Unravelling Writing Advice – Every Scene Must Move the Story Forward

I completely agree with this. But there’s often some misunderstandings as to what elements are capable of moving a story forward.

Most people think of plot movement, which is like the skeleton of a story. It’s the structure that holds everything together, otherwise your story is just a mass of flesh and gooey gross body fluids of conversations and thoughts. These things are just as important unless you like a skinny book. Not me. I love a fuller story. But as in life, too big can be… unhealthy. Long, repetitive conversations to fatten up a book are not entertaining.

As with all elements in a story, balance is key. Plot points need to be clear and often enough to keep a good story flow. Having several chapters of characters talking and thinking can be hella boring. Trust me. I’ve read my fair share of boring chapters that lead to nothing. I love character building, but there’s a limit.

On the other hand, a character has to realise something before they can make their next move in the plot. That means dedicating a scene or two to the characters where “nothing” happens. But in actual fact, it does. People process a lot before they come to a decision or realisation about their life or situation that leads to action. This needs some attention in your story for their actions to make sense.

There’s also internal conflict in characters that inhibit their actions. Their fears and insecurities might hold them back from doing something. Without establishing these insecurities through character building scenes, their lack of action makes no sense.

These are all valid things that move the story forward as long as they don’t drag. Sprinkling some well-placed character-building scenes can give your story the meaty parts to satisfy hungry readers.

Vegetable Spanish Tortilla for a Hungry Writer!

This is an adaptation of a great Spanish dish that’s healthy in it’s original form or super healthy this recipe. The Spanish tortilla has a different version depending on what part of Spain you’re in. In Galicia, it’s just eggs, potatoes, and maybe onions.

Here’s a low carb version or a full meal version if you add potatoes. You’ll need…

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tomato
  • Half a red bell pepper
  • Half a small courgette
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

For a more authentic version, you can also add…

  • 1 large potato
  • Half an onion

Method.

  • Cut the vegetables into small slices.
  • If you choose the authentic version, fry the onions first, then add the potatoes. 
  • If you go for my version, fry the peppers for a couple of minutes before adding the courgettes and tomatoes.
  • Whisk the eggs until fluffy and add to the vegetables.
  • Leave for a few minutes until the bottom is solid. I recommend checking this by sliding a fork down the edge. If it comes away from the pan without breaking, then it’s ready to flip.
  • Use a smooth-edged plate to flip the tortilla onto, then slide the uncooked side back into the pan.
  • Leave a few more minutes until the whole tortilla moves as one. Double check the inside since it tends to be a a little on the runny side, which is fine if the rest is cooked.
  • Cut into 4/6 triangles.

I hope you enjoy this variation on a fantastic Spanish dish. He taught me the more authentic version, but adding the vegetables was my addition, also popular in various parts of Spain.

Book Review. The Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, and Crown of Guilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout. 2 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Disclosure: I didn’t finish book 3 because I just gave up. Also, this is a pretty negative review. I liked book 1 for the most part, but the series went downhill from there, and I’m truly sorry to Jennifer since I loved her Wicked and Titan series a lot. Also, I purposely put books 2 and 3 from the Blood and Ash series together because I had the same feeling during both books.

What I liked…

I liked Poppy’s gradual transition from innocent, naive, and sheltered Maiden to someone who sees and accepts the realities of the conflicts around her. 

I also liked her realistic sense of inner conflict over everything she thought she knew compared to everything she’s learning. That’s not easy to flip beliefs like that, so her processing and continuous questioning of the truth felt pretty satisfying.

Poppy’s growth of magic. I had issues with explanations of this (see below for what I didn’t like) but I loved how her powers grew and evolved in stages.

What I didn’t like…

So many bad sex scenes. 

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I love a good love scene, but i don’t like over descriptions or dragging scenes. Also, I thought this series was YA with the MC being 18. That doesn’t mean to say the book can’t have sex scenes. Teenagers have sex whether others approve or not. But the frequency and narration and over description of the sex scenes did not fit my idea of a YA love scene. And I’ve ead some really good sex scene from YA authors that are obvious as to what’s going on without going into detail on… plunging. Like… sounds painful.

