Book Review – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Rating: 5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which will be posted on 3/21/2018 (My Channel).

Very rarely can I say that a book affected me like this one did. By the end of chapter two I was sobbing, and at that point I knew I was in for a very powerful reading experience. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I feel like I’ve come out of this experience changed in some way. This book really forced me to confront prejudices that I hadn’t even realized I’d had, and during the incredibly moving finale of this novel I made a promise to myself that I would no longer stand by and watch as atrocities like these happened to the people around me. My voice is my weapon, and I need to start using it.

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Let’s Talk About Writing – How Much Power Is Too Much Power?

Let me set the scene. The main character steps up to his final showdown with the Big Bad. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. And as the battle starts, the Big Bad immediately gets a leg up on the main character, knocking the weapon from their hand… Except, wait, why is that a problem? The main character has telekinetic powers and can just summon their weapon back into their hand. In fact, why do they need the weapon at all? Can’t they just toss the Big Bad around with their powers? It isn’t like the Big Bad has any powers of their own, or at least not any more than the main character. Really, where’s the tension? This final battle kind of blows. Let’s go get Starbucks instead of watching this shit show…

Overpowered characters. They can suck any and all tension straight out of your book, like a biblio-vampire. I’m sure you can see, then, why you don’t want your own main character to be overpowered. So, today we’ll be discussing how to avoid writing an overpowered main character. But first, I want to remind all of you that I’m always looking for topic recommendations for these posts, which can be sent to me via Twitter and Tumblr Ask, or in the comments section of the corresponding YouTube video to this post, which can be found here.

For today’s post, I’m going to give you some ways to avoid writing an overpowered main character. You could use one of these suggestions, or combine a few, or even use all of them. Whatever you need in order to make your story work the way you need it to work.

So the first way to avoid writing an overpowered main character is to give their powers some limitations. You can’t just say, “They can do everything and they can do it perfectly with no issues and wow aren’t they the coolest?!” First of all, that’s stupid, and will leave your readers rolling their eyes. Main characters like this are the biggest giveaway that an author is an overenthusiastic amateur who wants their character to be the next Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Deadpool all rolled into one. Second of all, this leaves zero room for tension. If your main character can do everything and they can do it perfectly then why should I be worried whenever they come up against any obstacle? Obviously they’ll get through it no problem, because there’s nothing they can’t do. There’s a reason Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Deadpool can all do different things instead of being able to do everything. They wouldn’t be nearly as fun to root for if there wasn’t some chance that they might not win. I mean, hell, even Superman has limitations to his powers: He’s weakened and can even be killed by Kryptonite.

A good bookish example of a character who could have easily been overpowered but was given some limitations to their powers is Harry Potter. (The most minimal of spoiler warnings. If you do not want spoilers for this series, jump to the next paragraph.) I mean, magic can basically do anything in J.K. Rowling’s magical world, right? But in Harry’s case, he didn’t know anything about magic when his adventure started. Over the years he learned how to use his magic, but even by the time he had his final showdown with Voldemort he didn’t know everything. This absolutely added to the tension of every single book in that series, because it left the reader wondering, “How could a magical student stand a chance against one of the darkest, most talented wizards of all time?” Sure, in the end there were always a lot of lucky breaks and coincidences involved in his victories, but as far as his powers went, Harry never felt overpowered.

So find where weaknesses might lie for your own main character. It could be in ignorance of how to use their powers, or in an object that might have the ability to weaken their powers, or maybe their powers drain their energy every time they use them. Use your imagination. Get creative. And make sure it makes sense in the context of your story. You don’t want to give your main character a weakness that could interfere with the plot in a negative way, like making them unable to cross bodies of water but then needing them to somehow get to Ireland from America.

The second way to avoid writing an overpowered main character is to give them incentive to not use their powers. This will prevent ex-machina moments, where the main character uses their powers to solve all of their problems. I mean, it just isn’t interesting if every roadblock you throw up for your character can be solved in a matter of seconds. So, for example, say your main character’s powers drain their energy every time they use them. In that case, they may want to save their energy for when they’ll really need their powers. Another example is if their powers could somehow give away their position. Maybe there’s a spell or some kind of technology that can pinpoint where these powers are being used. That would definitely give your main character good reason to go about solving their problems the old fashioned way.

