Morgan's Weekly Blog Round-up (Mar 24, 2023)

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Morgan Hazelwood

Mar 24, 2023, 11:05:08 AM3/24/23
Welcome back for another week of Writing Tips (from the pros) and Morgan's own writerly musings. Thanks for checking out what's new this week.
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Welcome back!

It's Friday again! Time for another round-up of writing tips (from the pros) and my own writerly musings.

As always, thanks for reading, and please enjoy.

- Morgan H.

Giving Your Characters Room To Grow

By Morgan Hazelwood, 03/24/2023
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While I was reading this week, I realized my favorite parts of the books were where I could see how characters had done the work, grown, and become better versions of themselves. When I contemplated my own writing projects, I realized that I could do better at giving my characters room to grow.

Watch the Video

Flawed Characters

Most characters are supposed to be relatable, and to be human is to err. There are multiple approaches to creating flawed characters.

1. Base them on someone you know

Or, on a combination of people you know. Is your friend/character impulsive and crude? Hesitant and passive-aggressive? Figure out which traits you want to imbue your character with and think to yourself, what would [friend] do?

2. RPG style

Go down a list of traits and give them points in each category. 3 points of impulsiveness, 7 in excitability, and 4 in forgetfulness.

3. Play against their strengths

There was a Tumblr post going around, talking about how Shakespeare’s Macbeth was a man of contemplation, while his Othello was a man of action. Had Macbeth been more decisive or Othello more contemplative, their tragedies may have been avoided.

Give your character strengths, and then put them in situations where their strengths are either not useful, or actively work against them. Are they good at collaborating? Isolate them or put them with people who don’t have their best interests in mind. Is theirs a physical strength? Put them in a battle of wits.

4. Pick a vice or 2

The traditional Christian vices are: Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Lust, Envy, and Pride, but you can go with any set and subset.

5. So perfect, it’s its own flaw

If they’re so perfect and noble, if they always do the right thing, then they likely have problems relating to others. Even if they’re understanding and empathetic, it can be hard for other characters to relate to them. And that can work as the flaw.

Realistically Flawed Characters

All of your characters should be flawed, not just the main characters and the villains. Although, over-the-top villains that are evil for the sake of evil exist in stories — they aren’t very realistic and don’t interest most readers.

One way to make a flaw realistic is for there to be a reason for it. We’re all a mix of nature and nurture. By giving the flaw a foundation, we have a truth the character can choose to hide from, fight, or accept.

Flaw Foundation Ideas

  • Does their pride rest on the fact they only value themselves for what they can do for others?
  • Are they lustful because that’s the only way they know how to accept love?
  • Perhaps their sloth derives from parents or teachers disparaging any attempts that weren’t perfect, so they stopped trying?
  • It could be their brain chemistry is unbalanced, and they need support to get better.

Overcoming/Embracing Baggage

Note: I am not a therapist, so take this next part with a grain of salt.

As therapy teaches, realizing the foundation of a behavior is only the first step in overcoming it. And while we hope our heroes overcome their baggage, villains and anti-heroes often go down the other path. Healing is gradual and things don’t get fixed overnight. Although trauma can break things, the descent to embracing baggage is usually gradual, as well.

Recognize that most characters don’t go through all of these steps in a single novel — unless that’s the point of the book.

For our villains, antiheroes, and background jerks:

Embrace Baggage

  1. Recognize the flaw (optional)
  2. Embrace the flaw
  3. Justify behaviors that support the flaw
  4. Escalate
  5. If backsliding and consequences happen? Escalate some more!
  6. Trauma? Escalate!

For our heroes and their friends:

Overcome Baggage

  1. Acknowledge the foundation of the flaw
  2. Recognize the behaviors triggered by the flaw
  3. Develop coping mechanisms to avoid, work around, or mitigate some of the effects
  4. Get external support where applicable
  5. Understand there will be backsliding and consequences
  6. Keep working at it

Closing Thoughts

In order to keep these relatably-flawed characters, remember that as people grow and change, some behaviors can get healthier at the same time that others get worse, and vice versa. Or just put them in situations where their newfound strengths are now weaknesses.

