Friday, October 26, 2018

The Winter Riddle by Sam Hooker






GUEST POST

Please Don’t Kill That Guy
Writing characters your readers will care about



There’s a trope in fiction known as the “Mary Sue” character. Mary Sue is perfect in every way, the best of the best. She rises to every challenge and emerges victorious. She’s often the idealized version of an inexperienced author who wants to insert him- or herself into the story (Mary Sue can be Gary Stu, guys). Authors fall in love with their characters and want to see them succeed.
The irony is that the more wildly Mary Sue succeeds, the harder the story fails to resonate with the readers. Not only is it unrealistic—which is a severe complaint in the sci-fi/fantasy market—nobody likes Mary Sue. It’s hard to connect with a character who has no flaws, just like it’s hard to be friends with that kid on the playground who has an impenetrable force field, no matter what game everyone is playing.
“Well, of course she did,” you’ll say when Mary Sue single-handedly fights off the entire alien invasion force with her magical unicorn powers. It’s boring to read a conflict when you have no doubt that the protagonist will emerge victorious.
Writing compelling characters has far more to do with their weaknesses than their strengths. If you do a Google search for “character arc,” you’ll find dozens of articles that describe the path a character takes from the beginning of a book to the end. A huge part of that path is overcoming weaknesses and finding new strengths. If your character has no flaws to start with, there’s little point to writing about them. It’s hard to not save the day when nothing can harm you.
Good characters’ flaws are deep. A scar on your protagonist’s forehead that healed long ago—and might even make him look more dashing—doesn’t count. (That’s not a dig on Harry Potter, though he was accused of being a bit of a Mary Sue in the first book. That got cleared up later in the series.) A flaw’s got to be a hindrance, something that will initially prevent your protagonist from reaching their ultimate goal.
The harder the fight, the sweeter the victory. When we see a character giving her all, time and time again, barely surviving fight after fight, we become invested in seeing her succeed. She always seems to be on the verge of death and defeat, but somehow manages to live to see another day, and we breathe a sigh of relief every time.

“Please,” we silently plead with the author, “don’t kill that guy!” Sometimes authors are jerks. Sometimes the heroes win, and sometimes they die. But no matter what outcome readers get in the end, when they have strong feelings about it, the author has written something worth reading.





Fantasy (Humorous)
Date Published: 1 November 2018

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Publisher: Black Spot Books (https://blackspotbooks.com)


When destiny calls on the Winter Witch to save the North Pole, will she pretend she’s not in?

Once upon a time, the North Pole was a very noisy place. A kingdom cowered under the maniacal rule of the White Queen, The Vikings raided and pillaged as they were wont to do, and the Winter Witch avoided talking to any of them.

When her peace and quiet are obliterated by threats of war and Ragnarok, she’ll try anything to get them back. When casting spells to become nearly invisible and dealing with otherworldly powers fail, the Winter Witch needs to forge an alliance with Santa—a retired warrior who’s anything but jolly—to save the North Pole from calamity.

Will the Vikings take up arms against the frost giants? Will an evil necromancer keep the kingdom in the grip of fear? And for the love of Christmas, will everyone who isn’t the Winter Witch please stop meddling with dark forces beyond mortal comprehension for a bit?

Deck the halls and bar the doors! We’re in for a long winter’s night.

EXCERPT

Santa’s Detritus

Santa’s Village was always giving off some sort of minor nuisance that she could overlook. The occasional thunderous boom, the erstwhile blinding flashes in the sky, and the rare fluctuation in the Northern Lights were all easy enough to forgive and forget, but the wreckage of some infernal machine gone clog dancing over her herb garden was just the sort of thing to land an insolent neighbor at the top of the revenge list.
Oh, yes! The spirits were simply philanthropic with cause for revenge of late. There must have been a surplus. It was shaping up to be a very busy winter.
Adding insult to injury, Santa probably had no idea that his detritus had inconvenienced anyone. If she did nothing about it, he’d most likely go on with his life as if nothing had happened. Not a chance! Walking away from this would require legs! Functional ones, with knees intact!

Volgha stood there, fuming. She wasn’t very handy in dealing with people. Plants, yes. Animals, to be sure. The occasional Viking was fine, as long as they were full of mead and beef and you toasted Valhalla with them once or twice. However, your standard, run-of-the-mill person came with all sorts of things. Feelings, needs, complications. It was disgusting, really.


About the Author


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Sam Hooker writes darkly humorous fantasy. He is an entirely serious person, regardless of what you may have heard. Originally from Texas, he now resides in southern California with his wife, son, and dog.







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