All posts by chaseconnorbooks

Chase Connor currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his husband, his dog, Rimbaud, and spends his days writing about the people who live (loudly and rent-free) in his head when he’s not busy being enthusiastic about naps and Pad Thai. Chase started his writing career as a confused gay teen looking for an escape from reality. Ten years later, one of the books he wrote during those years, Just A Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale, was published independently. Now with The Lion Fish Press (and almost 20 books later), Chase has numerous projects in various stages of completion and lined up for publishing. Chase is a multi-genre author, but always with a healthy dollop of gay. Chase can be reached at chaseconnor@chaseconnor.com Or on Twitter @ChaseConnor7

The Root of the Character

Do you know what scares me the most?

Character development is something that I wanted to write about (again) today. Often, as writers–and even readers–we think about what defines a character in very limiting terms. Motivations are something we almost always put at the forefront of what makes a character who they are. Character A is going on this great journey to find a pirate’s treasure. To win the hand of their greatest love. To defeat the evil wizard and save the kingdom. To win the favor of the king or queen and be the hero. To win a singing competition and get a recording contract. I could go on and on forever about things a character could be motivated by. Things that are superficial on their surface.

Additionally, I could write about deeper motivators, like emotions, that propel characters. The love of their partner, their family, their children. Greed and lust and envy. Fear of one outcome over another. Motivation for a character is important to a story. It is the catalyst for the character doing the most interesting things in the story. If a character was not in love with the princess held prisoner in a castle by a fearsome dragon, they would not traverse the kingdom at great risk to life and limb just to save her. Of course, maybe the character is more motivated by the acclaim they will receive by accomplishing the feat, but that is neither here nor there. They still had an emotional motivation that made them do action A, action B, so on and so forth.

Emotions are probably the biggest motivating factors to characters.

What scares me most is hope. Let me explain.

Imagine a character who has been working at the same company for five years. Putting in overtime, taking on extra work, busting their hump, trying to prove their worth. Their boss says they are going to get a promotion that they have been begging for over a year. It seems as if all of the hard work and sacrifice is going to pay off. FINALLY. Then the time comes…and they are declined their promotion. They are told: “We need to see improvement in this area” or “that area.” Their bosses tell them to try again and maybe they will get promoted “next time.” So…the character sets off working even harder. Longer hours, more blood, sweat, and tears. They sacrifice even more. They know that next time–next time–they will get that promotion. Two years pass…and they are denied the promotion again.

What motivates them now? Hasn’t hope turned into a poison? The thing that burrows into their soul, leaves a bitter taste at the back of their throat, makes going to work each day absolute torture?

Of course…maybe the character starts looking for a new job. Maybe the story was not so much about a character finally getting a promotion that they have worked seven years to get–but instead, being motivated by disappointment to find a better job. Somewhere they are appreciated and treated well. Maybe the story ends, not in a promotion, but with an entire new life and direction for the character.

Do you ever do this as a writer? Do you ever really dig deep and wonder what is the real and true motivation behind a character’s actions? Maybe you are, in fact, writing about a knight who is traveling across a dangerous kingdom to slay a dragon and save a princess. But…what is really motivating them? Maybe the knight wants the fame and notoriety? Maybe the knight wants to find the love of their life? Maybe the knight was simply bored? Or maybe the knight hoped that this adventure, this quest to beat all quests, would add meaning to their life?

And maybe when the knight pulls off their helm in the princess’ tower to give her a kiss, the knight is a woman, not a man. And the princess is totally okay with that. In fact, she is relieved. This is what she has hoped for, too. That would be cool. I would read that story.

But I digress.

Maybe this knight (male or female) gets to the castle, slays the dragon, ascends the tower…and is met by a guy with a mushroom for a head and is told: “We’re sorry. Your princess is in another castle.”

