Category Archive: readers

May 07 2013

Readers Hate Realism in Fiction

pagesOne thing I’ve learned after writing over a dozen stories is … readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. Yet, they want to feel like everything that happens in a story is true to life. A contradiction? Not necessarily.

Readers like to suspend disbelief in certain situations and genres like in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Paranormal fiction. I mean, we all know were-creatures and fairies don’t exist. But if the writer has done her job and created rules for her world, as long as her characters follow the rules, the readers have no issues.

It’s with things like characters, their motives, their desires, struggles and actual characteristics that need to feel … real.

 

Likable Characters, Redeemable Characteristics

Readers think they want realistic, but what they really want is happily ever afters, scorching hot men, talented and successful characters, nice guys or bad boys with redeemable qualities, and characters that do not possess any unfavorable qualities … in other words, people who don’t really exist.

It irks readers when you give them whinny, lying, foul-mouthed, bitchy, odd, arrogant, lazy, two-faced, characters because the point in reading, for many, is to escape those kinds of people and situations.

But if you want to truly be realistic, these are the types of people we live with, work with, associate with, and encounter every day, even when we look in the mirror. No wonder we don’t want to deal with them in Fiction Land.

True realistic characters in fiction, the characters we deal with on a day-to-day basis, can warrant the author unfavorable reviews, can cost the author potential readers, and result in low sales. Read reviews. Almost every reviewer mentions what they felt about the characters. It’s that big a deal.

I’ve read that a character should reflect the reader. I disagree. Readers want to be the character in a sense of relating to the character and their struggles and then experiencing that happy ending. Readers do not want the character to be a reflection of themselves and their unflattering traits. That’s too realistic for comfort in most cases. Those are the characters we don’t relate to, the ones we don’t like, the ones who are forgettable, etc.

 

Fairytales and Happily Ever Afters

Essentially, we like fairytales. The princess always gets the prince at the end. No main character dies or suffers too long or too much, not without finally getting what they were striving for throughout their entire journey. Bad people get what they deserve. Good people get what they deserve. By the end of the book, life is grand!

This is apparently what helps makes good fiction. It’s very formulaic, believe it or not. We authors are all telling the exact same story just with different characters, situations and delivery.

 

The Fiction Formula and what it says about Human Beings

Every genre has a set of rules that the writer must adhere to. In the Romance genre, some of the rules are:

  1. Happily ever after or happily for now. This is an absolute must! This is what readers expect out of the genre.
  2. A physically, mentally or emotionally attractive main character. Yes, they can have issues and physical flaws (have a limp, a scar, swear too much, etc.), but they have to possess a trait that makes them very attractive, unique or engaging as well.
  3. They have to have good intentions. No matter what, deep inside they are good people.

Readers aren’t interested in characters who wakes up to have it all, unless they lose it all and prove that they deserved it in the first place, or if they sacrifice it all for a greater good. Characters have to struggle, otherwise their tale is boring. They can’t just get everything they want, they have to work for it. They just can’t have anyone they want either, they have to work for that too. Everyone gets their just desserts by the end.

This is the rule of fiction.

Says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and others, right? Haven’t you noticed that we tend to be envious of those who seem to have it all and acquire it without much effort? We feel that way because we compare ourselves to them. We tend to despise people who seem not to work as hard, or suffer as much as we do, but seem to have more than us and are happier. We hate these types of characters too. That’s why a great character in fiction has to suffer like no other, inside and out before they can have their happy ending.

When the characters don’t suffer enough, you leave readers unsatisfied.

 

How Fiction Differs from Real Life

Well, in the real world:

  1. Good people often have crappy things happen to them.
  2. Bad people don’t always get punished.
  3. And most of the time, we never have all our wishes come true or …
  4. End up with the dangerously scorching hot hunk at the end of our suffering.
  5. Many times, there is no end to our sufferings.
  6. We don’t have perfect relationships. We don’t have funny, selfless and spunky friends, neighbors, relatives, pets, bosses, etc.
  7. We don’t have great jobs.
  8. We’re weak, fat, miserable, and insecure.
  9. Sometimes, life just sucks!

So it’s not that readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. It’s that, readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how “sucky” life really is.

Keep that in mind when creating fictional characters.

 

What did you think of this post? Speak your mind in the comments below.

Aug 01 2012

Why Isn’t Every Writer Famous?

Most authors have the same dream … to be a bestselling author, make tons of money and contacts, gain millions of fans, have a movie deal or five, gain respect from the masses and forever be known for our craft.

There are probably millions of writers throughout the world, but only few in comparison live that writer’s dream.

Why?

Well, it has to do with a lot of factors. No single author could follow the exact same footsteps as another author and have the exact same outcome. There are so many minute differences that the outcome will never be the same.

Remember in the movie Jurassic Park, when Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, was talking to a woman about the butterfly effect? He took a drop of water and allowed it to run down the back of her hand, and then he did it again with another drop of water. Even though he placed the second droplet in the exact same place as the first, the second droplet didn’t run down her hand in the exact same path of the first droplet as she predicted. Why? According to Malcolm, “Tiny variations never repeat and vastly affect the outcome. Which is unpredictability.”

