The Untold Tale

Words for Writers: Characters and Tropes

I opened my Askbox today and received this question from Chris Player:

What gave you the idea to write these characters [in The Accidental Turn Series]? A modern day character in feudal-esc world? Brilliant! Makes me wonder how a modern person would do in Salvator, Tolkien or even Pratchett’s worlds. About half way done the book and loving it!

*

(art by @anotherwellkeptsecret​)

Heya! Thanks for the question, and I hope you are still loving the book when you get to the end of it!

This novel really came out of my study of Mary Sues, and my own fantasies about what it would be like walking fully-informed and well-read into worlds like Tolkien and Prachett’s. I wanted to write a story where something like that happens, but I knew that I would get my pants sued off if I tried to use their worlds. So, I had to come up with one of my own.

To do that, I spent a lot of time compiling what I knew about fantasy worlds and their staples – what kinds of environments and landscapes they usually encompassed, what kinds of civilizations and the level of their technology, and what sorts of characters inhabit them and/or star in these tales.

And so lot of my characters started as amalgamations of tropes. And, in this case, because you need to start characters in a place that gives them room to grow, sometimes negative or harmful tropes.

Kintyre Turn, as the hero of The Tales of Kintyre Turn, is stereotypically masculine – big, buff, and brawny, he only sees value in strength, virility, and power. He is cocky and arrogant, the typical sword-swinging Conan-the-Barbarian male-power fantasy that is meant to stand in for the nebbish white cismale heterosexual reader. Women throw themselves at his feet, and he has perfect teeth in a medieval-era world void of dentistry.

Bevel Dom is the stereotypical sidekick – feisty, sassy, short and spunky. He’s clever, but the hero always seems more clever (even when he’s not). He worships the hero, even though he does most of the work. He has no concept of how valuable he is because the hero doesn’t value him as much as he should. He is the wife-stand-in (in more ways than one, in this story), and the brother-stand-in.

Forsyth is what J.K. Rowling has recently called “The Hufflepuff Hero”, and it takes him a long time to find value in his own compassion, kindness and thoughtfulness. He considers those negatives, when we first meet him, because his brother Kintyre is the ideal and he is nothing like Kintyre. This translates in Forsyth into a severe lack of self-esteem and a dismissal of the soft and virtuous.

But even Pip, my “real person”, is still a collection of Mary Sue tropes. Pip is the feminine-rejecting online acafan feminist. She is so sure of her own right-ness that she offends and blunders without realizing it. She insults without meaning to. But she also finds joy and virtue in things that others don’t, because she over thinks and over analyses. Pip herself is not meant to be a paragon of womanly virtue, nor the “perfect feminist”; she’s flawed, she has a lot to learn, and she thinks she is so much more clever than the writer Elgar Reed, and so falls into her own traps sometimes.

Elgar Reed, the author of The Tales of Kintyre Turn, is an amalgam of stereotypes, as well. He’s white, male, has a beard and a belly, and doesn’t understanding women. He is the proverbial socially awkward geek who makes good and has never had to develop social skills because his fame and money makes him friends instead.

With the tropes established and stitched together to create Creatures, then I got to work turning them into Characters.

It wasn’t until I needed them to start walking or talking that they became “real people” – I had to decide on their wants, their verbal tics, their backgrounds and upbringings. And of course, the more I wrote about them, and the more time I spent with them, then the more they needed fleshing out and became less like walking avatars and more like people with their own personalities.

And the best part about that is once I’d established their tropes, I had the flip-side of the tropes to play with. This helped the characters grow. They don’t completely change to the mirror-verse of themselves, but, though the use of both sets of tropes, I was able to give the characters challenges, moments of growth, and help them find a balance in the middle.

Forsyth finds his self worth, and some of his own internal flint; he finds value in himself through what he gives to others. His failings become his strengths, like his disdain for violence transforming into an ability to defeat a villain with Words rather than Swords. Kintyre finds humility, and struggles to find worth in things that are not traditionally “masculine”, like being a good Lord and admitting that he loves to draw. Bevel learns to speak up for what he wants, and accepts the part of him that desperately wants to be a father and part of a loving family, to see himself and carve out a position for himself as Kintyre’s equal and partner. Pip is still struggling with her own narrow-minded feminism and academic narcissism, but is learning to listen more. Elgar is trying to deconstruct his own ingrained misogyny and racism, to value his fans more and fear that people are trying to use him or tear him down less.

I hope this answers your question!

*

For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

You can find out more about The Accidental Turn series here.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Characters and Tropes
Read more

The Forgotten Tale – Sneak Peek on Wattpad

for-facebook-ad wattpad_logo-svg

To celebrate the imminent release of THE FORGOTTEN TALE, I’m putting up the first six parts online FOR FREE.

Forsyth Turn has finally become a hero—however reluctantly. But now that Lucy Piper has married him and they’ve started a family in her world, his adventuring days are behind him. Yet not all is as it should be. Beloved novels are disappearing at an alarming rate, not just from the minds of readers like Pip, but from bookshelves as well. Almost as if they had never been. Almost like magic.

