Book Trailers (what am I doing?)

Book trailers seem to be a pretty popular trend. I’m not really sure why. The whole point of a book is to read, not watch. I browsed through a few on Youtube yesterday — most of them for Romance and Young Adult novels — and a good majority of them featured pictures of models or actors. One even had clips from a TV show. How many people actually watch these trailers?

I have a beef with this. One of the fun parts of reading a book is getting to imagine what the characters and settings look like. Book trailers that feature pictures and video clips of real people take away from the joy of using your imagination. For my previous Meet the Character posts, I included links instead of embedding the image in the post, offering people the choice to look or not. I had a very clear image in my mind of what my characters looked like before I found actors who best resembled them. I get that some people like knowing exactly what a character looks like beforehand, but not everyone does. Besides, you shouldn’t need to rely on pictures to portray your characters; your description in your novel should be able to do all the work.

Here are my thoughts and tips on book trailers, should you choose to make one for your book:

  1. Don’t include images of someone’s face. Perhaps someone looking away, with their face blurred, or the back of their head — you get the gist. Just not the entire face. Not all readers want to be shown exactly what your character looks like.
  2. Brevity is key. Keep it short and sweet. One minute, at the longest, should suffice. There were a few I saw on Youtube that were between 3-4 minutes long. I never made it past the 1:20 mark on any of them.
  3. Don’t spill the beans. What I mean: don’t divulge your entire plot. A book trailer should tantalize your readers and make them want to read it, like your back cover blurb.

For fun, I put one together for Waiting for You. I used iMovies, but to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to making videos.

Waiting for You book trailer from Allison Williford on Vimeo.

What are your thoughts on book trailers? Any tips for authors who are thinking about making one?

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Waiting for You: A Playlist (And the Wonders of Music)

I don’t know of any indie authors who haven’t made a playlist for their novels — you all have, haven’t you? — or at least picked out actors who would play their characters if their novel was ever adapted for the big screen (which, by the way, I have an Evernote file of nearly all my characters and their respective actors…).

Music is such a phenomenal concept. I’ve been playing violin for 20 years and have had such wonderful opportunities to perform up and down the East Coast, including places like Epcot and Magic Kingdom at Disney World. In my private lessons, we studied via the Suzuki Method (which Adam makes a crack about in Chapter Two of Waiting for You. I couldn’t resist.) In high school, I also was a part of my church’s youth choir, which was associated with the Royal Academy of Music. In order to advance a level (and thereby getting to wear the next color adornment over your cassock and surplus), you had to take tests in music theory.

There are even studies on the effects of music therapy in psychiatric patients. Seriously, music is such an amazing thing. The right song can make us cry when we’re sad, cheer when we’re happy, and make us belt out a tune at the top of our lungs in rush hour traffic.

This is why I think it’s a great idea to create playlists for our novels. There’s something about the perfect songs that can help convey the heart and soul, bloodmusicspeaks, sweat and tears that we’ve poured into our novels. They can be the perfect accompaniment to, dare I say it, harmonize with our work.

So, without further ado, here is my playlist for Waiting for You!

  1. All This Time ~ OneRepublic (Main theme song)
  2. One Sweet Day ~ Maria Carey & Boyz II Men (Sarah’s song)
  3. Left Behind ~ Spring Awakening (Elliott’s song)
  4. Come Home ~ OneRepublic
  5. Nightingale ~ Demi Lovato
  6. Remedy ~ Adele

    (Sorry! Couldn’t find a video to embed of this song.)

Waiting for You: Meet the Characters (Post # 3)

Today I’d like to introduce one of my secondary characters — Kylie Lewis’s best friend, Cat.

Be sure to check out the profiles for Kylie and Adam!

