Jordan McCollum
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Sigh. I have many things I want to blog about, but right now, most of my writing time is taken up with preparing for the LDStorymakers conference next week, where I’m teaching about Structural Self-editing on Friday and Gesture Crutches on Saturday (twice!). We may not be back to our regularly scheduled bloggy goodness until after that’s over. And I’ve recovered.

For now, I do have some awesomeness to tide you over!

heart COVER 300Character Sympathy now has a foreword by RITA award–winning author, best-selling novelist, fiction writing teacher, editor extraordinaire Alicia Rasley! Her articles were among the first really good resources I found for learning more about character sympathy, so I’m thrilled to have her for the foreword!

Also for Character Sympathy: the print version of Character Sympathy is now available! Thanks to those Sneaky McSneakersons who’ve already found it and bought it! The print version does include the foreword. And it’s beautiful! Just check out the proof (side-by-side with Character Arcs):

fiction university faculty logoFinally, I have a guest post at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University about finding and working with a cover designer. Your cover is your book’s first impression, so make sure it’s a good one! Learn how to find a good cover designer and work with them to create an awesome cover for your book.

I’m privileged to be part of Fiction U’s faculty in the Indie Author Department!

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Today, my friend Rachelle J. Christensen is unveiling the first cover in her new Wedding Planner Mystery series! But first, a little more about the book. . .

About the book

Adrielle Pyper knows how to plan a wedding, and she is especially good at pleasing bridezillas. But when her biggest client and best friend is murdered just three days before the wedding, Adri’s world falls apart. She moves to the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, and starts from scratch. Thanks to Adri’s impeccable taste and unique style, she lands two celebrity clients, and her business seems headed for success–that is, until someone vandalizes the specialty wedding dresses she imported from overseas.

The race is on to uncover a secret hidden within the yards of satin and lace before Adri becomes the next victim. With a delightful blend of mystery, toe-curling kisses, humor, and spine-tingling thrills, Diamond Rings are Deadly Things is a romantic suspense novel that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

And now for the cover!

Praise

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things pulled me right in from the first page and held me captive until the very end. Great characters, a compelling plot, a surprising twist at the end … Rachelle Christensen knows how to craft a great mystery.

 - Tristi Pinkston, author of the Secret Sisters Mysteries

A cunningly crafty mystery with just the right mix of romance. Readers won’t be able to get enough of Adrielle Pyper, stunning party-planner turned heroine.

Nichole Giles, author of Descendant

Preorder now!

Available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Deseret Book.

Add to your Goodreads!

About the author

Rachelle J. Christensen was born and raised in a small farming town in Idaho not far from the setting of her mystery Diamond Rings Are Deadly Things. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology.  She enjoys singing and songwriting, playing the piano, running, motivational speaking, and of course reading. Rachelle has an amazing husband and five cute kids.  

Connect with Rachelle on Facebook Author Page: Facebook, Twitter, author blog, author website, Goodreads and craft blog.

Enter to win!

Win $25 Paypal Cash!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Deseret News reviewed Spy for a Spy!
SpyForSpy_CVR_LRG

To say [Talia's] new work environment is hostile is an understatement. Even worse, Talia can’t bring herself to trust Brand with intelligence, work-related secrets, and she especially can’t entrust him with her life. As she embarks on her mission to follow her gut and prove Brand is as shady as she remembers from past encounters, she finds herself protecting her fiancé, Danny, from knowing her new boss is her ex-boyfriend.

McCollum intricately layers Talia’s complex personality by developing her into outrageously paranoid and protective, but vulnerable when it comes to Danny. Each chapter is a window into a complicated woman’s life.


Check out the full review and come squee with me!!

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Obviously, with a new book out on the subject, I’ve been thinking about character sympathy a lot lately. Most of the time, of course, character sympathy is subconscious for a writer and a reader—until it doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, in a book I read recently, it didn’t happen. I never got onboard with the main character, and I frankly didn’t enjoy the book.

confuseSo, without pointing any fingers, I want to analyze what went wrong with this read for me. Details have been changed to protect the innocent.

First, the book happened to fall in the middle of a series, which doesn’t help. Perhaps if I were familiar with the characters already, I could have sympathized with the protagonist a little faster. As writers, we must be mindful of character sympathy whether the book is the character’s first adventure or his fifteenth.

