Spice Up Some Worldbuilding

Just about every living thing, real and imaginary, relies on some form of consumption to survive. Most beings we write about require food and water to survive, and even characters who don’t—say, robots or beings with photosynthesis—will likely notice the food sources of those who do. It’s a point of reference that we as humans all share, and something we all think about when realizing we never actually got a dinner plan set up. Er, not that I’m speaking from personal experience here…

I didn’t used to think about food much, mostly because I was a picky eater, from a picky family with an even pickier sibling. I had my small staple of foods I would eat, and this didn’t really improve until college. (Well, once I learned how to cook and our cable was cut down to just the Food Network, if I’m being honest.) Part of the issue was that I never realized the limitless potential of food, from how the ingredients combined to realizing that spices and condiments can in fact improve a dish—yes, I ate everything plain, meaning it took me over fifteen years to try sauce on my pasta. I told you I was picky.

Not only have I come to appreciate food in real life, but I’ve started thinking about its place in fiction. At least 98% of characters need to eat after all, and what they choose to munch on says a lot about them, and also the world they live in. What foods are readily available and what’s in high demand? Do folks need a certain amount of wealth or status to eat certain foods, or are there reasons to avoid certain ingredients? How is the food hunted, harvested, or otherwise created, and then who actually prepares the food?

If your story is set in our world (past or present), the answer shouldn’t be too difficult, though you may need to research details outside your experience. Since Deadly Drinks is an urban fantasy series, I haven’t had to figure out much for Bones and Bourbon in terms of food—mostly figuring out what a lamia might eat, or what poorly-paid paranormals can afford. But while food isn’t as noticeable as alcohol in the series, it does come up in terms of where (and when!) characters are from. Left to their own devices in the kitchen, ancient evil spirit Nalem is going to gravitate toward different flavors than a Japanese/Brazilian furaribi, and both will be drastically different from the alchemy-laced Germanic meals that the Gallows brothers are used to their parents cooking.

(It also means that when I travel to a city for book research, I have a good excuse to try different restaurants to figure out where my characters might end up eating. See, writing has its perks!)

Science fiction rooted in our current technology can also have an element of research to it, though since the future is not definitive, it can still be played with. If your setting takes place on Earth (or a terraformed planet), how does technology help or hinder the growth of food? Details like what economic classes can afford “real” food, or watching rebel forces try to grow their own gardens inside an urban landscape, can help ground such a setting with efforts taking place in our own world. Meanwhile, space fiction has its own complications, such as how to keep food for long voyages, or discovering what’s edible on an alien planet.

The more fantastical you get, however, the more worldbuilding you have to do in order for everything to remain logical. Otherwise, you’ll just raise further questions: if you mention a character is drinking blue milk on a desert planet, readers are going to wonder where this milk came from and why it’s blue. Same goes for other aspects of your setting: a large army on the move needs some sort of food, a walled-in city either needs farmers within its borders or some way to import supplies, and that super cool fortress hidden in a volcano still needs to get water if the king of darkness doesn’t want his servants dying of dehydration.

One of the fun settings I have in the works is King’s Oak, a fantasy setting where an entire city-state nation is built into a giant tree, which is planted where four powerful leylines meet, causing it to be split between all four seasons at once and rotating them accordingly. The setup is fantastical, but I’ve put a lot of thought about the imports and exports of this city, including the food.

One can’t exactly set up swathes of farmland in the branches of a city, and there’s only a small sea for fish that’s shared with a neighboring country, so I decided most of the meat comes from birds or lizards, and insects are actually used as a common source of protein as well. As for plants, from fruit trees to wheat, I realized that they could be spliced onto King’s Oak itself, and thus almost every surface of this setting can be used to host plant life. Plus, with the seasons rotating along different parts of the tree, different quadrants can host unique plants, such as a wetter quadrant being host to what could be found in our rainforests. Because of all this, I can include both mundane and “exotic” ingredients in one place; who’s up for some grasshopper pancakes?

Hopefully, this post has given all of you some food for thought (pun fully intended) on what you read/watch and write in your own stories. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a dinner to plan.

~Dorian

In the Presence of Other Worlds

If there’s one writing technique I’m fond of, it’s imagining alternate universes. To consider how differently events would turn out if one key concept were changed, be it one small event (Bruce Wayne was shot instead of his parents, as per one comic series) or a larger idea (what if Hollywood, but in a fantasy setting?). And if I can ever get to Stephan King levels of fame and be able to publish a story and then publish a literal AU of that same story, believe you me, I will feel like a god. Expect maniacal laughter.

