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How Authors Can Work Together to Achieve Success

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

The perception of self-publishing is that you’re working alone. And you are, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. In fact, I believe the future of successful self-publishing is in working together as allies with other authors rather than viewing them as your competition.

Before I dive into some of the ways I see authors successfully teaming up, though, it’s important to cover the harmful and/or dishonest ways that authors sometimes work together. I want to be very clear that these aren’t things we should be doing.

For the rest of this post, please join me at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. I’ll cover both the ways we shouldn’t work together as authors and the ways we should.

Upcoming Attractions: Tomorrow I’ll also be visiting Writer’s in the Storm to talk about the best hashtags for authors. This is the second to last post on Twitter I’ll be doing. (I have one more guest post at Kristen Lamb’s blog that I’ll be sharing with you.) From that point on, I’ll be returning to writing craft posts for the foreseeable future. Also, keep an eye out closer to the end of the year. I’ll be asking you what your biggest writing struggles are so that in 2015 I can focus on the topics that you need help with the most!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Deep POV – Using Your Pain to Become a Better Writer

I have another special guest post for you today. This time my good friend and writing partner Lisa Hall-Wilson is here to talk to you about deep POV and how you can channel your pain into becoming a better writer.

Lisa Hall-WilsonIn case you don’t know Lisa, let me introduce you a little bit. Lisa is a freelance journalist who works for the faith-based market. Here’s how she describes herself and why she writes:

Growing up, I was a small, shadow-of-a-girl who lived with the characters in my books and hid from the world. Life taught me that sometimes bad things happen, sometimes the bully wins, and no one hears you no matter how loud you scream. But through my stories I had a voice – and people listened. As an adult, the faith I discovered in my teens gave me the courage to face my fears, stomp on the pretenses, and use my writing to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’ to find the authentic, the real, the heart-of-the-matter.

Take it away, Lisa!


Deep POV – Using Your Pain to Become a Better Writer

By Lisa Hall-Wilson

Deep POV is one of my favorite writing techniques. Also known as a limited or close point of view, your reader experiences the story right alongside the character telling the story.

Deep POV is emotive, creates a sense of immediacy, and can be written in either past or present tense. The reader is only privy to what the point of view character (POVC) knows, sees, senses, understands, and is aware of. The reader experiences the story through that character, including their worldview, opinions, prejudices, past experiences, education, social class, economic class, family status, hopes, and failures.

Actors have a lot to teach us about writing in this style. Method acting is a technique used by actors to recreate in themselves the thoughts and feelings of the characters they are portraying.

Some method actors take it further than others. Heath Ledger locked himself in an apartment for a month to play The Joker. Jack Nicholson reportedly underwent electroshock therapy for his role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Viggo Mortensen was known to have lived in his Aragorn costume off set, carried around the sword, and personally cared for his character’s horse. Daniel Day-Lewis lived in the woods for six months hunting and shooting and trapping to prepare for his role in The Last of the Mohicans.

Do writers need to be this in-depth? I don’t know – but we can certainly learn a thing or two from the idea of method acting. I want my characters to leap off the page; be so real, you could imagine meeting this person in real life. One way to do that is make each character you.

Our characters are capable of the same kinds of emotional depth we are, so I search for some way to relate to each of my POV characters. What experience do I have in common with them? How did that make me feel?

Focus on that common experience or emotion you have with a character. Dig deep – go there – and let that pain, heartache, loss, resonate inside your character too. Whether or not you’ve personally experienced whatever extreme your character is living through, the base emotions you’re drawing from are the same across the human experience.

A teen being forced to choose between parents in a divorce. My parents are still married so I’ve never lived this, but I know what it’s like to desperately want to avoid hurting or disappointing someone I love. I know what it’s like to feel like I lose no matter what choice I make.

A firefighter who’s discovered his wife is in an adulterous relationship. Obviously, I’m not a man, nor have I faced this kind of situation. However, I understand being blindsided by betrayal. I understand the singular focus of just putting one foot in front of the other because I don’t know what else to do.

