Posted in creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Open Doors and Plot Holes

Death_to_stock_Dinner_damo_8.jpgMaybe this only happens in my house, but unlike the picture above with nicely closed cabinet doors, I can walk into a room and, no kidding, there is almost always at least one drawer, cupboard door, or package of something or other left open. Usually, more than one. There have been times when I’ve walked into the kitchen and literally every cupboard door is standing open because someone was looking for something and, after finding it, walked away.

What does this have to do with plot holes?

Your readers are like one of my kids looking for the bag of chocolate chips they want to add to their spoon of peanut butter. They keep looking for the answers you’ve promised them, scouring every page, rereading when they think they might have missed something, or silently working out all possible endings when they’re forced to put down a book and pay attention to real life for a few hours.

Those times when all the cupboard doors are left open because they have to search that hard, it often results from one of two things:

1: They’ve opened every other door in the kitchen and are reaching for the last one, opening it slowly, only to find, the cupboard is bare and the answers you promised aren’t actually in the kitchen, or anywhere…and they walk away, annoyed and vowing to never read anything of yours again because, dang it, when you want a snack and can only find celery sticks that make your mouth itch, your definitely not going to take the time to clean up your mess.

OR

2: They reach for that last cupboard door, pull it open and – because you’ve done an impeccable job of filling in holes and stretching out your reveals – all those awesome answers come flooding out at the very end for your reader to gobble up as hungrily as my kids might those cookies I tried to hide from them, and abandon the kitchen in complete satisfaction…forgetting to close all the cupboard doors.

The point?

Little Blond GirlJust like when my kids (my daughter specifically) stomps away, annoyed I haven’t purchased sufficient snack-worthy foods, your readers will walk away when they finish a book unsatisfied because of questions you never answered if your book leaves them with option #1.

I’ve been teaching a self-editing class this semester, and one of the best tips for avoiding plot holes is to re-outline your novel or story as you do your first major edit.

Why?

Editing sucks, right? 90% of writers will agree with me on that, I’m pretty sure.

Outlines suck even more. Okay, maybe only other pansters will agree with me on that, but that’s got to be at least 50%, right?

You know what sucks more, though? Having a reader leave a nasty review…one that’s legit and calls you out on shortcuts you took or hints you failed to live up to.

During your first major outline, take the time to outline your book, taking note of all the hints you added in, the questions you posed, and the bits of backstory you teased your readers with.

Did you follow up on each and every one?

If not, you have two choices:

1: Nix it. If you never followed up because that particular tidbit simply didn’t pan out, remove it.

Questions2: Fill in where you neglected to follow through. Any questions you posed that pertain to that particular book (notice I’m not talking series-length questions) make sure you have an answer, or make it apparent that question will be answered in a subsequent book, if you’re working on a series.

Most readers have a Love/Hate relationship with valid cliffhangers.

ALL readers have a Hate/Hate relationship with lazy writing that leaves them questioning why they purchased a book.

Don’t let your readers down. Answer every question you ask, even the ones you might have forgotten about from those first few chapters when the concept of your story was still in flux. You’ll thank yourself later, and so will your readers. Nobody wants to end a book like Lost Season 6, trust me. Rants are still happening about that finale six years after the fact.

Posted in books

Stereotypes in Character Devlopment

What are Stereotypes and why should you be careful when using them?

StripedShirtWomanStereotypes

A character that is so ordinary or unoriginal that they seem like an oversimplified version of a person, class, gender, etc.

Why should you avoid this?

Stereotypes are rarely accurate. Not only can they be offensive, they make for poor characters because readers can guess exactly what they will think, do, say, or respond. That’s boring.

Straight stereotypes lack depth and are predictable. Readers immediately think they already know how their story will go because they feel like they have already met this character and read their story in a dozen other similar stories. Your goal as a writer is to surprise your readers with new and unique characters and stories.

Should you NEVER use a stereotype?

OSC quote stereotypesStereotypes develop for a reason

High school for example: there are jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, emos, skanks, etc.

  • At this age, being defined and having a “label” provides safety and confidence (“self” on some level)

Now think about the adult workplace: there are brown-nosers, slackers, workaholics, gossips, etc.

  • You have a wider variety of personalities, but there are always those few in nearly every workplace that fit “the mold”

How do you use this the right way?

