Thursday, July 13, 2017

Passing on this email. Yes I took the survey, and if you read romance of any genera, I hope you will too.

On Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 10:19 AM, Zena Wynn [EPICBIZ] wrote:
 

Can you share with your readers? I'd like a good cross reference. I'll post the results once they're in. Thanks.

Romance Reader Interest Survey

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Character Reality

The topic this month is about how a story's main characters get developed. I have to say how I do it varies from story to story, but only once did a character haunt my mind. It was my first book and she morphed between instigating my desire to write and how she appeared in the book. So how does a story's main characters get developed? For me, it varies.

Most often I begin writing the opening or a confrontational scene, and then I go back and determine why the characters reacted the way they did. Their personality and their experiences have shaped them, so I need to think up their histories. Sometimes I draw an image of the character. The personality part, though, often leads to psychological profiles which often requires research. Psychology drives motivation, behavior, and emotional response, which is how the reader will hopefully connect with that character. Why so much effort? To make interesting and believable characters or to help the reader understand why they behave the way they do.

Surprisingly, Psychology Today likes to give writers this information. Carolyn Kaufman, who has a PhD in Psychology, has written several articles such as What Really Drives your Character, which is about "Terrible secrets, fears, and flaws: discover what's driving your characters!" The article also provides a profile to consider for characters' development. Such information abounds on the Internet and in printed books. 

Yet no matter how much time I spend defining a character, I know it only lets me understand them, and most everything I learn about them won't even appear in the story. It only tells me how they might act in each scene.
Hero or villain, worried, evil, angry, or tormented?

Stories are not real life. I say this knowing I also have doubts about the 'reality' of many biographies I’ve read. Fiction stories are for entertainment and readers' desires to delve into lives other than their own. Each character must have a purpose in the story. Reader's learn or interpret hints about the most important characters, starting with basics like description and continuing to each character's history and goals. The characters needed to create a setting are often more like furniture, unnamed except for function, like a waiter, doorman, nurse, who shows up once or twice.

Since the earliest traditions of oral story-telling, the mythic dimensions of stories give readers insight into themselves, even if they don’t realize it. This has carried over into today’s fiction. I wonder if those on-line games, which many might be readers are turning to, have the same fundamental purpose. Without factual experience or knowledge, I’d guess that they do.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

First Hooks


I've read many books on writing, and almost inevitably emphasis is placed on the first sentence and the first chapter. Supposedly these 'hooks' grab the reader and keep them reading.

The first chapter is also the material agents and publishing house editors request to determine their interest in a particular manuscript, so those first pages are very important.

While I believe the first chapter must engage readers, I believe the whole story must be a continuing series of hooks, and that the first chapter isn't the only measures of a story. The entire story must work together to keep a reader engaged, and it can fall apart at any moment. The writer essentially borrows the reader's imagination for a while and the goal is to make their time spent satisfying, and hopefully memorable. I've slogged through a few first chapters where I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep reading only to discover my fascination increasing with a building intrigue of ‘what happens next and how will it be resolved’ in the story in later chapters.

At the same time I know it is important to try to engage the reader from the very start, to get them involved in an emotional or unique situation that engages their curiosity. There must be millions of ways to do this because every author handles it different in every book they write.

Yet that first chapter has much to accomplish besides setting the beginning of an intriguing plot. It has to introduce the main character(s) and begin to establish the setting, which are also aspects of trying to satisfy the reader. While every author is different, this is also true of readers. Each reader expectations differ in what they want from reading. They also all act differently to beginnings. Readers invest hours of time in reading a novel and often make their minds up on whether to continue reading or not very quickly.

If there were a guaranteed method for gaining readers’ interests, it would mean a very predictable start to all stories. This method would most likely defeat the very objective it was made to achieve.

I believe the author has to determine what reader reaction they want to achieve in their beginning chapter: An intriguing moment? A pivotal moment? A deeply emotional situation bound to change a character’s life? In Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale, this chapter is the main character’s ordinary world, and the moment where they are called to adventure (any challenge leading to a life-changing event presented in the story). This is the tack I always try to consider when I start a new story, and yes, I write primarily science fiction and fantasy, but I consider these genre the new folklore and mythology of this age.

To read other viewpoints on this topic, please visit these author's blogs:

A.J. Maguire
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Marci Baun
Victoria Chatham
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reviews--love'em or ignore them


It's been a long time since book reviews were posted in newspapers only. I'm not sure they even publish them now--haven't checked since I no longer subscribe to a newspaper--okay, so I just did and a quick check shows they've gone on line, too.

Shortly after e-books publishers began around the turn of the century (love saying that--it sounds to me like so-o-o long-long ago even though its only been seventeen years), on-line review sites popped up. E-books in general were dismissed by well-known, established publishers, and e-book authors were not seen as real authors, but it was fairly easy to receive an online review. Even the stories found in e-books were different, often a mishmash of genres--not to say that this wasn't happening somewhat in print, too, but it was a hallmark of e-books novels.

Then technology kept making it easier to read e-books, until now you can read them on your phone. 

Within a few years the e-book industry started to outpace big name NY Publisher's print books in growth. They took notice and decided to embrace the e-book and it became very difficult for small publisher authors and self-published authors to get reviews with on-line review sites. Yet the methods for receiving reviews also grew. It is probably true that the more reviews a book receives, the better it will sell. A new problem evolves, book trolls and extolling reviews where I doubt the reviewer actually read the book, but I've noticed a growing trend of review police. We live in a strange society, but I think it has always been so, I just wasn't as observant or maybe as involved. I'm sure it's a bit of both. However, I seldom read all the reviews, if any, of a book I'm interested in. Usually it is the blurb given by the author or publisher about the story line that decides me on yes or no.

