Monday, June 27, 2011


Yes, I understand that I am dashingly handsome, rich, and a fierce fighter, bent on protection of the weak and striking fear into the hearts of the wicked, but what is my motivation? ~Bruce W.

According to some psychologists, everything we do and are and want has its motivation buried deep within our subconcious. I don't care. I don't like horror movies, and I don't need to know why I don't like them; I'm not watching them. What I do need to know, is why my character doesn't like pizza. Or why my character is a loner. Or why my character is greedy.

There are some traits that you can get away with not having a "reason" for, like being shy, or having blue eyes, but the vast majority of characterization must have a motivation. I'm not saying to include that motivation in your story. Not even the reader deserves to know everything about your characters; let them have a little dignity and privacy. You, however, their author, need to know.

One of the characters in my current WIP is the villain. I know, you never saw that coming, did you? Well, while looking over my notes with my wife, she happened to ask why he steals. I was taken by surprise. What do you mean 'why does he steal?'! He's the bad guy; he's greedy and wants some money!

Stop right there. We have both a problem and a solution in that statement. First, 'He's the bad guy' is NEVER your answer for motivation. That's called a Disney Complex (Sorry, Walt.) The early Disney villains were notoriously flat characters. No depth, no change, no motivation. They were just bad. Those aren't bad characters; that's bad writing. Every character must have depth and motivation. Stock characters (the Hero, the Villain) are no longer good enough.

Second, we have something good from that statement: 'He's greedy & he wants some money.' This is by no means good enough, but it is a start. He's greedy = character trait. He wants money. He doesn't want to save his family from poverty. He doesn't have a drug issue. He isn't trying to steal bread to survive. His top-level motivation isn't survival or necessity, it's money. This is important because you will write him differently based on his motivation. He will behave differently based on his motivation. A thief that is trying to survive by stealing apples and bread is a very different character than one who steals for the kicks of getting away with it. For them, the money or goods aren't even that important. Very different than my character, who wants the money itself. Why he wants, not needs, money (greedy little punk) is where he needed work.

On the one hand, I was a little miffed. What do you mean he needs justification for being greedy and wanting money?? Would you like to drive down to a prison and go ask the offenders about their motivation? Then I realized, it doesn't matter. They don't need to know their motivation; they just need to know how many years they have left on their sentence, or how not to get caught alone with Joey the Shank. I, however, am a writer, and I need to know why my characters do what they do. I need to know why the villain wants money. I need to know why the hero wants to save people. I need to know why the girl dies. I need to know why he's an arrogant SOB, why he stays aloof, and why she's suicidal.

UPDATE: Thanks to @LisaGailGreen on Twitter, I ran across a very interesting site this week that plays right into this post on Motivations! The Character Therapist is an actual, licensed therapist that will take your character and psychoanalyze them to break down their motivations. Isn't that awesome?!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I'm not the only one running contests and competitions! Over on Sash's Secrets, she's running her first BlogFest today. Following is what she asked for, and my entry. I took my entry from On Common Ground. This scene happens shortly after the excerpt that is posted on my site. Enjoy!

On Sunday, June 26th, post a 500-1000 word scene of your characters being interrupted - doesn't matter what they're doing, doesn't matter what's interrupting them (end of the world, knock on the door, little voice in their head...), they just need to be interrupted.

She halted her footsteps as four men wearing blue and black stepped out of that corridor, their eyes locked directly on her. She stole a quick glance back and confirmed her sudden suspicion. There were more men now standing behind her. She had walked right into a trap. She could already see a shotgun as well as a couple of handguns and assorted chains and baseball bats. Grace knew she was in trouble. She lunged for the closest back door, praying it would be unlocked, that she could get through and have a chance at making it to the open street where there would be other people. The gang wouldn't attack like this out there. With one foot extended to her right, hand outstretched for the doorway, other hand clutching her revolver for dear life, she froze. The short, dark skinned man swinging the chain also froze, including the chain. The baseball bat stopped in midair, an inch before slapping into a palm. The leader's finger was already pulling the trigger, but it didn't move.

One thing in the alley did move. A head of wavy, shoulder-length blond hair lifted up and looked around, confused. The stormy blue eyes took in the scene and then looked past it at the auburn-haired man walking toward him. The blond stepped away from the door he had just unlocked and spoke.

“Micheal, what are you doing?”

Micheal shook his wings and smiled gently at the tall golden-skinned blond.

