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January 2018
5

What your brand needs

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 31, 2018

 

I'm going to take a difficult concept, use some reductive trickery, and turn it into a simple solution to help you build your brand. It's what we in the branding business call the "portability stratagem."


The difficult concept in this case is how do you continuously grow your brand and turn it into a reliable source of income? You are an author. Your brand is your name. It's what sells your books. In order to sell those books, you have to draw bigger and more connected crowds to your social media community. How do you do that?


Here's the reductive trickery. Your brand has to add value to your community. It has to bring a sense of worth to your friends and followers. So much so that they feel compelled to share the value of your brand to their friends and followers.


Some of you may be thinking that your book is your brand's value, and that is true to an extent, but here's the thing, it is static value. It doesn't change from the day you publish it. In order to grow a brand, you need to have dynamic value. You need to offer your community something continuously new.


 

In today's social media driven world, the most lucrative commodity is information. You have to find a way to bring new and exciting information to your readers. Whether it's related to your genre, your life, your hobby, etc., it doesn't matter. If it fascinates you, and you can communicate this information with passion and zeal, then it will reach people. It will add value to your brand.


-Richard

 

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Passive Income and Marathon Branding

 

Branding: The rule of productivity

 

 

 

 

1,282 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: book_marketing, branding, author_brand, author_branding, book_branding
4

A friend of mine named Red, who runs a small dark chocolate company, recently asked for my help with a few newsletters. English isn't her first language, so she wanted to make sure everything sounded okay. She sent me some copy she'd prepared and asked for my thoughts, and after a few sessions of back-and-forth she began sending out the newsletters, one a week leading up to the holidays.


Each time I received one, I was impressed by the presentation. Red had chosen an appealing font and beautiful images for each "issue," which I loved. Also, in addition to links to buy her tasty chocolate bars from her website, she included snippets from blog posts (all related to chocolate) with links to the full content, another way to encourage recipients to visit the site.


When I reached the end of the first newsletter I received, I saw Red had used Mailchimp to create it. Mailchimp, which I also use (but clearly not as well as she does), is free if the audience is less than 2,000 subscribers, with tiered pricing starting at $20 per month after 2,000. That means for many authors, especially indie authors, it's not just a way to create beautiful newsletters, but a way to create beautiful newsletters for free. Beautiful and free are two very good adjectives, wouldn't you agree?


Here are links to the newsletters Red made without spending a penny.


Example A

 

Example B

 

Example C


Constant Contact used to offer free newsletters as well for up to a certain number of subscribers, but now the basic package is $20 per month. So if you're on a budget, I suggest giving Mailchimp a try. It's easy to use and comes loaded with templates, so what do you have to lose?


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing tip: Build that email list

Another way to connect with readers between books

885 Views 4 Comments Permalink
5

If you want to reach your readers, you have to make your characters relatable. That is to say they have to be familiar. A reader must either see themselves in a character or see people they know in the characters you write. Here are three ways to do just that:


1. Don't make them perfect: Failure is a part of life. If your characters never fail and suffer the emotional and practical consequences of that failure, your readers are going to have a hard time connecting with them. Our failures make us human. They will make your fictional characters seem just as human.


2. Give them a moral code: Conflict builds character. Most of the time conflict comes from those moments when your moral code is challenged. This challenge presents you with the opportunity to right a wrong or it can push you to violate your own moral code. Your characters should face these internal challenges.


3. Give them something to lose: We all have something or someone (or the plural of both options) in our lives that if lost would devastate us. It would turn our lives upside down and shake us to our core. If the risk of loss would present itself, we would fight tooth and nail to prevent said loss. Give your characters something to lose, and they will share a universal vulnerability that we all share, and your readers will feel empathy for your characters' predicaments.


