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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Successful Plot Holes

One of the interesting facets of books and movies are how easy it is to write into your story gaping plot holes, to forget well-known facts, or to become inconsistent with what has gone before. Usually books and scripts will get line edits and copy edits, but often not content edits.

Yet despite these plot holes, violations of nature, and the laws of physics, some of these book and movies go on to great success and acclaim. So much so, I'm beginning to think I should purposefully write plot holes into my stories just to increase their chances of success!

By way of example, and I could chose many, let me take the movie, Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams and released in 2009. According to the stats, it received an 8 out of 10 rating. It had an estimated budget of $140,000,000 and grossed in the USA alone $257,704,099. By all rights, a successful movie venture for the studio, which is why two sequels are already in the works.

And yet, the movie was filled with problems from a content point of view. To give you a taste, we'll deal with the primary threat/conflict premise.

The "bad guy" has plans to destroy the Federation, one planet at a time. We'll give them the inter-parallel world travel through a created black hole of some kind. While that would be more akin to a worm hole, black holes are unknown enough that space opera like this can postulate such an affect without breaking believability.

However, the evil plan to destroy the Federation is to hover over a planet, drill a hole into the planet by dropping the drilling platform into the atmosphere, dangling by a big chain, from the ship in orbit. Then once the hole is drilled, drop a substance into it that will create a black hole, breaking apart and sucking the unsuspecting planet into it, effectively eradicating the planet from that universe. Right away we have problems.

1. For a ship to maintain an "orbit" over one spot on the planet, they would need to maintain a speed to match the plant's rotation, which would be not enough speed to maintain an orbit. Instead, they would have to have enough power for the ship to counteract the planet's gravity, while maintaining the correct position. Even if we give them a powerful enough ship to do that, what are the odds they can keep that drill right over the same spot? Would be hard to pull off from that altitude.

2. Related to the above, how precise can a drill hanging by a chain hundreds of feet long into an atmosphere from space possibly be? When you account for wind and other atmospheric turbulence, that platform should be bouncing and swaying like a drunkard at a drinking party. No way would that drill be as still as it was and create such a narrow hole.

3. Dropping the drill into the atmosphere on a long chain would create drag on the platform, and the chain would have been flexed, not a straight down drop, further complicating accuracy of the drilled hole. Likely the drill would not be perpendicular to the planet's surface, and would drill a hole diagonally into it as it shook from the forces being exerted upon it.

4. What is the point of dropping a drilling platform into the atmosphere on a very long chain to drill a hole? The Enterprise itself has drilled holes into planets using phasars on more than one occasion. Surely someone from the same era wouldn't need something so error prone as a huge platform dangling from space to drill a hole. Why have all that technology if you don't use it?

5. Black holes aren't easily controlled. Even if they could be confined within a predefined spherical circumference, the ship had a platform still hanging just over the planet. The black hole yanks on that, and the whole ship gets yanked down with it. By all rights, the first black hole they created to destroy Vulcan should have sucked them into oblivion too. It wouldn't just eat up the planet and leave everything else in orbit alone.

6. Kirk should be dead. He and the other two dive off the ship and fall along the chain, entering the atmosphere, and parachute onto the platform in an attempt to cut off the drill. Problem is, aside from the fact it would have taken them a lot longer to fall, being they are in orbit (hours at least assuming they are not at a full orbital speed), in which their air would have run out, they experience no atmospheric reentry burn. Kirk should be one crispy human falling into the atmosphere at that speed.

7. Here's the big plot hole large enough to fly the Enterprise through. The first planet the bad guy attacks and destroys is Vulcan. This is a race who have had warp drive longer than humans. They have flying ships. Ships with lasers or phasers or at least some kind of cutting tools for research. What's to prevent them from hopping in their ships and shooting that chain to bits, putting the drill out of service? As long as it took too drill, they had the time. Yet they are portrayed as helpless victims hiding in caves as their world collapses around them. This is an ending for the "How It Should Have Ended" crew.

Those touch on just some of the consistency problems and plot holes surrounding the main threat and conflict of the movie. But despite those huge problems, the movie did well. More are on the way.

