Posts Tagged ‘Jason Henry Evans’

How to Write Female Characters

(if you’re a guy)

By: Jason Evans

When I read fiction written by men I sometimes am surprised by how bad the female characters are written in them. It doesn’t happen most of the time, so when it does, it’s glaring. Today I want to write specifically to men who write female characters on how to make them feel authentic to female readers. This should be paramount to any writer because 2/3rds of all books in the United States are purchased by women.  

So let’s get started.

Don’t confuse social expectation with biology.

In the west, we expect women to express their emotions more frequently and publicly than men. This is not biological, this is culture. There are emotional men and quiet, stoic women. While culture is important – especially in world-building – ask yourself if the trait, habit, or reaction your female characters show is probably more about culture than biology.

If you remember this, you can write your female characters differently, allowing them to contrast with each other and making them unique. It will also allow a larger range of options for your female characters when they react to the events of your plot.

Sexy is not a personality trait and women don’t see themselves through men’s eyes.

It can be hard for men to understand this, so let me make this patently clear. Women don’t actively try to entice all men. Yes, many women will dress up, put on makeup, and do their hair to impress one man. Very few women, however, get up every morning and consider whether their blouse will support their plans for world domination. Guys, they aren’t concerned about you. In fact, many women have confided in me that they’re more inclined to dress to impress each other than they are to impress the men around them. (After all, we’re not that hard to impress.)

Therefore, sexy is not a character trait. This does not mean there aren’t women who dress provocatively on a daily basis. But this is usually because they find the provocativeness empowering. Sometimes it can be for deep-seeded reasons that, again, have very little to do with us men.  

Women have agency, too.

In older stories, it was common for the female character to be helpless in some way. This allowed the male protagonist to rescue her. While this can be a legitimate story on its own, we forget that women have agency. Your female characters should have full lives outside of your male protagonist. Things like careers, hobbies, families, and colleagues outside of the male protagonist.

Let them react to the story villain in unconventional ways. Better yet, have your female characters make their own contingency plans. I know many women who have created a network of friends and acquaintances that have skill sets and resources they don’t have. They are quick to call upon that network when emergencies occur.

Show your female characters accessing that network! Show the reader your female character turning in markers and horse-trading to get things done. Or, let her be the boss lady threatening underlings and dangling bonuses and promotions to solve a problem. Regardless of the route you take, remember your character is not a dead trout. She can react and solve problems just like men.

Femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive.

We’ve all consumed media with the tough tomboy stereotype. We’ve all seen the fussy, girly-girl who squeals whenever bugs or mud shows up. These are stereotypes. Just because a woman likes to wear make-up or get her hair done, does not make her vapid or weak. Women can like girly things, gentlemen, and still be strong and competent. (See the paragraphs on agency above.) Besides, having a strong supporting female character who wears Jimmy Choo shoes and loves pink lipstick makes the character interesting. Try it, fellas. You’ll see.

Speaking of femininity, there are some women who do get marriage or baby fever. But even in the midst of wedding planning or baby planning, female characters should still have full lives outside the baby bump and the bridal shower. If you have scenes where two or more females are talking alone, please have them talk about something other than babies, weddings, and the guys in their lives. Try passing the Bechtel Test. (Two or more female characters converse and don’t talk about a man.)

Pump the brakes on female suffering.

Your male protagonist burst in minutes or hours later to find out that the woman he loves has been violated and what is his reaction? Does he comfort her? Does he call for an ambulance or doctor? No. He grinds his teeth and clenches his fists and goes on a murdering spree of backwoods country justice. Can’t you just hear the banjos in this?

This is BAD writing! It is a cliché for a male protagonist to have a dead wife or mother. It is an even bigger cliché for that male protagonist to have a wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter who is the victim of sexual violence and it needs to stop. First of all, some statistics say 2/5 males and 2/3 females in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted. So when you write your big reveal scene with your helpless female victim, your fans are probably putting the book down. How many will ever pick it up again? 

But the other reason this is BAD writing is that it reduces your female character into a plot device and personal motivation for your male protagonist. (Remember the agency conversation above?) She has no other purpose than as a McGuffin. If your female characters exist only to be eye candy, damsels to be saved, or plot devices to get through Act Two, then you need to re-think your approach to your female characters. Your female characters should have as much depth as your male characters. They should be interesting in their own right, and not because of their physique.

So, how do you get there?

Find women to read your manuscript. If you have a choice, work with a female editor, too. (I know mine improved my novel immensely.) But get women outside your immediate family to read your story. Old women, young women, women of color, straight women, lesbians, and trans-women, too. They will tell you when your female character is off. LISTEN to what they say.

If we can get out of our own heads and write better women characters, we will evolve into better writers. That alone makes the journey worthwhile.  


Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

How to Write Characters Outside Your Culture

By: Jason Henry Evans

For many years I have taught a class at writing conventions called, “How to Write Authentic African-American Characters.” Today I will distill the basics of that class and apply to anybody who wants to write characters outside their ethnic group in a few of easy steps. The goal here is to avoid stereotypes and to create characters that are authentic to their own culture while also making them full of depth.

I want to caution you though. Deciding that you want to write characters outside of your ethnic group, characters you have no experience with culturally, is a HUGE undertaking. It requires research, sensitivity, respect for that culture, and a thick skin. Why a thick skin? Because someone is going to tell you you’re doing it wrong. All you can do when that happens is sit down and listen to those people with patience and respect. It doesn’t make them right and you wrong, but you do have to be open to the criticism.

In order to write these complex characters you will have to do research on the following:

  • Their history as an ethnic group
  • Their culture’s religious expressions
  • Culture
  • The culture and history of poverty

History

Whether you’re writing science fiction, historical romance, steampunk, or thrillers, you have to know the history of the ethnic group your character comes from. History reflects people’s values and perceptions. If you’re writing about a character that comes from four generations of home owners, as opposed to renters, that will definitely change how they value things like security and money. In addition, you will probably discover interesting tidbits about said group that will color and deepen the way you write about your character. Learn the history of the ethnic group you want to write about. It doesn’t have to be an expansive knowledge, but getting the highlights are super important to start out with.

Religion

The actual religion of your character may be inconsequential to your story, but knowing the religious leanings of the culture can help deepen character development. See, religion, whether it’s practiced or not, colors people’s perceptions and values. Understanding that can give you better insights on the values of your character. For example, let’s say you have a black character who’s an atheist. But he grew up in an Islamic family, going back three generations. While he doesn’t practice Islam, he still may avoid eating pork, because he didn’t grow up eating it and never acquired a taste. See what I did? That character is slightly more unique, just because I gave him a background in Islam, even though he doesn’t practice it.

Culture

Now it gets hard. Researching culture should lead to a breakdown of its component parts. How your targeted ethnic group values work, marriage, family, music, fashion and food, among many other things. Do you have to be an expert on every little thing? No. But you should be generally aware of at least some of these things in order to make your character feel authentic. For example, let’s say your protagonist is visiting her friend Betty, who is Chicana. When your protagonist gets to her house, she smells wonderful exotic spices because Betty is making a batch of tamales. Don’t describe how Betty is filling the corn husks with seasoned chicken and jalapenos. This would be cultural tourism. The reason why Betty is making tamales is far more important to her character. Tamales can be labor intensive. Making a big batch is an act of love. Who is Betty trying to express her love to, within the confines of her culture?

While researching culture can be hard, it can be a treasure trove, too. There are dozens and dozens of films, TV shows, comics and novels that deal with these issues all the time. Search them out and consume them. Become immersed in the culture of your character. Listen to their music, read their stories, understand their values by participating honestly. It may not be easy, but it can be very rewarding.

Culture of Poverty

It’s very important to understand how poverty intersects with culture and history when writing about ethnic and culture groups outside your experience. Again, this has to do with values and expectations for your character. This is especially true if your story takes place in the U.S. and is also applicable to many characters in many settings.

Because group survival trumps individual expression, many people who are the children of immigrants (or slaves, or Native Americans), have felt this tension between the obligations of their family and the desires of their heart. If your story has room, a little research here can go a long way towards creating depths for your character and an interesting subplot, if you so choose.

Some Final Thoughts

If you’ve never done something like this before, start small. Write minor characters before you create a story whose protagonist is ethnically and culturally different from you. It gives you the opportunity to experiment without having to rewrite an entire novel as you learn more about your characters and their backgrounds.  

Once you’ve done your research and written your story, you need a sensitivity reader to take a look at what you’ve written. This is to give you insights on things you may have missed when doing your research. It can also prevent you from embarrassing yourself over something you innocently missed.

Creating vibrant characters who are ethnically and culturally different from the group can be a rewarding experience for both the writer and the reader. I fundamentally believe anybody can write characters and stories outside of their own milieu and do it well enough that people within those cultures and ethnic groups will see themselves in that story.

You must do your homework. Once the work has been done, you can experiment. Not every Jew practices their religion. Some Koreans go to Baptist churches. A lot of Black people listen to country music. Our world is a vast tableau of connectivity and overlapping experiences. If you come across these ethnicities and cultures with respect and passion, your characters will be authentic.


Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

How to Write the Other Queer Character

By: Jason Evans

We have returned for the second part of our conversation with queer authors Nonir Amicitia and Olivia Wylie. (Read Part-1 HERE).

Jason: When writing about the queer community, what are some things, you find, that the queer community worry about, fear, or have anxiety over? Can you give me some examples?

Nonir:  Though there are some common fears that involve things like our rights being taken away, getting misgendered, being outed in a unsafe place by people who don’t know better or aren’t thinking. Basically, depending on where they are and what society looks like there, it’s varying shades of worrying about safety—which, again, can also apply to cishet folks as well.