A battered mother finally makes a choice to leave an abusive husband. I understand what it’s like to talk yourself into and out of a decision a thousand times. I understand doing something for the sake of someone you love, because you don’t think enough of yourself to do it for your own sake. I understand what giving up on something really important feels like, something you love.

Write what you know. Don’t waste your pain!

Will writing in deep POV, method-writing, change you? It will absolutely make your writing better, and you’ll always learn something new about yourself. Whatever you learn about yourself in the process, you’ll carry with you into your next novel.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Deep Point of View is now available! (You might also want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.)

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6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

Amazon KDP ContractI’m pleased to bring you all a special guest post today. I recently connected with Kathryn Goldman, a lawyer and writer, and after seeing some of the other articles she’d written, I knew I wanted to invite her here to “speak” to all of you about some very important issues. She’ll be back next month for an encore, but this month she’s going to walk us through what our rights and responsibilities are when we sell our books on Amazon. Take it away, Kathryn!


6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

By Kathryn Goldman

You’ve finished writing your novel. You did it with stolen hours — early mornings, late nights, and while the laundry was on spin cycle. You’ve stolen more hours for rewriting, revising, and polishing until it shines.

You’ve invested in professional cover art and professional editing. It’s been a long and not inexpensive journey because you’ve taken the time to do it right.

From the beginning you’ve focused on your craft, incorporating the advice of the leaders in your field.

You are ready to upload your manuscript and click publish.

Now is no time to skimp on doing things the right way. That means understanding the rules.

Whatever platform you use for self-publishing — Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords — that service becomes your business partner and you need to know what you can expect from them and what they expect from you.

But reading a 20+ page contract of legalese may not fit into your busy schedule and my guess is that you’re going to skip it.

I get it, I do. The legal stuff is just not that important to you. Asking a lawyer to explain the Amazon KDP contract to you is so far down your list, it’s not even on your list.

But it’s important to me that you understand the key points of the deal you’re about to enter. I want you to understand the business you’re in. That way you’re less likely to need a lawyer in the future.

So, to help cut down the chances that you will ignore Amazon’s KDP contract completely, I have summarized six of the key terms for you here.

This is not a substitute for reading the whole contract. *wags finger*

Your Rights in the KDP Program

You have three basic rights when using KDP:

  1. the right to use the program;
  2. the right to get paid; and
  3. the right to protect your copyrights.


The most interesting thing about the right to use the program is that the program is undefined and Amazon is constantly changing it.

Algorithms determine rankings. The user interface helps a reader find and buy your book. The genre categories impact your meta data and therefore your sales. These all work together and a slight change in one may have a ripple effect on your results.

Your right to use KDP is limited to the right to use it in the form Amazon presents it at any given time.

Getting Paid

Payment is based on the royalty option you select, either the 35% option or the 70% option. Taxes and delivery costs are deducted from the 70% option.

You have the right to change the royalty option you selected.

You have the right to receive a royalty report every 60 days.

Amazon has agreed to collect and pay all sales taxes on your behalf for the sales of your work.

Protected Copyrights

Control over copyright is what makes Amazon different from traditional publishers.

Amazon is not a publisher. You are the publisher. Amazon is offering you the platform on which to publish your work – it is a digital content distribution program.

Generally, publishers require an author to give a written assignment of the copyright in her work which then allows the publisher to control how, when, where and in what form the work will be presented.

Amazon does not ask you to give up any control of your copyright.

Your Promises to Amazon

Your Account

You promise that you are over 18 years old, that the information in your account is accurate and up to date, that you are not using a false identity, that you are responsible for everything that happens in your account even if you did not authorize it and if Amazon terminates your account, you may not open a new one.

Safe Uploads   

You promise that there will be no viruses in any of the digital files that you upload.


The metadata describing your book must be accurate. Metadata means things like the title of the book, the title of the series if the book is in a series, search keywords, genre selection, the publisher and publication date.

Amazon does not allow you to use another author’s name in your metadata, or words like “best-seller” or “free.”