Full Name: Catalina Gabriela Gomez, nickname “Cat”
DOB: February 24, 1991
Height: 5’3″
Weight: 130 lbs.
Eye color: Brown
Ethnicity: Mexican
Hair color: Brunette
Family: Mother – Inés Gomez; Father – Felipe Gomez; also has two younger brothers, Carlos and Martín
Occupation: Ticket seller at the Coliseum (Charleston Performing Arts Center)
Hobbies: Surfing at Folly Beach, dancing,
Hometown: Born and raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: Downtown Charleston
Friends: Kylie Lewis
Education: High School
Religion: Catholic
Personality: Extroverted, outgoing, bubbly, loud
Favorite Food: 
Mexican, seafood
Favorite Music: Pop, Pop-Rock

Here’s your link to the actress (singer, in this case…who also happens to be one of my idols for all her mental health advocacy work!)

Waiting for You: Meet the Characters (Post #2)

Welcome to post numero dos of Meet the Characters! In case you missed it, here is the first post.

Today I’d like to introduce my female protagonist:

Full Name: Kylie Charlotte Lewis
DOB: July 10, 1991
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 135 lbs.
Eye color: Blue
Ethnicity: White
Hair color: Blonde
Family: Mother – Sarah Lewis; Father – Daniel Lewis (deceased – 2004)
Occupation: Advice columnist
Hobbies: Surfing at Folly Beach, watching and reading murder mysteries
Hometown: Born and raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: West Ashley (a suburb of Charleston)
Friends: Catalina “Cat” Gomez
Education: College of Charleston, BA in Journalism
Religion: Christian
Personality: Introverted, empathetic, sensible
Favorite Food: 
Mexican – favorite dish is chilaquiles, made by Cat’s mother
Favorite Music: Pop, Pop-Rock

Here’s your link to the actress.

Waiting for You: Meet the characters (Post #1)

So, I’d like to start introducing some of my characters from Waiting for You. They are all special enough to me that they get their own posts! These are parts of my character profile sheets I wrote out during the course of the first draft.

(On a side and totally unrelated note, I just want to say how much of a fog my brain has been in today. It’s to be expected, what with having an ECT treatment yesterday. I start to do stuff, then forget what I was doing. I have a hard time focusing on tasks. I think I was pretty much just physically, not mentally present at work today. I’ve been trying to start this blog post for a good forty-five minutes now, but keep getting distracted with random videos on Youtube. Oh, and I had raspberry white chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP yesterday after my treatment. They were scrumptious.)

I’m one of those people who like to think: if my work was made into a movie, who would play my characters? While I don’t have specific people in mind from the get-go, once I have an idea in my mind of what my characters look like, I do pick out actors/actresses who resemble how I’ve pictured my characters. It helps solidify the image in my mind’s eye. BUT! Here’s my dilemma: do I dish on which actors I have picked? Part of me wants to say that it kind of ruins the fun of imagining what characters look like when you’re reading. So, here’s what I’ll do. Below the character information, I’ll post a link. Your choice if you want to look or not!

Meet my first protagonist!

Full Name: Adam James Bell
DOB: April 5, 1988
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs.
Eye color: Brown
Ethnicity: White
Hair color: Dark blond
Family: John Bell – Father (Occupation: lawyer), Ella Pause – Mother (Occupation: concert pianist), Elliott – Brother
Occupation: Full-time waiter, aspiring musician — singer/guitarist for his band, Waiting for One
Hobbies: Writing music / performing. Began learning piano at age 6, cello at age 10, guitar at 15
Hometown: Born in NYC, raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: Downtown Charleston, SC
Friends: Shawn Wilson* (drummer/roommate), Oliver “Twist” Hawkes (bass guitarist/former classmate), Benny Rice (guitarist)
Education: High school
Religion: Agnostic
Personality: Outgoing, can be a bit abrasive; driven when it comes to music; can be somewhat impulsive
Favorite Food: 
Anything that doesn’t require cooking, or anything expensive
Favorite Music: Rock

Here’s your link to the actor. He did play a good psychopath on a Criminal Minds episode, which I happened to see just the other day.

*Yes, my dog’s name is also Wilson. No, that is not why I gave Shawn that particular last name. It’s in reference to Bill Wilson, founder of AA.