Did I enjoy it? You bet I did. Why? The characters were done well, the chemistry was there, and it was a fun ride. I'll be there to see the sequels, which I'm sure will still have plot holes. Big ones. But I'll still enjoy them.

What other plot holes did you notice? What other successful movies do you like with big plot holes? Do those ruin a movie or book for you?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interview with Mickey Linerman from Mind Game

R: Today on Entertainment Tomorrow, we have as our guest Mickey Linerman from the smash hit series, "The Virtual Chronicles." Book 1: Mind Game, book 2: Hero Game, and coming in 2013, book 3: Virtual Game. Mickey, say hi to our audience and say a bit about yourself.

M: Hi, audience. (waves hand) I'm a teen...I mean, young adult of 17 years. I live in a town in Montana, or did. Long story yet to be told. But it's a cool story. Anyway, I like games, so these stories play right into my strength.

R: And that would be...?

M: Why, flying space ships and shooting down the bad guys. What else is there?

R: I see you're a bit single-minded on that subject. But how old were you when this series started?

M: 15. To say the least, I've matured through the experiences.

R: In what way?

M: Well, I don't want to brag, but when you're going through the crazy...uh, excrement I've gone through, and helped to save the world more than once, it grows you up fast.

R: So what would you say is your role in this series?

M: (Laughs) To save Jeremy's butt.

R: Fill us in on who Jeremy is, for those unfamiliar with the books.

M: Oh, sure. Jeremy is my best friend. Most of the story is written from his point of view, but I get a slot here and there. He's a lot more cautious than me, but way too trusting of people sometimes. That's where I have to come in and keep him on his toes.

R: This might be a good time to let people know what the series is about. Give us a quick summary of Mind Game.

M: Summary, okay. Mind Game is about me and Jeremy getting trapped in a virtual reality game that, surprise, surprise, isn't all virtual, but interacts with reality in a galaxy far from Earth. Some dictator uses us and other players from Earth to fight in a real war. We try to escape. Things go horribly wrong. How it ends, you'll have to read to find out. Obviously we survive because there is a book two. Duh. But people do die.

R: And Hero Game?

M: We end up having virtual superhero powers, which is cool. We can change into any number of heroes. We thought we'd be fighting normal Earth crime, but then...don't want to give away too much, but some bad stuff happens because the brother of the bad guy in Mind Game comes looking for revenge on Jeremy and to take over Earth. Again, horrible stuff happens, and how it ends, you'll have to read. Plenty of twists and surprises in both books to keep it interesting.

R: And can you tell us anything about the upcoming book, Virtual Game?

M: Hum, we'll, I can say the threat comes from Earth, one we weren't expecting. I'd say of the three, it has a more ominous feel to it, and there is more conflict between us characters. Plus, we are put in an impossible survival situation. And what happens to us by the end was a surprise. Even for the author.

R: Thanks, Mickey, for being here with us. I look forward to reading your next adventure.

M: Thank you. Hey, is it time to eat that burger you promised?

R: (Clears throat) Sure. Let me sign us off here. Until next time, faithful followers, when we'll be back for another celebrity interview.

M: Wow! You mean I'm a celebrity?

R: (Shush) Goodbye, everyone.

Read more about Mind Game and Hero Game, along with sample chapters and where they can be purchased.







Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Pain of Paradise

Josh breathed heavily as he lugged an urn of water into the clearing. Milnore's black house lay in the center of it, surrounded by axes, grass cutters, a small plow, and a wooden storage shed toward the back. Green, knee-high grass surrounded the small house.

Milnore exited the house. "Josh, I'm going to town for supplies. Finish filling the water urns and then work on your transport spell."

Josh groaned. "Master, I've practiced that spell hundreds of times. Can't we so something else?"

Milnore stopped his progress toward the trail and turned toward Josh. "Basics first, my apprentice. You have to know it so well that you can do it without thinking."

Josh sighed. He mumbled the words of the spell he'd been taught. His perspective shifted from the edge of the clearing to the porch of the house. "How's that, Master? Now can we move on?"

Milnore stroked his beard. "Not bad. But there was a slight delay in recalling the words. Keep working on it." The wizard turned to continue his journey to town.

