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How to Avoid Pissing Off Readers

angry woman

As I mentioned in this week’s post on my personal website, inaccuracies and factual errors in stories upset the most tolerant of us. Fortunately, there are numerous things we writers can do to avoid ticking off our readers.

Internet Research

The world is at your fingertips. You are writing a fight scene that takes place in a Russian bath house, but you’ve never been to one. Never fear. Google it my friend. You will find enough photos and videos of bath houses to be able to describe them in exquisite detail.

If you were to look at my Google searches for today you would find:

  • What does gun oil taste like?
  • What’s the Spanish word for skull?
  • How many people fit in a military helicopter?
  • How long can you live with a stab wound to the gut?

Don’t worry. These searches were for my zombie urban fantasy series. No need to put me under psychiatric evaluation….yet.

The internet isn’t perfect and you should always fact check the information you glean against other sources. However, it does provide a wonderful place to start.

Field Visits & Interviews

Visiting the locations featured in your novels, and interviewing people who are similar to your characters are excellent ways to improve the realism of your stories. If your main character is a Funeral Director, try tracking one down and seeing if they will answer some questions. Better yet, ask if they can give you a tour of their mortuary (fun for the whole family).

Don’t be shy. Take advantage of opportunities to spend time in places (and with people) that will star in your stories. For example, when Dreamer Dwarf was stranded in the vehicle repair shop, I jumped at the opportunity to join her. One of the scenes I was working on took place in a similar location. After dumping my dwarfing at her feet, I ran up to the harried looking store manager and started peppering him with questions about his shop.

As soon as he found out that I was writer, he was thrilled to talk to me. He answered all of my questions and he even pointed out specialized tools on the service floor. Of course, as soon as I asked him if he thought a horde of zombies could break through the bay doors, he suddenly got too busy to chat. Even still, I left with enough information to take my auto shop scene to the next level.

Write What You Know

This is standard advice doled out to writers like toothbrushes at the dentist’s office. There is no denying the advantage in being able to describe, with rich authenticity, the places you’ve lived and the experiences you’ve had.

I spent nearly nine years of my life working for a law enforcement agency. If I ever decide to write any crime fiction or feature police officers in any of my books, I’ll bet dollars to donuts (cops hate that association by the way) that I’ll probably have an edge over someone who has never set foot in a police station.

These are just a few methods I use to strengthen the validity of my stories. What other suggestions do you have for preventing inaccuracies and adding realism to stories?

Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge 😀

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.

Plotting.

I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.

 

Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.

 

3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting

Storyboarding

Snowflake plotting, and on and on.

 

Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?

ZERO

 

But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.

 

So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Finding my Story with my Fists

I recently had the opportunity to attend a self-defense class from some experienced law enforcement officers. I have taken a couple classes previously, but this one focused on how to defend and attack using a knife. The mom in me struck and attacked like a mama bear learning how to defend her young. While the writer in me cheered in anticipation of adding more kick a*# fight scenes to my current WIP.

Self Defense Class

My sister-in-law kicking him where it counts.

One of my instructors had an extensive history in the martial arts for over 20 years, including training in Kenpo, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Israeli Martial arts. He was also currently a SWAT team member. The stories he related from actual incidences helped me dismiss some of the myths we often see in fiction.

One myth I had in particular was about stealing a knife. I have often read or watched where the hero steals the knife and uses it against the attacker. In real life, it is never that easy. The police, SWAT, and basic armed forces do not train in taking a knife from an attacker. The weapon can move to quick and is not worth the effort. It is better to take down the attacker in other ways while protecting vital areas. It was a great class to learn the best defense against a knife, the best method in striking, and the time it takes for someone to go down from certain wounds.

I encourage writers to get out and get moving: ride a horse, let an arrow fly, or watch a sunset. You may just learn something.

It’s All About the Research & New Release #TheUnmasking by @adrianakraft

TheUnmasking_MEDPlease help me welcome Adriana Kraft talking about writing and her new release!

