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926 Posts tagged with the writing tag
1

Because  we learn to speak before we learn to read and write, when we begin to  put words onto a page it's easy to confuse those that sound the same  (also known as homonyms or homophones). For example:

 

*Bred, bread

*Plane, plain

*Great, grate

*Led, lead

*To, two, too

*There, they're, their

 

While the above words sound exactly the same all the time, two that don't sound exactly the same all the time, but which I've noticed people frequently confuse, are OF and HAVE.

 

How so, some of you might be asking? OF and HAVE don't sound anything alike!

 

Actually they do. Read the following sentences out loud and decide which is correct:

 

A)   I should HAVE gone to the movies.

B)   I should OF gone to the movies.

C)   I should've gone to the movies.

 

A)   You could HAVE given me a little more notice.

B)   You could OF given me a little more notice.

C)   You could've given me a little more notice.

 

A) We should HAVE paid more attention in English class.

B) We should OF paid more attention in English class.

C) We should've paid more attention in English class.

 

When you say the above sentences out loud, they sound identical, right?

 

But  when written down they're not the same, not even close. In each example  A and C are correct, and B makes no sense. (Each C is a contraction of  the A.)

 

Just  like mixing up the words I listed at the beginning of this post is no  big deal when speaking because no one can tell the difference, mixing up  HAVE and OF when speaking won't raise any eyebrows. But people can tell the difference when reading, so be careful!

 

-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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There vs. They're vs. Their

More Word Mix-ups

1,029 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, grammar, writing_advice, grammar_tip, grammar_advice, grammar_rules, author_help
1

 

I found out recently that I know someone who works for a think tank, and I am so envious. I've always wanted to work for a think tank. As a writer of fiction, I'm pretty sure I'd love just mulling over the issues that do and will affect society. To top it off, they pay you to think.


But, sadly, I don't see a job at a think tank in my future, but that doesn't mean I can't do what I do best and create my own fictional think tank. I have problems that need to be solved. Namely, how am I going to sell more books?


While I'm having a little fun here, I actually don't see why you and a few of your writer friends couldn't form your own little think tank that spends a couple of hours each month discussing marketing and branding strategies for authors. I'm talking about meeting in person or over video chat and hammering out ideas and building a solid plan that could benefit all of you.

 

Call it a collective or open-based branding. You are all working together to help each other traverse the rugged terrain of marketing. As a group, putting you heads together and constructing a plan, you are more likely to see the pitfalls and potential successes before you implement them. Be open to all suggestions and be respectfully honest with your feedback. Every member of your think tank has a vested interested in the success of the strategies you develop.


Now, get out there and start your own think tank.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Brand Buddies

 

Form an Author Co-op

 

 

 

 

692 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, author_marketing, author_brand, author_collaboration, author_tips, author_advice
2

If I taught a class in writing, the following would be the outline for my syllabus:

 

1. Character – The care you take in crafting your characters is probably the most important time and talent you will spend writing. The goal is to create characters with whom your readers will make an emotional connection. That means you need to have more than a passing knowledge of what makes your characters tick. You need to do a deep dive on their background and relationships.

 

2. Plot – The temptation will be to show off and demonstrate to your readers how clever you are, but resist that temptation. Keep your main plot simple. Limit the number of twists and turns to just a few. Remember, character is what's driving this book. The plot should serve the characters not the other way around.

 

3. Subplots – This is where I have fun with secondary characters. I give them their own adventures within the story, a strategy that gives them much more depth. I believe it's crucial that your readers not only connect with the main characters but with supporting characters, too.

 

4. Conflict – There have to be clear stakes for your characters if they don't succeed, and those stakes have to be personal. The potential loss has to be painful and life-altering. Not only will that drive you to be more creative when things get tough, it will draw your readers in even more. The greater the stakes for a character they've connected with, the greater their interest.

 

5. Endings – You've caused your readers to bond with your characters. Give them an ending that reflects real life. What happens in real life? It goes on. Whatever happened to your main character, life doesn't end when the book does. Give a hint at what's to come next, even if you're not writing a series.  

 

Why did I share this with you? Am I trying to tell you how to write? No. I want you to do the same. Create a five-topic outline for a syllabus, not because I want you to teach a class, but I want you to be able to identify your own writing philosophy. Once you know that, you'll write with more confidence and approach each project with much more energy and enthusiasm.