I'm lucky to have received positive reviews on my stories but find it has become very difficult to get reviews from review sites. So I do like that most booksellers now allow readers to comment on books, but they've cut into my profits taking a whopping chunk out of the profits for having a book posted on their site. (This developed from print publishing where publishers paid distributors half the book's profits for getting the books into stores around the country.) I can understand they deserve some compensation, but unless you write for the love of writing, don't think you will get rich. A book has to sell thousands of copies to be profitable for the author. I'm not there yet 😊!

So while I like good reviews, I don't go too far out of my way to get them, in other words, I send them to different sites and hope for the best with no expectation. What truly makes my writing worth while is receiving an email from a reader of one of my books saying how much the story was enjoyed. I spend most of my efforts on my book covers and on those by lines and marketing blurbs.

I do review books for one on-line site, but generally speaking those books are assigned to me. That is changing, but even if I select the review from books offered, the review is critiqued before being published on the review site. The books I choose to review because I'm interested, I usually purchase, which I think gives me a better investment as an ethical reviewer. I also post some reviews on another site, but I'm very slow posting due to all the other things I have to accomplish, so I review ancient, old, new, and about to be published books. Since I know how difficult it is to write a story, I try to always look for the best aspects of a particular story, trying to mention mildly any potential problems the reader might encounter, and if I cannot give a good review, I don't give a review at all. Preferences in books, genre, and topics are too diverse, and the book I don't like is one another reader loves.


Check out these other blogs for more opinions on this topic.
Marci Baun 

Dr. Bob Rich
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Rachael Kosinski
A.J. Maguire 
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Emotional Involvement in a Story


This month's topic was suggested by Dr. Bob. It asks if writers are ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are characters to a writer?

This brings to mind the beginning of the movie Romancing the Stone, where author Joan Wilder (played by Kathleen Turner) is bawling because she has finished her book with a very emotional final scene.

While I've read books that brought me to tears, it hasn’t happened while I write.

For me, no simple answer exists for this question, because I’ve learned that while authors work in many similar ways, the way they work also diverges in even more ways. However, I believe that for most writers to create main characters who seems real to the reader, they must be real to the writer. This has its own inherent problems because if other writers are like me, they must often wonder (and fear) if their characters are too much alike because they come from the same imagination.

For me, if I invest time in creating a character — and I have a system I hope will create different but real characters — they still all start out as invented beings. Eventually, as the story evolves they become very real, because like any friend, I've spent time with them. The process of story creation involves stressing out the characters which involves creating situations which evoke emotion. The more the character’s emotional turmoil, the more effect the reader feels, and their emotional reaction helps keep them reading. 

Yet, when I am writing a scene, no matter what the situation or the emotions involved, I am usually more in an analytical frame of mind rather than emotionally involved. I'm interested in getting things right. Later, when I’m rehashing drafts and involved in finding words that best convey the emotion or message that I want made, is when I can get emotional. Can it be exhausting? Not really, finishing a scene for me is more of a relief, elation even. It’s later, when time has divorced me from the creation and I reread a book that I sense the emotion, and at that time I’m usually glad it happens because I feel that might also affect the reader.

Please visit these blogs for more viewpoints on this topic:
Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland
Judith Copek
A.J. Maguire
Rachael Kosinski
Dr. Bob Rich
Heather Haven
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines 
Kay Layton Sisk 
Diane Bator
Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Unending Description


Marci Baun suggested this month's topic: What is the description saturation point for a reader?

I have to admit, as much as I love good, emotive description, my description toleration is relatively short. I know unending description quickly becomes boring for me. What is its purpose? How does it further the story? What is the author trying to show me?

Once someone who knew I wrote told me she wanted to write, too, but she always got stuck on the plot line. She said she loved description, and raised a hand to a nearby window and became involved in telling me about the view, telling me that was what she wanted to share with readers. Her hand moved with the description of what she saw in a moving tableau of where she wanted to take a reader. She wanted the reader to see everything she saw and sensed, how the light affected the atmosphere and how it illuminated all the objects both living and nonliving; how the shadows could be mysterious, and all the details of everything she imagined. She was stuck on description, not plot.

Description is necessary in writing as the detail provides a sense of place and character, but I feel when any writing technique draws attention to itself, it draws the reader out of the story. When that happens, the reader often quits reading.

Good description attracts the reader in a sensual way since most description relates to taste, feeling, scent, sound, and vision, and provide keys that invoke the reader's memory. These experience reflections engage the reader unobtrusively in the story. If a scent is mentioned and the reader has encountered that smell in reality, their memory recreates a mental judgement whether it was a good or bad experience, bonding them to the story.

For me, description often works best when the author inserts a few carefully chosen descriptors into a sentence whose intent is other than providing description; a kind of fly-by that doesn’t stop the story but viscerally adds to it.

As with all writing techniques there are exceptions. Long descriptive passages are occasionally necessary because a setting is so sumptuous, so extremely offensive, or so strange, it needs an extended description. I believe one key to delivering this type of exception is to keep the character moving through the scene, giving detail as they encounter what needs describing, mixing character, action, and description.

Like many writing techniques, description is a balancing act between too little and too much. Too little leaves the reader unmoved, too much overwhelms. Description is necessary, but can make or break the story. 


Check out the following authors and their comments on description:

Marci Baun 
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse 
Dr. Bob Rich
A.J. Maguire 
Rachael Kosinski
Diane Bator