Hope got us again! *shaking fist*

Hope is what drives most characters. Even when we they are disappointed time and time again. Hope scares the shit out of all of us because we all know disappointment. We’ve all been passed over for a promotion. been told we weren’t good enough, got turned down for a date, lost a game, did poorly on a test we studied really hard for, or been told that our favorite pastry is completely sold out at our favorite bakery. But, as humans, we all keep working, we all try to do better, we keep asking romantic interests out, we keep playing the games we love, we study harder, and we go back to the bakery the next day a little earlier.

Hope is universal. It knows no gender. No race. No ethnicity. No religion. No sexual orientation. Hope is perpetually in the back of our minds, overriding those evil voices that tell us to give up or “this is good enough.”

So…maybe consider what your characters hope for most. What are they afraid to wish for the hardest? I promise you’ll learn more about your character than you ever thought you would. Maybe you will also learn a little about yourself…and how strong you can be.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Writer’s Workshop Giveaway!

I know that I’ve been teasing a “special” for all of my writer friends on Twitter…and the day has finally come! More than likely, you were directed here by my Twitter post, so you already know a little bit about what is going on. However, in case you didn’t pay attention:

Chase Connor Books and So You Want To Write have partnered to give away a FREE seat in a Writer’s Workshop. This workshop is about how to write and sell your book, led by literary agent Sam Hiyate!

It will teach you how to write a synopsis for shopping your book, teach you mistakes you can make that will turn off a publisher, how to know when your manuscript is ready for a publisher, how to choose the right agent and publisher, and tips for querying agents. You’ll also be given a chance to ask questions of Sam Hiyate! Even more importantly, Mr. Hiyate will teach you how to “marry your book’s story, plot, character arcs, voice, and point of view to help it sell.”

So…what do you have to do? Go to the link provided below, enter your name and email address. That’s it. You do not have to join anything, sign up for anything, pay for anything…this is simply a chance for you to win a seat in a 3-hr workshop with a literary agent with 30 years experience.

No. Strings. Attached. This is a partnership between Chase Connor Books and So You Want To Write as a “thank you” to the amazing writers in the #WritingCommunity who inspire me daily.

Important things for you to know:

  1. I will not be given your information. No names, no email addresses. Nothing.
  2. I will receive no monetary compensation.
  3. No one is required to buy anything from Chase Connor Books or SYWW.
  4. You do not have to share video of yourself when attending the workshop. You may keep the level of privacy you are comfortable with.
  5. Your manuscript does not have to be complete to join (even if you only have an idea and you are a writer, you can sign up).
  6. This workshop is open to any and all wordsmiths. Full stop.
  7. If you think this workshop is right for you…it’s right for you.
  8. The workshop will take place Saturday, July 27th at 12pm EST/GMT-4.

So…what are you waiting for? Go sign up. Click the link below. Good luck to everyone and I can’t wait to see who wins–just know that I will expect a full report about how much fun you had in the workshop afterward!

SIGN UP FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE SEAT!

Don’t forget to share and retweet to let all of your writer friends know about this opportunity, too!

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Build-A-Character & Story

A man has a congenital brain defect.

He has been on medication and had multiple surgeries throughout his life.

You would never know because brain surgeries generally mean that the scalp and skull were cut into and when hair grows back…

He is now in his 20s.

Both of his parents are dead.

He had two siblings.

They are both dead.

He is standing outside of a seasonal market, geared towards tourists, in the city in which he lives, alone, with no friends, no family.

He is alone in this world.

Then he spots an American tourist being screwed over by a vendor.

His name is Daniel. The American tourist, we later find out, is named Patrick.

Daniel is in love with Patrick the moment he lays eyes on him. A need to be the hero fills his head and he jumps into action, helping the American tourist with the vendor, feeling that this will make them fall madly into love and live happily ever after. So…he springs into action.

Now what?

That is the question that kills a lot of us writers. We have thought of a character, given them a little backstory, thought of the catalyst for our plot/story…but we do not know where to go from there. Is what we have now enough to make an entire novel? A novella? Novellete? Short story? What can we do with this information the muse at the furthest corners of our brains has whispered to us desperately, urging us to write this idea as though our lives depend upon it?

