Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 1-3, 2012

Happy Monday, everyone. Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a day on which governments (generally–police, fire, and the military excepted) stop laboring in honor of labor unions who represent a smaller percentage of the total workforce than they have in decades, while many businesses stay open. Hey, no one said this had to be logical!

The last couple of posts have been real downers, I know, what with some of the scandalous and/or sleazy news that’s been out there lately. Fortunately, the weekend has provided a respite and we can get back to articles on craft, on the good sides of the business, and even have a little fun.

As usual, we’ll start with the pieces on craft, and start those with a couple on character.

  • Kim Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) 17th entry in her WORDplay blog’s Most Common Mistakes series asks, Do Your Characters Lack Purpose? This can be a real problem. Purposeless characters, like purposeless people, wander aimlessly through the story–a story most readers won’t finish because it’s, well, aimless. Characters need goals, Kim writes, and she’s right. Goals are similar to wants and needs, but perhaps a bit more tangible. And if a character has a goal, then the reader has something that will maintain their interest as they watch the character struggle to achieve it (more on this a little later).
  • Not all characters, of course, are nice people, and some of those not-nice people can be story protagonists–the antiheroes. Dr. Antonio del Drago’s (@mythicscribes) The Antihero–Writing a Dark Character that Readers will Love deals with how to develop that complex character whose take on the moral dilemmas he or she faces is different from that of “ordinary” people, while being fully understandable.
  • Another Writer Unboxed entry is Jael McHenry’s (@jaelmchenry) last post in her Flip the Script series. Appropriately, at the end of the series, she advises us to End Anywhere. OK, that sounds too easy, and in fact Jael provides suggestions on to write a satisfying–or at least appropriate–ending without falling into any of these traps: “happily ever after,” the too-twisty twist, or tying up absolutely every single loose end that was ever spun in the story. Of course, a story can end happily, it can finish with a surprise, and it can tie up the loose ends. It just doesn’t have to.
  • Stefani Nellen is a German native who lives in the Netherlands and writes in English (it’s a long story). Her Glimmer Train article (via Jane Friedman’s blog) Things to Do in German When You’re Bored might at first not seem to have anything to do with writing, but it does. You see, she tried translating some of her work originally written in English into German, and discovered in the process that doing so, and trying to make the result something that sounded right and natural in that language, forced her to stop doing some of the tricks she’d been using to try to impress other writers and readers and get to the core of the story. If you speak another language well enough, this might be an interesting exercise. (And am I the only one to notice the irony of an article like this appearing in a literary magazine like Glimmer Train?)

Harvey Stanbrough’s piece On Setting Priorities serves as our transition from craft to business posts, since doing so is ultimately one of those things we all have to do in order to get anything done. Despite all of the other demands on his time, Harvey’s #1 priority is his writing. What each of us places as #1 tells us how much our writing really matters to us.

  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne puts what I hope will be a period on the discussion on buying positive on-line book reviews in her Kill Zone piece Another Bell Tolling? Reviews in the Age of Amazon. Clare’s provocative question is this: do on-line reviews even matter? Has, in other words, this whole kerfuffle about phony reviews been much ado about nothing much? While in some respects, I think the answer is clearly no–there’s a major issue of integrity here–but at the same time, if potential readers are not making their purchasing decisions based on those reviews, why have them at all? Food for thought.
  • Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) reprises a 2010 article from The Book Designer explaining the Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes. Some of these are real doozies, like being proud of a “deal” that gives the author ten (ten!) “free” copies of their book for a $6,000 cost to publish. All ten represent the kind of ignorance and naivete that can get newbie writers into real trouble.

OK, let’s close with a little bit of fun: Debbie Ohi’s (@inkyelbows) Writer Prep comic on Writer Unboxed. This one’s especially for all of you who write flash fiction.

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