In episode 57 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast, Jesper is joined by the awesome and energetic Sacha Black.

Sacha is a fantasy author. She is an editor and the host of The Rebel Author Podcast.

Sacha has also written several guides and workbooks on how to write compelling heroes and villains.

So, we’re going to learn from her great insights on creating memorable characters.

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Read the full transcript below.

(Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).

Narrator (2s): You're listening to the amwritingfantasy podcast. In today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need a literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing join to best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them. Now onto the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt.

Jesper (31s): Hello, I'm Jesper. This is episode 57 of the amwritingfantasy podcast and today autumn is not here, so I'm joined by an awesome guest and that is Sasha black. So Sacha is a fantasy author. She's an editor and the host of the rebel author podcast so Sacha has written several guides on and workbooks on how to write compelling, heroes and villains. So we're going to learn from her great insight on this topic here today.

But first, welcome to the amwritingfantasy she podcast Sacha

Sacha (1m 6s): thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Jesper (1m 9s): Yeah, it was very nice too. Very nice to talk to you. And the SF just sat there. I know that you also the host of the rebel author podcast, but what's that podcast about?

Sacha (1m 19s): I am. So the rebel author podcast is a motivational show at four creatives who like to break the rules or rebel against, you know, um, uh, conventions or just people who have the dry, sarcastic, wet who like, you know, the occasional naughty word. Uh, but it is am essentially about writing, publishing, marketing, um, or you know, all of those industry type topics.

And I tend to do interviews as well. Occasionally I do have a solo show, but yeah.

Jesper (1m 53s): Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So, so it's all, it's a specifically focused on just any creative outlet. Like, like I mean any Sean rough or writers or are you, are you focused on like certain elements within it or

Sacha (2m 6s): no, so it is for um, any writer of any genre. So I write obviously as you've met said I write nonfiction and young adult fantasy, kind of moving into adult fantasy soon. So I try to keep the topics wide. So you know about the craft as a whole rather than something very niche too. I don't know, historical fiction. And also occasionally, or I will be having anyway it topics that, uh, interviews that are more general to creative.

So it might be a better mindset or business, which could be any creative business. So yeah, I, I do try to keep it quite broad for all creatives.

Jesper (2m 47s): Okay. That's cool. Yeah. Yeah, it's interesting because we sort of went the other way where by write I mean of course we, the topics that we are handling or talking about on this podcast, some of it is generic marketing and publishing and stuff like that, but at least from the writing perspective, we, we've sort of niche down and focused on fantasy writing so. So it was quite nice to hear that you also write fantasy.

Sacha (3m 12s): Yeah, well I actually think it's already important to be niche because I think you serve your audience much better when you do that. Um, and I suppose the thing that's overarching on my podcast rather than it being necessarily the niche topic, it's more the niche ethos and theme. So I always ask all of my guests to tell us about a time that they've been a rebel and you know, and yeah. So every week I will read out a listener who's a rebel, you know, in a little story that they sent in.

You know, I, I am sarcastic and witty, witty listeners to decide, but I hope I'm funny anyway. Um, and you know, but I will intersperse some naughty made up. So what are words or whatever. So yeah, it's kind of the feeling of the podcast that, um, is niche. I will not appeal to everybody because I have a potty mouth. I'm opinionated. Um, yeah, probably okay with that because I think that helps you find your audience essentially.

Jesper (4m 11s): No, I, yeah, I, I fully agree. I think it's, it's better to, to be a bit am, let's say unique and then some people will like it and people are, some people won't. And that's absolutely fine. Uh, I think that that's better than trying to appeal to everyone.

Sacha (4m 25s): Definitely. That's how you find your tribe.

Jesper (4m 28s): Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So how did you get into writing fantasy did, did you always know that you want it to write fantasy

Sacha (4m 34s): Oh, that is such a good question. Um, I, I don't think I am like the least self-aware person ever. I didn't really know that I wanted to write until I was in my mid twenties. I think if I had been more self-aware, I would have realized because all the signs were there, you know, I was that kid who'd prefer to read in the library at lunch rather than come and play with other people, you know, things like this. But, um, in terms of fantasy specifically I as a teenager, I read a lot of fantasy.

