to ask yourself when building the history of your world.

I hope this advice helps and I will you posted on the progress of Guild Assassin. If there’s anything new to report you’ll be the first to know. Take care and thanks for reading. 😉

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YouTube Channels for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

This time, sorry for the looooong delay but yours truly needed to edit his book…again. Since completing Guild Assassin I’ve had 4 editors, FOUR, and each one of them has had a different approach when it came to the book. One focused on spelling and grammar, another on realism, another on removing details, another on adding details and so forth and so one. The story is soooo much different than what I originally outlined 4 years ago. Hopefully my current editor for Guild Assassin will be my last editor, that way I can finally move on to editing book two.

I’ve learned a lot from my current editor. He’s challenged me in ways that has forced me to stretch my writing muscles and has hopefully resulted in a better, richer and story. While I do have lessons on book editing, that is another blog for another time. Right now, after months of locking myself in a dark hole in order to edit Guild Assassin, I believe it’s time for something fun and admittedly, easy to post. So for you aspiring science fiction and fantasy authors out there allow me the pleasure of introducing:
YouTube Channels for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors

CHANNEL: OUlearn

Presumably you’re reading this blog in English, my native tongue and the subject I happen to have a Bachelor’s Degree in. So what better place to start than the History of English in 10 minutes. I always laugh, and sometimes cry, when I read a story that takes place in the past, particularly in the Middle Ages and the characters are using words that weren’t even added to English yet. The link should help clear that up. And while you’re there, check out the rest of OUlearn where you will learn things about history, economics and a slew of other interesting topics for those of you who want to get the science and/or history down when it comes to their writing.

CHANNEL: CGP Grey

Ever watched or read Game of Thrones? Ever wanted to know how real monarchical succession takes place? The link above will give you a crash course in British Succession. CGP Grey has wonderfully informative and entertaining videos about a wide range of topics such as How to become Pope, or How many countries does the world have or Historical Misconceptions or how voting works in different countries in the world and so forth and so on. Learning about royal succession alone is enough to subscribe to this YouTube channel.

CHANNEL: Crash Course

Speaking of Crash Course, when researching my own book I needed to learn the events of human history. I did break out my old high school history book and I did read articles online, but the information didn’t really sink in until I started watching Crash Course World History. While I’m a firm believer that real research complete with REAL reading is still needed its nice to be able to get an overall view of history not only to see where things originated, but to see where points in history overlap. And speaking of overlapping history that brings me to…

CHANNELS: Vsauce, Vsauce2 & Vsauce3


Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank were both born in 1929? Do you ever wonder what it’s like to jump into a black hole? What if every man woman and child on Earth lived within the population density of New York, how big would city need to be? Or better yet, what if all humans on Earth stood shoulder to shoulder and jumped at once? If you’re curious about things that conventional research can’t give you then Vsause is for you.
Vsause2 introduces you mind blowing inventions like a pair of Minority Report style googles or a gravity powered lamp and so many things taken straight out of science fiction which are now science fact.
And while Vsauce 1 & 2 gives you the mind blowing info geeks like me crave, Vsauce3 introduces new ways to find more cool things through App All Knight and DONG (Do Online Now Guys) It was through Vsauce3 that I now have my favorite App, Duolingo. If Rosetta Stone is too pricey and inconvenient, Duolingo is free and its a smartphone App that (hopefully) fits in your pocket. Warning: These channels will blow your mind.

CHANNEL: Scishow

Ever wonder about the history of the battery? This wondrous invention has been around a lot longer than most people think and I learned that from Scishow with William Hank Green whom just goes by the name Hank. He also posts vids that give the latest science updates including the Keppler satellite’s hunt for extra solar planets and the Martian rover Curiosity’s progress on the red planet. If you need a crash course in modern scientific discoveries, Scishow is the channel for you.

CHANNEL: Ted Ed

This channel teaches many things, including social science. My current favorite is this video on Conlangs or constructed languages such as Tolkien’s elvish or Rodenberry’s Klingon or Cameron’s Na’vi languages used by, who else, fans. Check them out for some really cool info that can’t quite fit into ant particular category.

CHANNEL: Mental Floss

Like lists? You must, you’re reading one! Metal Floss, hosted by Hank’s older brother John Green, gives lists on very interesting topics from holidays to movies to grammar. Like most things John and Hank teaches, you learn a lot in a little amount of time.

