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Fine Torture of Book Titles   Leave a comment

I’m going to admit that I HATE coming up with book titles. I also hated writing my own headlines when I was a reporter. Fortunately, I didn’t have to very often because the newspaper I worked for had a long-time printer who was great at headlines.

So, maybe, I could have benefited from the practice.

Driver WhisperWoodsFRNTRegardless, I still don’t like coming up with book titles. Why? Because it’s hard and SO VERY IMPORTANT.

The cover is your best advertisement and the title is an integral part of the cover. Which really makes me wonder why there is so little good guidance on the right way to think about titling your book. Most of it can be grouped in three categories — go with your gut, browse bookstores for ideas, and don’t waste a lot of time doing it.

Wrong, wrong, and WRONG!

 

Big professional companies like pharmaceutical firms and Procter & Gamble spend millions naming their new products. I can testify that changing the title of a blog post that you wrote sometime ago can vastly change the attention it gets. The cover is your best advertisement and the title is an integral part of the cover. Of course, you should spend time doing it, because it ensures your book has the best possible chance of success.

 

The title is the first piece of information someone gets about your book, and it informs the reader’s first impression about your book. You never get a second chance to form a first opinion. A good title isn’t a guarantee of book success, but a bad title will almost certainly be an obstacle to doing well.

Front Cover LAWKI no windowJust think about what you do when you search the Amazon lists for a book. What’s the first thing that gets your attention. Those annoying thumbnails makes the cover of less importance than the title. I know that I am attracted to well-chosen titles. That makes me click on the thumbnail. Then if the cover is good, I read the blurb. If that’s good, I read the sample text. And then, if the book sounds good, I buy it or put it on my “wants” list for when I have the money to buy it.

The title is the first thing the reader sees or hears about your book, usually before the cover, so getting your title right is possibly the most important single book marketing decision you’ll make. And, yes, it is marketing!

Let me give you an example. Quite by accident, I entitled my apocalyptic Life as We Knew It the same as a book by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I didn’t know about Pfeffer’s book when I published. Although both books are apocalyptics, they are very different books, with very different covers. Although not legally required to do so, I considered renaming my book initially because I respect Pfeffer’s work, but then I decided against it. Why? Because of the marketing value of people accidentally discovering my book while looking for hers. Is it possible that book is my personal bestseller because of that serendipitous title poaching? Could be. I am 99% positive that nobody is buying my book thinking they’re buying hers. They’re very different and our names have no similarities. While I will try not to name books after existing better known books, I decided to let my mistake stand for the marketing value.

Plus, remember what I said about hating coming up with book titles. I really don’t think I could come up with a better one for that particular book.

 

 

How did I hit upon it or any of my other five titles. I try for the following attributes in naming titles:

  1. Attention Grabbing
  2. Memorable
  3. Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends

Attention grabbing should be a no-brainer. There are a million things pulling on people’s attention, and you need a title that stands out. A bad title is one that’s boring, or seems boring. There are many ways to grab attention; you can be provocative, controversial, exciting, you can make a promise, etc. The point is your title should make people stop and pay attention to it.

Memorable is not the same thing as grabbing attention. It’s much easier to get a reaction out of someone, and then be forgotten, than it is to get a reaction that sticks with them. Remember, a book title is not only the first thing a reader hears about your book, it’s the one piece of information that a reader has that leads them back to the book itself. If your book is recommended to them by a friend, and they can’t remember the title, then they can’t go find it in a bookstore or on Amazon.

I am still looking for this really great book I read about 25 years ago that I cannot remember the title of. If I remember correctly, it was a very poetic title that exactly matched some obscure part of the story. Do you know the book I mean?

 

 

People do not like to feel stupid or socially inept. If a book title is hard to pronounce, they won’t talk it up. Lathe of Heaven took forever to catch on for that reason. Starship Troopers caught on almost immediately. If it contains words they don’t understand, it’s likely they won’t buy it and they definitely aren’t going to talk it up to other people. Try not to embarrass your readers.

One of the most important things to think about when picking your book title is how well it facilitates word of mouth. Really, what you’re doing is thinking about how people will feel about saying this book title out loud to their friends. Does it make them look smart or stupid?

Most of my books have working titles that will never see the light of day. I don’t really come up with titles until I’m almost done with the book and most of my titles are intimately connected to the book.