But, really, what are we to do with this limited information about a character we know a little bit about and a character we know very little about? What is there for us to create a story with?

My, gosh. There is so much to create a million different versions of a story with those few sentences. Does Daniel helping make Patrick light up, smile brilliantly, offer to buy him a coffee, which leads to a personalized tour of the city Daniel gives that lasts all night long? Do they end up on a park bench, sat close together, the sides of their legs hesitantly touching as they watch the sun rise? Do they share their deepest dreams and desires, knowing in their heart of hearts that they will end up together? Do they confess their attraction for each other? Do they kiss as the sun just starts to peek over the horizon and paints the city gold?

Maybe Patrick tells Daniel to mind his own business at the market? Thus begins an antagonistic relationship where they become lovers. Or, at least, friends.

Possibly, Daniel helps Patrick, Patrick says “thanks” and they go their separate ways. Daniel is left to walk the city alone all night, pondering what might have been if he had been more forward. He daydreams and fantasizes about a life that will never be with this beautiful man he saw in the market. Then he sits alone on the park bench and watches the sun rise, a renewed man, ready to find love so that he is no longer alone in the world.

Perhaps Daniel confesses his attraction almost immediately, but Patrick says that he is straight. But they still spend the night touring the city together, talking about their lives, divulging the smallest details that build the foundation of their lives. When they part, the following morning, the city turned gold by the sun sneaking back into the world, they share a warm hug or handshake. Patrick is inspired by the kindness of someone who no longer feels like a stranger, but more like a friend, and Daniel remembers that he is not alone in the world.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

All of these stories would be amazing. They are character driven. Any of these versions of this story would be something that I would read because any of them would help me to understand the characters and provide a glimpse into a life that might help me understand the world and people better.

As writers, we sometimes have to let our characters lead. Sometimes we have to let the story lead the characters…but we must never fall into the trap that “what the writer says goes” because therein lies madness.

When we try to force our characters and stories to unfurl in the way that we imagined, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Our minds contain multitudes. We are filled with the voices of the universe, wanting to help us understand the world and humanity better. Why would we fight against it?

Find your character. Then let them tell a story. That is the best advice I have for how to avoid writer’s block.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Deepest Desires

First, I have to admit that the title of this post is “click bait.” I am not going to write about my perverse fantasies in this post (of which I have, maybe, two). Instead, I thought I would write about what my ultimate goal is in writing stories.

If I am being completely honest, right away, I have to admit that I hope a reader is entertained. I hope that someone picks up one of my books, spends a few hours with it, enjoys it, and feels like they were able to forget about any troubles and escape into my characters’ world. I know it is not a popular opinion to prefer to be an “entertainer” instead of an “artist” when it comes to us creatives, but it would be disingenuous for me to say otherwise. I like to entertain people with my stories.

So, first and foremost, entertaining the reader is at the forefront of my mind when I write. I am constantly thinking: does this passage make the story less engaging? Does this or that make the story less enjoyable? So on and so forth. A lot of my stories end up much shorter than the initial drafts because I “kill my darlings.”

Are we all tired of that phrase yet?

Regardless, in conjunction with entertaining, I want to write characters that the readers will have very strong feelings about. Then…just because I am sadistic–like all writers–I try to make the readers see that character in a different way. “Flip the script” and make the reader say “whaaaaaaat?” A prime example of this is the bully “Carson” from A Surplus of Light. Bullies are bad people, right? Well…sometimes.

Often, especially in today’s social media and cancel culture, I find that we are all too quick to judge people for their behaviors. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not want to make excuses for people who behave badly or say terrible things. When people do bad things, they should be called out, educated, enlightened, and they should make steps to improve themselves. Unless they do not want to, then everything I have just said is moot.

However, some people who cause pain do so because they are also hurt in some way. There are things going on in their lives to which we are not privy. What makes a bully a bully? What makes an internet troll an internet troll? What makes a bigot a bigot? Are the things they say just hurtful…or are they building up to actions that can never be taken back? How does this affect the person they focus their hatred and anger on and how does this affect the redeemability (is that a word?) of the person who does these things?

