Saturday, May 16, 2015

You Have a Voice, So Listen!

Today, author Karla Sorensen takes over my blog on an important topic for readers and authors alike.

Hearing Your Own Voice

Writing a book is hard. Selling them is even harder. And every single day, there are lots and LOTS of books published, whether traditionally or self-published. Readers have more choices now than ever before, and it’s fairly overwhelming, isn’t it?

So, as an author, what’s the best way to crack into that sweet spot? You know the one, not only writing books, but actually selling enough to make some dough. Well, I could write a tortured, handsome, alpha billionaire or a step-brother romance and I’d probably do fairly well for myself. And if I made him a shape-shifter? Watch out, Amazon Top 100, I’m comin’ for you.

We all laugh at some of the books out for sale now, you know which ones I’m talking about. Dinosaurs and toasters and were-bears, oh my! I’m of the thought process that writing for the market is dangerous. And I say that knowing that I may sound naively principled to some people. Stupidly optimistic.

But what if next year, those books we all kind of scoff at in disbelief, those space dinosaur toaster-loving erotica become the hottest thing in ebooks since Christian Grey used a riding crop? Would you write it?

I won’t. I’m going to write my book, in my voice. I’m going to write realistic love stories about everyday people that make the reader laugh and smile and maybe tear up a little bit. The best compliment that I receive, the one that makes me smile the biggest, is when people tell me that they can ‘hear’ me when they’re reading my book. The heroine in my debut romantic comedy isn’t me. I am definitely not Casey, even if I wish I could be as organized and energetic as she is. And I’m certainly not like Jake, the silent, slightly broody hero. But when people read my words, they should be able to hear ME. I’m an upbeat person, I say things like ‘fricken’ and ‘dude’ a lot. I like to make people smile when I talk to them. I’m just a touch sarcastic and if I like you, I’ll probably give you crap.

And the reason I’m giving you a rundown of my personality is because these are things that you should be able to pick up in my writing. A good writer will harness their voice in everyday life and channel it into their writing. I firmly believe that if I write the books that feel most natural to me, the ones that I love to write because they’re ME, that readers will respond better. Now, I may not sell as many as if I churned out something a little steamier and a little darker, but honestly, I’m okay with that.

It’s also very easy to get into the comparison game when you become an author. Man, I wish I could make someone cry with laughter like Kristan Higgins or give someone goosebumps with my prose like Tarryn Fisher. But I can’t. My friend Whitney Barbetti wrote a book called Ten Below Zero that is categorized as an ‘ugly cry’ book. It’s beautiful and touching and it’s just not the kind of book that I could ever write. And isn’t that awesome? I’m just me. I’m Karla Sorensen, and that is the best, most successful writer I can be. I still get to be ‘reader Karla’ and experience these books that I couldn’t pull off writing. Those three authors that I mentioned? They write THEIR books, their way. They found a niche and they found an audience who feels something reading their words.

It’s all any author can hope for.

So if you’re reading this and you aspire to be a writer, go for it! But stay true to YOU. I know I will be.

Check out Karla on her site at

And don't forget her latest title, By Your Side- available now!

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Steph Nuss Talks Character Profiling

Character Profiling: Why Every Writer Should Profile
Hello, my name is Steph Nuss, and I’m the author of the contemporary romance series, Love in the City. I want to thank Amanda Aksel for letting me take over her blog today to share an important lesson I learned on this writing journey of mine, and that is the art of character profiling.

I had a huge realization after I finished the first draft of my first book, Wanted By You (Love in the City, #1): I didn’t really know my characters. And by know, I mean, really know every single thing about them. From their likes and dislikes to how they reacted to certain situations and various other things, I didn’t have a clue. I had someone ask me a load of questions about my hero and heroine after they read my first draft, and I completely stumbled through giving them the answers. So, that’s when it was suggested that I profile every character in my book. And by every character, I mean, every character; not just the hero and heroine. All the characters from the leads to the secondary characters all play a role. 

So, I found a character profiling form online (click here to get the form for yourself), and started filling it out for each of my characters. It’s nine pages long and it goes in depth. Character profiling isn’t just about knowing all the little details like their birthday, hair color and body type; it’s so much more. It’s getting to know your character’s personality, who they are as people, and what makes them tick, and most importantly, why. You constantly have to ask yourself why? Why are they like that? Why do they do the things they do? Why wouldn’t they do this or that? If you don’t have the answers to all the whys, you should be character profiling so you can figure them out.

The form I provided helped me learn so much more about my characters as well as stay organized as a writer. Not only can I tell you all their favorites, but if you asked me why they favor something, I can give you the answer for it. Character profiling gets you inside the mind of your characters. For example, as most of us know, most men refer to their penises a certain way. Some may call it a cock; some may call it a dick; some may have a herculean nickname for it. Whatever the case, they call it something, and they usually don’t vary from calling it anything else. I do not refer to my boobs as anything other than boobs. I do not call them tits or breasts, and I have my reasoning for why I don’t. “Tits” makes me think of men talking about boobs, and “breasts” is too anatomical for me. So, I call them boobs. If you don’t know these small details about your characters, you should be profiling them.

