Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page
P&E Top Ten Hello, and welcome to the fourth issue of Aphelion's 20th year!

What are some of the things that you do to get inside your character's heads so that you can make them more interesting to your readers? I have heard a few tips and tricks that other writers use. Some of those I've adopted, like Nate's Rule of Sensory Inclusion. Others didn't feel right to me when I tried them myself, but other writers can still be comfortable with them, such as knowing what your characters look like before you ever introduce them. The reason that doesn't work for me is that I let them evolve as I write them. I let them develop as I go, so to speak. I'll introduce a character, let the story flow a bit, then have a narrator or one of the other characters drop small bits of description into the story as it moves along. Of course, I've also jumped right in and given the reader a pretty much complete picture of characters as well. Sometimes that depends on the style of storytelling I'm using, and sometimes there are limits, like a fixed word count for flash fiction, which makes a writer want to cram as much story into as few words as possible.

Oh? You want to know what "Nate's Rule" is? That's simple enough. Let me see if I can put it into words that do it justice. "The quickest way to draw a reader into a story is to include all the human senses. Taste, touch, sound, smells, and so on. This makes the story come to life for the reader. The quicker you bring all the senses into play, the faster the reader connects with the story." In essence, if your character is drinking a cup of coffee, then let them think or say something about how the cup is warm in their hands, how the bitter taste of the coffee is enjoyable to them, or how cream and sugar mellow out the bitterness into something more pleasing. Bring up how the scent of it tickles their nose, or provokes them into waking up enough to drink it. Describe how the warmth of the hot coffee takes away the chill of a cold morning. Or how the character discovers that they have gotten distracted by something and let the cup grow cold and the coffee unpleasantly flat. Describe the texture of the up itself. It could be a smooth tin cup, or a rough unglazed clay mug. Describe the chugging and gurgling of the coffeemaker as it brews a fresh pot. Describe how the steam fogs up their eyeglasses, or the nearby window, or has caused the wallpaper behind the coffeepot to bubble from years of use. You get the idea. The more sensory input you add, and the quicker you add it, draws the reader into the world of the story more thoroughly and faster.

Other writers may not even go into descriptions of their characters in much detail at all. This has the virtue of letting the readers decide what the characters look like for themselves. If this is taken to extremes, the readers lose out on what the characters actually look like. For some styles of storytelling, this isn't a bad thing. Yet for other styles, the writer risks the reader seeing nothing beyond a set of talking heads.

What are some other things you can do? I know of some writers, many of them pros whose work I enjoy, who will stop the action in order for the characters to cook or eat something. I've used that myself a few times. It can give your readers an extra point of connection, but if you use it too often, it can break the readers out of the flow of a story. That's a difficult balancing act to perform.

Another thing is to give your characters a distinct way of talking. An accent, or a differing level of vocabulary to use between one character and another. Imagine a teacher talking to a factory worker. One may have a different vocabulary from the other. That isn't to say that one is better educated. Rather that they are used to employing a different set of words. One may be better educated than the other, in fact, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. Their jobs simply gift them with differing vocabularies. Now take the next step. Imagine one is from Atlanta and the other is from Peru. Doesn't matter which one, their accents will be different as well. Now, just for fun, swap the accents you picked from one character to the other. That changes the characters quite a lot, doesn't it?

You can also give them different styles of clothing. For instance, let's say that your teacher is from Atlanta and dresses like a cowboy because he really likes John Wayne movies, but your factory worker is an engineer from Peru and is into steampunk so he wears a bowler hat and a bow tie. Now imagine the character from Atlanta talks like he was from Texas, and the character from Peru has adopted a British accent. Once you have that image in your mind, swap them around again for a change of pace. Now your teacher is from Peru and taught him or herself to talk like John Wayne, and your engineer is from Atlanta and prefers to use the BBC version of a British newsreader's accent. See what I mean? You just created a whole slew of different characters from a few basic ideas.

You can give them all sorts of differing cultural aspects as well. Imagine your cowboy from Atlanta is from a family who immigrated from Korea after the war, and your engineer from Peru is a from a devout Roman Catholic family that immigrated from Central Europe. The possibilities are endless.

This has been a fun exercise, hasn't it? I hope it gave you a few ideas for future characters!

Before I get to the video editorial for this month, I have an announcement to make. Aphelion is still taking applications for a position on our editorial staff. We need a new Short Story Editor. You are up to the task, or if you know someone who might want to join us, feel free to send us a message. We * might * have someone who is willing to take up the mantle of Flash Fiction Editor. If Daniel enjoyed running the Flash contests these past months, you readers might be able to convince him to stay on. You'll have to convince him that you like his audition contest, and that you want him to keep going. I think he's done a great job, and I hope he wants to continue, but I'm just a single voice in this howling wilderness. Y'all need to give him some support in the Forums. Tell him what you think. It's that easy.

