Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Next Talk Coming Up


Sunday, July 14, 2013

UK Guardian is Seeking Recommendations for Self-Published Books to Promote


Etiquette letter writing
The Guardian is running a series on self-published authors and is asking for recommendations for authors to include.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/20/self-published-author-series

Friday, July 12, 2013

Apple Guilty of Price-Fixing of E-Books

Judge Rules Apple Colluded on E-Books

Apple Inc. AAPL -0.18% colluded with five major U.S. publishers to drive up the prices of e-books, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in a stern rebuke that threatens to limit the technology company's options when negotiating future content deals.
The ruling—which follows Apple's high-stakes gamble to go to trial even though the publishers settled similar charges—exposes the tech company to as-yet undetermined damages and opens the door for the Justice Department to take a closer look at its other business lines. In settling, the publishers denied wrongdoing.
At issue are the steps Apple took to gain a foothold in e-books for its iTunes online store. The iTunes store is a strategically vital area that accounts for about 10% of Apple's revenue and faces fierce competition from rivals—in particular Amazon.comInc. AMZN +2.63%

E-Books Ruling Against Apple

See the full ruling document with key sections highlighted.
Justice Department prosecutors argued that Apple used publishers' dissatisfaction with Amazon's aggressive e-book discounting to shoehorn itself into the digital-book market when it launched the iPad in 2010. Apple's proposal: Let publishers set prices themselves. That led to Amazon losing the ability to price most e-book best sellers at $9.99, causing prices to rise.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan said the evidence was clear that Apple, despite its claims that it negotiated fiercely and separately with each publisher, was at the center of the conspiracy.
"Understanding that no one publisher could risk acting alone in an attempt to take pricing power away from Amazon, Apple created a mechanism and environment that enabled them to act together in a matter of weeks to eliminate all retail price competition for their e-books," she wrote in a 160-page decision.
Apple said it did nothing wrong and said it plans to appeal. "Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations," an Apple spokesman said. "When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."
Consumers won't see changes in e-book prices as a result of the ruling. Prices of many best-selling titles had already come down after the major publishers settled.
Reuters
Apple executive Eddy Cue arrived at court to testify in the case last month.
Apple's decision to fight the Justice Department underscores the stakes in the case. The company makes most of its money selling iPhones and iPads. But its iTunes service has become a central part of its offering with huge volumes of electronic content enticing people to buy and upgrade Apple products.
The company has been an aggressive bargainer, successfully opening up new markets for electronic content, most notably with music. But the ruling raises questions about the leverage Apple may have when negotiating future content deals.
The Justice Department itself isn't seeking monetary damages but has instead asked the court to adopt a variety of measures to ensure Apple doesn't engage in similar conduct in the future. This includes not entering "most-favored nation" clauses requiring publishers to match competitors' prices in Apple's digital bookstore, and possibly ending the company's practice of charging a 30% commission on books sold through third-party apps in its App Store.
A judge found Apple guilty of price-fixing in the e-book market. How can the company get out of a public-relations mess? Michael Robinson, executive vice president at Levick, a crisis-communications firm, joins digits.
The judge, who will hold a hearing on those requests, could choose to heavily regulate Apple, legal experts say, potentially slowing deal-making with content partners for new products, such as its long-awaited television. "Under antitrust law, you can not only prevent the unlawful conduct, but also prevent other conduct that can lead to a similar result," said David Balto, former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission.
