Arena fight stories are nothing new. These storylines are common in martial arts movies, cartoons, and early every superhero comic has some sort of arena fight arc.
The basics of an arena plot are simple; people are put into a fight against each other in front of an audience and there can only be one winner(or occasionally one winning team).
Although many places around the world historically have variations on this, the most common source inspiration for writers seems to be the gladiator games.
Being a good gladiator made you a hero to the people, so combatants were comprised of criminals, slaves, citizens, and even high ranking people.
Both men and women could be gladiators, and there were even gladiator schools. If you were talented, you could get sponsorship, property, and even promoted to be a guard.
If things got boring, traps, such as with wild animals, could be included.
Starting to sound familiar?
In fantasy novels, the most common plot is that a king is holding a competition. It is normally a Colosseum sized arena but can be a maze.
For SciFi sci-fi, is is normally a way to show the darker side of people. This arena can be as large as an island, and the most common theme is using cameras so spectators can watch from home.
I think arena fight plots can be interesting, but only when done right.
I recently read a book where the majority of it was preparing for games, then there were the games themselves….which bored me beyond belief. Why? The only thing at stake was money. Competitors could drop out or lose without a single meaningful consequence. Basically, they could have been playing football. Yes, the book mentioned that “occasionally people die” but certainly not in this book.
I’m not competitive. At all. If you challenge me to a soccer game, I’ll likely lose interest in minutes. So what can you do to catch my interest for arena fights? Add in stakes.
It does not have to be “only one can live” for motivation. You could have a world where there is a ritual where characters have to win the competition in order to be gifted with magic, you could have a prison where characters are fighting to win freedom, and so on!
Many writers say what characters will win, but very few writers mention what will happen if the characters loses.
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Sterotyping Men in Novels

Now I know talking about male stereotypes is going to be controversial, but just hear me out. This is not really going to be about why the stereotypes are bad in relation to society, it is going to be about why it is bad in relation to your writing.

If all the men in your novels think and act in the exact same way, you are developing a pattern of predictability that could bore readers.

One really common stereotype is the bad father. The first example is the softy of a dad. He loves his daughter to pieces, but does not put his foot down when his wife(either the mother or the step-mother) is mean to his daughter, or simply leaves for work and leaves the daughter alone with the evil mother. If your wife is treating your daughter badly and you don’t do something to stop it, you are a bad father.

The second example is the father who sells his daughter off to be married. It’s not really so much the marriage that is the stereotype, but how the father acts about it. He treats his daughter as if he is selling his TV off at a garage sale. If he was actually hurt about her having to marry off (be it for political reasons, or whatever else) it would be more surprising.

The biggest offenders of male stereotypes might just be dystopian and fantasy novels. This is because they live in a harsh world, and, arguably, you are more likely to survive in a harsh world by having a harsh personality.

On the romance side of things, in order to show that the love interest “is not like other guys” the writer first makes it look like every other guy in existence is a horrible person. She goes off on her own and is immediately attacked, just so either the male can rescue her, or so that he can be there to comfort her after she kills them all.

There are guys who have a set of unwavering morals that will not change no matter what the outside world becomes. There are thieves who think stealing is ok, but would never even consider murder. There are guys who love animals and would not hurt a fly. There could even be murders who would not even consider stealing something.

Even if being a “cruel and horrible person” might be the logical answer to a bad world, sometimes people do not think logically. Sometimes, their own set of morals sticks with them.

I have briefly talked about most strangers characters come across being evil in another video, so I am not going to dwell on this, but I can say this, male and setting does not always equal evil.

Another issue is the cardboard cut out personality. He is strong, handsome, talented, into sports, thinks of girls as objects and so on and so on. You know the stereotype I am talking about. This actually happens quite a lot in cop dramas; the guys have the same personalities, except sometimes, when they writers are being really risky, they make one of the guys a jerk. *gasp*

What this does is makes your characters boring. You’ve followed the cut-and-paste male character so closely that you might as well have made a novel about clones. The only flawed character in this situation is often side-characters there for comic relief. You know, that guy hiding that we are supposed to laugh at while your male character fights everyone? Yeah, that one.

Now, my mom’s friend in college was a guy called Tiny. He was huge; supposedly the tallest and scariest looking man in the school. Well, Tiny was going to an agricultural school because he loved flowers and wanted to open a flower shop. To me, Tiny sounds like a fascinating novel character because he completely destroys stereotypes.