Now, you may wonder why I referred to this specifically as a writing technique. I do so because imagining AUs can be useful for a variety of purposes, be it developing characters or practicing new genres without flinging oneself completely into the unknown. Imagining an alternate universe can even lead to entirely new stories, such as how the Temeraire series and the Fifty Shades of Gray books were originally AU fanfics of Master and Servant and Twilight respectively. But how exactly can imagining AUs help?

Karmonis Lineart

Karmonis is also an occasional pincushion.

From a character perspective, I’ll use a fantasy character I’m developing as an example. Karmonis Mordai is a tiefling (i.e. looks like a satanic demon without actually being one) who was unfairly exiled from home, forced to become a ranger for hire in his travels. I ended up playing him in two different games, so one version of him found a small band of adventurers to travel with on a quest, while the other settled into a city and is now fighting to protect a larger populace of people in his new home. One setting helps me develop his faith and small-scale interactions, and another puts him in a position of power as a rebel force and weighing his impulses against the needs of his people. Developing him across two worlds with one key difference—did Karmonis overcome his guilt and allow himself to find a home—has helped me develop his character immensely.

For AUs as a method of trying different genres, I’m going to consider fanfiction for a moment. Fanfiction is where I first started writing, and instead of rehashing the familiar, I took to writing AUs as a way to contribute something new. One of my first forays into original fiction was to take the mechanical trappings of my favorite fandom (a popular video game series I will not name, out of sheer embarrassment) and put them into a gritty dystopia. The characters and world were new, but with the same basic rules in place, I still had fellow fans who were interested in reading and providing me feedback. A later example was taking the characters from an urban fantasy tale and putting them in a more high-fantasy setting, allowing me to practice the trappings of fantasy rules through a familiar modern lens and characters I already knew how to write.

In these cases, both techniques can be applied to our own original fiction. Have a character you’re having difficulties figuring out? Imagine them in a fresh setting, how they would react with a different role in the story, or even if a key aspect of their identity was shifted. Interested in a different genre? Take characters you’re familiar with and write them in such a setting, so you can focus on what’s new instead of having to build it all from the ground up. Don’t have time to write it all down? Even just daydreaming can help get the creative juices flowing.

(I myself have a tendency to put my characters in different games, be it a dice-rolling tabletop game or a video game. They can lead you surprising places—imagine my terror when I realized that a character of mine would totally side for the main antagonist of Fallout 4 because of the importance he places on family.)

Amusingly enough, most of my upcoming novel “Bones and Bourbon” can be attributed to me imagining AUs in one way or another. Retz and Jarrod Gallows were originally characters in a webcomic I was writing, but they kept stealing the spotlight from the main characters, so I considered giving them their own story. Around this same time, a friend sat me down to watch Supernatural for the first time, so I started to imagine what the Gallows brothers would do if they were in the Winchester brothers’ shoes. (And yes, those early drafts of the series did read a lot like a Supernatural fanfic, and thus are horribly cursed.)

Other characters joined the cast as they were given the AU treatment; what if this manipulative vampire was instead a lamia, and what if this girl and her monster friend from a Monsters and Other Childish Things game were monstrous siblings and on the run in a setting where they weren’t the only paranormal beings running amok? Even antagonist Nalem started as a benevolent god in an earlier story of mine, stripped of the mundane upbringing that had taught him kindness in his original series as he was tossed into Retz’s head for “Bones and Bourbon.”

Feel free to change things up, even just for sake of daydreaming. And if the changes you make actually stick? Don’t be afraid to run with them. The multiverse is the limit, dearests.

~Dorian

Rainbow Awards 2017!

It might be a Monday, but I’m dancing my touchdown dance anyway. Not just for surviving another Thanksgiving/Black Friday double shift in retail, mind you (I already celebrated that…with alcohol and a few levels of Ratchet and Clank).

No, the reason I’m rejoicing is because this year, I volunteered to help judge for the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and I sent in my final review a few hours ago!

What are the Rainbow Awards, you ask? It’s a celebration of LGBT+ literature, full of diverse relationships and genres. Participants can enter their novels into the contest by donating to one of many LGBT+ charities, and then judges volunteer to read as many books as they’d like (in whatever genres they’d like, so they can avoid reading genres they prefer to avoid), rating each book in terms of Plot Development, Setting Development, Character Development, and Writing Style. There’s also a cover contest as well! There’s more information here if you’re interested in the details, either as a participant or judge for next year.

