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Writing Right: The Blog

Creating "Round" Characters

Think about one of your favorite classic stories in fiction. Something you enjoyed reading more than anything else as a child, over and over again. Was it Alice in Wonderland? Treasure Island? Black Beauty?

Now, ask yourself why you enjoyed reading that story so much. The answer is nearly always the same. The main characters.

Characters are what the reader identifies and empathizes with; they are what the reader loves to love ... or hate. Many great stories with weak plots, shoddy descriptive passages, and marginal dialogue have relied for their greatness solely on characterization. If you don't believe me, go back and read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises or The Old Man and the Sea. Papa's works are notoriously weak on story line and only marginal on description and dialogue. Where Hemingway works his magic is through his characters. When he writes about Ezra Pound or Gertrude Stein, about F. Scott Fitzgerald, we develop a love/hate relationship with those characters that is strong enough to keep us coming back, looking for more pages to turn. Read More 
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Creating "Flat" Characters

Characterization. The word, itself, strikes fear into the hearts of trembling young novelists. What I'd like to know is ... why?

The characters in your fiction make the whole thing work. It doesn't matter how brilliant a plot you construct or how lively the action. It doesn't mean a thing if you paint the most glowing descriptive passages ever. The whole book isn't worth a tinker's damn if your characterization is flawed. Here's why.

People care about people. Or, at least, they want to. They may love them, they may hate them. But the bottom line is they're empathetic toward them. Even books that have non-people as their characters (remember Christine?) embed those non-humans with human-like characteristics, making them, in effect, peopleRead More 
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Elektra Press Names Literary Scout

Feb. 23, 2017. Multi-book author/editor/ghostwriter D. J. Herda has today been named a scout for Elektra Press, according to E. P.'s CEO Donald Bacue. Herda's role will be to discover and sign to contract new and exciting literary discoveries, most notably from minority authors (particularly women), first-book authors, and foreign authors and to see them through to the successful editing, preparation, and publication of their works.

Among those fiction genres of particular interest are Women's, Debut, Literary, Mainstream/Contemporary, Romance, Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Western, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. Among nonfiction, Herda will be soliciting unusual and groundbreaking works from authors with solid platforms who have been unable to find a market for their seminal works at other houses.  Read More 
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Beware That "Unnamed Source"

Are you to blame? Are you the devil? I've seen a lot of accusations thrown around lately about "unnamed sources." Hopefully, not from you. But a growing number of legitimate news outlets, particularly those bent on destroying the Trump White House, manufacture stories, including innuendos and accusations, attributed solely to an unnamed source. Most of these are fabrications. The only "unnamed source" these fake news folks have is their own fecund minds. In the real journalistic world, a source will occasionally insist upon remaining anonymous in exchange for spilling the beans on someone or something. In half a century of reporting, I have attributed material to an unnamed sources three or four times. That's in more than tens of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. Read More 
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Shutting Down "Fake News"

"Fake News." Ever hear of it? It's been in the headlines a lot lately, thanks to our President. Love him or hate him, Trump has been calling out the deteriorating pretenders to the Fourth Estate for years now. I've been doing it for a couple of decades.

I saw the inevitability of fake news half a century ago when the British press devolved into a ragtag bunch of self-serving renegades taking Yellow Journalism to its zenith. It seemed back then that the American press would eventually follow, and it did. But not until the last presidential election has America's "Freedom of the Press" morphed into "Free-for-All of the Press." Read More 
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"Some Day" or "Someday" You'll Write Well

Let's be honest here. People can see that your writing sucks. Well, maybe not yours, but someone's. And I can tell you why. It's a writer's improper use of as few as one or two words.

For instance, the two-word phrase, "some day," consists of an adjective ("some") and a noun ("day") and refers to a single SPECIFIC day in the future. Although it's a specific day, you refer to it as "some day" when you don't know which specific day or you've forgotten it. Nevertheless, it specifically exists. (That's what the "some" in the phrase is doing--defining which day.)