The Willow Branch refers to the walking stick Ryanna receives in the last scene of the book, but that harkens back into the history of the novel series. It also brings up an incredibly beautiful image of a diamond willow staff.

Mirklin Wood refers to the forest Padraig and Tamys traverse in that book. There’s a homage to JRR Tolkien (Murkwood) in it. Fantasy fans might be attracted just because of that.

Fount of Dreams, the as-yet unpublished third book in the series, refers to a magical item in the book.

Life As We Knew It is drawn from the idea that this is a transition from the civilization we knew to a survival situation — and the cover image drives this home because you have a a barn with a nuclear fallout shelter sign and a mushroom cloud in the background, suggesting that this community is wholly inadequately prepared for the looming disaster.

Objects in View, the soon-to-be published second book in that series, was inspired by the title of a television series I was watching, but it also refers to a philosophy of realism espoused by most of the Delaney men.

What If … Wasn’t, my latest work-in-progress, sets up the idea that someone in the novel didn’t get what they were hoping for.

So how can you test your book titles?

Imagine one of your readers at a barbecue talking about your book with other people. If you can see them confidently saying the book title aloud, and the people listening nodding and immediately either understanding what the book is about based on that (and perhaps a sentence or two of explanation), or asking for further explanation because it sounds interesting, then you’ve got a good title. If you imagine any other reaction, seriously consider whether you need to rethink the title.

Remember, so much of book marketing boils down to word of mouth.You want your book title to inspire and motivate the readers to talk about it with their friends.

What do I suggest you do to find a book title, especially if you’re like me and you hate naming books?

It should start with brainstorming. Write down every title you can think of. Use clever or noteworthy phrases from your book. Use both short and long phrases. It’s okay to start out with a long phrase, but the ultimate goal should be to limit the main title to no more than five words. More than that and you crowd the cover and make the title difficult to remember.

Using statements that provide unusual contrasts or paradoxes that will make the reader curious about the book’s story. Who Moved My Cheese? is  great example of this.

Use metaphors associated with the themes in the book. Humans think symbolically, so using metaphor is powerful device to help you create a title that resonates. A great example of this is the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. The title signals the warm, nurturing feeling that is associated in our culture with chicken soup. It suggests that the book will contain stories that nurture your soul.

Use alliteration: Alliteration is using the same letter at the beginning of all or most of the words in your title. People remember that better. What If … Wasn’t makes use of that technique. George RR Martin makes use of it all throughout the Song of Ice and Fire — Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, Dance of Dragons, etc.

Alter a popular phrase or use slang. My homage to Tolkien might mean something to fantasy fans and since I’m selling a fantasy ….  Start with that popular cliche and play with it.

Alternatively, coin your own phrase. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but the world is made up of books that benefited from that. The Great Gatsby (which also has alliteration), Common Sense, Breathing Underwater are just a few I can think of.

Use Amazon and other resources for when you’re really stuck. I’m not saying to rip off another book’s title, but to gain inspiration from the titles that already exist. Wattpad, by the way, is a great resource for this because they’re trying to attract any sort of attention to their stories and sometimes they come up with brilliant titles in the process.

I had a friend recommend a random title generator. I tried it and I wasn’t impressed, but if you were stuck, it might jar you loose. Some sites to check out:

 

So, now you’ve got some possibilities — maybe 5-20 possible titles. Now you need to test your titles, so you can narrow the field. You can certainly ask your writer’s group and beta readers, your husband and auto mechanic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this sort of testing. But, on the other hand, you might want to open it up to a larger audience. You probably can’t afford a focus group like the big publishers use, but there are affordable options for the independent author. If you already have a reader base (or even a list of a list of authors I’ve interviewed), you can use Survey Monkey or Google Survey. Facebook and Twitter now allow you to put up surveys too.

Titles cannot be copyrighted, so technically every title is fair game. There is a very popular modern book out called Mein Kamf that is really different from Hilter’s book. It’s a good way to get attention, but scrubbing off the stink might be hard. Lots of people told the writer not to do it. He ignored them. It worked out. It was a HUGE gamble.

Ordinarily, you should pay attention to the results you get. Seriously! Don’t bother to run the test if you’re not going to consider the advice it generates. But, truth be told, sometimes you just have to go with your own instincts.