How understanding and empathetic can we all be?

I am not interested in entertaining cancel culture and mob mentality. I am not interested in excusing or pardoning bad behaviors just for the sake of being understanding to a naive degree. However, I am interested in trying to understand what makes people do the things they do–good or bad–and seeing if we can all be more empathetic and create respectful dialogue with each other, and then all of us may learn to be more thoughtful, mindful, caring, kind people.

Consider Will from A Tremendous Amount of Normal. A reviewer once said that the whole book was a “deeply problematic view of Asperger Syndrome.” I can understand that opinion. One can rarely write about a neurotypical person’s view and internal thoughts of their brother’s AS without it being problematic. In fact, it may be impossible–because a person’s inner thoughts are often problematic if they do not deal with the condition another person has. Because they will never understand it on the same level that the person with the condition will. The reviewer said that Will seemed to want Noah to not have AS and the book was about “curing autism.” This, I do not agree with. The book was a rumination on how a character with severe AS suffered from anxiety and depression and made them function at a lower level than a person with AS is capable of functioning at. Noah could not live his best life as a young man with AS because he had not been treated well by his parents and medical providers and did not get all of the early medical intervention that he desperately needed. He needed advocacy–and that’s what Will was desperately trying to provide, while creating a “new kind of normal” for his little family. Will wanted his brother with AS to be able to go out in the world and live as fully as possible while having Asperger Syndrome. He wanted his brother to be able to experience love, friendship, swimming pools, movie theaters–he wanted his brother to be able to do whatever he wanted while learning to adapt to overwhelming situations as a person with AS.

But…I also wanted the reader to realize that this was not just a story of a person with AS who suffered from anxiety and depression. I wanted the reader to realize that the caregivers and advocates have their own struggles. People cannot just stop feelings and thoughts because taking care of someone is more important. While it is wonderful when people want to advocate for and care for a person with a disorder or disease (those people are doing God’s work), it is important to be concerned with who is caring for the caregivers. Who is advocating for them? Who is making sure they get fed, they sleep enough, they take care of their needs? Who is giving them the love they desperately need? The caregivers and advocates of this world are angels–we cannot forget them in the scope of a story of one’s life. Nor should we forget the challenges posed to people who are “other” or strive to find ways to help make the world a “softer” place for them.

I guess that’s what A Tremendous Amount of Normal was about–disease and disorder do not have to mean that life stops or that we have to all selflessly forget our own needs and desires. We just have to create a new normal. Learn to adapt. Learn to listen. Learn to be patient. Learn to be understanding. We have to decide to make love and kindness our new normal. Then keep practicing that, and eventually, we’ll find ourselves with a tremendous amount of normal.

What is your name? Well, in case no one has told you today: “You are the best <your name> there ever was.” Be kind to each other. Create a new normal.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Two Drops of Oil

Have you ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It’s likely that you have since it is such a famous book by such a famous author. However, in case you have not read it, let me tell you about one of the most striking lessons in the book.

A boy, the main protagonist of the story, arrives at a Wise Man’s/Sage’s home and waits two hours in line to meet with him. After hearing the reason for the boy’s visit, the Sage invites the boy to walk around his magnificent home and see all of its wonders–but he asks him to carry a teaspoon with two drops of oil in it as he tours the home. He instructs the boy to not lose the oil. So, the boy takes the tour, being mindful of the oil, and returns two hours later, oil still in spoon, to speak with the Sage once more. The Sage asks him if he noticed his art, his gardens, his tapestries…but of course, the boy hasn’t. He was paying attention to the spoon and the oil. Once more, the Sage sends the boy on a tour with the spoon and oil but tells him to please appreciate the magnificence of his home. The boy sets out again, but this time, he pays attention to the art, the gardens, the tapestries, the architecture…and returns to the Sage later with an empty spoon. Ultimately, the Sage tells the boy that the secret to happiness is taking in all of the wonders of the world but never forgetting the two drops of oil.

