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REACHING READERS ON FACEBOOK

February 14, 2018

I think I’ve talked about this before and the success, or rather lack of it I’ve had by using Facebook to market my books, at least so far.

First off, the inspiration for this article came from multiple sources. On one of the Facebook forums, someone asked the question (in so many words), what’s the one thing you like the least about writing, or what thing about writing gives you the most stress.

My answer was simple. “Nothing, except marketing.”

That’s not exactly what I said, but something like that.

I love everything about writing, from sitting down at the computer with a fresh idea, to editing the “mess” in the end and making it a final product, to tweaking the back cover blurb. I love it all.

Except…

Begging for people to buy it. That’s kind of how I feel a lot of the time when it comes to busking these stories to the public.

HAVING A REAL JOB

Since I’m not a full-time author who is making money hand-over-fist, or is retired and has the luxury of being able to drop everything to go off on book tours, or can afford to hire publicity teams, I have to rely on the down and dirty ways to push my book. For the most part, I’m restricted to the Las Vegas area and what I can do on line.

Facebook seems, or seemed like a great potential possibility.

Well, at least it did until I tried it and seen what it’s done for others.

FACEBOOK

With the advent of e-book sales and a new book launch, I invested a sizeable amount (over $100) into a publicity blast for both of my current novels on Facebook. I blasted first the west coast states, and then the entire You Ess And A. Then, I even blasted the UK, Ireland, Germany, Holland, France and Spain.

I have Facebook pages for both my books and of course, an author page on Amazon as well as both books not only on Amazon, but Barnes & Noble, Create Space and on my publisher’s web site, Mystic Publishers.

In a nutshell, given my rather meager income and what I invested in this publicity blast, I at best, generated a modest amount of likes to both my Facebook book pages, zero reviews and little sales as a result. I found out when I got my latest royalty check.

I did get one nasty note from some guy saying not to harass him with spam.

Ever since I did my publicity blast, my slow-but-steady hit rate on both of my Facebook book sites has remained about the same as before and after. In other words, outside of a slight tweak in numbers, my rate of hits on either page has remained almost unchanged.

I do get steady hits here and there. When I post something, my hits go up, then die off to an occasional like or new click. When I just did a recent promotion for my upcoming book signing on 24 February, I got more hits, but ran across another “maybe” complication, which I’ll explain further down.

WHAT I SEE

Lately, more than before, I’m getting more and more author book blasts. I politely click “like” on them to help them out, but only if the book really intrigues me do I ever take it further. If the books are something in a genre I’d actually read, sure, I’ll dig deeper, but so far, none of them have been anything I read. I’m all for stuff that I’m interested in. On the other hand, if I have to order it on line, and not find it in a bookstore, I have to hesitate, because I much prefer to touch it and feel it before I buy. On the other hand, that’s not to say I won’t buy it on line. I only read paper books but save for mass on-line orders of those books and don’t do it that often.

Unfortunately, that’s my own predicament with my book. It’s not in stores because I’m under a small publisher. I can well understand why others may be just as reluctant to purchase my book when they can’t go down to the local bookstore and find it on the shelf.

So, I see an increasing amount of book blasts on Facebook and I do check each and every one of them out and like them all, even if I’m not interested in the actual book. I believe in supporting all authors, at least initially. However, I have yet to purchase any that I’ve seen on Facebook simply because they’re not my genres. Maybe one day.

LATEST ATTEMPT

As I said above, I’m having a book signing coming up at the local bookstore. For that, I invested in a local Las Vegas/Henderson/Boulder City blast, specific to just those three cities (a fifty mile radius). I was hoping to generate some interest. Then, it’d be up to me once they show up at the store.

The result so far was not something I could’ve predicted, given what happened before.

I got this warning that I “wasn’t reaching enough people because my image contained too much text.”

Say what?

It’s a frigging book, for crying out loud! It has a title and my name! How am I supposed to display the book cover without the title and name? What’s up with Facebook and some arbitrary stupid rule about too much text in the image?

After much research I found out that “supposedly,” book covers are exempt from this rule. I mean, I get blasted with book adverts full of book covers all the time. Somehow they’re circumnavigating this rule all the time. I figure I’m okay, but I still keep getting this warning. Is it affecting my reach?

