Writing Fiction: The Keys to Characterization

Serious music students practice their scales, learning the notes by rote before they ever play a piece of music. They play the same piece over and over, receiving correction from a teacher until playing at a satisfactory level. Likewise, a writer who uses a spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checking tool to review a piece can learn from the corrections, improving her finished product. The writer who studies her craft can learn to play symphonies, while the writer who shuns formal learning and relies solely on instinct may find herself stuck playing “Chopsticks.”

What is Characterization?

Talent and learning must come together to produce great writing. Like spelling and grammar, characterization is a skill that can be learned. Characterization is, simply defined, the process by which the author reveals a character to the reader.

Details like mannerisms, dialogue, and physical appearance all contribute to the building of the character in the reader’s mind. The reader gets to know the characters through the process of characterization.

Characters, like people, reveal themselves through various means. Dialogue, appearance, speech, and the effect a person has on those who already know him all play a part in forming our assumptions of a character. Characterization can be either direct or indirect, and both types fall into one of several categories.

Direct & Indirect Characterization

Direct characterization should be used sparingly. Description of a character’s appearance, mannerism, personality, or habits is direct characterization. A common ploy, especially among new or inexperienced authors, is to have the character studying himself or herself in a mirror. The technique, when the writer uses the opportunity to simply describe the physical characteristics, results in the impression of a narcissistic character obsessed with his or her appearance, unless the physical description is secondary to the character’s thoughts and feelings about his or her appearance.

 

In Piers Anthony’s book Ogre, Ogre the main character, Tandy, examines herself in a mirror:

She was nineteen years old, but she looked like a child in her nightie and lady-slippers, her brown tresses mussed from constant squirming, her blue eyes peering out worriedly. She wished she looked more like her mother- but of course no human person could match the pretty faces and fantastic figures of nymphs.

From this short paragraph, the reader learns that Tandy is childlike, with brown hair and blue eyes, but far more of Tandy’s character and current state of mind is revealed than her physical statistics. The reader sees a troubled young woman, the child of a mythological creature who is slightly insecure in her own emerging womanhood.

Characterization with Dialogue

Actions may speak louder than words, but in writing, speech is the primary tool for revealing a character to the reader. Dialogue is one of the most effective ways of conveying not only information that moves the story forward, but details about the speaker.

Grammar, word choice, dialect, accent, tone, and delivery all come together to paint an indelible picture in the reader’s mind. Dialogue may be spoken (external) or written (internal). A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Well-crafted dialogue will paint a picture in the reader’s mind, revealing clues about age, education, social status, attitude, worldview, and bent, that would take pages of pure description to create.

A Character’s Effect on Others

 

The effect a character has on others is another subtle yet important tool. The character who commands an air of respect is likely the hero, while the one who inspires sneers may be the villain or the underdog. Lemony Snicket, in A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, used the children’s first impression of Count Olaf to strongly influence the reader’s view of the villain:

They wondered … whether, for the rest of their lives, they would always feel as though Count Olaf were watching them even when he wasn’t nearby.

The Effects of a Character’s Name

What’s in a name? A character’s name can be an indicator of their basic personality. Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape both have memorable and sinister-sounding names that fit their personalities. Bilbo Baggins sounds like a respectable sort of individual from a long line of stolid ancestors. Huckleberry Finn is the ideal handle for the delinquent child of a drunken vagabond. By employing a combination of direct and indirect characterization techniques, the writer can create characters that come to life on the page.

[box]Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.[/box]

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He's Gone

As something like a foreword, I’d like to say this took me months to write, and it still feels like it’s not enough. I’m hoping the writing and publishing of it all will help with the grief. I still feel it plenty.

Tuesday night I had a horrible dream. I dreamed that my dog Taubensee was alive, but still sick. I dreamed he had somehow come back to life after being put to sleep. And in the dream I was overcome with grief at the realization that I had tried to kill him when he wasn’t ready to die.

If you’re a pet lover, I don’t have to explain why Wednesday morning was a serious struggle for me.

***

Taubensee was my first pet. I adopted him in 2000, and the only things I really knew about pet ownership at the time were: 1) I wanted a dog, 2) it was absolutely essential the dog have floppy ears, and 3) I was going to name whichever dog I adopted after my favorite Cincinnati Reds catcher–no matter what.

