Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Do You Know If You're a Real Writer?

I wrote my first short story when I was in 7th grade. It was an extra credit project in my English class, and I had so much fun with it that I completely forgot it was supposed to be work. My teacher's horrified reaction to it (it was a "found journal" horror story in the style of H.P. Lovecraft regarding a giant crocodile in the Amazon river basin) gave me a thrill the likes of which I had never gotten from anything else, and I was hooked. A few months later I decided I wanted to be a writer.

There was just one problem. I had no clue how to become a real writer.

Step 1: Text Step 2: ? Step 3: Rich and Famous
Over the years I bounced from one opportunity to another. I entered poetry and short story contests in high school, worked for campus papers in college, and before I received my degree I discovered there's a whole market out there looking for freelancers to put words on the page. It wasn't till 2012 that I managed to start publishing fiction with some regularity. I thought I'd found the answer, and that I'd become a real writer.

Others weren't so convinced. Here are some of the reasons why.

Where Can I Buy Your Book?

This question is actually two fold. The more direct question being asked is "are you an actual writer, the kind I can find in a real book store?" The second, more subtle question is "Did you write a novel?"

When I started getting my fiction published I had to answer in a double negative. I had written short stories in response to open calls for anthologies, which meant I had some short stories on the market but no novels. As such people shrugged me off. Because I published electronically and with small presses no, my work is not on the shelves at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million. This conversation gets repeated a dozen times a day when I'm having a signing or speaking at an event. This leads to the second issue a lot of writers face...

Who Published This?

The world of publishing has changed phenomenally just over the past few years, but if you're not involved in it you'd never notice. With the advent of electronic fiction and Amazon's Create Space (among others) authors who either don't want to deal with the rigmarole of traditionally publishing or who prefer to have full control over their work can go out and become independent authors.

The problem is that the common reader is still very likely to dismiss you if you're an independent author.

Who did you say published this tripe again?
The problem isn't just defending yourself to potential readers though. Traditional publishers have been known to be quite dismissive of independent authors and small publishers, and that attitude permeates the industry. While they might not say "these authors aren't good enough for anyone else to publish them, so they do it themselves," that sentiment is very present. Convincing someone that there are other reasons to be an independent author, and that yes you can be a successful professional doing that, is an uphill battle of Sisyphean proportions. It's only magnified by the fact that there really are a huge number of shitty writers who have decided to self-publish because no one else will take them on. It's a lot like trying to distance yourself from ambulance chasers when you're an upstanding, quality attorney.

For those who want to examine this issue more deeply check out Lauren Jankowski's blog here. A dedicated independent author, her trials with this issue could make a book all their own.

How Much Do You Make?

Not so much that I don't want you to buy a copy of my books. All of them.
I mentioned this on my Things You Should Never Say to an Author, but it bears repeating. There are members of the public who don't realize there are levels of success in writing, just as there are levels of success in painting, music, or any other creative field. Just because someone doesn't make millions of dollars off their work that doesn't make that person less of a writer. That said, there will be people who refuse to consider an author legitimate unless that author makes enough to quit the day job. If you've never tried to do this I can vouch that it is a certified, gold-plated bitch kitten.

So What's It About?

Let's assume for a moment that you are an author with a big contract from a well-known publisher. You've written several novels, and you've been on TV for how much money you've made. Maybe you've even got a few awards and one of your books was made into a hit movie, just as the icing on the cake.

There will still be critics who question your legitimacy based on what your work is about.

*clears throat*
Literary critics turn up their noses at fantasy and sci-fi writers. Genre writers thumb their noses at romance writers. Romance writers roll their eyes at horror writers. The vicious cycle goes any number of ways, but it always comes down to the same statement. "People who write X aren't real writers."

This is the last bastion of the ignorant, the biased, and the judgmental. While I might not accept with grace that there is a monster erotica series based on the premise of bigfoot raping female campers and hikers, I do not deny that the person who created it and makes a living off of it is a professional author.

You don't have to be a fan to acknowledge someone's professional status.

So What Makes You a Real Writer?

Othering is a big problem in our field. Everyone is so eager to get his or her piece of the pie that a lot of authors, and even publishers, are more than happy to throw others under the bus if it means getting a shot at a bigger market share. As you can see there are at least half a dozen bullshit qualifications that have nothing to do with whether or not you're a real writer which people still try to use.

I have two standards of my own, and I think they're two that most of us can agree on.

