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Before You Submit: Likeable Characters

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest?

This is a scary prospect, right? Ignore the night demon who tells you to hide your work in a drawer and prepare your story for submission. Besides signing an agent, getting your work published, or winning a contest, there are other benefits to submitting.

Submitting your work is a great way to get feedback from a professional in the industry. We all know this is hard to get, but if you’re lucky, valuable pieces of advice will end up in your inbox.

There are contests, the Debut Dagger hosted by The Crime Writers’ Association is one of them, that will provide feedback on your entry if you are short listed. There are also agents, who when queried, will give you feedback. You might even get comments back from a publisher or editor.

I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned this last year from people in the industry.

The week I’ll talk about liking the main protagonist.

Many writing books declare the reader must like your main character. This doesn’t mean everything about your character should be likeable. No one likes a perfect person. On the flip side, even if your character is nasty, is there at least one characteristic your reader can relate to, like or admire? If not, you might create something.

In a novel, giving your reader someone to cheer for and follow for 300 or so pages might make the difference between the reader dropping your book on the coffee table after chapter one to staying awake late into the night reading until the climax satisfies their need to know what happened to the character.

When I started writing, I struggled with how to make a character likeable. Thinking about what made me like people in real life was difficult to translate into the pages of a novel. How was I to get a reader to like my character?

The Crime Writers’ Association honoured me by shortlisting my novel, Burnt. The comment I received from one Debut Dagger judge on the topic of likeable characters was:

“The thread with the dog is a clever way of engaging interest and building suspense right from the start, while telling the reader something appealing about Kalin.”

Kalin is the main protagonist in Burnt.  In the opening scene, on the run and separated from her dog in a forest fire, Kalin fights for her life. The suspense part: Will she be able to save herself and her dog?  The likeable part: Her concern for her dog.

What I learned from this comment: The actions of your characters can show the reader a likeable trait. There is no need to describe the trait by telling the reader Kalin cares about animals.

I hope this helps you review your draft and get it ready for submission. In the coming months, I’ll post a series on what I’ve learned from the mysterious publishing industry.

Thanks for reading . . .

Click here for a look at my proofreading and copyediting series.

Farley’s Friday: A Wheaten, A Border Terrier, and A Rottweiler

Farley here,

Victoria is a magic place in British Columbia. In winter, the beaches are dog friendly. Yup, you heard that right. I can run off leash wherever I want.

You see my friend Piper. She’s the border terrier going crazy in the sand. The sand here is not like the sand in The Bahamas. The smell is a bit funky. I’m told that’s kelp. Now kelp is also slimy, so why would Piper want to roll in it?

Piper

Murphy is much more dignified. He understands the proper behaviour is to wade slowly into the water, stand tummy deep and gaze thoughtfully at the horizon. Piper, well, I don’t think she does anything thoughtfully, but I love her anyway. She part of my FFL pack.

Wool Wool

Farley’s Friday: A Wheaten in the Ocean

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Farley here.

Woot woot. I’m in the Pacific Ocean with my friend for life, that’s FFL, Murphy.

The smell, the birds, the sand. Oh how I’ve missed this.

Woof Woof

Farley’s Friday: Drink from a Creek and Get Happy

Farley here,

Have you have tasted fresh water, right out of a creek? It’s awesome. I’m on my hike, making sure my human get some exercise, and look what I find. The water is cold and rushing across my feet. I think the supply is endless. Sometimes life is confusing. I have no idea where the water is coming from. At home, Kristina fills my bowl, so who is filling this creek? I think about this great life question and realize I don’t care. Just bring it on.

Hike 1

 

Everyone should drink from a creek every day. It’s the secret to life happiness :)

Woof Woof

Today’s the day! Release day for FIRE IN THE WOODS!

Kristina Stanley:

Jennifer Eaton is a fellow blogger who I’ve been sharing writing tips with over the past few years. She’s been generous in sharing her adventure of getting published, and her debut novel is now available. Fire in the Woods looks like a thrill ride and next on my list to read. Congrats to Jennifer !

Originally posted on Jennifer M Eaton:

Fire in the Woods Revised Cover

I’m super excited to announce that my debut young adult novel FIRE IN THE WOODS is officially available in ebook format. What a great feeling!

A little elf told me that the paperbacks will be available in about a month. Double excitement!

Here’s a few quotes from early reviews from the blog tour:

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“Hot alien, quirky heroine & exciting plot… what’s not to like?” HERBOOK THOUGHTSREADS

Teens will read it for the constant action, snappy dialogue and authentic characters. Adults will ponder the deeper thematic messages for days after closing the book on the final chapter.” Sharon Hughson

Def can’t put this down” Lainey’s Reviews

swish swivel squiggle 2

It’s great to know that my story is now officially out in the world. I hope Jess and David can help make a few people smile.

Blurb:

Fire in the Woods Revised CoverWhen a plane crashes in the woods near Jess’s home, the boy of her dreams falls…

View original 251 more words

Farley’s Friday: A Wheaten Goes Hiking

Farley here,

I’ve been in British Columbia for over a month, and let me tell you, this province is doggie paradise. I’ve covered over 90 kilometres of trails through the forests, up hills, down hills, through streams, and yes, sometimes on the golf course. Although I’m not allowed on the fairways or greens, whatever that means. I have to stay on the cart path or on the rough. I’ve gotta watch some golf today and figure out what my new commands are. Can’t be looking unintelligent to my humans.

How did I manage to get my humans to take me on two hikes a day – everyday? I should have been an actor. Who could resist this face?

Walk please

When I’m out running free and get tired I take a break and search the wilderness for deer. I think of myself as the protector of humans. I’m on the rough here, I but who can be sure? I notice a pit full of sand. Who put that there? And why does someone rake it every morning? My humans get very excited if I roll in it and dig for golf balls.

I didn’t find any deer today, but I know they’re out there. I am a diligent dog.

Farley checking for deer

So when I get home, I don’t go off duty. I see no reason the deer have amble close to our house. Most of the day, I relax on deck, but then one of the forest creatures gets too close, I let them have it. Well, I bark like crazy until it clears my space and my humans are safe.  You can’t see the deer in the photo, but she’s crossing the driveway just below me.

Farley on deck

Once she’s out of sight,  I’m exhausted. It’s time to watch golf and learn some new words. Oh, and for Kristina to make me dinner. She loves to pamper me :)

Woof Woof

The Golden Leaves of British Columbia

Spending a large part of my youth in Ontario, I’m used the reds, oranges and yellows of fall. The forest of British Columbia have a different look and feel to them. Just as beautiful, but not the same.

BC Yelloe

The mountains are an inspiration to me when I think about writing. As I stopped and took in the scenery, I thought of the importance of getting details correct when writing a novel. Before living in BC, I might have assumed all forests transformed into a multitude of colours in the fall. There is nothing like seeing your imagined setting in real life.

Now, I’m not saying you have to visit every place you write about, although, if you’re lucky, maybe you get to, because with today’s technology, you can see the places without ever going there. Google Earth is a wonderful way to explore a setting, getting familiar with an area before putting words to a page.

Online videos, photos and travel blogs are also a good source to travel from the comfort of your back porch.

Every day the forest of the Purcell  Mountains inspire me to be a better writer. And now that I’m used to seeing only yellow leaves, I find them just as beautiful as the multicoloured trees of the east.

Thanks for reading. . .

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