Monday, January 26, 2009

Finding Your Character's Achilles' Heel, CRAFT

According to Greek myth, Achilles' goddess mother dipped him into the River Styx to make him invulnerable to injury, but the heel she held him by wasn't dipped. As fate and story would have it, he died when someone shot him in that heel.

Most people and the most interesting fictional characters always have an Achilles heel, that one weakness which will defeat them unless they overcome it.

As a writer, you must figure out what your main character's weakness is and attack it through plot.

That weakness can be fear of a physical danger. If like Indiana Jones, your character is afraid of snakes, then snakes he must face to achieve victory.

A better weakness is an inner one. If your character prides himself on his dignity and fears ridicule, he must find the strength, at his high school reunion, to race across the room in his bunny underwear to protect his girlfriend from the same bullies who just stripped him.

If he fears death, he must find the strength to risk dying for something or someone who is more important than life.

Minor weaknesses and disasters can add conflict to a scene, but that one Achilles' heel of your character and his attempts to overcome it are the heart and soul of a good story.


CHRISTMAS BOOK SALES NUMBERS If you consider a smaller decline of buyers a victory, indie bookstores did better than the chains during the holidays. Campaigns urging people to "buy local" were especially successful.

QUERY LETTERS HOW TO: Agent Jessica Faust of Bookends has a series of blog posts on query letters that got her attention. The letters are included, and she tells about why the letter worked. The letter posts start here:

NON-ADULT MARKETS FOR NOVELS Agent Kristin Nelson is at the American Library Association meeting, and she's meeting with various editors of childrens, Middle Grades, YA, etc., children's lines, and she's talking about what she's hearing. So far, she's spoken with an editor at Tor and Disney-Hyperion.

The blogs start here:

THE BOOK BUSINESS Agent Assistant, The Rejecter, has several interesting blog entries on second book clauses, how long it takes for an agent to do queries and partials, and book contests for unpublished novels. The blogs start here


Announcing the third annual Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest

Baen Books and The National Space Society applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor a short fiction contest in honor of Jim Baen and focusing on the near future of manned space exploration. Winners will be intelligent and entertaining stories about topics including Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, danger, sacrifice and adventure. Please don't send stories that show technology or space travel as evil or bad, or stories about Star Wars type galactic empires, UFO abductions or that contain paranormal elements.

The submission window is from January 1 to April 1 and will be judged by Baen Books senior editor Hank Davis and Jim Baen's Universe editors Eric Flint and Mike Resnick.

The GRAND PRIZE winner will be published in a future issue of Jim Baen's Universe, will receive a specially designed award, free entry into the 2009 International Space Development Conference and a year's membership in the National Space Society.

For full submission requirements and guidelines please visit our website at:

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