Because Apple was found liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws, a separate trial on damages will take place in a lawsuit against the company brought by 33 state attorneys general, who are seeking to recover money on behalf of consumers who paid higher prices for e-books. Apple also faces a private class-action suit alleging price-fixing. The private plaintiffs could recover damages from Apple, provided their legal claims are distinct from the states'.
Bloomberg News
Apple last year separately settled an antitrust case with the European Commission over e-book pricing but didn't admit any wrongdoing.
In the ruling, the judge pointed to comments by Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and CEO who died in 2011, as "compelling evidence of Apple's participation in the conspiracy."
In emails introduced as evidence, Mr. Jobs seemed to gloat after published reports in January 2010 that Macmillan and Amazon were separately clashing over pricing following the Apple deal. "Wow, we have really lit a fuse on a powder keg," Mr. Jobs wrote in an email from Jan. 30, 2010.
In a group email at Apple the next day, Mr. Jobs said: "We have definitely helped stir things up in the publishing world."
Judge Cote said she wasn't persuaded by testimony from Eddy Cue, an Apple senior vice president who led negotiations with publishers, who argued that his company's only motivation was to get the best deal from publishers.
A federal judge found Apple colluded with five major U.S. publishers to artificially drive up the prices of e-books in the months ahead of its entering the market in 2010. Ashby Jones discusses the details on MoneyBeat. Photo: Apple.
The judge said she believed Mr. Cue was driven in his negotiations by a desire to please Mr. Jobs. "Cue knew that Jobs was seriously ill and that this would be one of his last opportunities to bring to life one of Jobs's visions and to demonstrate his devotion to the man who had given him the opportunity to help transform American culture," Judge Cote wrote.
Mr. Cue didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
When it entered the e-book market in 2010, Apple agreed to shift to a so-called agency model in which publishers, rather than retailers, set the price of e-books. As part of its deals with the publishers, Apple received a 30% commission on each book sold and the publishers had to match the price of Amazon or other competitors if the competitor's price was lower.
Amazon declined to comment.
At the time, Amazon was the dominant player in the market, accounting for between 80% and 90% of all e-book sales. However, the major publishers were concerned that Amazon was selling books at a loss in order to gobble up market share and had threatened to begin withholding some of their most popular books from the online seller.
The odds of reversing the decision and avoiding damages are long, some legal experts said. The outcome may be similar to the Justice Department's lawsuit against Microsoft Corp.MSFT -0.04% The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was constrained by the judge's heavily fact-based opinion and in 2001 upheld many of his inferences, said Keith Hylton, a professor at Boston University's School of Law.
The Apple case could resonate beyond e-books, with broader implications for providers of everything from music to movies. "If you're a tech company and you are looking to aggregate content, you have to be exceptionally conscious about how you talk to your suppliers," said Ankur Kapoor, an antitrust lawyer at Constantine Cannon LLP. "U.S. v. Apple has put these communications under a very fine microscope."
Apple has recently shown signs of more flexibility in its negotiations. Many of the terms of Apple's royalty agreements for its radio service, for example, were more generous to the music companies than what rivals, such as Pandora Media Inc.,P +3.35% pay.
Apple's reputation appears unharmed, according to Mark Patterson, a professor at Fordham Law School who specializes in antitrust matters and agreed with Judge Cote's ruling. "The consumer response is a big yawn," he said.
Its shares were little changed on the news, dropping less than 1%, to $420.73 on Wednesday. The stock, however, has fallen about 30% in the past year amid concerns that its growth is slowing.
—Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg
and Jacob Gershman contributed to this article.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Still (like me) Trying to Figure Out How to Manage Your Social Media Presence?


