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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Plot Thickens, The Contest Continues...

Well, well, it seems many of you solved the mystery of the previous post. {Ahem, how many of you peeked?} The picture clips you see are indeed pieces of the cover of my new book "Curse of the Spider King," the first of a new fantasy series coAuthored with my good friend Christopher Hopper. The cover is so unspeakably cool that I can't post it all at once. ;-) So, you'll need to settle for a slowwwwwww, drawn out process.

Meanwhile the Header Contest Continues. This blog needs a new Header. Using my books' cover art, desktop art from the sidebar, your own original art, Photoshop, and /or any other cool graphic/titling software, create a header according to the following specs:

1. Header must include text: Enter the Door Within.
2. Header must be the following dimensions: 660 x 105 pixels.
3. Header must be created in jpeg format.
4. Header must be emailed to me by May 1st. (see sidebar for email addy)

The Winning Artist will receive a signed copy of any of my books!

The Plot Thickens

We've talked a lot about how to create the opening of a novel that will HOOK your reader. Click here, if you missed that series of posts. But now that you've hooked a reader, editor, or publisher, how do you keep them reading?

Here are some tried and true techniques to thicken your plot:

1. Develop Your Characters: Readers like to get to know characters, love them, hate them, fear for them, etc. But no matter what, your readers must want to follow these characters through the novel.

• So, get out a scrap sheet of paper, or open a new Scrivener file. (See sidebar for the most fantastic and affordable writing software on the market). Answer these questions: What does she/he look like? Why does he/she dress like that? What are his/her goals? What are his/her motives? Does he/she have any physical quirks--ie things that stand out: a scar, a tattoo, crook in the nose, thin lips, walk with a limp, slurs his "S" sounds, etc?

2. Complicate the Path: Now that you know who your main characters are, ie: you know your good guy's goals and your bad guy goals, it's time to start throwing things in their path that complicate the matter. What can you throw in their way that will keep them from reaching their goals? Good guy is trying to get a job? Make him late for the interview. A watermelon truck turns over on the Interstate. Oops, good luck main character. Good Swordmaiden needs to prove she is queen? Let someone else show up claiming to be queen with evidence to prove it. Keep in mind, these events are not called Rising Actions for nothing. You must up the ante.

3. Multiply the Plotlines: This won't work for all stories, but some authors have driven us crazy with technique. You have multiple main characters. Instead of following one main character through his/her linear (straight forward) path, leave one plotline, preferably with a cliffhanger, and switch to another character. JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, Tad Williams, Tom Clancy...are just a few of the authors who do this to spectacular effect. What happens? You're dying to find out what will befall main character one, but you know you have to read through character two to find out. YAAAAHHHHH!!! {SCREAMS pulls out hair}. The readers will race through your pages. Imagine what happens when you leave character 2 on a cliffhanger as well? Heh, heh, heh! {Cue fiendish laugh}

Beware: this technique can be overdone. If you leave one character's plotline TOO long, you risk losing the reader. Patience can only be stretched so far.

Beware 2: Careful when you switch POV (narrator's point of view). If you're telling the first character's story in first person (I did this. I said...etc), then you should probably tell the other characters' stories in first person from their points of view. I prefer to use 3rd person omniscient, as I can go anywhere and into any character's minds.

4. Offer Intriguing Clues, but Don't Give Away the Farm: If you wrote a good hook in the story's exposition (introductory scenes), you have probably tempted your reader with a mystery of some kind: Who's sending those threatening letters? Why was the sun an eerie greenish color? Who is the killer? The reader wants to know the answers. So, give them a few clues, some text details that lead the reader closer to the answer, without giving the answer away. Devious and evil, I know. But readers love it.

I hope that helps you thicken your plot. Post a comment and let us know how you're using the techniques!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Mystery and a Contest

First, the Mystery: Take a look at the image above.
What is it? Any guesses?
Post a comment, saying what you think it is.
Then, if you cannot stand to wait, use your mouse
and highlight the blank space below to find out.

This is a piece of the cover design for Curse of the Spider King,
Book One of the Berinfell Prophecies Series by me and
Christopher Hopper.

I will post more pieces in the coming days. See how many pieces it takes you to guess correctly. That is, if you haven't already peeked. ;-)

nd now for the contest. I'm getting tired of looking at the plain header
for my blog. I know some of you have got to be amazingly good with
Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. So, design a header for this blog. The
best Header will win a signed copy of any of my books.

Here are the requirements:

1. Must say: "Enter the Door Within"
2. max width is 660 pixels wide. (I can't figure out the height)
3. Image must be in jpeg format and emailed to me (see sidebar for email)
4. All entries must be submitted by May 1st.
That's it! Now get designing, you creative people you!