Archive for category Self-Publishing
Most serious writers want to connect with an audience; preferably a big one. You have something to say. You have a story to tell. You want people to read it. One of the best ways to make people want to read your work is to create memorable and relatable central characters. Whether you are writing a short story, screenplay, or a novel, you want your readers to identify with and live the story through your main characters. To do this, you have to create three dimensional characters that live and breathe in your reader’s imagination. I’d like to share with you a method I learned for from professional, published writers.
I started writing in earnest when I began a career in marketing communications. In my early thirties, it became clear to me that writing was the thing I enjoyed doing the most when it came to work. I wrote promotional copy and content for radio and TV ads, brochures, websites, press releases, Power Point® presentations, sales contests and salesperson motivation, and on and on. In my forties, I wrote a few not-so-good short stories. At the age of fifty, I decided to try my hand at writing screenplays. I was scared shitless. Deep down, I really didn’t think I could do it. Some crazy impulse pushed me towards the cliff’s edge and over it into the unknown.
Fortunately, I was old enough to realize I needed help. At fifty, I didn’t have the time or inclination to fall into the traps most beginning fiction writers do. I had already suffered enough scars from learning how to write business communications. I wanted to walk as straight a path as possible in this new world of fiction writing. I knew that mistakes were inevitable. I just wanted to avoid the detours.
Somehow, I found my way to the Online Writers’ Program at UCLA. One of the first things I learned in my online courses was the necessity of building an original and compelling Protagonist and Antagonist plus an interesting cast of supporting characters. Unless you are an incredibly gifted genius, you will need to know your characters thoroughly before you start writing your story. You must know them in detail, including the seminal events that made them who they are today, commonly called their backstory. Why is this necessary? Because if you don’t know who your characters are and what they need and want before you start writing, they will almost certainly be flat, two-dimensional cut outs. At the very least, they won’t be original and interesting.
If you craft your characters carefully and thoughtfully, your story will write itself. Your plot will be character driven, rather than contrived. Your readers will become emotionally attached to your characters.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Enough of this baloney. Tell me how to write amazing characters.
There are two methods I can suggest. You can sit down and write everything you know about your character. Hopefully, you’ll fill several pages with your biographical information. If you can do this effectively, more power to you. There’s only one catch: You better know what to include in your character’s bio because, as we’ve said, you have to know your character inside and out. That’s why I prefer the second method, especially if you are new to creating fictional characters.
The second method, which I deveoped from my online courses at UCLA, employs a character template to build your character. I feel it’s better than writing about your characters in an unstructured format because it forces you to answer questions about them that you might try to avoid or just plain leave out. Here’s the template you can use to create central characters with more originality, specificity, and complexity. Filling out the template takes a bit of work, but in the end, I believe it can expand your audience and pave the way to greater writing success.
Build or Figure:
Past/present home life:
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
This is going to be a rant of sorts with some upside. It’s also going to be a little embarrassing. Maybe more than a little. Anyway, here goes.
I am a very active person. To avoid boring you with the particulars, let’s just say that I lead a busy life chock full of errands and enjoyable pastimes strung together with “work” that I try to make meaningful. I put the word “work” in quotes because I believe that work has to be enjoyable to yield measurable, positive results.
I have done things I really didn’t want to do called “work.” My father once told me that “you can’t always do what you want to do.” This is true, but I think I took what he said to an extreme.
I have read and observed that highly successful people enjoy what they do. They work very hard because they enjoy it. Now, “working very hard” has to be put into perspective in my case. I have never, ever, worked very hard compared to someone like Tom Brady, or Warren Buffet, or my investment adviser.
However, I have worked very hard (for me) at writing. I am passionate about writing. And looking back on forty plus years of writing, I see that what I’ve written has had very little impact as far as making the world a better place to live in. This includes the latest novel I wrote with a subtext about the energy and environmental crisis (Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.)
This bothers me because I have put a ton of myself into the three books I’ve written, particularly the last one which is available in digital, paperback and audio formats. Another thing that bothers me is the world, not just the Amazon forests, is on fire. We are facing extinction due to the environmental crisis we have managed to visit upon ourselves. The environmental issue has finally become a big topic of discussion, but we aren’t taking the radical steps that are required to confront the problem. That’s why I wrote Micromium a year ago, but it didn’t help. Not the way I wanted it to.
So, if I’ve been doing what I truly want to do for the past thirty odd years, why isn’t it working?
