We authors are an eclectic bunch; we have to be. How else could we design the multitude of characters needed to create a work of fiction?
In every story there must be a protagonist, most know this. But without an archenemy, be it a person, a character flaw, or a psychosis, where would the conflict stem?
If we as writers cannot imagine—get into the heads of—different emotional aspects of characters, how could ALL the characters be believable? It's easy to design a protagonist after yourself or even someone you know. But how do you create a character whose mind you never really want to be a part of in the first place?
Research is one way, tons of it. But you also have to possess the ability to identify with the psyche of someone you'd rather not understand. You have to put yourself in their shoes, recognize they are people. They may be the "bad guys," but they typically have families, go to work, and play just like the rest of us.
A truly believable character must have some normal human characteristics, or he or she won't be believable -- yes, I like a woman to be the "bad guy" sometimes.
Every time I jump into the mind of my so-called "bad guys," my beta readers cheer. They love them. Why? Because the characters are realistic. Yes, they may be the "bad guys," but they still live, work, and socialize in the real world. Oftentimes, they are our co-workers, next door neighbors, friends, or heaven forbid, our relatives.
Want to see how I blend the good and the bad with all my characters, as they all have a little of both? Click one of the links below for a little more about what I write. My stories are available in print and eBook formats at your favorite retailer. I'll even give you a free book just for stopping by. From there, all my stories are priced "less than a latte" each so you can afford to READ UP and enjoy!
I'm a fan of Wikipedia for general research, not quotable text. It's a great place to start, as it usually has a great compilation of information from other sources. Often, when I Google a question, Wikipedia is the first page to pop up. So I tend to begin my search on the most “clicked on” page, and then I dig deeper based on my findings. In the case of my mysteries, especially where the cause of death and ways to die are an essential part of the story, I seek out scientific journals and experts in that specific field. There, that's my disclosure. On to my blog post. :)
Recently, I had a quick question on the popularity of short stories. I agreed with Wikipedia until I read ... "Sometimes, authors who do not have the time or money to write a novella or novel decide to write short stories instead..." — Wikipedia
Umm ... wrong! How on earth does a short story cost less? Most authors spend the same dollar amount on their cover, and it doesn't cost anything to upload it to Amazon. Time ... maybe ... but even that seems silly, as authors who write short stories, usually write many of them. I think authors write short stories because they enjoy writing short stories, especially in between large projects or while waiting for their editor or publisher to finish reading their current project.
"Short stories date back to oral storytelling traditions which originally produced epics such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey circa 7thor 8thcentury" — Wikipedia, again (I didn't see the need to research further.)
Charles Dickens and Washington Irving — who were famous for novels and biographies — wrote short stories and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe argued that a literary work should be short enough for a reader to finish in one sitting. And yet, when I went looking for advertising, I found it almost impossible to find a website that was willing to promote my short stories ... even if I were willing to pay the same amount as I would to advertise a full novel. I also noticed many publishers refuse to publish short stories, which as far as money goes, I can understand that. They would have to shell out money for a cover for little return.
And now for the craziest thought, considering what Wikipedia said about money. I wrote my short stories, knowing I was going to give them away. Yep. I wrote my first short, The Pit Stop (This Stop Could be Life or Death), as an exercise in “pantsing” versus “plotting” and to have fun with my readers, which a lot of them happened to be authors. I wrote five hundred words a week on my website, and then asked readers where we should go next. When I finished, I informed them I'd publish it and pay tribute to my top contributors.
But then something happened! My lovely readers demanded more — I love it when that happens. Per readers' requests, I wrote The Depot (When Life and Death Cross Tracks). And then, based on those two short stories — again per readers' demands — I wrote a follow-up novel, The Library (Where Life Checks Out).
And with no awesome book advertising, but because of word of mouth from some great readers, The Pit Stop and The Depot hit #1 in Mystery Short Stories and spent plenty of time in the top 100 in the last few years. When I received my rights back from my publisher, I had to re-upload them. Again they the hit #1 and #2 spots! The Pit Stop is still available as a free download, but I decided to include The Depot with it AND its follow-up novel, The Library, so readers wouldn't happenstance on The Library and miss the set up.
