Writers are a brutal sect. We spend our free time inventing new methods of torturing characters, all while cackling like gremlins over the tears of heartbroken readers. “I’m off to kill someone” is a phrase tossed around like a tennis ball in writing communities. To the outside observer, our dark humor may seem psychotic. What normal person beats their brainchildren into a pulp only to quip about it later? Although the jokes are often in poor taste, suffering draws in writers, and readers, for better reasons than mental instability.
Story Embers Article Writer
Sarah Baran views herself as fiercely intimidating, but anyone who’s seen her trip over her own shoelaces knows the truth. She’s a paradox disguised in human form, a purveyor of caustic wit, a reluctant people-lover, and an idealistic cynic who sees the world through cracks in her rose-colored glasses. A love for writing grabbed her in a stranglehold when she was only a child, so she decided to give storytelling a whirl. If she’d known this decision would lead to an unhealthy obsession with daggers and many sleepless nights agonizing over finding the perfect words to describe a tree, she might have opted for a safer career choice. Regardless, she’s never looked back.
When she isn’t writing, Sarah dons the role of grouchy librarian and glares at children over the rims of her glasses. You can find her having a good time at humanity’s expense on her blog, TheSarcasticElf.com.
“Write what you know!” the experts insist—except in the case of, well, everything, because fiction is inherently composed of lives you’ve never lived. Restricting yourself to personal experiences is impossible, because that will prevent you from showcasing the diversity of humanity. Yet, what if you offend a reader for misunderstanding the challenges she faces?
Some books make me feel like I’m Bilbo Baggins, unsuspectingly opening my door to a heap of dwarves tumbling across the threshold. Characters, titles, relationships, and family dynamics zig-zag past my eyes, creating a buzz in my mind as I stumble through crowded scenes. I’ve heard enough names to fill a genealogy, and I’m only on page two.
The Great Commission tasks us with a heavy responsibility—not just to proclaim the gospel but to witness to others through the testimony of our lives, our work, and our relationships. As storytellers, we face a unique challenge: How can we universalize our message when fiction encompasses a broad audience with a wide range of beliefs?
Kids’ minds are like clay. Everything they see and experience leaves a mark, and for better or for worse, the impression is difficult to remove later. I don’t recall much from my childhood, except the characters who took me on grand adventures. However, a startling amount of elementary and middle-grade fiction promotes damaging ideas—you know, the whole “parents are the worst, kids are smarter than adults, rebellion is cool” schtick. Because stories influence how children perceive the world, we should be especially careful when crafting entertainment aimed at them.
When I joined the writing community as a teenager, my peers insisted that I launch a blog to build a following (or else I’d doom myself to obscurity). Running with this misguided notion, I opened a WordPress account and fired off the world’s most random introduction post. To be clear, I’m not here to ram a sales pitch for blogging. Blogs aren’t as necessary to marketing as I originally believed, especially since social media and email newsletters offer more versatility. But in the six years I’ve spent maintaining a personal blog, I’ve developed a broader view of why I write fiction and who I’m trying to reach, as well as habits and skills that aid me in my pursuit of authorship.
I have a phobia of blank pages. No matter how excited I am about a project, as soon as I open a new document, my creativity seizes up. My eyes twitch. And cowardice disguises itself as procrastination, urging me to go brew a cup of coffee.
A few years ago, an inquisitive stranger cornered me with a seemingly innocuous question: “What’s your book about?” Instead of rattling off a zinger, my brain blanked, my tongue tangled, and I stuttered something about “a monster who eats people” before hastily retreating.
I have a confession to make that may shock anyone who beta read my first novel, which sported a gruff, pipe-smoking wizard, a quest involving a mythical object of doom, and the line “All we have to decide is what to do with the time we’re given.” Despite these uncanny resemblances, no, I’m not Tolkien. I do, however, harbor deep respect and admiration for him, and I hope my own stories will evoke the same emotions as The Hobbit and The Children of Hurin.
Distracted, diabolical, or dead is the standard for most fictional parents. If they don’t perish in a horrific accident (thus giving the protagonist an excuse to dress in black for eternity), they masquerade as the physical embodiment of evil, dismissing and restricting their children for baseless reasons until rebellion almost seems justified.