2013 Wrap Up

Depending on your geographical location (I can't tell you where I am, because I'm hiding), there's only a few days left of 2013. Time for a quick relook at the YAvengers missions of the year, right?

And then we say, cheerio 2013.
See ya later, alligator.
In a while, crocodile.
See ya in the soup, mate.
Adios, amigos!

Okay, okay. On with the actual post.

This was a fairly awesome month. Why? The YAvengers Initiative started! Captain America, Loki, Iron Man and Thor pledged allegiance to Fury (?) and began the mission of saving the world, one word at a time.

Iron Man (scares us) shows us what he'd be like as a Literary Agent. We challenge (author) Beth Revis and (editor) Patricia Riley to truth or dare. Thor confesses there is life after a book deal (weird).

Loki pulls a April Fools on Captain America. Thor discovers more time to write, between, you know, running around with that hammer of his. We featured Transparent and Chantress...before they were released. (We're cool like that.) PLUS. The Initiative expanded...welcome to Hawkeye, Black Widow and me (Hulk)!

This was our busiest month! Exciting stuff! Captain A talked about online presences, while Loki talks about the minds of writer (very, very scary). Iron Man and his new hair talk about betas! And let's not forget how we featured Charm & Strange, Insomnia, and Born of Illusion.

We reveal a trailer, Thor worries us, and Hawkeye connects to his archery (er, characters). We all got together for Loki's journey...writers block. Kill us now.

A quieter month. We were off fighting aliens in America (that's the only place aliens attack). We featured Relic and challenged (author) Em Garner to truth or dare. Iron Man talks about gifted characters and Captain America leaves himself wide open for an Irom Man capsicle-attack.

Loki shows off his fabulous hair (amongst other things) and Hulk says writers should read (and then smashes stuff). Black Widow talks about Introverts and Extroverts.

Black Widow picks on Mary Sue and Captain America talks names. We're very quiet this month. I suspect Iron Man is inventing a new suit and Captain America is feeling old. Hawkeye probably has his resting face on.

With NaNo just around the corner, Iron Man talks about defiance, NaNo, and ignoring Pepper (very BAD idea) and Hawkeye weighs the pros and cons of the whole write-50K-in-a-month-thing. Hulk gives you ideas on why (or why not) you should plot. Basically Hulk and Hawkeye like lists.

Thor talks about story structure (useful stuff) while Iron Man builds a world (can you imagine the chaos of a world-according-to-Iron-Man? Me neither). Hawkeye writes an adorable post about how to be in love with a minion. And Hulk promises you a crazy future of writer insanity! Yay! I'm assuming everyone survived NaNo. No punching walls? No plucking out eyeballs? All good.

We should celebrate the success! Iron Man hasn't put me to sleep with any more Switzerland monologues. And Thor has forgiven Loki for a million things. Oh, and let's not forget that Captain Ancient is slowly catching up to the modern era. (Did Loki ever give back the backspace key? I don't think so.)

Thor also talked about the submission process, Hawkeye tosses a little inspiration your way, and Black Wido hits people.

It's been a fun year.

With 2014 on the way, you can expect some exciting (and possibly including violent GIFs as seems our norm) things here at YAvengers.

To infinity and beyond? Okay, just stay cute. And keep writing!

-- Hulk

Developing Antagonists: Iron Man’s 8 Steps


dancingWe’re going to pretend that this post happened on Monday when it should have done, because I asked my new handheld JARVIS device to tell me that I needed to write it, and he didn’t, leaving you all bereft. I take absolutely no responsibility and you ought to be grateful that I got around to writing it at all, after that incompetence on the part of my AI.

Today we’re going to talk about antagonists. You already know what they are (but in case you’ve forgotten: they’re not necessarily a villain, they’re just somebody preventing the protagonist from achieving their goal), and what I’m going to discuss is how to develop them before you start writing a novel. Or during. Or after two drafts when your beta readers point out that you don’t actually have a proper, active antagonist.

Wherever you are in the process, there are a few questions you need to ask about your antagonist that is crucial to understanding them. It doesn’t matter if they’re a single person, or if they’re an organisation: I recommend having the same template and adapting your answers to suit the situation.

1. What do they want?

Sounds simple, but don’t be deceived: this is the hardest one to work out, at least in my experience. What is their motive, their driving force? What one thing do they want more than anything else? If it’s an organisation, think about the initial aim of the group and why it was set up.

Knowing what your antagonist wants is as crucial to plot as understanding the protagonist’s active goal, because it will affect every action they take. Chances are, anything that might put their desire further out of reach will be eliminated, which could be exploited to ensure their defeat…

2. Why are their aims destructive and not constructive?

This is linked to the idea that your protagonist also has an active goal. In most cases, that will be a “constructive” goal (they want to achieve something, create something, gain something), and if all goes according to plan it probably won’t hurt anyone. Of course, if you’re writing an antihero that will be different, but this is standard protagonist material. The pain only comes in when things go wrong.

i think i did okay

But the antagonist’s goal is opposed to that, and results in breaking something down (they want to stop something, destroy something, steal something). They can easily cross over, and it’s important to work out why they’re the bad guys and not the good ones.

Again, if you’re aiming for the morally dubious thing, this’ll be slightly different.

3. How have they got this far without being stopped?

Why didn’t anyone nip this evil in the bud? Why did nobody take this poor troubled child under their wing and get them some therapy before they blew up the world? Why didn’t the protagonist’s mentor-figure succeed in destroying them, saving the protagonist from a lot of effort and angst?

