Category Archives: Pleasing the Reader

Write for Yourself–and Only Yourself


That’s right. I am warning you. Otherwise, you could find yourself washed up with the first book. Or, in the case of Herman Melville, the sixth book.

Writer Lucas Reilly tells the story at mentalfloss.com.

Herman Melville had everything a young author could dream of. By the age of 30, he’d traveled the world and written five books, including two bestsellers. He’d married the daughter of a prominent judge, and he owned a beautiful farmhouse. He hobnobbed with the literati. Strangers asked for autographs.

Then he wrote Moby-Dick and ruined everything.

Today, the book is often hailed as the Great American Novel, an epic D. H. Lawrence called “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.” But in Melville’s time, it was a total flop. Readers couldn’t comprehend the difficult narrative. Critics dismissed it as the ravings of a madman. When Melville tried to mend his image with a follow-up, titled Pierre, the reviews were equally brutal, and the work cemented his reputation as a lunatic. At just 33, Melville was finished.

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EVEN GREAT AUTHORS GET DECKED


Dave, an acquaintance, shared an article with me that made me giggle. It seems even authors that time and academia have deemed “classic” or “noteworthy” get creamed by critics from time to time. In the universe of literature, no one is exempt from a scathing rebuke.

Feeling glum because someone dissed your work? Read this. You’ll feel better. You may still have to re-write, but you will feel as if you are in good company.

The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History

[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’re revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published June 19, 2011.] Sigh. Authors just don’t insult each other like they used to. Sure, Martin Amis raised some eyebrows when he claimed he would need brain damage to write children’s books, and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan made waves when she disparaged the work that someone had plagiarized, but those kinds of accidental, lukewarm zingers are nothing when compared to the sick burns of yore. It stands to reason, of course, that writers would be able to come up with some of the best insults around, given their natural affinity for a certain turn of phrase and all. And it also makes sense that the people they would choose to unleash their verbal battle-axes upon would be each other, since watching someone doing the same thing you’re doing — only badly — is one of the most frustrating feelings we know. So we forgive our dear authors for their spite. Plus, their insults are just so fun to read. Click through for our countdown of the thirty harshest author-on-author burns in history, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments!

For the complete article, go here:

http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history/view-all

Give Your Readers a Warning


Author Lauren Carr just helped me solve a dilemma. I’ll explain.

In a story I am working on, there are bigoted characters–as there are bigoted people in real life. There are bad guys–as in real life. And a few of the scoundrels look and behave differently than me.

Nevertheless, as a new novelist, I wondered what the reading public would think about my story, especially if their own family heritage were the same as the despicable characters in my book. When I wrote the story, I never gave the cultural or sexual orientation or race issues a thought. I simply told a story.

Once the story was essentially complete, it dawned me that several of my friends were going to find ugly characters in my story that resembled them in some way. Would they feel differently about me because I cast a negative character with their ethnicity or sexual persuasion?

Apparently mystery writer Lauren Carr had similar concerns because she included the following disclaimer in the press release for her new book:

Best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr takes fans of past Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime mysteries down a different path in her latest whodunit. “Don’t worry,” she says. “We have plenty of dead bodies and lots of mystery-as well as intrigue, suspense, and page turning twists.”

However, Lauren does issue a warning for readers. “The key job of a fiction writer is to look at a situation, make observations about how things are and how they work, and then ask, ‘What if …’  This is what I have done with Three Days to Forever.”
Lauren Carr’s latest mystery plunges Mac Faraday, Archie, David, Gnarly, and the gang head first into a case that brings the war on terror right into Deep Creek Lake. “Current political issues will be raised and discussed by the characters involved,” Lauren says. “It is unrealistic for them to investigate a case involving terrorism without these discussions.”
With this in mind, Lauren reminds her readers that “Three Days to Forever is fiction. It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.”
Consequently, I am considering a disclaimer, to make the reader aware that  I acknowledge there may be sensitivity to character portrayals. The disclaimer also reminds the reader that the work is fiction.
Have some thoughts? Please share them. This is a site for learning.
P.S. In the “draft” version of this post, paragraph spacing is correct. In the “published” form, there are spaces missing between paragraphs in the final section. It is a format error on WordPress’ part. I can’t fix it.