“It's her Time, Gabe. Relock the door." Gabe didn't move. "You've done a good job with her. But it's her Time. Time for you to take another charge. For her to go on to her reward.” Gabe stared at Micheal, still not moving toward the door.

Gabe knew this was not some cruel joke. It was Grace's time to die. The work she had been destined to do had been done. It was over. But it couldn't be over for him. He couldn't accept it this time. He had never argued a Time before.He had never hesitated to let other charges accept their fate and move on to their destiny. But he couldn't let Grace go. He wouldn't.

“Gabe, look at me.” Gabe turned his stormy eyes to the ground. They were even stormier than usual. “We know that she is special to you. We have overlooked your indiscretions. We haven't reassigned you because you were doing a good job. You didn't let temptation get to you. You didn't shirk your duties. You kept a watchful eye and- Gabe look at me!” Gabe looked up solemnly. Micheal stepped closer to him. “You kept a watchful eye and this is good. You did a good job and we haven't faulted you for what happened. But now it is time for it to end. It is her time to die and you must let it happen. “ Micheal reached past Gabe and locked the door. “It is no sin to love, Gabe, but we have a responsibility to the order of life. We have a job to do. That's the way it is, the way it has been, the way it must be. You know this! You're an excellent angel, Gabe. One of our best, if truth be known. Let the woman go.” Micheal reached back and pushed the revolver from Grace's unmoving hand.

As the deadly weapon clattered on the pavement, Gabe looked up, his pale blue eyes taking on a steel tint. His jaw was hard and his fists clenched. “I won't let her go, Micheal. She will do much good. And I do love her.”

Micheal sighed and shook his head. He held his hand out and set it against Gabe's chest. Gabe stiffened and his wide eyes stared in horror and anger at Micheal. Gabe's muscles tensed, but could not move. “You don't have any choice, Gabe. She will die. And yes, you do love her.” Micheal looked at Gabe sadly as he stretched his other hand slowly toward the group of mortals behind him. “I'm very sorry, old friend. But you have been removed from the guardianship of Grace Rayne. You are no longer allowed to give her aid." Micheal turned his eyes away and mumbled under his breath, "And she can never be allowed to have your heart.” Micheal stretched out his fingers and waved his hand to the right, freeing the action of the mortals.

The shotgun exploded as momentum returned to the alley. Grace lunged for the door and screamed as her leg burned and gave way underneath her. Her jeans were soaked in blood almost instantly. The shotgun issued a lazy trail of smoke in the hands of the grinning Highway. “Get her, boys. Teach her not to mess with us.” Grace screamed again as a chain whipped across her back, tearing the fabric of her shirt as well as her skin. Highway knelt beside her and smiled, brushing her hair away from her face so she could look at him. “Remember that kid you sent to jail when he was robbing the convenience store? All he wanted was a lousy fifty bucks and you try to send him up the creek for murder. That was my little brother.” Highway stepped back and crossed his arms as someone else stepped up. Grace looked up and saw brown eyes and a mass of curly hair. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and there was a scrape against one jaw. It was the boy that had dodged through traffic to get to her. The boy that had led her into this trap. The boy whose life she had saved less than an hour before. “This is my other brother. Normally, I'd say he's too young to go for full membership, but, I figure rules are made to be broken, just like bones.” He grinned at the youth holding the baseball bat and the bat came whistling down on top of Grace's shoulder and the side of her head. The audience laughed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Help for the Hero Machine & the Contest

I heard some people were having trouble navigating the Hero Machine while trying to design their entry into the Hero Games Contest. So, below is a short tutorial. Also, I apparently neglected to set an end date for the contest. Your entries must be emailed to me by Friday, July 22nd. Email entries to

Guide to creating and submitting entries for the contest:

Go to the HeroMachine website. Under the banner, you'll see the Hero Machine 2.5, which consists of a blue box on the left with the Hero Machine logo, and various buttons and images on the right.

Choose one of the hero body-type sketches by clicking on it. A little box will pop up that offers three loading options.
Unless you have a slow connection, choose the top one, marked 'Complete.' If you do have a slow connection, click the middle one, marked 'Partial.'

Once all the parts have loaded, you have many tools to work with. Let's look at one tool at a time.