Olivia: We’re not carrying any more diseases than you are. We’re not contagious. We’re not infectious. We’re not self-loathing by default. We do not have awful lives. Those are harmful tropes. Please dump them.  If someone gets to know us and then talks about being under the rainbow themselves, it’s because we gave them the freedom and the language to describe themselves. Oh, and we’re not here to fix the straight main character. The magical negro is a trope that needs to be tossed, right? So is the Supporting Queer. Don’t make us sidekicks by default.

Jason: How, would you suggest, I incorporate that into my writing?

Olivia: Write characters who you could see living in your neighborhood. They will be embedded in a matrix of friends and family. They will have close ties to their community, their favorite hangouts, and the person they call when they’re down. Don’t tokenize your queer character by writing them like something exotic. They’re not a zebra. They’re a person FIRST.

 Also, read more materials on the experiences of these communities. I’ve included a list of non-fiction resources below. For fiction, read these books with characters all over the rainbow. I tried to get something in from all sorts of genres.

  • The Bird Bright Shadows Series– E.V. Grieg
  • Psions of Spire– Alex Silver
  • The Dalí Tamareia Series- E.M. Hamill
  • The Nel Bentley Series– V.S. Holmes
  • The San Andreas Shifters Series– G.L. Carriger
  • Bone Dance-Emma Bull
  • A Fall In Autumn– Michael Williams
  • Waking the Dead-Jason Dias
  • The Voyage of Cinrak the Dapper– A.J. Fitzwater
  • The Out of Time Series– C.B. Lewis
  • The Custard Protocol Series– Gail Carriger
  • The Stars May Rise And Fall– Estella Miari
  • Also take a look at this listing: 13 Nonbinary Writers and Comic Creators Changing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Jason: What are some HUGE misunderstandings people outside the queer community have about people inside the queer community? Do you address those issues in your writing? How?

Nonir: The most common ones that come to mind are: a) being queer doesn’t define your personality or who you are (unless you want it to); and b) not everyone in the queer community is supportive of everyone else. As much as I’d like to say we’re one big happy rainbow family, it’s not true in the slightest. Though we do tend to travel in packs if we have the opportunity.

Olivia: We’re not all sassy. We’re not all slutty. We are NOT BROKEN. You can’t ‘straighten us out’ by showing us good straight sex. Or by scaring us about who we love. There is nothing to fix. There is nothing wrong with us.  And I repeat: We’re not carrying any more diseases than you are. We’re not contagious. We’re not infectious. We’re not self-loathing by default. We do not have awful lives. Those are harmful tropes. Please dump them. 

Oh, and last thing: we’re not all in-your-face. We’re not all sensitive. We’re not all ANYTHING. We’re people. Please treat us that way.

Jason: Do you have any suggested readings that would help our understandings?

Nonir: Blogs and nonfiction books by a variety of queer folks, especially those in the subsection of the community you’re interested in writing about.

Olivia: Reading list below

Trevor Lifeline: If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Or text START to 678678. 

  • Oh Joy Sex Toy: Oh Joy Sex Toy is the sexual education that everyone in the world needs. One of the most queer-friendly, colorful, and out-right positive webcomics out there. Got questions, go here:
  • Susan’s Place Transgender Resources: a peer support website for transgender individuals. The site is intended to be a safe space where transgender people can assist one another, and it has the additional mission of educating the public.
  • ACLU LGBT Rights: The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. If you are having legal or workplace issues, go to
  • Transgender American Veterans Association: Founded in 2003, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) is a 501 (c) 3 organization that acts proactively with other concerned gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for their medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration’s Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity . . . as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on issues regarding fair and equal treatment of transgender and transsexual individuals.
  • Everyone Is Gay: This is a collection of voices lending advice and support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) youth, and also offers comprehensive lists of nationwide LGBTQIA resources.
  • Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities: This book, written by Lee Harrington, is a solid and approachable manual on transgender issues with an entire chapter of resources. If you’re exploring, it’s a great read. Take a look on the Zon at
  • Transcending Flesh: Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings, by Ana Mardoll: This guidebook contains a series of essays covering settings which feature fast, easy, and widely-accessible body alteration, including the futuristic BodyTron5000 (“step right in and we’ll jiffy up a uterus!”) and fantastical trips to the Gender Witch for magic potions. These settings have ripple effects on trans people both on and off the page, and writers must consider multiple angles of gender presentation and body diversity when creating new worlds. Grab it on the Zon at

Jason: What’s the one thing you want to leave the reader with?

Nonir: Writing queer characters doesn’t have to be hard, and shouldn’t be intimidating. Approach it respectfully and create interesting three-dimensional characters who are more than their sexuality or gender, and you’re off to a great start! 

Olivia: Remember that you’re writing for people who are looking for characters they can see positive representation they can identify with. They’ve been denied it a very long time. It is a responsibility. But it is worth taking on.