Josh shook his head as he let out a breath. "This may be the only spell I ever learn."

"Then learn it well," returned the wizard's voice from the forest.

Josh opened the door and entered. He wound around the couch perpendicular to the fireplace, and set the urn of water next to its companions by the kitchen basin. He turned to get a drink of water before practicing his spell when he noticed a book lying on the kitchen table.

He stepped toward it, and examined the open page. The title at the top said, "Revealing Aura Spell."

Josh raised his eyebrows. "This is Milnore's spell book!" The wizard always kept it hidden. He must have been using it and forgot to put it away before leaving.

Josh flipped the page. "Mental Communication Spell" labeled the page. "Cool. I could use that with Sisko at some point." He grabbed some paper and ink, then copied it down, and stuffed it in his vest pocket.

He flipped through a few more pages until he read, "Visit Parallel Worlds Spell." Josh widened his eyes. "Really? There are parallel worlds we can visit?" He studied the words.

Then he read, "Warning, remember the following words to return from the spot you entered: Reverse the last spell I uttered. Which means, you can't cast any spells in between."

Josh smiled. "I can do this. I'll just go there and come back. What could go wrong?" He read over the spell, memorizing the words.

Once he thought he had it down well enough, he stepped back and stood straight. He whispered, "Worlds of old and times abound, pick one for visiting today, we pray."

The furniture of Milnore's house vanished. Trees and dense foliage replaced them. Birds tweeted happy songs as wind grazed the grass and leaves of the trees.

Josh gazed at the wonder. Every tree, every branch, every leaf, shown as if it had a light of its own. Indeed, he could see no sun in the sky, but light existed around everything.

"Where am I?" he wondered aloud.

"Paradise," a hissing voice said behind him.

Josh turned to see a long lizard-looking creature wrapped around the branch of a tree. Its tiny claws held tightly to stems. Its face flared when it talked.

The creature moved closer. "Would you like to partake of my tree? It is delicious and will make you the most powerful wizard ever."

Josh stared at the fruit of the tree. "Really?" It did look enticing. It begged to be eaten. "How can it do that?"

"By making you like God, the most powerful wizard of all."

The most powerful. That was tempting. Josh shrugged. It was just a piece of fruit. Worst that could happen, he'd eat some food. Best, he'd become the most powerful wizard ever.

He reached out to pick some of the luscious fruit.

"I wouldn't do that, if I were you," a new voice rang out.

Josh jerked his head around to see a man clothed in bright light walk toward him. Josh had to squint. "Who are you?"

"I am man. Don't eat of that tree. It is commanded by my creator to not eat of it."

Josh reached and grabbed one of the fruits. "What's the harm? It's just fruit, isn't it? Why can't we eat of it?"

The radiant man waved a hand at Josh. "Because, the creator said the day we eat of it, we shall surely die."

The lizard hissed. "Surely you shall not die."

Josh realized not only where he was, but what time. "I don't think that is a good idea." He withdrew his hand from the fruit.

The lizard flicked its tongue and slid out of the tree, and fell on Josh, wrapping himself around Josh. "Take me to your world."

"I think you're already there." Josh mumble the words of the transport spell. His perspective shifted to further away from the tree. The long lizard fell to the ground, then climbed back onto the tree.

Josh gasped. "I've done another spell! I can't get back."

The man lifted his hands. "We're in paradise. Why the desire to go back?"

He did have a point. And yet..., "Sorry. I don't belong here. I need to get back to my world and time."

Josh rubbed his forehead. "Maybe if I do it twice?" He opened his mouth and stopped. "Wait a minute. If I do that twice, it will only undo the undo spell." Josh stomped his foot on the ground. "I'm trapped here!"

The man shrugged. "Not a bad place to be trapped."

"But you don't understand. Look at me? Do I look like part of this world?"

The bright human rubbed his chin. "You are clothed with something other than light. Why is that? We're you not created?"

Josh smiled. "Uh, long story." He snapped his fingers. "At least I can stop it. I can change history."

The man cocked his head to the side. "Change history? What is history?"

Josh pointed at him. "Right, you don't have much of it yet."