I also interested in, you read a lot of crime and a lot of Raymond's. So I don't think I necessarily knew that that's what I wanted to write until I really got into writing. And I, and a lot of my fears around writing came from not knowing what, you know, if I was going to make some kind of accuracy era. So if you ride fun to see, you can make a lot of it up. So I did that, you know, um, ended up, uh, creating our fantasy world and it's actually just the first character that came to me.

So my first book has been with me since I was like nine years old. Um, I always, yeah, I always knew this character, so I'm not going to stick with fantasy forever. Um, I definitely have a contemporary young adult book that I'm about to work on this year that has, I guess, hints of magical realism in it, but it is predominantly set in the real world. So no, I don't, I read a lot of friends, see now, but I also read a lot of contemporary, I read a lot of nonfiction, so I don't know, I just like it. So there is no rhyme or reason behind it particularly?

Jesper (6m 19s): No. All right. Now that you'd call the self aware and, and I didn't know that I was that unselfaware but apparently I am because it wasn't until I was like, uh, what, like 38 or something that I figured out that I wanted to write so apparently I'm less overwhelmed.

Sacha (6m 35s): Well, you know, lots of us are to hold when we grow up to get a proper job. And you know, uh, I thought a proper job meant going to university and being on one of these really super dull, uh, management, fast track graduate, um, things, you know, so it, yeah, it took me a while to realize that I really hated the corporate world.

Jesper (6m 57s): Right. But one thing I did to find out by, uh, you know, snooping around on the internet was that you quite like conspiracy theories. So I thought that was quite fun. So I wanted to ask you if you have like a favorite conspiracy

Sacha (7m 10s): am Oh, it's so, that's so hard. So mean of you to ask me that. Um, I do, I do like them because for two reasons. One, um, I derive a lot of inspiration from them. You know, they are quite dystopian when you look at them. Um, and I love dystopian stories. I definitely will be writing a dystopian series at some point, but you can also take elements of fantasy from them. So, you know, like flatter the for example, is a great, um, great example of a conspiracy that's wildly popular at the moment.

And there are so many elements to that, you know, things like giants and whether the gods were actually aliens, you know, the, all of these things actually played really well into fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy. So that is why I love them. And so I, I, you know, a hollow earth is another one. Hollow moon. Um, the, yeah, the firmament and having a dome over the F there are just millions that I will read about and we'll, um, take elements of, uh, to put into my stories.

The other reason I like them, uh, it relates to villains. Um, and I always think one of the good markers of a villain is when they're crazy or they're, um, you know, there, uh, what's the word? Like whatever they're trying to so like president snow once the hunger games in the hunger games, he wants the reality TV show when we are so convincing that they can get you to believe in their crazy for just a second. I always think that's a really good Mark of a villain. And I think that some of these conspiracy theories, when you look at some of the, you know, really, um, ardent supporters and some of their arguments, you can for a split second or two actually really invest in them and believe in them.

And I think that when, when it's that convincing, you can learn things from that for your fiction.

Jesper (9m 1s): Yeah. That is funny because that's exactly why I like conspiracy theories as well because there's so much inspiration in some of it. It's like, well, some of it is like really out there, you know, but, but it's still that there's a lot of good ideas that you can use for storytelling in there. And, uh, I quite like the one where they are talking about that, you know, that the matrix that we actually living in a matrix like thing. So the whole thing in the entire world is just simulation though.

Sacha (9m 27s): Yeah. But there are, do you know, they're all scientific books on the universe as a hologram that, you know, there are like genuinely traditionally published books. Um, I had one a few years ago and I can't remember the exact name, but it was something like the universe is a hologram anyway. Fascinating. And that is also what I lost. That some of these things really do venture into the science of it and that's when it becomes extremely hard to ignore. And you know, you do find yourself questioning, well, have I been lied to? What is the government really, you know, all of these things.