Lately, I have forgotten my two drops of oil. I’ve also forgotten to take in the art, gardens, and tapestries. I’ve let my spirit and attention become taken away by things that I cannot control. Rude and demeaning emails and DMs. Personal health issues. People not keeping promises that they have made without so much as an apology. Drama created over nothing. There have been a lot of events over the last few weeks that have almost made me forget who I am as a person and a writer. Luckily, I have amazing friends who remind me of who I am.

Chase Connor is a kind person, a hard worker, creative, loving, adventurous, happy-go-lucky, thoughtful–sometimes a smartass–and wants to lift others up. But Chase Connor has not been these things over the last few weeks. He has let the aforementioned issues make him reclusive, quiet, taciturn, indecisive, and suspicious of the kindness of others.

I don’t want to be that version of Chase Connor–because, again, that’s not who I am. But, I’ve been taking everything in without paying attention to my two drops of oil, I suppose.

Henceforth, I will allow myself to notice the wonders (and the not so wondrous) around me, but keep my eyes on my two drops of oil as well. I will not let myself lose sight of what it is that I want for myself as a person, a writer, a boyfriend, and a friend. I cannot control how the things I say/tweet are taken, nor am I responsible for people assuming that they can treat me a certain way because of those things. I also cannot control that people make assumptions about me due to the fact that I belong to certain communities. Everyone will get the true version of Chase Connor, regardless of the people on the periphery who make that difficult at times.

To my friends in the Writing Community (especially the LGBTQ+ community), the past few weeks have been difficult for reasons I will not make us talk about further. However, I know the greater majority of all of you are wonderful, kind, beautiful, creative people. Don’t lose sight of your two drops of oil because of all of the distractions.

Those things do not define us.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Writing Advice (It’s Everywhere)

Lately, on Twitter, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the worst advice they’ve gotten in regards to being a writer. It’s a bone of contention for writers–which advice is good and which is bad. Sometimes–especially when you’re an amateur, such as myself–it’s hard to tell. One of my problems is that I believe that people are generally good at heart, say what they mean and mean what they say, and are not intentionally giving bad advice.

Yes. I know that makes me naive. But I refuse to give up hope on people being good at heart, so we will all just have to agree to disagree.

However, the fact remains that there is a lot of advice out there that is bad…well, kind of. Some advice that is horrible for one writer may be a blessing to another writer. Then again, some advice that’s good for one may be horrible for another. The biggest challenge is finding a mentor who understands what you are trying to achieve, who you are as a writer, how you work, your process, and what advice is best suited for you. Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to find a mentor to match yourself up with in the writing world. It definitely takes a lot of searching. I was incredibly fortunate that, after years of writing, a common life event brought a mentor into my life by chance.

I’m the type of person who wants his mentors to be very blunt with him. I do not like having to decipher hidden meaning in advice. I love that my mentors will give everything to me in a very direct manner–even if it sounds rude to other people. “Stop being a whiny little bitch and get back to work.” was recent advice I got. That kind of thing works for me.

Do you want to know some of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten about writing? Well, if you’re here, I’m assuming you are interested, so I will share some of it.

Girl. Go take a beat, cry your eyes out, then get back to work.” – I had been having a really bad “writing day” and was very upset. But I was told by a writer friend to do what I had to do, but then get back to work. It’s simple advice, but it is good advice. Don’t get dissuaded for too long. You’re only a writer if you write. Take a minute if you need to in order to clear your head, scream, cry, rage, laugh, eat a pint of ice cream…but get your fingers back on the keys (or put that pen to paper).

“You know what’s worse than a really bad review? A writer who thinks they know better than anyone else which books deserve them.” – I think this one speaks for itself.

“If you’ve got enough time to worry about another writer’s business, you’ve got time to write your book.” – This one speaks for itself, too. Don’t worry about what another writer is doing or why they act a certain way. Focus on being the best you that you can be.