Who would have thought that To Kill A Mockbird would be a popular title.

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Interview with Alisha Jones   1 comment

Howdy. Today’s interview is with author Alisha Jones. Welcome to the blog.

Thank you for hosting me today!

 

Tell us something about yourself.

Alisha Jones Author PicWell, I am happily married to my college sweet heart — and have been for almost sixteen years. I have four children that I homeschool, and love to pieces. At the moment we live in one of North Carolina’s major cities, but my heart will always belong in the country where I was raised.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Funny story… I was reading a book one day, leaning back in my La-Z-Boy, and the doggone thing didn’t end the way I thought it should had. (At least, the way I thought it should had) LOL. I started thinking, “If I was the author of this book, I would have written this way differently.” After that, the ideas I had for the book wouldn’t leave my head. So, eventually, I started writing them down and formed the ideas into my own little novella. Hope Renewed, my first attempt at writing, I introduced four sisters. Of course, I couldn’t stop with just one sister, so I wrote the ‘Hope’ series and included them all.

 

Tell us about your writing process.

Actually, my writing process is sort of a scramble of thoughts mixed with ingenuity. I don’t usually write a full synopsis, but I do have somewhat of an idea of what I’d like to happen. Then, I just let the story flow from there. Sometimes, the idea works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I have to start over, then I take a new direction.

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

Alisha Jones MessagedMy absolute favorite genre is Christian Romance. I could probably read books in this genre for hours. I love to read anything by Mary Connealy, Tracie Peterson, and Brenda Minton. And, if a story has anything to do with cowboys, I’m all over it!

 

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

Wow! Great question. I would definitely bring my laptop so I can write without distraction. As a mother of four, I get my fair share of disturbances. If I could write for a month with none of that, there’s no telling how many books would come from my head. LOL.

And, I would definitely be bringing my books. I have no shortage of Christian romances on my bookshelf (Probably 30-40 that I haven’t read yet) and, if I could, I would bring them all.

 

Talk about your books individually.

I’m not sure you have that much time. LOL. I have published a dozen books so far and have six or seven more in my computer that I have to get back to. But, I’ll tell ya, my favorite was the ‘Vows’ series that I wrote. It consists of four novels: For Richer or Poorer, For Better or Worse, In Sickness and in Health, and ‘Til Death Do Us Part. I cannot explain why, but these books made such an impression on me while I was writing them, and I’ve received so many compliments about them.

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

Alisha Jones ChanceI try to incorporate a clear plan of salvation in each of my books so that if a person is unsure about their eternal destination, they can clearly see how to accept Christ. And, of course, as a romance writer, I want my readers to feel that forever-after kind of love. I know when I finish a book, I just wanna love all over my hubby. LOL. He likes when I read! (wink, wink)

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

The greatest advantage that I can see is that I have no deadlines, no editors breathing down my neck to get their hand on the latest version.

 

Who designed your book cover/s?

So far, I’ve done that myself. However, I have found an excellent lady who creates beautiful work. Stephanie Adams from Agape Authors has a natural touch when it comes to covers, so I will probably be contacting her soon.

 

Do you write specifically for a Christian audience? Why or why not?

 

This is kind of a strange question. For some reason, when people think of the word ‘Christian’, they think of some holier-than-thou group that walks around on clouds and never have a single problem. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, we experience the same struggles and trials that everyone else does. My books are very clean in speech and morality, and may not be as explicit as some may like. But, that’s because I like to read that kind.

 

Do you feel that Christian writers should focus on writing really great story or on presenting the gospel clearly in everything they write? Or is it possible to do both?

It’s entirely possible to do both! Just because a book has been labeled as Christian, doesn’t mean it will be any less of a good story than some that are rated PG-13. In fact, there is a peace that settles over you when you realize that emotional and spiritual love can be greater than the physical.

 

Where can readers find you and your books?

You can visit my website anytime: http://authoralishajones.wix.com/cleanreads

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlishaJones

On Twitter: @authoralisha1

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Alisha-Jones/e/B00KUG5AOA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1458067247&sr=1-2-ent

And I have two blogs on BlogSpot: authoralisha1.blogspot.com and authoralisha2.blogspot.com

 

Character Viewpoint   Leave a comment

Confession … that probably regular readers of this blog don’t need … I’m a realist. I like to be aware of the sharp edges of the world. I also point out the major disasters I see looming on our societal horizon. Some people could view me as a pessimist, but I actually have a lot of hope for the future — if you read the post on Monday about liberty renewal, you saw me being optimistic.

