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REPEATING YOURSELF

October 16, 2019

Okay, I’m over twenty-five, so basically, I’m like…old! What’everrrr…

Given that extreme disability, and after all, I really AM a grandpa, I’m allowed to repeat myself. That’s a given.

However, when you do it just to annoy your friends and family, or simply don’t care is one thing. When you do it unintentionally, and not because you’re losing your marbles (let’s not even go into that reality here), that’s something different.

As authors, we write hundreds upon thousands of words, from hourly to daily to annually. We write one-off stories to series.

It goes without saying, we’re going to write something that eventually repeats.

WHAT’S THE HARM?

Here’s the real clincher for you.

What’s the harm?

Absolutely nothing.

Well…there IS a caveat to that.

Unless you’re out to slander or damage someone, repeating something you said basically does nothing but maybe, and I mean maybe annoy your reader…if that.

TO SLANDER OR DAMAGE SOMEONE

Look at the news, juicy gossip and snide innuendo. This stuff tends to be repeated endlessly.

Don’t think this stuff is restricted to just newspeople. It’s just as prevalent in literature from both sides of the aisle. I’ve seen plenty of fictional stories ruined by it.

MORE BENIGN WAYS

Now, more to my point here today, the sneaky ways repeatability gets into our lives as writers.

The prime example is me, here at Fred Central. I can’t even tell you exactly (at the moment) what number article this one is, but it’s getting close to #300 since I started this blog back in 2012. Since I write about writing, there’s bound to be repeated subjects in there. Not only have I revisited (my term for repeating things), but I’ve flagrantly (a few times), recycled old articles. Why? It was not only time, but many of you weren’t even around Fred Central in 2012 or 2013 when I started this whole thing. It’s also not likely you’re going to slog through all my old articles looking for them.

So…repeatability isn’t going to kill anyone.

Plus, I’m not reluctant to occasionally (well, maybe sometimes more than that) hammer home certain points when I’m on a rant.

After all, writing is my platform as well as my passion. Writing is what I do.

On the other hand…

REPEATABILITY AS PART OF YOUR FICTION OR NON-FICTION

When you write a memoir or non-fictional account, the best way is to try not to keep repeating the same thing over and over again. I’ve read many bios where the author kept repeating the same incidents over and over again, incrementally changing details or referring back to the same things as the rest of their life progressed. Tell it once, which is enough, then move on. It just makes the story flow better. I was still fascinated by things, but even admittedly by the author themselves, they could’ve edited things down a bit better.

Historical accounts you would think should be linear. They should be, unless the author doesn’t take a linear approach, and due to disjointed timelines, keeps overlapping and repeating the same stuff.

Now, as far as fiction goes, repeatability creates issues when the author uses multiple points of view, but doesn’t write in a linear fashion. They create a separate timeline for each character, which means, they repeat the exact same time-space for each character, as told through their eyes. While this is great for keeping within the head of each character, it also repeats an awful lot of the exact same things over and over again.

Now, given a multi-character story where everything happens in real time, but linear, with no repeatability of the same sequence, except minimally, that’s great. It’s much easier on the reader.

REPEATABILITY OF PLOT OR DEVICES

This is far more common than the others.

The author has a favorite plot device, or has characters do something over and over again. This is especially true for series writers.

Then again, some authors agonize over never repeating themselves to the point they hardly ever publish a book. This also provides a conundrum for their readers because they never know whether they’re going to love or hate their next book.

One reason I like and stick with an author is because I like what they write. Usually.

Why?

Repeatability.

They don’t repeat the same story over and over again. They repeat the same quality of writing, the same character or characters, the same style, and most importantly, the same theme in their writing. They give me AC/DC and don’t fix something that isn’t broke!

Happy writing!

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MARKETING VERSUS BADGERING

October 2, 2019

I’d Shout it out!

Many of you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about.

There used to be a commercial on TV back in the 80’s for a laundry detergent. Back in the day before remotes were reliable and people still had dial TVs, there were a few commercials that just badgered you on TV. That was one of them.

I absolutely despised that stuff. Even though I wasn’t usually the one that did the laundry, I still hated even the sight of that stuff. My wife did as well. We never bought it just because of the commercial every TV break. They were relentless.

SOCIAL MEDIA

While I try to do my part, I also try not to be annoying when I promote my books. That means that I keep my promotions on Facebook and Twitter to weekly posts. Not only that, but I also post something relevant to go along with them. I don’t just post the same ad over and over again. I give trivia, something about each story or the world my heroes live it. This is something to keep the fans engaged.

I’ve noticed lately, well actually for a long time, that quite a few authors just post the same ad over and over and over and over and over again, day in, day out. I will like it once, then ignore it the next hundred times.

REPETITION BREEDS ANNOYANCE

Like the old Shout commercial, repetition can breed more negative reaction than cement the brand into anyone’s memory.

A little moderation might be more the trick here.

It’s hard enough being out there begging for people to buy your book.

However, badgering them, day after day, with the same old crap isn’t going to do any good. It’s going to piss them off.

Think about it.

THE CHOICE IS YOURS

We’re all on a budget. When it comes to marketing, many of us work for a living. That means we’re short on time and money.

Social media can be a great (well jury’s still out on that) tool to get the word out.

My best advice is to use it wisely, not as a weapon of annoyance.

Happy writing!

 

CHAPTER LENGTH

September 25, 2019

The other day, my good friend Toni asked a question on our writer’s group forum about chapter length. It was no surprise that she got a bunch of different answers.

I’ve discussed chapters before in several articles and alluded to length but this time, I want to specifically deal with how long a chapter should be.

WHY HAVE CHAPTERS AT ALL?

The big question pertaining to this subject is: Why have chapters at all?

It harkens back to the reason we have punctuation. There was a book published in Spain decades ago, that I’ve mentioned here at Fred Central periodically. The book is a couple of hundred pages long and is one sentence. The only punctuation mark in the entire book is a period at the end. That’s it. I’ve never seen the book, but have heard plenty about it. Can you just imagine a single sentence two hundred plus pages long?

I can’t stand to read a single paragraph that takes up half a page, let alone a full one.

I can’t stand a book with only a couple of chapters, and few scenes.

Why?

Pauses for thoughts – breaks to regroup, rethink, like scenes in a movie, or on TV.

Commercial breaks (though I despise commercials).

THAT’S why we have chapters.

It’s the same reason we not only have punctuation, but sentences and paragraphs. To break the story down and make it more manageable and digestible.

SHORT OR LONG?

I don’t completely buy into this “it takes whatever it takes” thing.

Why?

That gives the author free reign to ramble. When a chapter or scene is too long, it becomes tedious. Period.

I’ve been reading for a little over sixty years. Sitting down for long periods has never been comfortable without some kind of break, especially when I was a young’un. Then those bursts of reading got longer as I got older, and now they’re getting a little shorter again.

Why?

Not only does my body insist, but my mind needs a break, and I have a lower tolerance for bullshit and rambling.

When a chapter or scene is too long, that tells me (consciously and subconsciously) that the author doesn’t know when to shut up and get organized.

Long chapters means the author doesn’t know how to pace correctly.

On the other hand, super-short chapters can either be seen as hyperactive and disjointed, or perfect for reading during commercials.

I’m perfectly fine with short chapters as long as they have a beginning, a middle and an end. If the chapter is a single paragraph, with nothing but a burst of thought, THAT’S a bad chapter. I’ve seen it before, plenty of times.

On the other hand, I’ve seen seventy and eighty page chapters with one and two-page paragraphs and they were pure torture.

To me, moderation is the key.

YOU KNOW WHAT?

On the other hand, your book DOES need to take as many chapters as necessary, but you have to consider your reader, and whether you want to punish them, or not let the writing get in the way of the story.

Think about it.

I tend for short chapters, or long ones with short scenes.

I’m quite happy with moderate chapters broken up with scenes.

You know what? I’m not at all alone in this feeling. In my unofficial polling, which I do all the time, I get unprompted comments from non-writer readers about books (in other words, our potential audience). I hear all kinds of things, and pertaining to this discussion, a biggie is “I thought that chapter would never end.” “That guy (or gal) doesn’t know when to shut up.” “That was just plain tedious.”

SUMMARY

You don’t have to have 80 chapters in your story, but you also don’t have to have 3. You can be reasonable and keep the PACING going so the reader doesn’t get bogged down.

A book should have as many chapters as it takes, but the key is keeping the pacing up so you don’t punish the reader.

Happy writing!

DRAGONS

September 18, 2019

Right off the top, I want to say this isn’t an instruction article on the how to’s of dragons. Also, if you’re not into writing fantasy, this probably isn’t going to be your thing. Or is it?

STANDARD OF THE FANTASY GENRE

If you write fantasy, the dragon, noble or otherwise, is probably a standard creature, or even a trope of your world. These critters can be from the subject to just a minor distraction. They might not even be a part of your world, just to be different.

On the other hand, it’s almost come to be expected from most fantasy worlds. What’s fantasy without some kind of dragon?