Why would you concern yourself with advice from a writer who can sell advice but not books?” – This one speaks for itself, too. A lot of people “know how things should be done” but their books are not selling. It’s not necessarily that their books are bad or they are a bad writer. However, if they aren’t selling books…why would you trust their advice on how to market yourself?

“No matter how much glitter you put on a turd…it’s still a turd.” – This was advice given to me about marketing and writing. If the product you are trying to sell is crap–all the best marketing in the world won’t give you longevity. Consistently putting out decent, good, or great work that a reader feels they did not waste money on will. Spend more time on telling a good story than you do on marketing and things will fall into place eventually. It may take longer if marketing is not your main focus…but once people start to discover you, you’ll start making lifelong readers. That is how you create longevity–not with shiny ads and displays (though they never hurt if your book is good quality). Keep in mind, that I do my best to be open to constructive criticism. That’s why some books have gotten new covers, re-edits have been done, and so forth.

“Sometimes a gem needs more shine.” – This was a caveat given to the previous advice. Even if you write the best book in the world, you have to make it appealing to a potential reader. I’ve had to work a lot and get a lot of advice from really talented and creative people about book covers and marketing in general. I don’t sell as many books as Stephen King or James Patterson (gosh, I hope I do one day), but I have learned that people truly judge books by their covers sometimes. A good book needs a good synopses/blurb and a cover to really drive home a sell sometimes. Is it wise to judge a book by its cover? Well…that’s up for debate. But do yourself a favor and do your best to make your book visually appealing, too.

“Don’t pay to be a writer.” – A friend told me this, basically meaning that if you spend a lot of money on a cover, editing, proofreading, copyediting, formatting, and marketing, you’re probably not going to make any money as an indie writer. In fact, you’ll probably end up paying to release your book. Sure, you want to publish the best product possible for your readers…but don’t go so overboard that there is absolutely no way you will ever make money on your book. Oftentimes, you can find other creatives willing to exchange services. Are you a good proofreader? Maybe a good book designer will create a great cover for you if you proofread their book. Talk to people, network, find people you can work with so that we can all publish good books but not waste our life savings doing it–then everyone wins–especially the readers. Also, it’s surprising how affordable some services are if you work with other indies–and there are so many talented people out there just looking for a way to make some extra money.

Don’t get so caught up in writing that you forget about reading.” – This piece of advice is given by nearly every writer out there. Reading is one of the best ways to become a better storyteller and writer. You don’t read other books to get plot and characters ideas–we don’t want to steal from each other. But you can learn so much about structuring stories, learn new words, better ways to convey emotions and character descriptions, get better at different styles of writing…the list goes on and on. Also, make sure to stretch your legs. Read things outside of your comfort zone. Even though I write mostly LGBTQ+ YA, NA, and paranormal romance, I don’t just read those genres.

“No two writers have the same goals. It’s okay if writing is something you want to do for a living and it is okay if it’s just a hobby.” – If you’re fine selling a few books here and there and you are not trying to make your living as a writer–there is no shame in that. It is okay if you are happy having just published a book and checked it off of your Bucket List. And it’s okay if your goal is somewhere between “working writer” and “hobbyist.” Don’t let anyone shame you for doing things your own way. Don’t shy away from advice and help…but if it is not advice or help that works for your particular situation, you can ignore it.

“Not everyone is trying to set the world on fire. Some people just want to be able to pay the gas bill.” This was not necessarily advice, per se, but a friend told me this as a way of saying: “Don’t judge other people if they are not as ambitious as you think they should be.” Some people are happy to make a living doing what they love and do not care if they are ever the “next J.K. Rowling.” And that’s more than okay. It’s also remarkably similar to the previous piece of advice, but I won’t hold it against the person who gave it to me…

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Ode To A Nomadic Muse

Do all of you have the same problem that I have with finding your inspiration? It may happen that for a day, days, a week (or more), writing and coming up with writing ideas seems like a faucet has been turned on inside of your head. Other days you may find that the well has run dry. I’m pretty sure that my Muse is a petty, nomadic jerk.