Long story short, try to think differently. Analyze your male main characters -or the male characters your characters come across- and try to see if you are falling into common(and predictable) stereotype traps.

Reward Writing

Want to know how to make writing feel like a video game?

When you are playing a video game, they place little goals everywhere. “You know those clothes you accidentally sold? Kill 30 chickens and you get to wear pants!” Or “get to this main plot point, and you MAY get to romance a character.”

They do this because, even if you are only 5% into the game, these goals make you feel like you are accomplishing something. These small rewards drive you onwards despite the fact your only a tiny bit in.

So how does this tie into writing? With reward writing.

I have heard of many writers working in timed increments, so, for example, twenty minutes of writing to give you ten of a video game. Yeah, that does not work for me. At all. I don’t have the self-control to stop a game mid-way through just because a timer goes off.

So if you are like me, how can you try reward writing?

The first step is come up with a list of rewards. Make sure they are things you really want. Once you have those, you need to chart out stages in your word-count. For example, “if I reach 5000 words, I get a new mug” or “if I reach 10000 words, I get a movie ticket.”

Another way to do it is to mix punishment. Didn’t meet your goal? You have to make something healthy. Did meet it? Yay! You get to order in food! Didn’t meet your goal? Boo, you get water. Did meet your goal? Yay, coke float for you!!! And so on and so on.

There are two important tips though, the first is that you have the importance of the rewards increase with the word count. That way, when you get to the middle -which is where most writers give up- you have extra motivation.

The next is to make the word-count goals reasonable. If you make them too out there and you miss the goal several times, you may lose your motivation to write at all.

Interested in knowing my writing rewards? Here it is! My goal is approximately 1000 a day, so 7000 a week. My rewards are set weekly, ending with a word count of 56000.

  • 7000 – Buy a book
  • 14000 – Buy Two Comic Books
  • 21000 – Gym Membership
  • 28000-Still picking…
  • 35000-Still picking…
  • 42000-Still picking…
  • 49000-Still picking…
  • 56000- Buy a Kayak

Most Common High-Fantasy Enemy Problems

  1. Killing everyone. The enemy has an evil army and is killing everyone for world domination. But what happens when he wins? They are just killing everyone and taking no slaves, so who will be left to do everything? Will he make his evil goblin bake him cake? Will another one spend his days nurturing a crop of watermelons? Or will he sulk because he clearly didn’t think this plan through?
  2. Evil Creatures. An easy way to make an enemy is to say they are all evil creatures. Now, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next nerd, but it gets a little old to believe that “oh, they follow him because they are all evil,” and that is that. You can have a war-hungry enemy, but it would make it seem more real if you give the army a reason to be war-hungry. Are they promised better farmland? Will they get power? Riches? What’s motivating them to listen to the king? Why do they care if they win?
  3. The faceless army. Too often writers only concern themselves with the heroes of stories and that makes an entire army of boring look-a-likes and the evil leader who we don’t meet until three books later. Give some of your enemies a name; show us that his army is as passionate as he is.
  4. No clear plan. They are supposed to be a smart enemy, but show us that! Show us them damming up the river upstream to stop water from getting to the good guys. Show us them spying, scouting, and giving false information. There can be more to an enemy army than facing off on in a field.

Picking Clothes (For Novels)

Too often clothes for characters are often picked but don’t really fit the character or the scene.
For example, heels. High-heels are everywhere. It’s something that just goes hand-in-hand with the action genre. The sleuth spy meets the mysterious heel-wearing beauty, the hardcore female vampire hunter who chases and gets chased, all in boots with heels. And the most common offender; cop dramas. We are supposed to believe she’s going to go arrest someone and means business, but she wears heels. Now, I will admit, that actress in Jurassic World ran in heels like a pro, but I’m sure her character was craving a set of runners. I get it, heels make women look more attractive, but in a fight or in a run, they are a disadvantage. Otherwise, more athletes would be seen sporting them. If your character is attending a ball or on a day off, go for it. If your character is planning to chase down bad guys, I’d advice against heels.
Put thought into what your character wears, and the results might surprise you. Sometimes what your character should wear is actually the exact opposite of what people would expect for them.
For example, your city thief would be more likely steal without getting caught dressed as a rich nobleman than dressing as an adventurer. The thief would want to dress in something to blend; not stand out. Everyone would be expecting someone dressed like an outlaw to be the thief, so instead be one of them.
Another example is your power hungry woman. Often they are described as suspicious as they actually are; a cruel smile, a cold gaze, and the clothes of someone pretending to be a queen. Instead, if she were smart, she could play the cards without anyone knowing she is in the game. Act shy, dress conservatively and pretend to be as small as possible. That way, when someone shows up dead, who would dare suspect sweet Jane?
Clothes do not just have to be something your character wears; they can be a disguise, a declaration of power, and a secret message. If a man wears a different flower in his pocket every day, that’s a way of communicating a message. If a woman wears all black after her son dies, that indicates she’s still in mourning and the death is a soft subject.
So the three questions you should ask yourself are; think of what is practical to your character, consider what the clothes make the people around think, and the third and final tip is to consider what the clothes say about the characters personality.

