Writing Advice: How Creating Sims Helps You Write Better Characters

This is something I tell a lot of people who are just starting out. The Sims helps you give characters basic traits, it helps you work out their long-term goals, and it helps give you a vague idea of what they look like. 

Creating sims and sims houses from the ground up is still something I still do when I’m writing. To date I have a sim of every character I’ve ever written. 

Even if you have a good idea of your character in your head and you have most of their personality on paper, it is a whole different thing to sit down and create them in The Sims. 

I had already written a 300+ page novel about my most recent characters in Wixen before I sat down and created their sims, their house, and their love interests. This opened up a whole new world for me description-wise. When you have your character in front of you walking through this house you designed for them and picking things up, picking things to eat, etc. you learn so much more about them. 

Giving a sim the same traits and job as your character will give you better insight into how your character will react in certain situations. It could even help you pick out difficult favorites for them. Like their favorite food, favorite music, and favorite color. 

For example, after I created my sims, a fire broke out in their house. There were several small children inside. Violet, instead of helping any of the small children, ran outside and saved herself. Jasmine tried to grab as many children as she could and carry them to safety (even though she was only a visitor in the house). And Persephone and Caspian just stared at the fire and did nothing.

The fire nearly burned the entire house down because the fire department didn’t wanna put it out. And that’s how I decided a fire would be how Persephone and Violet’s parents died when they were young. 

It helped me work out generally how terrible Violet was as a person. Considering she literally left several children in a burning building.  Even though she was directly next to said children when the fire started.

You never know what The Sims will teach you about your characters. 

How to Write Convincing Romance (Semi-Straight Edition)

Romance was one of the first things I learned how to write and write well. This means I’m hellllaaa fucking picky about what kind of romance I read. Don’t let my username fool you, I’m almost 0% into the actual romance genre. And you’ll learn why.

1) Don’t force it. The number one thing you want to do when you’re writing a romance is let your characters come together naturally. You may have it in your head that you created a specific character for them to bang, but you could be wrong. Like in real life, you want things to progress naturally between your characters.  Let them work out their feelings for themselves and your romantic plot will be better for it. I promise.

2. Avoid Purple Prose. We’ve all been there. You’re in the heat of a romance scene and you’re describing things left and right. And it sounds so good and intense in your head how his “gorgeous cerulean orbs bored into her emerald ones and they experienced an intense moment of lust and electricity”. 

No. Stop. This sort of thing can pull your reader out of the story to contemplate what an “orb” is and why you’re using ridiculous over the top colors for your character’s eyes. Personally, if I see this shit in a book I have to put it down and bury my face in my hands. It’s not as pretty as you think it is. Most of the time it’s just confusing. 

3. Write interesting male characters. So many times in romance books I’ve come across writers describing their guys as tall, handsome, and muscular with “piano fingers” or “high sharp cheekbones” (Comma omitted purposefully) when in reality men are a lot more diverse. 

I see the worst offenders of this in Reverse Harem titles where all the men look exactly the same. Like they all walked right off the cover of a shitty romance novel. That isn’t reality and it hurts your audience and it hurts your characters. If I can’t tell them apart description wise or you spend a lot of time comparing how similar they are, then they’re not interesting. 

It’s okay to write male characters that are only average in build and average in appearance. It’s okay to have male characters that are shorter than 6′. It’s okay to have male characters that are overweight or have acne. It’s okay to love people who don’t look like they walked off of a romance novel cover. 

And for the love of God give them a personality beyond hot bro that likes the female lead a little too much. 

4. Write interesting female characters. As someone who mostly writes female characters because I’m a hardcore advocate for female representation, (Not to mention I have a mighty need for lesbian relationships that don’t center around shitty erotica) I will slap a bitch for writing awful female characters. Most romance authors are female, and in my opinion, females should know how to write females. Yet, from all of the romance books I’ve read (especially reverse harem), I find that women have a hard time writing women with personalities. 

Though I will say most of the time the female characters are more diverse than the male ones, they’re largely one dimensional. It’s like they’re not their own person outside of their romance. That isn’t cool and it doesn’t make for a good romance. Your leading lady should have personality! And for the love of all things holy, that personality shouldn’t be sassy and defensive or “she’s totally fucking smart guys”. 