As of today, as I edit and post this, which is still pretty early in the game, I’ve reached 276 people and engaged 31. I’ve got 31 clicks, 26 likes and 3 comments and 2 shares. Folks, that’s some activity so I can’t complain, but it’s blasting to supposedly several million people. I’ve spent $25 to run it until the 24th. I don’t know how Facebook limits who they send it to, or if that image limitation is really exempt.

SUMMARY

Facebook could and should be a great marketing tool yet it isn’t. At least not for everyone.

For the small-time author, it’s a real struggle. With the potential to reach millions, we’re lucky to reach tens, or so it seems. We may be reaching a lot more than that, but getting a reaction from them is like getting blood out of a turnip, and no apologies for the cliché. No matter how well written, how good our graphics are, when you’re an unknown and don’t have a book on the shelf, you have an uphill struggle. It’s hard for any amount of money or blasting to overcome that. Plus, Facebook is a big mystery as to how they really function and whether they’re worth the bother.

I wish I knew the magic key to fixing all that without going broke.

Happy writing!

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ORGANIZING YOUR STORY BY POV

February 7, 2018

As many of you know at Fred Central, I’m a fanatic about controlled point of view (POV). Whether the ultimate in first-person, which I’m personally not a fan of, or my preferred third-person, to me, it has to be controlled. Otherwise, I get jerked out of the story.

When an author head-hops within scenes or chapters, it’s like taking a thread and adding branches to it while maintaining the main thread. The branches that are tied on, loop around and tie back into the main branch further down. In other words, I have to follow two threads simultaneously within the story flow.

This blurs and weakens the impact of the story, not only to me, but to other readers. It may be slight, but the way I look at it, the fewer barriers you, the writer put up between you and the reader, the better.

There are countless things about our writing that get in the way of conveying our stories to the public. One of the easiest to overcome is point of view. You can fix this barrier by simply keeping your stuff together and eliminate a host of other problems.

BY CHAPTER OR SCENE

Time and time again, I’ve talked about keeping the POV in the head of one character. If you have multiple character POVs, and you want to switch heads, change the scene or chapter. Simple as that.

Don’t head hop. The best way is to have say…the main character in chapter one. Then switch to a side character or the bad guy in chapter two, then switch back to the main character, etc.

When scenes get more intense, do it by scenes within a chapter instead of by chapters.

Some grand poohbahs at a conference a few years ago, I think it was a romance conference, gave head-hopping a pass because of the intense romantic elements. That seemed to open the floodgates for a lot of lazy writing and I distinctly remember noticing a lot of head hopping in mainstream novels ever since, especially in thrillers during heavy action scenes. Soon, I was seeing entire books with a pseudo-omniscient POV scenario and then some books with no POV at all.

It’s like the floodgates opened and there was a total breakdown of character control. There were certain authors that stuck to controlled POV and folks, those books were such a dream to read! The contrast was, and still is, like night and day.

CHAPTER TITLES

The inspiration for this week’s article comes from a recent icky bug novel that I just finished. A weird story in itself of how I found it, I’d bought a Michael Crichton book two weeks before, got home and discovered I’d already read it. So, with receipt in hand, I took the Crichton back to Barnes & Noble and got a refund. Then I went right back to the shelves and re-browsed, looking for something else. To my great surprise, I stumbled across this icky bug novel, which was a total shock. Not only does B&N hardly ever shelve any icky bug, but traditional publishing hardly ever does.

I had to carefully page through this one to look for certain red flags. Often, these horror (icky bug) novels end up being nothing but literary character studies with bummer endings. I had to slow down, page through it a bit and even sneak a look at the ending to make sure there were survivors. From what I could tell, there were survivors.

Turns out I was pleasantly surprised and delighted. It was a very good book. Not only that, but it was written in solid third-person, past tense and solid, controlled POV. What makes it unusual is that the author not only organized it by character/chapter, but actually named the chapters after the character’s POV. That way, I knew exactly who’s head I was in and the author stuck to it.

This was a unique way of organizing the book. I’ve seen it done this way before, though not often.

The thing is that it worked and worked well.

The result was that all things considered, I breezed through the book. There were no barriers getting in the way.

SUMMARY

I’ve said it over and over again and will continue to do so. When you organize the POV into characters and keep it clean, the story flows so much better! It’s not just a matter of “It’s the story that counts,” because in addition, the writing isn’t getting in the way.

I must also note that I’m editing a story in a genre that I’d normally never read. Even though the subject matter is not my normal interest, the author writes in solid third-person, past-tense with controlled POV and I find myself absorbed in the work because the POV is right there.

