Artistic License

Creators are allowed to be inaccurate if the inaccuracy serves the story better than accuracy would – tvtropes

So I just watched Midnight Sun. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from the trailer, but I thought what the heck, an innocent hopefully somewhat cheesy teenage flick is just what I need today. And I thought that was what I was going to get for most of the movie.


(obviously SPOILERS for the movie Midnight Sun.)

… then the movie suddenly pulls the rug out from underneath me and instead of giving me cheesy-mushy-teen-HEA-feels it gives me twist that makes me totally annoyed, which in turn makes it impossible to “enjoy” the depressing and tear-jerker ending.

How does it do this?

Well, by killing the main character for being exposed to about five seconds of sunlight. Or it doesn’t actually kill her right away but it does trigger some sort of thing in her brain that makes her suddenly stop using makeup and gives her hand tremors. Then she goes out in the sunlight for a longer time for a romantic afternoon sail with her BF which (presumably) kills her.

This immediately made me go


Because that just makes no sense. She’s not a vampire for fuck sake (and not even most vampires would have died from that). Less than one minute of sun kills her? Or at least off her body so she starts to die?

So this made me desperately want to google this disease just as I was supposed to be getting all sad and upset that she was going to die (and had broken up with her BF.) Not good.

A quick google search let’s one determine that while Xeroderma Pigmentosum is a real disease it doesn’t kill you like that at all. It usually kills the sufferers of it because they get skin cancer. Because they have these double sets of genes that make their skin unable to protect itself from the sun.

So Katie (Bella Thone) should have gotten skin cancer and died from that. She also would have been able to go outside in the day as long she wore proper protection and sunscreen, especially since they seem to be living somewhere close to Seattle and everyone who’s read Twilight knows that Forks is in that same neighborhood. And it’s the rainiest town around. And no clouds means less UV light (I think). Especially in winter.

So yeah, Katie wouldn’t be spending her summer’s tanning on the beach but never going outside during the day is kind of overkill. Or maybe not. I don’t know more than what a quick google search has told me about XP, but it seems like this was highly exaggerated to make a more angsty teen movie.

Which I get.

I mean I could buy the whole “not going out during the day at all” concept. Because it’s fun. And maybe it’s her dad being overprotective. For reals. Maybe the plot twist could even be that she’s not as sensitive to the sun as everyone thought. Or something. Dad’s just been exadreating the whole deal to keep her safe or whatever.

Instead, a minute in the sun turns this from cute feel-good movie to A Walk To Remember lite. But instead of making me reach for tissues it makes me feel like I’m watching a fanfic that’s been made into a movie. A badly written fanfic that someone didn’t research.

Or just took too much Artistic License with it.

And yes, despite what Bob Ross wants you to believe (or it might be more true for painting) that’s not okay.

Because just like the definition at the top says “creators are allowed to be inaccurate if the inaccuracy serves the story better than accuracy would” when your inaccuracy actually draws the viewer (or reader) out of the story, that’s not serving the story.

But Alyssa, you say, you write stories about werewolves and wraiths and stuff! That’s totally out there. That’s lots weirder than changing up a disease so two seconds of sun kills a girl. 

Actually, it’s not.

I’m not saying you don’t have to suspend your sense of disbelief to read stories about shapeshifters and magic like BOUND TO YOU. You do. But if you accept that you’re reading a story about werewolves then you’re fine. Because you’ve already decided this isn’t our world. It plays by different rules. So you accept magical monsters and witches and mate bonds. Because within the universe it’s explained and works (at least I hope that’s what you come away feeling).

When you’re writing a book set in what appears to be the here and now, the normal everyday world, you have to be careful. Especially when you have someone die from something like two seconds of sun. And have a disease that people can easily look up and find out the symptoms and how/ in what way a person can die from it. Because your viewer or reader needs a far lower suspension of disbelief while watching this story than when they’re reading about werewolves.

Think about it. If Katie was a vampire (maybe even half vampire, which would make it harder for her to heal sun damage?) then accepting that she’d been exposed to sun and that it now was killing her, would have been far easier to swallow (for me at least).  I would also have figured on some magical cure being found and her being saved and a happy ending (humm, that’s a pretty cool idea, maybe I should write something along those lines!) but that’s just me.

Vampire problems…

Anyways, what I’m saying is taking artistic license is a slippery slope and clearly sometimes harder when working in what is supposed to be the real world. Our world. But even writing fantasy, just being all ‘oh yeah, witches have acid for blood’ or ‘the dragons can fly at 200 miles per hour for 10 hours straight’ runs the risk of simply being too out there and thus pulling your reader out of the story.

Like the Game of Thrones episode where first Gendry runs back to Eastwatch, a raven flies to Dragonstone and Dany flies her dragons beyond the wall in what? One day? One and a half? That totally didn’t work and pissed me off so much I now just hate that whole episode.

Or like the whole Fifty Shades of Grey book series where the author taking artistic license with love. Because that’s not what’s really going on in those books (but I guess you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief pretty seriously to read them anyway). We also got the book Fifty is based on where Meyer’s took artistic license and made her vampires sparkle (why?) which I know turned quite a few people off. Or be it something small, like having witches being burnt at the stake in Salem (where witches were all hanged) or having every person on TV/movies have their finger on the trigger all the time (you don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you’re about to shoot someone. Like the second before. It’s all in the gun safety manual, apparently.)

Almost every book, movie or show will have had someone take a little (or a lot) of artistic license. Because you can’t research everything perfectly and even if you did, your story probably wouldn’t work without the changes. Like Midnight Sun. The whole end is built on this artistic licensed version of how XP kills.

So what’s the take away from this?

Everyone takes some artistic license. It’s just the way it is. Changing facts/ taking artistic license to make the story better is fine. Just make sure you actually have to make that change. Research a lot and try to find ways of getting your characters from point A to B without adding something outragous or unbeliveble.

Also be careful, because while we all do this to make our projects more fun and to make the plot make sense, you don’t want to go changing glaringly obvious things.  Because while some reader will buy it, many will feel cheated and even become frustrated with the story and you as a writer, maybe even starting to feel like the can’t trust you. And you want the reader to trust you, to know you will deliver a good and believel story. I mean, why else would he/she buy your next book?


How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

Since writing about best sellers and what they might and might not have in common I’ve been thinking about the timing of books and how it might influence their success.

But before that, let me just mention that this week 9-16th Febuary (2018) there is a ARC giveaway over on Goodreads for my book BOUND TO YOU.  Check it out and maybe you’ll get a chance to read it before everyone else!

Back to the blog post

Let’s go back to the good old 90s. Back before YA was so huge,  e-books hadn’t been invented and this was how we watched TV.

Okay, maybe the TV had been around for a while but still, it was a very dark time. Because Harry Potter had not yet arrived to make our lives awesome. In fact, I still remember back before I started waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance letter (which I’m still waiting for. Clearly someone in admissions screwed up big time.)


Harry Potter came along, beautifully and funnily written with a strong and clear plot. It was the start of the young adult genre, of children and teen lit that was more than it had been.

