Do You Trust Your Readers with Your Character Descriptions?
Nov29

Do You Trust Your Readers with Your Character Descriptions?

  Did  you know that the act of writing could be considered a form of thought transference? Some might even consider it to be almost a psychic ability, maybe even telepathic! You don’t believe me? Let’s try it and see if we can do it – you and I. I’m going to send a thought directly from my mind to yours. I’ll form an image and we’ll see if you can see the same image I’m seeing. I won’t speak. I won’t even open my mouth. In fact, chances are I’m on a completely different continent to you, but let’s try it anyway. Are you ready? Here goes… I’m imagining a German Shepherd dog standing in a garden holding the shreds of a daisy bush in his mouth. Did you catch my thought? Can you see the same image I’m seeing? Of course you can! Excellent, isn’t it?   I’m certain you saw the same image I wanted to portray; a young black-and-tan German Shepherd dog, whose ears don’t even stand upright yet, wearing an orange-red nylon collar. His ears are lowered against his head, which hangs in shame even though his brown eyes peer up at me dolefully. His long black tail is drooped low between his legs as he stands trying to hide behind a tree, while still chewing my favorite miniature purple daisies. You saw the same image both times, didn’t you? Probably not. The difference between the two descriptions is simple (and should be obvious). In the first, I trusted you to supply your own details. You were given only enough information for your mind to provide your own image. I trusted your imagination to create the finer points of an image for yourself. You could have guessed easily that he’d been chewing a daisy bush and you would have surmised that he looked like almost all other German Shepherd dogs. If the first description was a part of a larger story, your focus would not be taken away from the plot line or the events of the tale unfolding around the solitary image. In the second description, you were told precisely what to imagine and how to imagine it. I didn’t trust you to see the image I wanted you to see, so the second description is overly pedantic. If the second description was written into a larger story, your focus would have been jolted away from the plot long enough for you to stop and actually consider if you were picturing the right image or not. Besides, it reads a bit like a text book. Boring! Let’s try the same exercise with a character from...

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Can Anyone Achieve Self-Publishing Success on Amazon Kindle?
Nov28

Can Anyone Achieve Self-Publishing Success on Amazon Kindle?

    About 2 years ago a friend of mine announced she was going to self-publish some of her unpublished works on the Amazon Kindle platform. After all, she figured there were lots and lots of big success stories out there about writers who suddenly made huge incomes seemingly overnight on the self-publishing platform. She’d read about various success stories, such as unknown writers like Amanda Hocking churning $2.5 million in sales, or writers like EL James gaining monster six-figure advances for print-publishing deals, along with selling the movie rights. Of course, these are big-name success stories. How about some smaller ones? Have you heard about Mishka Shubaly, who earned an estimated $129,544 in 12 months by selling huge numbers of Amazon Singles (novella-length e-books)? No? What about John Locke? He’s the very first self-published writer to sell 1 million Kindle e-books, and he did it in just 5 months. He sold thriller novels, to be precise. How about Stephen Leather earning an approximate £11,000 per month (around $17,000 US) in royalties from Amazon ebook sales? With success stories like that abounding all over the internet, it’s no wonder so many people decide to give it a shot. So my friend dived in at the deep end. Her results astounded me. Six weeks later – after lots of research, writing and planning – I dived right in alongside her. My own results were jaw-droppingly awesome. How is it possible for a relatively unknown writer to make so much money so quickly on the Amazon Kindle Publishing platform? And can any writer get the same results? Let’s take a look at the real numbers, shall we? Average Earnings for Self-Published Authors on Amazon Kindle According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the Guardian, the average income for a self-published Amazon Kindle author is approximately $10,000 USD per year. A whopping 75% of Amazon Kindle royalty earnings goes to just 10% of authors overall. If you break down the math and take into account those few wildly successful high-earning authors, you see that around 50% of Amazon’s self-published authors earn less than $500 per year. There were also certain fiction genres that fared much better than others. Writers who focus on the romance and erotica genres tend to earn around 170% more than writers focused in the speculative fiction genres, such as fantasy and science fiction. So, does an unknown author really have a shot at earning big bucks by self-publishing on Amazon Kindle? Is there really a way to defy the odds and lure thousands of eager readers into buying your books? Breaking Out of the Average Ranks Believe it...

