After writing a guest post on Likeable Characters, I got to wondering what other writers had to say on the topic. I found great info. Here are some tidbits, with links to each of the articles.
“Characters need strengths, flaws, goals, desires, fears, and everything else real people have,” says A. L. Sowards in her article, “Creating Flawed (But Likable) Characters.”
Marg McAlister talks about “Why Your Main Character Should be Likeable.”
“Without rich, relatable characters that readers can empathize with and root for, your story is toast,” Brianna da Silva says in a guest post titled “How to Make Readers Care About Your Characters.”
In “Five Ways to Create Likable Characters,” Janice Hardy says likable characters have common elements.
“Give your hero one redeeming quality or action (even if it’s small) at the beginning of the story.” That’s one of the tips in Jessica Brody’s post on “How to Make Unlikable Characters Likable.”
“Readers want to bond to the protagonist, feel as if they can step into their shoes and view the world through their eyes.” Heather Webb says in her article “Creating Likable Characters.”
“If you can establish a compelling reason for your character’s bad behavior or attitudes, readers will understand,” K.M. Weiland says in “4 Ways to Write a Likable Protagonist at the Start of His Character Arc.”
In “8 Ways to Make Your Characters More Relatable,” Robbie Blair advises, “Failure is a powerful tool for developing relatable characters. When we see a character who winds up defeated after a major struggle, we get the opportunity to see how they respond.” He also says, “If your character has a good reason for knowing something, they're more believable. If they've earned their competence, they become more compelling and likeable.” –“6 Ways to Save a Mary Sue”
Some great tips, eh?
If you have others, feel free to share in the comments.
I’m amazed by poor book covers. I know that part of the problem is that it easy to self-publish without getting anyone else’s opinion on the cover and content. Especially in the ebook arena. But still I wonder, don’t these writers look at other books that are being sold? How do they think their book will succeed? If they can’t be honest about the quality of the cover, how can I trust their content?
We’ve all heard the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but that phrase wasn’t actually talking about books. If the cover of a book is bad, it tells me, “stay away!” If you haven’t been unlucky to see bad covers, you can take a look at some examples at Lousy Book Covers.
The cover is the first thing a reader sees. It says so much—title, author, a hint to the story. At a glance, a reader can often tell the genre of the book. It implies whether or not the book is professionally prepared. I like what Jo Linsdell says, “The cover is not only a billboard for the book, but, in a sense, the first page of the story, because it is here that the book can communicate a little of the style and mood of the tale inside.” Read her full post on covers here.
Unless you have graphic design experience, creating your own cover could be the equivalent of “shooting yourself in the foot.” Self-published author Susan Rodger says, “One of the best gifts you can give yourself as you enter the world of self-publishing is the time to find a cover designer who understands design, who allows you the freedom to weigh in on the images and their composition, and who ‘gets’ your story and what message you need to impart to potential readers.” Go here to read her complete post.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, says, “When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” We want that feeling to be positive, not a turn off. The cover should intrigue, grab attention, and hint at what to expect.
Besides poor images and poor layout, some unprofessional covers will have fonts that are unreadable, not appropriate for the genre, or downright dumb looking. Designer Eleanor Bennett has a post on “5 Common Book Cover Mistakes Made by Indie Authors.”
Midwest Book Review says they triage their books submitted for review. “Stack #3 are those titles that are immediately rejected . . . because they are poorly designed or defectively produced in terms of presenting substandard, inadequate, or otherwise unattractive covers.”
Do writers have to go it alone with a cover? No. Some Indie Facebook pages encourage writers to post covers and ask for feedback—members are usually good at responding with kindness and honesty. People will question images, fonts, give feedback on tones, and more. A really good approach is when someone posts a book cover and asks members to indicate what genre they think the book is. Responses are often very telling since even a very professional looking cover isn’t right if it is sending the wrong message. Also, articles like this one have good advice about cover design. And if you want some humor as you learn about book design, watch this Ted Talk by a book designer (who has a preference for physical books).
You get what you pay for. There are professional book cover designers out there who offer covers for reasonable prices. There’s a good post on how to find one here. There are also people on sites who offer to design a cover for $5. Really? You’d pay more for a specialty coffee. If you decide to hire someone to do your book cover, be sure and look at completed sample covers. Do they look like covers you’d see on a shelf in a bookstore? If not, run away. Does this designer design books for your genre? Personally, I’d hesitate to use them if the answer is no. Do you like their sample covers? I know I was thrilled to say yes to these questions when I visited the site of the designer who did my book—paid for by my publisher. She also asked me questions before making the cover and was responsive to my questions and changes. You can see her work here.
I know my opinions on book covers may not be popular. If you have comments, feel free to respond.
Your story can cover a short time period or a long period and still be a novel, but the longer the time period, the more likely the story is a novel. Short stories exist in a short time period, often one day or less. They are more like a snapshot than a two-hour movie. A short story can be one scene or a few. A novel will usually be many scenes.
Similarly, setting is often different between the two. It’s easy to have a short story resolve in one setting, one place. More difficult to do so with a novel. Think of how many novels, even if they aren’t about a journey, don’t stay in one room, or one house, but have indoor and outdoor settings, and often a variety of those.
In a short story, you won’t go as deep into your main character. You’ll probably show only one flaw in the character, not many. The same with skills, desires, dreams. The short story focuses on one aspect of a character’s life. One situation. A novel will do much more.
Think of a novel like a TV series. I’m watching one now. As I go along I’m getting tidbits of the character’s past. I want to know more of what’s happening in his life now, and in the past, so keep watching and get to learn both. In a novel and a TV series, I don’t get a full info dump of the character’s past—only what I need to know now for this scene. In a novel, I want to know more of both the character’s future and past so keep reading. In a short story I’m pretty content with what happens here and now with the character.
Short stories usually focus on one problem per story. It’s probably not a major life-threatening type problem. Novels have a main problem—which can be life-threatening—but have other problems too. Subplots weave their way throughout novels. Short stories rarely have subplots except in your mental backstory or future story for your character. Both will allow the main character to solve the problem in some way.
A short story could be drafted in a single writing session. A novel synopsis or outline could be drafted in a single writing session, but I have yet to meet a writer who could write a whole draft that fast.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to use the comment option below.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.