Category Archives: Guest Posts

From a Certain Point of View

A Guest Post by Karen Pellett

Our view of events in stories, and in real life, is frequently tainted by our past and emotions. Two individuals who have similar stories will react to another person’s actions differently based on their personalities and personal experiences. Thus, giving our history the ability to become metaphorical sunglasses, tinting the truth of what is before us. And, because of this, allows the main character’s “enemy” to fool easier through the power of incomplete truths.

In the sixth Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi, when Luke Skywalker returns to Dagobah to finish training, only to find that is mentor, Yoda, is dying. Afterwards Luke has a heart-to-heart with the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi. “Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be the Jedi Anakin Skywalker and “became” Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So, what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”

That revelation was a prime example of incomplete truth—once the knowledge became apparent to the main character, their perception becomes completely altered as they are forced to re-evaluate their beliefs. Darth Vader was a bad guy, plain and simple. But learning that Darth Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, someone’s husband and father, changes Luke’s reality. He was forced to re-evaluate the truth that he thought he knew.

Throughout the Harry Potter series, Harry has a distinctive personal enmity toward the Potion’s Master, Severus Snape. J.K. Rowling gives the reader permission, from the start of the series, to despise Severus Snape. For one, he had the gall to despise Harry’s father (James Potter). Secondly, Snape openly showed hostility toward the chosen one (it didn’t matter that Harry never wanted to be the chosen one). Only at the conclusion of the final book/movie, after Snape is killed by Nagini, does Harry learn that his emotions and past tinted everything he thought was true. Only then is Harry forced to re-evaluate everything he thought was real. Only then does he see the sacrifice and honor of a once hated man, turning Snape into an individual that Harry admired enough to give one of his sons the name Albus Severus Potter.

Other examples of incomplete truths include the M. Night Shyamalan movies The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable where we view the story from the incomplete truth of the main character’s lives. It is only in the end that we are given the lens of truth, revealing the stories from a whole other angle giving the characters, and the viewers, a complete mind-flip moment.

Incomplete truths often tend to be blessed happenstance on the part of the author/creator, but if done well can come across brilliantly. If done poorly, can cost you your reader’s faith & trust. The true brilliance is when an author is skilled enough that they plan out the incomplete truths or omissions from the start. This is why I love the work of Brandon Sanderson. The story Warbreaker is told from the point of view of two Idrian princesses—Vivenna and Siri. At the beginning of the story, the princesses’ planned futures are switched, pulling the proverbial rug out from under the feet. Siri is sent to marry the God King while Vivenna is left feeling lost. Taking matters in hand, Vivenna decides to be the heroine of her own story, and marches off on her own to rescue Siri from the horrible life that Vivenna was meant to live. I thought I knew where the story was headed, and I was enjoying the ride. Then, halfway through, Sanderson flipped everything that Vivenna, Siri, and even the readers, thought they knew on its head; unravelling the twisted and incomplete truths. Only later, if you go back and look, do you realize that Sanderson hints of reality scattered throughout as brilliant nuggets of creativity.

So, next time you find yourself reading or watching a story that mesmerizes you with a mind-flip moment, go back and see if you can determine for yourself—is the use of emotions and history making it easier for one character to fool another through incomplete truths? And if so, was it simply a beautiful happenstance, or was it planned brilliance on the part of the creator?

Karen Pellett:

Karen Pellett is a crazy woman with a computer, and she’s not afraid to use it. Most of her time is spent between raising three overly brilliant and stinkin’ cute children, playing video games with her stepsons, and the rare peaceful moment with her husband. When opportunity provides she escapes to the alternate dimension to write fantasy & magical realism novels, the occasional short story, and essays on raising special needs children. Karen lives, plots & writes in American Fork, Utah.

Liars

Guest Post by Aubrie L. Nixon

This month’s topic speaks to my dark soul! Liars. As a writer and published author my job is to lie. I get paid to do it. I am pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself. Creating characters that lie, manipulate, cheat and steal is my specialty. However, I am not into that whole I am only one thing type of character. Because even people who lie aren’t just “liars” they are also human beings with likes, dislikes, motivations, and emotions. Creating a character that can lie and still be a good person is always fun. In my current series The Age of Endings I don’t think I have one character that is 100% truthful. The whole premise of this series is that “No one is innocent.”

It has been so much fun to come up with such a dark story where literally no one and nothing is as it seems. I am not a huge fan of heroes and heroines always being so black and white, it’s just not realistic. I love stories where people have a dark side. And I LOVE exploring the darker side of human nature. Let’s take my main character Aerona for instance, she is a cold blooded assassin. But she also loves fancy parties, food and sex. She has people in her life who she loves and people who she dislikes greatly. She literally loves blood and murder. She absolutely loves bring the one to do it. Yet, she has this softer side where she cares about people who are less fortunate. She is complex, dark, beautiful and vulnerable. If you didn’t know better though you would just see a killer. Like I stated above I LOVE stories where no one is as they seem.

