This is something only if y'all are interested in giving it a read. Think of it like an Afterword for the Milk Tea & Thirteen Sugars series so far.
Author's Notes On Writing
Giving constructive criticism is a tricky business.
Nine times out of ten you're going to end up offending the author (even the professional writers are only human and they would prefer positive rather than negative feedback) and really, why bother tearing apart a badly written fan fic when you've got a handy back button and can get out of there, sparing yourself the agony? The best critic you can have is your beta reader – at least you will welcome what he or she has to say in order to improve your writing.
If you're new to writing, even just fan fics, try getting a beta reader that you trust and that you see whose work is pretty good. A good beta reader will not only call you out on your grammar and spelling booboos, he/she will also raise things like plot and characterization, very important if you want to tell a great story. Even if we're just playing at writing, we want to tell a great story in the best possible way. If we just dash off something carelessly and expect great feedback, why bother? You just end up being lumped in the 95 percent of junk that can be found in FF Dot Net. Wouldn't it be better to see yourself in the recs list of many other folks, being a favorite author, having your story be a favorite story, winning fan awards, getting tons of reviews?
So, that being said, I'm just sharing some things that I've done and definitely work for me. I write for work (yes, professionally, though not as a creative writer for fiction, alas!) and for fun. I can't help but enjoy telling stories, what can I say? I don't claim to be an expert but I hope what I'm sharing will be helpful.
On Writing Children
If you've read all of my stories, you've probably seen that I enjoy writing child characters and they are (as of the moment) Zachary Nightroad, Arthur James Potter-Snape, his sisters Katerina and Waverly and of course Jason White from the Superman Returns movie.
If you want to write a child character, then you have to remember this: Children are people too, with their own distinct personalities and their own sensibilities. Child logic is not the same as adult logic. No child, unless he or she is unusually precocious, will wax eloquent in a story. Overly precocious, smart children are a pain the ass to write. They'll be too smart-aleck, too knowledgeable, too unbelievable. They're not really kids; they're just adults in small bodies.
Unless you are deliberately writing a child character who isn't really a child but just looks like one such as Seth Nightlord or Isabel, don't write a prodigy or a genius. Even if they do know a lot, their essential sensibility is still that of a child, rather than an adult and you just get stuck with a really annoying character (unless this is your intention). Even Isabel mostly stays a kid in Broken Wings, only ending up revealing her true nature at the very end. I portray her as pretty smart for a four year old but that's what she is – a four year old. She throws Abelcrombie at Abel's head to get his attention, she plays with Seth, she likes Esther for being 'motherly' towards her. It's when she gets her head back together that she now expresses adult sentiments and logic.
Try to think about how you perceived things when you were a kid. There is a monster under the bed. If you turn on the night light, the monster will go away. If you eat seeds, they will sprout in your body and will trail leaves out of your ears and nostrils. If you swear on your mother's name and you tell a lie, you're sending your own mother to hell. A pinky or a spit swear is a sacred promise and must never be broken. Your imaginary friend is not imaginary; he/she is SO real. Things like that.
Heck, Lilo from Lilo and Stitch is pretty much who I was as a kid! Except I never had a blue fuzzy alien buddy capable of mass destruction. Heh.
Make friends with children. Talk to them, listen to them. NEVERtalk down to a little kid – that's insulting! I'm sure you guys resent being talked down to and a kid will hate that as much as you would. Ask them about the things they like, the cartoons they watch, their games and plays and listen to what they have to say. Play with them. Be observant of what they do, what they say, what they think.
I've been blessed by an abundance of small cousins and the children of my co-workers and my boss who have become my friends. Their insights have frequently astounded and delighted me and they've very much inspired a lot of my child characters. I've spent many an enjoyable hour pretending I was a Jedi or a Sith and having mock sword fights with my buddy Benjamin with rolled-up papers. I've also told silly stories to my wee cousin Erica and been asked to tell her more about the "funny ghost with the curly hair." Cousin Sandra used to tell me all about her adventures with her beloved stuffed toy "Polly Bear." My officemate's daughter once asked her how a blind person would dream.
