Tag Archives: Sean Golden

To Quit or Not to Quit?

That wraps it up for us this month, and what a month it was! We dove into making goals, how to make better goals, when to amend your goals, and when to quit your goals. We hope our insights were helpful to you, and that you carry some of our hard-earned wisdom with you into your future work.

In case you missed a post this month, here they are:

The Stories that Just Don’t Sell by Mary Pletsch

We Always Need a Goal by Ace Jordan

Quitting by Nicholas Ruva

New Goal: Stop Making Goals by Kristin Luna (that’s me!)

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting by Heidi Wilde

How Goals Can Destroy Your Writing Career by Gregory Little

Finish What You Start, or Not by Kevin Ikenberry

A Faster Book, or A Better Book? by Frank Morin

Quitting with Feeling by David Heyman

In Favor of Failure by Colton Hehr

The Goal Post by Sean Golden

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear by Kim May

To Goal or Not to Goal, That Is The Question by Jo Schneider

Made to Be Broken by Hamilton Perez

2018 – Hello, Universe Calling, Is Scott There? by Scott Eder

When Chronic Illness Sabotages Goals by Ace Jordan

Setting Realistic, S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Shannon Fox

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals by Kristin Luna

 

What were some of your favorite posts this month? Did we leave anything out? Comment and let us know!

If Your Character Isn’t Memorable, Don’t Despair – Here’s Help!

You’ve read all the books, taken the workshops, and you’ve created your character bibles. You’ve even thought a little about which characters you like and why (see my post Memorable Characters – Who Do You Like?). Still, your character isn’t quite quintessential and therefore not memorable. What to do? Learn from the best. “But!” you say, “I don’t have time to study all those books, see all the movies!” The solution is easy – read April 2016’s blogs on Creating Memorable Characters. I’ve gleaned some tips and have summed them up (or have taken excerpts). Click on the links to each person’s blog to read it in its entirety.

These are the best how-to’s! Seriously, there’s a lot of great take-aways in these.

Sometimes less is more …

For David Carrico (Enter the Villain), Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is an absolute sadist, a pederast, and an incestophile, yet very little of that is shown “on screen” so to speak in the novel. The reader is given glimpses here and there of the raw evil lying beneath the surface of what is otherwise a very forceful, articulate, and urbane man. Herbert made the Baron memorable by understating him

Leigh Galbreath (Chaos For It’s Own Sake) says she doesn’t want to sympathize with a great villain and wants a villain that will make the hero work for every inch. What she loves about the the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, is Nolan’s conscious decision to leave some of the story up to the audience.

Mat Cauthon in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is a stellar example of how to make a character funny not by what they say, but by who they are. In Gambler, Trickster, Son of Battles, Gregory D. Little notes that the humour of Mat’s character isn’t in what he says, but rather the irony the series continually thrusts upon him: contemptuous of nobility he, of course, marries an empress.

 A Mix of Good, Bad and Ugly or, the Imperfect Character

In Taking Strides in Character Development, Sean Golden points out that Strider’s mysterious past, his wit and wisdom, all factor in to create a reluctant hero in an almost a surly way. Strider struggles with self-doubt. He falters. He worries. He doubts. He takes chances. And in the end, he finds himself.

Characters become more likeable and sympathetic when they suffer or show genuine concern even if it’s at their own expense. In The Roller Coaster that was Tig Trager, Jace Killan explains that Tig wasn’t all good or all bad and it was Tig’s good traits that got him into trouble and sometimes it was his bad traits that got him out. It wasn’t easy and it took time for Tig to recover from what he had done.

Not every memorable character needs fisticuffs

You don’t need fisticuffs to be a hero or memorable. Evan Braun (The Ultimate Philosopher King) writes that Jean Luc Picard is the philosopher who rules as king, the true pilot who observes the stars and the heavens to preside over his ship. In the midst of near-perfect humanity, Picard shines brightly. As Shakespeare might say, he is the paragon of animals.

Inner strength without physical prowess can make for an admirable persona and Dashti in Dashti of a Thousand Days proves that. Colette Black notes that it’s complex characterization, where Dashti learns to temper a character flaw and discovers that her real power lies, not with physical prowess, but in her determination, an inner strength and loyalty.