You swear up, down and sideways that you own all the rights to the content that you have uploaded to the program. (This is where Amazon helps protect against the work of authors from being ripped-off.)

If clearances or licenses are needed for any of your work, you promise that you have obtained them at your expense.

You promise that you are not defaming anyone in your story and that if you owe anyone any money in connection with the work, you will pay it.

A Broken Promise   

If Amazon gets sued because you have broken any of these promises, you agree to indemnify their losses. That means you have to reimburse Amazon for any money it has to pay because you broke your promises. That includes attorney’s fees.

Do You Really Control Pricing?

Amazon lets you set the list price of your book within the maximums and minimums for the different royalty options

Despite letting you set the list price, Amazon clearly states that it has complete discretion in setting the retail price of your book. So, you do not control the price of your book. Amazon does. And Amazon is not answerable to you for when, whether or why they might change the price your book is sold for.

What If There is a Dispute?

If you think Amazon hasn’t paid you properly (and you can’t work it out with customer service), you have only 6 months to bring a claim against them.

You can bring your claim in your home state, if the amount is small enough for your local small claims court. If the amount owed is larger than the jurisdictional limit on the small claims court in your home state, then you may not bring a lawsuit.

Instead, you must start an arbitration proceeding in the State of Washington.

Amazon Can Change the Deal

Amazon can change the deal and the program whenever they want – going forward. They tell you that right up front.

But they cannot change what they owe you in royalties for sales made in the past.

Do You Have Any Liability?

Your liability is unlimited. If you do something that causes a loss for Amazon, you may be required to pay them back for it.

Amazon’s liability to you is limited to the amount they owed you in royalties in the past 12 months. If something happens like your book is not available for purchase during your largest marketing campaign ever and you’ve lost thousands of sales because your book can’t be found on Amazon, there is nothing you can do about it.

Amazon is not responsible for lost sales. They want the program to work as well as it possibly can, but if for some reason it’s not working, they are not liable to you.

Those are the key points in Amazon KDP contract in a nutshell. The full contract is over 20 pages (single-spaced) plus attachments, so I can understand why you may not have read through it before clicking PUBLISH.

But really, don’t you feel better knowing some of what is is there?

If you have any questions about any other provision in the KDP contract, ask in the comments and I’ll see if I can find the answer.

Kathryn Goldman lawyerKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman

Marcy here again: I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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March to a Bestseller 2: A One-Day Sale on Books for Authors

March to a Bestseller 2

For today only, I’m dropping the price of Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction to 99 cents. And I’m not the only one. Fifteen other authors are also dropping the price of their books to 99 cents. This is a treasure chest full of writerly goodness, so buy your copies before the sale ends.

And make sure you join the Facebook group where the participating authors will be hanging out during the day to answer any writing questions you might have!

Here’s a list of the participating books and authors:

Indie Author Power Pack









The Indie Author Power Pack by Joanna Penn, Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Gaughran

How to Write and Sell Non-Fiction









How to Write & Sell Non-Fiction Books for Kindle by Nancy Hendrickson










APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

Write From the Middle









Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell

Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction









Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction by Marcy Kennedy

Kindle Publishing Package









Kindle Publishing Package by Steve Scott

Writing the Heart of Your Story









Writing the Heart of Your Story by C. S. Lakin

Supercharge Your Kindle Sales









Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson

Book Cover Design









Book Cover Design Secrets You Can Use to Sell More Books by Derek Murphy

Goodreads for Authors









Goodreads For Authors by Michelle Campbell-Scott

Writing a Killer Thriller









Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner

Weite a Book Already









Write A Book Already! by Jim Kukral

1000 Creative Writing Prommpts









1,000 Creative Writing Prompts by Bryan Cohen

Work Smarter









Work Smarter by Nick Loper

Online Writing









The Moonlighter’s Guide To Online Writing For Immediate Income by Connie Brentford

Honest Reviews









How To Get Honest Reviews by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart










Write! Stop Waiting, Start Writing by Cathy Presland

Formatting Your Ebook









Formatting Your eBook by J. Thorn

Writing Active Setting









Writing Active Setting Book 1 by Mary Buckham

How to Sell Books by the Truckload









How to Sell Books by the Truckload on by Penny Sansevieri

Make sure to grab your copies before the sale ends! And please help me spread the word so that other writers can find out about the reduced price on these 20 books in time.