Beyond that, just write people. We are people, with all the wonder, diversity, insecurity joy and pain that encompasses.

We are people. Just like you.


Read more about Nonir and Olivia’s hope-punk series at: www.aceshighjokerswild.com

Check out Nonir at www.wanderingjotun.com and at www.argentumbooks.weebly.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @wanderingjotun

Visit Olivia’s author page: https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Wylie/e/B07G67WZKC, Olivia’s also hangs out at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LeafingOutArt.

As a followup, see these reports:


Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

How to Write the Other Queer Character

Part 1

By: Jason Evans

Jason Evans recently interviewed two queer authors, Nonir Amicitia and Olivia Wylie who discussed writing the queer character.

Jason: Please introduce yourselves!

Nonir: I’m Nonir Amicitia, one half of O.E. Tearmann. I use they/them pronouns, play too many video games, and have two giant Sterlite containers of old writing under my bed. In addition to writing as O.E. Tearmann, I also run Wandering Jotun Crafts, which is dedicated to providing art and spiritual services to uplift and support marginalized communities. 

Olivia: Hey, I’m the other half of this writing team wearing the O.E. Tearmann trenchcoat. I’m a bisexual, biracial cis girl with a blue streak through my hair and my soul, a jack of all trades and a master of none. My first love is folklore, but I’ve branched out into sci-fi, ethnobotany, and non-fiction horticulture writing. Trained in ornamental horticulture at CSU, I own the residential landscaping and garden-related artistic business Leafing Out Professional Gardening, write for the Brehon Law Academy, create art and illustrated books of ethnobotany and folklore under my own name, and am moderating too many facebook groups focusing on folklore, research and art.

Jason: What do you write?

Nonir: I tend toward fantasy and scifi with strong romantic plots. Lately, I’ve been working on some queer romance and erotica short stories I’ll be publishing under the name E.S. Argentum sometime soon (fingers crossed).

Olivia: I really love doing research, so I do a lot of work on Old Irish cultural artifacts like the Brehon Law, the Triads of Ireland, and the Ogham. Currently I have a book out on the Victorian Language of Flowers, the Old Irish Alphabet of Trees, and the Triads of Ireland, with a forthcoming volume on the history of invasive weeds in America.

When I’m in the mood to be less cerebral, I like to write folklore-based works, and I’m the artist on the folklore-based webcomic Parmeshen. With Nonir I write the hopeful queer cyberpunk series Aces High, Jokers Wild, which is our way of getting catharsis for everything going on in the US and showing others how to light candles in the darkest night.

Jason: What are the top three things I should know, in your opinion, if I want to authentically write queer characters?

Nonir: One: queer characters are just as nuanced and varied as any other type of character; they have interests and likes/dislikes and personality quirks that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender. Two: please don’t fall into the “all queer people are promiscuous and only think about sex” stereotype. Again, just focus on writing well-rounded characters. Three: don’t write just one. Practice, practice, practice, and avoid tokenizing or fetishizing your queer characters.

Olivia: A) We’re people. Not classifications. This is life, not D&D. Don’t write a trans woman character; write a girl with a thing for race cars who has a hell of a time sourcing good jumpsuits in her size, maybe, and mentions that the only time being trans sucks is when you try to find something cute for a woman your height. See the difference?

B) Read Before You Write. I can’t stress this enough. Go read a ton of Own Voices stuff from queer authors in every shade of the rainbow. Go read books like ‘Transcending Flesh’ by Ana Mardoll. Read ‘Traversing Gender’ by Lee Harrington. Then go out and ask—and accept—what needs correcting in your work. Queer Sci Fi Writer’s Workshop is a good place. Put exactly as much research into understanding your queer characters as you would understanding an ancient Roman character. What you write could change someone’s life, for better and for worse.

Jason: When writing about queer people, what are some things, you find, that they are confident about? Can you give me some examples?

Nonir: Honestly, I can’t really answer this because queer people are just as diverse as cishet people. Everyone has their own things they’re confident about and things they struggle with, and there’s no real way to make a blanket statement about it.

Olivia: So, to answer this question, first we’re going to have to unpack it. Then we’re going to have to reword it. Then we can answer it.

The problem with this question is that it assumes several things. Firstly, it assumes the monolithic nature of people who aren’t cisgender and/or heterosexual. This assumption is false on the face of it. Like any other group, we’re made up of a wide range of people with all kinds of personalities, backgrounds, goals, and skills.

Living in the modern world, we must consciously overcome this outdated thinking. The term ‘queer’ is an extremely wide umbrella. Scratch that, it’s a circus tent, under which all sorts of folks have all kinds of lived experiences.

Secondly, this question assumes that sexuality and gender identity affects other specific personality traits—namely, confidence. These traits are not intrinsically linked. This is an essential point.

