Book-Thumping On the Street

Talking about my book is just weird. It’s not that I haven’t memorized a spiel to tell people when they say, “I hear you’ve written a book, what’s it about?” At one time I even considered printing business cards to give to people, so high was my fervor to promote my book which has yet to be published. I started this blog with the sole intent of marketing hardcore. This has actually worked, since I’ve slowly gained a readership who is loyal and very nice. Some even like my writing!

Having a Twitter and Facebook page– those things are easy. Facebook has singularly helped increase my views on this blog by a tremendous amount. But marketing a book has to do with more than posting incessantly about blog posts and book signings. Eventually, you’re going to have to talk to people in real life about what you have written.

“Hey, I read your blog. I saw that you wrote a book.”

“Yes, I…. yep. I sure did.”

“Cool. So when will it be published?”

“Well, I’m not sure. I don’t really have a contract or an agent.”

“Oh, so you haven’t sent it off to the publishers yet.”

“Well, it’s not that simple… you see, you have to…”

“What are you talking about? How did Twilight get published then?”

“I don’t really know. But you see, first you need an agent…”

“No, you don’t. Just self-publish. Like my mom did when she wrote that western-erotica. You should totally buy it. It’s called Cowboys and Aliens 2: Cowboys Come Again.”

“Wow. Well…… that certainly sounds interesting. Is she very successful in selling it?”

“Six people have bought a copy, so…”

“That’s why I’m not sure I want to self-publish.”

“Well, what’s your book about?”

*Sigh* “Well, it’s about, well…… um, a serial killer. But he’s actually a pretty good guy. Except he’s a terrible person. And I guess I still want people to feel pity for him or at least sympathize with him. And it’s also about a lot more characters, and it tells their stories. I guess it’s rather complicated. Oh, and some prostitutes die. I guess there’s something in there about how murder is a fad. Or maybe… yes.”

“Well, right, I’ll totally buy that whenever you decide to send it off to the publishers.”

*Sigh*

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Sometimes it seems downright impossible to explain your own work. I’d rather explain sex to a four-year old. We get nervous, ready to show our genius we are to our friends and cohorts. But then all that comes out is mush that doesn’t make much sense at all. I wonder what some authors told their families while writing their works. What did Thomas Pynchon say? What about David Foster Wallace? Or David Mitchell? Everyone would say, what were you thinking? What exactly are you WRITING? At some point, I guess we all have these problems.

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Excerpt: Ethan O’Brady- man, lawyer, consumer

To give your blog readers a better insight into my work, I will be releasing short excerpts every once in awhile. I’ve already written one you can find here.

This short piece depicts the home life of lawyer Ethan O’Brady as he defends Sebastian Martinelli in a highly publicized multiple murder trial. O’Brady pleads insane in Sebastian’s stead, but cannot figure out how to prove someone insane or sane.

{WARNING: May contain strong language and adult themes. So if you’re under the age of nine, go play Robot Unicorn Attack.}

September 24, 1993

Miami, Florida

Ethan O’Brady

When Ethan returned from the prison, Margery was sitting on the couch paining her toes with the gaudy shade of Alpine Snow Matte by OPI and popping pills.

 Her feet propped on a leather ottoman, shade: chocolate brown according to the label. The inside of their apartment dark, the only light from the murmuring television set.

 “Something strange happened at the prison today.”  He plopped down beside her on the wrap-around couch that they bought from IKEA and assembled in their own living room.

Over the pink rims of non-prescription clear-lensed Ray Bans, she lazily glanced at him. “The Martinelli case?”

“Martinelli, he flipped. I mean, he just went bat-shit today. First, he was calm but then started ranting about—how he was really guilty. He deserved the punishment.”

“Maybe he really is guilty.”

But no, he’s not.

Ethan burrowed through his attaché case, a Korchmar leather brand in a burgundy shade. Wrenching out the analysis test papers, he peered at Margery with deliberate gravity. “When we brought him in, we psychoanalyzed him. He tested for catastrophic schizophrenia, except that the dementia has come to a stall for some reason. According to the doctor, he has lost some cognitive development, the ability to discern clearly what is right and what is wrong.”

 “Just because he’s insane doesn’t mean he can’t be remorseful.” She yawned and picked up a red and white pill, studied it, and popped it into her mouth. High as hell all day. Blitzed on Oxycontin.

