Make the Most of Your Cast of Characters

Hi All,

Today I’m sharing a post I wrote for Fictionary that I thought might help any of you who are working on your characters.


 

Readers love to cheer for a character. Make them feel the sadness, the terror, the happiness your character feels, and you’ll keep them reading.

In a novel, giving your readers someone to cheer for and follow for 300 or so pages might make the difference between the reader dropping your book on the coffee table after chapter one and staying awake late into the night reading until the climax satisfies their need to know what happened to the character.

The Cast of Characters is the list of characters in your story.  These characters act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

The first thing to do is review your Cast of Characters.  This is my cast from an early version of my first novel DESCENT as shown in Fictionary StoryTeller.

Cast of Characters

 

Once you’ve written a first draft of your story, you can create a cast of characters. StoryTeller does this for you, if you’d like to try it. StoryTeller scans your manuscript on import and within seconds, creates your cast of characters.

While reviewing your cast of characters look for:

  • Character names that are too similar. There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than if a character is killed and it’s Bill, but there’s also a Bob in the story. If the reader is left wondering which character was actually killed because the names are too similar, they might put your book down.
  • Names used for more than one character. This one may be a surprise, but it happens. Working on a novel over months or years makes it easy to forget a minor character’s name and use it again.
  • Any typos in the names. This list will help you catch typos that are hard to find when proofreading. For example: Kristina versus Kristine. Your spell checker won’t find an error, but when you see the names listed together, you can’t miss it.
  • Too many characters.

Character Names That Are Too Similar:

Review the names when listed together, and look for names that would confuse the reader by having names that are too similar.  You can see above I have Derek and Donny. These names are similar (both start with D and have two syllables), telling me I should change one of the names.

Here’s an example:

In a book I was reading, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and a young nurse. The deputy’s name is Molly, and the nurse’s name is Maggie. Both are young women. Both names start with M. Halfway through the scene, one character put her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to reread and check which character touched the woman. Of course, it was the nurse.

This was frustrating. Renaming a character is an easy fix.


Names Used For More Than One Character:

Once, I gave two minor characters the same first name. One was in an early scene, and one was in a later scene. None of my beta readers nor my editor picked this up because the names were too far apart in the story, but StoryTeller did. I was glad I caught this before Imajin Books published my novel.


Typos:

Viewing your cast of characters in alphabetical order for both first and last names allows you to quickly see any typos. Here StoryTeller has shown me I’d used Ginnie and Ginny for the same person.  It’s a small detail, but one that could cause readers to drop the book.

 

Cast of Character Typo

 


Too Many Characters:

You don’t want readers to flip (or click) to previous pages to find out who a character is. Too many characters can cause this problem. Here, StoryTeller counted my characters for me. Including minor characters, there are 34 characters in DESCENT. Not bad for a 86,000 word novel.

Total cast of characters

If you’re worried there are too many characters in a scene, ask yourself if the story needs each character. It’s not your need for the character that matters, it’s the story’s. Can the plot move forward without a character? Then it’s time to cut, cut, cut. 

You can also reduce the number of characters by combining two characters into one. Can the role filled by one character be fulfilled by another? If the answer is yes, think about getting rid of the character. 

Here’s an example:

A novel I edited for one of my clients had too many characters. The main character had a best friend who had a wife and two kids. The main character also had a brother who had a wife and two kids. I suggested merging the brother and his family into the friend and his family. This meant rewriting the scenes with the brother (replacing him with the friend), but it also meant a tighter story where the reader had more time to get to know the friend and his family. The author decided to make the changes, and her story is more powerful.

The fewer characters there are, the more time there is available to develop each one and the more time a reader has to grow to love the characters.


Next we’ll cover how to look at your characters on a scene-by-scene basis.

Are you a visual learner? Watch our 1 minute  video on Cast of Characters.

If you’d like to listen to an in-depth discussion on story editing, check out Story Edit Like A Pro.


Fictionary Logo

StoryTeller is creative editing software for fiction writers. Transform your story, not just your words. Successful stories depend on your ability to edit, improve, and revise your work. Only when you master story editing, can you master storytelling.

Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trial and tell powerful stories?

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Alliance of Independent Authors

I’m now an author member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.  Already, I’ve met other writers, their private Facebook group is a great place to ask and answer questions, and their members only blogs and podcasts are a wealth of information.

