(NOTE: This is a nonfiction book, so I’ll be reacting to it much like I did with The Problem of Pain.)
I found this book immensely reaffirming. For me, I held a lot of the concepts in this book true without any terms or explanations.
The first thing I read that really resonated with was the concept that time is a valued currency. I’ve said for a long time (I even wrote it in my own personal Code) that the only two true forms of currency are love and time. This book speaks to that belief and supports it with both relevant anecdotal evidence as well as research. If you only buy this book to read Chapter 8, it would be worth the money.
This isn’t just true of someone who likes self-help, non-fiction books. This chapter is specifically for all those people who “say” they want to be an author. This chapter forces a person to look at their life and truly understand what they do establishes their priorities.
This book speaks to sticking to your purpose and pushing, never giving up. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell.
There were parts that truly got me thinking. The big conundrum to authors is the idea of supply and demand. Great businesses tap into what’s going to happen. They jump the market. They give people what they want. This is very hard to do as an author. At the end of the day, people want to read good stories. So how does one of a huge number of authors prove his stories are good or better than the other books out there? How does an author earn the time of readers? This is a mystery I’m trying to solve, and the answer will make whatever author learns it very successful.
This book speaks to mentorship. It challenges people to seek out people more successful than you. I’ve done that over the last year or so, finding the Slush Brain and other people that I can speak to and learn from. Writers WANT to be part of a group of successful authors. Just look at history and you’ll see what tends to happen to talented individuals who share that sort of energy.
This book challenges readers to look at what they’re doing and why. It gives readers courses of action that can help them drive in on what they want. I’d have like a bit more time in terms of identifying purpose. While I have my purpose, I find that most people don’t, and I felt if any part could have more, or rather if I wanted any more of one segment, that would be what I’d wish. I tell my students pretty much daily that I don’t care what they want; I just want them to WANT SOMETHING. So more information on finding that, and if I’m being honest, helping others find that, would have made this product even stronger.
Entrepurpose isn’t good because a friend of mine wrote it; it’s good because it’s useful. It’s good because it does what I think non-fiction should do. It calls you out, offers you tools, and forces you to admit you’re the one who has to move. I’m so very glad for Rusty and Brian. I recommend this book most specifically for people who know what they want, but are afraid or unsure if they should go for it.
I consider myself a christian, though perhaps the worst I know. So any chance to read a book that provides insight is a welcome thing in my world.
This book approaches the overarching question of, “Why does God allow pain in this world?”
I’ve given a lot of thought about how best to approach this review, and I feel that the most appropriate way is to simply state what I agreed with, what I disagreed with and what my reactions were.
Perhaps the number one reason I am concerned for my soul is that I believe and know that God exists, and I am never certain if I’m serving his will (more on that below). A simple search of the book’s title will reveal a quote from Lewis, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the wall of his cell.”
I will not use this book to prove my state of mind any more than I will to dispute the book’s content. I believe a man’s actions are either in line with God’s will, or contrary to it. A man may choose to go against God’s will because God granted man the power of choice. Yes, man can choose to refuse to worship, but that refusal doesn’t diminish God, it demises and condemns the man refusing. Here I feel it appropriate to mention that it is my opinion that the best way a man worship’s God is in living out his purpose. The fear comes from the line between one’s conviction in what he’s doing is God’s will vs assuming any man can actually KNOW God’s will. This is an issue I would greatly appreicate more elaboration on.
Lewis mentioned mental pain. I agree that mental pain is much more difficult to bear. I have a great many memories of physical pain, but the trails which caused me the most despair and discomfort arose not from the physical injury of a limb or joint, but from the wounds my heart has suffered. My point? I would happily surrender any sense, limb, or physical discomfort for the simple peace of knowing I belong. This does not in any way indicate my desire to encounter or deal with physical pain. I’m so far blessed to have avoided extreme amounts of physical pain. I don’t enjoy heartburn or cuts, but those fade. I can not speak to the degree of pain suffered through some of the injuries I fear. All I can say with honesty and conviction is mental pain endures, and physical pain fades. A man can only endure so much in either fashion, but mental pain is, for me at this juncture of my life, much more challenging to bear.
I will not transcribe Mr. Lewis’s quote on heaven, but it is the core of what I found the most encouragement in. It is the quote for which I will always bless Corey. Lewis spoke about the “secret signature of each soul,” and that resonated with me. I’ve spoken a few times. I have friends who simply don’t understand why I’m willing to suffer exhaustion, sadness, disappointment and despair. For me, writing, the process, craft and creation of writing. When I sit and write, truly create, I feel as if that is the thing for which I was made. And that brings me to my fear and where I respectfully disagree with Mr. Lewis.
