Pronunciation Guide

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“O” is for oppression

Ugh. Hi.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to think of something for “O,” and I didn’t even think of it. It’s pathetic, really. It’s the top word on my business card (which contains a list of story-themes), and it’s, well, a theme in my story. Like, a major one.

Yep. “O” is for…oppression!

In my story-world, the Hulcondans rule everything. If you know my story at all, you know that. You also probably know how much I love them regardless. Ha! But despite not every Hul being a total buttwipe – and there really are good ones, I promise – they ARE, on the whole, an oppressive regime.

Definition of OPPRESSION:
~ unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power
~ something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power

An oppressive rule is often TYRANNY:
~ oppressive power; especially oppressive power exerted by government tyranny of a police state>
~ a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler

My Huls have complete power. They assign a job for each citizen. They make people go home at dusk. When they call an Assembly, anyone who doesn’t come or is late can be arrested. They take whatever freedoms they want from the people, and the town Lord’s word in the city is law. If he wants to make it that no one can go outside, he merely has to say so. They can arrest anyone for anything, and they reserve the right to do whatever they want whenever they want. They are exempt from whichever laws they choose. They can make new rules about whatever they want. They can put people in the stocks for disrespect, and what “disrespect” means or looks like is up to their discretion. They crush the slightest insurrection. They marry whatever single woman they want, whether her parents truly agree or not. No one refuses them. And no one can really fight against them: they are the government, the police, and the military.

Yes, they have complete power…and the worst part is they’ve been raised to believe they’re the protectors, the saviors. The people trust them. The Hulcondans trust themselves.

This is what my people are coming out of.
This is what my rebels are up against.

It’s so fun. =)

Monday, June 8, 2015

An update plus “N” is for names!

Oh wow. It has been so long. I am so sorry. alksdjfl

Well, I FINISHED WRITING SOWING! Ahh! I edited Ari and Rab’s part individually; this week, I’m tackling the story as a whole. Then it’s off to my awesome editor! Once she’s done, it will be ready for beta readers! Whoo!

Oh, and here is my GORGEOUS cover! Ahhhh! =D I’m so in love with it! (Here is my awesome designer!)

I know it’s been forever since I posted an alphabet post, but I’m on N.

Today, I shall discuss…NAMES! =D I’ve kind of talked about this before, but…

For this story, I’ve pulled a TON of names from the Bible. I LOVE Old Testament names (you know, the ones most people can’t pronounce and end up skipping over). I’ve tried to give all of my top Hul leaders Biblical names (whether taken directly, or a tweaked version). In fact, I’m pretty sure every Hul in the story so far has a Biblical or Biblically-based name.

For book one, the story takes place exclusively in the nation of Etholia. Etholian names end in either an “ah” sound (for men and women, and usually written as “ah” as well) or the letter “k” (men only). I have four other nations, and each one has different naming customs. We’ll get to those people eventually! I love names that look fantasy-ish, but that COULD be someone’s real name somewhere. At least, that’s how they are to me. But I am so used to them…ha!

For my Vidar story, I’ve picked names based on their meaning. It just fits that story somehow! I’ve tried to find names that fit the character as well; in fact, sometimes the name I choose shapes the character or their magic. (Because yes, I actually have magic in that story!)

What about you? How do you name your characters?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dissonance Cover Reveal!

Hey, guys! I want to start sharing more author stuff on here (interviews, book links, reviews, etc.; if you are interested, let me know!) Today, I am sharing the cover for my friend's upcoming release, DISSONANCE! It is YA urban fantasy. Check it out!

Fifteen-year-old Allie Grant lives crippled by her illness. Though kept in isolation, she’s never alone: A spirit named Song lurks in the silence of her bedroom.

When Song reveals its dark nature on the night of her recital, the show ends in tragedy. Verging on death, Allie’s taken in by an uncle she’s never met.

Julian claims to be a Muse with power over music and answers that’ll heal her. The cure she needs is rare, requiring of him a difficult sacrifice. Allie soon suspects her uncle has a secret that’ll turn her world around.

But with days left to live, she might fade without learning the the finishing chord of a song.


About the Author:
Mariella Hunt is a writer with a strong love for coffee and guinea pigs. She likes using big words in everyday speech, and keeps journals of quotes from the greats.

Most days you'll find her on a well-loved armchair, reading--or working on one of her many projects. As she cannot stick to an outline, she rewrites way too much.


Social media links:
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Of Tattoos and Standing Strong

Wow. It’s been a while. Sorry. And this isn’t going to be an alphabet post. Sorry. This is more important.

I got a tattoo today. It’s not a bad tattoo, but it isn’t what I wanted or envisioned.

My mom tells me I always come across very sure of what I want, picky even, exacting and unsatisfied until something is exactly as I want. (With tattoos, haircuts, etc.)

Ha. If only I were truly that strong in myself.

