Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are you an Innie or an Outie?

Nope, not talking about your belly button, but rather looking at are you an Introvert or an  Extrovert?

Today’s blog is a bit about us as writers/readers, but also about our characters- a two-fer bonus!  ;)
When looking at character development I think of items as either micro or macro.  The ones I call macro are the things the reader notices up front (and what you would notice when you first see someone) these are mostly looks, accents, etc.  The micro ones are trickier, a reader may not even notice them—but they affect who the character is, and add layers to that character’s behavior and motivation.  Kind of like most non-professional bakers would be hard pressed to name all the ingredients in a fancy muffin; the reader may not know what you put in to the character they just know what works…. or what doesn’t.

One of the big categories of micro development are personality traits. These play a lot into how a person will react to situations, how they interpret situations, and how others react to them.

One of the biggies in this field is Introversion/Extraversion.

Definition: Extraversion is one of the five core personality traits described in the big 5 theory of personality. This trait is characterized by sociability, assertiveness, emotional expressiveness and excitability. People who are high in this trait are often described as being outgoing and talkative, while those low in this trait are described as quiet and reserved (note- introversion is not the same as shy).

There has been a lot of attention paid as of late to the introverted side of things, and while there are a number of tests to see where you (or your character) fall in-between the two, probably two of the fastest and simplest are here:

 (You’ll be glad to know in both of them I’m a hybrid- 50% score on each side ;))

It’s fun if you take these tests, then take them as your characters would, or even better—have a friend or beta reader who has read your book take them as if they were your main character.
The idea is to see which group your character falls under, which one you thought they would fall under, and whether you need an overhaul of said character.

But mostly it’s another key to build a stronger, more “realistic” character. If we know why our character screens all phone calls, hangs around after work looking for folks going to happy hour, or views meetings with a sense of dread normally reserved for the dentist office, we will convey that much better to our readers- without having to come out and tell them.




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MidList Zombies?

The Midlist is dead!  Long live the Midlist!

Midlist authors are those authors who never made it to the best sellers lists, but still sold books.  Aka- they're the bulk of the books you'd see in a bookstore.  Back in the day when publishing was a different creature, there were far more midlist authors than you'd see today.  And many of them would have multiple books out in a year.

Were these folks getting rich?  Heck no, like most writers they all had days jobs or other sources of income.

Were they making the publishers rich?  Double heck no.  But the publishing world was different then, and the system worked with all those middle range authors plunking along (the majority of authors I read were all midlist).

Then sometime in the 80's-90's the midlist started to be killed off.  Authors lost their contracts in droves- as a bookstore manager I saw many familiar names either slow down in books per year or vanish completely.

Fast forward to the days of small publishers and self-publishing.  Not vanity publishing- that evil term used long ago- this was a new world.  These were small publishing houses and individual authors coming forth with books- tons of books.  Books that NY didn't want because they didn't think the sales would reach the 50,000 mark.

But the small online presses and independent author publishers don't need 50,000 sales.  Or even 40,000.  Those numbers would be great, but being smaller, or solo, means that a book could be a success at a midlist level.

The vast majority of books found today on Amazon are midlist.  And more importantly they are still selling.  Readers are finding them and enjoying them even though they may not be a best seller.  I have read bestsellers that in my opinion were utter crap.  I've also read smaller books that were awesome.

I was actually very sad in the 80's and 90's when the herds of midlist authors were culled by publishers.  I'm glad to know they are coming back- maybe not the same authors (although hopefully some of them will as well) but a new group of authors, writing books readers want to read under their own terms.

The midlist has come back from the dead, and it's looking good.

Long live the Midlist!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Romance is everywhere!

Ah yes, Valentine's Day is almost upon us.  That day when corporate and small town America both turn to thoughts of love and flowers. Romance, as they say, is in the air.

But in the book world romance is around us all the time.

I'm not just talking about Romance books, although given the size of the reader market they command, they need to be looked at seriously.  I'm talking about the"non-Romance" books that still have plenty of love and romance in them.

I am a proud member of the RWA (Romance Writers of America) and have learned far more about writing from my chapters and friends in that organization than I ever could have from any other source.  Yet, I  don't write Romance books.  I write SF/F with romantic elements in them.  AKA- my books could technically survive without romance, but it would turn them into flat, heartless versions of what they currently are. The life would be sucked out of them.

And my books are by far not alone in that classification.

All of my favorite books, whether they be Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Mystery, have romantic elements interwoven in them (yes, I have favorite Romance books too, but that doesn't actually help in this example ;)).  Between my own voracious reading as well as years a bookstore manager, I'd say a vast majority of "non-Romance" books out there have romantic elements. Yes, there are some fiction books with no romance, no love, but I'd claim they are a small minority limited to a few sub-genres.

Think about your favorite books, the ones that didn't come from the romance side of the bookstore--chances are there was a romantic element to them.  And most likely they wouldn't be the same story with that element gone.  So romance is not just for "that" section of the bookstore--it's all around us.

Love and romance are part of the human condition. An element that gives way to problems, heartache, feats of great strength, conflict, sacrifice--all parts of a great story.  Is it any wonder that writers from all genres often put it in their stories? How many classics would we have today if the romance was taken out of them? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IWSG- Validation

Welcome to another episode of the Insecure Writers Support Group.  A monthly cyber gathering where writers from across the globe join and gnash teeth in unison.

Today I'm looking at validation.

Some writers, feeling loftier than others, will claim the writing is validation enough.  They don't feel the need for others to support. believe in, or worship (ok, a bit much ;)) their work.  They are "artists". (Their words, not mine.)  To them I raise a pint of Smithwicks and say, "Carry on!". 

Hey, if it's working for them, great! Power forth and what not.

Now, for the rest of us.....

Validation is part of the human mindset for the vast majority of people- we're wired that way.   Where we get that validation can vary by person and just what is being validated.

Narrow it down to writers and writing and our entire sense of self AS writers, and well you still have various forms.  But let's face it, many of us see the traditional publishing world as the great validator.

Now we all receive little validators along the way.  Folks we trust (and trust not to just say they love it because they love us ;)) telling us our work is good.  Writing instructors, feedback at conferences, professional writers-- all saying, "Hey, you've got something."  Getting to the point with your submissions to agents and editors where they are passing on your project for things other than skill (market, etc).

But that big one, the bright and shiny, "I'VE MADE IT", we believe comes from that NY pub (or any of the bigger independent presses) contract (you published authors, stop laughing).

However, the publishing world is changing so fast- too fast for NY it sometimes seems to me.  Self-publishing (aka Indie) is calling me more and more.  Both in feedback of what the market wants (when I see sales of books similar to mine, but they aren't the MAJOR best sellers NY wants), and things I hear from published authors about the dark under belly of contracts.

Self-publishing seems like a viable option when done right.  But scary too.  If I do need outside validation- where would I get it?  Reader reviews?  That way lies madness me thinks ;).  Is it possible to be a happy, mentally healthy writer without traditional external validation?