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!

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.

*

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Research Road Trip: Queen Whilamena State Park

(I’ve edited and re-published this post from last year because I wanted to add more pictures and remember a fun road trip while I am sheltering in place. I hope all of you who read this are safe and healthy and I wish nothing but the best for you during these difficult times. I love you all!)

Last Summer (as I write this) I drove down to Mena, Arkansas with the intention of hiking in the morning at Queen Whilamena State Park and driving around in the afternoon exploring the teeny-tiny towns surrounding the state park.

The drive down was really pleasant. But then it started raining. Thankfully, by the time I got to the Queen Whilamena Lodge and Restaurant the rain had stopped BUT there was fog EVERYWHERE!

I had not checked the weather on my phone. I didn’t even think about the possibility of anything but clear skies and humid air (Summer in Arkansas, y’all). But that is not what I got.

There was a fleeting moment where my heart sank and I thought, “I drove all this way and now I have to go home…”

But then I took another look at the fog, which was literally getting thicker by the minute and I thought, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS PERFECT WEATHER FOR A HORROR NOVEL!”

I mean look at that! That’s amazing!

If I’d gone on a “normal” day I’d have hiked, got some nice pictures of trees and buildings, and gone home with nice things to think about but this–the fog, the rain–gave my setting character. Or my setting looked at me and said, “Acknowledge that I am a force of nature!” while slapping me in the face.

And there was this really nifty fungus on the trail that was all glistening and fleshy. I almost walked face first into a MASSIVE spider webs trying to photograph it.

A new beginning to Havoc’s Moon bloomed in my mind. I got to make rough stage blocking for an action scene and took pictures of this one specific outcropping from multiple angles for reference later. I was so inspired IT WASN’T EVEN FUNNY!

So the moral of this story here is think about what your setting is like in bad weather. You never know what will happen. But also, it’s important to visit, if you can, where your book is set because you’ll get to think about concrete details you may not have considered from your chair at your writing desk.

And I learned that my main character’s favorite food is not pizza like I thought it was, but fried green beans.

You never know what’s going to happen when you go out on location.

Good luck and happy writing!