Hey guys, Mark Hunt here.
If you’re reading this and you’re new to publishing on Kindle, and you first want to know how to actually get started on the Kindle marketplace, check out this article on how to publish on Kindle here.
But aside from that, let’s crack on!
Let’s be honest, people struggle with writing good fiction.
Oftentimes, they have the ideas all there. The perfect story in a nutshell. They even know what needs to happen. They may even have something written up …
But they still feel like their fiction doesn’t ‘pop’.
So how do you manifest good ideas into good fiction?
And especially fiction that people will actually want to read and that can sell on Amazon Kindle or other online marketplaces?
Well dearest friends (and the few people other than my friends who know about this website), let me grant you a solution.
The Powerful Emotional Experience
There’s one really easy key you should remember when writing any fictional work – and it’s a fact a lot of authors tend to forget, especially when writing fiction for publishing.
You must create a powerful emotional experience in your reader.
That’s the number one purpose of your story.
It’s to make a work so engaging that readers will get lost in it. They won’t even know where the time goes. They’ll spend hour after hour reading your book and not even realise when morning comes.
How do you do that? You write a story and not a work of art.
You would be surprised how many people forget this fact.
Whilst yes, there’s an audience for incredibly poetic works that have every line scrupulously thought about and written, there’s also a lot more to writing than just that.
Metaphors and good writing mean nothing if you can’t actually make a story in your piece of fiction.
I remember sitting in a conference once on writing and trying to take down as many notes as possible on character and character creation.
And I remember there was this one guy on the far right who just smugly looked as if he was the greatest person there. No notepad, no book, he was just smiling as if he already knew all this.
At the end, when we were all told to read our works out for critical feedback, his was almost completely just these long-strung metaphors and word-plays and cultural references to books from the past.
And as great as all that was, it wasn’t really entertaining.
I could probably be biased (I really didn’t like that guy), but the fact of the matter is, when you look at the best sellers list on Amazon, they’re almost never these poetic works.
But they are good stories.
Take a look at Dan Brown. His stories sell incredibly well directly on release, but nearly all critics who read a lot of books call his writing ‘trash’. Take a look at Brad Phillips’ review;
“The Da Vinci Code”, for all its success, is simply a poorly written thriller with a controversial hypothesis about the life of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.”
And yet the book has sold millions of copies all around the world. So what gives?
Write with giving the readers a powerful emotional experience and you write good works.
Let me give you three of the most important tools you will ever need to do that.
TOOL #1 – POV
Ideally, you want to keep your work to one – and at most two or at the very most three – POV characters.
But one is the ideal number.
That means one character who sees, feels and experiences all the action for your whole story.
And this has its science for creating compelling powerful emotional experiences.
When you go on a journey with a character for their whole journey, you start to resonate and emotionally bond with a character. You grow as they grow, and feel as they feel.
You ever had that feeling when you leave a book or a movie theatre and for a while still feel like the character you were just watching/reading? That’s because you resonated with that character on an emotional level.
That’s what you want to create with your own characters.
Every pain your character feels, every joy they feel, every heartache, grief and sadness (and there should be a lot of heartache, grief and sadness to keep readers emotionally resonating with them) allows the reader who is reading to feel it with the character.
Remember that you’re writing to give your readers a powerful emotional experience, so everything that happens to the character needs to resonate with the reader emotionally too.
This really isn’t all that hard of a tool, yet it can make all the difference to your fiction. Keep your fiction to one (maybe two if you can really offer a unique perspective) POV characters and you will have some really easy success in making compelling characters.
POV, people. Remember and remember it.
TOOL NO#2 : SCENE AND SEQUEL
This is a concept from Dwight Swain’s book that will get you started on your writing journey. It’s one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever had the pleasure of being able to use, and I would most definitely incorporate it into your books to sell fiction and create powerful emotional experiences.
So what is scene and sequel?
In its simplest terms, the scene is where the action happens in your story.
Then in the sequel, your characters react and try to process what happened and get back on the ball.
Let me give you an example of just a few sentences of scene and sequel.
A boxer is on his way to the ring for his prized fight. He needs to win this to get the championship belt that he’s been craving since he started boxing years ago.
He bounces into the ring and his opponent quickly follows. As soon as the bell rings, he rushes forwards and jabs and feints, and his opponent jabs and feints. His opponent is good, and his own sweat is building on his forehead, and he can feel his fingers roasting in the gloves as he tries to read his opponent’s next move.
But before he even knows what’s happening, he’s smashed in the jaw so hard that he’s rocked to the mat.
He’s defeated. He goes to the backroom and slumps against the showers. He’s reeling.
What does he do now? Everyone’s voice feels deafening to him and he tries to process his options. Should he get out of the game? Should he just roll up in a corner and never come out? Should he tell his mother he really is the failure she always told him he would be?
Finally, after a lot of thought he decides he’s going to give it another shot, but this time he’s going to train even harder and make the most of his opportunity. And in doing so, he will gain the belt.
That’s a scene and a sequel.
We’re gonna be breaking it down in a bit more detail later but scene and sequel is a pattern that your book should – in theory – follow from the very start of the book right through to the very end. That means that you should be able to map out where your scene/sequel starts and where your scene/sequel ends in every area of your book.
So let’s break it down a little.
How does a scene work?
You start with a goal that your character wants. This ensures your character is proactive and is chasing after what he wants.
Try to make your goal a moment that could be instantly photographed so as not to confuse readers. Something that’s real and tangible and that you can actually capture with a camera. That means a kiss from a girl is a better goal than the much more hazy finding true love. And a win for our boxer character is better than the much more hazy “fight like an ox” which can’t be an instant, photographable moment.
