Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Communication Breakdown: What can you do when your characters refuse to play? by Richard Dee


Welcome to the new series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the second post from the 2019 archives of Richard Dee and in this post Richard explores a problem that most authors suffer from along the way.

Communication Breakdown: What can you do when your characters refuse to play?

What do I mean by that?

Let me try to explain. I wanted to write a certain story this month. In the end, I found that I couldn’t. Even though I felt motivated and had a starting place, the story just wouldn’t play in my head. You might call it writer’s block; I don’t see it that way. I’m not blocked, I can still write, just not the story that I want to. My head is filled with other stories, ideas for blog posts and content for my website and social media feeds. The cast of my chosen project are doing something else; in effect, they’re ignoring me. It’s impossible for me to write what I can’t see.

I need to tell you a bit more about my writing method.

This is where it all gets a bit problematical. I’ve often found that when I tell non-writing people how I get the ideas for my novels; in effect, how I work, very often they will smile at me nervously and gaze around for an exit, or for someone they know to ‘rescue’ them from the mad writer. I suppose it’s possible that they think I’m being less than honest for some reason or amusing myself at their expense. Perhaps they consider my obvious affliction might be catching.

I don’t know how they think that I’m supposed to get my inspiration, but I do know that my method is not seen as strange among other writers. Basically, I see the story in my head, it plays out like a film. It used to happen only when I was asleep, and unlike other dreams, was easy to remember when I awoke. The act of writing it down encouraged more to appear and soon, I was seeing the story when I was awake.

The characters basically get on with their lives, have adventures, whatever. I just watch and write it all down. The great thing about this is that it requires little input from me, there’s no need to exert myself in weeks of plotting. All that’s required is the ability to type. I just sit at my computer and watch the action, recording it as it unfolds. If it’s all going a bit fast for my fingers, I can slow it down; don’t ask me how, I just “think” it. I can also rewind and repeat, to make sure that I get everything important. Sometimes, quite spontaneously, I will be shown a scene again, from a different angle, to emphasise the point.

What I can’t do, is get any clue about where the story will go. I never know what will happen next. Whether this is a deliberate thing (I’ll come to another possible reason later) or just the way my imagination works, who knows? It means that I never have any advance information about the ending, who will end up as the hero (or villain) or even who will still be standing when I type The End. Or when the end will happen.

It means that when you read one of my books, you will find out everything at exactly the same time that I did.

I have to admit that sounds weird, it felt weird when it started happening to me. Which might go some way towards explaining the reaction of my non-writing questioner.

I digress, the side effect of this is that sometimes, when I try to write to a deadline, the story isn’t there. As I said in the title, they aren’t coming put to play.

Which is what I mean when I say that my cast of characters have decided to go somewhere else and have nothing to do with me.

Like in real life, people drift in and out of your space, some you see regularly, some every now and again, some go missing for a while and then turn up. That’s how it is in my head. Fortunately (or not), I don’t just have one set of friends living in my head. I’m usually seeing several stories at once (like watching several regular programmes on T.V.), so if one set have gone missing, there’s another to tell me what they’ve been up to instead. Occasionally, two or more may fight for my attention, wanting to be the first to update me with the latest events in their lives.

As you can probably tell, it can get pretty messy in my head, it plays havoc with trying to write what people are expecting you to produce. They are expecting a sequel, or prequel or whatever you told them you would write. What they get may be something completely different. It all depends on who’s about and what they want to tell me.

All this begs the question, where does it come from?

If it’s in my head, why can’t I see it all at once?

If it’s being downloaded (for want of a better phrase), who is hosting the content; why send it to me?

Where do the characters go when they’re not bothering me?

The most radical possibility, and one that frightens me, is that it’s all real. It’s not a story, it’s reality, everything I see is actually happening in real time as I see it, in some sort of alternative universe that I can tap into.

It would explain a lot, the fact that I can see it again and again (as a sort of memory), the fact that I can’t see what happens next, because it hasn’t happened yet.

Because I keep up with developments in science and technology, I know about the latest scientific theories; the ones that deal with parallel universes and multiple timelines, how everything is connected and how all possible outcomes might well exist in their own reality. That suggests that I might be onto something. All writers might have the gift of being able to see other dimensions.

Does it make us gifted, or will people just think that we’re crazy?

I got a bit side-tracked there, the whole point of this was to tell you that I tried to complete a writing challenge this month, my cast had other ideas.

Instead, I wrote something completely different.

But that’s another story. 

©Richard Dee 2019

About Richard Dee

Richard Dee is a native of Brixham in Devon, England He left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986.

Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as HMS Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority.

Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

His first science-fiction novel Freefall was published in 2013, followed by Ribbonworld in 2015. September 2016 saw the publication of his Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol and of Flash Fiction, a collection of Short Stories. Myra, the prequel to Freefall was published in 2017, along with Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, a murder mystery set in space and the start of a series featuring Andorra Pett, an amateur detective. He contributed a story to the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection and is currently working on prequels, sequels, and new projects.