Truth is, I’m a pushover. If I feel like I’m being annoying, I back down. For the sake of not feeling like a burden, for the sake of peace, for the sake of not being one of “those” people, I cave. I want to avoid conflict. I don’t want to be seen as pushy, demanding, or controlling. In this case, I agreed to something when my gut screamed, “NO! NO, this is NOT okay! Yes, it looks good, but NO, it is NOT what you want! STOP!”

I didn’t stop it. I agreed. I said it looked good. I tried to be open to someone else’s interpretation of a design that I wanted done exactly like the original.

So now I have this tattoo. It’s on my back, which is good, and it’s pretty, which is also good. I’m quite positive it is fixable, which is very good. It won’t ever be exactly as I wanted, but it can be much closer. (And I can always get the actual original somewhere else. :P )

Because here’s the thing. I’m writing this story about these two sisters: Rab and Ari. Rab is fierce, passionate, and determined. She stands for what she believes. Even when she’s scared to death, she stands. Ari, however, is beaten down. She’s timid. She doesn’t express an opinion. She tiptoes around on eggshells, doing or saying whatever necessary to keep the peace. She lives under guilt, shame, and fear.

I want to be like Rab. But, truth be told, I am far more like Ari.

No more. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not putting up with being pushed around, whether the person intends to do it or not.

I will stand. I will be strong. Because THIS is what marks a strong character and a strong human: being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you to fit their mold. Allowing the real you to shine forth. Period.

Rab is in me. She is the real me. The Ari in me is exactly like the Ari in the story: beaten down by fear, believing lies about herself, convinced she’s worthless and weak and has no voice.

Rab has her issues in the story; by no means am I saying she’s perfect or always right. She’s wrong often. She can be a total b*tch. 

But one thing she does well is stand.

I admire her for it. I wish I could be that way. 

The only thing stopping me is me.

So I’m done being a pushover. I’m done shrinking back in fear.

I will stand. Whether I stand alone, whether I stand in the middle of a battlefield with enemies all around, I WILL STAND. For in that, is true freedom.

And I’m getting this tattoo fixed, one way or another. :P

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

“M” is for Masrekah

“M” is for Masrekah

Oh my gosh, a whole post devoted to Mas! :P

Masrekah (mas-reh-kah) is, for my story, the epitome of an unintentional character. As I’ve said in other places, he was just a backstory character I came up with to explain why Rab was 18 and unmarried in a world where girls typically marry by 15. He was a jerk who ruined her life because she rejected him. I never intended him to be anything more. I made him a jerk on purpose, a disgusting creep who was just…ugh. Gross.

Vindictive, cruel, selfish, leering, and menacing: that was Mas. And this man has become not only a main character, but a love interest. Riddle me that. *rolls eyes at my mind*

At some point amid the massive changes where I decided Rab and the rebels wouldn’t all die, I got the idea for Mas to become good and fight alongside the rebels. I knew it’d lead to conflict with Rab, and, let’s face it, conflict drives a story, and Rab is fun when she’s clashing with other characters.

As the story unfolded, it became increasingly difficult to figure out how Hikah saved Ari from jail, or why he’d even risk everything when all he felt for her was infatuation. During this time, I teasingly asked people what they’d think of a Mas/Rab pairing instead of Sorek/Rab. No one liked it; it felt lacking. That was when the first inkling hit me of Mas/Ari. I brushed it off, thought it would be too weird, that no one would accept him because of his past with Rab.

He refused to let it go, kept pestering me until I allowed him one scene with Ari. One scene for him to show me hints of chemistry between the two of them. I really doubted it would go anywhere, but I figured I’d explore the possibility.

Well. We know how that turned out.  (And if you don’t know, uh, Mas got his way.)

Of all my characters, Mas “talks” with me the most. Oftentimes, when I get ideas for conversations, I envision the characters in my head going back and forth. I typically just watch and try to remember it all. That is how things go with Mas, only instead of a conversation playing out between him and another character, it is him and me. For instance, this happened last night after I wrote a scene where he dances with Ari at the festival in book one:

            Me to Mas: So you’re interacting with Ari a lot in book one lately…

            Mas: Not really. But, I mean, this way it’ll make more sense that I already like her by the time she’s at my house in book three. You were worried about that, remember? That my feelings would seem too intense since we’d interacted so infrequently?

            Me: Yes… True…

            Mas, shrugging: I’m just trying to make things more realistic.

            Me, eyeing him: You’re trying to get me to be okay with you kissing her at your house, aren’t you?

            Mas: No! Never! *pauses* Are you saying you’re going to write that, though? Because I won’t mind. And we’re interacting a lot lately…

            Me, glowering: Shush your face.

            Mas, stays quiet for two seconds: So that means you’re going to think about it?

