Tech & Trade

Welcome to our technical page!  Here you'll find tips, teaching, and explanations of terms all dealing with the craft of writing. 

So you want to write a story?-© 2011Millard Jones

So you want to write a story? Not sure exactly where to start? Afraid of starting in the wrong place? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions,  this article is for you.

The first thing you need to write your story:
To write your story you need a patch. Yes sir, just like everything else worthwhile, writing requires a patch. And giving you a patch is also an excuse for me to bore you with all sorts of writer slang and generally useful but not thrilling information. Smart idea, huh?

How to earn your writer’s patch:
To earn your full-fledged writer’s patch you must understand these words/phrases. You ‘writers’ out there are just pretenders if you don’t know these.(Just kidding!)

MC-Main Character: This is your little guy that runs around and does exciting/daring/deadly/stupid/embarrassing things throughout your story.
Protagonist: Can be synonymous with main character but is more general. Its overall meaning contains the possibility of a plurality of protagonists.
POV -Point of view: This kicks it back to grammar school. “I walk.”,  Is 1st POV. “He walks.”, Is 3rd POV. I’d mention second but someone might scalp me. Besides, you should have to look something up.
Tense: Opposed to popular opinion they aren’t asking your stress level. “I walk.” Present tense. “I walked” Past tense. Make sense?
WIP-Work in progress:  Your as of yet unfinished too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece.
MS-Manuscript: This is your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece. :) It may or may NOT be your WIP.
WC-Word Count: This is the word count for your MS or WIP. A word to the wise; if you don’t want your word count to lose hundreds of hours of work in one fell swoop—save often. Believe me. ;-(

Great! Now you can get your writers patch and I can get on with the nitty gritty details. Congratulations!

Now the million dollar formula to writing this masterpiece:
Six key steps for writing your story

So you’ve got an idea cooking in your brain about frogs with opposable thumbs, and  you’re sure that if you can just download your brain to paper, everyone and their cousin will want to read it. The only hitch in your get along is you aren’t sure that your Mac or PC has software ready for brain downloads.  Here’s where I can help you out.

Step #1 towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Read what you want to write

Let’s say you plan on writing a dystopic science fiction novel, but you’ve never read dystopia or science fiction. You my friend, have a problem. Solution: Find dystopia with a science fiction flair and read it. It’s that simple; just read it.

“But wait, I don’t want to write dystopic science fiction, remember?! I want to write about frogs with opposable thumbs.”  

Don’t worry! This precept is true for any genre you plan on writing.  Even if you plan on writing contemporary fiction about a guy that owns a coffee shop and finds he has Spanish gold in his family history, a la  The best of evil : an Aramis Black mystery.  There are always ideas to be gleaned from books in the same genre. Maybe you take a shine to the idea of using real coffee recipes in your fiction and borrow the concept. Or, maybe you find that you didn’t enjoy reading about Spanish gold being found and you decide to replace it in your story with a gold ballpoint pen. The possibilities are endless!

Reading what you write enables: getting fresh views on standard material, driving yourself to better your craft by allowing same genre comparison, and leapfrogging off other’s concepts to greatness of your own. All this is possible by reading in your own genre, how can you afford to not?

Step #2 towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Don’t read only one genre

Reading only one genre is equivalent of eating only vanilla ice cream. I won’t try to say that vanilla isn’t good, it is! But what if you tried vanilla AND chocolate? A varied reading palate will give you a definite edge over writers that read only one genre. One of the easiest and, in fact, most enjoyable things you can do when reading other genres for tips on your own, is transposing other genre plots into your own genre. What would a Jedi Starfighter scene look like set in the Stone Age? A knight in shining armor in the 21st century? Even  mixing Amish romances and gunfights! Oh wait, that’s why there is prairie fiction! ;)
Read multiple genres, grow, learn, do it.  

Step #3 towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Read books on writing

This is a non-negotiable. If you want to write a good story you have to read books on writing. I’m sorry if you hate reading(wait if you hate reading why are you writing?) but you just have to.  Reading on writing is a goldmine for information on craft, characters, plot, styles, point of view, etc. If it deals with writing, someone has written a book on it, or seventeen thousand. Since you’re just starting to think about crafting a story, you probably aren’t going to pony up for all seventeen thousand books. However, if you buy one book on writing, and you should buy at least one, purchase The Art and Craft of Writing Christian fiction by Jeff Gerke. Before we leave this step, a word to the wise: be careful what you read. Just like there are hosts of good writing books, there are also books that only work well as a booster seat for your 2yo. This invariably is either from content found in examples, or simply from horrible mechanics. Please check reviews first.