I guess it is important to talk about how I find inspiration. Well, for certain books, I sometimes just find that a story pops into my head while I am in the shower, eating a meal, working, shopping…they just come to me out of nowhere. One minute I’m squeezing shampoo into my hand and the next I am rushing to finish my shower so I can outline the idea that came to me at an inopportune time. Though, I suppose there is never a bad time to receive inspiration. It’s just inconvenient when a pen and paper are not at hand.

Sometimes I will find I am reading a quote or listening to a song or listening to people talk in a cafe, or looking at art…and an idea comes to me. For example, I had been toying with an idea of writing a coming-of-age romance between two boys from different backgrounds but couldn’t find the “hook” for the story. Then I read this quote from ‘The Glass Castle‘ by Jeanette Walls:

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”

Immediately, I wrote down two thoughts:

Two boys from different worlds who fall in love gradually over the course of high school. They are only friends during summer because there is more light to see each other for who they are.

When I started typing…I couldn’t stop. There was never that moment where I had to delete a paragraph or use the “backspace” key excessively. The words just came to me. When I conceived of the characters of Mike and Ian–I just knew who they were. I knew these boys inside and out. I knew why they were the people they were. I knew why Ian chose to work hard to be kind and patient and guarded–even though he could have been a very different person based on his circumstances. I knew why Mike refused to let Ian push him away, why he was nicer than other boys of his status, why he gave Ian so much leeway in their relationship–even though he could have been a very different person based on his circumstances. I knew that from the outside looking in, the relationship might make people scream: Oh my gosh, Mike! Tell Ian to go fuck himself! I knew why Mike wouldn’t do that. But I also knew why Ian wouldn’t have hated Mike if he chose to do so. These were two incredibly layered people who knew that life is messy. Life is not simple. Things are not black and white, no matter how much we want them to be. Sometimes, you have to peel back layers of a person, see them in all seasons and all types of light to truly understand where they are coming from. People, like life, are never as simple as we try to make them out to be. So…writing these characters was one of my greatest thrills as a writer. I honestly miss writing them. But…I’m glad that they ended up in a good place.

So…my muse was with me from inception to the last word written on ‘A Surplus of Light.‘ And I am so grateful. That book and the experience of writing it are two of my greatest joys. The fact that a healthy number of people have enjoyed it makes the experience even more precious to me.

Having said that…sometimes my muse flips me the bird and dashes away, begging me to play a round of “Hide & Seek” with her. Those days, frankly, suck balls. But it’s just part of being a writer, I suppose. My brain can’t be overflowing with creativity and ideas every single moment of every day. Sometimes, I just have to figure out where my muse is so that I can join her there. I find that if I play the game by her rules she is much more generous.

I would suggest to anyone to not force your muse. If you’re having a bad writing day, don’t get too frustrated. Maybe your muse is trying to lead you somewhere. Don’t refuse to listen. Absolutely–write write write. Don’t not write because you “aren’t feeling it.” But don’t squeeze your muse for inspiration. Search her out. Read a book. Read quotes. Listen to music. Go to a museum. Go to a coffee shop and sip your favorite drink and listen to and watch others around you. Have long talks with friends. Just spend time being human. Characters and ideas will spring forth–your muse will jump out at you. That is the most important thing I’ve learned as a writer, I suppose.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Trying On Hats

Do you know what my favorite thing about being a human being is?

Wait…is that something an alien would say to try and blend in with human beings? “Hi. I am Chase. How are all of my fellow multicellular organisms doing today?”

Not to get off topic, but that is exactly what an alien would say to blend in so that the government wouldn’t find out that they were infiltrating humanity. Also, I have been accused of sounding robotic due to my ineptitude with contractions when speaking or conversing online, and my love of lists. I also am an Oxford comma enthusiast…so…maybe I am an alien? Please don’t tell the government.