A rolling thunder shook the ground and caused the trees to sway. But in the midst of the noise, Josh could hear a voice say, "Josh, where are you?" A brilliant light grew as the being approached. Josh cringed at the sound of the voice, and shielded his eyes. The pain grew unbearable, so he ran to a fig tree and ducked into its leaves. He gripped the trunk, and shut his eyes, praying he wouldn't die.

"Josh, what have you done? Why are you here?"

Josh tried to steady his shaking body, to no avail. "I'm sorry, Lord. I can't get back."

"Use 'next to the last.'"

Josh almost opened his eyes, but slammed them shut. It was all he could do to not focus on the pain searing his body. He'd have serious burns if he survived this. "I don't understand, Lord." He hated asking the question, for he couldn't bear the thunderous voice speaking to him.

"In your spell, Josh. Next to last."

"Oh!" Josh winced from the sound of His voice. "Good idea, Lord."

The pain vanished. Josh cracked his eyes open. The blazing light no longer filled the area. He relaxed his grip on the tree, though his arms and legs still shook from the experience.

The shinning man spread the fig leaves apart and stuck his head in. "Of course it's a good idea. He is God, after all."

Josh stood on shaking legs and pushed his way into the clearing. "I thought I was going to die." He examined his arms. "Why, I don't even have as much as a sunburn."

The man's forehead wrinkled. "Have you already eaten from the tree before?"

"Who? Me?" Josh stretched his fingers and arms, attempting to get the shakes out. "Not really. Well, in a manner of speaking, you could say I did, through..." Josh froze for a second. "It's a really long, long story. So long, it would take at least 66 books to tell it all."

The man crossed his arms. "You are a strange fellow. What is a book?"

Josh bowed. "You'll find out." Josh shook his hand. "Thanks for your help. I'll take my leave now." Josh stood straight. "Reverse the next-to-the-last spell I uttered." The forest vanished and Milnore's kitchen reappeared before him. Josh let out a long breath. "Whew. That was close."

"I don't think we've finished with close yet."

Josh turned to see Milnore sitting on the couch, his arms crossed. Josh hung his head. "Sorry, Master. I shouldn't have gone there."

"What did I tell you to do?"

Josh stared at the floor. "I did do a transport spell while there. Quite nicely, if I do say so myself."

Milnore nodded. "The Hebrew word for man is 'adam'."

Josh stared at the wizard. "You know where I went?"

Milnore smiled. "Of course. Don't you think I tried it myself once. I nearly ate the fruit."

Josh nodded. "If it had not been for Adam, I would have too."

"Remember that. Spells you are not ready for can bring about nasty curses."

Josh nodded. "Yes, sir." But he did meet God in person and still lived. That was an experience he'd never forget. And didn't want to repeat, at least until he was ready for it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cuss-No-More

Copple Creations, through our secret contacts, has received the latest commercial transcript from Moral Police Institute. Folks, this is a game changer. After introducing the revolutionary "Congressional Honesty Meter," they have topped that with Cuss-No-More! Instead of spoiling it, here is the transcript for you to read, right from their mouth!

_____________________


Video: Man talking to a wincing man.

Are you tired of being assaulted by verbal vulgarity and profanity?

Video: Man and woman watching a movie on their TV, grimacing.

Do you feel you have to endure endless foul language to watch a recommended movie?

Video: Mother pointing a finger and yelling at a small boy.

Do you fear letting one slip while disciplining your children, and tainting their young minds for life?

Video: Pyramid shaped object sitting in the palm of a hand.

Never fear! Cuss-No-More is here! From the Moral Police Laboratories comes a simple device that will totally sanitize your life!

Video: Hand reaches into screen and twists the top.

Simply turn it on, and all cuss words will be replaced with more pleasant equivalents. Let's listen to how this will put you at ease.

Video: Boss, hands on hips, talking to a seated, smiling employee.

"Henry, what the Hades did I tell you? I want this mother bombing job done now!"

Video: TV Screen showing Gone With the Wind.

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a doom."

Video: Irate customer at a service desk, representative smiling.

"Did you think you could get way with selling me this piece of poop! Hades no, doggy!"

Video: Picture of Cuss-No-More, with flashing words, "MORE".

