Your fiction is about your character, not your genre

When you ask the question ‘what is this book about?’ you may get this kind of non-answer: It’s a hard-boiled detective novel. It’s a contemporary story of modern malaise.  No, no, no! Those answers are an indicator of genre or category. Very few readers are looking for just-anything in a certain category. Fiction, famously, is about folks. Your lead character, for one.

Instead, a good answer renames the main character with an adjective-and-noun combo, and then tells about the problem he faces. A dragon private investigator has to solve a mystery. A dull businessman awakens to find he’s become a giant cockroach. That’s how you hook the reader.

You may say, but what if the seeking reader absolutely dislikes private investigators who are dragons? Wouldn’t it be better to kind of sneak up on him with the dragon thing? No. How many books have you purchased just because they were allegedly about a hard-boiled detective or about modern malaise? Are you an enthusiastic modern malaise reader? I doubt it. When folks ask what a book is about, they are really asking WHO the book is about, what sort of entity is he, and what is his problem.

Giving a name is not enough. We may all know who Scarlett O’Hara and Michael Corleone are, but we don’t have a clue about your Bill Wilson or Amanda Gracenote. Tell who they are: a noun. Is your lead a beggar, thief, cook, maidservant, swordsman or serial killer? Make a short list of one-noun descriptions of who your character IS, in this particular story.

Next, pick an unexpected adjective. Some adjectives aren’t worth using. If your swordsman is strong or brave, that’s usually understood. Most heroines of romance novels are beautiful or at least pretty. Now, if you have a cowardly swordsman or a homely romantic heroine— really homely, not some girl who thinks she’s homely because she weighs a bit too much due to her enormous boobs— this is unexpected and will arouse curiosity.

Then, mention a problem. It doesn’t have to be the biggest problem, or the one that leads to the final confrontation. Best is something that happens near the beginning and is a launch-point into the rest of the story. You don’t want to use something that’s a spoiler, but you do want to mention something juicy— something perhaps a little different that could catch a reader’s interest.

Now, here is a hint: if your adjective-noun description is really wild— like the dragon detective— the problem can be more hum-drum— solve a mystery, like detectives do all the time. If your adjective-noun is kind of commonplace— a dull businessman— the problem has to have a real kick to it. Like becoming a cockroach. In fact, if both parts of your descriptive sentence are wild— a dragon detective who wakes up as a cockroach— that’s probably a bit too wild for the reader to relate to.

The biggest thing an author can do for a story is come up with a good one-sentence description that’s a hoot. Try it— an adjective-noun to describe the Lead, and a brief description of the/a problem that the Lead has to deal with. Remember when writing it— less is more. If you churn out something that’s 37 words long and has 8 adjectives when 1 would do, start over.

Once you have a good one-sentence description, use it everywhere. Incorporate it into your book blurb. When sharing the link to your book online, always add your one-sentence description. Use it in query letters. For writing success as an indie or traditionally published writer, these will be the most important words you write.

 

Advertisements

Never write nice characters

Some writers, especially Christian ones, sit down to write and think it is their duty to create ‘nice’ characters for us. Because it’s nice to be nice and if you are nice, people will like you, right? But ‘nice’ isn’t good enough, in fiction or in real life.

In the real world, think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Catholic priest who had offended the Nazis somehow and was sent to Auschwitz. One day some of the other prisoners had escaped. The Nazis decided to pick out some men to kill as a punishment to the group. One of the men picked was a family man who cried out he would be leaving his family behind. So Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to be killed in that man’s place. What would you say, if YOU were the man whose life was saved by Maximilian Kolbe? “How nice of you to die for me?” It was a lot more than just ‘nice.’

People go to fiction for stories that are more intense than our everyday lives. In our life we can divide the people we know into ‘nice’ and ‘not-so-nice’ categories, because we usually don’t know people who literally volunteer to die for someone. Or, at the other extreme, we don’t usually know serial killers or Hitlers.

In life, ‘nice’ and ‘not-so-nice’ people are okay. But in fiction, they are bland. That’s why we don’t just plunk down real people into novels. They have to be better or worse than everyday real people. Katness Everdeen (Hunger Games) didn’t just help her little sister with homework, she volunteered to take her sister’s place in a fight to the death. Lord Voldemort didn’t just leave his waitress a 5 cent tip, he went around KILLING people.

What can you do to make your fictional hero better than ‘nice,’ or your villain worse than ‘not-so-nice?’