Let’s look at Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. (Very slight spoiler warnings. If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph.) Not only does Kell have a lot of magical powers (he’s able to control all of the elements, plus he can also control blood magic, which is super powerful), but he and Lila also get their hands on a magical stone that can literally create or do anything. I mean, hellooooo convenient plot device, right? And it would have been so easy for Schwab to use that stone to solve every single one of the problems Kell and Lila ran into during their adventure. Instead, though, she gave them a reason to avoid using it at all costs: The stone’s dark magic was dangerous and negatively affecting them each time they used it. By adding this element to the stone, it meant the two characters were able to use the it whenever there was no other option, but that in all other instances they would find other ways to solve their problems. Plus, the danger element of using the stone created amazing tension throughout the novel. Pardon my pun, but it really was two birds, one stone. *ba dum, tiss*

The third way to avoid writing an overpowered main character is to prevent them from using their powers in some way. Maybe the Big Bad is immune to their powers. Maybe their powers have been taken from them somehow. The key is to force your character to figure out new, innovative ways to get out of whatever kind of trouble they may be in. This is similar to the previous two options I’ve presented, but more extreme. In this case, you have to think, “If my character doesn’t even have the option to use their powers, how would they react? What would their next course of action be?”

A good example of a character going through something similar is (and I’m about to get nerdy here, so bear with me) Hercules. Yes, from the Disney movie. I know this isn’t a bookish example, but a story is a story is a story. And this element really worked with this story, and might work with yours as well. Think about it: When Hercules relinquished his powers to protect Meg, did he give up and go, “Oh well, guess the Titans are just gonna kill everybody”? No! He went out and fought them, and then for good measure he went scuba diving to save Meg’s soul even though he knew he would probably die. It wasn’t his powers that made him a hero, but his actions once he didn’t have his powers. This could work for your character, too. The true test of a main character’s bravery isn’t how many special attacks they can throw at the Big Bad. It’s what their actions are once they’re forced to act without their powers to aid them.

The final way to avoid writing an overpowered main character is to make sure your Big Bad is bigger and badder than the main character. And this doesn’t mean they have to be physically bigger and badder. Maybe they’re a hundred times smarter than your main character. Or they’ve got deadlier powers. Or maybe they’ve got a full-blown army backing them up. The point is, your Big Bad needs to pose a threat to the main character in some significant way. This will create a the necessary sense of tension for the reader when the main character finally faces up for the final battle. Sure, maybe the character has telekinetic powers, but the Big Bad has them too, and is even more skilled with them. Your main character can walk through walls and disappear, but the Big Bad can literally pick the main character up and toss them around like a rag doll.

You guessed it, I’m throwing in one final example. Not that I really need to. I mean, any novel worth its stuff knows that the Big Bad needs to be, well, Big and Bad. So you could pick up any piece of genre fiction and find a decent example. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s just go back to a tried and true example: Harry Potter. (Decently big spoiler warning here. If you don’t want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph.) Why is Voldemort such an intimidating villain? Is it his red eyes or lack of a nose? Or is it because he’s an incredibly powerful wizard who has practically made himself immortal by splitting his soul seven times in order to create seven horcruxes? I’m going to have to go with option B. Every time Harry faces up with good ‘ol He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he’s infinitely outskilled and wouldn’t have a chance in hell of defeating him, anyway, since he has his horcruxes to keep him alive.

Something else to consider is that any dark wizard will always have a leg up on the good guys because they’re willing and able to use unforgivable curses, like the killing curse. So while the good guys are running around shouting “Expelliarmus!”, the bad guys are shooting magical bullets at them. It’s not a fair fight, which absolutely makes the bad guys feel like an even bigger threat, and that’s something you should consider when writing your own book. Is there something the Big Bad is willing to do that your main character isn’t? That can create a very interesting dynamic, morally or otherwise.

And that’s all of the wisdom I have to share with you today. Hopefully it was helpful! In the comments, let me know about any characters that you thought the author skillfully prevented from being overpowered. Or, even better, tell me about any frustratingly overpowered characters you’ve found in books. Let’s face it, there’s plenty out there.