The Short Story Editor job is still open however, and we need a worthy successor to step up and do the heroic deeds the job entails. Applicants need only to go to the Aphelion Facebook page and indicate their willingness to join our motley crew. Or we can set up a different channel if it's just the Facebook thing holding you back from asking to give the job a try. Whatever the communication channel, may the best applicant win. If you can deal with the staff in a Facebook chat, 'cause we're all crazy and who wouldn't want to be part of that, (or need to do something different because you hate Facebook) come see us there or shoot me an e-mail at Aphelion. At the very least, you'll be entertained, LOL! In the meantime, this is Nate's last issue as temporary Short Story Editor. You ought to go to the Forums and thank him for everything he's done. I owe him a debt, myself. And, since no one has yet appeared like the Lone Ranger and Tonto from over the horizon to save the day, the interim Short Story Editor will be myself. Let that sink in for a moment. I'll be the first to admit that I am far from qualified to be in the same class as all our previous editors. They have all been skilled far above my level. I do a passable job on Mare Inebrium stories, but that is due to the quality of submissions there needing little more than editing for my continuity set up for the series. A real editor needs far more skills than I have at hand. I've learned a lot from everyone, yes, but I'm not the best person for the job, by any measure. Until a Hero steps up to do the necessary, I'm going to be busier than a set of jumper cables at a redneck wedding. I've got five music albums to finalize for release, two novels in progress, an unfinished short story, a collection of my Aphelion editorials to prepare as a self-published book, a Nightwatch story that I hope Jeff and Bob will accept that'll need rewrites to their edits if they do accept it, unwritten Mare Inebrium stories outlined to write, new music for three planned albums to compose, household stuff to do, and my day job!

Also June 22nd 8:00pm EST Authors Stephanie Osborn and Dan Hollifield will be interviewed on the Internet Radio show "Off The Chain" which is hosted by Yvone Mason at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/yvonnemason.

We are also still looking for writers to do audio interviews with, and video interviews as well. That would entail using Skype to meet up with me for a chat. I'll record that, and then splice it into a video to post on You Tube. The link to those would be embedded on a page in the Features Section, or on whatever page that seems to be the best fit. The interviews that are audio only would have some still photos as a slideshow. The video ones would be a simple screen capture of my monitor while the chat is running. As I see it, scheduling these would be the most difficult aspect. This is, after all, a work in progress. I'll be ironing out the bugs for quite a while.

So, this is still (?) a thing. A fourth video editorial, for which you will be the first victims--Um, the first to experience something unique in the annals of... whoever keeps annals online, as it were. I'd like to keep them a fifteen-minute format. You know, something that wouldn't be too long or too boring for viewers to sit through. I don't know about you, but as I watched myself on the first video, I kept wishing that I'd speed things up a bit and stop rambling so much. I also need to work on the lighting a bit. Everything looks a bit too red-ish for my tastes. I'm still ironing out those bugs as well. And so, with much ado about nothing, I present to you, Aphelion's next step into the 21st Century:

And now, this is ALSO a thing! Aphelion's first advert!

Feel free to share this on Facebook, G+, blog posts, and other webpages. But only with the permission of the page or group owners! Be polite and considerate, always. You'll have to look up the embed code for the ad on You Tube, sorry about that, but the code won't display correctly here. But the Share Code for Facebook and G+ is:


Mare Inebrium Collection


First off, if you do the Facebook thing, feel free to join us on the Aphelion page there. The link is Aphelion Webzine. As an aside, the Editorial Mafia and I have found Facebook to be very useful. Given our different locations and schedules, it's come in handy as a way to discuss production details of new issues. Sometimes there are several of us using Facebook at the same time, so it's almost like the old chat room days back in the 1990s.

My first collection of Mare Inebrium spaceport bar short stories was published in February of 2015 by Dark Oak Press. It is available in both Kindle an Nook e-book formats, paperback, and hardback. I also have three albums of instrumental music out through the Create Space self-publishing website. If you like, you can click on the photo or the link below to fin all the info you would need to purchase my book in your preferred format, or an e-book of Flash of Aphelion, buy a CD of my music, or listen to tracks off of the albums on my Bandcamp website. Enjoy!

Dan's Promo Page



Title: Doomed Star Eta Carinae

Photo Credit: Jon Morse (University of Colorado), and NASA.