December 2015 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: December 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Body Cheat Sheets

If there is one thing most authors struggle with in creative writing, it’s describing body language!

Body language is incredibly expressive. You can say a lot just by raising an eyebrow, flipping someone off, or shrugging. But if you add these same expressions into narrative too often, they can seem repetitive and annoying. This means that you have to start adding variety, and that’s when things get tricky…

We all have hand gestures, facial expressions, or body positions that say a lot, but they’re nearly impossible to write. Every country has its own gestures and positions, and there are SO FEW expressions for them.  Thankfully, a few people have come up with “Cheat Sheets” to make our lives easier:

Psychology Today has a list of facial gestures, accompanied by their meaning. If you want to convey that your character is irritated, nervous, disdainful, or stressed, check out the link and see the facial gestures that describe those things.

Bryn Donovan has a beautiful list of some of the most common body language and gestures. Instead of being organized by meaning, they are organized by body part (hand, face, shoulders, etc.). Definitely worth a look-see to find how to convey what you’re trying to say!

Bryn Donovan also has a Physical Descriptions cheat sheet that can come in handy. You can convey a character’s personality by using descriptions such as “squinty”, “rheumy”, “unruly”, “pasty”, etc. These are all descriptions of physical aspects, but they’re all handy for communicating more about the characters.

There is also the Facial Expressions cheat sheet, which gives a list of close to 100 facial expressions. Some of them are a bit iffy (“tears shimmered in her eyes” is one of my least favorite), but they can give you an idea of how to make your characters’ faces move.

The Information Dump has an excellent cheat sheet for body language, such as conveying anger, distress, dishonesty, and many more.

Writers Write has a pretty long list of common emotions, along with the accompanying body language. For writers working on “Showing” instead of “Telling”, this link is VERY handy.

Autism and Creativity: An Unusual Link to Ponder…

WARNING: This post is NOT to say that everyone who is creative is strange or suffers neurological deficiencies/abnormalities. It was just something I found interesting…

Have you ever noticed how the average artist is a bit “unusual”? I’ve met my fair share of authors, illustrators, and creative types in my life, and I have to say that the more creative they are, the more “odd” they seem.

According to a new study, “people with high levels of autistic traits are more likely to produce unusually creative ideas”.

Published on Science Daily, the study examined people with high degrees of thought processes and behaviors commonly associated with autism. Not all the participants were diagnosed as being autistic, but they had similar traits.

The study proved something fascinating: those with high autistic traits found more ORIGINAL and CREATIVE solutions to presented problems. They came up with fewer problem-solving responses or options, but those few they did come up with were far more unique and creative than their neurotypical counterparts. Their “divergent thinking” helped them find new ways to solve common problems!

For example, “To test their divergent thinking participants were asked to provide as many alternative uses as they could for a brick or a paper clip. Their responses were then rated for quantity, elaborateness and unusualness. People who generated four or more unusual responses in the task were found to have higher levels of autistic traits.

Some of the more creative uses given for a paper clip were: as a weight on a paper airplane; as wire to support cut flowers; counter/token for game/gambling; as a light duty spring. Common ones included: hook; pin; to clean small grooves; make jewellery.

Participants were also shown four abstract drawings and asked to provide as many interpretations as they could for each figure in one minute. The higher the number of ideas produced, the lower the participant’s level of autistic traits tended to be.”

(Source material: Science Daily)

Basically, people with autism or autistic traits approach problems in a different way than neurotypical people. They don’t use the “normal” ideas. They have a harder time using “common” problem-solving methods or remembering things that worked in the past, so they have to produce an unusual, original response. Their ability to produce those unusual responses is often superior to neurotypical people.

As an author with autistic tendencies, I find it fascinating to realize that my brain is creative in a totally new way. Instead of taking a common approach to the problems I put my characters through, I find fewer solutions, but the ones I do find tend to be more unique and original.