May God forgive me if I’m wrong.
The premise of this book is that God speaks to us through pain. While I respect and agree with a great deal of what Mr. Lewis said, I can not in any way wrap my mind around the idea that God speaks to us in our feelings. This may be the mistake that costs me my soul, but I do so in ignorance and not defiance.
The quote reads, “We can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
For me, to believe God speaks to me in pain (especially at this point in my life) would be for me to not simply give up that for which I feel I was made, but for me to feel as though God would use pain to teach me, or pleasure to reward me. I don’t argue that God is to us as we are to animals, but I think God, in his grace and wisdom, would find more effective tools to train man than positive and negative reinforcement. For example, I’ve done things in life in which I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of pleasure, but even I’m aware of how sinful they were. I’ve done things I knew would cause me great pain. The pain in my heart that will haunt me until the day I day, which will HURT me until the day I no longer feel anything, was done because it was right. This is my anecdotal rebuttal to the idea that God teaches me through pain.
What I believe in this regard is that God gave us free will, and demands obedience to His will. What pain I suffer I do not believe is God punishing me any more than I feel that the joys I receive are rewards. The blessings and trials I receive are for me to learn and grow from. They are, in my individual opinion, not devices of training, but tools for growth. I see a distinction. As a man, I just don’t want my dogs to pee on the floor. So we spank and punish behavior to correct it. It makes sense to draw the correlation, but I feel it’s misplaced. A man just wants his dog to behave; I feel God wants man to become. Man wants animals to behave as man wishes; God wants us, I believe, to become the works of art he sees we can be. This requires more than simple training, but teaching.
As I consider the act of free will, Mr. Lewis does a great job of discussing how that self-realization led to the fall of man, I feel free will to be both the requirement of faith and the most dangerous. Here, I come to my great fear.
My pain, in my belief, is far more my fault than God’s displeasure with me. My choices and actions have consequences. The religious implications of those actions are not necessarily related to the earthly ones. But I do think about it.
When my sales are lower than ever, when I’m tired and upset, I pray. I pray, not as often as I should, but I do. I pray, and I think to myself, “is this really God’s will? Am I suffering because I’m refusing to see his plan for me?”
Sometimes I feel like the dwarves from the last book of Mr. Lewis’s famous saga. God lays out all those blessings before them, and they can’t see. None can see God’s glory if they refuse to see it. Am I refusing to see what is in front of me, or am I simply running, further up, and further north, to that which I’m meant for. I simply can not know. All I can do is what I feel God wishes for me to do.
At this point, I remember the most important part of myself. It is when I write, that I most feel I am doing what I’m meant to do. Writing has nothing to do with being read or selling books.
The pain I feel is in regard to my sales and reviews. The lack of earthly success and monetary gain I receive from writing. Even all of that pain is as nothing when I write.
So I leave this blog where Mr. Lewis left me at the end of this book. The feeling I get from writing is like a lock, for which I was made. It is a world made just for me. There are other aspects that I truly don’t enjoy, but only time will tell if they are tools designed to move me where I’m meant to go or simply trials that God is giving me to show me how strong I am. I can’t know God’s will. I only know the pure, unearthly joy I receive when I write. I will not proclaim my entrance to heaven because it is not for me to judge anyone, let alone myself. All I know is, writing is the closest (and infinitely farther still) I come to feeling like I’m in heaven, and so I will continue to do so.
You are here for a reason. So, the question is: Why?
Entrepurpose is a book inspired by 13 intense years of struggle to find the answer to the question,
“Why am I here?”
That journey took me through three depressions, alcoholism, and unhealthy weight gain as I tried to reconcile my life without purpose.
Now that I know my why, I have experienced an infusion of life and focus that I have never felt before.
This work has become my mission, and I can enjoy it more fully each day. But, it came at a price. That price was 13 years.
My story is our gift to you.
Inside these pages are the tools and principles that led me to understand what I was born to do.
If you apply these principles to your life, you will begin to see that every experience, no matter how painful, is part of your strength. If you feel different from others, a misfit perhaps, this book will show you why different is better than better. Maybe, for the first time, you will begin to accept who you are.
Whatever the reason that brought you here, know that you are here for a reason. That reason can be understood, and once you know it, you will have a responsibility to impact the world in the way only you can.
Welcome to your rebirth.
This book is already doing well, and I couldn’t be happier for the creators. It reached number 1 in three categories: Business and Money, Education and Education and Reference.