I try my best to create characters who are as human and flawed as possible. Those are the kind of character that I relate to, and I think a lot of readers do too. None of us are perfect, so why would characters in a book be perfect? I certainly hope Aerona and the other characters in Secret of Souls are relatable.

My favorite character (at the moment) is Daegan. He is broody, dark, mysterious and overall a compete ass hole. I feel like Daegan is my most reliable character because while he doesn’t reveal every truth, he almost never lies. He is reliable and in my opinion the easiest “narrator” because for the most part he is straight forward and honest. He was a blast to write because I knew he backstory and why he is such a meanie. Daegan is so broody and I freaking love broody. Writing him was so easy because I feel like out if all of the character in this series he and I are the most similar.

In life, I try as hard as I can not to be untruthful. I find lying unacceptable (except for my writing) and as much fun as it is to write dishonest characters and read about them it’s not as fun in real life. I try to remember that when I write liars. Especially when the lie can ruin a relationship or can potentially lead to harm or death. I guess what I am trying to say is that liars are easy and fun to write. The people they lie to and who are effected by their lies are much harder to write.

It’s hard for me to write from the perspective of someone who has been lied to. It’s difficult of find that raw emotion of betrayal that comes with some lies. There are a few lies in this particular series that are life altering. When the truth comes out (and it ALWAYS does) the consequences are monumental. That is the not so fun part, having a character face those consequences. It can often be the end of a characters relationship, which I find heartbreaking. It also forces characters to potentially change their ways. I say potentially because they don’t always change. It is always interesting to me to see where characters that are deemed “dark, liar, broody etc.” go. Or if they change at all.

What are some of your favorite characters? Are there any “liars” that you love? Or do you only love the truthful type? Do you think there is ever a time where lying is acceptable? Why or why not.

-Aubrie

aubreyAubrie is 24 years young. She plays mom to a cutest demon topside, and is married to the hottest man in the Air Force. When she isn’t writing she is daydreaming about hot brooding anti-heroes and sassy heroines. She loves Dragon Age, rewatching Game of Thrones and reading all things fantasy. She runs a local YA/NA bookclub with 3 chapters, and over 200 members. Her favorite thing to do is eat, and her thighs thank her graciously for it. If she could have dinner with anyone living or dead it would be Alan Rickman because his voice is the sexiest sound on earth. He could read the dictionary and she would be enthralled. Her current mission in life is to collect creepy taxidermy animals because she finds them cute and hilarious. She resides just outside of Washington DC.

No man is an island

No man is an Island

(Guest post by Gama Ray Martinez)

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

John Donne wrote those famous words almost four hundred years ago. With very few exceptions, they are as true in fiction as they are in life. Keep in mind that most stories are from the point of view of the hero, and for the vast majority of stories, you know the hero is going to triumph in the end. That’s not why you read the story. We read the story to find out what the hero is going to have to go through to get that victory. what price are they going to have to pay? Usually, the very first price is who they are. The character at the end of the story is not the same as the character in the beginning. They’ve often lost their innocence. They have changed, and they have changed those around them. No here is this most apparent than in their closest friendships. There are a couple of ways to do this. The one that I’ve found the most success with is finding what your main character lacks.

In my recently completed Pharim War series, the main character, Jez, has two strong relationships. The first is Osmund, one of the first people he meets when he goes away to magic school. Throughout the first book, Jez discovers strange powers inside of himself that indicate he may not be entirely human. Osmund, an exile because of his own partially inhuman heritage, has already been through that. By the end of the first book, the pair are inseparable. By the end of the second, not only have they accepted their inhuman side. They have embraced it. Through the rest of the series, their conversations with each other often inspire awe and fear in others, not because they are not entirely human, but rather because of the adventures their inhuman side has led them too. What they can casually discuss with each other, no one else can understand. That leads to scenes like this, if the fifth book of the series.

***

“Fine,” Jez said, “but the question still stands. Can’t we just go and face Sharim’s army ourselves?”

Fina smirked. “And how many demon armies have you faced?”

“Two,” Jez said without hesitation. Then, he glanced at Osmund. “Do you think that time in the beast men’s valley counts? I mean those animals were possessed.”

“True, but we didn’t really fight them. That was all the beast men. You did battle that giant lake monster, though.”

Jez shook his head. “That wasn’t a demon.” He smiled and looked at Fina. “Just two.”

Lina groaned. “You two are hopeless.”

For a second, Fina just stared at them. Then, he threw back his head and laughed. “For a moment, I forgot who I was talking to.”

***

The air of casualness with which they speak of something so amazing is a quality that characterizes their relationship throughout the series.