Perhaps that is why so many authors and other artists seem a bit “unusual”–perhaps they really are! It would be interesting to find out how many of the famous artists today have autistic traits, behavior, and reactions. The number might be A LOT higher than we’d think…




Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: How to Write Narrative

In my efforts to put pen to paper, I find that writing narrative is the hardest part of the creative writing process. It’s easy to write action scenes and dialogue, but when it’s the more meandering narrative that describes scenery, background action, or the lesser of the important details, it’s often hard to say what I want to say clearly and concisely.

Thankfully, I’ve run into a few AMAZING creative writing resources that helped me to improve my narrative style.

First up, a long post on the Capital Community College website. This post gets into a lot of detail on both narrative and descriptive elements. You read a couple of different pieces of literature and compare the differences between the two to find the best narrative style.

It includes tips like:

Use nouns and verbs to drive the action, and use adjectives sparingly.

Start in media res, or in the middle of the action with no preamble.

Keep things moving. Movement is action, and action is interesting to read!

Click on the link above to check it out for yourself…

There is also The Power of Narrative Writing, posted on the Writing Forward website. This post gets into what narrative really is, why we love it, the types of narrative, and–this I found VERY helpful–the elements of successful narrative.

These things include:

Point of view, or WHO is telling the story. This is your connection with the story.

Conflict, the problem or question that drives the characters.

Characters, the actors setting the scene and playing out the story.

Setting, where and when the story is taking place.

Plot, the dialogue and action, the highs and lows, the twists and turns that keep you engaged.

The post is simple, but it gives a good look at some different elements of good narrative.

Finally, there is Types of Papers: Narrative/Descriptive, posted on the Roane State website. This post gets into specific things that all narrative and descriptive writing needs, including sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, smells, etc.  It gives you a good look at what type of writing to use for solid narrative, and gives you examples of well-constructed narrative.

The Science of Creativity

I (along with many others, no doubt) have always wondered where ideas come from. Scientists have long searched for the parts of the brain responsible for creativity and imagination, but so far the research has yielded no concrete results.

As I was reading through Science Daily the other day, I came across this fascinating article, titled “How does our brain form creative and original ideas?” The article talks about a study that sheds a bit of light on how creativity really works…

According to the research, “creative thinking apparently requires ‘checks and balances’.” A group of scientists at the University of Haifa in Israel found that various parts of the brain are activated in order to produce a creative idea. Basically, the brain activates all of these different parts–including cerebral networks that contradict each other–in order to ensure that the idea isn’t just creative, but applicable.

These scientists carried out a study divided into two parts:

Part 1:  Participants were given 30 seconds to come up with creative, original ways to use common objects. The more unique the idea, the higher the score. The more common the idea, the lower the score.

Part 2: Participants were given 30 seconds to describe the objects as accurately as they could.

During both parts of the test, the more original the answer, the more the participants’ brains showed high amounts of activity in the “associative” areas. These areas of the brain are responsible for background brain activity when the brain isn’t concentrating–the parts that fire up when you’re daydreaming.

However, those areas didn’t act alone. For the more original answers, the “conservative” parts of the brain also lit up. These parts of the brain relate to rules and norms for society. Oddly enough, the stronger the two areas lit up, the more original the answer.

What does this mean? Scientific data aside, it comes down to one simple fact: for a creative idea to work, it has to be both unique and believable. It has to not only be original, but it has to fit within the rules and norms that define our lives. The best ideas aren’t just the ones that are way outside the box, but they also have to be reasonable and applicable!

The Rembrandt Ripper

Book Review: The Rembrandt Ripper by Freya LeCrow

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and it’s once again serial killer week! Today’s book is about a serial killer who sees his work as art. Creepy!


The Rembrandt Ripper

New York Detective Kissney Shaw is placed on a case that will make a career or kill one when bodies start appearing around New York. With no clues and little evidence it looks like the killer will get away with murder, but Kissney refuses to give up.

Levi is Kissney partner on the force and in her bed. Both partnerships could come to an end when the man who holds Kissney heart shows back up in her life.

