Savage Race: First Sneak Peak Into My Book Series Acts of Valerie

I wanted to share with you my current mental state due to the Savage Race being only two days away (Cue the freaking out face emoji).

For those of you who don't know, I'm what they call a method writer. When I write fiction, I like to empathize with my characters as much as possible—especially my protagonist. I research when needed, but there are some things that not even hours of research can do justice. So, I put myself in a similar situation and try and empathize with that character's situation.

Obviously, there are circumstances I'm unable to put myself through (unless I want to come out of them with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!), and those are the situations I research, and talk to professionals about.

But the situations I can try and gain a first-hand experience from, I do. :)

This weekend, I'll be participating in a five-mile-race. Over the course of these five miles there will be fifteen obstacles that I'll need to overcome, in order to reach the finish line. I'm participating in this event to try and identify with my protagonist, who will go through military training unprepared. 

Valerie—my protagonist, is a sixteen-year-old girl as average as they come. Except, of course, for the fact that the fate of herself, her family, and her nation, rests upon her willingness to train as a soldier.

Military training for Valerie is not something she's been physically preparing for—even though she's known it was coming for a long time. She runs—because that's how she deals with life, and how she remains sane enough not to resist the factors that control her future. But training is going to be physically challenging, and not something she's prepared for. And neither am I for this race.

Like Valerie, I'm also a runner, and five-mile-runs aren't anything foreign to my body. However, I don't strength train on a regular basis and I know there is going to be some obstacles I'll be inadequate for. As crazy as this may be to register for a race I'm not ready for, it was also the plan all along. Valerie is not ready for the physical aspect of military training, and neither am I for the Savage Race.

Of course, a one day Savage Race is nothing compared to military training. But the obstacles are designed by the Air Force Reserves, and I'm thinking this race will be better than nothing. I'll understand the physical and mental challenges of the obstacle course Valerie will face, and be able to identify with her because of it.  

So, wish me luck! As much as I'm excited to see and feel what Valerie does, I'm also scared out of my mind to do so. I'll be posting a video on my youtube channel (Heather Aili) before and after the race, as well as reporting back to y'all about the experience. So, make sure you head back this way to hear about my crazy experience. :)

Are any of my readers also a Method Writer? Have there been situations you've intentionally placed yourself into—in order to write from experience? If so, please do share the deets with us!

Until then, Happy Writing!



12 Ways to Bore Your Reader: Pet Peeves Readers Have That Will Get Your Book Shelved

A good book must include several elements to please a reader, right? An interesting hook, compelling plot, and questions that perk your reader's interests, are only a few to mention.

But what are some elements of a book that will cause a reader to put it down, and never pick it back up again?

I've asked real people what their reading pet peeves are, and I've compiled a list (based on their answers) for us writers to keep in mind. Remember these no-no's while writing your novel, unless you want to end up on the no-seller's list. :)

1. Long or Ridiculously Spelt Names:

"Joeeeelqueyszkrrr? Seriously? If you really feel the need to have a long or difficult to pronounce name, please introduce it once and give that character a nickname! Otherwise, every time I read it I may want to pull my hair out, and put down your book for good." -Ashlynn 23

2. "Big" Words:

"Just use English...please! I'm sure you're intelligent, creative, and all around good with words. But I already assumed that about you, based on the fact that you wrote a book! Just give it to me plain and simple, and save the brainstorming for the plot twists." -Anyone who's ever picked up an adult book to escape and read the first two lines of the story

3. Too Much Description:

"I'm bored with the overwhelming amount of scenery description! Make me feel like I'm there, but get to the point please." -Michelle 40

4. Backstory or Flashbacks:

"Boring! Find a way to incorporate the past into the present. I don't want to hear about what happened seven years ago, and who's dog went missing...blah, blah, blah. I'm sure that was interesting, sad, cool, weird...whatever. But so was my fifth birthday party—when I was five. I want to know about the juicy plot that's unfolding in the present. If the past is really important to the story, it should be shown, not told. Please forget that long, boring explanation. Woo me with what's happening in the now!" -Jennifer 28

5. Introducing Too Many Characters in the Beginning:

"Let me first bond with the main character. Then make their story interesting by adding characters who compliment or challenge them. In other words- put me into a room with one new person, instead of a roomful! Once I'm comfortable with my new friend, they can introduce me to the others." -Anyone of any age

6. Switching Point of View, Especially in the Beginning:

"I'm confused...did he say that or did she? Who is this story about anyway?"    -Your High School English Teacher

7. Dialect:

"I don't want to spend ten minutes decoding each page when a character speaks! Let me know they have an accent, and what kind, but move the story along, please. If I wanted to learn a foreign language I'd register for one!"
-Everyone but old Uncle Ben, who only reads Mark Twain novels

8. Talking Down to the Reader:

"I get enough preaching from my parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, and everyone else in my life. When I pick up a book, it's because I want to escape. For the love of doughnuts, just let me escape!" -Teens everywhere

9. Killing Off a Main or Loved Character: 

Make sure your reader can justify why they had to die. Tell your story, but don't hurt your reader just to get a reaction. Make that character's death count.