But, remember how Rowling got rejected a whole bunch of times before someone finally took a chance on her?

(Well maybe you don’t, because who likes to tell that story, but that’s what happened.)

My theory is that Potter came along at the right time, just exactly the right time for that big middle grade / young adult book revolution the world was ready for. One of the people she sent it to realized as much and the rest is history!

Point is, she started it – because Harry Potter an amazing story, it’s well written, plotted and it was just what kids and their parents were hoping for. Waiting for. Dreaming of.

If it hadn’t been as amazing as it is, it wouldn’t have hit so big and remain on the best selling charts over twenty-years later. Maybe it would have slowed down

How JK Rowling changed the world

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the YA revolution and all the books that have come after it would have been different. Maybe some of them wouldn’t even have come out.

So did Rowling start the young adult book revolution or was it the timing? Would some other book that we now don’t even remember have come along and taken her place if she hadn’t finished the first Harry Potter book? Or did she start everything? Did the world change because of her?

A combination of these?

Or am I just a crazed Harry Potter fan, trying to give credit for something totally unrelated to one of my favorite book series?

I don’t know. But I do believe that timing at least had partly to do with Harry Potter is one of the most famous characters in the world. The book is brilliant, but would the world have gone for it a decade earlier? We can’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.

Moving on to the next YA book that hit big.


I’d like to say Twilight is both a response to Harry Potter and a reaction to the scary modern world. Arriving as we all became more aware of general creepy dudes able to pray on young girls via the internet / social media + increases in terror and school shooting Bella’s protectors aren’t just big and strong human guys. One is an unkillable vampire and the other a werewolf. They both want to protect her and would die to do so.

In a world full of a lot of scary shit, I think part of the appeal of Twilight might have been the idea that the magic (which was feared just a generation or two ago) would be used to protect us from the normal ordinary dangers that suddenly felt so much more…well, dangerous. Bella was the perfect reader insert and despite the scary situations Bella ends up in / gets herself into, she is always saved by one of her boyfriends or one of the vamps.

Following on this came books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – where the girl can kick ass on her own and Percy Jackson where the main character is part god. (Also books like Vampire Academy and Mortal Instruments fits in with this genre, where the hero discovers he/she is something more).

Are the reader for these books the same as the ones who loved Twilight? The girls who got tired of reading about Bella being in distress? Or is it the next generation, boys and girls born a few years later?


(Fun fact: 70% of YA and teen books are purchased by adults (18-64), so even if some of these are parents, quite a few buyers of YA are reading the books themselves.)

I think sometime during the early 00s YA books became something different. They became normal books with teenage protagonists.

Yeah, for those of us who have mostly read books published post 2005-ish, it’s kind of hard to think back to before that. Maybe we didn’t even read YA books before that (I didn’t since I’d just about become a teenager then) and so it’s hard to understand but for a really long time books for kids and teenagers were more about teaching, scaring, warning, dictating to kids.

Now, this started back during like the early days (we’re talking a few hundred years) when books first and reading start becoming a thing. Books, for both adults and teens alike, were used more as learning tools than for enjoyment. Even books that seemed to be fun and fiction often had some sort of message – such as listen to your parents, girls play with dolls, boys pull pranks and such.

Just like fairytales back in the day, this was just how it was. You had a message and you made sure the book or story made it clear to everyone what it was so it could help them do what you thought was right.

For adult books, this was phased out more and more (even if some people still write with a very clear message in mind, be it about the evils of communism, the greatness of faith or to make us aware of increasing social classes) but for kids and teen books, that teaching tone stayed for a long time.

Just ask your parents, or check out your grandma’s attic and read some of those books. Maybe you’ve read Narnia or seen the movie? There is some very clear Chosen One, Judas, Son of God symbolism going on there. Or Tom Sawyer? Or Robinson Cruzo (which was a children’s book to start with). There is often some moral or lesson to be learned. Even when there isn’t, the tone for children and young adult books, used to be very different.

But it’s not anymore.

Young adult books are just books with heroes that happen to be teenagers. There are genres (for a long time children’s books were either red/ blue or sorted into a few simple stacks by a few different, often gender-based criteria. Like SF/Fantasy + Cowboys for boys and Horses + High School for girls.)

These days there are YA books in every genre: crime, romance, mystery, horror, fantasy, drama, science fiction, dystopias and HBTQ and more. Any kind you like. The only difference is often a happier ending, less death and violence (maybe excluding the Hunger Games!) and younger characters, compared to adult novels.

So it’s no wonder adults are reading these books (because who doesn’t like a happy ending?) because these days they are just books. Often with really fun/ interesting concepts and way more straightforward than some adult novels.

It’s not just about the age or teaching a lesson. Everyone can suddenly pick one of these books up to read and enjoy it. So it becomes about the idea, the society we live in and yes, the timing. All those things influence the success of a novel.

So Twilight, the Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Game are books for everyone – not just teens. So it’s not just the social group we define as young adults we need to look at to maybe see why timing has been part of why these books have become successes.

Twilight might have partly become such a hit because it gave a sense of protection from the scary world – using what once was scary monsters to do so.

The Hunger Games maybe gave us a reflection of our world, for while we don’t kill our classmates or co-workers, sometimes both school and work feel like a fight. Right? It’s a struggle. Only the best ones get that scholarship, that promotion. In a world of dwindling resources and more competitive work environments, and government and politicians that don’t keep their word, is it no wonder a book like The Hunger Game became a hit? We’re all a bit disillusioned and we watch more reality TV than any other generation…

Following along this vein are all the half vampire, half-god, half-angle books. When we’re competing for everything, it’s comforting to know you got an ace up your sleeve. This also ties in with Twilight ‘the world is scary’. Only in these books the characters know why the world is scary and dark – and are part of fighting it. Divergent combines this with every teen (and adult too) hatred for being labeled, by having the main character be ‘divergent’ and unable to be labeled as one specific thing.

Not quite a young adult we also got the very successful super bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, which is similar to Twilight (which make sense since it was a Twilight fanfiction) in many ways. Here you have Anna being “protected” by Christian – who might not be a vampire or werewolf – but he does have a boat load of money. And that’s almost as good. Even if the price for being with him comes with kinky sex the heroine isn’t to keen on, she ends up being willing to pay that. For love, sure. But also part of the safety and wealth he offers I imagine (I can’t say for sure as I only read book one of this series.) I’m sure no one says as much in the book or if they did Anna would probably deny it, but for a lot of people reading Christian Grey’s wealth is part of why he can act the way he does and why a woman might let him.

In a lot of ways I think 50 Shades (and many other similar that flooded the market after its success) can be seen as exploration and a sort of modern-day fairy tale? A dark one, for sure, where the princess chooses to be a willing captive.

Or is it a disillusionment – the new fairy tales often feel darker (thinking of the upswing in live action fairytale movies in the early 10s). Maybe we’ve lost our belief in them, or at least original Disney versions? Or maybe this isn’t really dark, maybe this is the new fairy tale? A reflection how we want the good old days but with new twists?

I don’t know.