The Rembrandt Ripper

After a letter appears at the papers declaring the man “The Rembrandt Ripper”, Kissney has to fight through the troubles in her life to stop a killer that seems to know more about her than she does of him.

The city that never sleeps has seen many serial killers, but this one will haunt them for years to come.


My Review: 3.5 Stars

There was A LOT to love about the book!

You get a look inside the serial killer’s mind, feel his feelings, and understand what drives him to kill. Quite a fascinating character. The story keeps you interested, and you want to find out more about the killer. Every kill is new and unique, and I found the author’s creativity in the different types of murders and poses to be quite excellent.

However, there were a few things that made it hard to enjoy:

There were a lot of grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes, along with missing words. The formatting of the book was also off.

The sex scenes (there were a lot of them) felt out of place compared to the fast-paced mystery/thriller. It was like the author crammed them in there to make the book appeal to a wider audience. They were well-written scenes, make no mistake, just a bit too “over the top” considering the type of book.

The characters were a bit two-dimensional. The main character’s main flaw was that she couldn’t accept that someone could love her, but there was no explanation as to WHY she felt that way. It also weakened the strong character.

Not only was there no big climax in the final chapters, but the ending left me dissatisfied. I won’t spoil it, but I’d have to say that it ruined the book for me.

A LOT of promise, but it fell a bit short.


Here’s a Taste

Dead eyes stared up at him as he withdrew the needle from her chest. The thrill of taking her life would last for a day or two.  She really didn’t fight as much as the others.  He hated when they didn’t fight back. Where his body met hers, he could feel the winter chill.  Slowly he pulled away from her slipping the condom off.    The winter moon shined down on them making the scene seem more like a pair of lovers than the murder it had actually been.  He brushed dead leaves off his pants legs as he took a deep chilled breath.

He admired his work when he stood up.  She had been a beauty before he had cut her up, now she was a work of art.  Without a thought, he pulled off the outer layer of gloves throwing them down beside her.  The condom he placed in his pocket to be thrown into the Hudson River.

“Not enough fight!”

The fact that she had given up before he could finish pissed him off, it might be why he was so rough with her.  It wasn’t in his MO to be this rough; then again, the cops didn’t really have a clue who was defiling these women anyway.  He turned from the body leaving her in the dirt and trash.  The lot had taken him almost a month to find, even longer to find a spot that would bleed the woman as well.  Broken bottles lay on the ground under her making cuts each time she fought what he did.  The cops would be at a loss on what truly killed this woman.

“What kind of monster would do this?”

Detective Shaw looked at the woman that lay half covered in front of her.  Her breast implants placed under her head like a pillow.  Such a soft touch, but that is the only thing the killer had afforded her.  Blood had dried on her chest from the cuts that had opened her breasts to the bone.  Ten other cuts lined her sides. When they tried to turn her over to see the ground they found glass buried in her back.  The cold had made her almost freeze during the night.  The call had come in to the center early this morning.  Bloody gloves lay beside her; the killer always left the gloves but each time they checked for prints or anything else they came up with nothing.

“Kissney, it looks like he raped her as he killed her.”

“That is sick!”

“It is a way of life for some.”

Kissney couldn’t believe anyone would want to be almost dead during such an intimate moment. Long brown hair was fanned out around her head.  Brutal is the first word to come to her mind, but sexual also entered her thoughts.  The killer didn’t just kill them he left them looking like art for all to see.  The cops had yet to find anything missing from the victims.  This serial killer didn’t take trophies. The blood around the woman glistened in the late afternoon sun.

“What is the time of death?”

“Not sure, the fact that she almost bled out is making time of death hard to determine.  Also the fact that it is so cold doesn’t help the matter much.  Once I get her to the morgue I can tell you for sure.”

“Guess on cause of death?”

“I really can’t give you a for sure on that one either, the fact that she was on the glass made her bleed more.  The fact that he cut her breast implants out caused more trauma, the ten deep lacerations helped her to bleed out as well.  Right now all I can tell you is that she bled out.”

“Okay Mac, get her out of here.”

“I will get you as much as I can.”

“Thanks Mac.”

Kissney watched as they struggled to get her Jane Doe on the gurney.  After they carted her away, she moved around the area of frozen blood.  She couldn’t make out any boot prints in the leaves or snow.  The glass had been in the lot for years so that would be of no use. Leaves crunched under her bootie covered feet but she couldn’t make out any prints that hadn’t been made by the cops or M.E.

“Shaw, is this the same guy?”

“Sure looks like it Levi.”

Levi looked so tall compared to Kissney; he didn’t try to make her feel short.  His mocha skin set off his black tribal tattoos that covered most of his body, something Kissney knew all too well.  A slight shiver went up her spine when he looked down at her with those light brown eyes.  Eyes that made her think of her hazel-nut coffee in the morning.

“This man is a nut case. It is freezing cold out here and he is still taking the women.”

Levi pulled his wool coat closer to his body trying to keep warm.  A bright red toboggan didn’t keep him as warm as he would have liked.  His leather gloves didn’t keep the bite of cold off his fingers.

“Did you find anything of use?”

“Nothing as always, the man only leaves the gloves.  I know he is raping the women but he isn’t leaving behind any fluids.”

“You think he is using a condom?”

“Makes the most sense, but what is he doing with them after?”


About the Author:

Freya’s prolific writing career has spanned over 20 years. During that time, she has written numerous articles for and Bubblez, as well as novels in several different genres. She is also the author of several children’s books under a pen name. During her teen years, her writing accomplishments included being listed in the national Who’s Who in Poetry, as well as The Library of Congress.

Her twelve years’ experience as a mother has allowed her to weave her children into her numerous stories. Her unyielding passion for writing flows onto the page and is evident in everything she writes. When Freya isn’t busy writing, she enjoys crafts, reading, and photography. Freya lives in West Virginia and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Find the book on Amazon:
Or Barnes and Noble:

Read Freya’s thoughts on her website:

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Tweet at her: @authorlecrow – twitter
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Awesome Resource for Creative Writing: Online Dictionaries and Thesauruses

Do you ever have those moments when you just can’t find the right word to use in your writing? Or when you think you know the meaning of a word, but you’re just not certain you’re using it right? I’m willing to bet you have–it happens to me all the time!

This is where dictionaries, thesauruses, and other reference materials come in handy. You can look up the word and find the definition, usage, antonyms, synonyms, etymology, and so much more. They are a writer’s best friend for creative writing!

Here are a few of the best online dictionaries, thesauruses, and other reference materials to use: -­- It’s as simple and straightforward as it gets, but you’ll find that this is an amazing search tool to help you learn more about the words you want to use–including etymology, pronunciation, and usage. Yet another amazing resource, and probably one of the best online thesauri! Very helpful if you need to find synonyms and antonyms for writing.

Urban Not the place to go for ACTUAL definitions, but great to find the meaning of more “pop culture” words and sayings. Browse with extreme caution!

MacMillan DictionaryMore comprehensive than, but with less helpful information about the words searched.

One Look Dictionary Search  — If you’re looking for a word that you can’t find in the average dictionary, this is the search engine for you! It will browse all the popular online dictionaries to find definitions of the word, and provide you a link to the site where you can find it.

Med Terms If you need medical jargon for your writing, this is the place to search for it! It has the definitions and explanations of more than 16,000 medical terms.

Merriam Webster — This is the “posh” dictionary, and it gets into so much more than just the definition of the word–including etymology, translation, rhyming words, etc.

Google Translate Want to find out how to say a word in another language? Google Translate is probably the best translation tool online, and it will help you to create (mostly) accurate translations.

Note: To be certain your translations are correct, make sure to run it by someone who actually speaks the language. Google Translate can get the simpler stuff right, but it is a fairly literal translator.