Well, it seems that I finally have a clue. I have not been as successful as I’d like to be because I DON’T BELIEVE IN MYSELF ENOUGH. I’ve learned that a strong belief in oneself and in what one is doing is essential for success. I’ve known about this principle for a long time, but knowing about it and doing something about it are two distinctly different things.¹ Just like the environmental issue.
Recently, I’ve found a way to significantly cut through my self-doubt. It’s called Somatic Experiencing. Since starting this training a month ago, my energy is more focused and it is coming from a deeper place. I’ve already witnessed some positive results. Nothing big mind you, but definitely positive in relation to myself and other people. I’m in the beginning stages of this process, and I hope there will be much more growth to come. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make some positive waves in this troubled world. It’s never too late.
Thanks for reading this. Hope it helped.
¹I’d also like to mention that it helps to do the thing or things you are designed for. It’s important to find your true purpose. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copywriting, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.
Here’s an interview that will appear on my new blog tour later this week. I figured you guys couldn’t wait so I’m posting it here. Sales of Scarlet Ambrosia are so strong that we are actually running out of digital copies. If you’ve been thinking about buying the book, I’d do it now. You don’t want to get trampled in the Christmas rush. If you’d like a paperback copy, let me know and I’ll put you on the waiting list for the second printing. (We never did a first printing.)
Good question. Sometimes I wonder. I was born in North Carolina, grew up in New Jersey, and I’ve lived in Florida for most of my adult life.
Tell us your latest news?
I just finished an outline for a science fiction novel that I feel fits together well and is believable if I can execute it properly. It’s a great feeling to finish a rough draft and have it come out better than expected. The bad news is I’ll have to do an ungodly amount of research.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing short stories in high school. I thought I was a genius destined to have a world-wide audience. That hasn’t worked out exactly the way I expected.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It happened about five years into my career when I started to work in marketing. I noticed that writing was the only thing I liked about working. I quit my day job about ten years ago and I still like to write, but not when it becomes a job. I admire people who like to work.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I always dreamed of becoming a successful creative writer. Going from short stories and copy writing to long fiction (novels) seemed like trying to jump the Grand Canyon on Schwinn racing bike. Some daredevils can do it but I’ve never been one. So I took an intermediate step and wrote a screenplay with two characters in mind that I thought would be fun to play with. It was fun. I wrote two more screenplays before summoning the guts to write a novel. I turned the original screenplay into my first novel, “Three Days to Darkness.”
Do you have a specific writing style?
I try not to write with a style. I just write the way I write and hope that someone else will find it interesting and entertaining.
How did you come up with the title?
It just came to me and it really works (I think).
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes. At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with the forces of good and evil within himself and the world around him. The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature. The supernatural powers and ramped up energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods. He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes.
I believe everyone has the potential to become a divinely human being. I’ve been a spiritual seeker for most of my adult life. Awakening isn’t easy, but I’ve found it’s worth the effort. What happens for Devon is happening for me in a much subtler way without the super-human powers, but happily, minus the need to drink human blood.
How much of the book is realistic?
I think we have to be careful with the word “realistic” when we’re talking about a novel with paranormal romance thriller tendencies. I always try to create fictional worlds that work logically if the reader accepts the genre conventions. I build my characters with relatable motives, desires, and character traits. Then the story has to evolve believably and the characters have to behave consistently with their basic traits as they grow and eventually make decisions and act in ways that surprise us, but at the same time, we can see where those actions and decisions came from. I hope this is not too much information.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, had a powerful effect on me when I first read it in my late teens. I’ve recently read a series of book on spiritual awakening by Saniel Bonder that have inspired me to open up to a higher purpose.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d say Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) although I don’t write in his style. His remarkable imagination and sense of humor inspire me.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve just discovered a fine new thriller writer by the name of Jeff Abbott. His books are hard to put down and very good for the long plane rides.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m going to read a new novel by Andy Weir titled “The Martian.”
What are your current projects?
I’m working on an outline for a sequel to Scarlet Ambrosia and I’m exploring a new idea for a science fiction novel as I mentioned above.
What would you like my readers to know?
The book trailer for Scarlet Ambrosia is fun and interesting.
What is a blog tour? I’m not entirely sure, really, but I’m learning. To the best of my knowledge, a blog tour is made up of several “stops” at book review sites, all arranged by an online publicity service. Why am I writing about blog tours? I’m deeply fascinated by them and, purely by coincidence, my first Scarlet Ambrosia blog tour starts today.