I’ve often said my characters just sort of talk to me and I write down their stories. I don’t try to force them to be someone they’re not, because when I’ve tried that in the past, they’ve stopped talking to me and what is a writer without characters to write about?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to figure out what makes my characters tick and try to exploit those traits. Do my characters view the world through rose-tinted glasses or polarized lenses?

Don’t think that is an insignificant question. Yes, it might be less immediate than whether Shane blows the back of his head out with his own gun in Life As We Knew It, but life outlook is a fundamental part of any character. Shane is depressed because life circumstances made him that way. Right now, he can’t see a future, but what would he do if he saw a glimmer of light in the darkness? Would his glass be half-full or half-empty?

Optimists and pessimists see the same glass, but their interpretation of it differs. That raises an important point for writers. Our characters’ narratives are not objective. They’re subjective, tinted by their individual worldviews, colored by their personalities and thought patterns, and experiences.

No two people (or characters) see the world in the same way, and something as simple as an optimistic or pessimistic streak can have a significant impact on that. If you think about it that way, how a character interprets the glass half empty or half full question can be quite the game-changer.

So what makes someone more optimistic or pessimistic and where do your characters fall on the continuum?

In my years working for a social service agency, I learned a few things about depressed folks, delusional folks and personality disorders. (Those are, by the way, three distinct categories of people who require mental health services.) The way you choose to explain what happens to you can control your view of the world. How you explain your problems and choose a solution for them can be positive or negative, and it’s this habit of thinking that makes you more optimistic or pessimistic. Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes, with varying degrees of optimism and pessimism, and so should your characters. I also add a third viewpoint that is likely a mixture of optimism and pessimism mixed together – the realist. I’ll get to that later in the article.Psychologically, optimism and pessimism aren’t considered something you’re born with that you will be saddled with for the rest of your lives. You may have a tendency to be one or the other, but both can be learned—and that itself comes with positive and negative consequences.

It’s actually easy to fall into the trap of pessimism. When faced with the feeling that life is uncontrollable, giving up and surrendering to negative thoughts can be an irresistible temptation. You stop trying to change what seems unchangeable. You learn to be helpless.

Put someone in unpleasant situations that seem unavoidable or inescapable, and many people simply give up and learn to be helpless. Explanatory style can have a significant effect on learning to be helpless. If you view negative situations as personal (it’s all my fault), permanent (nothing’s going to change) and pervasive (it affects your whole life), you’re much more likely to become pessimistic, believing that these bad things will have a longer and greater impact on your life than those who view these situations differently.

Optimism can be learned. Not everyone learns to be helpless. Some people refuse to give up and accept their fate. They remain resistant to the lure of pessimism and instead look for ways to escape. They learn to be optimistic. They view negative situations as circumstantial (it’s just an unfortunate event that can happen to anyone), temporary (this too shall pass), and specific (only this situation is negative, the rest of life is salvageable). If you explain what happens to you in this way, you’ll be far more active in changing situations for the better. The risk with optimism is that when negative circumstances keep being negative going forward, optimism alone tends to run out of steam or begin to look suspiciously like denial.

There’s a third type of view point that I alluded to in the beginning of the article. The realist can often sum up their viewpoint with the quip “There’s a glass?” The realist may look at all the negativity around them and accept that things look dire, but he or she isn’t going to give up because they accept the world as it is and mean to conquer it, as it is. If the glass is half-empty, they will concentrate on what is outside of the glass. Often realists are recovering pessimists or reformed optimists who have finally taken off the rose-colored glasses. They will take whatever comes their way and deal with it. They’ll be happy when the circumstances warrant it and they’ll roll up their sleeves when the sewer backs up.

I avoid labeling my characters as optimists or pessimists because there is a continuum of this worldview. Some characters are more optimistic or pessimistic than others, some only slightly so, with a minimal effect on their lives, and some will have a streak of optimism or pessimism that pervades everything they do. Some of my characters, like Peter in What If Wasn’t (a WIP), are in recovery and so can talk themselves around to a healthier mindset.