What’s most important about this book is, it’s designed to help people who truly feel low. All the feedback I’ve seen and all the messages I’ve read continue to say, “This is what we need.” Every writer wants his or her book to have an impact, and the early returns on Entrepurposve indicate this book does that.
Now let’s meet the creators.
I met Rusty somewhere around two years ago. We both teach at the same school. Over the last few months, we’ve been working more closely as he’s teaching the same segment of the course I teach.
There’s a bond between authors. They don’t have to recognize it or accept it in any way. It’s a bond of caring for your craft. You see it when they’re a bit tired the next day because they rushed home to eat up whatever time they can with their family before they toil away at another job that takes not just a great deal of effort, but an insane amount of mental energy. I’ve watched Rusty as he’s pushed himself to share this with you. It’s not just his story, which alone is something compelling; it’s his passion.
Every day I see him talking to people about personality types and how they gather information. Every thing he does as a teacher is driven to understand how the student thinks and learns, so that he can teach more effectively. I haven’t had a chance to read the book just yet (it’s next on my TBR), but his story and his effort to find ways to reach people are already strong motivators for me.
I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Laprath. He’s currently a reservist in the Air Force, and any time I can help out a fellow veteran, I’m going to. You can find out more about him on the Entrepurpose website. That site also has a blog and a ton of information worthy of checking out.
So I wanted to take a moment today and share this with you. As most of my followers and those I follow know, I love giving shoutouts when dreams come true. I relblog posts where authors announce they’ve finished a book. I like it when people achieve their dreams, and I wanted to share this achievement with you.
Under my new book review format, I talk about how much I enjoy characters. That got me thinking about character sympathy, why it’s important and how to manipulate the reader’s sympathy for a character.
One reference for how to adjust sympathy is Writing Excuses. They’re more successful than I am, and they’re also better at this than I am. The linked podcast addresses the how. They reference another podcast that explains why you don’t have to have sympathetic characters. That’s true. There are reasons to have unsympathetic characters, but I’m not a fan of them. They exist in The Journals of Bob Drifter, but that doesn’t mean I was overly happy about their existence, only aware of their necessity.
What is a sympathetic character. There are a few differing opinions, but I’m going to selfishly hover in my realm of opinions. While some feel sympathetic characters are those readers feel sad for, I don’t necessarily leave it at that. When I talk about sympathetic characters, I’m speaking specifically on characters readers have a strong emotional response to. A character my readers hate (if that’s what I wanted them to feel) is every bit as important as a character my readers love. When I get feedback from beta readers, my worst fear is I’ll ask, “what did you think about Character X?” and the readers will respond with, “Who?” That’s a much bigger problem to me.
One of my betas for Journals hates Richard. When she told me why, I smiled, and said, “Sorry, but that’s exactly what I wanted you to feel.” The degree to which readers hate Richard is one thing, but if they hate him for the same reason my beta hated him, I did my job right. Characters can’t be completely rage worthy any more than they can be completely sympathetic. The masters (who in my opinion are George R.R. Martin and Peter V. Brett) can make you hate a character and then a book later, make you at least understand them. This particular ability allows you to have an extra arch with your characters.
A great example for how to do this? Believe it or not, the WWE. I haven’t watched wrestling in years, but think about it. Shawn Michaels went from hero to villain to hero to goof to hero and all the way around again. Readers look for growth in character, and that’s another term that might be misleading. Sometimes failure tests a character’s metal, and it’s okay for that character to regress. Why?
Now we come to the main purpose of this particular blog. We’re all human. Just on the drive to my brother’s house we talked about what it is to be human. I don’t think people are good or bad. I think they’re people. Sometimes they do good things, sometimes they do horrible things. I know I have. So the most realistic characters react to their environment. I have a few characters who don’t change. I like those characters. I like those who no matter the test, they alway pass. I like the other characters too. I think House, M.D. was a great example here. What kept me watching that show was the thought that, “Maybe this episode, he’ll do the decent thing.” Nope. Never did. It’s the same trick Charlie Brown kept falling for. He’ll never kick the ball and House will never be a compassionate person. (You can argue the end of that series with me in the comments if you want.)
Those characters are unique, but they can get boring quickly. I’ve failed in my life, so I look for characters who have flaws, but are generally decent folk. One of the more common compliments I get for Journals is Bob. He’s a good, white-hat, guy. He has his slumps, but he’s consistently kind and compassionate, and that makes him sympathetic when he’s faced with tragedy. Others don’t like him because he’s too nice. I think the world is just about done with antiheroes, then again, maybe not. I think it’s an archetype like any other. Use tools for a reason.
