So you can read my books

Sunday, October 31, 2010


You read my title and said,

"Get real."


Get real. Or never get picked up by an agent.

As a writer of urban fantasy,

I have to convince my readers that Samuel McCord and his friends and enemies are real,

or they will never buy my fantastical setting and plot as "real."

No matter what you write, you must do the same. Or the readers will never become absorbed into your novel.

How do you do that?

By remembering ...

1) "God and Country" ain't what it used to be.

Duty and honor were once valid motivations. But Shakespeare is dead.

This is the "Me" generation. Even if you're writing about women in the 1700's, you are not writing FOR them.

Abigail Adams sacrificed much for her husband and family. But her letters showed a woman who insisted on owning her own property and money

(very much NOT the custom of the time.)

All of us have had to deal with a situation, not because it was honorable, but because it was heaved into our laps.

Abigail comes across as real because her letters showed she resented her husband's ambition that took him from his children and her so often and for so long.

She fumed at his inability to get along with others.

Ambition, vanity, irritability -- she saw his warts. But they were warts on a face she loved. We can "buy" a woman who sees clearly but loves deeply.

2) Ah, Love ...

"Put the rat cage on her. On her!"

In 1984, Winston is tortured by the Thouht Police until he finally breaks and screams for his tormenter to put the rat cage on Julia, the woman he "loves."

Sex is a primal motivator not love.

Man will sacrifice much for love but generally there must be a good chance of success, or your average reader will feel your novel is cliche not real.

Your hero may be different and sacrifice all for love, but that extremism must apply to all facets of his life or your reader will not "buy" your hero.

3.) Curiosity killed the cat ... and the bad novel.

Without curiosity, fire and most of Man's discoveries would never have been made. But as with love, there is a limit to how much we will sacrifice for curiosity.

When a mother's children are threatened by her curiosity, she will generally grudgingly back off.

Up the punishment enough, and all of us curious types will say, "I'm outta here!"

But by the time that moment comes, realistically, it is too late. And that leads us to the next point :

4) Self-preservation or
"I'll miss you terribly, but that last life preserver is mine!"

We like to think the world is a nice place. But try being an ill, frail woman on a crowded bus and see how selfless most people are.

To continue when threats to his life are enormous, your main character must have more than self-preservation to keep on --

perhaps he/she cannot depend on the promises or threats of the adversary to keep his/her children and spouse safe.

Or as so often in life, the hero simply has no choice but to go on. The bee hive has been toppled -- and it's simply run or be stung to death.

5) Greed or

"Excuse me. Is that my hand in your pocket?"

Greed is good -- as Michael Douglas once said. But only up to a point.

For one thing, greed is not something which endears our hero to the reader. Another, shoot at most greedy folks, and they will head for more hospitable hills.

5) Revenge consumes ... the individual and the reader's patience.

Revenge is understandable but not heroic.

In historical or Western novels, where justice was bought or simply non-existent, revenge is a valid motivation ...

often justified under the rationalization, justice.

Revenge in our civilized times must occur when lapses in order happen.

Say when civilization died with the power in New Orleans during and after Katrina.

Revenge on your adversary's part must be understandable, or your plot will become cliche. Revenge must be supplemented with other aspects of the character.

Say a priest, defending his flock of homeless during Katrina, must choke off his desire for revenge for a raped little girl

to stay by his remaining flock to protect them. Playing the desire for revenge against love for helpless family can lend depth to your novel --

making it real.

For who of us has not burned for revenge against a tresspass against us but had to bite back the darkness within?

6) We want to believe ...

Despite all the harsh things I've said of love (and by inference, friendship), the reader wants to believe ...

A) that when the moment comes, we can reach within ourselves and find the hero hiding there.

B) that love can survive dark, hard times if we but simply refuse to let go of it.

C) that humor and wit can overcome the larger, stronger predator -- that we can become Ulysses challenging the gods -- and winning.

7) Give your readers a semblance of reality while still giving them the three things that they want to believe of themselves and of life --

and your novel will be a bestseller.


  1. I really like this post Roland. You give some great examples and already i want to read about the woman on the bus,, or the letters from the beginning. Thanks for posting. I'll try not to be shy during NaNo. :)

  2. Thanks for that! The video is awesome. Love him.

    Your words of wisdom are so well taken. May I copy them into a personal file for future encouragement??? I think I may need to read them again. ;)Happy November!

  3. Excellent post, Roland. You make valid points. Your statement, "Even if you're writing about women in the 1700's, you are not writing FOR them," is especially true and pertinent advice. I don't have time to review the video now, but I'll be back!

    P.S. Abigail Adams was amazing. A strong woman well ahead of her time.

  4. The suspension of disbelief. So many little things can get in the way, you're right Roland. This was very well said, thanks!

  5. I've been the woman on the bus, Roland. In fact, I still am and always will be.

    Sometimes, you have to get off a bus and wait for the next one if you're too weak to stand. On my last trip, that happened to me four times, actually.

    Somehow, you get where you need to go.

    The world is not as kind as people would like to think most of the time- and if you want to ring true, you can't ignore that. You can't ignore the nature of people and expect to have characters that are believable, or even lovable for their flaws, just as we all hope somehow at the end of the day we are still at least a little lovable despite our own.