But yeah, I think that having an open mind, um, and investigating these things, be it conspiracy theories, all science or you know, some detailed, um, Avenue as a writer is really important because we do filter all those are things that we put into our brain back out into our fiction. And I just think it gives us more depth to our stories.

Jesper (10m 22s): Yeah, that's true. Yeah. And, and now I can't remember which one it was, which of course then makes it a bad example to bring up. But, but I did listen to a podcast like a couple of months ago where they were talking about numbers and how if you add this to this all, and there was something about the moon as well, the actual size of the moon and am something like that. And everything just keeps adding up to the same numbers or something. It was insane listening too. But, uh, but anyway, that's, that's a rabbit hole that we can get down another into another day. But, uh, we wanted to talk a bit about compelling, heroes and villains today.

So I don't know, maybe, maybe I could just start out by asking you what did this, did you think makes for a compelling hero and villain some overhaul maybe.

Sacha (11m 7s): Yeah. So, um, I, so a villain, interestingly, a lot of the same things cross saver and, uh, between what makes a good hero and what makes a good villain. But what often happens is that writers at focus all their attention on their hero because obviously the hero is the person who the story is being told via and therefore they have the most page time.

But the mistake that you're making there is that all stories are about change. Be it the emotional arc that a hero goes on, the emotional change, the obstacles that a hero must feet in order to win or get to the end of the book. And what drives change is conflict because all of us are creatures of habit will, will not change unless we're forced to too.

So yeah. And, and that is how you get the change is through conflict and what's what drives the conflict and novel that's your villain. So I always say that a villain is actually more important than the hero because they are at the source of, um, changing the heroes, which is what the story is about essentially. So the first thing I always think that's important is to get that straight in your head and to value your villain as much as you value your hero.

Um, in terms of what makes a good villain, I think there's a probably four or five things. So the first one is values. It's really, really important. Just like your hero will have values, they might value strength or loyalty or doing good or whatever. It's also important that your villain has a value and you can enact those in a couple of different ways. So you could have a positive value, like loyalty that your villain INAX in a bad way.

So for example, uh, Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter is an excellent example of this. Anybody who portrays his loyalty, they're gonna die. So that is an example of and acting a positive trait in a bad way. And then of course, you could have a negative value, like revenge, for example. Um, and just moving on from that, another really important factor in your villains is to have a positive trait. So for example, if you have a villain who is just a homicidal maniac who just wants to end the world, um, it's not very believable because apart from people who, you know, might have genuine, um, Mike, well anyway, having a complete psychopath as a villain in a crime book might be realistic, but that's usually because they're not really on the page very much.

Excuse me. They tend to, uh, appear at the end. Or if there's some, obviously might have a jewel point of view, but for the most part then on the page, and we'll get back to the point. So having a positive trait creates a second layer of depth to the character. Most of us aren't inherently evil and that goes for villains as well. They might have a warped sense of justice or a warped sense of equality or a warp sense of, you know what's right and wrong is, but they don't believe they are bad.

They believe they are doing the right thing. It's just that society or your hero doesn't. So having a positive trait is really important to make them believable. It gives them a sense of humanity and you can enact that in a million different ways. Be it showing kindness to somebody or even if it's a henchman, having a pet is quite often when that happens. Um, it could also be that, that you turn one of their negative traits into a positive temporarily.

So that is a trick that I quite like to use. Um, another last, I'll try and whip through these. Appreciate I'm going on. But, um, so, so the other one would be to have a really solid motive and a reason why. So this is often lacking. I find in manuscripts that I am do developmental edits on the, they don't think through the why a villain is doing something. People like, when we look at our psychology, we all do things for a reason.

Our childhood, our teenage years, you know, our most influential years shape our brain chemistry, like quite literally shapes our brain chemistry. And if you've had a wound in your past, often we talk about heroes and wounds and the thing that gives them their flow while your villain also has a wound in their past. And whilst you don't necessarily need to put it on the page because your villains isn't your protagonist, you do need to think about that because it will drive their behavior.