The everyday man is tested…

In Yippee-ki-yay: The Most Reluctant Hero, Kristin Luna writes about how John McClane is a great example of how a hero doesn’t always have to be willing. He can be the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time and still kick some major butt. Giving your hero a strong personality and a little reluctance can be a recipe for one of the most memorable heroes of all time.

For Frank Morin (When a Gardener Helps Defeat a Dark Lord) Samwise Gamgee is memorable because he accepts that his place in the world is not to be the hero, but to be the hero’s cook, assistant, and bodyguard. And yet, he demonstrates in his simple way that heroes are not always the great warriors, with the flashy armor or dazzling magic. Heroes get the job done. Any one of us could be Sam.

In the life of every evil person there is a series of decisions that lead, inevitably, to damnation. This is the moment where your villain goes wrong. The moment where he or she makes the decision to do the wrong thing for all the right reasons. After that, it’s a slow and gradual slide into hell. That’s Frog Jones’ take on Walter White. To learn more, read Regarding the Humble Blowfish.

Just because that’s the way it is…

Kim May (Marty Stus by Moonlight) writes about Chiba Mamoru being an ideal of a man: strong, silent, and enigmatic. The perfect gentleman whose sole purpose is to be Sailor Moon’s love interest, to rescue her from peril when her klutziness and fears get the best of her. You have to admit. There are times when we really really need that kind of rescuing. Marty Stus were never meant to be the ideal we should hold out for. They’re the ideal that we have little escapist fantasies about on a moonlit night when reality is too much…and there’s no shame in that.

Which brings me back to Leigh Galbreath’s post about the Joker because sometimes you want Chaos For It’s Own Sake.

Villains come in all shades

The reluctant villain and one who you can’t resist! In A Character You Can’t Refuse, Marta Sprout talks about how Michael Corleone does some terrible things and yet we still like him. We’re drawn to him as he is slowly pulled away from his own honorable world and into his family’s mob dealings. When a character changes so profoundly it’s engrossing and it was done one reasonable step at a time. At each moment Michael is held tightly into his role where he can’t back out.

The loveable antagonist. Instead of hating Gollum, David Heyman, reveals in A Preciously Complex Character that he liked Gollum, felt sorry for him, and hoped Frodo would find a solution to his problem that didn’t force Gollum (and Smeagol) to lose. Gollum’s love of the Ring is heartbreakingly pure: even as it destroys and corrupts him, he wants nothing from life other than to possess it.

That’s me! Sometimes the villain is us pushed to the wall. In Walter White, you monster, E. Godhand says that a villain protagonist whose methods may not be right, can win your sympathy and support because after doing everything right and getting nothing in return, he has nothing left to lose. We feel the adage, “But for the Grace of God, goes I.”

Pure Evil. And, as David Carrico said in Enter the Villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is an absolute sadist, a pederast, and an incestophile. Pure evil works too!

A Personal Truth We Can Relate To – and it comes in all shapes, sizes and tropes!

Character Arc – In Summoning Character Development, Sarah Golden found that Yuna’s response to adversity (not the sword but endurance and wisdom) made her an admirable character with emotional and spiritual strength. But, she didn’t start out that way. She develops from doing what other people want to having her own thoughts, and making her own decisions.

Someone different yet real – When you bring in a character who is so different from the others, she not only illuminates the cast, but her character is more profound. But, as Peter Clampton explains in The Girl Who Changed EVERYTHING!, Asuka Langley Soryu is no cheap trope, used to simply spice things up for she brings her own history, strengths and weaknesses. She’s a protagonist with real and profound problems who deals by self-medicating in isolation.

I love doing this! Jacqui Talbot’s admiration of Flavia de Luce (You Had Me at Nitrogen Pentoxide) comes from her own love of chemistry and solving mysteries. As she says, Flacia is a beguiling cross between Pippi Longstocking and Sherlock Holmes. Flavia is an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry (specifically poisons) and a penchant for crime solving.

The hero within rises! D.H. Aire (A Lesson in Character from Superman) tells us that Superman was created during the cusp of Worlds War II to illuminate Americans about the Nazi threat. Thus a superhero who fights for truth and justice was more than a mere story for Siegel and Shuster. Superman is memorable because he had a secret identity (a hero deep inside), and that’s a feeling we all have, that inside, we too are heroes.

