Canned Wisdom #3

It’s Monday morning again, and it’s time for some food for thought:

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Previous week’s Canned Wisdom can be found here.

What’s a strong character? Very often the phrase comes with the word female inserted in the middle, and we get the phrase strong female character.

A lot of the time it seems that those who talk about strong female characters refer to characters who are strong in a worldly sense – strong within the world of the story. They may be rich and powerful, or they may be athletic and beautiful, or perhaps they’re extremely intelligent or have magical powers. Stuff like that.

That’s fine.

There’s nothing wrong with having characters that are powerful.

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Even a little light can remove a lot of darkness.

However, I think that from a storytelling perspective there’s more to the phrase strong character than just worldly power. A strong character is someone who moves the story forward on their own rather than someone who has the story happen to them.

 

This doesn’t require the character to be physically or mentally strong, and it doesn’t mean they need magical superpowers. What it does mean is they act and make decisions, and that these acts and decisions have an impact on the story. The character doesn’t just react to things that happen to them.

Example:

In a story I’m working on, the character Roy ends up an unwilling guest (prisoner in all but word) at a mansion up in the mountains. Naturally he wants to escape from there.

In the first draft of the story, the mansion’s cheeky old caretaker suggests that Roy could go down to the lake to fish in order to relax for a bit. That would be a great opportunity for Roy to escape, but it’s also an opportunity that gets handed to him by someone else. He doesn’t have anything to do with it at all.

In the second draft of the story, Roy asks the caretaker if there’s a fishing rod available.

The flow of the story is essentially the same in the two different versions: Roy escapes from the mansion by pretending to go fishing. The difference is that in the second draft, Roy comes up with the idea and sets it into motion himself.

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Morning coffee – and there’s more than one strong character in this picture, but that’s for me to know and for you to wonder about.

I hope this all makes some kind of sense to you, but if it doesn’t, feel free to leave a comment and ask. I’ll try my best to answer as soon as I can.

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Canned Wisdom #3

A Village Is Blind Under The Stars

My father, who enjoys messing around with brushes and colours, made this painting of a scene from my book Emma’s Story:

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A single light burns at the top of the hill.
A village is blind under the stars.

The cover image of Emma’s Story was painted by a friend of mine. You can read more about it here.

After I got the cover and showed it off, it struck me that it would be fun to have some more images from the story to share. It’d also be really fascinating to see how others imagined it.

I’m not sure how many of my friends who read the book are into painting, but I know my dad is (he counts as a friend too), so I asked him. Turns out he was more than happy to help out, and you can see the result above.

What amazed me was that I was able to tell right away which scene it was he’d painted. All of the details add up, and it’s actually really close to how I imagined it myself. Most likely this is what I’ll see next time I read that part.

I hope those of you who’ve already read it will be able to recognize the scene though, but perhaps the caption gave it away?

The scene is from very near the end of the book, so to avoid giving away any spoilers I won’t be going into details about it – other than what you can see for yourself.


In other news, I’ve brought the price of the ebook version of Emma’s Story up to the full retail price ($2.99, £2.49, €2.99)  instead of the cheaper launch price. Sales dropped off after the first week, and I figured everyone I know who wanted the book would have gotten it by now.

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It’s cheaper than a coffee and a brownie too.

I’m unlikely to do any more promotion of the book for the time being, and anyone who finds it will have heard about it through word of mouth. My thinking is that if you get a recommendation from someone you probably won’t be too fussed about whether the book is 0.99 or 2.99.

Sure, it’s three times the price, but it’s still cheaper than a pint of beer, and it’ll take you longer to read – and hopefully it’ll bring you more enjoyment too.

A Village Is Blind Under The Stars

Special Book Offer – For Locals

If you’re in Cork, Ireland, I would recommend stepping into Alchemy Coffee & Books on Barrack Street to check out this fine offer:

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Unfortunately, they’re out of brownies, but I didn’t know that when I made the sign. There’s plenty of other good stuff though.

Alchemy is the place where I wrote almost the entire first draft of Emma’s Story. I went there after work, and I went there during my weekends. I used to sit on one of the bar stools over by the window to the coal yard and write, with my laptop on the shelf and with a coffee and a brownie next to it.

It’s how the story got done.

Sure, I might have done some writing at home, and perhaps in a pub once in a while, but it’s writing in the window at Alchemy that I remember. They’ve moved the bar stools now, and put two small tables and chairs in their place. Better use of space like that. It gets crowded enough in here as it is anyway,

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I need to take more time and be less self-conscious about taking pictures in public. This one got a bit rushed and the sign is out of focus a bit.