Am currently reading:

Closer to the Heart – Mercedes Lackey (Fantasy, magic horses, spies)
MAGA 2020 & Beyond (Short story anthology) – edited by Jason Rennie, Dawn Witzke & Marina Fontaine
Heidi – Johanna Spyri (in German)
Mornings like This – Annie Dillard (found poetry)
Empire of Ivory – Naomi Novik (about dragons in Napoleonic Wars)

Gave up on as Just Too Dull and SJWish and compared Pres Trump to a cannibal when he doesn’t even eat dog meat like fmr Pres Obama:

Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King & Owen King

becoming a dragonfly

Here is a poem I wrote two years ago, which should make it just ripe. Shared on Poets United’s Poetry Pantry.

becoming a dragonfly

and this is my life
since becoming a dragonfly i float
in the windows of the nobles to steal
their jewels
which i give to the old priest
who feeds the poor
and gives them rosaries
made with his old bent hands
and Job’s tears

over all of this the emperor
watches and smiles
fearing only the assassination attempts
made by the moon
that is his life
which shines and sparkles
but cannot fly
or find solitude

(c) 2016 Nissa Annakindt

This poem was written from the keywords ‘dragonfly, jewels, emperor, moon’ which I got from the book ‘Writing Poetry from the inside out’ by Sandford Lyne. This is one of the better ‘how to write poetry’ books I have, and I have written several poems from the long lists of keywords in the back of the book.

One expression that younger people may be unfamiliar with in the poem is ‘Job’s tears.’ Job’s tears is a plant with large seeds that are strung on threads to make rosaries. Job, on the other hand, is the main figure in one of the longest and most poetic books of the Old Testament.


I recently bought a book on the Romantic Poets, in the Ignatius Critical Edition series. It was the only book I found in the series that dealt with poetry and not prose. The series is edited by Joseph Pearce, who is not only an ‘acclaimed literary biographer,’ but he did some lectures on Shakespeare on the television channel EWTN.


Teaching Children to hate poetry

One way children are taught to hate poetry in the schools is when teachers put out signals that poetry is far too horrible and difficult for children, and that children’s exposure to the awful stuff must be limited. I had an English teacher in high school that was like that. To save us from the horror of reading an actual poem, he gave us lessons where he handed out sheets with Beatles song lyrics on them, which we were supposed to treat as if they were from the pen of Emily Dickinson.

The teacher thought he was being ‘cool.’ But while he, a rather young teacher, could remember Beatlemania as if it were yesterday, the children in his classroom thought of the Beatles as something that happened in the old days, like Kennedy’s assassination or Johnson lifting up his dog by the ears. I tended to look on Beatles lyrics only for their influence on Charles Manson and his followers— I was already a true crime geek.

So the upshot was we weren’t to read a great poet of the past, or even some contemporary poetry, but just song lyrics. Song lyrics may have poetry in them, but the main thing is song lyrics can be sung, the songs recorded, and sold for money. Lots of money if they make it to the top of the charts. The teacher had taught us that we didn’t have to read poetry, we could just listen to popular song lyrics instead. I think though if he had handed us a sheet with Emily Dickinson’s ‘I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody, too,’ we might have coped with the horror of POETRY and even enjoyed it.


Follow me on Twitter or GAB: @nissalovescats  (Same on both services.)

Promoting your blog’s posts with #Buffer

I started on Twitter as a way to get my blog posts before more readers, so I could build my platform. I built up a list of followers and people I followed, with emphasis on writers. I do a lot of retweets of other people’s stuff, and I weed out the people I follow who don’t follow back, or who are mistakes for other reasons.

But if I only post my blog post links to Twitter when I make the post— WordPress makes that automatic— most of my Twitter followers miss it because they can’t be on Twitter ALL the time. I’ve read it is recommended to Tweet your blog posts 3 times in the week you make it. Plus, I like to retweet my older blog posts that might be of interest.

That would mean going online to Twitter several times a day, which would be a major time sink. So, Buffer. Buffer is a service that lets you schedule a bunch of Tweets for preselected times of day. You write out the Tweet and the link to your blog post, add hash tags, and soon you can have a bunch of Tweets scheduled to go.

This is a big help— whenever I tweet a bunch of posts like that, my blog gets more action, according to the site stats.

NOTE: You don’t have to write out your blog post’s official title every time you Tweet it, whether you tweet it through WordPress when you post, directly on Twitter, or through Buffer. Suppose you wrote a post on how to create a villain. “How to create a villain” might be your official post title. But when you tweet you might use different wording for each time you Tweet: “Building Better Villains”, “Does Your Book Need a Lord Voldemort?” and so on.

Vary your hashtags as well. Check on Twitter to see if your proposed hashtag is in much use. Since the purpose of using hashtags is to find new readers who are NOT your followers but who have clicked on a hashtag to see what others are saying, you want to have popular hashtags. Sometimes your post will fit in with a current trending hashtag: use it! In fact, every time you go to Buffer, have another window open to Twitter to check hashtags. It really helps.

 


I am @nissalovescats on Twitter (and GAB) and I welcome new followers. I usually follow back all accounts that are related to books, reading or writers, just not accounts that are there to sell me services I don’t want. Or bitcoin call girls.

Learning to promote a poetry book

This is the cover of one of my poetry books, Where the Opium Cactus Grows. It contains most of my earlier poetic output. I used to think my poems were humorous because some of them make me laugh like a loon, but this book made my mother cry. So I don’t really know how to evaluate it.

