Author Solutions, authors, book selling, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 reasons why a book is still of the utmost importance in a digital world

As digital media has expanded at a dizzying pace and social media outlets have grown, certain pundits have suggested books would diminish in importance.  Mobile devices and shorter attention spans would create an environment where books would not matter as much as the onslaught of information and innumerable choices available at our fingertips every moment.  Certainly reading habits have morphed as digital options have increased, but despite these changes, books are as important as ever because their very form enables them to impact lives in ways no digital media can. Here are four reasons why I believe that is so.

A book is permanent

With so many media forms today, like Snap Chat or Instagram, the information or images conveyed are instantaneous, but soon forgotten after the next tidbit fills the feed. Not so with a book. The very form of a book means it can be preserved and revisited with ease. In fact, the presence of a book shelf in a home or an office points to the fact that books are meant to be a fixture, not fleeting. The information in a book is enduring and has a different importance than the latest click bait.

A book is transcendent

Because of its form, a book is able to cross time, geography and even language. Certainly in a digital world, blogs and Facebook have the ability to do this to some degree. But you can’t lend or give someone a blog in the same way you give someone a book. Books are carried across continents, translated into local languages, given or shipped or lent to people who the author has never met or will never know.

Author Susan Norris, who wrote the book Rescuing Hope, talks about this idea in the video below. She points out that one of the reasons she wrote her book is because if she speaks to a group of people, she impacts those people in the room.  But with a book she has the power to impact people who she will never meet. Having a book drastically changed her scope of influence.

A book is a complete thought or story

Digital media is a collection of sound bites and image snippets, but a book gives you a full idea or story. And there is something satisfying about that just like it is often more satisfying to eat a meal than a handful of snacks. Books allow for authors to complete their arguments or story because they are not bound by the limits of most digital media. They can take as many pages as needed to finish the job without concern about how long the scroll will be.

The title “author” still commands respect

A number of years ago a writer said to me, “there is a certain cache that comes with being an author”. At the time, I did not fully appreciate what he meant, but now I think his statement was very insightful. While being known as a blogger is certainly something to be proud of, it does not carry the same social weight as the title, “author”.  I think that is because even if we have never written a book ourselves, we respect anyone who has made the effort to finish a manuscript and put down their ideas or story in this permanent, transcendent form.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 Reasons Why Attending a Writer’s Conference Is a Really Good Idea

GLAWS presentationOver the past few years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to attend and speak at writer’s conferences in the US and abroad. I find it to be one of the more enjoyable activities I perform as part of my duties.  I think if you are in the midst of a manuscript, or trying to understand what it means to be an author today, attending a well-run writer’s conference can be a good investment of time and money.

It can be overwhelming, but worth it.

If you have never been to a conference, or if you are new to the publishing world, or if you have been previously published through a traditional publisher, attending a writer’s conference can prove very helpful for a number of reasons.

You will be inspired and encouraged by like-minded people.

Writing a book can be a lonely process. Many times, it is you and your notepad and keypad, working through the excitement and doubts of finishing a manuscript. While in most cases, you can find support with friends and family, it is not the same as sharing the experience with someone who knows the joys and struggles of writing a book. But at writer’s conferences, you will find people who know exactly what you are going through. They can provide tips and suggestions. In fact I am always amazed at the relationships, connections and even friendships that can be built in a weekend at a conference.

You will learn about all the options you have as an author.

Speaking at GLAWS

Always enjoy the Q&A at conferences. Spoke recently at the West Coast Writer’s conference. 

It is the best time in history, but it is also the most confusing time to be an author because you have more choice and opportunity than ever before. So it is important you have a clear understanding of what options you have and what publishing path is the best one for you to pursue for your book or project. That’s why it is important to check the keynote and breakout sessions for the conference. If they are only focused on one area of publishing, such as agents, I think that is less optimal.  Look for a schedule that includes a variety of perspectives and experiences. I think that is most beneficial.