            Me: *facepalm*

…Yep. As for Mas himself, I have a character spotlight of him on that page (link is above), but here are some basics (and random things):

~27 (born October 29th)
~Blond-haired, blue-eyed
~Second in command in the town (has been for about two years) and Siserah’s confidante
~Still vindictive, cruel, and violent, but no longer leering or a total jerk (though still cocky)
~Sense of humor is dry, sarcastic, and often blunt
~Is the oldest of four; his parents and siblings are dead
~Preferred method of fighting is hand-to-hand; knives are his go-to blade
~Has extensive scarring across his back and chest from a near-death experience when he was 17
~Responds to intense emotion or pain by shutting down and turning icy and sarcastic
~Detail-oriented with a near-photographic memory
~Is convinced he is and always will be a bad person
~Prone to drinking/alcoholism
~Favorite color is green
~Favorite season is fall
~Deepest fear is rejection

Aaand…it is time to get ready for work!

“L” is for love

“L” is for love

My writer friends say I am a “closet romance writer.” (I deny this. Completely. ;) )
While I don’t write romance in the typical sense of romance novels, I do write a lot about love.

I believe love is unconditional and selfless. If it isn’t those things, it’s not a full expression of love. Love isn’t a feeling but a choice, a commitment. Yes, it encompasses feelings, but emotions are fickle; if there is nothing behind the feelings, then when struggle, sickness, or even just the natural ebb and flow of life come, things will crumble. There are different aspects – friend-love, familial, romantic/sexual – but ultimately, everything must flow from unconditional love.

Though my story is in no way a “love story” as many would understand the term, love truly permeates all of it.

Rab’s sacrificial love for Ari is the foundation of everything. Both girls would do anything for each other, and by the beginning of the story, Rab has already given up so much to take care of her sister. Their mother stands in stark contrast to that, incapable of loving either of them and incapable of loving herself.  The lack of love from their mother has scarred both girls, more deeply than they know, and a lot of the story will deal with them coming to grips with their terrible upbringing.

Rab and Eda also love each other on the same level as Rab and Ari; they are sisters not by blood, but sisters all the same. Sorek loves all of his rebels; they, too, are his family. Rab and Sorek have a rough beginning, but love grows between them – and not just romantic love. Though Mas starts out cold and detached, he learns to love others sacrificially as well, seen most clearly in his manner toward Ari. The members of the half-breed group (introduced later) have been through awful things and forged a bond only shared suffering can create. Love is the result: deep, selfless, healing love.

Therein is of the most beautiful aspects of love is just that: it is healing.

True love always moves toward healing, wholeness. It frees. It restores. It comforts. It protects. It strengthens. It endures in the face of pain, struggle, and even rejection. It fights for those in need. It doesn’t take, but gives instead. It offers everything without expecting anything back.

And those touched by true love are never the same.

Friday, March 13, 2015

“K” is for kin

Ugh, I stink at this.
Hey! It is Friday the 13th!

“K” is for kin. I had a few other good options, but I often talk about the more negative aspects of my story. This one is more positive, so we’re going with it!

Sorek’s parents, aunt, and uncle stood up against the Hul’s tyranny. His cousins are his lifeline; reuniting with them propels him toward his purpose, and they are all instrumental in fighting the Huls’ oppression. That family, truly, is what starts the rebel movement in their nation, and much of the success of it relies on how well they mesh. Tirhakah’s (Sorek’s cousin) mom and stepfather loved him, as did his siblings, and they instilled in him a value for all life, which gave him the foundation for who he is now. Sorek’s siblings are a huge reason he is what he is, though in a darker way, forged through more suffering. Tir’s half-breed group operates as a family, with everyone referring to the others as their brothers and sisters and loving each other sacrificially and unconditionally. The strength of that group comes not through their numbers, but through their commitment to each other through anything.

Ari and Rab are obviously sisters, and their relationship is at the forefront. Their mom is abusive; no father is in the picture. Mas has no family anymore, though they left a deep impression on him. Siserah grew up responsible for his siblings, and that experience led to him becoming a massive control freak. Edaliah’s relationship with her parents is strained, but she has a great bond with her older sister (who is also a rebel, along with both of their husbands). Edaliah’s uncle is the one who starts the rebellion within the actual timeline of book one. Driven by love for his daughter and the desire to protect her from evil, he does things he shouldn’t.

Much of the overarching conflict in the story comes because of conflict and rivalry between two cousins raised as brothers by a man who didn’t know how to love or support either boy. The need for a father’s approval and validation drives many of my characters, my men especially. Most of my antagonists do what they do out of love for their family and a desire to protect them, or because of broken family relationships and unmet needs. My Huls are committed to each other as a family in a sense, hence why they view treason so harshly. People endure great suffering for their siblings, cousins, and adopted family.

Family isn’t just blood. It’s a choice too, a choice of who you will stand beside when everything crashes around you.

I hope to show this through both sides of the conflict.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

“J” is for justify and join

Whew, I have been struggling to come up with an idea for “J.” I’ve been debating since my last post. Since I am tired of not being able to move on, I’m just going to do something. It might be lame, haha! Sorry, I tried.

“J” is for justify and join

Many of my characters do things they have to justify to themselves, and oftentimes to others as well. The question one must ask them is, “Does the end justify the means?”

Honestly, a lot of them say, “Yes.”

Siserah is a great example of this. In the name of protecting the innocent people of his town, he hurts innocent people in his town. The death of a few preserves the lives of the many. It’s warped, it’s terrible, but in his mind, it’s a necessary sacrifice. He is so focused on the end that he can’t allow himself to see how violently he’s undermining his own goal in the present.

Masrekah is another great example, though his is a bit more difficult to judge as evil. If he doesn’t appear loyal to Siserah, he’s dead; but to be loyal, he must do things he hates. He must be something he hates. His goal is to try to make up for the bad things he’s done, yet to do it, he must continue to do awful things. While he also believes the end justifies the means, he does not expect to see that end unscathed. Actually, he doesn’t really expect to live to the end at all. Instead of sacrificing others, like Siserah does, he takes from himself. Repeatedly. And it rips him open every time.

Sorek is another one. He’s good, but he’s gray. He lies. He manipulates. He kills. He takes whatever he wants. He is all about freedom, about ridding the world of the regime he hates. He justifies his actions because he feels there is no other option. The quote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” captures Sorek’s struggle well. Every step he takes toward ending the Huls makes him, in his mind, more like them. Yet like Mas, he sacrifices himself, becomes something he hates so that others may be free.

For Rab, the end – freedom for her and Ari from their mother – absolutely justifies the means. She does whatever it takes to protect her sister, and that’s a pretty honorable thing for the most part. But it’s in the smaller things where she justifies wrongly. She speaks harshly to people, especially Mas, and she doesn’t feel bad for it for a long time. She clings to her preconceived notions of people and convinces herself she’s in the right. She refuses to listen to those she has issue with, and she justifies it by blaming them for being _____. (Rude, liars, previously bad, etc.)

Ari ends up facing a horrific situation with her choices stripped to almost nothing. At least nothing good. Her survival depends on what she is willing to justify. She does whatever it takes in the inn, but she carries that mindset out with her. She’s all about survival, and as long as she survives, she doesn’t really care what it costs.

On the other note, my characters end up in some very life and death situations. In those moments, to survive, they often have to join with other groups – not just other rebel groups, but enemies. This also falls under a bit of a “justifying the means” thing. Even among those committed to the same basic goal, there are different ideas of how to go about it. So…expect a lot of conflict. =)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

“I” is for instinct

My characters respond differently to different situations, but most of their reactions stem from one or two driving instincts. As the story progresses, some of this stuff will change, but this is how it is right now…

Masrekah: to control (first himself, then his surroundings) and avoid. He is cold and detached, every word and manner and glance calculated. The more emotional he feels, the more he hardens himself; rarely does his carefully constructed composure crack (wow alliteration). This manner typically takes one of two forms: pure iciness, or a hostile cockiness. When he feels like he’s losing control and can’t contain his feelings, he drinks to avoid thinking about what’s wrong. Drinking, however, ultimately makes him feel out of control, so the cycle continues. When he’s uncomfortable or in emotional pain, Mas shuts down, turning robotic (if I can use that word for a Medieval story) and emotionless.

Sorek: to fight and distract. For physical threats, his reaction is physical violence, whereas distraction is his preferred method for emotionally threatening things (memories, feelings, etc.). When something starts feeling too serious, count on him to be the one cracking a joke, saying something inappropriate, or using any other available method to distract himself (even if it is just playing with a knife). Even the actual fighting is often just a distraction to avoid facing the dark emotions and inclinations he fears will overwhelm him. For someone who is such a warrior and doesn’t back down from confrontation, he ironically does just about anything to avoid confronting himself.

Siserah: to create order and protect. From a relatively young age, he was responsible for his siblings. Order kept them safe, and when he became town Lord, he sought to enact the same methods to provide safety for his town. Deeply passionate about taking care of people (all of whom he believes are his responsibility), he would gladly do anything to protect anyone. Contrasting this instinct is his need for order and control. No matter the physical or emotional threat to himself or others, his foremost goal is the protection of those he loves, even at his own expense. However, take away his order, and he’ll do anything to get it back.

Rabreah: to protect and fight. A natural protector, she is unafraid of confrontation or fighting. Where this becomes an issue is regarding herself. She fights every perceived threat, emotional or physical, like a spitting animal trapped in a corner. The more intense her emotions, the more she lashes out both verbally and physically (and sometimes at everyone around her). She gives no thought to conquering, winning, or strategy; in her eyes, she can’t overcome the threats in her life, especially regarding her mother. Instead, she believes every moment is a battle, will always be a battle, and she refuses to drop her guard.

Ariliah: to hide and bury. For physical threats, she seeks to hide, to turn invisible, to do whatever it takes to no longer be the focus of that perceived enemy. She has learned to make herself as unnoticeable, small, and unthreatening as possible. For emotional threats, she buries, stuffs everything down; though, ultimately, she really only succeeds in burying more of herself. The more threatened she feels, the more she stifles herself and turns into a zombie of sorts, going through the motions without allowing emotion to rise within her. Like Mas, she regulates herself, every action and word methodically decided upon – not to maintain control like him, but to avoid punishment.  