The inappropriate timing of sex scenes was insane. Like in book 2, just after Poppy kills a significant character, she and Cas get hot and steamy in the carriage that brought said victim to their location. And in book 3, just before she meets with someone important for the first time in ages, the conversation during that love scene was seriously off base. Also, the scenes just dragged with long conversations before and after. Ugh, not sexy or romantic IMO.

Overdone character traits…

Poppy has questions… Obviously, because she’s been sheltered all her life and knows nothing about the big wide world and the people thought to be extinct.

Cas always accuses her of being violent after some very acceptable violence in very limited and warranted situations against people who genuinely hurt her in very deep ways. 

As for the big wide world… why are we just learning about everything that should have been hinted at sooner through Poppy’s curiosity or Casteels’ loooooong explantations about stuff. This is mainly a book 3 issue, but I feel so much was left out that it’s all just being dropped on the reader as it happens. This just feels more convenient for the author rather than building up to major things with mentions here and there that make sense when they need to.

Poppy’s powers… I know I said I liked them, and I did, but her sudden ability to control said powers was unrealistic. I can understand a one-off because of emotional desperation, but this seems to just happen without a struggle.

Willamina Collins’ diary. This is a saucy journal that Poppy found in book 1, but Cas (when he went by Hawke) discovered her stealing the book from the library and just won’t let it go even though he’s the one who brought it on the trip and keeps going on about it. It also seems to be a source of sex education via Cas, I mean, Poppy’s worked out a lot from the book, so why Cas needs to give more explanation is beyond me.

After everything Poppy’s done with Casteel, I find it ridiculous that she still gets squeamish over his mention of the book or anything sexual. I totally get some uncontrollable blushing because some people genuinely can’t help that, but the outright protesting and constant defensiveness was way overdone on multiple occasions when she’s actually up for it when the the moment happens. That needed levelling out a lot.

Overall, I was disappointed with both books, and don’t plan to finish book 3 any time soon or read book 4. Jennifer should stick to the more modern/urban fantasy like Wicked, which I finally read. I’ll definitely have a more positive review of this book along with the movie of book 1 on Passionflix.

Book Review. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. 4 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve been finding it hard to get into books lately, so I’ve been trying all kinds, including YA. I don’t mind YA when the characters are mature enough that I can’t tell most of the time.

What I liked…

The writing. The prose was lovely and suited to the story, age category and general tone based on what I expected. Holly’s style is eclectic while not overindulging in excessive description. 

The obscure relationship between Jude and Cardan, her nemesis. It made sense for her to hate him at first until there were *reasons* why she pitied him. 

Jude’s twisted mind and how faerie and her adoptive father have nurtured her into something dark and murderous. I like it.

Betrayal. Lots and lots of betrayal.

Find the artist here… MorganaOanagrom 

What I didn’t like…

The obscure relationship between the Jude and Cardan. I know I said I liked it, but there were some moments when I thought… girl, wtf are you doing? 

Jude seemed emotionally detached from her sisters, especially her twin, Taryn, when… stuff happens. Even the small stuff felt smoothed over too quickly with little or no afterthought. 

I loved this book for a great plot and complex characters and fun surprises.

Stay tuned for review on books 2 and 3. But spoiler… I liked them too.

Having an Online Presence Isn’t so Scary!

Treat for my writing buddy T-Rex who is always supporting me in my writing, so here’s some hopefully helpful thoughts on getting online.

Blogging and staying active on social media to promote your brand is time-consuming and overwhelming when you have a million and one other things to do, but if you want to make it in this world, you have to market yourself. I’m going to breakdown some tips for organising and connecting your apps to make things that bit easier. 

Let’s start with a blog and website. 

I strongly recommend a full-package hosting platform for your website. They make design and management so much more easy. Platforms like WordPress are designed for blogs as well as full websites, but there are others out there. 