It’s okay to write women that don’t have it all together. It’s okay to write older women or women who are mean or women who are of average intelligence. If you have to keep pushing the topic of your character being “totally smart” or any number of traits repeatedly, then it alienates your reader. It’s okay for her to be smart, but actually show her being smart, don’t just tell your audience that she is repeatedly without evidence. 

5. Bechdel Test. This one is important. In order for your romance to be convincing, your main character’s life can’t completely revolve around it. If she has a female friend (she should) or other females in her life (sister, mother, cousin), she shouldn’t spend every scene with them talking about her relationship. This shit pisses me off more than anything else on this list because it makes the whole story seems flat. It also makes every relationship in the book feel forced. 

If you have to constantly remind your reader about the relationship then I’m sorry to say it isn’t going to feel real. Have your character talk about herself with her female friends. Have her talk about her interests and their interests. Give them all a distinct personality. You can even have them talk about romantic preferences, but please for the sake of the stars above, flesh out your female characters. And your male ones for that matter. 

If they don’t have a personality beyond attractive then you’re not doing this right.

6. Don’t put too much emphasis on a first kiss. Kisses aren’t the do all end all of romantic stories. Your character can kiss one person and realize that they would rather kiss someone else. The emphasis should be on the journey to the relationship and the journey after it. 

Personally, I hate books that have the entire story revolves around the romance and ends with the two characters finally getting together. The lead up is only part of the story. The rest of it should be the characters facing the actual plot of the book together. 

7. Give your book a plot that doesn’t revolve around the romance. This is the #1 main reason I have a hard time enjoying anything out of the actual romance genre. I don’t like books that revolve around romance. The central plot should be something else. 

Romance should only ever be a subplot in the midst of a much larger story. You can focus more on it if it’s pertinent to your larger plot, but it should feel like the characters just so happened to fall in love because the plot brought them together. It shouldn’t feel like the romance brought together the plot. 

8. Men should not be violent or manipulative. I see this so much in romance. The women are soft-spoken, but sassy when they need to be (to make them seem more relatable) and the men are big hulking nightmares of testosterone who make all of the decisions for the female character. 

The female main might put up a fight at first, but eventually turns a blind eye to it and goes along with her male counterpart(s) instead of getting the fuck out of there. That’s not how this works in real life. This isn’t romantic or sexy. It’s terrifying. The moment a man gets violent or possessive and isn’t corrected or chastised for his behavior is the moment I stop respecting whoever wrote the story. 

Romance is an incredibly difficult thing to master. There are a lot of things that go into creating a romance worthy of your audience. And none of those involve your male characters trying to control your female character’s life. Or, if you’re like me and your only write lesbian/gay/ace/trans/etc romance, one character should never try to control the other character’s life in the name of love.

Just don’t do it. 

Writing Advice: When You Have a Bad Day

I don’t have anything that anyone expressly asked me today, but I was reading a few blogs yesterday because I was feeling really down on myself. To date, I haven’t written very many creative works that have been published. I have a whole ton of published news stories and blogs, but nothing creative. 

I just want to tell everyone that it’s okay to not have a lot of creative works published and still be working on a book. There are a ton of people out there that never wrote anything prior to writing some of the most famous books we have in existence. J.K Rowling and Stephen King come to mind. 

It’s never too late to get started. Write the book that keeps you up at night and don’t worry about what other writers are doing. Your success is not measured by their success. 

Writing Advice: Overcoming Writer’s Block

I’ve been in the game long enough to know that everyone gets writer’s block. It’s simply a way of life for people who pursue careers where they have to be creative. Having a creative block is nothing to be ashamed of, but there are several ways you can work around it. 

1. A block is a block is a block is a block. Creative blocks are a normal part of the creative process. There are different types of blocks depending on your personality or what you’re working on, but they all mean the same thing: you’re having issues getting ideas you can put down on paper. 