Mom: to blame and avoid. Nothing is ever her fault. She silences every trace of guilt by lashing out, condemning others, and convincing herself why they are in the wrong. She twists every situation to make herself the victim, even when she is victimizing. Regarding physical threats, she tends to fight for a moment, then back off to avoid further conflict or anything that might actually cause her physical harm. Like a bully who acts tougher than they are, she can’t handle someone standing up to her. Emotionally, she avoids negative feelings, choosing instead to make others feel bad so she won’t have to.

Edaliah: to refocus and placate (first others, then herself). More of a lover than a fighter, she is in constant conflict with her fight or flight instinct when it comes to rebel activities. She hates violence but embraces it as a means to an end, quietly enduring the darkness in front of her by clinging to the hope and freedom on the other side. She seeks to assuage both physical and emotional threats by shifting the focus to something more positive. Whether it’s with a joke, a good memory, or a hopeful twist of the situation at hand, she finds the light in every shadow. Before she tries to calm herself, she calms those around her, which in turn steadies her. She does the same with her own emotional struggles: forces herself to find the good in the bad and hold on to it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

“H” is for healing

Ari’s mother abuses her daily. Usually emotional and verbal, sometimes physical. Ari has been broken for as long as she – or anyone else – can remember. She has no self-worth; she can’t accept a compliment. Her mother’s venom haunts her.

The inn rips her open, leaves gaping wounds festering under a hardened shell. Eyes that once dropped in fear lift to glare. The once sweet, compassionate girl ends up buried beneath ferocity, hatred, and brutal resolve to survive.

Originally, Ari married a half-breed guy. Then I wrote the scene where Ari and Hikah meet, and my plan to kill Hikah dissolved due to cuteness. The plan was that Hikah rescued Ari from jail. I had it that eventually they reunited and were still in love, blah blah blah…

Only one problem: Hikah, a lifelong Hul who sees nothing wrong with his beliefs, would NOT realistically throw everything away for a girl he barely knows. (He’s also merely infatuated with her, which shatters at the truth of what Ari is.)

I started debating other options.

This is when Masrekah poked me in the ear and whispered, “Hey. Heyyyy, writer lady. Yeah, you. Instead of me just trying to get her out of jail like this current plot suggests, I could, you know, actually get her out. I’m already good, changed, whatever. I already see things differently, so there’s no issue of someone doing something they don’t believe in. It’s not working with him rescuing her, and you know it. Oh! And while you’re at it, I want to be with her. So do that. Put her with me instead of that Hikah guy. Don’t argue about how it’ll be weird or creepy. It’ll work, trust me. Just do it. Dooo ittttttt, woman.”

Mr. Bossy. *grumbles*

Mas likes Ari before the inn. He views her as innocent and sweet. After the inn, he loves her. She believes she’s disgusting, shamed; he sees strength, resilience, beauty forged through suffering. Beyond the hateful mask she wears, he still sees the sweet, compassionate girl she really is, and he determines to set her free. Their relationship is difficult, wrought with pain and heartache. They’re both broken and desperate, and they hurt each other often.

Yet he repeatedly sacrifices for her (everything from food and sleep to his deepest desires), giving of himself or going without to provide for her. He doesn’t condemn her, shame her, or force her to talk. Each time she rejects him (rejection has always been his biggest fear), he responds with compassion (not perfectly, but he tries). He has no ulterior motives; he doesn’t demand anything of her.

Instead, he offers everything.

He offers his presence, his love, his unconditional acceptance, his understanding, his own brutal honesty. He offers truth, hope, courage to overcome the darkness and abuse. Even amid mess-ups, he keeps trying to prove himself trustworthy. No matter how many times she pushes him away, he refuses to give up on her.

He loves her through her darkest moments, and it’s his love that really begins to heal not just the wounds from the inn, but the wounds of her entire life.

And this is why they aren’t weird together like I feared at first. Mas was right. Go figure.

Monday, January 26, 2015

“G” is for gray

So, I’m officially dumb. I’ve procrastinated for days because I couldn’t think of something for “G.”

It just hit me: my characters are gray.

If you aren’t familiar with my world, it is a Medieval dystopia ruled by a totalitarian regime (Huls, H-guys). They are the police and military; they exist to protect their people from the despised (and gray-skinned) creature race. I once had it that all my Huls were bad, they were all going to die, and everything was going to be happy. Several years later, I love every single one of my Huls and hate killing them.

I never wanted this story to be white vs. black, but gray vs. gray. None of my characters are perfectly good or completely evil. The “big bad” for book one is misguided; he does some terrible things, but his heart is good. He loves his people, wants to protect them. If not for the moral lines he crosses, he’d actually be a great guy. There’s a time and place for dark lords, sociopaths, psychopaths, serial killers, and people who want to watch the world burn. I just don’t write like that.