A blog tour “stop” is actually a website created by someone who loves to read and review self-published and traditionally (legacy) published books. Often, these independent book reviewers are authors themselves. They promote their own books as well as other books of interest to them. Typically, these independent book reviewers (IBRs) do not get paid to review books. They do it because it’s their passion.
From what I gather, there are three ways to promote your book on an IBR site: (1) a live or written interview (2) a book review or (3) a book spotlight. I don’t know what a book spotlight is but I’ll find out soon because there’s a “spotlight” stop on my tour. Blog tours can last for a few days or a few weeks with optional bells and whistles added depending upon the amount of cash the “emerging” author is willing to pony up.
According to my service provider (Sage’s Blog Tours) “Virtual blog tours allow authors to professionally promote their work without leaving the comforts of their home. Each tour stop enables authors to gain new readers and social media fans, while reaching a worldwide audience.”
As a great Jewish sage once said, “It should only happen.”
I want to thank my good buddy, Joe Canzano, for introducing me to blog tours and to Sage’s Blog Tours in particular. Joe is a talented writer, musician and marketing guy. I’m sure he’s good at a few other things too. Joe has just published his new novel, Magno Girl. If you like humor, action and romance check it out.
A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes. At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with darkness and light. The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature. The supernatural powers and turbo charged energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods. He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes.
*Blog title inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
Just in, this review of my new novel, Scarlet Ambrosia, now available on Amazon.com and coming soon to Barnes and Noble and iTunes.
“There’s a relatively new but rapidly expanding genre on the market called “urban fantasy,” that has as its older sibling the vampire novel, born of Anne Rice’s first book decades ago and now a genre in its own right. And then, there’s the classic vampire struggle between darkness and light—a struggle that immerses unwitting victims, vampires, and survivors in a world dominated by blood-lust.
“With so many vampire novels on the market today, one could wonder at the need for yet another; but Scarlet Ambrosia is a vampire story of a different color, seasoned not so much by the drama of blood-letting as by the more universal themes of self-discovery, human nature, and redemption. Ultimately this is what makes or breaks any genre; especially one such as the urban fantasy or vampire story, which too often tends to eschew self-examination in favor of high drama. And this is just one of the reasons why Scarlet Ambrosia stands out from the urban fantasy genre crowd.
“Sure, protagonist Devon’s outward battle is against an ancient evil vampire, Egon Schiller, but it’s also against himself. Devon is no stranger to the dark forces within him after years of therapy, but the darkness he’s confronting now proves far beyond his wildest dreams.
“Scarlet Ambrosia‘s inner light shines forth: a light that starts with Devon’s inner world and expands to embrace the wider concern of disappearances on the city streets.
“This part is predictable as Devon confronts an undercurrent of blood-lust and vampires in Miami’s underworld. What is less predictable is his foray into the drug world in search of evidence that will support an international investigation into one of Egon’s illegal activities, fostered by his encounter with the sly, alluring Mathilde, who harbors her own secret agenda.
“There’s a suggestion of romance between Devon and Mathilde that’s evident from their first encounter but which is suppressed in their growing focus on greater goals, which are developed as the quest progresses, as evidenced in Mathilde’s statement:
“Vanderling fears what Schiller will do every day he roams the earth more than he fears what might happen to us if we fail.” “It’s ironic how Schiller’s existence can matter more in the scheme of things than yours or mine,” he said. “When we first met, I told you I could handle Egon. That was another lie to help you feel more secure in your new situation.
“There is acknowledgement of the forces of light and darkness that occasionally rise up, unfettered, to try to take over people and the world. And as Devon becomes involved in kidnapping and worse, he finds all facets of his life are called into question with a series of decisions that reach out to affect even his relationship with his beloved parents.
“As lies, secrecy, and murders build, Devon finds himself paying for the bad decisions of others, and must come to admit his own inner nature before he can make a proper decision on honing his skills for either greater good or evil.
“The web of lies builds and threatens to immerse everything Devon holds dear, eventually spilling over into something greater than he’s ever known.
“Scarlet Ambrosia is not your usual vampire story. Its intrigue, romance, and thriller writing are all wrapped up in a bigger picture. It offers much food for thought in the course of following Devon’s evolutionary process and decisions, and it’s not a light-hearted romp through a vampire’s realm, as so many such novels offer.
“As such, it’s especially recommended for readers seeking more depth and undercurrents of philosophy in their literary choices. How does a protagonist not become the evil he fights in the process of battle? The classic vampire struggle between darkness and light just assumed a new cloak of complexity here—and wears it well.”