Guest Post–The Hook or The Gimmick


Notes from the Margins: The Difference Between A Hook and A Gimmick

Every executive will tell you that in order to grab their attention in a pitch or a script, you need to have a great original hook. Your hook is that special THING that defines what the new, original and commercial angle is on your concept. It’s the element of your story or storytelling that will make your script stand out and make the exec say, “I get it.”

Your hook can come from numerous places. It could be conceptual, it could be plot-based, it could be your location, your type of characters, your backdrop, your time period or setting or world, your theme, the characters’ goal, the consequences or stakes of the action in the story, etc. Truly elevated projects often combine two different hooks to make the story more dynamic or have a hook with an intellectual or emotional depth to it that takes the story to another level.

But these days, writers often get confused between a hook and a gimmick. And the two are not the same thing.

A hook is usually story-based. It is something ingrained and exploited in the plot and/or premise of your script. A gimmick is a cheap trick used as a selling tool to make an audience think there’s something different about the style or experience of the project but usually has very little to do with the substance of the story.

The hook of Twilight is that the teen love story was set against the backdrop of an ancient war between vampires and werewolves. The hook of Non-Stop is that it’s a mystery heist film and a hijacking action film set 35,000 feet up in the air. The hook of the Oscar-Winning Her is that it’s a love story between a man and his operating system set in the near future.

Creating the hook of a story is the screenwriter’s job. Creating or exploiting the story’s gimmick is usually the job of a marketing department. Very often a project’s gimmick may come from its hook but a great gimmick will NEVER mask or excuse a poor story.

The films that do the best these days within the studio system are ones that have a strong story and hook AND a strong connected gimmick that can be used to sell it to its target demographic.

Gravity did well based on the gimmick of how it was shot and how the technical aspects come across in gorgeous 3-D surround sound theaters but also how that gimmick was used to enhance the emotion and hook of the story – one woman, trapped alone in space, fighting to survive.

Pixar’s Wall-E had a wonderful hook of a lowly love struck robot that must save his crush and the world. But the gimmick of Wall-E, and what many were talking about, was how half the film had no dialogue and was also a message movie about consumerism and a cautionary environmental tale.

The 1985 cult classic Clue had a great story gimmick in that its whole third act is 3 different alternate endings with different possible killers confessing until the truth is revealed. Tonally, it worked great with the rest of the story and added more twists and turns to the climax of the film.

But when the story is poor, gimmicks usually don’t work and often backfire.

Perhaps the best example of this is Movie 43, one of the worst abortions to ever happen on screen which currently sits at 4% on rotten tomatoes and won big at this year’s Razzies. It was a series of disturbing short films directed by big names and starring even bigger names that were connected by an insanely flimsy set up. The gimmick was basically – look at all these huge name stars we got together, it MUST be good, right? But alas, it was not.

From Justin to Kelly (I’m sorry Kelly, I still love you) was a project born out of gimmick rather than story. The studio wanted to capitalize on the popularity and possible real-life romantic relationship between its two biggest reality stars at the time and Kelly’s growing musical following. I’m guessing the writers spent exactly 4 days on the script.

Battlefield Earth had a not-so-secret gimmick in that it was obviously connected to Scientology and it put this gimmick above story. And any time you put gimmick above story in the concept and development stage, your movie is doomed.

Bad Grandpa used the proven gimmick of the Jackass-style gags and physical pranks to lure people to the theater thinking that’s all it was, but it was actually an attempt at a narrative feature that just happened to have a half dozen of those hilarious pranks in it. But the gimmick was stronger than the story and was the only thing promoted in the trailers. Did it do really well at the box office? Yes, it did. I’m not saying a gimmick CAN’T work – only that it usually doesn’t if the story isn’t equally strong if not stronger.

