A desperate outlaw. A sheltered diplomat. An imprisoned heretic. If you’ve been following my blog posts over the past few months, you know we have one more Sunshield protagonist to meet. I’ve introduced you to Lark, the dreaded Sunshield Bandit, and Veran Greenbrier, the earnest court translator. The final cog in this trio is Tamsin Moropai—poet, musician, and the epicenter of an ambitious political coup.
Last month, I introduced you all to Sunshield and one of it’s protagonists, Lark. But she’s not the only main character. The book is written in rotating perspective among three characters, and while it’s Lark who gives the book it’s name and muscle, there’s another narrator who might strike a chord with readers of the Creatures of Light trilogy. His name is Veran Greenbrier, and he’s the son of Mae, protagonist of my first book, Woodwalker.
Though... it could be said he takes after other members of his family.
In this month’s post, I’ll share a little bit about Veran’s character, his struggles, and his earliest sketches in my notebooks. For the sake of readers who haven’t yet read Woodwalker, I’m going to keep this post free of spoilers for the Creatures of Light trilogy. Readers already familiar with Mae will know Veran’s lineage and the kind of upbringing he had. Those not familiar… let’s go not so much with mama bear, but mama wolf, who cuddles her pups before leading them out to kill an elk and howl about how great her territory is.
See it all after the jump!
Hey writers! Got a tricky scene that isn’t working out, and you can’t figure out why? Confounded by your characters’ inexplicable desire to do the opposite of what you want them to do? At a complete blank at what your protagonists are destined to do next? You might have a pivot point!
I’m using my last post of 2019 (written in 2019 but obdurately posted in 2020) to talk about this little writing nugget, partially because I haven’t done a post for writers since the summer, and also because I’m hoping this slide into 2020 will be a pivot point for me. 2019 was rough, for a variety of reasons from sheer business with my summer job to a series of mental/emotional cataclysms, but 2020 already feels more stable. My next book, Sunshield, releases in May, and I have several long-awaited goals coming to fruition in this next year. So it seemed topical to discuss these little oddities I think of as plot “pivot points.” Below I’ll talk about what these tricky scenes are, why they can send a manuscript spiraling out of control, and a few ways I approach them.
See it all after the jump!
Writers are busy, distracted beasts.
There’s never been a time in my writing career that I’ve had less than three manuscripts going at once. That’s not to say I’m writing them all at the same time—they’re always at different stages, from concept to drafting to editing to publication (for a peek at some of my strategies at each of these different stages, check out My Strategic Author Shoebox). This was true in the very early stages of Woodwalker, back in 2015 when it was just a baby manuscript looking for an agent. That year, I was a park ranger in Yellowstone querying my first book, drafting my second, and plotting my third, when a brand new character popped into my life. Over the past four years, that character has sprouted a whole world and duology around her, with book one, Sunshield, debuting on May 26, 2020.
The Outlaw Road duology has three narrators, but at the heart of the story is a single character, and it’s her alias that gives book one its title. Head below the jump to read about her origins and the story that grew around her, along with her visual development!
If you've been following along on social media this month, you've seen my daily Inktober pieces focused on climate change. It's been tough spending every day researching new ways we are poisoning our planet, which is why I wanted to use all that time and effort for something good. I hope we can all commit to making small changes in our lives while working toward large-scale changes in our communities and countries. Pick just one small action you plan to take to combat climate change, share it with me, and be entered to win a selection of this month's Inktober pieces. See all the details--plus suggestions for helpful changes--below!
While I can often come up with content for my “For Writers” and “For Artists” blog posts, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what readers are interested in. Do you want character sketches? Deleted passages? JK Rowling-style exposés on secret and possibly irrelevant backstory?
This month, instead of guessing, I decided to let you all tell me what you’re looking for. I finished out September with an Instagram Ask Me Anything, which I promised to answer in this month’s blog post. See your questions and their answers below!
It should go without saying, but there are MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS for the entire trilogy below--continue at your own risk!
Thanks to a summer of posting ranger photos and hashtags, I’ve had quite a few people get in touch to ask about becoming a park ranger. Since I’ve already scrambled this summer’s blog post topics anyway, I decided to take a detour from my usual posts and reflect a little on this season and the many routes to get into the coveted flat hat.
All statements and opinions are my own and are not endorsed or maintained by the National Park Service. All photos are my own.
Read it all after the jump!
There’s a lot of advice out there for writers at every step of the game, from concept to drafting to publishing. Different things work for different people—I know authors who edit heavily as they draft, not moving on until a scene is close to perfect, while others take whole chapters that are giving them problems and—get this—delete them. Not move them to another document—DELETE like a freaking CYBERMAN.
Everybody goes about this nutty process of book-writing in a different way, which is why I tend to stay away from offering hard and fast rules for writers. But! Having several different manuscripts in all stages of the game right now (one in concept, two in drafting, and one in revision), I’m using July’s blog post to break down the main strategies I use at each step of the process. It’s not really a toolbox so much as a shoebox—just a few useful knickknacks for navigating each stage of a novel’s journey.
Take a look below the jump!
En plein air is just a fancy French way of saying painting outside. I never really considered myself capable of plein air painting until my first season as a ranger in Yellowstone in 2015. While in the park, I had the opportunity to learn from Suzie Garner, a fantastic watercolorist and plein air painter. She opened the door to landscape painting for me and gave me so much confidence! Now watercolors are some of my favorite ways to document my trips and ranger seasons.
Now that I’m back in Yellowstone, I’ll be doing a lot more plein air work this summer, so I thought I’d break down my materials and process for anyone who might be interested. I spent the morning painting the Teton range, so check out the progression below the jump!
It’s not going to be a long blog post this month, because I have precisely five days before I need to be in a car with my husband and all my worldly possessions and heading cross-country to Yellowstone. But being in the thick of several manuscripts at all different stages—one in plotting, one in drafting, and one in editing—I wanted to share some great tips I’ve gathered over the years on jump-starting protagonists. Think of them as icebreakers for authors, only less horrible than real social icebreakers because your characters can't judge you.
So many of my protagonists start out as little more than a suggestion—a role to fill (Mae), a foil to another character (Rou), a catalyst (Celeno). Often, it’s not until I reach the end of the first draft that I understand exactly who that character is and how to achieve their full potential. Sometimes that makes drafting hard, especially when I need a character to make a big decision—by the time I was writing Creatures of Light, I knew, for example, how Mona would react in any given situation. But as I was drafting book 1 of The Outlaw Road, with new characters, I had to do a lot more puzzling. What choices would this character make? How do they handle their problems? How do they react when they fail?
There are lots of great character-building exercises and activities available online and in writers' workshops to help you get to know your protagonist, but I have a few go-to aids that I use when I realize I need to know more about them. Check them out below the jump!
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator