Maureen pic from booksigningHi! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly blog. A friend of mine and I recently got into an interesting discussion about how much of the programming on television and many of today’s movies contain fundamentally unlikeable characters who do some pretty awful things. And yet, they draw an audience, sometimes rave reviews, and, sometimes, too, awards and accolades.

As a reporter, I’ve had to write stories about subjects that I don’t necessarily “resonate” with. I’ve also had to interview people with whom I personally disagree or who are not exactly the kind of people I’d want to share a meal with. But, that’s the life of a reporter; news and newsmakers come in all shapes, sizes and moral convictions (or lack thereof), and a good reporter is able to get to the truth of a piece without inserting personal feelings or bias (not to say we don’t have them!)

But what about those stories we aren’t professionally obligated to tell, but rather choose to tell or are led to tell by the Spirit? Do we have to like all of our characters, down to the lowliest criminal or town gossip or unsaved soul? Are we required to give soft edges to all inhabitants of our stories so that they will be palatable to us (read: so we’ll be able to spend long hours with them through the creative process) and our readers? What about the really evil-doers in some books? If we’re writing stories including those kinds of characters, do we have to like them in order to write them well?

For non-faith-based authors, the question can be answered rather succinctly: Characters don’t have to be likeable in order for them to “work” in a story, but they do have to be attractive in some way in order for people to want to watch them. This attraction can be extremely superficial (a very good-looking man or woman as the villain, for example). Or, it can be character-deep, drawing the audience on an exploration of what the character’s (often twisted) thinking/experience/perspective is and how that propels him or her to act as he or she does. Unfortunately, unlikeable characters often glamorize wrongdoing – the subject of another blog – and understanding why someone does something nefarious is often mistaken for condoning it.

For the faith-based author, the question of liking our characters takes on a very different color. We believe in God’s love for each of us and the power of redemption available to all. Our characters might do very evil things, but God is more powerful and there is always the possiblity of redemption, forgiveness, a complete conversion of spirit. “Hate the sin and not the sinner” seems superficial, but is, in some sense, closer to the sense of balance in mind as pen is put to paper. And as the process unfolds, it is more useful the farther we get into the work. I for one cannot lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world, and, even in a fictional world, that belief is still valid.

Fiction authors will talk about the “heart” that they pour into their books, and the way they “bonded” with their characters. By the end of the writing process, many characters can become almost like friends and nearly as beloved. This is a far different emotional connection from writing straight news, covering a beat that runs the gamut of likeable and unlikeable denizens. It is much like the difference between “just doing a job” and completely throwing oneself into a vocation, a calling. So, it is much more plausible for authors of fiction to warm to their characters.

In fine fiction, the fondness an author has for his or her work helps bring the story to life and enables the reader to be drawn in, to connect, and to want to spend hours reading just as the author has spent hours writing. The characters who do evil things, who sin, who stumble, and who are, on the face of it, unlikeable, are part of this cloth of a tale, and in the hands of a faith-based author can be and show both the awful side of mankind as well as the miracle, wonder, and “Wow!” of a character’s redemption. It’s so powerful to read a story where the worst of the characters comes around, repents, and we all breathe a collective “Hallelujah!”

Do we have to like all of our characters?

Not all at once. But we can love God’s presence and power working through and around them. And as our stories unfold, the unlikeable might just become the character we remember most – in a good and remarkable way!

Blessings, everyone!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

A Jackie M. Johnson photoGreetings from Jackie!

One of the most effective ways to communicate with your readers is through your author/speaker website. How can you make your site better?

Your author website is your online “storefront.” It represents you and your writing to your readers. It gives you credibility. It builds your brand. It gives you the opportunity to showcase your books—and sell them. In addition to social media, your website is a place to connect and build community.

Jane Friedman, a media industry expert, calls the author website “the No. 1 calling card for a digital-age author.” 

Today, there are many options for building a website. Some authors use a web designer to build a traditional website. Others use WordPress, traditionally a blogging site, to transform their blog into a website. Another option is to create your own professional website using a company, like homestead® or others, that provide templates (so you can easily fill in your own words and photos). 

If you already have an author website, how can you make it better? Is your site the most effective marketing tool it can be right now? 

First, start by asking yourself these questions: How useable is your site? Can your readers easily find what they are looking for (like your bio, books, speaking engagements, how to follow you on all your social media outlets and the like)? Is your contact information is listed clearly and on every page of your site? 