You know, let's say they lost family in a boating accident. I'm just talking about this on the hoof now. But perhaps they then have that would give them a wound and they might then want to seek revenge on, on, on the boating company. But a hero might choose instead to enact that wound in a positive way. So they might start up a charity for people of drowning victims or whatever, you know. So it's, it's looking at how you can incorporate that wound and give your villain a reason for why he's behaving and in that particular way.

And um, you know, doing the bad things that he's doing lost to make them unbeatable. Um, too often we give our heroes and easy ride and we don't, um, make things difficult enough. So one way to stop that is to make a really unbeatable villain for like 85% of your novel. Make them an expert in something, make them better than the hero at something. Um, because the harder it is for your hero to the win, the more invested your readers will be.

And last, but by no means least give them a really strong sense of integrity, which is actually a really positive trait to have. But I will tell you the reason why it's so important for a Villa. When you have integrity, you do what you're, say, what you say you're going to do, even if it means doing something bad. And that makes a villain, particularly when they do do bad things because they said they're going to do them, it makes them frightening. You know, if they are like, you know, I'm gonna, if you don't do X, I will kidnap your child.

And then they came back. The child that is terrifying and also makes them very believable. So yeah, those would be my top.

Jesper (18m 1s): Yeah. No, but, but I think that there are some really, really, really good points in down and especially about the reason for being evil because that's also something I always keep saying. Uh, automotive and I actually writing a book about creating characters and also plotting at the moment and in the character section part of it, we are also saying in data, everybody is a hero of their own story, right? So, so they're, they're, the villain will also believe that what he's doing is for the greater good.

Uh, so, so I fully agree with what you're saying that you need a good reason for, for them be doing what they're doing. And unfortunate lab also seemed like in mainstream, uh, what does he call pain or what does he call the, you know, the adversary and one of the superhero things where it was something to do with a doll or some stupid stuff like that, you know, when, when do you almost felt like they were making up a reason just to have one and for him being evil. Right. And that that doesn't work. Yeah. I think maybe too many writers also too concerned about the villain becoming, let's say, too likable.

Uh, and therefore they make him like just, just like super evil without any reason for being evil. But I would almost go the other way and say the more likable or at least understandable, you can make the villain the better. The villains.

Sacha (19m 23s): Absolutely. And you only have to look at the rise in popularity of anti heroes to see how true that is. Um, you know, uh, villains excuse me. Villains often, none of us would want to admit this, but sometimes they do the, they do the hard thing and they do the controversial thing. And sometimes we might, there might be parts of us that agree with them and that's particularly what auntie heroes do. They do the naughty things that we all wish we could do, but wait, call your boss in the eye with a fork is technically illegal.

Jesper (19m 56s): Yeah. But that, that's absolutely through. Uh, but, but also, you know, sometimes the villains side just, I don't know, maybe it's just me, but, uh, in, in star Wars for example, I like Veda the most. You know, he's just so cool. Uh, but of course he's not the good guy, but, uh, but it is, so sometimes it's just the am, the villains who are, who are really, really strong characters. And I think it's important to have strong villains because without it, as you say as well, then you have no real conflict and no driver behind.

And then the story.

Sacha (20m 29s): Exactly, exactly. I think the Mark of a good story, well there are many marks of good stories, but one of my most favored marks of a good story is a villain who will suck me in. Um, and you know, they'll make me like him and then just as I'm about to tip over into, Oh, I love this, they'll go and do some things so unbelievably, terribly horrible that I'm like, ah, later you kill me. Because now I just call it like the villain or whatever. You know, it's that roller coaster of innovations that I think comes from a good villain.

Jesper (21m 2s): Yeah, absolutely. But do you think it's also important to show chains in the villain or do you just go with like, well, the willingness to same.

Sacha (21m 13s): So you know, there are lots of different types of villain arcs as well. I think what we really interesting villains go on their own, um, that their own journey. So you can have a character who starts out nice, for example, that this often happens in like high school, um, uh, stories. You'll have two friends and one will become, um, you know, uh, I was going to say no to that, but one will become the cause. She gets jealous, but she starts out nice and then she declines on her own journey into becoming the Antonio.

