How To Use Gem Choices Well

Gem choices have always gained a lot of criticism, and I know why! I was one of the people who hated the idea when they put them in featured stories, and you can bet that I was angry when they were added to community stories. It was a real worry to me that people would overuse them or use them badly. I thought they’d be treated as a way to get into the Writer’s Payments section as soon as possible and screw over the reader. I didn’t think that community writers could handle it.

Well, I can be wrong. I was definitely wrong about this one! In fact, it turns out that the Episode team sucks at using gem choices, while loads of the community authors use them well. Typical Episode. They teach one thing and preach another! So I’ve changed my mind about gem choices after seeing them used well in stories like The Infected. Lots of authors are using them well, and I really can’t complain.

There is still the chance that you could abuse gem choices, though. If you’re using them as a means to an end (to get into the Writer’s Payments), the chances are that you’re using them wrong. If you think about them and use them with care, there’s no reason why they can’t be a great bonus to your story! So sit back and I’ll give you some ways to use them well!

Read moreHow To Use Gem Choices Well

Consent in Episode Stories

Consent can be really tricky to talk about. In fact, sex as a whole can be such a tough subject! I don’t blame you if you saw this title and you wanted to run for the hills! We do need to talk about it, though. We need to be able to discuss sex if we’re going to write for such a romance-heavy app. It’s not something we can avoid! If we don’t think about the way we’re portraying sex in our stories, we can run the risk of sending out the wrong ideas. Sex sells, but we need to make sure we’re selling it properly.

Why is this so important? Well, there are thousands of stories on Episode, and many of them portray sex in a very uncomfortable and unhealthy light. They make non-consensual sex seem romantic and okay as long as your character did actually want it deep down, or if they loved the LI. No. That doesn’t make it okay. In fact, that just shows how many people think non-consensual sex can be okay if they show it from the “right point of view”. It’s worrying!

Most of the readers on the app are teenagers, which means you need to be able to write with a teenage audience in mind. They’re young and are just forming their own sexual identity. It is the worst time to give them bad views on sex because they have no normal sexual experiences to go by yet. That means that they run the risk of thinking that these stories are normal sexual experiences because they have nothing else to go by. That’s why Episode authors need to be smart. We have a duty to not normalise toxic behaviour.

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Should You Make Your Main Character Customisable?

Writing a story on Episode is hard work. There are so many choices you have to make! One of these choices is how much control you give the readers over your main character (MC). Do you want the reader to be able to change as much as possible? Or do you have a clear idea of what your MC is supposed to look and act like? Since the start of INK, customisation (CC) has been a big part of Episode, and something that many readers demand on a regular basis. It makes sense to me! After all, who doesn’t want to see themselves doing cool stuff? I certainly do! But there’s something much more important: a good story. You need to ask yourself first and foremost if CC will suit the story you’re telling. Would it make your story better or will it take something away?

This is why I split the main characters (MCs) into two categories: reader characters and original characters. Granted, most stories don’t really fit this pattern, but still! It is a useful way of looking at your work and assessing if you should use CC options. Hopefully, this will help people who want to write stories in the future.

Read moreShould You Make Your Main Character Customisable?

Chekhov’s Gun: Keeping Everything Relevant

A little while ago, I wrote a post about Deus Ex Machina and how it can hinder the narrative of a potentially great story. It’s one of those things that will really get people questioning the quality of your work… and once they find an obvious issue with the story (like an unexpected, random entity swooping in to save the day), you’ll realise it’s much easier for them to pick apart the smaller, usually forgivable, plot holes. So how do you solve that? How do you make sure that the story is succinct, exciting and impactful? Well, I’ll definitely be doing a post on general tips in the future, but one of the most important things is Chekhov’s Gun. It is fundamental to a good story, and so it’s best to understand what it means so that you can utilise Chekhov’s advice in your work.

