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Month: July 2022

Targeting a specific audience

Posted in Readers, and Romance

Learn from the experts, I always say. You know who the experts are for this purpose? The writers of Romance.

Something like 50% of all fiction sold is in the Romance genre. The most successful writers in this genre (and some are very successful) are specialists in volume and audience targeting.

Generally speaking, Romance readers are high-volume consumers of their favorite authors. Several books/week is not unusual. No one author can produce enough to satisfy them (though many are incredibly prolific), but they can be confident of selling each new work to their standard audience, which is a great motivator to pin down exactly what their audience wants.

The good news is that there are scores of romantic setups that work for one person or another, and for minute romantic specialties. The bad news is — disappoint one of your readers by not satisfying her (and it's usually “her”) expectations, and she may be gone forever.

The bottomless well of British humor

Posted in Characters

There's no question — P. G. Woodhouse does it best.

His well-honed diction for the innumerable stories of those bumbling idiots (by and large) who came up through the English public school system to graduate (or not) as members of the nominal Drones Club have been delighting readers for decades.

Bertie Wooster and his keeper (um, valet) Jeeves are the best known players in this sunny world of nothing-ever-goes-permanently-wrong. Bertie and his fellow drones while away their time concocting preposterous schemes and shrinking from their occasional responsibilities.

But Wodehouse is just one of a great many witty authors utilizing this trope of companions in feckless idiocy. One of my other favorites is Georgette Heyer (1902-1974). It doesn't matter whether or not you like the romance genre — Jane Austen's “Comedies of Manners” launched a century-later fashion in Regency romance and Heyer is by a very great margin far the best author of these. The characters and the plots are light and amiable, the period research is impeccable, and her language is a delight. Instead of the Drones Club, we have a class of rich, young men referred to as Corinthians, among other things.

Parcheesi as a model for character emotions

Posted in Characters

Let's see if I can make sense of something I've recently observed.

If you don't know the rules of the game of Parcheesi, don't worry about it. There are variants, but I'll just stick with one version. Here's the part that matters to this discussion:

  • You have up to 4 moveable pieces that have to go from a starting point all the way around the board and into the center. If they are “killed” (an enemy piece lands on their space), they are knocked back to the beginning.
  • You have up to 3 opponents trying to do the same thing first from their starting point.
  • You can send someone else's piece back to the beginning by moving to its space, unless the space is protected.
  • Some spaces are protected and pieces on them can't be knocked back to the beginning.
  • A space can hold no more than two pieces. Any space with two pieces is a barrier and can't be passed.
  • You roll a die (in some versions two dice, but we'll stick with one for this example) to determine how many spaces you can move one of your pieces. You can't refuse to move. If it is not possible to move that many spaces, you lose your turn.

Whew! So, here's the stuff that guides your thinking every time you take a turn…

  • When you roll the die, you have a 1/6 chance of any particular value.
  • You have to pick which of your pieces to move (and not all may be moveable that many spaces).
  • You have to pay attention to where the other players' pieces are, in case they roll a value that could eliminate one of yours.
  • You have to be conscious of which players are closer to a final win in case you can preferentially knock one of their pieces back or block them.
  • You have to consider which of your own pieces are closer to the end (and have come the longest distance), making it more expensive to lose them.

Now, like all games that include chance as an element (unlike, say, chess), the emotions of gambling manifest. Before you roll the die, there's an ideal outcome, and before your opponent rolls, there's a worst possibility. So, at every die roll you find yourself cheering for one outcome and dreading others.