I ended up reading and reviewing fifteen books this year, which ended up being a lot of fun. I’d been in a reading funk for the past couple years, so being pushed to finish a bunch of books spanning different genres really helped overcome that. Especially since I’m usually not the sort to read anything too far outside of the sci-fi/fantasy genres, but I ended up with a lot of contemporary romances, mysteries, and thrillers that I really enjoyed.

One thing that really impressed me about the entries I read was the sheer diversity of it all. Most of the relationships presented were M/M, but I also got to read some lovely F/F anthologies, relationships with trans* and asexual characters, and even a polyamorous triad. Plus, a lot of the characters came from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, and even positive portrayals of protagonists with mental illnesses, HIV+, and more. Healthy relationship practices like consent and boundaries were also explored in nearly every story, often so naturally that it didn’t even waylay the plot. It was so wonderful to read such inclusive fiction!

Also, since I’m a craft-analyzing nerd (thank you, copious college lit classes), I have to say, I had so much fun analyzing the techniques of all these authors. How did two authors manage to perfectly balance romance and danger, especially when one wrote a city-based thriller while the other presented a countryside recovery tale? Why did one book’s discussions of mental illness or magic feel dry and forced, while another by the same author was fresh and invigorating? What were the pros and cons of this book being split into five novella-esque sections, and how the hell did the author manage to make me flip my opinion on a sadistic prison leader? Did one author really manage to write two different short stories about heartbroken lesbians traveling Alaska without them being at all repetitive?! Why was nearly every story in the lesbian ghost story anthology so PERFECT?

I’m still basking in the glow of review-finishing achievement, especially since I left on a high note of a damn good book. I’m already looking forward to judging next year’s round of books—and seeing my own in the running, because “Bones and Bourbon” will be ready to rumble by the time the Rainbow Awards 2018 is open for business. Until then, I’ll wait and see which books manage to win this year, and resume posting my own reviews on Goodreads.

In the meantime, many thanks are in order. Most of all to Elisa Rolle, for all her hard work in managing these awards, from finding the books to herding all the judges and rounding up the reviews. To the judges who helped review all those entries, and to all the teams and publishing houses behind each book. And especially thank you to all the authors who participated and gave us readers all this wonderful rainbow of books to read from.

In this contest, everyone’s a winner.

~Dorian

Hallo Spaceboy (What’s In A Name)

I’ve spent most of today working on a novella, which amongst other things is an introduction to a space fantasy setting I’ve been building for some time. (I would call it science fiction, except that I’m forgoing most sensible science so I can make weird aliens with musical-mind-control powers and cute tentacled bunny-creatures that can be incinerated to fuel FTL travel. Thus, space fantasy ala Star Wars or James D. MacDonald and Debra Doyle’s Mageworld series.) It’s an enjoyable break from my usual work, though now that I’m finally writing bits of it down, it’s come time to define certain elements of this universe. Amongst those elements are the names.

I don’t mean renaming things from our own world, ala the “call a rabbit a smeerp” trope; I’m taking Isaac Asimov’s stance on that (mentioned in his opening for Nightfall) and not bogging down the story with funny words. However, I do need to name the various characters and the alien races they belong to, plus this setting has the extra added challenge of having no humans (though plenty of humanoids), which means no human names. Also trying to avoid human words in the end-results of names, because Star Wars does a good enough job of mangling random words into names all on its own. (I’m looking at you, Savage Oppress. Looking long and bitterly.)

So how does one make up names that readers can quickly connect to, instead of just smashing letters together into something even H.P. Lovecraft would have a hard time pronouncing? Instead of creating a name convention to cover all of the galaxy I’m working with, I decided to differentiate it between each alien race. Here’s what I came up with and why:

Psyrens

The first race I needed to name, because the protagonists of my novella are all of this race. They’re a humanoid race who operate like the sirens of myth, their songs able to affect the minds of those who hear them. They have a couple twists involved too—their wounds don’t scar, instead becoming new mouths with which to sing with, and they mate in large groups of others they harmonize with, which is something their military takes advantage of when making combat squads. I jokingly describe them as “militarized barbershop quartets,” even though the protagonists are escapees of said military.