Start with a level of stereotype to instantly familiarize readers with the character’s traits…then delve deeper, expand on what is on the surface. You still have to be careful with starting out an introduction with a stereotypical portrayal because it can turn readers off if they think all they are going to get is a stereotyped “blah” character, i.e. the handsome and charming billionaire out to sweep Miss Innocent off her feet.

Make it clear from the beginning that even if this character exhibits stereotypical behaviors, the reasons behind them are deep and layer, and there are consequences for the way the act or live. Hint at complexity so your readers are left wanting more and searching for the truth rather than sighing and thinking, “I’ve already read this a hundred times before.”

SURPRISE YOUR READERS

If you want to hear the full discussion now, listen to “Episode 5: Creating a Character with Depth” on #WritePublishRepeat Podcast.

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Posted in write publish repeat

Write. Publish. Repeat. is branching out to iTunes and Stitcher!

 WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT. Podcast is branching out to iTunes and Stitcher!

WPR Header ImageThis podcast is aimed sat helping writers with a wide variety of topics in writing, publishing, and marketing. It’s a mix of lecture-style podcasts using information taken from the curriculum of the classes I teach and conversations with other authors willing to share their advice and experiences.

So, if you’re interested in writing, the publishing industry, or learning how to market your books better, you’ve found the right place!

Either click on the WPR Logo to subscribe to the RSS feed or click the episode link to download the file to your device.

Subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking on the WPR image below or check out the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher:

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Episode 1: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

Episode 2: Query Letters and Social Media with guest SeriouslyGina

Episode 3: Creating a Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable – Part One

Episode 4: Creating a Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable – Part Two

Episode 5: Author Collaboration with Guest Melissa Eskue Ousley

Creative Commons License
WritePublishRepeat by DelSheree Gladden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://delshereegladden.com/writepublishrepeat/.

Posted in query letter, writing tips

Writing a Query Letter: Part 3

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Paragraph Two of the Query Letter

9e9dd-largestackofbooksMini-Synopsis
Similar to the back cover summary
100-250 words

Expand on your hook
Explain more about your Main characters…
Problems/conflicts…
How adversity changes them…

Read back covers of other books for examples!

Paragraph Three: Bio

Brand new Author?
(You may want to skip this)

  • What to include?
    Is it meaningful to the query?
    Does it show personality?
  • Keep it short
  • Keep it writing related
  • Education
  • Work
  • Personal experience
  • Research

Publishing Credits/Awards

  • Awards
    • If you’ve won them…INCLUDE THEM
      Don’t be modest, but don’t go overboard

Publishing credits (BE SPECIFIC)
Journals
Online/trade magazines

Unpublished?
You don’t need to say

Academic or Nonfiction?
Shows you know the process

DON’T INCLUDE:
Church news letter, credits unrelated to professional writing

Self-Published: Include or Not Include?

  • Timing
    • It will be discussed eventually
  • Doesn’t hurt your chances
  • Be confident
  • Be ready discuss success/failure
  • Do you consider it a Mistake/Irrelevant
    • Leave it out
  • Does it make you a more desirable client?
    • Depends on success – mention sales numbers, length of time on sale
      • Success to some agents/pub = 5000 sales (per month…)

Open Blue BookWhat NOT to Mention

  • Social media presence/platform
    • UNLESS you have A LOT of followers
    • Agents will Google you anyway
  • Marketing Plan
  • Years of effort and dedication
  • Family/friends opinions
  • Past rejections/near misses
  • Apologize
  • Compliment your work
  • Discuss $$ your book will make

Thank You/Closing

  • Thank the agent/pub
  • Time & consideration
  • Alert agent/pub full manuscript is available upon request
  • Mention if your book is being considered by another agency
  • Series potential/written
  • Include contact information basics
  • Only offer exclusives for a short time period
  • Only compare your book to another in terms of style, voice, theme (Not $$)

Join me next week for a discussion on writing a great blurb for your query.


Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

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Posted in write publish repeat

Write Publish Repeat has arrived!

It’s taken me way longer than planned (June was a busy month!) but I finally have the first episode of my new podcast published. Yay!!

Give it a listen and see what you think. I’d love your comments and feedback and suggestions on topics you’d like to see next.

Listen Here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/writepublishrepeat/WPR_Podcast_Episode_One_Query_Letter_Tips_Final.mp3

Download Here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/writepublishrepeat/WPR_Podcast_Episode_One_Query_Letter_Tips_Final.mp3

Subscribe Here: http://writepublishrepeat.libsyn.com/rss

(Coming Soon to iTunes!! As soon as I figure it out 😛 )
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Click on the link below to open the player.
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Posted in write publish repeat

Veturing into the world of Podcasting

I have been going back and forth lately about what platform I would like to focus on for helping other writers and have settled on podcasting!

