Hello, my name is Erin, and I write character-driven fiction.

Confession time: I write character-driven fiction.  The characters are my stars, not the plot, not a world, not a concept.  I’m interested in the stories these people I make up in my head have to tell me, and I bank on readers being as interested in them as I am.

Maybe it’s the longtime roleplayer in me that causes that.  I can’t be sure.

I think about these things from time to time, but it wasn’t until a recent review in the @SciYourFi blog that I realized how much I invest in characters over the plots driving them, over everything swirling around them.  The review was of my first full-length ebook, Epsilon: Broken Stars, and the major takeaways for me as a writer were to make sure that all of the little things that struck the reviewer as “odd” pay of in the second book (Redeemer, forthcoming, release date unknown but probably in the spring or summer) and that the reviewer got interested in the personal stories of the cast.  That’s fantastic, because I’ve been in love with their stories for a long time (well, Aaron/Wil and Caren’s, anyhow).

Side note: Of course the review also sent me scrambling to figure out some formatting errors, which I think I fixed but could certainly be wrong on that count.  A full page-through of the Smashwords version is on my to-do list (I have been avoiding it so the story could settle in my brain–so I could get really, really used to the idea of it being “finished”).

Chris George, as I recall, said something similar about Awakenings in his review of it at the Web Fiction Guide–the saga centers less around the end of the world and more about how the young men and women left behind handle that event.  I’m sure eventual reviews of The Last Colony will say the same thing: that the story centers on the people reacting to and causing events in their universe.

My name is Erin, and I write character-based fiction.  It’s what I do.  I’ve got a bunch of worlds, and these worlds are peopled with characters I love (or, in cases such as with Casey Flannery and D’Arcy Morgause, love to hate).


You can find Erin on GoodReads these days @ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5211226.Erin_Klitzke And on Smashwords @ http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EMBKlitzke

And Amazon @ http://www.amazon.com/author/erin-klitzke

She offers two free fiction serials @ http://www.embklitzke.com/e557 and http://awakenings.embklitzke.com.  Stop on by and check it out.

Doc’s Writercraft: Why webfiction?

Webfiction (noun): combination of “Fiction” and “web.”

Fiction (noun): (1) the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. (2) works of this class, as novels or short stories (ie, “detective fiction”)

Web (noun): synonymous with or referring to “Internet.”


Webfiction isn’t exactly a new phenomena, though it seems to be on the rise and on the wane all at once in this rapidly changing, tech-savvy writing world.  For some writers and readers alike, webfiction bears the same stigma as “fan fiction,” which is loosely defined as fiction set in worlds not of the writer’s creation.  Webfiction, however, is markedly different in that it is original fiction published first on the internet, often for free consumption.(1)  For some authors, it’s a method of alpha/beta testing their work before editing and releasing it in self-published formats.  For others, it is the end-all, be-all of their work, simply another medium they work in.

So why do it at all?

For me, it’s a way of getting my work out there and vetting it before a live audience.  A lot of people write in a vacuum and often their work never sees the light of day–it’s the same for many artists, some of whom turn to writing and drawing webcomics to force themselves to hone and share their craft with others.  For some writers of webfiction, the reason they turn to the internet as a medium for their work is twofold:

  1. To force themselves to write to a deadline every day (every week, every month, etc. depending upon update schedules).
  2. To expose their work to the world in the most easily accessible way.

A corollary to this last point deals with self-publishing.  Up until very recently, self-publishing books (prose, comic, or otherwise) was incredibly cost-prohibitive.  While the ebook revolution has caused a paradigm shift in the self-publishing universe(2), webfiction remains one medium that is entirely in the hands of an author.  Anyone can set up a blog through Blogger or WordPress and get to writing–and quickly.  That means your work is out there for anyone to find.(3)

The internet is an almost inherently social medium.  It is this social aspect of the web that is attractive to many authors of webfiction.  It enables writers to glean insights and get opinions from readers–on a work that’s still in progress.  Here’s an example from my own webfiction serial, Awakenings.

I had a reader make the following observations in a comment on Chapter 9, entry 7:

As for Thom’s broken ribs, they’re gonna take at least six weeks to heal. Don’t ask me how I know this, OK? Coughing is a challenge and despite the five plus years since I broke a couple of my ribs, I still wince at the memory of sneezing.  Agony hardly begins to describe it.

I’m a gun owner, BTW, and if you need any technical advice about pistols and/or rifles, feel free to email me. I’m also into flint- and caplock rifles, i.e., muzzleloaders, and making black powder and flintlock rifles are well within the means of someone with access to hand tools and abandoned train rails.

This was incredibly helpful advice (and I’m still indebted to the reader who shared it).  It’s this kind of thing that makes readers for webfiction invaluable, especially if you wouldn’t be able to get test readers for an independant project with that kind of knowledge (I know that odds are for me, I wouldn’t have been able to). Through tapping into the social aspect of the web, I got some really interesting information that will help me not only with Awakenings, but with other projects down the road.