That says something. That’s one less barrier, whether conscious or unconscious to your readers you may or may not be aware of.

Keep that in mind as you organize your work.

Happy writing!

RAMBLING ON AND ON

January 31, 2018

To continue in the same thread as Description – When Do You Zone Out, I ran across the perfect example. The day I started that article, I also started what I thought was a science fiction thriller. It turned out to be a literary speculative slog of a character study.

It not only described the room, but rambled on and on and on and on and on about each character, and then went on to ramble about the philosophy behind the science of the plot. A red flag should’ve been that the author has a PHD. I’ve run across this before with another “thriller” writer. In this other case, his books ramble so much, I could barely get through them, though at least there’s a bit more action than this five-hundred page tome. The only reason I finished this one was because I paid for it.

A CHARACTER STUDY

Though I should say right up front, I’m no fan of literary fiction, for those of you that are, this book might’ve been right up your alley. It was page after page after page of internal feelings of each character. Mixed in were detailed descriptions of each location and on top of that, the philosophy behind what they were doing.

This amounted to very long chapters, long paragraphs, and almost no action.

To make things worse, the author followed no particular point of view, though it was at least third-person, past-tense. However, when the POV was in one character’s head, as soon as another character showed up, the author popped right into their head and then back to the other character without changing scenes or chapters.

The point is that while I dragged through page after page of inner thoughts and feelings of a character, I kept waiting for something to happen. I was actually paging ahead, looking for something…some kind of break to see if anything was going on.

PHILOSOPHICAL RAMBLING

The premise of the book was interesting. I’ll give the author that. There was also a good bit of technical discussion thrown in. However, it was, like the character thoughts, buried in page after page after page of rambling exposition. Need I say more?

TENSION

I think, or at least thought this was supposed to be a thriller.

However…

Though there were several very tense scenes, or what should’ve been tense scenes, guess what happened? At the worst possible time, the author stopped the action to go off on a ramble with character. Yup, right when things might’ve picked up and he could’ve generated some decent tension and thrills, he brought all that to a screeching halt to go off on another character study with thoughts, feelings and emotions. The result was that every…and I mean EVERY thrilling scene became a total dud.

RESULT

This book could’ve easily been two hundred and fifty instead of five hundred plus pages. Then, given the ending, while semi-satisfying, could’ve been salvaged to make this a decent thriller.

I almost put the book down several times. Throughout, I drifted…a lot. However, I also forced myself to pay attention, especially in the first half in case I missed some key plot point, which I didn’t. The main reason I never put it down, was, like I said before, because I paid for it and wanted to get my money’s worth.

Well, I got it in words.

SUMMARY

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

You shouldn’t torture your readers. You shouldn’t make your readers suffer to get to the end.

Do you think I’m just too biased? Uh, I don’t think so, given the reviews I saw before I posted my own two-star on Amazon. The author garnered plenty of five star reviews, of course, because there are those that love the literary side of things. However, the majority of those that like thrillers and getting to the point sure voiced their displeasure and it showed in the one and two star reviews. Mine among them.

If only somewhere on the cover, the description included “literary” I could’ve saved my money and this never would’ve happened. There are plenty of tomes out there that do exactly that. Right there on the cover is the word “literary.” That’s my kryptonite. I know to avoid that book at all costs. If that were somewhere on this book, either in the blurb or in the endorsements, I could’ve saved some bucks I would’ve used better for something I’d have enjoyed.

A little truth in advertising never hurts.

Happy writing!

DESCRIPTION – WHEN DO YOU ZONE OUT?

January 24, 2018

I’ve talked about descriptions quite a bit here at Fred Central. Though I have nothing personal against the literary crowd, as a reader, I like the author to get to the point. As a writer, I try to reflect that as well.

I, in no way, have attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I know this is a common condition that manifests in a lot of people nowadays. It can make it hard for people afflicted with it to stay focused. Therefore, one needs to keep on task to maintain their attention.

This is not what I’m talking about…at all.

There are those of us that just like to cut to the chase. It’s as simple as that. While we can sit through endless slogs of “whatever” to get to a point, generally, we much prefer to get there and avoid the fluff. That doesn’t mean we have any mental or psychological condition. We just have better things to do with our time.

