Antagonizing Antagonists

Purpose. Almost every antagonist has a purpose.

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Are they trying the “take over the world” tactic? What got them to this point? Evil isn’t born from the black; it’s molded and crafted by life’s doing. If you’re writing a classic villain – give them the unique back story to give them epic purpose.

If your story is that of the everyday, then where is the bad guy? Are they standing right next to the main character? Are they in the cubicle next door? Are they after the same goal as the protagonist? The opposition is what gives the antagonist in this scenario purpose.

Here’s another one: your character is going against the government, or any large institution, “1984”-style. Why did this entity grow to be the way it is Why is the protagonist going against it? There shouldn’t be a “pure evil” motive because that means there’s someone behind the whole thing. It starts to blend in with other potential antagonist. Don’t confuse yourself! But there’s always…you guessed it…purpose behind the institution.

A new favorite and trend we see in writing is the internal antagonist. This mostly revolves around characteristics of the character and being held back by these traits. For the first time throughout this piece, purpose is stripped from the “antagonist” and comes to fruition out of some event or comes to light. These become more realistic because it may be an accurate portrayal of life itself.

So…take to the books and get writing your perfect, purposeful antagonist. Alright, we’re done using the ‘p’ word.

Simplicity & Books

Keeping up with book trends and sales? Don’t worry. We are too. There will always be highs and lows, one extreme to another. This isn’t really a trend but just a little something we noticed in the office. Everything is so simple.

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Sure, writing the book isn’t simple…getting the book to be noticed by an editor/publisher isn’t simple…the process of production isn’t simple…but when the final product of the book is in the author’s hands or a trusty reader’s yearning finger tips…do they just look at the cover and think, it’s so simple? We’re referring to the cover art itself. And because we came across a list of books in which the title said, “Most Beautiful…”, we thought it was about time we sit down and chat about cover art. Again.

Calling something beautiful is subjective to the writer of the article. Some of the titles on this list have been hyped up and plastered all over the internet, they were bound to become bestsellers. But there was one common thing among the covers we needed to stress. They’re so simple. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity but the simplicity of these books has helped bump up sales revenue. Many fiction titles are beginning to look…uniform. Once again…there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s getting money in someone’s pocket, regardless.

We’re not here to dictate what you should do with your book. But if you find yourself in need of change and you could envision a bit of abstract art or an object as the cover of your book, then maybe it’s time you send out a few emails to the cover designers out in the world. You may appeal to a new crowd looking for the simple covers that get them wondering what the heck the cover is trying to tell them.

Thank goodness we live in a digital age where all we have to do is delete and upload a new image.

Fighting Game For Writers!

We are big advocates for demolishing writer’s block. We’ve talked about a variety of methods, websites, and apps to use against a writer’s worst nightmare. Here is a new one for you: Fighter’s Block.

So, after playing around with the online app for a few levels, I can officially declare this as a fun way to defeat writer’s block. There’s only a select amount of characters you can choose from and there’s only one enemy unlocked but there are little details in the structure and immersion of the game which makes it worthwhile.

Let’s break it down!

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Cute pixel sprites go up against each other in a game that challenges you to write, write, write before your character’s health reaches zero. You start off by choosing your hero (you can choose between Red or Karen, Quin is locked until you reach level 11) and your word goal for that particular level. Once you click fight, the battle has begun.

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You’ll notice the health bar of your character slowly (or quickly) diminishing if you’re not typing. As you write, the character’s health is regenerated and the enemy’s lowers.

To add more flair to your experience, you can customize your fighting background and writing difficulty to challenge yourself. The theme can be changed to different color schemes that can better your playing/writing experience. With the opponent you can easily change its speed and attack which works against you as you’re writing.

Your writing space can also be customized. From font to the display of your text box, this game is perfect for any writer looking for new ways to get back into the swing of things.

It’s Like A Dating Profile

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Let’s be honest, this is probably your face trying to narrow down the perfect author bio AFTER you wrote the perfect manuscript. NAILED IT!

Writing an author bio that intrigues people enough to invest in your product will serve as the bridge between you and your readers. Everyone can write the, “I grew up with my nose in a book…” and that’s where I found my inspiration to write type of thing. What people really like to see and remember is you- the actual witty and accomplished person that you are.  Your fans love your writing and they want to love you too.