CHANNEL: Scientific American

Do you want, current, up to the minute discoveries in space like extra solar planets, old stars and galaxies and where water and possibly life was on Mars? Then this channel will give you all the latest information from Sofie Bushwick’s The Countdown to a segment where real scientists answer cool questions about space and science in general.

CHANNEL: Head Squeeze

What are parallel universes? How do radars work? You know the history now discover the science behind it.

CHANNEL: Minute Physics & Minute Earth

How does the world work? That’s the question Minute Physics and Minute Earth tries to answer. Questions such as why the sky is blue to the tides to parallel universes are just the tip of the iceberg of knowledge this channel teaches with its 1-2 minute videos.

CHANNEL: All time 10’s

Again, more lists, except this takes out most of the boring info and gives you ten of the most interesting info about any given subject. Ever wonder wanted to know where the middle finger gesture comes from? Watch and find out.

CHANNEL: ASAP Science

From how to be more productive to your brain on booze to you bladder on coffee, this channel explains the most basic things we tend to take for granted. It’s fun and you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll learn in such a short time.

While there are other YouTube channels I’m subscribed to, I think what I’ve posted is more than enough for you to go on. Thanks so much for your support and your kind comments. I’ll keep you all posted on Guild Master’s progress and hopefully you might own a copy of your own in a few months. With all the major edits finished (I hope) I can go back to posting once a week.

Take care, enjoy the videos and as Michael, Kevin and Jake from Vsauce 1,2 &3 would say, “Thanks for watching.” 😉

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Berley Kerr’s Tools of the Trade

Hello everyone! I’m back and quicker than usual. Why? Unlike previous months, I have more to tell you. I’ve now hit the editing process of my path to publication. 

Editing…Again…Yay! 

Don’t get me wrong, editing can be fun. In my experience, after finishing a draft, ANY draft, I leave it alone for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. When enough time has passed, I come back to it and see if you see just a little differently. That is definitely the case now.

Believe it or not I’ve avoided reading Guild Assassin simply because I thought I was finished editing it, due to the publication from my last publisher. Oh well. Despite my obvious annoyance with the situation, my current editor made me realize that I should see this as an opportunity. One more chance to enhance the world of the story, add things I didn’t get to add, improve lines and even add certain details. So now I’m back to rereading and reediting, but this time I’m seeing it from a brand new point of view. And it’s exciting! So if all goes well, I’ll be done and I can move on to the next step.

And it was during this editing process that I realized I haven’t yet shared my tools of this writing trade. So allow me to share with you: Berley’s Tools of the Trade.

Spoiler Alert: They’re not real tools. Just very useful ones.

 

 

The Lab – A blank Word Processer Document dedicated exclusively to free thought and only free thought.

Think of a notepad. Now think of a note pad on your desktop or laptop. Pocket notepads are fine, that is to say they’re fine padding down notes that can fit in your pocket. But an actual blank document on your computer gives more freedom of thought.

Let’s just say that I’m on the streets and a story idea pops into my head. I’m away from my computer, so I simply jot it down in my notepad (my iPhone). If it’s a really good idea I come back to it almost immediately but for the others those ideas get sort of lost in the shuffle. (I take a lot of notes).

However, when I’m near my laptop and I get an idea, not only can I write it down, I can write it down and type up a few sample paragraphs to see if this story has any promise. And it doesn’t just work for stories. If there are chapters that I’m having trouble with, I copy and paste it to the Lab and tweak it as many ways as possible while leaving the actual document alone. If I want to remember a joke I want to tell, or an alien animal who I want to describe in detail or write a paragraph giving very vivid details of some city, if I’m having troubles of any kind, I take it to the Lab.

Other authors tend to open up a new Word Document every time they have an idea. I used to do the same thing. The next thing I knew, I had a folder filled with random crap. There was no way I was going to open and close all those windows. With the Lab all my ideas are in one place and I give them all titles so I can find them quick.

And here’s the best news. You don’t even have to call it “The Lab” like I do. You can call it whatever the hell you want.

 

Word Counter – Excel Spreadsheet or any Spreadsheet used to Daily Word Count

 

Image 

 

Real writers write every day. And I’ve found one of the best ways to keep up with that discipline is to do as sci-fi writer David Gerrold had suggest. A spread sheet like the one I’ve pasted above. (For you Trekkies/Trekkers out there, David Gerrold is the guy who wrote the Troubles with Tribbles episode of Star Trek in the Original Series).

