C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

One to read. One to hear. One to love.

“This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t therefore I must.”

You know that post I just wrote about being contrary? Sometimes something catches fire when you say what you aren’t supposed to say out loud. It just happened on one of my other blogs, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It was picked up by the Passive Voice and spread hither and thither. So far I’ve received two stern talking-tos (one of which I didn’t understand), appreciative notes and emails and offers of Prozac. The piece is about writing: the frustrations, the joys and the braingasms. You’re invited to have a look at my heart under the klieg lights.

And the All That Chazz podcast is finally back.

Have a listen if you dare. It’s not safe for work. I touch on control issues, the joys of colonoscopies, and get to an overdue reading from my crime novel Higher Than Jesus.

Oh, and Season Two of This Plague of Days is going great. If you’ve read it but haven’t reviewed it yet, please do. Thanks!

October’s mandates are stacked higher than September’s to-do list, but I’m dancing as fast as I can.

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I ask that of all my prey.”

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#NaNoWriMo: The key tip to write a much better book

When we plunge into writing a book, there’s lots of enthusiasm on the front end of the challenge. But how will we fill all those pages, especially in that saggy middle where we really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen? How will we give our story verisimilitude? How will we make readers care about our characters and give the book depth? Where will all the conflict come from? How will we sustain our enthusiasm all the way to the end of NaNoWriMo?

There is a solution that many writers shy away from to their detriment. They want their protagonists to be likeable so they make them Christlike figures. This saps a lot of juice from your book. Here’s why you must make your characters more flawed:

1. With flawed characters, there’s much more to write about. A former writer on Seinfeld said recently that stories that focussed on Jerry were always the hardest to write because he had the fewest flaws. George and Kramer and Elaine had plenty of neuroses and quirks, so that allowed the writers plenty of material with which to play. Give your detective an obsession or a hobby that doesn’t help him. Nero Wolfe had the orchids upstairs. Monk has OCD. Everybody has a blind spot or maybe even a fatal flaw that your plot can turn on.

2. Flawed characters have an interesting past that has a bearing on the present and future. My hit man in Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Then Jesus was abducted and abused as a child. Those scars interfere with his love life now. He wears very expensive suits and can’t stand to have sex without his clothes on because he has emotional scars. He also doesn’t want a lover to see the physical scars across his chest. His psychological quirks go deep, dealing with PTSD, addiction and his relationships with women. He falls in love too quickly always searching for a woman he can idolize and worship. Or is he really looking for mom?One of my favorite chapters in Higher Than Jesus is the one in which my hit man goes to group therapy (and fails miserably at it.)

You don’t want to stop your narrative cold with flashbacks too often, but if you can weave those flashbacks into the story well — and if those flashbacks are compelling enough — you’ve got a tool to give your readers a much richer story.

3. Flawed characters create tension. Your plot should spring from character. For instance, Jesus Diaz is prideful. If there’s a problem, he feels he has to handle it. Other circumstances conspire to make him feel he can’t simply call the police to handle his issues, but his resolve is key to that plot point. Higher Than Jesus would be at least a third shorter if Jesus solved problems the same way normal people solve problems.

4. Flawed characters have more conflict with their world. Jesus has a hard time relating to anyone else as a “boss”, for instance. He’s not a guy who is meant for the 9 – 5 world, especially with his limited skill sets in finding people, his inability to work in law enforcement because of his shady history and the creative uses he finds for super glue. Tension and heat increase from friction so be mean to your protagonist and make at least some of his problems his own damn fault.

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four!

5. Readers relate to flawed characters. A novice writer asked me to read a chapter from her paranormal romance. The hero was very heroic — blandly so — and had an impossibly heroic name. The heroine was everything you’d expect from a heroine and more. They’d never done anything wrong and never would. They were always right, always predictable and always relatively safe because they were amazingly capable. Meanwhile, most readers think they should get to the gym today and most of us won’t make it. When you write your hero as if he’s Superman, he’s boring and you have a book the length of a comic book with just as much believability. Go Batman. In the ’60s comics, he was written as The World’s Greatest Detective, kind of Sherlock Holmes in a cowl with a cool car. The character’s real surge came when writer Frank Miller tuned into the underlying subtext of Batman’s vibe: He’s a billionaire with Daddy issues who trains himself to become a psychotic badass vigilante who won’t kill, but he’s no boy scout, either. That’s much more interesting than relentless virtue.

My hit man is obsessed with movies (just like me). Movies are our society’s touchstone, so Jesus has seen the same movies you’ve seen and sees the world through that Hollywood prism. He not only wants the Happily Ever After ending; he thinks he deserves it. Through movies, I make readers share a common interest and knowledge base with a hit man.

Consider Elmore Leonard’s characters: They’re often a bunch of criminals doing crazy things you’d never do, but some of their traits remind you of your crazy, racist Uncle Larry or that nutty girl you shared a room with in second semester before she dropped out to go to Art School. Flawed characters are people we know and believe because we’re surrounded by people who are flawed.

Resist the urge to make your characters better than human. In fact, we’ll like and believe them more if they aren’t perfect.

For more tips, inspiration and motivation for National Novel Writing Month, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, on sale now.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Crack the Indie Author Code, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Self-help for Stoners, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit).

BONUS:

A fresh podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com which explains how you can get free ebooks. 

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UBC #24: This is not another blog about the Aurora shooting

This is a blog about responsible media policy.