They must have some skill or defence that has kept them safe. Identify it.

4. What is there to ensure they can be beaten?

At some point, the antagonist has to be beaten. Unless you’re writing a tragedy, but please. Stay on topic and let me make generalisations. Your protagonist needs to get to the final showdown and no matter how many times it looks like they’re going to lose, they have to beat the antagonist.

In other words, what are they weaknesses? Is it easier to outsmart them, outrun them, or fight them?

5. Do they have a personal vendetta against the protagonist, or are they just in the way?

Is it personal? It’s an important question. If the antagonist is actively hunting down the protagonist, their ability to find help and support will be lower, because people won’t risk the displeasure of the antagonist. But if they’re just in the way, they may be able to evade identification for quite a long time, making it a nice game of “mystery irritation” for the antagonist.

6. Whom do they trust?

I’m not gonna lie, I consulted JARVIS and Pepper about whether that should be “who” or “whom” and went with the latter. If it’s wrong, don’t bother filing a complaint.

Knowing whether there’s anybody the antagonist trusts is crucial to understanding their strengths and weaknesses, because those relationships can be exploited for conflict, betrayal, fluff, and angst. If your antagonist takes the form of an organisation, look at the degree of trust within it, and how much information is shared. Examine the hierarchy. Understand the pecking order.

7. What is their greatest fear?

This can often help with question four, because it’s something you can use against them, but it also helps you understand their backstory. If they still harbour a great degree of fear about a family member, for example, it hints at a troubled and abusive relationship, and this can be used to create sympathy for them, as well as justification for their actions.

i'm not afraid of you

Try and show their fears subtly: don’t just announce it. The chances are that they’ll do their best to hide it and will avoid any situation that might increase the likelihood of confronting it, so you can use that to allow readers to deduce the terror themselves. Make them do the work.

8. How do they feel about themselves?

Is this antagonist an angst-ball who spends their entire time internally tortured by the knowledge that they are the enemy they always hated and therefore takes out their insecurities on everyone who contributed to their creation? (Like Loki.) Or are they a confident, swaggering person with great self image? Do they believe their actions to be wrong, or are they truly convince that they’re doing the right thing?


Answer these eight questions, and I can almost guarantee that your antagonist or villain will be a great deal more interesting than before. Almost. You might be really bad at answering questions but hey, not everyone can be as good at everything as I am. And most people are better at remembering to post on the right day.

I’ll be having words with JARVIS about that…

Oh, and Pepper told me to tell you Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays. Or whatever it is that floats your boat. Apparently it’s December again, but really, I am way too busy to even think about Christmas. Or New Year.

I have a horrible feeling I promised to host the rest of the YAvengers team for a party. I think I may be out of the country. I’ll look into it. Parties never seem to end well when I host them, though…

bringing the party to you

-- Iron Man

A Spoonful of Sugar

Everyone writer gets down in the dumps at some point or another. Maybe it's writing induced, maybe not. But there's always going to be that low point where you lose the vision of your glorious novel and wonder if it's all even worth it.

When this happens to me, it usually results in me stop writing for a while until something perks me up again. And it's usually an inspiring quote from Pinterest. (It does have it's virtues.) I love reading quotes from authors about their struggles and lessons learned. I love beautiful metaphors on the joys of writing It reminds me I'm not perfect, and neither is my writing, and how much I love it. It's like a spoonful of sugar to get me writing again.

So if you're stuck in the slumps, forget your goals for writing. They will just loom over you. Forget the other ideas and trips for getting out. They are all fabulous, but ignore them. Just step back and let the inspiration roll over you. Sometimes that's all you need. Ready? Inspiration in 5...4...3....2...1...

I love when writing is described almost as a love story. It's such a beautiful thing when it's going strong. You can find it again! Find that heart!

Go on, inspire me. I dare you.

Sometimes the blind storytelling is the funnest part!

*gasp* That is a shocking thought! Write write write! 

I am no pussy! I know you aren't, so let's kick some butt and shed some tears! 

There you go guys. This is it! Hit that page! You got this! 

Later Days,

Finding the Balance

If there's one thing that defines YA lit, it's angst. Heaps upon precious heaps of teenage blues simply make it what it is today. Everyone loves a little complaining about the horrid state of the world, the country, and high school.

Don't get me wrong: angst sells. You need to have a fair bit of it to make your YA novel, well... young adult. But there's a fine line between angst and whining, and one wrong step sends you into unpublishable oblivion.

Now, I'm going to be really honest with you guys – this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I don't want any of you guys to repeat my mistakes, so I'm going to carefully dissect the story of how I went from a Mary Sue- writing terror to the affectionately-titled Queen of Angst.

My first major character was a Transformers Animated OC called Jasmyn Ravennmaine.

The name was just the first place I went wrong.

See, that name almost literally screams “BROODING!” I mean, Ravennmaine? Did I even have an imagination? Overly angsty names = please do not do this thing.

She was five-ten. Indian, from Delhi. Gorgeous, shiny black hair and ice blue eyes. Best ninja in the world.
Shadow Princess, or something like that. (Don't judge me. I was twelve.)

Essentially, she was perfect. But in order to make her have a reason to complain in almost every breath, I gave her the most convoluted of horrific backstories to make her symbathetic.