Evil People. Evil People Everywhere.

Predictability is something is something we all try to avoid as writers, but it’s something a lot of writers fall into in a goal to create conflict. Conflict makes stories interesting, so writers try the most common ways to do that and instead end up with an entirely predictable situation.

In dystopian novels, if your characters come across another group, the group will most likely try to kill your characters for supplies. In fantasy novels, the main character is seeking refuge in a farmhouse, and the farmer sells the character out to protect his daughter.

These situations happen over and over again in books, movies, and TV shows, to the point where we expect it to happen.

If I am watching a dystopian post-apocalyptic movie where a guy comes across an old granny calling for help on the road,  I know it is going to be a trap. It will not be a surprise. So, what you have to do to actually make your conflict a surprise is to find the perfect balance between good strangers and not so good strangers.

For example, imagine a main character is tired from being on the run from some evil dudes, so he stays in an inn and falls asleep. Well, that is when the bad guys attack. They come up to the inn-keeper and ask her if she has seen the main character. She shrugs and says she does not know; simply because she has a code of protecting her customers. They go to attack her for more information, and old granny the inn-keeper goes crazy on them with an axe.

That would be way more surprising to me than if she had simply said “Don’t kill me! He is upstairs!”

However, this is also a line you have to be careful not to cross. If all the people your main character come across are good, you end up with the same problem as when they are all bad. So, you have to find the perfect balance between the two.

If you do it right and your characters come across a group of strangers, your readers will not know if the strangers are going to turn on the characters and attack because you have set this standard that they might actually be good.

Boring Character Deaths

In a book I read recently, the main character meets a dude, falls madly in love, then the dude dies. We are supposed to be sad, but my thoughts were more along the lines of “oh well.”

It was not that the death itself was badly written, it was that all the relationship building with the main character was done in summary. We are told they trained together every night, but we were not there with them.

People need to remember that when you have relationship building moments between characters, it is also a relationship building moment for the reader. By summarizing all the relationship building moments, the readers never get the chance to build an opinion on the character. That leads to readers not really caring as much as we should when they character dies.

Designing a Character? Think Like an Artist

I LOVE different characters. Nothing bores me more than a character that seemingly has no interests, or seemingly no personality. They are simply the perfect person; perfect hair, perfect clothes, they never say anything wrong, and they are boring.

When I read a main character, I want something in them that makes me want to remember them. Something about their appearance or personality that makes me go “Wow. I could point them out in a room full of people.”

In this video, I talk about some of the reasons I think some characters are so easily remembered.

Sorry I rambled so much in this video; headache brain is the worst. I am not even sure I clearly got my point across in this…but I hope it was still a little enjoyable.

 

10 Tips for Writing Motivation & Beating Writers Block

Writers Corner:

Newest Video:

Finding the motivation to write can be hard, but in this video I list 10 tips to boost your motivation to write.


Featured Writers Resource:
  • Ywriter5. My favorite (free) writing software. It separates your novel into scenes and chapters, and let’s you have notes and character info in the software

Life / Writing Updates:

I15037103_812544528887385_8349500852703341923_n fell behind on my NaNoWriMo wordcount this week, and this is when I normally tend to fail. I see how far behind I am, and I give up.

I look at my writing buddies -some of which who have already met the wordcount for the entire month- and in my head, I tell myself “if I fell behind on just my daily word count, I am just embarrassing myself by doing this.” Then, just like that, I would give up. Well, I refuse to let that happen this year.

I have today off, so I made myself some shortbread cookies(a recipe of instant happiness for me), brewed some cinnamon tea, and set to writing. I have already written close to 3000 words, and I plan to keep going until I am back to where my word count should be.

Wish me luck~!

dl