About Jordyn Redwood

Pediatric ER nurse by day. Suspense novelist by night. Jordyn hosts Redwood's Medical Edge-- a medical blog for historical and contemporary authors to help them write medically accurate fiction. Both her medical thrillers, Proof and Poison, received starred reviews from Library Journal. Peril, the third novel in the Bloodline Trilogy, released September 2013.

How to Create Walk-On Characters Who Are Memorable (But Not Too Memorable)

The Water Cooler is pleased to host guest blogger K.M. Weiland.

Every character is the hero of his own story.

V8374c_JaneEyre.inddThat bit of popular advice is a marvelously evocative reminder to breathe life into even minor characters. However, chances are you’ve also had the sometimes-charming, sometimes-frustrating experience of a minor character who decides he’s not just the hero of his own story, but the hero of the story. He tries to take over, usually with mixed results.

So how can you go about hero-izing your minor characters into memorable and realistic personalities without letting them derail your story? Charlotte Brontë’s masterful novel Jane Eyre (which I analyze in-depth in my book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic) offers some excellent examples on how to deftly bring to life any type of character—without letting them run away with you.

The Four Types of Characters
First, take a moment to consider the various types of characters you might find in your story. Which category your character falls into will determine how he should be introduced.

1. Main Characters
Main characters are protagonists. They will be on stage in all or most of your scenes and will probably be given the primary point-of-view narration. Their goals and character arcs power the plot. Without them, there is no conflict and no story. To find Jane Eyre’s main character, we need look no further than the title.

2. Major Characters
Major characters are those who figure in the story almost as prominently as the protagonist. However, they act in roles that support the protagonist. They drive the story only in ancillary ways. Antagonists, sidekicks, love interests, and mentors are all examples of common major characters. In Jane Eyre, St. John Rivers acts as one of the antagonists, Helen Burns appears briefly as a sidekick, Edward Rochester is the love interest, and the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax sometimes functions as a mentor.

3. Minor Characters
Minor characters fill out the rest of the cast. They are characters who recur throughout the story—sometimes only once or twice, sometimes frequently. They fill in the gaps in the story world, allowing readers to believe the setting is populated with the multitudinous faces we find in our own world. Minor characters may dramatically affect the plot, but only in comparatively small ways. They are not as integral as major characters. In Jane Eyre, her cousins the Reeds, the nasty Blanche Ingram, and St. John’s would-be wife Miss Oliver are all important, but decidedly minor characters.

4. Walk-On Characters
Walk-on characters are those who appear only once, fulfill a necessary role, and exit the story, probably never to be mentioned again. They are rarely named and exist only for background color or plot functionality. The many servants at Thornfield Hall and Jane’s fellow students at Lowood School are all walk-on characters.

Use Your Character’s Introduction to Signal His Importance (or Lack Thereof)

Identifying which group a character belongs in will help you understand how to introduce him. No matter his role, you want to bring him to life in your readers’ minds. You want them to clearly visualize him—and not just visualize him, but see him as a unique and vibrant human being.

This is where we sometimes get tripped up. We don’t want readers to dismiss our walk-on taxi driver as a cardboard cutout, or, worse, a cliché. So we spend several paragraphs describing his appearance, his accent, his personal tics, maybe even a little of his backstory. There! Now, he’s three-dimensional!

Problem is he’s also now giving readers the wrong signal. The more time you spend introducing a character, the more you foreshadow his importance within the story. A walk-on character who gets three paragraphs of intro, only to never show up again, will be at best a niggling loose end in readers’ minds. At worst, he’s a gaping plot hole.

Save your paragraphs of description for main and major characters. Weigh carefully how much attention you give to minor characters. The time you spend on them should never outweigh their roles in the story. As for walks-on, you’ve already guessed it: they deserve only a sentence or two of your attention.

How to Bring Characters to Life With No More Than Three Details

So riddle me this: If you’re not allowed to give walk-on characters (and some minor characters) more than a sentence or two, how in heaven’s name can you be expected to bring them to life?

Details are the key. Choose the right details, and you won’t need more than a few. Choose the perfect detail, and you might not even need more than one. Charlotte Brontë offers a fabulous example of this in her introduction of a walk-on postal lady early in the book.