My thoughts on short stories: An average movie is one and a half to two hours long, and yet, it can still convey a full life — from birth to death — of a character. We can solve a ten-year-old murder mystery, or view a first date as it matures into marriage and kids. So why wouldn't I like a quick escape when I'm sitting at the DMV, waiting in the doctor's office, or a hundred other places where we waste hours of our time? The answer is: I do like that. In fact, I love it! I've read many short stories on car trips across the state, flights, and waiting while my car gets serviced.
Short stories are a great way to meet an author without a long-term commitment or a nice release when you need just a little escape before going to bed, since there's no risk of staying up too late to finish the story, as most short stories take less than an hour to read.
Well, that's it. Just my thoughts on why I write and read short stories. And so you know, I would never think to compare myself to the "greats" I mentioned above; they were just my point that short stories can be great and are an art. I have a long way to go, but my short stories do have hundreds of reviews averaging four-plus stars. So if you want to try one on for size, you can download The Pit Stop (This Stop Could be Life or Death) and The Depot (When Life and Death Cross Tracks) absolutely FREE from your favorite retailer. I hope you enjoy the quick escape from reality!
Thank you for reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn't be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer. If you're curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I'll even give you a couple free full-length novels just for stopping by.
As always, happy reading, friends.
No matter what you do in life, a third of the people will love you, a third will hate you, and the rest will be indifferent. Get over it and Write On, whether it be books, music, or movie scripts... Or, anything you do in life.
Yes, I'm talking to myself. If you're listening, GREAT! It's good advice!
Is it easy advice? Heck No!
For some reason, even though that percentage is rather low on my books--the percentage of people who hate my books runs about 4.6%--it still hurts.
Note: I only averaged the 'firsts' in my books. Because if I go to the second, third, and fourth books in my series, those numbers drop drastically. Obviously, if readers don't like my first book, they don't go on to the rest of my books in a series, so those books receive little to zero one-star reviews.
So...if the number of one-star reviews we receive is less than five percent--Thank God ALL of the 33 1/3% of the haters don't write reviews--why do we get so depressed when we receive a one-star review?
Why do we readily believe what less than five percent of readers tell us, instead of embracing the 95%?
I'm certain I'm not alone in this, right? When I receive a three-, four-, or five-star review, I'm always happy. But I don't run around and cheer. I smile, release a breath that it was a good review, and then carry on with my life.
BUT...when I get a one-star review... My head drops, my stomach plunges, my heart rate increases, I almost always stop what I'm doing and sulk a bit. Sometimes I run to the pantry for some dark chocolate, read the review to my hubby who says, "I'm sorry, babe," which often makes me feel a little better.
And then if I'm really put off, I'll do something drastic like write a blog post. Umm...like today.
Why do I do this to myself? Why do I care? Heck, she didn't even attack my writing. All she did was say it wasn't very exciting. So what? Didn't 95% of the people say they couldn't put it down? Yes, they did, actually.
There, I feel so much better now, and I hope you do too. If you don't, let me tell you about an exercise I used to do. I don't have to do this exercise anymore because, even though I just sulked the last few minutes as I wrote this blog, I really have learned to take a one-star review with a grain of salt. We need one-star reviews. If we never received one-star reviews, other readers would wonder. Because even if you've never heard about the Rule of Thirds that I mentioned above, almost everyone knows that you can't please everyone. If everyone loves you, someone is lying.
Oh...the exercise... Sorry, I get distracted easily.
Look up your favorite book of all time, preferably a bestseller that's been loved by millions worldwide. Check out the one-star reviews, read a few. I guarantee they have more one-star reviews than you do. :)
Until next time, happy writing, my friends.
And for all of you lovely readers/listeners/watchers out there, it's okay to give a one-star review. Just remember there's a person behind the book, movie, or music that you're reviewing. So please remember to keep it constructive. <3
Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn't be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer. I love talking about all things books, so if you want more posts on writing, marketing, new releases, and giveaways, please leave your email address here. I only send out a post once or twice a week at the most. :)
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Image Credit: Flickr Hobvias Sudoneighm
I know how everyone likes to picture the characters in the books they read. So ... meet J'Austen, the persnickety calico in Some Lucky Woman.
Excerpt starring J'Austen from Some Lucky Woman...