Random Things to Do When You’re Bored

You may not know this about me, but I have a bit of prankster in me. Being the mature, responsible parent/spouse/person I am, I usually have to hide that side, but sometimes it’s awesome to let it out.

I was surfing the internet yesterday when I came across a site called “Random Things To Do“. They had a list of “Best Things to Do When Bored”, and I LOVED it! Definitely appeals to the childish side of my nature.

1) Place a walkie talkie in your mail box then when someone walks by scream.

2) If someone is mean and calls you stupid say,” Thanks I’ve been trying to be more like you!”

3) When you’re in a crowded public place, yell out, “MARCO!” and see if anyone yells back, ” POLO!”

4) Go to McDonald’s and ask for German fries because you’re allergic to the French fries.

5) Tell your friend your gonna buy him an x box. Buy a box, write X on it and give it to him

6) When speaking to someone, suddenly stop speaking and look behind them as if something is happening.

7) Act like you’re wearing an earpiece microphone. When someone walks buy, start following them and asking, “Is this our guy?”

8) Super glue a coin to the sidewalk and watch from the window.

9) Call up Dominos Pizza Place and say, ‘Hey, do you have Pizza Hut’s number?’

10) Go in front of a jogger, run in front of them and scream “STOP CHASING ME”.

11) When you are in Walmart and you hear someone make announcement over the intercom, lay down on the floor and say I hear voices in my head.

12) Go into a shop and yell out Marco and see who yells back polo…

13) Ask random people what color their shirt is, see how many have to check.

14) Make a fake movie name ask a friend if they saw it see if they lie.

15) Near Halloween, dress up in a costume, hide in a store near the other costumes like yours, and when people walk by, jump out and yell “BOO”.

16) Hide in a bush, when someone walks past jump out and say “You have been chosen” and give them a card to a fake secret agency,then run.

17) Walk up to someone, hand them a potato, look them in the eyes and deadpan ‘with great power, comes great responsibility.’ Walk away.

18) In a crowded place yell, “Hey you with the face!” and see how many people turn around.

(Re-posted from


Book Review: Zodiac Lives by Rhoda D Ettore

It’s Book Review Wednesday! Today, I’m reviewing a book that is VERY different from anything else I’ve read before. All in all, an intriguing look at one of the country’s most famous serial killers: the Zodiac Killer…


Zodiac Lives

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, a serial killer terrorized San Francisco, California. He taunted police and the media by sending them cryptic messages and named himself the Zodiac Killer. The killings stopped and he was never identified.


In 2000, a toddler began having nightmares about a murder 3,000 miles away–and two decades prior. When her dreams led police to clues which connect Zodiac to an unsolved murder, he emerged from his dormancy. Now no one is safe.


My Review: 4 Stars

Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable read. I’ve always been fascinated by the Zodiac Killer, who has never been caught. The way this book portrayed the killer was unique, and well-written. While I’m not big on mystery thrillers, I can’t deny that I had a hard time putting this book down.

The characters are a bit flat and two-dimensional. The killer is really the only one that is fleshed out. Everyone else (even the main characters) are about what you’d expect, with no real depth to them. I also found it hard to believe the child would suddenly adopt the personality of a dead woman. I know of no neurological condition that would explain the phenomenon. (That being said, if there is one, I’m willing to accept it.)

As expected, a number of characters die throughout the book. Most of the main character deaths were written well, but there was one that happened “off screen”, with ZERO tension or suspension. It was as if the author forgot that the character had to die, and wrote it in as an afterthought. Also, the romances in the book felt a wee bit forced.

However, despite the (admittedly minor) flaws, the book was a good read. If you enjoy serial killers and mystery thrillers, it’s a story for you.


Here’s a Taste:

Owls hooted and coyotes howled in the blackness surrounding him as the wind rustled through the trees. A lonely dirt road wound through the tall grass, and a car with two young occupants parked near a creek bed.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Son, you have to crouch down like a tiger then pounce.” The man beside him, dressed in black, carried a .45 caliber handgun.