The Unmasking, by Adriana Kraft

Published: February 15, 2014

Romantic Suspense, Heat rating: Four flames

Available at Amazon

It’s All About the Research

 Authors of erotic romance often get teased about what kind of research they might delve into for the sake of their books – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it…**snicker, giggle, knowing wink.**

 The research my husband and I engaged in for this spicy romantic suspense is a little different – some might say, it’s been our entire lives. We’ve both taught at universities (that’s where we met) and we know the academic life from the inside. The choices and struggles faced by our professorial hero, Anthropologist Matt Bayfield, are more familiar than we might like to admit.

Hubs is a sociologist with a specialty in criminology. I promise he’s drawn on this background immensely in creating our spunky female undercover cop, Nancy Appleby, in plotting the trajectory of the crimes and the mystery of solving it, and especially in understanding our truly creepy villain (who I won’t name, of course – that would spoil everything!).

 We’ve both immersed ourselves in understand Celtic culture and history for years – long before we envisioned this novel. Hubs has Welsh roots, and mine are Scotch-Irish on one side, so we feel an ancestral pull to that era and its understanding of seasons and cycles. It was easy to hand that passion over to our ersatz professor. We won’t say more about how it’s woven into the plot, but we think readers will like it.

 We had a close call researching the technology we’ve handed our resourceful cop – hubs found himself on a website requesting security clearance for more information. Backed right out of that one! But found what we needed to know without tripping any more alarms.

 The North Woods, where we’ve set the novel? A place we’ve lived and loved, and left, when the winters grew too much for us to handle. But while we lived there, we threw ourselves with a passion into the cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and crisp winter outings Nancy enjoys so much. Writing those scenes was like watching snippets from our own life on the screen.

 The Unmasking was originally released in 2008 under a different pen name; rights reverted to us when the contract ran out, and we’ve decided to re-issue it as “ourselves.” We’ve thoroughly re-edited the book and incorporated helpful feedback from our beta readers

 Our tag line is Erotic Romance for Two, Three, or More. Most of our published work has focused on the “three or more” side of the equation. We’re happy to offer a book focused on the “two” element, and we think readers will find the sex is no less sizzling. And no, we’re not going to share any research we might have indulged in to write those scenes.

BLURB

Whose mask will crumble first—

the enigmatic professor of Celtic Studies,

the undercover cop masquerading as a co-ed,

or the campus stalker,

biding his time to strike again?

Is anthropology professor Matt Bayfield the Blackthorn College rapist, or a potential ally? Aloof and unapproachable, Matt has academic ambitions. He can’t escape Blackthorn College soon enough, and he doesn’t want any entanglements to slow down his exit.

 Nancy Appleby would like nothing more than to solve the string of campus rape cases before Thanksgiving so she can go home. The last thing she wants is a relationship to complicate her life—but she’ll settle for a fling, especially when the sex sizzles.

 The stalker has his own carefully crafted timetable, with a special date just for Nancy. Can Matt and Nancy force him out of his hidey-hole before it’s too late?

EXCERPT

Chapter One

 Who will be the next victim?

 Nancy Appleby scanned the co-eds in the small lecture hall. Each could be his next prey. Each looked much younger than she remembered being as a full-time student. Each woman hung on Professor Bayfield’s well crafted words.

 Was it the topic, Celtic Myths and Rituals, or was it the aloofness of the tall, dark-haired lecturer with the strong protruding chin that mesmerized? He did command attention. Although his tone was mild, Bayfield played with his audience like a polished actor. Clearly he was in control. Though he gestured but rarely, he moved like an athlete, comfortable in his body.

 Nancy jotted notes on a yellow pad pretending to be no different than anyone else in the room. She glanced up at Bayfield, whose eyes had settled on her; they were piercing and inquisitive. Then he shifted his gaze, but he’d noticed her, was thinking about her. Why? She’d done everything she could to blend in. He hadn’t seemed particularly troubled by her presence, just curious.