There are some fantasy worlds out there that don’t have them.

WHAT ARE THEY THERE FOR?

Quite often, the story is based on dragons. These mythical creatures are the basis for whatever story you’ve written. With magickal powers, breath emissions like fire, ice, and acid to name a few, tremendous strength, the ability to mesmerize, and a range of other superhuman abilities, they’ve earned their status into almost godlike realms.

With that in mind, many stories are woven around this type of world.

They could also just be another “monster in the manual,” something to be dealt with. Usually, they’re one of, if not, the most difficult beasts to fight, if they’re not key to the story or plot.

Then again, maybe they’re neutral, and have little to do with anything, except being peripheral to the rest of the story.

GIVING THEM ABILITIES

Many go right to the D&D Monster Manual for abilities, or the author may research real-world legend. Some make up their own design from a meld of stuff they’ve heard or read.

There are no real rules for what your dragons, if you choose to use them, have to be. It’s your world, so it should be up to you to decide what their abilities and appearance are going to be. You’re not bound by any genre rules that require you to make them so and so.

I’m certainly not going to try to tell you or dictate those parameters for you.

Some are going to call bull if you “break the rules,” but who can say what they are for a mythological creature?

PHILOSOPHICAL – NON-FANTASY DRAGONS

This section is for you non-fantasy fiction writers.

Who says a dragon has to be a dragon?

A dragon can be a protagonist or an antagonist?

A dragon can be a character of mythological proportions. Some person with almost mythological abilities. This someone can sweep into your story and either help save the day, or create havoc in a way that may seem mythological. You, as the author, will have to lay out the logistics for the reader. Leave a little mystery, a little mythology to the character, without making the reader suspend their disbelief too much.

Yes, you non-fantasy writers can have your dragons as well, in the form of real people.

SUMMARY

In most cases, dragons are either key players, or above-the-norm creatures (or people) in a story. They’re meant to be so. Some authors choose not to use them at all. Those that do, tend to elevate them into something mythological, something above all other creatures or people in their story. It’s not just a matter of size, but intent.

Happy writing!

REDEMPTION

September 10, 2019

In today’s cancel culture, redemption seems like an impossible goal. As I was sitting at the breakfast table sipping coffee the other morning, I thought about recent TV shows I’ve been watching. It hit me how many books I’ve read not only lately, but over the years about redemption.

Folks, countless plots in literature are all about redemption.

Why is it that it’s so easy to write about redemption, yet in real life, especially lately, all of a sudden, there’s no such thing?

THE CLASSIC PLOT DEVICE

Redemption is a classic plot device. Hands down, it’s woven into the thread of countless stories.

Hero comes from a downtrodden past. They reached some pinnacle, did someone or something wrong, crashed and now the story begins. They have to work themselves out of the gutter.

The story, in one way or another is all about redemption.

Am I wrong?

I recently read a book by David Baldacci called Redemption. When it’s right in the title, well…

CHARACTER COLOR

The story may not be directly about redemption at all. It’s possibly a minor plot thread. Maybe it’s just a feel-good sideline added in to sweeten the pie.

Get it? Sweeten the pie?

Doesn’t it feel good when someone redeems him or herself?

WHY IS IT SUDDENLY TABOO NOW IN REAL LIFE?

I’m not bringing this up for political reasons but there have been a lot of people who have done some bad stuff in the news lately. Their offenses have ranged from seriously bad to minor discretions of youth.

The newsies, talking heads and others are either digging in or questioning how long that individual has to hide their head in the sand before they can come out and play again.

Are they banned for life?

It seems like no matter how minor the offense, some people just can’t get a break.

On the other hand, some who have committed pretty bad stuff are given unwarranted breaks.

Is all this due to money, fame, politics, or a combination?

The reason I bring up this ugly real-life stuff is simple. It’s not my personal feelings. It’s because it doesn’t seem like literature reflects that at all…well, most of it.

LITERATURE– OUR WRITING – REFLECTS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

When it comes to redemption, at least from the genres I’ve read so far, I have yet to come across any fiction that reflects the true state of reality as it exists today. Not only the cancel culture of society as it stands right now, but the banned who should be truly banned and who should never be redeemed.

Those that should be locked away and the key thrown away, or the ones banned for life?

Literature is exaggerated reality. It’s not real life. Then again, I don’t read books for real life, so maybe that’s the whole point.

Maybe I don’t want to read the ugly truth. I want to read about worlds that take me away from the true ugliness that’s the real world.