Do what must be done! For Joshua David Bennett (The Power of Pain) Kaladin Stormblessed’s ability to overcome pain and hardship, not wallow in it, made him memorable. He’s an inspiration to rise to the occasion, to do what must be done.

The devil is in the detail so find one!

As Josh Vogt explains of his own writing in When All Else Fails, Bring in a Lizard, the protagonist, Dani wasn’t memorable until he gave her a quirk. A pet lizard! The lizard seems at odds with her original self. That presented a mystery (even a minor one) to unravel, which created personality paradoxes which were entertaining.

Taken to another medium, some characters sometimes become more memorable and others we wish we could forget.

Watching Sidney Poitier play Kimani Wa Karanja was profoundly moving for W.J. Cherf (Something of Value: Of Boyhood Friendships and Harsh Realities). Kimani (Poitier) became his favorite character (actor) because of his immense depth, passion, pride of place, and desire to succeed. Even with his dying breaths, after bitterly fighting his boyhood friend Peter, Kimani died hoping, yearning, for “something of value.” Poitier absolutely nailed the character and the role.

Good characters usually have clear motives with stakes involved Matt Beckett states in Lex Talk About Lex, Baby. Reintroduced characters shouldn’t rely too much on a savvy audience already familiar with the brand. Lex Luthor wasn’t given a good platform this round. His motive didn’t hit home and wobbled.

When Kevin Ikenberry (The Most Successful Bankrobber Ever) saw Jack Foley played by Clooney it was the perfect match! Kevin wrote: as I read Road Dogs, I could not stop seeing and hearing Clooney in the role. That’s where Foley transcended being a likable sympathetic character into something different. Clooney’s effortless performance as Foley indelibly attaches his “aura” to the character. But is it the actor or the character that is memorable? I vote character. No matter the actor’s talent, commitment to the role, or appearance, the character is developed on paper and is the vision of the writer/screenwriter that the actor is to bring to life. When it’s done perfectly in a book, it resonates with us. When we see that on camera, it’s more than memorable. It’s legendary.

Readers must care about a character!

Memorable characters, Mary Pletsch wrote in More than Meets the Eye, must be seen as people we come to know, then we become invested in them and their stories. When we see that their actions not only affect the plot but drive it forward, we care about what they do. And when we wonder and worry about what will happen to our favourites, we keep coming back–issue after issue, year after year. It’s the character work that makes the story shine

Marta Sprout sums it all up best when she said: When we write characters, we balance two seemingly oppositional things: the character must have qualities that resonate with the reader and he or she must venture into areas the reader would never go and take actions that the reader could not do. Therein lies the grounds for spellbinding characters.

There you have it – great lessons for making memorable characters. Pick your angle, work with it and you’ll have readers asking for more!

Taking Strides in Character Development

A guest post by by Sean Golden.

I was probably twelve or thirteen years old when I met him. So many years ago. Yet I remember the moment vividly. Harsh laughter rang through smoke-filled gloom, in a room packed with intimidating strangers. Mugs of beer and tankards of ale banged on the tavern’s rough-hewn tables.

He leaned back into shadow, travel-stained boots crossed at the ankles in the flickering firelight, his head shrouded by a weathered hood. A sudden glimmer of burning tobacco reflected from dark, brooding eyes as he drew on a humble pipe. A palpable aura of danger and strength surrounded him. Even in the crowded, noisy tavern, his mere presence quieted those near him. At that moment I knew I had encountered someone special, someone I would never forget.

And I never have. Strider rapidly became my favorite character in Lord of the Rings. In a book filled with memorable characters, Strider was the one that resonated with me, and still does to this day, over forty years later.

When I first heard that Lord of the Rings was going to be made into a major motion picture, my biggest concern was how any actor would be able to bring the Strider in my head to life. I had low expectations, especially when I saw who was cast. The Strider in my mind was going to be a difficult thing to capture on film. That Strider was no Hollywood hunk. Far from it, his visage was rough and intimidating. He was dangerous, mercurial, and tortured by an ancient legacy of unbearable shame.