“Now the trick is ta startle ’em. They’ll be neckin’ and won’t see ya comin’. Make a noise to get their attention.” The man handed him the gun, just as he had done in shooting practice with tin cans. But these were not cans, and this was no practice.

He did as he was told and slunk up to the side of the ‘54 Chevy. Shadows inside the car moved about as he peeked in the foggy windows. The older man waved his hand, urging him to continue.

He took a deep breath, gathered his courage, and tapped the snout of the gun on the window.

“Did you hear something?” asked a female voice from inside the car.

A male voice responded, “Only the beat of my love-filled heart for you.” The people shifted inside the vehicle, rocking the icy steel of the car against his arm.

Louder, she said, “I’m not kiddin’. I heard somethin’. Ya better get out there and take a look, or you better be fixin’ to take me home right now, Bobby Joe.”

“Oh c’mon, Suzie. Ain’t nothin’ out there. You do this every time we get to the good stuff.”

He inched along the side of the car, just below the window.


His heart raced as he balled his sweaty palms. The gun in his hand weighed a hundred times more than it did before.

“Shh!” Bobby Joe whispered.

“See, ya heard it, too. I’m not—”

“I said shh!”

He pulled a buck knife out from his back pocket and plunged it deep into the back tire. The air hissed, echoing in the night, as the car’s weight shifted to one side.

“Somebody’s out there! Do somethin’.”

The car engine tried to turn over, but did not start. It cranked again and again, but nothing. “Help! Do somethin’!”

As he shot through the window, the boom echoed through the night and crackling glass fell everywhere. The recoil knocked him to the ground, twisting his ankle. Screams came from inside the car, as the steel gun slipped in his moist hands. Kneeling on the ground, he squared his shoulders, aimed the gun with two hands, and shot through the window a second time. Claps and cheers came from the man behind him.

As the screams continued, the passenger door opened and a woman in a dark dress came barreling out. Her hands flapped about aimlessly as she ran into the night toward the lake.

“Do it, son. Get her now.”

He hesitated before he stumbled to his feet, peering inside the car. Blood. Everywhere, there was blood. The dark, thick liquid bubbled from the man’s head and oozed down in all directions.

His father ran to his side. “A head shot from the outside. I’m proud of ya. Means it’s gonna be a great year.”

The woman screamed again, trapped between the lake and the killers. The father leaned into his ear. “Now, finish ‘er off. This is yer big day. Yer a man afta today.”

He stared at her and shuffled his feet, limping on his injured ankle. Pain jolted through his body, as adrenaline pumped through him. Even his temples throbbed with anticipation and anxiety.

The woman fell to her knees and clasped her hands, begging. “Please, please don’t. I ain’t gonna tell nobody. I promise. Just let me go. Please.” The word came out in a three part gasp as tears streamed down her face. Her entire body trembled.

He tilted his head as make-up ran down her face. She looked like a clown and a helpless child at the same time. Leveled with her forehead, the gun wobbled in his hand but edged closer to her.

“That’s my boy! Do it … Do it now,” urged the father.

He looked over his shoulder, with the barrel of the gun pressed into the woman’s face. “Do I have to, Papa? She ain’t gonna tell no one.” Tears trickled down his face, and his nostrils flared.

The older man stampeded toward them and raised a hand in the air. Something metal hit the side of his head, flinging him to the ground. The man stomped and kicked him over and over, causing him to vomit. The foul taste of acid lingered on his tongue and floated up his nose.

The man’s finger pointed in his face. “When I tell ya to do somethin’, boy, ya better do it!” Again, the hand came down upon his head and back. Trying to defend himself, he raised his forearms above his head and curled in a fetal position on the ground.

The woman screamed in the distance. They both looked toward the voice, watching as she ran several yards away from them.

Another whack to the head. “Now I gotta go chase her. Yer gonna pay for this one.” The man hustled toward the screams, almost out of sight in the dark.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

The screaming stopped.


