Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Make Assembling Your Novel’s Cast Easy

Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Make Assembling Your Novel’s Cast EasyYou write fiction.

Want to improve it? Here you go: focus on your characters. Fiction is always about the people.

People care about people. Of course your “people” might be purple dragons from the outer reaches of the galaxy, or rabbits as in Watership Down.

How to write fiction: it’s always about the PEOPLE

It’s impossible to emphasize this enough. Here’s an excerpt from Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today.

Readers read fiction for the people. Therefore, no matter how amazing the story world you’ve created, start your blurb with your story person; your main character.

The most common error I see authors make in fiction blurbs is that they start by describing their story world.

This rarely works, because… who cares? We’ve no reason to care about your amazing world until we meet the characters who inhabit that world.

So let’s look at some tips for assembling a cast of characters for your novel (or short fiction).

1. Think in terms of an ensemble cast

An “ensemble” is a bunch of things or people intended to be used together.

Here’s why an ensemble matters when you’re collecting a cast for your current or next book: you get to differentiate your cast.

You’ve heard the writing advice to “contrast your characters.” Characters in bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series, always play off each other. They’re different.

My favorite example of contrasting characters is the movie The Odd Couple, original version. Felix and Oscar couldn’t be more different.

My favorite quote from the movie:

(Oscar) I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!

2. Collect intriguing jobs to help you to create intriguing people

In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character there’s a fast and simple character creation template:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Attribute
  • Primary external problem

Your plot is what people do.

Notice the “occupation” in the template? Harping on bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series again, what your characters do to earn a crust is important.

Consider:

  • James Bond (secret service agent);
  • Harry Potter (apprentice wizard);
  • Super heroes…

Of course, you don’t need to write about secret service agents, wizards, et al. Your characters’ occupations can be more mundane. Check out the classifieds in your local paper, or even job hunting websites to find fun occupations.

For example, in Dying To Please, Linda Howard’s romance novel, the main character is a female butler.

3. Keep a collection of intriguing situations too

Similarly to collecting intriguing occupations, collect intriguing situations.

Sources:

  • Gossip: family and friends’ gossip, as well as news stories and celebrity gossip;
  • Nonfiction books, especially histories, as well as biographies and autobiographies;
  • Your imagination.

Writers and authors tend to be magpies. We collect glittering bits and pieces which attract our attention. We may never use those bits and pieces, but items in your collection will inspire your “what if” brainstorming sessions.

I keep my various collections in Evernote, primarily because I can jot down something intriguing anywhere I happen to be.

When you write fiction, you’re writing about people

To hammer the point once again: fiction is always about the people.

Another example of the importance of people. I just received an email promotion for Sally Koslow’s Another Side of Paradise: A Novel.

The callout sentence…

In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze.

The movie The Great Gatsby came out a few years back and I just did a search for “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Lots references to him in Google, as well as suggestions for additional searches. Fitzgerald died in 1940, but there’s still considerable interest in him, which means that Sally Koslow’s novel should do well.

Remember (a final time): fiction is about people.

Happy writing. 🙂

Discover what sells in mystery fiction — YOU can write it

Check out our new program, Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense now. You can write a mystery, even if you’re a new novelist.

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

eBook: $4.99

When you write in series, you're giving yourself more chances to sell with every novel you write.

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Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

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Resources to build your writing career

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Writing Process: 3 Ways To Streamline Your Process And Sell More

Writing Process: 3 Ways To Streamline Your Process And Sell More

Are you a flaky writer? That’s OK; many creative people are flakes. Sadly, flaky writers fail to master their writing process.

Its worth learning to streamline your process, because if you can’t manage your creativity and get stuff done you’ll miss out on great opportunities. You may also find that days and weeks go by when you accomplish zero.

Your writing process: build habits

Your writing success depends on your habits:

Your writing success is mostly a matter of habit. A little luck doesn’t hurt, but without effective habits, any success will be short-lived.

It’s worth reading the above article for the ten most effective habits for writers.

As a commercial writer, your writing process involves three things:

  • Developing ideas;
  • Managing your creativity; and
  • Drafting.

1. Ideas sell, in fiction and nonfiction

Ideas SELL. Ideas aren’t everything. You must execute them efficiently, but without good ideas, your writing won’t sell.

I’m developing a program on writing the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (MTS) genres. These genres depend on ideas. I did a little research for the program on novels which are bestsellers because of their must-read ideas.

Here’s a tiny excerpt from the program…

Consider bestselling examples of the MTS genres. The novels which hit the bestseller lists ALL have something unique about the plot.

The best example of this which springs readily to mind is Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code. A huge bestseller since its April 2003 release, the novel made all Brown’s other books bestsellers too. It featured a weird but irresistible crime. (I’m sure Dan Brown was delighted when he hit on the wonderful idea for the book.)

Also, consider Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. This book was a huge bestseller, and launched a new sub-genre, the domestic thriller.

Both books became movies.

