Tag Archives: nick hayden

Do Fans Always Know What’s Best?

Image courtesy of Lean Pathways.

In 2015, my friends Nick Hayden and Tim Deal produced an episode of their podcast, Derailed Trains of Thought, about who “owns” a story. This included the writer, the audience, and the publisher. That planted a kernel in my head that has recently bloomed. It has to do with whether the fans of something—particularly in the creative fields—know what’s best for what they like.

The most immediate example I can think of is taken from this video on Linkin Park (produced before the sad death of frontman Chester Bennington). The host mentions that the band, which has experimented with different sounds in all of their albums, was constantly being asked by their fans if they’d make something like their first album, “Hybrid Theory,” again. This prompted an angry response from Bennington, who more or less said that was a great album but that the band was working on new things now.

Honestly, I sympathized with Bennington. It can be annoying when you’re trying new things but your fanbase just wants you to keep making all the same stuff. If I had readers coming up to me, saying, “Why don’t you write more books like Pandora’s Box?” I’d be vexed. I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to be a writer who got pigeonholed, as many have been. It’s why, believe it or not, many authors use pseudonyms if they write something outside their usual genre. The publisher thinks that readers won’t buy the book because it isn’t the same stuff they’re used to seeing from that author. Now, some authors are such huge names they can get away with it now (like, say, Stephen King), but they’re exceptions. It is something I’ve considered doing, though. I have some ideas so divergent, seeing my name on the cover might disinterest readers.

The problem is fans can like something so much they just want to keep getting more of the same. But no matter how much an artist tries to refine it, it gets stale. Instead of branching out and taking risks, they play it safe. That might bring them money, but it won’t help them grow as artists. Changing things up, though, could scare their fans away because it isn’t the same. People like familiarity and often oppose something new. Just talk to any Whovian (Doctor Who fan) whenever a new Doctor or Companion is introduced. Many won’t like them at first, if at all.

Am I saying artists shouldn’t listen to their fans? No, not at all. There are times when an artist could stray so far off the beaten path he produces something that ceases to resemble what he created that made his fans like him in the first place. Or it’s just plain bad. Believe me, I’ve often said that I could write a better script than most people in Hollywood when lamenting the dumb decisions made in films and TV shows I like.

The other problem, though, is the creator may hear what fans want and try to give it to them, but they end up not liking it. Now, this could be because the creators misunderstood what the fans wanted (i.e. the demand that DC/Warner Bros. make a Superman movie where he “fights” a villain, which resulted in the oft-criticized Man of Steel), but more often, I think, fans realize that what they wanted wasn’t what was best.

In the end (hey, an unintentional Linkin Park reference!), it boils down to trust. Fans need to trust creators to know what they’re doing and that the creators are taking their thoughts/ideas into consideration. Creators need to trust their storytelling instincts and abilities and not be people pleasers. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. Even the best-reviewed films have detractors. Even literary classics have readers who don’t like them. That’s why my mantra has always been, “Story is king.” Whatever is the right thing to do for the story, whether that’s what the fans or creator want, is what’s best.

Do you think fans or creators know what’s best for stories? Why? What are some good and bad examples of both?

It’ll Be Fantasticon!

I’ve added another signing to my itinerary, True Believers. In fact, I just bought the table a few minutes ago as I write this. For the first time, I will be attending a local convention as a vendor. In this case, it’s Fantasticon 2016 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the Grand Wayne Center October 29-30.

I won’t be the only noteworthy person there, though. My friend and fellow Children of the Wells creator Nick Hayden will be joining me at the same table. We’ll be selling and signing our individual books and, obviously, some CotW collections. However, my brother Jarod, who has done some great illustrations for my short stories and YouTube show, will be at the table next door selling his artwork. The icing on the cake is if Brian Scherschel and I can get our Godzilla podcast going by then, he may also join us for part of the con to promote that.

This sounds like a recipe for awesome!

