The Reader

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Wow! It’s been ssssooooo long since I wrote a post here (looks like sometime in 2013), even though I’ve continued to lurk around checking things out.

For whatever reason I just got an image of Batman, or would that be Batgirl, slinking around?

Anyhoo, there are so many new people here that I feel the need to introduce myself again.

Hello! *dorky grin and wave* My name is Stephannie Beman, I’m a writer. I write books.

And yes, I’m this awkward in person, possibly even more so.

Actual picture of me so you know who you're talking too. :D

Actual picture of me so you know whose talking.

Okay, now that the introductions are out of way, we can focus on the important stuff. The reason I decided to break my long silence and write this post.

Storytime

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a group of people terrorized by Trolls. These were not the normal kind of trolls with an ugly countenance, giant tusks, long claws, and sharp teeth. These Trolls were the covert kind. The ones that looked like everyone else, hiding in plain sight. It was only through their actions that the truth of what they were was revealed.

These nasty, mean, awful beasties thrive on stalking their prey, destroying lives, causing self-doubt, and ruining the dreams of the people. But then the people started to learn an important secret about the snarling creatures.

Don’t feed the Trolls. It only makes them stronger.

By feeding the trolls ego the people were giving the trolls what they wanted. Control. These people learned a few ways to weaken the noxious influences of the trolls in their lives by….


Knowing That It’s About Them

Those who go around behaving in an abhorrent manner that reminds you of a raging toddler in adult form are trolls and you should tell yourself that it has very little, or more likely, nothing to do with you personally. Yes, I know the attack was probably personal in nature, they usually are. But it’s not about you. It’s all about them. It’s about who they are, their past experiences, their unmet desires, their inability to communicate in positive ways, their fears. Anger is just fear indulged and magnified in an unhealthy and hurtful manner.

That Sometimes It’s About You

Yes, sometimes you did or said something to contribute to the incident. However, that doesn’t mean you are to blame. If you said or did something they didn’t agree with, they could have taken their mom’s advice and walked away without saying a word. Nothing says that anyone has to agree with everyone’s opinions, but the trolls are the ones that feel justified in pointing it out in great and insulting detail why you are wrong. They want you to see it their way because it is the ‘only way’. It doesn’t mean it’s the truth, or even your truth.

Some trolls find insult in the smallest things, like the woman who was angry at me for “destroying the Persephone myth” in one of my stories by not following the myth to a ‘T’. Not only did she point it out in great detail what I did wrong, but she brought a few of her friends along to do the same. At the time I was a newbie author who took what she said to heart and it crushed me.

Why? Because I was afraid that she was right about my ability to tell a good story, a deep-seated fear that was created long before she came along. I was afraid that everyone would hate the mythology that I created and that the books would fail miserably. I really had to take a good look at that fear and ask myself if it’s justified. Years later I can say, I told the story that I wanted, in the way I wanted to, and as a fiction writer it is my right to screw it up royally if I want.

Either Way, You’ll Never Know The Whole Truth

Even if you ask. There rarely is a good reason for trolls to do what they do. They are no better than the schoolyard bully trying to feel better about themselves or impress the other bullies by attacking “the little guy” to make themselves feel important

If some of the troll attacks I’ve had over the years are anything to go, it probably won’t make sense even if they tell you the problem they have with you. I’m still scratching my head over one woman’s scathing remarks over my author bio which I won’t go into detail other than to say that for two days she personally attack me and all those who commented on the blog post that had nothing to do with the bio. I came back from the weekend to 120 comments.

Years later, she apologized for her behavior and being curious as to what started it I asked her in the hopes of understanding why something so simple had set her off. It only triggered another bout of personal insults. Needless to say, I still don’t understand her reasoning and probably never will.

So Remember The 1/3rd Rule

When I was in the 2nd grade I came home crying because some of the girls didn’t want to be my friend because I wasn’t girly enough and I was kinda weird. My mother told me that there is no way to please everyone I met and to try would only twist me out of true. That rather than change to be their friend, I should surround myself with friends who loved me for who I am. I learned early that people will try to change those not like them and demand that they bend over backward to please them.

Later I learned the 1/3rd Rule. 1/3 of people you meet will love you, 1/3 of people you meet will hate you, and 1/3 of people you meet won’t care one way or the other about you. So I guess the question is, do you really want to spend your life trying to impress people only to fail? Or would you rather strive to impress the person you have to live with the most, yourself?