The character appears only in this scene and affects the plot only because Jane needs to get her hands on that fateful letter from Thornfield Hall. Brontë expends just three sentences on the old lady, which introduce a sum total of three important characterizing details (see bold phrases below). But that’s more than enough to bring her to life without implying she plays a larger role in the story than she does.

“[The post office] was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands…. She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful glance….”

The next time you write a walk-on character, challenge yourself to come up with three—no more, no less—precise, pertinent, and enlivening details with which to describe him. Then evaluate the effect and see if your brief description hasn’t provided your story with an unobtrusively vivid new character.

************************************************************************************************K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

What is a Literary Publicist?

WomanwithBookA publicist is a professional who has both the know-how and the network in place to help bring your name to the public. In the literary world, a publicist is key to the marketing plan, to create consumer appetite for a book title, and to stimulate buzz for the author.

A literary publicist promotes the book title directly to consumers through niche markets with an interest in the storyline or subject matter of the book. The publicist also networks with media by pitching specific interview angles the author can provide—setting up the writer as an expert on certain subjects.

Sometimes publishing houses hire independent PR firms to manage specific book campaigns, or entire lines of books. Other times, they pay half toward an outside campaign, and the author matches that. The third option is for the author to pay all of the expense from their advance, believing that publicity and marketing is what will make or break the overall sales for the book. Publicists also assist with author branding for the career of the author, so the buzz extends beyond the life of one book.

Most PR and communications firms offer a wide array of services. They come alongside of you at any stage in the writing game. They can help expand your platform, branding, and name recognition. Need some help making sure your website is selling you in the best possible light? Ask your publicist. Some will even edit your manuscripts and write your book proposals, query letters and marketing plans. Many customize plans to work with your goals, no matter where you are in the literary process.

After the book contract, your publicist will customize a plan for promoting you and your titles with the goal of maximizing exposure—with hopes that the promotion goes “viral.” This requires multiple reaches to the public, through traditional media presence, online spotlights, and waves of social networking.

Why Hire a Publicist?

1. A publicist has the media contacts and relationships needed to secure interviews/ reviews.
2. A publicist knows how to pitch your book to the media and how each journalist prefers to be contacted.
3. Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job.
4. When an author pitches his own book to media or consumers, it is sometimes viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party. Others are more receptive to discussing book promotion with a publicist rather than the author.
5. When media, retailers, and consumers hear an author has a publicist, they seem to think the author has more “clout.” It legitimizes the expert-status of the author and elevates them to a higher professional standing.
6. An author with a publicity team has “peeps.” It’s that whole “I’ll have my people contact your people” approach.

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KathyWillisKathy Carlton Willis spins many plates as writer, speaker, editor, and platform coach. She writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Kathy discusses the key issues that hold believers back and shines the light on their paths to freedom. Kathy’s passionate about helping audiences have lightbulb moments. All told, nearly a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published online and in print publications. Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion (OakTara) and Grin with Grace (AMG) are set to release in 2014. She serves alongside her pastor husband, Russ Willis, in local church ministry.

WordServe News: July 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

David & Claudia Arp with Peter & Heather Larson released $10 Great Dates with 9780764211355_p0_v2_s260x420Bethany House.

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Barbara Cameron released her latest Amish Roads novel Crossroads with Abingdon.9781426740602_p0_v5_s260x420 (1)

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Jack Corrigan released his novel Night of Destiny with FaithHappenings Publishing.large

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Jan Drexler released A Mother for His Children with Love Inspired Historical.9780373282777_p0_v1_s260x420

 

 

 

 

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Tim Lahaye with Timothy Parker released The Book of Revelation Made Clear with 9781400206186_p0_v3_s260x420Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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Dr. Kara E. Powell released The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family with Zondervan 9780310338970_p0_v1_s260x420publishers.

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Laurie Short released her debut book with Zondervan publishers, Finding Faith in the 9780310337119_p0_v3_s260x420Dark.

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Angela Strong released The Water Fight Professional with Ashberry Lane publishers.Water Fight Professional High Res

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Barbour Publishers released “Playing with Purpose” calender based off the book series 9781630581794_p0_v3_s260x420by Mike Yorkey. 