I mean, to be honest, in that kind of story, it's more of an antagonist than a, than a villain. But they will descend. Um, and it's only as they descend that if you look at a graph, they are descending downwards, the heroes starts to rise upwards and it's at that point of crossing that the hero overcomes their floor in order to defeat the villain. And the villain falls into that point of insanity where there's no, no return for them. But you also have other types of villains.

So a redemption arc is, I just love a redemption arc. So a typical thing, and obviously as I've said, we'll go downwards. They'll start, you know, maybe bad, but they'll decline rapidly into the dark pits, off, you know, um, uh, push the red button of nuclear explosion. Um, but a redemption arc is when they might start bad, but actually they end up doing the right thing or they, they redeem themselves for whatever it is they've done. A good example of that, excuse me, in relatively recent TV series was once upon a time, I think it was am and the evil queen in a snow white and the seven drawers, so she's called Regina in this TV show.

She has a fantastic redemption arc, even the seven series. So, um, I would highly recommend that TV series if you want to see a recent example of a redemption arc that I loved. Um, yeah,

Jesper (23m 20s): yeah, yeah. But I think it is important to, to think about the villains as a character rather than just a mechanism to, to throw some stuff in the face of the hero all the time. Right. Because that needs to be some depth to, to the, to the villainous. Well of course, I, I do think sometimes when we're dealing with fantasy, if you're, if you're a villain is like, uh, uh, the dark Lord or something, you know, like, uh, like in a lot of the rings or whatever, right? Then it can be a bit difficult to try to, to think about how do I show a real change in Salona something, right?

I mean, but, but, but I mean, I think it applies both ways. Dis about a S before we talked about the not shoe Horning in the reason for the villain to be evil, but at the same time, I think it applies the other way around us. Well, sometimes don't shoe horn in a change because you think that's a good idea. It's, it all depends on, yeah,

Sacha (24m 15s): absolutely. And we all know I'm a rebel so you can, you can break any writing rule that you want as long as you're creating believable characters and you have readers that like your stories. Um, you know, but I, I, one of the things that I think is important, um, although again, lots of writers will break this and still create good stories, but allowing your villain, so your hero represents the theme in your book. Okay. So you'll fill in, should resent the, I'll put my teeth back in, should represent the anti theme.

So a good example of this, again, I will go back to the hunger games. Hopefully everybody has seen or read the hunger games, but Katniss represents sacrifice even on the, in the first chapter. She um, her sister gets cool to go into this really dangerous life threatening TV reality show and she sacrifices herself in order to protect her sister. Everything she does in the novel is about sacrifice and sacrificing herself for the greater good of others and in order to get what you want, but president snow sacrifices of the people for his benefit.

So he is a direct reversal of the the of the book's theme. And he will am. Yes. Okay. One of his values, his heel, any kill people for a purpose, but you can be damn sure that he will kill somebody if he, if it's going to benefit him. Um, so yeah, I really think that's another important aspect to make sure you, you look at in preparing your villain and Damon.

Jesper (25m 59s): Yeah, exactly. So, so speaking of that, uh, of what, what you just said there, how much and how, and how much detail do you advise to, to go into character planning before you start writing? How much of this do you set up in advance and how much do you sort of figured out along the way? I think

Sacha (26m 16s): that, Hm, I think that is individual to each writer. Um, I, I love, I love talking about process and talking to other writers about what they do. Um, their planner Ponsot writing into the dark, etc. Um, but I don't think that is one right answer. At the end of the day, if you are finishing books, then the process works for you. If you're not finishing books, then try something else and experiment. Um, some people like to let their characters play out on the page and then they're happy to do revisions.

That's fine. Some people like to go into a lot of depth planning, um, before they start. I think, um, even if you don't write it down and you don't plan it, knowing your villains am floor and positive traits and their wound in the past is helpful before you start because it can help you shape your scenes and the conversations and it will enable you to know both what you're hearing needs to be bad and good at and how eventually they'll defeat them.

