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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Clearly Defined Characters

I had a kind reader ask me tonight how I clearly define characters, including how I add new characters. Well, having clearly defined characters is like keeping track of any other detailed aspect of a story, but it is also hugely important! (I strongly believe in character-driven stories.) As I have told my creative writing students in the past, you must know your characters better than anyone else. When I was first writing notes for The Gateway Chronicles, of course I had a general outline of a storyline, but where I really started was with my characters. I named all the main characters and began writing mini-bios of each of them, including things such as likes and dislikes, but also mundane details such as birthdays, hometowns, number of siblings, etc... Many of these facts will never be shared with the reader, but the make the characters more real in my mind, and therefore helps them to come across as more real on the paper. Now, that being said, I don't believe in being so thorough that your characters have no chance to evolve with the story. For example, when I first conceived Tellius (crown-prince of Alitheia, for those of you who haven't read my stories yet), I wanted him to be a little impish and silly, and I wanted his dynamic change in the story to be learning how to take life seriously as he got older. Well, I started to write, and I realized that, with the way the story was coming together and with the history that I had written for his family, that personality didn't make any sense for him. So, Tellius came together more as a result of how the story was turning out than anything else. Darcy, on the other hand, is exactly how I conceived her in my notes. Adding characters, whether from the beginning of a story or mid-stream, usually starts with a name though. I think that names are just hugely important, and they should be reflective of a character's personality/identity. (I actually feel the same way about name my children!) In that, most of my character's names have very specific meanings, and a few are word plays (which always makes me feel clever... and a little pretentious too, aparently! lol). Anyhow, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions along these lines from my stories, but I told myself that I would keep this post under essay length, so that's all for now! Good night!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Complexity, Not Ridiculosity

For starters, yes, I do know that "ridiculosity" is not a real word, but it had such a nice ring to it when paired with complexity that I decided to coin it. If Shakespeare could invent words, so can I! (I'm sure there's room for argument there.) :o) Anyhow, to the meat...

I firmly believe that fantasy authors must create stories/series that are sufficiently complex without crossing the line into the realm of being ridiculous. By way of illustration, have you ever read an Amazon book description or a back cover excerpt on a sci/fi/fantasy novel that contained so many twists and turns, funny-sounding names, and detailed plot points (that the author clearly thought would entice you to read) that you snorted in amusement (or disgust) and moved on to the next book? I know I have! Take this fictional excerpt as an example:

Zarnog, the high supreme emperor of the sphere of seven planets, is on a quest to find a bride for his son, the soon-to-be heir to the supreme emperorship. Unbeknownst to Zarnog, however, his son, Phoodoo'zycarnum, is already in love the the unworthy slave girl, Shiibya, who is a Ha'aba spirit entity capably of splitting the life-force of the prince if he refuses to wed her. Meanwhile, the evil empress Ranca of the sixth planet in the confederacy is devising a means of capturing Shiibya and using her Ha'aba spirit powers to control Zarnog and steal the emperorship from his son. Only Zarnog, with his ability to harness the power of the crystal moons, is capable of stopping Ranca, but, distracted by his quest and ignorant of his son's love affair, he may be too late...