Under the number 1, which originally said Pose, is now the word Hair. Click on the arrow beside the attribute Hair, and you get a dropdown menu of all the available attributes. Whichever one you choose, the selection window will populate with those choices. Choose hair, and you get lots of hairstyles; choose Belt, you gets lots of different kinds of belts. You get the idea.
Directly under the Attribute Selection (Hair, Skin, Belts, etc) is the Genre drop down. By default, it shows Standard, but you can see other options (fantasy, capes, monsters, etc) by clicking the arrow.

Choose a style from the various choices available (the little slider bar under the pictures shows you more options). Each time you click one of the pictures, your hero will be updated. You can also switch between hero attributes by clicking on the hero in the blue box at the left.
That attribute will light up in green when you do so.

As you add attributes to your hero, you will most likely want to color them. The color box at the bottom is your tool for this. Clicking the left hand box under 3. Color Items will color your highlights. The right-hand box will add the main color. Not all items will use both colors.

Explore the various options. This creator has a ton of them. Once you've got your hero the way you want them to look, click in the box at the bottom that says Character Name and give them a cool Super Hero name.

Now, this is the part that gets a little tricky. You can't just click Save. It won't actually do you any good. It'll give you a code that you can save in a text file, and return to this site to Load in. Do save the code, just in case. What I want you to do, however, is use your Print Screen button on your computer. It might read 'Print Screen' or 'PrntScrn' or even 'prt sc'. It is usually close to the home and delete buttons right around backspace and beside the F-keys. When you use that button, it won't actually tell you that you've done it right. Annoying, I know. Open a simple program like Paint (It's in accessories, if you've never used it.) and press Ctrl + V on your keyboard. That will paste the image into the paint program.

If you'll look in that black box I've outlined at the top of that image, you'll see the only two tools you need to use. Select, which is turned on by default, and then Crop, right beside it. Click on Select to start a new selection, then click and drag on the image to put a box around the section you want to keep (just your Hero's image in the blue box, including the name), and then click Crop. Save the file at the very top, and then email it to me at (If this is absolutely too much for you, you can click the Save button on the Hero Machine and send me the code. I promise not to be mad. ;) )

I hope you have fun with this, and I can't wait to see your entries! If you have heroes you don't want to enter, but would like to share, feel free to paste them (or the code) into the comments of the Contest post. If you do have any other questions, please feel free to comment them here, or ask me on Twitter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


OK, so I've decided to hold a little contest. My current work, if you haven't been following along (Shaame!), is Hero Games.

The main cast of characters are beta testers for an online rpg superhero game. I used the website Hero Machine, with permission, to create several of the players' heroes. However, you can never have too many heroes, right?

So, here's the contest: Go to Hero Machine and create a hero. Name your hero, and send him/her/it to me. I'll pick the best and announce the contest winner. Winner gets... wait for it... real super powers! No, wait, that can't be right. *Shuffles through his notes.* Ah, here it is! Winner's hero gets included as a cameo role in the novel! That's much more practical. (Though, admittedly, less fun. We'll have to check into that powers thing. Maybe that can be for the honorable mention.)

Anyways, hop over to the Hero Machine and have fun! If you have any trouble, I've posted a guide here. Once you have created and named your hero, you will need to screenshot it to send it to me. Submit entries to

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Socially Networked

Sometime earlier this year, I created a Facebook account for David Jace, with a Facebook Page for my work & writing persona. That has been going fairly well. I have about 63 "Likes" on the page, and not all of them are friends or family! If you've been reading this blog on the blogger page, you may have noticed the Facebook badge on the side of the page.

Last week, I read this post from Bookends, LLC comparing the relative effectiveness of Twitter vs Facebook. She basically asserted that your fans will find you on Facebook; your Twitter will find you fans.

I have previously blogged about what I think of Twitter. I'm still not in love with the concept, but I decided to give it a try. So, a few days ago, I created a Twitter account under @DavidJace and began tweeting. I followed perhaps a dozen other authors, services, friends. After just a couple of days, I have 5 people following me. Only one of these people do I even know. This, to me, is wonderful. So far, Twitter is making a good show if itself for me. On the other hand, one of the authors I am following tweets quite often, some of which are intriguing concepts, and some are updates regarding his work/appearances. I also, however, know what time he went to bed Friday night, and that he took his dogs for a walk in a thunderstorm.

Also, I updated the website With Facebook and Twitter widgets. There are Like and Follow buttons at the top of the main page, and a widget and a badge at the bottom.

I wait to see where this social networking experiment takes me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Prewriting?? ugh.