According to its website,

Fantasticon is a mid-size show created for true comic book and pop culture collectors and fans. The fans that come to our shows are true collectors that are looking for those rare items for their personal collections. Most leave very satisfied as we pride ourselves on having great dealers and artists at our shows. If you collect it, you will find it at a Fantasticon Show.

Fantasticon is proud to have a presence in multiple cities throughout the mid-west. Currently we are in four different cities in Michigan and Ohio, and expect to expand into Indiana in the near future. We also, are very proud of the fact that our admission price is the lowest of any other comparable shows. And the cost for being an exhibitor or artist at the Fantasticon is far less than any comparable comic cons out there.

In other words, this is a smaller traveling convention. If you’ve never been to a con before, this would be a great one to start with. It’s smaller and more manageable. Don’t be crazy like me and start with something huge like Gen-Con (although I did attend a tiny Star Trek convention in high school in Warsaw, Indiana).

I don’t know who the special guests will be, but at its previous stops the con has featured the likes of Billy Dee Williams (aka Lando Calrissian) and Michael Dorn (aka Worf) as well as some comic artists and writers, among others. In other words, I’ll probably be in good company.

Be there or be square, because it’s gonna be…

 

I’m Starting a Podcast!

The tentative logo for our podcast.
The tentative logo for our podcast.

Doesn’t this blog’s title say it all?

No? Okay, I’ll explain.

You may recall when I appeared on the 50th episode of Derailed Trains of Thought, the podcast hosted by my friends Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal, that I was featured in several segments. One of those was “Cinema Selections,” a segment that normally featured amateur film historian/critic Brian Scherschel. Since he discussed a Godzilla movie, however, I was invited to join in. While I mostly deferred to Brian since it was his part of the show, we did have a lively talk about the film in question (this one). Tim suggested as he closed the segment that Brian and I should start our own podcast on Godzilla, which I joked would be called “PodZilla.”

That was November 2014. I didn’t think much more about that podcast after that. That is until a few months ago when Brian contacted me and wanted to know if I was still interested in making that a reality. He’d just finished a couple of other projects and was looking to do something new. I told him I was in.

We’ve been meeting almost every week planning things out. I didn’t realize how much work was required to make a good podcast. It’s also because Brian very much wants to make this a high-quality product that people will be interested in listening to. We haven’t had any arguments (yet), but we have had to settle some differences in opinions on how to go about this project. We’ve also been investigating potential copyright/lawsuit issues since Toho, the Japanese studio that produces the Godzilla films, is hypersensitive about protecting its intellectual properties. So far everything looks like it’ll be fine.

PodZillaCast (the name had to change since our first name choices, surprisingly, were already taken) will be a limited series that analyzes and critiques the Godzilla film franchise. It’ll discuss the merits of each film while also putting them into their cultural and historical contexts. Brian and I believe these films are massively underappreciated and underrated by most westerners, and we hope to shed some light on the films that will get more people interested in watching them.

Will we stop after getting through all 30+ Godzilla films? Maybe. I’ve said that if people enjoyed what we’re doing, we’ll turn our attentions to other kaiju (giant monster) films like King Kong or Pacific Rim, but that’ll depend on how our initial project does.

When will the show launch? I’ve no idea. We’re still hammering out some details. I think it should be up and running by the end of the year, I think. So, keep an eye out for us on your podcatcher of choice!

How will this affect my videos? I don’t know that, either. As it is, I’ve been scaling back on how many videos I make, usually limiting myself to one (or two) a month. I simply don’t have the time to make as many. I keep very busy, obviously. “But I Digress…” may go on hiatus. But only maybe.

Anyway, in the mean time…

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Press Release for Noble County All-IN Block Party June 25

No blog this week (sorry!), but I do have a press release for an upcoming event whereat I will be one of many authors having signings. My friend and fellow writer Nick Hayden will also be present.