So, what are queer people confident in? Answer: it depends on the specific person you’re talking to. You can have any combination of gender, orientation, skillset, and personality. An extremely confident science whiz who’s asexual, romantically attracted to women, and absolutely sure she can talk anyone into anything. A straight trans guy who’s a great arborist and a little shy. The combinations are absolutely endless. Exactly as they are for cis-het people.

A better wording of this question could be: what are modern queer people able to feel confident in displaying publicly concerning their identity?

Again, this is completely dependent on the lived experience of the person you’re talking to. According to the Federal Hate Crimes Registry, 20.8% of hate crimes are based on LGBT identity as of 2013, up from 17.6% in 2008. Of these crimes, 72% are violent in nature. If you’re lucky, you live surrounded by a supportive community, whether natal or cultivated. If you’re not lucky…well, bluntly, you can still end up beat in an alley. Or worse. And where you get beat verses where you get bothered for dating advice all depends on what subculture you live in. It is, as a very broad blanket statement, safer to disclose your gender and orientation more openly in the US and Europe today. But some seriously nasty subcultures still lie under that blanket. Again: there is no one thing we’re all confident in.
Well, okay, maybe there’s one thing. We all know that you’ll never get all that glitter off. Glitter is forever. But that’s the only thing we are all completely confident in.

So, here’s the takeaway: treat LGBT people like people. Write LGBT people like people. Don’t assume they all do anything.  Ask people about what they’re confident in. Let them tell their life stories and their experiences. Ask them what they think. Oh, and keep the cap on the glitter.


We will see you next month for Part 2.
In the meantime:

You can read more about Nonir and Olivia’s hope-punk series at www.aceshighjokerswild.com

You can check out Nonir at www.wanderingjotun.com and at www.argentumbooks.weebly.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @wanderingjotun

To check out Olivia’s author page, go to https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Wylie/e/B07G67WZKC, Olivia’s also hangs out at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LeafingOutArt.


Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

How to Invest in Diversity in Your Story

Part 1

By: Jason Evans

This year I am kicking off a seven month series on the basics of writing diversity in your fiction. Whether you write dystopia or romance or science fiction. Right now, diversity in fiction is still a major issue. Over in Romance Writers of America, this very issue has led to a schism in that august organization. The question is why?

How do we write diverse characters?

Like anything else, the question is never Why should we write diverse characters, but How do we go about it? How do I write diverse characters? How do I define the term? Where can I go for research? Once I’ve done the research and created an awesome character for my awesome story, how can I make sure I’m not offending anyone? Did I get it right?

These are all really great questions. They deserve sincere answers that can make navigating the waters of writing fiction at least clearer, if not easier. Well, fear not, gentle reader, I am here to help you. While I am no master at this craft, it seems to me that this is an obstacle that can be overcome with some patience, kindness, and honesty.

Topics in this Series

Here is how we will break down our topics over the next several months. Please be aware that this blog is only supposed to spark your curiosity and get you going in the right direction. It will not, nor can our conversation about diversity and representation be comprehensive. You have been forewarned.

For the next six months I will focus on different kinds of diversity, giving a snapshot on how to approach each subject as you write. Here’s the list:

May ~~ Ethnicity

June ~~ Sex

July ~~ Gender

August ~~ Sexual Orientation

September ~~ Physical Ability

October ~~ Neurodivergence/Neurotypical

The great thing about diversity and representation is that you don’t have to do it all. Choose one and dedicated yourself to doing it really well and you’ll be farther along the game than a lot of other people. It may seem daunting now, but you’ll be a better writer at the end of the process.

A Note on offense and Outrage.

I’m going to be blunt here. Somewhere down this road of diversity and inclusion and representation you are going to offend somebody. It is inevitable. You’re going to use the wrong tone or the wrong pronoun. You’re going to disappoint some people and flat out enrage others. You’re going to get bad book reviews. People are going to call you names.

So what do you do?

You stop and you listen.

See, many of the groups we’re talking about have been so misrepresented that these marginalized groups are hypervigilant against being misrepresented again.

I teach a class at writing conferences called How to write authentic African-American Characters. After spending about half the class time going over the history of African-Americans in the United States, I talk about the stereotypes you see routinely in literature and film. None of them are negative or outright hurtful. All of them are one dimensional and antiquated. The process of creating authentic African-American characters requires people outside the African-American community to sincerely listen to us in the community in order to get better. All I’m asking is that you do the same.

Listen. Find sensitivity readers and get honest feedback. If someone confronts you about your story, listen to their concerns and promise to do better. The fact that they want to talk to you at all means that they believed you wrote in good faith. That is a compliment.

Are you ready? Good. Next month we’ll answer why we should do this kind of work at all. See you then and happy writing.


Jason Henry Evans
Jason Henry Evans

Jason Evans always wanted to be a writer; he just didn’t know it. After attending college and working in education, Jason’s life changed when he fell in love with the Fetching Mrs. Evans. After over a decade as a teacher in public and private schools, he discovered the wonderful writing community in Colorado, where he still lives. Jason is an educator, and a historian (as well as a bon vivant,) who is active in the Colorado writing community as a teacher and speaker. Visit Jason’s website for more about Jason and his publication.