"Someday," on the other hand, is a single-word adverb that refers to future events that will occur on a single day that is still indefinite or unknown in time. It's a nonspecific day because there is no adjective that can be inserted without breaking up "someday" into two words. "Someday" is a single non-modifiable adverbRead More 
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Write the Image, Not the Word!

Take this to the bank: If it's a commonly accepted writing maxim, you need to challenge it. Here is one more of the most harmful "tips for better writing" I've come across in more than half a century of scratching pen across parchment. Ready?

"Write about what you know."

Oops, wrong-o, bong-o! You can know plenty about your subject and still come across as a rank amateur. The truth is, you should write not about what you know so much as about what you see! If you can't visualize the image in your cranium, you'll never be able to help your reader create a mental picture of it. And if you can't do that, you'll never be a good writer.

Which brings up a point too often left undiscussed: The art of writing isn't about putting words on paper, it's about putting images in people's minds. Images are created by a word or a combination of words that generate a mental picture of the scene, place, person, or event in the reader's head.

So, what's the difference? Check out these two similar sentences: Read More 
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Author, Insure Thyself!

You've spent too much of your life preparing for the future to piss it all away. But you may be doing exactly that if you haven't at least considered insuring yourself in your writing.

There are times when a writer has invested months or even years of his life preparing the book of the century only to learn that publishers won't touch it because they're afraid of getting sued. At times such as those, wouldn't it be nice to tell those publishers, "Hey, not to worry! I have had a media attorney review the material and have a $500,000 libel policy in place for any contingency we might require."

Well, you can! The Authors Guild has an agreement with AXIS PRO, the world's leading underwriter of media liability insurance, to offer Guild members professional liability insurance. Even without being a Guild member, you can check out what libel insurance would cost to protect you (and hold your publisher harmless) by filling out and submitting an AXIS PRO WriteInsure Application. For more information, check out this PDF document.

Coverage is available under the program, known as WriteInsure, for book authorship, freelance writing (including blogging on blogs owned by others), and blog sites that you own and operate. The insurance covers claims of libel, invasion of privacy, copyright or trademark infringement, plagiarism, errors and omissions, and other related risks. The program covers legal expenses incurred in defending a claim and any monetary damages due to judgments or settlements you may be required to pay. Read More 
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Author Income "Frightening"

"Where Does All the Money Go?" If that's a question you ask yourself about your dwindling book royalties, the answer shouldn't surprise you. According to Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson, a major portion of a writer's income gets gobbled up by--who else?--Amazon, Google, and other major Internet content providers. Here's a teaser from her speech:

"Suppose you decide to buy a copy of my most recent novel, Sparta, which came out in 2013. Chances are that you'll buy it on Amazon. The company offers a new paperback copy for $12.98. Also a new copy for $4.33. You can buy a used paperback for $0.01. Probably you won't choose to buy the more expensive copy. Why would you? You'll buy the cheaper one.

"But how can a new copy be sold for so little money? That new copy is probably one that the publisher sold off to make room in the warehouse. If a book's sales slow down and the publisher needs the space, it may sell copies at a deep discount to make room for other books. Many contracts have clauses that will allow the publisher to pay no royalties under these circumstances. So the publisher gets paid, and the middleman (in this case that kindly and book-loving site "Turnpike Liquidators") will get paid. And, of course, Amazon will get paid. Only the author will receive nothing for this sale of the new book she wrote. Read More 
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New Words, New Worlds

Have you ever stopped to wonder why words mean what they mean--and when they came into use? Take this word for example:

Hostile (adj.). Late 15c., from Middle French hostile: "of or belonging to an enemy" (15c.) or directly from Latin hostilis: "of an enemy, belonging to or characteristic of the enemy; inimical," from hostis: "enemy" (see guest (n.)). The noun meaning "hostile person" is recorded from 1838, American English, a word from the Indian wars. Related: Hostilely.

Interesting? Only if you're fascinated by the development of the English language. The study of how words evolved--usually from foreign words, sometimes from slang--is called etymology. Look up a word in Webster's Dictionary and you'll likely get very little of a word's parental background. Look up that same word in an etymological dictionary, and you'll see it all, from earliest usage right up to the present. Read More 
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