Monday, May 18, 2015

How to unflatten a pancake character

How to unflatten a pancake character

Unless your novel takes place in the two-dimensional world of Flatland, you don’t want characters that lack multiple dimensions.

I re-tweeted a tweet last week about an author arguing with her main character about something she had planned to include in her story arc.

I’ve been thinking about that since then—mostly because of a situation I wrote myself into.

In the first of a series of books I’m collaborating on, we discussed an antagonist who would be involved in at least the first two books. Since the book series idea had morphed from a single book concept, the antagonist was originally cold-hearted, cold-blooded criminal. That characterization worked fine for a single book. However, as I was writing, I realized two things.

First. I’d written a really bad person.
Second. There was no way I wanted to continue writing about this particular individual because there was no way to go but deeper into the pit of badness.

So, I had a choice to make. You can speculate on what my options were. Here’s a quote to kickstart your thinking. 

“No character should be all good or all bad--that is not believable.  Characters are people and they are three-dimensional.  The way to flesh out characters effectively is to have some good in the bad, some bad in the good.  Showing a characters soft side gives understanding to the reader and they might still hate the character but it allows them to understand the character.  All bad or good is boring and only works in fairy tales with good princess and bad queens.”

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

I’m not going to give you what I thought my options were. I don’t think that’s particularly relevant to this blog. Bad news: you can’t compare your ideas for options to mine. Good news: because I didn’t share, you’re options can’t be wrong.

What I decided to do was mellow the character out. I started by having his mother telepathically communicate:
This gesture is both unexpected and welcomed. It indicates a side of a personality I never manifested. It suits you well. Do not abandon it.

He is euthanizing his mother at the time of the comment. Hold that thought.

As I progressed along the storyline, Antagonist became, well not genial, but at least quasi-likable. That was fine… up to a point.

One of the key plot points in book two involves the Antagonist doing something it was beginning to look like he’d never do—now that he had this added depth of compassion.

So, I had to reverse course.
  1. I could have deleted all I’d written about his morph from all bad to not so bad.
  2. I could have changed the plot point in book 2.
  3. I could have generated an incident that caused Antagonist to revert backwards into his former self. Not all the way back, because that would have been counter productive and a big waste of time and energy.

I chose #3.

I’m feel certain now that the Antagonist will resonate with more readers in book 1 and still be able to pull of his dastardly deed in book 2 without moving out of character—and I now have a variety of ways to complete the dastardly deed in book 2 from which to choose.

You’ll have to wait until book 1 of the yet untitled series is available to see if you agree that I “did good” with my choice. But, you’ll have to wait until book 2 is out, to see if I really did what I hope I did.

Your goal needs to be 3-D characterization. Unless, of course, you live in Flatland.

Write on!

Next blog: Miscellaneous Musings on The Business of Writing
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mapping a Path TO Your Book on Amazon/Kindle

Mapping a Path TO Your Book on Amazon/Kindle

When you publish a book on CreateSpace, KindleDirect, or any reputable publisher, you are asked to select a BISAC category for your work. BISAC is an acronym for Book Industry Standards and Communications.

The BISAC Subject Heading list was developed to standardize the electronic transfer of subject information. The headings can be used for transmitting information between trading partners, as search terms in bibliographic databases, as access points for database searching and as shelving guides. Many businesses require that publishers use BISAC Subject Headings when submitting data for all formats (physical and digital).   ( )

When "describing" your book on CreateSpace and KindleDirect, you pick BISAC codes and provide search terms that best describe you work. You have to do this before your book can go live. That’s a good thing.

However, you cannot select Amazon Browse terms for print or eBooks from your Book Description page.

Why cares?

You should! In my mind, that’s a bad thing. Amazon’s search terms are NOT the same as the BISAC categories. To maximize the chances of someone finding your book on Amazon, you have to contact CreateSpace and KindleDirect after your book is available and have someone manually input those terms. 

The requirement to request terms be added manually seems to me to be 1) inefficient, and 2) odd since CreateSpace is Amazon's publishing arm. For that reason, every time I have a chance to give feedback to Amazon about their processes, I include this sentence:

I strongly recommend including a field on a book’s creation page where authors can select Amazon Browse terms for their book when completing the description of their book.
You might want to send that message to Amazon as well.

Oh, and two other oddities. Oddity #1: When you request those added serach terms from Create Space, they don’t automatically transfer to KindleDirect. Oddity #2: Kindle Store has slightly different search algorithms than Create Space. Be sure to visit both sides of the Amazon publishing house before you contact each one.

If you did not publish your book through CreateSpace or KindleDirect, you’ll have to do ask your publisher to do this for you. Here’s what I sent John Koehler after my request to add Amazon search terms to Traveler’s HOT L – The Time Traveler’s Resort and The Observers – A Science Fiction Odyssey—my books published by

Good Morning, John

At the advice of Sherry Frazier [my publicist], I'm attempting to target the Young Adult/Teen market with my books. She calls them "safe and PG--something parents are looking for." I'm glad she feels that way. It's the way I intend to write.

That being said, Amazon has their own Browse Pathways that differ from BAISC categories. I asked CreateSpace to add Amazon Browse paths to each of my fiction books you published, and got this response:

We are unable to request browse path changes to books which you have published through an other publishing company and you will need to either contact Amazon or the publisher directly.​

So I'd appreciate it if you could ask them to add the following to our book.

Traveler's HOT L - The Time Traveler's Resort (ASIN: 1938467892 ISBN-13: 978-1938467899)
Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Time Travel

The Observers - A Science Fiction Odyssey (ASIN: 1940192749 ISBN-13: 978-1940192741)
Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Aliens

The next three paragraphs show you what the differences in BISAC categories and Amazon search terms are in specific books I have published with Amazzon.

My BISAC code for The Mixer Murder – And Other Detective Case Files - A Mamba Mystery Volume 1 is: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Private Investigators
I had Create Space add: The Mixer Murder (#5439128) to Teen & Young Adult > Mystery & Thriller > Action & Adventure.

My BISAC code for RIFTS – A Science Fiction Thriller is: Fiction / Science Fiction / Action & Adventure
I had Create Space add: RIFTS (#4807678) to Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Aliens.
NOTE: For RIFTS, I had to add extraterrestrials to the keywords as well.

My BISAC code for Traveler’s HOT L Volume 2 – New Tales from the Time Traveler’s Resort is: Fiction / Science Fiction / Time Travel
I had Create Space add: Traveler's HOT L Volume 2 (#5050775) to Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Time Travel.

As usual, the changes take effect on the Amazon website within three to five business days—although I’ve always found them applied in 3 or fewer days.

Since I assume your goal in publishing your book is to SELL them, the better you are at helping readers find YOUR BOOK, the more sales you will get.

What follows are screenshots from the Kindle Store as I did searches for my KindleDirect sci-fi books. The first photo is just a traditional search for SciFi. The second shows the pathway when I start with Young Adult.


 I encourage you to check each of your books and see how close the BISAC codes are to Amazon for that book. Add what you need to bring readers TO your work.

Next blog: Open Season – Random Thoughts on Authorship

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