Monday, September 30, 2013

State Your Full Name for the Jury


When I started writing, one of the standard rules of a novel was that the writer should tell the full name of a main or viewpoint character in their first viewpoint appearance.  Mary may be Mary for the rest of the novel, but her first viewpoint scene should have her as Mary Smith in that first mention.

This rule seems to have fallen by the wayside in many of the novels I read, and that’s a pity.  

I write mini-reviews of every book I read and share it with some of the reader lists I belong to, and I’ve spent lots of frustrating time trying to find a main character’s full name.  Somehow, just a first name doesn’t seem enough when talking about a character to me.  

Even more frustrating is an author who refuses to give any name to a viewpoint character.  One well-known paranormal suspense writer has gone to the extreme in this.  Her series is a paranormal version of CRIMINAL MINDS with psychic FBI agents and bad guys.  Many of the characters have viewpoints in each novel, and members of the FBI team makes appears in some novels as minor characters with viewpoints.  In an failed attempt to increase suspense or to be annoyingly coy, she will often not use the character’s name until late into the novel although who that character is doesn’t change anything when his name is mentioned.  

This is so beyond frustrating that I want to grab her lapels and tell her to stop it.  

One of the most important commandments of genre fiction is that the author does nothing to stop the reader in his tracks and jerk him out of the dream of the novel, and this kind of nonsense definitely does that.  

Now, there are exceptions to always using a name.  If your bad guy has a viewpoint and you don’t want to reveal his identity yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to identify him as “he” or some other way.    Just be sure that the reader has some means of telling that “he” is the same person each time.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Links of Interest


TACTICAL NEGOTIATIONS OF BOOK CONTRACTS:



PROFILING YOUR VILLAIN:  



STARTING YOUR WRITER BLOG:



SHOWING YOUR CHARACTERS FALLING IN LOVE:



FINDING THE RIGHT AGENT:



HOW CONFLICT IS SOLVED WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOUR STORY:



WHY I AM NOT TURNING THE PAGES IN THIS NOVEL (HAS GREAT EXAMPLES):



WORLDBUILDING AND THOSE FIRST PAGES:



WRITING THE OPENING SCENE:



TIPS FOR A SKYPE INTERVIEW:



QUERY LETTER FORMATTING:



MAKING A CAREER OF BEING A WRITER:




Monday, September 23, 2013

Passive Reaction versus Active Goal


When I started plotting my romantic suspense novel, GUARDIAN ANGEL, I decided that my plot line would be the following--

(Back story) High-powered defense attorney Lauton O’Brien hires Gard Gardner to protect his daughter Desta if one of the organized crime lords or killers he defends decides to go after him or his family.

(Book plot) Lauton realizes one of his clients is out to kill him. He sends Desta and information about who is out to kill him to Gard, and he disappears. Desta comes by boat to Gard’s lake home. The boat blows up with the information, but Gard saves Desta.  Desta and Gard go on the run with hired killers hot on their trail.

At first glance, the plot sounded great. Lots of action, adrenaline, scary bad guys, and a perfect situation for two people very suited to each other to find love and a happily-ever-after.

Then I realized the plot had a fatal flaw. The two main characters spend the whole novel reacting to what others are doing to them. Reaction is passive, and passive creates less than stellar main characters and a much weaker book. 

I needed to give the characters a goal which is active. 

I wanted to keep the hired killers hot on their trail, but I decided that Gard and Desta weren’t running away, they were working toward their goal -- following clues to find Lauton so they can figure out who is trying to kill them then stopping that person so they can have a life together. 

When you are creating your main plot, you also need to be sure that your main character or characters have an active goal instead of being swept along by circumstances or by someone’s actions against them. 

Make them heroes, not victims.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Links of Interest


HAD I BUT KNOWN THESE SECRETS ABOUT BOOK PUBLISHING:



LEARNING TO USE METATAGS ON YOUR BOOKS:



YOUR BOOKS AFTER YOUR DEATH, WHAT DOES A LITERARY TRUSTEE DO, PART 1:



HOW TO WRITE A TAGLINE FOR YOUR BOOK:



A GOOD ANALYSIS ON TRULY EVIL CHARACTERS:



#HASHTAG 101:



USING SETTING DESCRIPTIONS TO SHOW CHARACTER:



HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET AUDIOBOOKS:



MARKETS, MAINLY SHORT STORIES:



PROTECTING YOUR WORDPRESS BLOG FROM HACKERS:



THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SINGLE TITLE AND CATEGORY ROMANCE:



FIVE THINGS A GOOD ROMANCE NEEDS:



SEVEN WAYS TO ATTRACT PEOPLE TO YOUR BLOG:




Monday, September 16, 2013

Worldbuilding and the Passive Main Character


In a novel I read recently, the heroine is in the middle of a paranormal political mess.  Some of the supernatural races want to control her power, others want to kill her because they can’t control her power, and all of them are fighting against the others to gain the upper hand in controlling the world.  Meanwhile, the big bad mythological super villain is in the wings waiting to strike at all them.  

