Tips For Character Building

I’m back! I took some time off there to celebrate my mom’s and my boyfriend’s birthdays as well as to finish revisions for Chasing Fae. Last night, I submitted my book for copyediting, and it is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. At first, I was really nervous because after this, I can no longer change any content of the book. But now I am realizing that Chasing Fae is ready. It’s ready to be seen by the world, and the story is just perfect the way it is. I can’t wait to see how copyediting turns out!

Now that Book 1 is wrapping up officially, it is time to look towards Book 2. And for me, that means creating new characters and new storylines. Over the past couple days, I have been working on a few secondary characters who will play some major roles in the remaining two books of the trilogy. While I was working on those, I ended up explaining to a writer friend of mine how I like to approach my character building and my thought process during that stage. I thought I would share those thoughts with you today.

Tip #1: Consider your character’s flaws before their strengths.

One of the things that every strong character needs is well defined flaws. Without them, your characters will feel flat and unrealistic. While talking to a writer friend, I have figured out that I like to figure out my character’s flaws before I think about their strengths. Take Grace, for example. Some of her biggest flaws involve prejudice against the Fae, stubbornness, and an inability to trust after her brother’s death. These were flaws that directly related to the plot that I had in mind. All of these components were necessary for the story to progress and for Grace to transform by the end.

When I thought about Grace’s flaws, I felt like they easily lent themselves to finding corresponding strengths. While Grace has a heavy inability to trust, it also means that in the relationships that she engages in, she is extremely loyal. If someone meets her high threshold for trust, she is going to put her faith in them and protect them at all costs. Her narrow-minded thinking in terms of her hate for the Fae allows her to be a very comprehensive planner and disciplined in her training. She doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks in her mission. This also connects with her stubbornness.

It is an interesting approach, but I have had good results from it, I think!

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to really get to know your characters, even the little things.

I really enjoy getting inside my characters’ heads. I love to see what they have learned over their lives and what makes them tick. In my opinion, as a writer, it is important to sit down and truly speak with your characters. Ask them questions: not just about the big things, but about the little things too.

I like to give my characters birthdays, and more importantly, to align those birthdays with their zodiac sign. Sometimes I can pull traits from the description associated with those zodiac signs to add another layer to my characters. I’ll ask my characters all sorts of small things like their favorite color, their favorite foods, their favorite games growing up, etc. These details may not be relevant to your story, and in fact, your readers may never see this information at all. But I find that the characters feel more real when they have interests and hates and quirks that define who they are.

Tip #3: Backstory is so important.

One of the comments that I kept hearing from my editors was that there was a decent amount of space to include more backstory. Knowing your characters’ backstories helps to put everything in context for your readers. Understanding where Grace had been and what she cares about from her past moves the entire story forward and clarifies her motivations in a clear way. Backstory has to be incorporated throughout your book in conversations and in your character’s inner thoughts revealing themselves (most likely your protagonist). And you can incorporate a lot more into your book than you might think. Not so much that it consumes the actual plot, but enough to give your readers a sense of where your characters came from. So it is important to create a strong foundational past for your characters. Make sure to dedicate some significant focus to that area, and you should be just fine.

That is all of my insight for the day! Happy writing, everyone.

Writing Fight Scenes

After going through my first round of revisions with my editor, I finally feel reasonably competent enough to discuss this subject! Whether it is a simple one-on-one scuffle or a full-scale battle, fight scenes are pretty integral to the fantasy genre. They make up some of the most memorable scenes that your reader will return to over and over again, if done right. Each scene should be approached with care to ensure that the scene feels natural, but intense. Today, I want to share with you my best tips to approaching a fight scene on any scale.

Tip #1: All fight scenes must move your plot and character development forward in some way. Do not include them just to have them.

Enough said.

Tip #2: Make sure you know your players.