You will hear tips on how to improve your skill as a writer.

Writing is a craft and it is work. So it is important to learn from those who have experience and success. As with any skill, you can learn from others and they can help you get better at what you do. For example, one of the best tips I ever heard at a writer’s conference was a successful author shared that she took acting classes. Not because she ever wanted to become an actress, but because she thought doing that would help her write better dialogue in her books. I thought that was brilliant when I heard it and showed what type of commitment it takes to improve your skill.

You will develop a better understanding of marketing.

Most first time authors do not always understand what part they will have to play in marketing their book. In fact for many authors, marketing is a mystery. I personally enjoy speaking about marketing to authors so they can better understand what they need to do to build a platform and a following for their book. Good conferences will include a variety of workshops on marketing so look for those in the schedule in the mean time, I have written a whitepaper titled, The 3 Phases of an Effective Book Marketing Campaign that many authors have found helpful.

So which conference should you attend?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend and speak at a number of conferences. I am sure there are more than what I have listed and linked to below, but I can say each of these offers writers  a great opportunity to improve their craft, make some great connections and be inspired to get to their goal. If you plan to attend one of these let me know. I have already committed to speak at some of them and look forward to meeting you in person.

Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

3 critical design ideas to make your book interior look great

If you search, you can find lots of information on how to design a killer book cover. In fact, I have written a number of blog posts on the topic.

Six tips from wicked good book cover designers

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

While your cover is certainly vital, you do not want to neglect the importance of the interior of your book. As one writer put it, “It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

So what should you keep in mind as you design the interior pages of your book.

Make it readable

While it is tempting to get “creative” with your type face and try to be different for the sake of “standing out”, the most important thing to remember is your book must be readable. Readability depends on a number of factors.

The Oscilating Brain by Timothy Sheehan M D title page

A clear title page is a good start for any book.

First is the font style used for the body text. There are many good options, including popular fonts such as Garamond, Caslon, Electra, Palatino, Fornier, ITC New Baskerville, Bembo, Futura, Myriad, and Helvetica. The main font used in a printed book is typically a serif font. However, san serif fonts are easier to read on a screen so they may be preferred for e-books. Serif fonts have little ‘serifs’, or feet, at the ends of the letters and san serifs do not.

Another factor in the readability of the text is the font size. A typical novel uses a ten to twelve point font, depending on the font style, genre, book length, and audience. You may choose a larger font if your book is targeted at an older or a very young generation. Line spacing, or ‘leading’ as it’s called in the design world, impacts readability too. Generally books are spaced slightly more than single spacing, about 120–125 percent of the font size. For example, a twelve point font would have a line spacing of about fourteen or fifteen points.

“It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

A third factor that affects readability is the presence or absence of white space on the page. The margins (the white space that exists between the text block and the edge of the page) vary from book to book. Reducing the margin size condenses the book to fewer pages, but it can also make the book feel more claustrophobic and difficult to read.

I always recommend you start to collect sample pages of books that have very readable designs to use as a guide when designing the interior pages of your book.

Be consistent

Another key element that makes a great book design is consistency. From chapter starts to dashes and ellipses, maintaining a consistent style throughout the book helps the reader flow through the book more easily. Remember the design is not to draw attention to itself, but rather help the reader move through the book. When there are jarring, out-of-left field design elements introduced on the pages of the book, it can actually interrupt the reader’s enjoyment of the story.

Follow industry standards

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript. There is an order to things that tell readers this is a professionally designed book. Even more important there are certain standards that readers, book buyers, retailers, and librarians expect in a professional book.

Chapter start

An interesting opening page can draw readers into the story.

The inside of your book is divided into three main sections: the front matter, text, and back matter. Front matter introduces your book to your readers. Appearing before the main text, front matter is comprised of pages that include information about the book, about you, and about the publisher. Next is the text, which is the main narrative that makes up the meat of the book. The back matter falls after the main text and includes any supportive material to the text, such as the glossary and index. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Front matter

The front matter is found before the main text of the book and may include the following sections. Your book should at minimum include a copyright page and title page.