When you create characters your readers feel like they know, they cross the threshold from casual reader to super fan and become your most vocal supporters.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Character traps

Building character through conflict

1,330 Views 5 Comments Permalink
3

The questions

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 24, 2018

 

Really bad writers tell readers how great their characters are. Writing is about showing your readers how great your characters are, and the quality of your characters hinge on one thing. This one thing is actually an innate skill that successful writers possess. In a lot of books, authors construct a story based on this one thing.

 

This one thing is really a series of things, but it is the same concept repeated over and over again. The quality of your characters depends on the questions they have to face. If you're writing a mystery novel, it's chock full of questions. How your characters deal with these questions is the linchpin to their development.


And it's not just mysteries. Every genre of fiction is nothing more than a series of questions your characters face from page to page and chapter to chapter. Your readers learn about what your characters are really made of as each question is explored. The conflicts that drive plot provide your characters with the big questions, but smaller questions arise from the journey dealing with these conflicts.


These questions don't just exist in fiction. We all face unspoken questions every day of our lives, some small, some big, and the way we deal with these questions reveal our character. The stories we write simply mirror reality, most likely on a much grander scale and with much bigger stakes, but the concept is essentially the same.


If you want to write better, more engaging characters, pay attention to the questions you face in a day or week, and then put your characters in your shoes. Where would they diverge from your decision making? Where would they make the same decisions? What does that show you about their character?


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Torture your characters

 

What would your characters do?

 

 

 

 

922 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, writing, characters, fiction, plot
5

Yesterday I had coffee with an old friend who wanted to ask my advice about a writing project. He said he'd been working on it for a couple years, so I figured it was a book and he was looking for guidance on how to go about getting it published.


I was mistaken.


My friend is a soccer coach and has some strong opinions on what's wrong with soccer in the United States. It turns out that his writing project is an essay about how to fix it. (For those of you who aren't soccer fans, the USA didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Boooooo.)


Back to the story: given that my friend said he'd been working on his essay for two years, writing and writing and editing and editing, I balked when he asked if he could send it to me for feedback, thinking it was probably at least fifty pages long.


But again, I was wrong.


What I'd imagined to be a full-fledged manifesto was a grand total of one-and-a-half pages. That's it! His goal was to submit it as an op-ed piece to a local newspaper. That's his dream: submitting a one-and-a-half page op-ed piece to a newspaper. He has no aspirations of writing a novel or of ever getting paid to write anything. He admits that he's not very good, is way too wordy and needs a lot of help with grammar, but he doesn't care about any of those things, because he just loves to write.


Good for him!


After I left the coffee house, I kept thinking about what it means to "be a writer," or "set a goal," and how arbitrary and personal those definitions are. Have you set any writing goals for 2018? If so, please share in the comments!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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New Year's resolution: get writing!

Three writing tips for aspiring authors

 

1,007 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, setting_goals, new_year's_resolutions
4

Recently, I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with my family, and we passed a Maserati... Excuse me, a Maserati passed us. My sister asked no one in particular how much a car like that costs. I responded, "I don't know. The only thing I know about it is that it will go 185 mph." She was skeptical. "How could you possibly know that?" That's when I repeated the lyrics to Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."

 

My Maserati does one-eighty-five.

I lost my license, now I don't drive.

 

That led to a spontaneous group singalong of misquoted lyrics and ended with "Life's been good to me, so far!"


It occurred to me shortly after that, Joe Walsh didn't just write a great song. He wrote a darn good story. In fact, there are several good stories contained within the song. For example, the lyrics above tell you everything you need to know about what transpired without context. He drove his car recklessly. He got caught by the authorities. He lost his license and is unable to drive. Is there more to the story? Yes. Do we need to know the details to be entertained by the story? No.


The lesson here is that good writing is as much about what you don't say as it is about what you do say. The key is to construct the story in a way that doesn't need context. Driving 185 mph is dangerous and illegal. It's not a huge leap to assume that is why Walsh lost his license.