Step #4 towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Be an educated writer

Educate yourself about writing by becoming a disciple of writing. I choose not to say student for one very important reason. If you are currently a student you know how studying goes. You study to pass tests, you study not to fail, you study so you aren’t grounded and you want to go to the mall. (Unless you’re one of those odd ducks who study to learn)
Be a disciple not a student. Learn from the masters, soak up knowledge like paper towels and spaghetti. Teach what you’ve learned to others. Be generous with what you know and voracious in your appetite for more.  And always, always, always be open to learn and grow.

Step #5 toward towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Remember this is not marriage

Pick a style, but don’t marry it. And don’t handcuff yourself into copying the exact POV and tense your favorite author does, explore! Try varying POVs and tenses(in different WIPs!)--And  if you absolutely despise it and loath every word of your (still) brilliant prose STOP using it. You aren’t bound “for better or worse” to a tense or POV. It’s true, you’re free! You don’t have to beat yourself over the head to work with a tense you hate. Try a new point of view. Try a new tense. Find one you like,  just don’t marry that one either . You can always change your POV or tense. Infidelity of genres doesn’t exist. It doesn’t. Say it with me “It-does-not-exist.” Good, now we understand each other.
This is not a get -out -of -working -hard -to -learn -something -new –card, though. Just because something is brain numbingly hard doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit. Remember that ;)

Step #6 towards writing your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece:
Take stock of what you have.

If you’re just starting to write a story, or even if you’ve long passed the starting stage but find your story lacking something, stop right now and take stock. I’ve compared writing and a few major necessities for your story as a metaphorical obstacle course. 2

Do you have a plot?
Think of the plot as an obstacle course. It will have easy parts, hard parts, and those stupid plastic climbing structures that always make you fall down. -___-  Without an obstacle course there is nothing for your protagonist/s to do. Characters stand around and talk for pages and pages, or all decide to go out for a burger...twenty seven times! Now, I love doing both of those things but…not reading about them. Unless! You make them an integral part to the plot. Then I’ll even read about people brushing their teeth!  

Do you have a main character or protagonists?
These are the strapping fellows that run through your obstacle course.  I mean, honestly, with no characters, is an obstacle course even an obstacle course? Without characters it’s not an obstacle to anything….Your characters are the ones the course challenges to grow and fight against the obstacles in their paths.  They also will probably receive a few accolades, as well as black eyes while traversing it. The course should also give them a few black eyes, and invariably make them fall off at those stupid plastic climbing structures.

There is a real easy way to keep your readers raving about your characters: make the reader like the characters. No I didn’t say “make the characters always smile and always make them polite and always make them open doors for old ladies”1.  I said “make the reader like the character”.

Do you have any sidekicks?
Sidekicks work as moon boots. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen over in moon boots and hurt myself! But when the chips are down and I need that little extra jump to get me to the top of those stupid plastic climbing structures —the moon boots are indispensable. Every story doesn’t need  moon boots, but some need them like koalas need ears. Does yours?(Story not koala)

Do you have good writing mechanics?
 Writing mechanics are like the air in your obstacle course. Have you ever  tried to dive toward the finish line when they aren’t inflated? No way! Without air you’re going to break a rib—or two. Writing is no different. You can have moon boots, an obstacle course, a strapping fellow, but without air, it’s all for nothing.  Good writing mechanics keep the air in the obstacle course—making a tight an enjoyable story.

Now that you’ve taken stock of your story or soon to be story, you can easily add/cut/splice/season with salt to make it even more too-good-not-to-read.

So you want to write a story? Go for it.

Make the obstacle course, find a character, grab some moon boots, and make sure you have plenty of air to pump it all up; now you are ready to write that story.  Oh, and don’t forget to just write it. Don’t let another day pass. Write your too-good-not-to-read-masterpiece. Break our hearts, stagger us, let your genius shine.

If this article encouraged you to write your story, go ahead and give your credit card ###-###-### in the comments….Or please share it with your friends. Oh, and please comment :) (Recommended by Millard)

1I have nothing against opening doors for old ladies and do attempt to when possible.
2 The image is in no way my own.

Today we are delighted to have Vincent LaVel Moorehead taking the spot for tech and trade teachings, and he is going to share some really cool views on a word a lot writers don't understand, and others fear. Come and spend some time with Vincent as he takes away the confusion and send fear on its' way in regard to


So, what have I been up to? Outlining, of course! Well, how could you have known that? I've been on a wishy-washy journey trying to find the right course for my novel. Originally, I started writing my novel originally titled "Pharador" but for some reason, I felt stuck. Now why would that happen? Why would little LaVel with all of his passion and desire for writing feel dead in the water? Because I wasn't prepared for the novel. Sure, I wrote a few pages of notes for the novel, but I wasn't prepared for everything that comes with adequate OUTLINING, some research, and good advice.