But ultimately, I, you know, I hate dictating to people how they should and shouldn't do their planning. Um, cause I just think there are as many different processes as there are writers out there and you have to find an experiment to see what works for you.

Jesper (27m 35s): Yup. Yeah, that's absolutely true. And I think also the dose pros and cons to all of it. Uh, you know, the, the modern, you can plan out in advance the more time you're going to save in editing. But if you feel like planning out in advance is, is killing your creativity, then maybe it's better to just spend more time editing. So it's to his own.

Sacha (27m 55s): Yeah, absolutely. And also don't be afraid to change your mind. So like I always sometimes forget that I have permission to change my mind on things. So if anybody's listening, you have permission to experiment. Um, but yeah, so I have written books that are heavily planned and also not planned at all. And sometimes different books and different projects require different methods. So that's okay. If you need to change up your method, you have permission.

Jesper (28m 22s): Okay. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, but, but, uh, in terms of heroes versus villains here, are there like any fundamental things that you think is really important for writers to be aware of in terms of differences between the two where we spent quite, uh, quite some time here at the moment talking about villains and how to make them great. You did also touch upon upon the heroes a bit in the beginning, but is there any like fundamental things that are really important or do you think the same sort of characteristics

Sacha (28m 51s): kind off but in opposite way. So when we talked about a villain, we said that, um, they need a positive trait in amongst their negative ones, but for a heroes they need a negative trait in amongst their positive ones. So nobody likes the perfect person and nobody really likes the geek at school who always has their hand up and always get things right. You know, it makes us feel bad, you know?

Um, yeah, nobody likes a perfect Terry because actually it's boring. There's no trials and tribulations and it's unrelatable. One of the things that we read is love the most is to be able to relate to the heroes and in particular their emotional journey because that really is at the heart of stories is, is the emotion. And, um, we're perfect as humans and therefore your heroes should not be passive. They should make mistakes. They should see the wrong thing. They should upset people.

Ultimately though they obviously need to be overwhelmingly good, um, in order to, to be the hair or not. If you have an antihero, um, obviously they are, you know, a good 50, 50 balance of good and evil. Um, the other thing that I think is really important to concentrate with, um, the hero is something that I talk about in my book. 10 steps to heroes how to craft a kickass protagonist. Um, and that's the hero lens so often.

Well, and it will depend slightly on the point of view that you're writing in but broadly speaking, even if you're in an omniscient, um, you know, looking over the heads of all of the characters type and point of view, your story will be told through the eyes of either a character, your protagonists, or another character or through a series of different characters. And the important thing to remember is that that is all your reader has.

Okay. So you, for example, I might see turquoise as more greeny blue than bluey green, but other people might see it more as bluey green. So each of us has this unique way of looking at the world. And the hero lens is essentially a funnel through which you'll read a sees the story and it is through the eyes of your heroes. And the way that you can Croft that lens is through actions, thoughts, and feelings and dialogue.

Now, if you're an exact, so to put this into practice as and as an example, if you have a really stuffy, formal, pompous sort of academic as a character, you need to think how that personality would be reflected across dialogue, across thoughts, feelings, and action. Because the way that academic would behave is very different to a gang member, for example. So instead of using, and you can get really granular with this, but this is how you create really good characterization and how you create the sensation of individuality and uniqueness for your heroes that your reader will fall in.

Love it. So let's go nitty gritty and talk. Look at sort of a sentence level thing a academic might say. Instead of saying, I thought either your offer, they could say, I've been contemplating your author. So instead of using a basic word like think or thinking, they might say contemplating or pondering and they might say, I've come to the conclusion that it must be a node. Rather than saying, I've been thinking about your offer and it's a no, you know, you have to look at how you can take those personality traits and filter them down through thoughts, through dialogue.

I mean that was a dialogue example, but even in the description, you know, somebody who is a angry character, we'll use shorter, sharper sentences and shorter words. Often things like automatic PSA, they might talk about the banging footsteps of a soldier, for example, where somebody who is much more um, thoughtful might use, my brain's gone completely blank now, but you see where I'm going with this.