You don’t need a raging alcoholic day-care sitter any more than you need an incredibly pious prostitute. That sort of extreme can seem forced and/or contrived. Strive instead for people who feel real. All my favorite books have at least one character I genuinely feel some connection too. It’s the part of me I see in those characters that makes me want to see what happens to them. I think this is something to strive for in writing.
That makes me want to close with a few (in no particular order) characters I found very sympathetic. They area also some of my favorite characters in fiction. They are:
Perrin Aybara from Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
All of these characters have great emotional range. Sometimes, they do things that make me proud, other times, I’m angry with them for how they handle a situation. I could have gone on, but I just wanted to give you all a few characters I felt have the qualities I look for when I’m reading. You can feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
In summary: A sympathetic character is someone the reader feels something for. They should be realistic by sometimes failing tests of character. They can be “bad” or “good” as a whole, but no one is all of any one thing. (except for a few carefully chosen characters, which I feel need to be offset by other members in the cast.)
I hope this gives you some insight into what I shoot for when I write. If you think you’ve found something I missed, or you just have a good resource to share, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
Where he found wise mentors and kindly sages, I trained more like a 1970s martial arts movie. Here is my tale:
The Cruel Fate of the Self Taught Literary Martial Artist
*Strikes gong, then turns on 70’s Stock Music*
In the land of the ever setting sun, there was a young man who believed he was ready to earn a name for himself as a literary martial artist. He had trained for two long decades, and honed his tools with the utmost care. His weapons skills were formidable. His traveling pouch was full of both sustenance and funds for inns and competitions.
His Journals style felt like a form that could not be beat. Yeah, his Journeyman Jab and Blacksoul Blast seemed unbeatable. It was then he entered his first competition, the Tournament of Agent City.
This was not an elimination tournament. In fact, so long as Weech Fu had a student in the competition, they could continue to earn a dojo sign. But the Agency Clan was simply too unified in purpose. The Crushing Criticism Crescent Kick and the Knife Chop of Great Denial sent the young martial artist reeling. Bloody and bruised, he stood and fought again. He took a Unintriguing Uppercut, which knocked him to his back with a thud.
No amount of resilience could defeat the Agency Clan’s most devastating technique – the Disinterested Delayed Denial Death Dealing Strike. Indeed, even as Weech waited for the blow to come, it never seemed to. Only when he thought no attack was coming, did they strike with their seemingly lackadaisical attack, almost nonchalantly destroying Weech with what seemed to be no more effort than would be required to shoo away an annoying insect.
Weech battled anyone who would take him on. “Who are you” a member of the Agency Clan would ask.
“Master Weech of Weech Fu!” he replied. “Surely you’ve heard of me.”
His opponent’s baffled face was nearly as devastating as his foe’s No Thank You Thrust.
Every member of the Agency Clan he battled defeated Weech without even realizing he’d been in a fight.
Weech trained harder…
After climbing No Hope Mountain and training in the bitter heat prevalent in the Land Of Rejection, Weech rededicated himself to a new path. Instead of challenging one of the Great Clans of Publishing Kung Fu, he’d simply form his own Dojo and expand it. This technique, known as the Self Publication Perfection Practice Style, was dangerous, but he felt ready.
He was not…
While other martial artists were working on their Advertisement Assassination Strikes and Social Media Melee Attacks, Weech simply mastered his Journals Jutsu. Indeed, any foe who dared take on this terrifying technique was likely found laid out on his straw mattress reading of the great Journeyman Jab and Black Soul Blast. Yes, he even found a student or two.
But the Publishing Clans saw an opportunity to manipulate Weech. To feed off of his ambition. Where most were well versed in the Self Publishing Black Market, Weech was a novice, only mastering the crafts of Grammar Grappling and Worldbuilding Whirlwind Attacks. He had no counters for the Overpriced Publishing Push or the Cover Cost Press. He saw no way to counter the Marketing Misdirection Sweep or the Promise of a Better Tomorrow Throw. Weech soon found himself penniless and bloody.
“Travel with us, Master Weech, and we will ensure you’re never beaten senseless by the Great Clans of Publishing Kung Fu Houses again.”
He accepted passage and earned a spot on the crew aboard the H.M.S. Slush Brain. Life on the ship was hard, but he trained. Still determined to win his first fight, he asked to be taken to the Land of Caught Terrors, where he was last seen practicing the Blog Bullet Strike under the tree of Website Marketing.
You can find him training still. Just look for the silhouette of a man when you gaze at the ever setting sun.