Forsyth fears that it is his fault—that Pip’s childhood tales are vanishing because he, a book character, has escaped his pages. But when he and Pip are sucked back into The Tales of Kintyre Turn against their will, they realize that something much more deadly and dire is happening. The stories are vanishing from Forsyth’s world too. So Forsyth sets out on a desperate journey across Hain to discover how, and why, the stories are disappearing… before their own world vanishes forever.

In this clever follow-up to The Untold Tale, The Forgotten Tale questions what it means to create a legacy, and what we owe to those who come after us.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five (Coming Nov 29)
Part Six (Coming Dec 6)

While you’re waiting, you can preorder / shelve the book here:

SMASHWORDS | AMAZON | KOBO | GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE

JM FreyThe Forgotten Tale – Sneak Peek on Wattpad
Read more

Cover Reveal and Publication Date – GHOSTS!

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.04.44 AM

GHOSTS is the first Accidental Turn Novella, and is meant to be read fourth in the series.

Reading order so far goes:

  Home CoverScreen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.04.44 AM

About the Book

For seventeen years, Bevel Dom has been the author of his own story. Or, rather, he’s been the author of The Tales of Kintyre Turn, the illustrated scrolls chronicling his adventures as first the squire, then the colleague, and then finally the friend of legendary hero Kintyre Turn. But there are some stories that Bevel doesn’t write down, doesn’t tell to eager audiences of bright-eyed boys and sighing bar wenches in taverns. Some he simply folds into his heart and keeps. This is one of those tales.

In this prequel novella, fans of The Accidental Turn Series are offered a glimpse into the lives of Bevel Dom and Kintyre Turn shortly before their arrival at Turn Hall and the events that follow, further expanding upon the world and characters seen in The Untold Tale and the the upcoming sequel, The Forgotten Tale, coming Summer 2016.

Publication Date

April 5th, 2016!

Info and Links

Going to SciFi on the Rock? Make sure to find me and get your coupon for a FREE copy of this novella!

Read A Sneak Preview on Wattpad | Put on your GoodReads Shelf | Preorder from Amazon | Bookmark the Publisher’s Page

 

JM FreyCover Reveal and Publication Date – GHOSTS!
Read more

A Summary of My 2015

I wrote two novels, a novella, a few shorts; two novels I wrote launched; five anthologies in which I had shorts or essays launched; I signed and announced two new book series (whaat??); got injuries that I am still recovering from (come on, me, being immobile is so 2006); had my heart absolutely crushed to sludge twice; moved back home with the rents (best. roomies. ever.); made my comic-writing debut; and made some amazing new Tumblr friends that I adore to pieces (one of whom just proposed to me last night. I’m moving to the Deep South, y’all. I hope she realizes that I’ve decided her joke was serious. :p ).

So in short: I’ve had lots of amazing things happen on the professional side, some really awful stuff happen on the romance side, so absolutely crappy stuff happen on the health side, and have had some amazing friends and family helping me through it all. Really am blessed in that category, and I won’t forget it.

Now onto the granular breakdown:

January

  • Announced that my two comics “Bloodsuckers” and “Toronto the Rude” had been accepted into Toronto Comics Vol 2. (I got a great pair of illustrators assigned to my stories, too!)
  • Midway through the month I took a slip on the ice outside of my house and (though I didn’t have a full diagnosis until November) herniated a disc, got micro-tears in the muscle of my back, wrenched my knee, tore the muscle at the top of my ankle, and tore the squishy stuff in the socket of my hip. Slept for the rest of the month with the really good drugs.

February

March

April

May

  • Unable to work full time due to my injuries, I moved home to live with my parents, and focus on getting better and meeting my contracted writing deadlines.

June

July

August

September

October

  • Attended EerieCon17
  • The War of the Worlds” happened, and I realized I was really, really not healthy enough to be treading the boards yet. It was interesting and extremely painful.
  • Began writing “Untitled Geek Dating Webseries Screenplay: Season 1”
  • Second round of edits for “The Untold Tale” begins

November

  • NaNoWriMo: wrote two short stories,one novella, and finished writing “Untitled Geek Dating Webseries Screenplay: Season 1”
  • Wrote and Launched “Ivy”, an Accidental Prequel
  • Finally got all the diagnosises for my slip and fall. Have now had enough MRIs and XRays to glow in the dark.
  • Finished line edits for “The Untold Tale”

December

 

Goals for 2016

  • Finish a short story for Peggy (so close to being done!)
  • Finish the second Accidental Novella (so VERY close to being done!)
  • Write two more Accidental Shorts
  • Write “Untitled Geek Dating Webseries Screenplay: Season 2” (And possibly 3, we’ll see.)
  • Write “The Silenced Tale”
  • Assemble all my Peggy Barnett short work into a short story collection, add a few new stories
  • Be faithful to my diet and loose some of the weight that makes my injuries worse
  • Walk every day, or ride my Recumbent Exercise Bike

Goals for 2017

  • Publish the Peggy Barnett short story collection
  • Write “The Skylark’s Search”
  • Write “The Skylark’s Sacrifice”
  • Finish some short stories set in the Skylark world
  • Be faithful to my diet and loose some of the weight that makes my injuries worse
  • Walk every day, or ride my Recumbent Exercise Bike
JM FreyA Summary of My 2015
Read more