My Journey to Publication

By: Jason Henry Evans

For the last couple of months, I can’t really say I’ve been in my writing hole. It’s probably closer to the truth to say I’ve been in my Project Management hole. But I’m out now, and I want to talk about my experience. See, I am self-publishing my debut novel. I came to this conclusion after a minor incident with a small publisher. Sitting there last fall, trying to figure out how everything had fallen through, I realized a couple of things that I wanted to share with you.

Don't be afraid of what you don't know.
  1. No one was going to care more about my story than me. Nobody. So if I didn’t advocate for my story, who would?
  2. Just because my story didn’t fit into a genre slot didn’t mean there wasn’t an audience out there for me. I just had to find them.
  3. Whether I was traditionally or independently published, I was going to have to do the marketing myself.
  4. Learning the skills an independent publisher has to know would always make me a better consumer further down the road.

So why did it take me so long?

Fear.

Now don’t get me wrong. Fear can be a positive motivator. Most of us have had that experience at work where project X needs to be done by a certain time or we’re all fired. So everyone bucks up and gets it done. I have personally had that hard conversation with a boss because I was slacking and didn’t realize it. So I redoubled my efforts and learned I was capable of more. So in that sense, fear can be good.

Not my fear.

I was afraid of what I didn’t know. I was afraid of the work that might be involved. I was afraid I was going to fail.

Let’s take formatting as an example.

I write in MS Word. I have since I was in middle school. (When I was in 8th grade it was called Jr. High. But I digress.) So, when I decided to self-publish I knew formatting was going to be an issue. Reason number one was because I couldn’t afford what some people wanted to charge (up to $500 and more). Reason number two was all the horror stories people told me about trying to format in word. (I call them the Scrivener-Vellum Syndicate. But I tease!)

I procrastinated until the end of the school year (I’m a substitute teacher). When I finally did get to formatting my novel for print and e-book, it took a day and a half. Around 15 hours. That was it. Did I make some mistakes? Yes. But after installing Kindle Add-in for Microsoft Word and watching a couple of hours of Youtube videos on formatting in Word, I figured it out.

A New Skill Set

I figured it out. It was challenging, frustrating and deflating at times. But not only do both versions of my debut novel, The Gallowglass, look good, but I now have a skill set. I understand how to format in MS Word. I know how to use Styles and how to take out tab indents (go to replace and type in ^t, then replace it with nothing). I know how to format a table of contents and create Styles of my own. I will use these skills when I publish my second novel and the process will get a little easier.

If you’ve been hesitant about finishing your book. If you’ve felt bad because you don’t have the skills to self-publish and don’t have the money to pay professionals along the way. Don’t be discouraged. There are some things you can learn to do yourself. Just be patient with yourself and realize it’s not going to be perfect. (Even traditionally published books have typos!) Remember, suffering leads to endurance, which leads to character, which leads to hope. Your book will be awesome and your second one will be even better.


Jason Henry Evans

You can like Jason’s Facebook Author Page.
Or, you can follow him on Twitter @evans_writer
If you’d like to read his personal blog or sign up on his mailing list, go to www.jasonhenryevans.com

Jason’s debut novel, The Gallowglass, releases July 10th. Find out more information here.

Sitting Alone in the Darkness

By: Jason Henry Evans

Three weeks ago I fulfilled a lifetime dream of publishing my first novel. I decided to self-publish my first novel for a variety of reasons. However, if I’m honest with myself, it simply was the right time. See, I have been very fortunate in the writing game. I have met men and women who have published 5, 10, even 40 novels. They’ve had short stories in a dozen anthologies. Many of these people have given me sage pieces of advice. They have held my hand, gently told me when my story was bad, and inspired me to go forward. But there comes a time when you have to do it on your own. Whether your self-publishing a novel or you have a contract with a big four publisher there comes a time when you have to be alone. You have to put the words on the paper and be honest with yourself about the story you’re trying to tell.

That can be a dark place. But it was in that dark place, all alone, that I realized I couldn’t depend on anybody but myself. That was when I decided to self-publish a manuscript I put aside a year earlier. At that point, it wasn’t about fame, or financial success. It was about reaching the next level in my writing.

A Giving Community

One of the short comings of the writing community here in Colorado is that everyone is so giving. You reach out and people will genuinely help you as much as they can. The writers here—regardless of their levels of success—are so warm. But for me, it became a crutch. I could always ask for and get a pep talk or a piece of good advice. But I wasn’t doing the work. That all changed ten months ago.

Re-Writes

I went back into my writing cave. I edited, did re-writes, and commissioned a cover artist. When that cover ended up being awful and the artist stopped returning my emails, I went out and bought another cover—a better one. My wife and some close friends already read my manuscript and they thought it was good.