Book Review – The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis

Rating: 3/5 Stars

I was given an eARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free. (Disclaimer: I meant to finish and review this novel before its release date, but since it was only sent to me a little over a week before publication and I had other obligations, I wasn’t able to. Sorry!!!)

The best way I can describe this book is to say it was enjoyable. Not great, but not bad either. A true three out of five stars. I was actually considering giving it 3.5 stars, but enough issues piled up by the end that I couldn’t justify the half star.

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Book Review – The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

Rating: 5/5 Stars

I was given an eARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free.

For full disclosure, I want to put it out there that I am on Jenna Moreci’s street team for this novel. However, I can assure you that this did not cloud my judgement at all. I was prepared to give this novel a bad review if it deserved it, though, luckily for me (and for all of you), Moreci wrote an amazing book.

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So, Your Local Aspiring Author™ Is Querying Their Novel… What Does That Mean Exactly?

So your local Aspiring Author ™ is ranting and raving all over their social medias about how they are “officially querying their manuscript.” Which is all well and good, except… What does that even mean? After all, you work a regular nine-to-five job like a normal person, and all of this writing hoopla that they’re always tossing about never actually makes sense to you. So, okay, they’re querying their novel. Does that mean it’s about to be published and you can finally get some peace and quiet on your Facebook news feed? Well, my good non-writerly friend, let me explain to you a thing.

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Let’s Talk About Writing – It’s All About the L-O-V-E

So everybody knows that this is the month of loooooovvveeee, right? I mean, it’s February. And even though only one day this month is actually about love, you’ll doubtlessly be bashed over the head countless times over the next few weeks about how in love you’re supposed to be and how lame you are if you are, in fact, a single pringle (like myself). Well, don’t worry. I’m not here to shame you for being single. I’m here to shame your characters being single. Because that’s better, right?

Anyway, before we get into today’s topic, which is writing a realistic romantic relationship, I wanted to quickly remind y’all that I’m always looking for topic recommendations for these posts, which can be sent to me via Twitter and Tumblr Ask, or in the comments section of the corresponding YouTube video to this post, which can be found here. Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled content.

First of all, I do want to say that you actually aren’t obligated to include a romantic relationship in your novel if you don’t want to or don’t feel like it’s necessary. In fact, I know a lot of people who would like less romance in the books they read. I mean, I’m not one of those people, and books without some kind of romantic subplot usually aren’t for me, but we all know none of you care about what I want, right? So don’t feel like you have to put any kind of relationship into your book just because there’s some kind of pressure, because that pressure doesn’t actually exist. Well, except if your novel is a romance. Then a romantic relationship is kind of essential. But other than that, you’re free to do whatever the hell you want.

This post, then, is for those of you who are looking to add a spicy little romantic subplot (or main plot) into your novel. And, I mean, you’d think that’d be easy, right? Take two characters, make ’em smooch, and there ya have it! LOVE! Right? Yes? That’s how that works? Well, not really.

What you really need is chemistry. And no, I’m not talking about the second worst class I was ever forced to take in high school (the first worst was Physics with Mr. Smith, in case you were curious). Nah, I’m talking about the kind of chemistry that makes you fan yourself like a middle-aged woman going through menopause. If a reader isn’t struck by how perfect these two characters would be together, you’re missing something pretty big. And that something could totally break your story, if you aren’t careful.

So how do you create chemistry between two fictional characters? Well, one thing is that you can’t rush their burgeoning relationship. There’s this thing readers like to call insta-love, and it’s a big no-no. Insta-love comes about when two characters meet cute and then are immediately all over each other. Though, this isn’t to say that you need to write a forty-five chapter slow-burn angst novel, either. There’s a nice balance in there somewhere, and that balance depends on the rest of your story. Does the plot revolve around the fact that these two characters need to be together asap? Okay, well then dedicate a chapter to showing them falling for each other, maybe a series of dates or moments that led up to them falling head over heels for each other.

And if your story falls on the other end of the spectrum, where the plot doesn’t require them to get together right away or maybe even requires a slow-burn, then all you have to do is make sure you provide the reader with moments that show why these characters belong together. Trust me, this is the fun part. Provide moments where there’s obvious romantic and/or sexual tension between your characters. You know what I’m talking about. One character gets hurt and the other has to dress the wound. One character is emotional about something and the other character is there to support them. Etc, etc.