*Strikes gong, then turns off 70’s Stock Music*
So yeah, sometimes I get a little carried away with my metaphors. So in case that was entertaining but uninformative, let me summarize.
I focused on writing great books, which is still universally regarded as step one to getting published. But I didn’t get an agent, and no companies called clamoring for the rights to my book. How are my Agent Queries? How are my slush pile entries? I don’t really know. I know I solicited agents and publishing companies until I got tired of waiting and being told no.
So I published my book. I had no advertising plan. I had no marketing strategy. I thought, “I wrote a book, and it’s great! Surely everyone who reads it will demand their friends read it.”
Honestly, most people who’ve read it do recommend it. But what I have in skill (which is still developing if I’m being honest) I lack in marketing or networking. I’m better now thanks to the Slush Brain and her wonderful crew. But I’m still lost. I need to do more research and drive harder in that area.
What I hope you all take away from this is:
Step One: Write (revise, edit again and again) a DAMN good book. I think I did that.
But Step Two isn’t publish. It’s develop a marketing plan. Get your book out there. Get your name out there. While you’re revising and editing and proofreading your copy, get people clamoring for your work.
If you wrote a great book, that’s awesome, but no one will buy if no one knows it exists. That hints toward another blog I’ll work on soon regarding why people go to book stores. But that’s for another time.
Thank you for reading (and never stop training)
Last week, I posted a blog about first person narrative, during which I gave some pros and cons to that style of writing. First, that blog was a huge success, and I have you all to thank for it. Thank you!
Now the pressure’s on to make every post that informative and that helpful. I can only hope I don’t disappoint.
If I’m being honest, I don’t see vary many true third person narrative stories anymore. Most books I read (and I read a lot) are either told in first person or third person limited omniscient. Third person allows the reader into every character’s thoughts at any time. The author isn’t limited in any scope. He can (and should) decide when and how to provide information to the reader. I had to go pretty deep into my library to find a few examples, but I did.
The Belgariad by David Eddings: I read the first three books in this series. Eddings is a great author who may be underrated or under-discussed. I talk about fantasy fiction and reading pretty much every day, and his work doesn’t come up very often (though someone mentioned him when I talked about cinematic universes). In all of my library, his was the one book or series that jumped out at me when I considered what I’ve read that effectively uses third person narrative.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I know I said no other books jumped out at me, but I read LOTR in 2000 and Belgariad in 2010, so maybe give a guy a bit of a break. I don’t need to build up the success of one of the best selling series (not to mention films) in history. Tolkien is simply the standard by which all other fantasy authors are compared. I can’t tell you how many books or reviews I’ve seen that read: “Better than Tolkien” or “Takes the world Tolkien created and improved it.” When you compare every other book to one book, you prove that book to be the standard.
Third person omniscient used to be the standard for most fiction. It’s evolved over the years, and I may just manage to accidentally fail to find it in fiction these days. If you know of a popular series that uses it, feel free to let me know in the comments. In the mean time, let’s take a look at what it gives writers:
Unlimited scope: The author has the power to give the reader every thought and every opinion in every scene for every character in the book. This allows readers all the insight they could ever ask for. The author has the most control over what to reveal and what to withhold. The author allows the reader to see every angle at any time. That also makes the information more immediate. Where first person might have the reader wondering at what point they’re getting this information, the reader doesn’t worry about that issue with third person narrative. The reader gets everything as it’s happening.
More reliable: I’d mentioned in my post about first person narrative that it’s hard to address the perspective of the narrator. It makes the speaker a little hard to believe. Third person narrative is more trustworthy because you know you’re getting the author’s honest account of what the characters are doing or thinking. Sure, the characters might be wrong, but the reader knows. There’s a reasonable expectation of objectivity for the readers to work with.
Unlimited scope: Nope, that’s not a typo. Like Spidey says, with great power, comes great responsibility. Now the writer has to choose what information to reveal when. More importantly, the writer has to decide WHY the reader wouldn’t get the information sooner. I remember thinking about this while reading The Belgariad. I constantly wondered why some information wasn’t getting filtered. Readers like me are frustrated by having information the characters could need. Believe it or not, this is EXACTLY how soap operas become so addictive. The consumer is just aching for some way to get that secret to the person who needs it. In fiction, it’s more difficult because the characters are interacting, and the author is providing insights to the characters’ thoughts. Authors have to watch out for the plot holes created when revealing information that should have come to light sooner based on how the story progresses.