Half title page: The half title page is the first page of your book and contains only your title. This page does not include a byline or subtitle.

Series title page: Use the second page of your book to list any of your previously published books by title. It is customary to list the books chronologically from first to most recently published. Listing the title only is standard, but in nonfiction works, you may also list the subtitle if you feel it is essential. A common way to begin this page is, “Also by [author’s name]…” For authors who do not have previously published works, this page may be left blank or feature a frontispiece, which is a decorative illustration that is opposite the title page.

Title page: The title page is the part of your book that displays your full book title, subtitle, author, and any co-writer or translator. The publisher’s logo is featured on this page as well.

Copyright page: The copyright page contains the copyright notice, which consists of the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner. Depending on your publishing path, the copyright owner may be the author, an organization or corporation, or your publisher. This page also lists the book’s ISBN, and if applicable, the book’s publishing history, permissions, and disclaimers.

Table of contents: A table of contents lists the chapters, pertinent front and back matter, and the corresponding page on which these sections can be found. Typically, only nonfiction books require a table of contents. Additionally, all e-books must include a table of contents regardless of the genre.

List of illustrations: If your book includes several key illustrations that provide information or enhance the text in some way, you may need an illustrations page. However, if the illustrations are simply for comic relief or visual aid, the listing may not be necessary.

List of tables: Similar to the illustration listing, this page provides you with the opportunity to list any important tables and the page on which they can be found.

Foreword: The foreword contains a statement about the book and is written by someone other than the author who is an expert or is widely known in the field of the book’s topic. It is most commonly found in nonfiction works.

Preface: The preface usually describes why you wrote the book, your research methods and perhaps some acknowledgments if they have not been included in a separate section. It may also establish your qualifications and expertise as an authority in the field in which you’re writing. Again, a preface is far more common in nonfiction titles.

Acknowledgments (if not part of the preface): An acknowledgments page includes your notes of appreciation to people who provided you with support or help during the writing process or in your writing career in general. This section may also include any credits for illustrations or excerpts if not included on the copyright page. If the information is lengthy, you may choose to put the section in the back of the book, as the first section in the back matter.

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript.

Body Text

Within the pages of books, you commonly find elements such as page numbers, running heads, and chapter-start pages. Here are some of the standards related to these standard design elements.

Page numbers

Unless you are publishing a very short children’s book, it’s essential to include page numbers. E-books do not require page number since the idea of a “page” isn’t static from one e-reader to the next device. Page numbers are most commonly found at the top of the page on the outer right or left corner, but can also be found at the bottom of a page.

Running heads

Many nonfiction books include running heads, which is the text at the top of pages that identifies the author, the book title, the section, or the chapter. Novels rarely use running heads unless there is some helpful purpose to the reader. There is some leeway in how the running heads are used, so there are many combinations of what the running head features. Some examples are: part title, chapter title; chapter number, chapter title; and chapter title, subhead.

Chapter starts and subheadings

The treatment of your chapter starts is a chance for your book design to be more expressive. While the font of your main text should be highly legible as its top priority, the chapter starts can be a bit more creative. It is common to see chapters that start on a new page from where the previous chapter left off, and the chapter starts one-third to halfway down the page.

Nonfiction books also use subheadings to further divide chapters. While the chapter starts can be more stylized, the subheads should be rather straightforward, although they can play a complementary role to the font used in the main text. 

Back Matter

The back matter of your book includes sections that support the main text but are outside of the main narrative.

Appendix or Addendum: An appendix includes any data that clarifies the text for the reader but would have disrupted the flow of the main text had it been included. It could also include information that was gathered too late to be included in the main body of the text. Some items included in the appendix could be a list of references, tables, reports, background research, and sources, if not extensive enough to be included in a separate section.

Notes: The endnotes section allows you to amplify or document certain passages throughout the main text. Endnotes are typically divided by chapter.

