Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Try 100 Years, Instead of 1,000

So, we've all had a chance to sit down and watch Netflix's Original Bright by now, right? A modern-fantasy cop drama that deals with the first orc being allowed on the force in L.A., the casual racism that orcs have to deal with, and the bizarre, Tolkien-esque world that everyone now inhabits.

If you didn't see it, relax. They give away pretty much everything in the trailer.

One thing Bright does is try to offer some token justification for all the orc racism we see all over the place. In short, about 2,000 years ago, orcs sided with some mysterious Dark Lord, and had to be defeated by an alliance of all the other races (humans, elves, centaurs, fey, etc., etc.). And, according to the world's lore, orcs have done literally nothing else to earn that awful rep since those dark days.

Do you remember how long it took Germany to stop being thought of as the place that bred jackbooted genocide soldiers? Well, if you looked around recently, it's been less than a century before they left that reputation behind. Now Germany is thought of as respected leaders of a union of nations, and a strong, guiding force.

Roll that around in your head for a moment. There are still people alive today who remember the atrocities of the S.S., and who survived the Holocaust. Yet only a few generations later, the identity of that nation has been remade into a different image.

Are you seeing the disconnect, here?

I Blame Tolkien, Really

As with so many other genre-setting trends, I lay this one at the feet of the famed author and professor. Because, since Middle Earth dealt with time by thousands of years, it seems that every other fantasy setting chose to do the same thing. Not because it was what felt right for their stories, or because it was inherently more interesting, but because it was what worked in The Lord of The Rings, and that was the mold they happened to be using.

Thanks, Tolkien...
The problem that you run into is that a lot of stuff changes over 1,000 years. Empires crumble, cultures shift, language changes, and governments are entirely rebuilt. Hell, depending on your world's doings, the very shape of the landscape might change entirely.

If we're talking about lost civilizations, ancient artifacts, and forgotten treasures, then it's perfectly reasonable to talk in millennia. However, if you're talking about the perceptions of a group of people, the lifespan of a nation, or even how long a certain fighting style or weapon has been in use, it might be worth asking yourself whether you should narrow your timeline. Especially if your protagonists lead relatively human lifespans, indicating that generational turnover happens fairly fast by the standards of elves, dwarves, and other long-lived races.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. Hopefully it got some wheels turning, and gave some folks a little insight. If you like my work, you can find more of it in my Vocal archive. To stay on top of all my latest releases, simply follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and/or Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to support me, head to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, there's a free book in it for you.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

You Can Lead A Horse To Water (But You Can't Make It Write)

I am not the most successful author out there (a glance at my tax returns will tell you as much), but I try to do my part to help other writers whenever I can. That goes double for fledgling writers, who have all the spark and creative verve one could ask for, but who have no idea how to turn it into paying work. They, understandably, are looking for answers to basic questions. Questions like, "what do I do with a novel when it's done?" or, "how much can I get for a short story?" Most of the time the big question they ask is, "how do I get started?"

First things first. Choose your weapon.
The difficulty I've run into is that, for every writer who is completely serious about making that leap to the professional realm, I run into five who really aren't. This isn't to say they're bad writers, or that they can't produce great work. However, if someone doesn't have the bit between their teeth, there is nothing you can say or do to put it there.

You Can't Light Someone Else's Fire

To be clear, being a writer and being an author require two very different sets of skills. If you just want to be a writer, then you have total freedom. You can write what you want, when you want, and however much or little you want. And you don't have to please anyone but yourself. If you want to go pro, though, then suddenly you are no longer the one calling all the shots. Now you have to produce on a regular schedule, you have to keep the content coming, and you have to ask how well the work you're producing is going to play with the audience you're trying to find.

And if they don't like it, then you are the one who has to change what you're doing.

Deadlines don't care how much NyQuil you're on, either.
There are a lot of folks out there who really dig the writing part. The process is satisfying, they enjoy the flex of the creative muscles, and they like the idea of being able to get paid for doing something that brings them that kind of pleasure. However, they don't adjust to the change in skill set required to make money as a writer. Everything, from hitting a deadline, to producing every day, to self-promotion, marketing, and brand awareness just isn't something they want to be a part of. And, for some of them, they get so frustrated by that whole apparatus that they just don't work on any of their projects at all.