In the end I thought Viggo Mortensen did a fine job in the role, and I enjoyed the movies greatly, but the movie Strider was a pale shadow of the Strider in my head. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to come up with an actor today who could remotely portray the man I met that memorable day so long ago. Perhaps the closest would have been Clint Eastwood, at the height of his Spaghetti Western fame.

There are many reasons Strider struck such a chord with me. His ambiguous introduction, his raw, animal presence, his mysterious past, his wit and wisdom, all of that factors in. He is heroic, but in a reluctant, almost surly way. He struggles with self-doubt, a mere mortal man in a world filled with demigods and monsters.

In short, he is a complex and multi-faceted character who is on a personal journey of self-discovery in a dangerous and confusing world. His plans are frequently thwarted by powerful enemies, and even by betrayal. He falters. He worries. He doubts. He takes chances. And in the end, he finds himself.

Having said all of that, what did I learn from Strider that I’ve applied to my own writing? Have I been able to create any character as compelling? Probably not, after all, Lord of the Rings is rarely missed in any list of the greatest stories ever told. But I did learn a few things that I hope have informed my own creation of characters. Here are some of them:

  • Conflicted characters are interesting. Self-doubt is something we can all relate to, and we tend to like characters with whom we can relate.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Strider may be conflicted, but he never wavers in the face of danger. When he does make a decision, he is fully committed to it.
  • Compassion and empathy can be as compelling as combat. In fact, as shown when Strider, Legalos and Gimli relentlessly pursue the orcs who captured Merry and Pippen, compassion and empathy can be downright epic.
  • It can help your story if the most interesting character isn’t the protagonist.
  • Every character deserves a story arc of their own.

There are other memorable characters I could have chosen as the subject of this article. Some of them aren’t heroic. In fact some are the opposite of heroic. Holden Caulfield, for example. Others I could have chosen include: Elizabeth Bennett. Fivver. Katniss. Peter Parker. Ahab. Meg Murry. Atticus Finch. Scarlett O’Hara. Tyrel Sackett.

But I chose Strider for many reasons. One reason is because most people I know, when asked who they thought was the most memorable character in Lord of the Rings, would choose Gandalf. A few might pick Frodo. And both of those are definitely memorable characters. Tolkien had a gift for creating memorable characters.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to why Strider stuck with me in such vivid ways. I’m not sure I can identify why even today, forty-plus years later. Since it is my goal to create similar characters, it’s a consequential question. The best I can come up with is that something in my image of Strider resonates with me. I like him. Every time he came on the stage, I was thrilled to see him. And he never let me down.

So that’s what I want to do in my own writing. I want to create characters who evoke such strong emotional responses from my readers that their eyes light up whenever that character is on the page. Maybe they love the character, maybe they love to hate the character. But either way, they love to read about the character. And reading is what it’s all about in the end.

 

SeanGolden-pub-shot-2Sean Golden is many different things. Father, husband, writer, programmer, project manager, gamer, crafter, fisherman, amateur astronomer and too many other things to bore you with. He took a year off from the grind of corporate cubicle farms to write “Warrior” and “Warlock,” both available on Amazon.com. The third book in the series, “Warlord” is in the final stages of writing now. Sean has a BS in physics from Louisiana State University and had the second highest rated rogue on his World of Warcraft server after taking down the Lich King, and then retiring from raiding.

Getting Noticed

A guest post by Sean Golden.

WarriorYou’ve done it. You’ve finally finished your first novel. After months or years of tears, sweat and blood, your baby is about to meet the world. But if you are self-publishing, or have an Indie publisher, you may find yourself not only the author, but also your book’s primary marketer and promoter. So what do you do?

No matter how brilliant your novel is, if nobody sees it, nobody will buy it. How do you break out of the gray mass of obscurity and catch the attention of potential buyers? My first novel didn’t break any sales records, but if a couple thousand sales in the first four months sounds interesting to you, here’s the approach I took, broken into three main areas:

  • Proper presentation (cover, blurb, categories, etc.)
  • Social media
  • Reviews

 

Proper Presentation:

Presentation starts with the categories and keywords you associate with your book. Categories and keywords determine the genre lists and search results in which your book will ultimately appear. There are few decisions you will make that will ultimately impact your sales more than which categories and keywords you choose to associate with your book. Paradoxically, the more you sell, the more important this is due to the algorithms online book sellers use to present readers with purchasing options. Choosing the wrong categories and keywords is like presenting a selection of shoes to a shopper looking for hats. Amazon.com provides this excellent guide to categories and keywords.