Maybe all the darker stories from the Hunger Games to Fifty Shades to Maze Runner and even The Fault In Our Stars or Thirteen Reason Why is reflecting, perhaps, a new generations view of the world. A world now full of things we fear; poverty, sickness and terror. A future where things have gone downhill to the point where we let children kill each other on live television?

That’s a depressing thought.

I for one hope this isn’t the case, and I don’t really think it is. Society goes through phases and so does genre popularity. For a while, there was vampires, werewolves, gods. Then there was dystopias and re-makes of fairytales. Are we still in the dystopia phase? I don’t know. What comes next? I don’t know.

But probably something. Maybe the thing that gets the timing right. The thing we’re all hoping for, hungering for, even though we don’t know it. And here timing is key I think. You can write a great book but unless the world is ready for it (or perhaps if they’ve had enough of books like it) it won’t be successful. Or not as successful. And even if you write a book that is slightly above mediocre – a book with a theme or new idea that the world wants or become fascinated with can become the next big thing.


It means, think a little about what you’re writing. Has it been done a thousand times before? If so, how do give it a new twist? Meyer made her vampires sparkle (and she made the “vegetarians”) that was new. Collins had her death matches be televised (believe it or not she wasn’t the first to ever write about kids killing each other as part of a government conspiracy.)

Sometimes all you need is a twist on something old and that makes it totally new. Totally relevant. Because that’s the big thing here. The timing, well, it’s just an extension of relevance.

What are problems that are relevant to you, today? The people around you? If those people are teens – that’s great, but often problems and moods are bigger than just one age group. So be aware of the world around you. The problems and struggles. And see if there is some way to corporate them into your book.

Happy writing!

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

Writing Promt

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common


What Best Selling Books All Have In Common.jpg

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A while back I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about best-selling novels. SoI decided to find out what / if, what the best selling book series from the 90s to present day (Jan 2018) have in common. Just because it’s fun and interesting. There might be some ramblings here, it’s basically me just taking you all through the process of my thoughts on the subjects and sharing the what and why behind it.

I started off with this list of best-selling books over on Wiki: Best Sellers.

Went down to book series and changed the settings to first release and picked the ones with the first book in the series published between 1990-present day.

That got me a pretty good list but there were still a few things that needed to be taken into account. Such as origin language, nonfiction, written by multiple authors and such things.

I cut the nonfiction and books first printed in a language than English (there were only a couple).

Wiki has it all sorted into a couple of categories so I’ll go with those too.

More than 100 million copies

Here we end up with

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps* (350M)

These are in order of most recent publication date, not most sold copies, (those numbers are in the brackets.)

*Here it’s worth noting that while the first 5 series have between 4-12 book, Goosebumps have over 62 books in print. This means that while this is a popular book series, the numbers are somewhat misguiding and therefore it’s in cursive.

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  3. Jack Reacher (60M)
  4. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  5. Alex Cross (81M)
  6. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M)

Same thing here with the order (most recent release first). Here we also have the Magic Tree House series which is 56 books compared to the others which are between 3-22 books.

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

  1. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  2. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  3. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  4. Harry Bosch (42M)

Here Junie B. Jones stands out with 30 books compared to the rest which have 3, 4 and 15 books in the series respectively.

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

  1. Dork Diaries (25M)
  2. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  3. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  4. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  6. Captain Underpants (26M)
  7. Outlander (25M)
  8. Maisy (20M)

Here we have Maisy with 23 books compared to the others that are hoovering around 10 books or so.

Between 15 million and 20 million copies

  1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  2. Bridget Jones (15M)
  3. His Dark Materials (15M)

So not much to say about those, the Ladies’s Detective agency has 9 books but that’s not a upper huge number of books, at least not to merit a note.


This gives us a master list of 28 books, but if we ignore ones I’m feeling are here mostly because the huge number of books in the series (these are in red), this leaves 24 books.

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps (350M)
  7. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  8. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  9. Jack Reacher (60M)
  10. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  11. Alex Cross (81M)
  12. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  13. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  14. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  15. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  16. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  17. Harry Bosch (42M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  20. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  21. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  22. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  23. Captain Underpants (26M)
  24. Outlander (25M)
  25. Maisy (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

So these 28/24 book series are the ones we might call the best selling book series of the 90s and 00s. Some of the books were published during the 10s such as 50 Shades, part of Twilight and Divergent and some of these series are still ongoing but still, most are 90s and 00s publications. Meaning it normally takes at least a decade to get on this best selling list.

The two I had never heard about when starting this are Dork Diaries and Harry Bosch. The remaining I have heard of. I’ve read about half and watched most of the others in their adapted form (TV/Film).

Let’s see them all in order of most sold books.

  1. Harry Potter (510M) (Book 1 alone has sold 120M copies)
  2. Goosebumps (350M)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  6. Twilight (120M)
    • Under 100M books sold
  7. Alex Cross (81M)
  8. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  9. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  12. Jack Reacher (60M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  15. Harry Bosch (42M)
  16. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  17. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Captain Underpants (26M)
  20. Outlander (25M)
  21. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  22. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  23. Maisy (20M)
  24. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  25. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

Here we can note that for example the ten last on the list put together dosen’t even amount to half the Harry Potter sold! The top three book series totals over 100M books sold together but only the top six have sold over 100M copies and 14 bottom (50%) of the list have sold less than 50M books each.

So just like with wealth (the 8th richest people in the world have more wealth than the 50% poorest) there is a seriously big gap for the really big sellers like Harry Potter, Fifty Shades, Wimpy Kid, Langdon and Twilight that clearly not many ever make the jump to over 100M books sold in a series (much less on one book, like with Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone which has sold over 100M copies alone).


So, now comes times for some fun statistics!

How many of these best selling series are:

Middle-grade books?

Young adult novels?

Fantasy novels?

Crime/ mystery novels?


Let’s check!

Middle Grade: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Artemis Fowl, Captain Underpants, His Dark Materials.

That makes for a total of 8


That’s more than I expected, about 1/3 of the total number of the best sellers.

I’m a little iffy about putting Harry Potter here but since Harry is 11 when the book starts and it is read by a lot of kids I’m figuring it still counts. Also, His Dark Materials might also be considered a YA book since it contains some pretty deep stuff. But I think my mother read it to me when I was like 8-9 and I loved it so I’m leaving it here.

Young adult novels: Twilight, The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent trilogy,

That’s a total of 3.

Huh. I thought the YA category would be more impressive.

Fantasy novels: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time, The Inheritance Cycle, The Sword of Truth

Here we end up with 4 series.

The Inheritance Cycle might also fit into the YA category but I feel it is more fantasy than young adult somehow and that’s why I put it here.

Crime/ Mystery novels; Robert Langdon, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch, Alex Cross, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,

5 books series here! I kind of expected more from this section too. Don’t know why but I feel like there is a lot of popular crime/mystery novel series out there. A few of the series I cut because they weren’t in English, were mysteries so maybe that’s why?

Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Outlander, Bridget Jones,

4 here too! If you count Fifty Shades of Grey as a romance…maybe it should be in the Crime section 😛 no, I shouldn’t be mean to one of the best selling book series out there. Clearly, something about it made people love it even if I can’t understand it!

The Southern Vampire Mysteries should/ could possibly go in the mystery section but I’ve only read one of those books and from what I remember of it and the TV series True Blood (and it might be more different from the books than I recall, I’m not sure) the love story / personal drama stuff trumped the mystery bit so that’s why I put it in the romance section.

Grouped by my Genre split up + Number of copies sold

  • Middle Grade (8)
  1. Harry Potter (510M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  4. Captain Underpants (26M)
  5. Dork Diaries (25M)
  6. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  7. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  8. His Dark Materials (15M)
    • YA (3)
  9. Twilight (120M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. Divergent trilogy (35M)
    • Fantasy (4)
  12. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  15. The Sword of Truth (25M)
    • Mystery (5)
  16. Robert Langdon (200M)
  17. Alex Cross (81M)
  18. Jack Reacher (60M)
  19. Harry Bosch (42M)
  20. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
    •  Romance (4)
  21. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  22. Outlander (25M)
  23. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  24. Bridget Jones (15M)

This is some really interesting statistics don’t you think? I mean Children’s Book series beat all the other categories with double the number of books. Does that mean kids are bigger readers? Parents want their kids to read and buy the books? Kids are easier to hook on a series and will keep on coming back for more?

Also, quite a few of the MG books have male main characters – why?

And why are all three of the young adult books main characters females? And why are two of them involved in love triangles? And two of them set in dystopian worlds?

For the fantasy books, I thought there would be less of those than there ended up on the list. I’m fans of three of them (never really go into the Wheel of Time) and know those three all have dragons in them. Two of the four have pretty clear bad guys while the others are a little bit more grey (I think?). I think all of them have love stories(but the Sword of Truth is the only one where there is a HEA. Kind of.)

In the mystery category, we have three police / straightforward-ish detective series and two with guys with mad skills (Langdon and Reacher) ending up solving crimes/ troubles in various locations. This isn’t really my genre – I really enjoy the Reacher books and read some of the early Langdon books though, but can’t say much for the police procedurals.

As for the romance section, well I have read the first book in all of those series. None of them are my favorite romance books, even if Outlander does have its cute moments and so does Bridget Jones and so I’m not totally sure why they’re so big.

My suggested explanation is that the romance novels (except Fifty Shades) have been in print for over 15 years and all of them been made into movie/TV adaptions which I believe have helped increase their popularity.

Fifty Shades I can’t explain other than it was the first erotica and kinky book that somehow managed to make it into the mainstream and much like the book it was based on (Twilight) it got really popular because of the ease of which the everyday gal (or guy) could put herself in Anna’s shoes. Because Anna has very little personality, just like Bella!

But let’s go back to the middle grade, young adult and fantasy books. Because those are the genres that I find really interesting. In fact, I’m going to compile a list for just those books! I’m also going to add the number of books in each series.

This leaves us with 15 books.

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  2. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  3. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  4. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (7)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  8. Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  11. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  13. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  14. Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  15. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Now I’ve not actually read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries or Captain Underpants. Probably because I’m not one of the intended audience. I have seen some TV adaptions of Unfortunate Events and part of the Wimpy kid movie though. I’ll also admit am I not totally up to snuff on The Wheel of Time or Artemis Fowl.

I have however read every book in these series more than once

  1. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  2. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  3. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  4. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  6. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

and still, think they’re good reads (Twilight can be debated but it does have something that pulls you in and keeps you reading.) So I feel I pretty good about analyzing them at least!


In Order of Most Sold Books 

Now let’s put them in order of most sold books (I’ve also added the date the first book in the series was published since the number of years the book has been in print is interesting).

  1. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  2. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  3. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  4. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  5. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  7. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  8. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  11. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  12. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  13. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  14. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  15. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Looking at copies sold Harry Potter with the 510 million books stands out quite a bit compared to the rest of them. Potter is also the first big hit in Children’s books (I’m unsure if His Dark Materials were best sellers back when they first came out. They might have been because they are awesome. But the sales numbers are a whole lot smaller than for Potter, and they’ve been in print for twenty+ years.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Twilight are pretty impressive in the number of books sold especially since they’re both from the later 00s. Diary of a Wimpy kid has 12 books though, compared to Twilight’s 4  and Potter with 7 but still, well done Wimpy Kid.

The more recent series (started during the 00s) seem to hoover some around 20-60 million copies sold and 3-5 books. I think this might be because around this time the market for MG/ YA books exploded and e-book and self-publishing became a thing. Ebooks are making books cost less to produce (like nothing) and it’s giving people worldwide access to more titles.

It’s probably going to be hard for any book out do Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid for the next few years since it clearly takes a while to build up to such huge sales. But we might se a new “phenomenon” like the Fifty Shades of Grey which has sold 125M in 6 years or the Hunger Games more “modest” 65M in 9 years.

In the future, I think there will be more books/series that end up in the lower end of this spectrum, (10-25M book sold). Mostly because with more readers than ever (because the world population is always growing) there is a constantly expanding audience. But with that being said there is also the expanding pool of material and sub-genres and ability to choose what we want to read individually via the internet /ebooks (instead of relying on what was is stocked by the local bookstore). These are all making it so that more variety of books are sold and hence less chance of one book becoming really big.

Number of Books

Now let’s talk number of books in the series. I added this because that’s a very interesting aspect.  All the ones on my 15 fave list have between 3 and 15 books, seeming to either come in around 3-5 books or 9-15. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl and Dork Diaries books have the less common but not totally out there 7/8 books.

So why 3-5? Or the higher 9-15?

My hypothesis here is – the series with more books, each book is generally shorter and intended for a young audience. So the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events books and Captain Underpants should all be shorter. Let’s go check number of pages on Amazon!

Wimpy kid – 221 pages.

Unfortunate Events – 162 pages

Underpants -125 pages.

Okay so Wimpy Kid is a bit longer than I expected but the other two are about half the length of a “normal” book. Make sense, since these are for a younger audience who might prefer a shorter book, right?

There are also two fantasy book series, which each are 12 books long and each one of those 12 are a door stopper in of itself. These are long because they are about a larger cast or a larger event such as a full-on war/power struggle etc and because fantasy books “are” long.

So unless you’re writing for kids or writing high fantasy, maybe the 3-5 books is the preferred series length?

Then again, the most successful book on this list has 7 books, so maybe it is the more the merrier? I guess it depends on what kind of story you want to tell.

Order of Release

Let’s re-organize our list of 15 by the date the first book in the series came out. Remember, these books were not always best sellers on the first book so you might be surprised at the age of some.

  1. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  2. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books
  3. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  4. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  5. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  6. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  7. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  8. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  11. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  13. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  14. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  15. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books

Here we can clearly see the evolution of the MG/ YA genre, starting with magic in Harry Potter followed by Artemis Fowl, Inheritance Cycle and then Twilight and Percy Jackson. Then we move into dystopia with The Hunger Games and Divergent. In the late 00s we have, for the slightly younger audience, Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries.

