Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Blog: What Makes a Good Fiction Story: Plot Driven or Character Drive? by Karen Cioffi

(Excerpt from How to Write Books for Children – Writing, Publishing, and Marketing Children’s Books by Karen Cioffi)

Stories can be plot driven or character driven, so which is the best formula to use when writing a story? Knowing a little about both methods should help in making a decision.

Plot Driven Story

A story’s plot moves the story forward, from point A to point B. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a straight line; in fact a course that twists and turns is much better. This type of plot creates movement and interest. It’s the twists and turns that will keep the forward momentum fresh, as well as create anticipation. Anticipation will hold a reader’s attention.

The plot also provides reasons and explanations for the occurrences in the story, as well as offers conflict and obstacles that the protagonist must overcome to hopefully create growth. These elements create a connection with the reader. It entices the reader to keep turning the pages.

Without a plot it is difficult to create growth and movement for the protagonist. It might be comparable to looking at a still photo. It might be a beautiful photo and may even conjure up emotions in the viewer, but how long do you think it would hold a reader’s attention?

Along with this, the plot molds the protagonist. It causes growth and movement in the character. Assume you have a timid woman who through circumstances, the plot, transforms into a brave, strong, forceful hero. Where would the story be without the events that lead this timid woman to move past herself and into a new existence?

Character Driven Story

On the other hand, a character driven story creates a bond between the protagonist and reader. It is the development and growth of the character, the character’s personal journey, which motivates the reader to connect. There doesn’t need to be twists and turns, or fire works. The reader becomes involved with the character and this is all the enticement the reader needs to keep reading.

In addition to this, the character works hand in hand with the plot to move the story forward. As the character begins her transformation the plot moves in the same direction.

In some instances, such as short stories, a character driven story can work amazingly well, such as in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. In cases such as this, the connection developed between the character and the reader can be more than enough to satisfy the reader. But, all in all, it seems to be the combined efforts of a well plotted and character driven story that works the best.

The Best of Both Worlds

According to science fiction and fantasy writer, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., “The best fiction should be an intertwined blend of character, plot, setting, and style.”

The elements of a story working together, creates a story that will be remembered.

All the aspects of a story should complement each other, should move each other forward to a satisfying conclusion, and should draw the reader in.

If you have an action packed plot driven story, but it lacks believable and sympathetic characters, you’re story will be lacking. The same holds true if you have a believable and sympathetic character, but the story lacks movement, it will usually also fall short. As with all things in life balance is necessary, the same holds true when writing a story.

Karen Cioffi is a published author, freelance writer, and marketer, and to start the New Year with a BANG, from January 1 through February 28, 2012, she is offering all her writing and marketing e-books (purchased directly from her site/s using the Paypal SHOPPING CART) for a $1.19 each. And, this will include new titles added within that time period.

For a complete list of the available titles and links to more information:

For a complete list (with brief descriptions of each ebook) go to:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Compulsive Reader Talks Top 5 Shows Of All Time

My radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks is nearing it's fifth year.  In Internet terms, that's a long time and a lot of shows, all dedicated to authors, books, and the changing world of publishing.   As we inch towards the end of 2011, I thought it might be interesting to have a little look back, and see which shows have been most popular.  So, in order of popularity, I'm listing the top five shows of all time, which you might like to listen to once more or catch up on if you missed them first time round.  Note that all of the shows are also available on iTunes and you can download them and listen to them in the car or while you're cooking, etc.  I think you'll find much here that's enlightening and interesting.  I know that I've certainly enjoyed the significant privilege of being able to talk to such inspirational people and am very excited about the line up for 2012.

 1.  Interview with Craig Silvey
Craig Silvey's novel Jasper Jones won a swag of awards and changed the writing game for this young novelist and musician.  With film rights in hand, the book is set to continue its well-deserved popularity.  Silvey dropped by shortly after the book was published to talk to us about Jasper Jones in a show that remains the most popular that I've ever aired.

2.  Interview with Helen Townsend
Helen Townsend has had over 17 books published, and dropped by the show to talk to me about her book Above the Starry Frame, a historical novel that followed the life of William Irwin, an Irish farm boy who migrated to Australia at 18 in 1849, leaving behind the Irish potato famine.

3.  Interview with Sir Ken Robinson
Ken Robinson has become an international celebrity for, among other things, his amazing TED Talks, and his life changing, educationally focused book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  From my point of view, what I liked best about Ken Robinson, was how down to earth and just plain nice he was when we chatted, shortly after The Element was released.