Jez’s second important relationship is with Lina. Lina actually started as an antagonist, of sorts. She was the rich spoiled daughter of a noble, and she hated Jez, essentially for being a commoner. It was only in the second book when I explored the noble class of the world of the Pharim War that I found the depth of her character. Throughout the series, she, more and more, represented Jez’s link to his human side. The more he had to embrace his other half, the more precious his human side became to the point where he makes sacrifices for her that he would make for no one else. Of course, it works both way. Just as she is Jez’s, and to a lesser extent Osmund’s, link to humanity, their relationships with her serve as a catalyst in Lina’s life that allows her to see that just because someone isn’t noble doesn’t make them of less value. In short, she helps them be human, and they help her be humane.

***

Gama Ray Martinez lives in Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He has recently completed the Pharim War, a series about angels and is working on The Nylean Chronicles, a series about unicorns.

With a little help… from my friends

(Guest post from Helen Savore)

Friendship, especially in the form of the companion is a key role in fiction. We’ve spent the whole month talking about the iconic greats, and discovering some new exemplars too. The companion does so much for our protagonist, providing support, knowledge, assistance, even generating sympathy for our readers.

In some stories, they help define the protagonist. Multiple perspectives in a story gives us different takes on a plot, but what about different views of our people? You don’t even need to do this through pov, the friend’s words and action, even filtered through our protagonist, can still provide a rich message to the reader. Sometimes we get so deep into the struggles of our leading person we need that reminder to come up for air and see there might be different takes on this situation.

Friendships are also a great way to introduce characters, either as the story starts, or coming in later. With friendships there’s an assumed history. When written right, it’s clear through every action, every word, every movement. In ensemble pieces you don’t have a lot of time to get to know your characters, so every scene has to do double duty. I’m not just meeting you, I’m learning about other folk too. Think how Danny and Rusty assemble the crew in Ocean’s Eleven. No one says hello. Each approach is unique, showing us their relationships, which teaches us about each of them. As Basher puts it “It’s good to be working with proper villains again.”

Then there’s the opposite. In a more lonely work, singleton stories, at least one form of companion gives us insight into our protagonist, gives them someone to share with. One of my favorite stories is The Hero and the Crown, but I admit McKinely writes a lonely story. As a classical introvert on the edges of my peer group, Aerin is an attractive character, but I’m not sure this beloved story would be bearable without her beloved Talat. (Don’t you dare tell me horses cannot be friends!) Even though he can’t strictly speak, that horse can communicate. Through his actions, and reactions to Aerin, we come to empathize with this DragonKiller from before the legends.

Another interesting case is the Legend of Zelda franchise. Though wonderfully puzzling and iconic the earliest incarnations didn’t have a lot of story, but this changed over time. With Breath of the Wild’s release my husband and I have been debating what are the best games. As a storyteller, that aspect obviously ranks high for me compared to others (don’t worry, I love my dungeons challenges too), but that lead us to question: what makes the best Zelda story?

Video game characters, are sometimes designed to be a blank slate sometimes to allow the player to become the character more easily. Link is one of our most classic silent protagonists, so without words how do we then empathize with a character? A premise might get us to start reading a story, or playing a game, but it’s the journey of our characters that keeps us going. Yeah Link returns constantly to the main settlement in some games, or passes through different villages and meets folk. However it’s only in the games where he consistently is meeting the same people that we really get a better feel for Link himself, and the struggles of the people Hyrule. We get a better feel of what we’re fighting for, not just to vanquish Ganon once again (because he always comes back!). Where is this stronger than in the stories where he has a companion? The companion serves a game mechanic of assisting the player, but provides us a voice, and an opinion on Link’s actions. It gives us someone to share the journey with.

In developing my own work, Tales of the Faerie Forge, I have races of beings that don’t age. As long as they aren’t broken they’ll continue to live. But I didn’t want them to exist in a perpetual stasis, and part of that was making sure they could continue to grow, and evolve. This meant establishing a culture with changing relationships, since people are so defined by who we are with. This is no pledge to a partner for life. Often it’s a deep friendship, so they form an alloy amidst each other for a time. But it can be reforged with others as they grow

I’ve shared some of mine, but who are your favorite companions in fiction? How do they compliment our protagonists?

***

Helen Savore writes fantastical worlds filled with a mixture of modern and medieval settings. She explores stories loosely based on Arthurian legends, secretly wishing that King Arthur would return to pull the world from the brink of darkness. An engineer by day, and a gamer when time allows, this paper ninja writes, reads, plays with pen-and-paper RPGs and folds origami. It’s not surprising that her stories are filled with unexpected folds and twists that blend seamlessly with reality.
Learn more about Helen’s stories over at Oberon’s Forge Press