Note that all none of the books since about 2000 are adult books (this includes the mystery/romance section up top too (except 50 shades).

I repeat; no new best selling series for adult has “started” since the early 2000 with the exception of 50 Shades (there has of course been new books in these ongoing series during this time.) This is very cool and really seems to mean the place to be (or more accurately; to be writing) is MG and YA.

Even in the fantasy books, characters are often fairly young, such as Eragon who starts out at 15 (I think?) and the Stark kids in the Song of Ice and Fire are all teens and many of them have POVs (Jon, Sansa, Bran, Danny).

So characters around 11 or 16 seem to be really popular in best selling series. The 11-year-olds seem to grow up about 1 year per book while the teens often stay 16-17 throughout the series (this is kind of just from what I remember, pretty sure it’s mostly right though).

World / Setting / Genre

Another thing I find super interesting about these fifteen books is the fact that only 2 of them are set in our “normal” world. The Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are both humorous lighter books than the rest on the list (excluding Captain Underpants) and set primarily in an ordinary world, with character’s attending middle school. Captain Underpants also fits this starting out, even though we then, via hypnosis get a superhero, it is still primarily our world.

So out of 15 books 2 (3) are set in the real world.

Then we have 5 “kind-of” our world; Harry Potter, Twilight, Captain Underpants, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl are all set in the present day but with a hidden world of magic (or superheroes in the Captain Underpants) but with most people being clueless about it and only the characters and readers being “in” on it (except maybe Potter, where you have this whole hidden community).

Then finally we have the totally different worlds from our own which the renaming 8 fit into.

Out of these 3 are dystopian – A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hunger Games and Divergent.  These are all magic-less worlds that our world could become. I’m counting A Series of Unfortunate Events here because it’s an odd, dark world even if it is not perhaps a straight up dystopia.

Then there are 4 series set completely in a secondary fantasy world – Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, Song of Ice and Fire and The Inheritance Cycle.

Last, His Dark Material which straddles the line between a sort of alternate early turn of the century with magic in book 1 and then actually introduces “our” world in book 2, is a sort of mix of alternate history, fantasy and portal fantasy.

Summary: Books about other worlds/ times seem to have a distinct advantage/ interest more readers at least in the MG/ YA and fantasy section. (Most of the mystery/ romance books from the big list are more grounded in reality though).

It seems magic, alternate histories/ futures or straight up magic worlds are really interesting to people and makes for great storytelling.



So I’m betting you know the plot to most of these books are about, even if you haven’t read them. But just for fun let’s list them and add a quick one-liner to each. (I’ve put them in the most sold order again.)

  1. Harry Potter – A boy wizard destined to fight the dark lord start magic school.
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The tale of a “Wimpy Kid’s” life in middle school.
  3. Twilight – Girl moves to a small town where it always rains and falls in love with a vampire who struggles with wanting to drink her blood / kill her.
  4. The Wheel of Time – Fantasy epic. Lots of battles and stuff. Not really clear on this one.
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events  – Three kids are repeatedly almost killed by their weird uncle who wants their fortune.
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy – In a depressing future USA, a girl fights in a televised death match against 23(?) other teens.
  7. A Song of Ice and Fire  – The war of the roses. With dragons. And sex.
  8. Divergent trilogy – Society tries to put girl in a box. She rebels. Then the whole state kind of rebels.
  9. The Inheritance Cycle – Boy finds a dragon egg. Egg hatches and now the evil overlord wants to kill the boy.
  10. Captain Underpants – Kids turn their principle into a superhero from their favorite cartoon.
  11. The Sword of Truth – A hot magical woman shows up and guy finds out he has magic destiny/ duty to destroy an evil overlord.
  12. Dork Diaries – Girl starts a new private school. Doesn’t fit in.
  13. Artemis Fowl – Overly smart boy captures fairy to ransom her.
  14. Percy Jackson & the Olympians  – Boy finds out he’s a demigod and there is about to be a war unless someone finds Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt.
  15. His Dark Materials – A girl tries to find her kidnapped friend. Lots of really awesome and weird stuff happens while she’s doing that.

What did we learn from this? Well, it’s pretty easy to explain just what the plot for each book is (with maybe the high fantasy books being exceptions since they’re often very long and about great big wars and such.)

Most also have very clear and memorable main characters. 3 of these have the name in the title. Two have Dorky/ Wimpy as a description of the main character. The rest have titles like Hunger Games and Divergent’s that both refer to the main thing in the first book (as does The Sword of Truth), giving us a hint what the main theme is and back when the book was new, made us wonder what these “Hunger Games” might be.

Random side note

I really like the Better Novel Project and think analyzing best sellers is fascinating – if you haven’t checked that site out you totally should.


Better Novel Project blog = awesome!

So what have we learned from all of this?

In the past two decades or so book series that have become best sellers have between 3-5 books (unless high fantasy or shorter books then 10-15 books in series). They’re set in a world with magic hidden from the “normal” people or a dystopian/alternate history.

Or if they’re fantasy novels – in a secondary world.

Main characters are often preteens or mid to late teens, even in fantasy.

Even a best selling series will probably not make it past the 50M books sold, much less the 100M, but they’re still best selling and most of us will know the title and basic premises.

Male main characters seem a bit more common in MG books and female heroines in YA. Love triangle in two of the YA books, but it’s good to note these are all sub-plots and not really the focus of the books (well maybe a bit in Twilight).

But perhaps most interesting and important is that almost all of these books have an easy to remember plot / tell me what it’s about / pitch sort of deal. Even though several take place in alternative worlds from ours, they’re easy to understand and explain to possible readers.

So what makes books best seller?

8 things all best selling ya books have in common

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Does these statistics give us any clues? Will writing a YA book series with 4 books set in a dystopian future or fantasy world with a love triangle be guaranteed to become a best seller? Or should go for a magic school and evil overlord? Vampires? Is there some super change best selling formula?

As much as I would love to say yes, I can’t.

You can surely up your odds by writing series with some of these things. Problem is, if you write a Dystopian and try to have it published today – you’re 5-10 years late to the party. Same with the magic, vampires and such.

Because a big part of why things become best sellers is timing.


What becomes populate often has as a lot to do with the world as with the actual book. Timing is important. And usually only one book will hit it real big, only to be followed by others in similar spirit relatively quickly (think back to the number of vampire books back around Twilight’s release, how Divergent’s success partly comes from the fame of the Hunger Games and the dozens of BDSM books that have followed Fifty Shades and done very well for themselves.)

Because best seller are timing as much as a great story and as we’re moving forward all the time a book that might have hit big in the early 00s isn’t going to today. As the world changes, society changes, there are different things that call to readers to certain books.

Can we still learn something from all these Best Selling Statistics I’ve drugged up?

If it’s all timing and luck pretty much, is it all useless?


I find it amazing to be able to compile statics for these best sellers. To know that the MG/ YA genre is historically the one that has the most best sellers. That younger protagonists even in fantasy are common. That magic and alternate worlds are extremely popular. What number of books most series have.