But it’s not just about how they refer to their body parts. The character profiling form I provided asks you various things about your characters like who they’d like to be like, what celebrity they look like, how they treat others and why, what kind of clothes they wear, how they say things (Do they have an accent? Do they curse?), what their morning routine is, what time they get off work, etc. Filling the form out to its entirety for each of my characters helped me write a better book. My first draft was all over the place, but once I profiled all of my characters, the story practically rewrote itself because I was no longer just writing a story; I was writing Carter and Ellyson’s story.

The emotions in their story were so much stronger in the second draft because I finally knew my characters. I knew how they would react, how they would say their reactions and what actions they would use to react. For example, in Wanted By You (Love in the City, #1), Carter gets upset with Ellyson over a certain situation. In the first draft, I had him saying things he would never say to her because he loves her, even if she’s just pissed him off, and I had Elly saying shit right back to him. You know, the typical, dramatic argument between a woman and a man? No, I was so wrong because that’s not who my characters are. In the second and final draft, you know Carter’s upset with her by how Elly describes his reaction, but instead of having him say something that would be completely out of character for him and having her react out of character for her, I had him leave her apartment and then she breaks down in private.

Can you see the difference? The way the emotions heightened after profiling my characters, and how they went from being a couple they really weren’t to being the couple they truly are. I know I did because when I was writing it, I felt every single emotion the characters were feeling. From Carter’s frustration with Elly to Elly’s sadness over what had transpired, I felt it all.

That’s the beauty of character profiling. I think if you’re not feeling the way your characters are feeling, and I mean the want-to-cry-your-eyes-out-with-your-heroine feeling, something’s wrong. If you can’t evoke your characters’ emotions from yourself as the writer, how do you expect to evoke them from your readers? You have to truly know your characters for them to affect you like that, and character profiling is the perfect way to get to know them.

Another important thing to remember when character profiling, is to keep the characters’ characteristics the same throughout the story, series, and what not. In my Love in the City series, each book can be read as a stand-alone and ends in a happily ever after, but the group of friends is featured in every book. So, it’s important for me to keep every character’s personality the same throughout the series. I can’t have Paige going soft in book two when she was a cold-hearted bitch in book one. She’s the ice queen for a reason, and in her book, the readers will find out why she is the way she is.

I recently read a sequel to a novel I absolutely loved, but I was shocked when the author had the characters doing something I thought was completely out of character. Maybe I don’t know the characters the way the author does because it’s not my book, but as a writer and an avid reader, it was something I picked up on while reading the sequel because I’ve profiled my own characters. And I can honestly say it made me wish I hadn’t read the sequel. Just an idea to keep in mind after profiling your characters: don’t forget who they are.

So, if you’re stuck writing a scene or you can’t answer all the why-questions about your characters, try profiling them. It may help cure that writer’s block you’ve been struggling with. It may help you finish that novel you’ve always wanted to write. I think once you get the hang of it, you’ll really enjoy doing it. I know I do, but I also have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and trying to figure out how and why people are the way they are really fascinates me. Nine pages of information about one character may seem like a lot, but if you think about, you’re writing over a hundred pages for their story; you should know at least nine pages of information about them. Do your characters justice and get to know them so you can tell the story you were meant to tell.

If you have any questions or would like to see my character profiles for an example, please contact me at You may also read my characters’ bios (their favorites) on my website by clicking here. Character profiling saved my first book which lead to me writing an even better second book, Fantasized By You (Love in the City, #2), and eventually the third, Pleasured By You (Love in the City, #3). Profiling your characters can and will help you, too!

As an avid reader myself and after profiling my own characters, I now understand why writers must profile their characters: to truly enjoy the story the writer intended to tell. I know many of us read the same books, but we come away with different feelings and thoughts afterwards, almost as if we didn’t even read the same book. Maybe we thought the character should’ve done this instead of that or the book should’ve ended a certain way rather than the way it did. But I truly believe it all comes back to getting to know and fully understanding the characters we read and write about. I remember reading Amanda’s debut novel, The Man Test, and immediately falling in love with her heroine, Marin. Marin was so relatable; everything she did, I stood by. I put myself in her shoes and thought the way she did while I was reading her story. That’s great character profiling: when you can put yourself in the characters’ shoes, and completely understand the reasons behind their thought processes and actions. Fantastic job, Amanda!

So, the next time you find yourself upset with a writer or their characters, try to put yourself in the characters’ story. It’s not your own personal story the writer wanted you to read; if it were, we’d all be writing biographies instead of romance novels. It doesn’t matter if you thought the character should’ve done something else or if the book should’ve ended differently. All that matters is that you attempted to read and understand the story the writer hoped you would. 


Check out Steph's Love in the City Series- Click the graphic to learn more.

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