Most of my students think prewriting is a dirty word, or a punishment. So did I. That is, until I learned to call it strategizing. Prewriting is, forgive the reference, elementary. Writers don't Prewrite... prewriting is what you do when you have an essay and don't know what to write about. Prewriting is organizing your ideas before you begin a two-page paper for the teacher...

So, let's no more to do with Prewriting. Ugh. Let's talk Strategizing! Strategy is a plan of action. Strategy is what generals do for war. Strategy is what nerds do when they play chess. Strategy, in writing, is profiling the characters, finding their backgrounds and motivations and internal conflicts; laying out the plot lines, tracking with which characters they involve and how they intermingle; choosing the settings that will best complement the mood you're trying to create.

I am about to dig back into Hero Games (I just finished Slave Princess), and I'm going to start with a day or so of strategizing before I begin. You might ask why, since I already have some written. Sometimes, a quarter of the way into the work is the best time to strategize. Some writers need to get some of the idea on paper before trying to figure out where it's going to go. Knowing beforehand spoils it for them.

That's fine. That isn't my problem. A good amount of my planning was lost when I changed computers. I did quite a bit of prep- ahem, strategizing about a year ago using the wonderful FreeMind program, which I'll be using again. However, I only had the file stored on my hard drive, so when that was gone, so was the information.

I digress. Strategizing is your plan of action. Figuring out what you are going to do, and where you are going to go isn't punishment, it's smart. Yes, I suppose you can wake up on a Saturday morning, yank your kid out of bed and say "Let's go to Mexico! Grab your tennis shoes." However, a carefully planned trip yields far better results. Booking flights, or outlining road maps, packing the things you'll need. Repacking, with the things you forgot to list, making reservations for good restaurants, finding lodging. These strategies can turn a random trip to a little town across the border to a nice vacation, that hits the highlights and makes memories.

That's what you want your novel to be, too. A vacation from the real world that leaves behind memories of places you've never been, people you've never met, and a story to tell your friends. Strategizing is how you get there.

If you want details on what I am strategizing in Hero Games, go read that old post I linked above. I've got war paint to put on and a story to plan!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mad-Eye Moody's Naturally Unnatural Eye

Flipping a switch to turn on a light is so ridiculously commonplace that it escapes notice and mention. For example, my ten year old usually isn't aware that he has flipped every light switch in the house and not turned them back off. To a toddler, or someone from the past, or a visitor from an undeveloped area, it is nothing short of magic. Magic that is within their power to control. That's why they'll flip that switch enough to give you a seizure if you let them.

To one unfamiliar with it, it's magic and extraordinary. To those who use it daily, it is commonplace. This should be true with actual (fictional) magic as well. To one who uses magic on a daily basis, it should be part of the ordinary, not the ordinary. Some things should be as simple as... well, as flipping a light switch. Other things should be used in such a way that it makes them seem inordinately comfortable with it, which they should be. We flip open our cellphone in a dark room to get a little light. We use screwdrivers to open paint cans. When you are completely comfortable and confident with the intended use of something, you start applying it to other purposes.

Some who have done this well? J. K. Rowling, for one, with Mad-Eye Moody. Mad-Eye's magical eye (to replace the real one he lost at some point) can look through anything. There's a part where they are trying to clean out an old house of all kinds of stuff, some of which are dangerous. Mad-Eye Moody shows up and is asked to look into a cabinet upstairs to see what's there before taking care of it. Does he walk up the stairs and open the door to peek in? Of course not, why would he? He has a magical eye! It doesn't just look through the cabinet, it can look through the very floor. So right there, on the spot, he looks up, checks around, spots the cabinet, looks in it, and tells her what she needs to know. Too simple. And to Moody, it would be that simple indeed. He wears that eye all the time; he's so used to it, he uses it without even blinking (pun intended).

Another that did it well, in a different medium, was Dreamworks's The Incredibles. They didn't have to wait for that special moment to use their powers. Violet vanished when she got shy at school. ElastiMom reaches around and under the table to grab at the fighting kids. (She also reaches around and under Mr. Incredible, at times, to grab a kiss!) Mr. Incredible has more trouble controlling his power than using it. If you don't believe me, ask the car repair shop about that deformed door!

They use their abilities almost without thinking about them. That's how it should be. We don't think about moving our arm to reach for a glass of soda/water/wine. We don't make a conscious decision to move each leg as we walk. It's an everyday thing. So are their abilities. To them, it's just natural. A good sf writer will be able to make the unnatural natural, for it is in the nature of his characters to be so.