Eventually, there will be books out there that exaggerate the reality of the cancel culture. They’ll be the upcoming thrillers.

SUMMARY

While forgiveness and redemption is nothing new, neither is unforgiveness.

I could cite examples in the past where someone did something unforgiveable and they never recovered. It’s old news when you get right down to it. It’s just that there seems to be more of it now with the various movements going on around us in society.

Now THAT’s great fodder for stories to come.

Happy writing!

FAMILIES

August 28, 2019

In your writing, how much does family life play a role in your story/plot?

No matter what your world, family, in some form, provides plenty of plot fodder.

MAJOR OR MINOR CONTRIBUTION?

I’ve recently read books where family had from major to negligible influence on the plot.

In a recent one, it was all about family. In fact, while the main plot was about a murder, the reason for the murder was because the victim disrupted a family.

In the book before that, the hero didn’t have a family. However, he was protecting civilization so everyone else COULD have families. In this case, the contribution was indirectly about families.

SNEAKY WAYS

Most people like that sense of belonging. Of course, there are a few who could care less, and a few who dislike families for whatever reasons. The majority desire some sense of belonging. Stories that provide a sense of belonging usually work better.

Incorporating some sort of family into the characters of your novel can be done in sneaky ways. A partnership is one example. The staff of an agency is another. How about a team that becomes close through trial and tribulation? Maybe everyone hates each other at first, but through adversity, learns to rely and respect each other? They become “family” by the end of the book.

This sense of family is a sneaky, if not overt way of incorporating that into the story.

OF COURSE…

When you cite the solo adventure such as the Old Man And The Sea, or something of that nature, it’s hard to have a family involved when the main character is the ONLY character in the story! Then again, quite often throughout the story, the character thinks about their family.

Some people love these loner stories, even if there’s a cast of many. The main character stays to him or herself despite any interactions with others. THIS is the same isolated feeling that drives these people. There is no family because they either don’t have one or are trying to escape one. The reader can relate to that, or wants to.

In other words…

Stories like these could be a refreshing break from the miseries or stresses of everyday life for some people. It’s a natural thing.

On the other hand, the majority of us celebrate family, much of the time despite the family pressures and stresses of everyday life.

SUMMARY

Have you ever stopped to consider what role family plays in your writing? For some of us, it’s an unconscious thing, while for others, it may be deliberate.

It wouldn’t hurt to step back and see where you stand, just for a hoot. It may help you understand and improve your story.

Happy writing!

FEEL LIKE QUITTING?

August 20, 2019

It’s bound to happen to many, if not most writers. You get that built-up frustration, and want to give up and quit. That’s especially true if writing is a hobby and not a passion. Why do you get this way?

LEARNING TECHNIQUE

It’s no secret that English is one of the hardest languages to master. Not only that, but to write and tell a story properly is even more difficult. There are many nuances to consider, and when one is trying to construct a meaningful and marketable novel or even short story, you’re bombarded with rule after rule after rule.

Things can get frustrating. It takes a lot of perseverance to stick with it.

If you’re not in for the long haul, you might as well stick your toe in, and if the passion doesn’t strike, take up knitting.

CRITICISM

Of course, one can’t get into writing and expect nothing but sunshine and butterflies. To get good at it, you have to not only accept, but absorb a lot of criticism. Not all of it’s going to be kind, and some of it, even if so, may be a blow to your ego.

Look at it this way. No matter who you are. You weren’t a writer before you started this. Or even if you were, you weren’t seriously into this world. Now you are. However, despite all, you’re still new at it, so that means you have to learn stuff and that means you aren’t going to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and others are going to let you know.

Grow a pair and accept that!

GETTING PUBLISHED

By whatever avenue you try, getting published isn’t just doing it. There’s a lot more to the process and it can be very frustrating. You need to go into it with open eyes.

MARKETING

To me, marketing is the worst part of the entire process.

Whether you’re traditionally published or self, you need to get out there and let people know you have a book, and need to convince them to buy it.

It’s simple as that.

This can be extremely frustrating to have people nod and pass you buy, simply ignore you, hate what you write, or make promises they never follow through with.

It’s all part of the process.

SUMMARY

If you want to quit, no matter what stage you’re in, whether you’re still creating, or all the way to the marketing side, you have think of why you write in the first place.

Is this a passion or a hobby?

If writing is a passion, you’re going to continue regardless of all the challenges, because none of that matters. Writing is what you do. Period.

If writing is a hobby. Oh well, you reached a roadblock and it took all the joy out of why you do it.

Quit and take up knitting.

The choice is yours.

Happy writing!