Monday, March 25, 2019

Our World vs. Your World

One of the questions you have to ask yourself when you create the world of your fantasy or science fiction novel is how much of our world do you want to include.

Science fiction set in our future is easy enough to figure out.  Humans are humans whatever the time period.  More than likely they will drink coffee or some form of caffeine beverage.  Do you call it coffee or give it a new name?

Usually, the best answer is to just call it coffee if it’s in the background of the story because the reader has more than enough to keep up with otherwise.  Generic terms like “shuttle” and “matter transfer machine” which are often used in science fiction can also be used.  

Your created terms are best used for important elements of your world.

Fantasy is not as easy to figure out because, with the exception of some urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy, the world is built anew.  Some choices are easy.  A horse is a horse, a sword a sword.

Some common usages and terms, however, are jarring in fantasy.  In the last week, I’ve read about a character eating a “hoagie” and “poppers,” and another using modern psychological terminology.  Each time, the term knocked me right out of the story.  

A writer really needs to think about the words she uses in relation to our world and the one created.  Simple words like “sandwich” are jarring enough, but a term with a great deal of history behind it is a mistake every time.

We are always told to be specific in our language when we write, but, when we are creating a new world, going for the general term rather than the specific is often the best idea.  

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bad Blurbs in the Real World, Part 7

A book description or back cover blurb is the third-best promotion you have.  (The first is name recognition, the second the cover.)  The first two may get a reader to glance at your offering, but a good or bad blurb can make or break the sale.  

I receive a number of ebook promotion emails like BookBuzz and Fussy Librarian, and some of the book blurbs have been so bad that I’ve started collecting them. 

Here are a few with the author and book title removed to protect the incompetent.  My comments in italics are beneath each one.

NOTE:  To see how to write a good blurb, please read my article on the subject or do a search of my blog with the term “blurb” for links in my “Links of Interest” articles.  To learn how to figure out your genre, clink on this.  


Charlottesville, Virginia, Police Detective Luke McGinty has a closet filled with demons, along with a few skeletons; a steady job, but no steady partner or girlfriend; and is still married to his wife Sallie, even though she’s been dead for three years. Then his detective work takes a turn for the worse when a body is discovered at the downtown mall. One dead body isn’t enough, though, and another one turns up. When ties to a cold murder case in another county present themselves, Luke realizes that, if he doesn’t tread carefully, he could end up short more than just a few answers…

The first mistake is “closet filled with demons.”  These are figurative demons, not literal ones, but I thought literal until I looked at the book on Amazon.  Maybe that’s just me, but with a huge amount of paranormal mysteries and urban mysteries out there, I doubt I’d be the only one.  

The character building at the first is okay, but with so little space to explain the story, it would have been better to give more detail about the murders and the danger the detective seems to be facing. A mystery is first and foremost about the mystery.


“Take The Equalizer, give him Mike Hammer’s fists, throw in some Pulp Fiction-like dialogue, add a splash of Bogie-Bacall banter, and you get Titus—a hard-knuckled action hero for a new generation.’'

“They are the 21st Century version of Nick and Nora Charles with adventures that go around the world.” 

“Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work.”

Most people under the age of seventy probably don’t have a clue about a majority of these comparisons.  This is the perfect example of why I’m not a fan of comparisons.  It’s more miss than hit with a possible audience.  


A longtime friend has been arrested for driving drunk and causing a death. The friend also happens to be the District Attorney. Thaddeus agrees to meet. He learns about the DA's drinking. He learns that the DA's wife is on the prowl with strange men, and the DA is dangerously close to murder. Thaddeus sets out to defend. Two months in, he is savagely attacked. His office puts in a call to Christine Susmann. His old paralegal drops what she is doing and hurries to his side. Together again, Thaddeus and Christine mount their defense of the DA and mount their drive to bring Thaddeus back to health.

Would you read a book with such flat, blocky style?  I sure wouldn’t.  Plus, there’s no indication that the DA is being set up.  A drunk who kills someone isn’t someone I’d care about.  I’d root for the prosecution.


Dating in the city is hard. It’s too big. There are too many places to go. The clubs are too loud and the bars are too pretentious. It’s just so hard to make a connection, to find something real. Someone real...and it would all be so much easier if you could give it all up, but that’s the one thing you can’t do. So you have a choice, acquiesce to the enviable blind date from well-meaning friends and coworkers who just don’t get it or take matters into your own hands. Maybe if you play your card just right, you can do both.

