Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The WHYS have it!

I was recently sitting in a small group writing session discussion on character motivation.  The author leading the session had a number of great points, but the biggest and simplest was 'ask your characters why'. She went on to add, 'channel your inner 4-year-old child, and just keep asking--WHY?'

Little kids are trying to build their mental database as it were. If you tell them the sky is blue, they want to know why.  And they will keep asking "why" to each and every answer until most parents just give up ;).

We need to do that with our characters to make sure there are real reasons for their actions and motivations. As readers, how many times have you read a book, or watched a TV show or movie and thought, "WTF? Why did they do THAT?!"  Most likely the action or dialogue wasn't played through correctly and there was no valid character motivation behind it.

A very simplified example: 
 "Why do you race the other direction, way out of your way, to avoid firetrucks?
 "I don't like them." 
"They freak me out."
"They're loud and scary."
"I'm afraid of fire."
"When I was five the house behind me burned down and there were little kids inside."

As the writer, you decide how much of the motivation to show.  The character very well might not know the reasons for their actions, and it can and should be something that unfolds throughout the story.  BUT-the writer needs to know it. (Back to the Iceberg issue a few posts back. ;))

A few rules:

1) "Because I am the writer, and I say so"- is not a valid answer.  If you hit that, let the buzzer go off in your head and re-think what's going on. It may work as a last resort with your kids, character motivation not so much.

2) "Because I NEED them to do X-Y-Z"- BUZZ! Nope, see above, there needs to be a logical and consistent reason for the actions.  Go back to square one and start asking your characters why again.

3) Some secondary characters really might not make this work.  For example, this is what happened when I tried it with Crusty Bucket, one of the drunken faeries from The Glass Gargoyle:

"Why do you faeries drink so much?"
"Is good."
"Is. Good."
All conversation was lost at that point to her singing about dancing minkies.

Some characters just refuse to play.  For minor ones, or deliberately difficult ones like Crusty, that might be fine.  But if your primary characters refuse to get down to some serious levels of why?  You have a problem that needs to be fixed.  Yes, because I said so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Yes, the title of today's blog should be read in your very best Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer voice--when he first learns about being independent.  ;)

As some of you know, I have chosen the self-publishing, or as I prefer to call it, independent publishing, route. This is not by accident, or because I feel my books aren't "good enough" for New York. It is a conscious and willful choice. A friend of mine put it very well--I am deliberately independent.

I'm blogging about it today, because I am still running across people who think that those of us on this path are on it as a runner-up option. That all writers want to be published by NY as the end-all and be-all of writerly existence.

First off, every writer has their own goals and hopes. But that being said, yes, at one point years ago, I did want that.  In fact, years ago, that was the only option.  Then I realized that I was following that plan without thought. there was nothing beyond, "get an agent".

Then I started thinking about it.

And really looking at what was going on in the industry. I realized that those deep down held dreams (three books a year, full cover design control, title control, etc) would NEVER happen even if I got the most amazing agent in the world.

But, if I chose the Indie path I could do all of those things.

The more I looked into it, the more I realized that I COULD do this.  I have also realized that I have serious control issues that I never knew existed and that had I stuck with trying to go a more traditional path I would have driven myself, an agent, and any publishers insane. Seriously folks, you should hear some of the write-editor-marketing-publisher fights that go on in my head!  Madness I tell you!

So much a control nut, I've gone down to the point of being fussy about the font on my swag- think how I would have been about bad font on my BOOK that I had no control over? It would not have been pretty for anyone.

So, I am Deliberately Independent.  I am not self-publishing so I can get an agent or a "real" publisher (yes, I have had that said to me ;)), I am doing it because this is MY career. My game plan, insane as it sounds, is 12 books in 4 years. And my books aren't small, folks. I have about 30 balls in the air (along with a 40-hour a week day job) at any given time.  I have no week-end or off time right now. I have hired a cover artist, editors, formatters, and have badgered my wonderful friends for more help and feedback than I can ever pay back. 

And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Everyone has different paths in life, know yours and follow it :).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


But unlike the Titanic, icebergs are good for writers ;).  As long as we use them properly.

A reader really only sees the surface of any story.  As readers, we may see depths that are hinted at, or events that we knew influenced who the character is, but we don't see the whole thing. Readers see the tip of the iceberg.  

But as writers, we NEED to know the entire iceberg--the huge back story, what motivated the characters to do what they do, world-building, in some cases, universe-building that can cover everything from history to religions to the way magic works in our worlds.  

But we shouldn't show it.

I know, I just said it has to be there, and the reader needs to feel it's there, feel the weight of the history of the world you've created (even if you have a contemporary story), but you can't put it in your book.

It can be painful sometimes, you do a ton of research on historical events, weapons, religion, whathaveyou, create a fully functioning world, only to be told you really shouldn't share it with readers.

Because readers don't care.

All of us pick up a novel because we want to get lost in the story.  And as awesome as it is, research, history, and world-building are NOT story. You may have spent hours tracking down the perfect period authentic dagger for your Mongolian romance from the 1600's.  You may know all about it, how it was made, the ceremonies behind it, etc.  And all of that for it to just pop up as a piece of set-dressing. You cannot devote a page or two to all of the wonderful back-story of that dagger. Your reader just wants to know who is using it and who its been stuck into recently.

The problem with some authors is that they have all this cool stuff--and they want to USE all that cool stuff!  "I know this!  It's awesome! I spent years developing my world and want everyone to know the smallest detail!"  Those bits, the under-the-water side of your iceberg, are not story.  They support your story, give it a weight and heft it would lack otherwise (had the iceberg that took down the Titanic just been some floating surface ice, they probably wouldn't have gone down) BUT they are NOT your story.

So keep building your icebergs, you need them for a good story, but remember that the strength of the iceberg isn't what's seen on the surface.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG: We have a COVER!!!

Welcome once again to the monthly gathering of the writer minds, or at least our neuroses, known as the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

For more information about finding other blogs today or signing up yourself please visit the main site.

Now, about today's scream- I HAVE A COVER!!!

It is awesome, and really gives the right feel for my book, and did I mention it is awesome?!!!

When I first saw it I really lost my breath.  It is a wonderful cover, but it was more than that-it was MY cover  for MY book. Created by an insanely talented artist. 

Along with the extreme happiness of seeing the cover that will be gracing my books, there was a shock of "DAMN!  The realness level just went up a ton!"  I am now on Amazon as an author (this book isn't up yet, but my page is there) and working on Goodreads and other places.  The book is in close to the last round of edits. I don't know if authors feel this way after their second, third, or fifteenth cover, but as a first time author--this is just amazing.

It is so insane how that makes me feel.  I know the book itself, my words, are what matter. All the hard work, long hours, and lots of support and editing from others that has accumulated into The Glass Gargoyle.  But a great cover is such an expression of that that it really boggles the mind when it becomes real.

So here I am, a month before my first book launches into the world- swooning over my cover. Join me in the celebration! The Glass Gargoyle will be out in March 2015.