Are you listening?
Number One: In order to call yourself a writer you must actually write things. This doesn't mean jotted notes on a napkin, or a novel manuscript you've done the same two chapters on fifteen times; you have to actually complete something before you can lay claim to the title. If you want to keep calling yourself a writer though it's probably best for you to keep writing things. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional writer then you must be paid for your work. Whether that's by Random House, or by those who support you as an independent or self-published writer doesn't matter; money is money. If you're ghost writing erotica or turning out books of short stories for a tiny press, if you're being paid then you're a professional.

Number Two: Professionalism. The major difference between someone who is a real writer and someone who isn't is best summed up by author Agatha Christie. She famously said:

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”

In short if you want to be a writer then you have to do it like it's your job. No spacing out on Youtube, no starting over just because you're bored or not having fun any more, and no skipping the hard work of sharpening up your blade and making stories so sharp you're going to cut every reader who opens your cover. Real writers write, and they do it regardless of whether or not the muse is whispering in their ears, or if it's raining outside, or if the kids are screaming, or they didn't get a good night's sleep. They do, and that is what matters.

As always, thanks for dropping in on The Literary Mercenary. If you want to make sure you don't miss a beat then fill in your email address in the box on your top right, or follow me on Facebook or Tumblr. If you'd like to do your part to keep my words coming then drop your loose change into the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid, Son" cup on the upper right, or drop by my Patreon page and become a patron today!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Get Rid of a Body

What's the fun in being an author if your Internet search history doesn't put you at the top of a few criminal suspect lists? Because research is one of the most fun parts of the writing craft I wrote an article about how to dispose of unwanted bodies for Yahoo! Voices (back when they still existed), but unfortunately Yahoo! decided the content didn't really fit with their guidelines. That said, their loss is your gain! If you've got a couple of unwanted characters bloodying up your story, here are some creative ways to get rid of what's left of them!

This article is now officially off moratorium.

How to Get Rid of a Body

Facts and Fictions About Body Disposal

We've all seen that movie. Maybe it's one of those films where everyone's having a good time, but something goes wrong and somebody ends up dead. Rather than coming clean and talking to the police, everyone agrees to cover up the dead body they think they have on their hands. Or maybe you're more a fan of those movies where someone who was wronged decides it's time to get his or her hands dirty. Your lead starts hacking up the chain of command, leaving a bloody trail through every scene.

Don't you ever wonder why these characters don't get caught? With all of the CSI techs with their crime labs full of colored liquids, and detectives with their hunches and gut instincts shouldn't someone be able to catch these killers?
Yes... unless your slashers and stalkers have been disposing of bodies off-camera. If that's the case then they're probably using some of these popular methods that are relatively common place in the real world.

Assuming they aren't eating the evidence, but as What Does Cannibalism Do To Your Body? points out that method has its own slew of problems for you to deal with.
Would I Lye To You?
Sodium hydroxide is a chemical solution you're probably familiar with, particularly if you're a fan of Fight Club. If you've seen the film then you've seen the horrible, caustic burns that lye can cause to skin in less than a minute. It's the ability to melt flesh right off the bone that makes lye the choice of discerning assassins and murderers the world over, but particularly among cartels who like to make bodies just up and vanish. According to this article, hitmen tend to make a strong lye solution, heat it to 300 degrees, and then dump in the body. In less than a day it will be liquefied and ready to be dumped out into the nearest sewer grate. Variations of this procedure are used in medical labs and universities where cadavers that have served their purpose need to be done away with quickly, and cleanly.
The other thing that makes lye such a great option for body disposal is that it's easy to get. Enough lye to dissolve a body can be bought for a $20 bill with change to spare from any farm or soap supply store. Powerful acids can eat up a body, bones and all in less than an hour, but these same acids can be used to build bombs. So if you start buying acid you're going to get on a lot of radars very quickly.
A More Chipper Method
If you've seen Fargo then you've seen the iconic image of the chipper shredder with a fan of blood sprayed out over the snow. While this grisly image is a pop culture snap shot, it's also an accurate image of the best way to reduce evidence to little more than chunky suet. A dead body is hard to move, hard to hide, and hard to do much of anything with if it still looks like a person. Reduced to meat mulch, preferably spat out onto a dirty blue tarp like a plastic burrito, there's a world of possibilities.
You've heard the rumor that pigs will eat anything, including dead people? Well that's true, more or less. Problem is that pigs don't usually just eat a dead body; if it's chopped up, shredded, and put in a pail though they'll gobble away till their fat little hearts are content. A serial killer accused of having 20 victims did this very thing. Other options include dumping your victim-slurry down into the sewer, or tossing the remains into a river where it will be blown out to sea and eaten by fish. As long as the machine is cleaned thoroughly with strong bleach that will destroy any blood, and all the bits of bone, meat and gristle are wiped away, there's no one to say what happened to that missing person.
Bury Them Deep
The classic image of someone burying victims in the dirt floor of the basement, or out in the garden patch is one of the more common methods people use to get rid of bodies. This has happened a staggering number of times in real life as well, but the problem is that buried bodies are some of the easiest to find. Even if you chop them up, or mulch them, it takes time for the earth to erase the evidence. However, according to unethical life hacks it's quite possible to mask the scene of the crime with relative ease.
Say you've dug a nice, deep, 6-foot hole like you're supposed to. Throw the body in and bury it under a few feet of dirt. Then throw in the corpse of a dead dog or deer. Fill in the hole the rest of the way. In the event that the police do come and they do get a scent from a given area, they'll find the decomposing animal and will be more likely not to dig any further. Your secret is safe, and the earth is left to keep on churning away at one more victim.
"Oregon Farmer Eaten by Pigs" by JuJu Kim at Time
"Alkaline Hydrolosis- Dissolving Bodies With Lye" by Anne Marie Helmenstein at About