Because Resistance Is Futile

Yes, I love Star Trek. And I do use this phrase on my kids regularly, although the circumstances usually involve cleaning their rooms or doing their chores. Mom is the Borg and resistance is futile. You will be assimilated, kids.

Surprisingly, it also applies to trolls. You can’t change the minds of bullies. They will think what they want no matter what you do. Sometimes you can teach them a hard lesson, but I wouldn’t suggest it. It has the horrible potential of backfiring and causing you more harm.

No matter what you say or do, defending yourself against a bully will only makes things worse because if they don’t “hate” you for one thing, they will find another “fault” to hate about you. Haters hate.

And Hate Is Contagious

Trolls ‘hate’ you for anything and everything you do, and that hate can contaminate you if you let it in. If you aren’t careful their hatred might become yours. Don’t own that.

Hate is like an infection that spreads and consumes the person. A better use of your time would be to learn from what they say, and if changes need to be made (like improving my horrible grammar), then it is better to put energy into improving yourself rather than hating the trolls. It’s not like they care if you hate them, it only gives them more power.

Just Wait 24 Hours

Don’t respond to them. Stop responding to them. Ignore them.

If I learned one thing from the schoolyard, bullies hate to be ignored, and nothing angers them more than your apathy. It’s actually the perfect revenge. If you don’t feed the trolls, they’ll eventually lumber off in search of easier prey who will respond to them and feed their need for control and conflict.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that most things, even the vilest of rumors, die within 24 to 72 hours. It might be Hell during that time but there will always be juicer gossip for people to consume.

Or Delete Them

If it’s an offensive blog comment, delete the comment or post a note that their comment was “deleted for offensive behavior”. It sends a message to the other Trolls that see it that your blog isn’t their stomping grounds and their attacks will not be tolerated.

Regardless if you can delete them or not, don’t speak to people who are bad for you. You deserve better than their venom. They aren’t worth the breath, or words you’ll write, to answer them. Don’t become the thing you hate in the mistaken belief that you are combating them.

Either way, Don’t Respond to Them

I get the need to defend yourself by creating boundaries and lines that trolls can’t cross without consequences. I’m not saying ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘let them use you as a doormat’, I’m suggesting fighting them in a way that hurts them most, by not giving them the attention they want.  I found that if I do or say something, even if it’s calm and rational manner, I’ll eventually say something they will later be use against me.

In the grand scheme, ignoring them and removing them from your life is the best advice I can give you.

Eventually, Time Heals all Wounds

Anger and hate ultimately passes if you let it and you will heal from what was said. In time, you might even be able to shrug it off as an unfortunate learning experience or laugh about “that one time when that one person told me…” or you could use that anger toward the troll in your next story. What better way to relieve the pressure then by using that energy to fuel your story? You can even make your troll into the villain and proceeded to kill them horribly and violently.

And yes, I am that vengeful. However, the idea came from other writers who have used strong emotions to create emotional charged scenes in their books and from time to time even immortalized their enemies by making them the villains in a story.😀


In Summary, Trolls are bad

Nothing makes their attacks right or excuse their behavior. Feeding the trolls makes it worse. Letting them into your lives is like bathing in toxic waste. You will not get superpowers. You will get burned. Keeping them around like allowing a feral Mountain Lion to sleep at the end of your bed. You’re likely to wake up one morning with a Mountain Lion gnawing on a body part. Really not smart.

Be smart. Don’t feed the Trolls.

Categories: The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , ,

Writing a Series

A lot of authors write series. Some make all their money writing long series rather than stand-alone novels. A few are even paid by their publishing companies to keep writing series even after the story has gotten old and there are no new ideas or places for the characters to go (*cough* *cough* James Patterson and the Alex Cross books *cough*). But writing a series is a lot tougher than it looks. Rather than keeping a reader’s interest for about 300 pages, you have to keep it for several times that amount and over several books too.

While there is no one way to write a series (is there ever “one way” to go about anything in this business?), there are some tips and strategies that can make writing a series a bit easier. Here are some of mine, gleaned from years of writing various different series in my teens and publishing one of them once I got into college.