So what is Chekhov talking about? What does a gun have to do with creating a good narrative? What makes this technique so important? Well, I would argue it’s not just a simple trope or plot device to be thrown around in your story. It’s also a general rule of writing aimed for you to create something that resonates with your readers or audience… in the way Chekhov himself described it, anyway. So let’s take a look at what he actually said:

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Is Elsa Really Gay? Why Should it Matter?!

So, this post has been a long time coming. I mean, I didn’t actually have a blog to write my half-rant-half-informative posts on when I initially found this issue annoying, but it recently came up again, and I felt the sudden need to clear a few things up for my younger readers.

You see, since the release of the hit Disney film in 2013 (oh my gosh that’s five years ago. I feel damn old), people have speculated about Elsa’s sexuality. Initially, I found this really weird. I mean, we have one of the very few stories about a Disney princess (and a Queen) in which the main focus of the plot isn’t the romance! While there is a romantic element to the story, the act of true love that saved Anna was one of sisterly love, which is exciting and wonderful. Even better, it is an act that she performs herself. We have a princess who takes matters into her own hands and affects the plot without the explicit need of a man. Yes, men help her along the way. Everyone needs a little help from time to time. But it’s a world away from the times when women would just have everything done to them instead of trying to actively make their own lives better. I wouldn’t necessarily call this film revolutionary. I mean, by the time Frozen came out, we’d already had Military Mulan, Entrepreneur Tiana and Rebellious Merida, just to name a few! However, I can’t deny that the reception of Frozen and the subversion of the ‘magical-queen-is-evil’ trope helped Disney take a good few steps in the right direction.

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Waste Not Want Not: Hold Onto All Those “Bad Ideas”

So you’re in the shower, scrubbing away when a fantastic idea hits you. It consumes you like wildfire, leaving you with a fervour for writing that you may have forgotten you had in the past few weeks. You think of the intricate plot and allow individual scenes to flood your mind. Vivid images of your new characters walk in and out of your head. You’re hooked on this idea, and you rush out of the bathroom, towel trailing awkwardly after you, in pursuit of somewhere you can scribble down your notes before everything leaks out of your head. You do just that and survey your work with a look of utter triumph on your face. It’s been a long time since you felt so satisfied, and you’re ready to dive right into your new world… once you’ve dried your dripping hair and put some clothes on, of course.

Idea
Artwork by ChaoticDeluge @ DeviantArt

The problem is that when you get back to your desk, armed with a pen and a sense of determination, you start to notice the holes in your story. It seems to have reduced in quality significantly in the time it took you to dress yourself. Now you realise that the characters’ motivations seem to be off… there doesn’t seem to be any point to anything, and everything just seems… well… bad. You spend a few minutes, hours, or even days trying to correct it, but you can feel a deep sense of revulsion growing in the pit of your stomach, working its way up to create a lump in your throat. This idea is just no good. You don’t even know why you thought it was in the first place. You wasted all that time you could have spent doing something else… like having a longer shower. You pick up your notes and, shoulders sagging with defeat, rip them into as many pieces as you’re strong enough to muster, then throw the whole thing in the bin.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? I’m sure we’ve all been there. Such is the woe of being an amateur writer, after all.

close up photography of crumpled paper
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re all wrong. What you did was stupid. All those good ideas – yes, they were probably a lot better than you’d led yourself to believe – thrown into the bin! Shame on you! So I’m here to tell you what you should do in the future to make yourself a much better writer.

Read moreWaste Not Want Not: Hold Onto All Those “Bad Ideas”

My New Godsend: The Ultimate Planning Resource!

So, over the years, I have been looking for a story planning resource that will help me formulate and compile all my complex fantastical stories in a way that is understandable, accessible and removes the time-consuming elements of planning a whole universe. I would sit there with thousands of ideas, and they would remain in my head, only to slowly leak out again because I didn’t have the patience to write down all of my thoughts and I found the ones I had written down really difficult to sort through when I’m looking for small details. I gave up attempting to plan my stories before writing them, sticking to a short 2000 word summary of what I wanted to happen at the beginning, middle and end. However, what that meant is that all the beautiful ideas I had in Chapter One would either have to be put into the story there and then, or I would have to see if they would survive the passage of time and the slow leaking of my memories, so that I can place them in Chapter Ten instead.