After visiting a few shelters and not feeling that thing, I found Taubensee in the back room of the Warrick Humane Society. I was twenty; he was barely four weeks. He was so young and so new to the shelter that he was being held in the quarantine area until a vet could look him over and make sure everything checked out okay. He could be adopted, but he couldn’t be taken home just yet.

He was the tiniest, fluffiest, shivering-est, ball of fur I’d ever seen. He was curled up in a towel facing the corner, all alone.

All alone like me on my first day of kindergarten. I couldn’t even see his face, but I understood him immediately: It’s not shy or anti-social if you just prefer being alone.  If Taubensee could have taken a Myers-Briggs assessment, he’d have been an INFJ like me. There’s no doubt in my mind.

***

In the early days, when Taub and I were trying to work out a schedule, I’d often have to let him outside in the wee hours. I’d crawl back in bed rather than wait for him to finish his business by the back door, because he was always pokey and I was always groggy. Besides, he’d let me know when he was ready to come back in by letting out a bark or two by the bedroom window.

Until he came up with a better idea.

One night I was startled by the sound of a great thud! against the house right outside my bedroom window. It was immediately followed by the sound of something screeching and slipping against the aluminum siding. I went to the back door and found Taubensee sopping wet on the back stoop, more than ready to come inside. I toweled him off. We went to bed.

The next morning when I went out back there were puppy paw prints and streaks of mud on the siding under the window. Apparently Taub had jumped at the bedroom window during the night to get my attention. Unable to grab a hold of anything, he slid down the wall, trails of mud marking his descent. By my estimation he’d thrown himself at the house at least a dozen times.

***

When Taubensee was three, I witnessed him having a seizure for the first time. Watching my precious Puppybutt on the kitchen floor convulsing was horrible. I didn’t know what to do, so I pretty much just resorted to hysterics.

The seizure eventually ended, I called the vet, and in relatively short order, Taubensee was diagnosed with canine epilepsy. He took phenobarbital morning and night for ten years. It always came wrapped in a tiny treat, accompanied by a head scratch and a “Goooooood puppy!” (said in that low, dumb voice that dog owners often use).

The medicine didn’t stop his seizures entirely, but when they did surface, they were shorter and milder. I was so relieved. When a seizure did break through, Taubensee’s ability to walk was usually the first thing to go. His joints wouldn’t bend, and his muscles just wouldn’t cooperate no matter how hard he tried. Still he’d paw and lean his way as close to me as he could get.

I’d meet him halfway–well, probably more–and I’d pet him and tell him I loved him until the shaking ended. When it was all over I’d say, “Want a treat?” and he’d run to Treat Station (the place where the puppy treats were stored in the kitchen, duh) like nothing had ever happened.

***

For thirteen years people told me I really had something special. And I knew it was true. Taub was the Best. Dog. Ever. He never drank from the toilet. He never sniffed a crotch. He only jumped up on family. He never ran away. He curled up in a ball and slept on car rides.

He climbed in the bathtub all by himself. All I had to do was run the water, call his name, and point to the tub. He’d reluctantly climb in and await further instruction.

***

Taubensee had been a snorer since he was about five, but it wasn’t the loud, disruptive snore of a 200-pound human. It was a soothing, sleep-inducing reminder that your best friend was close by and everything was right.

But one night in July I noticed Taubensee’s breathing at night was really loud and labored. I called the vet, Dan took him the next morning. They did X-rays, and his lungs looked cloudy. We tried a few things, but nothing really worked and so the vet didn’t delay in referring him to a specialist. Taubensee was admitted for some tests and kept overnight. He was clearly sick, dehydrated, and malnourished.

We left him in the care of the staff at the emergency vet, and spent the next couple of days in Milwaukee for a funeral. Dan’s father had passed away.

I called the vet to check on Taubensee while we were away. They’d put him on an IV, they were syringe feeding him. On our way back from Milwaukee, we stopped at the veterinary hospital to pick him up.

He wagged his tail at us, but his tail was heartbreakingly lower than usual. He was looking better because they’d been pumping him full of fluids, but he was still lethargic. Still struggling to breathe.

In the last few hours we had Taubensee at home, Dan and I carried him everywhere: outside, upstairs, downstairs, to his food bowl. We lifted him into his favorite chair. We tried forcing medicine and food down his throat, but he refused. His last night at home, I put an air mattress on the floor, and Taub and I slept side-by-side.

We took him back to the emergency vet the next day, where I explained we couldn’t get him to eat or take his medicine. When the vet tech interpreted what I was unable to say, I broke down in tears in the lobby.

Taubensee was 13, and to the best of our knowledge he died of cancer. They did a couple of different tests to try and verify what was wrong during the whole ordeal, but they were inconclusive. What we did know is there were lots of spots on his lungs, and he could hardly take in a breath. More tests weren’t going to make him feel better.

I know why they call it “putting to sleep.” Because he passed away peacefully, with his head in my lap. He looked me straight in the eye while I cooed at him, and then he became totally relaxed. His breathing eased, and Dan and I mooshed him and told him we loved him until the vet said, “He’s gone.”

Taubensee

January 8, 2000 — August 4, 2013

I Do (and Read) What I Want

So, remember how in my last post I was all, “I’ve got ideas for this blog” and “contributors” and “news forthcoming.”

Yeeeah, no.

After further reflection, I’ve decided the last thing I want to do right now is give myself another writing project. The day job and my freelancing work provide the perfect number of deadlines for the time being.

Besides, I’m enjoying coming home from work with energy left to exercise my brain, so I’ve been letting myself indulge in books. Since moving to Champaign, I’ve read:

That might not seem like a lot for the hardcore book nerds out there, but eight books since September trumps my January through August average by, like, I dunno…a lot. I attribute my newfound energy and desire to read again to two things: going back to Central Time and having access to natural daylight at the new day job.

Anyway, of the eight titles listed, I’d have to say that In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin was my favorite. Despite the horrible title, it was a fascinating read. It’s by Erik Larson, the guy who wrote Devil in the White City, and it follows the lives of the reluctant American ambassador to Germany and his family at the time Hitler was coming to power

A fair number of people on Goodreads complained about how much attention Larson gave to the ambassador’s daughter’s scandalous love life. I think those people are idiots. First of all, her diary provided a first-person account of a historically significant period. Second of all, that a member of the Nazi party tried to set her up with Hitler, that she fell in love with a guy in the Russian military, that she slept with whomever she pleased in 19-freaking-33, that her escapades complicated life for her dad—those things are damn relevant to a story about the ambassador and his family.

My one caution: Because Larson quotes primary sources where he can, the prose can get a little clunky. This one reads closer to the non-fiction it is, where Devil in the White City reads a little more novel-like. Prepare yourself for grammatical structures that are a little more complicated than “See Dick run.”

 

Book Review: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang


My Goodreads review of Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang:

I’ve never seen her show, but after reading this book I think I understand why it’s on E!

Last weekend I got my Champaign Public Library card and promptly installed the app for checking out e-books. Eager to get started and see how things worked, I borrowed my first library e-book, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.

Now, before you lay into me about how stupid that decision was, a few lame excuses:

  1. I did not recognize Chelsea Handler’s name
  2. Although I’d heard of the show Chelsea Lately somehow, somewhere before, I’d never seen it and was therefore unable to make the connection between Handler and E! until after she mentioned it in her book
  3. I’m a sucker for the words “irreverent humor” in a book review or description
  4. Many first-choice titles already had holds placed on them, and I wanted to devour a book, dammit

Just how much of Handler’s memoir is shtick and how much is factual is hard for me to determine. She seems at times to be genuinely atrocious (for example, joking—or maybe not—about euthanizing her father) until she dedicates an entire self-admiring chapter to the ridiculous lies she gets people to believe.

I suppose as readers we’re supposed to have some philosophical, internal debate about whether or not the whole book is a lie. Or about whether Chelsea Handler, the person, is a lie. But that doesn’t work for me. I know people like this in real life—people who get off on making others wonder if they’re genuine or if they’re not—and they’re tedious, off-putting jerkwads.

Ugh. This is why I don’t watch the programming on E! It turns me into Judgy McJudgerson.

Anyway, the book’s saving grace? It’s short, conversational, and well-edited. So if you’re like me and you get some sense of satisfaction from merely finishing a book, you can mark this sucker “read” in a couple of hours.