It’s really cool I can set up my target word count as well as my daily word count. I even give myself a percentage and an estimate to when I’ll be done. And to further hammer the daily thing, I even added a “Last Update” column to remind if have or haven’t been writing every day. Here are formulas I used, in case you’re interested. Try to fill in the spreadsheet as best you can and input the following formulas in the corresponding locations.

Total Percent – Location: B6 – Formula: =SUM(B4/B5)

Words Added – Location: B8 – Formula: =SUM(B7/B4)

Target Word Count – Location: B9 – Formula: =SUM(B4+D5)

Word’s Left – Location: D4 – Formula: =SUM(D5-B8)

Daily Percent – Location: D6 – Formula: =SUM(B8/D5)

Days Typed – Location: D7 – Formula: =SUM(B4/D5)

Novel Finished – Location: D8 – Formula: =(B5/D5)

Days Left – Location: D9 – Formula: =SUM(D8-D7)

In case you were wondering. The cells that aren’t listed above, those you fill in with your own info.

 

Youtube – Yes, that Youtube

I am currently subscribed to the following channels: Vsauce, Vsauce 2, Vsauce 3, Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, Scischow, Machinima, Happy Hour, HeadSqueeze, Minute Physics, Minute Earth, ASAP Science, CGP Grey, Yankee999 aka Steampunk Reviews, Veritasium, Abney Park, Earth Unplugged, Documentary World HD, Educational TV, Ted Ed, Stuff to Blow Your Mind, WondersoftheStars, Smarter Every Day, Alltime10s, List 25 and more than a few others.

Youtube is more than a place for you to be rick-rolled, watch keyboard cat, movie trailers, “free” music, music videos, very old music videos, fake trailers and montages of random people getting hit in the nuts. I mean, those are fun, but there’s so much more to life and Youtube than watching guys get hit in the nuts.

As a writer I’m always doing research to see if certain events in my book hold up to scrutiny. Plus it’s a wonderful place to learn and get ideas. When I was researching my novel, I quickly realized that I needed to relearn a lot of world history. I did the usual college thing, and Google-d, and Wikipedia-d my ass off. Those things gave me a lot of information, but it wasn’t really getting me anywhere. Plus it didn’t seem interesting enough.

Then, purely on a whim, I Google-d “Crash Course in World History”. And what popped up was the Crash Course Youtube Channel, Crash Course World History. The first episode I saw was about the Mongols and I was hooked. I’ve every single Crash Course video in World History, US History (so far), Biology, Literature, and Chemistry. I’ve seen every World History video at least three times. John Green and his brother Hank Green, the Vlogbrothers, hosts the shows with John doing History and Literature while his Hank focuses on Science. Both shows are well made, interesting, informative and both brothers speak really, really fast so you have to pay attention. It also helps to watch the videos more than once. Lord knows I do.

The other channels such as Scishow and Headsqueeze teach me interesting things like what is fire? What is the Higgs Boson? And true invisibility. Vsauce taught me what would happen if I jumped into a black hole. Vsauce 2 showed me a glow in the dark bunny as well as a laser popping balloons. Vsauce 3 showed me cool apps like Duolingo which teaches you any language for free in a really fun way. The more you learn, the richer your writing will be. Explore those channels and learn for yourself.

 

A Dictionary – Specifically an iPhone Dictionary App, iPhone Notes app, internet access or a pocket dictionary, if you wanna be old school

I have a dictionary app on my iPhone along with the Notes app that comes standard. If you’re too cheap to get a free app you can always type the word you want to look anywhere in the Notes app, select/highlight the word, tap the arrow pointing right, and hit define. Not only will it give you the definition, it’ll also give you its history. A pretty cool way to learn Latin. Plus they also come with a thesaurus.

Dictionaries are a necessity if you’re a writer. You don’t want to sound like an “oxymoron,” do you? Of course not! Oxymorons are pretty ugly and they’re old news.

 

Thanks for reading. Hopefully I’ll see you soon.