CUT TO THE CHASE

The literary writer is in love with words. Well, let’s think about that. We, as writers are all in love with words. That is, after all, our entire reason for being here in this passion of writing. The difference is that as genre writers, some of us prefer to make our point in as few words as possible, where the literary writer stops to smell the roses, to dig deep into descriptions, feelings etc.

Someone who enjoys literary writing doesn’t mind taking three chapters to get across the street. On the other hand, someone who likes to get to the point would much prefer that happened in two or three sentences.

Big difference.

The reality is that with most writers, it all falls somewhere in-between.

One can cut to the chase, but still throw in a little of the kitchen sink without adding in the dirty dishwater.

TOLERANCE FOR EXPOSITION AND RAMBLING

I can only go so far with the description of a room. General size, shape, what’s in it as in major items are good enough for me. The main point is what’s significant in the room that’s key to the story and plot is all I really care about. The rest of it’s just window dressing. I zone it out. How many sentences or words does it take to accomplish that?

When I’m on the third paragraph and we’re still describing the room, guess what I’m doing? I’m treading water. I’m zoning out. I’m only coasting along in case I miss something key to the story. I can count on my hand…one hand…in the hundreds if not more books I’ve read lately that rambled like that, where there was something within all that blather that really mattered toward the plot/story/anything. It was pure fluff, rambling by the author. Maybe it was literary, meant for those that love words, but for someone like me, it was the old adult in the Charlie Brown cartoons. “Wah wah wah wah wah.”

WHAT’S YOUR DESCRIPTION TOLERANCE LEVEL?

Be honest with yourself. When is it that you zone out when you’re reading a description of something? Now, translate that to your own writing. As much as you burn to describe something in detail, sit back, take a breath and read through it again.

Where, as a reader, would you zone out?

What can you cut that doesn’t really add anything except additional color, flavor, bla bla bla to the description? Is it really necessary?

Everyone has their own tolerance level. I certainly do. There are certain things I want to put in. Sometimes it’s a balance of what I want, versus what I need.

Sometimes a room is just a room.

Sometimes a forest is just a forest.

On the other hand, they can’t all be drab with no detail.

Your world can’t be gray. You have to color it in!

The key is that you don’t want to slather on the paint so thick you obscure the picture.

How’s that for an analogy?

To reverse what I just said, in your story, no room is just a room. If it is, it doesn’t need to be there.

That’s right, if that room needs to be there, it has a purpose so it needs a description. A simple description will do, but simple can be quite detailed at the same time. It doesn’t have to be thirty pages, just a few simple words.

Remember, words have power.

You don’t want those words to lose that power to where the reader zones out, especially if that room is just a small part of the journey.

Keep reader tolerance level in mind with every part of your story. Everything has a purpose and you need to consider how you apply the “paint” to your word canvas.

SUMMARY

Whether literary or action based, you need to find your balance. If you’re a writer, you should also be a reader. I don’t see how you can write without understanding your potential audience (unless you don’t care). You can only reflect what you like to read and adjust from there, depending on what your goal is.

Happy writing!

CRITIQUE OF A BATCH OF SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS

January 17, 2018

This article was going to be in a couple of weeks, but the discussion came up, off air, prior to a recent radio interview I did with author James Kelly. It seemed a good idea to bring it up now.

While I don’t actively discourage self-publishing, I also take it as a cautionary tale. The fact is that when you present your work to the public in a do-it-yourself manner, all the expertise rides on your shoulders.

While there are a few of you that go to great lengths to do it right, and there are some tremendous success stories, there are way too many that self-publish because they just can’t cut it in the traditional world. Or, they don’t want to wait and do it right. Or, they never hit that string of luck. Or…they just don’t want to follow the rules.

While some rules seem tedious and overbearing, they’re there for a reason. Those annoying “rules” bear some weight when it comes not only to attracting readers, but keeping them.

This is not to say that traditional publishing is immune to pushing out crappy books. If you’re a reader, you know this. I’m sure you’ve gone through plenty of books that you’ve either struggled to finish, never finished, or were pissed off when you did finish them. Or, you were ultimately disappointed in the end.

Unfortunately, in the self-publishing world, this crappy book thing is far more predominant. After all, editing, formatting, artwork, the whole caboodle costs. It can cost a lot, and cutting corners on any of it shows in the end product — what you’re attempting to put in the hands of readers. If you go into this blind, without going through the proper steps that steer you the right way, like some authors are prone to do, you end up with a total mess.