    You are dead on with your observations of the world and writing.

    Thanks for this.


  6. Wow, I'm book marking this post! :) Thank you and YES Abigail Adams was :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. I just finished a book where the hero's revenge was so consuming it made me not like him as much. Very nice post and good rules to remember.

  8. The odds against a new author's novel being a success, or even published, are so great that compromise is not worth it. If you have a dream, write it your way. Do not pander to what you think the public wants.

    When I first wrote my books, people said they had not read anything quite like that. Now, they are saying that in a good way. And, I can now say with pride, "I did it my way."

    Your writing is different. But, that is a good thing, too.

  9. great post, R--and well-timed for my ReviseMo! :o) I esp. liked the last three... find the hero, love can survive, and humor/wit conquer all. ;p Thanks~

  10. Your opening made me laugh lots! Great post :O)

  11. Roland: The video is absolutely wonderful! What an astounding metaphor for our journey through earth life. I want to come back to this again. Also to YOUR post. Your observations are so very accurate, and beautifully written.

    I'm glad you found me! Again!! While my aide was with my daughter I worked on a second memoir that I'm writing with a friend. Now I'll probably spend the rest of the day going into blogs and getting my followers back! It was a very strange glitch on Blogger that forced me to start all over. In a way, this may be good. Beginning again can help us see things in a fresh way. I've been blogging for over seven months, and can now see more clearly what I think is important and what isn't in regards to blogging. I think the foremost thing is to support my followers, in whatever way I can; by buying, reading, and reviewing their books, if they're published, as much as I can. I think our main goal in this journey through life is to do all we can to help each other.

    Thanks for your most helpful observations. I am determined to come into your blog more often!

  12. Is that all you need to write a bestseller!?! Of course I am being a bit caustic. A great post full of sound advice. Thank you!

  13. Good points. I loved the post title too.

  14. "We want to believe... that when the moment comes, we can reach within ourselves and find the hero hiding there." No truer words spoken. Great post, Roland.

  15. Well put, Roland.

    It was indeed, a most valuable post.

  16. Some terrific reminders here and many good points. Thanks for this post!

  17. Loved this post, and what I found interesting about all the facets you brought up was that teetering edge of belief - we can't be curious or in love if it is thrown upon our seesaw. It will crash hard; it's putting the thoughts/feelings on a point of the board where the seesaw begins to change momentum, bringing the reader along.
    Great stuff, Roland! Thanks for the valuable reminders and advice.

  18. ...wonderful post Roland:) If there's any justice left on this rock, Neil will snoop out this post and give it a read. The 7th and final point is the most important. As writers we possess the means of taking readers upon fantastic journey's across vast landscapes...but the trick is in keeping it real...allowing the reader to taste the chill in the breeze, to reach out and touch a fallen tear, smell the accompanying salt on their believe. For only then, as writers, will success find us at last.

    Take care my friend:)

  19. Good advice to store in my brain-pan at the beginning of nano. I'm cheating! Not a good sign....

    Thanks for the wisdom!

  20. Words Crafter : Visiting me is never cheating.

    Elliot : From your lips to Neil's lips. Isn't that all our dreams? To have a great agent or great writer visit our site and be wowed by it?

    Erin : Yes, belief in what we read is so important, yet so hard to achieve.

    Wendy : Good to see you again. And thanks for enjoying it.

    Jennifer : Don't all of us want to believe we can be the hero in our lives?

    Holly : I was concerned that some might take my title seriously. I'm glad you got a laugh out of it.

    Ann : I'm happy you realized I was writing the title tongue in cheek.

    Ann Best : I hate what Blogger did to your site. Sigh. You're taking it in the best possible way. Bravo to you.

    Madeleine : Happy to have given some laughter.

    LTM : I was hoping to give some light to those of you out there participating in November's write a lot.

    Wendy Tyler : Good to see you survived that assault of horror movies your son hit you with. Thanks for the kind words.

    Walter : Yes, I'm proud of you for sticking to your guns. Thanks for the praise of my writing.

    Sondrae : Yes, revenge turns me off many books.

    Jules : Thanks for bookmarking this post. I tried to make it and the few that will follow helpful to those participating in the NaMo event.

    February Grace : Yes, if we do not give up on ourselves and on life, somehow, we get where we need to go. Thanks for writing and sharing your heart.

    Matthew : I'm glad you got something positive out of my post. Don't be a stranger, hear?

    Lisa : I think you'll really enjoy the video.

    PK : I'd be honored if you copied them into a personal folder for future reference. You made my evening with that.

    Summer : Don't be shy during NaNo, hear? I'm truly pleased you got a bit of help and laughter with my post.

  21. You always have such simple yet thought provoking ideas. Core plot. Yep, it's pretty universal but like you say, when you look books they all break down to these sort of points.

    Hope your week is great. Me? I'm in NaNo. I think I'm the one with too many balls in the air and strumming my lips going beada beada, beada...and writing. God only knows what I'll be like in a couple of weeks. I'm a basket in my future or a phych ward, lolol!

  22. Sia : Have fun with NaNo. It is only a personal goal after all. Laugh at it all. Life is too short not to have fun along the way. I wish you inspiration and fluid words.