As always, thanks for stopping by The Literary Mercenary! If you'd like to keep up to date on my latest and greatest then pop your email address in the box in the top right corner, or follow me on Facebook or Tumblr. If you'd like to keep this blog going, then drop your loose change into the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid, Son" button, or drop by my Patreon page and become a supporter today!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fun and Funny Links For Writers

Being a writer is hard work. It's filled with migraine headaches caused by rumbling over plot holes, going over your syntax with a fine-toothed comb, and all of the other brain-bending labor that comes from putting together a piece of art. That said, sometimes you need to take a deep breath, save your progress on the current work, and just go have a laugh or three. This week The Literary Mercenary brings you a handful of sites that if you haven't visited them you really should.

Right now.

Terrible Minds: The Blog of Chuck Wendig

When bad brains get worse.
For those who don't know who Chuck Wendig is, I am glad you finally ran Internet service under your rock. A risen star who's fought in a half dozen culture wars now, Wendig is also an author, screenwriter, and a freelancer himself. His blog contains both nuggets of wisdom (like the 25 Lies Writers Tell Themselves), as well as generally hilarious riffs and rips on the industry, the art, and the craft. Always good for a laugh.

The Official Evil Overlord List and The Mary Sue Litmus Test

They're never dangerous till they're clawing your face off.
For those who don't know about either of these things we'll discuss them in order. The Official Evil Overlord List (which can be found here) is a compilation of every trope the bad guy has ever fallen victim to. Assembled in a check list of dos and don'ts, this list is amusing to read all on its own. As a tool for checking to see just how trope-free your bad guy is, it's even better!

If you're a writer and you've never crossed paths with the Mary Sue, count yourself lucky! If on the other hand you're well aware of what they are, and you're looking for a quick and easy way to sweep your manuscript for them then you're in luck. The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test is located right here, and now you and all your friends can take it to see who's lead is the most ridiculous!

Speaking of literary tests...

Who Do You Write Like?

He, like I, gotta get paid.
I Write Like is a website that looks through your work and compares your ear marks to those of famous writers who came before you. This test, located right here, includes a database that ranges from H.P. Lovecraft to Earnest Hemingway, and hits all the high points in between as well. So if you were always curious which of the old masters you invoked in your work, stop by and take a gander!

Thug Notes: The Only Cliff Notes You'll Ever Need

The Original Literary Gangster
For those who've always felt classic literature is a bit dull or boring, let Dr. Sparky Sweets break it down for you. The good doctor provides reviews of classic books such as Frankenstein, Fahrenheit 451, and Heart of Darkness, but he does it in a smooth, street-level lingo that will have you belting out laughs even while you pick up some knowledge. Check out all of his videos on the homepage located right here.

Put Your Voice To Work Reading Audio Books

And money.
While we used to call them books on tape, audio books have gone from being a novelty for children and the vision impaired to a huge industry. With more books being written and published then perhaps any other time in history voice actors are now more necessary than ever before. For those who have always wanted to try making money with their voices instead of just their words this article here provides a lot of insight as well as a few links to get you started in the world of audio books.