So what the hell was I supposed to do? I tried so many different apps and ended up spending a fortune on Persona, Timeline 3D and MacFamilyTree 8 for my MacBook Pro in the vain attempt to compile all my data into timelines and family trees and character profiles. It did somewhat help, but having to use three apps for planning stories caused so, so many issues. There are too many of them, so I’ll just mention a few that really affected me.

For one, I was forced to work on four documents when writing down the original draft of a chapter to keep my facts straight. Sometimes I would employ my iPad on the side so that I didn’t have to keep opening app after app and feeling a little bit lost.

Secondly, there was the problem of the fact that each app only had one function. One could help me understand the elaborate makeup of the Royal Family, but it didn’t help me to cross-reference this with who was in charge of the country when a specific war was going on and how they would have contributed to the growing tension, for example. That would involve me going back to the timeline and cross-referencing it with the Family Tree app, then looking at the character profile app to have a little delve into their character.

The worst issue, in my opinion, is the fact that using three apps at once can cause so many discrepancies to appear! On one particularly frustrating writing session, after I had decided that it was stupid of me to not add all the Royal dates to the Timeline app and spending three hours doing that, I realised that I needed to know how old Princess Evanna was when she was captured. I went to my Family Tree app and had a look at her birthday… hold on! The story starts in the year 2206, and I had established her as seventeen! So why does the Family Tree app say that she was born in 2190 while the Timeline app says she was born in 2189?! Uh oh. I had to go back and cross-reference once again to make all my dates match. What a palaver!

Do you know what would be useful? An app that does a lot more than just the character profiles or locations or magic systems or different races that I have in my story. An app which compiles a lot of data that would possibly serve as super useful to me when I’m trying to sort through my ideas and actually use them in my writing. Something that can link characters via their relationships like a family tree app, whilst also allowing me to explain what the differences are between the various fantastical humanoid races I have used. Something that looks pleasant, cuts down the planning time, and has a search feature so that I can remember what the hell I was talking about when I wanted to add in a special plot point back in February 2017.

It has taken me almost two years, but I have found exactly that! And I don’t want to keep it to myself!

Read moreMy New Godsend: The Ultimate Planning Resource!

The Art of Using Big Words Properly

If you’re someone who loves the English Language as much as I do, it can be challenging to know how to create pieces of literature that are both easy to read and sophisticated in their vocabulary. Don’t worry! It’s definitely a good thing that you’re looking into the language more than most. Grammar fascinates you? Discovering new words and the etymology behind them envigorates you? Excellent! I totally understand you! Languages can be exciting – especially when you realise that you can never know every single word. There will always be growing-room, and space to learn and make yourself seem smarter than before.

Antidisestablishmentarianism
Artwork by ChaoticDeluge @ DeviantArt

So let’s imagine that you’ve been reading avidly and regularly, and recently you stumbled across a particularly fascinating word. You get it from context, look it up in a dictionary, ask someone, or a mixture of a few different methods to discover its definition. Now, you’re pretty confident that you know what the word means and how to use it. Great! I wouldn’t blame you if you were eager to jump straight into your work and insert the new vocabulary in as many places as you see fit. After all, as someone who studies a few different foreign languages, I’m more aware than most that the best way to consolidate your understanding of a word and make sure that it sticks in your head is to use it. But should you just use it without thinking about the effect it’s creating upon your work? Certainly not!

You’re probably thinking “what do you mean? Of course, I should use the word if I know how! What else is there to think about?” and my answer to that is a lot. There’s a lot to think about. Way more than you’d imagine – and it’s whether or not you think about the effect your words are having upon your story that can make or break you as a writer.

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