Love Your Characters

Love what you write. Much of how I look at writing/craft/process comes from years and years of poetry. My thoughts on imagery and diction are fueled by my medium. It is this lyrical perspective that gives my prose writing its unique voice. That and my brain is just weird. As a new writer to the […]

Love what you write.

Much of how I look at writing/craft/process comes from years and years of poetry.

My thoughts on imagery and diction are fueled by my medium. It is this lyrical perspective that gives my prose writing its unique voice. That and my brain is just weird.

As a new writer to the world of genre fiction (specifically urban fantasy) there are things that I don’t actually see or realize until I write them and then I have the, “Oh, that’s where that went wrong,” moment.

One thing I learned while reading fiction and learning to write fiction is that you have to love your characters. Not just like them. Not just tolerate them. Not just the main character or even the side characters.

Because if you don’t they won’t sound or look genuine on the page. They’ll look like cardboard stand-ins for real people and, most importantly, they won’t talk to you and tell you what they are doing in your story.

And if you don’t enjoy reading what you write after you’ve written it, like if you finish the “final draft” and never want to look at it again—not because you’re tired of the story because you’ve read it literally 1 million times over and over again—but because deep down you’re embarrassed or you think no one will want this but you’ve worked so damn hard and you want it out in the world for people to read…guess what! It’s not good enough. Because you haven’t put your heart into it.

And yes, I speak from personal experience. I never wanted to look at the first book (of fiction) that I self-published.

I learned the hard way that characters, much like poems, have minds of their own. Even though I made up those minds I have no control over what they do. That’s part of my creative process. In The Slaughter Chronicles, my protagonist’s love interest has changed 5 times. Five fucking times!

The first one didn’t want to date her. Then she didn’t want to date the second one. And then the third didn’t want to date her either (he’d sleep with her but he wouldn’t date her). Meanwhile, her real love interest was sitting backstage with a cup of mulled wine and a copy of GP Racing and every so often he’d grumble, “I’m waiting right here, whenever you’re ready.”

(Spoiler alert: he’s a petrol head!)

But back to what I was saying; those characters and that story didn’t work out because not only had I not properly fleshed them out, I didn’t listen to what they wanted. I tried to force round pegs into square holes…square pegs into round holes…you get the idea.

And I surrounded them with minor characters that existed just to fill the scene with bodies. Rookie mistake! They didn’t work either. And whole chapters of that book fell to pieces because I didn’t care enough about the characters to get them where they needed to be.

In my NaNoWriMo 2016 manuscript, I got up to 45,000 words before one of my protagonists informed me that he was the real villain in the story and I need to acknowledge him asap. Well, I didn’t because I wanted to finish the story the way I wanted it. Well, guess what? I won NaNo that year but I didn’t finish the story. 4 years later and I still haven’t finished it because I’ve lost touch with that character. Maybe one day I’ll get him back…

So…if you don’t love them, you probably need to delete them. Or give them a major overhaul. And really listen to what they’re trying to tell you.

Love your characters even when you kill them. Love your characters when you break their hearts and destroy everything they love. Love them even if they’re the biggest piece of shit-horrible villain you’ve ever seen. Because they are yours. And they matter. Even if they show up in only one sentence, they matter.

Love your story even though you’re sick to death of reading it. Writing can be painful, annoying, back breaking work but as long as you still love what you’re doing and you are honestly writing what you want to write, it’s going to be great.

Don’t do what I did and settle with less just so you could publish something.

Thanks for reading, I love you all! Stay safe!

The Promise: a grimdark dystopian short story

The Promise

a Short Story by Jessa Forest

Download your free PDF version of this story here.

Disclaimer: this story contains the death of a child and detailed descriptions of sickness and gore. Please read responsibly.

When I woke it was not from sleep but a dreamless poison. The fog was thick when we stopped and it must have crept in and thickened when we were too weak to stand or notice, too weak to get away; smothering us like an insidious, sentient tide, all cold hunger and keen thirst.

Barrow, lying next to me, did not rise and never would again. Her younger brother, Potter, whimpered softly in the cold crook of her arm.

“Pyre,” Coffin’s choked, coughing voice floated above me like sunshine above a storm. “Can you walk, Pyre?”

Continue reading “The Promise: a grimdark dystopian short story”

The Librarian: a dark fantasy short story

The Librarian

a Short Story by Jessa Forest

Download your free PDF version here.

The big table makes you look smaller than you are. Like a little morsel, a macaroon, a petit four alone on a dinner plate. You twitch, fidget. You curl your spine protectively over your phone screen despite the towers of books that surround you. Ponderous tombs of science, philosophy, and madness.

The World Atlas Extraordinaire sits on a stand older than this building next to you, propped open to the Pacific Islands, resplendently corralled by the cartography of the currents, dancing whorls of sacred scarification.

Each time the door slides open your eyes dart around in your skill like scared rabbits. You’re looking toward the door now; the shining glass, the herald of the morning sun. You are waiting for someone.

Continue reading “The Librarian: a dark fantasy short story”

Namaste Apocalypse: a zombie/yoga short story

Namaste Apocalypse

a Short Story by Jessa Forest

If you’re interested, you can download a free PDF of this story right here.

And now…bring your attention back to the present moment and sit up whenever you are ready. Next time you feel inspired to practice this sequence, consider going out barefoot and dancing under the bounty of the full moon or the light the sun shines down to us through her divinebeauteousness,” the soft breathy, melodious monotone of Lucky’s husband’s voice made me want to puke in my mouth.

From Corpse Pose, with all my attention glued to the creaking of my ribcage as my bones and cartilage moved with my breath, I felt irritation looming up like a malevolent zombie hoard.

You try going out barefoot and doing yoga on the rocks and spilled blood you stupid rhododendron, I thought.

When I was little my mom told me to substitute every bad word with the name of a flower. When you get a tranquility lecture from someone who never had to leave the confines of his wife’s meticulously manicured yoga studio and spa attachment and had no realistic grasp of what the word apocalypse actually meant, you can’t help being slightly prickly.

Continue reading “Namaste Apocalypse: a zombie/yoga short story”

New Website and New Pen Name

I’m using a pen name now.

-Because I want to make my writing professional and I want to separate professional like A (the writing) from professional life B (the day job).

-My surname is the same as someone famous.

-My pen name fits the genre better.

What is the new name???

Jessa Forest 🙂

It’s my middle name and a variant of my given name. So I still know it’s me and I won’t get confused.

What’s new with my blog?

-I’ve started working with an editor and project manager so hopefully things will get a little less chaotic and random around here. I’ll be able to make news updates more consistently. And more fun stuff for you to read.

What’s new with The Slaughter Chronicles?

-Everything I’ve previously published, all 1 short story and 1 novella, will be re-published in a short fiction collection I’m working on (Pulling Teeth and Other Stories of the Slaughter Chronicles).

-All of my fiction will now be released under the name Jessa Forest.

What’s new with my poetry?

-Girl + Muse and Lupercalia have been re-launched with my new name and are only available for download directly from me on this site. They are still free 🙂

-All previous publications in print and online magazines still carry my real name. They will not be changed.

-All new poetry publications, self-published and published in literary journals, will be under the name Jessa Forest.

I really appreciate y’all sticking with me and being patient while I get things organized.

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash