Authors Answer 14 – Genesis of a Story

Welcome to February! We have a bit of a change of pace this month.  During this month and March, our questions come from our contributors.  This week’s question comes from Jean Davis.

How does an story begin?  We all start from some idea. Everyone starts from something different.  So let’s find out what our authors do when they begin a story.

character_plotQuestion 14: When coming up with a new story, what comes first, the character or the plot?

H. Anthe Davis

Since I’m working on a (hopefully) long-running series, the characters come first, and the plots are often created by complications from what they’ve done before.  Even in the beginning of this series though, it was rather firmly wrapped around a few well-defined characters, whom I’d been playing for a while either in online roleplaying chat or in MMORPGs.  I always found playing the characters to be insanely useful, especially since other players will interact with your character in ways you might not have been able to imagine yourself.

For short stories though, I often get plot ideas well before I define a character.  But I’m not terribly good at short stories, so those might never see the light of day.

S. R. Carrillo

It varies. Sometimes characters, sometimes plot, sometimes setting, sometimes backstory, sometimes just a single scene or thought or gesture…

Tracey Lynn Tobin

That’s an interesting question, and to be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. The process by which I come up with a new idea goes roughly like this: “Hey, that would be an awesome scene. I should come up with a story so I can write that.”

So you see, I don’t really come up with the character or the plot first. But if you really want to be technical about it, I usually get an idea of the type of character I want first, then I come up with the basic plot, and then I figure out the details of both as I’m writing (a planner, I ain’t).

Paul B. Spence

I think first of the setting, the environment, and then I think of someone existing within that place. Once I have that, plot guides itself, since all I have to do is watch what happens.

Jean Davis

New stories most often come to me as a character and then a situation which leads to the plot. Often it’s just a name and maybe something distinctive or interesting about the character. That detail then leads me to what could go on around them to play up that particular thing and then we’re off into the plot. Or staring at a blank screen.  But generally the words start spilling out from there.

Amy Morris-Jones

For me, it’s all about the characters. I usually get an image in my head of a specific scene and then work to flesh out the character from there. Once I have a sense of the character, I start thinking about where the character is headed and what challenges I want to set before him/her. I tend to “pants” the first 12-15K words, and then I sit down and outline the plot a bit more specifically. The more I try to impose my thoughts on plot on my characters, the harder time I have, so I’ve learned to let the characters lead the way as much as possible.

D. T. Nova

The characters. I haven’t tried plot-first in a long time, and when I did, I failed to actually have any characters that stood out.

Caren Rich

The plot, or at least the idea comes first.  Usually, with that I know a little about the protagonist or antagonist.  By the time I sketch out a flow chart of major events, I have a good idea of the major characters and the basic plot. I’m a total plotter.  People and events may change as I write, but I have the basics before I write the first word.

Linda G. Hill

Tough question. Being one who focuses greatly on human behaviour, which absolutely fascinates me, I want to say my characters come first, but that’s not exactly true. I need a situation to put them in first. So for instance, I come up with a dilemma and then stick someone in it who might have a hard time solving it. Using this method I’m able to come up with countless scenarios for stories – the less the character fits into the situation, the longer the story is bound to be. Complicated, for me, equals novel.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Sitting out this week, as she’s been rather busy recently.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends for me.  My most recent idea was a character, a singer.  I haven’t even thought of the plot yet, as it’s just an idea for a book far in the future.  My entire premise for Ariadne started out as a setting, actually.  Then I created a group of characters to form a plot around.  I became quite fluid after that, constantly changing as I refined the idea.  My current fantasy idea started out with the world and a basic plot.  So you see, it happens both ways, and other ways, too.

How about you?

When you start a story, do you think of the plot or character first?  Or maybe something else?  What does your story grow from?  Leave your answers in the comments below.

Conclusions from Author Earnings, January 2015

Indie or traditional? Well, it looks like indie authors are taking a bigger part of the market share. Interesting numbers here.

Nicholas C. Rossis

You may remember that I study Hugh Howey’s and Data Guy’s quarterly Author Earning Reports religiously, so that I can offer you the highlights. The Passive Guy alerted me to the January 2015 report (if you don’t already subscribe to his free newsletter, The Passive Voice, I urge you to do so – he’s one of the greatest resources for publishing-related information I have found so far).

Now that everyone’s been properly credited for their hard work, what nice things can we gleam from the latest report?

Gimme the Highlights

  • AuthorEarnings reports analyze detailed title-level data on 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S.
  • 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers and are invisible to the industry’s official market surveys and reports; all the ISBN-based estimates of market share reported by Bowker, AAP, BISG, and Nielsen are wildly wrong.
  • 33%

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Book Review – First Contact

firstcontactFirst Contact

Author: Michael R. Hicks

Series: In Her Name: The Last War #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 2009

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The Terran survey ship Aurora makes a startling discovery in an uncharted star system: two planets inhabited by an advanced, and decidedly unfriendly, non-human civilization. Disabled by gigantic alien warships before it can escape, the Aurora is boarded by nightmarish blue-skinned warriors with claws and fangs who slaughter the crew in ritual combat using primitive weapons. The sole survivor, Midshipman Ichiro Sato, is returned to Earth as a messenger bearing a device that warns of an impending attack.

For that is the way of the Kreelan Empire, which has waged war against countless civilizations across the stars in its quest for a savior, one not of their own blood, foretold in an ages-old prophecy. With only a few generations left before their ancient species faces extinction, the Kreelans will wage their last war against humanity, hoping against hope for redemption of sins long past.


First Contact by Michael R. Hicks is the first book in the trilogy In Her Name: The Last War, though this is also part of a larger nine book (currently) In Her Name series.  It’s not the first published, but it is the first chronologically in the battle with Earth.  This is a military space opera sci-fi that grabbed my attention a couple years ago, and what I saw promised me an epic space-based adventure.  I wasn’t disappointed.