The name of the race came easily enough; I mushed the words “psychic” and “siren” together and fiddled with the spelling. Makes it easy for readers to understand and remember what they are. But the novella has four psyrens in it, so I needed to actually come up with a naming scheme. Thanks to an earlier bit of worldbuilding, I’d decided that their primary religion is based around scripture set into song, and nearly every psyren’s name is a word from that song. Thus, I came up with names featuring soft sounds that could easily be strung together if part of a long chant; Ashua, Nulani, and Silna. The exception to this is Kozrin, whose name has sharper and stranger tones that imply a stark refusal of tradition.

Skraks

Sharp noises automatically implies danger. Think of the Krogan of Mass Effect, Klingons in Star Trek, or even crocodiles in our own world. (Then there’s kangaroos, which are…still pretty dangerous if I think about it.) I wanted to work with this mental tendency to work with how the Skraks look; they’re built like chitin-covered centaurs with extra limbs and scythes for hands. They look dangerous because of their diet; they have no mouths to eat matter with, but instead feed of the pain of others. Sharp bits generally lead to painful bits.

However, I also wanted the names of the Skraks and their people to reflect their language. See, by having no mouth, they have no voice either; they communicate entirely through tapping and scraping their scythes across their chitinous bodies, a mix of sign language and morse code. Thus, their written names double as the sound effects they make, with names like Tk-skrit and Darch.

Rav’Melsh

Borrowing from “The Origin of Love,” the Rav’Melsh are actually two aliens in one. The Rav half is a powerful, multi-armed and thick-skinned race with an alarming tendency to be born without a number of vital limbs and organs. The Melsh consists of symbiotic, sentient fungus that link minds with their Rav host and take form of the missing pieces, creating a being with one body and two minds.

This example actually borrows from both of those above. Like the Skrak, Rav uses sharper sounds to imply power, this time like the roar of a bellowing beast about to charge. Meanwhile, the Melsh comes from me smushing the words “meld” and “mushroom” together, like I did with the components for Psyrens. The combined name of Rav’Melsh implies a whole but can still be taken apart to discuss the components, and the same goes for citizens like Lap’Parn and Tal’Soona.

This by no means include all my fun alien creations, currently operating under codenames such as “Sunshine” and “Rock Elves,” or concepts such as cultural interplay, like how the aforementioned elves have picked up the Skrak’s tapping-speak so their elders who have turned almost entirely to stone can keep communicating with others. If nothing else, it’s at least a fun worldbuilding exercise to think on both the hows and the whys of any given fantastical setting.

Hopefully, it gave you dear readers some ideas too.

~Dorian

Cut and Drive

I just returned from a brief trip to California for a memorial service (a sad occasion, but a lovely time was had), and as is tradition in our family, we drove all the way down (and back) in one 9-10 hour stretch, with only two pit-stops in between. We’re militantly tough drivers, partially because we don’t mind being alone with the scenery and a case full of classic rock CDs. Some of my best brainstorming comes from letting my mind wander during these trips.

As I remembered this trip, sometimes building also means destruction. This is true in fiction more than anywhere else.

Much as we want to keep every great idea we scribble in our notebooks, the truth is, we can’t hold onto them all. Too much of anything, be it plot threads or characters, and the story gets weighed down. Some authors can go on for a few hundred thousand words longer than the rest of us, but I’m sure even George R.R. Martin has had to cut content from the Game of Thrones series. Even outside of books, there’s a reason that extended cuts and b-sides exist, but aren’t kept in the core content.

I found myself doing a lot of story trimming this weekend. One task was simpler, streamlining a novella I’m working on for NineStar Press’ LOST collection. I cut out a couple characters (I have a great fear of bogging down a story with too many characters, after my first NaNoWriMo attempt landed me with a novel of 16+ characters in 50,000 words) and rearranged relationships around, which on paper sounds like no huge deal. And really, it isn’t. I have to scrap the opening to the novella again, but elements of those first attempts can still be recycled. If nothing else, I learned more about the world and the people within it, so the demolished wordcount at least lead to some worldbuilding. Like tearing off a bandaid, it stings a bit, but the pain passes soon enough to forget.

Then there’s the hard cut: I scrapped an entire book.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done so for the Deadly Drinks series; the first draft of “Bones and Bourbon” was similar only in name and protagonist to the novel releasing next April, and its in-progress sequel had so many restarts before I finally finished the first draft. I’m lucky in that I hadn’t started book four (seeing as book three isn’t even done yet), but even though words hadn’t hit the page yet, tossing it still hurt. Why was this?