As many of you know, I’m the CEO of Fictionary, so I love to share information about my company.  I’m proud to announce Fictionary is now a vetted, trusted Partner Member and affiliate of Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi).

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), is the global non-profit association for writers who self-publish. Part of ALLi’s remit is to take self-publishing education and advice out to the wider indie author and publishing community.

There are lots of other great benefits too — you can find more on the Alliance’s website: HERE If you do join using the link, ALLi will refund me 30% of your first year’s fees. And as a member, you’ll then be able to recommend the alliance to your friends — and get the same benefit.

We’re proud to be a partner member because this means Fictionary has  been vetted by  ALLi’s Watchdog Desk team and adheres to ALLi’s Code of Standards.

The Watchdog Desk is headed up by indie author John Doppler and supported by ALLi Directors Orna Ross and Philip Lynch, and News Editor Dan Holloway.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), a great writers’ organization and I thought you might like to join too. Love to see you in an ALLi member forum soon!


Fictionary Logo

StoryTeller is creative editing software for fiction writers. Transform your story, not just your words. Successful stories depend on your ability to edit, improve, and revise your work. Only when you master story editing, can you master storytelling.

Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trial and tell powerful stories?

If you’d like to listen to an in-depth discussion on story editing, check out Story Edit Like A Pro.

The End is Near…NaNoWriMo

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome author, Jennifer Leeper.  She’s here to motivate your through the final days of NaNoWriMo,

Jennifer has a new release, coming out tomorrow: The Poison of War. How great does this sound?

Two Mexican drug smugglers are murdered on Native American soil and the only clues left behind are two single arrowheads in this compelling page-turner of tribal secrets and distrust at the border.

When detective Frank Silva of the Tohono O’odham Nation arrived at the scene of the crime he immediately feared his investigation would require him to turn inward—to his own people—in search of the killer.

The End is Near 

THE END. These two words are a far-off promise—a mirage both figurative and literal, for many, if not most writers on day one of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). These two words represent the end of a 50,000- (or more) word purge that can drain away optimism, sleep and even hope, in more dire instances. 

By this last week of Nanowrimo, most writers don’t have the creative momentum they began with on November 1. The fortune-cookie wisdom and positivity floated by everyone within the Nanowrimo community during the first half of the month is deflated. In this spirit, I’m offering some end-of-the-line motivation to bathe the overworked, creative brains out there, and stoke the fires of Nanowrimo for just a few more days—or, in this case, a few more words. 

General Motivation

  • Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.
    ― William James
  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.

― Winston Churchill

  • It’s not about passion. Passion is something that we tend to overemphasize, that we certainly place too much importance on. Passion ebbs and flows. To me, it’s about desire. If you have constant, unwavering desire to be a cook, then you’ll be a great cook. If it’s only about passion, sometimes you’ll be good and sometimes you won’t. You’ve got to come in every day with a strong desire. With passion, if you see the first asparagus of the springtime and you become passionate about it, so much the better, but three weeks later, when you’ve seen that asparagus every day now, passions have subsided. What’s going to make you treat the asparagus the same? It’s the desire. — Thomas Keller, Interview with Mark Wilson

Writing/Nanowrimo-Specific Motivation 

  • [Writing] is like wrestling; you are wrestling with ideas and with the story. There is a lot of energy required. At the same time, it is exciting. So it is both difficult and easy. What you must accept is that your life is not going to be the same while you are writing. I have said in the kind of exaggerated manner of writers and prophets that writing, for me, is like receiving a term of imprisonment — you know that’s what you’re in for, for whatever time it takes. — Chinua Achebe, “The Art of Fiction, No. 139,” The Paris Review

Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. — Al Kennedy

  • Respect the way characters may change once they’ve got 50 pages of life in them. Revisit your plan at this stage and see whether certain things have to be altered to take account of these changes. — Rose Tremain
  • If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient. — Hilary Mantel

As for me, I’ve never conquered the beast called Nanowrimo, but I keep those two words I mentioned earlier at the forefront of my imagination each November. I hope you push on toward November 30th, even if you stumble away in defeat, short of your I targeted word count. I hope you’ll return next November and do it all over again, because it’s never been the word count that really counts. 


 

You can find Jennifer Leeper’s latest work, THE POISON OF WAR, a southwestern crime/mystery  here, or visit www.thepoisonofwar.com to follow her ongoing writing journey. 

 

Who is Jennifer Leeper?

