Posts Tagged ‘The Kill Zone’

"Ciabatta after first rise" by Rebecca Siegel

“Ciabatta after first rise” by Rebecca Siegel

I love some of Jordan Dane’s posts. This one is a keeper.

5 Key Steps to Develop a Story from Scratch

Here are some choice quotes:

  1. Imagine basic ‘what ifs” about a potential character (a storyteller) and a problem
  2. Next, whose story will it be?
  3. What is the external conflict between the main players (villain or adversary included)?
  4. What’s at stake & how will the stakes escalate and play out?
  5. Now draft your “pitch” or a premise.

Jordan Dane’s unpacked explanations offer real insight on this thorny process which is really the whole process of writing in microcosm. And that’s good advice you can take to the bank.

A good premise should:

  • Be concise
  • Be evocative
  • Be framed from a “what if” question
  • Be written in present tense with an easily understood sentence structure that makes the story seem familiar yet with a hook or difference to stand out from other books.
  • It should contain a character, a conflict, and a hook.
  • It should have universal appeal
  • Be limited in word count (maybe up to 35 words or less, or 2-3 concise sentences)
  • The core story should be centered on an idea that jumps out at anyone.

I recommend reading the entire article and applying it to a future work-in-progress.

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“Library books” by faungg’s photos

Guest-blogger Mike Wells posted a really clear explanation of what makes a compelling synopsis the other day on The Kill Zone blog.

The five elements are: a (1) hero who finds himself stuck in a (2) situation from which he wants to free himself by achieving a (3) goal. However, there is a (4) villain who wants to stop him from this, and if he’s successful, will cause the hero to experience a (5) disaster.

Head on over to https://killzoneblog.com/2015/09/a-secret-formula-for-creating-a-short-synopsis.html to read the post in its entirety.

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Christian suspense author Mike Dellosso gave a talk of the same name at the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference (BRMCWC): Is Christian Fiction an Oxymoron?

Well, is it?

It’s a difficult thing to define but you’ll find my answer at the bottom of this post. My answer in turn is based on another slippery definition: What does it mean for a story to be Christian?

I posit that Christian stories contain an element of redemption. No more, and no less. Examples:

  • When a high school basketball star becomes pregnant during her Junior year, she must choose between a future with the child, adoption, or abortion.
  • After an inner-city detective discovers his partner has been taking payoffs, he must choose between friendship and duty.

Now, what is redemption? What does this quality look like in fiction? I think of it as an opportunity, a choice presented to a character to do the right thing – or not. This is often a choice between bad and worse rather than good and evil, an agonizing decision colored in smoke and shades of gray.

So if being Christian means there exists an element of redemption, what of horror?

Most people would define horror as being that which elicits fear in the reader. But suspense often induces fear too so I find this definition lacking. I tend to separate horror from suspense along the lines of hope and meaning. In horror, there is a general lack of hope or expectation of meaning behind whatever is going on. However in suspense, there is generally a very good reason why the bad guy is doing bad guy things which is revealed by the end. Plus, the good guy is expected to be triumphant at the end of the story. Not so with the horror.

By the way, these should not be confused with Thrillers where we get to watch the villainy happen as it were over the antagonist’s shoulder. Someone on The Kill Zone Blog defined Thrillers as mysteries in reverse: Mysteries start with a crime and thereafter follow the detective working through clues to determine whodunit. By contrast, thrillers often begin with a credible threat and then follow the protagonist questing to prevent it from being executed.

So, is Christian Horror an oxymoron? Can something with a redemptive quality lack meaning? Yes, by having the chooser make the wrong decision, especially the wrong eternal decision. What’s more frightening to a Christian than a sinner rejecting the offer of salvation?  This dooms them to hell, a very frightening thought.

Image from http://www.mixcloud.com/black-buddah/literature-mystery-thriller-horror/

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Book trailers don’t work as expected. Many authors are stumped by them. Here are four reasons why you should create them and why they do actually work.

