Friday, 10 March 2017

Ways to Include Pets to Enhance Your Fictional World by Sue Coletta

Welcome crime writer, Sue Coletta, to Hearticles. She is guest posting about adding pets and animals to your writing. Take it away, Sue!

• • •

I love writing pets into my stories. Not only is a great way to show a killer’s soft side, but they become important family members for the main characters. In my stories, I’ve used a Rottweiler, mastiff, and St. Bernard (MARRED and CLEAVED), a calico, tabby, and all-black cat (Wings of Mayhem), pet crows (Blessed Mayhem), and a black bear (A Sultry Abyss in SCREAM). I’ve even borrowed a friend’s Bulldog for Black Out (RUN), but I felt so responsible for him, I couldn’t include him like I’d originally planned. God forbid I returned him emotionally scarred from the experience. It’s much safer to use fictional pets.
Need a way to show your character’s quirky side? Include a bearded dragon, snapping turtle, boa, tarantula, or exotic bird.
Is your character adventurous? Give him a pet moose, lion, leopard, or tiger to love. How ‘bout a pet elephant? When writing about pets let your imagination soar.
Fit the pet to a specific character to cue readers about their personality. By using well-thought-out animals, it can say a lot about who they are, where they live, or even, their state of mind. It’s also fun to juxtapose. Give a tattooed biker a Chihuahua or toy poodle. Readers will love it!
A few things to keep in mind when writing pets into fiction...

If you kill the pet, you better have a damn good reason for it, a reason readers will understand.

For example, Bob and I watched John Wick recently. ([SPOILER ALERT] I fell in love with First Plot Point in story structure). Not only is it an important scene, but if it didn’t happen there’d be no story. See? Understandable reason why he had to die. John Wick would not have gone ballistic over a stolen car. The puppy was the only thing left he cared about. It had to happen.
the Beagle puppy his dead wife sent him. When the bad guys murdered him I almost shut off the movie. If my husband hadn’t begged me to keep watching, that would’ve been it for me. Turns out, this moment kicked off the quest (The safer option is to not harm the pets.)

Why Does the Character Have That Specific Pet?

Like I mentioned earlier, you need to know why the character chose that pet. Is he lonely? Does a couple use their pets to fill a maternal/paternal need? Are you using that pet as a way to show the character’s soft side? Does the pet become the only one who'll listen to their fears, sorrow, or hidden secrets? In other words, for an introverted character, pets can assume a larger role in the story so your character isn't talking to him/herself.
As the writer, you need to know why that dog, cat, bird, lizard, or bear is in the story and what role they play in the plot. Does a K9 cop track criminals? Did your criminal character train a horse to be the getaway driver? Does the killer feed his pet hogs or gators human flesh? Why that fictional pet exists is crucial.

What’s the Pet’s Personality?

Animal lovers know each pet has his/her own personality. If you’ve never owned the pets you’re writing about, then I suggest doing a ton of research till you feel like you have. For example, while writing Blessed Mayhem I needed to know how crows communicated and how people could interpret their calls. What separated a crow from a raven, what they felt like, what they smelled like, what foods they enjoyed most. In order to make the characters real I spent countless hours of research into the life of crows. They’re fascinating, by the way. I now want a pet crow of my own. :-)

What Does the Pet Look Like and How Does S/he Act?

First, you’ve got to know the basics…their markings, voice, breed, habitat, diet, etc. Then delve deeper into the expressions they make when they’re happy, content, sleeping, aggravated, and downright pissed off. Every animal has their own unique personality, mannerisms, and traits. Evoke the readers’ five senses. Don’t just concentrate on sight. By tapping into these deeper areas, our fictional pets come alive on the page. It can really add a great deal to a story, too. A scene where the hero or villain cuddles with a pet can add a nice break from the tension, a chance to give the reader a moment to catch their breath before plunging them back into the suspense.
Plus, they’re fun to write.
Does the Basset Hound snore so loudly he keeps the rest of the family awake? Is he now banished to the garage at night? Does the German Shepherd's feet twitch when he's dreaming? Does the Bulldog throw his owner the stink-eye when he can't reach his favorite toy? (Waving at you, Otto!)
Let's talk dogs. They do more than bark. Use their full range of grunts, moans, groans, happy chirps, and playful growls when your character plays tug-of-war. For cats, nothing is more soothing than a purr rattling in their throat as your character drifts asleep. Soft claws can massage their back after a brutal day.
Years ago, I had a pet turkey who used to love to slide his beak down each strand of my hair. This was one of the ways Lou showed affection. I'd sit in a lounge chair with a second lounge chair behind me, and Lou would work his magic till I became putty in his beak. He knew it too. After all that hard work, I couldn't deny him his favorite treats.

• • •

Sue Coletta is a member of Mystery Writers Of America and Sisters In Crime. She lives in northern New Hampshire with her husband and four-legged baby. If you catch her strolling on the beach or roaming the rural backroads don't be surprised if she stops to chat with you about her books or her two beautiful granddaughters. Just don't ever call her Grandma.

Find Sue Online:


COMING SOON
CLEAVED
Grafton County series, book two
eBook Release Date: May 2017
Print Release Date: June 2017

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Hashtags: What are they and why do I need them?

Hashtags are an essential tool for any promotion. For the sake of conversation, let's talk books.

What is a hashtag?