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7 Essential Things to Know About Staying Safe on Twitter

Twitter for AuthorsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

For all the wonderful things that technology provides us, it also comes with new risks. We need to be smart about our social media use because Twitter won’t be fun and our platform building won’t be sustainable if we don’t know how to stay safe.

So today I wanted to share seven tips for how to protect yourself and your information on Twitter so that you can make new friends, reach new readers, and grow as a writer.

Join me today at Jami Gold’s blog for the rest of my post on 7 Essential Things to Know About Staying Safe on Twitter.

You can buy Twitter for Authors at, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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7 Reasons Twitter Isn’t Building Your Author Platform

Twitter for AuthorsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Almost as soon as authors were told they should be on social media to build their platform, a counter-contingent of people started talking about how social media was a waste of time. They’d tell their stories of how they were on Twitter or Facebook or whatever the flavor of the month was and how they didn’t see any increase in sales or growth in their readership.

Usually there’s a simple reason for why social media didn’t work for them—they were doing it wrong.

So today I want to save you some time and heartache by explaining seven of the biggest mistakes I see authors making on Twitter. When we use Twitter correctly, it’s still one of the best possible tools for expanding our reach.

Please join me at Jane Friedman’s blog for the rest of this post!

You can buy Twitter for Authors at, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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7 Reasons Every Author Needs to Be on Twitter (And A New Busy Writer’s Guide)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’m thrilled to announce that the next book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series is now available!

Twitter for Authors

Building a thriving social media platform doesn’t have to steal all your precious writing time or cut into your time with your family.Twitter for Authors is about building a successful Twitter platform that’s sustainable for busy people.

Twitter often gets a bad reputation from people who don’t understand it or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, Twitter can be one of the best tools for increasing traffic to your blog and gaining new readers for your books. And it’s fun!

In Twitter for Authors, you’ll learn…

  • essential Twitter terminology,
  • how to set up your account,
  • the differences between TweetDeck and Hootsuite,
  • techniques for staying safe on Twitter,
  • how to build columns and lists and use them to find readers,
  • the value of link shorteners and hashtags,
  • what to tweet about,
  • the most common mistakes writers make on Twitter,
  • how to run a successful Twitter event,
  • how to manage your social media time,
  • and much more!

Twitter for Authors contains helpful advice for both Twitter newbies and long-time Twitter users who want to take their platform to the next level.

Due to popular demand, I’ve made Twitter for Authors available in both print and ebook form.

You can buy Twitter for Authors at, at Kobo, or at Smashwords. More sites will be coming soon! The ebook is priced at $2.99 at and the print version costs $12.99.

I’d appreciate it if you’d share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out. And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

For those of you who aren’t convinced about the importance of Twitter yet, how about this…

7 Reasons Every Writer Needs to Be on Twitter

Twitter often gets a bad rap by people who don’t understand it, misunderstand it as full of spam and celebrity stalkers, or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, though, Twitter can be one of the best tools for meeting new readers and increasing traffic to your blog. Not to mention it’s fun!

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you then. I have seven reasons why I think every writer should be using Twitter.

Reason #1 – Twitter has over 100 million active accounts and growing.

Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your readers are on Twitter. You just need to know how to meet them.

This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. If you write for kids, your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for.

Reason #2 – Twitter allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site.

People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers (at first) because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags.

Reason #3 – Twitter makes you a better writer.

Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.

Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. No weak verbs modified by adjectives. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.

Reason #4 – Twitter brings you the news faster than any news site can.

Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. In August 2011, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. My husband and I were able to call my mother-in-law right away to make sure she and the rest of the family there were safe.