 

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author whose previous or forthcoming publications credits include Independent Ink MagazineThe Stone HoboPoiesisEvery Day FictionAphelion WebzineHeater Magazine, Cowboy JamboreeThe New EngagementAlaska Quarterly Review, Falling Star Magazine and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, Prensa Press and Spider Road Press.

In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest.

Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press. 

 

Announcing the Indie Publishing Boot Camp!

As an indie author, sometimes it might feel like you’re out there alone. You’re not!

There are plenty of fantastic resources here to help you. The Indie Publishing Bootcamp is one of them.

We’re partnering with She Writes University and ProWritingAid to bring you a two-month webinar series all about succeeding as an independent author. No matter whether you’re on your first book or your 50th, this course will teach you vital skills for succeeding in today’s independent publishing landscape.

What is the Indie Publishing Boot Camp?

It’s a two-month webinar series featuring four live lectures and four Facebook Live Q and As. (If you can’t make them live, no worries—we’ll offer recordings of all events.)

 

What is the Schedule?

What Will You Learn?

Every independent author needs to be a master of editing their own work. Therefore, we’ll start with in-depth editing tips from the experts at both Fictionary and ProWritingAid. Learn how to refine your story AND find all the right words.

Next, we’ll delve into indie publishing options. Since the industry’s changing all the time, this is info you need to have. We’ll cover Amazon KDP, hybrid publishers, vanity presses, and more. Also, we’ll help you decide which path is right for you.

Finally, we’ll ensure your book stands out in a competitive market. That means tips on cover design, interior formatting, blurbs, descriptions, titles, and more.

What Else Do You Get?

Tons! In addition to the above courses and Q and As, attendees of the Indie Publishing Boot Camp receive…

  • Four handouts
  • Three free ebooks (including “The Author’s Guide to Selling Books to Non-Bookstores” by Kristina Stanley)
  • 50% off a Fictionary annual subscription ($100 savings) or 50% off the first 3 months ($10 savings per month)
  • 50% off a ProWritingAid Premium licence ($30 savings)

 


How Much Does the Boot Camp Cost?

A ticket to the Indie Publishing Boot Camp costs $197. However…f you purchase your spot before June 13th, you can get a ticket for just $97. That’s a $100 savings!

We can’t wait to see you there!

New Release: Rock-A-Bye Baby by Luke Murphy

Rock-A-Bye Baby

An aunt’s worst nightmare…

In the city of Denver, a series of baby kidnappings has the town devastated.  With no ransom demands and no contact from the perpetrators, local law enforcement is at a dead end. No motive equals no answers.

A cop’s personal obsession…

Charlene Taylor’s niece becomes a victim, and the LAPD detective is thrown headfirst into a whirlwind case with similarities to one from seven years earlier. Out of her jurisdiction, and with no friends or leads, Charlene must walk-the-line between cop and sister.

Who can she trust?

Charlene has to decide who’s an ally, and when an unlikely partner steps forward, they must race against the clock: because that critical 48 hour window has come and gone.

Preorder here.  Release date: June 16th, 2019.

Luke Murphy

Luke Murphy is the International bestselling author of Dead Man’s Hand (Imajin Books, 2012) Kiss & Tell (Imajin Books, 2015), and Wild Card (Imajin Books, 2017).

Murphy played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. His sports column, “Overtime” (Pontiac Equity), was nominated for the 2007 Best Sports Page in Quebec, and won the award in 2009. He has also worked as a radio journalist (CHIPFM 101.7).

Rock-A-Bye Baby is Murphy’s fourth novel.

Murphy lives in Shawville, QC with his wife and three daughters. He is a teacher who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing, and a Bachelor of Education (Magna Cum Laude).

For more information on Luke and his books, visit: http://www.authorlukemurphy.com, ‘like’ his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLukeMurphy and follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/AuthorLMurphy.

Reviews

“Rock a Bye Baby has everything—a haunted protagonist, heartfelt emotion, and a twisty, thrilling plot.  A scorcher of a follow-up in a promising series.”—David Ellis, NYT bestselling author of The Last Alibi

“Murphy has cleverly crafted a riveting crime thriller, with a hefty dose of white-knuckle suspense. Entertaining and enticing to the very last page.”—Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author of Submerged 

“Rock a Bye Baby is an exquisitely told thriller, full of surprises and terrifying moments. Murphy is a gifted storyteller who keeps the tension crackling throughout. Charlene Taylor drives the story to a very satisfying and unexpected ending.”—Kristina Stanley, bestselling author of the Stone Mountain series.

