Category: AIW Press

The Role of the Minor Character

The Role of the Minor Character

A minor or supporting character is vital in developing a well-crafted novel. For example:

  1. Harry Potter and Mr. Filch
    Filch delights in the misery of the students and is still far from likable; however, he is devoted to Hogwarts.
  2. Office Space and Milton Waddams
    Milton is famous for his rant about the red Swingline stapler. He is a disgruntled employee who brings life to all the mistreated employees in all possible ways.
  3. Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Munchkins
    They are there to further the plot, give Dorothy some insight into what she needs to get home, or to see the Wizard. Without them, there would be no one to fear the Wicked Witch of the West.

All supporting characters need to be memorable even though they appear in limited scenes. While having these minor characters in your novel, they should be used to further the plot by providing subtle insights and helping or hindering the hero.

Don’t just throw them into your novel. Take the time to develop them, enabling them to provide insight into your main character without using an info dump.These characters need to have a reason for being there. If they don’t advance the plot, they need to go. Remember it can be a small part, or an addition to the subplot, but they must serve a purpose.

Use your minor characters to ground the reader in a place, adding stability to your novel. You don’t want them to overshadow your hero, but rather give a depth to your hero. These characters make your world building feel real. And who knows—you just might create a character for your next book.

Tips to Crafting a Minor Character

  1. Propel your plot forward.
  2. Help the hero achieve his goal.
  3. Move the story forward, reveal information, and provide insight about major characters, including back-story, in an organic way.
  4. Enhance the mood and tone of the world you have created.
  5. Change your hero’s point of view by advising your hero in a positive or negative way.

How do you use your minor characters?
Do your minor characters become major characters in their own novel?
Let us know. We love hearing your thoughts.

Cover Reveal–Quantum Wanderlust

Cover Reveal–Quantum Wanderlust

AIW Press is proud to reveal the cover for Quantum Wanderlust.

Spring Forward, Fall Back

That reminds you of changing the clocks, right? When we talk about the passage of time, it’s usually in short bursts—seconds, minutes, hours—. Or slightly longer chunks—weeks, months, years.

What if it was limitless? What if you could go forward or back, in any size segment you wanted? Decades, centuries, eons? Would you go back and change your life? Go forward and see your future?

We are excited to share thirteen short stories crafted by very talented authors that will take you forward and back through time.

If you could travel through time, what would you do?

Professional Editing (Part One)

Professional Editing (Part One)

This article is the first of a two-part series on the importance of using a professional editor. I’ll post the second part in late September.

Self-editing, beta readers, and critique partners or groups are all an important aspect of the writing process. Each step has its own benefits. Some writers may not use beta readers, and others don’t have a critique partner or group.  I believe both provide useful feedback and it goes without saying that self-editing is a must.

However, if you want your manuscript to be the best it can be, you need the services of a professional. It’s important to know there are different types of edits—content edits, line edits, and copy edits.

Some people use the terms line editor and content editor to mean the same thing essentially. Others differentiate slightly on the two. You may also hear the term developmental edits rather than content edits.

Today, I’m going to talk about content editors. This person can take an otherwise dull manuscript and make it shine.

The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some of the things they do are:

  • Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
  • Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
  • Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
  • Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
  • Active vs. passive voice
  • Confusing scenes or passages
  • Overused words or sentences
  • Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
  • Telling vs. showing

The following is an example from one of my manuscripts. A simple rewording of one sentence changed the passage from what’s known as author intrusion to deep point of view.

Before:

Stephanie felt more confident knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her.

After:

Knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her boosted her confidence.

In the first sentence, I’m telling the reader what Stephanie felt. In the second sentence, I’m in her point of view and showing the reader how she feels.

Here’s another example from the same manuscript in which the editor eliminated unnecessary words.

Before:

Stephanie messaged back. You may call me directly. She entered her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

After:

Stephanie messaged back her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

The second sentence, although shorter, is stronger and I didn’t lose the intent of the passage.

It’s important to note a good editor never changes the author’s voice. Sadly, I once had an experience with someone who was, in reality, a frustrated writer. By the time he finished editing my work, I almost didn’t recognize it.

To this day, I regret not using a pen name with that story. And even though it was published in a collection with other writers, I refuse to make references to the book on my website. (Of note, I wasn’t the only author who felt that way.)

A good editor not only points out ways in which a writer can improve his or her work, but they also leave encouraging comments when warranted.

I had this comment from on a particularly tense scene in a novel in which a character reveals something about his past:

Oh! Gut punch! As a writer, this is delicious. As a reader, so sad. Good job.

You can see how this help boost my confidence both as a writer and in the story.

