Author Archives: Leigh Galbreath

The Not-So Likable Hero

When thinking about writing this month’s post, I had to think a bit harder than usual. To be honest, I’ve kind of written about the books that have inspired me, and the books that do thing’s so wrong that they stand out, I don’t tend to stick around long enough to really figure out what the writer’s were doing wrong.

Well, sometimes it’s obvious. There was that one book where the “hero” of the story rapes a innocent young girl. Then there was that other book where the author has this huge fight scene where the hero was doing a bunch of really cool things in quick succession, and the author stops to say, “but that’s not all!”, like he’s selling me something.

Other times, it’s not so obvious. I get confused or bored or just wonder when something important was going to happen. When I find myself in that situation, I just put the book down and move on. Though, that doesn’t happen often. I don’t know if I’m just really good at finding books I like or I’m just easy to please, but it takes a bit to turn me off a story.

So, like I said, I had to think a bit to find a story I could write about this month, and I hit upon a bit of Shakespeare that I read a bit ago, and then saw on stage, that was somewhat new to me. It’s a lesser known tragedy called Coriolanus, and it got me thinking about how I write heroes in my stories.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of writing heroes. My heroes are a bit boring. I guess I make them a little too straight-laced, a little too clean-cut to be interesting. This is probably why I gravitate to villains. Bad guys are more interesting, and far more fun to write, in my opinion.

For those who don’t know this play, it’s about a Roman general named Caius Marcius, who’s really good at his job, is loved by his family and friends, and despised by the populace. To tell the truth, the populace has kind of reason to hate the guy. I mean, we first meet him as he’s putting down a food riot spitting vitriol at the people and pretty much saying that they’re inconstant and can’t be trusted. Well, the guy’s kind of a jerk about it.

Anyway, Marcius goes off to war, practically conquers the city Corioli by himself, thereby gaining the name Coriolanus, almost gets elected Consul of the republic but gets banished from Rome instead when he loses it and goes on another rant against the common people, then joins the enemy and nearly conquers Rome but doesn’t because his mother and wife convince him to back down, then gets killed by the aforementioned enemy for getting talked out of war by two women. Though that summary doesn’t really show it, it’s a play about politics and what it means to be a political figure.

So, what makes Coriolanus so interesting to me? It’s how Shakespeare takes a guy who’s kind of a jerkface and overcomes that flaw by giving him one inspiring character trait. For Coriolanus, it’s his conviction. The guy believes what he says. He believes in Rome, in fighting for the people, and more than anything, in standing for what one believes, even when others don’t.

It’s a powerful thing, to have that kind of conviction. Belief like that grants the believer an awesome amount of charisma and charm they would not have otherwise. Coriolanus certainly wouldn’t. He’s a bit of an elitist prick, really. Yet, his wife is so distraught when he goes to war, she refuses to leave the house. His best friend, a politician himself, thinks Coriolanus could walk on water if he needed to. Heck, after getting banished, the guy even manages to talk his greatest enemy into giving him half his army, even after they’ve both vowed to kill each other on numerous occasions.

So, what has this shown me about heroes? For me, who has such issues with writing heroes, it helps solidify something that I’ve been working on learning for a while. That heroes aren’t heroes all the time. They are just humans with something about them that is extraordinary, and I’ve come to realize over the years that the more flawed a character is, the more human they seem. Coriolanus is a great example of that. A flawed human with one trait that makes him better than the norm.

The Light at the End of the Publishing Tunnel

Happy Halloween, everyone!

You know, in some circles, it’s considered advantageous to end endeavors before and begin new endeavors after the sun rises on November 1st (the official end of All Hallow’s Eve). In a sense, Halloween is a kind of spiritual New Years.

Thus it seems appropriate that over this last month, we Fictorians have shared the not-so-enjoyable aspects of our writing careers, from health issues to saboteur computers to fears of Bisquick, we’ve hit a lot of the big issues we writers face in our attempts to finish projects, build an audience, and further our careers.

And so we finish our journey into the darkness of the writing life today, Halloween, when it’s best to bring dark things to an end.

After reading the posts this month, I’ve been struck by how varied our fears and dislikes are, yet how uniform our reactions to them. It comes down to one word: perseverance.

With every setback, each of us has pressed on like the protagonists we write about. We try, we falter, we get back up (sometimes bloody), and we try again, repeating the sequence until we get it right. While few of us get the tidy denouement of our imaginary heroes, it’s important to remember that we get something they never will. We get a story that doesn’t end. Not really. There’s always another chapter, and we can either help drive the plot of our lives forward or let the twists and turns defeat us.

Not everyone can do it. Many don’t get back up after being knocked down. They don’t finish the book, don’t submit to their dream agents, don’t put themselves out there for possible ridicule, humiliation, and scorn. These are not the people who achieve the goals we all share — a thriving career as a published author. Whether out of fear of the unknown, or dealing with a failed attempt, the only way of getting past these rough spots is to persevere.

My dad used to always counter the phrase “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel” with “Yeah, it’s the headlight of an oncoming train.”

To be fair, yeah, sometimes it is. But oftentimes it isn’t, and the only way to find out the difference is to walk the track.

