The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Fifty-Seven
The End of July Is upon Us
I know, I’m rushing it by one week, but I needed a subheading and that’s what I came up with. Live with it and let’s move on.
I haven’t ordered my copy of Harper Lee’s new book “Watchman.” I don’t know when I’ll get around to doing that. Honestly I have mixed emotions about it. “Mockingbird” was such an incredible book that a part of me is afraid that this new book will never live up to the hype and I’ll be disappointed. I kind of liked it when “Mockingbird” was her only book. I loved the fact that she became a legend by writing only one book.
I have no idea why I mentioned that other than the fact that a few of you have asked me of late if I’ve read the new novel yet. Consider it a bonus answer no charge.
Now let’s get going with the new Mailbag.
The Health of Hp
From Dream On: “Bill, it was wonderful to see your answer and now I look forward to letting my mind wander as it may. Learning and appreciating so many other writers. I know in the past year Hub Pages hit some stormy weather. Some people got their row boats out and high tailed it to calmer waters. You have stuck it out and I thank you for that. I find something that works and I ride it to the end. I am a dreamer and I believe in people and I find it difficult to leave my friends who now have become my (extended family).Could you give your readers an update where HubPages stands. Have we increased our hubbers and in hubs. Are we heading for more dark clouds ahead ? It may seem silly to some people but I don't have the time or energy to do two writing sites. I would rather write and read your hubs and writers like you who care about other writers so much you bleed ink. I am proud and so happy to have met so many gifted writers. I am not computer savvy and don't know where to look to see how HupPages is competing without other writing sites. I do know that when I close my eyes at night I am thrilled of the day that I stumbled on HubPages and every day after that . Before that I just wrote to myself in a journal saying there has to be a better way. I did not find my family or friends at all supportive excluding my wife. They said I was waiting my time and theirs too. They rather watch t.v. or post on Facebook about bad events in the news and continue the drama. To each their own. I personally have better ways to spend my time. Combining the will to learn and all my fellow hubbers who love to write. For the love of writing. In time the money may follow but money was never my motivator. People who get excited about life and all it's beauty. That's where my head is at. That's where it will be till the day I turn into a pile of dust in the wind. Thank you for being a onesie of a kind. I know you think your just like everyone else. I like to think of you as the secret ace that quietly changes the game for ever. The people that find you can only do so by believing in helping other people by doing something you absolutely love "writing". Have a lovely day.”
Wow, Dream On! I don’t know what to say about all those nice compliments other than thank you.
The status of HP? I reached out to the HubPages staff for some comments but they didn’t get back to me by the time I posted this.
That leaves you with my opinion, and I have nothing to base my opinion on other than gut reactions. I don’t think HP will ever return to its heyday. I think it will be a fringe player until the day comes when it folds. The idea was a good one ten years ago. Now, not so much. Freelance writers can make a lot more money on other venues, so the only reason for writers to stay with HP is the community. That’s why I’m here. I love my friends here on HP. Unfortunately, many of them have moved on to greener pastures, so even the community I grew to love is disappearing.
The Muse Lives!!!!!
From Kailey: “The muse questions are usually my favorite. I enjoy reading your thoughts on it. We all know how difficult it is to explain why autopilot is the best mode to unleash creativity. I love your story with the mid-conversation about animals. That happens to me all of the time. Do you think it's rude to ask someone to give you some alone time when that happens? Whenever I wait, it goes away, so I kind of panic, and tell the person, "I have to write some notes, sorry!" Meanwhile, I probably look nuts.”
Kailey, looking nuts is what we writers do. J
Seriously, nice question and I understand. My friends and family are quite accustomed to me doing exactly that. I’ll space out, or walk off, or ask for a second, and they are perfectly fine with it but….and this is a big butt….they are very close friends and loving family who allow me to be a bit weird as a writer. Not everyone allows that kind of quirkiness.
So I guess you have a choice to make. You can politely ask for a few minutes while you jot down notes, or you can suck it up and hope you remember. How about just hanging out with quality people? Come to Olympia and I’ll introduce you to some.
Planning a Series
From Babby: “Thanks Bill for more helpful info to ponder, tuck away and use as you hope we all will. Any tips on planning novel series? Tips on creating that strong memorable character that will shine through several books (hopefully). Not asking for secrets here just practicalities or perhaps I'm asking the wrong question. Have a great week :)”
I think the question was great, Babby, but it appears to be two questions: tips on planning a series and tips on creating a strong character. The best job of planning and executing a book series, in my opinion, was done by F. Paul Wilson in his Repairman Jack series. Whether you enjoy the supernatural genre or not is not important; studying the way Wilson connects seventeen separate novels over the span of thirty years is well-worth your time. It is sheer genius. I have heard that originally the series was not a series. There were two novels that had the same character and that was that….but then he decided he wanted it to continue, so from #3 on, the books were written with a series in mind. I’ve also heard that J.K. Rowling had the entire Potter series planned out in advance. Bravo I say! That is incredible.
But for those of us who are mortal, what do we do? The standard tips are the best with which to start……recurring characters, a timeline, connections that are the glue between all the books, clues sprinkled throughout, each book being a stand-alone, and related titles. Those are the starting points. I think it’s important to know where you want to go and have an end in mind. That way you can be working towards that end slowly but surely….but that’s simply my opinion.
Let’s break this up and handle the other question about characters in the next section.
Strong Memorable Characters
Again from Babby: “Any tips on creating strong, memorable characters?”
I was just reading an article by Lee Childs, the author who created the Jack Reacher novels. Now there is a strong, memorable character. It was interesting to read the process he took in creating that character. Childs did not want Reacher to be like any other leading character in mysteries/action/thrillers, so he created this almost superhuman hero who never loses and is never vulnerable. If you get a chance find that interview. It’s worth a read.
How to create strong, memorable characters….this is one of the most important things any novel writer will do. It is crucial. I believe in any series it is the strong main character that propels each book and leaves us desperately wanting more of the series. Whether it be Jack Reacher or Travis McGee or Dave Robicheaux or Kinsey Millhone, the main character must be someone we can’t get enough of as readers.
Sit down and make a list of the qualities you want your main character to have. Keep in mind that you really want memorable, someone who has not been done thousands of times in the past. What is there about your main character that makes him/her stand out? There has to be something…some character appeal…or we’ll quit reading about that character very quickly.
And Good Luck to All of You
Another week finished and filed. It’s time for all of us to get back to work. Have a great week of writing and I’ll catch you on the flip side next Monday.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”