 Nancy redirected her attention to the individuals sitting in front of her. She’d arrived early to claim an aisle seat in the back row. The raised auditorium layout provided an advantageous observation post. About sixty women and twenty men were in attendance, no doubt a decent turnout. Blackthorn College had a student body of less than two thousand.

 Nancy scribbled more notes and then focused on the men in the room.

 Was he in the lecture hall? Would he strike again, tonight? Or would the rapist stay in his hole, biding his time?

  Available at Amazon

ABOUT ADRIANA KRAFT

 Adriana Kraft is the pen name for a husband/wife team writing Erotic Romance for Two, Three or More. The award-winning pair has published over thirty erotic romance novels and novellas to outstanding reviews. Romantic pairings include straight m/f, lesbian, bisexual, ménage and polyamory, in both contemporary and paranormal settings.

 

ADRIANA KRAFT ON THE WEB

Website: http://adrianakraft.com

Blog: http://adrianakraft.com/blog

Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Adriana-Kraft/182846025133440

Twitter http://twitter.com/AdrianaKraft

Remembering the little details…

Yes, I realize I missed my Thursday post with my fellow dwarves. Nope, I have absolutely no excuse. Unless you count the fact that sleep decided it wasn’t being appreciated enough and left me in a snit about two weeks ago.  Damn drama queen.  Now I figure out how to lure it back.  In the meantime, I took over Saturday’s spot on the 7ED site to play catch up.  On my blog, no one will notice…

I promised we’d get back to some basics on writing, so now that Shadow’s Moon is out propositioning some very nice people at the pub houses, let me clue you in on something I knew, but had slammed home recently.  When writing a series, it’s very important to be able to remember the little details.  You know, things like hair color, eye color, height, gender, where someone lives, what their favorite food is, what they drive, who their parents are…the little things.  It’s all those little things that make or break your world over numerous books.

Readers are some of the most intelligent, eagled eyed people out there. If you tell them your character is blonde, blue-eyed, lives in the city, drives a sports car and prefers chocolate over caviar (like who doesn’t?), and then somewhere down the line she’s puttering around in the suburbs, eating caviar and driving a Jeep, there will be issues. I promise you.  So how does a writer keep track of all these little things? Especially as they are constantly refining their worlds and characters?

The answer is…a series bible.

Now, when I started Shadow’s Edge, I had the beginnings of a bible for the series. Of course it was scattered around my office and filing cabinets masquerading as scribbles on notebook paper, more scribbles on post-its (a vital component of any office), even more scribbles on the back of restaurant receipts with coffee stains.  By the time I finished the first book, I managed to gather my loose little notes into one central area. Then I was off to write Shadow’s Soul. When I spent more time trying to verify something about a character of one of the Kyn Houses than actually writing the scene, it was time to put it all together.  But, first I had to finish the book.

So Shadow’s Soul done and out into the world, Shadow’s Moon was well underway and my notes were still an unruly pile in need of some serious discipline. It may have taken a few discussions (read-heated debates) among the Evil 7, but it was glaringly obvious if I wanted to win some of my points, I better have proof that I really did have that character doing that before.  This meant the last two weeks, on top of query letters and synopsis creation (which we’ll try to address next week), I finally buckled down to get all those pesky details in order.

What exactly goes into a Series Bible, you may ask…my answer, after many hours trolling the internet and talking to other writers: Whatever you feel is vital to your world. 

With that lovely open to interpretation answer, I will share what is in mine and you can discard or copy what ever tickles your fancy.

CHARACTER PROFILES:  this includes all the vital stats on your characters–physical, emotional, background, who they’re linked to and how, images (there’s fun to be had doing an internet search entitled: hot brunette males), where they live, what they drive, how the dress, personal ticks/habits, job position, etc. 