I can’t rave enough about WordPress, so here are some of the many things I love about WordPress.

  • Easy and versatile editing for your posts and pages. You can choose preset layouts or add your own widgets like an image gallery, quotes, files… the list goes on. 
  • You can use your own images (copyright depending) or use the built-in Pexels.com search with automatic attribution. It’s important to attribute artists especially when they’re offering great images for free.
  • Connectivity to various apps. If you’re reading this post in its full form as opposed to WordPress Reader, you’ll see my Instagram and Goodreads to the right or below. Plus, you can automatically publish new posts to Twitter and Facebook (if you create a page). There’s also Mailchimp connection. You can even link to your Google photos for easy image upload. 
  • See your stats and traffic and where they’re coming from to help with marketing.
  • Lots of themes to choose from on the free version, and even more on the paid versions.
  • You can personalise your site address even with the free version if you don’t mind the wordpress.com at the end. Or you can upgrade and have your own domain. Plans start at around $50 per year, but I recommend Premium around $100 per year. 
  • Add hashtags and categories to help people find your latest posts and pages on WordPress and Facebook.
  • Built-in scheduling to time your posts just right for your readers.
  • Readers and bloggers can use the WordPress app for easy viewing and quick posting or editing on the go. 

Social Media

Whether you like social media or not, it’s essential to get your name out there in this busy modern age. I’m still very much growing a following, but the moment I became active on social media, my blog traffic tripled. Here are my favourite aspects of the platforms I use.

Intsagram

You can’t share links on Instagram, but you can use something like linktree which I’ll talk about in a moment.

  • The filters make basic quality photos from your mobile look more professional and creative. 
  • It’s quick and easy to scroll through and all about the images. Long text is generally not used, and if it is, it’s very hidden behind a “see more” option.
  • Most people I follow publish daily, but not more than two or three posts like many on Twitter.
  • I can follow people and hashtags and find new writers or bookworms to follow for a great community.
  • There’s also a group chat option. 
  • You can go live and get great conversations going.

Facebook

  • Unlike Instagram, you can post links (like from your blog) with an automatic snippet from the page.
  • Groups are more versatile than Instagram and work a bit like a private page for people to post to and respond to similar to a forum. 
  • It feels like it has more information, which I don’t always have the brain capacity for, but when I do, I find it entertaining to keep up with my favourite writers and musicians. 

Twitter

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter. I tried but didn’t get on with it. But it’s good for quick posts and limited word count. Plus, you can share links on there.

Staying Organised

  • I recommend keeping multiple blog posts in the same document/s based on time spans or themes. I keep my writing ranting posts separate from my reading ranting posts. Each one has two months’ of posts.
  • Using Google Docs or OneNotes is great because you can work on your computer or your phone. Then you can copy into your desired app when it’s ready.
  • Scheduling posts is another great way to keep your social media more organised and balance your life and social media. Set aside time each week to write and prepare your posts, then sit back and watch the magical world of digital media do its thing. As I mentioned, WordPress has this option for blog posts. Facebook has a business management app for free with scheduling. Or, you can use Planoly to publish on Instagram. There’s a setting on Instagram to automatically post to Facebook so you don’t have to post twice.
  • Keep lists of hashtags in a handy document such as your blog document or a OneNotes page for quick copying to whatever your posting. 
  • Keep all your links in one place. I use Link Tree for a one-stop-shop for social media and any new links I want to share, which I can use on Instagram since they don’t allow links in the posts. Just add the link in your link tree and tell readers to go to your bio link. 

It all sounds like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually much easier than you think. With blog posts sending to Facebook, and Planoly sending to both Instagram and Facebook, you really only need to focus on these for scheduled posting. 

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s the gist of it all.

Image by Paul Stachowiak from Pixabay 

Book Review. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. 5 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Serpent & Dove is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I liked it from the opening page.

What I liked….

The brunette MC with blue-green eyes, because I’m a brunette with blue-green eyes, so that’s completely a personal reason and not useful to anyone. 

