Friday, July 13, 2007

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine Received


The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine


Publisher: Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")

Motto: "A Vision for Excellence"

Date: July 10, 2007
Issue: Volume 3, Number 7
Home Pages:

Circulation: 8000+ writers, each of them creating a
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.


What's in This Issue

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!
2) Recent Blog Articles
3) Creating Characters -- Part 5
4) Marketing is About You
5) What's New At
6) Steal This E-zine!
7) Reprint Rights


1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!

This is the July issue of the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine. The normally scheduled date for this issue was
midnight on July 3. However, I figured that all my US
readers would be busy blowing up fireworks on July 4,
so I decided to hold this issue back for a week to let
the dust settle. August's issue will come out on the
normal schedule, the first Tuesday of the month.

Those of you who have joined in the past month (about
350 of you have joined since the last issue), welcome
to my e-zine!

You should be on this list only if you signed up for it
on my web site. If you no longer wish to hear from me,
don't be shy -- there's a link at the bottom of this
email that will put you out of your misery.

If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous
issues are archived on my web site at:

What's in this issue:

Have you been reading my Advanced Fiction Writing Blog
lately? If not, I'll give you a quick recap of what you

Several months ago, I began a series of articles on
creating characters. This month I'll talk about how
characters and plots grow up together.

We've talked about marketing many times in this e-zine,
and I've often said that marketing starts with the
brutal fact that "nobody cares about you." This is
true, but there's another side to consider. In a very
real sense, "marketing is all about you." We'll talk
about that paradox this month.


2) Recent Blog Articles

My new Advanced Fiction Writing Blog has gelled into an
active community of writers with hundreds of daily
readers and often dozens of comments. Here's a recap of
some recent things we've discussed there in the past

In early June, I asked my blog readers what stage of
their writing career they were in, and what was their
biggest obstacle at the moment. It turned out that a
number of writers were feeling oppressed by the
zillions of rules that well-meaning teachers give them.
That generated a discussion for several days on the
"rules" of writing and how and when to break them.

We then talked about why "bad" books get published when
there are tons of good books that don't.

That led us into a long discussion on the importance of
marketing and branding for all writers, even
pre-published ones. Not surprisingly, a lot of my blog
readers have felt some angst about branding. I
interviewed a couple of my author friends who I feel
have done a good job branding themselves. We talked
about the various branding problems that some of my
blog readers are facing now or will face as they head
towards publication.

More recently, we've had an extended discussion on the
structure of scenes in fiction. There are certain rules
of scene structure that an author violates only at
extreme peril.

If you've been missing out on my blog, you can read it


3) Creating Characters -- Part 5

In the last few months, we talked about how values,
motivations, and goals define a character, and the one
thing you must understand in order to write
three-dimensional characters. This month we're going to
talk about the process of creating characters.

This column is prompted by an email I received today
from one of this e-zine's subscribers, asking about how
exactly you develop characters.

Every writer is different, of course, so I can't give a
set of rules that will guarantee you'll come out with
interesting characters. Writing is not paint by
numbers. But I can give you some general guidelines.

Personally, I think characters are completely tied up
with plot. I develop my characters right alongside my

For starters, every one of my main characters will have
some sort of goal that motivates them to action. In my
view, if your character doesn't WANT something, then
you've got a boring character that nobody is going to
want to read about. Conversely, if you've got a
character who really, desperately WANTS something, then
that's an interesting character.

Some examples:

Can a machine be an interesting character? Yes . . . if
that machine is an android who wants very badly to kill
a woman named Sarah Connor before she has a son named
John who will save the world from androids. That's the
storyline for the robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Can a six-year-old boy be an interesting character?
Yes . . . if that boy wants to get away from his
sadistic older brother and go to Battle School where he
has a chance to play war games with other kids and
possibly become the hero who will save the earth from
the invading alien "Buggers." That's the storyline for
Ender Wiggin in ENDER'S GAME.

Can a witless middle-aged mother of five girls be an
interesting character? Yes . . . if she's desperate to
marry off those daughters before her husband dies,
leaving them all penniless. That's the storyline of
Mrs. Bennett, mother of Lizzie Bennett in PRIDE AND
PREJUDICE. (And it hardly matters that Papa Bennett is
healthy as a horse. For Mama Bennett, the important
thing is that he COULD die. Hence, the need for rich
husbands, and plenty of them.)

The fact is that most of us, most of the time, play by
the rules and live pretty dull lives. But when a person
is desperate, when their back is to the wall, when
they'll do ANYTHING to get what they want or need,
that's when the rules all go out the window. That's
when you have a story.

Fiction is driven by people who desperately want
something and will do whatever it takes to get it. So
that's the first principle of creating characters.

But the second principle is that everybody is
different. We have different skills, different talents,
different limitations. Ender Wiggin, at six years old,
can't possibly travel through time like Arnie, stealing
guns, improvising explosions, and shooting up the cops.
But Ender is just as lethal, in his own way, on his own
turf, because Ender is a brilliant strategist and also
knows how to organize teams to get the best out of his

Mrs. Bennett can't run away from her problems to go to
Battle School, but she has plenty of other talents.
Such as talking. And, um, talking. And (the truth comes
out at last) talking. The woman is a chatterbox and a
half, and all that talking only makes things worse for
her poor daughters, who desperately don't need Mama
messing up their chances at marriage by being a dork in
public. Mrs. Bennett's role in life is to demolish her
daughters' chances by trying way too hard.

Arnie's robot in TERMINATOR has little talent for small
talk of the type Mrs. Bennett excels at. He has a few
good lines, but his strength is physical. The guy is
well-nigh unstoppable. Shoot him, stab him, burn him --
he just keeps going like the Energizer Bunny From Hell.

Plot comes when you have different characters, each of
whom desperately wants something -- and those
"somethings" are in conflict. Give each of these
characters different skills and your story writes
itself. In theory, anyway.

In practice, of course, your characters don't always
spring to life in full glory. Sometimes, you've got one
character and a weak plot and that's it. Then what do
you do?

What you do is ask what sort of character would cause
the most grief for the character you've got. That often
suggests a new character with particular strengths. Now
give that new character a burning desire that's totally
at odds with your first character.

Now you've got two strong characters and a strong plot.
Now you've got a story.

So in creating your novel, your characters define your
plot, and your plot defines your characters. If you
iterate between those a few times, you'll end up with
several strong characters, and a dynamite plot.


4) Marketing is About You

It may seem paradoxical for me to write an article with
the headline "Marketing is About You." After all, for a
long time, I've been saying in this e-zine that one of
the fundamental axioms of marketing is that "Nobody
cares about you."

How are we supposed to reconcile those two statements?

Well, it's very simple. Yes, it's true that nobody
cares about you -- yet. The goal of marketing is to
TEACH them to care about you.

But you don't do that by talking about yourself. Quick
-- think back to the last party you went to. There was
a guy there who only talked about himself. Remember? He
was buttonholing anybody he could latch onto and
telling them all about a) his great Amway products, or
b) his amazingly cool job designing relational
databases, or c) how well he's doing after his divorce,
or d) his fabulous collection of spider webs. Or
whatever. It was all about him.

Remember what tricks you had to pull to get away from
that guy? Yeah, you remember.

There was another guy there who, as luck would have it,
knew a whole lot about something you really cared
about. You remember him, right? It turned out you were
both really super-interested in a) the Yankees, or b)
French cooking, or c) gardening, or d) great literary
novels. Or whatever. You really hit it off because this
guy cared about stuff you cared about. Plus, he was
just fun to be around.

Remember how you barely got started talking before it
was time to leave? Yeah, you remember.

Now what's the difference here? Guy #1 may well have
been fun to be around, but you never found out, because
he was so obsessed with talking about stuff you didn't
care about. Guy #2 was definitely fun to be around, but
you only discovered that because he was interested in
the same stuff you're interested in.

When it comes to marketing your work, it's absolutely
true that "Nobody cares about you." But that sentence
is really incomplete. It should really read, "Nobody
cares about you, UNTIL they discover a common interest
AND they find that you're fun to be around."

In the past, when I've talked about marketing, I've
focused a lot on the first part -- that common
interest. If you've got a great web site on a) the
Yankees, or b) French cooking, or c) gardening, or d)
great literary novels, or whatever, then people who are
interested in your topic will come to your site.

That's all good -- traffic is essential -- but it's not
enough. People will VISIT your site for information,
but they'll STAY for you.

That's why I say that "Marketing is about you."
Because much as you love the Yankees or escargot or
zucchini or Austen, what you really want is for people
to read your novels. Which they will do if they like
you and if your novels are even remotely related to
their interests.

Here's where it gets tricky. How are you supposed to
get people to like you?

Strictly speaking, you can't make people like you. What
you can do is be yourself. You're a writer, and
therefore you are automatically unique, entertaining,
and fun to be around. Be yourself. Don't try to be
Stephen King or Tom Clancy or Danielle Steel.