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Joe Wheeler released The Secrets of the Creeping Desert, a mys9781618433633_p0_v2_s260x420tery collection for boys, and The Talleyman Ghost, a mystery collection 9781618433589_p0_v2_s260x420for girls, with Mission Books publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New WordServe Clients

Krista Phillips, author of Sandwich with a Side of Romance, signed with agent Sarah Freese.

New Contracts

Dianne Christner signed a contract with Barbour for an Amish novel tentatively titled Covered Bridge Charm. Greg Johnson agent of record.

Amanda Jenkins and Tara McClary Reeves received a contract for the translation of The Knight and the Firefly into Afrikaans. Alice Crider agent of record.

Dave and Tina Samples signed a contract with Kregel for their new title: Messed-Up Men of the Bible: And Women Who Love Men Just Like Them. Alice Crider agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Marcus Brotherton’s forthcoming novel, Feast for Thieves was reviewed in Publishers Weekly!

Dianne Christner has been on the ECPA fiction bestseller list, holding strong for three months running now! See the June fiction list here.

Dena Dyer and Tina Samples received The Golden Scroll Award for best nonfiction for their book Wounded Women of the Bible.

A Broken Heart— Repaired

Hi, readers of WordServe Water Cooler! Thank you for having me! I’m Martha Ramirez and though I write for young adults, I have a few children’s stories that have tugged at my heartstrings.

BrokenHeartBroken Heart, my new picture book, was inspired by my own heart journey and having to stay strong and pray for the best.

In 2014, I underwent open-heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect we never knew I had. Broken Heart is about a brave girl who learns doctors have to mend her broken heart. Seven-year-old Julia goes on an unforgettable heart journey and takes her twin sister along for the ride. Like Julia, my heart defect was not discovered at birth. Unlike Julia, it was discovered many, many years later.

I knew the moment I lay in my hospital bed that I had to write a book about a girl with a broken heart. I also kept a journal, planning to rewrite the memoir I recently finished (super-excited!).

Photo by L.I.L.A. Images

Photo by L.I.L.A. Images

With Broken Heart, inspiration came at me with full force. I couldn’t stop writing until I got to the end. I was so content with the way the story unfolded, it was as if an angel whispered the words to me. When my good friend Mary Jo Prado offered to illustrate the story, I was ecstatic! She’s a talented illustrator and super creative. Without a doubt, I knew she could bring the story to life. I was even more thrilled when she added small but significant touches, such as the actual double doors from the hospital I stayed in.

One of the things I felt strongly about when writing this story was to write from the heart and not to worry so much about how it would turn out. I’m a plotter. An organizer. I always set up my stories beforehand and I always know my GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflict), but not this time. This time it was okay to write like the wind and not worry about the details. Of course, I took the time to go back and make certain all my writing goals were accounted for. But I learned there really isn’t a wrong way to write as long as you follow your heart.

Sean Connery in Finding Forrester says it the best, “You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is . . .  to write, not to think!”

I sincerely hope Broken Heart touches others as it touched me. It’s truly an honor to be here.

What children’s book has touched your heart?

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In addition to writing, Martha Ramirez is a 2012 Genesis Semi-Finalist, a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), YALITCHAT.ORG, the Muse Conference Board, CataNetwork Writers, and American Author’s Association. Her articles have appeared in various places including the Hot Moms Club and For Her Information (FHI) magazine. In 2012, her blog was nominated website of the week by Writer’s Digest. She looks forward to expanding her career and is hard at work on her next young adult novel. She currently resides in Northern California where she enjoys gardening and kickboxing (not simultaneously). Visit her blog at: Martzbookz.blogspot.com

Six Things Writers Need to Know About Email Marketing

Email Mouse ConceptNot long ago I was procrastinating my writing duties perusing Facebook and a fellow author (whom I know and love and who therefore will remain anonymous) was spouting off about how much she hates to get emails without her permission. “This is illegal!” she cried (as much as you can cry out on Facebook, the land of the overused exclamation point.) Many people commented their mutual disgust.

I, however, did not. You see, I’ve had a lot of personal experience with this lately and I thought I’d share what I learned with you.

