A sweet little bullet from a pretty blue gun

Recently I wrote three posts about story structure. The first part discussed “story alignments” , the second part talked about openings that established an alignment, and the third part discussed actions within the body of the story.

I had planned on writing a fourth post, taking each of my example stories and describing a satisfying and an unsatisfying ending. However, reading over my earlier posts, I am not entirely happy with the groundwork I have laid and I think I’d better think it through again.

But I didn’t want to leave anyone who might have been following the series hanging, so I am writing this.

Still chewing over ideas, but at the moment I think my keyboard time is better spent working on my novel right now.

See ya in the funny papers, everybody.

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The Music To The Story In Your Eyes

Moving right along, then.  This is the third in a series of posts about story structure. The first part discussed “story alignments” and the second part talked about openings that established an alignment.

Now I am going to be talking about middles–specifically identifying examples of permissible and impermissible actions within the story proper, as defined by the expectations set up in the opening. To briefly recap, we are talking about three different stories; The Horrible Catastrophe, a disaster survival story about an earthquake hitting a small Indiana town, Brief Candles, a cyberpunk/noir story about a criminal gang pulling off a heist, and Marks Of The Beast, a horror story about a plague of lycanthropy.

Keep in mind that these are just examples off the top of my head and as such are not intended to show how plotting stories for consistency should or must be done, just one way in which it could be done. The goal of the exercise is simply to explore the concept of Story Alignments, not to create rules for their use.

Now on to the stories:

The Horrible Catastrophe: We have this huge rumble and crash scene, all kinds of running around screaming, things falling to the ground, dust and confusion everywhere, a nice montage of high dollar special effects showing all the folks that we just saw noshing grits and gravy in the diner being narrowly missed by collapsing masonry. Then we have the survivors shakily getting to their feet and realizing that they must now escape the devastated town.  Then the real story begins.

  • Permissible actions: We defined the story in the opening as Happy (a positive outcome for spotlighted characters) and Neutral (outcome not dependant on characters moral actions).  Our narrative incidents should reinforce rather than contradict this.  Thus the survival of the “elect” (defined, in this case, as characters that have been given enough screen/page time that the audience recognizes their names) should be assured. Narrational peril is acceptable, but the audience will know that anything really bad will only happen to walk-ons, not main characters. Thus the danger is shown by killing off characters who show up late.
  • Impermissible actions: Death coming to any named character outside of a “Noble Sacrifice” (the “Noble Sacrifice” is a signature of the Happy Neutral story because it shows that the peril is real while still allowing for a positive outcome for the named characters.) Judgemental Peril (again to named characters–walk-ons can reap the consequences of their cowardice or betrayal) that makes survival contingent upon being a “good guy”. The disaster (and the aftermath) cannot discriminate between the worthy and the unworthy.  The establishment of retributive justice as an end-state can be stated or implied, but the central conceit of the amorality of the disaster condition has to be maintained.

Brief Candles: The scam artist from the initial hotel scene is shown to have bigger ambitions.  She gathers a crew of criminals–the crème de la crème of crime.  Then they begin to make their plans for the big score.

  • Permissible actions: We want to keep the audience rooting for the bad guys (Neutral Immoral), and that means we want to keep the bad guys sympathetic. We want to show the universe in terms of “clever vs. dull” rather than “good vs. evil.” The gang should be shown not simply committing crimes, but planning elaborate schemes. The audience should be admiring the cunning and daring of the gang rather than thinking of them as criminals.
  • Impermissible actions: Thus we should avoid scenes in which the victims are sympathetic. Ideally the thefts should be from organizations so large that they can easily absorb the losses, or from other criminals shown to be worse than our heroes. Showing an innocent who is seriously hurt by our protagonist’s actions could break the mood.

Marks Of The Beast: We have introduced the mechanism by which the contagion is spread, and implied that effects of the contagion are grimmly moralistic.