If you go with a traditional publisher, they will provide someone to edit your work. It’s important to note that editing isn’t cheap, but it can make or break your book. If you self-publish, it’s well worth the money spent to hire a professional.

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A Pre-Submission Checklist

A Pre-Submission Checklist

We’ve been talking a lot about story submissions, but we never really stopped to discuss all the things you need to consider in general terms. I thought it might be nice to provide you with a checklist so you have no questions about whether your T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. Print out this list or bookmark this post and refer back to it before you contact a publisher.

Pre-Publishing Checklist

  Create your elevator pitch. (Doing this first helps you with your focus.)


  Compose back cover copy. (Doing this second can keep you on track.)

  Write a hook.

 Only hit the highlights.

 Do not reveal the ending.


 Outline the story.


 Write the very best book you’re capable of.


 Spell check and grammar check.


 Share your work with your critique partners.


 Incorporate their feedback.


 Revise for submission.


 Write the query letter, adhering to the publisher’s guidelines.

 Address your query to the right person, confirming spelling and title.

 Use a 3-paragraph format (greeting, book content, author bio and contact info).

 Use professional tone, but one that is in keeping with the tone of the story.


 Craft your synopsis. (This is the next thing a publisher will ask for.)

 Only use the main characters.

 Do not omit the climax and resolution.


Remember, publishers are busy and receive many submissions a month, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back right away. But if you follow the list, your chances will increase. Best wishes!

Staci Troilo

What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Blanche, Muffy, Winchester, Bruiser, Tiny. Each name and nickname evoke something in us. They imply something.

Each time you choose a name for a character in your work, that name determines how you want your reader to react to the character—the image you want the character to portray.A simple name will set the tone of your work and determine how the character will act. And, when you take the time to name a character, that tells the reader the character is important to you and to your story. He has meaning, and you want your reader to remember him. If the character isn’t a vital part of your story, don’t name him—simply refer to him as what he is (waiter, lawyer, lifeguard). These words let the reader know a bit about the person but keep them from becoming too prominent.

Not only will names aid in the description of your characters, they help set the time period. For example, Beulah, while popular in the late 1800s, isn’t a common name today. As a reader coming across this name, you most likely would imagine an old woman rather than a young girl.

How can you choose the perfect name?  Every author goes about it differently, but below are a few tips that can help.

  • Use an online name generator
  • Read phone books
  • Walk though a cemetery
  • Search the Internet
  • Ask your friends

There are things you should avoid when naming characters as well.

  • Names that don’t match the time period
  • Names that sound the same or start with the same letter
  • Names that are hard to pronounce

What tools do you use to name your characters? Share them with us. We’d love to know.

 

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Allison stepped onto the patio, enjoying the coolness of the desert southwest evening. Saguaro cacti were silhouetted against the sunset, and a roadrunner darted behind an agave plant. A cactus wren perched nearby. Allison walked further into the yard and stopped to stand beneath a giant magnolia tree…

Okay, I won’t say research is evil, but it hasn’t always been my favorite thing to do. When I first began writing fiction, I didn’t want to be bothered with research. All I wanted to do was to get the story out of my head and onto the computer screen.

“Write what you know.” I heard these words repeated over and over by several seasoned writers.

So I began with something that was comfortable to me. I loosely based the setting of my first novel on my hometown. However, the subject matter required research on my part to make part of the story believable.

My second novel, currently in draft state, necessitated me spending time on the Internet, looking for information about arsonists. (Suffice to say if someone looked at my browser history, and didn’t know I was a writer, they might want to report me to the nearest law enforcement agency.)

It’s easy to slip into a comfort zone. Therefore, the “write what you know” advice only goes so far. If an author continues to use the same setting or story line, readers will quickly become bored with their work and move on. Even though we might write in the same (or similar) genre, we want to generate stories that continue to please our readers and entice new ones.

Hence the need for research. We want our fiction to be believable. So what’s wrong with my opening paragraph?

Saguaro cacti, agave plants, roadrunners, and cactus wrens all fit within the scene. However, magnolia trees do not grow in the desert southwest. A simple mistake like that can cause readers to lose interest and damage our credibility as writers. Worse yet, they could leave a bad review, and we all know too many one and two-star reviews can make or break a book.

How do we go about gathering information? Fortunately, we live in an age where we have instant access to almost anything we want to know. Google and Bing can be a writer’s best friend.

A word of caution—just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t make it true. It’s best to check several sources and/or websites. Wikipedia, while popular, isn’t always the most accurate source because anyone can post anything.