Speaking of Wilson, just snapped this picture of him yesterday in his new bed. He loves blankets.

dog, westie

DONE

With revisions, I mean. I’ve scoured my manuscript so many times. It’s to the point now that I’m just being nitpicky, taking out commas then putting them back, or racking my brain if I like how a sentence is worded. It’s gone through several beta readers and an editor. I don’t know what else I can do with it.

I’ve also decided on a definite title for it. Two Beat Adagio was a working title while I tried to think of a better one, but now I’ve finally got the best title I could think of: Waiting for You.

I’ve been working on my hook:

“There are two things Kylie Lewis has learned: cancer and loss have the power to tear us apart, but music and love have the power to heal us.”

Can I say how much I despise writing hooks and pitches for query letters? Like, loads. Maybe it’s because I feel like there’s so much more to my story that I can’t fit in a query. 

I’m kind of sad that I’m done with Waiting for You. I truly enjoyed writing it. It’s like finishing a really good book, and you feel like you just lost these little friends who you love dearly. Does that sound weird? Maybe a little.

Help! I hate my characters! ~ On Sympathetic Characters

Do you ever find yourself at your computer (or notebook) when writing and feel like screaming:

characters

Oh, really? Me too! Or you have someone beta read a bit for you and they say, “I really don’t like this character.”

And then you just cry and cry and cry, then cry some more because you spent so much time fleshing out who you thought was an amazing, really likable character. Then you cry yourself to sleep and dream of ways to kill off your entire cast of characters. Oh, not that last bit? That’s just me? Oh…

But don’t worry! Not all hope is lost! There’s a difference between likable and sympathetic. Your protagonist may be the biggest asshole on the planet, but if readers care about him, they’ll keep reading. The trick is they have to care enough to want to know what happens.

Example one:

As Marcus washed the dishes in the sink, the brush’s stiff bristles scraping the soapy suds against the plate, his green pasture-colored eyes gazed longingly out the kitchen window to the far pasture. He pondered the day’s events, of all the puppies he rescued and the little one he gave to his son, remembering how brightly his eyes lit up. He thought about his perfect life, his perfect family, and his perfectly chiseled jaw.

Did you care at all about Marcus? Booooring. Did you even finish reading it? I’m all for rescuing dogs, sure, but if this was an actual story I was reading, I wouldn’t give a damn about Marcus. Obviously I’m going to extremes with this example, but you get the picture, right? Take a look at this next example:

Example two:

His day at work had been grueling and never-ending, and all Marcus longed to do was pick up his son from his ex-wife’s house — that bitch, he added mentally — so they could completely veg out on the sofa with a weekend-long Star Wars marathon. Just as Marcus had signed off on his last report of the day, his manager marched down the row of desks with another stack of papers in his hand and dropped them on Marcus’ desk. Marcus stared, his jaw slack as he watched his manager turn and walk away without another word about the extra two hours of work he had just given him.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Did you care about Marcus this time around, at least a little bit? Let’s go over some things that will help make your characters more sympathetic.

  • Faults
    Characters need faults. Where’s the fun in reading about someone who’s perfect in every way? Perfect characters with perfect lives have no conflict. Conflict is an integral part of novels. In our second example, Marcus’ life isn’t perfect: divorced, shared custody of his kid, and overworked at his job. Your character’s faults don’t have to be big, either. Is your protagonist ultra shy? Rude? Anxiety-ridden? Bossy?
  • Goals, Wants, Needs
    Goals are the driving force of your plot. In every scene, your character needs to have a goal even if it’s something as simple as wanting to go home or spend time with family. What goal, need, or want is the driving force behind your character’s actions?
  • Active in the story
    Your protagonist shouldn’t be a passive bystander in your story. The plot shouldn’t just be happening around him, with your character only reacting to what’s happening. His goal, want or need should force him to take action.
  • Redeeming quality
    While it’s necessary for your character to have at least some faults, he should have at least one redeeming quality your reader can identify with. Marcus, for example, cares about his son even though not everything around him is perfect.

Remember, sympathetic does not have to equal likable. Your character could be the biggest jerk ever, but the reader should care enough about him to feel compelled to finish reading his story.

In what ways do you try to make your characters sympathetic and relatable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!