Ridiculous, eh? But I've read so many back cover excerpts like this! (Many of them much worse and much longer). Here's the thing, sci/fi and fantasy novels usually ARE complex and they usually do contain a lengthy list of strange-sounding names and details that would sound completely ridiculous if strung all together at once. I think the key to avoiding death by "ridiculosity" is to use moderation when doling out some of the more complex elements of your plot. Give enough details to hook a reader's interest, but not so much that they will drown in them. And this does not merely apply to back cover excerpts or summaries! I've had to keep this in mind when writing books one and two of The Gateway Chronicles because I have a few elements that could be very hokey if presented poorly. My creation of the narks is a good example. I have a lot of notes on them, but I didn't need to tell my readers everything about them in the first book; I think that would have been, well, ridiculous! In the first book the reader learned that narks are elves, they are exceptionally fast and talented, and that one nark body is shared between two nark entities - a night nark, and a day nark. The reader also learned a few random things pertaining to these main elements, but that was it, because that was all that was needed (and I didn't put it all in one chapter). In book two, the reader learns how narks marry and have children, and about a very important ethical boundary between them. In book three, the reader will learn that narks can choose to - oops, almost gave away a secret. ;o) Anyhow, this is getting rather lengthy, and I hope that you get the idea. I'm certainly not trying to pat myself on the back here, in fact, achieving complexity without ridiculosity is something that I certainly struggle with! And really, YOU are the best way for me to know whether or not I have been successfully complex without being ridiculous so far in the first books, so let me know! (And don't hold back the construction criticism where needed.) Even if you haven't read my books, you can follow the links on the right of the screen and read my back cover excerpts on Amazon. Any takers? I'd love to hear what you think...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Know You're a Writer When...

So you know that you're a writer when, in the midst of being sick for several days, you think to yourself, "Gee, I should really write down exactly how I am feeling right now so that I can accurately describe a sickness in one of my books." I think if you're a true writer, you can gain inspiration from any situation in life. Lol. I hope that doesn't sound pretentious! So, if Darcy comes down with a flu-like cold in my next book, you'll know where it came from! Okay, that's all I have energy for right now...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Review of The Oracle

The following is a new review of The Oracle. The woman who wrote this for me is someone I was able to connect with via facebook through a mutual acquaintance while I was writing The Oracle. She's a fellow author of YA literature (Plain Jane, on Amazon at and has become a good online friend. We will get to meet in person for the first time this February when she and her family will be in Birmingham.

"I was introduced to the first book in this series this past summer, and I anxiuosly awaited the release of the second. At this point I find myself desiring the author to finish the third installment before the planned release date. I'm not sure if I will be able to wait that long! I have started reading the first book to my children at night, and they get aggravated with me when I stop for the evening.

I had a difficult time putting The Six down as I read it, and I found it almost impossible to lay down The Oracle. I would literally have to pry myself away. The Oracle keeps you on your toes wondering what could possibly happen next. I was taken by the author's willingness to all such unfortunate events to befall the main character. Her characters are truly loveable, believable, and filled with flaws. The characters and what the author brings into the characters' lives makes your heart swell with joy as well as break with piercing sadness."

Read more reviews of The Oracle at or leave your own!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Like Putting Together a Puzzle

My progress on The White Thread continues to be slow, but at least it is steady! I am currently reading through The Oracle and taking notes on all sorts of seemingly (some of them) small details that I need to keep in mind and/or get right in the next installment. I know that personally, as a reader, I sometimes get so absorbed in a book that it takes on a life of its own and I almost forget for a time that somebody made it all up. It's like the "story" existed somewhere on a higher plane long ago and all the author had to do was "discover" it and write it down. Now, don't think I'm crazy, I mean, I know that this is certainly not the way that stories come to be, but I think it's the really good ones that cause the reader to suspend disbelief in that manner and view the story as "real" events. Along those lines, the suspension of disbelief, particularly in a fantasy tale, will be completely shattered if every single detail does not make perfect sense with the rest of the story. As an independent author, I don't have a particular editor whose sole job is to check for continuity, and it's one of the things that I worry about the most in the writing process. It's also amazing to me, however, how much the entire process is like putting together a puzzle; it's almost mathematical in nature. If I said that Darcy did X here and she did Y here, then those two things together have to equal a Z reaction to this scenario. When I was writing book 1, this was all very simple because it was brand new, and there were a few things that I put in the story that I wish now I had not (because I have to make them work with the rest of the story!). Writing book 2 was difficult in this manner, but manageable, and I think I was able to maintain good continuity, but it's proving much more difficult for book 3, here, which makes sense, I guess. The longer the series gets, the more details and fine plot points (and characters) there are to keep track of. So, all things considered, it's probably very good that I started the notetaking process early, because doing all of this come summer time may have busted my time budget!