Also, don’t forget that romantic chemistry also comes from having things in common. It can be big, obvious things, like rooting for the same sports team, or something more subtle, like a shared sense of humor or emotional trauma. What matters is that there has to be something that ties your characters together, or else why, realistically, would they like each other? (And, yes, your characters should like each other, if you’re going to put them in a relationship with each other.) Even the two most polar opposite people can have at least one thing in common, and that’s usually what attracts them to each other.

Another thing to remember about chemistry is that you can’t just ignore it once you get your two characters together. If you want them to stay together, the chemistry has to stay. Sure, it can (and should) change and evolve with their relationship, but it can’t just fly out the window once you’ve achieved your goal of getting them together. If you let that slide, your readers won’t be happy. They’ll wonder why these characters are even together if there’s no indication that they even like each other anymore. This is especially important if you get your characters together relatively quickly. No matter what these two characters go through from that point on, the chemistry has to remain if you want them to still (realistically) be together by the end of the novel. Even if they’re fighting or broken up, there needs to be that palpable draw between them that makes the reader think, “Yes, there’s something here worth saving.”

And keep in mind that the best way to keep your reader invested in a romantic relationship between two characters is to draw out the big moments (you know, to avoid that insta-love thing I mentioned earlier). Have the characters almost kiss, but then the moment is interrupted. Tease the idea of sex but push it off until the sexual tension is just too much. I mean, if you hit all of the big relationship milestones at once, there isn’t much room for the relationship to grow past that. Just like the rest of your book, it’s all about pacing. Drawing things out for the sake of drama.

And that’s all I’ve got for today! Remember, chemistry is key when writing romantic relationships! Without it, a relationship just doesn’t make sense! Let me know in the comments below what fictional couples you feel have the most chemistry, and which ones just fall flat for you! I’d love to know! (My favorite literary couple is Rose and Dimitri from the Vampire Academy series, if you were curious.)

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which will be posted on 2/21/2018 (My Channel).

When I heard all of the hype surrounding this book, I thought, Will it really live up to the expectations people are setting for me? Now all I have to say is: V.E. Schwab, I’m sorry I doubted you.

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The Pressure of Finding the Right Agent

Hey guys! How’ve you been? That’s good, that’s good… Oh, me? Ah, well, to be honest, I’ve been pretty stressed. Why? Well, let me tell you why. It’s because I’ve been dedicating hours of my life to doing copious amounts of research on literary agents. It’s been a long and arduous process, one I’m hoping will pay off in the end, but I’m not going to lie. It’s taking quite the toll on my poor little brain. Because it isn’t as easy as you may think. Not if you’re me, anyway. It’s funny, because in most areas of my life I have the most Type B personality one could have. But when it comes to writing–and, in the same vein, researching literary agents–I’m a Type A fiend. The type of Type A that my Type B side would hate very, very much.

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Book Review – I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop by Mur Lafferty

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book was a quick read with a lot of really great information that was delivered in an entertaining way. Though I consider myself to be a somewhat seasoned writer, I found myself learning quite a few things from this book, from editing tips to information about the publishing industry. It was also incredibly inspiring, urging writers to keep working toward their dreams and to ignore their inner “bully.” Though there was nothing necessarily new revealed in this book, all of the information was presented in a unique way that I believe would be incredibly beneficial to an amateur writer.

I would absolutely recommend this book to any aspiring authors looking to learn a bit more about what it’s like to be a writer professionally, or who may be second-guessing their abilities. Lafferty’s writing is witty, charming, and all-around fun to read.

Book Review – The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which will be posted on 1/17/2018 (My Channel).

This novel had so many great things going for it. Bracken’s use of language was amazing, from her vivid imagery to her hilarious one-liners sprinkled throughout. This book had a tendency to make me laugh in one instance, and then gasp at the sheer beauty of the prose in another (something I wasn’t expecting to experience while reading a MG novel). Bracken was also very skillful in describing her characters, introducing their appearances and personalities in only a few short lines that easily got the point across nicely.

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