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Berleyís Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Villain Types (6 – 10)

Sorry for the delay but it was my birthday, stuff happened, and today I remembered that I still haven’t finished my list. So here is Berley’s Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Villain Types (6-10)

 

6. The Scientist aka the Mad Scientist
I love when writers do it right and I hate when they do it wrong. The Evil Scientist and/or the Mad Scientist. This goes beyond Dr. Frankenstein, even though heís up there, heís not really a villain, at least not in the straight up, cut and dry way Iím discussing here.
My favorite example of a truly evil scientist is Dr. Shou Tucker, The Sewing Life Alchemist, from Full Metal Alchemist. In the anime, (spoiler alert ñ even though this came out about 8 years ago but whatever) he does something quite horrific to his own daughter Nina Tucker (Google her to find out). Iím not going to say what exactly because you know (spoiler alert). But either way it was really sadistic, irreversible and above all tragic. And what made his sick act even more sick, it fit perfectly with his character. Some writers have a bad habit of just having an evil scientist doing evil things for evil reasons or no reason at all. If thereís no reason behind the science and believe me that is never a good place to start or end or have anywhere in the middle. And worse, the fact that these evil acts are not within their character doesnít really matter. Iíve read a story where the evil scientist commits something close to genocide resulting in the deaths of thousands but it wasnít nearly as chilling as what Shou Tucker did to his daughter who is just one victim as opposed to many.
To me the perfect mad scientist is the scientist that puts science and his research above everything else. Especially their families, their friends and especially their own vices and desires. The evil ëgenocide-committingí scientist I read about did what he did because, as he put it, wanted to see how quickly his disease would spread in a wide population. Which is a load of BS. He knew exactly what would happen as he was doing it and even before he was doing it. Shou Tucker had no clue what was going to happen to his daughter during his sick experiment. And although some of you may disagree, I think itís far more chilling for a man to experiment on his own daughter while having no clue what the outcome would be than a man killing thousands of total strangers to test something he already knew would work because it worked the other half dozen times he used it before.
My advice for the mad scientist is this, SCIENCE and more specifically, The Mad Scientistís own research should come before anything else. His or her scientific curiosity should mean more to them than anything else, even their own lives. There have been a few mad scientists who have experimented on themselves to see what would happen. Also, please stay in character. And by that I mean the evil microbiologist canít all of a sudden be an expert in computer science or robotic engineering, chemistry or quantum mechanics. If he/she is a doctor, chances are they earned their doctorate in one or two things. They all canít be Dr. Evil.

7. The Riddler
The Riddler is my favorite Batman villain. The wonderful and at the same time puzzling thing about him is that I never know what his motives are. In fact they seem to change every time he and Batman butt heads. I can remember his riddles more than his objectives.
The Riddler Villain is also one of those, seen-more-in-thrillers-than-in-fantasy sort of villains. Unlike the Collector who collects things from their victims, Riddlers tease investigators, public (police) or privately funded (Batman or any vigilante or P.I.), with, what else, riddles. If you want a real life case study of this type of villain look up the Zodiac killer.
A Riddlerís motives tend to be the biggest riddle of them all. If you decided to use a Riddler I suggest giving him or her a really impressive back story or at the very least, give him a reason why he feels the need to tease in the form of riddles.
A Riddlerís loyalty is not any real objective but to the game itself. They have this need to prove that theyíre smarter than everyone else. They tend to be intelligent, extremely narcissistic, and overly aggressive when they donít get their way They care more about the cat and mouse game played between them and their victims, them and the police and especially them and the protagonist.

8. The Anarchist
This is a villain that is not difficult to write but is very difficult to write well. Most of them turn out being counterintuitive revolutionaries. Or worse, the readers start liking them more than the hero. Remember this post is about villains after all.
The Anarchist is a bit of an enigma because you want your reader to root for your hero and boo your antagonist. Anarchists are difficult to write well because depending on what theyíre after, they can easily fall into any of the other nine categories on this list or the millions of other categories not on this list.
Keep in mind, Joker villains are here to create anarchy, Anarchists are here to cause anarchy. Before you start thinking create and cause are the same thing you must first understand it in context. The Jokers act out in society where they have an audience and easy access to victims. Anarchists just want to cause the apocalypse. They donít even care if they didnít cause it. Just as long as I happens and they get to see it.
Jokers donít hate society or rather, their goals are not about hating society. They honestly donít care. Anarchists LOATHE society (of any kind) and will do anything to destroy it. Their goal is external, destructive and above all others, selfish.
Anarchists tend to be patient and methodical. Jokers tend to be psychotic and apathetic. Anarchists do believe in the end justifying the means, just as long as those means result in the destruction of society.

