So you can read my books

Sunday, August 18, 2013


{Remember - EIGHT more can ask for THE RIVAL for FREE!
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If you have come to these pages for laughter,
may you find it.

If you come to be offended, may your ire rise
and your blood boil.

If you seek an adventure, may this story sing you
away to blissful escape.

If you need to test or confirm your beliefs, may
you reach comfortable conclusions.

All books reveal perfection, by what they are or
what they are not.

May you find that which you seek, in these pages
or outside them.

May you find perfection, and know it
by name.
- Benediction to LAMB by Christopher Moore
"Remember what Aristotle said 2,000 years ago about drama: You have to have a plot, character, meaning and spectacle."
- Anne Rice

     The most beautiful mansion will collapse if
      the foundation is flawed.
          Make the conflict unique, pitting the character, not
          only against his enemies,
          but against the flaws within him or her.

A withdrawn, emotionally wounded man is mistaken in a bar for a hitman and given money with the picture of the woman he is being "hired" to kill!
The "good guy" follows the man to get his license # to give to the police only to find the man who has contracted the death of a young woman is
                                           getting into a police car!
Can the "Good Guy" manage to pull himself out of his haunting past enough to save a woman whose life in his hands?
     To escape the routine of their lives and find escape.
     Giving them cliched heroines is just more of the same:
Beautiful girls who think they are Ugly.
Brooding, dark strangers who are drawn to them and then reveal that the girl is:
a fairy, angel-child, witch, Other ...
    who is THE CHOSEN ONE Who Must Save The World as The Prophesy says!
PLEASE ... just stop ... STOP.  We all know where this is going.
 LAMB by Christopher Moore
A Jewish wanderer who died 2,000 years ago is brought back from the dead to write a new Gospel.
His name? Levi.  His nickname: Biff (the sound his head made when his mother whacked it -- which was often).  He is the childhood best friend of Jesus -
Think Larry the Cable Guy mangling the young years of the Son of God.
Joshua (Greeks translated it as Jesus): "Biff, you keep saying My Father has no sense of humor.  You're wrong.  He gave me you as a best friend." 

      (Nearly) anything goes when writing novels, even with an aim to publication.
      You have to give readers/publishers a reason to pick your book from the thousands being published each month.

      As with the above example, it is all in the execution.  Think of the best joke you heard that was mangled in the telling.

     It begins with characters you give a damn about. 

     Heroines or heroes who are victims (many readers already feel victimized -- if they want to live a victim's life, they just have to put down the book and live their own life.)
    Passive (many readers feel powerless, they read to feel empowered not neutered),
    Whiners ( they have their mothers or in-laws for that.)
     Perfect (they want to be able to relate to their heroines or heroes, to imagine they could possibly become them one day -- perfection only lets them know they are merely reading a book.)
      Think: "Wouldn't it be interesting if I were ... "

A young short order cook whose life is as odd as his first name.
He sees ghosts who voicelessly demand justice from him.   A ghost of a murdered girl holds out a seashell to him.
She motions for him to hold it up to his ear.  He does.  He nearly drops it in horror: not the surf does he hear but the animal grunting of the man who raped the girl.
She points to an oncoming car.  Her rapist she mouths. 
It is the young cook's childhood friend.
(ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz)
Depression readers can get for free.
Humor provided a relief valve for the events in your
book and in the lives of your readers.

Ask yourself which would you read right now: 
Which book would most people on the street read?
Drop "Virtue" and "Flaw" entirely.
Instead, use "Admiration Traits and "Access Traits".

One is a trait The Reader wishes s/he had.