So, let’s talk about some points you may want to consider sprinkling into your bio to make your fans giggle a little.

Don’t bore your fans with some jargon that doesn’t explain who you are outside of your writing life. If you aren’t a writing prodigy who rose to fame by writing a life-changing, coming-of-age novel, then I can safely assume you probably haven’t quite graduated to a full-time author quite yet. Tell your reader what you do by day and unveil your nighttime persona. Sometimes people like to see how dedicated others are to their craft, and we all know working full time can be tedious to a writer’s habits.

If you’re trying to reel in a new reader – it might be cool to give them a taste of your writing through your bio. Describe yourself the same way your narrator might, or make yourself into another character in your story (except that you’re not involved in the plot, just an innocent bystander). Paint a pretty picture (or ugly one, we won’t judge) of who you are or who your pen name is. Fans and readers alike would love to know the nitty gritty details.

Some people like trivia. Add a bit of trivia to your bio. Just like John Scalzi’s bio. It’s worth checking out.

I’ve heard here-and-there how readers like to see the relationship the author has with the publishing industry if that relationship exists. If you’re working as an editorial assistant and hid your manuscript in your file cabinet (with other author files, whoops!), I bet someone will get a kick out of knowing where your manuscript was written. Oh, and apologize to Sue or Greg (your boss, duh) about not turning your project in on time. They deserve the apology!

Back to the Basics: The Period

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As writers continue to write, editors continue to edit, publishers continue to publish, and readers continue to read…we all know that one person in this circle of publishing life who puts their finger to the page, looks up and says, There’s supposed to be a period here.

Oh, the punctuation that puts all other punctuation symbols to shame. The period, the dot, the endless black abyss which, ironically, ends it all.

Have you ever had that writers’ block moment where you seem to forget all your basic elementary school punctuation lessons and what purpose they serve you? It’s always a little embarrassing to see that one Amazon reviewer point out the silliest of grammar mistakes. There are so many different grammar rules, exceptions, and do’s/don’ts that well…who can keep track, right? Some grammar mistakes are so small (literally) that it’s hard for the author themselves to notice, especially when they are more focused on the actual story. Today, we are going to break down that dreaded black dot for you:

  • Multiple Punctuation: For one, I am GUILTY when it comes to accidentally putting more than one punctuation at the end of a sentence. Most of the time, it’s without even thinking. Plenty of people get mixed up in this business, but let me clear it up for you: if you’re ending a sentence with a book name or company name (that includes another punctuation like a question mark or exclamation point in the title), the period isn’t needed anymore! The same thing happens with a sentence ending in an abbreviation. Begone black abyss!
  • Direct and Indirect Questions: Direct questions end with a question mark. Indirect questions end in a period. What a way to end an implied question – leave your reader hanging and wondering about the question you put before them, without even asking!
  • Proper Placement…: This part is broken up into two: proper placement with parentheses and quotation marks. The period becomes confusing when it comes to proper placement with symbols that set parts of the sentence apart from the rest.
    • Parentheses: If the parentheses are being used within a sentence, to embrace a bigger part of the picture, the period will follow the (closing) (On the contrary, if whatever content is being held within the parentheses can stand alone, then the period is used before the closing parenthesis.)
    • Quotation Marks: Ending your sentence in quoted material? The period stays within the quotation marks and not outside of them. The same thing goes if the quote ends in another punctuation. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t use the period – it’s being dismissed!
  • Abbreviations: Since I briefly mentioned ending a sentence with an abbreviation, let’s talk about the abbreviation alone. Some have periods, some don’t. Why is that? I don’t know the answer to that necessarily, but I do know when to use a period within the abbreviations and when not to. The only time you should use a period with an abbreviation is if the letters involved are lowercase or mixed-case. But pay attention to the content of the abbreviation. Ask yourself if it’s scientific or technical. If it is, you won’t need the period. Uppercase abbreviations, like an academic degree following an individual’s name, may include a period.

Even after going over the basics of the period, thinking about where it goes and when to use it still makes me put a hand to my forehead, shake my head, and say, “Oh, the English language. How complex can you be?”

Writing Revelation

Sarah Waters:

“Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel,  I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce…Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.”

Writing Revelation

Zadie Smith“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.”