Feb09, 2021 |
WINGS OF FURY was chosen for this month’s Scribbler Book Box, a monthly subscrition book service for professional writers. They asked me to speak on character arcs: “We’d love if Emily could teach our writers about Character Arcs. This could include tips on how to
choose which type of arc a main character will endure (positive change, negative change, or static), how to outline characters while mapping out the larger narrative, or general tips on how to craft compelling character. We thoroughly enjoyed Althea’s arc and transformation, despite the various setbacks she experienced. We also loved Theo’s character; it was interesting how Theo blurs the line between protagonist and antagonist throughout the narrative.”
Here’s the letter that I wrote to go with the February book box.
Dear Writing Comrades,
I appreciate this rare opportunity to speak to my peers about one of my greatest passions: the art of storytelling.
I first fell in love with writing in ninth grade Honors English when my teacher assigned our class a two-page descriptive essay on a setting of our choice. I selected a donut shop, where I had formed some of my fondest childhood memories. That afternoon, I started on the essay at home. I worked for hours, considering every possible word that could describe my imaginary array of yummy, deep-fried treats. Writing the essay was so fun that I lost track of time and spent the evening working on it as well. Those two pages were easily the best thing I had written, and it was the only homework assignment I had ever received that I had savored. I proudly turned in my essay, and the day after that, I was anxious to get to class and see “100%” scrolled on the top of my paper in crisp navy ink. Well, there was ink on my paper, but it wasn’t blue. My teacher returned my essay covered in red. Initially, I was dismayed that I had worked so hard on something that was garbage. All I could do was revise the essay and turn it in again. My teacher handed it back before the end of class with less red ink, but my fictional donut shop was still sprinkled in critique. Part of me wanted to give up—it’s not like I had enough talent to become a writer anyway—but I loved the process of writing that essay so much that I steeled myself and resolved to do better.
Steadily, over the course of the school year, I did just that. My essays came back with less and less red ink, but the notes were not about word choice or sentence structure. My teacher began asking broader questions: What does your character want? What are the stakes? Is this the best ending? Could your first sentence be stronger? All of those questions made for much more difficult and lengthy revisions than dozens of little red squiggles. By April, I was distraught. Would I ever write anything as good as how it had felt to write it? Finally, my last essay was returned to me. No red ink. Not a single note. I was certain my teacher hadn’t read it, so I waited until class was over and approached his desk. He said he had, in fact, graded it. I had finally earned that 100%. Elation washed over me, but as I floated out of the classroom, my walk became a trudge. I didn’t know what to do now. My teacher’s notes had compelled me to improve, and I had embraced the opportunity to do better.
That was the moment when I discovered that I might be a writer. That was also the moment when I decided I would never quit striving to learn about storytelling.
To this day, one of the biggest draws about writing is that I’m always growing in my craft. I have eight books published (and a ninth on the way) and to some extent, I have to relearn how to tell a story every time I start a new book. The growth is endless, and the expectation I have of myself to stave off stagnation and achieve my personal best is knowledge I project on my characters.
Writing a compelling character arc, no matter the type, is an ongoing process. I tend to choose main characters that go through a growth arc, but I have written other characters, usually minor ones, who have flat arcs or experience a negative change. When a protagonist overcomes external obstacles and internal flaws in order to become a better person, this is a positive arc. First, I begin by giving the protagonist a goal—something they really desire—and then I hinder them from achieving that goal with some sort of lie. The lie could be about the protagonist, something they believe about themselves, or a misconception about their world. Well-known examples of a growth arc are Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, and Bilbo Baggins. Take Bilbo for instance. His goal is to help the dwarves reclaim the treasure Smaug stole. He believes the lie that Hobbits belong only in the Shire, and the outside world is for braver men who know how to
sword fight and take on goblins. A growth arc shows the protagonist rejecting the lie and discovering the truth by developing skills and strengths that transform them. By doing so, they undergo a change for the better. The more drastic the change the more satisfying the ending. Bilbo discovers that heroism is as much about following your own moral compass in the face of adversity as it is about facing down danger.
Positive Character Arc Map Example: They believe the lie that they are unworthy of a journey –> They are overcome by obstacles on this journey because they cling to the lie –> They finally confront the truth about their inner strength –> They believe the truth and they win.
A character with a negative arc, or a fall arc, will also have a goal, but instead of their goal being hindered by the lie, that lie drives them. The character will either knowingly or unknowingly embrace the lie, which leads to the truth that the lie is self-destructive. An example of a negative arc is Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. He wants to experience high society without being controlled by it. His lie is that the rich and beautiful are happier than anyone else, but what he discovers is that all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Dorian Gray and Hamlet are also examples of a negative arcs.
Negative Character Arc Map Example: They believe a lie about the world –> They leave their normal life and enter a world that reinforces the lie –> They are confronted with the truth that the world is not what they thought –> They are disillusioned by the truth and they lose.
A quick note on flat character arcs. There will be minor characters that don’t go through change, leaving progression for the protagonist and other main characters. But don’t confuse a flat arc with a lack of development. Sometimes when a character appears static, they are
underdeveloped, and their journey needs to be more compelling. Perhaps the lie they believe establishes weak stakes, or the truth that undoes that lie isn’t enough to transform them. The difference between a stagnant character and one who grows is how much they’re willing to push themselves to discover the truth. They allow their ideals to be opposed, and this opposition reshapes them. As readers, we wish to see a character embrace the unknown and be rewarded for their bravery. We want to see them do hard things, and we cheer them on. Satisfaction comes when they succeed.