Points two and three: do not make your character the best at more than one thing. Really, don't make them instantly the best at anything. Everything takes work. Next, do not give them terrible backstories for the sake of terrible backstories. Sometimes they're necessary, but please, give them meaning.

Point four. NEVER NAME ANYONE THE SHADOW PRINCESS oh my lord almighty I do not know what in God's creation I was thinking.

Anyway. As you can see, that is pretty much the definition of a painfully-sue character. I didn't know. I thought angst discounted her. (Apparently I'd never read My Immortal. Jasmyn could really hold her own against Enoby – I mean, Ebony.)

My rude awakening came in threefold form. First, my siblings all complained about how annoyingly perfect she was. Second, my mother said she was a bad influence on me. Third, and possibly most painful, a roleplay partner rolled her eyes and said “isn't that a little much?”

Really, she was very kind.

Once I came to terms with what I had done, I had to put Jasmyn on the shelf for a while. I guess that's the point of this story: no angst-machine is irredeemable. When I began planning my current WIP, I took her down again, dusted her off, and started clipping. She got shorter. Changed ethnicities (she's now Central
African). Turned her ebony waves into tight dreadlocks, and nixed the backstory. Instead of being tortured by scientists and then running away to join a team of assassins at eleven (please. Don't. Judge me.), she rose quickly in the ranks of a UN military organization but lost her husband and daughter to an ongoing feud. However, the biggest change is she doesn't complain about it all the time. It affects her, for sure. Her face is written with the pain of losing a loved one like that. But ultimately, she's got a job and she's going to do it.

Angst is still a part of her. It just doesn't define her.

So learn from me. When you define a character by their pain instead of their personality, you're stepping over the line.

Until next time,

Black Widow

Why Critiques Are Bad For You

While quietly observing various life-forms on the Internet, I had some greenish realisations.

1) Replying to people in only GIFs earns you a reputation. (As a GIF giver.)
2) There are a lot of life-forms using Loki's face as their profile picture. (I don't understand.)
3) Asking for critiques before you've finished the first page of your book leads to gamma radiation.

I've noticed various forms of 3) circulating amongst newbie writers. (Or maybe they're not new? I'm assuming, which is scientifically unsound, but I have been hanging around Iron Man while he monologues about Switzerland. He assumes things a lot.) And I think this isn't a good habit.


Unless you're a writing god (hi Thor), then the first page of your book that you've just started is not going to be good. In fact, it's probably going to be green slime. It'll suck, guys! Don't ask for opinions on it!

I know it's tempting. But I suspect what you want is affirmation. Who wants to write something that sucks? I don't. It's hard to accept that fact that in order to write something beautiful, you have to write stuff that sucks first.

Like Neil Gaiman says,
“I suspect that most authors don't really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.”
I do. Which would you prefer? Someone to say, "I love your writing!" or "I think it needs work!" Okay, okay! I know we've learnt to accept criticism and learn from it, but at the end of the day it's still makes you sad. Yes, even you stoic writers. I know it makes you a tiny, itty bitty bit sad.

If you're a beginner writer, or beginning a new book or a new idea -- it's best not to ask for critiques. 

Wait, okay?

Sleep on it. Write more. Finish the book! (That's a terrific idea.) Then start getting opinions/critiques. Then learn from them and edit/rewrite.

Getting critiques too early will only make you think your book isn't worth it. (And your book is worth it.)

This is me if I starred in a Despicable Me movie. Which I haven't. Yet.

Note: Critiques ARE awesome. The title is a joke. Iron Man style. What? 

Thor's Thoughts: Submission

Greetings, friends.

Before I begin my entry this week, I would like to thank all of you who have gone to see my new movie in theaters these last weeks. Your support is worth worlds to me.

Today I would like to broach the topic of Submission. When I say submission, I mean all varieties: the query to an agent, the proposal to an editor, the pitch to someone at a conference. All of these are their own subject, and I could likely write pages on each. I will not do this, however. I would like to focus my thoughts today on what they have in common.

(Keep in mind, I am not an industry professional. These are simply my own observations and personal thoughts.)

1. The most important thing to remember when you begin the submission process, is that rejection is simply part of the game. Personally, I do not think of it as "rejection" but rather "a pass." Rejection" is such a rough-sounding word, and very hard to take. If you pay attention to your "rejection letters" you'll notice that agents and editors rarely use the word "rejection." The kind of person you want to work with will likely not be so heartless. Rather, they will say something like, "this isn't for me" or "I'm going to have to pass" or "I don't think I can sell/market this" or any combination of those plus more. A good agent or editor will not be seeking to rip you to shreds via a pass-letter. They simply want to say in the kindest way possible, "Not this time, keep writing."

2. The next most important thing to know about submission is that every word counts. Whether you are writing a query, a synopsis, a pitch, or a proposal EVERY WORD COUNTS. I know you have read and re-read your query fifty times. If it does not feel right (or if your agent or editor does not think it is working) read it again. Rewrite it again. tweak it again. This is what it means to be a writer. You must always make each word mean something in everything you do -- especially these short summaries.

3. Another important part of submission is the wait. These things take time. You cannot afford to sit around while you wait to hear back from agents or editors. It could take months, even years. Do yourself a favor: write a new book. And polish it. And submit it. Then write another one. If you receive feedback that rings true, make revisions. There are wonderful resource posts about this on The Daily Dahlia: Perpetual WIPs.