And you know what? That's fine.

Why is it fine? Because if someone else isn't willing to roll up their sleeves and put the pedal to the metal, that is not your problem. You can sit in the passenger seat and give them all the driving advice in the work, but they are the ones who have to start the car, and head out onto the road you're directing them to.

So the next time you lead someone to water, just leave it at that. Don't beg them to drink, don't get them a cup, and for the love of all things holy do not try to push them in if they don't want to go. Because sure, you can get invested in someone else's success if you're trying to help them out. But you are trying to offer a hand up, not carry them up the whole damn mountain. If they won't climb on their own, then shrug your shoulders, and get back to your own hike.

If they want it badly enough, they'll meet you at the top.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. If there are any other frustrated attempted mentors out there, pop into the comments and share some of your experiences. If you like what I'm throwing down, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Or, if you'd like to help me keep doing what I'm doing, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron, or Buy Me A Coffee. Either way, there's a free book in it for you as thanks!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Don't Put The Whole World On The Chopping Block

Think about the last time you were reading a book, and just as the third act really got going it was revealed that the villain's actions are going to destroy the entire world if they aren't stopped. Maybe it will actually destroy the whole planet, or maybe it will just result in the total collapse of all things that make life worth living in that world (the "but what if Sauron wins?" scenario), but the point is that the protagonist, everyone they know, and everyone they care for will be dead (or worse) if they don't succeed in their chosen course of action.

Can you remember a time where you were more bored?

After all, who would smash up that pristine real estate?
It seems counter-intuitive, but stay with me on this one. The idea behind raising the stakes is to ratchet up the tension in your story. You want your audience to be unable to look away while they contemplate everything that's riding on the protagonist's shoulders. Which is why if there's a bank robbery, they take hostages. It's why our love interest always gets a new partner just as our lead is working up the guts to say how they feel. You get the idea.

The problem with ending the world is that it's too big to contemplate, and thus it loses its impact.

That probably doesn't make much sense, but think of it this way. If someone offered you $10,000 to do something shady, that would be a sum of money most of us could understand in concrete terms. You may not have had that much money all at once before, but you know what you could buy with it, and about how far it would get you. Now say someone was going to pay you $10 million. Unless you move in some very specific circles, you don't have any idea what that's actually like. The sum might as well be $100 million, or $100 billion, because the numbers would have the same meaning to you. Because they got too big for you to have a concrete sense of what it all really means.

That's the reason why people who are dirt poor that win the lottery are back to being dirt poor in a handful of years, and it's the reason why threatening to blow up the entire world has no impact. The stakes are big, but we cannot honestly get a sense of them because they're too big.

Make It Smaller, And More Intimate

The key to making your stakes feel bigger is to give the audience something concrete. Something our mammalian brain can comprehend, and actually be shocked by. It's not a coincidence that in James Bond-style stories the villain always captures Bond's most recent love interest. Because sure, we get that every agent in the secret list will be compromised if Bond fails, but by putting this other character in the villain's clutches we've made things personal. Our audience has seen the budding romance, and in the books (as opposed to the movies) we know that if she dies, then a part of what makes Bond a person will die with her.

That isn't to say you can't make the stakes bigger; you just have to stop before it gets to that too-big moment. For instance, you could take what was a hunt between a detective and a terrorist cell, and turn it into a gas attack that could kill an entire neighborhood. Maybe even wipe out a small city. You could also take a cult that had threatened a region, and make their victory something that would allow them to overthrow an entire government. Will this effect the rest of the world? Absolutely. Will our protagonist die? Most likely. But there will be events that happen after their failure, and the fact that someone else could pick up the ball that they dropped makes the stakes feel more concrete.

I'll let Trope Talk hammer the point home.

