Readers Engage, Characters Suffer

Necessary evils in writing impactful fiction

Writing Journal: June 24, 2024


Alright, today is June 24th, 2024, this is the first time I'm using this voice recorder that Mom got me for Christmas. Shout out to you, Mom. I really appreciate this.

It's nice to be able to record on the go and be away from the computer for a little while.

Today's Writing Session

This morning's writing session was a dictation session for Gates of Okinawa. This is chapter 54, although it's probably a waste of time to label the chapters at this point because I may add chapters, I may take some out in the production side.

Reflections on Character Development

I found myself a little bummed today after I finished the chapter. This was a battle chapter we're getting in close to the end of this arc of the story where we've really focused heavily in on the two students, Jordan and Lily.

They've been the focal characters as they've participated in this adventure to seal the fourth gate, there's seven gates I have planned for this story.

We're getting closer and closer, creeping up on the end, but I think there's something to be said as a novelist. It's a really intimate type of work because you're creating these characters and you know them inside and out.

But then it's my job as a novelist to put them in danger, to have them experience things and for the benefit of the reader to draw them into the story and then get them to relate to them and then see them going through these struggles.

I think when we read about people struggling, even if they're fictional characters, it doesn't matter. We relate them to our own issues. That's why fiction is so powerful.

I think it definitely outlives nonfiction because nonfiction tends to be more in the moment. It's relevant, but times change, culture changes, people change.

Nonfiction, while it may be in the short term more valuable, I feel like fiction in the long term endures. A lot of the so-called great books are works of fiction, there's a reason for that.

Just because there's certain universal truths about being human that we collectively share and we go through in different phases of our lives. Fiction tells that story really well.

Character Struggles and Reader Engagement

So I'm kind of digressing, but after writing this chapter, things happen to, I'm not going to spoil anything, but things happen to some of the characters.

I think it's not where readers, this is the first time in this book, well maybe not the first time, that readers might be a little upset. That's okay, because we want them to feel something when they read. Not just read and be neutral or read and nothing really happens. It's not a good story.

You may be one of those people who yells at the screen and yells at the book when a character does or says something stupid, but as I always have to remind my wife, if they did what they were supposed to do or said what they were supposed to say, you probably wouldn't be watching this show or reading this book.

Because it would be a pretty fucking boring story. It would just end if everybody did the right thing. Especially in fiction.

So that was the result of this chapter today. Just kind of a, yeah, as the writer, as the author, it's just, you hate to put the characters through certain things sometimes, but you just have to.

Action Scene Techniques

Anyway, not going to spoil it. It turned out to be a really good action chapter. This was the first time that I used my dictation dice type method that I went over in a couple of other, I'll link it into this entry.

But yeah, I used this kind of method to basically sketch out the boss fight. Then as I go, I do these reactions to where it's an action reaction type of thing.

That helps me focus the action in instead of just having a lot of action things happening. It helps me get into that really frame by frame action to where it's not too overwhelming.

You're not talking about, and he raised his arm and then she lifted her leg and then there was a collision between the two body parts. That's a terrible way to write an action scene. It's just, it's too many pictures at once.

It's like an overexposure in the reader's mind and we don't want to do that. So this way that I do it now provides more of a smoother experience for the writing of it as well. It does not as overwhelming to write. I think it's better for the reader too.

Looking Ahead

Let's see what else today. I think that's about it. I think I'm looking forward to tomorrow's chapter because we get to see, I get to bring back another key character.

I think this time when he comes back, we're going to get a little bit more information. Because we've already explained the soul trials and we did that in Ethan's arc several chapters past.

So I won't have to, I can kind of summarize and skim through that to show the soul trial and then use more backstory to bring in this character. Because he's a very important character and this always happens.

Protagonist Development

My protagonist starts out pretty generic. It was definitely like this with Cereus & Limnic too. To where Jinhua, I remember after the first pass, the first draft, I didn't really like her at all.

There was nothing to not like about her. She was just kind of a boring, just kind of a flat protagonist. Yeah, she was there in most of the book, but she didn't really, she was just very middle of the road.

That's how I feel about Zena Marlowe right now as the protagonist of Gates of Okinawa. At least I did before about the halfway mark. She was just kind of, you know, even when I created her from using my story generator, she came out with basically no interesting flaws.

Like I think her character weakness, part of the generator was like gossiping or something. I thought about putting that in, but I didn't find a way to put it in. I don't think I ever did put it in, but I didn't find a way to put it in to where it was actually like a weakness.

So she really doesn't, you know, she's brave, she's honest, she's very direct, and she shows that throughout the story.

Improving Character Creation

So one of the things I did actually just last night was I upgraded the generator, the story generator, to include internal conflict. Because with all of the parameters that I had, I didn't really have anything that directly tied it to, okay, what does this character really struggle with in their head?

Not what they want, not what their goal is, but what's their, what's the big thing that is on their mind? I think we all have these things that we struggle with. I think that's totally normal.

I think that's going to be a big part of her character when I go back through. I know I'm looking forward to go back through and editing this story. Because, yeah, I definitely need to go back and add some of those things in.

Writing Process and AI Integration

I think that's all for today. It was a pretty breezy writing session. The dictations are much faster now. I've gotten a little bit better at it, I spent more of my time this morning. I dictated it in maybe like 15 minutes. I was done with the initial dictation.

I spent more time today actually tweaking the output in Claude, because Claude's gotten a lot stronger. They just updated it, Claude the AI chatbot. Claude's gotten a lot stronger, it's more capable of, it's definitely faster, I just feel like it's a little bit smoother.

That's going to be, yeah, that's where I spent most of my time, just really getting it right, getting the details in there.

It worked out great. I really enjoyed writing this chapter. I'll be back tomorrow to write the next one. That's it for this one.

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