Monday, April 21, 2014

The Reality Sniff Test


The comic urban fantasy started out fun.  The heroine had been a demon slayer in her teenage and early adult life, then she’d put aside her slaying tools and become a wife, then a mother of two small kids.  She’d never told her husband about her Buffy the Demon Slayer days.

Then a demon shows up at her home and tries to kill her.  She dispatches him.  Another, more powerful demon threatens her children’s lives, and he’s also in her home.  

At this point, she decides not to tell her husband about the demons after their kids or about her past because it would be awkward.

This is the moment when I stopped reading.  The author had failed my reality sniff test.  

Sure, this is a comic urban fantasy, and readers know that the kids will be okay, and the heroine will win against the demons, but the heroine has done something that, in the real world, most of us would find selfish, stupid, and unforgivable.  She is risking the lives of her young children.  

Books aren’t bubbles that have nothing to do with the real world.  Yes, we will accept wild premises like ghosts, vampires, and demons, but most of us enter a book’s world with our own beliefs and views of the world, and the author who errs in those common beliefs because she thinks that we will put them aside in her book is often wrong and loses a reader.  

When you are writing, consider the reality sniff test.  Do your characters act the way someone in the real world would?  Is that behavior acceptable in the real world?  Does your worldbuilding make sense in comparison to the way the real world is?  Does your world/society fit a society from our past, or can it be imagined as real?  If the answer is no to these questions or other reality sniff tests, then you need to do some rewriting.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Links of Interest


ARE YOUR CHARACTERS TOO STUPID TO LIVE?

END OF CHAPTER HOOKS:

HURTING ANIMALS IN FICTION:

COPYRIGHT BASICS FOR AUTHORS, COPYRIGHTING BOOKS:

BE CARFUL WHO YOU KILL IN A SERIES:

OPENING HOOKS:

CREATING A SLEUTH READERS WILL LOVE:

WORDS OF WISDOM FOR THE SOON-TO-BE PUBLISHED AUTHOR:

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA IS GOOD FOR SINCE IT DOESN’T REALLY SELL BOOKS:

INTRODUCING CHARACTERS IN A SCENE:

INFOGRAPHIC ON THE STEPS YOU MUST GO THROUGH TO SELF-PUB YOUR BOOK:

SURPRISING YOUR READER:

KEEPING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS FROM GIVING YOU WRITER’S BLOCK:

VERY WISE WORDS ON YOUR CAREER, STAND UP FOR YOURSELF:

A BASIC COMPARISON OF TRADITIONAL VERSUS SELF-PUB DIFFERENCES:

HOW A COPY EDIT WORKS:

CREATING A MEMORABLE VILLAIN:

INNER AND OUTER CONFLICT IN YOUR NOVEL:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shifting Viewpoints


QUESTION: I want to use first person point of view for my hero, and third person for my other characters. What do you think?

As a rule in popular fiction, you don't switch from first to third POV or vice versa.

Some writers have done this, but many readers and reviewers don't like this because they find it so jarring it knocks them out of the story.

This would be a particularly dangerous for a newer writer who doesn't have the experience and control to handle these changes or the reader's trust that they know what they are doing.

I can't suggest which type of POV to use. Only you can decide on that. Consider your comfort level with the different viewpoints, and the ease of telling the story with that POV. 

With first person, you must also be certain you can hear the main character's voice well enough to stay in that voice for the whole novel. 

If you do decide to write both first and third POV, you should have a very particular reason for it.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Links of Interest


FIVE WAYS TO GROW YOUR NOVEL:

HOW TO ELIMINATE CHARACTERS:

USING A CHARACTER’S MOVEMENT IN YOUR DESCRIPTIONS:

FORENSICS, HOW CAT HAIR CAN HELP SOLVE A CRIME:

ISBNs, WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY YOU NEED ONE:

HUMOR, WHEN WORLD VIEWS COLLIDE:

GIVING PRESENTATIONS TO KIDS:

WHAT THE MOVIE “FROZEN” CAN TEACH WRITERS:

HOW USING SETH GODIN’S ADVICE HELPED A NOVELIST PUBLICIZE HER BOOKS:

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BROWSE CATEGORIES FOR YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON:

FIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE A STORY:

MASTERY OF WEAPONS AND WHY YOUR HERO SHOULDN’T BE AN EXPERT IN A FEW CHAPTERS:

WAYS TO AVOID PUBLISHING SCAMS:

FIGURING OUT HOW SUCCESSFUL YOUR PROMOTION CAMPAIGN IS:

COMMON SHORTCOMINGS IN NOVELS AND HOW TO FIX THEM:

A SYNOPSIS CHECKLIST:

WAYS TO SPOT A FRAUDULENT EDITOR:

THE KEY TO CREATING SUSPENSE:

EIGHT WAYS TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE A GOOD AGENT:

WEAK WRITING:

TRAINING YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS NOT TO WRITE STINKY BOOKS:

WRITING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW IS OKAY:

A SENSE OF PLACE IN YOUR WRITING:

PROMOTION, WHAT MAKES A MEDIA RELEASE EFFECTIVE:

INTRODUCING CONFLICT IN YOUR STORY:

USING GETTY IMAGES OR CREATIVE COMMONS GRAPHICS ON YOUR BLOG, LEGAL ISSUES:





Monday, April 7, 2014

Bad Things and Good Characters


Writers are told to make things hard for their characters.  They must heap on the problems so that moving forward toward a goal becomes increasingly difficult for the characters.  That’s good advice, but there are problems, then there are problems.

The problems presented should be logical within the plot, as well as reasonable.  If a character is on the way to rescue his girlfriend from a bad guy and his car won’t start, you should have shown that his car was prone to starting problems or he’d been in a car chase being shot at earlier, and, unknown to him, his gas tank had been slightly nicked, and now a puddle of gas is on the ground.  

An occasional problem may come out of nowhere, life is like that, but try to keep these down to a minimal. 

Bad things out of nowhere as plot stalling tactics simply don’t work.  Let your hero face obstacles that mean something, that stand legitimately in the way of his goal.  Your character defeating a true obstacle means something to the reader.  A false obstacle means nothing.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Links of Interest


SOWING SEEDS FOR A SEQUEL:



HOW TO CREATE AN AUDIO BOOK:



TOO MUCH GOING ON IS A READER KILLER:



DEVELOPING NEW IDEAS:



WHAT CHANGES AND WHAT SHOULD CHANGE IN EVERY SCENE:



FIGURING OUT YOUR CHARACTERS MOTIVES:



AVOIDING DIALOGUE TAGS:



WHY A NEW SMALL PRESS CAN BE A DANGEROUS CHOICE:



WRITING A GOOD QUERY LETTER:



CUTTING “COULD” FROM YOUR WRITING:



TAILORING A PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN TO YOUR BOOK:



CREATING THE ANTAGONISTS, AND THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES IN THE SAME NOVEL/SERIES:



CREATING NAMES FOR FANTASY CHARACTERS:



HOW DISNEY MOVIE SONGS RELATE TO YOUR NOVEL, YES REALLY:



RECONNECTING WITH CHARACTERS WHEN YOU’VE BEEN AWAY FROM YOUR WORK:



WHEN YOU SHOULD GIVE UP ON A MANUSCRIPT:



FIGURING OUT WHAT TO CUT FROM A MANUSCRIPT:



HOW TO AVOID CLICHED CHARACTERS:



CREATING BELIEVABLE HIGH STAKES FOR YOUR CHARACTERS:


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Character Trinity




I first recognized the character trinity and its power when I watched the original STAR TREK.  

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were an ideal heart, mind, and action trinity.  When a problem needed to be solved, Spock was the logical mind, McCoy the emotional heart, and Kirk took both and created the ideal action.  

These characters can also be considered a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.  Two opposite sides of a problem from Spock and McCoy, and Kirk pulling both together to find the solution.  

Harry Potter, Hermione, and Ron are also a character trinity.

Three major characters like this can be a very powerful means of telling a story because they are not only working together but working against each other.  They can also reflect the complex nature of the book’s world or the moral dilemma of the story.  

A love triangle in a romance is almost never a character trinity because the conflict is about the relationships themselves, not the way these characters react together in the real world.  

Instead, use the character trinity in more world-based stories like fantasy, science fiction, or adventure novels.  

If you decide to use a character trinity, your main character must always be the action taker or the synthesis.  The other two tend to be either passive or reactive which makes a very poor hero.