The many, many authors at Fangs, Fur & Fey, are posting the top ten hallmarks of their writing. So, even though they are print-published authors, and I've only got two novellas out--one of which is free and the other of which won't be released for another week--I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.
- Moral ambiguity
I've said it before, I'll say it again: I like villains. My protagonists aren't all bad people, but they sometimes do bad things. My goal at the outset of any story is to write it in such a way that if it was told by a different character, the hero would be the villain.
- Secondary characters with lives
Another storytelling goal of mine is to write secondary characters with lives and secrets. There are things you don't know about your friends. There are times when you are just a support character in their story--and if there aren't those times, you don't have friends, honey, you've got back up singers.
- Fairy tales
I love the gory ones. No surprise here, but almost every story I write references fairytales or folktales as a general idea, or a specific comparison.
But it ain't all hearts and flowers. Love is a battlefield -- violent and explosive. Or an ice-skating rink -- cold and treacherous. Or a race track -- fast and competitive. Or a waltz -- dreamy and whirling in perfect accord. Love is different things for different people. Why should my characters all have the same version of it? Though, to be honest, I really like the battlefield.
- Multi-racial and international characters
Why? Because when I was a kid, there were so few nonwhite characters in books that weren't about race that I used to randomly pretend heroines in my favorite adventure stories were brown girls. Because as a reader I am damned tired of seeing the word "white" used as a description of the heroine's beautiful skin. Because I want my characters to look like me and my friends. Because I think authors who refuse to write about characters who aren't their own skin color or ethnic background are wusses.
Most of it movie-like and stylized. Some of it not. Fact is, I like adventure stories. When it comes to movies, I like car chases and sword fights and Hong Kong style fight scenes. And sometimes I use physical violence as a symbol of emotional turmoil.
- Strong female protagonist
Do I even need to say this? I can't imagine writing a weak female protagonist--leastwise, not one who didn't end up strong by the end. Those martyriffic heroines who let everyone shit on them for an entire book before the hero realizes that they are pure and virtuous and wonderful are not my heroines. No way, no how.
- Virtue is NOT its own reward.
See above. I hate the idea of noble suffering. Usually, characters who spend a whole book suffering nobly could have ended it all by telling a few people off. I also am not down with selfless heroines who will always, always, always sacrifice themselves to help or save people they love--Self-sacrifice like that isn't noble, it's co-dependent.
- A is for "Alpha" and "Asshole"
I admit it, my heroes are kind of assholish. But all they need as motivation to end their asshole ways is the no-nonsense love of a strong female protagonist (see # 7, above). Just like in real life, right? ;o)
This isn't part of my manifesto, it's just something people keep saying about my stories. Even the sweet ones. I don't set out to write "dark" they just end up that way.
- Bonus Feature: References to classic/hard boiled mysteries.
Not in every story, but in a few. Email me
or leave a comment on this post* identifying Like a Thief in the Night's references to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet titles by February 1, 2008 and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate.