If Walls Could Talk: The Importance Of Strong Characters

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I was in a couple of discussions this past weekend and a similar topic showed up multiple times. When that happens and the topic is related to writing, that’s a sure sign that it’s probably going to make itself into a blog post.

Plot and Characters.

Two things that one cannot make a story without. Two things that people often bicker over what’s important.

Let me say this. You cannot have a good story without a solid plot. I’ve seen my own stories fall apart because the plot has had holes the size of Texas in it.

That’s why so many people have spent time writing books, blogs, and articles on the idea of plots. Don’t neglect it.

But, far too often, I see people neglect character development for the sake of a shiny plot. And let me tell you this, no matter how good your story, no matter how much you’ve thought your plot through, if you do not take time to establish your characters and help them to develop and thrive, then your story will fall flat.

There was a show that came on almost a decade ago and aired for one season, Commander in Chief. It was a political drama with the premise of a woman Vice President becoming president after the POTUS was killed.

I watched the season after reading about it in a screenwriting book. I was intrigued by the idea and the book mentioned the writing was good.

And to an extent, I agree with the author of the book. It also only took me one viewing to see why it only lasted one season.

After all the ups and downs of the season, I came out at the end realizing something very important.

I didn’t care about any of the characters.

The writing wasn’t bad, it had some rather witty moments. But after a 22 episode season there wasn’t a single character in that show that I was emotional invested in.

I’ve said, a few times during my time blogging for 18thWall even, that when one goes to try a new TV show, one comes for the premise but stays for the character.

It’s the same for books. The series that survive and become big are the ones that have characters that people latch on to. They are the ones where people almost forget that they aren’t actually real and laugh and smile at their successes and cry along with them when tragedy strikes. They are the ones where the story is strong and compelling and seem like an old friend.

Who is your protagonist? Your antagonist? What makes them tick, what motivates them?

And most importantly, why should people care about them? Why should they get invested in their lives?

Answer that, and you’re good to go.

If Walls Could Talk: Twitter For Writers

Twitter.

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Who knew so much could be said in 140 characters but in the last ten years or so, it truly has become an artful. In fact, here and there I’ve heard tweeting referred to as modern day haiku.

Before I talk more about using it to market, let’s have a crash course. Some of what I’m about to say may seem obvious but I would be remiss if I didn’t make a few notes.

  1. You Tweet on Twitter.

Never say Twit. You laugh, I’ve heard it. You Tweeted, you are Tweeting, you will Tweet.

Got it?

Good.

  1. #Hashtags don’t always have to trend

Yes, there’s a handy list to the left side of your screen that tells you the trending topics but peole use hashtags for a variety of other reasons.

And actually we’ll start here.

Hashtags are used to show the world what is trending on Twitter and in the last year, Facebook as well has developed trending topics. At time neither will always have something that uses a hashtag (#) at the beginning but often times they might.

#writing

#writingadvice

#writingtips

#marketingforwriting

#Twitter4Writers

Above are some examples of things I could set as hashtags when I put this on my professional twitter. Then, if someone is looking for information and they search writing advice in the search bar at the top, they’ll see my Tweet in the results below.

Another fun one that I use now and then is #writerprobz.

book cover the whole art of

It’s also a chance for you to market your book. For example, The Whole Art of Detection is a mystery that features Sherlock Holmes. So in a tweet about it I could put:

#mystery

#SherlockHolmes

And actually, since The Whole Art of Detection is part of the Holmesian lore, I could use #TheWholeArtofDetection. But that’s a little wordy.

Keep in mind, you’ve only got 140 characters.

One thing I often forget is you can get a smart link that’s only a few characters instead of a long link. I need to remember to do that more because I so often forget that that’s an option.

Including a hashtag with the genre or a popular character (like Sherlock Holmes) in your tweet about your work will help get your work in front of eyes. People have alerts set up for keywords and you would set off that. That and at any given time on any given day you don’t know who is looking for what.

Another disclaimer I want to add here is that you need to be careful to not fall for the trap a lot of people do. 140 characters can get real tight real fast and people often times sacrifice grammar for characters.

Don’t butcher things too badly; after all, you are promoting something you’ve written and if it’s barely legible to someone who isn’t a millennial then that’s not a good representation of your book.

Twitter is a fun place to connect to people. I’ve seen movements happen, causes promoted, news shared and broken, and, yes, even writers find a place where their voices can be heard.

I hope the last few weeks of talking about online promotion have been helpful. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter if you have any questions and as always, I want to open it up. If there something you want me to talk about, advice you’d like me to give? I’m always open to ideas and I’d love to hear from you.

As I round out this series, let me leave you with one more piece of advice. Talking about yourself is hard. Promoting yourself is even harder. But the perk is, it’s called social media. You don’t have to do it alone. Seriously, take down those links in the paragraph above and give me a shout if you need/want some advice. Or you just want to say hi. I’m cool with both.

If Walls Could Talk — Sprinting For The Finish Line

Before this past weekend, I hadn’t attempted a word sprint outside the confines of NaNoWriMo and part of me isn’t sure I consider what I did this weekend to be a real word sprint or just an extra bit of good luck in the writing department.

Either way, between Saturday and Sunday I wrote several thousand words, an amount I hadn’t accomplished since NaNoWriMo. And it felt good to be able to write like that again because it had been quite a while since I had

In fact, I went from the half-way writing point to a finished draft of Midnight, a relief on my part.

During NaNoWriMo, I found word springs to be invaluable and they were helpful when life got a little crazy. I could push myself in a short amount of time to accomplish a lot of writing. It’s probably a good part of what helped me to win this time, since it was something different I tried as opposed to other years.

Saturday, I just started to write. And I wrote, more and more and while part of me wanted to stop, another part of me pushed harder and harder to write. I finally did let myself stop when I realized I hit a point where I would need to do another marathon writing session and at that point in the day, I knew I didn’t have that much writing left in me.

There’s a side tip inside this post. At times, you have to know your writing limits because if you try to push past them on a fairly regular basis, you are going to do burn yourself out. And trust me, that is going to do you absolutely no good.

If case you haven’t heard the term, writing sprint before, let me explain it. The idea is setting a time (people usually go for 15-20 minutes but I have seen longer) and write like mad until the time is up. Anything under an hour is considered a short spring anything over is considered a long sprint.

When I went into my first of several writing sprints, it was unintentional. I wasn’t planning to write that much for that long but once I got started I found that for the first time in a long time, the words flowed and I was able to pieces all the pieces together and write my way towards the end of the story.

That one was more or less around 90 minutes. I had a cuppa siting beside me, Disney tunes playing on Pandora and I wrote.

disney logo

A fun way to do a writing sprint is to get a couple of writers together and compete and/or encourage each other; nothing like a little healthy competition to drive you to write fast and furiously.

I did this a few times during NaNoWriMo and the idea of others out there writing frantically at the same time as you can really help motivate you to write, even if you don’t feel like it.

And while yes, you need to be careful not to burn yourself out, you need to also to push yourself. That or get someone to push you.

Or both.

The biggest thing about writing is that you need to figure out what works best for you. Often times, when I come to you week to week, I tell you things that I’ve experienced, or that I’m going through.

But each person writes a different way, they all have a different method. That’s why there are so many different writing how to books.

So, my hope is that when you read these posts you find a way to take my advice and find out how it works best for you.

Good luck with your writing this week!

By the way, did you check out my interview with the Television Crossover Universe Podcast?