What I've learned is that I can place writers into two categories: a "seat of the pants" writer or an outliner. "Seat of the Pants" writers prefer to just write whatever comes to mind for their novel without any concrete outline. Sure, they may jot a couple of things down, but they take an idea and run with it by writing as much of their story as they can. Outliners on the other hand feel the need to sit down and give some sort of structure to the plot of their novel. Usually, these writers list what will happen in certain chapters and as much character background as they can.

For myself, I learned that I have to outline. Yes, some plot points and details to the story may come later down the road and it's exciting to have spontaneity. Some scene that you weren't thinking about before may come a day or so before you write another chapter for example. However, if you know what destination you're trying to head to, you can finagle the routes to get there through outlining. I sometimes think of writing as problem solving because there are times when I outline and think " do I get to this point? How does so-and-so obtain these magical objects or what relationship does so-and-so have with this person?" These are questions writers have to ask themselves, and if you write the answers down in an outline, it won't be as hard as trying to make it up as you go.
So I will leave you with a quick tip. For my book, I started with a "rough outline." I took about three blank sheets of computer paper and wrote down approximately 26 chapter titles for my book. Then in bullets, I wrote what will happen in each chapter. Afterward, I gathered 26 sheets of paper for my "chapter sketches" and wrote in more detail what will happen in each chapter. I think it's better to elaborate on what will happen in each chapter so it's not as difficult as looking at a few bullets and wondering where to go from there. So, don't feel discouraged. Outlining takes some time, but it's rewarding in the end. I will definitely write more on outlining so stay posted.
If you have to know the new title for my book, I will share it with you. Here it is...the title for my book is called "Dragon Earth" and I'm every excited about it! So, get out your pen or computer and start outlining! :-)

  Copyright Vincent LaVel Moorehead 2011

Proper and Perfect Mode of Description ~ Amanda Bradburn

Good morning and good day, Scribes!

            It’s been a little while since I’ve taught, so I’ve had time to think and ponder upon what you need and what would be of most help. Luckily, today, I think, we’re going to catch both.
            So, put on those knee-high boots, grab your sword or ray-gun, and let’s step into your world. Or more accurately, let’s step into one of mine.
            Today, we’re going to dive into something I’m calling “The Proper and Perfect Mode of Description”.  Ever wrote that scene where you meet characters, glance over a capital, or introduce that all-important piece of machinery, and suddenly all the sentences look the same? As if your magical sentence structure and all your friendly adjectives suddenly rebelled? And it suddenly doesn’t seem right or good or even… special anymore, just because of the way you wrote it?
            Or how about this: Have you ever been reading a book, run through a long paragraph/page of description and suddenly you had no idea what you were looking at?
            Both of these are problems. Today, we’re going to take a look at scenery descriptions and how you can make them sparkle!
            *Portal zaps open*
            Very well. If you’ll come with me.
            We step out of  our portal into a land that you’ve never seen before. Let’s construct a sample descriptive paragraph. This also depends on the character whose eyes we’re looking through. If you missed that lesson, run back and find it. There should be a dragon eating a mailbox in that one.
            Sample paragraph:
            ‘I heard the wind, far away, blowing through trees too small for me to see. Mountainous purple lumps rose from the mist like the backs of great sea whales, and great spouts of cloud hovered in the darkening sky. At the end of a rocky trail stood a tumbled-down, boulder-strewn castle.
            The flowers at my feet curled their heads inward as the sun slipped behind the mountains. Though Mont Grailen was my nightly curse, legend commanded me to return.
            And return I did.’
            There. Now, ignore the story unfolding above and bolt your eyes onto the description. This paragraph is done in a broad-to-narrow or panoramic-to-detailed fashion. The character notices the wind, then the mountains, mist, clouds, castle. Those elements are progressively smaller. Yes, he does notice trees (hears them, really) and a trail. But overall, he notices the large things first. Now. Look at this sentence.
‘I noticed the flowers at my feet first, as I always did. They never changed, as my path remained the same. The flowers and I were both frozen in time. A trail led downward, twisting among boulders, to Mont Grailen.
            My curse.
            Clouds hovered in the twilit sky, and the mountains beyond looked, as always, like surfacing purple whales. The mist provided their endless sea. Somewhere beyond, I could hear wind whistling through trees I could not see.’
            Now the MC notices the flowers. He builds up from there, backward and methodically, until he comes to the wind.
            Detail-oriented (or nearsighted!) people would probably notice the flowers first. People of action and movement might hear the wind and see the mountains.
            Go find a scenery description in your book or your favorite book. Look at it. Study it, roll those prepositional phrases around in your brain. Then, rewrite it using the opposite technique of what’s already there.
            And if it’s rather disorganized, organize it.
            Post what you have here, and let us see what good work you’ve done!
            May the magic of all good storytelling be yours!
           Also: for those of you who miss the dragon, the next installment of The Proper and Perfect Mode of Description will feature none other than the SCRIBE DRAGON! *cheers*
            ~© 2011 by Author Amanda Bradburn; all rights reserved