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guy Kawasaki's 10 Social Media Tips for Authors

http://theaccidentalanarchist.com/10-social-media-tips-for-authors-by-guy-kawasaki/

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Who Would Have Guess It? Leonardo DiCaprio as Rasputin

Word is out that Leonardo DiCaprio is slated to play Rasputin in a movie about "The Mad Monk." Any ideas on how do we get my friend's books to him...?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Video of Reading from The Accidental Anarchist Posted


Monday, June 3, 2013

Pixar's #22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #18: No Writerly Fussing Allowed


#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
I think something got lost in translation with the 2nd sentence there, and I honestly have no idea what Ms. Coats meant by it. However, I have quite a bit of experience dealing with the first sentence.
With one of my first novels, I spent way too much time fussing. I'd finished the draft, sent it out to people who said they wrote or read a lot, made revisions, and then spent forever fussing with the language. Sentence-level modifications that clarified actions, boosted voice, removed passive verbs, etc. A lot of it helped, but a lot of it was just messing around. I spent far too much time, and burned myself out, on tiny issues. When I was done, I'd spent so much time revising I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I needed to stop pruning the branches and step back so I could see the shape of the whole forest, but by that time, I was burned out.
My novel needed streamlining and focus. It needed to not rely so heavily on tropes. It needed to be set apart from what was already on the market. I had no idea, though, because I'd spent so much time fussing with it that I just didn't have the energy to seriously consider these things. Note: I THOUGHT I'd considered them. I'd had it beta-read and made big changes and cut big chunks. But since I was exhausted, and since I could check those things off my list, I did. Fussing with language was easier than stepping back, taking the story itself 100% seriously, and double-checking the big things. Here's the cost: my book still needs those things. It's chilling out in the corner right now.
So, from personal experience, here's what I think Ms. Coats is getting at, and here's what I should have done:
Don't mess with language until you're done with big scene and action changes. You'll burn yourself out. Sure, take along your laptop on car rides and use CTRL-F to find "that" and passive voice, but don't fuss. There's no point to messing with language in a scene if you're going to cut it or change it later. Seriously- no fussing.
Find people who you are 100% confident know what they're doing. A writer once told me as a revision note that my POV wasn't clear- things needed to be more clearly from my character's perspective. This person suggested I insert "he saw", "he wondered", etc, to show that it was my main character perceiving all this. Consequently, I littered my MS with filter words that six months later, I had to take out. This is a small, nit-pick revision, but it's a great example of why not all critiques are equal. I didn't get critiques tough enough to show me that my novel was too much like most other fantasies out there, and the advice often prompted me to harm my book rather than improve it. So get critiques from writers who have the experience and credentials to genuinely help you; you need tough critiques. (How? Check out the tabs above- crits are everywhere in this industry.) It's hard to take, but shelving your MS is even harder.
Once you have several sets of revision notes from trusted writers/industry professionals,don't revise. That's right. Don't revise immediately. I tossed out a lot of helpful advice because I was too close to my story and couldn't see how that change could work. I thought my novel had to start with the girl in high school, and I couldn't see a way around it. So, I tossed out the advice. Don't do that if it's from someone you trust. Daydream about it a little first. If you WERE going to take that advice on cutting out this character, how could you do it? If you HAD to change your opening, how could you do it? Take a few days to do this, not a few minutes. Just a few weeks ago, the answer to how to start that novel hit me. It doesn't have to start with the main character in high school, and my planned revision is much more interesting.
Know yourself. A lot of writers tend to channel their perfectionism toward fussing with language instead of really doing their best with the story itself. Use that perfectionism to be honest with yourself and your book. There's a point where your book needs you to pick over every line, and there's a point where it's just fussing. Don't burn yourself out with the latter if your time, energy, and honesty are still needed by your plot and characters.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Today is the 106th Anniversary of My Grandfather's 3rd Death Sentence

For a reading today, I had coincidentally chosen a section about my grandfather's 3rd death sentence, not realizing that today was the anniversary of the date he was to be executed:

"...My advocate comforted me with the forecast that I was almost certain to be sentenced to death. Therefore, the only thing worth doing was pleading, in view of my military record and my obvious youthful ignorance, to be let off with ten years of hard labor.

"I can’t say I was charmed by his readiness to bury me alive, although in time I would learn that getting a 'tenner' was practically the equivalent of being found 'not guilty.' But from the moment the trial got under way, I could see that my lawyer had been, if anything, overoptimistic.

"My three judges put on their spectacles to study the charges. Wasting no time on what I might have had to say for myself, they retired to consider their verdict.

"After a leisurely five minutes, they returned and pronounced sentence.

"The blood raced in my ears, but I had no trouble hearing the words, 'firing squad.'

"Rather than dawdle about it for months or years as the courts did in Columbus’ Country, the appeal my lawyer had wisely prepared in advance was already scheduled to be heard the following day.

"Late the next morning, I was marched back into the courtroom, this time attached to three other prisoners who were also appealing their death sentences. Not a good sign.

"One look at the bench and my heart sank. Th e judges who would rule on my appeal were the same three antiques who, only yesterday, had sentenced me to death. It would have surprised me very much if, overnight, each of them had had a miraculous change of heart.

"What’s more, there was no sign of my lawyer. Instead, I was furnished with a military advocate, a pudgy-handed captain whose middle bulged like a pregnant barmaid. Barely glancing in my direction, he explained to the judges that he had not had time to study my file and asked for a recess for a quick consultation with me.

"He took me to the adjacent room where he favored me with a well-fed smile, and said, “To defend you against these terrible accusations, I must have the full truth, you understand?”

"Since I had no idea who this man was or which side he was working for, I was not quite ready to take him at his word.

