The One Thing All Writers Forget About When Creating Characters and Plots

What’s the difference between a page turner and a book you never finish? Well aside from the way it’s written and what the book is about, there’s one major difference you’ve probably never noticed.

Does the character interact with the plot or do they shape it?


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I’m willing to argue that this one wording difference makes a book so much more engaging. But first let me explain what I mean. Many authors come up with the plot and then stick characters in, often times before they’re fully formed. While this isn’t innately bad I can make the consequences less thrilling.

What makes a novel truly spectacular is when the character’s actions change the perceived outcome of the plot. For instance having a character not kill the bad guy because he was surrounded by dogs (and your main character is afraid of dogs) half way through the book will be so much more psychologically traumatizing for the character because it was within their grasp. This is just one example, but I think that incorporating your character’s backstory into the plot can make the difference between passive characters, and those who are truly engaged in the plot.

This post was inspired by the book Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice

If you found this interesting you might also enjoy last weeks post: What Makes a Hero and Why Is It So Hard to Write One?

What Makes a Hero and Why Is It So Hard to Write One?

This article is written off of an idea presented in The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter page 115. Please enjoy.

Why do writers find it so hard to write certain conflicts? Have you ever known what scene needs to be written next but just can’t seem to write it? Or maybe you have a character that is constantly avoiding conflict? Well, the root of this problem isn’t with your ability as a writer instead it lies in the quandary of being a writer.

In life, we actively avoid all the conflicts we would put in our books. So it can be tricky to find a reason why your character would just walk right into danger. Writing depressed characters can often be the hardest as the author may not be able to convince the character to stay alive.

A hero is really the person or character that sees danger and finds a reason to walk right into it. They save others before themselves and don’t get stressed about having to make hard desitions.

It can be hard as a young writer to draw the line between fiction and reality. We can find it hard to not be the hero and end up putting ourselves in bad situations because we didn’t proceed with caution. Or else we might end up with flat characters.

I find this whole idea very interesting and somewhat out of my league. If you have anything to add please do so in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this then you may also like my post The One Trait All Main Characters Have

Kindel Direct Publishing (KDP) Tips, Tricks and Secrets: a Resource Guide

Planning to release an ebook on Kindel Direct Publishing? Here are all of the resources I’m using to publish my novel ok KDP.
First, here’s the link to Amazon’s help guide.

This video shows how to be very successful with any book you publish, traditional or self-publishing.

He first starts talking about building a brand. I would definitely do more research on this. My favorite books from published authors on niche building are:

Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform

Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book

Wild Ink : Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market

(Note: These are affiliate links)

This next link is very useful for understanding the Amazon algorithm! It goes over writing your description, synopsis, getting reviews, and promoting your content.

The Top 5 Tips to a Successful Book Launch on Amazon KDP

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If you are looking to create something more like a publishing company, this video goes over how to write nonfiction ebooks (though you can use it for fiction as well). He covers how to research profitable niches, higher ghostwriters, places you can get the cover made, and ways to maximize how much money you make!

This next website has a lot of information and really give the basics on all the steps to be successful. The most useful information is about how to set up your promotion plan.

10 Tips to Take Your Book To #1 in a Free KDP Select Promo & Beyond

The next video is a long-winded explanation but it was created earlier this year and seems to be quite up to date. He explains all of the basics about your book very clearly as well as marketing, brand building, and how it all connects.

 

This is a video from 2016 but it’s a quick video and covers major topics like how to price your book, how many reviews you need and free promo.

If you want to go the traditionally published path then you should take a look at The Publisher’s Spreadsheet it’s a planning and organization system taught to me by one of my favorite writing teachers.

Will There be More LGBT Best Sellers Like Love Simon?

With Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and it’s accompanying movie Love Simon hitting the mainstream I begin wondering if there will be any LGBT best seller books being released soon. This is one of the first novels with an openly gay main character that has reached such a wide audience. But will this trigger bigger publishers to start excepting more LGBT works?