9. The Monster
When you think of monster, certainly the Wolfman or Frankensteinís monster are certainly good candidates but when I say ëmonsterí I donít mean in the traditional or in the figurative sense, like Hannibal Lector is considered a monster. At least not entirely. When I say monster, I mean someone of great physical stature and ability. A beast that is by nature, very difficult to kill. Batman’s Bane isn’t a traditional monster, but thanks to his Jekyll/Hyde venom his physical strength and size can definitely turn him into one. Then thereís Clay-Face, Doomsday, the Lizard, The Terminator and pretty much any monster from slasher/horror movies.
Monsters are simple villains as well but not nearly as simple as the Dictator or the Businessman. For starters most of them have an origin story. Bane was a genius scientist. Clay-face was a TV actor. The Lizard is Dr. Connors who was experimenting on how to grow his missing left arm back. Regardless of who they are, their origin is always there. And it is that origin that allows the reader to understand their motivations and get deeper into the story. Clay face just wants to be normal again. Dr. Connors just wanted to regrow his arm, not turn into a lizard monster. Even the various Terminators have a preprogrammed objective: Kill John Conner. It may not be a personal objective but itís still an objective. And better yet, itís an objective that makes sense. Iíd rather read about a killer robot programmed to kill some kid than a book about a ruthless dictator bent on world domination. The former sounds like an interesting story and the latter sounds like an interesting story that I’ve seen and read a thousand times.

10. The Soulless
The Soulless are like the Monsters except there are hundreds if not, thousands of them all coming at once. They are the hordes of vampires, goblins, orcs, trolls, trollocs, koloss, terminators and of course, zombies. Regardless of what they are, their only loyalty is to each other and their only enemy is everyone who isnít them. And itís not just limited to a mindless, massive army. Take the Daleks for example. The only life forms they care about are other Daleks and they exterminate any species that isnít one of them, especially if that species is a Time Lord or rather one Time Lord in particular. Zombies are an excellent example of this and so are the Arachnids from Robert Heinleinís Starship Troopers.
If thereís one thing Iíve learned from books and movies like Starship Troopers, World War Z, 28 Days Later, Arachnophobia and a few others is that mindless hordes of something can make interesting villains and make for very gripping suspense. Keep in mind, you can negotiate, threaten or reason with a businessman or a mad scientist. Thereís no reasoning with a horde of zombies coming to recruit or kill you. And most frightening of all, individualism is a sin. Remember there are no individuals in the Borg. Just the Borg.

 

As for my latest update, it looks like things are moving forward with Curiosity Quills. My book cover from the last blog post is evidence to that. And from the looks of it, other things will start happening pretty soon. As always I will keep you posted and thanks for reading.

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Berley’s Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Villain Types – (1-5)

 

Villains. Bad Guys. Baddies. Antagonists. Call them what you want but in many ways the villain defines a story in more ways, and in some ways, better than your hero could on his or her best day. Villains come in all shapes and sizes. From fantasy villains like Sauron to science fiction villains like Darth Vader to hard-to-place villains like Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter. A villain does more than give your hero something to fight against. It gives your readers someone to root against as well.

Great writers can not only make a villain seem terrifying but compassionate, which in a way, makes them even more terrifying. A villain that only has one goal can and may be powerful but have a bad habit of being flatter than cardboard. Villains need to be more than murdering psychopaths. They need to be murdering psychopaths with goals that make sense to them, even if they make sense to no one else. Keep in mind, money and power is not always what a villain is after. Sometimes it’s just power.

There are many different types of villains like there are many different types of people. They all have different goals, hail from different backgrounds, have different levels of strength, knowledge, education, wealth and an entire slew of both pros and cons of what makes them tick. Rather than focus on them all I think I’ll stick with my favorite ten with this week being (1-5) and next week will be (6-10). Why? Cause it’s my blog and I’m a sucker for trends. Let’s begin.

 

1. The Machiavellian – “The end always justifies the means.”

Since this list is in no particular order, like any grocery list I happen to write, I’m going to start off with my absolute favorite type of villain: The Machiavellian. The Machiavellian is of course named after Niccoló Machiavelli who famously wrote “The Prince” and “The Art of War” (The non-Sun Tzu version of the Art of War) as well as other famous works. This used to be in my top 3 but it wasn’t until I read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart that it shot straight to number one and have stayed there ever since. That was 5 years ago! Nothing, not even my favorite books and movies stay number 1 for more than a month, let alone 5 friggin years!