I’m very happy to have been able to work out this deal with the staff here. I consider them friends of mine, and they always seem happy to see me. Sometimes I get a free coffee.

I don’t know that I’ll make a killing selling books at the local coffee shop, but it’s a fun little gimmick, and it’s getting me some good attention. That’s the main thing for now I think. If I’d had sequels lined up to release I’d have put more effort into promoting the book and trying a little harder to sell it.

There’s no follow-up though, and my series I’m working on won’t launch until early July. For now, this is mainly just for fun, and to try and learn a bit about self-publishing. In that regard it’s working out great, and I believe I’ll feel a lot more confident once my new stories are due for release.

That said, if you want to have a closer look at the book, you’ll find it here. Also, since sales on the book have dropped off I’ll be raising the price to 2.99 tomorrow morning. I won’t be doing any more promotion for it in a while, and as such people will mainly only find it through word of mouth.

Special Book Offer – For Locals

Canned Wisdom #2

I believe I said I’d post this one today, so here it is:

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Previous post here.

The above statement is true as much in writing as in life in general – at least for me.

Also – and I’m not kidding here – I wrote a fairly long piece elaborating on the above. About halfway through I decided the words on the pictures speak for themselves, so I cut it.

I saved the words though and I will use them for another post in the future, probably something about info dumps.

Canned Wisdom #2

From Idea to Finished Story

Front Cover - OnlineI’ve got a new article up on Mythic Scribes. It’s a piece about how I took Emma’s Story from a vague and fuzzy idea to a finished story ready to be published.

It was a long journey and while the article skips a lot of the details, I think I managed to fit in all of the most important parts. Have a look, and don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask questions if you have any.

Also, if you’re a fantasy writer, do sign up for the forums and join into the discussions. It’s a great way to meet likeminded and to discuss writing with a fantasy backdrop.

From Idea to Finished Story

Book In Hand

Just a quick post to show off that the print copies of my book I ordered finally arrived:

I’ve seen pictures of the book myself, and I received a proof copy shortly after the paperback first went live, but this is the first time I hold the finished book in my hand.

It feels pretty good.

A few of these will go to my friend who painted the cover. I’ll keep one for myself, and the rest will probably be sold at the cafe where I wrote the book. I even have a special deal worked out with the owner of the cafe, but I’ll show that off on Monday when I know for sure it’s all going through as planned.

EDIT: I’m apparently crap at self-promotion. Here’s the link to the book on Amazon: Emma’s Story.

Book In Hand

Canned Wisdom #1

Yesterday I wrote about doing a series of post with some basic writing advice.

I won’t be doing these every day, or I’ll run out of steam real soon. I figured I’d start off with the first part right away though – while I’m still excited about the idea.

Here goes:

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Yesterday, I mentioned Show, Don’t Tell as an example of catchy but overly simplified piece of writing advice. This image basically covers that rule, but it also tries to trick you into figuring out the reasoning behind the advice.

I very firmly believe that no matter how well I describe something, or how many words I use, I will never be able to communicate the exact image in my head to any of my readers. Fortunately, I do not have to.

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This morning’s sunrise. Completely unrelated?

Instead, what I want to do is give my readers the tools they need to create their own images. As long as their image matches what’s required of the story, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the same as mine.

If I give my reader the tools to build their own image they become more invested in it. By adding something of their own to the image it becomes more real to them than if I try to force my vision upon them.

Beware

There is a warning hidden in the message in the picture. It may not be obvious right away, and it’s probably worthy of a picture of its own, but I’ll mention it here anyway:

Do not mess up the reader’s own image.

What I mean here is that you need to keep track of what you have described and what you haven’t. For everything you describe, there are millions of things you do not mention. For every single one of these things, the reader has the option to imagine something other than what you are imagining.

2018-02-07 19.32.24If you return to your description at a later time and add more details, it is very likely that you will contradict what your reader imagined. This in turn has a very high probability of breaking their immersion and bringing them out of the story. I don’t want that to happen to me when I’m reading, and I don’t want it to happen to my readers.


That’s it for this time. I’ll probably do next post in the Canned Wisdom series on Wednesday or Tuesday next week. I may post something or other about my book, or about whatever else comes to mind in the meantime though.

Finally, do you have any comments or questions or opinions on what I write above? Please feel free to leave a comment below. :)

Canned Wisdom #1