Monday, March 26, 2012

Max Out Your Book's Potential Audience

El Conquistador Resort. Where the Tire-Pros play!

I had lots of time to think last week on our little trip to Puerto Rico, what with the plane, the beach chair, the snorkeling, especially since Nathan had meetings about tires almost every day. (And to force myself to be creative, I didn't bring any books, though I did end up reading the one my hubby brought, a pirate/spy thriller.) And a quick tip if you get the chance to go snorkeling- when you reapply sunscreen, don't forget the backs of your legs!

My hotel desk. The sound of the waves, the aquamarine water (the water in this picture is really disappointing),
the island (it's up in the palm fronds)4 8 15 16 23 42 ...we have to go back to The Island!

Last year at Dave Farland's writers camp, I was given some advice that I haven't been able to ignore, hard as I tried. My fellow workshoppers read the opening to "Book of Breathings" and the outline (a pregnant teenage girl participates in an Egyptian ceremony for a school project and is possessed by the spirit of an Egyptian queen, who wants the girl's baby to replace the child she lost.) They had some very nice things to say about the voice and the archeology bits, but several people wished aloud that the outline had more Indiana Jones to it, more action. Which brings Braveheart to my mind.

I don't watch rated R movies any more, but I have seen Braveheart. The first half features stolen kisses and a thistle-embroidered handkerchief and a secret wedding. The second half, which begins with the new bride being slaughtered and ends with William Wallace calling out "Freedom" as he is tortured to death. Guess which part I favored? (Hint- my husband was happy once the broadswords and blue paint came out.)

Both parts of the story are good, but they're more effective storytelling together. How powerful would their love be if her death wasn't so traumatic for him that he started a war and laid down his life to try to change things? How sympathetic would we be to the warriors if they weren't fighting (and dying) for a darn good reason? Not very.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it always makes a story better to have this kind of layering.

Movies like Avatar (Blue people, not the Last Airbender), which have equal doses of romance and adventure, humor and depth, are rare, but it's doable, and that's what I want to do. If you haven't thought much about what your audience is looking for emotionally in a book, I suggest you sign up for Dave Farland's Daily Writing Kick. Here's a link to one on movie marketing, and there are other links at the bottom of that that.) Very good stuff, and it hasn't hurt the many writers he's taught.

I had too much depth, not enough adventure, so I tweeked the story. Now the Queen doesn't just want to have Rhys' baby to house the spirit of her own lost child, but she also wants to take over the world and establish ma'at, the traditional peace and order that the pharoahs claimed as their responsibility and right, and the justification for making war and subduing their enemies. It gives Rhys' friends and society a conflict to engage in as well, so it's not just Rhys agonizing over what to do and people thinking she's crazy, but her friends are right there with her, fighting to save their world.

The bonus is that it's expanding the story, not rerouting it, so I can keep most of the 60k I've written.

I love time to think. Happy writing!


  1. Looks like you had a fun vacation!

    And yes, that's what I want to do with my stories too. I'm not so much into just plain romance.

  2. You had a productive vacation. It sounds like your book is really coming together. Congratulations! I have a book right now that's really fast paced and I'm trying to layer it more, because I want it to be a deeper story. This is nice encouragement to know it can be done. Happy writing, Kelly!

  3. Yeah, I like the sound of that. Hurry up and finish it! ;)

  4. Thanks guys! Just an FYI- if you were really my friends, you'd point out my their/there error! Not sure how I missed that one:)