Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Plot vs Character

What’s the most important thing to a story – plot or character?
Ask any author and you’ll get a different response.

Robert McKee states “We cannot ask which is more important, structure or character, because structure is character; character is structure. They're the same thing, and therefore one cannot be more important than the other. Yet the argument goes on because of a widely held confusion over two crucial aspects of the fictional role - the difference between CHARACTER and CHARACTERIZATION.”

To many writers, the terms “character-driven” and “plot-driven” imply that one is less important than the other. Is a plot-driven story devoid of strong characters and motivations? In a character-driven story, is the plot stuffy, boring, and unimportant?

Many people draw the distinction based solely on genre, that is, that all literary fiction is character-driven and all genre fiction is plot-driven. But is that true?

The difference between plot-driven or character-driven really depends on the focus of the story.

Jeni Chappelle also wrote an article on this. Here’s an excerpt.

Plot-driven stories focus on external conflict and action. The goals of the protagonist are external: get away from the zombies, keep the bad guy from killing innocents, or catch the murderer and solve the mystery.

Character-driven stories focus more on inner conflict, characterization, and relationships between characters. The main character’s goals are internal: overcoming grief and learning to live again, mending a broken marriage, or coping with personal shortcomings.

A good story will certainly have some of both, but there is almost always a heavier focus on one over the other.

Here’s Donald Maass’s opinion. Plot, to me, is shorthand for the sequence of external, observable events that comprise a story.  It’s the things that happen.  And unless things happen it’s hard to give a story impact.

What many authors need are stronger events.  Most pull punches, underplay and basically wimp out.  Strong story events feel big, surprise readers and even shock them.  There are ways to do that deliberately.  One is magnifying events, both in their outward, observable sense and in their inner impact.  For instance, you can work backward to make a certain event a protagonist’s worst fear.  Better still, you can take something a protagonist must do and make it something that character has sworn *never* to do.  Or you can work with an event’s consequences, finding unexpected damage to inflict or unlooked for gifts to give.  There are lots of ways to make events strong.  A string of strong events is what we call a great plot.

My take is you can’t have one without the other. If great characters don’t have a plot, goals and challenges to overcome – there’s no story. And if you have a fantastic plot and cardboard characters, no one’s going to care what happens to them. I like the idea of character driven or plot driven and which one depends on the focus of the story. A good story has great characters and a great plot and the story will be driven by the d focus.

What’s your opinion – character or plot?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tuesday’s Tips and Tweaks

This week author Susan Ann Wall joins us with her tip. Susan writes racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction.

Susan’s Tip

The best marketing advice I’ve ever received and that I like to share is to write your next book. We are writers, after all, and writing comes a lot easier than marketing. But what can you do to keep attention on your published books while you are writing the next book?

One thing I like to do is what I call celebratory promotions. These can be anything from the anniversary of your book’s publication date, to a character’s birthday, to an existing holiday, to a national day of recognition that somehow relates to your book. You can even do Throwback Thursdays and Flashback Fridays!

Last year I did my first celebratory promotion on one of my heroine’s birthday. Stacie Nightingale is the heroine in two of my published novels (and in an upcoming novel to be published in late spring) in my Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series, but she is also a secondary character in other novels in the series. Her birthday is March 12, so last year I put the latest release in the series for free on her birthday. Thousands of units were downloaded as a result.

Since this series features two military veterans, in November I did another promotion to celebrate Veteran’s Day and raise money and awareness for the Rebuilding Warriors ( program. With this promotion, I set one of the books to free and one of the books to $.99 while leaving the other two at normal price. Again, this resulted in thousands of units being downloaded and some residual sales that followed in the weeks following the promotion.

My current promotion for the Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series celebrates the first anniversary of the release of The Sound of Suspicion. The book will be free at Amazon January 30 – February 3 and you’ll see more promotions on the other books in the weeks following.

I’m also planning a promotion for the two books in my Fighting Back for Love series around World Cancer Day on February 4. I wrote these books to not just raise money for Relay For Life (60% of royalties benefit the American Cancer Society) but also to raise awareness about cancer prevention, resources, and treatment. From February 3 – 5, these books will be on sale at a special price at all e-book retailers.

Promotion takes time and planning. Sit down with a calendar and identify days that have some sort of relevance to your books. If you have control over the price of your book, plan to adjust the price and contact as many book promotion sites as you can to get the word out about your promotion. If you don’t have control over the price, you can still celebrate with games, contests, and giveaways. Make it fun and engaging for your readers so that it feels less like promotion and more like connection.