I’ve read some bizarre ideas floating around since a crazy person shot and killed people at a midnight première of the new Batman movie. A lot of people are asking if the Batman film is to blame. (It was the première. The guy hadn’t even seen the movie, so it couldn’t have been as important to him as some may imagine.) Yes, the shooter called himself The Joker, but what was probably more important to him was that he hurt and kill as many people as possible. He found a place where the most people would gather in a confined space so he could attack more effectively.

We’ve seen this before. The attack in Aurora happened just twelve miles from Columbine. Despite that experience, the media is jumping to the same mistakes. We were told the Columbine shooters were inspired by The Matrix. That was later proved false. Heavy metal has also been blamed, but for every expert who claims there’s a connection between violence in media and violence in real life, there are a bunch more psychologists who will tell you violence in media, video games and porn actually decrease violence.

Worse, many of those complaining of the connection aren’t experts at all. Instead, they are people playing a political game in the media for their own ends and axe-grinding. For intense, with the so-called cannibal attack of several weeks ago, some in law enforcement announced that a new drug was to blame: bath salts. The media dutifully reported the new danger threatening us all: Bath salt druggies turn into zombies. That guy was crazy, no doubt, but he wasn’t on bath salts. Worse still, there was no way for anyone to say what he was on. They made the announcement immediately, but the actually drug test would take much longer. (Eventually, only marijuana was found in the attacker’s system.) There were no bath salts and those who said it was bath salts couldn’t have known what it was. That was just somebody ginning up a story for their own ends. The decriers fade away after they’re disproved, but the media will listen to them again next time with equal credulity. Meanwhile, lots of people still think it was bath salts that turned a mentally disturbed person into a homeless zombie who ate another homeless man’s face. Media: Wise up. You’re being used. Or are you doing the using for ratings?

As for the eager censors, ready to make a connection between entertainment and the actions of the lowest common mental denominator, I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip. He said that a censor is a person who would prohibit us all from eating steak because a baby would choke on it. There are arguments to be made about keeping guns out of the hands of disturbed people and helping to identify the signs of crazy. As time progresses, we’ll have the gun control debate again, probably with no change.

The only thing I see that could be acted upon immediately is this: Media. Stop naming the shooter. He wanted attention and there may be another disturbed person thinking of copycat actions. Focus more on the victims and the heroes of this tragedy. Those are the names and actions I want to know. I don’t need to know more about this particular insane and violent perpetrator. Journalists, in general, have refrained from reporting suicides for decades to decrease celebrating suicidal people. Please exercise some restraint, take responsibility, and downplay the identity of the shooter. I’m not worried at all about fictional violence that happens in books and on film. I write crime fiction, the operative word being: Fiction. When it shows up on the news in a celebratory frenzy, it might be a trigger that reporters help to pull.

 

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VIDEO: Yes, you could be Batman Jesus!

This week I posted about how the Internet rose up in indignation and, with one voice, condemned a small press publisher for his treatment of a writer and her work. The Internet has so much power for good when an idea goes viral. It’s not all about harsh German porn. Okay, a lot of it is, but we could do something really amazing here. You, sitting at your keyboard right now, could do something amazing. Joshua is a young man with leukaemia and he is suffering. I’m asking all of my loyal followers, casual readers and cranky haters to please harness that same fire we used for righteous condemnation to rise up and help ease the financial burdens on Joshua and his family during this terribly trying time. You know cancer sucks. Let’s punch it back in its smug face.

Please spread the word to help the son of author Max Cyn.

Raise the cause and raise the money and raise up this family.

If someone were drowning, you’d throw them a rope. If someone yelled for help, dangling from a cliff, you’d help. You don’t have to be Batman. It’s just tossing a little rope, but that still makes you a hero. This IndieGoGo campaign is about tossing this family a rope. Working together, we can help pull them up and out.

Please donate if you can and if you can’t, then just spread the word. Tweet (Twitter tag: #indiesunite4joshua), share, reblog, tell your boss, tell the woman beside you on the bus, whisper about it to whomever’s in the next bathroom stall. Spreading the word can help  immensely. Even small donations pile up. We’re very close to meeting this worthy charity’s goal, but there’s only 13 days left in this campaign so please help out Joshua today! Thanks for this. When you help this young man with leukaemia, not only will you get perks from awesome indie authors, you will feel a little like Batman. Or Jesus. Or both. ~ Chazz

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PODCAST: To err is human. To forgive is unprecedented.

As the story of the zombie story writer versus the undead anthology creator emerged this week, lines were drawn in concrete, barricades were built and razor wire was erected around the dignity of being a writer. The writing community was inflamed and things have turned around for the writer. But is there a resolution in sight?

In today’s Self-help for Stoners podcast, I wonder about healing, forgiveness and our capacity to get over the bad stuff. When the world disagrees with us, do we still dig in our heels and somehow convince ourselves the world is wrong? When we’ve won, in our anger, do we keep kicking? Can we move forward, or are all judgments permanent? Are we as good as we can be? And could we, possibly, ever be as good as Batman? After dealing out a savage beating, can we forgive?

Have a listen at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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Create more interesting characters (Superman vs. Batman)

superman-vs-batmanSuperman and Batman. They are both orphans, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Batman is the world’s greatest detective and/or a psychotic bad ass, depending on what vintage of comic you’re reading. Superman is an all-powerful boy scout with too few weaknesses. Batman is just a human who risks his secret identity every time he pulls his underwear over his Kevlar long johns.

Batman is more interesting. His story is dark so there’s more to explore. He is weak compared to Superman, but for story, you don’t want a hero who is safe from just about everything. You want a hero who is in danger every second. Then you put your characters through the grinder.

Don’t fall in love with your characters because, for your story to be at all readable, you’re going to do some horrible things to them.

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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