Dwight K. Shrute from NBC's The Office. Played by Rainn Wilson.

The crucial difference between traditional marketing and marketing on the web is that everything on the web is equally available to everyone all the time. Unlike traditional media outlets like TV and Radio, there are no gatekeepers controlling the flow. There are no channel line ups and no show schedules.

In traditional media, advertisements are based on interruption marketing. They can be low-quality and still be effective because consumers can’t skip the advertisement to get to the content they want.

Not so on the web. It’s incredibly easy to navigate to the content you want. Therefore, there is no traditional marketing because it isn’t necessary (and can actually be a liability). Consumers can connect directly with the producers of the content that they want. This has several important consequences:

(1) The production value of a book trailer ought to be high. Low-quality might work on TV but it won’t work on the web. It’s still entirely possible that it will get lost in the shuffle of all that is new on the web. Humans are fickle and hard to predict, but they do generally flock to whatever is *new* or anything that does something *better* than the competition. So keep the production value high and show them something they’ve never seen before. (n.b. High *value* doesn’t necessarily mean expensive or high-quality. American teens regularly buy jeans with holes already in them. Why? Because it’s considered fashionable. The jeans makers now purposefully damage their product before shipping. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. The web can be counter-intuitive like that too.)

(2) The primary purpose of your book trailer should not be to advertise your book. (!) If they’re watching it, they’re already interested. Remember, anyone can watch anything. They’ve chosen your book trailer. So, first and foremost, make it *entertaining* to keep them watching and increase the odds that they will share it with their friends (more on that next).

(3) Leverage the power of social media. Make it easy to find your book trailer and easy to share it. Use YouTube, Vimeo, and all the rest. Your first viewers will most likely be your fans who will probably be buying your book anyway. However, give them the tools and they will share it with their friends who might not be fans (yet). Making it easy also means you don’t pick just one outlet. You can upload your book trailer to them all and you should.

Thus, although you end up spending a lot of time creating something that will be viewed mostly by people already interested in it, you gain exposure for your product and your brand. Because…

(4) Things published on the web live on forever. Thus, it’s entirely possible to get continual exposure for the rest of your career. In other words, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Book trailers work over the long run. So, by all means create them. Just don’t expect an immediate payoff.

Image Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielle_scott/4022604355/

This post was written as a response to Nancy J. Cohen’s article on The Kill Zone, Making a Book Trailer. Watch Nancy’s book trailer for SILVER SERENADE on YouTube.

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Interesting thoughts on where publishing is going in a convenient list of bullet points. My thanks to Nancy Cohen for sharing on The Kill Zone.

  • Everyone will be reading on their mobile phones in the future. What will this mean for the art of writing? Smaller paragraphs, shorter books, scenic descriptions perhaps replaced by video.
  • Ebooks will be the next mass market.
  • Think global. People in other countries want to read our work and they want these stories to take place in the U.S. so they can read about our lives here. The demand will continue to grow exponentially. This is a huge potential market.
  • Many pirate sites originate overseas where English language content is unavailable. How to combat piracy? Cost and Convenience. Make our work cheaper and easier to obtain.
  • Be prolific to build your brand.
  • Don’t think of writing as draining your mental energy so you need to refill the creative well. Think of writing as recharging your batteries so that the more you write, the more you’ll want to write. It’s harder to restart the engine so keep it running.
  • Publishers need to step up to the plate and provide authors with editorial, distribution, promotion, and product if they’re to be viable in the future. The most important role of publishers continues to be as a gatekeeper for a quality read.
  • Social networking is crucial for authors to establish a platform.
  • Reviews still drive book sales, and bloggers are the new reviewers.
  • Indie bookstores still have tremendous influence. They may still be around after the chains go out of business. Establish a connection with your indie booksellers.
  • Writers with a backlist have many different avenues to explore to make their books available to readers again. This is an exciting time because we can bring our stories directly to readers ourselves.

Source: The Kill Zone: Brainstorming on the Beach

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