I also don’t like writing stereotypical “white knight” heroes. My good guys are just as gray – sometimes grayer – than my bad guys. They have pasts, some darker than others. They make bad choices; they do bad things. There are no easy paths for them. It is often “kill or be killed.”

So when nearly everyone has to kill, lie, and manipulate to survive, what makes my good guys good and my bad guys bad?

What I’m trying to show is that there are no good guys or bad guys. In their own eyes, all of my characters are good and doing the right thing. I believe in absolute good and absolute evil. But I don’t believe a person can be one or the other; we have the capacity for both inside of us. It is about the choices we make, the paths we choose to walk to reach our goals.

To be honest, Siserah (“big bad”), is chillingly similar to Sorek (rebel leader). Both seek to protect their loved ones and are willing to do whatever that takes. Both are manipulative, brutal, and focused. Yet since the story is partially told from the POV of someone close to Sorek, he’s ultimately the good guy, and Sis is an antagonist. If the story were told from the POV of Sis’s wife or children, he’d be the hero.

Oh, and funnily enough, Sorek has gray eyes. :P That wasn’t even planned!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fear and Failure

Fear is a driving force for most of my characters, and something they all wrestle with throughout the story.

Sorek’s biggest fear is failure to protect those he loves and views as his responsibility. If he wants something, he goes after it, and he doesn’t really care who or what stands in the way; he is willing to do anything – even become a monster – to stop monsters. As long as his goal is accomplished and his people are free, he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. He doesn’t fear combat, pain, torture, rejection, or conflict. But he has failed to save people before. He’s seen loved ones murdered. His actions – his call to arms – have led countless people to their deaths. He fears that he will fail again, that he isn’t good enough or strong enough for the task before him. He hides behind humor and a surly attitude.

Siserah is what writers often call the “big bad” (aka, the primary antagonist). Yet he and Sorek are very similar. Siserah’s driving fear is failing to protect his beloved people (expressed through the fear of losing control). He views the townspeople as his responsibility, and like Sorek, he’s willing to do anything and everything for them. Unfortunately, his version of “anything” crosses numerous moral lines. While he comes off as an evil control freak, his heart is actually in the right place. In his mind, control = peace, and peace = protection; therefore, control = protection. Topple Siserah’s carefully constructed control, and you will eventually topple Siserah.

Masrekah is probably the most emotionally fearful of all of the characters. Like Sorek, he doesn’t fear death, pain, or combat. What he does fear is rejection. While Sorek stubbornly pursues his desires, Mas hangs back and calculates whether pursuing his is worth the risk. More than anything else, though, Mas fears himself. He knows what he’s been, what he’s done. He can’t look at his hands without seeing blood, can’t seek happiness without thinking of the thousands of reasons why he doesn’t deserve it. He views himself as a monster, and he’s quite sure everyone else does/will as well. So he hides behind an icy pretense, manipulating those around him when it suits his purposes, and never letting anyone close.

Rab starts out fearing men and failing to protect Ari. She willingly puts herself in harm’s way to take care of her sister, but she lives haunted by the fear that someday, something will happen that she can’t stop or save Ari from. (This happens.) Her fear of men manifests itself first with Sorek, then Mas. Her deeper fears are opening up to people and allowing herself to be fought for and protected. She fears weakness (looking weak, being weak, people thinking she is weak) and believes needing protection or help is a sign of weakness. She fears she has no purpose apart from being her sister’s protector. She is afraid of pain and death, though she typically stands strong in the face of both. When deeply afraid, she either shuts it down by sheer will, or lashes out. She suffers panic attacks for a while.

Ari starts out afraid of her mother and of getting in trouble. She lives with the threat of punishment and explosive attack constantly hanging over her head. After the inn, she fears everyone, expects the worst from every person she meets. She especially fears men and physical contact, and lashes out to keep everyone away from her. Even once she starts healing, she remains terrified of being captured/trapped again, and is willing to do anything to avoid that fate. She deals with claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces) and nyctophobia (fear of darkness), as well as a host of other things related to the horror she endured. She also fears people viewing her as disgusting or ruined, which is how she views herself. She presents herself as hardened and untouchable because that is how she wishes she could be.

And this is just what I know right now. Haha!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Character Emotion -- Part Three

So, this kind of became a three-part thing, ha! “E” is for emotion.

Emotion is huge for my characters. They are either driven by it, overwhelmed by it, scared of it, or work hard to stifle it. I write in first person; we are only ever in Rab and Ari’s heads. Yet I want people to feel like they know the other characters in the story, especially Mas and Sorek. I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot of body language in my story to reveal emotion.