Once you have your book appearing in the appropriate lists and search results, the next thing a reader will see is your cover. A good cover is more than nice artwork and title text. To get your cover to stand out, I suggest that it accomplish three specific things:

  • Be readable in the most common online thumbnail sizes
  • Match genre expectations
  • Have dynamic, eye-catching artwork

The purpose of your cover is to encourage a reader to click on it. Nothing screams “self-published” like an amateurish cover. If you can’t create professional quality art yourself, find someone else to do it for you. Keep in mind that your art will be scaled down in the thumbnails. Once a reader clicks on the thumbnail, they will be presented with your book’s summary page, which is where they will (hopefully) read your blurb. If the blurb catches their imagination, there’s a chance they’ll click “Buy.” It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain how to write a good blurb, but here’s one article with excellent advice.

Your book’s presentation should be viewed as the bedrock of your strategy. Everything else you do will drive people to the page with your book cover and blurb. Even if you can tease them with an online ad, if they get to your book summary page and the cover is lackluster, not genre specific, or the blurb doesn’t sell them, they won’t click “buy.”

Social Media:

Let’s assume that you have that foundation in place. The next goal is to get people to land on that summary page. This is where social media comes in. And social media means more than just Facebook and Twitter. My daughter, Sarah Golden, is my social media guru. When I first self-published Warrior, I did a short post on Facebook letting my friends and family know that I had a book out. I dragged my Twitter account out of mothballs and started Tweeting. But that only gave me a small boost in sales for about a week.

Then Sarah jumped in. She either created, or had me create, accounts on multiple social media platforms including an author page on Facebook. Here’s the page she created for my novel on Pinterest. I also joined Goodreads and created an author and a book page there. Then I joined other reader or author blogs, such as KBoards. The results of Sarah’s social media campaign were striking. My sales went from a few per day, to twenty per day and higher. Pinterest allows me to give my readers content that lets them see a lot more about the story than I can squeeze into a Facebook post. It also allows others to post their own content.

The real value of social media is that it allows readers to get to know the author. I try hard not to use my author blog as merely another way to ask people to buy my books. I try to give them an idea of who I am, what I enjoy, what I’m doing and how I write. The more human and approachable I am to readers, the more likely they are to be interested in what I write. I also try to interact in the reading/writing community, attending conventions, writing blurbs for other authors, etc. Kevin James Anderson gives a lot of great advice, but perhaps the best advice he has given me is “Don’t be a jerk.” And that means online as well as in person.

Reviews:

While reviews don’t immediately get you noticed, they are part of your book’s presentation whether you like it or not. Self-published books have a reputation for poor grammar, plot holes and other ills that traditional publishers work hard to avoid. If your book has reviews warning about those things, savvy readers will shy away even if you have a great presentation. Reviews that are critical of your plot or story are painful, but readers expect that. What will kill your sales are reviews saying the book is difficult to read due to poor writing or editing. If you get such reviews, revise and re-publish your book.

Final Thoughts:

If there is one thing that you take away from reading this, I hope it is the importance of presentation: cover, blurb, category, and keywords. All the effort and money spent on driving readers to your book’s landing page will be wasted if the reader gets there and isn’t convinced the product is worth their money. Good luck!

Sean Golden Bio: Sean Golden
I’ve had a long and varied career outside of writing, starting as a construction worker putting glass in high-rise office buildings while I was working my way through college seeking a degree in physics. After graduation I ended up writing Macintosh programs and creating a Mac software product for a software company. Eventually I took over as Publisher of all of the software products before leaving to become a project manager of software development in a Fortune 500 company. That led to a 20 year career in corporate software development that ended in December of 2014 when I decided it was time to retire from the corporate rat race.During all of those years I wrote and published technical articles and stories for the local newspaper. But I never published my first novel until January 2015. Now I am writing full time and intend for this to be my last career. I have had stories half-written or outlined in my desk for decades, and now it is time to get them on paper and out to the public.I am happily married, and have been for almost 30 years now, and have raised two kids. My literary interests are varied, but I primarily read and write science fiction or epic fantasy.