Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Write Your Novel's Hook

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by C. Patrick Schulze

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We've all heard how important it is to begin your NOVEL with an effective hook. The reason, of course, is your novel's hook helps potential readers make many of their decision about your book. Be it AGENTS, publishers or readers, everyone seeks out these first few words and these lines make a lasting impression.

When I focused on that first paragraph, I spent a great deal of time to research how to write my novel's hook and I thought I'd pass along some of the better tips I found.

By the way, I just made up these hooks as I wrote this article, so cut me some slack if they're not up to par, okay? After all, there's just examples.

1. You may craft an opening that sets a mood. This is the method I employed in "Born to be Brothers" when I wrote, "Something was about to die."

2. One alternative is to pique the reader's curiosity. "I always wondered how it felt to die."

3. You might pen a line that compares two things not normally associated with each other. "Jackson couldn't decide if he should go to his father's wedding or his mother's funeral."

4. You can have your main character perform an action. "He mumbled to himself as he lifted the pocket watch from the dead man's vest."

5. You may wish to indicate something is about to change in a radical fashion. "I felt my body grow lighter as it began to blend with the fog."

6. Why not begin with an intriguing person or place. "The countryside looked as if an artist had painted his fondest vision."

7. One choice is to have a character speak about an unusual situation. "Yep, I seen it all. It exploded and blew that guy to kingdom come."

8. Another option is to offer your reader something unexpected. "The aircraft crashed into the ground with a fiery explosion. Then the pilot stepped out and dusted himself off as if it was all in a day's efforts."

9. You might open your novel with dialogue. "Are you ready to tell me about it now?"

10. Yet another opportunity lies within immediate conflict. "She knew she'd get in trouble even as she clinched her fist." I'm working on my next novel and this is how it starts, at least in the first draft.

11. A strong hook can begin with an emotion. "I hated that man from the moment I met him."

12. Yet another opening hook might be to offer your reader a puzzle. "I wondered how could a human being shrink so much in one night?"

13. Have you ever thought to startle your reader? How's this? "I never knew humans tasted like chicken."

Of course, there are any number of other methods by which to create your novel's hook, and you can even combine two or three of these ideas for maximum effect. Regardless, your goal is to draw your reader into the story and you've got only one chance to do so. Best of luck with it.

Now, does anyone have a hook they'd like to share with our readers?

I hope by now you know, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

14 Tips for Effective Characterization

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by C. Patrick Schulze

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The next James River Writers' Conference will be here before you know it and as a member of JRW, I wanted to pass along a few things I found interesting at our last conference. The discussion I most enjoyed centered on CHARACTERIZATION in NOVELS. A panel of three successful authors held this particular seminar.

One panelist indicated the best writing era for character research was the 1880’s to the 1920’s. He said when writing your book, read novels from that time period to learn how to improve upon your characterization.

Another idea they mentioned is show your readers how a character walks, stutters, or whatever. This makes the character more memorable. This made me think of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, when Marty Feldman who played a hunchback, shuffled off. He told Wilder to, “Walk this way.” He meant for Dr. Frankenstein to follow him, of course. However, the good doctor shambled off like a hunchback, too. Obviously this is a useful tool as I’ve kept that image in my mind for how long, thirty years?

This leads into the next recommendation the panelists made. They said to bridge characters within chapters when you write your novel. By this they meant to carry a character's oddities from one chapter to the next. For example, if you have a character who shows irritation by flicking his fingers, (thanks, Richard), have him flick his fingers a number of times throughout your novel.

A time-tested avenue for writers is to pit contrasting characters against each other. Think Laurel and Hardy or Lucy and Ricky. (Am I the only one who remembers these people?) Or, for a more modern example, think the cast of Friends.

Put your characters in situations foreign to them. Think fish out of water. A good example is a goody-two-shoes in a gang fight. Your character's personality will shine in those odd situations.

Never, and they repeated the word, never put your characters in front of a mirror. Yes, there is an exception in Snow White, but then again, even James Bond learned “never” never means never. Right?

The bad guy can always rationalize his actions. He’s not insane, he’s evil.

Here’s a good one! Find contradiction in your novel’s characters. Imagine our goody-two-shoes who finally succumbs to the neighbor’s wife’s enchantments. You could also write about the vegetarian who is forced to eat meat to stay alive. This idea can present wonderful conflict opportunities, don't you think?

Characters must want something in every chapter. Do they all get their wishes fulfilled? Not if you’re looking for readers.

Put your characters in an argument as this, too, will bring out their personalities. This is the fundamental turning point in my current novel, so I'm glad to hear it works.

I thought this tip interesting and will incorporate it into my later manuscripts. Your character should be recognizable from the silhouette. They cautioned that this can get out of hand quickly if you're not careful.

For authenticity when you name characters, find popular names during the decades in which they live. Sites of this nature are all over the Internet.

Another tip I liked also surfaced. If a gun is seen in chapter one, it must be fired by chapter four. There's a name for this concept which I failed to write down.

And what was the most important of all these great writer’s tips? “Write what bubbles up.” That is, trust your Muse and pen what comes naturally to you.

What other tips might you wish to share to bring out the personalities of your characters?

I hope you know by now I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors, "Born to be Brothers"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New and Free eBooklet

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Good day, all,

I've not posted a formal article today as I've completed my new and free eBooklet, "The Fundamentals of Dialogue in Fiction."