About the Author:

Rhoda D’Ettore grew up in southern New Jersey in the Philadelphia suburbs. Growing up with five siblings has given her a variety of humorous stories and personalities to inject into her writing. She began her writing career with her first story, “Goin’ Postal: True Stories of a US Postal Worker” which relayed humorous anecdotes about postal life the public never sees. Can you imagine finding alligators, bombs, or even human heads in the mail? After 16 years of working for the USPS, she recently resigned and has gotten her Class A CDL license. She is currently on the road as a long haul truck driver, while at the same time, continuing to write. And boy, does she have new experiences to draw from as inspiration for new works.

In addition to writing, she loves animals, traveling, and helping others. In the past she volunteered for a dalmatian rescue group as well as veteran organizations. True to helping others, she has resources on her blog and website, including podcasts, to help new authors. Fun to her is anything from bungee jumping to jet skiing. And just like those thrilling things, she loves a great read that takes her on a roller coaster of emotions.

Find the book on Amazon:

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: How to Write Sword Fights

In this week’s installation of Awesome Resources for Creative Writing, I have a treat for everyone who writes action scenes: a simple guide to proper swordplay.

The article, titled “Swordplay for Fantasy Writers” was posted on Mythic Scribes, and is an excellent guide for writers who want to write REALISTIC fight scenes. It walks you through the basic of swordplay, tactics, and the reality of a sword fight, duel, or battle. ABSOLUTELY worth checking out!

Click here to read the article “Swordplay for Fantasy Writers

The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer has a lot of fighting and action scenes, so I found this article VERY helpful.

One thing that I found very useful was what the author refers to as the “Four Governors”–or the four basic elements of proper swordplay. These are:

Timing– the speed at which the various characters fight, and the speed of their individual movements.

Distance–how much space is between the fighters.

Perception–how much space YOU SEE between you and your opponent.

Technique–the skill of the fighters.

All of these things are critical elements in swordplay!

I’m going to take it a step further: here’s how to use them to write EXCELLENT fight scenes with lots of tension…


To put your hero at a disadvantage, have them move more slowly than their opponent, or have their timing be off. Their opponent will be able to get past their guard and injure them, raising the tension and anticipation of the scene.

To give your hero the advantage, have them move more quickly their opponent, change up their timing to “psych out” their opponent, or slip past their defense. They will be able to wound or kill their opponent, leading to the end of the fight scene.


To put your hero at a disadvantage, have him retreat. This isn’t actually disadvantageous, but the word “retreat” puts the idea of defeat in your reader’s mind. Or, have them be much smaller than their opponent (i.e. a 5-foot thief facing a 6-foot guard with a huge sword). This will force them to stay back from their opponent, reducing their chance of victory. You can also give the opponent a weapon with a longer reach (i.e. spear vs. sword, sword vs. dagger)

To give your hero the advantage, have them advance and drive their opponent back. Or, make them larger than their opponent, so their strength, size, and longer reach makes it possible to overpower their foe. Or, give them a weapon with a longer reach than their opponent’s.


This is all about hand-to-eye coordination and depth perception!

To put your hero at a disadvantage, give him an injury that stops him from moving back (think minor leg wound), or something that affects their depth perception (a missing eye, a wound that trickles blood into their eye, an eye swollen from a punch, etc.). They have a harder time getting out of the range of their opponent’s weapon, all because they PERCEIVE it incorrectly.

To give your hero the advantage, have him injure his opponent in a way that alters their perception of the fight (same wounds as mentioned above). Their opponent may also be unable to move back (leg injuries).


To put your hero at a disadvantage, make their opponent more skilled. This forces the hero into some desperate attempt to win, leads to the death of a companion, or causes a serious injury–all of which up the tension of the fight scene. Or, have your hero face someone with a brand new skillset that puts them at a disadvantage. Think a swordsman facing a quarterstaff (victor) or a dagger-wielder fighting a spearman (victor). It forces the hero to be clever and out-think or out-maneuver their opponent.