Jesper (33m 14s): Yeah, absolutely. And, and I think also what, what a character notices is also different depending on personality. So one type of person who will notice something else in a room that then another type of personality will, right? I mean, some personalities will enter a room and the first thing they'll look for, okay, that this is me. So when I enter a room, I look for kitchen, where's the toilets, where, where are the exits? So I need to know where everything is. Right? But somebody else might enter a room and think, Oh, those look like interesting people over there.

I better go over there and talk to them. Right. And that's not me.

Sacha (33m 48s): Definitely I of those details that that characterization comes from. Um, and you know, the reflection on how those things make them feel. So I think in the book there's an example about, um, two different characters are more depressed character and an angry character looking at a parade and the differences, um, it's the same event, but they're looking at it through very different eyes. So they are noticing different details and yeah. So it's one of my most favorite things to do in in when I'm writing is to think about the details that one character we'll see over another.

Jesper (34m 23s): Yeah, absolutely. One thing I was thinking about while you were saying that, and I don't know what, what your thoughts about this, but the sentence level for me that that sounds like something that you should probably spend most of your time on, eh, let's say correcting or updating when you're doing your editing, because I think if you get bucked down and all of that during your first drafty, yeah, you might spend quite a lot of time thinking about the right words that this character will use and at the end of the day you're going to edit the, some of it out anyway or whatnot. So I don't know what you think about that.

Do you go about it right away or do you sort of save some of that, those details for the editing?

Sacha (35m 0s): I think it depends. Like I said earlier, some people will write an extremely clean first draft and that's, that's because they cycle through. So they might read it, they might write your chapter, read a chapter, read an editor chapter, write the next chapter, read it. At the end of the day, if you are finishing books, it doesn't matter how you're doing it. Um, I tend to use a mixture. I'm a bit of a burst writer so I will, but I'm changing that. I am trying to write consistently instead of, you know, writing 20 K in a week and then not writing for me personally, I do a bit of a mixture.

Sometimes I will take forever to, you know, write a single sentence and then other times I will just form it an entire scene out and I'll revise it later. And I think it just depends on how I'm feeling and what the moment calls for. But I definitely, um, I, I wouldn't say I write flowery, but I definitely love description and I love, um, obsessing about the sentence level stuff. So I probably spend a reasonable amount of time doing that in revisions or, or if I'm doing it at this at the time.

But it depends on the project. It depends on the characters. Some characters are so fully formed when they appear on the page that you don't need to revise them because their voice is so crystal clear. Um, the characters take longer to, um, to, to develop. So for example, one of my characters in my, um, uh, young adult fantasy novel, um, was, has been there since, but one, I'm now on book three, but, um, they were much blander I think in book one and by book three, they now this like total diva, snarky genius diva.

And, um, so they've really come into their room and perhaps I could have done more planning beforehand to ensure that this character was the same from the start. But I, I like it because it feel like this character has come into their road. So are you finishing books? That's the, that's the real important question. If your face you booked, it doesn't matter how you get there.

Jesper (37m 9s): Yeah, absolutely. That's so true. Um, but I was also thinking to ask you, um, maybe, maybe sort of as, as a rounding off, I don't know, but, uh, but because we have so many streaming services nowadays, you have so many movies that is easily available to everybody. What, what do you think about taking inspiration from characters in in? It could also be another books, but, but maybe from movies or TV shows or whatever, and using that as inspiration for your own characters. Do you think that's a good idea or it doesn't it matter or,

Sacha (37m 41s): yeah, absolutely. I get, get any inspiration you can from anywhere, be it, you know, going and visiting museums, you know, climbing into abandoned buildings. Not that I've done that any, any which way you can. And I think it's, I think we'd be naive to say that the stories that we read or the TV shows that we watch don't influence the us. I don't think we can avoid that. You know, arguably you could say that every romance story that has ever been written is a rip off of Romeo and Juliet.

Um, as long as you're not doing a carbon copy of a character, which frankly, I don't believe that you could because exactly. Each writer's voice is different. But if you are taking elements of a story, um, or elements of a world-building or elements of whatever, then, you know, so what every vampire story ever or has vampires in it, does that mean every race of vampires is saying, does that mean they all become a vampire in the same way?