Who is involved in this fight? Is it two people, or several, or a large multitude of characters? The more players you have, the more complex your battle is going to be. Before you even think about drafting this scene, think about each character and their fighting style. This is influenced by their size, any weapons training they may have or lack, if they are magical, etc. I also like to take into account my character’s emotions at the time. Are they fired up and ready to attack? Are they trying to escape from something, and this is the fight of their lives? There are often multiple emotions swirling around at once: fear, adrenaline, determination, heartbreak. As a writer, you have to balance these factors as you approach the actual physical process of the fight.

Tip #3: Consider the battlefield and the available resources.

Where is this fight taking place? The battle dynamics will be very different if it is taking place in an open field rather than a forest. Consider what cover is available and where would be the best place for an army to retreat to. When it comes to resources, you need to do some research into what kind of weaponry the characters involved in your fight are using. Each type of weapon comes with its benefits and its drawbacks, and in a big battle, the writer ends up showing a lot of both sides. If this is a fight between two armies, they each may have their own combat style as a group with those weapons. This requires you to understand your world’s history. Who knew so much background research could go into a battle?

Tip #4: Break down the chaos.

In actuality, a battle may only last a few minutes, or it could go on for days. Both of these situations require the writer to break down the moments into digestible pieces for the reader to absorb. That being said, by doing so, a few minutes can stretch out for pages and pages. So it is important to pick the moments to showcase and the times to step back and see more of the complete picture at once. Every movement should be written in an active voice. Make your reader feel every slash and connection of a sword to another’s body or their own. Describe the atmosphere: is the air thick with the smell of blood or smoke? The most important thing to do is to keep things active, descriptive, and fast-paced without making it too manic. Convey the chaos of the fight and the whirlwind of weaponry, bodies, and emotion without letting it all blend together too much.

I may modify this article as I move forward with writing the first draft of my sequel, which involves much more battles than the first. I am looking forward to it!

Happy writing!

The Importance of Balance

It is absolutely crazy to be going through revisions again!

The entire process has been a whirlwind so far, even though I’m only five chapters in to my revisions as of the time of writing this post. Every time I work through a chapter on my own, it comes back with lots of wonderful comments and markings from my editor, Kristy. She asks lots of questions that makes me think about which sections to elongate and which to elaborate on. Every chapter has new notes to work through, and I’m actually really excited that some are starting to make me sit down and take the time to puzzle them out. Revising takes time. A lot of time. Mixing schoolwork and revising and promoting the presale campaign can be challenging at times, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled doing it.

The most interesting thing about the revisions so far has been the discovery that I held myself back! As a first time author, I was determined to not make any of the pitfalls in my drafts. I wanted to keep my backstories concise and not excessive and make sure I wasn’t describing every new character’s appearance in too much detail. I wanted to make the setting immersive, but not so descriptive that the book feels like more description than plot.

But suddenly, both my editors told me that I could be adding more! I could be doing more! All of that information that I had held back in my notes and kept from my draft can start to be integrated into the book!

Do you have any idea how exciting that is?!

So, as I am learning all of these exciting things myself, let me give you a few tips about what areas are okay to elaborate on, as long as you keep a good balance.

Area One: Character Descriptions

When I was working on Chasing Fae, I was very concerned about mentioning my characters’ appearances. I knew that while it was important to ground your reader through physical description, it had to be done in such a way that it didn’t feel formulaic. You know: hair, eye color, height, etc. all in a few sentences stashed near the introduction of the character. So I actually spread out my physical descriptions over a couple of chapters.

It turns out I did need to rework some of that, particularly for my main characters in order to give more of a physical sense much earlier. Also, it is actually really important to ground your small secondary and tertiary characters with some sort of visual element so your readers can visualize. The more I see the note, the more I begin to recognize the importance of it.

