Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Readers – the Bane or the Bountiful?

There’s an old British sitcom TV series I never get tired of watching. It’s pure genius. I refer to ‘Fawlty Towers’ of course. John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) created and played the character of Basil Fawlty, owner and manager of a small seaside hotel in Torquay, Devon. He considers himself the epitome of flawless hotel management, a consummate professional in every aspect of running his hotel. Everything would be perfect, for Basil …if it weren't for the Guests!

Now at this juncture you may be wondering why I’m rambling on about a comedy show on a writing blog… and with good reason too. ‘Patience, and shuffle the cards’ as my mate Sancho Panza once uttered. You see, in the years I’ve been running this blog, inviting writers of all genres to expound upon some aspect of their craft for the delight and instruction of many, I have contacted many a scribe far and wide. If you glance at my Bio, not the pithy two-liner on Twitter (but while you’re there, don’t forget to follow too), but the one on, say, Amazon, or my website, you might suspect me of being rather an analytical animal. And something has fired up my little grey cells.

Major revelation! (Drumroll).

There are two distinct camps out there when it comes to the relationship between authors and readers!
(No this is not a rant – you may continue reading, rant-free.)

Let me explain. It would appear, in my humble brain, as though the more successful (definition please, someone) you are as an author, the less ‘available’ you have to become to your readers. Now I’m not talking about book-signings or other marketing in-person promotions, rather the mundane day-to-day.

Yes, there are authors who strive to better their craft, improve their skills, and are consummate professionals in every aspect of writing their novels. Everything would be perfect, for them …if it weren't for the Readers!

It’s easy to see what I mean. Choose your favourite big-name author. Now try to find a means of contacting them directly (i.e. not via their publishers, agents, marketing staff etc). Just to send a simple email saying how much you love their work, perhaps, or invite them to Guest post on your writer blog. Yes, it’s the proverbial blood from a stone analogy.

(Oh, you might have noticed something else too.)

Now, repeat the exercise with your favourite Indie author. Whoa! Not only was there a direct email, but they wrote back too! (And not a standard auto-response at that!).

Now, you might argue the sheer volume of fans precludes the big-names from spending time listening to their readers – yet, if it were not for them, the big-names wouldn't be … well… big.

Is it bad to be in contact with the readers of your books?

I can only speak for myself with any authority on this subject. What has my contact with my readers brought to my writing life?

First and foremost, I've made numerous friends and acquaintances through corresponding with those readers who take the time to drop me an email. No, I don’t respond for ‘marketing’ reasons (ugly word that; covers all manner of sins), nor do I need the ego-trip associated with talking about my novels (I am far too confident an author for that). No, it’s simply the enjoyment of listening to these people and taking note of what they have to say.

Amazon Link - it's FREE
A number of years ago I wrote a stand-alone novel entitled ‘the CULL’ as a birthday gift for a relative. When it hit the Amazon shelves, it created quite a stir. It was different; a vampire novel that broke with the memes of the genre. It had female (how dare he?) protagonists, and not dumb chicks waiting for the male hulk to rescue them, but mature, self-reliant women capable of kicking-butt whenever needed and exceptionally good at what they did (Federal Agents). My inbox exploded with missives. Almost all said “more please”. Fortunately for me most also told me why they liked the books, and particularly the protagonists, so much. Result: a series (currently four books) was born. A series which has remained faithful to what the readers want from these characters without being mere templates that repeat a pattern.

Amazon Link

Then a couple of years ago I wrote ‘Outsourced’, an idea that’s been germinating since forever, and intended it to be a stand-alone too. Guess what happened? Now ‘Primed’, the sequel, has popped onto Amazon where the protagonists (one female DIA agent, two male writers), who generated so much email, have another mystery (again based on fact) to solve. This time instead of scouring the dark corners of preternatural Tibetan folklore, it’s a modern meme, just for a change.

Amazon Link

In both cases, if it hadn't been for the readers, these books might never have happened. Now try provoking a similar response from J. P., L. C., S. K. etc. Oh, sure, if the sales numbers are good, they will do a sequel or seven (this is known by the technical term ‘cashing-in’), but where is the contact with their readers other than through filthy lucre? (Not that I'm averse to earning money from my craft, but there are much more important rewards for me too).

Then there is the Source.

You can’t imagine how many of my readers recount snippets from their own experiences, some of which easily inspire a tale or two. And no, should I decide to write these, I will always seek permission first AND credit the source in the novel, often with a character named after them too. Having had ‘certain people who shall remain unnamed’ steal from me, I would never contemplate doing that to anyone.

Is my emailing with readers just one-sided? I’d like to think it isn't. I often email them with complimentary copies of my novels, a small thank you for their interest, and have consulted many who have expertise in myriad exotic topics when I'm crafting new thrillers, (always with the appropriate acknowledgement in the books). I may have even help a few become writers themselves with comments and advice when they ask for it.