That I can make a list that I (and anyone else that wants) can use as a jumping off point.

Best selling book have…

Title: Contain the main event, character or other important and attention-grabbing thing

Plot:  Easy and clear to explain in a sentence or two.

World: Often a hidden magical one in the present day or a nonmagical dystopian future.

Character: Either young (11) and growing up during the series or 15-17 years old (and stay that way. MD more often boys, YA more often girls.

Romance: Often part of the YA + fantasy stories, but not really focus. Some of the YA have love triangles.

Series length: 3-5 books for YA.

Theme: Something that resonates with the time or mood of the intended audience at the time of release.

Time to Fame: It often takes a long time to actually get on the best selling list on wiki, but often best sellers become popular within a few years of their release. TV shows and movies being made often make people remember or re-discover a book and increase interest in it (duh!).

None of these elements on their own guarantees you a best seller. Nothing can do that. Not being a brilliant writer, having a great story/ premises, or the right aged character or world to set your book, will do that.

But it will help. These stats show you what has been popular in the past; what people enjoy reading.

And while you should be write things you enjoy reading, it’s good to know what others love too.

To read those book, to analyze them and see what made them work. To think about them in the time they came out. To think about the issues of today’s world and how those might effect your future readers. Think about the fun interesting ideas explored with in them – magical schools, dangerous death matches and kinky sex – these concept existed before these books made them big. But we still think of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Gray as the “creators” of these things. Maybe the next big thing is already out there, a amazing topic someone has just been waiting to turn into a brilliant story?

Maybe you can be that person?


Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

ARC copies + Preorder Time!

Writing Promt 2

Mary Sue – Who Is She And Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

She’s got your favorite name, she’s got soulful eyes that change color, she’s the most beautiful girl ever. Everybody loves her – pets, kids, parents and all the guys (even the bad guy wants to sleep with her and falls in love with her and might even change sides for her.) She’s Miss. Perfect, and anyone who dares to insult her must pay. She’s the perfect version of you.


mary sue - why we hate and love her

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Mary Sue concept comes from fan fiction and is a self- insertion of the author into the fandom. She have of course existed in original fiction long before fan fiction. Only in fan fiction she is often much more obvious and annoying.

Mary Sue is often named things like; Raven, Hunter, Saphira, Serena, Arwen, Ivory, Alexandra, Glory, Violet, Elisabeth or any combination of these and similar names. Sereabeth or Elexandria or maybe Ravshpire. She also has a lot of names –(Like: Raven Serenbeth Holyadria Samson Black) like five or six of them and they all mean something that has to do with her character.  At least one of the names is one the author call himself or wish she was called. Or maybe one of her/his screen names…

She of course is stunningly beautiful and the author spends A LOT of time describing her with difficult words no one really knows what they mean but they sound pretty. She has purple or maybe golden hair (or Raven black with pink high lights works too), emerald, violet or even color changing eyes and probably a special birthmarks or tattoo.  Also, she’s got a sad past, mostly with dead parents and abusive (half of the time sexually abusive) step-dads or boyfriends. She is a tortured soul and everyone must agree that the way people have treated her in the past is awful.

She not only exceptional in the looks department, but she also has a special destiny and powers far beyond anyone else. When she goes to fight the bad guy she defeats him without any real problem – or if she fails she angsts about it for several paragraph and a minor character (since everyone but Mary Sue is minor character) has to tell it wasn’t her fault and she doesn’t have to worry because everyone still likes her.

She can also sing and play lots of instruments for no good reason and has lots of money also for no real reason.

Now you’re starting to worry – if you can’t have a nice, lovable, attractive character with a special destiny, named something cool, what fun is your book going to be? You don’t want your hero to have crocked teeth (of course guys can be Mary Sues – or Gary Stu as they are mostly called,) lots of zits and average powers. You want her to be a superhero.

Don’t worry. Everything is okay in moderation, and most heroes have some Mary Sue attributes.  The trick is not to let them take over.

Your hero can be attractive – just don’t let the whole first page be about just how awesome his muscles look or how expensive all his clothes are. She can be an orphan raised by mean people, but don’t let them be horrible abusive people that are out to get her because you want the reader to feel bad for her. If they are mean there has to be a reason. Your hero can have special powers and an odd scar (you remember Harry Potter right?) but he has to have flaws (but being clumsy like Bella Swan is not a flaw – sorry S. Mayer –it’s a semi-cute quality. Being blind, anger management problems, being dishonest, a germaphobic, uncontrollable blushing, having a fear of commitment or just being very selfish, are flaws.)

There are lots of Mary Sue test you can take, but a lot of characters in fantasy will score high because most of the time in fantasy there are prophecies about chosen ones and special powers and marking. You can mostly ignore a high score, just as long as your character still is a character not a stereotype or the perfect you. Just make sure you’re being honest with yourself!

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

Writing Promt 3

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

Writing from a guy’s POV is something I find kind of hard. It’s interesting but it also requires some different things than writing from a girl’s POV. Since I am a girl, girly things come easier to me and I tend to prefer writing from a female character’s POV for most of the story. But sometimes you need to write from a guy’s point of view and to make things easier for all the gals trying to write like a guy – I put together a list of things I found helpful to think about when writing a male character when you’re just starting out.

how to write

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This is from reading male authors, talking to some guy friends and reading about writing guys as a girl. There are apparently a few things guys do differently than women – these are not fact or anything just some things that seem to be true and help me.

Things to think about when writing from a guy’s POV

1) Gossip is stupid. At least the way girls gossip. Boys will, of course, talk about people but often it’s more direct perhaps than how girls do it (I think we tend to be sneakier and repeat things over and over).

This, of course, depends a lot on where you set your story. In high school, everyone gossips; who is dating who, who has the coolest new haircut, who got a nose job. Also, guys find a different kind of gossip interesting. Sports, who has a ‘gay’ shirt and other topics that are key in their lives (could be an art contest or Taylor Swift concert, it just depends on your character) is of course important. This applies for all characters, we don’t gossip about things that we don’t find interesting or might somehow influence us.

This is not to say boys aren’t deeply affected by gossip. They are, because men, in general, tend to have less of an emotional support network (say a mean girl class you fat. You go talk to your friends about how that upset you/ or they’re right next to you and they tell you, you’re not fat – you’re perfect the way you are. If a guy gets told he looks fat or some other insult, a friend might stand up for him (or they for themselves) but afterward guys rarely re-hash or talk about how an offensive comment affected them emotionally. So the comment might get more ‘power’ in their mind because it’s not denied by someone they care about.)

2) Can only “do” one thing at once. This is something I’ve heard a lot about and I’ve noticed in my guy friends. It’s not that they can’t do more than one thing it’s that they like it. Like if there is a problem they want to fix it before doing something else and once they have a plan to do it, go for it. I feel like me and my girlfriends tend to spend more time thinking of different ways to fix before actually doing it than my guy friends.