4. Lastly, remember that every step you take is one step closer to publication. Every book has its own path, as does every author. Success in this business never (or very rarely) happens the same way twice. Say your best friend/critique partner finds their agent, or has an editor offer, or their self-published paperbacks come in. And you are genuinely torn between ecstatic joy for them and insane jealousy for you.

This. Is. Normal.

Just be happy for them, be excited. Then, when you are alone or with someone else, or maybe even that very friend if you know they will understand, you can vent a little. But when you are done, pick yourself up and move on. The only way you fail is if you stop trying.

So keep writing, keep submitting. There will always be readers, and books will continue to be published for years to come.

Good luck.


Iron Man’s 5 Steps To Finishing NaNo In The Next Five Days

tony stark 1

It’s the last week of NaNoWriMo and some people have won already. But don’t give up if you’re still plodding towards that finish line, or if you’re in the impossible position of having hit 50k but not met your own personal goal. I know how hard that is. Suddenly, there’s nothing left to motivate you.

You have until midnight on the 30th November to change the facts, and you’re going to do it. Step one in doing that is not hanging around to read super long blog posts, so I’m gonna keep this one short.

Five steps to completing your NaNo novel in the next four or five days:

Decide what your goal is.

You can’t aim towards something unidentified and vague. Is it 50,000 words? 100,000? 30,000? Wherever you’ve set your goal, grab a piece of paper, scrawl it down, and stick it somewhere you can see it from your work station.

Break it up.

You don’t build a suit by deciding you’re going to do it and it magically assembling itself. You need the design (plot and characters). You need the materials (computer / tablet / notebook / typewriter / other apparatus of Writing Stuff Down). You need the skills (putting your butt in a chair and making words). And it still doesn’t happen all in one go. It takes time to assemble and render and it might not be functional at the end of it.

So sit down. Familiarise yourself with the design until you’re certain you know how you want it to look. Polish the materials and make sure you have access to them. And then decide how much time each day you’re going to dedicate to chair-butting and word-making.

Is your goal for the next hour 1000 words? Okay. Good. How many of those sessions will you need to hit your goal?

Have a snack.

Maybe you’re hungry, or you haven’t showered, or you need more tea/coffee. But it might not be physical: maybe you haven’t read a single book since you started the month. So take two hours out and look after yourself, and remind yourself why exactly you started doing this. Then dive back in.

Be daring.

If you’re stuck, ask someone to dare you something. Throw in a plot twist, whether it’s the tried-and-tested NaNo favourite, ninjas, or something a little more appropriate to your genre. Stick your personal best friend in the story to see how they fare. Change the gender of every character for one chapter just to see how it changes the dynamic. Describe their clothing, and then give them a costume that doesn’t suit them. Decide why that happened.

You can always cut it in rewrites, but you may not want to. It might be just the way to reveal something unexpected about your character.

Don’t give up.

It’s very tempting to get to the end and think, “I’m never going to make it.” Screw that. Repeat after me: SCREW THAT. ‘Course you’re gonna make it. Why wouldn’t you? I’ve known people who wrote 50k in a day, in three days, in a week. There’s absolutely no logical reason why you can’t achieve your personal goal, even if it’s not where you originally set it.

Just remember that if you fail NaNo, you’re not a failure. Not hitting one goal doesn’t take away your novelist cred. It’s just about reevaluating where you set goals in the future.

If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

i love you

Good luck for the rest of the month!

-- Iron Man

Le Romance!

Close your eyes and imagine the following scenario:

You have all your favorite YA books lined up on a shelf in front of you. Each story is different, unique and follows fascinating plotlines. Maybe these books have made you feel all the feels. You may visualize individual books if you like.

Now I may be wrong about this, but I don't think so. I can practically guarantee you that there is something the same with all of these books, despite the possible variety of genres and storylines/. Something that maybe made you laugh, swoon, curse, or feel any sort of emotion. Probably a good emotion though, because you love these books.

What is that? Romance.

Romance has become a popular trend within the YA genre that it's almost unthinkable to have a YA novel without a romance lead. In fact, tt's often one of the first things that comes to me when I get a new novel idea or begin to plan my next project.

There's nothing wrong with romance either! Who doesn't love books with a good romace on the side of a fast-moving plot? Or a a sweet swoony chick-flick? It's fabulous! But in some cases a romance can make or break the book. So let's talk about this trend and how to create a working romance via The Blender Method.

YA Romance
The Blender Method

So you’ve decided to have a romance in your book! Good for you. Now let me guess, in your head it sounds fantastic. The Hero’s hot, and the attraction is instant. They work well together and you can’t help but swoon when they kiss in your head.

There’s just one little catch, YOU might love them, but unless you add some crucial ingredients, your readers aren’t going to love them. Enter what I like to call, The Blender Method. Close your eyes again and imagine your romance as a tall glass filled to the brim with a mouthwatering smoothie of your choice. It could be berry, citrus, or even chocolate. Doesn’t matter.  It’s delicious and compliments your meal (*cough* your plot *cough*) perfectly.

But it didn’t start out that way. No-siree, it began when you gathered up the ingredients and tossed them into a blender. Then after letting the blender chop and spin and whine, it became what it is now. And I’ve got the recipe for you: 

Start off with 1 Hero and 1 Heroine. These are the main ingredients. They can be any flavor, or proportion of your choosing. But make sure they are compatible and different, if only by a little bit.

Next, portion a heavy dose of Character Flaws. This is to change up and add some unique flavor to the mix.