Glossary: A glossary comprises alphabetically arranged words and their definitions. Many nonfiction books include a glossary if terminology is used that is not generally known to the average reader.

Bibliography or reference list: The bibliography section, typically used in works of nonfiction, lists the sources for works used in the book. For samples and guidelines on proper layout, refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Index: The index is an alphabetically ordered list of words and terms used for referencing your text. Indexes are important pieces to a nonfiction book.

Author Solutions, authors, book selling, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Postcards from Cuba: My impressions from the Havana Book Fair.

If you have followed me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I had the honor and opportunity to attend and participate in the first US Publishing Mission to Cuba, which was sponsored by Publishers Weekly and was conducted in cooperation with The Havana Book Fair and the Instituto Cubano del Libro.

The Cuban media called this an historic event and in many ways it was. Here are some of my impressions from my time there of both the publishing business and Havana itself.

Cubans really love books. No, I mean they really love books.

Havana Book crowds

Crowds at The Havana Book Fair were quite large. 

I read a statistic that Cuba is nearly 100% literate and one million people attend the Havana Book Fair. Judging by the lines and crowds, I would say those numbers are probably accurate. The Book Fair was held at The Fort, which overlooks the city. Stands were packed with Cubans looking to buy books. Many of them were remainders imported from other countries so the prices were quite low relative to standard retail pricing in the US, but there were bags of books being sold.

The demand for English language books is going to increase dramatically.

Fidel bookSpanish is the native language, but English is a high priority, especially for the younger Cubans. So the demand for English language books is going to increase. I had two young men, who were university students who served as my translators at the fair. Both had been regular attendees at the fair and over the years had purchased a number of English language books including dictionaries. Both are working on a thesis for graduation that focuses on English language. One is doing a project on The New York Times and the other on the book, Pilgrim’s Progress. Very different projects, but both focused on English language.

There is definite interest in self-publishing.

4 Paths

Attendees at the self-publishing panel scooped up copies of The 4 Paths to Publishing

One of the opportunities I had while attending the Havana Book Fair was serving on a panel about self-publishing. The room was filled with a variety of people including publishers, authors and students. Mark Coker from Smashwords was also on the panel, which was helpful because it provided a clear contrast between a DIY self service platform like Smashwords and supported self-publishing. I had versions of the 4 Paths to Publishing in both English and Spanish available and every copy was taken. As usual, that whitepaper provided a helpful framework for authors to understand their options for publishing today.

 Self-publishing has some barriers to overcome before it grows.

It seems the government may be softening its stance on publishing which could open the door for self-published authors, but the biggest barrier appears to be payment methods and currency. Right now there are no banking relationships that would easily facilitate payment by or to authors by US based companies.  In addition, there is no infrastructure for credit card processing. Both will likely be available in due time and that will facilitate the growth of self publishing.

A few personal observations about life in Havana.

Life in Havana is very interesting and tough in many ways.

  • There are lots of old cars as you may have heard.Cuba Car
  • Most of the buildings, including apartments have not been maintained on the outside, which leads me to believe they are pretty rugged on the inside.
  • Airline travel is interesting. Lines at US airports are extremely long because virtually everyone traveling to Cuba is taking a pile of consumer goods, including televisions, baby strollers and coffee makers. Departure is not as long, but still plan for a couple of hours for your exit.
  • The bus and taxi system works to some degree, but you need to know how it works, because there is not any easily visible public information.
  • While there are public restrooms, none of them have soap, paper towels or even toilet paper, which obviously leads to some sanitation challenges.
  • Cubans generally love life and the arts. Music, dance, reading and art are a natural part of everyday life.
  • Amazing reunions are likely happening every day. I suspect many people are returning to Cuba having left many years ago and are now reuniting with family they have not seen for decades. I am pretty sure on my flight there was an older man who was coming back to Cuba for the first time since he had left as a boy. When he cleared customs, there was a man his age waiting for him with a group of people. When their eyes met, they immediately began to weep and then hugged each other with the force of missed years. I don’t know if it was his brother or cousin or friend, but no matter who it was, the reunion was sweet to behold.
Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, creativity, helpful hints, Hollywood, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 Key Reasons Why Hollywood Will Reject Your Self-Published Book

In my last post, I outlined three reasons why Hollywood is interested in self published books more than ever before. As promised at the end of that post, I also wanted to share reasons why I see Hollywood not pursuing deals on self published books.