  • Permissible actions: Our central conceit is built around a fear of supernatural justice (Unhappy Moral) so that is the theme we want to keep in the forefront. At the same time we want to introduce our protagonist who, in this story, can be considered the agent for the restoration of normalcy. As such he should be an authority figure, let’s go with the cliche and make him a small town cop. (This also makes sure he’s involved in all of the incidents.) So we have an episodic morality play, with Cop Joe linking the episodes. The individual events should be predictable–in the sense that the audience will be able to anticipate who will be cursed next and what form the curse will take.  That will foster a sense of inevitability.  One last thing that we want to include is a sense of “overjustice”–that the punishment is too harsh for the crime.  This will allow the audience to predict negative outcomes for characters who are sympathetic–without that, it’s not really horror at all.
  • Impermissible actions:  We have set up a fragile mechanism for suspension of disbelief, not simply in terms of logic (which we are not concerned with in these examples) but more relevantly in terms of tone. We want the audience to be imagining the form the retribution will take, but also wanting the characters (at least some of them) to escape it. The contagion can’t strike everyone who is set up for it, otherwise fighting it will seem pointless and we will stop wanting the hero to try.

Okay, this thing keeps rolling along.  I hope to wrap it up in my next section, which we be about endings.

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The Game That We Have Been Playing

This is a followup to my last post regarding the alignment of a story.

Before I get started I want to address a few points that I think are significant but didn’t spell out in my earlier post.

First, my list of Story Alignments is not meant to be either authoritative or exhaustive. I think it is one useful way of classifying what I mean when I speak of a story’s overall tone or feeling, but it’s not the only one by any means.  It may not fit for some stories.  For the purposes of this essay, however, I feel that it is a practical schema.

Second, I don’t intend that to imply that a well-told story can offer no surprises to the audience. Well-told stories will surprise–sometimes shock–the audience.  What I am saying is that a story alignment regulates the sheaf of possible outcomes. The audience may not know what, exactly, will happen to the characters, but should have a clear expectation of what sort of outcome lies within the locus of events defined by the story universe.

Thirdly, when I speak of permissible and impermissible events and outcomes within a story, I am speaking without reference to any logical or scientific realism. If a hero is a human being, then of course from a logical standpoint it follows that he is mortal and that he can–will, in time–die. However, in the narrative context of some stories the hero–as a Hero–may be assumed to be immortal.  That is to say that his death is not a permissible event, narratively speaking, within the story universe. (In other stories, of course, the character’s death may be permissible, and in still others, a required event.)

Now I am going to look at how to set up, maintain, and conclude a story alignment–the Beginning, Middle, and End of a story, viewed in terms of Alignment.  I am going to make up examples and counterexamples, rather than trying to find examples from existing stories, both from a desire to avoid spoilers and because I don’t like pointing out negative examples from real stories.

I am going to start with three possible stories.

Let’s start with The Horrible Catastrophe, an Irwin Allen style disaster epic about, oh, a huge earthquake that makes the entire town of Horrible, Indiana drop into a deep hole in the earth. This is going to be Happy, Neutral in the earlier schema. (Are the characters better off than when they started the story?  No, not really, but in this kind of story I think “Happy” can be defined in terms of “better off than when the action–in this case the earthquake–starts.”)

Next up is Brief Candles, a cyberpunk noir crime thriller about a gang of thieves planning and executing a high tech heist. This one is going to be Neutral, Immoral.

Lastly, how about Marks Of The Beast, a horror novel about a strain of lycanthropy that makes infected people turn into whatever animal they most resemble spiritually.  That’s going to be Unhappy, Moral.

The Beginning: This is where we set the scene and the audience gets a feel for what sort of story is going to be told.  Beginnings are delicate things and a misstep here can set up the audience for disappointment (and the author for scathing reviews).

The Horrible Catastrophe: 

  • The Right Beginning: We should begin by showing the characters as unaligned, as individuals who are about to be caught up in an experience not of their own making. A group of customers having breakfast at the Horrible Diner, for example, all dealing with the mundane details of their lives preparatory to starting the work day. Perhaps we have a pair of seismologists, discussing the odd readings from the day before as foreshadowing of the catastrophe to come, but as a value-neutral, scientific discussion–just part of their work.
  • The Wrong Beginning: If, on the other hand, we present the seismologists as crusaders who are fighting to keep their funding against the greedy plutocrats who want to spend the tax dollars on building a mall instead, we are setting up an expectation of moral agency to the catastrophe. (Which is a potential story–just not the one that we set out to tell.) Many “ecological disaster” stories do include that sort of moral agency, but that puts them into the Moral rather than the Neutral category. In that case, we would be setting up the audience to expect that the outcome would be contingent upon any given character’s moral choices rather than their circumstances.

Brief Candles:

  • The Right Beginning: We want to know from the outset that crime–in the context of this story–does pay.  We want to set the audience up to root for the bad guys. The natural inclination of most people is to dislike criminals, so we have to overcome that by showing the protagonists as being admirable in some other way. A tried and true method is to open with one of the characters–the ringleader, generally–pulling off some minor, but clever scam. Suppose we open with a woman at the desk of a five star hotel complaining loudly that her credit card has been stolen. She gets the sympathy of the manager, who manages to calm her down and issue a temporary card that can draw funds from the hotel until such time as the thief is found.  Then after the woman leaves, relieved and grateful, a second woman approaches the front desk, claiming the same name as the one who just left and we realize that who we thought was the victim was, in fact, the criminal. This lets the audience know from the start that daring and guile are rewarded in this story, rather than a pure heart.
  • The Wrong Beginning: The same scene could work against us, though, if the focus were to be on either the desk clerk or the legitimate patron. The audience should be thinking, “Gosh, she was clever to get away with that!” rather than “Oh, that poor clerk is going to lose his job now!” The moral inversion necessary to want a criminal to succeed is dependant on, among other things, a willing blindness to the larger consequences of the crime.

Marks Of The Beast: 

  • The Right Beginning: Again, introducing the audience to the proper moral perspective is the key to laying the proper foundation.  In this case, however, we want the audience to be judge, jury, and enthusiastic cheerleader of the executioner. Since we have a supernatural event as the core conceit in this instance, we also want to introduce that as soon as possible. So let’s say that we open with a dog pound. The night manager of the pound is someone that we don’t want the audience to like, so let’s make him mean to the dogs.  He can’t do anything too overt–that would be noticed–so he just teases them, showing them food and then taking it away, poking them with a blunt broom handle, just generally being a jerk to the poor beasts. Then a night delivery is made–cops have picked up a stray on the streets and brought it to the pound.  We let the audience know that this is no ordinary stray dog–a shot of the dog’s eyes glowing with an eldritch light, maybe some un-doglike behaviour like stopping to look at a sign as if it is reading it.  This dog, the audience will realize after the plot is revealed–is a transformed human. Our nasty night manager, aggrieved at having to the paperwork to accept the beast, takes his frustration out on the new dog and it–showing more than canine cunning–bites him. The manager runs to his first aid kit, but, alas, it’s too late.  He’s infected and begins showing strange symptoms, sweats, rashes, convulsions, and in the end falls to the ground and transforms (in what we hope is an agonizing process) into a snake.  This snake, panicked at being in a strange new body, slithers into the dog run with predictable results.  The dogs that he had tormented tear him apart.  No tears are shed.
  • The Wrong Beginning: Our primary conceit here is the uncanny as an instrument of divine retribution.  Along the way it will menace characters that the audience finds sympathetic. In fact, defeating the threat will be our end-state.  However, it has to be represented as a threat because it enforces an impossible standard of righteousness. (As an aside, the decline of the doctrine of original sin nerfs a lot of traditional horror conceits, but that’s a subject for another post.) The shapeshifting virus needs to be seen as having a legitimate claim to its first victim.  Then, once we are introduced to characters who have flaws that we can sympathize with, we can hope that they escape justice and are granted mercy, rather than they escape an unjust fate. So, if we were to present the first victim as an innocent–someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time–we have a different sort of story. Making the night manager of the kennel a simple, hardworking man who is kind to his charges would be “wrong” in this case–it would not set up the story that we want to tell.