Less relatable: The reliability of the information in narrative is proportional to the reliability of the character. Just think about it. If I’m in everyone’s head, when do I have the opportunity to grow closer to any one person? This doesn’t mean that readers can’t relate to characters in this narrative, but it can happen. As successful as The Lord of the Rings was, a lot of readers will tell you that it was hard to connect to some of the characters. I personally consider the books to be more of a history of events than a story. It’s well told and beautifully written, but a lot of my affection for the characters has more to do with the movies than the books. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the degree to which someone sympathies with a character is proportionate to the amount and quality of time the reader sees from the character’s point of view.
More challenging plot twists: In first person, all an author has to do to keep the readers in the dark is keep the main character in the dark. Third person narrators don’t have that option. I touched on this above, but this specific aspect of the scope requires a bit more information. The reason readers don’t know what the bad guy is up to is because the author never goes to the bad guy’s perspective, which makes the bad guy less sympathetic. (and now I have to write at least one blog about sympathetic characters.
Just realize that hatred isn’t the worst thing a reader can feel toward a character, it’s ambivalence.) So where I can keep the reader clueless in first person, it’s much trickier in omniscient storytelling because the reader knows what everyone is thinking (or at least could). This touches on my big problem with this form of storytelling. The trouble is withholding information in such a was as to allow the reader to learn something when it’s necessary without making the reader point out any number of reasons the character should have had that information already. Sure, as authors, we have the privilege to withhold as much information as we want, but the more you withhold, the less satisfying or more contrived a plot twist or conclusion will feel.
Summary: Third person is great for stories with a lot of scope and few plot twist elements. Your events need to be more interesting because your characters might not be as familiar (and therefore compelling) to your readers.
Did I leave something out? Care to provide a different side of some of these issues? As always, feel free to use the comments section. I had a lot of fun discussing the craft with the last post, and I look forward to more of the same.
I noticed Corey (Quintessential Editor) do a blog about The Power of POV, and that got me thinking about it. Now some people use POV (Point of View) and a few other terms. The most classic term used is narrative. Once I read his blog, I thought I’d dig a little deeper.
As I’ve learned about writing over the years, I’ve become familiar with the more commonly used types of narrative. Now most people talk about what they are, but I don’t know that anyone’s taken the time to explain what they do well and what they don’t do so well.
I experienced this writing my fifth book, The Nick of Time, which is the story of a little girl who finds herself tracking down a legendary artifact in an effort to help her father save the world before it’s scheduled to end. When I sit down to work out that story, I’m going to end up switching the narrative because the one I chose wasn’t working. It’s a solid idea, but the narrative you use to write a story changes how effective it is.
So a quick google shows varying results when you search “types of narrative in fiction.” I’m going to stick to three, because, like Corey said, those three are the ones with which most people write, and they’re also the ones with which I’m most familiar. They would be First Person, Third Person, and Third Person limited (which I call POV). As I started typing this post, I immediately realized there’s too much to cover in one blog, so this will be the first in a series of three.
First Person: Confession. This is my least favorite type of narrative, but don’t let that fool you. It’s not my least favorite because it’s just bad. Narrative is a tool. I don’t like it because I see it done badly the most. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great examples of first person narrative. Let’s check out a few.
The Kingkiller Chronicles, byPatrick Rothfuss: Rothfuss is probably the biggest name in the game right now. The Name of the Windtook the fantasy world by storm and fans will devour the next book when it comes.
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher: Butcher’s Dresden Files have been a great staple in urban fantasy for almost 20 years now. It was even a series for one season, which I wish they’d go back to and work on again.
Wastelander, by Corey Truax: You’re darn right I’m talking about this story before it’s even done drafting. I’ve read it. It’s a perfect reason to use first person done by a compelling character. You won’t have to take my word for it. Just read the first chapter when the book is released; you’ll thank me later.
These are perfect examples of first person narrative done well, so let’s look at what it does for writers:
Intensifies relationship between the main character and the reader: Readers connect to characters, and none of these narratives do so better than first person. The narrator is the main character, and he’s talking to me (the reader). It’s only natural to grow closer to someone you talk to on a regular basis. I wasn’t hooked on Dresden after book one, but I kept reading because Harry was a cool guy to listen to. When the story intensified, I was all the more invested because Harry was sharing his story with me.
Comedy and breaking the fourth wall: First person breaks the fourth wall regardless of which effect you intend, but it’s magical when you use this for comedy. Deadpool and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are wonderful examples of using first person narrative and breaking the fourth wall for comedic effect. This technique makes every joke an inside joke.