Now I've gone as far as to include the readers in my latest novel, 'Primed'.


When you read the sequel to 'Outsourced' you will see the three protagonists trying to resolve a couple of puzzles. So far nothing out of the ordinary, right? But I don't let them do this on the pages of the novel!!! That's for the readers to do! And there's a PRIZE too!!! (instructions follow the ending of the story in both the paperback and e-book editions. No, it isn't a competition - if you get the answers right you win - one person or one million people! Everyone wins!!!)

Am I special in doing these things for my readers?

Good Heavens, no!

I’m an Indie who cares… about my writing and my Readers!
(Yes, YOU can write to me here:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Guest: Scott Thompson

My Guest this week touches upon an element that populates our novels and can often make or break them. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Scott Thompson

Creating Believable Characters
for Your Stories and Novels

Creating characters for your short stories and novels seems simple enough at first. There are characters that are easy for us to create because are like us, generally, but the difficult characters may not be obvious until we start writing them, or until the reader experiences a flat story. For example, men have a terrible time creating believable female characters, but I haven’t seen the same problem for women writers who often create perfect male characters. This may be because women are more in tune with what’s going on around them, and men are oblivious.

Amazon Link
Do you see what just happened in the paragraph above? I made an assumption about women and men. While the two sexes are generally different, they are not always different. There are plenty of men who are well tuned into women. There are plenty of men who want what was once considered something only a woman might want in life, and vice versa. And there are plenty of women who don’t understand men, as I stated boldly in the first paragraph. At first, this might make you want to give up on figuring out characters, but it shouldn’t. This only shows how complex people are, and the more complex your characters the more interesting they’ll be to your readers.

Stereotypes can help us create a character, but if you want to create a character that is as complex as a real person, you’ll have to go beyond the stereotypes and figure out what makes them different. What is their history? We all have a history full of great times and difficulties. So does everyone you know in real life. If anyone has lived long enough they’ve seen their dreams crushed, seen people they love deeply die, and experienced success and failure professionally. These are the things that make an adult who they are, and cause them to evolve from who they were as a child. These are the things that make us unique. Even if your characters never mention their past, you must know that they had one. Why is a particular character a womanizer? It’s not just because he’s a dog. There’s a reason. Maybe the only woman he ever loved cheated on him when he was in his early twenties. Maybe she died, and he’s never been able to let himself fall for someone again.

Amazon Link
Using real people in your life to begin the creation of a character is fine, but you must let that character evolve into who they need to be. Just like a child, you can teach them and guide them, but the child will become who they are despite their parents. You must let your characters evolve as well. Maybe a character starts with someone you know. That’s okay. But after you have them established change their physical appearance. Give them a past that is different from what you know about the real person. Then let the character evolve. If you don’t do this, if you keep the character too close to someone you know, you’ll never let that character do the things needed that make him or her human.

If I base a character on my wife, someone I think is near perfect, I’ll never let that character do something wrong. Humans, no matter how morally focused, make big mistakes and hurt other people. Even the best people lie, cheat, and steal at some point in their lives. We all struggle with the light and the dark. With right and wrong. If you love your character too much, you won’t let them experience these struggles. You won’t let them fail. You won’t let them make bad decisions. The same goes for basing a character on someone you hate. If you hate the real person too much, you won’t let the character struggle with good. You won’t let that character experience redemption.

If I can leave you with anything, it’s to make your characters complex. Know their back-stories. Even if you never mention a character’s history – and often you shouldn’t – you’ll know their history and that will make for better characters. That will make them believable, and that will make your story more intriguing.


Award winning author, Scott Thompson, grew up in Georgia, and it is the South that has inspired his stories. Through fiction he explores love, friendship, and family, and how tragedy and life events affect these relationships.
Thompson’s favorite poem is “A Rolling Stone” by Robert W. Service. In this poem of freedom and exploration Service writes “I want to see it all,” and that sums of Scott’s life: He wants to see and do everything.
This seeking has brought him to more than a few adventures that find their way into his fiction. What he’s discovered through his exploration is that there is more magic in the universe than we can imagine. But he truly believes that we’re offered glimpses into heaven almost daily if we’ll take the time to look, and through his book, Eight Days, he explores some of the glimpses that make it worth living.
Thompson lives outside of Atlanta with his family. His work can be read in regional magazines, in his short stories, and in his first novel, Young Men Shall See. Thompson is a founding editor at Grand Central Review. His latest novel, Eight Days, follows a man after death into eternity.


Thanks, Scott, for your interesting comments on character development. I'm sure many will be bookmarking this for the future.

Eric @