Don't spell things out for your readers. Sometimes it's their job to do that themselves.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Show them where to look

Don't insult your readers

938 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, book, writing, storytelling
2

In the past, I've read a lot of books and material on the craft of writing. Mostly, I focus on fiction, but I've always been an admirer of well-crafted nonfiction, as well. Recently, I changed my focus a bit and started looking into the art of storytelling. I've come to find out that it is a fascinating world that blends fictional style with true events. A novelist can actually learn a lot from storytellers.


I should clarify. I'm talking about oral storytelling. If you've never heard a night of storytelling, I strongly urge you to find a venue that features storytellers and plant yourself in the audience. It is both fun and educational. There are public radio shows devoted to the art form as well. Type "The Moth" in your favorite search engine, and you will get back results related to a community of storytellers.


Here's what I've noticed as I've become a fan of the platform. Storytelling is about living and observing. These folks didn't sit at a desk and invent a story out of whole cloth. They went out and lived normal, sometimes extraordinary lives and they observed. They took note of the events that were shaping them. Most of the stories they tell are universal. A lot are "there but for the grace of God go I" type of stories. And a very small number are outlandish and uniquely unusual.


The lesson here for novelists like me is that by making events in our fictional tales universal we have the ability to reach a broader range of readers. I submit this can be true even in genres like science fiction and fantasy. Pay attention to the events that shape you and find a way to incorporate them into your fiction. If not the actual event, the spirit of the event. When you do, you will discover that you reach a wider range of readers on a much deeper level.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Writing using science

What do you smell?

783 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, storytelling
3

If I had to name one grammatical error I hear more than any other, I would choose the misuse of the pronoun I instead of ME.


Here's a refresher on the difference between the two:


I is a subject pronoun, which means it's used when you are a subject in a sentence- in other words, when you are doing something.


  • I am sitting at my desk.


ME is an object pronoun, which means it's used when you are an object in a sentence - in other words, when something is being done to you, for you, with you, etc.


  • Gloria mailed me a letter.


The above examples are straightforward and simple. It's when multiple objects are involved that people run into trouble.


For example, which of the following do you think is correct?


A) Gloria took a photo of David and me.

B) Gloria took a photo of David and I.


A) This isn't a good time for Gloria and me to visit.

B) This isn't a good time for Gloria and I to visit.


A) If you need an answer, you can call Gloria or me.

B) If you need an answer, you can call Gloria or I.


In each of the above, A is correct. If that isn't obvious to you, remove the extra object in each sentence, and the answer should jump right out.


A) Gloria took a great photo of me.

B) Gloria took a great photo of I.


A) This isn't a good time for me to visit.

B) This isn't a good time for I to visit.


A) If you need an answer, you can call me.

B) If you need an answer, you can call I.


See how clear it becomes? Try that trick the next time you're not sure!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Refresher on who vs. whom

Are you making this common grammar mistake?

870 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip
2

The bad guy formula

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 15, 2018

 

I'm going to break an unwritten rule today and talk about a television/streaming show instead of a novel, but I'm doing it for a very good reason. This particular show, I believe, has one of the best bad guys I've ever encountered in any medium. Novelists could learn a lot by the way the creators of Godless have crafted the character of Frank Griffin as played by Jeff Daniels.


I won't give away any spoilers, but I will share with you why I think Frank Griffin is such a compelling and mesmerizing bad guy.


1. He's charismatic. Granted, his charms mostly only work on bloodthirsty outlaws, but they follow him faithfully because he shows them a kind of twisted, fatherly love. They look up to him, and that gives him a presence that outshines everyone else.


2. He knows how to show kindness. Don't misunderstand me. He's not a kind man, but he can show kindness to strangers that makes you think there's something redeeming about him.


3. He's unpredictable. You don't know what will set him off, and that keeps you on your toes with Frank Griffin. He doesn't dole out outrage equally.


4. He is ruthless. When something sets him off, he doesn't react with just rage. He reacts with an intent to destroy. He doesn't care who gets hurt.


5. He is fearless. He is convinced that nothing can kill him and that makes him even more dangerous.


As you write your next bad guy, you would do well to remember these five traits of Frank Griffin.


