Writing With Heart: Creating the Emotionally Engaging Character

josois:

It’s always been my aim to make readers care about my characters as if they’re real people with real hopes and fears and this post brings that vision to greater clarity. I think writers out there including myself can take away from the concrete ways presented here to make our characters more emotionally engaging.

Originally posted on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors:

Someone recently asked me about writing with emotion.  This is really about creating the emotionally engaging character because if you don’t write emotion into your character, the reader won’t connect with that character on an emotional level.  It’s hard to explain the difference between a great story and an emotionally satisfying story because the distinction is subtle.

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Write With Your Heart = Showing

Emotion-driven writing isn’t about telling your reader what your character is feeling.  Something like, “She was afraid she’d fail the test” is telling the reader what the character is feeling.  It’s also more than simple actions like gulping or trembling or crying.  Those things are all about writing at the head level.  It’s skimming the surface of the emotional journey your character is going through.

Emotion-driven writing is delving deep within the character and being right there in the moment, going…

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Self-Promotion from an Introvert

I return from my extended absence in the blog world to share this simple truth.

Books don’t sell themselves.

Unless you’re an established author with a team of professional marketers working with your respective publishing company, it will fall on your shoulders to do your own marketing/promotion to get sales. Even for authors that choose the traditional route they realize the need to make a concerted effort to self-promote their works. How much more so self-published authors who have no such backing! I realized first-hand just how much time, effort, and money goes into marketing/advertising. When I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I came to the conclusion that putting too much money into marketing was futile. It occurred to me that one of the best ways of self-promotion that I was overlooking was word-of-mouth. Sounds simple. Problem is I’m an introvert. Outside my family and network of friends on social media, few people know anything about my book. And by no means did I have the winning personality or charisma of a sales person.

Last year, I began mentioning my book to co-workers who for the most part were impressed to find out I was a published author. Usually I’m a quiet, reserved person especially in settings outside my comfort zone. So when I casually mentioned I had published a book at my last job, my co-workers were surprised and amazed that they were working with a published author. I swear the next day my sales ranking jumped! Not to #1 of course. I’m not that popular. But the little bump in sales was enough to make me realize the power of word-of-mouth. I would need to harness that arsenal for self-promotion.

Since that experience I have informed several of my co-workers in my new job, including my boss, about my book, Before the Legend. It was nice and scary at the same time getting attention from my boss who wanted me to discuss about my book and who or what inspired me to write my book. As many introverts can attest to, we don’t like being put on the spot, especially in crowds. We’re not anti-social but you do approach social situations differently as an introvert. While extroverts thrive in social settings and love meeting and networking with people, personally I excel in smaller settings or best, alone with my thoughts. While I do need social interaction like everyone else, I do need longer time to ‘recharge’ as I put it. Otherwise too much can feel overwhelming or exhausting at best. I can’t count how many times my sister is talking my ear off and all I want to do is immerse myself with my writing. I lost count.

Tips For Self-Promotion

As an introvert it’s important to recognize your strengths. As a close friend so aptly described me, I’m introspective. This quality can serve to my advantage when it comes to self-promotion. As educational consultant, Shakti Gattegno puts it, “Self-promotion starts with self-reflection, which requires observing oneself which requires observing oneself in the lighting of awareness and without judgment.” (Self-Promotion for Introverts, Nancy Ancowitz). I’m a thinker versus a talker. So thinking or giving forethought about my approach will serve me well.

  • Learning to talk about my book with confidence and poise in front of others is a challenge but it’s teaching me a valuable lesson in being prepared. Preparing my thoughts ahead of time is critical and will help me to choose the right words to convince others why they should check my book out. This is useful advice for any writer whether you’re pitching your work to an agent, getting ready to meet the press, or discussing your work with a group of colleagues. Some of the things I want to hone is the pitch or hook of the story. A brief but attention-getting intro is the aim to attract potential buyers.
  • Another thing that helps with self-promotion for introverts is if you can get others to promote you. In the example with my boss, his openness in bringing up the fact I’m a published author to fellow coworkers is actually doing me a favor. Fans of your work or reviewers are like extra mouth-pieces to spread the word about your book. While you don’t want to pressure them (it would produce the opposite effect) if possible, encourage a willing fan or contact to spread the word to their circle of friends.