Firstly, a hashtag is made up of two components...the hash and the tag or keyword. Using the two together creates a type of label or metatag used on social media to make it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or similar content.

The has looks like this #. Back in the old days, we called this the pound sign, but with most things, over time, names and meanings can change. In a time of social media, this innocent looking character has become something which holds much power.

Why?

Using this symbol alerts social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share the topic on the hash, much like a neon arrow that's blinking, "Hey, over here...someone's talking about your book!" And with luck, that person will be inspired to buy your book, or whatever you're promoting.

Each social media site uses the hashtags a little differently. On Instagram or Pinterest, using #wheatfield will bring up all the imagesof wheat fields. Or #starrynight will bring up all the night skies full of stars. Or #runninghorses, #dogtricks, #coffeemugs, etc...any image using those hashtags will come up for you to see, as long as they've been properly tagged.

On social media like Facebook and Twitter, hashtags will bring up all the posts where a hashtag has been used. It's more than just putting a hashtag in a message post. It has to relate to something you're promoting. If it's your book, be sure the post as relevant information pertaining to your books...the cover, perhaps a story blurb, and a buy link. Always list a buy link! And add your relevant hashtags at the bottom so that your post, and others like it, will be picked up when a reader clicks on it.

You'll know the tag is topic-linked when the hash and the word are highlighted. Anyone who clicks on that link will be taken to a page where your original post is located, and where to where everyone else who's using the same tag word(s) or phrase will come up.

For example, let's use Tirgearr Publishing, our parent company.

On Twitter, using #Tirgearr will show you everyone who's using this particular hashtag.

On Facebook, it will do the same thing, but only show you Facebook results, #Tirgearr.

Different services and different results because users tend to prefer one service or the other. But both will show you results relevant to Tirgearr.

And while you'll find that most using this tag are Tirgearr authors promoting their work, or official Tirgearr events, using other words as tags will give you different results. You can literally hashtag anything. But if you're selling something, try making your tags as direct as possible to your product. In our case, books.

Hashtags are a great form of soft marketing. Why?

Anyone following #Tirgearr may hope to find the latest romance release, but could find the latest thriller instead. Maybe they'll buy both books.

Let's say Kate Robbins uses #Tirgearr on her post about her #HighlandChiefs series. A reader clicks on #Tirgearr and finds not only Kate's series, but also the #ChastityFlame series by KA Laity. Why would this happen? KA Laity is also using #Tirgearr.

Similarly, if Tegon Maus uses #Tirgearr in his post about #Bob, readers could also discover David Toft's #Kyklos series. Again, this happens because both Tegon and David are using #Tirgearr on their message posts.

Often authors may use conjoined tags, such as #Tirgearr #Robbins. Everything related to Tirgearr and Kate Robbins will pop up, or anyone called Robbins who also used Tirgearr in a tag.

Don't stop at just one hashtag. You can use multiples in one post, such as:

#TirgearrPublishing
#TeamTirgearryen
#HouseofTirgearryen
#TirgearrNewsletter
#TirgearrsBigBirthdayBash
#Birthday

Or use the series name:

#CityNights
#HighlandChiefs
#ChastityFlame
#IrishPride

etc

Keep in mind the more generic you go, the more random your result. Use #fiction and thousands of posts will come up that used this tag. Use #historicalromance to refine your search but still thousands of posts relating to historical romances will come up because they've used the tag. Refine further to help narrow your results, such as #Tirgearr and #historicalromance.

The main thing to remember is NO SPACES or you'll break the tag. If you use #Birthday Party, only Birthday will link to the tag.

Remember when I said 'you can literally hastag anything'?

You can make hashtags fun by getting creative.

#YouCanLiterallyHashtagAnything
#PartyAtMyPlace
#WritingTodayFromThePub
#MyDogIsMyMuse

etc

Last month I did a giveaway of my Irish Pride box set. My hashtags included...

#IrishPride
#IrishRomance
#TirgearrPublishing
#RhythmOfMyHeart
#APieceOfMyHeart
#ShapeOfMyHeart
#ReadMeImIrish

Last month I also posted a message that was just hashtags to describe a new series I'm working on...

#newseries
#amwriting
#somethingdifferent
#thiswillfreakyouout!

I've also used:

#IBetYouDidntKnow
#FunFacts
#ResearchIsATimeSuck
#ResearchCanBeEnlightdning

etc

Popular hashtags for writers include:

#amwriting
#waswriting
#wordcount
#theend
#typedtheend
#ineedcoffee (or tea or favorite beverage)
#ineedcookies (cake or pie, or favorite indulgence)
#metmywordcount
#sale
#booksale
#birthday
#freebies
#givaway

...and more.

Something to note: Hashtags are not case sensitive. #tirgearrpublishing will do the same thing as #TirgearrPublishing. Sometimes it's just handier to capitalize each real word so it's easier to read.

Also, don't use apostrophes and commas, or they'll break the tag too. Just use plain text or numbers, but leave out punctuation...except for the hash!

However you use your hashtags, try making them relevant. It can be a lot of  fun coming up with amusing ones to make people laugh. I've seen people hold whole conversations using nothing but hashtags. If people smile or laugh at your effort, they'll remember your tags, and hopefully your books.

Tips:

#makethemrelevant
#havefun
#addsomehumor
#itllbeworthit

#GoForthAndHashtag!

What hashtags have you used? Share them in the comments and we'll check them out!