As always, thanks for dropping in on me at The Literary Mercenary. If you'd like to be kept up to day on the latest and greatest the put your email in the box on the top right or follow me on Facebook or Tumblr. If you'd like to keep this blog going then check out my books available for purchase at my Amazon author page on the right hand side, drop your pocket change into the tip cup by clicking the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid, Son" button, or stop by my Patreon page and become a patron today!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"The Audacity of Hope" or "Why Variable Ratio Reinforcement Keeps You Writing"

Hope is a powerful thing, as every writer knows. Hope can keep readers coming back book after book to see whether or not their favorite characters really do fall in love. It can keep someone turning pages all night even though he has work in the morning because he can't believe there's no way out of the dark place you've taken your lead. Hope also keeps writers putting words on the page even though there's no guarantee that the blog entry, article, short story, novella, or novel will bring in a single, red cent. The kind of writers who are banking on selling books, getting ad clicks, or otherwise earning a living from the things they create for the public to consume do this every, single day.

Why do writers do this to themselves?

Hope. Hope, and a concept called variable ratio reinforcement.

That, and robbing banks is dangerous.
 What is Variable Ratio Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is a psychological term that is used to describe situations where someone's behavior is strengthened. If a child reaches for a hot stove and gets her hand slapped, that punishment reinforces the idea that reaching for the stove is a bad thing that shouldn't be done. On the other hand if a student earns $20 for every A on her report card, then that reward will make her even more likely to shoot for that 4.0 honor roll. When someone takes an action the result of that action leads to behavior being reinforced or discouraged. The more often the result happens the more solidly the behavior is reinforced.

So where does the irregular part come in?

In addition to rewards and punishments there's a reinforcement schedule. This schedule is how often that behavior is reinforced. If every time someone breaks a rule he gets punished, then there's a certainty that bad things will happen if certain actions are taken. That's a fixed ratio. A fixed interval is applying a certain reinforcement after a certain amount of time; getting a yearly raise every year one maintains a job, for instance. Variable ratio reinforcement is when you perform a certain action, but you don't know how many times you have to perform it before you get rewarded. This is essentially how slot machines work, but it's also how a lot of writing works as well.

How Do You Mean?

If you keep rolling this until your character succeeds, you already understand.
This concept works best when you use examples. When I wrote an article titled "Is Thou Shalt Not Suffer A With To Live A Biblical Translation Error?" (which you can still read here if you're of a mind) it got a lot of page views. I looked at the subject, comments, and content, and decided that writing about religion and how our modern interpretations of it are skewed was a smart way to make some money. So I published several other articles including one about a devil named Azazel from the Old Testament (found right here), and another about the Satanic Panic, one of America's great moral panics from the 1980s (still live right here).

These articles did get some page views, but I didn't recreate the months-long splash and more-than-decent royalty payments I'd earned from the first article. They got fewer views overall, and those views dropped off more quickly. Because I'd seen that an article about religion could generate a lot of traffic though I kept at it. I never managed to recreate the original article's success, and the website got a great deal of content out of me it might not otherwise have received for a lot less payment.

This works the same with book sales. Let's say that you wrote a book about a vampire private detective, and that book shot through the roof and made you a lot of money. Your next, logical step would be to write another book to try and make the lightning strike twice. Even if subsequent books didn't do as well, or if they did terribly, knowing it's possible is sometimes enough to keep you running on the hamster wheel just a little bit longer than you otherwise might.

But I've Never Had Any Successes Like That!

What if I told you that you didn't need to actually experience the success in question to make this effect happen? Knowing that just one pull on the slot machine can make you rich is often enough to make you put your last quarter in the slot. If you've actually won a lot of money on a slot machine before though then you're a lot more likely to keep pulling that one-armed bandit until you either run out of money or you win.

Writers do this all the time, except the slot machine is the publisher and the coins you're hoping for are royalties.

This is easily illustrated in short story anthologies. One anthology might offer $30 for an accepted story, and another one will offer an even split of the royalties. Even if the story is an electronic-only anthology from a first-time publisher, there's a little bug in the back of most writers' heads that tells them royalties might be a better bet if this book takes off. It also means more than one payment, if all things go well. More often than not books in this scenario sell enough copies that no one but the publisher makes a profit, and the writers end up being paid $0.68 each quarter for a year.