I recently had a client whose story was a pretty straightforward spy/comedy with some decent story twists but then the third act was basically a Choose Your Own Adventure gimmick where he thought audiences would be able (collectively) to choose which version of the ending they wanted to see. Obviously this gimmick wouldn’t work in theaters for 1000 logistic and financial reasons. But it didn’t work on the page either because it made the writer’s vision for the story unclear and unresolved. It made the whole resolution of the story confusing and unsatisfying.

I had another client who wrote the same script twice – once as a comedy, once as a drama – and thought that studios would make both versions for both audiences. The only major difference was that the comedy had about 10 more decently funny lines in it. There are concepts that could potentially work in two different genres, but you need to know which is stronger and which you feel more comfortable writing. The gimmick of having written two versions of the same plot was what he thought would entice agents instead of the story itself, which was incorrect.

A handful of years ago, I had a pitch session at a conference where the writer donned a large rubber butt as a hat and pitched the sales gimmick of his concept instead of the story. Even if the story and pitch were brilliant it wouldn’t have mattered cause all I was staring at was a large rubber anus like it was a third eye. I can guarantee that pitch would have gone better without the gimmick. In fact a general rule I always give new writers pitching is leave the gimmicks at home – they never help and usually make you look all the more amateurish. And I feel the same about writers who employ gimmicks on the page instead of really crafting a compelling story.

There is a difference between a marketing or production gimmick and a writing gimmick. The former is something the writer has very little say about. Studios will very often turn an otherwise perfectly fine 2-D film into a 3-D extravaganza because the ticket prices are higher and they think the 3-D gimmick brings people to the theaters. Dolby Digital 3-D Surround Sound, Smell-O-Vision, 4-D, not to mention Marvel and Disney’s gimmick of incorporating many of  their Avengers characters into all their different films so that audiences think they need to see ALL of them in order to follow the stories. These would be more production and marketing gimmicks.

Brilliant marketing gimmicks included those created for Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, both of which used the angle that they may or may not be true stories and it used its gimmick of casting utter unknowns to play into that.  Paranormal’s marketing campaign also included the creepy, grainy “night-goggle” footage of people reacting and screaming in fear while watching the film. Very effective. They took what was different about the hook and story and translated that into a masterful marketing gimmick. But the gimmick did not damage or derail the story.

Sometimes the gimmick of a project is in its casting and that’s also something the writer usually has no control over. The Expendables, Escape Plan, Righteous Kill, Grudge Match, Scream, and romantic comedies that reteam beloved duos like the upcoming Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film Blended are all films whose gimmick was the casting and not the story. In some of these cases, the story or action was strong enough to compliment the gimmick. In others, not so much.

But this is why it’s so important for writers to create a hook and story that can overcome bad casting or bad production or marketing gimmicks and sell on its own merit. You need to know what is special and sellable about your concept and hook, and the answer to that needs to lie organically within the pages of your story. If it doesn’t, then you’re not writing smart enough and you’re relying on others to figure out what is great about your script.

Fear of Finishing


Several caring readers have offered support and encouragement. By reading their comments, I had a realization–I think I may be struggling with a fear of finishing the book.

That fear can come from a number of concerns:

Will readers like my story?

Can I handle the criticism?

What will I do next?

In fairness to myself, there are valid circumstances that prevent me from editing. Those are barriers to work over, around, through. Time will fix the problems.

It’s the absence of “heart” for the work that I worry about. And I think the list above addresses the root of the “heart” problem.

Are you, too, finding it hard to finish a manuscript? Could you be sharing some of my concerns (fears)?

Terminology and Usage Lesson


Today, terms describing phenomena normally reserved for science fiction, science fantasy or paranormal genre stories also appear in romance, mystery and historical fiction books. Thus, it is important to stay current with terminology and correct usage of trending language and terms, whether you are a writer or editor.