So, to wrap up, there's nothing wrong with raising your stakes. And, if there are multiple worlds in your story, you could even pick off one or two of them as a consequence of failure. However, it's important not to go over that line if you want to keep your audience from losing their firm understanding of what's at risk. Because when you threaten to end it all if your protagonist fails, that almost guarantees their success. Especially if  you're planning out a series. You can't blow up the world if there are six books after this one, and that's not a statement you can walk back once you've said it out loud.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing piece. Hopefully it was helpful, and it got the wheels turning in your heads. If you'd like to see more of my work, consider checking out my Vocal archive. To keep up on all my latest updates, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support me, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Or just Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, there's a free book in it for you as thanks for your help.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

As An Author, Be Realistic About Your Return on Investment

Being an author isn't easy. You need to be able to produce work on a regular basis, market yourself to both employers and an audience, and you need to find some way to carve out a tiny niche for yourself while an army of other writers are out there trying to do the same. It's sort of like being a literary prospector, and if anyone gets close to your claim, that's when the shovels and shotguns come out. In that kind of environment, it's very easy to get used to just saying, "yes," to any project that comes your way.

The next time you're about to agree to a project, though, stop and ask what your return on investment is likely to be.

How many doubloons are supposed to be down there?

Always Think About Your ROI

Think about this scenario, for a moment. A client comes up to you and says, "Hey, I know you're a busy writer, but I really need a 500-word article for my magazine. If I get you all the information, could you get a completed piece to me by the end of the week? I'll pay you $50 for it."

For most of us, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal. All the research is done for us, the word count is pretty reasonable, and we've got a nice, fat price tag attached to it. However, would you do that same project if you had to have it handed in by tomorrow? What if you had to reach a 1,500-word count? Would you do that same article for $10, instead of $50?

Yeah, no, I'm sort of busy with people offering me grown-up prices right now. Best of luck!
It's very easy to get into the habit of just saying yes, especially if you don't have a lot of prospects in your work life. However, if you have a lot of stuff to do, then you might want to start trimming off the ones that aren't giving you back what you put into them.

Be Realistic With Your ROI Expectations

In the above scenario, ROI is pretty easy to figure out. You have a select price for doing the job, and you can easily weigh how much you're going to get out of doing it. If that price isn't enough for all the effort you'd have to put in, then it's time to move on to another job that's more fitting in terms of effort and reward.

However, this can get complicated when we start chucking in royalty shares, pay based on traffic, and a slew of other scenarios.

Go with the sure thing, or roll the dice and hope for the best?
This one can get tricky. For example, you might spend a year writing a novel, and another three years getting it published, only to have it earn no more than a few hundred dollars in sales. Alternatively, you might write a blog post that gets a lot of attention, and which flares up every year or so, giving you steady (if unexpected) influxes of cash and followers for no more than an hour or two's work.

Sadly, the only real way to navigate these waters is experience, and a pessimistic look at prospects.

As an example, let's say that you are contemplating submitting a 10k-word short story for an open submission call. That's a hefty chunk of work for any writer, and you're going to dedicate a lot of effort to getting that piece done. But, assuming your story gets accepted, ask what you're likely to get as a result of that acceptance. Does the publisher have a good track record for sales, or are they small, new, or relatively unknown? Do you have any big names in this collection that will draw eyes from a big fan base? Is the book widely available, or do you have to go to a dark, obscure corner of Amazon to even find the ebook? Are you being offered an advance, or are you and all the other authors just expected to split the royalty sales at the end of the year?

These are all questions you need answers for. Because if this company puts out books that regularly score in the top ten categories for sales, then you might be looking at several years of steady checks. Especially if there's a big-name contributor, like Stephen King, who will get people to pick up the book based on the strength of their brand alone.

If, on the other hand, this company is just taking whatever stories it can get, splicing them together, and spitting it out onto the market, then you are not likely to get more than a check or two. Worse, those checks are probably going to be too small to get you a cheese burger off the dollar menu. Ditto if the company offers very little support in the way of marketing, reviews, etc., and you don't have the audience strength to make sales on your own.