Agatha Christie’s novels are read with pleasure many years after their first publication — because of the crimes. (Ideas, that is.)

Christie spent a lot of time hiding her murderers by creating intricate puzzles. I’m fascinated to see that Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile is still selling well. Death On The Nile was first published in 1937 and was based on irresistible ideas. (Christie’s husband was an archaeologist.)

Just for the heck of it I checked out current estimated sales for Death On The Nile in Publisher Rocket:

Daily sales: $3,624

Monthly sales: $25,038

Not bad for a novel written in the 1930s. 🙂

I encourage you to make developing ideas a big part of your writing process.

2. Creativity: harness your imagination

Once you’ve captured a wonderful idea, you’ll need to be creative in executing it, so harnessing your imagination forms a big part of your writing process.

When you gain easy access to your imagination, you can be creative on demand.

From Writing Fiction: 3 Simple Ways Access Your Imagination:

An imaginative mind state is focused. But it’s also loose — free wheeling, and dream-like.

Repetitive tasks which don’t require much thinking help to trigger creativity. For example, I go for a drive if I’m stuck on a plot point. Other writers do household chores, or go swimming.

3. Draft your writing: write first, revise and edit later

Can you sit down at your desk (or on the sofa) and write? Do you have a writing process to draft your writing, so that writing is a joy, rather than torture?

From Create Your Own Writing Process: Write Fast, Write More:

We can put immense pressure on ourselves when we write.

This is always a mistake. Just write. Look on all the writing you do as “making mud”. Be exuberant and messy.

You can do a lot with your mud. Just as you can build entire houses with mud bricks, you can write articles, novels, nonfiction books, short stories, essays, memoirs – in short, you can write anything and everything, if you make the basic building material, the “mud” first.

“Mud” is the basis of ALL your writing. You can edit later.

By the way, editing’s much easier when you use an app for the final edits.

When you have a writing process that’s efficient, you’ll be happier, as well as more productive

If you’re a commercial writer, you need an efficient and enjoyable writing process. Use the above tips to develop a process that works for you.

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
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Write AND Sell in Just 8 Hours: Create Top-Selling Ebooks FAST

Write AND Sell in Just 8 Hours: Create Top-Selling Ebooks FAST

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What if you could create AND sell an ebook or other product in just eight hours? The product could be anything: a Kindle ebook, a collection of articles, a short story… a new writing service for your clients. This program will show you how to think outside the box, get creative — and SELL what you create.

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Resources to build your writing career

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Get Motivated: 3 Powerful Tips To Finish Your Book

Get Motivated: 3 Powerful Tips To Finish Your Book

You’re writing a book, and you’ll finish it one day. You hope. Unfortunately, you can’t get motivated. Although you schedule your writing, you can’t get started.

On bad days, you think about giving up.

Will you ever become sufficiently motivated to finish your book?

Here’s something to keep in mind. Inspiration and motivation build while you’re writing — not when you’re thinking about writing.

Convinced that you’ve tried everything and will never finish?

You’ll get motivated when you build-in consequences

Try creating consequences for yourself. When carrots don’t work, a stick can make all the difference.

Let’s look at how you can build your motivation when you build in some consequences for non-performance.

1. Use pre-orders: sell your book before it’s done

Authors swear that KDP pre-orders get them motivated to finish their book if nothing else will.

Here’s why: Amazon has consequences — it punishes you if you don’t upload your file before the deadline:

You can postpone the release date for your eBook one time for as many as 30 days past the initial release date… If you postpone the release date, you won’t be able to postpone release dates for other existing pre-order eBooks. Also, you won’t be able to set up a pre-order for any eBook for one year.

That’s powerful motivation, right? 🙂

You can create a pre-order up to 90 days before the release date.

2. Never mind the carrot, grab the stick

What’s the most painful thing you can imagine?

When you’re creating a stick to beat yourself if you don’t finish your book, the stick has more power if it affects others as well as yourself.

For example, let’s say that you’re taking your family on vacation this summer. Tell the family that unless you complete your book, you’ll be staying home.

Commitment is all-important when you’re using a stick. Tell others about your commitment to finish, and they’ll help you to get it done.

3. Write rubbish (spoiler alert: you can’t)

My favorite tip: write.

Write anything. Write the biggest rubbish you’ve ever written. Get it done. (You can edit later, of course.)

Here’s why this works. It’s hard to write rubbish consistently and deliberately, because you write the way you write.

A decision to write rubbish will free you to write, and you’ll get motivated to finish your book.

(Bonus strategy) You can get motivated to do anything… in five minutes

During my long writing career I’ve accepted commissions which I hated. Completing these commissions was always a struggle, but I learned that you can write anything — as long as you tell yourself: “it’s only for five minutes.”

When all else fails, and you’re in danger of missing a pre-order deadline, grab a timer. Set it for five minutes. During those five minutes, you MUST write. Write rubbish. Write anything, but WRITE.

Oddly enough, those five minute sessions will help you to get motivated, and you’ll finish your book.

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.