Well over a dozen authors—all with a connection to Noble County—are scheduled for a mass appearance during the Noble County ALL-IN Block Party in Albion June 25.

Numerous activities are planned around the courthouse square in Albion, as part of Indiana’s Bicentennial year. The authors are one part of a celebration of all that’s good about Noble County, and they’ll be available to sign and sell their books, or just talk about their work. Their booth, along with all others, will open at 10 a.m., and go on until 3 p.m.

The event will also include food, activities, and entertainment by local groups and organizations. Registration begins at 9 a.m., with an Opening Ceremony at 9:30. The event’s Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/NobleBlockParty/

The list of authors planning to attend so far include:

Carol Bender, retired school teacher for Central Noble Community Schools in Noble County, has three published books: two children’s books, The Doctor’s Little Stowaway, and Grace’s Birthday Surprise, and one adult book. In Quest of Gold, the story of a teenager’s journey during the California Gold Rush, would also be acceptable for middle school age children and young adults.  All three books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million. http://carolbender.com/meet-grace_268.html

Lindsay Bentz writes under the pen name Daisy Jordan and has published 11 YA and women’s fiction novels, including the Spin the Bottle series—YA fiction that adults will also enjoy as a flashback to high school days. She writes about relationships and friendships, and can be found online at http://www.daisyjordan.com/.

Dawn Crandall is an ACFW Carol Award-nominated author of the award winning inspirational historical romance series The Everstone Chronicles, published by Whitaker House. Her books include: The Hesitant Heiress, The Bound Heart, and The Captive Imposter. Her newest release, The Cautious Maiden, will be available October 2016. Dawn is also a full-time mom to a precious little boy, and a baby due this summer. She serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne. www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

Sheli Emenhiser has written Crushed But Not Broken:There Are Worse Things in Life Than a Mousetrap Hanging From Your Pom Pom. Sheli writes about “how I endured an abusive relationship and how God brought me out of that darkness into His wonderful light. “ She works at Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center as a domestic violence advocate, helping other women rebuilt their self-esteem and self-worth, and lives in Topeka with her husband, and has three children. https://www.facebook.com/SheliEmenhiserCrushedbutnotBroken

Beth Friskney tells the story of Rome City and the remarkable people who once lived there in R is for Rome City. The book covers Sylvan Lake as well as Rome City, a resort town that boasted the beautiful Kneipp Springs, famous author Gene Stratton-Porter, and a history of everything from the infamous Blacklegs and Regulators to major league baseball commissioner Ford Frick. Friskney lives on Sylvan Lake with her husband and two children, and is heavily involved in Rome City events and organization.

Nick Hayden is the author of the fantasy novels Trouble on the Horizon and The Remnant of Dreams, as well as short story collections, including Dreams & Visions, and the novella The Isle of Gold. He co-hosts a story-telling podcast, “Derailed Trains of Thought,” and helps run the Children of the Wells web serial. Other books include the fantasy The Unremarkable Squire, a flash fiction collection, Another World, and the fantasy Bron & CaleaVolume 1, with Laura Fischer. www.worksofnick.com

Together Mark R. Hunter and Emily Hunter wrote the local history books Images of America: Albion and Noble County and Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department. Their newest work takes a humorous look at Indiana history: Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving At All. She also helped him produce the young adult novel The No-Campfire Girls and a collection of his humor columns, Slightly Off the Mark. Mark R Hunter also has two published romantic comedies and a short story collection in the Storm Chaser series, set in Indiana. Their works can be found at www.markrhunter.com, or on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Mark-R-Hunter/e/B0058CL6OO.

Rev. Pam Lash is the author of The Voice & Two Hours on Tuesday: What Happened When We Went Prayer Walking. Lash, a certified addiction counselor, has a doctorate in ministry and lives in Albion, where she serves as an associate pastor and worship leader at the Assembly of God Church. She has three children, three grandsons, and a great-grandson. https://www.amazon.com/Voice-Two-Hours-Tuesday-Happened-ebook/dp/B00NHQEICU; Her Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/The-Voice-and-Two-Hours-on-Tuesday-1428332754135581/.