Spend Your Efforts Wisely

There is more to being an author than money. Sometimes it's about the satisfaction of working on a particular project, the good feeling of doing something for charity, or the street cred that comes with being attached to certain names. However, you're using a very specific kind of alchemy. So ask yourself how much time, effort, and creative juice you're willing to use up on a project before you get too invested. Otherwise you might find yourself writing ad copy for less than a penny a word, and you won't have the time or energy left over for anything else.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. It's likely old hat for a lot of folks out there, but a reminder from time to time never goes amiss. For more content by yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, and follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to support me, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or click this link to Buy Me A Coffee! There's a free book in it for you, too, as a thank you for your help.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Think Carefully About Your Protagonist's Reward

Every protagonist wants something out of their story. Maybe it's to take back the throne they were denied, to get revenge for a murdered father, or just to finish the mission so they can go back to that cabin in the woods. However, it's important to think about your protagonist's reward for completing their story, and to ask what sort of message that sends to the audience. Both for critical reasons, and to make sure your story doesn't slip off into trope town in the last couple of pages.

My pleasure is to serve... what, a kingdom and a princess? Well, if you insist...

What Are You Giving, and Why Are You Giving It?

We've all read enough fairy tales to recognize the formula. Protagonist does something clever, noble, etc., and in the end is rewarded with the princess's hand in marriage, and a kingdom of their own. You know, the Standard Hero Reward. And most of us wouldn't dream of putting that trope into our books, even if we were writing a kind of updated fairy tale romance. However, this trope's children still invade our books from time to time.

Goddammit... where are these things coming from?
The eldest child of this trope is the Rescue Romance, where someone who was protected in a dangerous situation will develop a romantic attachment to the person who saved them. That trope's younger, wilder sibling is Rescue Sex, which is fully down with the idea that if you swing in like Errol Flynn, then a tumble in the sheets is the least you should get for your efforts.

Now, these are problematic for reasons that range from suspension of disbelief, to character agency, to what it says about the values of the world we've created. However, it's important to examine them, and to ask why you considered using them in the first place as a mechanism to move your story along.

Let's take the Rescue Romance, for example. It's a perfectly serviceable bridge for establishing your protagonist's good intentions, and perhaps for showing just how capable they are in a tussle. It also gives them an immediate connection to the character you want them to develop a relationship with. And it's a famous enough trope that the audience enough is guaranteed to be familiar with it.

So why not use it? Well, it carries a lot of bad baggage, and that can turn off your reader. However, if you can dig through the trope's guts to find out ways you can re-invent it for your story, then you might be able to cannibalize the parts that work, while avoiding the elements of a problematic reward.

The easiest example is to have the rescue, but to have something go wrong with the romance. For instance, the protagonist's efforts to protect the other character might make them look dangerous and brutish, instead of heroic. This would give the character a challenge to overcome, and teach the lesson that while violence can solve the problem at hand, it may not have the desired effect. Alternatively, the character who did the saving may not be interested in romantic attachments... but the character who almost became a victim is. So now the protagonist has a character who's convinced that they're romantically attached, and that this one incident means they have a deep relationship. It could even be a solid lead-up for a stalker-style scenario where no good deed truly goes unpunished.

Is It All Just Sex?

No, but that is one of the most common kinds of problematic rewards we throw at our protagonists.

Any time you reward your protagonist's behavior, it's important to ask what message that communicates to the reader. For example, if your protagonist steps into a bar fight, and puts three men in the hospital, what is their reward for that? Are they arrested? Sued in civil court for damages? Or is the whole thing declared self-defense, and the cops send them off with a wave and a smile? And does that solve the problem of gang members hanging around the local watering hole, or do people try to get rid of your main character before they make things worse?

And then I just walked away... can you believe that?
Whether it's getting their old job back and being given a raise by a boss who didn't believe in them, managing to finally achieve that dream of being a famous singer, or finally getting their crush's number, ask if the reward your giving your protagonist fits with the story you're telling. And, if it doesn't fit, then ask how you can alter it to fix the issue.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. Sorry I missed last week, but I had a convention to attend. If you'd like to check out more of my work, take a glance at my Vocal archive. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And if you'd like to support my work, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or click here to Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, there's a free book in it for you as thanks for your support.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Successful Freelancers Are Like Sharks

The shark is, in many ways, a perfect machine. It has been carefully designed to complete a singular task, and it pursues that end with ruthless efficiency. Eat, swim, eat, and the cycle continues. If it stops, it dies, and since sharks don't want to die, they keep the cycle going. Have for thousands of years now.

If you want to be a successful writer, watch the shark in its natural habitat. Take notes. Then, when you wake up in the morning, remind yourself that you are a shark. Before you go back to bed that night, you need to swim, and eat.