This dramatic power shift came from my favorite literary villain, Melisande Shahrizai. As beautiful and intelligent as she is ruthless, Jacqueline Carey could’ve made her into some American soap opera cliché. But she didn’t. Soap opera villains always have some useless goal to keep the show going on and on. Melisande wanted power, plain and simple. And in order to reach her goal she was willing to sacrifice, her family, her very few friends, her lovers, her people and her country to achieve her goal.

The Machiavellian is one type of villain that some writers, even seasoned pros, have a bad habit of doing wrong. Not that they don’t create interesting villains, not at all. It’s just that they claim to have a villain who believes in the end justifying the means only to have something like their occupation get in their way. You can’t claim that the end justifies the means if something like your job or your research for you mad scientists out there, get in the way.

A Machiavellian’s only true loyalty is to their goal. And as long as that goal is out of reach, they will do whatever it takes to reach it. And a true Machiavellian villain will not let anything like, family ties, their job, their family, their subordinates and especially the hero get in their way.

 

2. The Joker – “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

My second favorite, and no this not in order of my favorites: The Joker. I’m guessing you already know where I got the name. The Joker is what I call the social anarchist. Unlike the Machiavellian and the others on this list who all have goals the Jokers don’t really have goals…at all. At least not goals that most normal go after. And what little goals they do have is always very short term. To the Jokers, goals are a joke. Their rational is: You’re gonna die anyway. There’s nothing you can do about it. Your goals are nothing more than you killing time until your inevitable demise.

So these pessimists use that rational to inflict terror in almost wonderfully cartoonish ways. Christopher Nolan’s Joker subjects Gotham to a serious of life threatening and a little annoying social experiments. My favorite is Project Mayhem from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. For the sake of simplicity I’m assuming more of you saw the movie than read the book. In Fight Club, the movie and in some parts of the book as well, Project Mayhem, the domestic ‘terrorist’ organization that ‘Tyler Durtan’ started. The organization performs assignments like blowing out windows on a high rise buildings and setting the offices on fire so it looks like a smiley face. Or setting off all the airbags in parked cars. Or picking a fight with someone and intentionally lose. Some or most of these things don’t make sense because it’s not supposed to make sense. Remember, they think living is a waste of time. What makes these villains so wonderful is that they’re really unpredictable. The hero and especially the reader, never know where they’re going to strike or when or how. All you know is who and there is no why. They’re also not afraid to die which makes them especially dangerous and all the more fun to write.

3. The Collector – “Quit touching my stuff!”

This type of villain is mostly associated with thrillers but they have a place in sci-fi and fantasy as well. Look at Superman’s Brainiac. His objective is to collect all the information on a planet and the civilization that happens to inhabit it, and when he’s done, he destroys the planet and its civilizations so the information he gathers is more rare.

The Collector is, as the name suggests, collects things. Obviously. In thrillers it’s usually a serial killer who collects things like a victim’s body part, or jewelry or some item as a trophy of their conquest. In science fiction and fantasy it gets more interesting. Brainiac collects planet info before destroying them, Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung collects souls, Shao Kahn collects souls and realms, The Hobbit’s Smaug the Dragon collects gold and jewels.

The Collector is interesting because you can understand his motivations but at the same time, not. They collect things as a prize for their conquests, whatever those conquests might be. Believe it or not it’s human nature. You go to school and collect grades, whether you want to or not. You go to work and collect pay checks. You play a game to collect points. I myself collect movie tickets.

You can give a reason for a Collector’s collection or you can choose not to give one. Either way, I advise you to be careful about how you approach using this villain.

 

4. The Dictator

The Dictator is one of the simplest villains ever conceived. Even simpler than the Businessman. Why? Because they’re objectives are annoyingly simple. Whether it’s Cobra Commander or General Zodd or General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross (the U.S. Army General who keeps spending billions of American taxpayer dollars failing to catch the Hulk) or Admiral-General Aladeen, the Dictator’s first and most times, only loyalty is to their own power and the people they have power over. They don’t have friends, they have subordinates. They don’t want love or even loyalty, just obedience. Why work for respect when fear is far easier and more useful.