Sounds like the recipe for an exciting novel, doesn’t it?  It wasn’t.  I struggled to keep reading because the heroine was like a ball on a field being bashed around in different directions with no real goal or control on her part.  She spent the entire novel fighting to stay alive or keep her friends alive at each new attack.  She was reacting, not acting, which made her a passive and boring heroine.  

No matter how complex the worldbuilding in your novel is and no matter how Byzantine the politics are, they aren’t the plot of your novel.  The main character’s struggle to obtain her goal is the major plot of your novel.  Don’t forget that as you create the complexity of the world that main character lives in. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Links of Interest


WRITING SETTING THROUGH YOUR NARRATOR’S EYES:



HOW TO BE YOUR OWN BOOK DOCTOR:



PROMOTION RESOURCE:



CREATING VILLAIN PLAUSIBILITY:



THE FIVE PHASES OF BOOK MARKETING:



10 TIPS FOR PROMOTING YOUR BOOK:



CHARACTERS IN THREE DIMENSIONS:



USING KEYWORDS WITH KINDLE DIRECT TOOLS TO MAKE YOUR BOOK STAND OUT:



HOW MUCH DO ESTABLISHED, SUCCESSFUL FANTASY WRITERS MAKE:



BIG PICTURE PROBLEM FIXERS IN WRITING A THRILLER:



ON DEALING WITH REJECTION, READ THE COMMENTS SECTION WHICH IS THE BEST PART:



HOW TO SUPPORT AN AUTHOR’S NEW BOOK, PASS THIS ONE ALONG TO YOUR READER FRIENDS:



ELEVEN FAQs ON BOOK ROYALTIES, ADVANCES, ETC.:



PUBLISHER WARNING, RESURRECTION HOUSE:



YOUR CURRENT VERSUS FUTURE MARKETING PLATFORM:



MAKING A BOOK SIGNING SUCCESSFUL:



FIVE THINGS TO AVOID WHEN WRITING A SERIES:



Monday, September 9, 2013

The Active Versus the Passive Goal

More on the passive viewpoint character


I'm a great fan of Andre Norton, the incredible sf and fantasy author.

When I read Norton’s MERLIN'S MIRROR, I was so disappointed by the book I reread it to figure out why.

The character of Merlin has a mirror which tells him the future, and he has to make it happen. Through the whole novel, he does all kinds of active things but doesn't make the first important decision about his own life or what he wants to do. Instead, he's led along by that dang mirror. 

He is as passive, in many ways, as a character who is always reacting to others rather than charting his own course, and a passive main character means a boring book.

Being active as a character is as much about choices as it is about running around doing stuff to achieve a goal, particularly someone else's goal.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Links of Interest


WRITING AND TAXES:



WARNING, FRAUDULENT PROMO AGENCY:



WARNING, CROOKED PUBLISHERS (BALBOA PRESS, AUTHOR SOLUTIONS, SPECTACULAR PRODUCTIONS):



WRITING STRONG SUSPENSE:



GETTING YOUR ROMANTIC CHARACTERS TO SPARK:



USING LINKED IN AS PART OF YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM:



8 ONLINE WRITING COMMUNITIES: 



4 SIGNS YOUR NOVEL ISN’T READY FOR PUBLICATION:



11 HELPFUL HINTS FOR COPYEDITING YOUR BOOK:



BOOK MARKETING MISTAKES:



PLACES TO FIND CRITIQUE PARTNERS ONLINE:



CREATING A KILLER PLOT TWIST:



CREATING TENSION:



USING A SMART PHONE AS A METAL DETECTOR:



CREATING TAGLINES:



HOW TO FIND A HUNGRY AGENT:



Monday, September 2, 2013

Stomp the Butterfly


Over the years as an English major, teacher, and volunteer usher for the local theater, I’ve seen and read more than my share of Tennessee Williams’ plays.  I’m not a big fan of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  The play is about a fragile and delusional woman who is destroyed when those delusions are crushed, and she is raped by her brutal brother in law.

My primary dislike of the play is that Williams writes what I call a butterfly character.  Blanche DuBois flutters about the stage like a fragile and damaged butterfly through most of the play until brother-in-law Stanley squashes her.  She has no strength of character, no chance to win any victory against the destructive forces against her, and she puts up no real fight.  Just flutter, flutter, smash.  The end.  

This kind of character is as prevalent in novels.  I just finished a dark fantasy which had a woman who had genuine potential as a strong character and had a viewpoint, but she ended up as the squashed butterfly when the monster destroyed her.  Flutter, flutter, smash.  All that lost potential and a flat ending for her that only offered a brief moment of horror for the reader but little else.  

Even if a viewpoint character stands no chance against what she faces, she should at least try to survive or offer some struggle.  Otherwise, that character might as well be a nameless extra shrieking and running away from Godzilla.  

A passive viewpoint character is as bad for a book as passive writing.