When you draw from life, you get a much more believable character. These things strike a chord with the readers because they will suddenly remember that they used to do things like these too or their children now do. Why is Harry Potter such a successful character? Because he's a regular kid. He may know magic but the way he thinks and the way he does things is something most regular kids would do.
When you create a child or try to speculate on a canon child character's personality, don't try to make him a complete copy of his parents. You are not a clone of your parents – so why should the character be another clone?
Zachary Nightroad, for example, may look exactly like his Daddy Abel but he has his own distinct and unique personality. He's not going to have quite the same hang-ups as his father does but given who and what he is, he does have room for angst much later in life. He tries to be brave and there is courage there but anybody's courage would fail if they were faced with Cain Nightlord. He is essentially a kind-hearted kid and surprisingly sensitive enough to sense someone else's pain – mainly because he's grown up in a family that's very loving. Abel and Esther have been very affectionate towards each other and to him as parents so he's gotten lucky in that respect.
It is true that there are kids who do not pick up on the undercurrents of emotion between adults, but actually, most of them do. They just don't know how to process this and retreat in playing or make-believe. Zachary and Jason White in my Superman stories can sense this in the adults around them but they simply lack the vocabulary and the knowledge to express what they feel. This brings me to another favorite maxim of mine, so very hard to do:
Show; don't tell. It's been hard to learn this, as many favorite writers that I love have put in their forewords or essays on writing. I'll give some examples:
Zachary was an adorable little child who looked exactly like his father Abel. He had the same silver hair and icy blue eyes. He was very mischievous and very close to his father.
Okay, that's a classic example of telling and really, it just flat out states things, very boring, doesn't stimulate your imagination. In What I'm Looking For, the story implies that Zachary resembles his Dad but I actually come out and say it this way:
The Mein Herr laughed. "Oh, yes you are, so very much your father's son." Again, the Mein Herr stepped closer to Zachary and knelt right next to him, brushed a lock of silvery hair out of Zachary's eyes. "You look so much like my beautiful Abel. And you have grown so much since I last saw you."
It is Cain who clearly gives us the idea of what Zachary looks like. I also show how close Zachary is to his father through the little details of the two of them playing together and how very much he idolizes his Dad because he repeatedly thinks about what his Dad says and does. We can get clear mental images of Abel at his silly best bonding with his son. We also know that there's history between Cain and Abel but I show this in their brief bit of dialogue. So I leave the picking up of undercurrents and subtext to the readers and not to Zachary.
One of my favorite authors out here for the Trinity Blood fandom, Perhelediel, does an excellent example of showing and not telling. She could've said "Esther is nervous around Abel, who she hasn't seen since his 'death'." But she shows it in the little details – Esther fidgets, she blushes, she goes to Abel and wakes him from his much-deserved rest with a silly little story about not knowing what they were going to do. Give us scenes, give us details that illustrate your point and you will be telling a better story.
On Writing Original Characters
Okay, a lot has been said about Mary Sues and Harry or Gary Stus and how they are a pain in the butt, because they're simply the author in disguise, living out their fantasy. They're perfect and beautiful and they solve all of the problems that the main cast has and oh wow, aren't they great?
That's nice – if you were about ten years old going into the pre-teen stage. I did it when I was a kid. I had the little girl Jedi Jesse Gray, who became Isabel, who eventually found her footing and balanced out simply as a character, with her own faults and weaknesses, rather than a Mary Sue.
Come on, kids, I know you guys can do better than this. We have kids-turned-professional writers who've outshone us grown-ups!
Here's a thought about your Original Character – if your Original Character is going to do something in your story that can be done by any of the Canon or Main Characters, why bother writing them?