Because it had so much I WANTED. The magical world intruding on the mundane. Playing with Frankenstein’s Creation (I refuse to call him a monster–or, stars forbid, Frank). Secret societies! Magical cyborgs! Ghost-powered transportation through other dimensions!

But from the time I revved up the engine and rolled out of the parking lot with Santana tunes blaring from the speakers, I knew it didn’t fit. When writing a series, one has to consider not just developing plot and character across one book, but over the series as a whole, and this book didn’t fit the direction the series needed to grow in. Such a fantastical tale would raise the stakes for the entire setting too much for a mid-series book, and the Gallows brothers were taking the back seat to all the cool elements I wanted to include.

So I let it go. I burned the images in my head and picked a few pieces out of the ashes that I did need for what book 4 will become. The rest of it gets tucked away to percolate in the back-burners of my mind, likely emerging on another long road trip as a new story all its own. I collected sights and snippets of songs to inspire a story that’ll fit better with my narrative arc, and if I’m lucky, I might still be able to sneak some interdimensional ghosts in there. (But first, we finish book three, edit book two, publish book one. I like to work well ahead of schedule.)

It’s a matter of weighing what we want to write with what the story needs. Let your mind wander, but know when to reel it in when it drifts too far.

Now that I’ve spent so much time cutting content, it’s time I got back to work creating again.

~Dorian

PS: Speaking of road trips, I did sneak a couple of my favorite details along I-5 in “Bones and Bourbon.” I also refrained from making any jokes about the State of Jefferson, but I can make no promises for the finished product…

Want It All

At the heart of any good story is want. Characters are motivated by their desires, be it achieving a goal, avoiding a consequence, or some other obsession important to them. Conflict arises when obstacles arise that stop characters from their goals and they go for it anyway. (Apparently, not a lot of characters listen to the Rolling Stones.)

Now, it’s possible to just repeat this fundamental trick until the end of the story, and that makes for a fine plot on its own. It’s like a Mario game, where Mario keeps stomping Goombas and dodging Bowser’s fireballs until he finally rescues the princess. However, doggedly chasing after one goal can get boring and predictable after awhile; even Mario had to take breaks for medical degrees, go-karts, and wandering the contents of Bowser’s internal organs. So what’s a storyteller to do when what a character wants just isn’t cutting it anymore?

Add more wants, that’s what. If these new goals conflict with the old ones, so much the better.

After all, people as a whole aren’t just one-want beings. My goal is to become a successful author, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also want to in the meantime find a new job, travel across the country, and convince my cat to stop trying to knock over my bookshelves. These goals can cause conflict on their own—such as if my partner and I disagree about where to travel—or by working against each other, like if finding a new job meant more money for travel but less time for this author-to-be to write (and more time for the cat to knock things over). I wouldn’t call this a novel-level amount of tension, but examples still stand.

One of the easiest ways to set up an internal conflict in your characters is to give them an overarching goal, something that will take at least the course of a story to complete, and then a short-term goal that can threaten it. In my recently-released story The Orpheus Well, for example, the protagonist has an overarching goal of discovering the mystery of the titular Orpheus Well and its peculiar owner. However, her short-term goals often rely on her having to utilize the well’s powers to bring back the dead, serving to deepen the mystery but put her at risk.

Do the goals have to require the same amount of importance? Not necessarily, though they should both feel equally important to your character, in order for the conflict to feel impactful. If a character is torn between “rescue kidnapped family member” and “take a nap,” that’s going to feel contrived—unless the character hasn’t slept for a week straight and the family member in question is one they could live without. In “Bones and Bourbon” however, Jarrod has two goals that are wildly out of sync in the grand scheme of things: stop ancient evil spirit Nalem from wreaking havoc and possibly taking over the world, and rescue his younger brother Retz from Nalem’s clutches. Logically, stopping Nalem has priority since failing to stop him could harm a lot of people, and Jarrod knows this—but he can’t just let his brother die without a fight. Since both feel equally important to him, we get his character conflict.

Stories that go on longer (like a long-running comic or a novel series) can see goals change and evolve over time too, or even have new desires complicate matters. Could Jarrod later decide that something is a greater threat than Nalem, and leave the ancient spirit alone in order to confront a worse enemy? Sure, and that choice can cause conflict too, especially if the decision to leave Nalem alone has consequences. Or he could try to stop Nalem AND another threat at the same time, with complications arising from both, and just when he thinks one or both goals are achievable…bam!