Hello, have you read my book?!

Becoming A Typewriter Tigershark

You need to do a lot of things to be a successful writer, freelance or otherwise. You need to read a lot. You need to write a lot. You need to promote, market, and keep yourself out there. You need to make sure your old content is getting seen, and your fresh stuff is drawing in readers new and old. You need to be professional.

Most importantly, though, you need to be focused on achieving the task you have set for yourself.

See the shark... be the shark...
To put it another way, go to the gym and look around. The sharks will be immediately noticeable. Partly because of the sheer results of their regimens, but also because of the determination and focus you see in how they move around the floor. They aren't socializing with other gym-goers, they're not fiddling with their phones, and they're not watching the room between sets. They're there to make themselves better. Day in, day out, that is what their purpose is. It is the engine that drives them, and what pushes them to get results.

The same is true in any other situation. Those who achieve their goals are the ones who focus with a single-minded determination. The ones who seize every opportunity that comes their way, and create them where none already exist. The ones who dedicate themselves to becoming the goal. Who don't have an off-switch. The ones who do the job every day, rain or shine, healthy or sick, whether their pilot light is lit or not.

Now, it's okay if you're not a shark today. You don't have to be. However, if you expect to reach a goal, then you have to take a few more steps every day. So tomorrow, start that new project. Work on it every day until it's done. Submit it. Start a new one. Join a community with open calls for stories, and find more projects to devour. Write articles. Start a blog. Go to a con. Shake hands. Pass out business cards. Learn how to swim. Then start eating, and never stop.

Getting A Taste For Blood

Now, for folks who like the idea of being a shark, but who aren't sure how to do it, I thought I'd leave some easy, actionable tips here. These are the places I started, and they're still around for those who want to dip a toe into the waters.

If you want to write for money, and you aren't picky about who you do it for, head over to Text Broker. There are slews of clients on there, and they have work that needs done. Cut your teeth on some of their projects, because nothing starts the transformation like being given money for your word count. Even if it is just walking around cash for some folks. You should also check out Online Writing Jobs, because this site collects a whole bunch of freelance jobs in one place for you to apply for.

While I have written for a lot of different genres, one of my go-to places for open calls for stories is Horror Tree. Whether you just want to pad your publishing credits, or you want to establish them in the first place, I recommend checking them out and seeing who is looking for writers. You can also type in the phrase, "anthology open call," followed by the year to get a pretty decent list in any search engine. And, if you're looking to be a novelist, well, your best bet is to research publishers, read their submission guidelines, and make sure you have someone that fits your book. And if too many of them say no, hell with 'em, publish it yourself!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. Hopefully the combination of philosophy and practicality helps some folks out there who were wondering where to start climbing. If you'd like to stay on top of all my releases, simply follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And if you want to support me and my work, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or click here to Buy Me A Coffee!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Terrible Histories Don't Make Your Characters Inherently More Interesting

In case you've never been to The Literary Mercenary's sister blog Improved Initiative, I'm a big fan of roleplaying games. The big reason I enjoy them so much is it's a cooperative storytelling experience, so I get to share a passion with a group of friends that's usually something I have to do in a room by myself. It's also an interesting experience seeing people who are not storytellers by profession flex their creative muscles to create characters, histories, and quirks for who they're putting into the game world.

However, there is a particular trend I've noticed with both writers and RPG enthusiasts. Whenever they're asked to present an interesting protagonist, the first thing they want to do is beat the shit out of them, murder their family, and set their house on fire.

Because... happy people are boring, I guess?
There is this odd desire in a lot of writers, both new and experienced, to immediately try to make characters more interesting by doing terrible things to them. Their whole family was murdered in front of their face, or they were raised in an abusive home, or they experienced the horrors of war and now find themselves unable to turn off the reflexes they once had.

Now, that isn't to say that including tragic events in a character's backstory makes them a bad character. However, the correlation between overcoming terrible events and peaking the audience's interest is not a causation. And if you need more proof than that, all you need to do is look at Batman.