Dice up some Conflict, be it actions, opinions or interests. But don’t forget some Similarities which will be used to soften the differences between them.

Consider sweetening the Conflict with one or more of the following ingredients; Respect, Consideration, Sacrifice and Caring. This will increase our love in the face of difficulty.

Once you’ve gathered up these ingredients, throw then into the blender of Difficult Circumstances. If you are feeling especially naughty you might consider flavoring this romance with Lies, Betrayal, Arguments, Stubbornness or anything spicy of that nature.

Don’t forget to top it off with a cup of creamy Swoon Factor.  Rough times might make it more believable, but a romance just isn’t a romance without that delicious taste.

Now you’re ready to mix it all together. Cover the top of the blender with a lid, allowing nothing to escape as it mixes together. Turn the machine on to the lowest setting  and slowly all the power to grow until the highest setting is blending away at full blast. If you are unsure whether the smoothie is just right, you may turn it off and take a taste. All the smoothie to settle before jacking up to speed again. This will allow the shake up to be all the more effective. Once your smoothie has reached perfection you are ready to serve and enjoy.  Bon appetite!


PS. Don’t Forget to check the list of Romantic Smoothie No-Nos before you serve. Add any of these into the mix and it will almost always mess up your drink.

  Insta love/lust – this will cancel the differences you have thrown in and enhance the Swoon Factor to a horrendous amount.
  Perfection – Characters without a flaw will upset the balance immensely. Remember that conflict is a crucial ingredient to your drink.

  Unnecessary Conflict – This can come in the form of stupid inconsequential arguments, or other characters that pull apart characters.

DISCLAIMER: You may feel inclined to dabble with this ingredient. They are appealing and very easy to use in your smoothie. This is a lie. The use of these tempting beverages will only make it easier the next time you need a quick drink. We don’t want easy and quick. In the event of any of these ingredients making it into the blender, scrap it all and start again. There’s always a fresh start.


With all that laid before you, it might look like an impossible task, trying to write the perfect romance. And I hate to break it too you, it is kinda impossible. It's not going to come all at once either. Sometimes ingrediants will be overlooked the first batch, and added in later. Sometimes this will be left our or changed to fit each new flavor. It's all up to you to make it the best smoothie ever, but here are a few baking tips before I go

Get A Taste Tester. Unsure if the smoothie is just right? Friends and "beta readers" are perfect to let you know if it's not just you totally in love with the romance you've created.

Focus On Love-Showing Actions. I once read a post by author Kasie West, in which she shared a tip on how to write good romance that I've never forgotten. She said that it's more important to SHOW the "I Love You" through actions than to be saying the words "I Love You" all the time. Oftentimes, it's the sacrifice and the way the characters interact that means more than kissy-sentimal scene covered in cheese. Actions speak louder than words right?

With those in mind, I'm off to revise my cheesily fun chick-flick and make the horrendous first draft of a romance into something swoon worthy. Still worried that your romance skills are lacking? GO WRITE! The more you implemant what you learn the better it will be. So go get that romance! I believe in you.


PS. Thanks to the minions of Tumblr for helping demonstrate these points.

Just Another Post on Names

There have been countless posts that talk about picking the perfect name for your character. Thor talked about where to find it, Captain Rogers about how. I'd encourage you to re-read those two posts, because my compatriots got it exactly right: names are important.

But I'd like to take a different side of the issue: how do you make the names meaningful?

This doesn't always mean you need to make the meaning of the name fit the personality – Tristan doesn't have to be mopey, Charity doesn't have to be kind. But I would say there are three things you want to keep in mind when you search for the perfect name.

  1. Consider the background.

Even if you're writing Fantasy, every country has it's own culture. You need to make sure the name your character has reflects their upbringing and background. Cap addressed this in his post, but I just wanted to stress it again – it is a huge reader turn-off to see MeiXin from medieval Scotland. If you're writing a more contemporary or futuristic novel, it's easier to place names all over the world, but make sure you understand certain names come from certain cultures and if you want to name your pale white girl Komoyo Lina you need to explain why.

  1. Consider the character.

No, like I said, your character's name does not have to match their personality. However, know that readers will be looking for some kind of a connection. You should either make it somewhat compatable, or a complete joke – Harmony for a troublemaker, Justice for a villian. If you're choosing a name with an obvious or well-known meaning, be sure to give it at least a side nod so the reader knows you knew what you were doing.

  1. Consider the potential.

You can do great things with names, and one of the greatest is to make them subtle hints about plot twists. This has been around forever – Darth Vader could be taken as invader, but more likely is a play off the German word for father. It's a fun easter egg to throw in, and it really just ties the plot together. I did this in my current WIP – not going to give the example since some people are beta-ing and haven't reached the twist yet – but essentially, one character's name is in fact a dead giveaway for his/her inevitable betrayal. It makes so much sense in hindsight, and once again makes you really seem like you knew what you were doing.

So there's a short update on the art of picking the perfect name!

Widow out.


3 Things Writers Can Look Forward To

Aaaand, Hulk is back! Yes, I was away for a long time, with limited WiFi (which is good, because Fury couldn't find me). I had a great time in outback Australia. There are a lot of kangaroos there. Most of them are dead.

But that's not what you want to hear, right? So. Writing. I will do my best to minimise my hypothesises on intercommunications (a.k.a. I will speak without the science jargon).