Why do we do this? Because the next one might be what hits it big!

Like this book right here, for instance!
The media doesn't make this any easier on us as writers either. Just look on the Internet and you see stories about self-publishing authors who make six-figure incomes off trashy romance and monster porn. That monster porn thing isn't a joke either; read this in case you thought I was fucking with you.

What's The Problem With Hope?

Part of the problem is that I'm a hard-bitten, cynical bastard who likes spitting in your eye. The other part of the problem is that hope does more than keep your energy up, and your outlook positive. Hope, much like cocaine and meth, can blur your energy and make it hard to remain focused and realistic. You can get so high on your own hopes and the potential of victory that it's easy to forget you're betting black on a roulette wheel with a disproportionate amount of crimson on it.

Is it possible for your short story or novel to springboard into national or international fame even though you're an indie author no one's ever heard of with no one to help advertise your story or spread the word about it? Yes, it is. It's happened, as the news and the Internet are only too happy to point out. But the chances of it happening are astronomical.

Keep your hope, by all means. I'll be the first to admit that hope of infecting the world at large mixed with a genuine love of my story (and a touch of spite, if I'm honest) is the cocktail that keeps me going on some projects. But it's important to make sure that you're not just jerking the lever and hoping against hope that the Bestseller Gods take pity and shower you with big sales, TV interviews, and book deals for sequels. If that's the kind of thing you want it's time to grab a shovel and start laying your foundation. Hope is just as useful, but a lot less necessary, when you've actually done the work to build a readership, earn a place with a good publisher, and made certain to refine your craft until you can cut right into your readers' hearts and guts with it.

As always thanks for sticking your head in here at The Literary Mercenary. If you'd like to keep me going feel free to toss your loose change in by clicking the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid Son!" button in the upper right hand corner, or going to my Patreon page and becoming a backer. To keep up to date with my latest hits put your email address in the other box on the top right, or follow me on Facebook or Tumblr.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Some Tips on Writing Dystopian Societies

For reasons I cannot explain it appears that dystopian futures are big right now... really big. The young adult genre (which isn't really a genre, but more on that another day) seems to have a particular hard-on for them of late, with The Hunger Games and Divergent as two stand outs in the sales categories. If you're thinking about writing your own bleak, Nihilistic romp through a crumbling, amoral wasteland though it's important for you to stop and take a deep breath.

Just because everyone else is jumping off a bridge doesn't mean you should too. In the event that it's a really kick-ass bridge though, make sure you know the best way to stick the landing.

Tip #1: Understand What Happened

The term dystopia was coined in 1868, and it is a term based on Greek that means "imaginary bad place." As a genre dystopian works are characterized by societies filled with hardship, deprivation, oppression, a low quality of life, and constant terror. If you're writing about events in a society like this, then it's your job to explain to us just how the hell it got that way.

And then the penguin masters took their rightful places...
Societies are organic things made up of the people who populate them. Every society from post-apocalyptic tribes of violent mutants to crumbling cities filled with the repressed populace of downtrodden workers has reached its current existence through logical forces. Every civilization that's formed on this planet (and probably on other planets too) so far happened because of human forces, and the evolution of society into a dystopia needs to come with equally sensical events.

For example, did society collapse under the weight of a corrupt, wealthy upper class? If so, did this lead to the formation of a communal society where ambition, individuality, and even attachment to material possessions are seen as crimes? Alternatively did the wealthy and privileged form an oligarchy, buying their way into politics, media, and law enforcement so they can continue to maintain their positions of power while abusing the lower classes, the planet, and the resources available to the society? Or did something cataclysmic occur, leading the frightened masses to turn over power and liberty to the clergy, who now rule with an iron fist over all aspects of a sectarian society?

These are all valid examples, and they all have an inciting event, a reaction, and a change. Your society is a character, and the first step to developing it is to know what led to it becoming the way it is now.

Tip #2: Look at Real Life Examples

Contrary to popular belief dystopian societies exist in places other than between book covers, and on the silver screen. As a writer you should look at what happened in the real world to see if what you're portraying on the page can measure up.

Nero's decree against pants was really the beginning of the end.
Let's take one of the biggest dystopias I can think of; Rome. Rome began life as a city state like any other, and due to its advances in science, military training, culture and law it devoured huge chunks of the known world. Rome grew, and at some point its ideals began to fade. It grew corrupt and darker, with the great games to distract the upset populace as the government served the ends of the wealthy rather than its citizens. It eventually toppled due to outside forces who sacked Rome and took all she had to offer.