Okay, this is getting long, so I am going to cut this off here and put the middles and the ends in another post.  Maybe two.


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The hidden law of a probable outcome

I have written before about what I call “negotiated suspension of disbelief“.

To give an example, I gave up on a book recently about three-quarters of the way through. The novel was a dystopian adventure in which a group of rebels were fighting against a striated society. The rulers of this society controlled all of the communications media and the rebels needed to get the message of their rebellion out to the masses.

So the heroes decided to contact the outer space colonies that had access to the communications satellites in order to override the rulers’ broadcasts.

At that point I said “You can’t do that” and gave up on the book.

Why? Because “outer space colonies” hadn’t been negotiated. There had been no mention of them up until that point. Granted, it was a far future Earth, and there was a high level of technology stipulated, so it wasn’t as if the existence of the colonies was as far outside of the zeitgeist as, say, magical flying dragons would have been. But at no point (at least no point that I recall) were the colonies mentioned prior to them becoming an important part of the plot. They just appeared.

That’s cheating. That particular kind of cheating is called deus ex machina, but there are others, not quite so obvious but often just as damaging to the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.

Sometimes the issue isn’t the sudden addition (or subtraction–how many problems in the Harry Potter universe could have been solved if the Time Turner existed in more than one book?) of a single contrafactual element, but rather a change in the overall nature of the story–what might be considered the universe’s “Alignment” (to steal a term from Dungeons & Dragons.)

For example the sudden alignment shift of a Hollywood Ending. (Again, I am not talking about the characters, but the story as a whole. Characters can and do change during the course of a story. Having a previously evil character find redemption or a previously good character succumb to temptation can be part of the story without violating the alignment of the universe as a whole.)

What I mean by Hollywood Ending is the basic nature of the story changing in the final moments. Everything is bleak and all hope is lost, the characters doomed to failure—and then suddenly everything is wonderful and the characters are happy and the credits roll. The issue isn’t whether or not the ending makes logical sense (although Hollywood endings usually don’t) the issue is the sudden change in tone. The story has changed alignments, and the audience is fully justified in shouting “You can’t do that!” and walking out.

It’s a subtle business and one that most writers feel their way through rather than working out in any logical fashion. Certain actions or events just seem to fit the type of story that is being told better than other ones.

However, again cribbing from Dungeons & Dragons, it is possible to describe the Alignment of a story universe in terms of two intersecting indices.  Let’s call them Tone and Ethos.

Tone is an indicator of the audience’s expectation of outcome in terms of the effects on the lives of the spotlighted characters. In broad strokes one can either expect a “Happy Ending” (the main characters are better off than when the story began) a “Neutral Ending” (the characters are approximately as well off as when they began the story) or a “Unhappy Ending” (the characters are worse off than when they began the story.)

A couple of caveats before I continue.  First, this is an index of final outcome–bad things can happen to characters before the final credits, but if the end state is positive, it can still be a happy ending. Second, this refers to the final state of the spotlighted characters. Nameless mooks can die by the busload without making the ending an unhappy one. (There is more death in Raiders Of The Lost Ark than in the first four Saw movies combined–and, yes, I counted.)

Ethos is an indicator of the audience’s expectation of the degree to which the outcome is determined by the morality of the character’s actions–as defined by the universe in which the story takes place.  That last point is very important. In order for an ending to qualify and “Moral” or “Immoral” there must be a negotiated agreement with the audience regarding the morality in question. (This step gets skipped a lot when the author assumes that the audience will share her or his personal sense of morality.)