In addition to the Internet, talk with experts. Law enforcement officers, physicians and nurses, fire investigators, military personnel, etc. Most times people are willing to answer specific questions you might have. When meeting with these people, go prepared. Have a list of specific questions so as not to waste their time or yours.

Travel to locations where you want to set your stories. Look around, observe, talk with locals, get a feel of the area, and make copious notes.

I’ve come a long way in regards to conducting research since I started writing fiction. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time gathering information for a current short story than I did with both novels.

The reason? It’s a setting and a story line that is totally beyond my scope of knowledge. Hopefully, my research has paid off. On a recent vacation, while touring a former aircraft carrier turned museum, my husband was impressed that I was able to identify two types of aircraft without looking at signs. I admit that I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from doing this project.

What about you? As a writer, do you enjoy research? What are some of your favorite methods?

 

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THE RIDE OF MY LIFE—COVER REVEAL

THE RIDE OF MY LIFE—COVER REVEAL

Coming in August
THE RIDE OF MY LIFE

A look inside:

Fear of financial ruin began when I discovered the coast-to-coast bicycle tour price was $10,000. How would I afford it? The cost was all inclusive, but not suitable for my budget. After all, I was retired and lived on a fixed income.

Then one day as I reviewed the tour company’s website for the hundredth time, I read that they were hiring ‘SAG drivers’ for the cross-country tour. SAG stands for Supply and Gear. They offered no salary, but they gave forty percent off the actual price of the tour. I applied at once and surprisingly got the job. Probably because of my many years of cycling experience. I had hoped and prayed this would happen. It was a go. The trip now cost $6,000 instead of $10,000 and started to take shape. The fear of financial ruin, self-doubt, and anxiety were gone—at least for the moment.

Days later, after getting the job, very specific instructions arrived in the mail from the tour company. It was like Christmas morning as I opened the mail. Hands shaking, palms sweaty, I anxiously ripped open the envelope with total disregard for its contents.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into The Ride Of My Life.

Anteprima Press

What’s a Writer to Do?

What’s a Writer to Do?

blogOne criterion publishers use to determine whether they should take a risk on a writer is the ubiquitous author platform.

I know. You’re rolling your eyes and sighing. Maybe getting a little queasy feeling in your stomach.

All authors—traditionally published, self-published, or hybrid—need a platform to market their work. There are several tools you can use to establish your platform, but one of the most popular and useful is the author blog.

The problem is, so many fiction writers don’t know what to write about.

Let me give you a piece of advice before we move forward.

Authors should not blog about the craft of writing. These posts attract other writers, but the goal is to attract readers.

So, what’s a writer to do? What can they blog about, if not their craft?

Here are some suggestions:

Their Work

  • cover reveals
  • story research
  • character dossiers/interviews
  • new releases
  • tour of the setting
  • blurbs/teasers/excerpts
  • spotlight on the villain (particularly if it’s a type of creature or a mental illness)
  • any lore or legend related to the story

Their Process

  • how they conduct research
  • where they prefer to work/what their workspace is like
  • what music (or ambient sounds) they listen to when writing
  • what they eat and drink while they work
  • where they get story ideas
  • where they get character names

Their Preferences

  • what genres they like to read
  • books on their shelf (or their ereader)
  • what novels/TV shows/movies inspire them
  • biographical notes that impacted their story

Their Silly Side

  • things they enjoy or hate (think top-10 lists)
  • ways for readers to get to know them (favorite foods, games, etc.)
  • stories about their pets or their families
  • original short fiction

Their Generosity

  • book reviews of other authors’ works
  • interviews with other authors
  • other author’s new releases

So, there you have it. Twenty-five topics for fiction writers to blog about. That’s roughly half a year at one post a week, assuming you choose each of these only once. And we all know these can be mixed, matched, and repeated as necessary. Hopefully there’s enough here to get you started on expanding your author platform.

Do you rely on any blogging topics that we didn’t mention here? Please share them with us in the comments.

Staci Troilo

Cover Reveal―Undefeated

Cover Reveal―Undefeated

Coming in August
UNDEFEATED
A War Widow’s Story of Faith and Survival

A look inside:

It was a Sunday—uneventful for the most part. Earlier that day, I was at a birthday party with my eleven-year-old son, Justin, and my six-year-old daughter, Meredith. Home from the festivities, I began to make dinner. I had just started making spaghetti in the kitchen. The children were playing together upstairs. Just as the sauce began to simmer, there was a knock at the door. I thought nothing of it. I put down the spoon I had just used to stir the sauce, wiped my hands, and started down the hallway.
I pressed my eye to the peephole.

A man in a military uniform stood there.