Okay, there are some readers that are blind to all of this. They can read anything. They may notice something is a bit off, but if they like the story, that’s good enough for them. Most readers are more discriminatory. They have world-wary insight into what smells right and what doesn’t. They’re more invested in their genre (or interest) when they pick up a book. When an author throws stuff out there with minimal effort and quality, they poison the well.

A RECENT BATCH OF ICKY BUG

One of the things I asked for this Christmas was a batch of icky bug novels off Amazon. Yeah, I say Amazon because I have no other choice. Our one and only local bookstore (for new books, that is), Barnes & Noble, doesn’t carry very much icky bug. In case you’re new to this site, what I’m talking about is horror novels. Icky bug is my term for horror, but not just any horror. I’m talking b-movie monster horror, like the old Chiller Theater Saturday afternoon horror from the 50’s through 60’s, like we used to get in the good old days.

These stories are still out there, and it’s as rare as hen’s teeth to see them in a traditional bookstore, traditionally published. What gets traditionally published in horror? Usually character studies with bummer endings. Yup, literary stuff that I not only would not read, but would “literally” throw back on the shelf, not just place back on the shelf. I despise that stuff, and that seems to be all that ever makes it to the bookshelves.

Therefore, I have to resort to buying them on-line from the “only” real source out there with an easily-accessed variety, Amazon. There, I can find all kinds of b-movie icky bug novels. The only difference is that ninety percent of them are self-published. I have to carefully look through the usually mediocre (at best) covers, then browse the “peek inside” previews.

The peek inside previews are critical because I won’t even bother unless the story is written in third-person, past-tense. I can usually tell by a quick scan through the entire sample if the author sticks with that. I can also get a quick sample of the initial quality of the writing, though not near enough for the entire book.

Sometimes I scratch the book off the list from the sample. Very rarely, the cover is enough, though I’m not one to usually judge a book by its cover.

This year, I opted for four novels that intrigued me, all by authors I’ve never tried before.

WHAT I FOUND

First off, as I suspected, all four novels were obviously self-published. Given the red flags, there was no doubt. However, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, I liked all four novels, but some had serious flaws.

The covers.

Three of the novels had decent covers. The artwork was not all that bad. They might’ve passed for a traditional publishing house. The fourth was downright cheesy. It was just awful, but even that didn’t deter me from buying the book. I don’t care that much about the cover. However, I can see that one sitting on the shelf in a bookstore, skipped over time and time again by readers. It “literally” screamed “self-published.”

The formatting.

One of them, the best of the bunch, was the most professionally done. The formatting was flawless. From page one to the end, I didn’t see a single glitch. On the other hand, the other three, especially one of the others that happened to have a decent cover, was full of formatting errors. It was like the editor(s) (who did a lousy job) went in for last-minute corrections, but never fixed the formatting after making the changes. Paragraphs were out of place, there were gaps between words, lines were interrupted and dropped to the next line. You name it. Oh, and random capitalizations dotted the paragraphs.

The editing.

In the one with the crummy cover, the editing was atrocious. There were run-on sentences, repeated words, sentences that didn’t make sense. Oh, and the author didn’t know the difference between American and British English. No, this was not a Canadian or British release.

Point of view.

All but one of them had no point of view. They were semi-omniscient, which is to me, a red flag for self-publishing. When there’s no control of point of view, it tells me there was no editor to make the author stick with any controlling characters. I know that in traditional publishing, emphasis on point of view is becoming less and less, but it’s still at least some kind of emphasis. In these books, POV was willy-nilly with no character controlling anything. A complete, head-hopping mess. There was only one book where it had solid third-person controlling POV. That was, by the way, the only five star review I gave of the entire bunch.

Story.

While I enjoyed all four stories, except for the one, they all had their flaws. In one of them, nothing, and I mean nothing happens from the prologue all the way through two-thirds of chapter one. I’ve talked about starting a story with a bang. In this case, there was no bang until page thirty. That would never happen (or shouldn’t) in a traditional novel, unless it’s literary and folks, this was no literary story!

Second, one of the books, while a fun story, had a serious flaw in that the main characters (and there were several), were never put in serious jeopardy. While there was a high body count, none of the action involved the main characters. For an icky bug novel, that’s kind of the point. The main characters have to be put in some kind of jeopardy that they have to get out of.

In the one with the crummy cover, the supposed main character, at least according to the back cover, never did the main hero stuff. He was always in the wings while someone else did the hard work. He just stepped up at the appropriate time to help out and take the credit. Huh?