No, I didn’t get the genre wrong.  It’s labeled urban fantasy/ superhero, but it has a romance blurb.  Talk about a disconnect.  Plus, urban fantasy and superhero stories are separate genres.  Here’s a hint.  Figure out what kind of book you are writing and who the readers are and aim the blurb at them.  Also, tell us about the book and its characters, don’t give the reader generalities.  


When a man seeks out an empath who he believes is hiding in a brothel in order to ease his daughter's suffering due to an alien infection, he soon discovers there's far more to the virus than he'd ever considered possible. 

Make that first sentence stop!  Please make it stop!  Bad writing in a blurb is not the way to attract readers.


Her husband stole her baby, beat her up, and tossed her out in the snow. She hunted for her daughter for years. She came to Atlanta on a vague clue and instead found the dead body of a girl. Is it her long lost daughter? Find out now.

The book’s title is SOMEBODY ELSE’S DAUGHTER.  Nothing says suspense like a question that is answered before it is asked.  (Sarcasm)  The summary’s punctuation is poor.  Also, when you have a sentence with a list of verbs, it’s best to list them in order of action.  In other words, “beat her up,” “tossed her out,” then “stole baby.”  And nothing says poor blurb writing like “Find out now.”  


(Blank space)

No, I didn’t forget to insert the blurb.  Sometimes, authors don’t place a blurb with the book cover in promotional material or free ebook newsletters.  A bad blurb is better than no blurb, at all.  If you want someone to, at the very least, look at your book, insert a blurb.

Monday, March 11, 2019

How Many Viewpoints?

QUESTION: How many viewpoint characters can I use? And must I have the bad guy’s point of view?

The point of view character or POV is writing jargon for the person whose head you are inside during a scene in fiction. With the exception of omniscient viewpoint novels, all current genre novels have only one character’s POV at a time.

The number of point-of-view characters you use in a novel depends on genre needs as well as the story you have to tell. If your choice of POVs isn't mandated by the market, you use the number of POVs you need. 

In STAR-CROSSED, I used six POVs because my story and worldbuilding were so complex, and the novel was big enough at around 130,000 words to allow so many characters.  One of the POVs was my villain.  

The problem with multiple point of views is that some readers have trouble keeping track of the characters, or the pacing is slowed with each new viewpoint as the reader gets into a new head. 

The writer also runs the risk of telling too much with so many viewpoints which can suck the interest and surprises right out of a story.  

I have also created complex suspense plots with only one or two POVs because the plot was so tightly connected that those POVs were enough.  

In a plot where you have an antagonist, you don’t need to include his POV.  The reader will still get a sense of the person because of what he does.  

The main characters are also discovering who or what this person is by following the clues of the crime or the situation.  As the characters learn about this criminal, so does the reader.  

If this person's crimes are methodical, this gives the reader a bit of information about him.  If he cuts off the victims' fingers with a surgical knife, the reader learns something else about him.  

By the time the bad guy is unveiled, the reader should have a very good sense of this character without a POV.  At the moment of unveiling, the reader will usually be given the final pieces of this character's emotional puzzle.

Some writers have trouble writing the bad guys because they are concentrating on the good guys and the plot needs of the novel.  I always suggest that a writer create a summary of the plot from the point of view of the bad guy starting with what leads up to the crime and move from that point to the final unveiling.

The bad guy's choices and his story must be as logical for his personality as the plot choices and story of the main characters.  

Monday, March 4, 2019

Resources for Writing Psychic Characters

In recent weeks, I’ve come across a free ebook and a podcast interview that offer idea fodder and information for writing a psychic character or plotting a novel with psychic characters. The Kindle ebook is free at this moment, but it may not be when you check it out.  

HOW TO LIVE WITH A PSYCHIC: YOUR GUIDE TO MAINTAINING A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE GETS WEIRD, Crystal Hope Reed.  Nonfiction.  Free as a Kindle ebook.  The author is a traditional counseler who specializes in mental health and education.  She has a Masters in the subject.  Her husband is a noted medium.  The title pretty well tells it all.  It’s written primarily for those in a relationship when their significant other begins to manifest talent.  Topics include telling the difference between psychosis and psychic abilities, how to keep both of you grounded in the real world when weird stuff happens and the partner may begin to lose himself, how to care for yourself as well as your partner, the different types of psychic abilities, and how to protect yourself against darker energies. The final chapter is various psychics telling their own stories.  Nicely written and simple to read.  

PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH MEDIUM TYLER HENRY (The interview is at the beginning of the podcast):