Hollywood sign

Entertainment execs are looking at self-published books more than ever but some authors aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity for three key reasons. 

The three reasons that follow have come from what I see in my role with Author Solutions. Over the past five years, we have built relationships and first-look partnerships in Hollywood and created events like the Book-to-Screen Pitchfest, which have given hundreds of authors a chance to put their books in front of people who are making decisions about what makes it to the screen.

From that vantage point, I have witnessed authors pitch their books and even be offered deals, but not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities before them. Why is that

1.The story is missing one or more key elements of what makes a great story

In my most popular post, The 5 Essential Elements for Every Good Story, which was inspired by many of my conversations in Hollywood, I list what every great story needs. I would encourage you to read the complete post, but for reference, those elements are

  • An inciting action
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Too often first time authors leave out one of these elements or do not develop it fully. Another mistake I see is the elements are all included, but it is difficult to see how they relate to one another. For example the story might be resolved, but the resolution comes out of left field. There was no foreshadowing of it or it does not tie up other details of the story. The result is an unsatisfying and confused outcome that leaves both readers and viewers, wondering, “Huh?”

For this reason, I have seen many books get interest, but not result in a deal. So if you have a story you think would play well on the screen, pay attention to the craft of telling a good story. It could be the difference between your book being optioned or not.

2. It is derivative of another work

Hollywood is sometimes criticized for recycling the same stories, but my experience is they really are looking for fresh ideas. However, if they are going to acquire a new property, they will shy away from ideas that are simply a different flavor of an idea that is already out there.  Now that doesn’t mean if you have an interesting take on a crime or police drama that hasn’t been done, they would pass on it. For example, at one of our Book-to-Screen Pitchfest, one of the authors pitched a book about what it was like to be the first African American police officers in Atlanta during and shortly after the Civil Rights movement. It was a police drama, but told from a perspective that has not been used yet. Very interesting biopic with all the elements that make for an intriguing story.

On the other hand, there was an author who pitched an idea that was simply like the Disney movie Cars, but all the characters were trucks or construction equipment. In this case, it made for a really cute series of kids books that the author was even selling through truck stops, but as a movie it was too close to Cars so everyone passed.

3. The deal you want is not in line with what the industry typically offers a first time author of a self- published book

This makes me frustrated more than anything else which is why we really try to educate authors on how the business side of Hollywood works. In each case where there is a shopping agreement or option offered, we advise authors to seek legal counsel, but make sure that person has some experience with entertainment contracts. Without that, lawyers ask for too many things or too much money at the wrong point and the deal goes away.

Red carpet

Most authors don’t see big paydays for screen rights till the movie gets made, not when an option is offered. 

Typically, there are three opportunities for authors to earn money for their books. The first is when the book is optioned. What that means is you are giving an exclusive opportunity to one producer or director to develop the property for the screen. Typically, options are for a year to 18 months and pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Once it is optioned, the next opportunity for an author is when the movie gets “set up”. That means the script is finalized and usually the director and actors are attached. Financing and a shooting schedule is usually also in place. At this point payment to the author could be anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. Then the final payment usually comes when the movie is shot and released. That payment can be a fixed amount or a percentage of receipts. It too can be anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000.

The key is to understand what amount of money is reasonable at certain points in the process. Too many authors don’t get the option because they ask too much for the first phase. They get bad advice from counsel who doesn’t understand how deals in Hollywood work.