An overview of traditional publishing by ‘Millard Jones’.

This e-zine should enable you to make a more informed decision in the publishing ring as well as educate you on some of the more practical publishing points and issues. Regretfully this article would be tens of thousands of words long if I delved into everything mentioned in this e-zine.

A few bullet points I’ll shoot at you to start with.

You do NOT need an agent to be published.
An agent CAN help you be published.
Agents ALWAYS like to be fed nice manuscripts.
Craft is PARAMOUNT(unless you have a horse to ride).
Editing is KEY to the process of being published.
Rewrites are GOOD and NORMAL for your manuscript.
Self publishing is a GOOD option in some cases.
Self publishing is a BAD option in some cases.
A first book-to-publish manuscript over 120,000 words is HARD to shop agent or no agent.

^_^ Broken any hearts yet? </3

Great, let’s go: Traditional publishing has been  traditional for a long time, it didn’t get it’s name by being new on the block. As the “grandfather figure” here it deserves the first chance.  Here are two simple examples of the traditional publishing game.

Example #1

 You write your first out-of-this-world-novel. You also edit and rewrite it THREE times.(Yes I said three) You then send a professional manuscript proposal to an agent(Bartholomew) after running around the house sixty two times for good luck.  And one, two, three…  Huzzah! Bartholomew loves the idea!

Money note: You pay Bart nothing at this point. NOTHING. The standard agent fee is 15% when they sell the manuscript to the big bad—I mean good publishing company.

You then sell 250,000 copies over the course of a year to your grandma, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, as of yet unborn relatives, koalas with no ears, your neighbors’ yappy dog, your great uncle, great cousin, talking cats in boots, Bartholomew’s relatives, random people you meet at the spa, and a not so great step sister. Your take home per- book average is 42 cents with the bookstore selling price of 12.99. You can do the math, but if you want to feel rich—don’t.  On the other hand, you do have a foot in the publishing door; you just blew the door open. And! The next idea you want to shop is very likely go over well. You just sold 250k copies, you’re gold.

Example  #2
 You write your first out-of-this-world novel. You also edit and rewrite it THREE times.(Yes I said three)
 You chose NOT to share your future gains, and do NOT attempt go get an agent. By doing this you severely limit the number of major publishing companies that you can submit to. However, fate lends a hand and a major publishing company that allows unsolicited submissions picks you up. You also win the lottery on the same day. You again: sell 250,000 copies, make 42 cents a book, and look great to the next publisher you wants to try if you want to jump ship. You also didn’t share that 15% with an agent, so you send it to me for writing this. And just like before, you do have a foot in the publishing door; you just blew the door open. And! The next idea you want to shop is very likely go over well. You just sold 250k copies, you’re gold.

Time for a reality check: I’d love to sell 250,000 copies of anything. Toothpast, deodorant, hair gel, 250,000 hairs…I’d love that! But just to make sure I’m not falsely representing anything here, the likelihood of you selling 250,000 copies is awful. But….Temps hominum fati

Now let’s take a look at the top ten Christian publishers in the world and see what they say about submissions, hmm? These figures were compiled in January of 2010.

Thomas Nelson

  • U/S/P for Academic, Reference, and Ministry resources only.
  • They recommend uploading your agentless MS in all other genres to: Where royalty publishers and their staff will have the opportunity to review the proposal.

Tyndale House
  • No U/S/P
  • Accepts submissions ONLY from agents OR already published authors.
  • They recommend uploading your agentless MS Where royalty publishers and their staff will have the opportunity to review the proposal

  • No U/S/P.
  • Exceptions on U/S/P  if you establish a relationship with Baker staff at a writing conference. That is considered an appropriate contact to shop relationship with them in regard to your MS.
  • They recommend uploading your agentless MS to , , and Where royalty publishers and their staff will have the opportunity to review the proposal(where applicable)

  • No U/S/P
  • Exceptions on U/S/P: They accept proposals during/from writers conferences attended by B&H Fiction editorial staff.