Decide who your main characters are and what sort of story you’re going to write with them. I feel that it’s important to nail down who your main characters are pretty early on, because they often end up influencing where the story goes through their actions. You don’t have to go into each character’s entire history at this early stage, but you should have an idea of who they are, what they like and dislike, maybe what sort of environment they grew up in, and what they want and what you from them in this series. That information will come in handy when you’re planning out the series.

Make a roadmap. When you have your characters (and if you’re writing this story in a world different from the one you and most of your readership live in, a general idea of this world), then you should plan out the series and what is going to happen. You don’t need to go into every single detail on what happens in each book, you can save that for when you write each individual book. Just have a general idea of what will happen in each book, how that might fit into a greater arc if you have one in mind, which characters you might introduce or kill off or whatever, etc. It’s kind of similar to outlining a novel, in a way (for tips on outlining, click here), only for several books. Creating a roadmap can also be helpful in keeping a record of what and when you need to research a subject and can allow you to keep notes of what’s happened in previous books in case you need to refer back to something for the current book.

Immerse your reader slowly. This is something I’ve learned over a long time, but it’s useful to remind some writers of it every now and then. Let’s say your story takes place in a fantasy or science-fiction universe and you’re the only one who knows the entirety of the world, its various pieces and factions and groups and aspects. You’ll have an urge to make sure that your reader is immediately caught up with everything, so that they know all there is to know about these worlds. I’m telling you now, resist that urge! Updating them about everything in this world of yours too early would be overloading them with information. They wouldn’t know what to do with it and they’d put down that first book before getting very far in it.

Immersing a reader in your world is like teaching a kid to swim.

The best way to go about introducing readers to this world is to imagine it like teaching a young child to swim. Naturally you don’t start with the deep end. What if your pupil drowned? Instead you start with the shallowest end of the pool. It’s good to start without overwhelming the kid, and they can get a sense and a working knowledge of how swimming works. Later you move them into deeper waters, teaching them new techniques and watching them adjust to the greater depth of the pool. As time goes on, your pupil moves deeper and deeper into the waters, learning new knowledge along the way, until they’re swimming fine in the deep end and able to handle all you’ve given them.

In a similar way you should treat the reader. Slowly take them in, giving them the bare minimum to get along in this world and how to live and maneuver through it. As time goes on, you’ll add more information and they’ll be better prepared to handle it all, so by the end of the series they’ll be able to handle all that information really well.

Keep a guidebook. This can also be helpful, especially for series in fantastical worlds. A guidebook (or whatever you want to call it) contains information on the many aspects of your world, from characters to places to objects to story points and everything in between. If you need to organize a very complicated world, a guidebook can be helpful. Or if even the world is very simple, having a guidebook could help you keep track of things. I recommend using some sort of 3-ring binder for your guidebook, so you can add more information as time goes on. Dividers will also be helpful, so get those and categorize entries as you need. Using a guidebook can also prevent any ret-conning that could annoy and upset your fans.

Writing a book, and writing a book series, is often like this.

Remember the bigger picture. This is always important in writing, but it is especially important in a series. Writing a series is like working with several hundred or even several thousand puzzle pieces, but you have to focus on both the puzzle as a whole as well as the smaller pieces. It’s not easy, keeping track of the smaller stuff as well as keeping aware of the whole arc of the series, but it’s something you’ll have to do if you want to successfully pull off a series.

Each book has a purpose. If your series has an overall story arc, then not only should each book tell an interesting story (or a segment of the larger story), but it should maybe serve a purpose. For example, the first Harry Potter novel introduced us to the Wizarding world, and to the boy we root for the whole series; Book 2 hinted at the existence of Horcruxes, explained the concept of Wizarding blood purity, and introduced other important elements that would later appear in the HP books; Book 3 gave more information on the night Harry’s parents died and their relationship with Snape, as well as introducing how Voldemort would come back to power; Book 4 brought back Voldemort in an elaborate plot as well as hinted at the denial the Ministry would be famous for in Book 5; and so on and so forth. You don’t have to, but it might be helpful to think of assigning your books a purpose in the overall story arc of the series.

What tips do you have for writing a series?