I realized there isn’t much advice out there for self-promotion for introverts especially in the area of book promotion. But this topic has definitely aroused my curiosity in learning more about the strategies for self-promotion and tailoring suggestions that suit me. People in general are starting to realize the inert talents/strengths that introverts possess. Extroverts may have it a little easier, but introverts too can be adaptable in the area of networking. If face to face meet-ups seem daunting there’s the networking aspect online to tap into (social network, online groups on Goodreads, Google, etc.) Truth is there is no one way to do it. While I want more attention for my book, I have no desire to be famous. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about the latter but I think as an introvert, don’t discount me quite yet.

*Update**

I think it’s time for a little friendly promotion. I hope to do a free-run sometime either in April or May so stay tuned for any updates. You can catch the latest announcements/updates on my Facebook Page.

Quotable Quotes

“Take pride in your pain; you are stronger than those who have none.”

That quote comes from Lois Lowry’s, Gathering Blue. It’s such a simple, yet powerful quote that I thought I’d discuss what that quotes mean to me but also quotes in general that I’ve found endearing or memorable.

Generally no one in their right mind wants to be in pain whether it’s physical or emotional. All of have experienced pain in some degree at one point or another. It’s become a part of the human experience due to imperfection. Yet for millions worldwide, pain is a chronic affliction. Although I don’t experience pain on a regular basis I know several that do including a loved one who has been battling multiple health problems in the past year with no cure let alone closure from the medical community as to what exactly is causing her endless list of symptoms. When I read Gathering Blue, the 2nd time around earlier this year, I had a greater appreciation for the story of Kira, the main character who was crippled from birth who has a remarkable talent that saves her life. Although my sister doesn’t walk with a limp like Kira, her health problems at times can be debilitating. Therefore the quote at the onset took on added meaning to not only myself but her as well.

My Interpretation

Trials can either make or break us. Her quote reminded me that hardships can make us stronger depending on our attitude. When I reflect on it, it really takes a strong person to put up with chronic pain, because I don’t know if I would fare any better if I were in her shoes! It takes true resilience to persevere despite being in a situation that is beyond your control.

It was one of the few quotes that I took away from the book, but it was a profound message that I hope other readers will get from it as well. Of course there are other quotable quotes from other fiction works that I liked. I know I’m being biased but here’s a collection of my favorite quotes from my story series.

******

“Do not forget to put it here where it never gets lost,” his mother said, pointing to his heart.”  – Before the Legend

“Remember, you are never alone in this world. Never.”  – Before the Legend

“I suppose we both got what we wanted. While some built great roads, we built great walls. – Chasing Blue

“I had to make more than an impression. I had to win.” – Chasing Blue

“It was not about being on this ‘side or that side.’ It was about what was right. That was the side I choose. Even if that put me somewhere in the middle.” – Chasing Blue

I might add these quotes and more on each of the respective pages for each story in the future. Now I got a chance to share some of my favorite quotes. What quotes made you laugh, left a profound thought, or made a memorable statement? I would love to hear your favorite quotes in the comments!

 

Review on Giver movie

From Movie-List

I followed The Giver movie from the time it was first announced it was being slated into a movie to the time it came out in the big screen. Fan reactions though were mixed and rightly so due to some major changes to the storyline such as aging up the characters, adding more romance and action than what the book portrays. I for one was one of those initially disappointed from the trailers and I was not shy about expressing my initial reactions about the movie. Leading up to the movie, my posts about The Giver have been the most popular this year, so I return to write about my most buzzed about topic of 2014. Since getting a chance to watch the movie for myself, my initial reactions have softened. Here’s my long overdue review on The Giver movie.

After seeing the initial trailers, I was prepared going into the movie that it would not be 100% faithful to the beloved classic by Lois Lowry (no surprise there.) With that in mind I had to put aside my personal feelings in order to see the movie in an objective light.

Disclaimer: This review does have spoilers!

Much to my delight, the movie began with Jonas’ world in color, which was true to the idea behind Sameness in the book. Jonas’ community is safe and predictable. Hunger, poverty, and war are things of the past, a past most in his community know nothing about except one person; the Giver. In the first five minutes, viewers are given context as to how Jonas’ world came about, emphasizing the stark contrast between his world and our world. Peculiarities of Jonas’ world which were subtly revealed in earlier chapters were made apparent right away in the movie.