Nathan Marchand hails from the furthest corner of Noble County. He earned a B.A. in professional writing from Taylor University Fort Wayne. His first novel, the military science fiction thriller Pandora’s Box, was published in 2010. He and Nick Hayden are two of the co-creators of the ongoing fantasy serial, Children of the Wells. When not writing, Nate enjoys other creative endeavors like photography, making YouTube videos, and occasionally saving the world. www.NathanJSMarchand.com

R.A. Slone started with short stories and eventually worked her way into writing full-length novels. Slone writes Young Adult Paranormal, as well as Inspirational Fiction and short fiction for the 4County Mall, under the name Rita Robbins. Her website, including her blog and information about her writing, is at http://www.raslone.com/. She will have copies of her YA Paranormal novel, Ghost in the Blue Dress, available at the author appearance.

Greg Smith’s first call to write came in Junior High, but he passed on the assignment until, at age forty, his wife urged him to finally accept the challenge. Since then he’s published three suspense novels: Holy Lotto, Wrong Left Turn, and 3 Times the Sparrow, all available on Kindle, Nook, and in softcover paperback thru Amazon (Nook thru Barnes & Noble). A much asked for sequel to Holy Lotto, Holy Addendum, is ready to go to print and should be available soon. His website is at gregsnovels.weebly.com.

Susan Thuillard was born and raised in rural Indiana and has worked in occupations as varied as ranching, law enforcement, and accounting. She’s published six books that are just as varied, including mysteries and thrillers, which can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/M.-Susan-Thuillard/e/B00JJG4IN6.

Belinda Wilson is a local author of children’s books, who retired from Parkview Noble Hospital in 2015, after more than 30 years. Belinda has been featured at Summer’s Stories and The Wilson Gallery in Kendallville, as well as First Friday events in Goshen. She will have copies of her first children’s book, The Secret Lives of Fireflies, a wonderfully imaginative story of fireflies and fairies, available at the event.

Be there or be square!

All the Podcasts I’ve Appeared On

I’m keeping today’s blog simple and helpful, especially for those who want a quick reference for all the places I’ve appeared online. Or, at the very least, the podcasts I’ve been on. So, here’s an index of the shows and episodes I’ve appeared in. I discuss everything from storytelling to video games to Godzilla (no surprise, right? 😛 ).

Admittedly, there are few not listed here. I recorded a podcast with Zachery Oliver for “Theology Gaming” that was lost when he had computer problems. The same thing happened with “The Bestselling Fiction Podcast” hosted by Dan Dynneson last summer. I’ve subsequently recorded two more episodes with him that he has yet to post. I also appeared on GigaGeek Magazine’s podcast to talked about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I don’t have a link for that yet since it was broadcast live.

Regardless, happy listening!

Derailed Trains of Thought
A show on storytelling and creativity hosted by my friends Nick Hayden and Tim Deal

Episode 3: From Boredom to Book – They interview me when I published by first book, Pandora’s Box.
Sidetrack 2: Peeking Inside the Box – I’m not in this, but an excerpt of my novel is read by Nick’s wife, Natasha.
Episode 17: Magic, Muggles, and Morals – I read an excerpt from Destroyer.
Episode 20: Everything But the Kitchen Sink – I’m one of multiple guests who returns briefly for the show’s first anniversary. I announce I’m writing new books.
Sidetrack 6: Children of the Wells Round Table – I and my collaborators talk about working on our ongoing post-apocalyptic contemporary fantasy series Children of the Wells.
Episode 50: Guest Starring…Everybody! – In this anniversary episode, I’m one of several returning guests who “audition” in multiple segments to be a third co-host.
Episode 61: Shut Up and Buy My Book – I return to DToT to discuss how writers can promote their books. In this day and age, writers must also do their own PR.