Area Two: Setting

Each moment in space and time can be talked about, even if it is only a couple of sentences. Every time there is a distinct transition in location, I find myself seeing more notes about taking a breath and letting my readers know where we are and what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I find that I need to work on expanding my writing on the different senses. I am good at talking about what my characters are seeing and what they are feeling in particular, like a light breeze or the sun bearing down on them. But I could use some work on what my characters are hearing and smelling. It doesn’t need to be in every description of a setting, but I think it does add another layer to the reader’s sense of place in your book.

Area Three: Pacing and Layering

One of the most significant compliments that I received on my manuscript from my Acquisitions editor was that my level of tension throughout the book was spot on. However, I am starting to realize that just because your tension is right doesn’t mean there isn’t more to work on in terms of pacing. My editor has pointed out to me several times over the first few chapters that there are moments where I can slow it down a little bit. I can add a few more paragraphs to clarify setting or character backstory and motivation or just take a moment to let everybody take a breath. My book is on the low end of the young adult fantasy genre’s typical word count (80k), so I have a decent amount of room to work with. The story has space for more layers, and I am finding new ways to add fresh life to Chasing Fae.

I hope that this inspires you to loosen yourself up a little bit with your descriptions in your writing. There is space! And if there isn’t, trust me, someone will tell you. Happy writing, everyone!

What To Consider When Starting A Sequel

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Hello everyone! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe during this chaotic time in the world. My family and I have been practicing social distancing for the last week now, and we have been doing the best we can to fill up the time. I have been working on lots of outreach this week for my preorders as well as starting the sequel to Chasing Fae, tentatively titled Chasing War. I have also been spending lots of time with my sister playing board games and working on some creative projects together. Online classes start on Monday, and it’s definitely going to be… interesting. I hope everything turns out alright.

Today, I want to talk a little bit of my experience in starting this sequel and some tips on how to start your second book as a continuation of the story in your first. I think it’s an interesting topic that I haven’t touched on yet in terms of working with a fantasy series.

Starting Chasing War

I have tried to start this sequel three times since I finished Chasing Fae. Which is pretty amusing to me because based on the outline I’ve created, this book of the trilogy is probably going to be my favorite to write. The first time was during NaNoWriMo where I got extremely ill and ended up having to cancel my attempt while I recovered. The second time, I ended up having intense midterm exams and papers that all coincided with each other. Finally, I’m having an opportunity to write during this period of isolation at home. But even now, I’m having a little trouble.

I think the simple explanation is that somehow I’ve forgotten what it’s like to write the first draft. Which brings me to my first major tip of writing your first sequel:

Don’t Forget That The First Draft Will Not Look Like Your FINISHED First Book.

The first draft is inherently flawed. And that’s okay! That’s more than okay! The first draft is about having something solid to build off of and modify and evolve into something incredible. Try to remember that your first book takes months and months and maybe even years to complete. The first draft will not represent the extent of what you can produce. Remember that. I’m trying to!

Your sequel should have its own arc.

While your sequel does build off the previous book, each book needs to have its own unique arc that gets wrapped up by the end of the story. Remember, your reader wants to see something new out of your characters and out of your universe. Your main character needs to take another transformative journey and evolve as a person. You will see the world in your novel change, sometimes in subtle ways and other times in dramatic times like the outbreak of war or a widespread disaster. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

Bring New Characters To The Table

Time to create new voices! One of the best parts about writing a sequel, in my opinion, is to add new characters to the mix. There is always a new character or group of characters that comes in and shakes things up. Personally, I have a whole host of new voices that are going to change everything for Grace, and they are going to cause a LOT of trouble. Trust me.

Don’t be afraid to start something new. Happy writing, everybody!

Oh! And if you haven’t checked out my preorder campaign for my debut novel, Chasing Fae, please click here to learn more!

Writing Endings

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to writing about fantasy writing! One of the most important elements of a novel that you have to nail is your ending. Your beginning pulls readers in, and your plot and your characters keep the reader engaged for the subsequent book. But your ending has got to bring everything home. A bad ending on a great book will leave a sour taste in the reader’s mouth. Trust me, I’ve been there. Even if you love the book, there’s something about a poor ending that can erase part of that happiness.