 

Two Powerful Editing Tools for The Smarter Novel Writer

Today, I’m wearing my Fictionary CEO hat and sharing an awesome offer we’ve put together with ProWritingAId.

Fictionary and ProWritingAid — Two powerful editing tools that work beautifully together for just $99 (a $260 value).

  • Fictionary makes story editing a breeze.
  • ProWritingAid ensures your writing is clear and polished.

Until May 29th, get annual subscriptions to both Fictionary ($200) and ProWritingAid Premium ($60) for just $99.

Buy this amazing bundle now


The ProWritingAid Team Loves Fictionary!

Read their great app review here..


What if I’m already a ProWritingAid Premium user and just want to buy Fictionary?

We’ve got you covered. Click here to get 1-year of just Fictionary for $89 (reg. $200) with coupon code PWA89.


What if I’m already a Fictionary subscriber and just want to buy ProWritingAid?

We’ve still got you covered. Click here to get 1-year of just ProWritingAid for $30 (reg. $60)

ProWritingAid: Grammar Guru & Style Editor

In case this is your first introduction, ProWritingAid is an online grammar guru and style editor.

Exceptional writing depends on much more than just correct grammar. You need an editing tool that also highlights style issues and compares your writing to the best writers in your genre. ProWritingAid does this.

Read our review and see how ProWritingAid Premium works within Fictionary. You can perform a story edit and polish your words all in one place.

ProWritingAid Premium: All of ProWritingAid’s editing power; no limitations.

If you already know and love the ProWritingAid editing tool, we thought we would take a moment to remind you about the extra perks you get when you go premium:

1) No word count

If you don’t write that often, you will probably get along just fine with their free version and its 500-word limit. If, however, you want to analyze full chapters, articles, reports or essays and get a wider overview of your work, then ProWritingAid Premium is for you.

2) Integrations

The team at ProWritingAid has done a great job integrating their premium version with other tools. Besides working online, you can also use ProWritingAid on your desktop, as a browser extension, as a WordPress plugin, in Google docs AND in Fictionary. So yes, we’re pretty excited about that — both as authors and as Fictionary.

3) Full Word Explorer functionality

Their Word Explorer has fast become one of their most popular and most-used features. Premium users get a more in-depth exploration of their vocabulary, sparking creativity and more dynamic word choice.

Still unsure? Take a free trial of any of ProWritingAid’s integrations here.

Fictionary: The Story Editing Tool for Fiction

Developed by Kristina Stanley (me), best-selling author and editor, Fictionaryhelps writers tell better stories with online software that simplifies and automates story editing.

Story editing is an in-depth manuscript evaluation that improves the structure, characters, plot, and settings of your story. A must-do step when you’re revising your manuscript.

How it works

Fictionary analyzes your entire manuscript and creates powerful visuals such as the Story Arc and your Cast of Characters. 11 additional reports help you visualize your story like never before.

Fictionary then guides writers through a scene-by-scene evaluation of their manuscript against 38 story elements and provides insightful rewrite tips for improving your story exactly when you need it.

Beautiful together

Fictionary works seamlessly with the ProWritingAid Chrome extension. That’s right, you can use Fictionary and ProWritingAid at the same time! Learn more at Two Powerful Editing Tools.


Buy this amazing bundle now


 

Story editing is complex and time consuming. Fictionary makes it easier and faster to turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Do you need to test out Fictionary first before buying the bundle? Start your 14-day free trial, but remember the offer with ProWritingAid is only good until May 29th, 2019.

Be your own editor, tell better stories.

20 Ways to Populate Your Blog to Engage Readers by Donna Galanti

20 Ways to Populate Your Blog to Engage Readers + a Special Promo to Launch Your Author Platform


by Donna Galanti – founder YourAwesomeAuthorLife

 

If you share your publishing journey and writer’s life now to connect with readers, they can become your built-in audience later once your book comes out – and faithfully follow you as you publish more books.

Blogging is an ideal way to connect with these potential readers. It can boost your website in search engines as you continue to post more content within it, encourages sharing of your content across social media platforms, and invites readers to engage with you in your own forum.

Here is the number one key I have found to engaging your readers through blogging: blog about what you are passionate about.

