Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting to the Heart of Your Villain

Photo snagged by Denny S. Bryce

I love villains, and even find them easier to write some days, especially after a hard week of work...but I read in one of my many craft courses, or in a book, that in order to create a really good bad guy or gal - keep in mind that the evil one, doesn't think of themselves as being bad. And they have as big a journey as the hero or heroine. A favorite quote of mine from Whedonverse was made by Anya who said "Evil things have plans, too." (or something like that:). 

So dig into your bad guy's head/backstory--what motivates him? Give him a vulnerability. A 'wound' so deep that even at his (or her) most badassedness there's something sympathetic you know about the bad guy. His motivation can help make him more terrifying and/or dangerous to your hero or heroine. Also, play with contrast. Let's say your main character has a 'wound' from his past that is central to him or her being the hero they are, or become in your story...for example...

On the TV show "Criminal Minds" one of the smartest, most vigilant special agents is Aaron Hotchner (this is a favorite show of mine, except for once I'm not talking about Shemar Moore:).

A few seasons back Special Agent Hotchner was interrogating a vicious serial killer. As two cops led the confessed murderer away, the guy asked Hotch, 'How did you know about my father? I never told anyone." Hotchner's reply went something like, "Some kids who are brutalized by their fathers turn into serial killers, others turn into people who hunt and find those killers." (Definitely paraphrasing here...). But that character reveal was well-executed IMHO. Throughout the episode, that bad guy was toted as the most brutal ever, having killed more than 100 people over the years - a real monster. But why it sticks in my mind is the connection the writer established between two opposing characters and how well it emphasized good versus evil. It gave the scene more weight than the typical we caught the bad guy ending. And I imagine for the writer of that episode - made it easier to write because in the back of his mind, he was working toward a goal: to deliver that line.

Anyway, it's Sunday morning and I've had a big cup of coffee...but I must credit a question from a member of my Savvy Authors critique group, which led me to this subject. So after brainstorming there, I decided to re-edit my response to her question and re-post it here. 

The topic is definitely one I often debate as I work on my manuscripts.

So tell me, what inspires you when writing/creating your bad ass bad guy?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marketing for Writers - Social Media for NonPublished Authors - Why Bother?

Snagged from the Internet by Denny S. Bryce

I just got back (no, that was yesterday afternoon, I'm just up so damn early on a Sunday) from a monthly meeting of my local RWA chapter where there was a brief discussion regarding publicity and what writers can expect from publishers these days as far as support for marketing their book. There were also a few comments made about the effects of social media on book sales.

Before I dive into this - let me say it was a great meeting with a fabulous panel of authors from the sci-fi, paranormal and the futuristic world of writing. It was great to hear their stories about the ups and downs of their careers, what has worked for them and what hasn't worked, but thankfully, a lot of what they did worked. So it made for an uplifting panel discussion. Well done WRW! For a list of the authors, please visit the WRW website. Whoops they've updated the site - so here are the authors on yesterday's panel: Catherine Asaro, Mindy Klasky, Pamela Palmer, Diana Peterfreund, and Rebecca York. Please go check out their websites!

OMG! I almost left out the star of the day! Author Colleen Gleason. She taught two workshops in the afternoon one on world building and the other on the Hero's Journey for Writers. Good stuff!

But as I pointed out - during this meeting there was a short conversation about marketing and the value of social media. My take away was pretty much - wow, really. I'll explain that more in a moment, but does anyone out there have any research on social media and its impact on author sales, or what impact social media has on an author's visibility in the marketplace? Is there a marketplace for writers you can count on to deliver sales?

Some of what I'm about to write here is pure speculation based on my expertise as a marketer of consumer products and special events. It also is based on my observations over the past few years of what seems to be working for authors and what doesn't work (to me) for authors and writers.

If you are published, social media alone won't sell your book. It can support a marketing plan, but it better not be the only apple in your barrel. In today's marketplace, you need a website (which is NOT social media). Your website is the address of your business, your touchstone with customers - your readers, fans and the industry in general, and if you are published and you don't have an effective website - stop reading now. You and/or your publisher just don't understand the world in which we live.

If you aren't published, not having a website is not a bad thing. But if you're a serious writer - you want to start developing your online identity sooner than later. It's an opportunity to showcase your personality - not as a means to promote your yet-to-be-published (or sold) book, but to let people get to know the public you. The aspects of your personality you are comfortable sharing with a broad audience, some of whom, once you do get published will buy your book because you've encouraged them to get to know you. And if you've written the best possible book you can write, you have a better than average chance of selling that book to the 'friends' you've made through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or any of the rest.

I do have a website and you can find it at But as an unpublished author I focus on Twitter, Facebook and my blog (don't laugh about my once-a-month blogs because it will be the subject of my next blog, okay).

This next statement is not based totally on what I heard yesterday, it's been out there for a while.  I believe a lot of established authors have had it up to 'there' with their publishers' lack of marketing support. The attitude I am hearing is: "I wrote it, and now they want me to sell it, too?!!!"

Sorry, but it's that way it is these days in all aspects of business, especially for entrepreneurs and as authors, you are an entrepreneur - just ask your tax guy or gal.

As an entrepreneur, your goal is to identify the most effective way to incorporate marketing into your business routine. That means as part of the time you allocate to writing.

To get started, I always say ask questions. Do research. Talk to published authors who have embraced their role in marketing their own product. Talk to agents - ask them how much it matters if a new client is savvy about social media, marketing, or open to diving into the fray.  Don't be shy. We all know that authors love to talk about writing, they also enjoy talking about selling books, too. Where can you find these folks to ask them questions? Join RWA and then join your local chapter. Go to meetings, or visit online blogs (like this one:), and ask questions.

Finally, don't be intimidated by technology. If you own a computer, you should be able to figure out how to Tweet, or how to set-up a free blog account.

It doesn't take as long as you think to become a pro.

Have a great Sunday!



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