On a sidenote, The Six and the Oracle are now available on Kindle for only $8.99 each! Just go the and search K. B. Hoyle.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Review of The Six

I thought that it might be interesting to publish the most recent Amazon review that I have had of The Six. I chose this review also because it was written by someone who was not an acquaintance or friend of mine previous to his discovery of my books through a write-up in our college alumni newsletter. (It's always good, as a self-published author, to be able to see that people other than my immediate friends and family find my books to be valid and worth reading!) I was contacted by this reviewer and his wife and have since had the privilege of striking up an ongoing correspondence via facebook. I hope you enjoy reading the review, and if you think it might encourage someone you know to try out my books, feel free to pass it along!

"Came across this book by chance and definitely glad I did. In my opinion the first couple of chapters are a little slow, but that's just because all the characters and nuances are being introduced. Once Darcy steps into the woods that first time though is when the speed picks up and it doesn't end until the closing page. You definitely find yourself looking forward to what comes next and there are some definite rewarding moments when you think you figure something out and then you're right. That being said, it's not predictable as I found on a couple of occasions where I gasped or said, "what?!" The details in the book are plentiful, but not to the point that they become excessive and bog down the flow. It's interesting to see the different dynamics develop and then change throughout the book between the characters.

The Six is along the lines of Chronicles of Narnia, Inheritance Cycle, Harry Potter, and even a little Lord of the Rings. However, it is completely on its own in terms of content, but you can see little flecks of those series in The Gateway Chronicles, at least in my opinion, so if you like any or all of those mentioned, I have a feeling you'll definitely like this series.

This book/series has quickly become a family favorite. My wife and I (24 and 23 respectively) love this book/series and my younger brother (16) actually finished this book in EIGHT hours! I have been telling him about it and told him to start reading it. He took a break to eat, and that was about it, if that gives you any indication of the quality and intrigue of this novel.

Greatly reccommended and looking forward to Fall 2011!" ~Ryan T.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Character Development

My productivity over Christmas break was extremely hampered by a nasty outbreak of the stomach flu, and now that I feel somewhat back to normal, I find myself a day away from going back to work. Be that as it may, my brain has been churning regarding The White Thread and my next fantasy series (which shall for now remain nameless). I managed to get the first quarter of The White Thread outlined over break, but in the aftermath of my illness, during which I did not have the energy to write anything, but I did have the energy to think, I began to seriously ponder character development. I am a big believer of the value of a story being in the characters, and for that you need well-written, fully-formed, loveable but flawed, believable characters. If a character in your story is not all of these things, I don't believe that your reader has any real reason to stick with your story. I think that so far I have a good cast of main, supporting, and fringe characters in The Gateway Chronicles, and I'm trying to determine what, if any, new characters I am going to introduce in book 3. The setting of the story is going to be rather contained compared to the first two, at least that's how I view it, and it presents me with a unique opportunity to take some of my supporting or fringe characters and develop them more fully... if I decide to include them in this installment. I also have the opportunity in the confinement of this story to put some of the existing relationships truly to the test. I'm enjoying thinking about how, for example, Darcy and Sam's relationship might grow and change if they are stuck in a confined area with each other for a prolonged period of time. (I realize that I am overusing "confined" but I don't want to elaborate more on what this means for The White Thread just yet so as not to ruin any surprises). Anyhow, I'm going to keep taking notes and do what I can before the summer to prep book 3, perhaps even start writing it! Who knows.

In other character development news, my next un-named series is going to have a serious cast of strong characters! It came to life one night with a name (the same as how The Gateway Chronicles came to life when "Darcy Pennington" popped into my head). While I'm not giving away any names, I will say that it's going to have four main characters between the ages of 15 and 18 and I feel like I know them all so well already. It's going to take place in New York City, and the fantasy element is going to be more like a world within a world rather than a departure from this world. And that's all I have to say about that. ;o)