LIST OF MINOR CHARACTERS:  I went book by book and anyone I mentioned by name went on this list, along with the notation DEAD if they didn’t survive.  You never know when one of these names comes back and takes over.

WORLD HISTORY:  this includes world rules on how your world works, the history of its creation and they way your current world interacts/ed with others.  In mine, I have a breakdown for each of the four houses of the Kyn, the governing structure, magic rules for each race, some history behind each of them, strengths/weaknesses of each race (physical/emotional), territory division for the Shifters and who runs which packs, glossary.  This is a huge section and you can break it down further if it helps.

PLACES/LOCATIONS:  a list of all the bars, restaurants, businesses, homes that are in each book and how they’re linked to the characters.  Someday I’ll have maps too!

BLURBS: from each book.  Here’s a great way to get a jump on your query, write your own blurb for your book.

SYNOPSIS: from each book, anywhere from 1-5 pages.  You’ll need these.

SERIES ARC:  This is important as it helps you see where each title will fall under your major plot, and how each title will help move it along.

NOVEL PLOTS:  self-explanatory–plots for each book, at least how they start out. They never end up the same.

SHORTS:  this is a list of ideas I will someday brave in my attempts to master the short story.

There is a massive amounts of opinions on what should be in your series bible, plus quite a few free worksheets if you want them, but I found this is what works best for me.  It allows me to keep it all straight and not lose sight of my overall story.

So for those who’ve stuck this out to the end–add your suggestions to what should be in a series bible!

-Wicked

Zombie Population on the Rise

Greetings and Salutations,

I’ve been digging around here in the monastery and I’ve uncovered some remarkable documents.

In spite of  the fact that Zombies are openly hunted in most of the country their numbers continue to grow.  It appears from what I’ve read that they’re also getting smarter, faster, and hungrier. This does not bode well for the living.  One other fact that has come to my attention is that they have developed discriminating taste buds.  They no longer stop for day old road kill.  It’s warm brains they want and they won’t be side tracked by a nice juicy thigh, or warm entrails.  What this means for the living is more zombies and less food.  It’s the whole supply versus demand business that politicians and economists like to haul out around election time.  Which by the way is pretty much always now.  But that’s a topic for another blog.

You might find this factoid interesting.  A study in the nation’s capital revealed the zombie per capita on and around the mall is much lower than the national average.  The same is true for the financial district in New York city.  It would appear that brains in these areas are in short supply.  I didn’t need a study to tell me that.

The good news is the folks over at A to Z Ammo have increased their hours to accommodate the over flow business.  Mischievous has been over there doing one minute radio spots for them all week.  They should start airing this week so keep a sharp ear for my good friend Mischievous.  I also heard he’s written a book and it’s scheduled to be released this week.  I can’t believe he got published before me.  I’m just saying.  I mean I’m happy for him and all, but what hell.  He’s been very tight-lipped about it so you’ll have to wait for the release party and book signing like everyone else.  I’m sure I’ll throw a big shindig at the Swamp for him.  So stay tuned.

Back to the zombies.  Remember the zombies?  This is a blog about zombies.  The question that begs to be asked is what’s a breather to do. (breather is the term zombies use for the living) One solution that has been put forth is assimilate.  If you can’t beat them join them.  You all remember the line from Star  Trek: The Next Generation “Resistance is futile.”  For those who think breathers still have something to offer, a career in politics might be your best bet.  Unless your numbers person, then you might prefer to steal honest hard-working American’s retirement funds in a Ponzi scheme.  That’s certainly a something you can aspire to.

As for me and the residents of the swamp we have a symbiosis relationship with zombies.  We attract fresh meat in the form of these stupid blog posts and they leave us alone so we can continue blogging.  I heard the swamp thing is building vacation condos that she going to list on VRBO.(vacation rentals by owner)  I don’t think she plans on returning any deposits if you catch my meaning

That is about all the news that fits the hint.

As is our custom I leave you with this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche.

“Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired: and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.”

Write On,

Eerie

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