Are there any methods for developing flawed characters I missed?
What characters have you enjoyed growing and overcoming their flaws?
What characters have you enjoyed embracing their flaws?
As a layperson, are there any steps for overcoming/embracing flaws that I missed?

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Author Spotlight: Blair Austin

By Morgan Hazelwood, 03/24/2023
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  • a hybrid fiction writer who was once a librarian.

Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!

A former librarian, Blair Austin was born in Michigan. His debut novel, Dioramas (2023), won the Dzanc Books Fiction prize. He lives in Massachusetts.

Blair, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’d like a tiny, intelligent bird. It would have the ability to fly out the window and fly around out there. It would come back each day with a seed, drop it in a jar and then perch. It could communicate by placing seeds in a grid of letters and numbers, and when it had completed what it wanted to say, it would put each seed back in the jar.

That’s super specific and pretty adorable, I think.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I like to write both realist stuff and stuff that tends toward a breach in reality, a bit unreal. I got started when I got sick and spent a lot of time alone. Some combo of walking alone in the woods as a teenager and doing a lot of reading pretty much set the writing in motion.

I’m glad you found your way to your writing.

What do you like to read?

I like poetry very much (J.H. Prynne, Edward Dorn, Dorothy Parker, Paul Celan, and many others) and fiction with a really complex surface and dense prose. I also like prose that’s more straightforward. I began as a kid with Stephen King (who is still a favorite) and added other writers along the way. In the nonfiction realm, I like to read re-prints where the facts on offer often still apply but where the world in which they’re presented no longer exists.

I’ve learned I like poetry read aloud better than reading it myself. What a great variety!

Do you snack when you write/edit? What are your favorites!

I don’t eat while I write. My problem is, after writing I want to forget by sitting down and mood-eating. I have a chicken wing problem.

Oh, dear. I have a snack-while-I-write problem, so I totally get the ‘mood-eating’.

What do you drink when you write/edit?

Sometimes coffee, sometimes water, sometimes both.

Nice to stay hydrated and caffeinated!

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you

You should do X.

Almost none of the advice on offer works for me. I tend to bully myself over it and wonder what’s wrong with me when it doesn’t work. Over the years I’ve found a process that mostly works for me. I write very early in the morning when it’s dark. I use a notebook, write by hand, type with a typewriter, use scissors and tape, retype as many times as needed. I hope like hell this continues to work.

Finding a writing process that works for you can be an ongoing process. I’m glad you’ve found one that’s working for you.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands

Read, read, read.

The old adage, “read, read, read,” is a good one. For me, books tend to come from other books. The most important books are ones I completely forget the contents of. They just drop far inside, into the dark, and later, if I chance to re-read something, I’ll see the echoes in my writing. So for me a book I fail to understand and which I then forget (remembering only that it blew me away) is the most powerful.

I’m a huge fan of this one, too!

Shameless Self-Promotion time!


In this hybrid novel—part essay, part prose poem, part travel narrative—Blair Austin brings us nose to the glass with our own vanishing world, what we preserve and at what cost.

In a city far in the future, in a society that has come through a great upheaval, retired lecturer Wiggins moves from window to window in a museum, intricately describing each scene. Whales gliding above a shipwreck and a lost cup and saucer. An animatronic forest twenty stories tall. urban wolves in the light of an apartment building. A line of mosquitoes in uniforms and regalia, honored as heroes of the last great war.
Bit by bit, Wiggins unspools the secrets of his world—the conflict that brought it to the brink, and the great thinker, Michaux, who led the diorama revolution, himself now preserved under glass.
After a phone call in the middle of the night, Wiggins sets out to visit the Diorama of the Town: an entire, dioramic world, hundreds of miles across, where people are objects of curiosity, taxidermied and posed. All his life, Wiggins has longed to see it. But in the Town, he comes face to face with the diorama’s contradictions. Its legacy of political violence. Its manipulation by those with power and money. And its paper-thin promise of immortality.