What I recommend instead of this book: Here Comes Trouble
What I’m reading now: In the Garden of Beasts

 

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What You Should Know (in Less Than 400 Words)

photoIn the last couple of months, I’ve received emails from a few readers feigning harassment over my lack of posts here at Suess’s Pieces. So maybe an explanation is in order. I mean, it’s certainly not my intention that this blog lie stagnant for much longer.

You see, since the end of July a lot’s happened here. I quit one job, started another, put my home up for sale, and moved out of state. (Still waiting on that house to sell, so mortgage and rent right now. Hooray!) And all of that came at me just a couple of weeks after my top-secret Vegas wedding and vacation were canceled due to the death of a dear family member and the hospitalization and death of my 13-year-old dog.

I say that not to get your sympathy—we’re doing okay now—but to remind everyone out there that a real person dedicated all that free time to yanking chains at Author Solutions. And since that was a time-sucking, money-burning endeavor, continuing with regular updates about a company I despised didn’t even rank on my list of priorities.

Besides, with the announcement of the lawsuit against Author Solutions, it seemed like a good time to leave the rest of the investigating and exposing to the pros. The work to warn writers about predatory self-publishing companies continues on sites like Writer Beware and Let’s Get Digital, and the archive of anti-Author Solutions posts remains for anyone with an itch to do consumer research before they hand over their credit card info.

I’ll certainly continue to post juicy updates here and link you to relevant industry info, but it will no longer be the sole focus of this blog.

So, here’s what’s up. I am going to get back to discussing more enjoyable things on Suess’s Pieces. Things like books and writing and libraries and reading and education. I’ll also be welcoming content from others. And I don’t mean guest posts, per se. I mean adding contributors (though those contributors may write for Suess’s Pieces once or a hundred times, depending).

Submission details will be coming soon, but I can say this right now: there’s no money to be had writing here…for you or me! Ha!

The Dangerous Allure of Self-Publishing: 5 Real Lessons from a Fictional Character

by Philip J Reed, of Noiseless Chatter:  television, film, literature, music, and everything else you shouldn’t be wasting your time with

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I’m a huge fan of Peep Show.  It’s a British comedy that’s been running for eight seasons (so far), and a huge part of its appeal is just how painfully awkward it is.  Its two main characters — Mark and Jeremy — aren’t sympathetic at all…and yet they still manage to be extraordinarily relatable.  Watching the show is often a deliberately uncomfortable experience, but it’s never cheap; it’s always married to razor-sharp writing and two brilliant performances.

The most recent batch of episodes, however, managed to make me uncomfortable in a way that the others hadn’t.  That’s because in an installment entitled “Business Secrets of the Pharaohs,” Mark, the put-upon introvert of the show, gets swindled by a self-publishing house.  And while the details are pretty different from what I went through (I’ve been interviewed about it by this very site, if you’re interested) the way the episode explores Mark’s mindset, and the way it makes clear to the viewer what Mark himself is too hopeful to acknowledge, reminded me, uncomfortably, of my own foray into the world of self-publishing.

So I reached out to Emily and asked if I could put this together, in the hopes that an episode like this (which is on Youtube in its entirety, should you decide to look for it…) might help somebody, at least one person, somewhere, keep a level head in the face of the seductive promises of self-publishing.  Hopefully Mark’s embarrassment — and mine — can spare you at least a little of your own.

peepshow1

1)  Don’t Fall for a Glitzy Image

While the episode is about Mark self-publishing his book, Business Secrets of the Pharaohs, his roommate Jeremy has a thematically-similar plot:  he’s enrolling in a fly-by-night training program to become a life coach.  Interestingly enough, each of the two friends sees exactly what’s wrong with the other’s situation…but neither will admit it about their own.

When confronted, Jeremy shows Mark the same pamphlet that won him over, and explains that “It’s proper.  They’ve got a website.”

Mark’s response to him is one that he — and anyone interested in self-publishing — would be wise to keep in mind:  “Oh, well, I’m sorry.  If they’ve got a website then the people running it definitely have fingers.  And a computer!  Or at least the address of an internet café.”

Anyone can produce a nice pamphlet, or a flashy website.  Anyone can slap up some customer testimonials.  (When’s the last time you’ve checked one to make sure it was genuine?  Where would you even begin if you wanted to?)  What you have to remember is that pamphlets, business cards and websites are just things.  Anyone can appear successful and can entice you to want to work with them, but ultimately that means nothing.  Or, rather, that means that the person took the time to mock something up.  Genuine or not, that isn’t where your research about the company should end.