Limited scope: I see first person narrative done most often in mysteries, and there’s a reason for that. It’s just so darn easy to keep readers in the dark when they only know what your main character knows. Beware using first person for other types of stories. It can frustrate readers to not know what’s going on. Mystery readers expect to not know; readers of other genres can get antsy when they’re kept in the dark.
Baffling perspective: There’s really no other way to describe it. During my writers’ group meeting a few weeks back, we had a huge discussion about when the main character is telling his or her story. Consider Dresden talking about horrible events after they happened. Wouldn’t that affect his ability to discuss painful memories? Isn’t it more likely that people put a positive spin on things in hind sight? I know I never told my parents exactly how stuff was broken in the house. This creates a paradox that I don’t like trying to puzzle out. Dean Koontz handled it well in Odd Thomas. I just struggle with the idea of someone writing a story after it’s happened.
Isn’t the point of a story for the main character to progress? Won’t the person tell the story inherently be very different than the person he or she was before his or her journey started. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m one of those jerks that refuse to use “they” as a singular personal pronoun.)
Summary: For my taste, first person narrative is most effective for stories that are limited in scope. They should have incredibly sympathetic characters. Mysteries are a bonus, but so long as the reader doesn’t need to know anything more than the main character, the story won’t suffer.
Did I miss a well told first person narrative? I know I left a lot out. I just don’t have the time an energy to post that many links to that many stories, but they’re out there. (Well, I have to at least mention the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells. Anyone who hasn’t read his stuff is missing out.)
On social media, I’ve announced the release ofAndrew Hiller’s multimedia project about me and Julie Milillo. I added the video below. It touches on how self-publishing helped me stand behind a project I was proud of. I’m a nostalgic person at heart, so watching that made me remember how I got to this point in my career as an author.
It starts with rejection. About two years ago, I made the decision that The Journals of Bob Drifter (JOBD) was ready for the world, so I started looking for agents. I think I sent a total of 50 queries. Now I don’t really know if that’s a lot or a little in comparison to others, but I got some 15 replies back. One went so far as to say, “I found your story un-intriguing” or something to that effect. That particular email required some emotional support, massive Doctor Who, chocolate chip cookies, and a few days of moping.
I sent it to whatever slush pile I could get it to. They all said no or ignored me. In some of my old notes, I came across Balticon 2014 (I think…the years blend together). I was speaking to one of the guests, whose name I will not mention because I refuse to use other people to sell my work, especially without their consent. He told me about a few other options. He told me that self publishing was a path I could choose. He told me there are several successful self-published authors. To say that conversation was memorable is an epic understatement. Most importantly, it made me fell like if I believed in my work, I could stand behind it.
I love JOBD. I think it’s a great story with compelling characters and an interesting twist on an old conflict. I thought I deserved a chance to put myself out there. More importantly, I thought Bob deserved a chance.
No one likes bad reviews. No one likes to think his or her work isn’t loved by all. Bob has had a few bad reviews, but he has had more positive reviews. I spoke about that in the interview above. As cool as that fact is, that’s not actually my point. The story deserved to be seen.
I made mistakes. I was impatient with the editing process. I’ll go over the long list in great detail here and there. Those are mistakes I’ve made and mistakes I must learn from, but I wouldn’t change the fact that I have a book for anything.
I have a book. It sits on my rickety old wine-rack converted trophy case. The cover was drawn by my best friend in junior high school. It’s dedicated to my dad and a certain horrifically overweight cocker spaniel. I can’t tell you what that feels like. If I wrote a million words and used every synonym for the word “euphoric” in every language known to man, I wouldn’t be doing the feeling justice. I’m as self-loathing as the next artist, but no one can take that book away from me.
For those devastated by rejection letters and lack of responses, this is my advice. No one can tell you you’re ready. No one can tell you your book is ready. Those who have access are barriers. They’re well-trained professionals seeking product they already know they can sell. That’s their job. They’re not evil. They’re evaluators. I’d listen to what they have to say and learn from it, but I clearly didn’t let it stop me. You have to make the choice. Do you believe in yourself or not?
I’m results oriented. Every sale I make is a victory. Every day I don’t make a sale (and man are there plenty of them!) is a defeat. Every 5-star review is heaven. Every 2-star review is hell. I take it all. I learn from it. I AM an author. However Bob does over time is the right of readers to judge, but that book deserved to be judged by readers.
So if you have a project you believe in, if you’d bet everything on it, and it’s the best project you could develop, stand beside it. It matters LESS how it sells than that it’s out there. Trust me. I KNOW how if feels to think you’re not successful. I struggle every day with marketing, publicizing, working on the next book, making the next book even better, and reading reviews and comments. When I’m at my lowest, I remember two things.