So no matter what you do to mimic successful, bestselling celebrity-status authors, you will not come to the same conclusion. You may come close to or even succeed that writer dream, and that’s a good way to look at it too.

What are “tiny variations” in publishing?

  • The story itself. No two books are exactly alike. They may have come from the same idea but different authors use their different skills and come up with different stories.

Remember those games we used to play in grade school. One person tells a short story into another person’s ear, by the time the story makes its rounds between ten other people it has changed vastly. The same with stories written by authors, the characters, the motives, the descriptions, the conflict, it all contains tiny and mostly significant variations that affect the outcome and overall reading experience.

  • The book’s audience. Just because one book is getting rave reviews doesn’t mean another following its same path with get the same reviews. And we all know how powerful word-of-mouth advertising is. The more buzz surrounding your book, the greater the chance more people will take notice of it.

People, like literary agents and book publishers, movie directors and even celebrities who can endorse your book. Or for some, their buzz might just result in an increase readership and their relatives finally taking them seriously as a writer. It’s never the same for everyone.

  • Pure luck. Yes, I went there. To be brief and blunt, some people have it and others don’t. Even some authors who get six figure book deals and movie contracts sometimes don’t know how it happened. Some don’t even try, they publish a book and the book just takes off without any promotion at all. Trust me, it happens. I chalk it off as pure luck. Some have it. Some don’t.

So here we are, millions of authors vying for the same attention, the same respect, and the same outcomes as some of the lucky greats before us and the lucky greats even beside us. When the best thing we can do for ourselves is write the best stories we’re capable of, work hard to do what we do best, keep striving but ultimately let the cards fall where they may and enjoy the experience.

We’ll all have a unique writing experience and that’s what makes writing so special to begin with. Let’s cherish the unpredictability.

Do you know some tiny variations that you would like to add? Leave a comment.

Apr 18 2012

Why Writing Well Consistently is Crucial for an Author

Part of an author’s job is to market themselves and their work. We keep up with our online social networks, updating Facebook and Twitter and engaging with other authors, editors, agents and readers. We blog, we’re interviewed and participate in discussions on online forums and blogs. Whether we’re writing books or writing Facebook updates, our number one job as a writer is to write and write well.

 

What makes good writing?

  • Proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, etc.
  • Ability to convey your message effectively

Why is it important to write well all the time?

Your writing is an asset. It’s what you are selling. It’s part of your brand. You’re a writer. You need to prove your skill. You’re expected to know how to write and write well.
Imagine a potential reader coming across an article you wrote online … and it’s littered with typos, emoticons and abbreviations one would use when text messaging. It may be difficult to see what type of writing you’re selling in your books.
It’s important to remember, while online everyone’s watching from potential readers to editors, agents and publishers. Show the world that you understand grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. Flaunt your writing skills everywhere you leave your writing, and be consistent.

 

When to stick with proper writing:

  • Writing and/or responding to emails
  • Writing, responding and/or commenting on blog posts
  • Article writing
  • Writing contests
  • Manuscript queries, partials and submissions
  • Book reviews or public reviews of any kind
  • Updating social network sites
  • Online interviews

 

 

When you can let it slide:

  • Twitter updates (due to the 140 character limit)
  • Text or instant messaging

 

Tips to make sure your writing is superb:

  • Always use spell check
  • Read it back to yourself out loud
  • Use Kindle or Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech feature
  • Have someone else look over it
  • Put it away for a couple days, look over it again, and then post publically
  • After publishing it (blog or online article) and you find a typo or mistake, correct it immediately

 

It helps to get into the habit of writing well if you do it regularly. Writing is your talent, your brand and your value. Don’t abuse it by not demonstrating your skill. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

Feb 27 2012

Read More to Write Better

Sure we read fiction to escape reality or to be entertained. We read nonfiction to learn or to be inspired. We read for various reasons. However, did you know to be a better writer you have to read? Not just read, but read analytically.

 

Reading often and with an analytical eye will help you do the following:

Understand the three-act structure of storytelling

This one’s fairly easy and something that does not necessarily have to be taught to you if you read fiction regularly. The more you read the more you absorb the three-act structure of storytelling. I wouldn’t be surprised to know a four year old could tell an adequate story in less than five sentences just by having someone read him a bedtime story every night.


The dinosaur lost his blanket. He travels the land for days in search of the blanket and spots it near the top of a volcano. He climbs up the mountainside, fighting lava monsters until he finally makes it to the blanket and takes it back. He safely returns to his mommy and daddy, and lives happily ever after.

 

 

As dull as that story is, it’s still a complete story that contains the three act structure with Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. We understand this structure early and easily in stories just by reading and reading often.

Helps to study the market

Compare your books to other books by reading similar books in your genre with similar themes. It allows you to see how popular or appealing that genre and theme is, how your story compares to it in terms of uniqueness, and helps you discover overdone plots and overused characters and other clichés.
With that information you can write a book that stands out from the competition and produces buzz. You can also see the commonalities of your genre and understand why readers gravitate (or not) to those types of books so you can better provide reader satisfaction.