 

-Richard

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

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Your writing philosophy

Your how-to-be-a-novelist syllabus

1,230 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, indie, writing, characters, drafts, plot, author_advice, writing_help
3

Building a brand is not rocket science nor is it particularly laborious. If done right, it requires very little effort. It will require some of your time, and you may have little to spare, but if you set aside some of that precious time to build your brand, you will be rewarded for your sacrifice. Here are the three key components of building an author brand:


1. Be you: We've discussed this many times on the blog. An author brand bridges the worlds of art and commerce. You are an artist seeking commercial success. Your brand won't be a corporate brand, nor will it be a purely personal brand. It will be something in between. Your focus is to just be you with a slight nod towards your readers' interests. In the beginning, you will represent your typical reader. Build your brand to make yourself happy.


2 ABB: Always be branding. Again, this isn't too taxing. You are just being you. Just be you in a more public setting. Do some or all of the following, frequently: post to your blog, tweet, update your Facebook status, create videos, etc. Just keep putting yourself out there and making your voice be heard.


3. Interact: Once you take the digital realm with the intention of building your brand, you're going to want to start conversations with your readers. Engage with you friends, followers, and readers. Let their voices be heard. You are building more than a brand. You are building a community.


-Richard


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


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The foundation of your brand

Be authentic to your brand

952 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, branding, brand_development
3

At one point in my life, when email was a new concept and people still read physical newspapers, I worked in advertising. It was a blast because it was creatively rewarding in its own way. In that time, I was given golden rule after golden rule. Here are the top three that are still relevant today:


1. Repetition: One ad won't get it done. I don't care if it's the greatest ad ever created in the history of ad-dom. Consumers have to be exposed to the ad over and over and over again. Actually, some studies indicate that a consumer won't be moved to purchase until the seventh to tenth exposure to an ad. I remember years ago when an author purchased a half page ad that cost five figures in a prestigious newspaper at the time, it generated a handful of sales. He was furious and blamed the company that created the ad when he should have been outraged at the person who encouraged him to use his entire advertising budget on a one-time-run of the ad.


2. Know your readers: Running an ad a hundred times in front of a demographic that does not represent your typical reader is also a costly mistake. Know who your readers are, and you'll know where to find them.


3. Brevity is the soul of good advertising: This isn't a novel. This is advertising. Keep it brief in order to make it portable. These days, if it can't fit in a tweet, you're hindering your marketing efforts. Even before twitter, ads that were short and concise were always the most effective. "Got milk?" Keep it short and make it easy for people to share.


-Richard

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


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Don't Say It Unless You Meme It

Social Media Best Practices

1,039 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, advertising, selling_books, writing, promotions
1

The publishing industry has developed word count standards for various genres. In the past, we've talked about those here on this blog. We may have even suggested using the word count totals as guidelines for your novel. My suggestion today will appear to go against that previous suggestion, but hear me out.

 

When writing your first draft, I would suggest that you not word count watch. Don't curb your creativity in an effort to meet a standard. The first draft is for letting go and letting the passages fly. Having a target word count can add undue stress and slow you down as you try to force creativity. On the first draft, set the target aside and just write.

 

Too many writers set up roadblocks to first drafts before they even start writing. As I've said many times, your first draft should be bad, so bad that you never want anyone to see it. Use your first draft to get the story from your head to the page. Once you've completed the first draft, the polishing begins.

 

Now, when you reach the rewrite stage, use the word count target as a guideline again. Cut or expand as necessary. That's what rewrites are for. The standards exist for a reason, and while ignoring them all together is your prerogative, adhering to them helps your book meet the expectations of your genre's reader base. A few thousand words above or below the standard are fine, but anything beyond that and you run the risk of chasing fans of your book's genre away.

 

To recap, standards such as word counts are good, but not when it comes to writing the first draft.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Word Count Paralysis

How to Get Through the First Draft

689 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, writing, drafts, craft, word_count, writing_tips, writing_help
0

Unless you're a grammar nut like I am, chances are you've never heard the term "passive voice." Here's a quick explanation:


Passive voice without attribution is when we learn that something happens without learning who did it.


For example:


  • Active voice: Gloria ate all the cookies.
  • Passive voice without attribution: All the cookies were eaten.
  • Active voice: David stole the cookies out of the box.
  • Passive voice without attribution: The cookies were stolen out of the box.