I love listening to podcasts thanks to my husband introducing me to them and I like the flexibility and format and there will be an archive that is easy to access through iTunes and various other avenues.

Write. Publish. Repeat. will be launching soon!

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I’m still working on editing the first episode, but I hope to have it up and ready to go next week. The first episode will deal with one of the most frustrating aspects of publishing. The Query Letter.

Titled “How to write a query letter without going completely crazy” I’ll be discussing the basics of what a query letter is, the parts of a query letter, and tips for making yours stand out.

You can follow the podcast now and it will soon be available on iTunes as well!

FOLLOW HERE

Posted in writing, writing advice, writing tips

Creating a Protagonist With Depth: Part Five

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, Part Three HERE and Part Four HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to make your characters fail in a way that makes them better.


iStock_000024086772Large

Failure

Just like nobody enjoys a perfect character, no one likes a character that always makes the right choices and succeeds
If your character always succeeds, where’s the tension, the worry that they might fail? Without that, readers get bored.
A story needs fear that the character will fail/die/be beaten in order to keep readers flipping pages.
Even if they think they know where the story is going, they want to find out how they’ll get there


 How do you make them fail? Rope 2

Look back at their list of faults and flaws. Which of those can you use to put them in a situation where making the right choice will be difficult?
In “What We Saw At Night” Allie doesn’t tell the police what she saw because she’s afraid of getting in trouble for being somewhere she shouldn’t.
Why was she out at night? Because she has a severe sun allergy and has started taking risks because she thinks she won’t live very long.


hand over mouthHow do you avoid nonsense failure?

Does it make sense in real life?
If some guy told you he was sneaking into your room to watch you sleep at night, you’d freak out. Bella, though, was totally cool with it, which has garnered criticism.
Would two parents ever actually split up twin girls and never let them see each other for their own selfish reasons like they did in The Parent Trap? I highly doubt it.
When helping characters make decisions, make sure there’s a good reason for what they choose. Lean on that backstory you crafted.
Do their fears influence them?
Have past hurts caused them to mistrust others when they shouldn’t?


What character failures have left an impression with you?


Posted in characters, writing

Creating A Protagonist With Depth: Part Four

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, and Part Three HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to fill out your character with some backstory, faults, contradictions, and conflict.

iStock_000014115888LargeBackstory

Now that we have the basics of your character and who they are at the beginning and end, it’s time to fill in the middle.

We do that with backstory. Why is your character the way they are?

Remember those personality flaws, fears, and annoying habits you created earlier? Now it’s time to find out where they came from.

The reason behind the flaw is what makes it interesting.

Ex: Lena from “Beautiful Creatures” is afraid of falling in love because of the curse on her family that tells her she’ll turn evil and hurt the people she cares about.
That’s more interesting than just being too shy to ask a guy out.

Like an iceberg, most of the backstory you come up with will never appear on the pages, but it will make your character who they are. 


Depressed young homeless womanFaults

Nobody likes perfect characters. They’re boring.

Every character needs a few faults.

Make a list of 5 faults your character has – let’s go deeper than not being able to make a free throw.

Personality flaws: unreliable, eccentric, immoral, volatile.

Fears: common or complex – Indiana Jones’ fear of snakes got him in trouble a few times.

Weaknesses: unemotional, domineering, perfectionist.


IMG_0454Contradictions

Faults aren’t enough. Your character needs to be contradictory at times.

Why? No real person behaves the way they should all the time.

We do things we know are wrong, go against our own beliefs, and do the opposite of what we intended to do.

This can go the other way too. Does your bad guy had a soft spot?

No one is all good or all evil. Your characters need to have a mix of both.


Man with SwordConflict

Every good character needs plenty of conflict, not just from situations they find themselves in, but internal conflict as well.

Go back to your list of fears…

Which of these fears will your character face and try to conquer in your story?

While trying to overcome the main conflict in the story, your character must also overcome internal conflicts that are holding them back.

If they don’t, their character arc won’t be completed.


Full, rounded out characters can make or break a story. Giving your character a life outside the story will help them come alive on the pages for your readers.

Posted in writing advice

Creating a Protagonist with Depth: Part Three

If you haven’t read the first two part in the series, you can find Part One HERE and Part Two HERE.