I Am Not An Introvert…People Just Terrify Me

I am afraid of people.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit broad. How about, I’m afraid of talking to people I don’t know but want to make a good impression on? Like seriously terrified. My brain shuts down, and I lose the ability to think coherently. All I can do is smile and babble, which strangely makes for a good job interview, but not much else.

For instance, I once was sitting in an airport after a writing convention and happened to find myself next to an editor who struck up a conversation with me and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about what I was writing. I proceeded to blather on about how I had been writing for years but most of what I had written to date was terrible. The editor looked absolutely crestfallen, like I’d kicked her puppy. I backtracked in a lame attempt to fix the situation. It wasn’t pretty.

I have been known to bring a conversation to a screeching halt in ten seconds flat like a sad little nerd trying to add something to the cool kids’ conversation by interjecting an anecdote that only marginally has to do with what they’re talking about. You know that kid. The one everyone stops to stare at only to then continue on with the conversation as if nothing had happened?

Yeah, that’s me. I think I might have been in my room reading the Exorcist when they covered those social skills when I was a child. I think this has made me a bit creepy on occasion as a result.

This has, as you might imagine, had a detrimental effect on my networking skills. I have in the past spent entire conventions and conferences without speaking to another human being besides the hotel staff. Not the most effective way of spending time and money or get ahead in a writing career.

Yet, I kept going to events that caught my fancy, trying to figure out how to get out of my own way. My better experiences usually came when I attended writer’s retreats, which forced me to talk to people. I’ve been told I just need to practice, only it’s hard to practice anything when your brain’s shorting out and everyone’s watching you like they want some warning before you pull out the tinfoil hat and break into a dance number.

My single biggest success was when I decided to attend the first Superstars Writing Seminar. Being the first seminar, I had no idea what to expect, and honestly, I went because of the presenters rather than the unique content being provided. I met some of my favorite people there, all with a common purpose and at the same level career-wise regardless of our writing talent. From that one decision to keep attending conferences despite my personal deficiencies, I found comrades in arms that I have come to think of as friends and I’m now sitting here writing a post that others will read. Good things happened.

I’m not over my social anxiety, of course. I still have problems dealing with strangers, but I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to manage my issues. If I can find people I know at an event, that helps. If not, I continue to go to workshops and retreats, in person if possible, to force myself to speak to people.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I may ever get over it completely. I don’t have a happy ending about how I’m all better now, unfortunately. But I think the point is to keep trying, to be happy when good things happen, and not to get down on myself when they don’t. I think that last is the hardest part. I do what I can, and in the meantime keep writing and hope that my work might possibly do my best talking for me–even if personally I am always a bit lacking.

Fear and Loathing in the Writing Life

Welcome to October, everyone!

To fit the occasion, this being the month of fears, the Fictorians will be looking at the things that give us pause, make our hearts pound, or just plain give us grief.

That’s right, we’re looking at the darker side of the writing life.

As writing hobbiests, when our scribblings are just to feed that hungry monster in our souls that demands we create worlds all our own and put those worlds and the people that live in them on a page, we don’t have to deal with anything we don’t want to. We can live in our heads, playing with our characters to our hearts content, and be perfectly happy doing so.

It’s not until we decide to make a living off those worlds and characters that we run into trouble. After all, no job is perfect. They all have negatives. Writing is no different.

Actually, it might be a little worse.

In a normal job, we can say, “Hey, that’s not my responsibility.” Often, we can procrastinate, we can ask for help, or push whatever it is on to someone else. Or, we have to grin and bear it until we’re done, but hey…we’re getting a steady income that pays for shelter and food for our trouble.

Not so in the life of an aspiring author.

All of us in this business face things that we don’t particularly want to do or aren’t good at, especially those who take the self-publishing route. And in this day and age, going with a publishing house doesn’t mean you get to hide away in your underground bunker to type away and cackle like a mad genius.

Everything is our responsibility. We are self employed introverts, for the most part, so there are no coworkers to push the work on, or to help us, and procrastination just means it takes that much longer before we get the payoff. We always have to grin and bear it, not for a steady paycheck, but for the chance of an advance or royalty that could be steady, but for the most of us, not big enough to live on or balance out having to earn it.

Good thing we’re not in it for the money, right?

No, we’re in it for the love. Our love of words and worlds and characters. The hungry monster in our souls cares nothing for paltry trinkets and paychecks. But when they’re fed, we’re over the moon.

So, we deal because we get to feel that anticipation when inspiration strikes and we know we’re off to someplace new, that satisfaction of finishing something uniquely ours, that pride at inviting other people into our creations and knowing they enjoyed it there. At least, that’s why I do it. I don’t know about you.

So, this month, we and some of our friends, will be sharing stories about having to face the less enjoyable parts of being an author and how we’ve dealt with it, from fears of not finding an audience, to dealing with catastrophic book launches and writing induced injury.

We all have to face the fears of not being good enough, or the hassle of being our own promoters, or dealing with our own real life antagonists. So read on, my friends, commiserate with us, and join us as we conquer our writing fears and professional loathings.