Personally the beginning was a little too rushed. I wished the beginning could have spent some time to develop and maybe even warm up viewers to his world. The movie was no doubt paced so that the inciting incident could start sooner, which is when Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver. That is the point in the book when the plot really begins to take off as Jonas begins to discover new memories and realize what his community has sacrificed.

The main characters although aged up, were readily identifiable. Asher was Jonas’ carefree friend and Fiona was portrayed as kind and nurturing. Although the actor that played Jonas is my age he had a boyish face to pull off being a teenager at least. Asher initially seemed playful but he became rather stiff and serious throughout most of the movie which was out of character for him. Of all the characters I must add that Jeff Bridges did a great job portraying the mysterious and aloof Giver. It was interesting though seeing the dynamics between Jonas and Fiona. It was no surprise that the movie played on Jonas’ natural chemistry with Fiona and made her his love interest, especially when Jonas’ experiences memories from the Giver such as love. Although I strongly resented having Jonas being played by such an older guy, I can see why they aged his character.

This movie didn’t have “mind-blowing” special effects or explosions but the visuals were still eye-pleasing. How they incorporated the memories was my favorite part of the movie. The modern clips, encompassing an array of the human experience made me feel like I was watching a National Geographic special. One scene I enjoyed which had the score Happiness and Pain playing in the background, shows Jonas engrossed in the memories as he is holding a baby he helped deliver. I also appreciated how the black and white treatment of the movie gradually transitioned into vibrant colors. Many people will say this was done in Pleasantville first. True the movie did the B&W to color thing. But the gradualism of color in The Giver encompassed everything in the viewer’s range of sight vs. splashes of colors on a person or an object, which made their color treatment slightly different.

Clearly there were many changes to the book. In the movie they got injections instead of the pill. Jonas kissed Fiona which never happened and many changes that I can rant about later. Despite the changes, the movie didn’t deviate a lot from the main plot which is what really mattered. A lot of the pivotal scenes are in the movie, including the scene when Jonas asks his parents what is love only to get lectured on how love is an obsolete, meaningless term. From this scene to the part where Jonas is shown what “release” means, helped propel the character to no longer be content with the choices his society has made and move him to take the course of action by the end.

Disclaimer:

While I won’t give away the whole ending I will say there are some notable changes to the ending for those that haven’t watched it. The ending is ramped up, to provide more action than what the book offers. Some people who didn’t like the ambiguous ending to the book may actually like the ending to the movie. I personally liked how the ending brought the plot full circle while still capturing a little bit of the unknown, keeping true to the open-ended nature of Lowry’s work.

Considering this book is more introversion vs. an action-driven plot like other dystopian adaptions like the Hunger Games or Divergent, it had pressure to ramp up the action and romance subplots. I loved the book because of the simple yet compelling storyline which sets it apart from other dystopian works. If you haven’t watched the movie already and are wondering whether you should see it, don’t expect this to be another Hunger Games nor expect a true book-to-movie adaption. Instead just watch it for what it is, an adaption for entertainment purposes. Coming to the movie with lowered expectations I surprisingly enjoyed the movie. Factoring in the strengths and weaknesses, I give the movie a B.

Now this is just my thoughts on the movie. What did you think about the movie?

7 Things I wish I knew before self-publishing

It’s been over a year since I published my book, Before the Legend. This past year I’ve learned so much about self-publishing and marketing. Although I’m thankful for the little successes and milestones I was able to reach, there were several things I wish I could have done differently before and after self-publishing my book. The first three in the list are things are already knew before publishing but underestimated while doing this process. Here are my top 7 things you want to do before you self-publish.