2. Don’t fight the block, own the block. Creative blocks are dumb little things that make the creative process harder and when you’re writing, that means everything is going to sound hella stupid. Your writing isn’t going to be good by any means, I know mine isn’t when I’m suffering from writer’s block. So the best thing to do is own the block and power through it. Write stuff that you know is bad or you think is funny just to try and get something vague on paper or spark an idea. 

3. Cut your word count or skip a few days of writing. For my process post that we went over yesterday, I write around 2500 words a day, but when I’m blocked (or suffering from depression) I cut that word count down to 100-300 words a day. The important thing is that you’re writing every day, not that you’re meeting your “good day” word count. 

4. Read, look at art, do research, go for a walk, take a shower. Ideas can sneak up on you from anywhere. If you’re struggling with where to start writing, go outside or read a book to get yourself out of your head. It’s okay to get inspiration from other writers or from your own life. Anything to make it so you get your story out. 

5. Editing is a writer’s best friend. Eventually, your block will go away on its own and you can go back and fix the trash you wrote while you were on it. Nothing is set in stone. Not even once you’ve published it (that’s what revised copies are for). So don’t sweat the small stuff. Writer’s block doesn’t have to be the end of your career. Keep pushing forward and eventually, you’ll make it through!

Writing Advice: My Process

The important thing to know is that no two processes work the same. This is just how I manage to get everything done. 

Thanks for asking!

1. It starts with an idea. It’s probably something vague like « how can I make this already well-established story gayer? » or « it’d be interesting to put lesbians in space. » (since I almost exclusively write gay fiction)

2. After the idea comes the outline. Now this doesn’t actually have to be set in stone. Most of the time I scribble mine into the margins of a too full notebook or journal because I’ve run out of paper. And tbh my outlines are always an ongoing thing. I recently re-wrote an outline for a story I’ve been writing that has well over 1000 pages.

I actually used to skip the outlining part, but dude if you wanna write anything you need an outline. It tells you where to go with your story. You aren’t going to write something long like a book in a single night bro so you need to have your outline down to remember all the twists and turns you want in your story.

3. Write the ending. Like the outline, the ending isn’t set in stone, but I prefer to get it out of the way early on so I have a goal to write to.

4. Realize you don’t actually have to write anything in order. If you have a good outline you can just flit around writing fun dynamic scenes and fill in the blanks later.

5. Not everything is going to be dynamic. Get that through your head. Some stuff is gonna be boring and hard to write and it’s gonna drive you crazy, but the good news is that should be minimal. You just need to write it and move on.

6. Get a timer app. I use Wordzy, an app that locks my phone and computer until I’ve hit a word limit I set. Basically run writing sprints until you hit your daily word count (I do 2500 a day split up between 4 sprints with a 20 minute-1hr break between). It isn’t going to be pretty and it doesn’t have to be. Because you’re going to edit that shit.

7. Edit. Edit everything. Just go back through and start deleting shit you don’t like. And by deleting I mean cutting and pasting into a document titled outtakes. You don’t wanna actually delete your writing just in case you wanna go back to it later. Just saying, what doesn’t work in one story or part might work in another.

8. Once you edit most of your shit have google read it out loud to you. I do this and it helps me catch so many stupid errors. Stuff like repeated words or incorrect words that I didn’t catch in my read through. It’s literally a godsend. And it also helps catch if your story is nicely paced or if it’s boring or you’re putting it on a little too strong.

9. Edit again. A lot of the stuff I write I edit a minimum of 10 times. Even though at this point in Wixen some chapters I’ve edited 24+ times. Others I’ve edited around 14. Some only 5.

10. Don’t be afraid to cry! Writing is difficult and emotional and probably also evil. It’s okay if you feel shitty and frustrated and annoyed with it. But remember! NEVER STOP WRITING!!! Don’t give up even if it’s hard and you hate everything you write. Because someday you won’t and it’ll be okay!

So yeah. That’s my process, but like with less crying than is usually involved. Haha. Hope this helps all you writers out there.

You literally DO not have to write this way if it isn’t what makes you happy. You can write a book without an outline, but the idea of that terrifies me so much. More power to the lot of you who can handle that kind of pressure.