The other is one The Reader already has
and is grounds for empathy with the character.
In your story,
you will typically want at least
one character who is Admirable
("I wish I were this guy") and
at least one character who is Accessible ("I am this guy").
They are not required to be separate;
Harry Potter has both Access and Admiration traits,
which is why he works as not only
the hero of his enormous franchise,
but its primary narrator.
In fact, it is best for every character to have both traits.
If you've studied any fiction that's come out
of Hollywood any time recently,
however, you'll know that they've missed
this memo—
Michael Bay in particular has been unable to
figure out Access traits
for over a decade—
                 So let's start with the basics
                 1.) Having at least one character who is
Going back to Harry Potter for a moment
will also let us notice something very interesting
about Access Traits vs Admiration Traits:
they are subjective.
What are Harry's traits?
He's courageous and quick-thinking under pressure;
as early as the first book, Albus Dumbledore
praises his "sheer outstanding nerve".
He's intensely loyal to his True Companions;
since both his mother and father are dead,
he is understandably protective of the people
he has chosen to be
his surrogate family.
He's kind of a jock
his scholastic efforts are lackluster,
and his main appeal amongst his classmates
is the fact that he's a leading athlete.
He is quite selfless, insisting on putting himself
in the line of fire
lest someone else get hurt.
And he is the possessor of some form of Plot Armor:
when Voldemort,
the Big Bad of the series, used a magic spell on him
that kills anyone it's used on, period, end of story...
it didn't kill him.
He became The Boy Who Lived.

Which of these make Harry Accessible, and which of them make him Admirable?
And think about that answer, because for every single person on the planet,
the answer will be different.
And this is why it's important you put a variety of traits on your characters:
because one Reader's virtue is another's flaw.
Every Reader will bond with every character
in a different way,
for different reasons,
So providing as many reasons as possible—
both Admiration points and Access points—
makes those characters more likely to win an audience.
What do you think makes novels and their characters stand

What do you do to make your novels stand out?


  1. Blogger has been playing mean with my formating on this. I finally gave up since I am on first call and working solo tonight. Whew!

  2. Characters who appeal to our own principles and desires will gain our loyalty. Escapism comes in many flavors.

    In Stephen Donaldson's 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant', his fantasy series, I didn't like the characters that much, but grew to like them the further into the series I read.

    Now in your series, Roland, I have a few faves, and I like the fact that the characters reappear in the other books you've written. You've woven your tales together well.

  3. D.G.:
    I started THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT but like you I really didn't like any of the characters and gave up on it.

    In movies and books I liked, I found myself wondering what adventures the secondary characters were having. So I thought it would add a "feel" of reality to have my characters walk on the stage of another's adventures.

    Elu even appears in THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS and Hibbs, Surt, and Little Brother plus The Turquoise Woman play major roles in END OF DAYS. I've had emails thanking me for bringing Wolf Howl into that tale as well and his lessons on crafting your own Name.

    I'm happy you liked my mixing of my tales and heroes. :-)

  4. Hi, Roland,

    FANTASTIC tips!

    LOVE HP.... There's still nothing like it.

    Characters are SO important. They must be special, memorable, and REAL! WE must bond with them, feel their pain, happiness, stress, loves, etc. We want to feel apart of them. We want to LIVE the story with them ... as another student at Hogwarts... in their inner circle.

  5. The LAMB book sounds funny. As long as he doesn't cross too many lines of course.

  6. Michael:
    Wouldn't have been fun to have a visitor's pass to Hogwarts? Maybe to subtitute teach as the professor of Muggle Studies? LOL.

    Moore walked the razor's edge in LAMB. He stayed within character for Joshua. By the end of the novel, you felt you had lost a true friend.

    Biff was Larry the Cable Guy throughout, the focal point for the laughs.

    The benediction to the book sold me on trying it:

    If you have come to these pages for laughter,
    may you find it.
    If you have here to be offended, may your ire rise
    and your blood boil.
    If you seen an adventure, may this story sing you
    away to blissful escape.
    If you need to test or confirm your beliefs, may
    you reach comfortable conclusions.
    All books reveal perfection, by what they are or
    what they are not.
    May you find that which you seek, in these pages
    or outside them.
    May you find perfection, and know it
    by name.

  7. I do love your writing lessons :). I laughed out loud at your "brooding, dark stranger" bit. I can't count how many times I've read that one.

    The formatting really is weird. Why are you making things difficult for Roland, Blogger? Don't be like that.

  8. J E:
    I'm glad you liked the "Brooding, dark stranger" bit. I smiled writing it, too.

    Yes, obviously, Blogger believes that suffering builds character. They don't realize it just makes me a character! :-)