Next, you may want to look at other author websites—fiction and nonfiction—to get ideas about what you want and don’t want on your site. Plus, if you scroll down to the bottom of the web page, most sites will list the web designer’s name or company name (which is helpful if you are in the market for a web designer).   

Rob Eagar (WildFire Marketing) is a marketing consultant who specializes in helping authors to get amazing results in marketing fiction and nonfiction books. For an effective author/speaker website, Eagar recommends these basic, but crucial elements

  • Home page: minimal text; strong graphics; easy navigation layout; latest news area.
  • Newsletter Signup: pop-up window on Home page that lets visitors register email.
  • Bio page: use your bio to show how your expertise produces results for your readers.
  • Books page: show your books, give excerpts, and describe results each book creates.
  • Speaking page: include professional audio/video samples of speeches if available.
  • Events page: list upcoming speaking events, book-signings, and media interviews.
  • Endorsements page: show testimonials from well-known leaders or celebrities.
  • Store page: include pictures and benefits of each product offered.
  • Free Resources: offer helpful articles, book explainers, and discussion guides.
  • Media page: list past media appearances; include downloadable headshots and press kit.
  • Contact Us page: list an updated mailing address, phone number, and email address.

Remember, websites are meant to be active, not static. They need to be updated often. And they need to offer content that is interesting and useful to the reader.

The time you or your assistant spends on your author website is worth it—it’s an investment that will pay dividends in your brand and book sales when it’s done effectively and well.

Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant in Colorado. Visit her encouragement blog at http://anewdaycafe.blogspot.com or website at www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com.

WLE book cover PPFW new cover PPFCT - Jackie M Johnson author

Sundin #D70 ©2008 Linda Johnson Photography web (2)Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I’m delighted to interview dear friend and fellow WWII fiction writer Cara C. Putman. In fact, Cara, Tricia Goyer, and I have written a Christmas novella collection that will be coming out in October 2014 (Where Treetops Glisten). While researching my story, I had the joy of staying with Cara’s family and watching this lawyer/multi-published author/homeschooling mom in action—and with a continual smile on her face.

Cara, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

Cara Putman

Cara Putman

My 17th novel just released. Shadowed by Grace is set in Italy during WWII and is a story of a Monuments Man on a search for more than lost art. Before that A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island released and was repackaged in Waterfront Weddings.

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Largest pic LDLondonderry Dreaming of the Passport to Romance series

Acclaimed New York artist, Naomi Boyd, and music therapist, Keith Wilson, loved one another five years ago, until her grandfather with his influence over Naomi separated them.

That root of bitterness keeps them apart until a letter from Keith’s grandmother, Ruth, draws Naomi to Londonderry to find she’s too late. Ruth has passed on. After the death of his beloved grandmother, Keith has also come to Londonderry only to open the door to his past…Naomi…beautiful as ever, the girl who broke his heart….

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JanetPerezEckles-Use

It was the strangest thing. My pillow was lumpy. What in the world? I thought as I reached inside the pillowcase and pulled out several of my favorite scarves one right after the other—my red, green, and lavender.

“Young lady,” I called out to my six-year-old granddaughter.

I lifted one in the air. “Did you do this?”

”Uh, uh…yes.”

I frowned. “Haven’t I told you that if you played with them, you must fold them and put them back where they belong?”

“Yes.”

“And haven’t I told you that we must have a place for everything and…”

She completed the sentence, “…everything in its place.”

“And haven’t I told you there are consequences for disobeying?”

But that disobedience lesson was for me, too. And dare I say, maybe for you too? You know, when painful setbacks, rejected contracts, empty calendars, or overwhelming marketing strategies darken our days, we often do the same. We stuff our hearts with fear, anxiety, discouragement and distress.

Courageous

With permission: www.thefuge.cc

But God who observes our heart that’s lumpy with things that don’t belong there, loves, gentle, yet firm: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Father, how I needed that command to be courageous. To be strong because of your power that’s in me. To be confident because of your strong arms to hold me. I will put everything in its place—my disappointments in your healing power, my stress in your promise of peace, and my fear in your reassurance that you will be with me wherever I go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

  • What is stuffed in your heart lately?
  • What needs to be released today?
  • What keeps you from being completely free?

Janet

Judson Press, 2011

Simply Salsa, Amazon Best-selling book

 

Cheering you on to experience life, harvest its lessons and share their outcome.

Best-selling author and international speaker, Janet Perez Eckles’ personal success coaching is just a click away: www.janetperezeckles.com

 

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