It’s YA, which I don’t mind when the characters are mature for their age, like in this book. I found myself forgetting that Lou is supposed to be eighteen. I kept double checking that. 

I loved the obvious French world that gave extra flair compared to others in the same subgenre. 

The dual POV was great in getting the sense of two very different characters and their views on the world and each other. I tend to prefer two to four POVs for a multidimensional view of the story.

Lou was a fun character to read and dropped significant points about her past early on so I didn’t get any annoying surprises later.

Reid was multidimensional and had a realistic level of conflict in the right moments.

The plot, magic system, and how the pieces tied together were done really well. The magic system wasn’t clear at first, but I soon worked it out and found it very entertaining.

And the love scene… wonderful. A lovely balance of delicacy while not skirting around the act. Very much an ideal sex scene in my opinion.

Image from Pinterest

What I didn’t like…

The last line was a “hmm, okay” kinda line. It felt like it should have had more impact, but maybe I missed a key piece of info that I needed to understand it. EDIT: I’ve since checked Goodreads and I’m not the only one who questioned this.

Reid was maybe overly bashful at times, but he’s lived a sheltered life and been lied to about what witches really are, so it’s a very small exaggeration of what I think would be more likeable.

I didn’t like how the audiobook narrators had such different voices for the same characters in their POV. I get that there would be some difference accounting for POV and the actor’s voice, but I think there was too much difference and the audiobook director hadn’t even listened to both voices before signing off on the final audio.

All-in-all, I enjoyed every aspect and element in the story itself and would recommend it to most fantasy book lovers.

Unravelling Writing Advice – He Said, She Said.

Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.

I find there’s a huge divide when it comes to using said/asked as a dialogue tag and when to use a synonym. I’ve read books that are extreme one way or the other and feel strongly that limiting to said is boring while overusing synonyms gets too much. I’m going to breakdown reasons for using or not using synonyms of “said”. They’re short lists, but I think they make the point.

Reasons for sticking to “said/asked”…

  • It’s simple and easy to process who is saying what without distractions.
  • With a good description of the character’s tone or expression, you don’t need another verb.
  • You can easily avoid repetition of this verb with a quick beat or inner thought.

Reasons for using other verbs…

  • It’s less repetitive and boring to use synonyms, especially with short and quick dialogue or a group of characters having an important conversation.
  • It saves words on describing tone if you define the tone in a single verb or can add to a tone with a short action.
  • You can attach a verb to a particular character and make it a trait.

So there you go, some reasons for and against using “said/asked” in dialogue tags. Honestly, the best way to avoid this conundrum is to write more beats, but again, that can be distracting to have lots of little actions purely to establish who’s speaking.

My best advice is to use moderate your tags and beats so nothing appears repetitive or overdone.

Image by suju-foto from Pixabay 

Book Review. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout. 3.5 stars

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve read a few of Jennifer’s books before. I liked the Titan and Wicked series, though I’ve yet to read Brave. From Blood and Ash is very different to her previous books.

What I liked…

I really liked the beginning of this book. Poppy’s curiosity beyond her current situation was nicely established early on. Hawke was also a fun interaction in the opening chapters. 

The main issues of the world evolved nicely and kept a nice pace in the plot with room for sub-plots. 

Find image here.

What I didn’t like…

Talking. OMG. So much talking with circling conversations that didn’t lead to enough to warrant that much talking. I found myself skimming them and not losing any understanding. 

Poppy became a little less YA and more squirmy pubescent teen when it came to discussing sex, which would be okay if she started that way, but the opening chapters were very much YA, so it felt like a cheat.

Hawke became way too patronising for my liking, and he seemed to pick on Poppy for her shortcomings way too much. 

The romance got a bit cheesy and cringe-worthy at times with dragging scenes. I love romance in fantasy, but this got weird. And a few scenes… I’ve read those exact scenes before.

If you like heavy romance in your fantasy, severe immaturity, and the age old werewolves vs vampires, then this is the book for you.

Stay tuned for book 2 and 3 review.