Posts Tagged With: Literature

Business Cards and Bookmarks

Not too long after my most recent book Snake came out, I designed and ordered my first set of business cards, which arrived in the mail not too long afterwards. The pictures below show both the front and the back of the business cards. (I’m sorry if the photos are blurry; my camera’s old, so sometimes getting a close-up on something blurs the shot).

business card 1

business card 2

I received 250 cards, which I’ve been giving out to anyone I think might be interested. I like to think that they’ve helped boost sales a tiny bit, because I’ve had a few sales since I got them (though I doubt the download from the UK has much to do with the business cards). I thought that since my business cards were doing so well, I’d write an article about designing and ordering your own cards to promote your writing. I also plan to include bookmarks in this article, as the places that print business cards also usually print bookmarks if you ask them to.

This brings me to my first point:

1. Find out what your local options are. Some of you may have local print shops who can create your cards and bookmarks for you. It’s sometimes easier to do local anyway, because you can go and pick them up yourself and work with the people at the shop. However, if it’s an independent print shop, the prices might be a little more expensive, so make sure to compare prices before choosing a place to print your cards or bookmarks. Staples and Kinko’s also make some very good cards, and their prices are usually a little more competitive. And if there’s nothing in your area, you can always go online. I got my cards off of VistaPrint, and they did a very good job for a good price, if you ask me, and they make a whole bunch of other products besides business cards and bookmarks.

2. Choose a design that fits you. A business card or bookmark should have the same sort of feel as the work you write, rather than just being a plan white piece of paper or having a picture of a bunch of books on a shelf. Think of it as selecting a cover for your book: you want it to reflect the tone, atmosphere, and characters of the story. So let your bookmarks and business cards reflect what you write. If you are a sci-fi writer, maybe you should do something with aliens or machines. If you do romance, maybe something with hearts and different hues of red and pink. Whatever it is, make sure it works.

3. Make sure all relevant information is on your cards. Name, blog address, Facebook page, Twitter handle, YouTube channel, Reddit username. If you got it, make sure it’s on the card somewhere. If you have an email where fans can reach you, or even a phone number if you’re comfortable with it, include that too (if you have or have had or think you might have obsessed fans, I’d avoid the phone number though). And if there’s room, include the names of some or all of your books. If you have too many to fit on a single card, include maybe the most recent ones, or the most popular ones. And that brings me to my next point:

4. Update as soon as there’s something to update. Got a new book out? Or maybe you’ve started a new page on a new social media platform? Time to start a new card. Yes, it’s a little bit of a hassle, but in the end, it’s a little less annoying than having to say “Oh by the way, I also recently started a page on so-and-so website/published a new book called this-and-that.” And having it on the card helps to keep it in mind for the person you give said card to. Updating them regularly also gives you the chance to try different designs and configurations for your cards (when I update them, I want to customize mine to have one of my photos from the Paris Catacombs on them. I think that’ll be very fun to do, as well as give people an idea of what sort of stories I tend to write).

5. Include a quote or something about yourself as well. On my business cards, I have a short, two-sentence paragraph describing the sort of stories I write. Doing quotes on bookmarks are especially effective, especially if the bookmark is being used to promote a new book. However, should you pick a quote, make sure it is a particularly powerful one that will entice the reader to actually check out the rest of the book. Just putting any old quote on that bookmark just doesn’t do the trick like a quote that is full of mystery and only offers a small peek into the whole story.

6. Finally, be frugal and generous with your cards and bookmarks. What this means is that you should try to give them out to as many people as you can, but try to make sure to give them to people you think would really want to read your books. It’s not an easy thing to do at first–you want to let anyone and everyone know about your work, and you never know who might be a reader–but you get good at it after a while. I learned how to do it while trying to get people interested in my meditation group at the Asian Festival last year (though that’s a story for another time).

Do you have business cards for your writing? Have they been effective?

What advice do you have on making and designing business cards?