"'How many men have you killed?'

"I did not find this a very encouraging question. Still, I answered as best I could. 'Probably dozens.' His eyes brightened. 'In combat,' I added, 'it’s difficult to keep an accurate count.'

"'Fool, I meant in Warsaw. On orders from the Party.'

"'What ‘Party?’'

"He raised his voice. 'Do you or don’t you want me to defend you?'

"'Against what?'

"'Don’t you know you’ve been sentenced to death?'

"'What has that to do with you?'

"'I’m your lawyer. I want the truth. All of it.'

"'I told the truth. Yesterday. And look at where it got me.'

"'You’re a damned Jew-faced liar!'

"This, I confess, provoked me. 'I want nothing to do with you. If they won’t let me have a proper lawyer, I’ll defend myself.'

"My defender sucked in his breath and apologized for having, perhaps, expressed himself a little too heartily. What he would not do was admit that his only job was to extract a confession from me so that the judges
could put away my comrades, too.

"Sulking, he delivered me back into the courtroom where things had begun without us. Of the prisoners to whom I had been chained, two had already had their death sentences confirmed and were weeping. My turn
was next.

"The clerk read the charges against me once more. This time I listened more attentively to his monotonic recital of killings, robberies and such, each listed according to date and location. 

"It took me some moments to realize that nearly all of these charges dealt with crimes committed long before I arrived in Warsaw. I tried to interrupt and point this out, but the clerk told me to be silent.

"It was my lawyer’s job to speak for me. I looked at my defender, who was goggling at a fly that had settled on his briefcase.

"I called out to the court, 'I don’t accept the man you have assigned to me. I want a civilian lawyer.'

"'This is a military court. Here you can only be defended by an officer.'

"'What happened to the lawyer I had yesterday?'

"'That was a mistake. The man had no right to defend you. He will be severely punished for misrepresenting himself.'

"While my doomed fellow prisoners looked greatly impressed by the depth of my depravity, my alleged lawyer went through the motions of pleading with the court to show some leniency to a man who had, in battle, repeatedly proven his love for, and loyalty to, the Czar.

"True, he admitted in the same breath, I might have murdered some people in Warsaw, although perhaps not as many as the honorable Court had been led to believe. But surely the real criminals were the Party leaders
who distorted my young mind and sent me out to commit these deeds without my fully understanding their seriousness.

"He driveled on like this for I don’t know how long while the judges listened with all the patience of old men whose bladders were about to burst. The moment he was done, they scurried out to confer.

"A few eternal minutes later, about as long as it would have taken each one to have had his turn at the urinal, they were back. The general, himself, read the verdict. It confirmed yesterday’s sentence – death by firing squad – to be carried out on the twenty-fifth of May, 1907, a date that has somehow stuck in my memory.

"Much as I hated to give them the satisfaction, I staggered for a moment and nearly lost consciousness."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Now Available: RASPUTIN: MEMOIRS OF HIS SECRETARY


Rasputin: Memoirs of His Secretary, the book I worked on with Delin Colon (author of Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History), is now available on Amazon (http://amzn.to/12U3X9lV). Based on the diaries of Aron Simanovitch, Colon's great-granduncle and Rasputin's personal secretary, Rasputin: Memoirs of His Secretary, gives a rare glimpse into the lives of the Romanovs, Nicholas and Alexandra, who were beset by threats from both within and without.

You'll have privileged access to the royal palace beside one of the most interesting characters (previously mostly a caricature) in history: Grigori Rasputin, the so-called "Mad Monk," who had rare access to the royal family. Read the fascinating account of the multiple attempts on Rasputin's life; he was stabbed, poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and thrown into the freezing Neva river before finally succumbing. And as I've written earlier, there is one chapter that leads me to wonder whether he might have been part of the inspiration for Obi Wan Kenobe...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #17: The Heart of the Story


Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it. 
Focus is one of the most important elements in fiction. By focusing your story on certain characters, events, and ideas, you are choosing to not focus on other characters, other events. You’re saying “these specific elements matter most.” You’re cutting out all the people, events, years, and themes that don’t matter to your story. Without focus, readers would simply be taken on a rambling journey through tons of material that has no apparent relevance. Focusing your novel to discuss certain characters at a certain point in time dealing with specific experiences and held together by specific ideas (loss, grief, revenge, first love) allows the story to have meaning and impact. Focus gives clarity. It allows the reader to see what’s important and why.
Here’s the part I find fascinating: focus often helps the writer to see what’s important and why, and then shape the story to explore those ideas more deeply. Knowing the focus as you write can help you cut tangents, limit your themes to give the ones you have to have room to breathe, and challenge your characters with experiences that push them in meaningful ways.
So how do you know what the focus of your story should be? Rule 14 is the answer. When I start concepting a novel, there’s usually something that originally drew me to that idea. Something that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Something about the idea has emotional resonance with me. Maybe it’s the trauma of powerlessness, or the wearing effect of daily life on relationships. Maybe it’s the strength of innocence. Use that detail, that idea, to shape the whole story.
Finding out why that idea grips me so strongly helps me figure out what’s at the heart of the story. This is what makes it MY story. It’s what makes it different from how anyone else would write it. And it’s what keeps me writing when it gets difficult, when I’m busy and tired, and when I’m not sure if I can do it. That bit of an idea shapes the characters and events, keeps me going, and makes the story unique. It’s the heart of the story.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #16: Stakes and Sweat


What are the stakes? Give us a reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
This is going to sound silly at first, but bear with me: I think the best part of Rule #16 is the word “stakes.”
Stakes are everything in writing. I mean, of course there’s good character, story, crescendo, climax. But to me that all sounds like wah wah wah without some serious stakes.
What are “stakes”? I mean, other than things with which you stab vampires and they explode and cover you in gooey bits?
I propose this definition:
Stakes are the potential consequences to failure; what could or will happen if the hero does not succeed in his or her mission.
Think about this: you have a great hero. A complicated hero that we both love and hate a little. She’s quirky. Her flaws are funny at best, and tragic at worst. We want to be her. We want to be with her. She’s smarter than us but sometimes we think, “What are you thinking? No! Don’t do that! Why would you do that?!”
But what is she other than a quirky hero we love to hate, if she doesn’t struggle a little? How will we ever know her flaws and her virtues unless she’s put in a position where she has to use them?
You can build the best character you like, but unless we see that character under duress, we readers won’t fall in love with her. We won’t root for her.
Stakes invest the reader in the character. Stakes give her meaning, purpose, and conflict. What happens if she succeeds in her mission? What happens if she fails?
And now, my second-favorite part of Rule #16: “Stack the odds against.”
A lot of writing is really just clinical abuse. I’m pretty sure that if our characters were real people, most of us writers would be sitting behind bars.
Think about it: when are you most thrilled in a story? When do you find the pages flying by? When the hero is under stress; when it seems like there is no possible way this will all work out, and you keep reading in hopes that it will. (You know, because you’re invested?)
Not only does it seem like the hero going to fail now, but the consequences of her failure have just doubled. No, tripled! Not only will her best friend die, but the world will implode because of that mistake she just made. And then not only will the world implode, but it will also set off a chain reaction resulting in the total destruction of the universe.
And then? Make it look like she’s going to fail. For real. The hurdles between the hero and her best friend have multiplied ten-fold. Literally, she cut the head off the hydra and it grew ten more. Then, each head grew wings and became independent hydras and she is super, super screwed.
Now we really get to see our hero sweat. We get to see her smarts and her courage and her talent with a bow-knife, and we are floored when she has some clever, sneaky little solution and somehow manages to succeed. She kills the hydra, saves her best friend, and the world is safe again.
Stakes unite your work. Good stakes set up conflict, imply the consequences, and make your hero’s success (or failure! Failure is a fine way to end, too) vindicating and enjoyable for the reader.
And don’t forget that characters aren’t real people! You don’t have to feel bad about grinding them into the pavement before you let them win.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pxar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #15: How Would You Feel?