  1. Thorough professional editing– Before I published my book I had several people edit my works for free. In addition I also edited my own stories several times over. Even though they proved to be helpful I realized I needed professional editing to cover my bases. When I first chose an editor on Thumbtack, I underestimated the importance of the types of edits needed to make your work polished. My first editor was focused more on the  content of my story, which is referred to as a structural edit. What I failed to do before I published was pay for a line edit which involves a focus on the mechanics of writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation. Looking back now I would do at least both types of edits before publishing.
  2. Professional Formatting– For a new time author formatting can be tricky especially for eBooks. Considering that first impressions means everything, it is so important that the formatting of the book is clean and professional. Hiring a professional is one good way to ensure that everything from the spaces between the lines, to the page numbering is aligned and spaced correctly. For those feeling ambitious, guides such as the one on Smashwords were very helpful in getting started in eBook formatting. Even after you think you’re finished double-check how it appears on different devices. If something appears off, fix it before it goes live. It needs to be close to perfect before it goes live. If publishing the print version, order the proof and verify it before it goes live.
  3. Professional Book cover– First impressions are everything, and your cover is the first thing you’re viewer will see. It needs to grab their attention and convey what the book is about. Might I add it should look professional. Anything less than great may come off as amateurish. Unless you’re a graphic designer/graphic illustrator,  it’s very difficult to nail the design just right so that it’s not only beautiful and striking but also marketable. Your book needs to appeal to your target audience and oftentimes it’s easy for new writers to overlook that. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to seek help from a professional design artist. When you are designing your cover it’s important to test and see how it looks resized or in black and white before going ahead with the design. Ask others for their honest input. What did they like or didn’t like? Their feedback is very important and can give you insight as to what you can improve upon before it goes live.

Marketing Strategies

  1. Have a plan– It’s important to have a concrete plan. How do you plan to market your book? How do you plan to get reviews? When is the best time to publish? Those are just a few of the questions you need to consider. Having a plan helps you to stay focused and not to rush into publishing without knowing how you plan to sell your book.
  2. Advanced Copies for review– Several authors and publishers have utilized the strategy of giving out advance copies in exchange for reviews. Getting people to read your book before it’s published builds early buzz  that can spill over after the book goes live. With more copies circulated to readers who are more likely to enjoy your particular book, there is great potential in having early exposure while getting early feedback on your work. Finding reviewers early on ensure that when your book goes live on sites you’ll already have reviews from the jump which may sway potential readers and potentially boost book sales.
  3. Cover Reveal!– Marketing doesn’t have to start when the book is already out. As alluded to earlier you want to create buzz weeks if not months before your book is published. One marketing tips some authors have tried include cover reveals, whether on your Facebook page, or sites like Goodreads. It’s a great way to generate anticipation and visibility before your book goes live.
  4. Pre-orders. Even though this may apply more to print books, I thought I might throw this in for the 7th point for the marketing strategies. Having your print book available for pre-order is a great way to create buzz for your book and get a head start on potential sales. Early strong sales on Amazon can determine if your book makes it to important lists such as hot new releases which is where you want your book to be if you want to gain more visibility which can result in even more sales.

Be realistic- Above all it’s important to be realistic. Not all books will sell well. Setting realistic goals helps you to be grounded and not to get too disappointed when you’re expectations aren’t realized. Learning from others successes and failures beforehand will help you be prepared for the challenges of publishing.

So there you have it. Seven things that you don’t want to underestimate when going into self-publishing. It’s too late to reverse the past but I can learn from my mistakes for the next book that may come along. Considering I haven’t tried the marketing strategies (cover reveal, advanced copies, etc) prior to publishing Before the Legend, I have no way of knowing if they are actually effective in terms of sales. I would love to hear from others who have tried these or other strategies. 1) What did you try when publishing? 2) Would you consider it effective?

Blogging 101

From Blogspot

I return to my blog to discuss about the very thing I’m doing: blogging.

Although I’ve taken a break from writing new works, I haven’t taken a break from blogging just yet. It’s been about two years since I started this blog. The world of blogging was still relatively new to me then. Even back then I knew what I wanted this blog to be about: writing. And from those first posts up till now that has been the main focus of my posts. Although my blog has a modest following, it’s been the most prolific and most followed of the two blogs I have out now. What has helped me to continue to keep blogging?

Here are some tips I’ve learned from other bloggers that can help new bloggers out there getting started.

I’ve heard new bloggers lament, I don’t know what to write about. My short answer to that reply: write what you enjoy. I can’t stress this point enough especially for personal blogs. Think about your favorite celebrity, subject or hobby. Isn’t it true that for most for us the things we’re most passionate about, we’ll have plenty to say especially if it’s something we’re well versed in, know from personal experience or research. That principle should apply to blogging. When we blog about topics that we have a personal interest in, we’ll have many things to discuss. And if we don’t know everything (who does) will want to do some more digging. When we write what interests us, we’ll find writing new posts will come more naturally.