You then put conflict in the way of his goal.
If it’s easy for your character to get his goal, it’s not worth writing into your story. How do you make the goal harder?
Maybe your character approaches the girl only to realise he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s never even talked to a girl before. He stammers, and tries to work out what to say.
Prolong your conflicts. The better the conflicts, and the more twists and turns they have, the more you’re going to create powerful emotional experiences for your readers.
Finally in the scene comes the setback. Never give your character what they want; it kills the tension on the spot.
If the girl just laughs at him and blows him off, it will make your reader resonate so much more with your character.
Never give your character their goal unless giving them their goal will make it that much harder not long down the line for them. Make things hard for your character, almost as if you’re punishing them for wanting that initial goal in the first place.
That’s – what you’ll notice – is commonplace in a lot of people’s favourite books and even the bestsellers’ list on Amazon.
Then comes the sequel.
You have the reaction; which is where your character reacts emotionally to the events that have just happened. Maybe your boy who just tried it on with this girl is now reeling. Maybe he’s just gone home and locked himself in his room in embarrassment. Maybe he’s hidden himself behind the lockers whilst he tries to think about what to do next.
Then comes the dilemma. This is where your character thinks through the options.
How do I go on from here? Can I go on from here? Should I move schools? Should I just jump out of this window so I can break all my bones and never have to go to school again?
Then, finally, comes the decision. Your character decides what he’s going to do next. The boy decides …
‘do you know what, I can learn from this …’
‘Tomorrow I’ll ask her out through song.’
This is obviously setting him up for a bigger disaster.
But believe me when I say that’s what your readers want to see.
You’ve got to be cruel to your characters first so that you can eventually be kind.
The fiction evolves like this then. Scene followed by sequel followed by scene followed by sequel right through to the end of the story. Progressively, your scenes get more and more difficult for your characters whilst your sequels get more and more contemplative.
Your story ends when you decide to give your main character what they want in the story.
One key point to remember though is to not make the scenes and sequels random. All the goals, conflicts, and setbacks … as well as the reactions, dilemmas and decisions should all be towards an overall story question or idea. The story about Keith can be ‘how does Keith find the perfect girl?’ and every scene and sequel is with the purpose of finally getting the girl of his dreams.
Now you might think this is limiting your creativity. You might think it’s putting too much structure to something that’s fluid.
But with experience, this can be modeled around almost any kinds of events that can happen in a story however they will dramatically increase your fiction.
This article is really just a short primer on scene and sequel, but for more on the topic and how to implement it try out this entire multi-page guide on it by K. M. Weilland free on the internet.
It is what’s going to sell your works though.
In troves and troves.
TOOL #3 : Motivation Reaction Units
Now scene and sequel alone will provide strong emotional responses from your readers but to make it even more emotionally intuitive, you want to add motivation-reaction units.
These are on the micro-level of your story and inside your scenes and sequels. They make up the paragraphs and the sentences.
What they basically mean is a motivation (something your character sees, hears, smells or feels), followed by a reaction (their reaction to what they saw, heard, smelt or felt).
Motivation-reaction units make up your scenes and sequels. One after the other.
Then another and another and another right till the end of your scene. Then you might want to also use them for your sequels but sequels are a lot more free flowing so you can write free form for sequels.
The key in motivation-reaction units is to write something external that happens to your character followed immediately by a reaction from your character. This is in real time.
For example, a cup of coffee spills on your main characters’ lap and she yanks her chair back in pain and yelps.
Or a boy sees a tree and suddenly has the urge to climb it.
Or an adult is in a conversation and is asked how his day is. He now needs to respond.
The key is to pick the motivations and the reactions that will be most resonant with your characters, and most powerful in making the powerful emotional experience.
Whatever the case, emotional fiction works as picking key motivations that will get responses from your characters, and then writing their reactions to them.
Now they follow one more rule you need to bear in mind. A motivation should always be outside of your character’s point of view. Don’t say ‘She saw a bear’, say ‘there was a bear’. Keep it external.
Then the reaction is always from your character and always follows an order. It starts with a physiological reaction (a bead of sweat rolled down her forehead) followed by a reflex (and she instinctively took a breath) followed by rational thought or actions. (Then she bolted in the opposite direction as fast as she could).
You don’t have to put in all three.
Oftentimes you won’t.
Someone asking ‘how was your day’ doesn’t need your character to sweat bullets about it or break down into insanity. They can just say something back and ignore the physiological reaction and the reflex.
But when you use MRU’s, you’ll create reactions that are realistic.
If ever you incorporate two out of three (for example the physiological reaction and the reflex but not the conscious action), then you want to still put them in the right places.
You wouldn’t be a soldier pelted with mortar fire and shout ‘duck’ before ducking yourself. You would duck first reflexively, even if that’s only microseconds before you shout ‘duck’ to your comrades.
This needs to be in the right order otherwise it can momentarily break your readers’ attention and emotional experience.
And that one second can make you lose a reader.
So be very careful.
Now these three things are skills.
They will take time to learn and that could be months to properly implement them.
But rest assured, you can learn them. Just put some time into it everyday and even if you never want to use them, at least know them because they then become tools on your toolbelt. And every craftsmen needs to know their tools, amirite?
And if you suddenly have the urge to write something and post it into Kindle, do it! It’s absolutely free of charge, and you can find my full guide on Kindle Publishing here.
Anyway, that’s it for this article. If you did enjoy, definitely leave a comment letting me know your thoughts and if you want to start publishing your fiction onto Kindle even if you didn’t find this course helpful, why not check out my review on Stefan’s course on Amazon Kindle Publishing here?
Until next time!