Check out Blair across the web!

Goodreads | Amazon

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Week In Review: March 18th, 2023

By Morgan Hazelwood, 03/24/2023
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In Case You Missed it, here’s the round-up of all of my latest content, plus updates from old guests!

Read on if you want to know more. If not? See you next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Coming up this week:

On Youtube:

On Twitch:

  • Or join the livestreams here on twitch!

Content Around The Web:

On Youtube/Twitch:

  • Magic Needs A PurposeWhile I’ve written a lot of types of fantasy, my contemporary fantasy kept getting feedback and my suburban fantasy kept not working, and I think I’ve figured out the problem. My magic needs a purpose.

On Season 6 of the Podcast “Writing Tips and Writerly Musings”:

  • Choices To Make With Beta ReadersAfter you’ve written your manuscript and gone over it at least once, it’s usually time to ship it out to some beta-readers, to get an outside perspective. But — how do you find and pick the right beta readers?

On The Blog (In Case You Missed It):

  • Magic Needs A PurposeWhile I’ve written a lot of types of fantasy, my contemporary fantasy kept getting feedback and my suburban fantasy kept not working, and I think I’ve figured out the problem. My magic needs a purpose.
  • Author Spotlight Guest: James Quinlan Meservy – A Fantasy Author Extraordinaire, Creator of Creatures, Embellisher of Events, and Firebrand “Stories that Kindle Imagination”, he’s sharing writing tips and writerly musings with us.

Upcoming Events:

RavenCon 2023 – April 21-23rd, 2023 – Richmond, VA

Balticon 2023 – May 26-29th, 2023 – Baltimore, MD

Imaginarium Convention 2023 – July 14-16th, 2023 – Louisville, KY

What I’ve Been Reading:

I’ve been rereading Anita Blake series, in anticipation of book 29 coming out on Tuesday.

Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: re-animating the dead and killing the undead who take things too far. But when the city’s most powerful vampire asks her to solve a series of vicious slayings, Anita must confront her greatest fear—her undeniable attraction to master vampire Jean-Claude, one of the creatures she is sworn to destroy…

New Works By Previous Guests:

New from Abigail Manning, book 1 in her The Fairmyth Chronicles

The Soulless Slipper

Cinderella meets Persephone and Hades.

Priscilla Korinder has been forced to work the fields of Mortalia ever since her mother disappeared when she was nine. Unfortunately for her, Mortalia is plagued with a curse that punishes any being who uses divine magic, leaving Priscilla covered in bruises at the end of each day. Despite her constant injuries, Priscilla’s stepmother is in disbelief that Priscilla could possibly be a divine one. She’s convinced her stepdaughter’s exhaustion is mere laziness…

King Hayden is the lone ruler of Underworth, a kingdom utilized only as a mass graveyard. He typically resides in solitude with his three-toed cat, until one day his peace is disrupted by his eager nephew. Prince Aaron of Olympia has grown infatuated with a nameless maiden in Mortalia and insists Hayden use his divine portal magic to deliver her to him. When he refuses, the prince decides to take matters into his own hands, and lure the girl out with an enchanting ball.

Will Hayden be able to stand by and do nothing as he watches his nephew draw the girl into a trap? He could always try to stop him, but how does one prevent a divine prince from getting what he wants? Hayden could always kidnap her first…

Picture(s) of the Week:

Here’s where I started re-reading the Anita Blake books…

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Recent Articles:

Magic Needs a Purpose
Author Spotlight: James Quinlan Meservy
Week In Review: March 11th, 2023
Encanto and Making Your Own Characters 3-Dimensional
Author Spotlight: DB Rook
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