I have a question for you.
I’ve heard from some more recently published writers that they feel (perhaps) increased pressure and less support from publishers than once existed. They feel that if their sales numbers don’t increase quickly –and we all know that nowadays authors and illustrators are expected to do a lot of PR on their own, maintain online presence, etc.–that they will be dropped in favor of another new author’s first book. This is good for some eager new author, but he or she will face the same predicament very soon, so in the long run, it’s not so good. And the new writer who shoots to the top of the best seller list with a first book is very rare, though publishers, and certainly writers, too, always hope for such a lightning strike.
In the not so distant past it was expected that midlist authors would grow a career more slowly and steadily, with a reasonable amount of publishing house support. (Midlist means just what it sounds like–anyone not a total beginner but not at the very top of the profession, either.) Most writers and artists spend their careers in midlist, and often earn honors and a well respected name in the process, even if not necessarily known worldwide.
If this attitude of publishers has changed, and if pressure is more intense now, I’m wondering what can be done to help authors. And I’d like to hear from you, and what you’ve heard from your friends or garnered from your own experiences.
This is February’s post, so look out your window and imagine rain or snow pelting down, especially if your in the North West. I meant to write this post on time, just like I plan monthly to dedicate myself to writing, to make it a priority. I realized the other day that I may not have been putting fingers to keys, but in my brain I was still gathering information. Tidbits of real life that will enrich my writing. Unusual flaws and traits I experienced in the real characters I have met recently. And in times of boredom, I realize I often pull my stories and characters to the for front of my mind and think about where they have gone and where they should go. So, I am making no more excuses. I think I have been wearing my observation hat quite well. Here are a few of the things I have slipped into my writer’s gear bag recently.
When he gets nervous he drums his thighs. Two fingers on each hand tapping his jeans in rapid succession. He’s a security guard, but used to be a plumber. He sharpens knives on the side. He quits drumming and pulls out his hunting knife to show off the smooth flat blade. “Sliced open a lot of things with this,” he says. “It’s so sharp I could fillet a bear before he he to the ground.”
She smokes the shortest marlboro reds one after the other. Her pink plastic cup doesn’t hide her margarita as well as she thinks. Tequila from yesterday wafts from her pores to mix with todays blend. She drums her cup with four fingers eyeing the man with the knife.
At 7 she is crow-like. Can’t resist shiny things on the ground. A nickel, a nail, a piece of glass if the sun makes it shimmer. She grasps them tightly in her pocket. Hidden treasure to worry till her fingers bleed.
He looks over-confident as he saunters over. His gait is wide and bowed like a cowboys. Like he thinks he is cool. It is actually caused by partial paralysis from back surgery. His gate gets wider as his spin disintegrates.
He never lets the small scar on his wrist heal. Picks at it as soon as it seals. A reminder of something?
As soon as anyone asks her a question her eyes dart to her father’s. A half nod from him and she will speak. If he narrows his eyes, she remains silent.
He plucks his eyebrows until they are close to hairless and red and swollen. It’s 85 degrees outside and his ski hat doesn’t cover the damage. This is meth addict behavior. (Who Knew)
Please share any gems you have observed recently too:)
by Judith Enderle
Birthing characters can be challenging.Iin a book, each one must have a reason to be there and each character—whether protagonist or antagonist—must be unique. So how do you do that?
(Right at this point I’m tempted to say: “If you find out, let me know.) But I know how. It’s the doing that is the challenge.
Here are a few details that help me get to know my characters (please expand these lists as you birth your book characters):
Traits: like temperament, intelligence and knowledge, determination
Appearance: height, weight, coloring, health
Family: number of siblings, is your character oldest, youngest, or in the middle? Living situation. Parents and relatives. Economic status.
Personal: secrets, brags, embarrassing moments
Friends: longest, newest, best, many or few?
What matters most to your character? What is your character worried about?
Sometimes interviewing the characters helps you find the details you need.
You’ll need the most information about the protagonist and the antagonist, but get to know the secondary players so their actions and reactions make sense as the story unfolds.
Last, but not least: don’t forget the little things: good and bad habits, tics, favorite words and phrases, great smiles, evil eyes, favorite piece of clothing, nicknames . . . This can be the longest list of all.
Guaranteed, your writing will be easier if you know your characters so well you’d recognize them if they moved next door.