Rab is the most openly emotional character so far. She is passionate, fiery, and bold. With a few exceptions (especially at the start of the story), if she feels a certain way, everyone around her will know. She has little control over herself, but she is likely the most emotionally honest of the main four. Her natural reaction to a threat is to lash out, fight back. This is why she clashes so much with Sorek at first; she feels threatened by him (both him himself, and by the eventual feelings she has for him). As the story progresses, she learns to control herself a bit more and to embrace positive emotions, while rejecting the more destructive ones.

Ari is naturally reserved. A lifetime of abuse has trained her to keep her emotions methodically controlled. She deliberates before she allows herself to feel, or react with, emotion. In her heart, she is actually every bit as passionate and fierce as her sister. But she buries it, for in her mind, that is the only safe action. As the story progresses, a big place of growth for her will be in expressing her true feelings about what has happened and what she is going through, instead of just internalizing it all. Where Rab needs to learn how to control herself, Ari needs to lose control.

Sorek hides behind sarcasm and cockiness. His emotions are fluid, one flowing instantly into the next, largely because he is at constant war with himself. He fears himself: what he’s done, what he’s capable of. He fears his weakness. It is not in the displayed/buried emotions that we get a sense of what he is actually feeling, but in his body language, especially his eyes. Often he laughs or smiles, but his eyes remain untouched. Only in moments of heightened emotion do we see the real Sorek come out, like flames flickering within the cracks of cooling lava. As the story progresses, his guardedness will drop a lot as he learns to let people in again.

Mas also hides his emotions, but unlike Sorek – who uses humor to protect himself – Mas has turned himself to ice and stone. He monitors everything about himself: how he speaks, the expression on his face and the look in his eyes, the way he stands and walks. The more emotional and out of control he feels inside (or the more terrible of a situation he finds himself in), the more he hardens himself outwardly. The result is one of emotionlessness, coldness, and ruthlessness. Only when he doesn’t have to pretend anymore does the real Mas start showing his face.

How much emphasis do you put on character emotion in your stories? How much emotion do you like to read in a story? Let me know! =)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Character Development -- Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote about how I first come up with a character. You can read that post here. Today, we are on “D” for development!

Once I have a character and a basic idea of personality, appearance, and role in the story, I set to the very fun task of figuring out their story. A lot of it evolves as I write. I’ll be writing a scene, for instance, and they’ll say something that strikes me as, “Now, why do they think that? Why do they believe that? Why are they acting like that?”

“Why?” is a great question for a writer. So is “How?” (As in, “How would someone who has been through _____ react? How would that alter their behavior, their mindset?”) People have reasons for doing what they do, being how they are, and I believe characters should too. Everyone has been through something that changed them; everyone has wounds and beliefs and fears that led to certain behaviors. Characters, again, should be the same. Oftentimes, parents or peers wound a person, so I figure that stuff out too. Don’t just make your characters a certain way for the sake of them being like that – give them a reason! Even if they don’t understand it themselves, you as the writer need to understand.

Masrekah (Mas) is a good example of all of this. He was simply a backstory guy who pursued Rab and ended up giving her a complex about men. I had the very basic information about him (appearance, age, bits of personality), and I wrote the scene (which takes place three years before the story starts). As I went through and tweaked it – actually, I think it was when I transferred it from third person to first – I added one specific exchange between them. Quick recap: Mas wants to marry Rab, and she has refused unless he takes her sister with them. He’s not liking that deal…

            “I’m just afraid for my sister,” I said. “Do you – don’t you have siblings that you love?”
            He blinked. “No.”
            My heart sank. “You don’t love them, or you don’t have any?”
            Again, he remained as unyielding and impenetrable as stone. “They’re all dead.”
            I opened my mouth, then hesitated. There was only coldness in his eyes, but for some reason, my chest ached all the same. “I’m sorry,” I said again. “And your parents?”
            He didn’t move, not even to blink now. Ice radiated from him, and a shiver prickled through me.

“They’re all dead.” That was unexpected. It made me feel bad for him. And suddenly, OH MY GOSH, that rude, violent, jerkface of a guy became incredibly interesting to me. My mind exploded. “He has a family, but they’re all dead. Why are they dead? What happened to them? When did they die? Why doesn’t he like to talk about it? Why is he so cold about it? Did he see it? Did he have something to do with it? Does it hurt him to think about? How old was he when this happened? jalksdfjaeirgjaierjg!!!!”

From that one line, Mas stuck a knife in my heart. I figured out his backstory, and I couldn’t forget about him. I liked the iciness in him, so when the idea came to have him in the actual story, I intensified that attitude. The more I’ve written him (if you don’t know, he has become an extremely main character), the more he has developed. I decided it would be awesome if he became a good guy, but in order for him to turn good, something big and traumatic had to happen. So I figured out what it was and worked out the timeline. The struggle of being a good, changed guy forced to keep up the charade of badness has added even more to his character and personality. People have told me that Mas is their favorite character so far, and it is because of the depth of his personality and the redemption in him (even though he doesn’t see it yet).