So the Ethos can be divided into “Moral Ending” (the good guys prevail, the bad guys fail) a “Neutral Ending” (the characters final state is unrelated to the morality of their actions during the story) or an “Immoral Ending” (hearts are broken and the bad guys win).

Putting this together yields nine “Story Alignments”.

Happy, Moral: The Good Guys Win. This might be considered the “Default Heroic Ending”. Most action and adventure stories end on this note. The characters face hardships, stand true to their principles, and save the day.

Happy, Neutral: Everybody Wins. In this sort of story the positive final outcome is not the result of adherence to any particular ethos, but either by luck or through an amoral quality such as competence. (Yes, one can make a virtue of competence, but outside of Rand it is seldom stated and hence fails the negotiation test.)

Happy, Immoral: Victory goes to the characters least burdened by scruples. Usually this is an unsatisfying ending for the audience, but it can work in crime thrillers with a Noir sensibility. (The final shot of the 1981 film Body Heat, for example.)

Neutral, Moral: The “Berenstain Bears” ending. Frequently used in episodic TV shows. Everyone learns a valuable moral lesson, but it has no lasting effect on the characters’ fortunes as a whole.

True Neutral: This would be your Slice Of Life sort of fiction. Some would argue that these aren’t really “endings” in a narrative sense, more just the place where the author stopped. However, such stories can be satisfying for the audience provided that the focus of the story is understood to be an exploration of a theme or idea rather than a personal journey for the protagonists. Many Hard SF “idea stories” fall into this category.

Neutral, Immoral: A lot of so-called “realistic” fiction falls in this category. Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, for example. Characters perform actions that are explicitly described as being immoral, without any consequence at all, either good or bad. While the overall tone of such works can be bleak and depressing, many absurdist or comic works can make this tone enjoyable–Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels, for example.

Unhappy, Moral: The “EC Horror Comics” ending–one of my personal favorites.  Characters do bad things and bad things happen to them. Poetic Justice, usually served cold and with a healthy slice of irony on the side.

Unhappy, Neutral: A lot of Horror stories–particular when the horrific elements are defined in science fiction rather than fantasy terms–end this way. Rocks fall, everyone dies, and the monsters eat the just and the unjust with equal relish. Frequently there are momentary advantages to behaving either morally or immorally, but in the end the doom comes for everyone.

Unhappy, Immoral: These are the endings that tend to leave audiences in tears.  Bad things happen to good people, and they happen because the people are good. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four is a classic example.

Now, I am not saying that any of these Alignments are intrinsically better or worse than any others, that is largely a matter of personal taste.

What I am saying is that the Story Alignment should be clear and consistent. In order for a story to prove satisfying to the audience the author should be upfront and honest about what kind of story she or he is telling–and stick to that type of story all the way through to the end. 

I will be discussing techniques for telegraphing story alignments to the reader and the consequences of changing alignments mid-story in my next post.

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A Mary Sue Ain’t Nothing But A Sandwich

It’s not uncommon for the same subject to come up on several of the writer’s groups that I follow at the same time, which I attribute to a kind of Fortian/Jungian mass unconscious, although it’s more likely because there’s a lot of overlap and one person sees a post on a subject and decides to put down her or his own thoughts on the subject.

In any event, the subject of Mary Sue Characters has come up several times and upon reflection I have decided that the most significant aspect of Mary Sue Characters is that they don’t exist.

Let me explain.  As I understand it, the original meaning of the phrase comes from the Fan Fiction community and refers to a character inserted into a story as a stand in for the author and specifically intended to represent the author’s own fantasies regarding the established characters.

Usage of the phrase has drifted some over time, as terminology tends to do.  I do believe, however, that the essential characteristic of the term as a literary concept has less to do with the character her- or himself (there is a masculine version of the term, “Marty Stu”, but I don’t see the utility of it.  As far as I am concerned “Mary Sue” is a gender neutral descriptor) than the relationship between that character and the supporting characters.