People tend to confuse The Dictator with the Machiavellian and for good reason. While it is true some Dictators tend to have Machiavellian philosophies, their weakness is that they care too much about the power they have. They almost always give in to any greater power that can threaten to take their power away. And worse, they depend pretty much entirely on their own army for both their offense and defense. A weakness that their mistreated, power hungry subordinates tend to exploit when they decide to start a coup.

If you do decide to use a Dictator I have one piece of advice. Give both your hero and the Dictator’s subordinates a reason to fear him or her. Street Fighter’s M. Bison, my favorite fictional dictator, has his psycho-power which gives his subordinates more than enough reason to fear him. The Lord Ruler in Brandon Sanderson’s Mist Born novel is the only immortal in the world and he is a very powerful Mistborn. Meaning his ‘magic’ (if you can call it magic) is more than enough to keep all of his subordinates in line and all of his enemies at bay for well over a thousand years. Now that’s power! If your Dictator doesn’t have any special abilities use a tried and true favorite; secret police. Secret police work as spies and enforcers who take their orders directly from the Dictator, which means that they are pretty much above the law. And scarier still, the good guys never know exactly who they are and how many of them are out there.

 

 

5. The Businessman – “Greed is good.”

Whether you’re Lex Luthor or Wilson Fisk or Gordon Gecko, the businessman is a classic modern villain. And why not? The Businessman is by far the easiest to write because their motives are easiest to relate to. They want money and are willing to do anything to get it. A sentiment shared by almost everyone in the world.

Certain businessmen, like Lex Luthor for example, want something specific; like Superman’s powers. Either that or kill Superman. He never seems to succeed at either but you gotta love his ‘never-give-up’ attitude. The Businessman, and in some cases Businesswoman, care about their business first and everything, including and/or especially their family, second. The ends always justify the means, when it comes to saving their business, and they will break as many laws as it takes to win.

My advice when it comes to the Businessman is to have fun with them. Remember, more than likely they’re rich. And if they’re not then that’s just sad. Unlike Dictators, money is what keeps their apes in line. In fact, more often than not, the Businessman has better control over their cronies than the Dictator. Being paid money is a much better than incentive than say, not being killed. The threat of death can only be used so far. Money on the other hand, can last generations. I mean look at Lionel Luthor.

 

Next week I shall have the remaining list (6-10) but until then let me leave you with this.

Image

It seems the fates have been kind to yours truly. Isn’t it beautiful. I would like to thank Alexandria at Curiosity Quills for this awesome cover! Thank you Alex! 😉

I will be sure to give you updates as they come and I will give out the release date when I’m certain it is set in stone. Until then I shall you next week.

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The Trilogy Trap

First let me make something clear. I’m not against trilogies. I’m NOT! But what I am against are CLICHÉS! Recently I had a conversation with a friend and I informed her of my recent good news of me signing with Curiosity Quills. During our conversation I informed her that I was planning to make Curse Breaker a 6 book series.
She was shocked that I, newly published author would even attempt such a thing. I told her that book trilogies or any kind of trilogy written nowadays tend to turn themselves into clichés and I’m afraid of falling into those trilogy traps. She asked me to explain and told me to blog it.

So here are The Trilogy Traps you should avoid.

Like I said before, I don’t dislike trilogies, just the clichés that unfortunately sometimes comes with them. I love Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy Trilogy and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy and I love the Star Wars original Trilogy. (Nowadays I need to specify 😉
But when most writers, especially new writers plan out a trilogy they almost always fall into one trap or another. Do yourself a favor, either plan a non trilogy or do your best to avoid the traps below.

Trap 1: “It’s a trap!”

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. While I’m not saying Star Wars was the first to use this format it was certainly the first to make it popular. And writers have been stealing this formula and applying it to their now cliché trilogies ever since.

Book 1: Wizard kidnaps farm boy, boy gets a sword, wizard gets killed or goes missing, simple but not great battle at the end, happy ending and the boy turned hero looks forward to the future.
Book 2: The Empire Strikes Back. The evil wizard and his evil army gets his evil revenge against the hero and his friends by winning battles, killing off several minor characters and one or two major characters. Hero barely escapes with his life and is no longer optimistic about the future.
Book 3: The resolution. Hero looks back on the past (visits old planet, old farm, old friend, old shire) bad guy is defeated in battle. The End.