Waterbrook Multnomah

Harvets House

  • No U/S/P

  • Will review unsolicited fiction manuscripts but does not accept unsolicited nonfiction manuscripts. Moody Publishers will review only those nonfiction manuscripts submitted by professional literary agents, Moody Publishers authors, authors known to us from other publishers, other people in the publishing industry or Moody Bible Institute ministries.
  • They recommend uploading your agentless MS to Where royalty publishers and their staff will have the opportunity to review the proposal.

  • No U/S/P
  • They apparently refuse to recommend anything, they hate you. ;-)

Whew! Look at all those facts and figures, powerful stuff!!

Universal truth #B213423: All unsolicited proposals or manuscripts received outside of the unique instruction of each individual publisher will be discarded. Sad day!
  • Example
As you know, Thomas Nelson has a no U/S/P policy and you send your project anyway. They burn it in the fires of doom deep in the heart of the company and make a paper ring. Do you want that? I didn’t think so. So don’t try to sneak in your proposal or MS, they’ll eats your precious!!!

Useful established facts:
 There are major Christian publishing companies that allow U/S/P.
The majority of the top ten Christian publishers don’t accept these out-of-the-wild-blue-yonder-proposals. Neither will your spouse, who can blame them?  So before you get your britches in a bunch running off to find an agent, here’s a great link to check out when considering who to nab as your most-fabulous-ever-agent.

Word to the wise: Check up on the agent to their gills before going with them. Contact currently represented authors and companies and ask questions like:“Are they competent? Is their favorite color really girly pink?” Actually, no don’t ask that last one. Here is a list of much better questions that Michael Hyatt laid out:
Before you hire a literary agent, I would encourage you to:
  1. Contact at least three authors whom the agent currently represents. Ask the agent for a list, including telephone numbers. Obviously, these will be clients the agent thinks will speak well of him. Regardless, you will still learn a great deal by talking to these clients. If possible, talk with them on the phone. People will tell you things on a phone call that they will not put in writing.
  2. Contact at least three publishers with whom the agent has recently done business. Again, ask the agent to provide a list. Ask the publisher, four questions:
    • “Did the agent present a compelling proposal?”
    • “Did the agent provide you what you needed to make a good decision?”
    • “Did the agent respond to your calls and emails in a timely manner?”
    • “Was the agent fair and reasonable in the negotiating process?”

Now let’s look at a non-exhaustive pros list:
  • If your book sells well, your friends actually have the potential to see it at their local Christian book store! Serious bragging rights folks (: Not that you as an author would stoop to bragging.
  • It’s traditional, it’s brick and mortar, it’s tried and true ….And if you do your homework it won’t surprise you. Rhyming anyone?
  • Every year  best sellers are made through traditional publishing. Example: Twilight, who’s publisher, Hachette jumped from #5 to#3 due to the Saga’s selling.
  • Solid books come out of traditional publishing: Dragons of the Valley, Radical, the Bible (originally self-published under a Mosaic imprint), The Homelander series, The Sword of Lyric...The list can continue forever.
  • Traditional publishing can flat out work.
  • All advertising is not solely on you.
  • Royalties, book advances, series deals-Money anyone?

Now the cons, and these ain't got no orange jump suits:
  • If your book doesn’t sell it’s going to be gone so fast from your local bookstore’s shelves it’s going to make your head all swimmy.
  • It’s hard to be traditionally published! It requires  good craft, a good agent(where applicable), and a dose of being in the right place at the right time. It’s not happenstance that someone publishes, no Ma’am. Hard work, good work, and good contacts.
  • Like in our examples, you may write a best seller, but at 42 cents a book it’s hard to get rich.
  • CBA publishers have boundaries for content which your work may simply not fit.
  • You may write in a niche genre that the publisher refuses to take a chance on.

To give a short recap. We just, we covered well over a fifteen hundred words in just touching on traditional publishing and the top ten Christian publishers. We also threw in a little bit on  how they work and how they don’t work.  If all goes well and I don’t get hit by Michelle’s comet…. another ‘publishing questions e-zine” should be coming soon to a computer near you. But first, are there things you’d like to learn more about? Agents, what publishing company has the best logo, E-publishing, self-publishing, do my socks have gold toes? Remember, I’m not here to talk to myself, let me know what you want. YOU give suggestions for further topics. Oh, and take this article with a grain of salt, salt makes everything better.
   © 2011  Millard Jones, all rights reserved.