The Dark Knight's Appeal Isn't The "Dark" Part

When you think of Batman, you probably think of the most popular story of tragic loss and revenge-fueled heroism there is. Bruce Wayne's parents were cut down in front of him as a child, and instead of dealing with that loss in an understandable or mature way, he grew up to become one of the world's foremost martial artists/detectives/inventors/psychologists/criminologists/vigilantes. However, as I said back in Are "Tortured Souls" Really Just Stunted Characters?, that origin was tacked on after the character's initial success. So the writers could have skipped it entirely, or given him an entirely different motivation, and people still would have been intrigued by the character. Especially since the whole, "my parents are dead!" thing wasn't really emphasized until the Frank Miller era of Batman.

More commonly referred to as the characters "brick shithouse" era of design.
I bring this up to make a point. Namely, that the tragic backstory fit well enough that it flowed with the story, but readers were already intrigued by the costume, the gadgets, the imagery, and the presentation. You could have made Batman anything, from a member of a secret crime fighting league of costumed avengers, to a literal dark knight trained by descendants of Camelot, and it would have been just as good as what we got. Because while the audience was interested, the backstory wasn't what made the character interesting. It was his look, his style, his powers (or lack thereof), and the adventures he went on.

The Superman Example

Let's go to the other end of the DC spectrum for this; Superman. Superman has often been accused of being the most boring, over-powered Mary Sue in comics, but it's important to note that he also represents things so many storytellers these days think of as childish, or unrealistic. Clark Kent, Kal El, whatever you want to call him, is a good person. He's noble, he's hopeful, and he does what he does because he believes it's the right thing to do.

I know, right? Where does this guy get off?
However, if you strip away the super powers, the born of another world backstory, etc., what you wind up with is a character archetype we've seen forever. He's a knight of the round table, pushing forth on the strength of his purpose and his oath. We don't ask Percival why he does what he does, because we already know. Ditto Clark's motivations. And every time we've tried to slather on some grit, moral gray areas, or terrible past, you know what's happened? It's flopped. Every. Single. Time.

Because having his adoptive parents killed, or being forced to snap someone's neck to defend innocent bystanders, are not the sorts of things that make Superman compelling as a character. Sure, they can act as temporary filler, but once you take away the hopeful knight errant chassis, he's a lot less compelling.

Yes, you can take a story about someone who is similar in power to Superman, but who has very human flaws. That's where you get your Hercules, your Samson, etc. But even then, what makes those characters compelling isn't a tragic backstory. It's what they do with the powers they were given.

Is It A Necessity For Your Story?

If you find yourself either rejecting or defending the long and rocky road filled with blood and tears that led your character to where they are now, ask yourself one question. Are these events necessary in order for my story to work, and to provide the proper motivation for my character?

Because sometimes it is kind of necessary.
The Phantom is, perhaps, one of the best examples of when terrible circumstances are necessary to make a character work. Because, let's face it, a man of Erik's genius and talents could have become a celebrity in the art world. An exemplary musician, magician, playwright, and composer, Erik would have been the toast of Paris. Could the story of a reclusive genius training a beautiful young ingenue still work, as Christine is torn between the mysterious figure behind her art and the handsome viscount she knew in her youth? Yes, but the horror movie aspect would be gone. Erik would be a very different character than the cellar-dwelling, horrifically-visaged phantom we're all used to. And his mystery would be so much less if the face behind the mask was not a terror to behold.

The same holds true for characters like the Frankenstein monster, Jason Voorhees, and others. The tragic events that shaped them, and made them what they are, has lent them a compelling narrative. But before you start your next project, ask if the awful events in your own story are likewise necessary to make the characters what you need them to be. Especially if those events are to provide motivation, since a murdered spouse or dead family isn't really a necessity if you have a character concerned with justice, or who is simply opposed to the doings of the antagonist on some other grounds.

You don't have to jab your hero in the eye with a stick to make them confront the villains. Sometimes duty, faith, adherence to a code, or just the need to seek a worthy cause are enough to get them moving.

For additional reading, check out Why So Many Sad Backstories? over on Improved Initiative.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing installment. Hopefully it got some folks out there to reflect on their stories, and what is and isn't a necessity. If you'd like to stay on top of all my updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. If you want to help support me and my work, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! As little as $1 a month gets you a free book as a thank you.