SUMMARY

It isn’t all just about the story. There has to be something more. Getting you stuff out there, and doing it by cutting corners, or by not following the rules doesn’t always work. In a sample of four self-published books, I found one that did it right. Four random books.

The odds should be better than that.

I’m not trying to discourage self-publishing, if you’re going to do it, please do your research. Don’t get in a rush just to get it out there and shoot yourself in the foot. Remember, it’s your legacy. More and more, there are plenty of self-publishing success stories. If you want to be part of that crowd, slow down, take the time to do it right so your book doesn’t sit out there on the web and languish with a couple of lousy reviews or one or two good ones by friends, while nobody else will review it for fear of hurting your feelings.

Do it right.

Happy writing!

COMING UP WITH CHARACTER NAMES REDUX

January 10, 2018

Through the Facebook Fantasy/Sci-Fi group I belong to, there have been several threads with members asking others to come up with names of this and/or that. I can’t tell you how valuable these queries are to me for mining articles here at Fred Central! I went to my archive and did a word search and found my original article from 2013, Coming Up With Character Names. It was worth a fresh look, with tweaks and additions.

WHERE TO START?

It may seem like an easy task to come up with character names for your story, whether they’re fictional or real (and you generally have to use fictional names to protect the innocent or avoid lawsuits). You can pull the names out of a hat, out of the air, or mix and match them from a baby name book if you want. Maybe you can pull them randomly out of the phone book. Some well-known authors even run contests to publish fan names in their novels. As new writers, you probably don’t have a fan base for that purpose, so you’ll have to rely on other means.

Most of us, I imagine, pull them out of the air, probably inspired, like me, from random people and events around us at the time. Maybe they’re from something that happened in our past.

The inspiration for the name (not the actual character) Joseph “Detach” Datchuk, the main character in my Gold series, came from a guy I knew in elementary school.

On the other hand, in that same series, I pulled Mildred Pierce out of the air. It wasn’t until almost nine years later that I learned she was the name of a very famous character in a novel from the 40’s I’d never heard of. That was purely coincidental.

Meleena, from my fantasy series is completely made up. I’d never heard of anyone with that name until recently when I discovered a disc jockey on Sirius XM radio with a similar, but different spelled name.

NO BEARING ON REALITY

I must make one thing very clear. These character names, even if inspired by real people, have no bearing on the real people! One has nothing to do with the other. Just to be clear, the kid I got the name Detach from in no way resembles the character in my novel in either appearance or personality. The same for Mildred Pierce or any other character I have a name for, so far at least. Maybe someday, the fan that wants to be in one of my books will get a little piece of their appearance or personality added to a character. Not much, but maybe a tiny bit, as a tribute.

I could go on and on. For you, sometimes you just hit it right and sometimes without realizing it, you nail some famous or infamous name and don’t know until someone tells you about it. As for Mildred Pierce, she’s a sidekick in the Gold series and I’m very fond of her. I have no intention of changing her name. I may throw in a comment about the famous novel but maybe not. There are probably hundreds of women named Mildred Pierce, so I don’t see changing it. It’s not like her character is named Angelina Jolie. That would be too unique to get away with.

FANTASY NAMES – PITFALLS

An issue with making up names, especially in fantasy and science fiction worlds (world building) are similar sounding names. Then again, this often happens in real world novels as well. It came up in Meleena’s Adventures – Gods Of The Blue Mountains. The main character is, of course, Meleena. That name is totally unique. In this first sequel, she’s hanging with a female Elf I’ve been calling Alinda. One of my critiquing friends pointed out that Meleena and Alinda sounded too much alike. I referred to my handy-dandy Meleena’s Adventures encyclopedia. I hadn’t alphabetized it yet, which prompted some much needed housekeeping. I have sections for names, places, creatures and things. It was enough of a sidetrack just to get through reordering the names. With that done, I went through every character name, one-by-one, from both books (at the time I did it. Since then, I’ve added more from the third book as well). Since Alinda and Meleena did sound a lot alike, I had to find something unique, something that didn’t sound like any of the other common character names. It wasn’t long before I settled on Niin. There’s no other name like it. Where did I come up with it? I pulled it out of the air. I could’ve spent all day doing the same with random names but that was honestly the first one that popped into my head. No indecision, no agony or worrying. Guess I just got lucky.