A small selection of  books by Richard Dee

One of the recent reviews for Andorra and Her Sister

Nov 12, 2019 Steven rated it it was amazing

Andorra Pett – space station café owner, scooper pilot and sometimes super sleuth – returns for another adventure. Andorra finds herself on Earth to sort out her ex, Trevor’s affairs following his grisly murder at the hands of a mobster on Mars.

Intending this to only be a brief stay to finalise affairs before returning to the space station orbiting Saturn and the comfort of partner Derek. Unfortunately, as ever, trouble manages to find her in the form of her estranged sister Tia. When she is arrested for smuggling through importers and money laundering she calls the only person she can for help – younger sister Andorra.

Suspecting from the start that something is amiss, not least Tia lacking the sense to pull off such a crime, Andorra cannot help but be drawn in to solve the mystery and see that justice is served. Smugglers, corrupt police and a chance run in with Clive – an old face from her first ever mystery – make for high jinks aplenty. He is found running what he claims to be an official Oort Cloud Café tribute bar complete with sleazy Andorra lookalike waitresses and slanderous tales of fictitious romances assuming Andorra will never hear of it way back in space.

Once again Richard Dee has delivered a wonderfully funny murder mystery with a cast of characters new and old to entertain readers. The mystery becomes farcical as it twists and turns to a conclusion. Andorra sees herself in her share of trouble and tight spots all in the pursuit of clearing Tia’s name. This third instalment of the Andorra Pett series is a wonderful addition and only makes me long for book four in 2020 that much more.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Richard: Goodreads

Connect to Richard

Website: Richard Dee’s Scifi
Facebook: Richard Dee Author
Twitter: @RichardDockett1

It is good to know that I am not the only crazy one around here…thanks Richard for that reassurance.

I write all my stories in my head too and then sit down and let them out on to the page and then sort out the finer points later. How about you?

Thanks for dropping by and your feedback is always welcome… Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Media Training for Authors – Advertising – Covers, Titles and Key Words by Sally Cronin


I am continuing the series on media training and marketing for authors which is adapted from my media training course for small businesses and charities. Authors are small businesses with a product that needs marketing to obtain sales. Once you start thinking of yourself as a business it tends to focus your mind differently.

One of the jobs that gave me some perspective on marketing and promotion, was the several years I spent as advertising sales manager for a free paper in London and then a holiday publication company.

Part of my job was writing copy for clients who could not afford to spend a fortune with an agency. This was quite an interesting challenge because most companies, whatever their product wanted to put their name in large letters front and centre. So for example:

Great name, but what does the person who is looking for a new car see when they are skimming the adverts for cars?  Steve Smith and Sons.. but that is not the product for sale and is not going to grab the attention of the person looking to buy a car. If you are looking for a car, you are more likely to be interested in reading the same advert, but arranged very differently.

Using key words effectively will significantly increase your chances of reaching your customers.

Unfortunately this is also a mistake that we tend to make when we market our books.  Unless we are J.K Rowling or any other bestselling author who has a dedicated following, putting our names in very large print on our book covers is not going to achieve sales.

For an author trying to sell a first book and even others that follow, it is almost impossible to stand out from the other millions of books on sale on the primary online bookseller Amazon.. or even on the bookshelf of your local bookstore.

If you look in the average bookstore, novels are shelved alphabetically, not usually by genre, there are no reviews and they rely heavily on cover and back blurb to encourage you to buy. Non-fiction books do have an advantage as they will normally be listed by subject matter which does narrow the field somewhat.

Both however need to have a cover that reflects the contents of the book fiction or non-fiction or, is so visually stunning, that it invites readers to explore further. And very importantly, books need a title that screams out to the reader “buy me, I am the most informative, entertaining, interesting, relevant, novel, self-help book, inspiring story you will ever read” and also find away to convey all that is between the covers!

This is not easy since most titles are only usually between 1 and 5 words.

Finding a book title that sells your book.

There are millions of books available today digitally. This is why it is so important that your title leap out from the page and grab potential reader’s attention. Novels are tough as most of the words used to describe each genre are well used. For romance novelists it must be a nightmare since the words love, destiny, fate, romance, desire etc have to be used in a title in the most imaginative way.

With non-fiction it is not easy but it is simpler – providing you get your USP (unique selling point) in the title….remember that there could be thousands of books that are cover your particular subject matter and you want the reader to buy your book.

So what is your unique angle that makes your book different from all the other books on a particular subject that can be  incorporated in your title? This is where using MY comes in handy.. for who is more unique than you? Instead of A Lonely Childhood.. My Lonely Childhood etc.

Finding an original title for a novel can be tough since there are only so many words within each genre that you can use to convey the subject of your book.

