Managing Multiple Characters

The Family Tree Novel series is about a family of seven: five children and two parents. Each child has: a way they love, a birth order, a gender, a physical/mental limitation, and an aspiration. The conflict between these varied characters flares by his or her responses to one another.

Driew (the main character) feels unappreciated by his oldest sister, Killiope, for the deeds he does to show her love. She feels Driew’s do-gooder personality keeps him under foot. As the oldest sibling, she is responsible for getting Driew to and from school. Killiope can’t enjoy her teen life or appreciate her brother’s acts of service when responsibility supersedes fun.

Gender is an important factor in character development: Driew responds physically and Killiope verbally to confrontations. Driew attempts to fix problems that Killiope feels only need resolution.

Physical and/or mental limitations and aspirations shape a character’s response. Examples: Driew’s glasses prevent him from seeing the world below his nose; a D+ student will do poorly on tests and have a limited vocabulary compared to an A+ student; a non-swimmer will not aspire to participate in water activities like boating, rafting, or tubing in a river.

Creating a list of character traits for the main characters, is a guide for directing scene outcomes. When writing, first write the full scene. Then reference the characters’ trait list, confirming they aren’t doing any uncharacteristic behavior or making uncharacteristic choices.

Create the same list for everyone as simple as yes/no:

  • Does the character drink milk? John–Yes, Mary–No
  • Does the character have a food allergy? John–Yes, Mary–Yes
  • Does the character express love through quality time? John–Yes, Mary–Yes

Using John and Mary’s answers to the three questions above:

Everyone in the senior class is excited about the ice cream social but John. His peanut allergy prevent him from visiting Pistachio’s Ice Cream Parlor. Mary, who is lactose intolerant, boycotts the ice cream social, having a private picnic for John. Sharing their favorite foods and quality time, an unexpected love interest blossoms.

Each character’s traits and preferences direct the conflict and resolution by his or her food preferences, gender, and love.

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Beta Readers for Writing Success

Below is the information you requested regarding the importance of Beta Readers:

What are beta readers and why use them?

Beta Readers are non-professional readers who read a prerelease manuscript or sample book to find and improve such items as: grammar, character suggestions, or assist in fact-checking. Beta Readers should not be used as proofreaders or editors.

Who should your beta readers be/how do you select them?

Beta Readers vary depending on genre and reading level and should be selected accordingly. The number of Beta Readers needed varies depending on the length of the manuscript. Here are examples of how they are selected based on genres:

  • Picture Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), certified preschool teachers (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and/or a professional illustrator.
  • Juvenile Chapter Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 3rd–5th grade (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 3rd–5th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Young Adult YA: YA public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 6th–12th grade (2–3 readers), school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 6th–12th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Genre Specific Fiction: public librarian (2–3 readers), residents in the city/region of the story (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers (2–3 readers).
  • Avoid Using Relatives: Relatives as Beta Readers they are not the most objective readers.

How much time should you give your Beta Readers?

Consider the word count of your book. Manuscripts that are 30,000–45,000 words may only require two weeks to read and review. Books over 50,000 words allow  four weeks or more.

What are some ways you can get their feedback?

Be creative but focused. If the reading experience is enjoyable, then participation and feedback happen more quickly.  Here are two favorite examples:

  • Host a Party: Invite the Beta Readers to a comfortable quiet location. For the first hour allow each Beta Reader to 1 to 2 chapters and complete a questionnaire. The next hour is book discussion over pizza, pastries, coffee, etc. Take notes on the beta readers conversation.
  • Invest in ten (10) POD (Print On Demand) Sample Books: Use these to test consumer appeal and get Beta Reader feedback. Mail copies to the beta readers to comment inside the book on cover image, book summary, interior errors, and favorite sections. Use a few samples to get consumer feedback without reading the book.

What types of questions should you ask your beta readers?