You can find it at Free EBooklets.

Your comments are welcome.

Thanks for your continued support.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Recipe for Writing a Successful Novel

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by C. Patrick Schulze

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Before I wrote my first manuscript, I picked up a book titled, "You Can Write a Novel" by James Smith. After I read it, I came to the conclusion WRITING a successful NOVEL would be a piece of the proverbial cake. I admit it, that assumption turned into my first of many mistakes relative to novel writing. Regardless, the major concept I picked up from the book is there exists a recipe for writing a successful novel. I likened writing a successful novel to cooking one of my favorite meals when I was a single guy - crock-pot stew. Maybe I should've called this article my recipe for a crock-pot novel?

The recipe for a crock-pot novel, like that of anything that's pleasing to the palate, contains various elements that must be incorporated in the correct doses, and even at the correct times, for the dish to please your readers' visual palate.

The recipe for our crock-pot novel includes these basic ingredients:


Let's take a quick look at each of these recipe components, shall we?

Theme is the message or meaning within your crock-pot novel. It's what you wish your readers to learn. Your message comes to life in the way your main characters overcome the conflict they face. In effect, it is the fundamental ingredient of your crock-pot novel recipe. Think of it as the beef stock, if you will.

Characterization is the most important part of your novel as it relates to your reader. Your reader must, without exception, care about at least one character and what happens to them. You should, therefore, create fleshed out characters with whom your readers can identify. This is the beef in your stew.

Plot is what moves the story forward. It fleshes out your storyline and gives it depth. It is that series of events that your characters must face and the obstacles they must overcome. It is what moves your story toward the final chapter in logical order. I relate it to those chopped ingredients in our stew; carrots, potatoes, onions and the like.

Conflict is what encourages a reader to continue to read your novel. Many aspiring authors envision conflict as the action that takes place in their stories, the explosions, the chases and the like. If truth be told, conflict is found in your characters' emotional responses to the action that takes place. Your conflict will rise and fall like the peaks of a mountain range until you reach the crescendo of your story. It's what holds your stew gravy together, the thickener, if you will.

Point of View, or POV, is who tells your story. It's the perspective of your story's narrator. This is where many aspiring authors fail in their novel writing endeavors. Without effective POV, a reader may become confused and their enjoyment of your work decreases. This is your recipe's spices.

Setting is the time and place where your characters exist. It comes to life by way of your characters' senses. It's the time it takes for your ingredients to turn into a meal.

Dialogue is the words your characters use. It offers your reader background information, highlights their personalities and advances your story. Consider dialogue as the heat that transforms your ingredients into a tasty meal.

Now, do other recipes for novel writing exist? Of course. Every cook/author has their own recipe, yet each will incorporate these basic ingredients. Should an author omit any of these basic ingredients, his crock-pot novel will lack something and won't taste as pleasing to the reader as the author had hoped.

Best of luck with your recipe and let me know how it turns out, will you?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Writing Your Hero's Death

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Writing Your Hero's Death - by C. Patrick Schulze

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Would you like to hear what your readers really think of your novel? A surefire method to receive an inbox overrun with emails is to write the death of your NOVEL's HERO. Wouldn't you be upset if you spent hours reading a novel only to have the character with whom you most identified croak off? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends upon how you handle writing your hero's death.

If you feel your novel needs the wet work, here are some suggestions to kill off your hero so your readers won't abandon you.

Make certain his exit is necessary to your plot. You probably shouldn't kill him off just to shock your readers. Yes, it's often good to shock your readers, but I don't think this is the time to do it.

Also, make his death of consequence and finalize the event on a encouraging note. That is, ensure he dies for a worthy reason, one your readers will understand and accept. Think silver lining here. Sure, the hero dies, but his daughter lives on to become the first female president of the United States and ends all war. Now that would make for a worthy passing, wouldn't you say? If you arrange this to be a positive event, your readers will forgive you and probably even approve.

Create a situation where any and every major character has the potential to die. There's more power to a scene when a bus load of characters goes over the cliff than if the bus has only the driver, your hero, at the wheel.

Make the situation logical. Which of these scenes works better for you? Everyone runs around and screams on a sinking ship when an unexpected meteorite slams into it and kills everyone on board before they drown. Or, your hero is in battle and a wave of enemy fighters swam around him and kill him. This second situation is much more likely accepted by your readers.

If you're going to do it, as the Nike commercial says, "Just do it." Put your hero in a red shirt and have the meteorite smack him upside the head. Either kill him or don't.

Your hero's resurrection should not exist in fiction. You shouldn't put your readers through the trauma of your hero's demise only to have the character jump up later and yell, "Surprise!" This won't offer your readers any relief but may well irritate them.

It may ease the blow if you give your readers a foreshadowing of your hero's demise. The secret here is to give them the information, but insert it into your novel in such a way as they might misinterpret the clues. When the event finally occurs they should be shocked, but upon reflection, understand they should've seen it coming.

You may wish to consider the hero's death as a catalyst for a whole new and dramatic chain of events that are yet to transpire. What fun!

One last thought. If you cannot imagine the death of a specific character, then neither can your readers. That's the guy who should survive.

Killing your hero can be either courageous or disastrous. It all depends on how you handle it.

Is there anyone among my readers who has killed off a major character? If so, would you care to share the responses you received from your readers?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"