Obviously the genre is a starting point – SF – thriller – comedy – Romance – Humour, Children’s etc, and my suggestion is that you take a good long look at other newish books in that genre so that you are not duplicating – write several down and still see if you can get something unique into your own title – try it out on all your friends and family and when you have your title, it is also important to Google it to see if anyone else has a book by that title.

You may find one or two but if you play around with the wording you can usually find one that is not already in use.

Remember – this is your advertising headline for your book – it has to grab the attention of your potential readers and also those that can help you promote the book.

Using Key Words as Taglines.

Your book cover and the wording are your advertisment and whilst it is not a good idea to crowd the cover with text, having a tag line can help.

This is a recent release by Jane Harper: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE

If the book had just been the image and the title, the book would have had no identity. The fact that it is written by Jane Harper would have attracted her fans; but what about a reader who is browsing to find a murder mystery or thriller, who had not read any of her books prevously?  But because of the key words and endorsements, the moment you look at this advertisement for the book you know exactly what is between the pages.

Here is another example of a non-fiction book that uses key words to attract the attention of readers. This is written by Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, who is a best-selling author, historian and journalist who can use his name as key words as can J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and other established best-selling authors. As you can see the use of any form of testimonial is important as is the use of specific words to identify that you are going to be reading about Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939 – 1945.

Book available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Max-Hastings/e/B00MWZQP4G

Here are some more examples that show you how tag lines can provide you with that USP that makes your book stand out from the crowd.

“Your genetic makeup – Your grandmother’s legacy……..”. “Training a deaf dog – The hand signal manual”. “The Passion and the Anquish”…..Horror Stories from Beyond the Grave. “Murder at the Fair……. Do you dare ride the Ghost Train?”

If you have already received an editorial or advance reader review then you can certainly put a few words on the front cover with the name of the reviewer that are appropriate. It may not be The Guardian or The Sunday Times but it is still a recommendation to buy.

Note: If you convert your print books to Ebook after you have received reviews.. make sure to mention one or two on your Ebook cover.

Note Two: If you are publishing with Kindle rather than as an independent self publisher you will find that there are restrictions on some wording that you put on the front cover. Check that out before completing your cover design.

So this is effectively your car advertisement, and when you are designing your cover, you do need to think about those select few key words you are going to include in addition to the title and your name to attract readers to buy your book.

Book Blurb.

Amazon offers you the chance to put our back blurb on the selling page so that readers can find out more about the book. This is also part of your advertisement and whilst you should not writer a chapter on the book, you should let a reader know what they can expect.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.. If you were looking for a book to read, what would make you click the buy button.

Genre – basic story plot – main characters and importantly work your key words into the blurb as well. Add in some teasers too..

“Can Sally get to the chocolate before the cookie monster eats it all?”

You can also put some headline reviews from any advance readers here, especially if there was not room on the front cover.

“Fantastic edge of the seat read” – T.Jones – “Couldn’t put this thriller down until I had finished” – B. Smith  –  you get my drift.

Authors Page.

This is a headliner and a place where not only can a reader find your books but also something about you the author. A photo does help.. it makes you relateable.  Then something that gives a reader some confidence in your writing ability before they buy your book. This does not necessarily mean listing everything you have ever written, but by the way your write your biography.  This is an example of your work and if you don’t interest the reader or impress with your style of writing they may not feel like buying the book.

Check out the bios of succesful authors and find a style and content that you like and use that as a formula.

Categories and key words on Amazon as part of your advertisement tool box.

On Amazon you do have a number of different options to choose when you upload your book in addition to your cover and blurb. These include the option to choose a number of relevant categories, and very important key words that a potential reader might search for to find their next book.

Back to the example of the advertisement for cars!

If readers do not know your name, they are not going search for it and find you. So you have to be in the right place in the bookstore so that they at least might catch sight of your title and cover.  This requires you to be very specific with your chosen book categories and key words.

On Amazon you can use up to 5 – 7 key words for your book but you may find more impact by combining multiple key words together which is useful. Two or three together have more impact than just one. For example Rapid Healthy Weightloss is more specific than just weightloss Give up Smoking, Cooking with microwaves, Lancaster in 1960.

For fictionMurderer for Hire, Romantic short stories, Love Poetry, Thrilling Flash Fiction, Historical Romance etc.

NB.I suggest that you take a look at any older books that you have on Amazon, as they have introduced more options  for categories in the last couple of years. Here is a link also to a post that might help you with key words. Also check the blurb and  see if that might need a little TLC.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/A2EZES9JAJ6H02

Having established a place on the bookstore where the casual reader can find you, you now need to reach out and let specific fans of your genre or non-fiction book know how to find you there.

Next time… joining the right waterholes to find your potential readers for both print and ebooks.

Here are the previous posts on Press Releases, preparing for radio and television interviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/media-training-for-authors/