Casting Against Type #amwriting

PeggedThe vet who takes care of Mom’s animals, and who took care of my animals when I had animals, was, as we say around here, flabbergasted when he found out I write science fiction. He said, “I always thought science fiction was written by science nerds who like quantum physics and stuff.” I said, “I am a science nerd who likes quantum physics and stuff.”

I gave him a copy of OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS. I don’t know if he’s read any of it, but I see it in his office. Every once in a while, when I bring an animal in, he shakes his head and says, “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a science fiction writer.”

No, I haven’t asked him why he wouldn’t have pegged me for a science fiction writer, because I’m terrified he would say, “You’re just so stupid! How could such a stupid person write science fiction? It’s amazing!”

ANYWAY, MY POINT IS, sometimes people defy our expectations.

Like, our #4 Daughter, the fantabulous Sara Marian, used to work in a bookstore that ran campaigns where they would ask customers at checkout if they would like to buy a children’s book to donate to a child who wouldn’t otherwise have any books of their own. Nobody would ever ask the motorcycle dudes, but she did. She said they would almost always melt and say SURE! She didn’t impose negative expectations on them because they looked like people nobody ought to be messing with. She wasn’t messing with them; she was treating them like human beings.

It works both ways, of course. Sometimes somebody who seems nice or harmless turns out to be dangerously bad. I’ve known more than one marriage (not, thank God, my own) that seemed like happily-ever-after before the wedding, but….

And sometimes, like with me and what I write, it’s just that people stick you in a certain box and then wrap it all up with expectations for the box, like the sweet little white-haired lady at my church who cracked me up when she said, in her soft little voice, “I was out working in the garden when it started to rain, so I said, ‘Oh, crap!’ and went in.” I didn’t expect that, even though Betty White has made a career of looking sweet and acting salty.

So don’t be afraid to give your character some outside-the-boxishness. It doesn’t have to be like He’s a cold-blooded Ninja assassin — AND AN AID IN A PEDIATRIC CANCER WARD! Just maybe toss in a little something the reader wouldn’t have expected. If you do it properly, it gives the character more reality. You don’t need to ask yourself, “What’s the most unexpected thing there could be about this character?” just, “What’s something a stereotyper wouldn’t expect from this character?”

What’s your favorite expectation-defying example from literature or film/television? Mine is Sawyer on Lost being a reader.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Give one of your characters an unexpected turn or sidelight.



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New Rune #SampleSunday #fantasy #tattoo

Here’s another excerpt from the story I recently sold to the 31st Sword and Sorceress anthology (projected publication date of November 2, 2016). I’ve also been in volumes 22, 23, and 30. Click over to my Short Stories page for excerpts and buy links.

Pimchan is a female warrior, a devotee of Lady Chaos. Nadia is her household overseer, who has no interest in being a warrior but has a natural talent for magic. “Fahr-ang” and “monsters” are words Pimchan and Nadia and their fellow citizens use for foreigners. The “young monsters” were put into Pimchan’s care against her will.

New Rune

excerpt from “Simplicity”
by Marian Allen

Nadia greeted her in the compound’s entry court with a wide grin and a dance step. “I have it! It’s an enchantment I’ve been using in the kitchen!”

Pimchan felt her expression go flat and her eyes go hooded as she suppressed her outraged pride. “Kitchen magic?”

BeSilentThe housekeeper presented her palms in apology but never lost her grin and did her dance step again. “Hear me, O Mighty One, O Giver Of My Sustenance, O Mistress Of My Very Existence, O – ”

“Be silent and speak!”

“It was given to me by the butcher, after I mixed an herb packet that eased his headaches. It’s called bone-break.”


“He focuses it on where he wants to chop through a bone and the cleaver goes through it like warm honey through bread.”

Could it work? Pimchan saw the Fahr-ang army again in her mind, saw them marching with their terrible exploding weapons, saw their legs buckle, saw them fall, whole ones tripping over the broken ones, tangled and distracted and vulnerable. Chaos triumphant!

“Teach it to me,” she said.

“I can do that,” Nadia said, “and I can do more, if you’ll consent.”

“Do more in what way?”

“I can inscribe a rune.”

Now Pimchan saw Nadia truly humble, truly offering a service she wanted to give but was afraid would be rejected. And rightly so. Warriors’ runes became a part of them, bound to them through ink in flesh. Done badly, a rune could be a waste of time, pain, and scalp; done very badly, it could be a detriment.

“Do it,” said Pimchan, without hesitation.


Nadia was good. She was so good, Pimchan didn’t have to ask and Nadia didn’t have to tell that she had been doing more than collecting herbs and enchantments; it was obvious she had also been studying rune-making and tattooing from the village artist-magician.

Bone-break was long and thin, with sideways spikes like stylized lightning. Nadia inked it in the white and red of bone and marrow. As she worked, she murmured the words of the enchantment, breathing them into Pimchan’s flesh and blood and memory.

The Warrior obliged the Overseer and amused the young monsters by practicing her new spell on their sucked-clean chicken bones and barbecued pork ribs. The spell was more difficult than she had expected. By the time the skin of her new tattoo had scabbed, she could snap small cooked bones with relative ease, but fresh ones and thick ones took concentrated effort. Rubbing the rune would have helped, but she knew better than to rub it before the healing was complete.

~*~   ~*~

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about a broken bone.


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A Dogie For #Caturday

Sweetie PieSweetie Pie Turner, here. MomGoth is my mom’s daughter, but I’ve adopted her as my MomGoth, since she feeds me in the morning. She also puts out my ration of food for the day, although every once in a while Mom sneaks me a little extra! ~giggle~ I’m supposed to be on a diet, though, so Mom is usually “good” about holding me to my ration — if you can call that GOOD!

MomGoth and I have been having fun with my impressions. Sometimes we disagree on them, though. Here I am, on MomGoth’s chair. I told her I was supposed to be her with her legs crossed.

SPhogtiedShe said I look more like a dogie. I said, “I do not now nor will I ever look like a canine!” She said, “Not a DOGGIE, a DOGIE! A motherless calf. As in ‘Get along, little dogie.’ Don’t you speak Amer’can?” I said, “I have a Mom, thank you, and I am no sort of a doggie, let alone a long one. And it’s called a Dachshund. Don’t you speak German?”

She jumped up and down a few times, which is always fun because it feels like an earthquake, and did HER impression of The Incredible Hulk, only red instead of green. It was highly amusing.

In other news, we saw a chipmunk this morning! We don’t see many of them, because the squirrels hog all the bird food, so we were very happy.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR ANIMALS: Have you ever been on a diet, or have you ever been told you SHOULD be on one?



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