4.  Interview with Howard Waldman
Howard Waldman's literary works busts all genres, bringing sci fi, fantasy, mystery and historical fiction into a seamless literary experience.  In this interview he talks to me about his book Good Americans Go to Paris When They Die. 

 5.  Interview with Mark Coker
I don't think it would be a stretch to credit at least some of the impact and growth of ebooks to Smashwords' Mark Coker. From a one man show with a single book to 80,000+ books, Smashwords opened the floodgates for self-publishing, changing the way books are published and sold. Many others have since followed, but perhaps none to the same extent.  Mark dropped by the show to talk about his site in the relatively early days, and to make some predictions which nearly all played out.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday thank you

As the end of 2011 fast approaches (too fast perhaps), I'd like to just take a moment to thank you, my dear readers, for all your wonderful support this year.  Not only for stopping by to read and comment on each blog post, but for linking virtual hands in a worldwide community of those who love to read and talk about books.

I've got a couple of end of year gifts for you.  The first is from my writing group Writers on the Move, who have provided a Holiday Season 2011 eBook from the members.  This book is full of writing and marketing tips, and can be picked up here

The second is a full copy of my poetry book Quark Soup, which can be grabbed here.

Finally, I'd like you to have a copy of my award winning short story The Fall

Enjoy and have a healthy, safe, happy holiday season all the best for a terrific new year. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 2011 book list roundup

I'm not going to do a list of my top 2011 books.  I've already dispensed with the notion of stars and because I like so many books, some of which I've read this year but which didn't come out this year (one book I read this year came out in 1953), and for different reasons and different moods, that I just don't feel comfortable pinpointing just some of them.  It's all too much of a reduction for me.  But what I will do as a kind of year end roundup, is to point you in the direction of some of the more interesting, well done 'best 2011 book lists' that others have made.

  • Salon's fiction list is quite a nice one, followed neatly by their writer's favourites list where 50 well-known writers including Jeffrey Eugenides, Ann Patchett, Stephen Pinker and Ali Smith choose their favourite books of 2011.  
  • Publisher's Weekly has a top 10 slide show that includes review links.
  • The Guardian UK does something similar to Salon, and asks well-known authors like John Banville, Julian Barnes and Margaret Drabble to provide their lists.  Readers area asked to also contribute to the discussion.
  • The editors at Slate pick their tops, with quite an eclectic selection. 
  • The NY Times has 5 top fiction and 5 top nonfiction on their list.  
  • Kirkus Books focuses solely on fiction and provides review links to each book they've chosen.
  • Library Journal Review's top 10 has an interesting range of fiction and nonfiction
  • Goodreads choice award for 2011 has a range of popular and literary titles, all good.
  • The Telegraph UK's Keith Miller picks his besties for 2011 and I agree with nearly all of them (though I'm still struggling with The Pale King, which has some of the most beautiful writing I've ever come across but which is so painfully inchoate at times that I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get through it (and I like to think of myself as reasonably tough).
  • I haven't read a single book on the Esquire list and as you might expect, there's a kind of blokey slant to them at least judging from the descriptions, but I'm including it here for balance.
  • The Atlantic has ten enticing books that the others missed including one delightfully described as being "rich as loam".
  • Readings author picks has just a slight Australian slant, and includes some great books that other lists have missed (including the one I've picked as my #1 this year).
Finally I will just end by saying that the one book which made my heart race the most this year, which actually made me stop reading for a moment to catch my breath, was China Mieville's Embassytown.  It's not an easy book - certainly not one for reading when you're half-asleep or looking for a little light entertainment.  I've given my own copy out to about six people who wanted it after hearing me gush, and only one of them actually ended up reading the whole book.  But oh, the things Mieville does with language in that book.  It's extraordinary. 
Happy reading everyone!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blackout: the visual rendition

We've had a few storms here lately, where the power came on and off, which encouraged me (once the power was back on), to finally give Prezi a try and have a play with a poem that was indeed, as the title suggests, inspired by a lengthy blackout.  This is the result: a visual rendering of the final poem in my book Repulsion Thrust (available for less than $10 at Amazon I might add by way of a holiday gift giving prompt).  Our utter dependence on power is a notion that I'm continually reminded of every time a piece of technology (and like most people I'm surrounded by it and base my daily activities on the use of it, including what I'm doing right now) doesn't work.  Of course I do have candles in the larder, and playing boardgames by candlelight is actually a very relaxing and soothing thing to do, once the panic and sense of isolation wears off.  Nevertheless...