Passive voice with attribution tell us who did it:


  • All the cookies were eaten by Gloria.
  • The cookies were stolen out of the box by David.


Passive voice with attribution is clunky, but it is better than no attribution at all.


It's okay to use the passive voice now and again, but as a rule it's best to avoid it because the writing sounds a bit weak.Andusing it too often without attribution can irritate your readers because they will be left wondering things such as "Who ate the cookies?" or "Who stole the cookies?"


Journalists (have to) use passive voice without attribution when they simply don't have all the information, for example:


  • Police say the victim was pushed down the stairs.


If the police (and by extension) the reporter knew who pushed the victim down the stairs, the active voice could be used:


  • Police say the victim's ex-husband pushed her down the stairs.


NOTE: The sentence could also read "Police say the victim was pushed down the stairs by her ex-husband." (Again, a little clunky, but the passive voice with attribution is better than no attribution at all.)


Following are nearly identical scenarios, one using active voice, two using passive voice.


A)   The cat climbed the tree in a few seconds.

B)   The tree was climbed in a few seconds.

C)   The tree was climbed by the cat in a few seconds.


Which one do you think sounds better? If your answer isn't A, read the sentences out loud to see if that changes your mind.


-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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Active vs. Passive Voice

Why the Passive Voice Is Hated By Me

837 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar, active_voice, passive_voice
2

In previous posts I've addressed my tendency to overuse certain words, phrases, or gestures, for example she bit her lip and she walked home slowly. To solve the problem I use the "find" option on Microsoft Word to catch the over-usages before my manuscripts go to the copyeditor. Some still slip through, but I'm getting better.


For words and expressions that are common, repeating them on occasion over the course of an entire novel is not a problem. For example:


  • She opened the door.
  • He fed the dog.
  • They ate dinner at home.


It's the uncommon ones that are problematic when repeated, because they are memorable. For example, using any of the following more than once in a novel would not go unnoticed by your readers:


  • She covered her face with her hands and began sobbing hysterically.
  • To celebrate, he jumped up and did splits in the air.
  • As she looked at him, her eyes flickered with curiosity.


While it's fine to sprinkle the same common gestures here and there over the course of an entire book, be careful to space them out. Last week I began reading a novel in which the following appeared in the span of just two pages in the first chapter:


  1. Kristen rubbed my arm, yanking me back to the present.
  2. Kristen rubbed my forearm. "Please talk to us."
  3. Kristen pushed out her lower lip. She rubbed my forearm.


If those sentences had appeared fifty pages apart, I doubt I would have noticed them, but their proximity made them leap off the page. As a result I stopped thinking about the story and instead found myself wondering how neither the author nor the copyeditor had noticed the repetition. Annoyed, I also gave up on that book and moved on to another one. That's not what you want to happen to your readers, right? So be careful! We all have our "crutch" words. What are some of yours?


-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: don't be afraid to cut

Writing tip: be careful not to overdo the beats

798 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, grammar
1

Epilogues and prologues are sometimes enigmatic parts of a novel that can even perplex the author of a book. What are they, and are they necessary? The answer to the second question is no, you don't need them. The inclusion of an epilogue or prologue or both is purely a matter of style. Some authors find them useful, but most authors in today's publishing world don't include them in their books. I have used them, and I do find them useful.


They are extra-bits of a story. In mystery books, a prologue can be the incident that triggers the mystery. I've used the epilogue to wrap up a subplot that would be the bridge to the next book in a series.  In the final chapter of the book, after the conclusion, I simply used the epilogue as a launching point for the next story.


Some authors, use a different point of view in their epilogues and prologues. They play with style and voice to give the story a book-end feel to it. A prologue can even be in the author's voice. In this case, it would be used to explain the motivation behind the story, what drove the author to write it and share it with the world?


Epilogues and prologues aren't for everyone. If you've never included either in a book, don't worry. They aren't crucial to the structure of the book. But, you may find, as I have, that they can be fun to write, and if done right, they can give your story that little extra oomph that you've been looking for. 