3 Things Writers Can Look Forward To

1. Writer's Block

Don't fool around. You're going to get writer's block at some point. Nope, I'm not being negative -- it's a fact of life.

Why do writers get blocked? There's only a billion reasons. Like:

a) Your book is better then mine.
b) I'll never write brilliantly.
c) Oh! I had success...I will never write brilliantly like that again.
d) I don't know where I'm going with this story.
e) My characters suck.
f) What if my plots are too simple?
g) My mystery doesn't have any mystery in it.
h) My first sentence is great! What do I write next...?

2. Rejections

I'm not just talking about querying or submitting to publishers. I'm talking about good ol' fashioned "You suck" rejections from the humanoids we often refer to as...acquaintances.

To be honest, no matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks your writing is dumb. They might even say so (boo to them). They might say so nicely, but let's face it: a rejection with a pretty blue ribbon is still a sucky rejection. We can't be awesome all of the time (no comment, please, Iron Man).

THEN you get to get REAL FAIR DINKUM rejections from agents and publishers and editors! It just gets better, right?!

3. Caffeine Addiction

This is debatable. I've heard some authors don't suffer from it (they might be a few neurons short of a cerebrum). But, most of us have this need for caffeine.

Chocolate. Coffee. Sugar. Put them all together and you have: super caffeine. Oh, don't worry! It's legal (for now). You can get hyped up on caffeine and you know what? You'll probably still write like a watermelon banging it's head on a keyboard -- but at least you'll have fun.

Have you encountered these Famous Three yet? What other common/freakish habits do Writers have? Add to my list!

Thor's Thoughts: Story Structure

Greetings, young writers of Earth.

Today, I am rather pressed for time. As you may know, a movie has released only three days ago chronicling one of my many adventures. I would encourage all of you to view it soon, and please forgive my brother his shortcomings. He has learned a great deal since these events took place.

At least, that is what we hope.

Today, I would like to point you to a few resources that will help you structure your stories. I have found each of these useful at various times and with various projects. I hope you will experiment with them and find what is right for you.

The Seven Point System

I recently put this to use for a short story, to great effect. A brief explanation is given by Lisa Buchard, but the best/most exhaustive explanations I've found are a series of YouTube videos by Dan Wells. Both are linked below.

Lisa Buchard's Explanation

Dan Wells Video 1
Dan Wells Video 2
Dan Wells Video 3
Dan Wells Video 4
Dan Wells Video 5

The Three Act Format

This is a standard in Hollywood screenwriting, but can also work well for novels. The very basic explanation of this is as follows (and please forgive me, I can't remember who originally explained it this way):

Act One: Chase your characters up a tree.
Act Two: Throw rocks at them.
Act Three: Get them down.

In essence, this is a basic story arc that every story should follow. Insert a few failures and road blocks to make things more interesting and increase the tension, and you have a well-rounded story.

The BeatSheet

I first learned about this from a friend (well, my alter-ego did) and it has come in handy for pacing purposes. You can use it as a strict outline/road map, or as a guideline. Even the simple act of studying the beat sheet and knowing which emotional beats to place at certain points throughout the story can help.

Save The Cat BeatSheet

These are tools I have used in my own writing. I'v also heard of some who start with a beginning and work backward, or who write an outline and fill in the story around it, literally in the same document. then there are Discovery Writers, for whom these tools will be put to use after the first draft is written and you want to revise for stronger structure.

What are some tools you use when structuring your story? Whether you do it before drafting or after, I'm interested to know what other tools are available to us as writers.


Reed and Right

Ah, deadlines. Life. Worries. No updates from me today. Any tips I'd have to offer would sound like:


10 Ways To Build A World


World building is super important. It can make or break a novel, and it does a lot to support your characters and plot. For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, this post may seem like it comes a little late (especially as it should’ve been up yesterday, and I assure you, I feel almost guilty about that. Like, I’m probably 12% pure guilt. Truly sorry), but it doesn’t. If you have ten minutes on public transport without access to writing materials, start working over these questions, and from here on you can add them into your novel. If you’re still in the planning stages, however, it’s even more perfectly placed.

Whether your novel is set in the real world, a mythological realm, or an entirely created landscape, you have to build that world. Here are just 10 of thousands of potential questions to get you started.

#1: Location

If you’re setting your novel in an entirely new location, it can help to draw a map. It doesn’t have to be a Tolkien-esque work of art, though it can be. This will be super helpful later when you realise you don’t know how long your characters need to travel between various settlements. It also helps you keep track of what stuff is called.

If your novel is set in this world, you’ll still need to work out where your characters live, what sort of things are in their surroundings (are they near a park? a hospital? during an emergency, where would they go?) and if it’s an alternate world, you should work out how these fit in to existing geography.

#2: Weather

Maybe it’s all the time I’ve spent in the UK recently (which is extraordinarily tiny when you’re flying, had you noticed? I might buy it), but you notice the weather. The endless rain. That’s not only going to affect some scenes in your novel, but it’ll also affect buildings: somewhere with a lot of earthquakes is going to favour reinforcement over aesthetics. And it’ll affect the clothing of characters too. Make sure you understand the climate and how it physically affects things.

#3: Magic and technology

If there’s magic in your world, or even any sort of super powers, then it’s going to affect more than just the users. How is it used defensively in cities; how do they incorporate it into weapons? What about for the purpose of illusions? What is the outsider’s impression of magic? Who can use it, and why: are they trained, or is it all natural? Magic also needs to have boundaries. A civilisation founded by magic users is going to look VERY different to one built by normal folk, so it’s crucial to work out how it functions in society, even when it’s as simple as what it looks like.