 

Helps to find your voice

When reading stories with similar themes as your own you  can analyze how other authors tell their stories and why you think their voice worked or didn’t work for that book. Is it too dark? Fast paced with choppy sentences? Does it lack tone or emotion?
Finding out how the narrative voice fits with the book or not will help you see which style is best for your own story.

 

Helps to broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar

We read many words while reading some of our favorite books and some are words we’re not familiar with. We learn and memorize those words and add them to our vocabulary. With every story we read our vocabulary grows. The more words you know, the easier it is to write and be more descriptive.
We can be our own teachers at times and improve our grammar just by reading regularly. Seeing a word spelled a certain way, or with an apostrophe here or there becomes second nature to mimic that in our own writing.
Plus, more people should easily understand the difference between the words then and than if they read those words in a few sentences often. (A tiny peeve of mine).

Bad excuses NOT to read as a writer

  • Afraid of stealing ideas from another book or author.
This is a poor excuse, in my opinion. True, there are few original ideas left (if any) but there are limitless ways of telling a story. You have a unique voice, style and creativity that it’s nearly impossible for two people with the same idea to tell the exact same story.
  • It takes away writing time.

If you’re on a deadline, sure writing time is few.  However, plenty writers benefit when they read almost as much (if not more) than they write, for reasons stated above.

 

So continue to write but remember to read and read often for entertainment, inspiration or whatever the reason, but especially if you want to improve as a writer.

Do you agree with my points? Do you have something to add that I may have missed?

Feb 22 2012

Reasons Writing What You Love Works

As I write this, I have about a dozen books with my name on them and I love them all. I love some more than others. The titles I like most are the ones with subjects I enjoy writing about. The stories with an underlying theme or issue that’s close to my heart. And I found I get thoughtful, more positive responses from readers when I write what I love. Below are some reasons why writing what you love can create better, more fulfilling writing.


1. It’s easier to write what you’re passionate about.

If you’re passionate about marriage equality, if you have something to say about single parenting, or perhaps you’re an animal activist and enjoy writing stories about similar characters, chances are you’ll be able to easily get your story onto paper or screen.

Ways to incorporate your passion into your story are:

  • Through conflict: Making your passion a critical part of the story (major conflict), a character’s decision or battle (inner conflict), a character’s past (backstory), etc.
  • Dialogue: Several characters can debate about the subject.
  • A character’s belief on the subject: The subject is a major part of the character’s upbringing or backstory that he’s forced to explore and by the end has transformed.

2. You’re knowledgeable about the subject or are more willing to learn about the subject.

When you write what you love, you tend to know plenty about the subject and therefore are a sort of expert in that regard. Your knowledge will come in handy for crafting a true to life story and believable characters. If you aren’t an expert on the subject, your love for that subject will persuade you to learn more about it. Or at least make research fun instead of daunting!

3. You put more effort into your project.

I find when I believe in the overall message of my story I spend an insane amount of time perfecting it. Enough is never enough when it comes to a project you really care about. You put your heart into creating the absolute best. You agonize over every minute detail.  You have to get it right.

4. You convey your passion and/or message to readers better.

You immerse yourself in your passion, it seems fitting to eagerly share what you’ve learned, and your desire shines through effortlessly. Almost like telling someone about the first time you rode a roller coaster or witnessed something truly amazing, you’re delivery is engaging. When you write what you love, what you’re passionate about, the reader could tell too. You help them understand why the subject is important to the writer, the characters, the plot, etc. Plus, you have fun writing it!

As a writer, are there other reasons you think writing what you love works? As a reader, do you think a writer’s passion for a specific content, subject, or theme makes for better reading?

Feb 14 2012

The Complicated Story Ending

The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.


Sound familiar?

These are the (unofficial) rules about story endings that all writers know or should know. We follow these rules to ensure a great ending to our story in the hopes that readers will stick around for the next book in the series, come back to read our next standalone title, or even pick up one of our backlisted ones.

Why Endings are Important.

The end of any book is important. The end is the last impression the reader has of our stories. It’s the part of the story that is the freshest in their mind and which they rate and judge the book as a whole. A great ending is hard to write but necessary to attempt.

Although I know what makes a great ending I still struggle to execute it at times. I obsess over it, trying to perfect it.

Makings of a Great Story Ending:

  • Twists and surprise endings: Surprising the reader with a revelation that was foreshadowed throughout the story. i.e. It was right under their noses the whole time.

  • Theme: Tying in the overall theme or message of the book into the ending to add extra significance.

  • Answer the major story question: Will they fall in love? Will they find the murderer? Will they ever learn to trust one another?

  • Character change and growth: The main characters must begin the story a certain person and by the end of the story the character is a changed man or woman. The events in the story, the obstacles, the triumphs and failures all mold the character into a different person by the end.

  • End at the end: Once the major story questions are answered and the character achieves the story goal then the story is over. Ending the story before questions are answered and characters change or long after can disappoint the reader.

Currently I attempt to rewrite the ending of my latest WIP and hope it all falls into place. Knowing how to write the perfect ending to your story doesn’t make it any less complicated, in my opinion. However, my motto is: If it’s too easy, you ain’t doing it right.