History is filled with other examples of dystopian societies. Sparta is a good example; an entire nation where the upper class trained from childhood to become the ultimate warriors in the world, and where all the work was done by a slave underclass who had no rights and who could often be killed out of hand. The cult in Jonestown who eventually committed suicide set up a miniature society to follow the religious whims of its leader, up to and including drinking poisoned kool aid. The rise of the United Soviet Socialist Republic, which was characterized by oppression, brutality, and violent destruction of anything that challenged the status quo. Arguments could even be made for how Iran and Afghanistan transformed from relatively progressive democracies into religious theocracies in a few decades thanks to the meddling of the world's superpowers putting brutal dictators in power because they were allies.

If you study how societies go from pretty good to totally screwed in the real world then your dystopia is going to feel like somewhere out of a news broadcast rather than a fantasy.

Tip #3: What's Keeping it From Toppling?

Being in a dystopia sucks. Everything is gritty and grainy, the work is back-breaking, there's no healthcare, and as soon as you find anything you can take pleasure in there's a good chance it will be crushed under the boot heel of the government. The many are being regularly trodden underfoot because of a few people who have managed to rig the system that way.

So what is keeping the whole thing from tumbling down like a pack of cards?

This. Mostly this.
In order for a dystopia to exist, and for it to have existed for longer than a few years, you need to know what makes it tick. There's got to be some glue holding the whole fucked-up place together, otherwise it would have crumbled a long time ago and the people who were left would have built something new. Most of the time the collapse of the dystopian society is what the work is about, but not always. Sometimes there's just so much Nihilism that despite the struggles of the cast the whole, horrible clock just keeps on ticking away.

This is one of the hardest things to do, so I'll give you some examples of people who've done it before. In the film Equilibrium all the people left after the third world war agree to form themselves into a new society, and to dose themselves with an emotion-repressing drug called Prozium. Emotions have been outlawed, and those on the dose don't realize how terrible this is. In this case the only thing holding the society together is the law enforcement arm called the Grammaton Cleric and Prozium; once the drug disappears the whole population begins to wake up and the basic building block of the society crumbles.

In The Running Man the world has become a dystopian oligarchy where there are no safety regulations, no unions, no environmental regulation, and the wealthy and privileged can do whatever they want. The lower classes are held in check by a combination of jack-booted thugs, and the free entertainment beamed into every home via television. The Free Vee not only distracts the working class from how badly they're being abused, but it provides them with a dream; a dream that they too could get on TV and better themselves by winning one of the games where victory means millions. If that dream is ended, as Ben Richards predicts it will be, the poor will rise up and tear the wealthy down off their thrones and take over the society that they really helped build in the first place.

Lastly, let's take a look at Fahrenheit 451. In this world firemen are actually called to locations where people are hoarding books, and it's their job to burn them down. The society is based on ignorance, and on a populace who does their jobs without question. Everyone is too distracted by the perks of technology to question what the government is doing, or to ask why books are being burned. When our hero starts reading he has to escape, and when that society is bombed into dust by its enemies he and others like him have the accumulated knowledge of memorized texts that they'll be able to use to build a new, better society.

Tip #4 Follow the Ripples

This rule typically applies to writing alternative history, but dystopian futures can benefit from it just as well. Every choice made has an effect in a society, and the bigger the society the bigger those ripples become. Say your dystopian society claimed that all unmarried women have no rights (because The Handmaid's Tale is still pretty goddamn scary). Would that lead to people taking elaborate precautions to have more sons? Would a new industry arise to buy unwanted daughters from their parents? Would rich families who loved their daughters create trusts, managed by men, so that they would be cared for after the parents passed?

Who knows what would happen? You need to in order for your world to make sense. If there's a logic hole, or something exists even despite the fact that it shouldn't (a female lead in a world like this where she aggressively back talks men in public with no repercussions, for example, would be completely against the culture you've created) your reader is going to notice. For every decision you need to ask why? When you've run out of why's, then you have a solid stage to play out your drama on. Whatever it happens to be.

Thanks for stopping by! If you'd like to help support The Literary Mercenary then drop by our Patreon page, or click the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid, Son" button on the upper right hand side. If you'd like to get regular updates then put your email in the box above that, or follow us on Facebook and Tumblr. Hope to see you next week!