Secondly, the character did have some of the basic principles of reader identification in place.

Giving our character problems is one of the first ways we learn to engender sympathy for our character with our readers. This character started off with an engaging scene showing struggles. She’s facing real adversity here—baaad people have it out for her. So that wasn’t the problem with this character.

The character also had some great strengths, another key to character sympathy. Her physical strengths and cleverness were quickly on display as she bested the bad guys despite being outnumbered and outgunned. She’s clever and witty, and even had me laughing. When she wasn’t being kind of snotty (which worked for her character, but was still annoying), she was fun to watch. So that wasn’t the problem with this character.

Did I mention her tragic backstory? Fortunately, she doesn’t bank too hard on her rough childhood and dead friends and family members as a ploy for character sympathy. So that wasn’t the problem either.

If all these things worked, how on earth did the character fall short? I found two things that I think really undermined character sympathy for me: a lack of sacrifice and unclear motivations.

Sacrifice, being able to put someone else’s needs above your own for just a minute—even something as small having a noble goal—is an vital part of creating identification with our readers. And while this character had a lot of responsibility, she ultimately seemed to care most about herself. She occasionally thought about others—but mostly only to be vaguely sorry she’s causing them so much trouble before she plunged deeper into that trouble.

ConfusedWorse, flinging herself headlong into danger, as she insisted on doing over and over again, didn’t really seem to make sense. A little too much information was being withheld, especially as to why the character thought this course of action was not only right but necessary. Our characters can do courageous things, even if it’s out of character for them, but only if their motivations are clear.

Ultimately, these problems continued throughout the book, and I felt like I was being jerked around by the plot—with the character’s complicity, leaving me in the dark as to why we were doing these dangerous things—rather than living through the character. The longer I think about the book, the more upset I get about it!

Character sympathy isn’t a given. We have to work for it. Don’t neglect character sympathy and leave your readers feeling cheated!

What do you think? Have you ever just not gotten onboard with a character? Why?

Want more tips on creating character sympathy? Read Character Sympathy!

Photo credits: stick figures—Tall Chris; confusing notes—CollegeDegrees360; both via Flickr/CC

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March accountability & April goals

Whoa. Where did March go? And my birthday’s already over, so April’s kinda downhill from here . But I’ve got lots of time to get crackin’ on these goals! March accountability Host the goal-setting challenge for my writers’ group, the March-a-thon. (Which helps with everything else!)—Done! I let it slide a bit more than I meant to, but luckily planning ahead and delegating meant that it didn’t totally fall apart. Thanks to everyone who helped! Enter rewrites from critique group suggestions on Spy Another Day 3.—Done! THAT, my friends, was a lot of work. I actually did two whole drafts… Keep reading »

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Character Sympathy is here!

It’s my birthday—and my baby’s birthday! How awesome is that?! Almost as awesome as the present I got for you. Are you struggling with an unlovable character? Do your beta readers hate your heroine? Are your critique partners confused about your character’s motivations? Don’t despair—a little more character sympathy could help you! Learn how to get your reader on your character’s side from the very beginning, to get your reader rooting for your character and riveted to the story. IS YOUR CHARACTER WORTHY OF YOUR READER? Often we think of sympathetic characters as those we love or envy or pity,… Keep reading »

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Using humor to increase character sympathy

It’s a big week! We’re kicking off launch week with an excerpt from Character Sympathy: Creating characters your readers HAVE to root for! When we use it correctly, A sense of humor helps to make a character more relatable. It can give the character an air of resilience, which is a strength worth rooting for. Whether the story events are positive or negative for the character, if he can take everything with a joke, he remains more grounded for the reader. Humor helps to temper the extremes of both strength and struggles, and make the character more human. And of… Keep reading »

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Writing survival secret: the feel-good file

Sometimes we say a writer’s ego is a fragile thing. But in reality, we writers put our art out there to live and die by the criticism of others. Even the most positive review will often contain criticisms, and somehow that’s the only part that sticks with us. It’s little wonder sometimes we writers suffer from crises of confidence! While sometimes negative feedback can help us learn and grow, sometimes it has the opposite effect (especially when the work being criticized is, you know, already published.) I’m susceptible to this, too. Reading bad reviews can ruin my whole day. Not… Keep reading »

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Author photo by Jaren Wilkey
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