How much would you pay for stress free conversations? What treasure would you offer to never hear a dirty word again? $200? $100? 50? 25? NO! For the amazing price of $10, you can have one of these beauties to guard your tender ears.

You might be tempted to think this is a steal. And you'd be right. But if you order now, we'll throw in the "Cuss-No-More Themes" replacement words too! This package includes:

Video: replay of Gone With the Wind.

Star Trek

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a photon torpedo."

My Little Pony

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a cutie mark."

Doctor Who

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a timey-whimmy, wiggly-wobbly stuff."

Battlestar Galactica

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a Cylon."

Star Wars

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a force."

Firefly

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a hotaki."

Or program in your own custom list.

Video: Return to picture of Cuss-No-More and CD labeled "Cuss-No-More Themes" laying next to it.

Yes, all this is yours, for a mere cup of coffee at Starbucks. Don't delay, order your bombing Cuss-No-More, TODAY!

Audio: Low and fast talking announcer voice.

Not guaranteed to catch all words. Offer void where prohibited. No pyramids were harmed in the making of these devices, nor is Cuss-No-More a pyramid scheme. It can, however, double as a paper weight.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Faucet from Hell

Why, oh why, did I buy my wife a faucet for Christmas?

How many gifts are just give and you're done with it? But a faucet, you have to install! And why, oh why, did I buy one made in another country? Do you know how hard it is to install a faucet designed to not fit your sink?

First, being the brave, naïve person that I am, I decided to install it myself. After all, it's just a faucet. Just unscrew a few things and screw it in. Right? Wrong! After wrestling with a nut the size of Texas on a Thursday, which I had no tool in my arsenal able to wrap around it, I had the inspiration to get some other fool to do this for me.

Queue the Jaws music. Opened up the yellow pages and picked a plumber randomly. Called him up. Scheduled for Friday. He arrived. He assessed the situation. He said he needed to get some supplies. He left. He never came back. What?

Hours passed. I wondered what he was doing at Home Depot. Stocking up on rat poison or something? I called their office. No one answered. I left a message. No call. No "we're sorry." No, "he was in an accident." I was left high and dry.

So I decided to call a handy man we used to use. It had been a few years. Almost as long for him to return the call.

Called another handy man we had a card from. He no longer did that work, but gave us a reference for another guy who did. Called him, left a message. Nada. By now I'm beginning to wonder if I am cursed.

After a day of waiting for return calls and getting nothing, I decide it was time to try another plumber. I hoped to get this done before the weekend. I called. They scheduled me. I waited, and fifteen minutes past the time they were scheduled to be there, I called. "Where are you?" "I'm sorry, but you are not on the schedule." "But I gave him all my info. What happened?"

Now, I not only think this faucet is cursed, it is deemed evil in the sight of the Lord, and will not be installed.

But in between calling the last plumber and waiting fruitlessly for them to arrive, the first handyman called me back saying he could do it either Wednesday or Saturday. Explained to him a plumber was on the way, which turned out to be a lie, so in desperation I called him back to see if he could come Saturday. We scheduled. Saturday arrived. He called. He's sick as a dog and can't come. Rescheduled for Monday.

All righty. Now I'm thinking I should throw this faucet into the depths of Mt. Doom. This facet of power wills to return to its master. And apparently, I'm not he.

Monday arrives, and no show for the handy man. I call. I leave a message. He misunderstood the time we agreed upon. At least that's the story. He comes. He assesses the situation. This is going to require some minor surgery. He uninstalls the current facet. He says he's going to get supplies.

At this point, I'm gun shy. After tearing apart our kitchen faucet, he'd better come back. Thankfully, he does. He drills holes. He grinds the main hole bigger because it won't fit. Sparks fly. He rewires underneath. I pray earnestly for mercy.

We turn on the water. It spews forth from the nozzle. Hot and cold erupt from the fountain as if Moses himself stood, rod in hand, and smote it. I ran the dishwasher, it having waited patiently for days to spray its water throughout the whole of its domain.

Days of partying ensued. We had faced the enemy, and it was silver. We endured, we suffered, but in the end, we redeemed that evil faucet and subdued it to our will. Glory be to God on high, and in house, peace and good will among family.