The third book may not be riddled with clichés but that is not necessarily a good thing. I’ve read trilogies where the third book is just an excuse to tie up all loose ends. The new places they seem to visit tend to be more different than new. A direct reflection of “It’s a trap!” aka Return of the Jedi. Luke goes to Jaba’s palace which is on his home planet of Tattooine. Different but not really new. And the forest moon of Endor (which orbits a gas giant) is not much different than the forest moon of Yavin (which also orbits a gas giant and is the last planet the first Death Star tried to blow up if not for a certain blond farm boy). Again, different but not new. And oh yeah, a second Death Star blows up. Visiting the past isn’t a bad idea, when it’s left in the past. In my experiences the more entertaining trilogies tend to only talk about the past but they move on to a new and different future.
The real sin of this trilogy is the third chapter. Tell a story, tell a more interesting story where (or because) the bad guy wins, then tell another story that’s just a retelling of the first story on a larger scale. It’s fighting a second Death Star, fighting a much stronger Agent Smith, returning to Las Vegas because the sequels filmed abroad didn’t do as well as anticipated (Ocean’s 13 and The Hangover part 3). You can listen to oldies or any hit song from the past and while you may listen and still dance to it that same song will never capture the general public the way it once did when the song was new, fresh and dare I say, original.
My advice if any of the above sounds familiar, avoid it

Trap 2: The Hangover

Book One: Unique or somewhat unique story
Book Two: Retelling the once unique story from book one but changing major details instead of simply telling another story.
Book Three: Telling a completely different story than either one and two (which are both the same story) but is so different it seems tacked on rather than the completion of a story.

If you are writing a trilogy or planning to write a trilogy do this exercise. List all the major events in all three of your books. If more than five of those events sound too similar, change them.

Take the Hangover parts 1&2. Days before wedding, Doug’s gone, Alan drugged everyone, wild animal needs to be returned to owner, baby/old man need to be returned home, trade with criminals, Stu sings song about missing party member, the person they were looking for was trapped in the building they woke up in the entire time, they let Chou out of a tiny cramped place they put him in to begin with, Stu stands up to person who treats him like dirt, Mike Tyson, wedding, and let’s not forget the pictures of last nights shenanigans on a digital camera which Doug instructs them to delete afterwards. And these are the ones that came from the top of my head while I was watching the Hangover Part 2 in the theater.

If people want to be told the same story they will reread the same story. Give your readers something to look forward to. Not something that they can predict hours in advance because all they need to do is remember the original story.

Trap 3: The Worse Guy

This always pisses me off because of the sheer laziness of it. So much so that some writers don’t even bother to explain it any more.

Book One: Hero kills bad guy.
Book Two: Bad guy rises from the grave. Major and minor characters are killed, bad guy lives. There is talk of a much more powerful Worse Guy that makes the bad guy look weak.
Book Three: Both bad guy and Worse Guy are killed by hero.

I’m not saying this can’t be done right but man do I hate it when writers get this wrong. There’s hardly any foreshadowing, the hero has no personal relationship to him whatsoever, and if there is one its usually tacked on (“oh by the way, this man really killed your parents”) and they’re usually added as an after thought. (“Oh by the way, here is the real bad guy by the way who’s much stronger and more powerful than the first bad guy.”)

The only way the Worse Guy works is if he’s there from the start. If you just add him on, even if they are the ones who really killed the Hero’s parents, wife, kids or all of the above, it’s still going to feel tacked on. The reader is already emotionally invested in the original bad guy you had. Now they have to force themselves to hate the worse guy with whom they have no previous reason to hate. And oh yeah, the bad guy wants to (and most times will) kill the worse guy the first chance they get.

The sad part about these clichés is that they can be avoided once they are placed well outside a trilogy format. When writing a non trilogy writers have to force themselves to write an interesting albeit long story that doesn’t have the luxury of falling into those overly familiar plot points.

The real tragedy of a trilogy is that too many amateur writers tend to overuse previously successful trilogies as crutches rather than tools. Worse than that, some writers tend to only see a trilogy as a beginning, middle and end there’s only room for cliché derivative events with absolutely no room for surprises. The secret of a successful trilogy is being able to tell one story as three separate stories. And they don’t have to be familiar or overly familiar to be entertaining.

Thanks for reading.

Now that I’ve signed with Curiosity Quills I should have a few more updates as I once again count down to my release date. Take care and keep it classy.
–Berley

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