Now, on to today’s discussion!

Character Arc

What is a character arc?

It’s your character’s journey from who they are at the beginning of the book to who they become by the end.

(Hint: these should be different!)

  • This is basically the main question your character arc needs to fulfill throughout the course of a story. Developing a strong character arc will help you create a character with depth.

There are 3 stages to a character arc.

STAGE ONE

Arc Stage 1

The Catalyst

You need something that will force your character onto the path that will change them from who they are to who you want them to become.

This can be a physical and internal stumbling blocks.

The catalyst is a problem – something your character needs to overcome.

For example…

Tris finding out she’s Divergent.

Katniss volunteering for the Hunger Games to save Rue.

The journey to overcome this problem is what will test them and force them to grow personally and emotionally.

STAGE TWO

Arc Stage 2

During the second stage, your character attempts to resolve the problem from the first stage.
Of course, things can’t go to easily for your character.
In order to make sure your character keeps growing, they need to continue to face new obstacles.
Translation: Things keep getting worse.

Why?
As your character faces new problems, they learn new skills, become more capable, more like the person they need to be.

STAGE THREE

Arc Stage 3

This is the resolution stage, where your story reaches its climax and your character discovers who they are becoming.
This is NOT always the resolution of your characters’ completed arc
If your are writing a series, this may be the first realization for the character of who they want to be or will become.

Your full character arc may stretch over a series of books, but within each book you should have the three stages of the character arc, with the character reaching an important realization at the end of each book.

Making sure your character changes and grows throughout your story will help create a more believable and relatable character.

Posted in characters

Creating a Protagonist with Depth:Part 2

If you haven’t read Part One of this series, you can find it HERE.

Now…on with the show!

In PART TWO of this series, we’ll be talking about Stereotypes and Archetypes. If you’re not sure what one or both of these are, have no fear, they’ll be explained, and we’ll also talk about whether they should or shouldn’t be used and how to tell the difference.

StripedShirtWomanStereotypes

What are Stereotypes and why should you be careful when using them?

Stereotypes

  • A character that is so ordinary or unoriginal that they seem like an oversimplified version of a person, class, gender, etc.

Basically, this means the character is one dimensional. What readers see is what they get. There’s nothing deeper to their thoughts, personalities, or motivations. Simply put, these are not the most interesting characters. Certainly not what you want to model your Main Character after!

Why should you avoid this?

  • Stereotypes are rarely accurate. Not only can they be offensive, they make for poor characters because readers can guess exactly what they will think, do, say, or respond. That’s boring.

There are times when Stereotypes are used effectively in fiction. These are usually your secondary or tertiary characters who aren’t integral to the plot and provide “filler” in a scene or situation. They don’t add to the story, particularly, or move the plot along, and usually have very little page time.

Even when writing these types of characters, be careful to avoid writing a character that draws too heavily on ideas that may be found offensive or off putting. Stereoptypical character should be used very sparingly, even when writing secondary or tertiary characters.

Gabriel with swordArchetypes

What are archetypes and should you use them?

Archetypes

  • A typical character, action, or situation that seems to represent a universal pattern of human nature

Are they bad?

  • Archetypes can be used effectively when done right. For example, the “Hero,” “Innocent Youth,” or “Mentor” characters appear in many works of fiction.

Fantasy and Science Fiction often use archetypal characters, and you also see them quite frequently in comic book storylines as well. Popular examples would included Darth Vader and Anakin/Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars,” The Giver and Jonas from “The Giver,” and Sauron, Gandalf, and Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings.”

  • The challenge is creating an archetype without falling into stereotype. Even if your character is following an archetypal pattern, they still need to be complex and unpredictable at times.

In comic some comic books, the hero and villain are intentionally portrayed as stereotypical archetypes. Such as, the villain is ALL evil while the hero is ALL good. In such stark good vs. evil storylines, this works very well. Many other comics prefer to use more complex heroes and villains, which is what fiction/prose writers want to accomplish as well. No villain is completely evil and no hero is undeniably pure. There has to be more to the story, deeper reasons, secrets, hidden desires, and more layers than your readers can see in one glance to make sure you’re writing a well rounded and interesting archetype.

Next up is Character Arcs…what they are, how to use them, and what they will help you accomplish. In the mean time, I’d love to hear your examples of stereotypical and archetypal characters from books or comics you’ve read!