“The upside to pills,” she would often say, “is that they’re just so discreet. Not like heroin—you have bind a belt around your arm or something like that just to shoot up. Pills, not so drastic.” She considered herself to be an aficionado of pills, an uneducated pharmacist: “There’s a lot of science to the purity of a pill. Some drugs are tainted with isomers, which have the same chemical make-up but different geometric structures from the derivatives. Impure pills. That may not sound like a big deal, but that kind of shit kills. Or worse, it lessens the effect of the chemicals.”

Ethan stood up and turned off the television as he entered the kitchen. The shopping channel: a tall, elegant woman modeling a heavy pearl necklace faded to black. As he entered the kitchen, he glanced back over his shoulder at Margery who lolled her head back, staring listlessly at the ceiling. There was an island grill top in the center of the sea of glimmering blue tiles, surrounded by a black granite countertop and a tall, black fridge stocked with white wines and cheeses that Margery purchased from the deli down the street.

Fucking fancy shit—but— she’s a keeper. That’s what dad always said. But what does he know? He married my mother.

Begin prepping dinner by thawing out a package of meat from the freezer in lukewarm sink water. In a few minutes, use a sharp Santoku knife from Pampered Chef with a corrosion-resistant blade and ergonomic handle that Margery purchased from a magazine to slice the meat.

Fastidious urbanite. Heterosexual paragon of style. Shameless consumerist. That’s me.

After he had put the meat on shish kabobs and laid them across the islanded grill, he peeked back into the living room; Margery lay sprawled half-on, half-off the couch unconscious, her mouth open and leaking gossamer strands of drool.

This is who we are. We live this way. And to continue living this way, I need to make a breakthrough tomorrow in court. I’ll present the evidence, come with a big stick. But is it worth—of course it’s worth it. Soon, we’ll be out of this squalid city headed for the country. And Margery and me, well, maybe we’ll get married. And all this stuff from magazines, the shopping channel, and IKEA—we can leave it behind. Or we can get more of it.

I’ll make this right. I’ll make this wrong. I am just a lawyer. I am just a man. I am just Ethan O’Brady, victim to morality and jarring inhibitions.

The Character Arc Corellation

You cannot write a good book without good characters. Compelling characters drive the plot of any novel, even those which are “plot-driven.” Because even in the midst of an alien invasion, you won’t really care about what happens unless you care about who it all happens to.

The thing about a novel is, a novel has no budget. It’s not like a Hollywood blockbuster that must use a set amount of funds. Well, perhaps people need budgets for marketing, but in plot terms, a writer can do whatever they’d like. The same stands true for characters.

The novel is a unique art form in that you can make whatever you’d like happen– in music, in films, the creators do not carry that same freedom. But to mold characters fully formed– realistic with flaws and contradictions and wide ranges of emotions– that’s a quite difficult task.

If a character can make you both laugh and cry, that may well be the gauge of how well you can relate to him or her. Relating to readers, however, relies on more than what most authors surmise. Many authors believe that by attributing quirky traits to characters, it helps their characters seem unique. That’s not true, though, unless this characteristic will play a crucial part in the story.

For example, in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters, the narrator is missing the bottom half of her face. She’s an ex-model. In this way, a characteristic is more than just a characteristic, but an important plot point. This contradiction of what she used to be and what she now is demands the question of what occurred since then and now. In Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, the narrator speaks with a stammer; rather than be a simple characteristic, it helps propel the story.

A character, sure, might own a lot of cats, but that novel better have a lot to do with cats. If you give a character a huge scar across his face, you better explain what car accident or dark wizard gave him that scar. Don’t fall into Dickens syndrome, attributing exaggerated physical traits to characters with only stereotypical consequences. Those do not help us understand and sympathize the character; instead, we merely know that if she has a big nose, she is nosy.

People, though, are weird, jammed to the trachea with contradictions. Use that. Characters must act in the same way. Consider what makes the people you know unique. Their hobbies, their aspirations, their beliefs. These very real characteristics drawn from life contribute the motives behind which characters act.

To help a reader sympathize with a character, you need to make them go through Hell. I’m not going to care about a character for whom everything goes right– frustrate him and make him misunderstood. Make him suffer. Make him sometimes cruel. No one’s motivations are simple. Remember that.

What must be kept in mind is that characters must be fully developed. If I do not care about your characters, I will not care about your book. It doesn’t matter what happens to people that I feel I cannot care about. So, in writing stories, make sure you feel that you’re writing about real people. It will make your ability to reach people that much greater.