Check out 20 ways to engage readers:

  1. Conduct interviews with characters in your book.
  2. Do joint giveaways with other authors.
  3. Share favorite current books you’ve read and feature them.
  4. Write about your thoughts on topics in your book.
  5. Share your book research process.
  6. Share your publishing journey.
  7. Do an interview with similar authors to you.
  8. Share fun book trailers in your genre.
  9. Create a soundtrack for your book and share it.
  10. Clean out your bookshelves with books in your genre and do a book giveaway post.
  11. Write about a current event topic that you are passionate about or inspires debate (but decide how controversial you want to go).
  12. Feature the settings in your book. Are they real places? Use photos, too.
  13. Write a How-To post that explains how to do something related to being an author.
  14. Interview other authors in your genre or invite them to write a guest post on a topic of interest.
  15. Do an opinion post about a topic that is trending.
  16. Promote the peers who have influenced you most in your writing.
  17. Review things in the story-telling arena like books, movies, theater and especially ones that are timely in the media.
  18. Create a round-up of favorite authors, blogs, movies, or books that might interest your readers. Or it could be a roundup of your most popular posts since you began your blog.
  19. Take a survey of your audience on a topic of debate that may be an issue in your book.
  20. Give advice on how to do something your readers will be interested in.

GO THE EXTRA MILE WITH BLOGGING:

If you’re a debut author, search online for “debut author” and the “year your book comes out”. You could find a debut author group to join that cross-promotes each other as debuts and helps you gain new followers. Often, these groups have a co-op blog where all the debut members can share content. Here’s a recent example. You can also search Goodreads for books in your genre/audience with your same book release year and reach out to these authors to connect and form your own debut promotion group.

Another way to go the extra mile, is blogging with more “evergreen” topics. These are topics that remain relevant over time and inspire readers to continue to share your posts with this timeless content.

Your homework! Time to get out the pens (or laptops):

  • List authors you know or want to connect to and invite them as a guest on your blog in an interview or guest post and feature their recent release.
  • Look through your bookshelf and list like-new books that you can use as a giveaway. Make sure they are in the genre and audience you write for.
  • List topics, themes, and issues in your book that you can write about.
  • List authors you know that you could reach out to do a joint giveaway with to cross promote each other and build best-fit followers. One way is to join a blog hop to expand your followers. Here’s another joint giveaway example I did that had 12,770 entries and gained me several hundred followers across my subscriber list and social media platforms.
  • What are some recent favorite reads, movies, or T.V. shows you’ve experienced? List them here to share your reviews.
  • What are some current news items connected to your book that you could talk about? List them.
  • What research did you conduct for your book? Talk about how you did it (travel, interviews, etc.)
  • List any real settings in your book you can talk about and share your personal experience of them in person along with photos.
  • What do you feel comfortable sharing about your writing and publishing journey? List these topics here.

Now, it’s time to start blogging and sharing your writer’s journey with your readers!

*********************************

Want to know more about how to connect with a reader audience?

Donna released her new online course this week, Launch Your Author Brand & Platform, a 10-Step Author Marketing System to Build Brand, Connect with Readers, and Sell Books. In this step-by-step marketing system, you will learn exactly how to plan, create, and launch your successful author brand and platform – even before your first book comes out.

There are no prerequisites to this course! This course is designed for debut authors, new authors looking to boost their platform, or any writer seeking publication. Normally $129.99 USD, Donna is offering readers here a special course launch discount of only $19.99 USD! Get the full course details and special price here.

What’s included in Launch Your Author Brand & Platform:

10 Step-By-Step Lessons

15+ Awesome Bonuses (video and downloadable PDFs)

7 “Bigger Than a Bonus” Meet the Experts (insider secrets to success from the Masters – other authors!) training on goodies like do’s and don’ts for new authors, agent advice, book club visits, public speaking and more

Each lesson includes Rookie Mistakes to Avoid, Myth Busters, and How to Go the Extra Mile!

The $19.99 USD price is limited to the first 250 students to enroll. Expires May 28, 2019. Enroll now.

About Donna:

Donna Galanti is the author of the middle grade adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road, which the Midwest Book Review called, “A heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish”. She’s also the author of the follow up, Joshua and the Arrow Realm, is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine, and a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com.

She regularly presents as a guest author at schools and teaches at writing conferences on marketing and craft. When she’s not writing you can find her on Twitter or Facebook where she loves to share all things about her outdoor adventures and children’s books. Donna has lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer, and has had a long career in corporate marketing. Visit her at donnagalanti.comor yourawesomeauthorlife.com.