Another useful aspect of putting work out on the internet–if you’re planning to either just leave it online or self-publish, that is–is that you’re able to have folks catch little tics in your work that you wouldn’t ordinary catch (Chris George, who writes the webfiction serial Shadow has been good about this for me).  Readers aren’t always shy.  They’ll tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and they’ll tell you all of this before it ends up in a book review.  In essence, it’s crowdsourcing part of your editorial process (in many cases, the developmental stage of your editing process, though occassionally it’ll be the proofreading segement, too).

Of course, there’s a caveat to all of this: if you’re planning on traditionally publishing your  work at some point, you should be leary of putting any piece you’re planning on shopping to agents or publishers on the web.  Heck, based on this post shared on The Passive Voice blog, you’ll need to be careful about putting anything out there.

So why write webfiction?  For me, it was about getting work out there, writing to a deadline, and getting some feedback on a piece that was in a very difficult to define genre.


You can find Erin on GoodReads these days @ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5211226.Erin_Klitzke
And on Smashwords @ http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EMBKlitzke

 


1. Some webfiction authors (such as MCA Hogarth) have experimented with paid models, but I don’t have data to show whether or not the model works well or not.
2. For more information on the self-pub revolution, see J.A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as the ebook Be The Monkey by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath.
3.  Of course, this assumes you know some basic SEO or aren’t afraid to market yourself a little bit.  I’ve had pretty good luck with advertising through Project Wonderful for Awakenings.

Doc’s Writercraft: Developing fictional characters through roleplay

Every author, from the rookie to the seasoned pro, has their own tried and true methods of creating believable (or not-so-believable) characters.  For me, developing characters has gone hand in hand with roleplaying.

I’ve been a gamerchick almost as long as I’ve been writing (I started out on AOL chats when I was twelve years old; moved to IRC in 1997 and picked up ISRP around the same time I started playing serious tabletop games in 2000), but it wasn’t until I was in my later college years that I began to notice the overlap between characters I created to play and characters I created to tell their stories in print.  Somewhere in the middle, it all began to merge.

A prime example of this is the pairing of Tim McConaway (created solely for an RPG–as a background character, no less) and Brigid O’Connell (originally part of a now-defunct set of stories).  I hit upon the idea to combine them almost by accident, since they each needed a longtime friend that wasn’t a romantic interest.  They further developed as characters during my time with ISRP and their through-line is an anchor for the UNSETIC Files.

Tim McConaway started out as a cardboard cut-out, an Air Force officer whose parents had been murdered and was raised (with his sister and best friend) by a pair of uncles in Chicago.  His sister, originally, was the focus of my roleplaying efforts, but I later became attracted to her quiet, intense, tragic brother, unlucky in life and in love.  So I started roleplaying him, and he became increasingly complex as a character.  He found his way into a set of afternoon scribbles about a year and a half ago, depicting his first “mission” for UNSETIC with a woman who would become his lifelong friend, Brigid O’Connell.

Brigid originally popped up–surprisingly enough–as a character that should have been in the Epsilon universe (the set of stories that would have been wrapped up into that universe, set in the mid-21st century, have since been scrapped).  She was a retired military officer (honorable discharge due to medical issues) who bought a bar in Virginia.  I began roleplaying her purely by accident–I needed a character without any connections for a very specific reason, one with a particular level of authority, and she fit the bill.

Of course, she got away from me and started changing and developing all on her own.

That’s the one thing that no one tells you about roleplaying: if you’re doing it well, with the right people, your characters become very, very real, very very quickly.  Things happen that you don’t expect, things that you never would have imagined.  I’ve found it to be sometimes incredibly helpful.

Have you ever thought about asking one of your test readers–if they’re so inclined–what they think a conversation with one of your characters would be like?  Have you ever tried talking out that conversation?  Try it!  Let them ask hard questions that you might not know the answer to.  It’ll help you figure out who some of these characters really are and you might even find that they surprise you.  Who knows?  You might end up coming up with whole new subplots.

If you’re really brave, you might even try them out somewhere in the ether or in a tabletop game.  Sometimes, the best characters are the ones that you don’t expect to become your favorites.

Tim and Brigid were like that for me.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

            “Do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like?”  Tim asked suddenly as the subway car clacked and swayed its way uptown, toward Central Park.

Brigid frowned, watching the tunnel lights flash by out the windows.  “What what would have been like?”

“If this never happened.  You and me, partners.  You ever wonder what life would’ve been like?”

Simpler.  Less exciting.  “What the hell kind of question is that?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know,” he said, starting to get up as the train slowed, pulling into their station.  “I was just curious, I guess.”

“Be more curious about your Corps problem and less about what life would’ve been like in an alternate reality,” she said, heading for the doors as they slid open.  He was right behind.  “It’s probably a better use of what few brain cells you’ve got left.”

He grinned at her teasing as they fought their way through the sparse early morning crowds on the platform.  “Probably right about that.”

They were mounting the stairs up to street level when she said, “I’ve never wondered, Tim.  I can’t imagine life any other way.”

He smiled at her over his shoulder.  “Me neither, B.  Me neither.”

Excerpt copyright 2011 Erin M. Klitzke


You can find Erin on GoodReads these days @ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5211226.Erin_Klitzke
And on Smashwords @ http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EMBKlitzke