There are three things that an author must absolutely do:
1. Write a great story people will want to read. 2. Pair it with a great cover that radiates genre and doesn’t give the story away. 3. Write a blurb that makes the reader want to look inside the book AND doesn’t give away the plot.
The order here is very important. It reveals the steps in sequence, but the truth is that #2 (a great cover) probably has more to do with whether or not someone will read the blurb and #3 (a great blurb) has more to do with whether or not someone will look inside and ultimately decide to hit the “Buy” button AND proceed to actually read the book. While “Buy” may seem like the end-all and be-all of the process, it’s not, because if the reader doesn’t finish the book, how likely are they to buy another?
Enter the poison pill of our times, the “review.” Now, I’m not talking about editorial reviews, which are a whole different animal. I’m talking about the “reader” review.
I blame my new fascination with German musical theatre for re-kindling my interest in the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle, and as with all things that resonate with me, I binge on it and you, dear reader, get to hear about it. On the upside, it’s not been a full binge (like going back to re-read the Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart or any of the huge academic tomes on the subject) so I’ll keep it light.
It’s been awhile since I enjoyed Mary Stewart’s 5-Book Saga, so it has gone back on the re-read list. It was one of the more memorable fictionalizations of this myth, if not my hands-down favorite.
For this comparison, we have three movies (or rather, two movies and a play).
Let me start by disclosing that I absolutely loathe the Bechdel-Wallace Test. The fact that someone thought this was a concept we needed speaks more of their own neuroses than anything else, but it keeps coming up.
Basically, the Bechdel Test attempts to measure how women in fiction are portrayed. If a work features at least two (as opposed to one; smirk) [named] women talking to each other about “something” other than a man, then it passes.
I despise the identity politics behind it, but also the disregard of genre and the needs of the story. It seeks to impose a politically motivated, self-serving radical feminist agenda on Story. The Bechdel test has been incorporated into submission mechanisms and into screenwriting software. So, basically it’s not just some ivory-tower gender-warrior’s academic rants.
I first ran into the Bechdel test a few years back when I was on a writer’s critique site and one of the people giving me feedback suggested I revamp a major portion of my story in service to the Bechdel test, because otherwise “no women were going to read it.”
Was there a poll, I missed? I’d been reading for decades and NOT once did I think to myself, “Where is the checkbox that tells me whether or not, as a woman, I’m allowed to read this because it passes the Bechdel test.”
Therefore, I propose the Foster Test. A work passes the Foster Test if it features a woman who succeeds at whatever her goal is without weakening the man/men in the story or eliminating them from her life altogether.
Yesterday I got a message from an acquaintance asking me if I had any good exercises that I could suggest since he was getting back into writing after a two-year hiatus. I didn’t really have an answer for him, although I did point him to The Other Side of the Page.
But then, this morning, I ran across this video (don’t turn the volume on yet) and it makes a brilliant point but also sparks an interesting question: How do you put the music in your prose?
Sound muted: A report listing the details of the scene does not convey anything other than physical details. So imagine a paragraph or so from the imperial officer’s viewpoint, telling us where he is, i.e. describing the surroundings. And it makes for pretty dry, thin writing. I’d say a majority of new writers write like this (dry and thin). That’s what you’re seeing with the sound muted. Actually, to be fair, you’re seeing far more on the screen because the camera angle gives you his facial expression, but even that is ambiguous, as you’re about to find out by turning the sound on. In order to convey just how thin and dry a mere description would come across to a reader you’d have to change the camera angle by placing it behind the officer’s eyes, so we could only see what he sees. As readers we would not get his facial expression or any other body language at all, much less what he’s thinking.
Sound on: The melody suggests happy feelings. We kinda get that he’s about to meet someone, but not whom. The music makes a big difference. Then we are shown Darth Vader and we get a chuckle, because it doesn’t fit the music. Which was the point.
But now that you’ve had your chuckle, think about it as a writer. How do you convey the trepidation (rather than the happy feeling the music suggests) to your reader, when you have neither the happy song nor the original score to flavor the experience, nor a shot of the viewpoint character’s face? How do you SHOW rather than tell us that “Officer-so-and-so felt a great deal of trepidation as he approached Darth Vader’s shuttle?” Remember, your camera is behind the character’s eyes, not outside the character. You only have access to his thoughts on the matter. You cannot see what he does not see. Cannot know what he does not.
I recently attended the LTUE Symposium in Provo, and one of my favorite panels was the one on getting your firearms right.
Now, you may not be a gun nut, and you may not care, but I can practically guarantee that just about every author who’s written about guns has gotten some–ahem!–feedback on what they got wrong.
So let me lay it out as (a) a gun-nut, (b) a writer, and (c) a reader. These states of mind are not separate. They overlap.
Let me take off my shooting hat (yes, I have one to keep the brass out of my cleavage) and put on my writer hat (let’s say it looks a bit like a crown).
Just because I know the difference between a magazine and a clip doesn’t mean that every character I write does. Just because I know the difference between an auto-loader (semi-automatic) and full-auto doesn’t mean that every character I write does. Got that?
I’d like to thank Jamie Ferguson for giving our Kickstarter a boost with this interview. Time is running out. Our Kickstarter ends on Feb. 13th. Make your pledge now in order to save money and unlock bonuses available only while the Kickstarter is running.
The Kickstarter has met its funding goal, so what’s the advantage of someone supporting the Kickstarter at this point?
There are three advantages: 1. saving money; the pledge levels offer you the plans at a savings. 2. Dean Wesley Smith’s Magic Bakery Workshop on copyright and intellectual property is a $150 value on its own; you’re going to learn so many amazing things about copyright and how important it is to manage your rights in this class. Honestly, if you don’t know why stories are intellectual property and the value that intellectual property (IP) has to your success as a writer, you absolutely NEED this class, even if you’ve never published anything or if you’ve just had your first story accepted. 3. for those that already have a few (or a dozen or a hundred) titles out and know about copyright and IP, the $500 Lifetime Plan is a Kickstarter special.
Many thanks to Joanna Penn for the shoutout about Intellectual Property Tracker on her Creative Penn podcast. Joanna is a successful author and entrepreneur, with many, many, titles (both fiction and non-fiction about the business and craft for writing) to her name.
Remember that our Kickstarter ends on Feb. 13th, so don’t delay.
Please help us spread the word by sharing this. Thank you.
You asked. We responded. We added a requested feature to the demo version.
In response to the request for a feature that allowed the tracking of images related to covers and merchandising, I’ve added that functionality to the demo version and recorded a brief (4′) video to give you an idea of what it might look like. This new feature allows you manage the data associated with images as well as the licensing associated with them. Whether you’re just using images for covers or not, we think this feature will streamline your process and free up your time.
Thank you again, everyone, for your support. We’re very excited to see this project come together. You can help this project by supporting our Kickstarter here.
A working demo on the initial concept of Intellectual Property Tracker. You’ll see some of the BASIC functionality and how the software can be used. The final product will be easier to use and have more features.
Please consider backing our Kickstarter as well. In addition to the final product, you’ll also get WMG’s Magic Bakery Workshop, a great self-paced course on copyright and intellectual property (that’s a $150 value). Check it out.