Which I think this is important when writing. As a woman and writing female characters I tend to skip around in their thoughts. So when writing guys I try to focus on one idea or thought or plan get full focus and then move on, rather than run a whole bunch of plans at once. I feel like this makes the character’s POV different from the female one. So while it might not be how all guys work, it’s a good way to separate the internal voices of your characters.

3) More visual. Guys are often about things they can see rather than things they can feel, at least at first. Also, a lot of studies show boys think about sex between two and three times more often than girls, so maybe keep that in mind (this does not mean all guys go around just thinking about sex all the time but when writing a male character adding them noticing something sexy about their love interest licking her lips – yes, I’m looking at you Mr. Gray – might be good.)  But this also applies to other aspects of your male characters, I find some male authors often repeat descriptions of things they like (which could just as well be his car or new sneakers as his love interest) so that could also be something to try.

What Do Guys Do?

1) They do things: Unlike girls who like to talk about what we’re going to do guys actually do things! 😛 At least that was how it always was in older books, “the passive woman” and “the active man”. There is however still a lot of this still around and in some instances, it might be worth being aware of. If you want to play the trope straight or try to subvert it is up to you.

A lot of the time, though, guys tend to “go for it” when they have an idea more than girls. Especially as teens, men can be a bit more rash which can be seen in the stats on how many more accidents teen boys are in compared to girls.

Not that there aren’t active and action focused characters that are girls and more thoughtful planers that are guys. That works and the other way around is cool too. This has a lot to do with a character’s personality and who the main character is. If your main character and POV is a girl, she needs to be the one who gets them out of trouble. She needs to take action on her own, she can’t be ‘saved’ by the male character/ hero/love interest at the end.

2) Don’t talk around things, this is another stereotypical thing but most of the time guys are a little blunter. If they don’t want to do something they just say “That sounds boring. I don’t want to do it.” while most girls go “yeah sure that’s a pretty nice idea but maybe we could do this other thing instead.” Your male character might be shy or timid and not want to offend the character he’s talking to but if that’s the case he’ll probably just shut up and go along with it. No matter how boring he thinks it sounds, rather than talk his way around it. This will, of course, differ depending on who your character is around, but overall, guys tend to have “learned” they don’t need to apologize as much for their opinions as girls.

3) Do care about their hair and clothes. This one might be obvious but I’ve seen some stories on Wattpad that makes me think it’s not. Even if you are a guy (or writing from the POV of one) you’re not going to be like “I picked up whatever was on the floor and didn’t brush my hair or teeth before leaving the house” unless your character is a complete slob. Your guy character might not pick up a pair of jeans and go “wow my butt would look so great in these” but they probably have favorite clothes they think make them look more muscular, thinner or taller too. Don’t go overboard but remember it’s not just girls that want to look hot!

Now, this is very general. Not all guys are this way – because we are all people before we’re men/women. I think what’s really most important to remember when writing male (or female character for men) is that all your characters are human (well unless they’re werewolves or wizard but you get my point). I really like what G.G.R. Martin said about writing women “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.” I think that’s one of the key aspects of writing a character, be it a he or a she, is that s/he is an individual with dreams, desires and inner demons. So when you’re having trouble with writing a male character just remember, we’re more similar than we’re different; so focus on the character as an individual and you’ll do just fine!

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Writing Promt 4

What makes a good love story?



John & Aeryn


Prompted by a cold and a rewatch of the 90s show Farscape, I’ve been thinking a lot of my favorite love stories and why I love them so much. I’ve shipped a lot of couples over the years; both in books and TV. Most of them have a few things in common, but it’s maybe not the things you would think.

They have a mission


Abby & Connor

Saving the world from an alien invasion, finding murderers, escaping evil overlords or military vampires in bondage clothes, sending dinosaurs through time portals, going home, starting a PI business, stopping a plague, getting their jobs back or saving the city – most of my favorite characters have a lot of stuff going on outside their relationship with one another. They want stuff. Sometimes the same stuff and sometimes not. The mission comes first – at least at the start of the series – and it drives the story. It puts characters in situations where they need to act, choose and fight for (and occasionally with) each other.

Whether they are doing this in a living space ship, a crime lab or while saving history from a time traveling terrorist doesn’t really matter. The big thing here is that mission brings them together and along the way they fall in love.

Point: Your characters needs to have a strong want, desire, goal that at brings him in contact with the future love interest.  

They are part of a team


Team Arrow

Because three is better than two. And five is better than three. After that it’s debatable. But most characters are part of a group that want something. The dynamic of the group is almost as important as the budding love story. Friends and family, allies and enemies, they all change our relationship, influence them.

Here the classic three people is fairly common – it’s Harry, Ron and Hermione. It’s Michael, Fiona and Sam. It’s Chuck, Sarah and Casey. It’s Percy, Annabeth and Grover. It’s Buffy, Willow and Xander (and Giles so I guess that’s four). It’s Nikita, Michael and Birkhoff. It’s the amazing power trio!

There is also the 4+ group; Stargate SG-1, Team Castle, the Farscape gang, Leverage, Arrow (post season 1) and Bones lab. 

However many they are, the team works as a second (or sometimes primary) family for our couple (to be). They’re all on the same side most of the time (but argue and disagree frequently), stick together through thick and thin, never leave each other behind. They’re willing to die for one another. They have each other’s back, but also provide drama and increased tension. Also the team can poke fun at each other. And we all know a little humor can go along way…


I feel for you Johnny

Point: The team makes for more cozyness, drama and raises the stakes while also giving your characters people with different skill sets to help them and fight along side. Plus we all love people who are part of a ‘tribe’ that will do anything for each other, making the team more than the sum of their parts.

Their stories are not love stories


Elfen Lied

This might be the most important bit of why I love the love stories I love. The story isn’t a love story. Not in a traditional way (as in on page 1: boy meets girl and the story is about boy-girl falls in love, losing each other and then finding one another again). The love story is second to the main plot. Nikita isn’t about Nikita shacking up with Michael. Vampire Academy isn’t about Rose finding true love. Stargate isn’t about Sam/Jack. Mercy Thompson isn’t about Mercy finding true love and eternal bliss and happiness with her super hunky werewolf hubby Adam (but that bit is important too). Their primary focus are other things.

This ties in with the whole they have a mission, but is also a stand alone point. Because a “normal” love story has a pattern, one most of us know. It’s the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl trope. Which most of us are pretty tired of. At least because in stories where the focus is the romance, the thing that drives boy-girl apart often feel unrealistic or lame or just plain old stupid. It’s the misunderstanding, the accidental kiss with a drunk ex, the reveal that it was all a bet or wrong choice for no reason.

While in a show where the love story is an element of the plot, rather than the focus, the reasons for being torn apart make more sense. It’s about more than getting the girl. It’s about saving the world and getting the girl. It’s about finding the killer and getting the guy. It’s about bringing down the evil organization and making sure your one true love isn’t caught while spying on said organisation. It’s about vengeance and maybe getting the boy. It’s about nearly blowing up a galaxy (including yourself, your wife and newborn kid) to get everyone to stop killing each other and agree to peaceful negotiations.