In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas in April 2012, Twitter might have even saved lives. So many tornadoes hit the Dallas area at once that meteorologists couldn’t keep up, even if people still had electricity and the ability to check their television, use their computer, or tune in on the radio. But what everyone could still do was tweet using their phones. People banded together to warn others and report sightings, keeping all involved safer than they could have been alone.

Reason #5 – Twitter allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the publishing industry.

Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.

Reason #6 – Twitter helps you research.

In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.

But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. (I did and fell in love with Scrivener.)

In my co-written novel with Facebook expert Lisa Hall-Wilson, we mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.

Reason #7 – Twitter gives you a support network of friends.

I’ve left this to last because, to me, it’s the most important. Writing is solitary. We sit at our computers and play with our imaginary friends. Which is great, but also leaves us without the support network we need if we want to make writing a long-term career.

On Twitter, you’ll find someone to talk you down off the ledge when one too many rejections or poor reviews leave you wanting to quit writing altogether. On Twitter, you can make writers friends who’ll run word sprints with you to help you keep on track. On Twitter, you can make reader friends who’ll be excited to go out and buy your book and tell everyone about it.

Twitter is like the workplace water cooler. Come, chat, and get back to work. It doesn’t take all day to make Twitter a valuable place to be!

If you’re not on Twitter yet, what’s holding you back? If you are on Twitter, what do you struggle with?

And if you’re on Twitter, make sure to leave your username in the comments so we can all follow each other!

You can buy Twitter for Authors at, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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Choosing the Right Social Media Site for You and Your Readers

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

When it comes to how to spread the word about your book, you’ll hear widely divergent opinions. Don’t bother with promotion. Promote in every possible way. Do real life events—forget about social media. Don’t bother with real life events—stick to blogging and social media. Buy ads. Don’t buy ads.

The one thing everyone can agree on is that indie writers need a way to let potential readers know their books exist. We don’t have access to a publisher’s ready-made audience. My experience (backed up by discussions I’ve had with other authors who’ve used the same methods) is that social media does help build your audience.

Thanks to social media, I’ve grown my blog and newsletter, moved my books into the top ranks of their respective lists when they released, and have grown my business to the point where I work full-time as a writer, editor, and writing instructor. I wasn’t able to achieve those things by networking in real life. My reach was too small.

But social media can also be a giant waste of time. The key to social media is to choose the right site for you and then learn how to use that site in a time-effective way that builds relationships. Spam never works.

The first step to using social media effectively is to figure out what site is best for you and for meeting up with your potential readers. So today I want to give you a quick overview of some of the major social media sites, how they’re different, and who they’re best for.

To read the rest of this post, head over to Janice Hardy’s Fiction University!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

How to Use Traps to Create Suspense in Fiction


Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via

Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, you need suspense to keep readers turning pages. Adding a trap can increase suspense because not only will your reader worry about whether or not your character will fall into the trap, they’ll also worry about how (and if) your character will escape. Will they escape unscathed or irreparably damaged? What will they have to sacrifice to get away?

You need to be a bit diabolical to write a great trap. For those of you who don’t find this comes naturally, I’ve put together a list of four ways to set a fantastic trap.

#1 – Use their greatest weakness or their greatest strength against them.

Say you have a character who’s terrified of the dark. If your villain knows this, and he knocks out the streetlights on the path she normally takes home, she’ll be redirected to the path he wants her to take.

Or you have a character whose strength is how patient and altruistic they are when it comes to the elderly, who maybe even works in a senior’s residence. Lure them using a senior in need.

The important thing with using your character’s greatest strength or weakness against them is to establish that quality well in advance of springing the trap. Anything that’s going to be important to the plot should be shown two or three times before it becomes a central plot element.

#2 – Find a plausible way to remove all the reasons your character would avoid the trap or realize it’s a trap before it’s too late.

Unfortunately, traps are difficult to do well because you don’t want your readers to feel that your main character is too stupid to live. (Come on, admit it. We’ve all been annoyed because a character did something incredibly stupid that no sane human would do, like chasing after the bad guy in the dark, unarmed and alone.)