Strangers and Aliens
A show about faith, fantasy, and science fiction co-hosted by my buddy Ben Avery, who’s a comic writer

Episode 127: GODZILLA (Summer Movie Series) – I review the new Godzilla film with host Ben Avery.

Theology Gaming University
A show about Christianity and video games

Podcast #58 – Video Games Inspiring Other Media – Theology Gaming – My friend Eric Anderson and I discuss video game adaptations to other media with host Zachery Oliver.
Podcast #62 – I discuss why gamers replay video games they’ve already played with host Zachery Oliver and TGU regular Bryan Hall.
TG Sessions #9 – Cheapness (I.e., You’re Not Special) – Zachery Oliver and I discuss what makes certain things “cheap” in both single-player and multiplayer video games.
TG Sessions #10 – Batman’s Fifty Shades of White Privilege – Remember when this video made me a troll magnet? I also incurred the wrath of trolls about an essay I wrote for TGU. Zachery Oliver and I discuss all of this.
Podcast #72 – One in a Mijinion – I join Zachery Oliver and Roberto Iraheta 20 minutes in, and in our ramblings we set out to solve a very important mystery: What the heck is an Infinity Mijinion? (In case you don’t know, that’s a Mega Man boss).

The Weekly Hijack
A “spin-off” podcast from “Derailed Trains of Thought” that discusses TV shows

-Episode 27: Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice – I discuss the season nine premiere of Doctor Who with Nick Hayden, Tim Deal, and several others. (Scroll through the episode listing to find it).

Upcoming Book Signings for 2015

I haven’t kept up with listing dates for book signings for a while mostly because I haven’t had many for a long time. But with two new books out, I’ve been stepping up my game. I have four—that’s right, four—upcoming signings in the next several months! These include:

September 25-27: Tri-Con, Evansville, IN – This was a last-minute addition. I know the organizers for this convention, and they’ve been trying to get me to come for nearly a year. I kept postponing a commitment because I didn’t know if I’d be starting grad school this month. That didn’t pan out, so I inquired about getting a table several months ago. The cheaper tables were sold out, so I tried to get some writer friends to join me so we could get a larger table, but that sparked such a long debate, we missed that chance, too. Then last week I was asked to man the Fans For Christ/Christian Gamers Guild table at the convention, where I’ll also be selling 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. At least, that’s what it seems. I’ve also been offered my own table. Yeah, it’s a little confusing. Hopefully, I’ll have it sorted out soon.

Tri-Con will be held at the Holiday Inn Airport. For more info, check out the convention’s website.

October 11: Joanna’s Treats, Kendallville, IN & the Cupbearer in Auburn, IN – My friend/co-author Nick Hayden and I will be two of many authors selling and signing books at Joanna’s, a family-owned ice cream parlor in Kendallville, Indiana, from 10AM-2PM. Then I’ll be joining many of the same authors at the Cupbearer in Auburn, Indiana, from 3PM-7PM. Joanna’s is located on Main Street in Kendallville, and the Cupbearer is across from the courthouse in Auburn.

November 7: Author Fair at Whitley County Historical Museum in Columbia City, IN – Nick Hayden and I will attend this author fair held at a small town museum. I don’t quite see the connection, but I’m not asking questions. These people contacted us themselves.

Writing and publishing workshops will be held from 10AM-12PM followed by the author fair from 1PM-4PM. For more info, go to the museum’s website.

November 14: Author Fair at Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN – Nick and I will return to the annual author fair at the Allen County Public Library in downtown Fort Wayne. It’s being held from 1PM-4PM. You can get more info on the ACPL’s website.

I’m a Writer, not an Imposter!

While at Gen-Con last month, a woman said something that struck me during one of the Writers Symposium panels I attended. She said that when she first started attending conventions after getting published and meeting some of her writer heroes, she suffered from Imposter Syndrome and felt like she didn’t deserve to be there. While she only mentioned it briefly, I knew exactly how she felt.

Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

I’ve sometimes mused that the only reason I’m considered intelligent (I took an online IQ test as a college freshman that said mine was 135) is because the standards for intelligence had been lowered. Ever seen the film Idiocracy? That’s what I’m talking about. Couple that with being around friends like Nick Hayden (who won’t admit he’s a literary genius) and family like my brother Jarod who is super-talented and imaginative, and I feel like a midget among giants.

For example, a fellow Children of the Wells collaborator once said Nick creates complex characters and I wrote thrilling action scenes. Externally I appreciated what she said, but internally I was reeling. I liked that my stories were exciting, but creating great characters was a skill I thought every good writer needed to master. Action scenes were just window-dressing. (It didn’t help that she also said the hero I created for the serial was boring unless playing off of other characters while Nick’s were strong enough to work on their own). It was like she was saying Nick was Francis Ford Coppola and I was Michael Bay. I suddenly felt like the least talented person in the room.

When I hear back from readers, I sometimes find myself thinking, I have fans?! like I don’t deserve them. They tell me they love my books, and I almost blush from embarrassment. Sure, I’m a better writer than, say, that hack E.L. James, but I still feel like my stories and talent don’t hold a candle to my peers or the “truly successful” professionals out there (Neal Gaiman and Orson Scott Card, to name a few). Heck, when I’ve pitched The Day After to readers, I tell them I think the best story in the collection is Nick’s and not mine. (Jarod disagrees and says mine is the best, but I write that off as familial bias).

The reality of my situation is a mixed bag. I hold a degree in professional writing from a respected university and was taught by some of the best in the writing business, but if I was to look at my books’ actual sales numbers (or even just the number of reviews they have online), some would say that’s evidence that I’m not that good. I even had an agent—a woman I went to college with—tell me the book I sent her was well-written but wasn’t “trendy.” Yet, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve had readers tell me they loved my stuff when they read it. Heck, I had a new reader buy a copy of Ninjas and Talking Trees the last day of Gen-Con, and no sooner do I get home does she message me on my professional Facebook page to say she’d read a few chapters and now wanted links to the rest of my books. I didn’t know what to do with myself (other than send her the links, of course).

All of that to say that even at this year’s Gen-Con, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Last year I had terrible book sales. I saw myself as the least successful writer in Authors’ Avenue. Indeed, I even thought I was a rank amateur compared to most, if not all, of my peers there. They’re obviously more talented, marketed, and connected than I am, I thought. It took about a day-and-a-half of good sales at this year’s con for me to start putting that behind me, but even by Saturday, I was still a bit depressed. The kicker was getting a pep talk from a guy (sadly, his name escapes me at the moment) who saw me at the Christianity and Media Panel the day before to bring me out of it. He bought a copy of 42: Disovering Faith Through Fandom and after hearing a bit of my story, said he saw how I could strike up a conversation with any random passerby and use that to draw them to my booth. He was sure God would use me to glorify Him by building relationships, and that I had just as much of a right to be there as my peers did. I needed to hear that.

All of this to say that I have to remind myself that I’m not an imposter. I’m not the writer-ly equivalent of a Cylon masquerading as a human. I am a writer. I have been published. I have readers and fans. They may be a small number now, but they will grow. I have the respect and friendship of my fellow artists. I have all of these things for a reason, and not because I’ve deceived anyone or deluded myself.

To paraphrase Dr. Leonard McCoy, “I’m a writer, not an imposter!”

‘But I Digress…,’ Episode 28: ‘Destroyer’ Roundtable

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

Remember that kaju novella I self-published a few years ago? I just released a brand new special edition! So, I decided to interview my collaborators on that exciting project in the first ever round table f or my show. The panel includes Nick Hayden, Natasha Hayden, and Timothy Deal. We discuss how we went about writing each of our sections of the epic giant monster thriller. Lots of laughs and insights.