It is not being competent in a number of areas that makes a character a Mary Sue.

It is being more competent than everyone else that makes a character a Mary Sue.

Thus it is relational rather than absolute. It is the presence or absence of Mary Sue Support characters that define the limits of the trope, I believe.

How do we define a Mary Sue Support (MSS) character? (And can we come up with a snappy descriptor for them?)

Well, I think that there is a particular character arc that defines an MSS (Sue Mary? Naw, that sounds dumb.) Not all characteristics need to be present, but I think characters who exhibit a plurality of these traits define the Mary Sue trope better than focusing on the main character. I’m going to divide the MSS tropes into three groups, those exhibited by the antagonists, those exhibited by the hero’s friends, and those exhibited by significant unaligned characters.

First, the bad guy(s) are:

  1. Introduced with clearly stated advantages over the main character.  Wealth and social privilege are probably the most blatant of these.  Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, for example, is shown at his first appearance as the son of a wealthy and influential family, and also surrounded by his admiring fans.  MSS characters seldom are revealed to have influence, it’s usually stated at the beginning (usually by the MS’s sidekick) that this guy has all the breaks that the hero does not.
  2. Have a reputation for being the best at a skill that the hero also possesses. This is a little different than the previous point, and may not be the same character as the first one–although frequently the “one to beat” is also the “snooty rich kid.” Again this tends to show up right away, either in conversation, or by humiliating a sympathetic minor character in a contest of skills.
  3. Are willing to cheat to win. This is the dark secret (if you can call something so inevitable a “secret”) of the “one to beat”–she or he hasn’t earned the reputation for being the best. The  fact that the character cheats is generally known by the hero prior to the final showdown, but the hero cannot prove it and goes into the competition knowing that the opponent is cheating and determined to win anyway. Generally the cheating is revealed after the contest, with the attendant praise that comes from triumphing in an unfair fight.

The hero’s friends, like the antagonists, exist primarily to show how wonderful the hero is. The Mary Sue, being truly selfless, is willing to be friends with all of the characters that everyone else hates.  Consequently they tend to fall into several broad categories.

  1. The unjustly reviled. This character has an unearned bad reputation.  It might be from bad luck, or deliberate slander from the antagonists, but until the hero appears on the scene no one is willing to befriend the character. Usually instrumental in discovering how the antagonists cheat.
  2. The discriminated against. A little different than the above category (although they can be combined into one character) this character is assumed to be less competent because of an innate characteristic rather than a reputation for failure. If the Mary Sue is male this is often the only female character in an otherwise all-male cast. This character usually is shown beating whichever of the the main antagonist’s henchmen are most prejudiced.
  3. The one-trick pony. This is the only character who is permitted to be better than the hero at anything.  It is generally one relatively minor part of the main skill set, but there is usually a scene where that one particular talent is vital to success.
  4. The secret mentor. This is the old hero now in disgrace, working in a menial position, whom the hero befriends and learns the super-secret talent that nobody else knows because everyone else ignores the sad old man.

Significant unaligned characters, including whatever authority figures are important to the story, tend to follow a particular character arc.

  1. Initial bad impression by the hero. Through absolutely no fault of her or his own, the hero makes an initial bad impression on the authority figures in the story.  Showing up late, or out of uniform, or unprepared, or all of the above.  Sometimes this is due to deliberate action by the antagonists, more often it is simply bad luck.  The hero either is not given a chance to explain or refuses to make excuses.
  2. Minor praise that triggers an out of proportion response from the antagonists. Early on the hero shines in some way and comes to the notice of the authorities. This results in a jealous reaction from the antagonists and sets up the rivalry.  The hero generally tries to bury the hatchet unsuccessfully at this point.
  3. The hero’s star falls. Again, through no fault of the hero.  Something goes bad, either through sabotage or bad luck and the hero is in (temporary) disgrace. (As an aside, this sequence of events is not uncommonly pointed to as proof that the character is not a Mary Sue.)
  4. Punishment that leads to progress. The hero is required to do some sort of penance as a result of the incident in step 3. This will result in the hero learning more skills and perfecting a particular technique that will prove vital in the big showdown. (Frequently this is how the secret mentor character is introduced.)
  5. The big showdown. At this point everything is stacked against the hero. Usually it’s only through the unexpected removal of a neutral party that the hero is even allowed into the situation where the competition occurs.
  6. The payoff. This is where everybody gathers around the hero and praises her or him.  The big, “I was wrong about you,” speech from the head cheese, the abject humiliation of the antagonists, the cheering of the crowd.  The hero’s friends are usually celebrated as well (although, of course, not as much as the hero).

