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.