I'm sure once I'm in Heaven, this story of victory will be shared into eternity.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Blame Game

The scream. The searing scream of your child in pain. You jump from your soap opera and rush into the kid's room to find four-year-old Sally bawling her eyes out and covering her nose. Jimmy, your eight-year-old, stares at you with pleading eyes. "Mommy, Sally wouldn't give my toy back." In other words, it's her fault that her nose is bleeding.

The screams. Children running in terror as a mad man shoots up their classmates. Children die senselessly. Political figures come running and we hear, "Get rid of guns to fix this." In other words, it is the guns' fault those children are dead.

The inner scream. Women accused of seducing men, causing them to lust and sin by a suggestive move, stance, or article of clothing. Some religious types come running, "If you hadn't worn what you did, you wouldn't have been raped." In other words, it is her fault the man lost control of himself and had his way with her.

A scream of shock. A woman finds out her spouse cheated on her. Confronted, the man comes running with finger pointed. "If you'd provided for my needs, none of this would have happened." In other words, it is her fault he cheated on her. She only has herself to blame.

The blame game is popular in our society. Truthfully, it always has been so. Adam, when God had confronted him about eating from the tree, said, in effect, "It's that woman you gave me! It's her fault." In other words, "God, none of this would have happened if you hadn't created that woman." From the first known sin, the blame game has existed.

Is it then any wonder that among Christians, who tend to be very good at this game, they will ignore the responsibility of the sinner and point fingers at the author who either inadvertently or intentionally increased the temptation to sin. Pulling out Romans 14, they point the blame on an author who offended a "weaker brother" with cussing or a suggestive scene, totally ignoring the fact they are taking that scripture out of context and shifting the blame from where it should belong—on the one who sinned—and attempting to dismiss their moral shortcomings by pointing to the source of temptation: the victim and/or the tool used.

Can someone be wrong for unnecessarily increasing temptation? Yes, if they intentionally did so. But temptation is common to all men and women. It will come, and the fact you were tempted to sin doesn't release you from the responsibility of committing the sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Own up to it. Otherwise, you cannot be healed; you cannot be saved.

Jesus came preaching repentance, not whose fault is it. He expects us to love one another as He loved us, willing to give His life to save us. Not point fingers and deflect blame. He's called us to be sheep, not goats who say, "When did we do these things? You must be mistaken. We are not to blame for what happened."

We need to pray this Orthodox Lenten prayer until our attitude is adjusted and we're more focused on our sins than avoiding them:
O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,

and of vain speaking.


But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.


Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou

unto ages of ages.
Amen

Blogging and Platforms

I can't help it. I hate using the word "platform" or "tribe" to describe my readers. To me it makes it sound like my fans are nothing more than a launching point to my success. Of course, my success as a writer in sales is totally in my fan's hands. And I know what having a platform means. It isn't what some people may think it means. But I've been giving this some thought of late. Would appreciate any input from folks, especially readers who venture forth to read this.

Platform is more building a following to prepare to launch your next book(s). Not to increase sales of existing books, though if that happens, few authors are going to squawk about it. The goal, however, is to grow a base of interested followers so that when that new book comes out, you will have developed a relationship with potential readers who will likely be more inclined to not only give your book a try, but to become part of the "tribe" and promote it through reviews and telling others about it through their contacts. It primes the pump for a good book to get some traction.

The problem has been for fiction writers that this process is more designed for non-fiction. People who have an interest in how to raise platypuses, for instance, give someone with a book on that topic a natural focus to their blog. Since non-fiction tends to be topical, any blog about it focuses on that topic. But what does a fiction writer focus on? Our goal isn't to inform on a specific topic, but entertain people with a good story.

When I started this blog, initially I figured it would be an easy way for people to follow my announcements on short stories being published, or other milestones in my writing life. I wasn't looking to gain a huge blog following. It was primarily to be a "news about my writing and coffee adventures" blog. The coffee part never took off though I'm still drinking it. As I progressed in my blogging experience, I heard you should have more than just that if you want people to read it. They need to have something to come there for. Okay, that sounded logical, so I began doing a series of articles on various topics. Writing tips, book reviews, opinion pieces on writing topics, among other things thrown in here and there. All intended to give my blog some value. That has worked to a degree, but not like gang busters.