I trust this and the previous post has been helpful as you think about the increased opportunities for self-published authors in Hollywood. If you have other questions, please use the comment section to post your question and I will do my best to answer it.

Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

6 Tips on How to Fulfill Your Publishing Resolution

This time of year, many people make resolutions with goals they want to accomplish in the coming year. For some, that list includes publishing a book, yet they are often unclear what it takes to accomplish the task. Why is that?  Some lose interest. Others hit what’s commonly known as writer’s block. Still others don’t know how to get published once their manuscript is finished. Simply put, many authors don’t have a plan for getting from manuscript to the bookshelf.


If publish a book is on your New Year’s resolution list, these tips will help you reach your goal.

From my own experience and from the hundreds of conversations I have had with authors at book fairs, trade shows, and conferences, I’ve found that there are six things that successful authors do to get published. So if publishing a book is on your resolution list, here are six tips to help you get that manuscript out of your drawer and into the hands of readers.

  1. Set a date when you want to hold the first copy of your book. The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. It can be any deadline, but it may also be an important event, such as a speaking engagement, holiday, or even birthday party. For example, one author I worked with had the goal of getting his book done by his 50th birthday so he could give a copy to everyone who attended the party. That date became one of the key motivations for him to finish his book.

One of the key things you have to do to promote your book successfully is identify your audience.

  1. Create a timeline with the milestones you need to pass to reach your publishing goal. The second thing you need to do is create a schedule with the tasks that must be completed to meet your deadline. In other words, you need to understand what is needed to get from where you are to where you want to be and set appropriate milestones along the way.If you already understand publishing, you may be able to do this on your own, but most authors need to work with someone who knows the publishing process to make this happen. Your timeline should include important steps like completing your manuscript, editing your manuscript, submitting your manuscript, and allowing time for both the cover and interior design. Of course, the timeline for the book will depend on the type of book you are writing. For example, a children’s book will take less time to edit than a lengthy historical fiction novel.
  1. Determine the best time for you to write and make an appointment for that time on your calendar. My third tip is to determine the best time for you to write and block out that time on your calendar. What I’ve learned from my own experience and conversations with multiple authors is that most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write. I recall one conversation with an author who has published more than twenty books, some traditionally and some self-published. I was having lunch with she and her husband and I asked her if there was a time that was better than others for her to write. Before I could finish the sentence, her husband blurted out, “five thirty in the morning.” By his own observation he had noticed that was the most productive time for his wife to write. If you want to get work done, it’s very important to know what time of the day you write most productively and make sure that time stays available for you to work on your manuscript.

Share your goal and milestones with someone who will encourage you and help you stay on task

  1. Make yourself accountable to someone. The fourth tip is to be accountable to someone. Share your goal and milestones with someone who will encourage you and help you stay on task. It could be a friend, a spouse, an editor, an agent, or a publishing consultant. Fact is, most of us work better when we have someone checking in and reminding us of our deadlines.
  1. Start planning your promotion before you finish your manuscript. Now, this may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but with the advent of social media and the other opportunities we have to communicate with people these days, you can have people anticipating the launch of your book long before you finish your manuscript.One of the key things you have to do to promote your book successfully is identify your audience. For whom is your book intended, and who might actually enjoy reading it? This is a seemingly small thing, but it’s very important, because it lays the foundation for promoting your book. I asked an author one time who the audience was for his book, and he very seriously looked at me and said, “Every man, woman, and child living on this planet.” While I admired his ambition, it really was an unrealistic way to think about how he was going to connect with potential readers. A specific, carefully defined audience usually leads to a good promotional plan.
  1. Plan an event to celebrate the publication of your book. Many people start writing a book, but far fewer get to the goal of publishing, so when you do, it is time to celebrate. This is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of promoting your book, and it’s actually quite fun to think about it when you’re doing the hard work of editing and revisions and proofreading. You might want to mark the occasion by holding a book signing at a bookstore, but you can also be creative. Depending on your book, you may want to host it at a kitchen store if you have a cookbook, or a church if you have a spiritual book, or a school if you have a children’s book. Just be sure you take time to celebrate your accomplishment no matter the venue.