Categories: Author Platform & Branding, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Marketing & Promoting, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Creating A Great Antagonist

The antagonist or antagonists of a story are often the central driving force to the story or what causes the central driving force to come into being. That being said, a lot of thought has to go into creating an antagonist, especially the central antagonist. In fact, for horror novelists such as myself, it’s often one of the first things we come up with in a story, and what we often use to describe our stories to others (ex. “an evil clown demon terrorizes a small town”, “a cult leader with horrifying dark powers and those who stand against him”, “two children fall through a doorway to a world where the demonic ruler has a terrifying interest in the young boy”).*

When designing antagonists (human or otherwise), there are a few things I try to keep in mind in order to make them as evil/terrifying/monstrous as possible. Here’s some of them (the ones I’ve identified, anyway. I’m still new at this and I’m still identifying what I do, what works and what I should probably stop doing):

1. What does your antagonist want? I’m going to use a villain from a hypothetical novel, because I don’t think this is the best place to advertise any of my own books(as fun as that might be). And since I’m watching Once Upon a Time while watching this, I’m going to say…my villain wants to take over the magic kingdom. Why does this villain want to do it? Perhaps he’s a sociopath (I’m going to make it a male villain) who just wants power, mayhem and murder. Perhaps he’s the illegitimate child of the King’s eldest daughter, there was a really bad scandal where they murdered to keep things under wraps and he’s got some mommy issues. Or maybe he’s thinking he’s doing the kingdom a favor by trying to avert a prophecy about the current regime and the destruction about the kingdom, so he’s willing to do some very terrible things to avert disaster. Any of these or even a combination could work. This is also a step where I try to create as much backstory as needed to explain how my villain came to be, though if I need to I can hold that off till much later in the story, when it becomes much more relevant to the story to explain why my villain is so evil and screwed up.

2. What are my villain’s means of getting what he wants? Every villain has a means of getting what they want. Maybe he’s a very dangerous, highly-trained assassin. Perhaps he has magic powers, or a mercenary army with enough magical weapons to do a miniature Chernobyl. It can be anything, as long as you can make it plausible in the universe of your story.

3. Who opposes my villain? I’m going to assume the protagonist. Perhaps it’s the crown prince of the kingdom, who just found out about his elder sister’s illegitimate son and sworn to stop him but bring him back alive for the sake of his sister, who has always regretted letting her child go. Or maybe a knight who wants to protect those close to him by going off to slay the great evil. Perhaps it’d be more interesting to see if an orphan of humble background (or perhaps not; s/he is an orphan, so s/he could have any background I please) could go up against this great threat to the kingdom. In any case, the antagonist needs someone to go up against him, so I have to create that person at some point early on.

And now that we’ve come up with the antagonist’s motives and who’s going to try to stop him. Here comes the fun part of designing the antagonist:

Family values, loves cookies and miniature golf…and he does horrifying magical rituals to become a terrifying demon. What’s not to love?

4. Design your villain’s character. Perhaps my villain will be a full adult, or perhaps a teenager or even a young boy, to drive home that he’s the son of a princess, son being the operative part here. I could give him a dark, sadistic personality. Or maybe he’s like one of my favorite villains, Mayor Wilkins III from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who always had a smile on his face and acted like your typical 1950s sitcom dad even up until the moment he killed you. Maybe he’s got a hobby that indulges in while he’s not busy planning the destruction of the kingdom. Does he actually care for anyone besides himself? Maybe that person would give him someone to interact with besides his despicable followers. All these options and more are at my fingertips, and I can mix and match as I please in designing this villain.

This is basically how I design villains. And it works for all types of villains, from primary to tertiary in importance of plot and in all types of stories. I could also use these steps to design a sultry heiress hell-bent on doing some nasty stuff in LA’s best social circles. Or maybe a company president with some very cruel plans for a Native American community in the Amazon. It even works on zombies and vampires, too.

However you create your antagonists though, if it fulfills your need to create a great villain to go up against your hero or heroine, then it works. I’m just trying to give helpful suggestions, and if these help you, then my job here is done.

Also, if you get inspired by the hypothetical story I created above, by all means write a story about it. I just came up with it on the spot and I have enough on my plate without another story to write. Go ahead. It’s yours.

*Only one of these examples is a story I’ve actually read, and that’s Stephen King’s IT. The other two, if there are stories that are like that, I haven’t heard of them. Let me know if you have.

Categories: Characters & Viewpoints, General Writing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Do a Flashback

Flashbacks appear in many novels, comic books, television shows, and movies, yet they are some of the most difficult sequences to write in all of fiction. After all, how does one take a reader from the present point in the story to a former point in the story and then back again without a visual dissolve and a strange tint or border to the scene followed by another dissolve like they do on TV? It’s not easy, and it requires some practice to get any good at it. And even with practice it can still be a lot of work writing a flashback sequence. I’ve done some flashback scenes myself, sometimes several in a single novel, and I always wonder how to go about doing it.

I’m not sure if these tips will work for everyone, but here are some I’ve picked up over the years, and I’ve found each and every one of them helpful in writing flashback scenes. Some I’ve learned from other authors, others I’ve learned on my own, and a few I cannot remember where I picked up, but wherever they came from I’m grateful for them. And if you have any tips for doing flashbacks, please leave us a comment. I’ll add it in at a later date.