When I came out with this book I didn’t know much about how any self-published book could be promoted, much less how to do it with a poetry book. I’ve read a lot of how-to-promote-books info since then. But I’ve been shy about applying it to my poetry, because, well, it’s poetry. And as I put the books together myself, I can see all the things I should have done better.

One of the problems is that I need to gain some fans for my blog and social media accounts who like poetry. On Twitter I have been following accounts that tweet haikus and other short poetry. I also have changed the title of my account there to “Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie and cat person.” Which is also the title of my Facebook author page.

One thing I have learned that the self-published authors who gain readers don’t publish just one book and wait for it to sell. You have to keep producing. To that end I am determined to come out with my next poetry book, Waiting for the Poison Shot, sometime this year. To make my life really impossible, I also seem to be committed to a book of found poetry created from the speeches of annoying Left-wing people. I think this will be an anthology with other conservative poets involved.

The main think I believe is that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that our poetry books are— poetry. Yeah, some people don’t like poetry. There are also some people that hate romance novels, but that doesn’t stop romance writers from promoting their books. Be brave and find your ‘tribe’— a group of people who actually appreciates your work.

eggs in a cool place

This is another post in Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. Go to their site to read more.

eggs in a cool place

A stale egg rises in water
fresh eggs are heavy
and sink to the bottom
farewell I gladly bid thee

Eggs should be well covered
and kept in a cool place
wash eggs just before using
thy life is vain and sinful

Eggs should never be boiled
as that renders them tough
they should be cooked
just under the boiling point
I long to be in heaven

In the early spring or fall
when eggs are plentiful at at their best,
pack them away for future use
where they will be rewarded.

1-4-18 (c) Nissa Annakindt

This is an example of found poetry inspired by a poetry book I have just purchased, ‘Mornings Like This’ by Annie Dillard.
My main source was an old cookbook of mine, ‘The Settlement Cook Book’ by Mrs Simon Kander, 1947 edition. The last line in each stanza was from a hymn, Farewell I Gladly Give Thee, (Valet will ich dir geben) written by Valerius Herberger, 1613, translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863.

Since this is a very newly written poem, some things are uncertain. I don’t really know what I am going to do about capitalizations and punctuations, for example. I don’t really know whether this poem is more than temporary amusement for me. I like to let a poem ‘cook’ for a while before I make final revisions. A lot of hard work ahead, like putting a comma in and then later taking it out. 😉

Buying Poetry Books:

I believe every poet would do well to buy books by other poets— or poetry magazines or anthologies— on a regular basis. We learn more from each poem we write. I bought the Annie Dillard book ‘Mornings Like This’ because it is found poetry, and because I am working on a major poetic project based on found poetry. I didn’t expect much and was quite pleased I was more inspired by it than I ever thought possible.

Future blog post project

I am planning a future blog post with a title ‘How to teach students to hate poetry.’ My contention is that school poetry lessons in most schools do a lot to make students hate poetry, rather than like it or read it. Since I suspect today’s blog post may be visited by a number of poets and poetry lovers, I would welcome your opinions on the teaching of poetry.

Conservative Hispanic Writer Jon Del Arroz banned from Worldcon Sci-Fi convention

I just found out one of my favorite authors, Jon Del Arroz, has been discriminated against by ‘Worldcon’, an alleged science fiction convention. I have interacted with Jon online and he’s a decent human being and kind to weird people like me. But someone doesn’t like the fact that he’s conservative. Or Hispanic. Or Christian. Or that he wears a USA ball cap sometimes. Or that his name means ‘Jon with rice’ in Spanish.

According to Megan Fox of PJ Media, Jon Del Arroz has been banned from Worldcon 76 even though he is the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, and that he bought a ticket. They are not even refunding his money.

Their reason is that they are mind-readers and somehow know that he is planning to ‘engender a hostile environment.’ Actually, they are engendering hostility when they ban probably the only Hispanic conservative sci-fi author that had paid to attend.

Read more here: https://pjmedia.com/trending/sjws-bar-conservative-hispanic-writer-worldcon-claiming-racist-bully/

I have recently read Jon Del Arroz’s book, For Steam and Country. It is a steampunk novel with a female main character and other characters who are females in powerful positions. I could well imagine a good liberal teacher reading the book, noting the Hispanic author and strong female characters, recommending the book to students. The book can be enjoyed by various political points of view. Here is the link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071JNR9HB

I’m asking all the readers of this: if you like science fiction, or even if you just like not discriminating against the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction just because he is conservative, or Christian, or allegedly planning a thoughtcrime, PLEASE do something to help. Spread this blog post at Megan Fox’s article over all your social media.

You can also get in contact with Jon Del Arroz.

Web Page/Blog: http://delarroz.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jondelarroz

GAB (a free-speech alternative to Twitter): https://gab.ai/otomo

NOTE: Jon Del Arroz is a nice guy who is nice to me even though I have Asperger Syndrome. So if you go online to bully him, I’m getting out the big guns: I’m calling out the SAINTS on you. So if you bully, expect to become a Catholic.