Still, as a writer, you must consider the far reaching effects viewpoint will have on your characters thoughts and behavior. This is especially necessary with point-of-view characters, as the reader will see their thoughts for themselves, but also applies to non-POV characters, as their mindsets can be inferred from the way they act.

When writing from a character’s perspective, keep their natural tendency to be more optimistic or pessimistic in the back of your mind. Their explanatory style—how they explain their problems and pick a solution—will be shown through their thoughts and the way they interpret events. If they’re more pessimistic, they’ll have a tendency to attribute their problems to themselves (personal), see them as unchangeable situations (permanent), and think that their whole lives will be affected by the problem (pervasive). Because of this, they tend to become more passive and helpless.

In Life As We Knew It and Objects in View, Shane tends to see things as his fault and he’s pretty sure things are going to get worse. Nuclear terrorism is going to affect many parts of his life, so his pessimism is understandable. But … he hasn’t given up or become passive. Does this mean he’s an optimist who is simply depressed?

You’ll have to read the books to find out. On the other hand, Shane’s brother Cai is definitely an optimist. Optimistic characters’ explanatory style means that they interpret negative events as circumstantial and therefore not their fault, with situations being temporary, changeable and specific to this one event, not their entire lives. If I were a simplistic writer, I’d might show him as being more active in his response to the situation than Shane, but I avoid cardboard cut-out characters.

When narrating from a character’s perspective, allow the influence of their explanatory style to show through. How they interpret an event is very telling of how optimistic or pessimistic they are. Be careful when writing pessimistic POV characters. I couldn’t stick with Shane’s POV. I had to add other characters because living in the head of a depressed mercenary with PTSD was depressing for me and I knew it would be for readers.

By the way — conflict is key in fiction and worldview can be a great source for showing conflict. Learning optimism or pessimism can feature as a central part of a story’s plot. Put your characters in a situation that highlights and reinforces their natural tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic and have them learn to be helpless or active. This could be part of the main story line or have happened during their lives before the story begins—either way, it will have a substantial impact on their outlook on life if it was a well-taught lesson.

Pitting your characters against external events that force them to learn optimism or helplessness creates conflict, but it doesn’t have to end there. The characters’ internal journeys can be founts of conflict too. If your protagonist begins the story feeling helpless and ineffective, part of her journey may be to become active in solving her problems and less pessimistic in outlook. For this to happen, her very beliefs about negative events must change and this isn’t an easy thing to do, not least because she’s probably unaware of her natural tendency to be pessimistic.

A character can take a conscious route to learning optimism or pessimism or an unconscious one. In the case of the former, something might happen to give him a moment of clarity, in which he realizes that his pessimistic beliefs are not shared by others and that they may be doing him harm. Conversely, a very optimistic character may come to a rude awakening that they are not dealing with reality in the way that they need to..

 

Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   Leave a comment

Posted July 6, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized, writing wednesdays

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Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   Leave a comment

Look for an interview and maybe some discussion of Virtual Fantasy Convention.

Posted June 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized, writing wednesdays

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Historical Fiction Writing   Leave a comment

I have always loved historical fiction when it is well written, which is why I haven’t written it myself … until now.

Several months ago, someone sent me a link to Clarion Call, a product of the Agorist Writing Workshop. Since writing my first short story in 20 years last summer, I’ve been interested in submitting to more anthologies, and I was thrilled that someone would suggest it.

But then I looked at the required topic – historical fiction. I hadn’t written a historical fiction piece since the 4th grade when a teacher forced me to do a short story with a 1880s western theme. That was the story that awoke my writing bug, but I had a miserable time doing it. I just HATED it. But ….

titlebannercropClarion Call is a market-libertarian publication and they wanted that theme incorporated into the historical fiction. And then the guidelines said a word that warmed my heart – speculative.

For the uninitiated, speculative historical fiction (sometimes called alternative history) looks at the actual past and changes one critical aspect and then asks “What would have resulted from that change?”

If you’re familiar with the show Sliders, it’s a similar plot device.