1. Is a flashback necessary? I know it seems silly to add this one in, but it’s one I learned the hard way. In the first draft of my novel Reborn City, I had a character flashback to a romantic encounter she had six months prior to the events of the novel. I nixed it from the second draft though for two reasons: one was that I already had enough flashbacks in that novel, so it seemed like I was spending too much time in the past, and the second was that this one scene really didn’t add anything to the characters or to the story. So asking if a flashback is necessary isn’t always a bad idea. It can actually save you some time.

2. What does the flashback do? You may be thinking at home, “It tells us a past event in the story or in the character’s life”. That is correct. So my next question is, if the flashback is the event in the past that needs to be told, why does it need to be told? Does it explain something vital about the character? Does it explain why the world of the character is the way it is? These are important questions, and every time I do a flashback, I always consider this question so that I know one-hundred percent whether or not I should use the flashback.

And now for actually implementing the flashback after deciding it’s necessary. Here’s some ways to start and end one:

3. Start a new chapter. This is the method that usually works for me. In the previous chapter I say that the character has just realized something that relates to a past event or that they’ve been knocked out and are dreaming of the past, or their thoughts have wandered and they found themselves looking to the past. Then I’ll start the flashback in the next chapter. By the next chapter I’ve gotten them back to the current events to connect the flashback to what’s happening now, or they’ve woken up with a terrible headache, or they’ve come out of their thoughts and they’re wondering how they got into the hospital’s ICU and no idea where the exit is (I’ve actually written that last scenario).

4. Use a transition mid-scene. I’ve seen this method in a few novels, but the one that always sticks in my mind is the many flashbacks in Stephen King’s IT. His flashbacks usually went something like this:

“…Beverly bent down next to Eddie. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Eddie was one of them, he was their navigator, he was the first one…

…he was the first one to come to her. He was shorter than her, nervous, but he was ready.”

The important thing with these sort of transitions is not to jar the reader too much. It takes a real expert at flashbacks to do a flashback mid-scene that goes “Bob was running while bullets flew around him and it reminded him of his time working for the CIA when he became embedded in a terrorist cell” without making the reader go “What the heck just happened here?”

If you do decide to do a mid-scene flashback, a change in font or using italics to differentiate between the present and flashback, or a series of identical symbol before and after the flashback (popular symbols include *** or ~~~) can help readers transition more easily into the flashback and help the story flow more easily.

5. Have your character tell the event to someone. This isn’t always considered a form of flashback, but I consider it one. It’s useful for books where the idea is a fictional person writing down his/her memoirs or telling someone their life story, like in a psychologist’s office. And in my opinion, it’s a method for those memories that a character is uncomfortable with. For example, in my novel Snake, the titular character relates his first kill to another character this way because he’s not proud of the way that event went down and tries not to think about it. Telling it this way offers a unique chance for a character to tell the events in his/her own voice, rather than the voice of a third-person narrator. The only difficult part is, if you’re not using this method for the whole book, then for the brief time you’re using it, keeping the flashback in the voice of the character rather than in the voice of the third-person narrator.

6. Use a video or a diary or something along those lines. I didn’t think much of the novel Catching Fire, but I did find it ingenious that the way Katniss and Peeta found out about their mentor Haymitch’s Hunger Games and the traumatic experiences he suffered was through a video. It was very well written, and it explained a number of things about Haymitch that had been left up to the imagination at that point. Using a recorded medium like a video, diary, poetry, or other means is a great way to do a flashback without directly involving the character the flashback may be about, such as the case with Haymitch.

7. What tense and POV? My final point is on questions some writers have on tense and point of view. People often worry about tenses in flashbacks, if it should be changed or different just for that particular scene. Sometimes they’ll even change the point of view for a flashback. I think the best way to do it is not to worry about the tense too much while writing the flashback and just use the same tense you’ve been using the whole novel. If you have been using past tense third-person omniscient narrator, continue in past tense third-person omniscient narrator. If you use present tense, second-person point of view, continue with second-person point of view. If you really have to change the tense though, then do so, but consult with another writer, an editor, or a beta reader on what tense would be best before doing so.

 

I hope you enjoyed these tips and found some of them useful. Flashbacks are great ways to tell back-story, develop characters or plot, and use exposition in a novel. Some flashbacks can even become the most memorable scenes in a novel, if well written and executed correctly. They’re difficult to do, but with enough practice, an author can incorporate them into most novels and enhance the story greatly through their presence.

Categories: General Writing, Grammar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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