Audience

However once we make our blogs available to the world-wide web that brings a whole other dimension to think about; readers. That lends itself to questions you have to take into account.

1. What is your blog about?

2. Who is your intended audience?

3. What will interest your target audience?

If we have answers to those questions you’re off to a good start. Your answer to the first question should serve as the guiding force behind the posts you write about. Knowing what the point of the blog early on will help give your blog a focus instead of having a bunch of random incoherent posts. Sometimes though your blogs may contain your personal musings. Those are okay especially if your blog is of a personal nature that mimic that of diary entries. However having a focus gives our blog a sense of consistency. Even if we vary it up every now and then, readers will have an idea of what to expect in terms of content. If your first couple of posts are on a given subject (e.g. fashion, technology, health, sports, photography, writing, etc.) readers will expect future posts to be about that.

That leads into the answers for questions 2 and 3. What you write about will appeal to certain readers. Therefore it’s important to consider the audience of that subject matter and what will appeal to them in future posts. But you still want to write about things that of interest to you as the blogger. You don’t want to get in the habit of writing posts just to take up space, or writing about topics you have zero interest in. Otherwise writing will become more of a chore and it will get boring fast! That’s why it’s important that you write about what you want to write first and then think about your audience. That way you avoid that pitfall. At the same time your blog should attract readers. The types of readers will depend on what you’re blog is about. Having a blog with a focus helps to draw those who will be invested and more likely to appreciate what you have to say. It’s important to strike a proper balance between writing what you like but also what your readers will care about too.

Write Quality Content

Quality may seem subjective. Especially with the different types of blogs and different writing styles. But what applies to virtually all blogs is good writing. That means making sure your grammar, punctuation and spelling is correct. You don’t have to be an English major to run your posts through spell check before hitting “Publish.” It makes your writing more professional not to mention readable. There’s a lot more involved obviously to this like making sure your sentences flow together, watching your tenses etc, but I think you get the idea. This is blogging 101 after all.

You’ll have short posts from time. That’s ok. However you want to aim to write or post something that’s going to be useful or insightful to your readers. Depending on what you’re writing about, your readers may want more ‘meat’ in terms of the content of your posts.

Pacing

In writing, quality is more important that quantity. Posting regularly is good even recommended. Posting at regular intervals (which I don’t always do lol) is good practice recommended by a lot of bloggers. When followers know when you will post new content there more likely to return. At the same time you have to pace yourself. Although I have more time on my hands now, for the most part, writing a blog post every week let alone once a day was not feasible with my schedule. Not to mention posting daily can pose a challenge in terms of keeping to that schedule let alone coming up with fresh engaging posts. You never want to feel pressured to post just anything for the sake of a deadline if the quality is going to suffer.

Deadlines can be good. It can motivate us to stay on task. If you blog for a news outlet or for money, this will be of greater importance to you and rightly so. For me I try to write a new post every month. Some people post weekly or bi-weekly. I stick to once or twice a month on average. When writing, stick to a routine that works for you.

Connect to your readers

It’s important to connect to your readers. Here are some quick points to help you reach more readers and potential followers.

1. Use catchy titles. Your title is often the first thing viewers see. There’s no hard rule to titles. Generally I try to make them simple and to the point.

2. Tags are your friend. With people searching for blog through tags, using good tags are important. Think of tags as keywords of what your blog covers. You want to aim to use popular tags that people will likely be looking up that are still relevant to your post. It’s even better if you use tags or keywords that are actually in your blog or title.

3. Comment and follow blogs similar to yours. Did you genuinely like what they posted? Show it by liking it and/or commenting. That might bring new eyes to your blog. They’re more likely to return the favor if they see genuine interest vs. a solicitation to read your blog.

4. Make it easy for readers to connect with you. One of the best ways to start is by having an About Page. Make sure to tell readers a little about yourself. What’s your background? Hobbies. Any interesting facts about you? Those are all good things to include without spilling your whole life story. I’m an introvert by nature but even then you need to make it easy to connect with readers. Make sure you have a follow button that’s easily visible so others can follow you if they like what they see. Don’t forget to include share buttons so people can share your posts with others which will drive more traffic to your blog.

5. Continue to keep writing. You only get better by writing more. So get out there and write!