I do think that bigger publishers having seen the wide success of Love Simon will be more likely to except these kinds of stories. But of course, publishers always have to be concerned with what will sell. And so though there might be a slight increase in novels being produced for the LGBT community, Love Simon was primarily marketed at teenage girls and gay guys. The problem with this is that teenage girls are often going to pick up a straight romance, so it is less likely to have a big sale if it is LGBT friendly and teen gay guys don’t make up a significant portion of the market making them less likely to be targeted.

On the other hand there has been a huge surge in popularity of gay romance is in those communities animes such as Yuri on Ice as well as TV shows and movies such as Moonlight. Each successful release of a new gay romance will trigger more and more publishers start to start accepting them. The soonest we will probably see a surge in LGBT works will be next year due to the long timeframe of publishing novel. But whether or not this will be a lasting trend will only be told by time. There have always been LGBT novels and there will always be more as the community is more accepted by the rest of the world.

How to Write Transgender Characters (4 questions to ask yourself)

Writing transgender characters is the same as writing normal characters just with a few extra thinking points.

1. How far along in the transition is this person?

You might think that having your character come out to their parents, get kicked out of the house and then pass enough to be taken in by someone who they are then struggling to come out to is a great plot line but it’s not. Most people won’t pass very well before they are on hormones and that can take months or even years to start depending on where in the world your character is. So in short, know how long the transition prosses is and make sure your character doesn’t show traits (like a deep voice) to early.

2. How masculine or feminine are they?

Just because your character is trans, it doesn’t disregard that they were born as their birth gender. You can’t undo 18 years of social conditing so easily… its ok to be a girly guy or a boyish girl. But its also ok to be a really macho man too. Just consider how your character came to act like this and at what age they started showing these traits.

3. How open is your character?

Will they tell a stranger that they’re trans? Wear a pride flag? Or do they lie about every part of their past to cover the truth? Some people avoid public bathrooms like the plague and others are comfortable enough with themselves to go into either depending on the situation.

4. Who Knows?

Some characters are still coming out to themselves, some to their parents, some to their friends. But some people fall through the cracks. It can be a great plot device to have someone your MC hasn’t come out to yet crash the party. On the other hand, think of how each of these social groups found out. Did the mom tell the dad? Did most of the MC’s friends leave and now they have to make new friends?

 

If you have any other advice or would like a sequel that explains more directly ‘how to’ please let me know!

How to Set Up Your Writing Space

First

Pick a space that is calming to you. Maybe the corner of a room where the sun shines in the window. Somewhere that you can hear the birds chirping or your music playing. A space that you can really claim as your own. That may be a coffee shop with sweet smells and cheap drinks.

Then

Make your space calm and clear. Have only what you need on the table. Just your notepad and pen. If your laptop is your weapon of choice then clear the tabs. Open up a new window and shut off all the distractions. Unless you have writing notes on your phone it should be away.

Make it your inspiration…. Make it your habit

Know in your mind that you will not sit down on that chair until you are ready to write. It will be your trigger to work. When you sit down there for the first time be full of inspiration. It will leak into your work everytime you sit down there. Claim this space as your workspace and that only. You will not eat there or sleep there or talk there. this is your place for inspiration, not for Facebook, not for TV.

Then clear your mind

Make the conditions easy to repeat so every time you sit down you can clear your mind. Forget about your laundry and your pay check, and your kids and you dogs and your life and just sit down and write.

Write and write no matter what.

Write Crap. Write poetry. Just write. If you can’t think of anything to write. Take a long deep breath and write that you can’t write. Write about your writing space. Write until the flow comes. And when it comes don’t stop writing. Don’t think about what you have written, what you have to write, what you have to edit, what your publisher will think. Just put butt to chair and get the first draft done. Be in that mindset. And when you need to edit, be in that mindset.

And make it your ritual.

And be happy.

 

 

The way I wrote this post was inspired by my all-time favorite book: We the Animals

The publishers spreadsheet

So you want to get published and you’re doing your research; good for you! I just wanted to give you a quick simple guide to lay out information about all the publishers you’ve been collecting emails for.