To illustrate my point:
I wrote a story called "On Sense and Sensibility" – found in the fic Points of View on my FF dot net profile. Originally, this was a conversational piece, intended to be very funny, on how Harry Potter comes out to his friends while watching the movie Sense and Sensibility. It was told from the point of view of an Original Character and I couldn't get anywhere with it. One, I had to explain who the OC was and what she was doing there. Two, I had to have a plausible reason for her to be hanging out with Harry and company.
I knew I was wandering too close into Mary Sue territory so I decided to think which of Harry's friends would make a better narrator, whose personality is closest to my OC and can fill her place instead. Answer? Hermione Granger, of course. Hermione's perfect because she's a know-it-all and yes, she can be insightful enough. So I used her, the story was written and it was pretty successful. I didn't have to delve into the background of an OC no one would care about anyway.
It's a sad, sad truth, guys. We readers rarely care about OCs, especially OCs who are taking center stage rather than the Canon Cast. I want to read about Abel or any of the Trinity Blood gang; not how Sister Mary Sue or Father Gary Stu waltzes in, has torrid love affairs with whoever they want with the cast (all the bishounen boys of TB have suffered this) and makes it all happy fluffy sweet ever after. Sure you can write about the second generation of the Trinity Blood gang but if everybody's going to be an OC anyway and we won't see the Crusniks or anyone else that makes the anime/manga recognizable, why not just make your own original story instead? Even I have to tie Zachary in with his father and uncle because it's simply not interesting to write a solo Zachary story who will not be facing off against any recognizable TB character.
Kyrys and Isabel have played important roles in the Milk Tea series but I have been careful to keep them as a plot point, not as the focus of the story. They may help Abel resolve the problem he's facing but they cannot solve all of his issues. Abel finds Kyrys and learns something surprising about his past but Kyrys doesn't stay to fight at his side. I love Kyrys dearly because he's one of my main original characters and he's appeared in my Castlevania stories but there was no way in hell I could have him share the stage with Abel. Kyrys will essentially be doing the same thing Abel is doing and it's Abel Trinity Blood fans want to read about, not my OC. Kyrys makes a great character to play off on but he cannot take center stage and that's why he's dead in my Milk Tea universe.
Same deal with Isabel. Isabel helps Abel defeat the spell that tried to control him and answers the question on the nature of his new bond to Esther. She's a sorceress on an even greater level than Isaak by virtue of her more extensive knowledge (she's been around for thousands of years now). Since she too is Revenant and she's seen the phenomenon with Kyrys, she knows the nature of a vampire's mating blood bond. However, she cannot defeat Cain Knightlord – she doesn't have that power and there's the complications of his blood tie to her, however inadvertent that was. Plus, hey, bottom line – defeating Cain Knightlord is Abel's job, not hers.
She can't get rid of Abel's angst and she can't become his new little sister/mother figure. They are friends but the relationship is too new for anything else to develop. She will, in the end, become closer to Seth, simply because she's living in the Empire with her. Does this mean Isabel is ruling the Empire with Seth? Of course not – she's just an advisor and that only when Seth asks her help.
When I do an OC and decide to put him/her in a fan fic, I really try to think it over if they are going to fit in smoothly in the fanfic universe without shoving any of the main canon cast offstage. What kind of role should they play? How will they help the Main Canon Character achieve his/her goal? What sort of people are they going to be? How do I flesh them out so they make more sense, be more believable and obviously not just Mary Sues or Gary Stus? This is why Isabel mostly has a mentor role and even Kyrys too. In the end, I am humble enough to admit that they are only my created characters, not necessarily as cool as the canon cast of my fan fic. I may finally sit down and flesh out their original fic universe and let the rest of the world decide if they really like them. But FF dot net is definitely not the place for them.
If you notice, the earliest stories I have on my profile are evidence of how I've wrestled with my OCs and tried to write stories with them. I haven't always been successful as I grew to realize that I have to make them mesh better with the main cast, especially since the main cast should rightly be the focus of a fan fic, not an OC.
So that's my piece. Keep writing, keep trying, keep telling the stories. Learn from your favorite writers on the net and in the professional world. Read. Read. Read. Most of all, have fun and don't give up on writing!