Be yourself. A certain number of people will like you.
Those people are your natural fans. Tragically, a
certain number of other people won't like you. The only
way to get them to like you is to be somebody else,
which would probably alienate your real fans. So don't
even bother. Just be yourself. Focus on making your web
site (or your blog) reflect your unique, entertaining,
fun personality.

If that ultimately means that you only have ten real
fans, then maybe you'll never write a bestseller, but
you'll have nine more fans than most people do. And
you'll have the satisfaction of being authentic.

On the other hand, you might end up with thousands or
tens of thousands of fans -- people who like the real
you. Those are just the sort of people who'll buy your

All of this means, of course, that you need to figure
out who you really are, what you're truly interested
in, and how best to communicate all that to the world
via your web site.

There's a word for the process of figuring all that
out, the infamous "B-word" -- "branding."

If there is anything that has polarized writers in the
last ten years, it's the subject of branding. Some
writers spend inordinate amounts of time agonizing over
their "brand". Others sneer at the whole notion,
figuring that your brand will find you.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. An excellent
brand may attach itself to you, if you're lucky. Then
again, it's just as likely that a perfectly muddled and
incoherent brand may latch on to you.

My opinion is that it's nice to be lucky, but you
should also take steps to make your own luck. (In
exactly the same way, an excellent agent may find you,
if you're lucky, but it still makes sense to do your
part to find a good one. Right?)

Likewise with a brand. You can do nothing and hope
people just naturally figure out who you are and what
your writing is all about. But people don't always
understand you perfectly, and so the end result might
be that nobody really knows what you stand for.

Unless YOU take the time to figure out who you are,
what you do, and why you do it, nobody else is likely
to do that hard work for you. So you need to do it.

I'll say it again. Marketing your books is about
marketing YOU. And marketing you means creating a
recognizable brand for your writing that helps you
communicate to people who and what you are and what you

Want to get started on thinking about your brand right
now? Take out a pad of paper and answer three questions:
1) Who are you?
2) What do you write?
3) Why do you write it?

You don't have to answer those completely today. Your
answers don't have to be perfect. But if you put them
on paper, it'll start a process that will eventually
lead you to your brand. And then you'll know how to
market yourself effectively.

Branding and marketing don't happen in one day. It
takes time and effort to figure it all out. But once
you do, selling yourself to an agent, an editor, and
the reading public will become a whole lot easier.


5) What's New At

As you can tell by the above article on marketing, I've
recently turned my attention to the much-loved and
much-hated subject of "branding." This is a subject
I've neglected for most of my career, and that's been a
mistake. But it's never too late to do what you
desperately need to do.

In the month of June, I worked with strategic planning
expert Allison Bottke to create a teleseminar on
"Branding for Writers." We've now added that as #5 in
our popular series on "Strategic Planning for Writers."
You can read all about the whole series here:

While working with Allison on the teleseminar, I did
some hard rethinking of my own brand. The branding for
my novels has been in disarray for a long time. But
I've done some soul-searching and I've now got a new
direction for my fiction. I'll be rebuilding my brand
for my novels from the ground up in the coming months.

I also took a look at the branding for my Advanced
Fiction Writing web site, which includes this e-zine
and my blog. My Advanced Fiction Writing brand has been
pretty well-focused, but not perfectly so. One problem
was that some of my articles on writing have been on my
personal web site for a long time. (I wrote them long
before I launched this e-zine.) I've now moved those
articles, including the famous "Snowflake article" to
my Advanced Fiction Writing site. And I'm taking some
steps to increase my brand recognition.

The lesson here is that you can have multiple brands --
if you have the time and energy to build them both.
Viva la branding!


6) Steal This E-zine!

This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's
worth at least 1844 times what you paid for it. I
invite you to "steal" it, but only if you do it nicely
. . .

Distasteful legal babble: This E-zine is copyright
Randall Ingermanson, 2007.

Extremely tasteful postscript: I encourage you to email
this E-zine to any writer friends of yours who might
benefit from it. I only ask that you email the whole
thing, not bits and pieces. Otherwise, you'll be
getting desperate calls at midnight from your friends
asking where they can get their own free subscription.

At the moment, there are two places to subscribe:
My personal web site:
My fiction site:


7) Reprint Rights

Permission is granted to use any of the articles in
this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as
you include the following blurb with it:

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 8000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit Download your
free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free
5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Randy Ingermanson
Publisher, Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Ingermanson Communications Inc.

2210 W. Main St., Suite 107, Box 103
Battle Ground, WA
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