Meanwhile, for the sci-fi and futuristic folk, you might be thinking about technology. But remember: in a world built on magic, they’ll have integrated that into the workings of everything, so you fantasy folks need to think about how your unicorn-powered microchip works.

tony stark 1

#4: Occupations

For YA writers, this is less crucial, because quite often our protagonists are too young to have jobs. Nevertheless, others in the story might, so work it out. What’s highly paid and what’s minimum wage? Is there such thing? Which jobs are valued or admired above others, and how does that affect hierarchy?

Also think about the characters who don’t work, but have a role voluntarily. That might be heroes, magic users, or even something like performers. Are they looked down on, or praised for their selflessness?

#5: Education

Are the inhabitants of this world educated, or is it limited to a select few? Unless you’ve found a way to genetically implant information, every world is going to need to have some form of teaching, even if it’s electronic rather than a physical school. For how many years are children educated, and by whom? It can also be an interesting look at politics: if they’re being taught by the government, is it a fair, unbiased education? (Clue: probably not.)

#6: Clothing

Look at materials. Look at where they come from, and that’ll give you some information about occupations. Do people value clothes as fashion accessories or are they just for covering? How do they reflect the hierarchical system of the world? Are they adapted well to the jobs of each character? Also look at what clothing says about gender. For example, if all male clothing is symmetrical armour, and female clothing is asymmetrical and less defensive, that could tell you something about gender roles (but what of the character in asymmetrical armour?*). How do androgynous, genderqueer and non-binary individuals express themselves through their clothing? What would be considered outlandish?

loki is a diva

Oh, come on, he can hardly object to this one. He has wonderful fashion sense.

#7: Ideology

Linking to that last point, think about attitudes. How is gender perceived: is the world plagues by sexism? What about sexuality? In our world, religion has shaped history, so how has that happened in your world? Remember, if it’s a mythological realm then do your research properly, and don’t apply modern ideas about worship to pagan gods. Beliefs will also affect social issues and how others are perceived, so think about whether it has had a positive or negative effect. It’ll certainly affect ceremonies like weddings and funerals, and if you’re anything like me you’ll have more than a few characters dying in your novel, so you’ll need to work that out.

Even if religion isn’t a huge part, think about superstition and folk beliefs. These may be rooted in magic, if you have users in the world. It’s interesting to explore religious attitudes to magic, too.

Also think about racial issues. It’s very unlikely the world will be entirely homogenous, but a region might be, perhaps because of how it excludes outsiders. Will that affect your characters?

#8: Appearance

Not all characters will be white, especially if their world is hot. Not all characters will be our height, or shape: if it’s sci-fi, remember how gravity affects people and growth. This will also impact buildings, plants and colour. How much sunlight does the region get; how much gravity; how warm is it; how much oxygen; how much water? All of these affect characters as well as setting. Remember that in sci-fi, location within its solar system will affect light and colour, as well as length of days.

#9: Government and politics

Is it a monarchy? Is that a hereditary position? What about councillors, advisers, and other officials? Or, if it’s a democracy, has it always been that way? In our history, remember how many revolutions there’ve been to achieve that sort of thing. Does your world have a similarly bloody past?

Can your characters vote? How do they make their voice heard? Politics etc will also affect the legal system, so think about how crime and punishment are perceived. If the death penalty exists, consider what sends someone to death row. Fantasy worlds may well have a totally different system of punishment, and sci-fi can be inventively cruel. Also consider how society views offenders who’ve served their time but returned to civilisation, and whether they’re accepted.


I have a feeling Loki’s going to kill me for using him as an example several times in this post. He’s welcome to try.

An interesting way to explore government is to think about extremist groups. They’re usually formed to fight against and change something, so what’s their aim? How do they try and carry it out? It can tell you a lot about the government’s popularity, too, if the world seems disposed to support the terrorists.

#10: Economics

Who makes the money, who controls it, and how does it get from one to the other? This relates to employment, because someone’s in charge and someone else does the work. However, you can also look at billionaires (like yours truly) and how they use their wealth in the community (sustainable energy, baby). Are there poor people, and if so, who is helping them? How?

The rest is for you to work out. I’m not here to coddle you.

There are a lot of things you could think about after this. Language is crucial (even regional dialect can play a HUGE part in building a world), and you’ll want to think about the military and who commands it, and how much power that gives them. Think about people of all levels of social status. Think about transport, and travel, and how that’s perceived.

Many of these prompts are better suited to sci-fi/fantasy writers, but can be adapted for those writing in our world, especially if it has some element of alternate reality, or if you’re setting it in a different time period.

To see how these work in a “show don’t tell” manner, I recommend watching movies. Thor’s latest film press release is fascinating; his home realm of Asgard is utterly stunning, cinematically speaking, but we also catch a glimpse of many of its customs. And clothes. I don’t know if they have stocks and shares (one aspect we didn’t learn), but I want to buy some in their designers.

-- Iron Man (Click to stalk me on the NaNoWriMo website, if you will.)that's it

*This is actually a direct observation from Thor: The Dark World, although don’t tell Loki. I’ve only had time to watch it once, but I happened to notice the difference in Thor and Loki’s clothing… Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that. I’ll leave that to the Asgardians themselves.