So, the ending is pretty important. Today, I want to talk about what it means to finish a book well and a few tips that I’ve picked up while writing Chasing Fae.

Finish Your Plot.

This seems like it should be obvious, but it warrants saying anyway for several reasons. Your ending has to wrap up the main storyline. You have to finish the main plot arc of the book regardless of whether you are continuing on the storyline in a sequel. A definitive end must be visible for your reader, or you may leave them wanting. You should also consider your subplots. If it’s a standalone story, everything must end. If you plan on having a sequel or several sequels, then in my personal opinion, subplots should come to a natural stopping place. It doesn’t have to be a positive place; for example, you can end a relationship in a tumultuous position. But I think that it’s important for readers to feel like there’s a clear pause.

Make sure your ending makes sense.

Your ending should feel natural. It’s perfectly acceptable to wrap up the main plot and then have a scene or two afterwards that allows the characters to simmer down to normalcy or the new normal after the climax. Let’s see the aftermath of the character’s decisions over the course of the book. What has to change in order for the world around them to stabilize? Does the world stabilize, or is this the beginning of a new conflict? If your main character’s world calms down, write about how they feel now that the adventure is over. Who is in their life now to stay? Who has disappeared? If your ending is going to lead into a new conflict in a subsequent book, your readers want to see the inklings of that rising. Offer some hints into what is to come, even super vague ones. One of my favorite books of all time, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, has an amazing ending that was a little strange and intriguing reading it the first time. And then when you read the second book, about midway through, I suddenly went “OH! EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW! THIS IS AMAZING!” *subsequent reader screaming*. Experiment with your ending. Write it a few different ways and see what you like best. Get other writers’ or readers’ opinions.

Show Your Protagonist In All Their Glory.

Your ending does not have to showcase a triumphant moment. Your protagonist could be suffering after a horrible loss. The most important role of your ending is to show how your main character has grown internally over the course of the novel. Whether you are depicting victory and resolution or defeat and the construction of a new plan, your character’s emotions will show up on the page. In a victory situation, you will see happiness or you may see them step into a new role in their lives. There may be an aura of calm about them that is totally different from what the reader has seen over the course of the novel. In a defeat situation, there’s a lot of anger and sadness and fear, and you have a real opportunity to lay out your character’s innermost thoughts. You can attest to their stubbornness and their determination and as a writer, strongly convey that pivotal decision to get up and try again in the next book. I personally love both kinds of endings, but especially the latter. You want to know if the protagonist will get what they deserve out of life. As a reader, I crave it; I absolutely have to know. And that’s what keeps me reading and keeps me buying the next book in a series.

Happy writing, everyone.

Should I Hire A Developmental Editor?

There is a lot of discussion among the Writing Community as to whether or not hiring a developmental editor would be beneficial for your book before going through edits yourself. Some say that it can be very beneficial especially if you’re not sure where to begin. Others say that you should be doing all of the developmental editing yourself. I found myself on the fence in the debate until I had the opportunity to work with a developmental editor through the Book Creator Program I am working with on my history book. And what I have discovered is it may come down to the type of writer that you are. So let’s weigh the pros and cons of working with a developmental editor.

Pro #1: Feedback

The most important and beneficial role that a developmental editor plays is giving you solid feedback about where you are going with your book and how to get there better. My developmental editor is fantastic at telling me what I’m doing right and giving me specific ways to improve a certain section or a certain chapter. It’s the specificity that I so desperately need. When I was working on Chasing Fae, I always worried about whether my chapters had a logical progression or whether my characters were strong enough or whether I was even in the league of the great writers I grew up reading. Understanding where your writing works and where it can be improved can be extremely boosting for your morale and help continue to motivate you to get your book finished.