A good example of removing the reasons your character might avoid the trap is found in Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. When Susie meets her neighbor walking home after dark, you’re screaming at her to run. But, of course, she doesn’t.

If she’s uncomfortable with adults and cold, why doesn’t she leave?

The natural authority of his age, and the added fact that he was a neighbor and talked to my father about fertilizer, rooted me to the spot.

As an excuse to leave, she tells him her mom likes her home before dark.

“It’s after dark, Susie,” he said.

He tells her that it will only take a minute to show her the “hiding place” he’s built in the cornfield. Why, though, does she go into the underground structure he’d built when he’s been looking at her lustfully?

“What is it?” I asked. I was no longer cold or weirded out by the look he’d given me. I was like I was in science class: I was curious.

Susie enjoys science and the underground structure he’s built is fascinating enough to a teen who loves science that her curiosity overcomes her fear. (This is also a good example of using a strength to set the trap. Susie loves science and her neighbor uses that against her.)

And once she was in, there was no way out.

By having Susie make the objections the reader might be making, and then dismantling them one by one, Sebold makes sure we find the trap believable.

#3 – Let the reader know about the trap a few chapters before it’s sprung.

A trap works best when the reader knows about it and the character doesn’t because it gives the reader the chance to worry longer and wonder whether each choice your protagonist makes will be the one that throws her into the trap or saves her from it.

If you’ve chosen to include scenes from your antagonist’s POV, cluing your reader in prior to springing the trap is easy. If you haven’t, you can also create a trap where your reader doesn’t consciously know ahead of time, but when it happens, they still feel like they should have seen it coming. To do this, you need to layer in hints—with a light hand—using symbolism, atmosphere, and other little details.

#4 – Don’t let your character out of the trap on their first attempt.

Seeing a character succeed at almost anything the first time is boring. The reader wants them to succeed eventually, but you can’t make it too easy for them. This is where the try-fail cycle comes in. As a general guideline, your character should fail twice before you allow them to succeed.

There are two ways for your character to “fail” at their escape. You’re asking the question, “Will my character escape?” You want to create one (or both) of these two answers initially.


Yes, they escape, but it actually makes their situation worse than it was before.

Your character escapes out of the window only to break their arm on the fall down.

Or your character escapes…but finds out that they’re now in the middle of nowhere, in a blizzard, in their underwear. It might have been bad to be in the villain’s clutches, but now they’re facing hypothermia, starvation, and being eaten by a polar bear.


Not only does your character not manage to escape, but their attempt makes it worse.

They try to make it out the window, but the noise they make alerts their captor to their escape attempt and now their hands are tied behind their back.

If you put these four elements into practice, you’ll be able to create a great trap and increase the suspense in your fiction, regardless of what genre you’re writing.

What are you favorite examples of well-set traps in fiction? Or have you set traps for your characters in your own writing?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Deep Point of View is now available! (You might also want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.)

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The Danger in Trying to Revisit the Past

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. For both of us, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a childhood favorite. We watched the cartoons, watched the movies, played the video games, had the Halloween costumes.

We went for the nostalgia.

But they’d downgraded the acting, had less plot, and made the turtles seem less like teenagers and more like twelve-year-olds. I was disappointed because I wanted to re-experience the joy I found in the Ninja Turtles as a child.

I think most of us have the desire to relive some of the happy moments of our past and re-experience some of the things we used to love.

Most of the times I’ve tried, though, they haven’t been the way I remembered.

When I was a kid, I loved those Hostess chocolate cupcakes with the white filling and white icing loops on the top. When I tried them as an adult, they tasted stale and lacking in flavor.

Maybe the problem was in looking back rather than looking forward. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to relive or recapture the good moments of the past. Maybe we should leave those as happy memories and instead focus our time on forming new happy memories in the present.

Have you tried to recapture a happy childhood memory? How did it work out for you?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen, on sale for 99 cents. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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