The Derailed Trains of Thought YouTube channel.

Purchase “Destroyer” on Amazon.

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

Presenting…’Destroyer (Deluxe Edition)’!

Artwork by Tyler Sowles. Designed by Nathan Marchand.
Artwork by Tyler Sowles. Designed by Nathan Marchand.

After several years in print, Destroyer, a giant monster novella I co-authored with Natasha Hayden and Timothy Deal, is now available in a new special edition!

I’ve migrated the book from Lulu to Createspace. Lulu was a good home for it a few years ago, but I’ve realized Createspace is where the money is at. This new edition is a bit bigger than the previous one and looks more professional and, for lack of a better term, legit.

But the big draw for this new edition is the inclusion of a bonus story. “House of the Living,” as you may recall, was written by my friend and fellow author Nick Hayden a few years back. It makes its first appearance in print in Destroyer (Deluxe Edition).

In the distant future, a group of scientists and soldiers create a giant cyborg dragon to end a destructive war, but the creature goes berserk and strands them behind enemy lines in Moscow. Now the survivors must destroy the creature before distrust and madness tears them apart.

I’ll be unveiling the book officially at the ACPL Authors’ Fair this weekend with Nick Hayden!

Buy Destroyer (Deluxe Edition) here on Amazon!

Writers are Sadists

While I don't hate Steven Moffat, he certainly has a reputation for torturing characters (and audiences).  (Image courtesy of Pinterest).
While I don’t hate Steven Moffat, he certainly has a reputation for torturing characters (and audiences). (Image courtesy of Pinterest).

I’ve missed a Thursday or three in my weekly posts the last few months. I should be flogged for that. I’ll probably have to find anorther writer to perform said flogging. Why?

Writers are sadists.

Well, most writers are sadists. Well, closet sadists. (Hear me saying that as the 10th Doctor?)

I’d define a sadist as someone who takes pleasure in the suffering of others. Now, generally speaking, I’d consider sadists to be terrible people (trust me, I’ve dealt with a few). But when you’re a writer—or even just a reader—you have to be one. Sorta.

The backbone of a plot is conflict (and there are nine of them). Without conflict, there is no story. What are essential ingredients for conflict? Trouble, misery, strife, and pain, to name a few. Characters must fight each other, overcome impossible odds, or battle forces (seemingly) beyond their control. As my friend Nick Hayden pointed out: “If a protagonist wakes up fully rested, eats breakfast, enjoys his day at work, comes home to his lovely wife and kids, fiddles on some project, and goes to bed, we might think one of two things: 1.) This is a terrible story. 2.) Uh-oh, everything’s going to hit the fan soon.”

When I attend writers’ meetings—particularly Children of the Wells creative meetings—I’m astonished at how much time writers spend figuring out how to make their characters miserable. Take my novel, Pandora’s Box, for example. I gave Pvt. Brewer the happiest life—career, family, fiancé—much of which she worked hard to get (there’s conflict), but then I took it all away in one fell swoop. If I hadn’t, the book would’ve ended in a few chapters or been terribly boring (like Pamela by Samuel Richardson, a 500-page book I had to slog through in a week during college). I rarely, if ever, wish such misery on people I know, yet I go out of my way to make my brainchildren borderline manic depressants. Yet that’s what makes their triumphs that much more satisfying. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, called this a eucatastrophe: “…the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears….”

This was one of my problems with modern Christian authors for a long time: they were afraid to make characters miserable or include true suffering in their works (at least when it wasn’t an attempt at proselytizing). That’s why their stories didn’t resound with people. I determined when I started writing that I wouldn’t do that. I’m the kind of writer who puts his characters through Hell so their victory at the end is sweeter. I love those “eucatastrophe” moments. It makes the journey all worthwhile.

Perhaps that means writers like me aren’t necessarily sadists. We want our characters to be happy—they just have to survive long enough to reach the ending. (Get it? “Happy ending”? Never mind).