-Richard

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


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Keep them guessing to keep them reading

The boring parts of a novel

3,389 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, prologue, epilogue
0

I'm in there

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 1, 2017

I used to proudly tell people who asked, and some who didn't, that I never write about the people I know. How could I? I write science fiction, horror, and thrillers filled with awful, terrible, not very nice people. Some were even monsters, literal monsters. I don't know anyone or anything like that.


I realized sometime later in my writing career that I lied about not writing about people I know. Well, not lied. I misunderstood my own source of inspiration. I thought I was drawing on a deep well of imagination and creating characters (and creatures) that were wholly unique. I wasn't. I was giving my fictional characters the characteristics of people I knew in real life. Not knowingly. And, I'm not even certain the people who've influenced me would recognize themselves in the characters I write because what I've actually managed to do is to take a little bit from a multitude of real people and implant all those little bits into one character, giving him or her or it their own personality built from the familiar parts.


I recently discovered I even put myself in some of my characters. I had a play produced this year that featured a character who always referred to an article he'd read on a topic, presenting himself as an expert based on said article. Months after completing the play, I caught myself doing the very same thing to my brother-in-law. It was a sad epiphany, but it was a valuable lesson. I am, in a lot of ways, what I write. How about you? Do you or the people you know make appearances in your book, either wittingly or unwittingly?


-Richard

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


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What would your characters do?

How to love your villain

716 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization
0

Every once in a while, it's good to remember that old adage that nothing stays the same. Things change. After all, if things didn't change, I'd be carving this blog post on a cave wall somewhere using crudely drawn pictures instead of words.


Perhaps nothing has changed more than publishing. For the most part, books aren't made the same way. They aren't read the same way. In a lot of instances, physical copies of books don't even exist until they are purchased. That means warehousing books isn't the problem it once was. Stacks of old books aren't carted away to make room for new titles. Those old books, once remaindered and forgotten, still have value in today's publishing world.


I've used the following term before, but commit it to memory. Your book is "evergreen" material. That is to say it won't go out of print unless you choose to stop selling it. That is the beauty of digital and print-on-demand publishing. No warehouse space is needed. There's no push to make room for new titles, because virtual space is a lot roomier than actual space.


Given that, why would you ever stop promoting a book? Why wouldn't you come up with a cyclical marketing plan that you follow every year. Keep the wheels of commerce moving with your book, a book that will never go out of print. What was once a rare occurrence, is now the norm in publishing, and that gives you a huge advantage over past generations of authors. You have an opportunity writers-of-old strived to earn. Don't waste it.


-Richard

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


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The Evergreen Era of Publishing

When to Stop Marketing a Book

659 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, promotions
1

When my novels come out I usually have one launch party where I live (New York City) and one in my hometown in California. The parties typically include a no-host bar, with me at a table signing books and chatting with a mix of friends, family, and fans--low-key but good fun. For my latest novel, a super fan of mine, Veronica, who lives in Texas, asked if I'd be doing a "virtual party" as well. I told her I had zero idea what that was, so she offered to plan one for me on Facebook. Curious as to how that would work, I said yes!


Here's what happened next:


  • Veronica created an event on Facebook just like any other event, then invited me along with all her friends.
  • She made sure the event was marked as "public" so invitees could invite their friends, I could invite my friends, fans, etc. (In other words, anyone who had a Facebook account could attend.)
  • She created multiple "games" related to my books for attendees to play during the party. Each game was a fun question that Veronica would post, and attendees would answer in the comments section.
  • To add a visual touch, she made a cute meme to go with each question.
  • Veronica put all of the above into a detailed itinerary for the party, which was to last for three hours so people could pop in and out. It included a "roll call," in which everyone in attendance stated their location (and a greeting if they wanted) in the comments section.
  • Interspersed with the trivia questions were giveaways of signed copies of my individual books--plus a grand prize of signed copies of them all!


I know that I was fortunate to have a fan organizing this party for me, but it's now evident that it's something I could have done on my own--which means you can too!


-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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What Is a Virtual Book Tour?

How to Connect with Your Readers

1,266 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, launch_party, virtual_party
2

Character traps

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger May 22, 2017

Writing fiction, if you do enough of it, presents itself with traps that can get authors in trouble. Here are three character traps to avoid as you pen your next masterpiece.