Pro #2: Helping You Stay Committed

While not all developmental editors work like this, through the Book Creator Program my editor gives me specific deadlines when to have new material to her finished by. With my busy school schedule, I wasn’t able to work during the semester as much as I wanted to. By setting firm deadlines over the holidays, I started feeling a lot better about where I was and where I was headed. However, even if your developmental editor is only going to look at one lump sum of what you’ve got at the time of submission, it can still be a great motivator. Think about it this way: you submit your material to see where it’s at. Even if it comes back slashed up with red pen and with a lot of leading questions about where you may want to go, you can use that to further your writing. You will have real feedback that you can use to transform your book into a better version of the story. You will have a better idea of where the book is at and how much farther you have to go.

Con #1: If You Are A Writer Who Enjoys Working Independently, You May Have A Hard Time.

This has nothing to do with whether you’re receptive to criticism or not. Instead, I’m talking about how much control you enjoy having over your own book. In my time with the Book Creator program, I’ve realized that I enjoy working on my book independently for the most part. I love receiving the feedback and having deadlines, but there’s a little part of me that likes to be able to write whenever I choose and submit things in one large batch. Now of course, I need to learn how to work with smaller pieces in specific deadlines, and I am. But if you are a writer who enjoys working independently, you may be better off taking some time away from your book and then coming back with fresh eyes to do your own developmental work.

Con #2: Price

If a developmental editor is not in your budget, don’t do it. Hiring a professional editor of any kind can be quite expensive. Do not try to stretch yourself to pay for an editor if you don’t have the funds. Not having a developmental editor will not harm you in the long run. Will it make things easier for you? Perhaps. But there’s no guarantee that your book will be any better off with or without one.

So What Is The Best Option?

I think it all depends on the type of writer that you are. If you’re a writer who needs to have direct professional feedback to know if you’re on the right track in order to continue on, then absolutely find yourself a developmental editor and go from there. If you’re a more independent author who prefers to do their own revision work, go ahead and do your own editing. If you lie somewhere in the middle, weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is best for you.

Happy writing!

Constructing War

Hey everyone! We’re a little over three weeks away from Fluff About Fantasy’s one year anniversary! Isn’t that crazy? I’ve been running this website for almost a year now. I am so lucky to have readers like you who have kept me going all this time. Without further ado, let’s get to today’s subject: building fantastical war.

War will play a significant role in my trilogy, but Chasing Fae only brings the underlying hints of the impending conflict. I’ve always loved reading war in fantasy, but only when it’s done right. I’m not the kind of reader who needs to see a play-by-play of every minor battle and conflict that moves the war forward, but I also don’t want to only see one or two major battles and that’s it. I want to construct the series in such a way that the war arc is clearly a large component, but not so large that it dominates the characters and their journey. I’ve done a bit of research into what that looks like, and I want to share that research with you. Please keep in mind that these points aim for that nice middle ground.

Find Your Purpose.

War happens for a reason. Whether it’s a major reason or whether everything got started because someone wore the wrong color shirt, you have to give your conflict a starting place. More often than not, that reason will have to do with something political. Think about it: resources, morality, religion, love – everything can be take a political stance on a large scale or a small scale like family politics. But the reason has to be big enough and strong enough for people to want to fight in horrific battles and lose their lives for.

War Affects Everyone.

War is going to affect your universe’s people from the top down. It doesn’t matter what the economical and political dynamics are; everyone plays a role and everyone will be impacted by the events. Are some of your people rich enough to pay their way out of having to fight? Who do they send? Will their land get seized? What about the poor? Do they have the resources needed to outfit their men and women for the fight, and will they be forced to provide anyway even if they don’t? The allocation of resources will change as well. There will be a lot of agricultural resources as well as technological resources that will be transferred from the general populous to the military. How much effect will that have on the people?

Your characters will be affected the most prominently in your story because that is who will drive the plot forward. Make sure you understand how war affects your main character and your secondary characters as you are constructing this conflict.

Battle Vs. Siege

It is important to know the difference between the two of these scenes because you will find both throughout the war you’re building. It’s important to know what to use when.