The lesson today centers on the term psi power. It is appearing frequently in literature or articles. From the website wyndology.com:

Psi Power

The term psi comes from the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and is used as an informal abbreviation for “psychic phenomena.” As such it covers all uses of the mind beyond the reach of accepted science. It is not an acronym and should therefore not be typed as “PSI.”

What Is Psi? What Is ESP?

The term psi refers to any ability to achieve apparently paranormal or psychic phenomena through the power of the mind. There is no generally accepted mechanism in conventional  science by which such abilities could operate.

Although “psi” is sometimes used interchangeably with ESP they’re not quite the same: ESP stands for “Extra Sensory Perception.” As such ESP covers phenomena known as “anomolous cognition”, for example mental telepathy. Psi is a more general term that also covers “anomolous operation”. In other words, ESP is the subset of psi that deals with knowing things – psi itself is a much wider field that also includes using the power of the mind to do things.

Writing Seminars in the Greater Washington, DC and Baltimore Areas


Writing & Publishing Events: Sign Up Now!
Fall 2013
Lauren Carr Schedule of Events
Courses, Workshops & Conferences to Fit Any Schedule

Dear Fay,

This is the greatest time to be a writer.
The good news: Technology has turned the publishing industry on it’s ear so that any  writer who is serious about being a published author can get their book  out into the hands of readers.
The bad news: Poorly written books that are sloppily published are leaving uninformed authors confused and down heartened where their books don’t sell, or worse, reviewers rip their beloved books apart.
There is more to writing a book and publishing it than typing it up and uploading files to an online publisher. It takes more to becoming a best-selling author than getting a feature in the local newspaper and setting up a table at the local bookstore.
Unfortunately, most writers don’t know how or where to go to get the information they need to become successful authors.
Now is your chance to be informed. Over the course of the next several weeks and through the fall, I will be appearing at numerous workshops and conferences on writing, publishing, or both. Some will be during the day, others in the evening, and even a few weekends. Cost vary as well.
So, if you are a budding writer, or even a published author who wants to learn how to succeed in today’s literary arena, check out this schedule and sign up today!
Sincerely,
Lauren Carr Best-Selling Author and Publisher

Creatures, Crime & Creativity Conference: Friday-Sunday, 9/13-15
Meet Acorn Books Authors Lauren Carr, Cindy McDonald, and Fay Moore at the C3!
The conference is scheduled for September 13, 14 and 15 of 2013 in the  Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore. It will present three days of panels and  workshops of interest to both writers and fans.

Everyone who attends the C3 conference will receive an anthology, published by Acorn Books, which is exclusive only for conference attendees. This anthology is filled with stories written by attending authors, including Lauren Carr and Fay Moore, whose debut novel will be released in September. There is still time to register to meet authors of mystery, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, and other creatures!

From Writers to Published Authors Conference: Saturday, 10/5. 8:45 am-5:00 pm
First Annual Conference in Charles Town, WV

The From Writers to Published Authors Conference offers writers the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of writing and publishing directly from those who have gone before them. At this first annual event, authors and publishers will gather together to spend the day helping new writers to reach their goal of not only publishing their books, but doing it right.
Click here to view the list of authors, illustrators, and publishers attending.
Click here to view the panels scheduled for the day.
Visit Acorn Book Services Website for more information. Click Here to download brochure.
Date: Saturday, October 5, 2013
8:45 am-5:00 pm
Place: Oakland Church
  70 Oakland Terrace
  Charles Town, WV
Cost: $60 (early registration) $75 After Sep 23

10-Plus Most Common Mistakes Made By New Writers: 4-Week Course Starting Tues, 9/3
10 Plus Most Common MistakesJefferson County Adult & Community Education   Does your book suffer from Good-Parent Syndrome? Do you know what your crutch word is?  Lauren Carr will discuss all of these topics, and other writing errors that can negatively impact your book’s success, during her four-hour presentation entitled: 10+ Most Common Mistakes Made By New Writers (Grammar and Punctuation Are Not On the List).