I opened the door and immediately felt my chest tighten—a chaplain stood behind the uniformed man. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Why they were on my front porch?

 

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Undefeated.
Undefeated will be available for purchase at most major online retailers.

RozzoCasa Press

 

 

 

What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

As authors, we spend a lot of time on our manuscripts – whether they are novels, novellas, short stories, poems, or other genres. We want to get the most out of our marketing, and one of the best marketing tools for our published content is the synopsis of our work.

A well-written synopsis can really help sell your book.

In my opinion, the key to a good synopsis is to give a clear, concise description of your story. You’ll want to include your elevator pitch, why the plot or main conflict is important, and how the story ends.

A synopsis can be cold, almost clinical in its writing, and somewhat boring. That is okay. You’re not using the synopsis to hook your reader – in fact, the book blurb (which I will write about next month) is what will hook your reader. If they like the blurb, they may read an exerpt, or even your first few chapters to see if they like it. A synopsis will not be published with its book. It’s a selling point for a publisher.

There are several different ways to write a book synopsis, and in this article, I discuss the method that has worked the best for me. I have seen publishers ask from as little as 500 words to a synopsis that spans 5+ pages. Each publisher is different. It’s good to know how to write a one page synopsis, which is what I will be focusing on.

The purpose of a synopsis is to summarize the book. A well-written synopsis gives a summary of the plot, and details what is unique about the book, what will help it to sell. It should be between 500-750 words, and it should read similarly to an abstract in a research paper. The language should be neutral and as clear and succinct as possible. Writing the synopsis can be harder than writing the book itself. Having a good synopsis is only one key to marketing strategically for a published work, but it can mean the difference between a publisher accepting a manuscript, or moving on to see what someone else has to offer.

Writing synopses is tricky business. Here are the main things to include when writing a successful and enticing book synopsis:

  • The main character or characters
  • A brief description of the main characters, such as prominent traits that are germane to the story
  • Establish the main setting
  • An elevator pitch (see the link above, by Staci Troilo, about writing an elevator pitch)
  • The rising action, and why it is important – without saying it’s important
  • A sentence describing the type of journey the main characters are going to undertake
  • The ending of the book

Because a synopsis is a summary, it’s a good idea not to go heavily into detail when writing one. Here is a list of things that should not be included in a book synopsis:

  • Excessive character detail
  • Excessive setting details
  • Subplots of the story
  • Background characters
  • Plot twists

To write a good synopsis, I follow a certain formula.

1) I make sure I’ve written my elevator pitch – I always like to include it in my synopsis as a great way to introduce my main characters and the setting.

2) I ensure that all of the character names are in ALL CAPS or emboldened the first time they are mentioned. This helps for the reader to find the character(s) quickly within the synopsis.

3) I use the elevator pitch to introduce the synopsis, and elaborate slightly on my main character by giving a few of his or her traits.

4) If it’s not already in the elevator pitch, I mention the setting in as little detail as possible.

5) I explain why the character is in their current conflict, giving some depth to why the conflict should matter. Pulling from the first Harry Potter book, for example:

Harry winds up in the wizarding world, where everything is completely new to him, including his own fame. Having been raised without magic, he struggles to fit in, and slowly starts to discover how his history fits into the history of this world. Something isn’t right, though, at his new school, and Harry finds himself being drawn in to the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone. As he delves deeper into his search with his two friends, Ron and Hermione, he learns that the staff at Hogwarts is guarding the sorcerer’s stone and what makes it valuable. What he didn’t bargain for was that his own fame is inextricably linked to the man who he suspects might need the stone to stay alive. 

This description of the rising action describes Harry’s journey and gives him a reason to want to investigate the sorcerer’s stone. It tells us why his journey is important and tells us what the rising action is.

6) I re-read what I’ve summarized so far, ensuring that I’ve explained the book’s conflict and highlighted what is unique about my book. In the case of Harry Potter, what is unique would be the introduction into an entirely new world, something that would be described before the rising action.

7) I summarize the ending.

8) I ensure the formatting is correct. The margins are 1″ on all sides, the font is 12 pt – I use Times New Roman – and the spacing is no more than 1.5 between each line. I like to use 1.15, I think it looks better. All paragraphs are indented by 0.5″. My name, address, phone number, and email are in the top left corner. In the top right corner is the genre of my book and the word count. I hit return five times, then add in my title. My title is centered, in all caps, and beneath my title is the word “Synopsis”, also centered. Here are two documents you can view as examples. Synopsis Template .docx Synopsis Template PDF


This is my go to strategy for writing a solid book synopsis. What about you? Do you have a good formula for writing a book synopsis? Comment below – share your ideas.

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