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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A messy character stew

The ordinary protagonist

487 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development
1

There is one element above all others that will establish your author brand and help it stand the test of time. It is something that takes time to take hold. It isn't a strategy. It is the foundation of your brand. This one thing is trust. Readers become members of your community because they trust your talent. That trust leads to them tracking your social media activity. This is where you need to establish a new kind of trust to keep them interested and to motivate them to share your content so you can grow your community and find new readers who will discover your books when they trust the quality of the social media content you create. Think of it as an infinite loop of trust that grows with the more content you share.


And this is where you're going to groan in derision. Because, like it or not, the best and quickest way to establish this kind of trust in your content is to use personal videos. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase when a product is supported by video content, particularly when a face (a person) is featured in the video. A viewer feels a connection and trust is established at an accelerated rate.


So, if you want to take the shortest journey possible to establish trust, literally use your face on video. Make it your best face. Practice before you go in front of the camera. Even if you're practicing being spontaneous in front of the camera. Make sure your video is well lit and your audio is crystal clear. Create the key element that will make your author brand rock solid, trust. 


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Brandingvs. marketing

You are the brand not your book

645 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, trust, author_branding
2

When I'm working on a book, I find that one of the hardest things about the process - in addition to coming up with what to write - is getting myself to sit at my desk and focus. "Focus" is the key word here, because once I let myself stop and check my email, browse Facebook, etc., it's amazing how quickly what I intended to be "a quick break" morphs into the whole day. Once I engage with the outside world, any creative spell I've been under is instantly snapped, and it's hard to get that back.


On the flip side, if I stay in the zone and ignore the lure of the Internet and my phone, it's amazing how much writing - good writing - I can get done in a short amount of time. It's like when Han Solo and Chewy switch the Millennium Falcon into hyperdrive. Suddenly, they're halfway across the galaxy!


So there you have it. Stay away from your devices to improve productivity. That sounds so simple, but I know it's not because I still have trouble doing it! (Tools such as Freedom will block the Internet for you if your will power repeatedly falls short.)


In a way, sitting down to write is like working out. You may have the best of intentions to do it, but actually working out means not doing something else, and the pull of the "something else" tractor beam is powerful. If you can get yourself dressed in your workout gear and out the door, that's half the battle. Actually, it's probably most of the battle. So think of disconnecting as the digital equivalent of putting on your workout clothes. Put your phone on mute, turn off your Internet browser, and get to work!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: keep a notebook by your bed

Writing tip: be careful not to overdo the beats

987 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, procrastination, writing_tip
3

Twenty seventeen is behind us, and it's time to build your brand in 2018. Here are three strategies to make your brand bigger and better in the coming year.


1. Pick a lane. I know I've encouraged you to spread yourself around on as many social media platforms as you can manage, but 2018 is the time to switch gears. Pick one social media site to spend a large majority of your time. Make one site yours. Treat it like your home and build your community with confidence.


2. Make it your mission to cultivate influencers in your genre. Influencers have large followings, and they boost book sales as well as boost your own community's numbers. Tag them in posts. Private message them to let them know when you blog about them. And, yes, find reasons to blog about them. I'm not suggesting you heap artificial praise upon them. I'm suggesting you honor their status as influencer and get on their good side.


3. Twenty eighteen will be no different than 2017 in one aspect. The content you post has to be share-worthy in order to be useful. You're a writer, a creative person, creating share-worthy content is not beyond your grasp. It is very much in your wheelhouse. It's what you do.


In a lot of ways, the list looks familiar to last year's. Technologies will no doubt change how we use social media, but the methodology will always remain pretty much the same. Build a following on a platform. Interact and build relationships with influencers, and content is and always will be king.  


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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You are the brand not your book

Your brand's obit

1,500 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, branding
2

 

It's time to explore building your brand outside of the boundless arena of the virtual world and look at how you can build your brand in the real world. And the best way to do that is using a tool that most people dread, public speaking. Here are three ways to help you improve your public speaking skills.