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Adding Character Depth Through Perception
Nov28

Adding Character Depth Through Perception

  How do you describe your character’s physical appearance? It’s not always easy to describing your characters without resorting to the cliched “She looked in the mirror and saw…” Likewise, setting the scene for each part of your story is an important element of building your fictional world. In fact, some authors go to great lengths to describe the weather patterns, the scenery and the passing traffic in detail so that the reader has a sense of the world around the characters. This kind of descriptive narrative can sometimes be long and cumbersome. It can also bog down the pace of your story if not done right – especially when all the experts are saying Show – don’t tell! Many authors are careful to explain exactly what is going on in their fictional worlds. What people look like, what objects around them look like, what characters are thinking about, how the weather is behaving, the precise color of an object, what characters are seeing around them… all of which means the author is telling the reader what to see. But not many authors actually take the time to write HOW their characters are seeing the things that are going on around them. This is where the author should be showing the reader what’s happening. Your own characters are a perfect tool to use when you need to show events or appearances or even moods. Let me explain… Every person on the planet sees life through their own personal perceptions. How they choose to interpret those perceptions is largely up to that person. In fact, their perceptions can be affected by a multitude of factors. These differing perceptions are what make us unique as human beings. What excites one person may repel another. What one person sees as attractive, another may find repulsive. What one character yearns for may send another character into panic attacks. That’s the beauty about being individual. For example: A sunny day might brighten the mood of one character and seriously frighten a person with a phobia of skin cancer. The same sunny day would therefore have a completely different effect on the latter character and would skew many of his other perceptions, too. The same is true for personal relationship preferences. Some people are attracted to curvaceous women, while others are repelled by them. Still others prefer the gorgeous occidental features of Asian people while others veer toward the svelte, slinky blonde types or have a stronger preference for fiery red-heads. Because we all have such different tastes and opinions, these perceptions of what we find appealing and unappealing will color your descriptions of those...

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Creating Villains People Love to Hate
Nov27

Creating Villains People Love to Hate

      Every story has a bad guy. There wouldn’t be much conflict for your protagonist to overcome if there was no antagonist to stir the pot. Yours might be the evil villain who opposes everything your hero (or heroine) does. He might be the treacherous double-agent from the past, or the psychotic evil scientist, or maybe just the “other woman” fighting for your hero’s attention. Who ever your villain is, making sure he is believable is far more difficult than simply creating a character who does bad things to hold up your protagonist’s progress. Your job here is to make your villains credible, logical, and believable, but not likeable. You want the reader to understand what they’re doing that is such a negative thing for your hero. But it’s more involved than just explaining their adverse actions. Your readers need to understand why the antagonist is doing what he does, and why he believes his actions are justified and rational. Basically, you need your villains to be real, three-dimensional people. Unfortunately most “bad guys” are shown as being shallow, narrow-minded creatures whose only ambition is to be as evil as possible. This approach to an antagonist loses the respect of your reader for two reasons: 1 – You lose any emotional impact your story had if your readers can not completely believe the threat to your hero is real, or threatening enough. It also lowers the reader’s esteem for the hero who they know can only beat this unthreatening villain. 2 – A completely evil character equates to a totally weak character to a reader. If your villain’s only motivation is evil, this does not give him enough depth of character to become real in your reader’s mind. Giving your bad guy only one driving motivator is not enough – especially if you choose a lightweight surface motivator like “evil” or “greed”. Think about when you created your protagonist. Most likely you created someone you admired, a character with strength and integrity. I’m guessing you took the time to get right inside your hero’s head and understand what made him tick. Your villain is no different. In order to be considered a worthy opponent, you must portray your antagonist honestly. You must be able to get inside his head, too, and learn what drives him to act the way he does. Remember here that no one sees themselves as mean or evil or bitchy or insane or stupid. Your villain won’t either. To him, his actions and his logic are perfectly justifiable. Show your readers this side of your villain’s logic and you intensify your story’s suspense...

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Weave Sub-Plots into Your Novel
Nov26

Weave Sub-Plots into Your Novel

      How many times have you started work on a great novel only to run out of steam 50 pages into your work? The story stalls, the idea goes flat, the characters seem to stare back at you saying “What now, boss?” In some cases it might be that you didn’t spend enough time planning how your characters are going to get from beginning to end. Sometimes you might find that you wandered off on a plot tangent and aren’t sure where to go next. Either way, that red-hot plot you were so excited about when you first started writing just fizzles out. In other cases it might be that the idea wasn’t big enough to fill out a novel or maybe you simply don’t have enough conflict in your story so far and want to liven things up a bit. Weaving a second plot through your main storyline not only helps you to uncover new facets of your characters but can help raise conflict levels and create tension. You also have the opportunity to create a new depth to your original story, building layers of complexity that can force your fictional world into three dimensions. If you create a sub-plot that has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot you’ll even force your reader to keep turning pages just to see how they gel together. Of course your reader already knows they will end up tied together in a neat little bow by the end of the book – otherwise there would be no reason for the new plot thread – but the reader will want to know how they end up intertwined and so will keep reading to find out. Your sub-plot doesn’t need to be a romantic thread braided through the original story, although this is one of the more common sub-plot tactics used in many novels. You might decide to have your main secondary character working with your protagonist openly, but secretly harboring a desire to thwart the hero’s efforts at every turn because he has other things on his agenda. You might decide to introduce a completely new plot to your novel that has nothing to do with the first and weave these together. No matter what you decide to add for your sub-plot or how separate they are, it’s important that something within the sub-plot contains a vital element that is necessary to complete the main plot. Sub-plots are used very effectively in many fantasy epics. The characters are all focused on a primary goal or quest, but each character has different things going on that either impede or interfere...

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