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 January, 2001


Writing Assignment: In Character

This month’s Writing Assignment article is the third in a series of how-to-write-fiction exercises designed to help new writers become more familiar with fiction writing. The first Writing Assignment focused on characterization. The second focused on setting. While character is central to a story, the writer must also pay close attention to context. In the third, now that you had created a character and setting, you were asked to meld the two.

This month you are asked to create a second character, using the same or another setting. Create a unique character, being careful that your characters are not simply mirror images of yourself! Think of the character carefully, visualizing him or her. This should be a character you care about - either positive or negative. For you will embark on a long adventure with them, and may eventually find you care as much for them as you care for some "real-life" people.

Sound crazy to you? Do you see yourself as a writing wizard who can call upon an unlimited cast of characters who will do your bidding regardless of meaning? Think again. If that's all you care about your characters, guess how much your readers will care? Less, not more.

Assignment--For Next Month

So your assignment is to create a second character. Keep in mind that this character will interact with the character you already created. Have some idea where the two characters' goals and/or principles may interact--meshing or mashing. But just an idea. This important thing now is to create the second character.

To do this, write a few pages in which you introduce the second character for the first time. As before, we will respond to your exercise with a critique.

Note: When done, you will have two characters and a setting, ready for interaction, character development, and story development. The idea is to have integrity and consistency in character and setting. Once you let the story continue against this strong foundation, the result will have greater depth and meaning than if you simply wrote an outline and slavishly created elements to serve it.

The characters, the setting, and a naturally progressing story line. These are the most important first elements for your fiction piece.

More next week.

Good luck!





Submitting your Manuscripts

for Publication

Gone are the days when Josephine could publish in Little Women with the main problem of choosing whether to write what the publisher wanted to hear. Today is a day where publishers reward non-talented writers like Hillary and others, leaving the raw talent of aspiring writers to grovel in the dust.

However, chin up! You can succeed through a great deal of hard work and a willingness to provide what the publisher needs to evaluate your work. But don't expect the publisher to hold your hand. The publisher will reject and reject until you get it right. Or until you can claim as much notoriety as Hillary!

You impress the book publisher when you...

1. Send a query letter introducing the manuscript in terms of the publisher’s existing list, books in the market, expected market share and revenue.

2. Send an author’s biography describing a successful career in publishing. Your list should include one or two novels and several successful listings in major market magazines. Alternatively, nonfiction titles will also build credibility.

3. Send a synopsis, outline, and/or sample chapter of the work. (Do not send the whole enchilada. Be patient. You have to be asked for this.)

4. Feel wealthy? Want a publisher to buy the work (and not to have a "vanity" publication)? Seek an agent. See the standard works in the reference section of your local, school or college/university library. Or try an Internet resource like www.literaryagent.com to select one. But gone are the days when the agent pays you. Plan for some fees.  Big time!

Writerly Websites...

Visit Emily Vander Veer's Writing for the Web. It's a clean website with sensitive advice for new writers. Emily has a great newsletter, too. See...

Writing for the Web:


Go Back in Time!...

Check out our new all - immersion Life of Jesus (Part 1) from David C. Cook III. Visit... 


Visit our sister websites...






E-Book Update........................

E-book - much talk and few sales in the year 2000. That's the bleak assessment from David D. Kirkpatrick in "Publishing Trends Go Beyond E-Books," New York Times on the Web, December 18, 2000.

Interestingly, Kirkpatrick isolates another development in physical book printing that will have immediate impact - Print-on-Demand. This technology makes it possible to do short print runs of books at a reasonable cost. This will have an impact on writer-produced books, but remember - this is vanity publishing unless you have provided a means to market your books.

It's encouraging that the Random House Unit of Bertelsmann created a new imprint this year to permit publication of new books by new fiction authors, etc., using print-on-demand editions. Would that more publishers seize this momentum.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

As a new medium, the Internet has not yet brought its advantages to the consumer. As a new delivery system, there is no real business model that brings content to consumers at a profit. (Mark Elliott, Sr. VP Marketing & Strategy, Radio One 2 One, Letter to editor, The Industry Standard, Dec 25, 2000, pp. 24-25.)

Sure, Stephen King has us reading a story on a screen, but no one else – not even Microsoft – could separate us from that old standby, paper and ink. Is the world ready for a multimedia Dickens? (Ari Weinberg, “Winners Losers,” The Industry Standard, Dec 25, 00, p. 96.)

Publishing New Writers, January, 2001 (no.201)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions and comments to cookcomm@gte.net. Links are welcome.


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