Recently, I started working for a faith-based website. We wanted a large email campaign to build awareness. We hired a company to help us achieve this goal. For our target list, we researched public information. We didn’t use a computer software program or other nefarious means to gather info, but when we started to send e-mails through this company, we got the red light. The question became: How did you collect email addresses? We disclosed that it was through public information on the web.

This company wanted a permission-based email list in order to allow us to use their services. This could be achieved either through a personal phone call or the interested party filling out a web-based contact form. This is how subscription-based email systems like Mail Chimp work. You fill out a contact form and the author then has permission to e-mail you.

Everyone stays out of trouble.

The company I work for soon became familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

In short, you can email someone without their permission but that email needs to meet VERY specific requirements. Using an e-mail service like Mail Chimp accomplishes this and is likely why authors prefer it. However, you might need to email someone without “express consent” in order to see if they want to further know about your product.

E-mail services look at bounce rates. A bounce rate greater than the industry standard of 5% indicates the sender may be using substandard means to gather email addresses. Some of these means include using a computer program, guessing what the email address might be, and (according to this company) researching public sources.

But say you’ve had a reader contact you and you want to see if they’ll sign up for your newsletter. They haven’t given you “express consent” to email them (or advertise to them) but you think they might be interested in some of your product because they sent you a nice letter. You could send them an email asking them to sign up for your newsletter. In order to be in compliance with the law, that email would need to meet these requirements. I’ll be paraphrasing somewhat.

1. You must clearly identify who is sending the e-mail.
2. Use forthright subject lines. “Request to sign up for my newsletter!”
3. If the message is an ad, it must be clearly stated.
4. There must be a physical address in the body of the e-mail for you or the business. As an author, I wouldn’t suggest using your personal address. Get a PO box.
5. Tell recipients how they can opt out and then honor their requests within 10 business days. “If you’d like to stop getting these e-mails– please reply with STOP.”
6. If you’re using a company, they need to be following these rules as well.

So, technically, you can “cold email” someone, but you’ll need to hit these points. If you don’t, it can result in hefty fines. If you choose to not use a subscription based email service to build your newsletter list (which I do recommend), then read up on this law and (because I’m not a lawyer) consult a lawyer if you have additional questions.

What service do you use to email people? Have you ever heard of the CAN-SPAM Act?

Writing Inspiration from Anne Rice

Sometimes, what you need is a little inspiration from those that have braved the path before you. That’s really what this blog was designed to be– a way to help those who are a bit behind on the publishing path. To offer knowledge, encouragement . . . a helping hand.

Regardless of what you think of Anne Rice, she has “been there, done that.” I came across this interview on You Tube and found the information pretty interesting.

Hope it inspires you today.

What authors inspire you to keep perfecting your writing craft? What words of advice have kept you going?

WordServe News: June 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Debora Coty with Barbour publishing, released the 15 month day planner for 2015, Too 9781628368574_p0_v1_s260x420Blessed to be Stressed. 

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Mary Davis’s previously released title The Captain’s Wife was361943 included in a historical romance collection released by Barbour: Beaches and Brides. 

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Jody Hedlund released Captured by Love with Bethany House Publishers

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MaryLu Tyndall released Abandoned Memoriesthe third and final book in her Escape to9781616265984_p0_v1_s260x420 Paradise series with Barbour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New WordServe Clients

Kimberlee Morgan signed with Sarah Freese.

New Contracts

Jan Drexler signed a three book deal with Revell. First book tentatively titled Here Lies My Heart. Sarah Freese agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Deb Coty’s Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate won a Selah Book Award in nonfiction!

Deb DeArmond will be writing a monthly column called “Do What Matters” for Lifeway Magazine Mature Living.

Dena Dyer and Tina Sampless book Wounded Women of the Bible is a finalist in the Non-Fiction book of the Year Golden Scroll Awards!

Adam Makos’s A Higher Call continues to stay on the bestseller lists for the 23rd week!

MaryLu Tyndall’s novel Forsaken Dreams wins cover contest!

Julie Cantrell and Rachel Phifer are finalists in the ACFW Carol Awards, Historical and Contemporary categories respectively!!

What can we help you celebrate?