You know how you’re reading along, enjoying a book, and all of a sudden the writer kills off your favourite character. Or something really terrible happens, and horrendous suffering ensues. Or maybe a really cute puppy gets kicked – but something the author does makes you think they must have absolutely no soul.
And when you look at the number of books out there where something gruesome and/or tragic occurs, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a whole lotta soulless writers running around out there.
I’ve come to the conclusion (admittedly only based on a sample of one, so the data could be off) that we writers do come equipped with both hearts and souls. But writers keep their writer-selves in a separate box to their reader-selves. The kick a writer gets out of writing something horrific is very different to how they might feel confronted with reading that in someone else’s book. When you’re writing you’re thinking about plot and cool twists, how to make your characters suffer (because stories about happy contented people are boring), and all the technicalities of doing that in the most effective way. You’re not experiencing the story and all its emotional highs and lows the way a reader coming to it fresh does.
Case in point: I’ve started revising The Twiceborn Queen, the sequel to Twiceborn. When I wrote the first draft I killed off a major character from the first book. There were good story-related reasons to do so, but honestly? I was just bored with him. I could have worked to make him more interesting, but killing him off was fun.
As a reader I hate it when sad things happen in books. I know if I bought this book expecting a fun fantasy read, only to have a favourite character from the first book die on me, I’d be disappointed and angry. It might turn me off the series.
So now I’m torn. Do I let writer-me win and keep the death? Kill, maim, destroy!Or do I bow to my gentler reader-self, and revise him back into health and happiness? No wonder people think writers are crazy: not only do we spend half our time playing with imaginary people in our heads, but we argue with ourselves too.
What about you? Does it put you off a series when a favourite character dies?
How do you feel about headless bodies on book covers? Not as in decapitated and spouting blood, but the kind of cover where part of the model’s head is cut off by the top of the book.
Love ’em? Hate ’em? Never even thought about ’em?
There are some people (and Drama Duck is one of them) who will pass over a book if the cover shows the model’s face. They don’t like the image interfering with their own imagining of what the character looks like. I don’t know how many of these people there are, but there are enough to have spawned a trend in cover design for obscuring the model’s features. Sometimes that’s done with shadows or positioning the head at an angle, but quite often the top of the face is just chopped off.
I like both those covers I showed you, but I must admit I’m more of an “eyes are the windows to the soul” kind of person – I like to see a face. Not that it influences my buying habits at all. I’m usually drawn to colours first anyway, and if I stop for a closer look it will be the blurb and a sample of the writing that decides whether I buy or not.
But now I’m working with a designer on the cover for Twiceborn. The great thing about self-publishing rather than going with a traditional publisher is you get complete control over what your cover looks like. Trad-pubbed authors get little or no say in their cover design, and are sometimes stuck with covers they hate.
But having to make all the decisions can also be the bad thing about self-publishing! Headless or full-faced? Which do you prefer in covers? Or isn’t it important to you? (I could well be over-thinking the issue, I realise. Maybe most people really don’t care and I should just take a deep breath and move on.)
What do you think, Internets?
My novel Twiceborn is another step closer to finding its way into the world. Yay! Do you like the new supermultigrated blurb?
I’ve just finished a big revision job: going through and adding more details.
I’m a lean writer (sadly that’s a metaphor – my jeans are getting too tight again. Damn things must have shrunk in the wash …). My natural instinct is to get to the point, not waffle on about the scenery or what people look like. Of course no one wants to read five pages describing the view, but all my beta readers agree that I go too far in the other direction.
So what started as a 60,000-word first draft, which became a 72,000-word revision and then an 82,000-word revision, is now fast closing in on 88,000 words as I flesh out the world and the story of Kate and all the other characters I’ve grown to love. (Well, some of them I don’t love, but that’s okay. You’re not meant to like the bad guys!) By this time next week this final revision should be finished, and Twiceborn will be off to a professional editor.
It’s getting closer! Close enough to start getting excited, though there’s still a lot to be done. Close enough to start imagining what it will be like to hold a book in my hands that has my name on the cover.
I could get used to this authoring stuff!