Another thing I’m trying to do more of is give everyone their little quirks, often displayed in dialogue scenes. Sorek especially has a few certain things he says numerous times, and he laughs or snickers when he is uncomfortable or in pain (which is usually an inappropriate time to laugh). Someone pointed out that Mas has more of a dry sense of humor, while Sorek is snarky, so I’m playing up on both of those. Mas is also, on the whole, more refined and polite than Sorek in how he speaks. Rab is always on the defensive and often speaks with a biting undertone. Because of abuse, Ari has learned never to give non-verbal responses to direct questions. She also stutters, especially when nervous or afraid.

Another thing I do is figure out how characters feel toward other characters and believe others feel toward them. Mas (rightly) believes that Rab hates him, so he is instinctively colder toward her because he is steeling himself for her rejection and rage. Yet everything in his personality softens when it comes to Ari, for he views her as innocent and sweet. Not only is this visible in scenes between him and Ari, but other characters notice it too, and each of them have different ideas about what it means. Rab is more sarcastic toward Sorek than she is with anyone else. Sorek flirts with Rab alllllll the time, mostly subconsciously. Rab and Ari are sweet toward each other, but when it comes to their mom, Rab is fierce, and Ari is defeated. I also utilize “love languages,” which are different ways that people give and like to receive love. (Physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, giving gifts.)

There are millions of ways to develop a character and add depth. These are just a few of my common avenues. I hope this has proven interesting, and I hope it helps you with your own character development. =)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Character Creation -- Part One

I’m going to do something slightly different today!

This will be part one of a two-part series (series?) about characters! Today is “C” for character creation. Tomorrow, I’ll get more into the development aspect.

Characters, in my opinion, drive a story. You can have an incredible plot, a wonderful writing style, and perfect grammar…but if I can’t care about the characters, then it doesn’t matter. I won’t be emotionally invested, so I won’t care enough to read your otherwise awesome story. Everyone has different things they like/are drawn to in a character. For me, I love depth. Complex, interesting, realistic characters draw me in. I hate when “bad guys” are stupid. Hate it. They have no motivation, they aren’t a threat…they are just bad because there needs to be a bad guy. I love a story that shows me how the “good guys” aren’t perfect, and how the “bad guys” aren’t bad in their own eyes.

When I create a character, I start with zodiac signs (haha!). I decide on a specific birthday and age (for main people), or simply a sign and age (for minor people). (Yep, everyone pretty much has an age. I can’t stand not knowing how old characters are.) I use common personality traits of that sign as a foundation. Sometimes I pull character traits from people I know, but I never base a character on a real person. Nor will I ever, ever write a real person into a story. Here’s my vent about that. Once I have a birthday, I decide on appearance. That is relatively easy for this story because I have certain coloring for each nation.

Somewhere amid that stuff, I pick a name. I use a ton of Biblical names in this story. Many of them are taken directly (like Masrekah and Sorek); others, Biblical or not, have to be tweaked a bit to fit the nation’s naming customs/my personal taste (Eidel – Edaliah; Hilkiah – Hikah). Some are made up but similar to real names (Ariliah – Riley, Leah). Others are made up simply to fit the nation (Toritik). For minor characters, the creation often stops here, at least for now.

Around this time, for more important characters, I’m typically already batting around some personality trait ideas. I’m also starting to figure out what role they play in the story, as well as who they might go with romantically (haha!), which helps form a personality. For instance, Sorek is the rebel leader, and I created him to be that role. There were several personality traits I wanted in the rebel leader (ha, and he’s rebelled against all of them, the butt). Once I latch on to a few traits, I delve a bit deeper: into why they are the way they are, what their family life was like, and what happened to put them on the path they are on.

Everything after that starts getting more into development, which is far more fun. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


“B” is for brand

Most of my characters have a brand (or two) on their right arm. I haven’t quite decided what it looks like, but it is a symbol of who they are. To whom they belong. To what beliefs they ascribe. The ones who do the branding believe it unites them. You cannot become a Hul without it. It’s something that cannot be taken back; once it’s done, it’s done.

Except when things change.

Loyalty is under constant scrutiny. If someone fails the most important test, they receive another brand. This one also defines the bearer – not as one united, but as one Shamed.

This, too, is permanent.

Many of my “good guys” have two brands: the uniting one, and the snakelike “S” to show that they are no longer part of what they once were.

I realize this may not be the smartest thing, and many of my Huls don’t agree with the system either. They see the flaws. But, like the good soldiers they are, they follow orders. (Except the ones who start plotting how to take over. Muhaha.) But the top ruler is just power-mad enough to believe that removing an 18 year old boy from the only life he’s ever known, branding him as Shamed, and forcing him into slavery is more than enough to crush anyone’s spirit.

He thinks he’s delivering the worst blow possible, leaving young men to a fate worse than death where they must deal with the ramifications of their stupid decision for the rest of their miserable lives. Plus, he is getting some beaten-down workers out of it too, so he wins all the way around.

What he is actually doing is bringing together defiant, selfless, and trained men who have every reason to hate the Huls.

The world is ripe for revolution.