14 Lessons from RWA14: #11, The Villain’s Flaw

This is another great tip from the awesome session on villains by Allison Brennan.

Every villain needs to have a small part of them that’s good and feels remorse. It is this flaw that causes the villain to make a mistake and it is this mistake that helps the hero win.*

Not every villain is mwoo-ha-ha bad, but even for those who aren’t, there needs to be a point when the villain considers turning good. This is important, not just because it offers your hero an opportunity to win, but also because it shows depth to your villain.



14 Lessons from RWA14: #10, Cardboard Heroes

The Kristan Higgins session also had some great tips on adding depth to your alpha males. This one was my favorite:

The Alpha male needs to show moments of not be alpha for someone or something he loves.

A great example of this might be a pet. The Alpha male may seem tough and untouchable, but then he might turn into a soppy little kid if his dog gets sick. Adding this depth is important, not only because it makes your hero seem a bit less like a cardboard Superman, but also because it shows us that tiny little crack that the heroine is going to crawl through.

Book Promotion “Do Nots”

I am not going to start by telling you that you should listen to what I’m about to say because, well, see #2. Instead, let’s just call these tips from someone who cares.

The Do Not List of Online Book Promotion

1) Do not use your Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Whatever account for nothing but your own book promotion because you wrote the darn thing so you’re unbaised as they come. Plus, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is like a bee buzzing ten miles away, and 10 is watching My Little Pony for 17 hours straight, this is a 22.

2) If someone else on Twitter/Facebook/Whatever says something nice about your book, do not use your account just to quote them. This is pretty much the online equivalent of wearing a t-shirt that says I AM THE BEST! and it makes people want to punch you. Yes, you can thank them and you know what? That just might make people curious enough to see what you’re thanking Person X for. That’s okay because you didn’t shove it down their throats.

3) Do not ask people to buy your book. Ever. Tell them you released a book. If you’re smart, tell them something “hooky” about your book so they will make the decision to buy it.  When possible, tell them you’re giving away a copy or doing a book signing. These are all fine. But for the love of all things blue and fluffy, do NOT tell them to buy it. Do not email everyone you know or post messages on Twitter/Facebook/Whatever. With the exception of possibly your own mother, it won’t work because most people are not actually mindless robots. Also, see #1.

4a) Do not ask people to rate your book well on Amazon/Goodreads etc… so your ratings will go up. If they loved it, they will rate it well. If they didn’t, well then your request might just make them want to rate it even worse because you annoyed them.

4b) NEVER ask people who haven’t even read your book to do #4a. This is the book review equivalent of “stuffing the ballot box” and if you do it, you deserve a lifetime of nothing but My Little Pony shows.

4c) NEVER EVER EVER ask/encourage/allow your family/friends to do items 1-4 because a) like you, they are biased so we won’t believe them anyway, b) we will probably think you asked them to do so which is like buying yourself the t-shirt from #2 and then asking your brother to give it to you for Christmas, and c) see mindless robot comment from #3.

To sum up: don’t be an asswipe.

Author versus Reader Debate

I usually avoid controversial topics on my blog because I’m Canadian and I prefer to hide in an igloo, sipping maple syrup flavoured hot chocolate. But (and not the kind that has grown exponentially since you finished that box of Quality Street), I can’t help it this time.

There is a debate going on amongst fiction authors and readers about reviews. Should authors read their reviews? Should they comment on them? Should they comment on their friend’s reviews? I think my opinion on this is somewhat different than others because I work in an area of publishing where a) secrecy is not tolerated, and b) dialogue between authors and readers is not just encouraged but expected. In fact, it is generally believed that this dialogue leads to better publications and thus is good for everyone. So, for example, if an author publishes a paper on A and a reviewer comments on it to say it is wrong, the author would be encouraged to publicly respond to that reviewer’s criticism and the reviewer would expect them to do so.

Because of my background, I honestly think authors should be able to read and respond to their reviews as long as, a) they are doing so under their own names and not some anonymous cover, and b) they are being professional. Obviously, I’m not advocating that authors should have to read or respond to reviews. Some don’t have time and some aren’t comfortable with criticism. That’s fine. But if you tell authors that they should hide in the corner and just let people bash them or their works, you’re advocating a kind of censorship that almost encourages reviewers to be harsh because they know the author will be too scared to respond. And you know what? That’s wrong. Authors are people too and, at least where I come from, they have the same rights to free speech as everyone else.