"Killing off a lovable person—either too early or at all. It has to be important why they die. Like when Dumbledore died, I was tempted to stop reading." -Alex 18

10. Not Enough Inner Dialogue:

"Not enough atmosphere and not enough inner dialogue will get me to put something down. Obviously, we all enjoy the conversations that our favorite characters have, but where are they in that moment? Is it hot or cold? Does the breeze play with her hair and make him want to brush it from her face? When she looks at him, what is she thinking? What is she feeling? What is he thinking and feeling?

I like a lot of detail so that I can sort of paint a picture or make a movie in my head—using the author's words.

If the author isn't painting vividly enough with their words, I'm not being drawn into the world he or she is trying to create. If I'm going to keep that book in my hands, I want to be in that world. I don't just want to read about it." -Brittany 24

11. Lack of Appealing Characters:

"Make the characters so appealing that I want to spend time with them! Making them attractive isn't a bad idea either."    -Inspired by Amber 27

12. When the Author Takes Too Long to Start the Story:

"I hate when it takes too long to actually start the story. I've read many books where the first 3-5 chapters are all just setting up for the story, and there's not much to draw me in. By the time I finish those chapters, I don't even care about the book anymore." -Sarah 25

So, there you have it folks! Real irritations by real people (or people in general). When you're writing your novel—be creative, have fun, and please do your homework. But also make sure you think about the don'ts as you're incorporating the do's.

What are some reading pet peeves of yours? What bores you or irritates you enough about a book to make you lose interest? Please share with us in the comments below. :)

Happy Writing!


How to Create Believable Characters

Have you ever turned on a movie and experienced the horror of terrible acting? The kind of acting that is so bad, you need to turn the movie off because it's painful to watch?

Could you imagine reading a book with characters that were intended to be different—with varied personalities, backgrounds, reactions to life—but they all react the same exact way? That would be torture. I wouldn't want to spend my time reading a one-manned show, when it was intended for many. Nor would I want to subject my readers to that.

So, how does a writer create believable characters that are different from one another, and act that way? I do this in two steps:

1) I make a character sketch.

Whether I'm basing one of my characters off of someone I used to know, or if there's a character voice in my mind that's screaming to be heard, I bring their voice to life through a list.
I brainstorm a profile on each character that includes: physical characteristics, personality traits, likes and dislikes, hobbies, passions, info about their family and background, and the essence of each character that would make someone want to be friends with the character (or not).

I refer to a character's sketch whenever writing a scene with them in it. This ensures that I  capture their unique voice, instead of dialogue with one voice that seems to be talking to itself. (That would be torturous to read, right?) The last thing any of us want is a rejection letter from a publishing company because our story reeks of Castaway, when it's not intended to. A character sketch is vital to bringing a character to life, and making sure they stay "in character" throughout the story.

2) Spend time with them!
(Yeah, you read that crazy sentence right—let me explain. ;)

You could know of someone, but not really know them. An example would be how people read about a certain actor. They know the actor's favorites, the current events in their lives, where they were last weekend, who they were with, and what they ate for lunch (yeah, the general public aren't stalkers at all). ;) They know the ins and outs of that actor's life from a distance, but if they've never spent time alone with that actor—reading their facial expressions, hearing about their hopes, dreams, fears and worries—they don't know them. The same goes for characters in a story.

You can make up a character sketch—complete with background story, personality traits, likes and dislikes, dreams and desires; but, unless you spend time with that character, you'll only know about them.

So, how do you spend time with a fictional character? (I know I'm sounding a little crazy right now! But trust me—this is legit!)

You interview them.

It looks something like this:
Compile a list of questions about what-if scenarios. Ask them if they've ever been in love. And how it shaped their perception of what love is today. Ask them if they have a worst fear, and how they believe they'd react if that fear ever became a reality. Then ask that character more questions to better understand them.

Take their background information and their personality traits from your character sketch and put yourself in their shoes. Really think about how a person with their background/personality traits etc., would answer the questions asked (not how you would respond). Really listen for their unique voice.

The more I listen to what my character voice is saying, the more I get to know them, and the easier it is to communicate their story to my readers. I find it's easy to write from their perspective—instead of Heather's; which makes the overall book writing process go more smoothly.

3) Put your characters through the ringer!

The story aspect of a book is how the main or supporting characters are affected by the plot, how they react to the events that are plot, and how they change because of those events. As much as the reader roots for the characters to take the easy road, it's not something that can happen in order for the story to be good—or even something a reader would want to waste their time engaging in. Why? It'd be boring! The characters would not be relatable or even genuine. Real people go through stuff, and how we react to the things life throws at us helps develop our character (whether good or bad). Be mean. Be scary. Put your characters through what you'd consider to be Hell. Then show us how they overcome it, and change for the better. Give us reason to root for the characters in your story.

Bottom line? If you have a story and plot in mind, start working on character development. As you've just read, the idea of a character for a story, and bringing a character to life, are two different things.

After you've written out each character sketch, interviewed each character, spent time thinking about life from their point-of-view, and planned out how your going to put your characters through the fire—write your book. Then tell me in the comments how the character development process helped you bring to life believable characters, and turn your story into a Bestseller. :)

Until then—happy writing.