Categories: Book Formatting, Book Setting, Book Setup, Business Plan, Characters & Viewpoints, Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing a Blurb for Your Book Cover

“Blurb” is such a funny word to say, but it’s a word that writers everywhere should know, because the blurb can have so much influence on who and how many people buy or download your books. According to Wikipedia (not the best source I know, but it’s quick and convenient, so what are you going to do?), a blurb is “a short summary or promotional piece meant to accompany a creative work.” In the context of a book, a blurb is usually the summary text on the back of the book describing the story, but it can also refer to reader reviews, promotional taglines, and author biographies. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the summary text on the back of a book, since that is what often plays a role in any reader’s decision to buy a book.

Generally blurbs are at most a paragraph or two, and give a brief idea to the reader what they can expect before they open up the book to read it. This brief idea is given in three parts: the explanation, the mystery, and the promise. Here’s what I mean:

Nathaniel is a magician’s apprentice, taking his first lessons in the arts of magic. But when a devious hot-shot wizard named Simon Lovelace ruthlessly humiliates Nathaniel in front of his elders, Nathaniel decides to kick up his education a few notches and show Lovelace who’s boss. With revenge on his mind, he summons the powerful djinni, Bartimaeus. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace’s greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.

The Amulet of Samarkand, US edition

This was the blurb on the back of The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book of the Bartimaeus Sequence by Johnathan Stroud. I was maybe ten or eleven when I first read this book. I was just coming out of my Harry Potter junkie phase and wanted something new to read. I wasn’t at first really interested in the book, but then I saw the blurb on the back and I was immediately hooked. I ended up reading the entire trilogy and the prequel, really enjoyed them, and I’ve been influenced by it ever since. And just based on that one blurb it got me to read the first book.

Let’s look at this blurb using the parts I named above. First, we have the explanation, which tells us what the novel is about. Judging from that, the reader learns that the main character is Nathaniel, he’s a magician’s apprentice, and he decides to send a djinni named Bartimaeus to get revenge for him by having him steal an amulet from Nathaniel’s enemy. The explanation stops at telling us what happens next and how it leads into “a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.”

That’s what the mystery is for. The mystery’s purpose is to say that although a little bit of the story has been revealed to you in the explanation, the rest of it you’ll have to read the book to find out. All we can tell you is that there’s a lot of cool stuff there, in this case magical espionage, murder and rebellion. Usually the mystery is held off until the last sentence, meant to leave the reader intrigued enough that they’ll open the book to find out more.

Last but not least, the promise is found throughout the blurb, and it is as it’s called: a promise. In this case, the promise is telling us that this is an awesome story geared for readers just like the person reading the back cover, and that they will miss out if they do not open the book. This should be the main goal of the author when writing their blurb.

Of course, there are some things you should and shouldn’t do when writing your blurb. For instance, it may be tempting to make it seem like your book is the greatest thing that’s ever been written. For all I know, it has. But if the message from your blurb is “It’s new! It’s great! You should read it and make sure everyone else around you reads it!” and that message is too obvious or strong, it might turn away readers rather than make them want to read more. We want people to read our works of course, but coming on too strong never got anyone anywhere.

The best way to do is let the blurb and the story it’s summarizing do the talking for you. Instead of coming on strong, let the blurb subtly entice the reader into wanting to check out the story and find out more. Another way of looking at this could be like thinking of the blurb as a free sample in a grocery store or shopping mall. You get a small taste to begin with, but if you want more, you’re going to have to buy the whole product.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to put too much information in the explanation part of your blurb. Give them just enough information to form an impression, maybe give them a few images in their heads, but not too much that they’ll have a basic idea of where the story is going to go and what will happen, so why bother picking the story up? Make sure to leave some room for the mystery in the story to hint at what’s to happen so the reader will be intrigued enough to open up the book to page one.

And finally, try to do all this in as few words as possible. The blurb above is less than a hundred words and still manages to grab your attention. You should aim to write an effective blurb around a similar length that does the same thing. This isn’t just because keeping it brief is good for giving hints and mystery, though that’s part of it. It’s also because practically speaking you only have so much room on the back of your book, so you should try to keep the word count around one hundred so that the printed summary doesn’t feature tiny, tiny letters that make it difficult to read. And if the reader has difficulty reading the back cover, what are the chances they’ll want to read what’s on the inside?

What tips do you have for writing blurbs?

Categories: Book Covers, Book Promotion, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Reader, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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