Battle: Use sparingly. Save it for the most charged moments. These are extremely costly, not just monetarily but also with life. Both sides have to agree that the potential gain would outweigh the loss of life that will occur. When writing these, understand that battles, even small skirmishes, will be chaotic and confusing. Many well laid plans go awry on the battlefield.

Siege: These occur the most often during a war. One side falls back to a stronghold, and the other surrounds it to cut the stronghold off from essential supplies to tempt a surrender. Resources will be scarce, and if there are any citizens inside the stronghold town or city with the military, all sorts of things can happen. Will citizens try to flee? Will they be fighting with their own soldiers over food? How well do the citizens trust the people protecting them?

Consider The Aftermath.

What does the end of the war look like? Which side surrenders to the other? Is there ever a formal surrender? Are there any skirmishes that occur before news of the surrender reaches all of the corners of the universe? And after the war is over, you have to consider how each side puts their states and their lives back together. It won’t happen overnight. There will be governments to put back together, cities and towns to be rebuilt, and people to be rehabilitated. Don’t skimp on this if you mention it at all. The end is just as important as the beginning.

I hope this gives you some good ideas and some direction on constructing war in your fantasy novel. Happy writing!

Writing Friends: Elias Alam

Hey everybody! Today, I’m trying out something new. I would love to expand this platform to be able to sit down with other young fantasy writers and get their perspectives on writing in this genre. Today, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Elias Alam. He’s been super active on my Twitter feed since I started the account in February, and he’s super energetic to share what he’s learned about the fantasy genre. Let’s get started!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am Elias Alam, a 17 something writer from the Himalayan mountains of India. From an early age, I have had a deep fascination for the unknown, and from an early age, I have started writing about the various worlds in my mind.

What is your current work in progress?

Currently, I have two main WIPS. The first is Ad Infinitum, which is an epic dark science/fantasy military space opera comic series and the second is Elladia, which is a dark epic high military fantasy novel series.

Tell us a little bit about the world your story is set in.

I am going to go with Elladia since it is way more simpler than Ad Infinitum. The world itself is a planet around the size of Uranus, so it has far more land area than Earth. Four moons orbit it, which form the basis of many calendars in the Planet. Presently, the world is racked by a millennia old war between the two global superpowers: the Sanguine Imperium (consisting of Humans, Undead and some other demi-human races) and the Aegean Empire (consisting of a race of humanoids known as the Argonites). Both sides have been in a deadlock with neither side holding an advantage over the other and locked in an eternal cycle of bloodshed. Unbeknownst to them however, the main antagonist Arkanos is plotting his return in order to subjugate all of Elladia and began his tyrannical rule over the creations of the Gods. This forms the main backdrop of the story.

What’s your writing style like? Are you an outliner or a pantser? How do you draft?

For the prose part, my writing style is a mix between Orwellian and Tolkienian prose. I make a compromise when it comes to that by writing prose which is as simple as possible whilst also trying to emulate the beauty of Tolkenian prose. I would also call myself a die-hard outlinist on every part except for characters, which have to come organically and naturally. For the drafting process, I usually try to get the first draft done as soon as possible, and the later drafts are just mainly for finding plot holes, improving weak story links and fixing other issues.

What do you think is the most difficult part of writing?

Frankly, the most difficult part of writing is the story. It’s just so damn hard to keep the sequence of events interesting. To know how to put which event in which order is a war in itself. It also gets hard for me to advance the story at points where I just don’t know what to write next and what the characters will do in the next chapter.

What is your best advice for writers who are worldbuilding?

Truth be told, even I am still incredibly new to the realm of worldbuilding. But if you want my opinions, then I can say that one should focus on mostly one aspect of worldbuilding at a time and devote most of one’s creative energy on that part. It’s fine to think and write about other aspects as long as you don’t overstretch yourself.

What’s your revising process like?