Look online.  Find actual reviews from actual past clients.  Ask for copies of books that they’ve published in the past.  Any reputable publisher should be happy to show off their work; if they treat your request like it’s ridiculous, take a moment to wonder why that might be.

It’s great if the services listed on their website line up very well with what you were hoping to see, but bear in mind that their site exists only to sell to you.  It’s no gauge of quality, reliability, or ethics.  Dig deeper.  You might not like what you see, but that’s better than seeing it too late.

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2)  Be Realistic About Your Work

The screengrab above shows the faces of two people who’ve just heard what Mark’s book is about.  Do people look like that when you start describing your own work?  Then you may have to face a difficult fact:  it might not have an audience.

It’s easy for a writer to develop an inflated sense of the value of his or her own material.  I know, because I am a writer, and everything I produce is fantastic.

But you have to be realistic.  Mark, by this point, has spent eight seasons trying to interest a publisher in Business Secrets of the Pharaohs.  And while it’s always possible that a struggling author just hasn’t found the right match for his material, it’s also possible that it’s the material that’s the problem.

Would anyone want to read about your interpretation of the presumed negotiating tactics of a long-dead civilization?  Nobody wants to read Mark’s…but he doesn’t want to admit that to himself.  At one point he even describes it as “an important work of world literature.”  Spoiler:  it’s not.  And it’s important that you can view your own work through a realistic lens as well.

If you can’t find an agent or a publisher for your manuscript, it may be worth looking at the manuscript.  It may be worth looking at your query letters, your sample chapters, and anything else you’ve been sending out.  The answer isn’t to pay somebody to publish your work…it’s to refine your work so that somebody wants to publish it.

Believe me, I know this can be a difficult lesson to learn.  I spent years shopping around a manuscript that went nowhere.  I tried a few approaches, but ultimately came to accept that even if it was a great book, it wasn’t something that many agents or publishers would take a risk on.  I could pay to publish it (there’s always somebody that will be happy to take your money), but instead I decided to work on another project, one that would be more marketable, and serve as less of a risk.  If that gets published, I may be able to find some interest in my earlier manuscript.  But even if it doesn’t, I feel good about taking a constructive approach to the solution.

And you will, too.

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3)  You Need to Do the Work Yourself

At one point in the episode, Jeremy finds Mark at his computer, typing furiously away, unaware that he’s had caps lock on the entire time.  But it’s okay, the friends figure…a publisher would surely correct something like that before going to press.

Obviously this is funny for one very obvious reason, which is that your manuscript needs to be in absolutely perfect shape before you start soliciting.  There aren’t second chances, and you’d be foolish to assume that a publisher who saw a caps-locked screed land on his desk would give you a chance to fix it up later, after you’ve signed a three-book, twenty-million dollar deal.

Then again, Jeremy does have a small point:  if they wanted Mark’s book, truly wanted it, wouldn’t they be willing to make at least a few editorial corrections?

The answer is yes.  Of course they would.

Unless they’re a self-publishing company, in which case that’s an add-on service, and you’ll pay for that.

Whether it’s editing, formatting, promotion, or even a simple spell-check, self-publishers will charge you for everything they do.  And while that may sound like a nice idea for folks who can afford it, it bears repeating that paying for a service isn’t necessarily paying for quality.

My experience working with a self-publisher to fix errors in my book was a nightmare.  It actually ended up making things worse in the final product.  Money well spent, right?

If you’re going to self-publish, you need to make sure that you can handle all aspects of the process on your own.  Don’t count on them to get things right, because there’s no self-publishing agreement in the world that will force them to make good on unsatisfactory work.  The contracts are drawn up to reflect their interests, not yours, and they have nothing to lose if your book fails; they’ve already been paid.  When nobody buys your book, you’re the one who will feel foolish; not them.

You need to do everything on your own.  It’s not enough to be a great writer, or even to be an impeccably careful writer.  You’ll also need to promote the book (assuming its final form is even something you’d want to promote).  Can you do that?  Because if you can’t, self-publishing might not be for you.  You can always pay an exorbitant price for a Promotion Plan…which is usually a pack of simple fliers and a listing in a proprietary magazine no human being will ever read…but unless you’re keen on doing any and all legwork for the life of your book, you’d be better served by a traditional publishing house, which does have an interest in your success.