It opens in deep space with what the title suggests, first contact with an alien species.  Also, as the title suggests, this leads to war.  The aliens, which humans call the Kreelans, are warrior-like, hundreds of thousands of years more advanced, and have a complex social structure that proves to be quite fascinating.  This book covers first contact and the subsequent war that results, but it’s only the beginning.  This promises to be a long war, considering it’s a long series.

The characters are pretty well-developed.  At the centre is Ichiro Sato, a young and inexperienced officer who becomes the centre of attention by Earth’s forces and the Kreelans.  He’s the messenger, and he has a tough job.  He develops a relationship with Stephanie Guillaume, a journalist who gets to go through an experience of a lifetime.  Her growth over the book was quite good.  Another major character is Sergeant Patty Coyle.  She’s a tough woman who proves to be a formidable leader who I was really rooting for.  There’s a huge number of human characters, but I found that these three were the most compelling and most central of the entire book.  On the Kreelan side, we have Tesh-Dar and Li’ara-Zhurah being the most major characters.  There’s a lot of focus on their points of view, which is part of what makes this book interesting. We see both sides of the battle.  We get to understand why the Kreelans are fighting, as well as how they think.  They seem less evil and a lot more real.  That was well-done.

The action is central to this story, as this is basically one giant epic battle.  It’s not just in space, though.  We get a combination of space battles between spaceships, as well as hand-to-hand combat, gun battles, and sword fights.  That’s right, the Kreelans prefer to use swords.  I felt that the action was done very nicely, though some may find the use of technical military terms a bit too much to understand.  The battles are very long and drawn-out, too.  There’s so much detail, and we see the battle from several points of view.

The setting is mostly in space, as well as on Keran, the location of the battle.  In the beginning, on the Aurora and the Kreelan ship, we get a good description of the ships.  It’s as if the characters are seeing things for the first time, so we get a very good idea of what they see.  The atmosphere on the Kreelan ship was quite interesting.  Later on, setting descriptions become less important, while dialogue and action are the focus.  I didn’t get a very good feel for Keran, though a decent image of the ships used by the Kreelans and humans.

I was drawn in to the story quite a bit.  I was firmly on Sato’s side, and I was almost cheering for him at times.  I got to like his first shipmates, especially Captain McLaren and Yao Ming.  The battles were brutal.  There was plenty of violence, not as a glorification of violence, but to show what war is like.  It didn’t make it romantic.  There are a lot of deaths, including major characters.  Don’t be surprised if your favourite character dies.

Overall, this was a very solid sci-fi novel with good character development and epic battles.  There are still some mysteries to be solved, but I expect to discover the answers in future books.  I will definitely keep reading.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  Recommended to any science fiction, space opera, or military sci-fi fan.  It’s a very enjoyable read.

The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Kylie Betzner

the2kinternationalwritersblogtourIt’s now the fourth day in the blog tour.  On to the next writer.  See the original posts here and here.

Kylie Betzner

kylie_betznerThat awkward moment when we’re asked to describe ourselves to strangers . . . For starters, I’m an incurable nerd. I love all things fantasy and even do a little cosplay on the side. I’m a natural-born comedian, self-identified coffee junkie, and now leader of The League of Comedy Fantasists, a group designed to bring comedy to the masses. Did I forget to mention I’m an author? My first novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is available in both paperback and e-book formats on Amazon! But seriously, the titles I am most proud of are sister, auntie, and friend.

Growing up in a small town surrounded by cornfields, I had nothing better to do than fantasize about unicorns and elves. As an adult, I still refuse to grow up, and spend most of my time creating stories of comedic fantasy. When I’m not writing, which is hardly ever, I enjoy reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with my family and friends. I also run, although I don’t enjoy it so much.

I currently reside in Indiana with my sister, nephew, horde of cats, and one very silly dog.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I remember co-authoring a terrible little story with my sister about unicorns and evil leprechauns. We didn’t know how to write then, so we just illustrated the whole story with crayons. I think we were six years old. My writing has come a long way since then . . . I hope;)

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

My favorite thing about being a writer is sharing my story with the world . . . or the ten or so people who have purchased it thus far. Haha. I’m looking forward to continually connecting with new readers and other authors in this great literary community.

My least favorite thing about being a writer is marketing my work. It feels so dirty, even if you do it the “organic way” that experts advise, it still feels dirty. I hate approaching people with an agenda and having to “whore” myself out to sell copies. I wish there was a better way, or someone who could do it for me;)

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I believe in writer’s block no more than I believe in unicorns and winning the lottery. Writer’s block is a fancy term way of saying “lack of inspiration” or “lack of motivation.” When you really have a good story to write that you believe in, you don’t get writer’s block.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

kylie_betzner_bookCurrently, I’m working on a comedic fantasy series that centers around a misfit named Mongrel and his adventures in a hostile fantasy realm. The most challenging aspect of this project is juggling so many POVs. With The Quest for the Holy Something or Other I didn’t have this problem because I focused on only 2 main characters with 3 or 4 major supporting ones. My current project has quite a few more, and it’s proving difficult to balance.

What supports you in your writing?

Coffee, for one. Haha! What writer can live without a constant caffeine intake? The “what” aside, the “who” who supports me the most in my writing is my twin sister, Toni. She is always there to brainstorm new ideas, squash bad ideas, and lend an open hear when I need to whine. Every writer should have a sister like mine. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

What are you currently reading?

I’m still plugging away at Game of Thrones but I think I’ll be taking a break to read Outlander. Sounds like a guilty pleasure not to pass up.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?



Link to one book/publication you may want to promote at this time

My debut novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is available now: