Announcing! Free Short Story Available!

A young orphan boy must learn to understand his master. His very life may depend on it.

I’m so PUMPED! If you remember, I had a goal for this quarter to write a short story for the world of The Youngtalon Chronicles. I DID IT! WHOO!

I’ve got a series of short stories in my head that take place in this particular universe. In addition to giving me a break from working on my manuscript, writing short stories helps me flesh out other parts of the world. I really enjoyed writing this and I hope you enjoy reading it!

I’d also love to hear your feedback! What did you like? What didn’t you like? I’m trying to improve my craft here.

The Empath

Enjoy!

JMJ

Click here to read my latest short story, The Empath.

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Killing Characters

Killing CharactersIt makes readers rage and writers chuckle evilly. It tugs at your heartstrings and makes you feel all the feelings. (Yay catharsis!) It causes us writers to worry about someone stumbling across our search engine history as we look up effective ways to end life.

Killing off characters. 

I recently read a book that had a character death near the beginning of the book that really made me mad. She was a little sister character and being an older sister myself, the death of this character felt sudden and unnecessary. However, after I got over my personal distaste for the event, I had to admit that there was a purpose for that character’s death from a writer’s perspective. So it got me thinking about when it is good and bad to kill off your characters.

Character death has to move the story forward. There has to be a reason for it. Otherwise, you might just tick your readers off, or worse, they won’t care or have an emotional reaction at all.

Here are three ways to avoid pointless character death.

  1. Realism. This is a tricky one because it can often be used as an excuse too. But if the character death makes the situation more real, then it’s a good time to kill a character. In the story I mentioned above, where the little sister died. I had to admit that if that character hadn’t died I wouldn’t have cared at all about the other murders that had taken place. Then I wouldn’t have cared about the mystery.
    You also have to be careful about the “realistic” approach because readers don’t always want “realistic.” Many of us read to escape reality, so finding the right balance is key.
  2. Causes a major change. This is the most important one I think. A character death needs to cause a change, it has to move the story. Most often, a mentor or parent figure dies, leaving the young hero in a predicament of having to figure things out for themselves. Star Wars is a classic example of this with Obi-Wan Kenobi or Qui Gon Jinn. Their deaths forced those they were mentoring to grow and take on responsibilities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
  3. Provides closure. This type of death happens most often at the end of a story. And often this is the death of the villain or antagonist. But villains are characters too!
    And if you aren’t afraid of a sad ending, killing off good guys can also add closure if their story has come to an end. Especially if they die in a heroic way.

Now that we have a solid idea of what to do, there are also some things we want to avoid when approaching character death. If you do these things, you run the risk of ticking off your readers or just being annoying.

Here are three things to avoid when trying to write a good character death.

  1. Shock value. It’s like an emotional jump-scare. Or like the obnoxious kid who behaves badly just to get some sort of attention. This death adds no value to the story- it just stings. This annoying situation is often defended by the appeal to realism. But this is where the need for balance comes in. If the only point of this character is to make you love them, then die, then that’s not good enough. They need to have a reason to exist in your story besides dying.
  2. No closure from death. This happens when characters die and nobody really acknowledges it. One example I can think of is near the end of the movie 2012. A character died horribly in front of the heroes. Considering that he was the boyfriend of one of the main characters, and practically a step-dad to the kids in the movie, you’d think there would be more of a reaction when he died. On top of that, his death felt more like a dismissal of his character. The writers wanted the main character to get back together with his ex-wife so current boyfriend was in the way. Why have his character at all then?
  3. Too cool to live syndrome. I came up with this title myself. This is really a case by case basis, but there are some characters that people are going to be upset about your killing, even if you have a good reason. They are just too cool to live and everyone is sad no matter what you do.For those who care about shows like RWBY or Babylon 5, this is your spoiler warning.For example, Pyrrha’s death in RWBY has caused quite a bit of controversy among fans. I have two friends who love the show. One friend says her death had a point, and that her personal story arc had come to a close. The other claims her death was pointless and has been having difficulty enjoying the rest of the show with her being gone. Personally, I don’t feel I can make a final judgement yet since the whole story isn’t yet finished. Time will tell.
    There is a character death that I personally will never get over and that’s Marcus from Babylon 5. I can’t say his death was pointless because he saved another one of my favorite characters in the process. He did lots of things throughout the story so he certainly wasn’t a character who was put there to love and then just die. It was just. so. sad. I think part of what made it so sad was that we felt like his character arc could have gone further. He had more he could do.

 

So what about you? Are their character deaths that you will just never get over? A pointless character death that drives you crazy? Share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!

