Today’s Writing Tip

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Not every character who strolls on scene in your story deserves a name, only those who contribute to the plot in some way. Consider that you encounter numerous nameless people every day, whether on your daily commute or even at work. In fiction, these often include incidental characters such as waiters, people in the elevator, some coworkers, etc. Describing their appearance for the sake of imagery, however, makes them seem real. This is when unusual or outstanding characteristics help them stand out and add to the story, even if they have no plot significance.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Know the difference between omniscient point of view and multiple points of view. Omniscient goes into everyone’s head in any given scene. Multiple viewpoints concentrate on one character at a time, but covers several throughout the course of the story.

Multiple is usually more effective for reader engagement. Your POV character should be able to tell a lot about what others are thinking by their actions, body language, and facial expressions, just like you do every day. Remember that verbal communication is a very small percentage of what a person projects. Such cues are often more effective for conveying emotion than dialog alone.

Today’s Writing Tip

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When you have a huge cast of characters, remind readers who the minor ones are from time to time so they can keep them straight. Placing them in a scene that fits their role sometimes will suffice.  Having a dramatis personae is also highly recommended. This is a list of the people in your story and who they are. In highly populated novels these are greatly appreciated by readers, especially those without steel-trap memories or who may take a little longer to finish a book.

If your book is published in both print and electronic form, make sure the character list is included in the e-book’s table of contents so readers can refer back to it more easily.

Today’s Writing Tip

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If you end a chapter or section with a flashback, be sure to close it out properly so you take the reader back to the present. Otherwise, they might be lost if the story returns to its normal time frame in the next scene. Remember that readers often stop reading at the end of a chapter or scene. By the time they pick up the story again, they may have forgotten what had just happened and, without a clear transition, wonder what they missed.

Today’s Writing Tip

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When you start a new chapter or section, if a significant amount of time has passed, be sure to tell the reader so s/he doesn’t think something was missed or lost. These breaks are intuitive indicators that something has shifted, unless it’s one of those chapters that ends with a cliff hanger. Assuming that’s not the case, if the change is dramatic, such as years have gone by or the viewpoint has shifted to another character, clue in your reader as quickly as possible. Remember that losing your readers doesn’t build suspense, only annoys them.

Today’s Writing Tip

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In traditional fiction publishing format, the first paragraph in a chapter or section is not indented, but flush with the margin. This helps set the stage, even subconsciously, that it’s not a direct continuation of the previous scene, but something new. This is particularly important in e-books, where extra spaces are often lost.

Book interior formatting is something that you seldom notice, unless there’s a problem. Which is as it should be. The last thing a reader needs is distractions. Rather, it should facilitate the flow of the story, indicating scene and viewpoint breaks in a smooth and intuitive manner.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Be familiar with the archetypal “Hero’s Journey”. It resonates with humanity and has been a literary vehicle for millennia. This pattern was identified by Joseph Campbell as a Monomyth in his book, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” This was later adapted by Christopher Vogler as the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey.  The number of stages vary, usually between eight and twelve. Just Google it and you’ll find multiple references, including several different illustrations. As a writer, it’s something with which you should be familiar. Classic examples include “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.”

Today’s Writing Tip

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Remember your main character needs to have a fatal flaw. It doesn’t have to be evil; it could be something like being too honest or outspoken. No one is perfect and to be convincing, your characters shouldn’t be, either. It’s their weaknesses that make them more endearing and real. They also build suspense, an essential ingredient for any story.

If you’re not sure what a character’s fatal flaw might be, take a close look at his or her strengths. Any trait that can be a strength can also be a weakness, if taken to the extreme. Obsessions, for example, can go either way, to a person’s advantage or detriment, depending on the situation. For example, being determined and not giving up can also result in beating the proverbial dead horse.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Other than a chosen few best-selling authors, the people making the most book-related money are those that offer promotion services, teach classes, or provide other publication help, such as cover design, formatting, and video trailer creation.

Unless you have unlimited resources, choose them wisely to make sure you get your money’s worth and a suitable ROI (return on investment). While any new endeavor requires a certain level of investment, it’s an easy trap to fall into where you’re putting out far more money than you’ll be able to recover for a long time. Making easy money by becoming an author is about as likely as becoming a famous singer or Hollywood star. The odds are not in your favor.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Social media presence is important for readers and fans to connect. However, you need to post engaging content to draw them in as opposed to only promoting your books. This is likely to be viewed as spam and lessen your popularity as opposed to boosting it. Giveaways, interesting blog posts, excerpts, and selling yourself as an interesting person are a few ways to draw them in.