You’ve finished a manuscript and polished it until it can’t shine any brighter. Now you need to begin the task you’ve anxiously been awaiting: writing a query letter. A quick Google search pulls up dozens of articles on the topic and how to excel at it. But some of the content is contradictory. How do you figure out whose advice is accurate?
Former Story Embers Staff Writer
Maddie Morrow grew up with her mom reading to her and her dad telling stories about cowboys hunting Bigfoot. The combination sparked her love of writing early, and she’s been lost in her notebooks ever since. Aside from writing, she enjoys loud music, good horses, and hardcover books. She lives on a farm in Nebraska with her husband and two children. Her Gaslamp novella, Red as Blood, won the 2018 Snow White retelling contest hosted by Rooglewood Press, and it released in December 2018 with the Five Poisoned Apples collection.
The cinnamon roll. A smol bean. We invent all kinds of affectionate nicknames for the cuddly teddy-bear characters we adore. But what about characters who have a few prickles? Or are downright cold? As writers, we strive to create characters readers will root for. Otherwise our books won’t stay open for long. But not every story requires a happy-go-lucky Olaf. Sometimes a story needs an emotionally detached Elsa. But how do we endear aloof characters to readers? If we tinker with four areas, we can warm these characters up just enough that readers won’t get frostbitten.
“What’s your plan?” As graduation looms closer, high schoolers get sick of hearing this question from friends, relatives, and strangers. Career decisions are daunting for anyone—and even more complicated for teens who want to shove words across the page 24-7. The hard truth is that writing won’t be profitable from the get-go, so adults tell aspiring young authors that they need to be more realistic.
Antagonists and villains are often used interchangeably. But they’re not identical. Though they’re both defined as an opponent, that’s where the similarities end. A villain is deliberately and personally invested in thwarting the hero’s cause. An antagonist, however, is just doing his job, trying to survive, or pursuing a goal that happens to clash with the hero’s.
“Gah! This book gave me all the feels.” We love when a story leaves a lasting impression, and we hope our own writing garners a similar response. Emotions have such a huge influence on our relationships, choices, and habits. And our society is obsessed with learning about the human psyche. Kids are introduced to gender identity and taught emotional awareness at increasingly younger ages.
Smoke rises around me, steals my breath, and I can’t see. The life I’ve built is caving in; with bleeding lungs I let You in.
Characters need flaws to humanize them. When we try to follow this advice, sometimes we populate our stories with characters who are perfect except for one glaring issue, such as selfishness or insecurity. But how many of us have a single weakness?
Research can be a hassle. Still, most of us writers agree that we need to understand the facts to portray different places and times authentically. But sometimes we’re so focused on wars and revolutions, architecture, and major landmarks that we forget the smaller details.
We’ve all been struck by writer’s block at one point or another. We lament the shortage of words and wait impatiently for inspiration to return. But even when we’re unable to make progress on a project, most of us would rather die than voluntarily set down our pens. We bravely forge through any and all problems, determined to meet our goals.
“Ye shall not surely die.” Ever since the snake whispered in Eve’s ear in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been susceptible to lies. Our volatile emotions open up vulnerabilities for falsehood to sink its teeth into. As writers, a distorted mindset can hinder our growth, damage our creative potential, separate us from reality, prevent us from accomplishing goals, and trap us in despair.