Become an Author

So, I paid a copy editor, I sent it out to more beta-readers, and I learned how to format both a physical book and an ebook. Did I have help? Absolutely. But I was the one who had figure out the minutia of book formatting. I was the one who had to go over every line for typos and homonyms. You know what? The entire process was frightening. But I had to do it. I had to get to the next level. I had to become an author.

I write this not to praise myself. But to tell you, gentle reader, that you can do it too. But a large part of that process, I have discovered, is sitting and doing the work by yourself. It will be lonely. For me? It was scary, too. But isn’t that the point?

Finding the Magic

In that dark place where it’s just you and your story and you don’t know how to solve that plot problem, or format your table of contents, that’s where the magic is. That’s where your mettle is tested. That’s where you stop treading water and start swimming. But no one is going to write your story for you. Jeff Goins once said that “Art needs an audience.” Don’t deny your audience your art, no matter how scary or full of drudgery the process may be. Finish your art and accept the consequences.

If you do, I promise you, holding your book in your hands will make all your struggles worth it.


Jason Henry Evans

Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Sweet Success for Jason Henry Evans

Congratulations to Jason Evans! The Galloglass, a historical fiction, will release on July 10, 2019 by Grant Street Publishing.

Lt. Philip Williams thought his career as an English mercenary was over after surviving the sack of Calais by the Spanish in 1596. If only he knew his troubles were just beginning. While recovering in a hospital in Antwerp, a distant relative arrives to dangle an irresistible offer: The Royal Irish Army. All of Ireland is in open revolt and Queen Elizabeth is going to war. She needs experienced officers and Philip accepts. Once in Ireland, Philip meets two Irish women. Nualla asks for his aid while Colleen asks for his heart. Will he be able to protect either of them from the coming violence? Meanwhile Irish rebels and Scottish mercenaries raid and the survivors whisper the name of a monster: Solomon Red Beard O’Donnell. Will Philip and his friends have enough time to turn Irish peasants into soldiers? If they don’t, Solomon Red Beard will spread the rebellion and Ireland will be lost.

Jason Henry Evans
Jason Henry Evans

Jason always wanted to be a writer; he just didn’t know it. After attending college and working in education, Jason’s life changed when he fell in love with the Fetching Mrs. Evans. After over a decade as a teacher in public and private schools, he discovered the wonderful writing community in Colorado, where he still lives. Jason is an educator, and a historian (as well as a bon vivant,) who is active in the Colorado writing community as a teacher and speaker. Visit Jason’s website for more about Jason and his publication.

The Gallowglass: ISBN; 978-1-0730504-5-1, 129,000 words, Ages 15+, Pre-order your copy today! 


Do you have a Sweet Success you would like to share? Click here to get started, or send an email to: SweetSuccess@pikespeakwriters.com

Sweet Success is coordinated by Managing Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim.

Diversity in Historic Fiction

by: Jason Henry Evans

A couple of Fridays ago my wife and I sat down and watched “Always Be My Maybe.” A good, old fashioned romantic comedy about a hyper successful woman whose best friend and personal assistant arranges for her to run into a mutual friend they hadn’t seen since high school.

The movie was funny in unexpected ways. It was lighthearted. Both the male and female leads were quirky and flawed – which made it easy for the audience to like them. And since we already liked them it was easy for us to root for them to fall in love. It was a little formulaic in the 3rd act, but considering rom-com’s are a dying breed, I’ll take a good one when I can.

So why am I writing about a romantic comedy produced by Netflix? What does this have to do with writing historical fiction?

Because this movie was DIVERSE. I mean SUPER diverse. The male lead was Korean-American and the female lead was Vietnamese-American. The mutual friend who set them up was African-American and gay and pregnant! The male lead’s dad was a diabetic. The male lead’s best friends all played in a hip-hop band in San Francisco.

All this diversity was done so effortlessly. It did not feel self-conscious or awkward. The characters’ diverse backgrounds enriched and informed the story. It brought context to the main characters upbringing and personal flaws. It just made sense.

And did I mentioned none of it felt awkward? It just was. This is how diversity in your fiction should feel. Breezy, yet important to the plot and character development.

So how do we get there?

Remember that diversity literally means diverse. Uncomfortable with having different ethnic groups in your fiction because you feel someone’s going to scream at you? Start with something you’re comfortable with. There have been many great characters with physical disabilities. What about having a character who is morbidly obese? Try having a character in a wheel chair or one who uses crutches. What about diversity of age? In many stories the mentor of the protagonist is always someone older. But once the mentor is gone, everyone slides into the same age range as the protagonist? Why? Why not have a minor character in their sixties or seventies? It would be quite unique.

Writing a military historical taking place before the 19th century? Remember civilians followed the army to provide services. Everything from the washing of laundry to commissioning new armor. Many of those who followed the army were women. (Heck, English Crusaders took their washer-women with them to Palestine and by all accounts they were treated like the mothers of the army.)