7/21/11 New Teaching by Amanda Bradburn

   I pondered a long time upon what this new (late, I realize, and I apologize) lesson should be. The month’s genre on the League is Fairy Tale, and one of the recent contests was a rewrite of a famous faery tale (in which I did participate), and I wanted for this lesson to line up with those themes.
            Sadly, this lesson does not. That is entirely my fault, but perhaps the next lesson will line up a bit more. I’m going to address, instead, a question that I have been asked many times at books signings and author readings and such.
            Maybe you’ve wondered about this . . . as writers, we wonder about a great many things, I think. J
            Anyway, the famous question: “Where do you come up with names for things?” constantly comes to my attention, and  I thought that, before you go and confuse your readers someday with unpronounceable names, I’d let you in on a little linguistic secret.
            Have you ever been reading through a book, happily reading away, and come across a new name, or a new race, or the title of some abandoned fortress, mountain,  or cave? Suddenly a word that has a lot of Xs, Ks, Zs, and Qs leaps into your vision and you’re forced to spend valuable reading time trying to decipher what the author meant?
            Yep! I have, and especially if you read Fantasy or SF or any of their cousins, you’ll know what I mean. (Galbatorix threw me off; and I’ve never finished said book)
            Newer authors are adding punctuation and capitals to words, and lest you think that I’m trying to cramp your style, I’m not. Promise.
            But what’s your first thought when you see the word X’kqrilzxk?
            It looks like I’m trying to smash a spider on my keyboard instead of writing out a very real character with a very real personality. So many times, when writers are attempting to come up with a new name for that perfect bad guy, and nothing spectacular comes to mind, the name they invent looks like a jumble of unpronounceable letters.
            So, let’s fix this. (By the way, just because YOU know how to pronounce your character’s name, and it’s oh so obvious to you, it may not be to others. Just warning! Even if you put a ‘pronunciation’ key your work, most people still won’t be able to pronounce the  names.)
            Let’s say I have a new character. I myself (Amanda Bradburn) have a list of names that have come upon me since writing. But, let’s pretend that I’ve run through all of them and can’t find anything that I like. Nothing. Zip.
            So I set about looking for a new name. Names mean so much. Who can forget Pippin Took or Lucy Pevinsie? Nothing about those names are hard, yet if we’ve read the books (or seen the movies, in this case) the name brings to mind the character.
            The names of your characters are no less important.
            “But I want my character to be unique!” you wail. “Names like Tom and Sam and Jim are just plain overused. And I wouldn’t put them in my Sci-fi anyway!”
            Yes. Yes, I know. And I’m not asking you to resort to the three-letter names above. All I’m asking is that you look at the names you’ve written and seek advice on whether or not they’re pronounceable or not (email me at if you wish; I’ll help).
            Go look at those names. Make sure that the poor reader is not going to struggle over Galbatorix because they misread it and wonder why it’s Garblatronix, which isn’t so bad, after all, except it’s not YOUR character anymore.
            Avoid lots of hard consonants like K, X, Q,Z, as well as an endless string of either vowels or consonants. Ieiiieoauaei makes me cross my eyes, and I might just give up after I go permanently cross-eyed. G-l’xxir;ow?q  is confusing too. Very confusing, now that I look at it.
            The main thing is: you don’t want to break your reader away from the story to decipher the names in your books, and you won’t want to frustrate them by making the words too hard to read.
            The moral of the story: be sparing on those hard consonants and those punctuation marks! And if you need help, you can always post comments below and the rest of the League will get around to helping you sort out those names!
© Amanda Bradburn 2011

6/30/11 New Teaching by Amanda Bradburn

  So far, we’ve learned about getting into your character’s mind in what he thinks about something and how he reacts to a problem or an intense situation.

            Today we’re going to look at vocabulary, and what your character would and would not say. And may I say, I tried to keep the dragon away this time, I really did. He just… he likes the Scribes. (And of course mailboxes and Jeeps, too, but let’s ignore those little details!)

            Take a character. Any character. Despite what you may think,  Vocabulary: What your character says and HOW he says it, is one of the most important things to his character. He not only says things with the words he knows, he also thinks in certain words. Both of those aspects will  alter your work, especially if you’re writing from this character’s POV. (Point of view)

            So. Our friendly (or perhaps not!) dragon has allowed Mr. Smith to leap from his Jeep and bolt back into his house and is now happily tearing the rubber from the tires of his newfound toy.

            You are watching, and your characters are watching. There seems to be no danger at present, so nobody does any acting. Nobody runs off screaming, or begins to frantically dial 911 on their cell phones.
            No, indeed. We’re just watching.

            And listening, of course, because listening is one of the best talents that God gave us.

            “What ho! A dragon?”

            “Yo, dude. There’s a giant lizard. Don’t see many of those in NYC, eh?”