When you’re creating names for your story, similarity must be a consideration. Sound-alike names tend to confuse the reader. After a while, readers may not be able to distinguish between characters and that’ll weaken the impact of your prose. Each name should be different and distinctive. Alphabetizing my encyclopedia, which I should’ve done a long before this point, helped me see the big picture. It’s especially important in fantasy world building, where I have to make up names. I can’t be using Karl and Joe and Fred.

In a conventional novel, you don’t want your common characters to be named Ted and Fred and Jed. Or Jan and Fran and Nan. That would drive a reader nuts and it wouldn’t be long before they’d lose track of who is who.

There should be a distinct difference between names.

COMING UP WITH THESE NAMES

Where do I come up with these quirky fantasy names in the first place?

Maybe that goes with my fascination with foreign languages. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been keen on foreign tongues. Then, as an adult, I lived overseas and was exposed to multiple foreign languages. I got used to alternative tongues, accents, spelling and such. Making up my own words and names is no big deal. In fact, I’ve seen that in plenty of other fantasy authors. I can’t vouch for how easy they came up with the names, but they do.

In another thread on the Facebook Fantasy site, someone polled the forum for ideas for names. While that’s one way, to me, these names should come from you, the writer, not from others. If someone else gives you the name, then it’s their idea, not yours. You don’t completely own it. Of course, if you take their name, modify it to make it your own, you could say you came up with it, but I, personally, wouldn’t want that. That’s just me.

However, you have to do whatever works for you and if polling others is the method that gets you there, go for it.

EASY TO PRONOUNCE

The final thought is to make the names easy to pronounce. Don’t have them tongue twisters that need pronunciation guides just to figure out. Words with lots of punctuation, or with “French” or Gaelic spellings that don’t correspond to how they’re pronounced in English. Okay, maybe a little, but only one or two…maybe. Give the name, how it’s pronounced, and leave it at that. Don’t have a whole bunch of names like that, or the reader is going to skip over them and blank out your “finely crafted artistic expressions.” I know I would.

Happy writing!

NO MOTIVATION TO WRITE

January 2, 2018

I’ve talked many times about how I never have a problem with inspiration. To me, my…wait…I just answered a question on Facebook that someone proposed on the Science Fiction/Fantasy board I participate in. They asked something like “What’s the biggest hurdle you have to cross when writing?” Or biggest roadblock, or something to that effect.

While responses crossed the spectrum, surprisingly, inspiration and motivation were right up there (if I remember right).

My response was time.

Yup, my biggest roadblock or hurdle to writing is nothing more than time.

So, what’s motivation got to do with this?

NORMAL CONDITIONS

Under normal circumstances, motivation is not even on the radar for me. Are you kidding? I live for writing! I’m full of ideas, inspiration. There isn’t enough time in the day to lay down all I want to write about.

My muse is right there!

HOWEVER

There is one circumstance that sucks away my motivation. It has nothing to do with either inspiration or a desire to write.

This past weekend, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis. I’ll tell you what. It kicked my butt! Sitting at the computer was pure hell. It was an extreme effort not only to sit at the keyboard, but after just a few minutes, I’d get chills, my eyes wouldn’t focus, and I’d get so sleepy, it just sapped all the energy right out of me. This was merely checking my e-mail.

I’d planned to work several projects at once, switching between them, plus do a bit of woodworking, something I’ve been neglecting since last year.

All of that went down the crapper.

I slept either in my chair or was in bed the entire time.

No motivation or energy to do anything, let alone write.

BEING PHYSICALLY CAPABLE

I’ve done plenty of writing while under the weather. However, it just depends on what type of “under the weather” we’re talking about and how severe it is. When your body is under that kind of duress, it doesn’t bode well for something even as simple as punching keys.

Now, just imagine people with more severe physical or mental conditions trying to write. That can suck the motivation right out of you. It has nothing to do with inspiration.

We’re talking physical barriers.

SOLUTION

Like with life in general, we need to stay as healthy as possible. Some people aren’t motivated because they’re not inspired. That’s a whole different issue. Those that aren’t motivated because they feel like crap have a temporary condition that needs to be addressed.

Like me, I went to the doctor, got the medicine and I’m finally on the way to recovery, as this article can attest to. Of course, now I’m about drained so I’ll have to go and kick back in my chair and take another nap, even though I just got up.

So goes a slow recovery from bronchitis. It ain’t pretty. I can attest to that because I just came back, edited this mess two days later, and geez!

Happy writing!