Excerpt from The Sound of Suspicion

“Baby, there’s room in the closet.”

Stacie Nightingale’s stomach twisted into a knot. It wasn’t the words, but the intent behind them. She feigned her most innocent smile and turned toward the sexy Cajun drawl. Fortunately, she found a big hunk of heaven that transformed her lips into something far from fake innocence.
Quivering at the sight of the man she loved in only a towel, her eyes traveled up his body, taking in every glistening flex and pull of firm muscle as he crossed the bedroom in long strides. Holy Shakespeare, the man looked good dripping wet. When he reached her, she landed on dark green eyes that glinted with desire.
Owen Landry graced her t-shirt clad body with the same seductive perusal, causing Stacie’s naked legs to prickle with anticipation. Maybe, just maybe she’d be lucky enough to distract him from the conversation he started.
His timing couldn’t be worse and even though the topic didn’t surprise her, she wasn’t ready to deal with it. She’d rather they pursue the desire that sizzled between them. When his gaze fell back on hers, he smiled with approval, but raised one eyebrow in question and Stacie knew luck wasn’t on her side.
Shaking off the arousal his god-like body sparked, she plastered on the innocence again, hoping it would deter him. “Room in the closet? For what?”
“For your clothes.”
Of their own free will, Stacie’s fingers trailed up the sinewy arms that had held her all night long. “Don’t be silly, Owen, I live across the hall.” Which is where she’d go to grab a shower and put on some business clothes, even though she’d rather lounge around in his shirt all day. Or in his sheets. With him and those strong arms that twitched under her caress.
Good Gatsby, if he didn’t stop looking at her like she was his next meal and making her blood flow like hot lava in the process, she was going to have to step onto the balcony and shower in the cold December drizzle. Actually, she’d rather tear off the shirt she’d stolen from him, along with Owen’s little towel, and do an instant replay of the lovemaking that had kept them in bed all morning. Oh, how she loved Thursdays. It was the start of Owen’s weekend and after three long shifts at the naval yard, all of his attention was focused on her.
But Owen gave his head a quick shake as though he were trying to fend off the desire too. A shadow replaced the spark and Stacie’s stomach knotted again, recognizing Owen’s quick shift from sexy to serious. “You don’t have to.”
Instinctively, Stacie stepped back to gain some space and imagined her to-do list rather than the things she wanted him to do to her between the sheets. Maybe if she put some distance between them, she could stall even longer and Owen would forget he’d brought the topic up.
She was also trying to keep that knot from turning to something even more unpleasant, which it was threatening to do as the bile rose in her throat. She wished she had nerves of steel and could face her insecurities head-on, but that was a skill she had yet to learn. “It seems silly to keep clothes here when I can walk forty feet to my own closet.” And wear a shirt that smelled like him while making the short trek.
“I wasn’t talking about the closet.” Owen grabbed her hand and pulled her back, thwarting her attempted escape. “I meant you don’t have to live across the hall.”
And there it was, the words she’d hoped to avoid. Terror kept her body frozen in time despite the fact this wasn’t sudden. Her reaction was completely ridiculous and unfair to the man she loved. Recognizing that was half the battle and maybe her therapist would be proud, but it was the other half of the battle which was the problem. She was terrified of what Owen wanted.
He’d been hinting at it for weeks but Stacie had done what she always did in uncomfortable situations – she’d chosen to ignore the hints, hoping he would let it rest. Any excuse she gave Owen for not moving in with him was going to hurt him.
No, not hurt. Devastate.
Her fingers tapped his chest, desperate for some miracle to swoop in and rescue them both from this moment. A quick glance at Owen might lead someone to believe he was a muscle-head. He worked hard in the gym to maintain his god-like physique, every muscle perfectly sculpted. It was easy to be distracted by his physical appearance, but to know the man was to know there was more to him than just raw muscle. Behind the forest green eyes was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. He was kind and generous, romantic and thoughtful, and also very sensitive. Stacie knew the betrayals of his two ex-wives still weighed heavily on him. She didn’t take his trust for granted, but was also sensitive to her own past and mistakes.
Maybe if he’d waited a month, let her jump the next hurdle in leaving her past behind, she would have reacted differently. Stacie hoped anyway, because she couldn’t imagine her life without Owen and she wanted moving in together to feel right. Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t have been more off.
“Don’t you think it’s a little soon for us to be moving in together?” If she could just infuse a smidgen of the self-doubt she’d been dancing with lately, maybe Owen would back off.
“Baby, we haven’t done anything slow.” Owen clutched Stacie’s shoulders with those strong hands that had a tendency to ward off her insecurities. Today, they didn’t seem to have that power.
Even so, as if she were a moth drawn to a flame, Stacie eased against Owen’s body, his warmth stoking the fire that always burned for him. She removed his towel and let it drop to their feet as she stroked his velvet skin with slow purpose. “Some things we’ve done slow.”
Owen groaned and Stacie smiled. She’d perfected the sex as a distraction technique over the last six months. She breathed in his scent, clean soap and musky aftershave suffused over his smooth skin and mixed with his natural scent. Her lips caressed the spot under his jaw that she knew drove him wild, but was disappointed when his hands dropped from her shoulders to remove her firm grasp from that most intimate part of him. Owen stepped back, his dark eyes locking on her. “You’re avoiding the subject, which means you don’t want to move in with me.” 

