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Introduction
As a blogger about writing, it probably comes as no surprise that I dabble with story myself. I recently read K.M Weiland's 'Outlining Your Novel' as I am looking to scrap and restart an old project. K.M. Weiland takes a non- prescriptive approach to outlining, recognising that writers are an idiosyncratic bunch, and that each one of us needs to develop our own approach to outlining. What Weiland does brilliantly is to describe her own process and to offer other strategies that may appeal to others.

One of the strategies that she uses herself and recommends is the character interview. Weiland has developed a comprehensive 100 question interview on her blog and you can get it here.  I decided that I would give it a go as a part of my own process.

If you listen to the Story Grid podcast as I do, you may have heard editor Shawne Coyne talk about the importance of the antagonist, about how these bad guys are the most important character in terms of driving the story, about how despite this they are often neglected by novice writers like me.

So I interviewed the bad guy.

Practical stuff

Secrets: are your characters hiding something?
Secrets: are your characters hiding something?

The interview begins with biographical stuff: places lived, education and schools, dating history, self-image. I found myself in 'interview mode' writing fairly fluently in the first person, thinking little or nothing about the literary quality of what I wrote. And I found that I was coming up with stuff about my character that I didn't know – most significantly a failed marriage, and a sadistic pair of step-brothers.

This was powerful stuff that I simply wouldn't have without having done the interview.

However, I came unstuck a bit on 'Is he lying to himself about something?' I couldn't answer this in the first person, and if I did I would obscure the information I wanted to detail.

The next section is a description of the character's appearance, preferences and habits, and I felt I had to stay in the third person for this. That said the physical stuff made me see that I really had not considered the character in adequate depth. My descriptions led me to do an image search on Google, where a found a rugby player who pretty much matches the ideas I had.

I saved the image so I can load it into YWriter. I even came up with a few usable similes!

Getting to know the character

Game of Thrones: every character has a story to tell.
Game of Thrones: every character has a story to tell.

 

Some of the most exciting questions in K.M Weiland's interview are the ones that you could almost transplant directly into a key moment in the book.

Questions like:

 

What’s the worst thing he’s ever done to someone and why?
And
What does/will he like least about the other main character(s)?

Answering these questions made me think about those revelatory moments in Game of Thrones where George R.R. Martin's characters share character forming incidents in their pasts. I could just imagine my antagonist revealing the angry 'self-defence' attack on his brother at some key moment I have yet to discover. This was feeling like a really useful exercise.

Developing my own approach

In terms of developing my own approach I think I need to divide up the questions into those I can answer in the first person and those I need the third person for. I'll put the first person questions first so that I can dive into the character before defining them from the outside in.

Having considered my story's overview using the Story Grid foolscap method in previous weeks, I really wanted to make sure that I was considering my characters in terms of their link to my controlling idea and key themes, and about the values they represent more specifically.

I also want to move the history to the beginning so that I can add key dates as I think of them. Also I imagine that these dates may be useful to me, and that I am likely to want to access this information quickly.

Conclusion

K.M. Weiland author of 'Outlining Your Novell'.
K.M. Weiland author of 'Outlining Your Novell'.

I'm always a little bit envious of writers whose characters speak to them. K.M. Weiland writes about characters that 'speak' in relation to this exercise. If you are one of those people then this exercise might get you there quickly. If you are more like me, however, and your characters just don't like you enough to chat, this exercise will give your plotting more power and fuel emotive revelations that will fire up key scenes. Either way the task is really enjoyable. It is, as K.M Weiland says, 'grand fun'.

See my character interview here.

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Lawyers
Monster mash-ups and movie deals - nice work.

Seth Grahame-Smith caused quite a stir in 2009 with his hit novels, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the follow-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, both of which sold well, and brought Zombie Mash-Up into the literary mainstream.

In 2010, with striking success and a breakthrough genre, Graheme-Smith signed a $4m deal with a $1m advance. In return the author agreed to produce two new works, with delivery of the second novel expected by 2013.

According to The Guardian, Hachette is not satisfied that the second novel, which was finally submitted in June 2016, meets the terms of its contract with Graheme-Smith. The publisher is unhappy, believing that the text is “in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work”.

The publisher is suing the author and his company Baby Gorilla for at least $500,000.

Documentation at The Passive Voice

 

 

PRINT STILL RULES... for now
 print, digital, reading, ebook
Print books still dominate but e-books close the gap.

The number of Americans who read books in print remains strongly ahead of those who read e-books, but the gap is narrowing year on year. The survey, conducted by The Pew Research Center, found that while only 6% of Americans are 'digital only' compared to the 38% who describe their reading habits as 'print only', the percentage of readers who have read a book digitally has increased to 28% from 17% in 2011.

Further good news for those who publish digitally is the increasing use of mobile phones and tablets to read, especially among the young. 22% of 18-29 have read a book using a mobile phone in the past year. The percentage of readers using mobiles to read books has more than doubled since 2011 while the percentage using tablet computers has more than tripled to 15%.

College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks compared with those who have not graduated high school. Perhaps this is indicative of the cost of the technology as a barrier to entry into the e-book market, and we might expect this gap to close as the the tech becomes more broadly used. Men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.

The findings are taken from a telephone survey of 1,520 American adults conducted between March 7 and April 4, 2016.

 

NEW FRONTIERS FOR ARTHUR C CLARKE.
Jeff Noon missed out; Becky Chambers on the shortlist

The Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction has changed its rules to allow self -published titles to be considered.

The competition's director, Tom Hunter, cites the changing publishing environment. He makes the point that under previous rules, works like Jeff Noon's Channel Skin have not been considered, and that the judges would not have been able to include Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet on this year's shortlist.

Hunter told The Book-Seller the search for the UK's best science fiction will be widened across new frontiers.

 

RICHARD AND JUDY LIST CHAMPIONS NEW WRITERS
New writers and old publishers: Richard and Judy

This autumn's Richard and Judy Book Club list features three debut novels. The debut texts are Fiona Barton’s 'The Widow' published by Corgi (Penguin Random House), Katarina Bivald’s 'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend' Vintage, (Penguin Random House), and Sharon Guskin’s 'The Forgetting Time' published by Pan Macmillan.

It's great to see R & J championing new talent, and that publishers are actively promoting new talent. That said, with half of the books coming through Penguin Random House and no independent titles on the list, we perhaps have a right to be cautious in our optimism.

 

A FEW COMPETITIONS
 ghost story competition
Ghost story competition this month.

FLASH

Short Shorts Flash Fiction Contest

Prize: $250 plus publication

Deadline: 15th September

Entry fee: $10

Word count: 500

SHORT STORY

The Short Story competition 2016

Prize: 1st £300, 2nd £150, 3rd £50

Deadline: 15th September

Entry fee: £5

Word count: 5000

GENRE

The Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction Award

Prize: 1st $1000, 2nd $250, 3rd $100

Deadline: 30th September

Entry fee: $20

Word count: 10,000