JMJ

Character Interview- Veto Youngwane

Character Interview_Veto YoungwaneBack in May, I decided to conduct some character interviews in order to help me flesh out my characters for Mage. Naturally the first character I interviewed was the title character, Mage himself. Today I’m going to interview Veto, his fellow spy and teammate.


Hello, Veto. Thanks so much for joining me today.
No problem.

So you are one of the main supporting characters in this story. What was your first impression of Mage when you two met?
What do you mean “supporting character?”

Uh, well you’re not the main character…
Says you.

Well I am the author… so yeah.
If you say so.

Sooooo… first impression of Mage?
He was irritable when I first met him. Didn’t like my poking around in his stuff or picking his pockets. He threatened me with a wrench. I knew we were going to be good friends right away.

So you could tell that you were going to be friends from him threatening you?
We had too much in common to not become friends.

Really? At first glance you two seem pretty different.
It is true, I’m charming and handsome and he’s… well him. But it’s what’s inside that counts you know?

How magnanimous. 
Thank you.

So what’s inside both of you that you have in common?
In all seriousness, we have the same core values.

Being?
Family.

So Mage said he was a spy to protect his sister, even though it meant his work kept him away from her. Do you also have trouble balancing family life with your work?
That’s a boring question. You should ask me about my amazing skills. For example, most teams of spies are sent out in groups of three. And the team mates are usually skilled in different areas of combat. I’ve been specializing in marksmanship and stealth, and I’ve got to say-

I think you’re dodging my question.
Of course I am. Now, as I was saying, I am pretty glitching amazing at my particular niche.

Mage also dodged my question about family and spy work.
Weird. It’s like we’re spies who keep secrets to protect people we care about.

Ah. Point taken.
Good. ‘Cause like I said, it was a boring question.

How about this one. If you could do anything, if you weren’t a spy, what would you want to do?
Is this a “how would you like to make a living” question or an “if you could do anything, no consequences, no strings attached” question?

Either. 
Well, I haven’t given a lot of thought to what other sorts of things I’d do to make a living. I’m only 15, so under the normal or ideal circumstances I wouldn’t really have to worry about that sort of thing just yet. I do actually enjoy my work as a spy, but I don’t think I’d chose it. I don’t know, maybe I’d be a street performer. Put my natural charm and good looks to work.

And if you could do anything at all?
No consequences?

Sure. No consequences.
I’d probably want to be a burglar.

Really?
I enjoy the challenge. I don’t think I really want to take people’s property, but I like the thrill of sneaking into a secure place and taking something without being detected. I’m good at it. It’s fun.

Alright, last question, let’s say you’re bummed.
Sure. Totally bummed.

What would one do if they wanted to try and cheer you up?
Hmmm… good question. I think, ultimately, if I was actually bummed out, I would just want to be taken seriously. I joke around a lot, but if I’m actually showing that I’m upset, then I’m probably really upset. The best thing to do would be to not make light of the situation.

That is good to know. Thank you again for meeting with me. 
Sure. Hey, off the record, I want to talk to you about this “supporting” character thing….

 

Book Review: The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Well it’s the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another review! That’s the working schedule I have going on at the moment. I’ll be doing primarily book reviews, but there might be the occasional movie review as well. If you’d like to see reviews more or less often please let me know! I’d love to hear from you, reader!

EH_cover_640

The Heir Chronicles: Book 4

This month I’m reviewing The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima. Some of you will remember, last month I reviewed the first three books in this series. I did them all together like that because I had read them all before a while ago and had just re-read them. These next two books in the series I’m reading for the first time.

Like my last couple of reviews, I’m actually overlapping the content with my reviews at Urban-Fantasy.com once more. I will say, this book felt like a “Part 1” of a spin-off series more so than a “Book 4.” The ending of the book wasn’t satisfying to me. It left too many unanswered questions. I also had some mixed feelings on the main characters a bit; one of them I liked, the other not as much. But that’s not to say others wouldn’t find them enjoyable. Because the ending of the book left with so many things unanswered, I feel like it’s hard to give a full review until I finish the story.

I’ll say, I did not enjoy this spin-off as much as the first three books. Perhaps my expectations were high because I enjoyed the others so much. Perhaps I don’t like zombies. (Yeah, there were magical zombies.) Perhaps there was just a smidge more of teenaged angst than I would have liked. There was a lot of teenaged angst. Am I sorry I read it? No. It was an enjoyable read and I was entertained. It just didn’t live up to the expectations the previous books set for me.

If you would like a break down of the synopsis, or a more in depth look at the main characters, I cover that more in my review at Urban-Fantasy.com. Check it out!