So you can read my books

Sunday, May 30, 2010


"Humanity. You haven't the slightest idea of what I'm talking about do you, vampire? Don't feel bad. Neither do the living. Humanity. Its very meaning has long since slipped beneath the surface of the noise. The noise of words, whose meanings lose clarity with every passing year."
- Samuel McCord.

The world is too much with us. We get sidetracked by the surface.

Like Catherine the Great who said of someone shallow, "Unfortunately, I could not keep from listening to him. He was as handsome as the dawn."

Words. Humanity.

Key elements in our novels. Without the one, we cannot communicate. Without the other, we cannot create a novel about which a reader would care.

Think about the fiction you like to read the most. I bet it has conflict, danger, loss, and humor. The essence of what it means to be human.

One cliche says to write about what you know. And, yes, in a way that is true. Write about being human. We all know the heartache of being human in an inhumane world.

Write about those subjects and people about which you care deeply. Your words will ring true. And your readers will start to care about your characters and their conflicts.

How can you get your reader to care about your novel's conflicts?

Raise the stakes.

Loss of a job. That smarts. But loss of a job as a hitman by being terminated yourself. That's primal.

Throw roadblocks in the way.

Cancel his passport. Have the government freeze his bank accounts. Get his wife and best friend, who have been having an affair, decide to do the job themselves.

Throw him a bone.

A rival mob boss wants to help. For a price. Just kill the mobster's beautiful, connected wife. If any of the mobster's hitmen kill the wife, his in-laws will put a hit out on him.

But if the hitman from the rival gang does it, no one will suspect. He doesn't have much choice so he agrees -- only to fall in love with the beautiful wife.

Now what? That very question is what you have the reader asking as he hurriedly turns the pages. But still just another thriller.

Change the mix.

Up the ante to the max.

The hitman works for the C.I.A. The man with the beautiful, connected wife is the President of the United States. The beautiful wife's connection is to the Israeli Mossad. And the hitman doesn't know if the President's wife loves him or is using him. Now, the pages are being turned in a blur by your readers.

Primal stakes. High profile characters. Love. Betrayal. Doubt. Triumph.

Don't forget that last. That last will prompt good word of mouth. And good word of mouth leads to high sales.

Think of the four most beloved novels you've read. Look back at what I've written. Those same undercurrents run through them all. Have them run through the novel you're writing now.

I want to see your name on the bestseller's list.

After mine, of course. Just joking. There are enough readers out there for everyone.
I have another resource text for you. READING PEOPLE by Jo-Ellen Dimitrius, Ph.D. Her chapter "Scanning the Environment" alone makes this a great book for writers. It's a great help in telling your reader what kind of person your character is just by a few details of their home.

If her name rings a bell, it may be because she's been on Oprah, Larry King Live, and 60 Minutes, among other television shows.

Much more than a collection of tips on reading body language, her book is supremely organized, detailed, and thorough, with lists of physical characteristics, vocal patterns, office props, and conversational behaviors that reveal much more than you'd think.

She instructs on how to analyze hundreds of details of everyday living, from the style of the picture frame on your boss's desk to the odd way that an acquaintance swears up a storm, in order to uncover personality traits and predict future behavior.

Demitrius isn't a hocus-pocus intuition hawker; she's more of a scientist. "...over the past fifteen years," she writes, "I have tested this method on more than ten thousand 'research subjects.'

After predicting the behavior of thousands of jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and judges, I have been able to see whether my predictions came true."

Dimitrius advocates sharpening and fine-tuning powers of observation and deduction. Gathering enough information to establish an overall pattern is the key to her method.

Differentiating between "elective and nonelective" traits; setting aside assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes; recognizing body language; and identifying meanings behind personal choices of dress and behavior. And cooler than the other side of the pillow is that a used hardcover can be gotten at Amazon for just a penny.

And the only compensation I will receive if you buy this book is the smile I'll have when you write me that the book was a help in your writing :

And now for a little stirring music for our muse :


  1. "Raise the stakes" - too true, say to your MC 'you think this is bad? Wait till you see what I have in store for you next!' :-)

  2. My friends say I torture my characters needlessly. I say I am helping them grow. :-)

  3. We always like to play the "what's the absolute worst thing that could happen to Kate right at this very moment?" It's mean, but sort of fun. Have a great long weekend Roland!

  4. Sounds like a good plot. You gonna write it?

    Thanks for the advice, and the book reference.

    Have a great weekend Roland.


  5. I think most of us writers tend to be pretty nice people - it's amazing how much fun we have tormenting our characters! :)

  6. Dimitrius's book sounds like a great resource. Thanks for introducing me to it.

  7. Great post! Raising the stakes is definitely one of the best ways to keep the readers reading. :)