Beta Readers‘ time is valuable. Asking specific questions regarding their interest level to character development is important. Not only ask for the negative parts of the book, but also items that are strong. This helps an author build on the weak sections and recognize writing strengths. These are questions to consider:

  • Would they like to receive a complimentary book upon release?
  • Would they like to provide an endorsement quote for this book?
  • Would they like to participate in future beta reads for this book series.
  • Reader Name and Reader Profession/Title: a professor of professional beta reader’s endorsement could boost sales.
  • Address, State, and Zip: is important when mailing a complimentary book or personal thank you.
  • Email Address: is important for contacting the beta reader to read future books in the series.
  • Content: ask that the beta reader please rate each area from 1–10 (10 being excellent). Also ask them to provide any suggestions or accolades regarding each section: Editorial, Design, Front Cover, Back Cover, and Spine.

While Beta Readers are reviewing the manuscript, compare similar books in the manuscript genre using these techniques:

Free Reader Comparison:  Place your book with books of similar content at the public library. Lay three books including yours on a table or face out on a book shelf. Sit far enough away to observe and not look like a stalker. Take notes. Do library patrons overlook, preview, read, or check out your book? Feel honored if your book reach the circulation desk.

Bookstore Comparison:  Visit your local book retailer. Ask for the top three books in your genre. Find a comfortable corner and critique your book. Don’t mark in the bookseller’s books, only your own. Is your writing professional (typos, misspellings, etc.)? Does your layout follow industry standards (margins, text flow, etc.)?  Do your illustrations/photos match or exceed the professionals? Place your book on a bookshelf next to the competitors. Which book is most easily read from twelve feet away? If your book is week in any area, make adjustments now!

Education Considerations:

1.  Readability Score: Use the Readability-Score.com text scoring tool to tell you how easy a piece of text is to read and if it is grade and/or reading level appropriate.

2.  Sight Words:  vocabulary words for age appropriate grade levels

3.  Historical and Scientific Facts:  topics that are specific to readers of a certain age woven within the story line

4.  Nationalities:  character diversity within stories

5.  Human Geography:  the incorporation of financial, environmental, and industrial cause and affect on the success of cultures.

Editing Books:

Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editors Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, Jodie Renner

Captivate Your Readers: An Editors Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, Jodie Renner

For more information about Beta Readers visit Gina Edwards’s blog and listen to the Around the Writer’s Table Radio Show Interview with Mark Wayne Adams.

Entrepreneurial Author Brandon Royal

Brandon Royal is an award-winning writer whose educational authorship includes The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Gold Grammar Book, The Little Green Math Book, and The Little Blue Reasoning Book. During his tenure working in Hong Kong for US-based Kaplan Educational Centers — a Washington Post subsidiary and the largest test preparation organization in the world — Brandon honed his theories of teaching and education and developed a set of key learning “principles” to help define the basics of writing, grammar, math, and reasoning.

A Canadian by birth and graduate of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, his interest in writing began after completing writing courses at Harvard University. Since then he has authored a dozen books and reviews of his books have appeared in Time Asia magazine, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal of America, Midwest Book Review, The Asian Review of Books, Choice Reviews Online, Asia Times Online, and About.com.

Brandon is a five-time winner of the International Book Awards, a seven-time gold medalist at the President’s Book Awards, as well as recipient of the “Educational Book of the Year” award as presented by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. He has also been a winner or finalist at the Ben Franklin Book Awards, the Global eBook Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the IPPY Awards, the USA Book News “Best Book Awards,” and the Foreword magazine Book of the Year Awards. He continues to write and publish in the belief that there will always be a place for books that inspire, enlighten, and enrich.

Contact Brandon Royal via E-mail: contact@brandonroyal.com or Web site: www.brandonroyal.com

How do you approach the writing process?

How do you approach the writing process?

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_AuthorMy writing process is fairly structured. I outline the story using a historical timeline which guides the rhythm of each book. As ideas appear, I categorize them into their respective place within the story timeline. I also parallel historical facts and words I want included from the time periods. Some days I sit inside my screened pool and become a prisoner to the story. Every breath is a moment trapped within Driew Qweepie’s story.

My favorite thing about being a writer is hearing from readers! Connecting with book lovers reminds me what writing fiction is all about—escape for us all. I enjoy reading Goodreads and Amazon reviews and seeing posts about the story—both positive and negative. I can’t improve without their honest feedback.

Read the full OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

Did you enjoy the writing process, since you’ve illustrated over fifty picture books?

Did you enjoy the writing process, since you’ve illustrated over fifty picture books?