If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
Think about how you would feel if your sister disappeared. How would you feel if your brother was running for mayor, but you knew he wasn’t the right man for the job? Put yourself in your character’s shoes and track those emotions for a while. Jot them down so you can see what fits your character later on, but give it some time first. Really daydream about how you would react. Of course, don’t create your characters as yourself, but doing this will add a layer of believability and genuine emotion to them.
The flip side of this whole “give your characters opinions” thing is that your characters are going to disagree with each other. Mary likes olives. Claudia does not. Father thinks John should support his brother’s campaign regardless of political differences, because they are family.  John can’t support him in good conscience, brother or not. Adding real-life texture to your characters through preferences and opinions and disagreements will deepen your characters. It’s also going to make their world more complex- small conflicts, things to enjoy, preferences people surround themselves with that start arguments or create inside jokes. And of course, all of this is going to  complicate the main conflict. The good guys aren’t all agreeing on what to do. Not all of them are 100% good. Rivalry between the bad guys means things don’t go as planned.
So think about what you prefer, what things you argue with others over, what conflicts you have with your friends and family. Listen to the opinions that crop up that guide people’s lives. Work bits of those things into your characters, and they’ll be more active, more complex, and more enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #14: The Heart of the Story


Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it. 
Focus is one of the most important elements in fiction. By focusing your story on certain characters, events, and ideas, you are choosing to not focus on other characters, other events. You’re saying “these specific elements matter most.” You’re cutting out all the people, events, years, and themes that don’t matter to your story. Without focus, readers would simply be taken on a rambling journey through tons of material that has no apparent relevance. Focusing your novel to discuss certain characters at a certain point in time dealing with specific experiences and held together by specific ideas (loss, grief, revenge, first love) allows the story to have meaning and impact. Focus gives clarity. It allows the reader to see what’s important and why.
Here’s the part I find fascinating: focus often helps the writer to see what’s important and why, and then shape the story to explore those ideas more deeply. Knowing the focus as you write can help you cut tangents, limit your themes to give the ones you have to have room to breathe, and challenge your characters with experiences that push them in meaningful ways.
So how do you know what the focus of your story should be? Rule 14 is the answer. When I start concepting a novel, there’s usually something that originally drew me to that idea. Something that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Something about the idea has emotional resonance with me. Maybe it’s the trauma of powerlessness, or the wearing effect of daily life on relationships. Maybe it’s the strength of innocence. Use that detail, that idea, to shape the whole story.
Finding out why that idea grips me so strongly helps me figure out what’s at the heart of the story. This is what makes it MY story. It’s what makes it different from how anyone else would write it. And it’s what keeps me writing when it gets difficult, when I’m busy and tired, and when I’m not sure if I can do it. That bit of an idea shapes the characters and events, keeps me going, and makes the story unique. It’s the heart of the story.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #13: Flip-Flops and Sexism


Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
Your characters, especially the character through whose eyes we’re seeing the story happen, have to have opinions. Until recently, their whole lives didn’t revolve around the main conflict. Chances are, not too long ago, they were fairly normal people. Even if they weren’t, they still have a complete personality- or they should. How do they feel about global warming? Flip flops? Sexism? Onions? Preferences and opinions on even small things will help add real-life texture and believability to your writing. A passive character who is just a lens through which we watch the story, reporting what happens around them, would be even less fun than watching the evening news (hey, look an opinion!).
Of course, opinions about what’s going on in the plot need to be included, too. Do they think justice is being served? Do they think, even as rush to rescue her, that their sister brought most of this on herself? Your characters should personally react to the events going on around them, and that means they are even going to disagree with each other. I’m going to jump ahead to rule #15 here because it applies so well:
If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
Think about how you would feel if your sister disappeared. How would you feel if your brother was running for mayor, but you knew he wasn’t the right man for the job? Put yourself in your character’s shoes and track those emotions for a while. Jot them down so you can see what fits your character later on, but give it some time first. Really daydream about how you would react. Of course, don’t create your characters as yourself, but doing this will add a layer of believability and genuine emotion to them.
The flip side of this whole “give your characters opinions” thing is that your characters are going to disagree with each other. Mary likes olives. Claudia does not. Father thinks John should support his brother’s campaign regardless of political differences, because they are family.  John can’t support him in good conscience, brother or not. Adding real-life texture to your characters through preferences and opinions and disagreements will deepen your characters. It’s also going to make their world more complex- small conflicts, things to enjoy, preferences people surround themselves with that start arguments or create inside jokes. And of course, all of this is going to  complicate the main conflict. The good guys aren’t all agreeing on what to do. Not all of them are 100% good. Rivalry between the bad guys means things don’t go as planned.
So think about what you prefer, what things you argue with others over, what conflicts you have with your friends and family. Listen to the opinions that crop up that guide people’s lives. Work bits of those things into your characters, and they’ll be more active, more complex, and more enjoyable.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #12-The Perfect Draft, Part II