The Sound of Suspicion is free on Amazon January 30 – February 3.

Relay for Love will be featured at a special sale price February 3 – 5 at Amazon (link included) and other ebook retailers.

A Flame Burns Inside will be featured at a special sale price February 3 – 5 at Amazon (link included) and other ebook retailers.

You can find Susan at:

Thanks Susan, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.

Don’t forget to check out Susan’s free and special priced books during the next week. And come back next Tuesday for more Tips.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blogging on Plans for Reading and Writing (or not)

Rhobin picked a great topic to start off the New Year. What is your favorite time and place to read? How about writing time? Do you have to make time?

Do you have a ritual or is your plan helter-skelter? I had a quilting teacher who followed the Swiss cheese method to completing tasks: Make a hole here, and sometime later a hole there; keep repeating this until the whole thing is complete. What's your method?

Let’s start with the easiest first - My favorite time and place to read. Okay, I don’t read as much as I should or want. I find it difficult to fit it in, but if given a choice I like to read in the evening. That way, if it’s a great book, I can keep reading. Favorite place varies with the time of the year. In the warmer weather it’s on or deck overlooking the lake, with a glass of wine. In the winter it’s inside in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate. 

Writing time – I try to write several hours a day. I have to make time and I try to schedule it in for the week, around appointments and other errands. Usually I try to write to do an hour or so on marketing and social networking in the morning. (I’m not very good at it.) Then I do 2-3 hours writing. Sometimes I also write at night for about 2 hours. I write linearly so I don’t really have a ritual. I grab a cup of coffee, plunk myself down in front of the computer and start writing from where I left off the day before. When I start to feel brain dead (or my muse goes to sleep) I stop writing. I don’t edit until I finish the book. Then my writing time becomes editing time. I usually try and edit it two or three times before I send it to my editor/proof reader. Then I edit once or twice more. On weekends I do blogs. I’m trying to do twitters for the week.

I look forward to seeing what others say and maybe learning a way that might improve my method, especially incorporating the marketing and social networking. Off to check their websites. I hope you will, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

What’s Selling in Fiction Today

It’s the start of the year. I’m working on my business plan for the year. I write mostly romantic suspense. Although I have written a medical thriller, which I hope to release next month. And I co-authored a horror romance. He wrote the horror and I did the romance. J So what should I be writing this year?
Well, the Romance Writer’s of America Association’s reported figures of Simba Information Estimates showing the bestselling genres were:
        1.  Romance/Erotica

2.   Crime/Mystery

3.   Religious Inspirational

4.   Science Fiction and Fantasy
5. Horror

And according to the Christian Science Monitor the top sellers are kid lit, and erotica/romance.

Bubble Cow says the bestselling genre is Mystery/Thriller/Crime. Second is Science Fiction and then Romance.

So it looks like romance /erotica; mystery/crime and science fiction are the leaders.
Am I going to change my genres? No, sir. But maybe I’ll write another medical thriller.
Trends change as does the book selling industry. It will be interesting to see what the big sellers are in 2015.

So what you do you write? Is it a top-selling genre? Would you change to meet the selling market?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Villains You Love or Hate

To have a hero, you need a villain.
Are there villains you love? Why? Is he(or she) sexy, smart, loves puppies? Do they have a background you empathize with? Are they necessary?
To me a villain should complement the hero or heroine; help them grow and reach their true goals. They should have a connection, whether it’s mental or emotional to the hero/heroine. They need to be an equal of the hero/heroine. And they need to have one characteristic we can relate to – that’s my opinion.
There are many villains with no redeeming features and those we hate and root for the hero/heroine to vanquish them, one way or the other.
As I looked over some of the movie villains I’m wondering about that one quality we can relate to. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – all bad. Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction was scary, but did she have any redeeming characteristics. Did he encourage her? Hannibal Lector for Silence of the Lambs of the Lambs intrigues me and I think he respected Clarice. Darth Vader from Star Wars was Luke’s father.
In literature Moriarity was a perfect villain for Sherlock Holmes. Stephen King has many villains; Carrie White and Cujo for two examples. Game of Thrones has villains, as does Harry Potter; Lord Voldemort and Draco.
I think the one I “enjoyed" the most was Hannibal. I also like all the villains in the J.D. Robb series. And I like my villain in my upcoming book – Targeted.
Who are your favorite villains and why?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

EPICon Conference

Looking for a great conference?
Please join us in the lovely city of San Antonio, Texas for EPICon 2015
          EPICon - Bringing ePublishing Partners Together
When: March 13-14th, 2015
Where: The Menger Hotel, San Antonio, TX
Sponsored by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition
   Enjoy two days of all things ePublishing, with workshops for any author or publishing professional, this short period will be packed with information, news, and most importantly: education. 
   Authors, old and new, will have the opportunity to learn about small press ePublishing and to network with publishers, editors, and experienced published authors.
   For 2015, we have a full schedule of educational and informative workshops for authors and publishers, with guest speakers like David Wilk, Carol Berg, and many others. This action-packed two day conference will end with the annual Award Banquet where we will honor authors and cover artists.
   Our venue will be the Menger Hotel. With 150 years of history, it is a must see in the beautiful San Antonio. Two blocks from the vibrant River Walk, it is the border between San Antonio’s colorful past and its cosmopolitan present.
Registration this year will be $224 for members and $249 for non-members. This will include the workshops, breakfast buffets for both days, guest speaker lunches for both days and the banquet on Saturday evening.

This year we are also offering add on options for the Thursday before the conference.  These options are:

Publishers’ Intensive Luncheon Taking the Mystery out of E-book Self-Publishing: A Guide for Publishers   $20

Evening Dinner Tour A dinner cruise along the beautiful San Antonio River as it weaves its way through the historic Riverwalk   $35

Room rates are*:      
One King Bed           $110.00/night
Two Double Beds      $110.00/night

*Rates are set by hotel for the EPICon convention. Rates apply by room, not by person.  For other room options and price listings please go to the Menger website at 

While you are thinking about registration, this is a great time to consider EPIC membership, if you are not a member already, since the membership cost will practically pay for itself in the discount for the event.

For more information about the conference or how you might participate (vendor, promotional materials, sponsorships or as an industry professional), visit or contact Kim Wollenburg at or Desiree Holt at

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Love Those Beta Readers

I love my beta readers. They read my almost final draft and let me know what they didn’t like. Was it the hero? The plot? Did something throw them off? And anything else that they pick up.
This helps make my book a better read for other readers. A beta reader tests your manuscript (by reading it), and tells you about the ‘bugs’ so you can improve its readability, its usefulness and even its saleability.
Yes, I have a proof reader, but my beta readers are readers. They are the most important people. They give generalized feedback on whether the book makes for a good read, whether the story hangs together, whether I've dropped any balls or left any plot threads hanging.
And they get to read my book before anyone else.
How do you find beta readers? On your Facebook page, maybe tsu. I’d love to hear how other people get beta readers. Or if you are interested in being a beta reader.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Blog on an Elephant Nature Park

My daughter is in Thailand for the New Year. She’s volunteering at the Chiang Mia Elephant Nature Park. The Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand where you can volunteer and visit to help. It has been involved in dozens of rescues which has created their thriving elephant herd. The park provides a natural environment for elephants, dogs, cats, buffaloes and many other animals under their care. Volunteers and visitors contribute to the healing while learning about their lives past and present.

They have rescued elephants and brought them to the sanctuary. Most of them arrive with huge mental issues. Most need time to heal and therapy. The wounds and scars on their hearts sometimes makes healing difficult. It doesn’t matter that the workers are the human trying to give or pay back with love and supplying to their needs. Some elephants still hesitate to trust. At the sanctuary, we strongly believe that only the elephant will understand each other and heal, better than human can do , so they allow them to form the family groupings as they choose. They let them join the herd and let them heal each other.