Shifting Gears: Choosing Your Next WIP

So you've finally finished drafting your beloved WIP, and you're moving on to editing. Now it's time to take that next step: deciding what to draft next. If you're like me, you have plot bunnies everywhere – it's almost impossible to choose just one. But if you're going to crack down and get to work, you'll have to do just that.

The best way to do that is to examine the pros and cons of each of your options. To list-land we go!

  1. The Sequel

You absolutely fell in love with your last WIP, and you can't bear to tear yourself away from your darlings. You want to continue their story in this next installment of your sure-to-be-blockbuster series. Your CPs are begging for more, and to be honest, you are too. You miss your beloved characters dearly and you don't want to forget their lovely faces.

PROS: It's easy. You don't have to bother with new MCs and supporting characters are a little easier to develop. Plus, you've already established a world and rules, so that saves you time. Writing this universe comes naturally to you. You won't have to fight for words, so NaNo is almost a sure bet!

CONS: If you want to publish Novel 1, this isn't a good idea. (Cap explained this to me a couple days ago, when I had a crisis of this sort.) You need to polish up that WIP and get it sold before you can start work on another.

  1. The Second Cousin

You know you can't start the sequel, but a similar novel in the same genre might help with that WIP withdrawal. It's not exactly the same, of course, but you kind of combined all those unused plot ideas from your first universe and combined them into this one. It's like your last WIP, but more satisfying, because it does nothing but tie up loose ends!

PROS: It makes sense. The plot's all spelled out, and you can copy/paste a few of your supporting characters, change the names, and no one will notice. Probably. Anyway, it makes you feel better about having to cut that dream sequence.

CONS: You're getting nowhere. You're writing this book to get over your last WIP, but it's like getting over a bad breakup by stalking your ex's Facebook page and making cute couple names. It's not going to work, and you're going to regret it.

  1. The Left Field

This has nothing to do with your last WIP. This has nothing to do with your general genre. This has nothing to do with anything, actually – one morning you woke up with a sudden strong desire to write a book where a sexy district attorney teams up with a plug ugly dog to commit the perfect crime, with a subplot where they sign a suicide pact with a kind-hearted prostitute. It makes no sense, but you have to write it right this second!

PROS: You're excited about it! Plus, it's got a clear space in the market, mostly because it makes no sense. You can write this book, and no one else can, because no one else has ever had this idea.

CONS: The reason no one else has had this idea is because it is insane and poorly formed. You need a lot of work before this hopeless plot bunny is novel-ready. It's workable, but needs work.

  1. The Exchange Student

You've had this idea sitting around for a while, but it's not your genre. You really like it, and it's honestly an interesting premise, but you don't even know where to start. There's something really lovely about it – either it speaks to you, or the market is ripe for it, or it's just a really fresh idea. Unfortunately, it almost feels wierder than the Left Field.

PROS: It's genuinely a really good idea! It's got a well-developed plot and characters you like. You could write this book because you like it. It's a book you would read. You can get excited about it!

CONS: It's so outside your realm of expertise you will have to do a ton of research before you can even outline. You just don't know what you're doing. It's a great idea, but it's definitely not a comfortable idea.

Well thanks Tasha!” you think. “But which one do I choose?”

See, now, that's up to you! What you need to examine is why you're writing this book. Is it for NaNo? Choose something you can write quickly and without worrying too much about insanity – maybe the Left Field. Want to just keep your drafting muscles in use without getting too serious about it? The Second Cousin is your best bet. Writing just for fun or to get a sense of where to go with your WIP in the editing stage? Work on the Sequel! Looking for a totally new field that you can polish and even query after a lot of work? Get your encyclopedia and start researching the Exchange Student.

Ultimately, it comes down to where you want to go with this draft. And that, my friend, is something only you can decide!

-- Black Widow

How to Figure Out What Genre You're Writing

Sometimes it's hard to pin your book into a single genre. Buuut, if you're writing a query letter, knowing what genre to pitch your book as helps a lot. And by a lot I mean: a smashing green ton.

I used to be of the opinion that it wasn't rocket science (I've talked to Iron Man about rocket science, so I know). After I wrote a few books and researched a lot, I realised that it can be kind of hard.

In order to help me to help you to help your query letter, I've made lists. (You knew I'd write a list, didn't you? I can't help it. Lists are scientifically proved to help organisation.)

I've noted down some typical genres, a rough idea of what they entail, and some published books that fit in them. Yes, I've done the research. I am Bruce Banner after all.

(Note: This isn't an exhaustive list of genres. And I'm only talking about Young Adult books, because this is after all YAvengers.)

epic or high fantasy

Think: swords, castles, knights, quests and smelly peasants.

15779125Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

urban fantasy

Think: contemporary setting with supernatural happenings (also set in a city). 

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)31341124511973377


Think: modern day setting, usually includes school life and romance.



Think: speculative future, with perfect government that's secretly corrupt.



Think: futuristic speculation that explores the beginning of world corruption (floods, fires, wars, earthquakes).



Think: werewolves, vampires, fairies, romance between humans and supernatural creatures.


historical fiction

Think: true to history but with made-up characters.



Think: steam and inventions (clocks and gadgets) probably set in the 1800s or early 1900s. Alternate history.


hard science fiction

Think: out of space, with planets and exploration, cool technology.



Think: any setting, but probably modern, with horrific and creepy events.



Think: any setting, but the characters must survive against nature.


What genre is your current work-in-progress? Share in the comments!