Rule #12 relates closely to Rule #11. You need to seriously consider The Concept before you start drafting.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

My super cool “list of 10″ trick applies well here. I talked more about this and gave examples in the post for rule 9, but here’s the general idea: when you’re working on your concept or trying to figure out any problem in your story, make a list of 10 things that could occur. Don’t let your critic get in the way here, just list 10 options. The first 3 or 4 that come to mind need thrown out. Since you thought of them first, most likely everyone else did too. A concept that low down on the list isn’t going to be original enough to carry the story. Push yourself from the very beginning to explore original ideas, motivations, and fixes in your story concept. If you’ve got that covered, you’re in a great starting place. You can write your draft and trust yourself to make it everything you want it to be in revisions.

But first, the draft has to exist.

http://katebrauning.com/blog/

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #11--The Perfect Draft, Part I


Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

I’ve been thinking about my current WIP for months. Granted, I want to be more thorough in the planning stages with this one, and I’ve been querying, interning, and revising as well. But I will admit a small part of me is nervous  my draft won’t live up to my expectations. It can’t possibly be as good as it is in my head. It can’t be as impacting or engrossing as I imagine it.

If I don’t try, I can’t fail, right? Sure. In a sense. But (you knew there was going to be one, didn’t you?) I can’t succeed with this story, either– not until I put words on paper.

So maybe you’re thinking I’m going to tell you to knuckle down and bulldoze through. Trust yourself! Be inspired! Take a risk! You can do it!

More helpful than that, I think, is taking the pressure off drafting. A draft isn’t a book. A draft is just a starting place. Here’s my rule about drafts:

All a first draft has to do is exist.

A perfect first draft has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s it. Is that a perfect book? Of course not. A draft isn’t the same thing as a book, though. Don’t expect to hit your literary goals with your first draft. Good writing is rewriting. Second and third and tenth drafts are for adding layers and subtlety and poetry. Don’t expect too much from your first draft. Don’t burden it with your visions of grandeur to the point you’re scared to write it. An unwritten book isn’t a book. So take the pressure off drafting, don’t expect perfection, and trust yourself to improve it and make it what you want in later drafts. That is what they’re for. All a first draft has to do is exist.

http://katebrauning.com/blog/

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #10-Learning from What You Read


Rule #10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

I’ve read this way since I was twelve years old. At least, I’ve tried. When I love something in a book, I’m automatically curious why. I wanted to know why I loved that scene, that line, that character, long before I realized I wanted to be a writer. When a person loves something about a book, usually that means the author did something well. Pull it apart to see why it worked. If a scene just gripped you so thoroughly you couldn’t put the book down, look at why. Clipped, backloaded sentences? High personal stakes? Action where the timing was just dead-on?

I cannot get over the voice in The Fault in Our Stars. It’s funny, sarcastic, intelligent, and humble. I’m still working on breaking down how John Green did that, but frankness is a part of it. Hazel is honest with the reader about both love and death. I had no idea honesty about difficult things could be that impacting.

What Alice Forgot paints a relationship with effortless, breathtaking strokes. A tiny detail here, just a glimpse of an early scene in their marriage there. Liane Moriarty pulls together a complete, gorgeous picture of a marriage with tiny heartbreaking details. This book takes showing not telling to a whole new level. Seeing which details she uses, and how effective they are even without the summary and lines of telling that so many writers use to ground the reader, is such a powerful way to explore that concept.

In Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, I connected particularly with the main character. She’s skeptical and introspective, which I enjoyed, but after thinking about it, what drew me so much to her is her passion for music. I love music, but it’s particularly the way she talks about it, thinks with it, needs it, that gets me. The way she feels about music, I feel about writing. Giving your characters passions is a powerful thing. We all have deep desires. Giving them to your characters opens up a strong connection point with your readers.

So when you love something in a book, pause to think about why and jot it down. Process it. Use it. Doing so will change how you write- and how you read.

http://katebrauning.com/blog/