Reading back over this I realize that the characters and scenes that I describe can be found in a great many works of fiction, many of them quite good. Formulaic doesn’t mean bad, after all, and a good writer can use a predictable sequence of events to create an engaging overall story.

Like many things, I expect that Mary Sue is a continuum rather than a hard definition.

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Think About It Seriously You Know It Makes Sense

I need a financier.

Specifically, I am looking for someone who is able to manage crowdfunding campaigns and raise money for short fiction anthology projects.

The short form business plan is a publishing company specifically designed to produce short fiction, multi-author anthologies.  The anthologies would be speculative genre fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror.  We would solicit fiction from self- and indie-published authors.

I know what I can do.  I can set the perimeters of the project, I can pitch it to the authors, I have the contacts within the writing community and I can expand on that. I can get the content, and I can manage the creative end of the project.

What I can’t do is manage the demand side. I can’t raise money, and I can’t sell.  I need to partner with a promoter who can.

I haven’t sat down and worked out exact figures, but my initial estimate is a thousand dollars for authors, and another thousand for proofing and cover art. I am not sure how much a crowdfunding campaign would have to generate in pre-sales in order to clear that after fulfilling all of the orders and crowdfunding extras.  Five grand?  Seven and a half?

That’s why I need a financier. I need someone who is willing to sit down and work out the details and then take responsibility for raising the necessary funds. I’ll handle the rest–getting the stories, selecting and arranging them, getting the project edited, buying the artwork, formatting the project, getting the files up on Amazon for sale.

Promotion after production will be aided, one hopes, by the individual authors–granted, they would have no financial stake after the initial sale, but the works will show up as part of their bibliography. Paid promotions may also be a possibility, depending on the success of the crowdfunding.

Giving the anthologies a recognizable brand will also, I hope, lead to suggestive sales of all of the titles. And I’ll do my own promotion, such as it is.  I do a little better selling other people’s writing than I do my own.

I have a lot of questions and I don’t have the answers.  I’m not even sure how many partners the initial project should have–perhaps more than one person on the sales side.  I’m fairly sure that I can handle the production side by myself–even assuming that I will keep my full time day job to pay my rent and groceries–but another partner to help put together the books themselves might be advisable.

What I have is a vision.  A market for new voices and a regular schedule for the production of quality fiction collections, in e-book and print editions, audio as well if I can swing it. I enjoy working with other authors, and I think I’m good at it.  I know that there are a lot of talented authors out there who are frustrated by the lack of opportunities in the short fiction market.

And I honestly believe that short fiction is necessary for the health of genre fiction in general.

I don’t know any financiers, and I don’t even know how to find any.  But I am sure that there are people with the skills I need who would be interested in the project. At leat, I hope so.

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Who Are All You People?

I have about thirteen hundred followers on this blog, and I have no idea who most of you are. Some pages, I know, are inactive.  I recently purged the pages that I was following and cut out all that hadn’t posted since 2015 (which was most of them, actually.)

But if you are reading this and you’re active here, please comment and let me know who you are, what you blog about, and where you found me.  I am sure that there are many of you whom I would like to follow, but it’s really tough hunting through the chaff for the wheat.

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