And that’s where you should be looking.  It won’t be an easy road…but it’s the only road.

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4)  Treat Red Flags As Red Flags

It’s very easy to get swept away by the allure of being a published author.  It’s what we all want, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Unfortunately that’s exactly what self-publishers prey upon.  Poor Mark lacks confidence, he can’t get a publisher interested, and he feels as though he’s a failure.  So when British London accepts his book, he’s ecstatic.  Why wouldn’t he be?  His dream is coming true.

Or, at least, he wants to believe that his dream is coming true.  And so did I.  And so would you.  But we can’t be blind to reality.  It’s important to stay grounded, because if we don’t, we’ll get swept away.  Remember that self-publishing houses are not staffed by agents and editors…they’re staffed by sales people.  They will find out what you want, convince you that self-publishing is the way to get those things, and do anything they can in order to obtain a sum of money.  That is their job.

Throughout the episode Mark fails to notice red flags.  Not because he’s a fool — and you wouldn’t be a fool for being taken in, either; these are very good sales people — but because he doesn’t want to admit that this might be anything less than he wants it to be.

When the representative from British London asks to meet him at a food truck on the side of a highway, it doesn’t even register with Mark.  He even looks at the table of condiments and thinks, “This must be the greatest quantity of squeezable mustard ever present at a literary lunch.”  He’s thinking it in awe…but he should be thinking it in fear!  He sees a red flag, but interprets it as a good sign.

As Mark discusses his book with his representative, it’s clear that the man hasn’t read Business Secrets of the Pharaohs.  It’s equally clear that he doesn’t care about its quality…though Mark interprets this, again, as a compliment, since he has “no notes at all” on the material.

If a publisher has “no notes” on your material…forgive me for saying this…that’s not a reflection on how miraculously brilliant and utterly perfect your first-draft was; that’s a reflection of how little they care about the quality of the pieces they publish.

Does that sound like a compliment to you?

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5)  Admit to Yourself You’ve Been Taken

It happens.  You were seduced.  Part of you knew better, but you were able to keep that part quiet long enough to complete the PayPal transaction.  And now you hold a copy of your book.  Your book!

Only your book is full of errors.  The text disappears into the binding.  Your name is spelled incorrectly on the cover.  You’re heart-broken.  It’s too late to go back.  You’ve humiliated yourself in front of everybody you’ve been bragging to about the publication…and you’re not getting your money back.

This is what happens to Mark, and it’s not any kind of exaggeration at all.  Self-published material is often shoddy.  Somebody makes you big promises, but what you hold in your hands is a physical manifestation of artistic disappointment.

Here’s what I want to tell you about that:  it’s okay.

Really, it is.

You’re not an idiot.  You were taken.  And that’s okay.

Why do I say it’s okay?  Because if you don’t believe it’s okay, you’ll try to convince yourself otherwise.  You’ll convince yourself that next time it will go better.  In short, you’ll do it all over again.  This is why you need admit you have made a mistake.

Mark gets so swept up in the excitement of his impending publication that he spends more time deciding what kind of nuts to serve at his self-financed launch party than he does thinking about whether or not he’s working with a reputable publishing house.  But when the book arrives, with that misspelt name on the cover and the text printed in an unreadable format, he owns his mistake.  He lets everybody at his own launch party know that the book is a disaster, a tragedy, and proof of a broken promise.

His money isn’t coming back, and neither is his pride, but at least he won’t lose more money and pride by trying again.

You’re a human being.  You have desires, needs, and goals.  If you’ve lived long enough to consider yourself a writer, then you’ve lived long enough to know that there are those who will exploit your ambitions for their own personal gain.  In fact, there’s an entire industry out there designed to do exactly that.

Watching “Business Secrets of the Pharaohs” was something I had to do through laced fingers.  Mark’s an intelligent guy who just wants to believe that the universe has offered him a break.  I remember that feeling well.  It’s a nice thought…but it’s no substitute for reality.

Be careful.  Be honest with yourself.  And, for heaven’s sake, keep your wallet in your pocket. You’ll thank me later.