One: I’m a writer. I’ve written 1,000 words a day (give or take) since I was 26 years old (11 years now). I didn’t get paid for one of those days, and I don’t care. God put me on earth to write. He didn’t promise me sales or awards or anything. I feel happy when I write. I feel at peace. Even as I write this, I’m smiling, because I’m doing what I’m meant to do. Sure, I’d like to be well paid for that one day, but I won’t stop regardless.
Two: I’d have zero reviews if I never took a chance. People can say whatever they want about my book. They can say whatever they want about Caught when it comes out. The reason they can talk about them is because they’re out there. To me, the purpose of art is to be consumed (not literally, JOBD is 400-plus pages). The point is I created something I’m proud of.
Of course it hurts when someone speaks ill of it. Of course it hurts that I’m not number one on the best seller list every week ever. But if I focus on those two things I remember…
…I’m out there, and I never would have been if I didn’t try.
We all know about the MCU and DCEU. Screenrant recently released an article about other cinematic universes currently under development, and that got me thinking about fantasy fiction and what books I’d like to see as a cinematic universe:
The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey:
To begin with, this is my favorite all time fantasy series. The characters are amazing. The world is unique, and, well, dragons. Every time I see a movie that discusses dragons or even creatures that maybe, in the right light with enough alcoholic assistance could be dragons, I’m baffled that this hasn’t happened. Someone more knowledgable than me might know why, but I’d be the first guy in line to see this world come to life in the form of a cinematic universe. Like MCU and Star Wars, this world has a lot of great characters that beg for independent films. It sits atop my list of dream movies.
Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere:
First off, this is already a multimedia universe. His stories span graphic novels, RPGs and even a video game. This universe is so deep and trawling, the potential for movies is endless. There’s even potential for other media-related products. Knowing Sanderson’s work, he’s probably finished a novella while I was working on this blog. He’s already given us 10 years of glorious storytelling, and we can only hope we receive many years more.
The Night Angel Trilogy, by Brent Weeks:
Don’t close this browser! The Lightbringer series is wonderful, but the key to great cinematic universes is a diverse range of characters that can hold their own in a movie. I won’t deny there are a handful of powerful, interesting characters in Lightbringer, I simply think this trilogy is more suited for the big screen universe than Lightbringer (which I’d LOVE to see Netflix or HBO take on). The thing that drew me to the Night Angel Trilogy was that this book honestly felt like pretty much every character could be his or her own main character in a book. That’s why I’d choose this one.
Age of Fire, by E.E. Knight
This might be a reach in comparison to the others, which have much deeper worlds and larger casts, but the right mind behind this universe can take advantage of some of the characters and cultures and simply have fun with it. Others may clamor for the Vampire Earth saga, but that seemed to taper off for me. I can’t argue it has more scope and more powerful characters, but this is the more complete story at this moment.
Discworld, by Terry Pratchett”
I’ve read a few of these. The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky are simply beautiful. I don’t care for whom they were written. This has the sort of scope Sanderson’s Cosmere has, but I don’t think people see it. I’d be first in line for a Tiffany Aching saga, let alone the whole Discworld library.
I absolutely want you to comment below on what you think I’ve missed out. I won’t lie, I left some out for simple bias and others because I felt they’d be better suited for the small screen. I could clog the internet with all the sagas I think would be great cinematic universes. These are just the first five I could think of. (Shout out to Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle!) My point is, as production companies are beating down the door for potential cinematic universe fodder, why not look at the genre that’s inherently designed for such a purpose?
As for my books? First off, if anyone wanted to produce anything based on my books, feel free to shoot me an email! I’ve been asked how I feel about adaptations. I’ve always felt The Journals of Bob Drifter would be better suited for series. There’s a balance between what would make for a good series and what would make for a good cinematic universe. You haven’t seen the last of Harmony and Kyle, but I still think I’d prefer to see that as a series than a cinematic universe. I was ecstatic to hear Wheel of Time was tagged for a series. I think that’s the right call. I feel the same way about Bob.
Caught is the first in a trilogy, and each character, I feel, could hold his or her own in a movie. For those reasons, I’d feel this project would be better suited for the big screen. I have other books, deeper and more expansive in scope as I grow in skill, that would be even better suited, but this is what’s out there (or scheduled to be out there) for now.
Did I miss something? Do you have ideas on project managers or cast members for any of the series I mentioned above? Feel free to make a comment below and share your thoughts.