Managing multiple goals can be tricky. They can just serve to deepen someone’s personality, or the whole novel can revolve around someone trying to reconcile their contrasting desires. But if you can pull it off, it can push your story into unexpected directions, keeping you and the readers racing through the pages.

Write on and follow your own wants, dearests. Until next time,

~Dorian

Talking Bodies

How a character is described (or drawn, in the case of artists) can say just as much about the creator—and not just how often they must stare into mirrors, considering how many initial descriptions have protagonists navel-gazing at their reflections. I mean the kind of appearances we allow to be seen in our works, as well as how they’re represented. It’s a discussion that often pops up on my various social media dashboards, and since it’s just resurfaced this past week, I figure it’d be a good starting topic for this blog.

Fiction, be it visual or written, can be an escape to a more fantastic, more “perfect” world. Thing is, by excluding different bodies—those of color, of different sizes or genders, or even disabled ones—we thus imply that those bodies are not perfect or deserving of representation. Everyone deserves a chance to see themselves in fiction, not just those who happen to have the right measurements and a smoldering gaze.

Granted, we’re used to wanting to make our characters likable (even those love-to-hate villains), and in our attempts to give them a good first impression, we make them attractive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s part of our society, like how everyone has to dress nice for a job interview. But readers and viewers are going to spend far longer than a fifteen-minute interview with our characters, and in the case of our protagonists, get to see their thoughts and personality at the same time as the physical stuff. Because of this, we can unlearn our urge to make everyone pretty little defaults. We can make a cast whose bodies are as unique and diverse as real life—and it always helps when even the most fantastical fiction has roots in reality!

While it’s a goal that’s all well and good, it can be hard to know where to start. Adding diversity can be a difficult tightrope, walking the line between “is my character more than this one trait?” and “did I just add this trait to this character so I can check off on my invisible diversity checklist?” Now I’m no expert, but here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up in my own body-building quest.

  • Let their bodies help fuel their narrative, not consume it. In the “Deadly Drinks” series, for example, protagonist Jarrod Gallows is a trans-man. I chose this because a lot of his story is about being pulled between two sides—human and huldra, nature and nurture, mundane and magical—and having him be trans* fit that narrative. But while his gender identity and connected dysphoria is brought up, it’s not the only thing that defines him. He’s also a protective paranormal investigator who drinks to deal with all the morally-gray cases tossed his way; in that respect, the only thing separating him from Dean Winchester of “Supernatural” fame is that he’s wearing a binder under his shirt. (And has a tail from his half-huldra heritage and a curse hiding on his body…but that’s another bullet point entirely.)

  • Don’t leave your main characters out. It can be easy to introduce a minor character who’s a WoC in a wheelchair if she’s only around for a scene, but if the rest of your cast is still full of skinny-white-Hollywood-stars, readers will notice. Same for if your protagonists are “traditionally pretty” and your antagonists aren’t so much. Take your main cast and see what you can push about their identity. Does your ex-soldier have a bad knee from a fight gone wrong, prompting him to sometimes use a cane and adding tension when his leg is further hurt? Is your romance heroine perhaps a little soft, except for a sharp nose that she doesn’t mind because it’s the same as her grandmother’s? Even small details can go a long way.

  • Looking for a starting point? As the adage says, write what you know, and look at yourself or others in your life for characterizing physical details. My family tends toward having rather large noses, so I’ve developed a tendency of giving a lot of my characters the same fate in both my writing and art. (At least my nose isn’t quite as pointy as the Gallows’ family nose…) My Dad’s side of the family (myself included) has also had a fair share of dental nightmares, enough that I made a whole short story on the subject, and it also shows up in how Retz Gallows uses some of his bone-controlling powers in “Bones and Bourbon.”

  • Don’t just research a cursory introduction of what to know if you aren’t of a certain race/gender/size/health/etc, but also what stereotypes to avoid. A person with ADHD is not necessarily loud and manic! Overweight and athletic are not mutually exclusive! People of color can have narratives that aren’t about immigration or discrimination! If you can, research what people are saying not just academically when they talk about media, but also informally in their own blogs and posts.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember, however, is that one author can’t do it all. We each only have our own perspective, with our own opinions and biases. That’s why it’s important to help read, watch, and support diverse creators that we enjoy! (You can even start by sharing a few in the comments below, if you’d like.)

Until next time,

~Dorian