            “Suh-weet! That’s like . . . totally rad, man! A fire-breathing scale!”

            “My good man, prithee, would you tell me if my eyes be mistaken? A dragon? In these here parts? Gracious!”

            *Scream* “Dragon! Dragon! Las’ time I saw one of those confounded creatures, it ate me mum!”


            We hear all these sentences. They swirl around us not unlike the dragon’s smoke. I’m sure that you could add many more interesting and descriptive ideas to these.  

            Think with me for a minute. Each of these people have a very different view of the dragon. That view makes up who they are. You see a little bit of their character just in what they are saying. There are no words of physical description above, no adjusted monocles or brandished swords, yet we get a very clear idea of where these people are from and what they are like.

            What would your character say? What does this reveal about him? Remember, sometimes silence is just as powerful as words. Grab a few characters, imagine this scene with them, and let them tell you what they would say and do.

            Be sure it’s not what YOU would say and do.

            As for me, I might grab a fishing pole and catch some fish. After all, it’s sure to appease the dragon more than rubber…. I would think.

            © 2011  Amanda Bradburn, all rights reserved.

6/15/11 New Teaching by Author Amanda Bradburn.

Two weeks ago we drove ourselves into our character’s heads, forced ourselves past our own thoughts and perceptions, and found ourselves in a new world where our creations do not always think the way we do and know what we know.

            Hard, wasn’t it? I myself had a lot of trouble getting into the mind of the robot-boy to see the dragon through his eyes, and I know many people did.

            Well, guess what! *smiles broadly* Our dragon is back.

            Today, however, we’re not going to get inside a robot’s head and play with adjectives and descriptions.

            The level of difficulty into today’s lesson/challenge will be up to you. I thought, after all, I made you work so hard last time that I should at least show a little mercy.

            All right, are you ready?

            Grab two characters, of your own work preferably, but they can be of a favorite book or a favorite movie. On the other hand, perhaps, if you’re familiar enough with your borrowed/ kidnapped paper tigers, you might use some of them. At any rate, grab two characters. Now. Don’t go grabbing an Aragorn and a Boromir on me. They’re too similar, and Caspian and Peter Pevensie are, too. Choose characters that are different—very different.

            Now, the easiest way to do this is to get a sheet of paper and scrawl a line down the middle from top to bottom. Write one name to either side of the line. If you’re working on your computer, like I am, write one name at the top of the page and another about halfway down.

            Got it? Imagine with me that both of your characters are walking down the infamous street in front of your house (remember, where the dragon showed up two weeks ago and Mr. Smith still hasn’t repaired his poor chomped mailbox?). Your characters are not together, and may not even like each other. Why can’t they be chatting as friends? Because they’ll influence the other’s decision and we can’t have that at the moment.

            So. They’re walking down the street, by chance at the same time, and out of nowhere, a very angry dragon lands on the glistening pavement and begins gnawing on Mr. Smith’s brand new Jeep.

            Poor, poor Mr. Smith is inside this Jeep, his face turning colors and is very near to being eaten by our friend the dragon.

            What would each of your characters do?

            We’d all like to think that we ourselves would rush in and save the day, but I can tell you that a large portion of my own characters would run screaming into alleyways.

            Take some time to write down the actions, reactions and emotions of your characters.

            Since your characters are not clone copies of you or each other, they should vary in their responses. I’d be willing to guess that you and I would.

            This is a good exercise to get back into your characters heads and build them for the people they are. Enjoy! (and watch out for that dragon!)

~Amanda Bradburn copy right 2011 all rights reserved

This week features  a teaching from our own Amanda Bradburn and the assignment is one that I'm all ready working on! I love this technique for stretching your writer's mind. And it really works too!

Seeing the world through your character’s eyes!
by Amanda Bradburn

            You will need: A writing utensil and a piece of paper/ computer.  

            This is a really quick, fun experiment! Two weeks ago we learned about clichés, which is more of a scholarly lesson. Today is practical, helpful, and will hopefully be a help when you implement it into your writings.

            So, let’s begin.

            Imagine you are sitting at a window of your house, looking out at your driveway (assuming you have one. If you don’t, imagine the street). You’re not occupied with anything, just sitting there at the window.
            Suddenly, out of nowhere , you see a dragon. It lands in your yard/street.

            Now. Grab a sheet of paper/ open a new document in Word. Keep the dragon in your imagination and quickly write the first 5-7 descriptive words you can think of about this dragon that just landed in your street. Do not write sentences. Do not write paragraphs. Not now. Just words.