When I was first trying to figure out who to submit to my list of 35 people who accepted un-agented, open submission, LGBT works was pretty daunting. So I spoke with a published author about how he chose the first person to apply to and this was his best tip.

The publisher spreadsheet.

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As you can see here it’s a pretty simple list. Name, website and what they need to have sent in the submission and if I submitted. This makes it easy to sift through. The requirements were often taken right from their pages so I didn’t even have to write it out.

If you don’t think you want to take the time to do this. Just think about the next time you’re submitting your next novel and need to look through every publisher again (and the only thing you’ve saved is there names.)

This is really easy to add too if you have another variable such as if they already responded or if you’re waiting for a response. You can also see one name floating in the middle… that collum was supposed to be for the names at the top of the query but several had just one editor to submit too.

I hope this helps you organize your life and makes the stress a little less heavy. I also fully recommend this book to anyone looking to publish any kind of writing.

 

Can you see me, child?

Children tend to scare me. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, their big glassy eyes find me. I’m always left introspective, wondering what it is they see? Do they see me?

The real me. The one under my skin.

Do children see a happy, charismatic me? The person who can make anyone smile. Do they see a young adult flourishing in the world? A suave, enthusiastic, artist? Someone with no fear, going forth into the world? Someone living their best life.

Or do those big eyes see the me everyone else knows?

The me who has anxiety. Who doesn’t know what fashion is. Can they tell I have no close friends? That I’m lost in the world? Do they know I’m trying not to be that me anymore? Am I a failer to them? A bum with no job and nowhere to be?

But more importantly, do they see me as a guy or girl?

Do my clothes prove me to be an enthusiastic young man? or does my face betray me as a female? Can they see my chest, strapped down under my oversized shirt? Or are they looking at my arms, with no muscle at all? Do they see I haven’t shaved my legs or that I have shaved my pits? Is my hair too long? My shoes too big?

And they say. “Mommy, what’s that person doing?”

“Oh, they’re just relaxing in the sun.”

They see me as a person. Someone just like anyone else. The child can tell I have ups and downs, flaws and perfections. And I am resigned to the world of they. Neither male no female. I have not yet become that person I so badly want to be. So I shut my eyes and continue to bathe in the sunlight. The grass tickles under my binder. And I am content.

Sing to Me || A Short Story

Part 1:

Dakota Emmett had done it again. His singles had been hit the top of the charts for years, and this time, it was record-breaking. His crisp strong voice told stories for all who chose to listen. On the charts, he was a pop artist, but I’ve always thought he was an angel. If his voice wasn’t enough, his flowing locks reflected the stage lights out onto the crowd. Of course, you wouldn’t know of that bright, shining blond hair of his because he dyed it neon blue. When it would fade the color would look almost brown. He had it cut by one of the best, it never tickled his shoulders and never fell in his face. And his eyes, oh his eyes, were the color of the sky on a perfect spring day.
I stood in the crowd that day smiling from ear to ear. Because I lived in the same city as him I went to almost all of his concerts. We all packed into the concert hall talking wildly about the handsome devil. Today’s performance was special. If you pre-ordered the ticket you were placed in a random drawing to win a dinner date with Dakota. I smiled looking at all the girls around me. Yes, I had ordered the ticket ahead of time but I didn’t think I would even have a chance of hearing my name called.
Sinking into my seat I got ready to listen to his wonderful voice. I always thought he sang better on stage. Without the effects and splices of sound clips, his singing was pure. The lights dimmed and there was his beautiful face. Cameras circled him and huge screens showed me all the little details of his face. The girls screamed and I bounced up and down in my chair. He sang his hit songs first. As the night went on he started getting to older songs. There were times when I was the only one mouthing words and other times where the hall erupted into off-key singing.
Five minutes were left in the allotted time. Everyone around me shifted. The last note of Dakota’s sound played out and then his smile was back.
“Hellooo everyone,” He showed his perfect teeth off to the crowd, “I would like to thank each and every one of you for coming to see me tonight. Now which one of you lovely ladies gets to wants to have dinner with me tomorrow night?” The crowd whooped and hollered, “I thought so.” He gave a sideways grin, “Now let’s see who the winner is.”
The crowd went wild, shouting into the sky. He reached into a little bucket and pulled out a slip.
“And the winner is, Chance Haytoooonn.” He threw his head back.
I froze in place. That was my name. I had won. The audience cheered. A man with a clipboard walked up to my row.
“Please come with me,” he said addressing me.
I stumbled up and ran after him. We walked down the stairs as the girls watched me. They were all probably planning to kill me. I walked up the stairs onto the stage and paused. There was still a chance I could run away. I didn’t want to be on stage in front of the all the people I beat. Someone nudged me from behind and the momentum sent me running out onto the stage. Seeing Dakota standing that close to me, I stopped in place. I was probably 10 feet away.
He held his right hand out and smiled. “No need to be so shy, come stand over here with me.”
I tumbled over to stand by him and looked up at his beautiful, wonderful face. My face flushed red. He rested his hand on my shoulder.
“Congratulations, Chance, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting any guy to enter, but I guess there was a- CHANCE.”
I tried to laugh but ended up looking down at the stage, my face was most likely red.
“So, do you have anything you want to say?”
I shook my head and stared at my shoes.
He patted my back lightly. “Well then, I’ll see you backstage.”
That boy’s voice, it made my heart pound. After a few minutes, he came off of the stage to where I was standing.
“I’m so sorry!” I yelled as soon as he got near me, “I should have said something, and I’m a guy so that probably screwed you up-”
Dakota rested his hand on my shoulder, his blue orbs looked into my eyes, “Don’t worry about it, I know that must have been hard for you. So for dinner are you free on Saturday around 6?”
“You don’t need to eat with me, I totally get it.” I stumbled backward.
He shook his head. “That’s nonsense, you won fair and square.”
“Saturday then…”
“I’ll send someone to pick you up.” Dakota ruffled my hair gently, “I like the red, by the way.”
Then he disappeared. A piece of my dyed red hair fell in front of my eyes. I watched him talk to some of the producers as he left. Running off to the parking lot, I covered my face, hoping no one would recognize me. I drove home with my foot on the gas the whole time. My heart raced. When I got home I snuck in through the front door. My father was watching TV in the living room, my mom was washing dishes in the kitchen. As to not attract attention to myself, I took quiet steps.
I passed my sister’s room and my brother’s room and crept into mine. My room was dark, almost all the bulbs were burnt out. There were stacks of paper everywhere. Each one of them as a different song that would never be sung. I sat down on my bed and pressed my face into my hands. All of my clothes were scattered on my bed. I had literally nothing to wear if I went to dinner with him.

What is a Better Platform for Fiction Writers? Wattpad VS WordPress

While WordPress has been my main platform since 2015 I have had some issues maintaining a posting longevity. Due to the way searches appear on WordPress it is hard for older content to get found unless it is in a very specific range that is very searched but not filled with content. My post writing characters with dyslexia fits into that category.

download.pngSo for fiction writers who have a hard time figuring out exactly what niche to write in, getting the kind of feedback on work that is necessary to keep your stamina up is impossible. The only authors who I can tell use WordPress effectively as a platform already have a following.

Because fiction is supposed to be the base of our platform and short stories often do not have high SEO names it is hard for them to be found by the WordPress algorithm. Theunnamed.png whole thing has left me with a wide variety of content that doesn’t get seen and one post that does. It’s also very hard for people to follow series in this format as people will be more likely to find your 8th post than you first.

That’s why during my temporary hiatus I used wattpad. I’ve tried using this reading and writing platform in the past and it wasn’t very effective but that’s because I was using It wrong. Postings one story in many parts I have already gotten 3 times the amount of views on that one story than on all the fiction posted on WordPress. I’m still exploring the pros and cons of wattpad but I have found it much more rewarding to write there than I have on WordPress. I do intend to start writing on WordPress again but it’s hard to say if I will have the motivation to stick with it for the rest of the year.

If you enjoyed this then you may like my post on How Fiction Writers find their Audience

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