I trust you have found these tips helpful and I am confident that by following them you can make 2016 the year you become a published author. All I ask is you send me an invitation to your book launch event. I want to be there to celebrate with you.

authors, creativity, Editing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

7 keys to creating unforgettable characters

Along with making sure your book has all the element s of a great story, you also need to make sure your characters are interesting, consistent and an element of your book that draws readers in and keeps them interested. Good characters or poor ones will often determine whether your readers stay with you to the end of the journey or get off at the first stop. If readers lose interest in your characters, they usually lose interest in the story.

So how do you develop memorable characters? Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you write

Create a history for your main characters

The Davinci Code is one example of a book that has all the elements of good characters..

Past experiences help make us who we are and explain many of the decisions we make. So even if you don’t reveal everything about the lives of your characters in your story, it is still very helpful to write a biography to use as a guide for your writing. Identify key events in their lives and key people who influenced them. Answer questions like where did they live, where did they go to school and what jobs did they have. Who helped them along the way? Who hurt them? Knowing these things about your character will ensure you have them act consistently and help you understand what drives them. If you don’t understand a character, your readers won’t either.

Make sure your characters act consistently

Inconsistency in your characters will confuse your readers and make them lose interest. Once you develop a character in a certain way, readers are expecting that character to behave in accordance with his or her personality and motivations as you have revealed them. If that character behaves in a way that doesn’t make sense, your readers will notice. Be consistent in even the small things, such as hair color, to big things, like the character’s manner of speaking.

Avoid stereotypes

Shrek is not the stereotypical ogre, which is one of the reasons readers are drawn to him.

A good story surprises the reader and rewards them for reading. Sometimes that happens with a plot twist, but it can also happen with what I call a character twist. One of my favorite examples is the children’s book, Shrek. Even though Shrek is an ogre, he is actually kind and helpful. He is not the stereotypical ogre roaming the forest wreaking havoc in people’s lives.  Make sure there is something unexpected about your characters, but that it aligns with the biography you wrote for them and they act true to themselves throughout the story.

Develop secondary characters that are interesting  

Sidekicks can be some of the most likeable and interesting characters in the story. In some cases, readers can like them as much as the main characters.  They can help or hinder the main characters. They can provide comic relief or threats.  The key is to make sure they move the story along and not just there to take up space on the page. Here again, you may want to consider writing a biography of the character before writing he or she into the story.

Reveal your characters as the story unfolds

Often times, because we love our characters so much we want our readers to know everything about them right away.  So there is a temptation to tell the reader everything about our main character right at the start. We want to give a full physical description, tell the life story, and reveal the innermost thoughts of a character as soon as he or she is introduced. But that can create a very lopsided story and get bog down the reader in too many details.  Introduce your characters, but let your reader get to know them better as the story unfolds just like they would do in a relationship in real life. It will make your book much better.

Have an antagonist

Life has struggles and sometimes we don’t really learn who a person is until we see them in a conflict. In some cases, challenges can come from nature, but usually the most common and interesting struggles are with other people. Good versus evil is the oldest story line there is, but it still works. So make sure as you unfold what the main character is driving towards, it is clear who is creating resistance

Use all the senses

One of the ways you can keep a reader interested in your characters is engage all the senses as you reveal them. Sight is the most obvious sense to use because you can describe what the character looks like or what they are wearing, but don’t neglect the other senses of sound, taste, touch, and smell. Aroma can tell us something about a character. For example, you don’t need to tell the reader your character smokes. Instead, you could say the jacket he wore had a hint of cigarette smoke. It still conveys the idea that this person likely is a smoker, but it does it in a more interesting way.

Hopefully, you have found these suggestions helpful. If you have other keys you would like to share, please use the comment section to provide your tips.