1. Toastmasters: You've no doubt heard about this organization. There is a nominal fee to join, so it's not free. You will be both a speaker and listener as you practice the art of public speaking and help other members develop their skills as public speakers. The criticism is constructive and meant to help you grow. It is a well-known organization for a reason. It works.


2. Acting Classes: I know. I know. You didn't become an author to advance your career as an actor. Acting may be something that doesn't interest you in the least or it may even terrify you beyond belief. But the point of joining an acting class isn't to start your journey to winning an Oscar. It's for you to get comfortable with "performing." Giving a speech or doing a reading is just that, it's a performance. An acting class can help you own the podium and make your appearance memorable.


3. Improv Classes: Again, I know. Doing improv is most likely not your fondest desire. But thinking on your feet is a crucial tool as a public speaker. Not everything is going to go as planned, so being able to respond gracefully and seamlessly with humor is a key component to giving a successful speech or reading. As the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared. In this case, preparation deals with handling the unexpected.


Public speaking isn't a natural fit for most people. The only real way to succeed at public speaking is to practice public speaking. Doing so in a group with other motivated learners is the best way to master it and overcome your fear.


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Offline brand building

How to scare readers

840 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, writers, promotions, public_speaking, branding
2

 

If your book is done and published, you've already learned that the first question most people ask when they find out you've written a book is, "What's it about?"


Do you have a good answer to that question? If not, you might have a problem.


Coming up with a good hook (or angle, or one-line description) isn't easy, but it's important. Movies are supposed to have good hooks, but sometimes they can get away with "STARRING INSERT HUGE NAME HERE." That doesn't fly with a book, especially one that doesn't have a massive marketing machine behind it.


To come up with a compelling one-line description, I suggest you brainstorm a handful - they don't have to be polished or even grammatically correct at first - and then try them out on people you trust to be straight with you. This is important, because while many people like to help, not everyone is cut out to provide honest feedback. Do you have a friend who has no problem sending a meal back at a restaurant if it's not cooked just right? That's the kind of person you want for this job!


Even if your helpers haven't read your book, you should be able to tell by their facial expressions if they find your description interesting. Your initial options should be quite different, which will allow you to pick one that generates the best reaction. For example, should the one-liner be about a fire that devastated a neighborhood, or a burned jewelry box that revealed a family secret? Those things could both be true about your story, but which one gets the best reaction from your test group?


After you've narrowed down the options to one or two key angles, play around with a handful of descriptions for each angle, then whittle the overall list down again. Keep repeating this process until you have a winner!


-Maria

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Grab Readers' Attention with Your Hook

Kick-start your year with these two marketing ideas

885 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writers, hook, one-liner
5

"Be a sadist."

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 2, 2018

Today we begin with a quote from an American literary legend:


"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bagombo Snuff Box


Add to this sadistic advice what my wife recently said to me. She told me about a frustrating situation she'd recently experienced, and she finished her story by saying, "It's one of those bad situations where I guess you're supposed to learn something. I'm really tired of learning from bad situations. I'd like to learn from a good one every now and then."


Bad stuff happens. In life and in fiction, bad stuff is constantly making an appearance. That bad stuff is a useful tool in building character. That's what Vonnegut was saying. If you have a story that doesn't involve struggles and obstacles, your characters will never learn. They will never display their true selves. They will never have the opportunity to change and grow. As a writer, you are responsible for bringing bad stuff into your characters' lives. As a writer myself, I can tell you that's not always easy to do. I have become emotional for what I have had to do to various characters over the years. You probably have as well. That's a good thing. If we feel it, the readers will feel it.


As Vonnegut says, "Be a sadist." Do bad things to your characters because it's how you add dimensions to them, and it's how you advance your story.


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Write an Obituary for Your Characters

Why the development of secondary characters matters

801 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, character_development, kurt, vonnegut, sadist

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