Point: When the story is not a ‘normal’ love story and the drama is caused by a bigger storyline rather than something to do with a conflict between the boy-girl, it makes the story feel more believable and enjoyable.

They took their sweet time getting together



It took Bones/ Booth like what? 5-6 seasons to get together. Castle / Beckett four. Mercy and Adam don’t seriously get together until book 3. Fiona and Michael have a one-off thing but don’t really commit for a long time. Percy and Annabeth don’t hook up until the end (granted they were kids in the beginning). Ron / Hermione took what? Seven books? Chuck and Sara? Well they fake dated but after that it took a while. Sam and Jack (Stargate SG-1) never ‘officially’ even got together. Eragon and Arya didn’t even get a proper kiss. Rose and Dimitri spend three books falling in love and then just as they get together he gets turned into a Strigoi. Heck it even took Katniss and Peeta ages to get together (I don’t really care about them but it’s still a good example).

But here is the important bit: even though the characters aren’t officially a couple, my fave ships are kind of together. They spend all their time around each other, saving each other’s lives, helping with each others problems. They trust each other. They’re just in denial about their feelings, don’t want to risk being hurt, their is bad timing. Point is, they’re a couple before becoming a real couple-couple. Sometimes they’re even together but haven’t quite worked out the kinks and end up breaking up but still beeing together-but-not-together.  Anyway, we know they love each other and are meant to be before they do, we feel and see the things they miss. 


This I think is a key point in writing romance, and something that seems to be skipped over a lot. You have your characters, you have your love story thought out, you have the conflict and the thing that forces them to resolve it, the ‘boy loses girl’ and the reunion all thought out. The problem is, a lot of the time, authors / creators just tend to skip over the bit where we learn why the characters are perfect for each other. The actual falling in love. The good times when they’re actually working together and are talking (having lots and lots of sex do not count as falling in love, something lots of modern ‘romance’ novelist seems to have forgotten. Falling in lust is not falling in love).

It truly baffles me sometimes. Mostly when reading romance, where the characters just suddenly love each other. After seeing someone in class and speaking to them twice, they’re meant to be soulmates? That makes no sense. Same with some TV shows. Like why does Cat like Vincent so much in Beauty and the Beast? Willing to risk it all for him after five minutes? Why did Oliver pine so much for Laurel when they don’t match at all? Even when she hated him? Makes no sense! Clare in the Mortal Instrument and her love interest Jace have zero chemistry and he’s kind of an ass half the time (granted I only watched like five eps of this show) so why are they so into one another? Without the author they’d just leave another alone and get on with their lives.

Even some of my fave books are guilty. Like why would Harry suddenly like Ginny, his BFF’s little annoying sister? (I mean did anyone ship Ginny/ Harry? I mean I know he needed a baby mama to have the kids they were going to name all the dead people after but why not Luna who was so much more awesome as a character?) Sydney in Bloodlines go from slow burn sweet high school-ish love with Adrian to giving up her freedom to save him to married with children in two books. Kind of weird because two books ago she was kind freaked out by vampires. I still like her and Adrian but sometimes love is just rushed at that makes me annoyed. 

So while love at first sight might sound romantic, and maybe in real life it is, in fiction, suddenly meeting a guy and then being in love with him three hours later, willing to die, give up your goal, dreams and lifestyle makes no sense. Bella has known Edward for what? Four months and she wants to be with him forever and become a vampire (okay I would too, but not because I wanted to be with him forever (can you say boring) but rather because being immortal and having super speed and strength and lots of money seems like a sweet deal.) Every Cinderella story ever written is this: the girl spends a few hours with a guy and WHAM they’re soulmates.


I mean, I can buy it in animated Disney movies (even though they do love better these days with both Tangled’s Rapunzel and Flynn and Frozen’s Anna and Kristoff spend most of the movie together before actually realizing they are perfect for one another and Frozen actually subverting this trope with the love at first sight with Hans) but live action TV and novels?

Seriously, to make a love story feel real, your characters need to experience some stuff together. Talk. Maybe have mad passionate monkey sex. Maybe not. Just don’t let the relationship just poof into being.


It only took them 4 years…to kiss

I mean it took Castle and Beckett four years to even make out (well there was the parking lot). Jack and Emily take until the last episodes to finally hook up and get married. TVD’s Caroline/ Stefan were friends for like six seasons before they got their first kiss. I’m not saying either Castle, TVD or Revenge handled their ships perfectly but they worked a heck of alot better for me than the hello! I love you! scenarios you see sometimes.

Point: Just like real relationships, fictional ones take time to develop. Don’t rush into it. If you’re writing a series, let the romance go slow. If you’re doing something stand alone, don’t try to do too much and make sure to develop the love and not force it, before you have the couple actually get together.


This was my thoughts on relationships based on some of my favorite shows and books. It’s not the ultimate truth or the perfect way to write a love story. It’s what I think works, what I personally enjoy. What I think makes for epic love stories. I like the slow burn, the mission, the action, the life and death and saving each other. And the world. Don’t forget saving the world. Unless your too busy blowing it up to save it.



Limits for More Creativity…huh?

It’s been a while since I updated anything here, which kind of has to do with today’s post. I simply have too many things I’m thinking about to remember this blog, even though I really quite like blogging.

Anyway, I counted my works in progress stories and there are lots of them – lots and lots – almost enough for me to open my own book store if I ever got around to writing half of them. My hope is that one day I will have finished at least a few of those books but if that’s going to happen I have to start putting some limits on my new ideas. Which is like telling a dog it can’t bark. How exactly do you limit your imagination enough to focus on what you’re currently writing?

I got no real answer for you since I’m still pondering the question myself but I have a few ideas of how one might manage it.

I always one for writing down new stories and ideas for characters. Heck sometimes I get ideas for whole world dumped into my head because I watch a really bad movie after reading a really terrific book. Sometimes I just wake up having had a dream about a world full of flying elephants and just know that has to be part of my new book. Still that’s not the way I work when I’m actually writing a book. That’s the idea and imagination part of my writing process.

But most of the time for me to be able to focus on one story I have to push away all the new ideas, put my imagination into writing mode instead of idea mode. Focus is what is needed here. So to write a book I do the writing for a few weeks and nothing else. No movies, no reading, no TV, no parties or funerals to get inspiration from. That’s the only way I can really focus on one book. I limit the intake of possible ideas and distractions.

It’s not really the most flexible way of doing things, but it works. It lets me get completely into the world I’m working with, lets me know my characters and forces me to finish the books because I’m not allowed to do anything else. Here the biggest problem is getting too many ideas for the next book in the series.

Still most people might do better with a “Two-hours-a-day-focus-period” where they know they’re just supposed to write. They can’t make up new stories or worlds – they have to stick with the one they’re working on. Then the rest of the day is free to get inspired for other stories. As long as you can get your focus back on the book you’re writing for those hours every day there is nothing to worry about. I for one mostly let my imagination get in the way of my writing, but if you can combine it that’s wonderful. Just realize there might need to be a separation between the imagination and the focus and writing part.

Don’t let your imagination destroy your focus – limit yourself to be more creative and effective!

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