Regardless, my favorite thing about being a human being (and not an alien–promise) is that we are in charge of who we are from one day to the next. Sometimes, I find that I wasn’t as kind as I wanted to be, or as social and outgoing as I would like, or I was too lazy one day, or not as hard-working, or standoffish, or patient, or…a million things that make me unhappy with myself.

But that’s okay. There is always tomorrow. I can change or improve behaviors or try harder to be the version of myself that I really want to be. Honestly, who I am deep down is a gay guy who likes to be lazy with his boyfriend, spend time with his dog, and read books. I’m not overly complicated, nor do I have many needs or desires. I’m perfectly happy being that guy. Generally speaking, I think I am a pretty decent guy who is just trying to “get his grind on,” have a good romantic life, write books (that people enjoy, hopefully), and not cause harm to others. So far…so good?

Now, do you know what my favorite thing about being a writer is?

It’s the same thing. One of the best things about being a writer is that we all get to “try on hats” every time we write a story and create new characters. Do you not want to be a sociopath in real life? Write a character who is a sociopath so that you can have fun pretending that you are the thing you’d hate to be in real life. Do you not like your hair, your eye color, your height, your size, or something else about your physical appearance? Write a character who looks the way you wish that you did.

Not only does “trying on hats” allow a writer to live out a fantasy about being someone different (at least in their head), it builds empathy and compassion for people who are different than we are in real life. This is why I get a little frustrated with gatekeepers. Whenever I write a character who is a different from myself, I research and then ask questions of people who are like my characters. What I learn from this research and speaking to people different than myself–or what is reinforced, actually–is that we are all deserving of love, kindness, respect, and dignity. It helps me grow as a human being. And we all know I love being a human being, right?

Needless to say, I feel that a writer should not be afraid to write characters unlike themselves. Yes, you might mess up and upset people…but there will always be a person who is unhappy with your writing, so why not do something that will make you a better person and writer, right? Besides…it’s fun being a different person from time to time. Even if it’s only in your head.

P.S. If you don’t like your physical appearance, and that is why you write a character the way that you write them, DM me on Twitter. I will tell you how beautiful you are.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

Give ‘Em What They Want

Recently, I was asked by a writer friend my thoughts on writing what I want versus writing what the reader wants. As a writer, of course, we all want to be paid to write whatever it is that we want, but we also need to make money. So, this can become an epic mental struggle for all of us. It is also difficult for readers because I feel that they want to read the story the way that the writer imagined it. But they also get invested in the story and characters and have an idea of how they want it to go.

What is a writer to do?

For me, the answer to this question has always been that a writer can have the best of both worlds. A writer can come up with a concept for a story and still give the reader what they want. These things are not mutually exclusive. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes, no matter what you do, you just won’t please a person reading your work. There will always be someone who does not enjoy a story (or several) that you have written.

When I conceive of a story idea, characters, outline the plot…all I care about is telling the story in a way that is concise, interesting, engaging, and (hopefully) hits all of the appropriate emotions for the reader. I want a reader to sit down and just be entertained. I think if a writer can do that, then the rest takes care of itself. You don’t have to write a specific genre or characters or tell a certain type of story to make readers happy.

Readers just want to feel engaged and not cheated. If it can also make them think, create dialogue, represent marginalized peoples, include unique story elements…all the better. A reader wants to try a writer’s work and walk away thinking: “I can read any of this author’s work and feel like it was worth my time.”

So, to answer this question, I would have to say that when a writer comes up with a story idea, they have a few tasks they need to complete before they write.

How can I make this story engaging?

How can I make this story as concise and crisp as possible?

What core emotions am I trying to convey with the theme of this story? How do I best convey this?

What do I want the writer to feel when they close the book?

What is absolutely necessary to include so that this story is told and what should I leave out so that it does not slow down the story?

If a writer can figure these things out, they will find readers who want to read their story. Granted, no matter how gifted you are as a storyteller, no matter how well you write technically, you may never find an audience. If a writer focuses more on how to tell the best story with the concept that they are passionate about, the rest seems to fall into place. Eventually.

Tremendous Love & Thanks

Chase