In the growth arc, the character undergoes an internal change, which is directly proportional to how much they sacrifice. They take a risk, sacrificing the comfort of their ideals, and push themselves to discover more. Isn’t that what we writers do? Book after book, we start over with a blank page, sacrifice our ego, and rediscover how to tell a story. We are always growing, and the moment we rest on our laurels, that development ceases. With each new book I expand into the writer of my potential. I’m giddy when my editors send back my manuscripts covered in red. Looking back, as a ninth grader, I had told myself a lie. I believed I was not talented enough to become a full-time writer. In my mind, writers were lawyers and doctors and teachers who wrote in their spare time. I couldn’t conceive that all my hard work might lead to a career choice. It wasn’t until I was twenty-five that the truth came to me. I had written stories off and on for years between school, and marriage, and motherhood. That wasn’t enough. I was not satiated by those stolen moments, and so I realized the truth: writing wasn’t peripheral, but my passion. So I reevaluated my writing dreams with honest conviction, and I made a goal to become published, no matter how long it took. I made writing a priority and worked until I succeeded. My journey wasn’t linear, but I kept at it. I might not have always felt like a real writer, or that my imperfect manuscripts were worth my time, but you know what’s great about a lie? You can always discover the truth if you go looking for it.
I’m wishing you all the best in this very strange time. It may feel as though we’re living in The Upside Down some days, but could that be a lie? While we’re sheltering in our homes, could this be an opportunity to seek out our truth and write about it? I’m sending you clarity of thought, joy in inspiration, and a courage of conviction as you travel down your path and continue your growth as a storyteller. Maybe someday, when we can gather safely again, we will meet in a donut shop. The apple fritters are on me.
Emily R. King
Oct25, 2018 |
Here it is, the cover for BEFORE THE BROKEN STAR. But first, the summary.
A fierce young female adventurer battles time itself to claim her destiny in a sweeping new fantasy saga from the author of the Hundredth Queen series.
Everley Donovan is living on borrowed time. The lone survivor of her family’s unexplained assassination, she was saved by an ingeniously crafted clockwork heart. But the time she was given won’t last forever. Now, every tick-tock reminds her how fragile her existence is and hastens her quest to expose Killian Markham, the navy admiral who shattered her world and left her for dead. But Everley’s hunt for justice will be a long and hard-won voyage.
Her journey takes her to a penal colony on a cursed isle, where she will be married off and charged to build the new world. It is here, and beyond, that hidden realms hide, treasures are unearthed, her family secrets are buried, and young love will test the strength of her makeshift heart. When Everley discovers Markham may not be who he seems, her pursuit for truth is bound to his redemption, her tragic history, and her astonishing destiny.
Speak up:1 comment
Jul15, 2018 |
Provided for my readers by popular demand, here are book club questions for The Hundredth Queen. These should start good conversations about the prevalent themes of the novel and series. Happy reading!
- Why do you think some women were willing to wed the rajah while Kalinda was reluctant?
- What would you risk for love over duty or friendship over security?
- How do you think Kalinda’s childhood illness shaped her character and impacted her approach to problem solving?
- THQ explores different types of strength. How would you describe the different strengths of the sister warriors?
- Loyalty and sacrifice are themes woven throughout the novel. Discuss the motivations of the various characters’ loyalties and sacrifices.
- If you could have one bhuta power, which would you want and why?
- Playing devil’s advocate, justify Lakia’s (the Kindred’s) motivations and actions.
- In 1984 by George Orwell, the government imposed a daily two minutes of hate to unify the people by causing them to focus their anger at an external enemy. How does the rajah use similar tactics to control his people?
- Deven faces a conflict between duty and morality. How did his views and conscience change in order for him to shift his loyalty from Rajah Tarek to Kalinda?
- Contrast the ways Kalinda is different at the end of the book than at the start. How are you different than you were 5, 10, 15 years ago?
May28, 2018 |
I received paper ARCs of The Warrior Queen!
To celebrate, I’m hosting an international giveaway of signed paperback copies of the entire Hundredth Queen Series on my Facebook page.
Be sure to enter to win.
Feb22, 2018 |
I’ve started a quarterly newsletter! Sign up and you’ll see the fabulous header, a sneak peak at my new website design which launches in March. My first newsletter will give you a chance to enter to win fun streetwear swag, give an update to foreign rights deals, as well as preview the new “Kalinda” candle coming from NoxToLumosCandleCo. I promise it will be fiery!
Don’t miss out. Click here—–> http://eepurl.com/dlsUGz
Jan31, 2018 |
I got my Turkish cover! I really enjoy seeing what covers look like in different markets. This one is stunning.
The Hundredth Queen released in Turkey on January, 19. I’m already hearing from book bloggers. I love connecting with readers worldwide. It’s fun to hear from them!
Speak up:2 comments
Nov25, 2017 |
THE EVERMORE CHRONICLES is another YA fantasy. This series has ships, a mysterious island, a forsaken kingdom, and a magic system that revolves around Father Time. I am so excited to share a new world and characters with my readers.
Book one, CARVING HEARTS, will release after book four of The Hundredth Queen series.
Speak up:2 comments
Nov18, 2017 |
A fourth (and final!) book is coming to The Hundredth Queen Series. I’ve been sitting on this news for a while. The manuscript is nearly done. Now that readers are getting ARCs of The Rogue Queen, and I’m getting frantic messages asking if there will be more to the story, I thought it was time to let everyone in on the news. I am so excited to continue Kalinda’s journey!
*Stay tuned for more news next week!*
Sep15, 2017 |
My lovely friend at YA & Wine, Krysti, has designed a short quiz you can take to find out which bhuta you are.
I got Burner.
Is anyone suprised?
Speak up:6 comments
Sep11, 2017 |
I’m hosting a giveaway on Twitter. You could win one of these titles, all releasing on September 26th. Stop by to enter. The original tweet is pinned to my profile.