One thread that grew was some how-to articles for writers. My most popular post of all time was how to set up Open Office to write novels by using it to do what a lot of writing software does, like automatically renumbering chapters when you move them around. It has only been surpassed in a month twice, currently during this month by two other how-to articles on creating a mobi file and uploading to Amazon, and using Open Office and Calibre to create ebooks. The popularity of these articles led me to write the book How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software, which has been my best seller.

All well and good. Still, that is mostly targeting writers. While writers are often avid readers themselves, they represent only a tiny fraction of the total readers out there. Those coming here to find my how-to articles are not in the mindset to grab my fiction while they're at it. So while the non-fiction sales and how-to articles are great, that doesn't build any kind of platform for my fiction.

So what kind of platform does a fiction writer build? I've heard two main responses to that question...no, three...three responses. One, "I don't know." Two, "You can't build a platform for fiction, that is only a non-fiction process." Three, "A fiction author him or herself is the 'brand' and you've got to sell yourself."

However, I think those responses are focused on the outward symptom. What are other successful bloggers in fiction doing? Well, this one talks about issues. This one does book reviews. This one talks about various things in their life. This one broadcast their varied opinions on all sorts of topics. But that is just what they do, not what makes their blog interesting to readers and fans.

What does a fiction writer do? What is their goal? To entertain. What does a fiction writer have to do to generate a following through their blog that builds their platform? Be entertaining. Whatever you are talking about, be fun to read. Engage the reader. Whether your blog represents a buffet of things, or a narrow focus, if you fail to make it entertaining, what will motivate them to think your fiction will be anymore entertaining? If you are entertaining, what better advertizement do you have that you can do the same in a novel?

I think what many of us fiction writers do is read post about building platforms that are by nature non-fiction focused. Instead of asking why do people want to read my book—because it is entertaining—we copy others and think it is about dishing out information. We think it is about what topics we write about. But the fact is, if I can write an entertaining post about going to the bathroom, that accomplishes the goal just as much as writing about politics in an entertaining way. It doesn't so much matter what you write about, only that it be entertaining. That is what will build a platform for fiction writers through blogging. That is what successful fiction writer blogs do: they are entertaining.

This hit home to me today while reviewing my blog's statistics for the past month. As I noted above, my most popular articles have been my how-to articles. But this past month my unique page views have broken 1000 for the first time since I started this blog. In part because several articles have hit over 100 unique views when in the past it has been around a couple. One of those articles surprised me, for it is my Christmas fiction I wrote last month, and it has broken 100 views currently. Yes, a piece of fiction broke into the territory previously dominated by how-to articles. Why? Because it is entertaining. The story actually has comments saying how entertaining it was! Imagine that. This is what will give me fiction readers, not how-to articles.

So, having given this a lot of thought, and leading you through my thought processes in a probably not-that-entertaining way, here is what I've decided to do with my blog in the coming year that I hope will not only generate more followers and readers of the blog, but a platform that will be more aligned with fiction.

  1. No matter what I write about, I will focus on it being entertaining. That has to be the number one goal.

  2. I will do a fiction story a month, probably a flash fiction, but I'm not guaranteeing it will only be those.

  3. I will do something funny. Whether that be a "comedy" routine, or a character interview, etc., once a month.

  4. I will endeavor to post once a week, around Monday or Tuesday, not counting announcement posts, or future how-to articles, so readers will know what to expect.


I'll do this for a year and evaluate the results in January 2014, assuming I'm still alive and kicking by then.

This post doesn't count. So I'd better get busy and do one for this week. Thanks to all who are reading.

Why do you read the blogs of fiction authors?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Reality's Dawn Free on Kindle!

If you missed the free Kindle download of Reality' s Dawn last August, now's the time to cash in. The book will be free on Kindle through Saturday, 1/12. So don't miss out, grab a copy from Amazon!

Don't have a Kindle or tablet? You can download the Kindle app to your computer.

Don't wait and miss out again. No telling if this free offer will happen again.