3 Weird Ways to Improve Your Characters

Art model covered in paint - weird ways to improve your characters

When it comes to planning your characters, it’s best to think outside of the box. No one likes boring, over-done and repetitive characters! That’s why you need to put a lot of thought into what you make. If you can think of weird and unique ways to improve your characters, you’re going to have an edge over everyone else out there. You’ll have new things to write about and lots of material to think about when you have writer’s block.

In this day and age, there are so many different things we can use to make our stories great if we put some thought into it. So why wouldn’t we take the time to use what we have? It only seems natural to me! I don’t know about you, but I’m so bored of using the same old character creation tools. I expect to be blown away by them every time! And it doesn’t happen. It’s time for us to shake up the way we look at things.

That’s exactly what we’re here to do. These methods are going to be strange, but will really help you if you give them a chance! Keep your mind open and take all of these tips on board. Of course, they are going to be weird. That’s the point! But give them a chance. I promise that they will really help you improve the way you write your characters.

Read more3 Weird Ways to Improve Your Characters

What Sells on Episode?

If you tap into the romance genre, you can sell as well as Episode

If you want to write something that will get lots of views, you’re not alone. Yes, some people might call it selling out, but I beg to differ! It is fair enough if you spend time thinking about your readers and what you can do to make them happy. After all, who wouldn’t want to get reads for all of their hard work? So all of you authors probably want to know what sells on Episode. I mean, there’s no harm in knowing! Even if you decide that making popular stories isn’t for you, it is great to know your competition.

To be honest, I don’t even see it as selling out if you add a few tropes that you know will get attention. You just need to make sure that you care more about making a story you love. It’s only selling out if you let your money-making needs take over the plot and quality of what you make. It’s all about taking some of the story points that sell and making something new and unique that hasn’t been done before. I’ve spoken about “the same, but different” in my post on writing Episode stories, and this is the best way to do it. Make stories that people will recognise, but make them new and fresh!

So sit back and relax. It doesn’t matter if you end up using these selling points or not! Knowing the things that sell helps you to use them and avoid them. If you’re keen on building your audience, you could start with a story full of cliches, then move onto something more you once you have loyal readers. You can always learn something from the popular stuff in stories if you keep your eyes open.

Read moreWhat Sells on Episode?

How To Write Diversity Well

Diversity can be a really hard thing to add to your story. It’s stressful! If you’re anything like me a few years ago, you’re worried that you’ll do it all wrong and people will hate your story. Or maybe they’ll even hate you! When you say this to other people, they might shrug you off and claim you’re being silly, but your concerns are 100% fair. I’m here to tell you that it’s normal to worry about diversity. In fact, with the way people on the internet can act sometimes, I’d be surprised if you weren’t scared!

But you don’t really have anything to worry about. Diversity has become this big, scary word, but what we mean by it is pretty simple. I think it’s a pretty bad term because it makes it seem like minorities need to be added to a story. It makes minorities seem weird or other, which is the exact opposite of what diversity should be doing. It’s about connecting people, not making them feel further apart! So many many people bite their nails about representation that it makes me feel like we’ve gone about this in the wrong way. Until we come up with something better, though, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.

It’s about time that someone gives you some proper, easy-to-follow tips on how to make your casts diverse. That’s what I’m going to try my best to do! So sit tight and relax. It’s a lot easier than you’d think!

Read moreHow To Write Diversity Well

Episode Writers: How to Get Story Reads

On Episode, promoting your story is a lot harder than it seems. Episode doesn’t do much to help their less known authors, so it’s down to us to make sure that we spread the word. That’s fine! At least it means we’re all in the same boat. But then how do some authors get so big while some amazing stories get lost in the shadows?

There are thousands of stories on Episode and it’s your job to stand out among the crowd. Woah. Crazy, right? No wonder there are so many amazing stories that never get the reads they should! How is one person supposed to stand out in a crowd of thousands when they have no help at all? Well, I’m here to tell you that it is possible. It will take you some work, but if you’re passionate about seeing the results, you can do it.

While I can’t promise you that I will make you popular, I can say that these are the best strategies for getting there. It’s all down to you and your story if they work. Stick around and I’ll introduce you to the Episode beast and show you how you can slay it for good.

Read moreEpisode Writers: How to Get Story Reads

How To Start Writing Episode Stories

So you’re new to the whole Episode writing thing, huh? Awesome! Writing for Episode can be a great experience if you do it well. It is also really confusing when you first start, though. Despite the hundreds of Google Docs that Episode gives us, knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts of writing for the app. They really throw you in the deep end, don’t they? You have to learn to code, write a story and build up your own audience. It’s enough to make anyone stop!

But don’t quit yet! We’ve all been there. We all know what it’s like to stress about the coding and get it all wrong. I remember when I started, I couldn’t figure out how to code in dress choices and it stressed me out so much! I ended up abandoning my story for about 6 months — and that’s where it stands right now. My first story is a sad little mess that hasn’t been opened since 2016. It was stressful, but it was a learning curve, too.

So now here I am with 210k reads — a respectable number — and packed with advice that I wish people had given me. Follow these steps and you’ll have a lot better time as a newbie writer than a lot of the people who came before you.

Read moreHow To Start Writing Episode Stories

To CC or Not to CC: The Middle Ground

Recently, I wrote a post about when and how to use CC in your stories. It was really well-received, but many people on the forums were left with a question: are there really only two options? Is it really bad to have stories that use CC where the MC has a very distinct personality? Is there a way to give people the custom options they want and keep your image? Of course! While my initial post is a really good starting point, there are other ways that you can use CC in your stories to keep your readers happy.

There is a middle ground. In fact, there are many different ways that you can reach a compromise between what you want and what your readers want. You aren’t stuck with the reader character or the original character! However, these choices are a lot more difficult to get right. So, it is crucial that you have a good understanding of what CC is good for.

I will be giving you options to use throughout this post. If you haven’t already checked out the first post in this series, I suggest you do that now, though. It’s full of helpful tips on how to keep your readers happy, and what people look for in stories.

Read moreTo CC or Not to CC: The Middle Ground

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

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:

Read moreChekhov’s Gun: Keeping Everything Relevant

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.

Read moreThe Art of Using Big Words Properly

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