Dates: Tuesdays, 9/3-9/24. 6:00-8:00 pm
Place: Charles Town Middle School
Cost: $35
Contact Judy Slusher, Facilitator, Adult & Community Education, Jefferson County Schools at 304-728-9237 to register or for more information.

Speaking Engagement: National Novel Writing Month: Mon., 9/16: 6:30 pm
National Novel Writing MonthWriting a Novel: You Can Do ItIn preparation for the 2013 National Novel Writing Month (November), Havre de Grace Library, in Havre de Grace, Maryland is offering 4 sessions to help writers get started. Lauren Carr is scheduled to appear at this first session to help new writers in this introduction, which will  offer tips, planning, and much more. Sign up for a single session or all four sessions scheduled. Visit the Havre de Grace Library website for more information.

Date: Monday, 9/16. 6:30 pm
Place: Havre de Grace Library, 120 N Union Ave  Havre de Grace, MD 21078. (410) 939-6700
Tuition $50 for Four Weeks. Pre-registration required.

Authors in Bathrobes:  How to be a Successful Author Without Getting Dressed: 4-Week Course Starting  Thurs, 10/10
Authors in Bathrobes Berkeley County Arts Council: Berkeley Art WorksEvery writer dreams of big book events in book stores with lines going out the door. Unfortunately, for 95% percent of published authors, this is not a reality. It is not uncommon to have a book event and have no one show up. Today’s technology has made it possible for authors to gain a following, and make money with very little overhead and without getting dressed.In this course, author and publisher Lauren Carr will discuss how writers can now walk through the doors that have opened to not only write and publish their own books, but how to do it successfully-without getting dressed!

Dates: Thursdays, 10/10-10/31. 9:30-11:30 am
Place: Berkeley Art Works, 116 North Queen Street, Martinsburg, WV – 304-620-7277 web: artworks.berkeleyartswv.org email berkeleyartswv@gmail.com
Tuition $50 for Four Weeks. Pre-registration required.

Authors in Bathrobes:  How to be a Successful Author Without Getting Dressed Writing  & Publishing Workshop: Sat. 11/2: 9:30 am-4:30 pm: FREE
Authors in Bathrobes Washington County Free Library: Central Location
9:30 am-12:30 am: Book Writing: 10+ Most Common Mistakes Made By New Writers

 Does your book suffer from Good-Parent Syndrome? Do you know what your crutch word is?  Lauren will discuss all of these topics, and other writing errors that can negatively impact your book’s success, during her four-hour presentation entitled: 10+ Most Common Mistakes Made By New Writers (Grammar and Punctuation Are Not On the List).

1:30 pm-4:30 am: Book Publishing: Authors in Bathrobes: How to Be a Successful Author Without Getting Dressed

Every writer dreams of big book events in book stores with lines going out the door. Unfortunately, for 95% percent of published authors, this is not a reality. It is not uncommon to have a book event and have no one show up. Today’s technology has made it possible for authors to gain a following, and make money with very little overhead and without getting dressed.

In these two presentations, author and publisher Lauren Carr will discuss how writers can now walk through the doors that have opened to not only write and publish their own books, but how to do it successfully-without getting dressed!

Date: Saturday, 11/2. 9:30 am-4:30 pm
Place: Washington County Free Library, Central Location 100 South Potomac Street, Hagerstown  MD 21740 Phone: 301.739.3250 For more information about this and other Washington County Free Library events, Phone: 301.739.3250 or email Pat Wishard at pwishard@washcolibrary.org. Visit http://www.washcolibrary.org/index.asp for more information.

Acorn Book Services                 415 Moonridge Lane
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia  25425
If you’re a budding writer, or even published author who wants to learn more about being successful in today’s publishing arena, then come out out. Take note of the deadlines and which courses you need to register for.
I look forward to seeing your there!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF THESE EVENTS, CONTACT acorn.book.services@comcast.net