As discussed in the first part of this blog post, I mentioned that the kids of STEM Academy at Roy J Smith middle school had gathered together questions to ask me. They ranged from basic, simple questions like “do you edit your books before they’re published?” to much more in-depth questions like the ones listed in this post. Due to time constraints I couldn’t answer them all during the presentation, so I wrote out responses to the more detailed ones and sent them along in a separate email, of which I pasted below.
Thought I’d post the follow-up document I sent them in case it was helpful it anyone else!
A Royal’s Kiss – July 3rd, 2018
“To Princess Ivy Myriana, kisses are used as weapons and Love is a fairytale. But one prince is desperate to prove her wrong.”
1. How do you craft characters that are compatible in a friendship or relationship. Also, how do you create a system of checks and balances so your charterers are not overpowered?
Great question! I think the best and simplest answer I can give you is that you need someone else to read your story. Get as many opinions about your story and your character’s interactions as you can. Sometimes when you’re so close to something it’s hard to step back and see the big picture; that’s where critique partners and beta readers can help you! But remember to stay true to your gut and what you ultimately want your reader to feel when they read your book.
However, if you want to dive deep into building out characters, it’s a great idea to create character profiles. These profiles should have small details about your character: from the color of their hair to their favorite food. Create their backstory, and list out what makes them mad and what makes them emotional. Do they hate it when people lie to them? I even sometimes write silly details about them. For instance, the main male character in my book, Zach, has a phobia about toads. It was a fact I knew about him, and unfortunately it didn’t make it into the book. But it helped make him seem more real to me.
Then, when you have these characters created, try writing scenes between them. How do they interact each other? Do you feel like one overpowers the other? What if one character is shy while another is loud and outgoing. How do they play off each other? What if the outgoing character knows how to coax the shy character of his or her shell? Discovering these dynamics through playful scenes (even scenes that may not end up in your book) is an excellent way to create a system of checks and balances to ensure these characters can play off each other.
2. What do you think would be the best way for someone to go about writing multiple pov. character stories, such as the way George RR Martin wrote the Game of Thrones books?
I have actually written three books with alternating points of view and let me tell you, they are not easy! You have to switch between two different characters heads and sometimes they can be really opposite. If you make the characters sound the same then your reader may not feel as connected to either of them. That’s the downside. The upside is you get to tell a deeper, richer story because you have multiple people telling it!
Again, I would create character profiles for each then really concentrate on the differences between the two, and then find ways to weave that into those perspectives. For instance, one character may focus more on their internal emotions and thoughts, while the other one keeps a distance from their emotions and prefer to tell the story as it is. This will change the way their POVs are written.
And as always, get a second opinion on your character’s POV chapters.
3. Is it possible to publish your own book yourself? If you can would this be better than publishing with a company?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to publish your own book yourself. Should you? Well, it depends. Really, it comes down to the type of book you are publishing and who your audience is. If you are publishing a non-fiction book where you are already well known in your field and have a steady following on social media, then self-publishing may be the right way to go. If you are writing adult books then it’s also not a bad idea to self publish because adults might find you easier through amazon, book festivals, and kindle or nook stores. But if you are writing for kids and teens, you need to go where your audience is. Most kids find books at libraries, bookstores, recommendations from friends, teachers, and parents. That tends to mean that they will look to traditionally published books with marketing and great reviews.
It also comes down to how much work you want to do for it as well. Do you want to be the editor, publisher, and marketer of your books all by yourself? Or do you want a team of people that believe in your book and love it as much as you do?
4. How long should your books be?
Again, depends. But before I elaborate… in publishing we don’t look at page numbers but word count. For instance, 250 words is about the length of a page. And Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is about 72,000 words. Now that you have a frame of reference, I can discuss word count depending on genre.
If you are writing adult fiction, these tend to be anywhere between 60,000 words and 120,000 words. So it’s a wide range! This is mostly because adult fiction is such a wide range of plots, characters, and settings. It encompasses so much that you have a lot of flexibility.
For adult sci-fi and fantasy, you are creating a whole other world so this is usually 90,000 to 150,000 words. But this isn’t set in stone of course. Look at George RR Martin’s books. They are huge! The first one is 298,000 words!
When you start writing for kids, word count gets a lot stricter. Here’s a breakdown:
- Middle Grade: 35,000 – 55,000
- Upper Middle Grade: 50,000 – 70,000
- Young Adult: 65,000 – 90,000
These you don’t have a lot of flexibility on because publishers need to be able to market your book and shelve it with books like it. Also, kids don’t always want to read super long books!
5. How do you make the reader feel like they are the character themselves?
Do whatever you can to make the character seem real. Give them flaws. Give them real fears. Take your own emotions and experiences and try to reflect that into your characters. Don’t make them too perfect. No one is perfect, and they could seem unbelievable to your reader.
By giving them something the reader can connect to, the reader will see themselves in those characters. If they do that, they are ten times more likely to keep reading because they care about a character they can see themselves in.
Middle Grade Books
- Leven Thumps – by Obert Skye
- Fablehaven – by Brandon Mull
- The Colossus Rises – by Peter Lerangis
- The Cloak Society – by Jeramey Kraatz
- Serafina and the Black Cloak – by Robert Beatty
- Artemis Fowl – by Eoin Colfer
Young Adult Books
- The Novice – by Taran Matharu
- Seraphina – by Rachel Hartman
- The Scorpio Races – by Maggie Stievater
- The Nightmare Affair – by Mindee Arnett