I have all sorts of experience with speculative fiction. I quickly chose my pivotal change. Writing historical fiction,  however, is not the same as writing fantasy. Although I research extensively to assure I don’t jar anyone out of the story by defying the laws of the universe, I can play fast and loose with some elements in fantasy because Daermad is not Earth. With historical fiction, you can’t do that. You have to know your period so that when you choose to change something, it feels believable to the readers.

So while I knew what my pivotal change would be, I needed to research my era to provide believable context. I’ve always liked the Founding era which I combined with old family stories. My research taught me that some of those stories, like most family stories, weren’t wholly accurate, but sometimes it didn’t matter. I dug into the history of a town that exists today and was squeaky new in 1787. I researched historical figures who would have been there at the time. I learned George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison weren’t the wonderful people we are taught to believe they are. I finally figured out why the women in my mother’s family aren’t good doormats and haven’t been for the 150 years we have knowledge of. I even managed to include a small taste of potential romance.

Those are hints of what you might find in my story when the anthology comes out in the fall.

I may try more speculative historical fiction in the future. Admittedly, I did more research for a short story than I’ve done for the entire Daermad Cycle and probably as much as I did for Life As We Knew It. Historical fiction is work in a way that modern-day tales and fantasies are not. Still, I liked the product and, surprisingly, I liked the process. With such a body of research, the story may wish to be expanded — though I would have to wait two years to publish it. I’m pretty busy with other projects, so it would be a work-in-progress for that long anyway.

Sometimes writers need to be bumped out of their comfort zone and stretch their wings. Although I certainly want to finish my ongoing projects, I admit that other projects also want to be written. Sadly, I don’t have unlimited time in which to write, but hang on because there is more coming.

When Redemption Is Epic   Leave a comment

Zachary Totah recently explored the topic “Should Villains Be Redeemed?” on the Speculative Faith blog.

What a wonderful question for Christian speculative fiction writers to ask! If you’re a Christian, you should believe that redemption is an option for everyone … including villains and the guy that cuts you off in traffic. Of course, non-Christians can see villains (and heroes for that matter) as black and white without choices, but God tells us that we do have choices.

We see this on display with Smeegol/Golum in Lord of the Rings. He appears irredeemable when we first meet him, but later, his interactions with Frodo and, to a lesser extent, Sam, cause this creature twisted by darkness to soften and consider redemption for himself. To me, Golum/Smeegol’s struggle to choose which side of his damaged nature to be in control is one of the most compelling every written and it speaks right to the heart of Christian salvation. Later, Smeegol believes himself betrayed and abandoned and he chooses to return to his evil ways, but that return was no inevitable. If things had turned out differently or Golum had chosen differently, he could have avoided Mt. Doom altogether.

Often writers are recreating myth and allegory. Khan in earlier Star Trek movies is an archetype for the Nazi regime. As an archetype,  he can’t be redeemed because he is not so much a character as a historical concept. Khan must be destroyed simply because he represents the destructive nature of vengeance and hatred and, although newer viewers may not see it, the Nazi regimes doomed ideology. It would also make little dramatic sense for him to change his mind and decide to be friends with Kirk.

On the other hand, there’s a debate going on over whether Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens) can or should be redeemed. The movie spends some effort in showing his conflict. He enjoys the power of the Dark Side, but he desires to move to the Light. He’s committed atrocities, but does that doom him to villainy?

Front Cover LAWKI no windowOf course, that’s not something I can decide for those writers. In my own writings, sometimes my villains are irredeemable. I can’t imagine Talidd being anything but what Talidd is – evil. Now Jaryn and Gregyn — well, we’ll see. And, Gil … what would that unstable character say if someone offered to forgive him?

Wait … is that a bread crumb? Not telling.

I think there’s a lot to work with when a hero is not wholly a white hat. Shane has dark places in his soul that could do great harm to those who get in his way. I find that intriguing in a hero because it means you the reader are not 100% assured that Shane will do the right thing. Maybe he’ll save that family of refugees and maybe he’ll gun them down in the road because Emmaus can’t afford to feed them.

I also think there’s a lot of dramatic potential in a villain who is not wholly a black hat. I get why Tolkien couldn’t abide allegory. It sort of writes you into a corner. Allegory is very black and white. Villains are villains and redemption doesn’t exist. Working in shadow and light allows for a great deal more nuance and surprise both for the writer and her audience.

Here’s to writing in shadow and light and allowing for the possibility of an epic redemption.

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