My revising process mostly focuses on fixing plot holes and strengthening weak story links. Another important part of it is fixing the wording here and there to clear up any confusion the readers would have. For the actual revising process, I go through my manuscript line by line so that even the smallest of mistakes doesn’t go unnoticed.

What are some of your favorite fantasy books?

The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson has got to be, by far, my most favorite fantasy novel series. It was a big source of inspiration for me and part of what inspired my incredibly worldbuilding heavy fiction. Besides that, the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, the Malazan series by Steven Erikson and the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien are definitely among some of my favorite fantasy novels. A honorable mention should also go to the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

Thank you so much for joining me on Fluff About Fantasy today, Elias! I look forward to collaborating more with you in the future. If any writer is interested in being featured in an interview, reach out to me! Happy writing, everyone!

Elias Alam’s Links:

WIPS on World Anvil: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/elladia-redclaw123

Discord Server: https://discord.gg/csd57nv

Twitter: @Redclaw38812660

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/https://www.twitch.tv/merosia

Touchy Subjects: When and Where To Use Them

One of the hardest parts of writing is that there will always be someone who has a problem with your work.

When I was on the Write Track Podcast back in July, one of the topics that was brought up on my episode was a growing “cancel culture” in YA literature. For those of you who don’t know what “cancel culture” is, don’t worry. Before that podcast, I had no idea either. I did a bit of research, and what I found honestly startled me. Books with controversial subjects or controversial tropes are being removed from the market often before they even have a chance to get started. While in some cases this can be due to actual bigotry in the writing or in the author’s actions themselves, I found that a decent number of books were being canceled by publishers because people were becoming offended by their subject matter.

One Chinese-American author, Amélie Zhao, had to withdraw her upcoming fantasy novel because she received backlash for the way it approached slavery. In her apology, she stated that her ideas were based on the Asian experience, not the American one. I had a problem with this. I don’t know how the book was written, and honestly, I would need to know that before making a final judgement. But using my historian voice for a second, why do we need to pull something that confronts a different element based in history? If it was well-researched and was adequately told, why should that offend others?

History is messy. We as a country did a lot of horrible things in our past; the world has done a lot of horrible things over the course of human history. Talking about our messy past does more to illuminate it and its horrors; brushing it aside has no inherent value. Absolutely, subjects such as these have to be handled with grace and care, but if we can confront them in writing historical fiction, why not confront it in fantasy as well?

Historically charged issues are not the only subjects that we have to be careful of. Writing about mental health issues, questions of sexuality, or creating a world with seriously skewed politics can spark controversy among readers. But I think as writers, we need to be willing to welcome controversy. We have to be willing to talk about these subjects in order to better understand each other’s points of view on it and grow closer to compromise. We need to be respectful in handling delicate issues, but we don’t need to pre-censor our own writing.

Here are my personal tips for writing about touchy subjects:

#1: Do your research. Writing from experience is always a great place to start. But if you don’t necessarily have applicable personal experience, do your research. Do thorough research. Talk to people. Spend some time browsing the Internet for personal stories, historical summaries, and news articles. I think you can create a main character who has OCD even if you don’t have OCD (using this as an example because I, in fact, do suffer from OCD). But do some research on what people go through with that disorder. Don’t subject your characters to offensive stereotypes. Create nuance. Is it going to take a lot of work? Yes. But you’re a writer. That’s what you’re here for.

#2: Get feedback. Share your work with people in your life who are not afraid to be completely honest and critical about your writing. Preferably people who you know have strong opinions. Opinionated people may be frustrating at times (myself included in that list), but ultimately, you’re going to get honest criticism and feedback. Listen intently to what they have to say. Listen for red flags that you hear from multiple people. Then make a decision on whether you need to adjust your book.

#3: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas and outlets. Even the most honest and kindest of people have their nemeses who want to see them fail. Your honest mistakes do not define you as a person and as a writer. You’ve got supporters in what you do, and you’ve got a supporter in me! Find your people, and write good things.

Happy writing, my friends.