You know? Yeah. I don't think that all unique stories really, I think, you know, with 8 million books or whatever it is on Amazon, I think it's very hard to have something that is truly original. So yeah, don't be afraid, just, just don't write carbon copies of because obviously then that is plagiarism and illegal.

Jesper (39m 4s): Yeah. But, but yeah, uh, I mean, I fully agree. I mean, unless you actually sitting there and copying exactly the same thing, then I fully agree that it's not possible to, to copy and not even a story. I mean, sometimes I call him, uh, come across, uh, writers who email me or some of them. I've also received some tweets once in a while where people asking or that, you know, what about when I share my story ideas and people would steal it. And I always keep saying the same thing. Like nobody can steal your idea. I mean, it doesn't matter that you're telling people if, if talking told somebody, this is what I'm, I'm thinking about, I want to write for a lot of the rings.

And you sat down and wrote the Lord of the rings while he was doing it in parallel, the two stories would be completely different even though you started out from the same idea. Yeah,

Sacha (39m 47s): absolutely. And the other thing is like, and I, I mean this with no disrespect to any creative, but nobody else cares. You know, we all, as creatives, we all have our own ideas that we are deeply passionate about and they are ours. And yes, there might be similarities and other stories, but nobody wants to write somebody else's story. They want to write their own story. So it is usually highly unlikely that somebody will steal your idea or whatever.

Yes, they might take elements or parts of your story, but nobody can write like you. Nobody has your voice because nobody grew up under the same circumstances. Nobody has the same lens, see what I did, their hair, you have and therefore they cannot possibly write to the same story as you.

Jesper (40m 40s): No, absolutely true. That's it's a ton of good advice. You're Sacha is there anything that you have not mentioned that you feel is important for the listener to know?

Sacha (40m 48s): Am just keep writing and keep practicing. And one thing that I really like to do is write flash, flash fiction. Um, I think it's a really good, uh, so flash fiction for anybody that doesn't know is a very, very micro short story could be anything from two lines of dialogue up to sort of thousand word character sketches. But if you're ever unsure about how a character would act or behave, I always like to put them in strange situations or you know, give them an emotion to feel or to react to you and just write a very short piece.

And I think that helps and stops people from making mistakes in their manuscripts. And it is also then free that you can then give to your readers or whatever. So yeah, just, just experiment.

Jesper (41m 39s): Mm, cool. So where can people find more, uh, more about you and what you do? Sacha if they want to check stuff out,

Sacha (41m 47s): but so, um, my name is, uh, obviously Sasha black, but it's Sacha with a C so, S a C H, a M and my website is Sacha black.co dot. UK. You can find out more about my books. I have a blog that you can find out more about like podcast there. The podcast is on all podcasting app category jobbies and it's called the rebel author podcast am if you would like to view my books, I'm on, I'm white, so I am anywhere that you can, you can buy a book.

You can find my books and, and last, but by no means least I am on Twitter and Facebook and all of those things. Um, but I most frequently on Instagram, which is at Sacha, black author and one last thing. Um, I do have a Facebook group where we do weekly accountability posts. We do fast friction writing Wednesday challenges, and it's just generally a really nice support group. And that is called 13 steps to Eagle. Doesn't sound nice, does it? But it is.

Sorry man.

Jesper (42m 49s): That's excellent. And uh, I, if you sent me some link Sasha, then I'll add it to the show notes so people can find it straight through there as well. All right. Thanks a lot for joining us today. So next Monday autumn, we'll be back and we're gonna dive deep into the topic of how to find other authors to collaborate with.

Narrator (43m 16s): If you like what you just heard, there's a few things you can do to support the amwritingfantasy podcast. Please tell a fellow author about the show and visit us at Apple podcast and leave a rating and review. You can also join Autumn and Jesper on patreon.com/amwritingfantasy for as little as a dollar a month. You'll get awesome rewards and keep the amwritingfantasy podcast going. Stay safe out there and see you next Monday.

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