Tag Archives: character

To reel in your audience, you need to start with good bait

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the eighth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 8: “You have to ask yourself what makes your story unique.”

The eighth session I attend was with Linda Camacho (@LindaRandom), the self-same intrepid agent with Prospect Agency who had kindly critiqued my work earlier in the day. The session was about how to stand out in the YA market, and I’ll give you the high level right here up front: there’s not one single right answer.

She gave us a variety of examples that taught various lessons, all of which add up to a standout story. One of her points that stuck with me especially was when she asked us to think of what makes our writing unique. “If the answer is ‘nothing,’” she said, “how can you tell the story in a different way?”

I think what especially struck me was that I hadn’t really thought about changing my writing for the market. I’d thought about telling the story I had to tell. But, from a pragmatic point of view, she’s totally right. A story that sounds just like all the other stories is hardly going to catch the attention of a publisher or reader.

The thing that makes your story different is the thing that’s going to draw your audience in.

Long story short:

Bait the hook. Unique characters, interesting points of view, a question that pulls you into the story – all are important pieces of the puzzle when you’re coming up with a concept that will catch the eye of your audience. You still need to write what you’re passionate about, but maybe be aware of your value proposition – why would someone trade their time and money for your story?

Result: I still plan to tell my story my way, but maybe ‘my way’ has some elasticity that I could take advantage of. I’ve got to consider what makes me unique, and push the boundaries.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what makes you, and your story, unique.

Happy writing!

Photo of fish by Brenna Hogan on Unsplash
Photo of pumpkins by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

Unlocking the #brain for better #writing? #TEDx

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I just finished watching a TEDx Talk given by Bill Donius called “Unlocking Your Brain’s Hidden App.”

It’s 17 minutes long, but if you have a few minutes it’s definitely worth the watch. Find it here.

Now that you’ve seen it, did you write down the same animal or a different? What does it mean to you?

Unfortunately, I wrote the same one twice. I was overthinking it (if you know me, you know I overthink a lot of stuff). Plus, in college I used to practice writing the alphabet over and over with my left hand, so maybe that had an impact.*

However, even though it didn’t “work” for me the first time, I feel like there’s something here. I want to figure a way to surprise myself into not overthinking — maybe get my husband to shoot questions at me quick-fire style? — and see what happens.

My hope is that it can help me break through some of the writers’ block that’s been keeping me from understanding some of my characters. If I get a good result, I’ll certainly share…

Happy writing!

 

*This is a true story. It was during a particularly boring lecture class where the prof tended to repeat himself a good deal. He was an amazing man and had a multitude of experience to share, but he was in his 80s and often forgot which stories he’d already shared. Anyone who took a Cultural Anthropology class at Kent State during the time I was there, you know who I mean. (RIP Dr. P)  Upon realizing I was hearing the same stories for a second time, I got to thinking that if I ever hurt my right hand maybe I should know how to write with my left, so I literally filled notebook pages with left-handed alphabets. That way I’d still get my A for attendance (yes, that’s how easy that particular class was), and I’d look like I was taking notes.

Key for #character development? Need advice. #writing #amwriting

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I recently saw a suggestion on Twitter to cast your novel — that is, to think of which actors (or characters from another story) you’d cast if your novel was a movie.

Wow. Mind blown.

Yes, the bulk of character work still has to come from my own head — my character can’t be exactly like someone else’s or else I’m going to end up writing someone else’s story. However, character development is my weaker area. I’m a very plot-driven writer, and prefer to read plot-driven stories with some character development, rather than stories that focus mostly on character and not so much on plot. Therefore, it was a complete revelation that I could get a jump start on character building by gaining inspiration from a character I already know.

Now that I’ve started researching it I realize that there are MANY people and groups who advocate doing this. I don’t know the original source of the idea, but good for whomever had it first, and for everyone who uses it.

Anyone out there who has already been doing this, what do you like about it? What are your hints and tips for doing it well?

Anyone tried it and didn’t like it? Why not?

Thanks, and happy writing!