Diversity doesn’t have to overwhelm your story. It doesn’t have to be self-important or stuffy. It should be natural and obvious to everyone. Start with something you’re comfortable with. See how that story turns out. Good luck!


Jason Henry Evans

Jason Evans wanted to be a writer his entire life. He just didn’t know it. He has been an educator in public & private schools for twelve years. He has earned Double bachelors from UC Santa Barbara, teaching credentials from Cal-State Los Angeles, and an MA from UC Denver. He has two short stories published and is the editor-in-chief for Man-gazine. He lives in Denver with the Fetching Mrs. Evans and his three dogs and one haughty cat. 

Follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer. Like his Author Facebook Page, or sign up for his newsletter at www.jasonhenryevans.com

His debut novel, The Gallowglass, releases July 10th. Details are here.

PPWC2019 – Reflections

Although PPWC2019 fell into the history books almost a month ago, the buzz is still electrifying. Here are just a few things people had to say:

“There’s a reason PPWC is one of the longest-standing and productive writing conferences in the country. The level of talent, professionalism, access to both industry leaders and Mother Nature create the ideal opportunity for writers at all levels to move ahead in craft and career.” ~~Susan Wiggs, New York Times best-selling author

What really stood out at PPWC was the clear affection that attendees felt for each other.  Clearly, many were experienced veterans of the conference, and they were so happy to see each other again.  And still, they were very inclusive of new people.  Plus, present company notwithstanding, I thought the programming and the level of instruction to be phenomenal. ~~John Gilstrap, New York Times bestselling author

I’ve attended the Southern California Writers Conference a couple of times, and while the workshops are on par with PPWC, they don’t include meals into the conference (except for the Saturday night banquet), so I’m very happy PPWC does that! It’s nice to be able to talk with authors and faculty there in an informal setting. They’re pretty normal, in a nerdy sort of way–like us! ~Margena Holmes, Author

PPWC has long been my favorite conference to attend. It was the first writers conference I ever went to–as an attendee in 2007–and it set the bar high for others. I’m always thrilled when I get to come back as faculty and reunite with so many familiar faces, be part of the top-notch presentations you offer (one of the many reasons I adore PPWC), and be around such an enthusiastic, supportive, focused group of writers. This past year, as I always do, I filled my days when I wasn’t presenting attending the presentations of others–I learn so much there every time. And I am inspired and charged up every time I come by the authors I get to work with in my workshops–everyone is so fully engaged, dedicated to their craft, and wonderfully interactive. It’s also one of my favorite places to lead workshops. Coming to PPWC is like coming home, every time. ~Tiffany Yates Martin, Editor/Owner, FoxPrint Editorial

PPWC 2019 was my first time teaching at a writers conference, a longtime goal of mine. I was a little nervous, until I realized just how friendly and enthusiastic all the attendees were. Everyone at PPWC came with an open mind, ready to learn new things and build their writing skills. I was so impressed by the knowledge and curiosity of everyone who attended my classes–I think I learned more from them than they learned from me! ~Rachel Craft, Author

As I sit at home, drinking a hot mug of coffee, I like to reflect on the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met and the knowledge I’ve acquired. I try to process it all and allow it to motivate my writing. By the end of that first cup of Joe, I want to write all the things. I want to finish my manuscript, edit another and submit to every anthology. ~Jason Henry Evans, Author

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and workshops I was able to attend; the faculty was top-notch. And who can leave out the networking benefits of Barcon?  But ultimately, the very best part of PPWC was the friendships I made.  Writing can be such a lonely thing, but I have now gathered my tribe!  ~Kate V. Conway, Author

PPWC2019 met all of my expectations. My favorite quote from the weekend came from John Gilstrap when he said, “Don’t write a book – tell a story.” My favorite class was…ALL of them. So much information filled my notebook with knowledge and my mind with ideas. My favorite thing to do? Volunteer. I have been on the Query team since my first conference in 2012. It is a great way to contribute to this amazing event. These reasons (and many more) are why I return year after year. ~K.J. Scrim, Editor PPW Blog and Author

For the six years I’ve been attending PPWC, I’ve heard how the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, friendliest, and most respected conferences in the country, and while I believed my astute fellow conference volunteers, I am bred from the school of trust but verify. So, this year, when I was approached by many editors/agents, as well as all of the keynotes, I requested details when they told me how happy they were to attend a PPW Conference.

In summary, this is what I was told:
–The variety of material, genre, and skill levels catered to by the workshops, invited guests, and keynotes. A little something for everyone.

–The amount of coordination and organization conducted prior to and during conference by the conference volunteers.  “I can’t believe this is all done by volunteers”.

–The overall vibe of the conference is positive and light. We are able to maintain a joviality throughout the days and nights, something that is rare as time presses on.
~Kameron Claire, PPW President and Author