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_AuthorI always enjoyed books as a child—from illustrations to reading. Making a career writing or illustrating books never came to mind. As a child my ambition was to become an animator after watching Walt Disney’s movie, Fantasia. Once I discovered there were more profitable art careers besides animation, I began illustrating books. Being around creative writers, inspired my love of writing. I’m a firm believer, you are who you associate with.

Read the full OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

Where did the doll come from and what other life experience was used in the novel?

In the Author Biography, you indicate OUTBACK was inspired by a brown doll you had during your childhood. Where did the doll come from and what other life experience was used in the novel?

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_Author

In the years since my childhood, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of dolls and toys as companions in my life. As a Caucasian boy, owning a brown baby doll named Driew was open season for teasing. I protected our colorful relationship which made me a better man in many ways.

I have what I’ve come to call an “adopted family,”­ characters who  came into my life when my family is absent. In their own way, they provided me with an imaginative love that became the structure for my artistic talent. I thank Driew and many more like him.

In OUTBACK, I wanted to bring some of my out back magic to the book. I wanted the book to be about the bonds formed between people that become your adopted family. Hopefully readers are engaged by my writing.

Read the full OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

Write Back! Fan Mail is Good Business.

I usually don’t respond to student telephone calls, texts, or Facebook posts. As a parent myself, I feel kids communicating with adults should happen with parent supervision. So, I avoided numerous calls from Isabella, until I received a letter from her parents.

She was working on a library book report about her favorite author. After purchasing King for a Day, the Story of Stories during the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, Kentucky, she’d chosen me for her report.

“My librarian says authors are better than movie stars, because they write the story.” Isabella said in her letter.

Being a fan of librarians, I replied “I think librarians are better than movie stars, because they choose the books that fill the library.” Isabella shared the letter with her class and school librarian. Within a week, I’d been asked to visit two schools in her district.

As an author and illustrator, answer fan mail—schools are a niche market.

With Love Zora: Student Comments

Dear Mr. Mark Wayne Adams,

I really like your art in some of your books, like “The Fart Fairy” and “My Friendly Giant.” Do you use watercolor? If so, it looks super good with all the bright colors you use. I really love your horses though. Like in “Good Nightmare.” I loved that. I saw some of your mermaids too. How did you get such great detail? I just LOOOOVVVVEEEE it! I can never get that detail in my art…Could you give me some pointers? To show you some of my sketches I’m gong to add another piece of paper in here.

I heard that you’re a traveling illustrator. Where are some of the places you’ve traveled to? Have you been to Kentucky? That’s where I live. How about Maine? I was born there. Or Indiana, that’s where my sis was born.

Have you ever had people not believe in you? A lot of my friends act like that they always say I’m going got fail on tests or not make it to parties and that they’re my only chance at ever having friends Ugh. How did you get inspired to draw? Sometimes I just sit and think about what I want to draw. I have a hard time finding inspiration! We’ll I appreciate you even reading this because you seem like a really busy kind of person. Well thanks for reading my letter!

All I really want to say is your art is amazing and I particularly like your horses and mermaid. I’m sure you get a lot of letters with the same things I said. I mean you have over 30 illustrated book! I mean you must get a ton of letters! I just wanna thank you for reading! Please respond!”

With Love,

Zorya

Summer Reading List: “King for a Day, the Story of Stories”

When Carter and Russell forget their story for a jamboree, they have only one day to write a new one. Soon a pair of unexpected characters enter to ruin the day and a remarkable adventure ensues, leaving the pair with an unexpected reward. A heartwarming tale that begins at home, this wonderfully illustrated book teaches young readers about friendship, integrity, and self-discovery, encouraging them to create their own stories using the tools within themselves. Also woven within the tale is practical advice for how to write a story, detailing how to write a fictional piece, create a page layout, and design characters.

King for a Day, the Story of Stories is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

Meet Candace Ruffin: “Eli’s Balloon”

Candace Ruffin is a native of East Cleveland, Ohio where, as a young girl, she first discovered her love of writing. After teaching in public schools for several years, she eventually decided to leave the classroom and pursue her passion for writing. Drawing on her personal and professional experiences with children, she was inspired to write stories for children of all ages to enjoy.

Candace Ruffin currently lives in Central Florida with her husband, two sons, and their pet rabbit, Smokey. Eli’s Balloon is her first picture book.