            Maybe your dragon looks like Toothless. Perhaps it’s more like Sapphira or Smaug. It could be golden or red, large or small, fire-breathing or ice-breathing, good or evil. Maybe while you’re watching it starts crunching on Mr. Smith’s shiny new mailbox and little white envelopes start fluttering all over.

            No matter what happens, you must write down some adjectives that describe this beast that just landed in your neighborhood.

            Ok. Got those adjectives? Did you bend your creative mind? Do not read ahead until you have gotten those adjectives!

            Here’s where our fun begins. Ignore the rampaging dragon next door and focus on this next scene.

            Now. Close your eyes. You are no longer yourself. You are no longer sitting in your lovely windowseat staring out across your driveway.

            You are a 12-year-old boy who lives in a world where everything is robotic. He himself is a robot. The cities, streets, animals, clouds, and sun are all made of up robotic, moving parts. Grasp that in your mind for a second.

            Now. Remember that rampaging dragon? He followed you. He’s now in the robot world, and you are now looking at him through the eyes of a 12-year-old robotic child who has never seen a living animal before.

            Look back at your adjectives. When you wrote those adjectives, you knew what a dragon was. You knew what it was called, what it did, the many forms a dragon could take. You may have even known the name of the dragon.

            But the robot-boy doesn’t  have the same experiences as you do. He probably doesn’t even breathe, and this dragon might breathe fire.

            Write down 5-7 adjectives looking through the robot-boy’s eyes.

             Harder, right? Stretch yourself. Grasp those words and pull them in.
            Now, once you’re done helplessly staring at this page, compare those lists.

            They’re different in some ways, aren’t they? If they’re not, they should be. This process is used to create depth and reality to your characters in your world. They don’t always think like their author, know what you know, and feel what you feel.

            Look through their eyes. Their world will become real.


Similes, Clichés, and how to use them (or not!) 
by Amanda Bradburn

            The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
           Most of us can recognize a simile when we see one. Can you picture the above scene? Of course! This is a simile, albeit a bit troubled one.

            You remember similes, right? We writers enjoy them, play with them, have fun with them. We use them all the time.

            Similes, somewhere along the line, gave rise to something terribly dangerous. This being will eat away your writing and mark you as a beginner, doom you to shadows and hide your wonderful talent. However! It is now that I shall equip you with the tools of the trade, tools that will allow you to fight off this monster and return your masterpiece to a semblance of peace.

            A Simile: (sim'ily), according to Webster, is a comparison of two things which, however different in other respects, have some strong point or points of resemblance; by which comparison, the character or qualities of a thing are illustrated or presented in an impressive light.
In other words, it’s a comparison using like or as. We all know this. It’s grade school stuff. Metaphors are essentially the same idea, minus like or as.
And now the simile’s evil counterpart: the cliché.
            A cliché: (cle'shay) is a trite phrase of expression, something that has come overly familiar or commonplace.

            And, just as a side-note: just as all clichés are not similes, all similes are not clichés.
            It is in a writer’s best interest to remove all clichés from his or her writing.
           Why, you ask?

            These specific turns of phrase have gotten used so much that there’s no longer any creativity in them. They may mark you as a lazy writer.

            Some examples are:

            As old as the hills.
            As light as a feather.
            As smooth as silk.
            As easy as pie.
            As busy as a bee.
            As clear as mud.
            As hard as a rock.
            As happy as a lark.
            As plain as day.
            Growl like a bear.

            Some people, in order to avoid the faded color of clichés, have come up with their own. Some are more successful than others.

   The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease. 

     John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met. 

     McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup.

      Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.

            These were found at

            Though it is unfortunate that some of the best similes and metaphors have become clichés, above is ample evidence that you can successfully (or unsuccessfully)  create your own. Have at it!

© By Author Amanda Bradburn 2011


Anonymous said...

Wow. Those similes remind me of a comedy piece by Tim Hawkins. "Man, that train is as long as... a really long... train." :-D Check out this video of his. You'll think he's as funny as a... really funny... guy.

Anonymous said...

Seth - HAHAHA, I LOVED that video. I love Tim Hawkins XD And Bob Smiley. And John Branyon.

Anonymous said...

OK, for the 5-7 words one...
My first words were: Large, noble, intriguing, lost, dry (as in sense of humor).
My second words were: Flesh, hot, breath, real, life.

everlastingscribe said...

Fantastic, thanks Millard! I'd love you to tackle the e-book self publishing next? There are some issues no one raises with them like 1) theft 2)the inability to share 3) real purchases with $ verses free downloads that charge a credit card 0.00 but look like a sale. Let's hash out a more balanced look at e-books? Please? I'll feed your gryphons and clean up after them for a week?