  1. Know-it-all: One thing that drives me crazy when I read a mystery novel is when one character, many times a crack detective, has all the answers. What kind of poison was used to kill the victim? Well, it just so happens that our protagonist got a degree in chemistry. Figuring out the poison used is really no problem. Also, if you have questions about the victim's last meal, the type of watch he wore, the kind of razor he shaved with, etc., it just so happens the protagonist has read and committed to memory dozens of books on these topics and more. When a "know-it-all" takes over a story I'm reading, I lose interest because it's just too convenient.
  2. All-bad: When a villain is nothing but bad, I don't really get invested in him or her as much as I should. I want there to be something likable about the villain--some redeeming quality. In a way, it makes him or her more sinister if I fall into a false sense of security that the villain will do the right thing. When he or she doesn't, it's even more shocking.
  3. All-good: This is the inverse trap to the previous one. All-good protagonists are, in a word, boring. Flaws give a character depth and relatability. I can't identify with a character who has never done anything wrong and doesn't have doubts sometimes about whether he or she is making the right choice.


Take some time to examine your characters and make sure they're not falling into these traps. If they are, try rewriting to make them more complex.


-Richard

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


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Your Characters, Warts and All

 

The Basic Elements of a Character Arc

1,059 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, characterization, character_traps
1

 

Hyphens are used to avoid ambiguity when two descriptive words are next to each other before a noun. (They are also used for compound words such as self-esteem.)

 

For example, take the following sentence:

 

The small business owner got a great loan from the bank.

 

Is the business owner who got a great loan small? Or does the person who got a great loan own a small business? Most likely it's the latter, but without a hyphen it's unclear, which is why a hyphen is necessary in this case.

 

The small-business owner got a great loan from the bank. (CORRECT)

The small business owner got a great loan from the bank. (INCORRECT)

 

Here's another example:

 

The hard charging executive took a vacation.

 

Is the executive hard? Or does the executive charge hard? Most likely it's the latter, but again without a hyphen it's unclear, which is why a hyphen is also necessary in this case.

 

  • The hard-charging executive took a vacation. (CORRECT)
  • The hard charging executive took a vacation. (INCORRECT)

 

Where I often see hyphens being used incorrectly is when an adverb is next to a descriptive word before a noun. Adverbs (usually words ending in ly) modify only verbs or adjectives and not nouns, so there is no need for a hyphen.

 

For example:

 

  • The highly regarded professor gave a lecture. (CORRECT)
  • The highly-regarded professor gave a lecture. (INCORRECT)

 

  • The newly hired caterer got straight to work. (CORRECT)
  • The newly-hired caterer got straight to work. (INCORRECT)

 

  • The recently promoted director took the corner office. (CORRECT)
  • The recently-promoted director took the corner office. (INCORRECT)

 

If the above examples have you squinting at your screen in puzzlement, try taking away the descriptive word in each sentence:

 

  • The highly professor gave a lecture. (MAKES NO SENSE)
  • The newly caterer got straight to work. (MAKES NO SENSE)
  • The recently director took the corner office. (MAKES NO SENSE)

 

Got it? If there's no ambiguity about what a word is modifying, then there's no need for a hyphen.

 

-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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Quick lesson on hyphens

 

Don't cook your family, Rachel!

1,045 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, hyphenation, grammar_tip
0

One of the most crucial jobs you have as an author is to build character. Not your own, of course, although you are most likely going to learn something about yourself during the course of writing a novel. I am speaking of building character in the fictional sense. Different authors have different ways they go about building characters. Some authors do background stories. Some do fake obituaries that enable them to see characters from the point of view of other fictional characters. Some authors stick to existing archetypes and follow a blueprint that's been used before.


And then there are those authors who hold true to the philosophy that adversity builds character. They will throw a character into a meat grinder starting on page one and let the conflict itself build a character. For my money, it's not a bad philosophy. It's called the empty-vessel strategy, and it can be very effective at drawing a reader in. Think about it. There are no pre-conceived notions about the protagonist from the start of the story, so readers can put themselves in the characters' shoes and grow with them.


This method has its downside. You run the risk of not allowing readers to care about the character early on in the story, and readers may reject the choices the character makes because it's not something they would do. The trick is to make the choices so difficult that readers literally can't decide what they would do if they were in your protagonist's position. The hard choice made will then be appreciated and accepted.


Conflict not only drives a story. It can also build character.


-Richard


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


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What would your characters do?

Building character

738 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization
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