To give your hero the advantage, give them the superior skill or weapon. To add more dramatic tension, have them face multiple opponents of equal or comparable skill.

Note: Skill and technique won’t always win a battle/fight. Numbers almost always win out (unless your hero is supremely skilled, wears heavy armor, etc.)


And this isn’t even getting into the weapons used, the armor worn, the field of battle, etc. Use these four elements of swordplay to write dramatic, REALISTIC fight scenes!


The Origins of Religion

Religion is a funny thing. It can play such an important role in our lives, yet it’s intangible and unquantifiable. You have no real way to say “My religion works, and I have the proof”. In the long run, there is no irrefutable scientific evidence that any one religion or belief system is better than any other. Still, we each cling to our own religions simply because it’s what we have chosen to invest our belief in.

Let me be very clear: I’m not smack-talking religion, and I’m certainly not writing this from either a “for” or “against” position. I am simply looking at the curious behavior that is an irrational, unexplainable belief in something we can’t see, touch, taste, feel, or hear.

In my wanderings of the internet, I found a fascinating article on LiveScience called “The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved“. It’s basically a scientific look at why mankind needs religion and belief systems.

The article is quite fascinating, and I’d highly recommend that you read it, but it boils down to something simple: humans understand that some things can act of their own accord. A lion will try to eat you, a snake will bite if threatened, and so on. Humans developed the ability to determine what can and cannot act on its own accord.

However, humans eventually started looking at other things and believing they acted on their own accord as well. When raindrops fell, lightning struck, and the heat of the sun turned water to steam, they gave it the same “identity” or “agency”. They began to believe that these things would “act”.

Humans understand that lions eat when hungry or snakes strike when threatened. So why wouldn’t raindrops, lightning, and sunshine have a “purpose” or a reason for the action? Humans gave these things intention or purpose, and the belief in the supernatural was born.

According to the article: “The roaring threat of a thunderstorm or the devastation of a flood is widely seen across cultures as the product of a dangerous personal agent in the sky or river, respectively,” said Allen Kerkeslager, an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “Likewise, the movements of the sun, moon and stars are widely explained as the movements of personal agents with extraordinary powers,”Kerkeslager told Live Science in an email.

This tendency to explain the natural world through the existence of beings with supernatural powers — things like gods, ancestral spirits, goblins and fairies — formed the basis for religious beliefs, according to many cognitive scientists.”

Of course, there is the non-evolutionary theories of religion, which state that humans developed religion as a way to “promote cooperation in social groups”. According to the article:

Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom whose work focuses mostly on the behavior of primates, including nonhuman primates like baboons. Dunbar thinks religion may have evolved as what he calls a “group-level adaptation.” Religion is a “kind of glue that holds society together,” Dunbar wrote. “Primates tend to live in groups because doing so benefits them in certain ways. For instance, hunting in groups is more effective than hunting alone. But living in groups also has drawbacks. Namely, some individuals take advantage of the system…”freeriders.”

“Freeriding is disruptive because it loads the costs of the social contract onto some individuals, while others get away with paying significantly less,” Dunbar wrote in a New Scientist article, “The Origin of Religion as a Small-Scale Phenomenon.” As a result, those who have been exploited become less willing to support the social contract. In the absence of sufficient benefit to outweigh these costs, individuals will leave in order to be in smaller groups that incur fewer costs.”

But if the group can figure out a way to get everyone to behave in an unselfish way, individual members of the group are less likely to storm off, and the group is more likely to remain cohesive.

Religion may have naturally sprung up from this need to keep everybody on the same page, Dunbar said. Humans’ predisposition to attribute intention to just about everything (e.g., volcanic eruptions, lunar eclipses, thunderstorms) isn’t necessarily the reason religion came about, but it helps to explain why religions typically involve supernatural elements that describe such phenomena.


Fascinating stuff, isn’t it? It’s never crossed my mind to think of WHY we need religion or belief systems, but it’s an interesting thought to consider.

Why do you think religion exists and is so important? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts…


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