A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

PublishingHack: Transmedia Marketing

So one of the classes I’m in this fall is Transmedia Marketing for Book Publishers. It’s taught by Kathi Inman Berens, the newest faculty member in PSU’s book publishing program.

The class is pretty cool. While I have to admit I am struggling a little because I’m also taking her Concepts in Digital Publishing and there’s a bit of an overlap, the Transmedia Marketing class is pretty fascinating.

So what the heck is transmedia marketing?

Well, let me tell you. Basically it’s a form of marketing that uses social media and digital publishing to allow multiple entry points for a work and expand the story. It’s a type of worldbuilding across different platforms, where the content is specific to that type of platform. It also cultivates a participatory culture, where fans actively share, create, and play with their content.

A great example of this from class that we’ve read about but haven’t yet talked about is The Hunger Games and how they marketed the movies. We all know the currently released movies were huge, and we have the ability to look back in the past and analyze why that is so. So why was it so successful? Well, of course it’s because THG had a huge fanbase to support it to begin with, but a main reason, perhaps, is because the transmedia marketing for it was strong as hell. For the Catching Fire movie, specifically, it was a great mixture of social media and fan participation, as well as the creativity of the ad agency Ignition Creative.

Note: I got most of this information from the Transmedia Marketing Case Study: The Hunger Games – Catching Fire blogpost, written by Christine Weitbrecht on Thoughts on the T, if you’d like to read it.

So what did IC actually do? They had IRL high-fashion billboards with “Capitol Couture” written on them and if the people googled capitol couture they would be taken to a Tumblr, Twitter, Youtube, and website specifically for the Capitol. (This could also demonstrate additive culture, because the fans would know instantly that it was from THG but new people would just be intrigued by it. Don’t quote me on that, though, as I’m still learning what that term means.)

The various social media accounts reflected different aspects of THG. For example, the Tumblr was fashioned like a magazine—with IRL fashion brands and writers—people from the Capitol would read, with updates on events in the Capitol, what it was like in the Capitol, and updates on the various characters in THG world. They also had IRL fan challenges, where the fans could upload fashion statements of their own.

The website was the Citizen Control Center of Panem (where viewers had to get ID cards and had the ability to unlock new content), the Facebook and Twitter accounts were the Capitol/Panem Government center (where they had ideologic messaging one would find in the Capitol like “Respect Boundaries” as well as Facebook pages for each district), and the YouTube was the Capitol TV (where they uploaded official trailers and fan-made videos).

Aside from the fan-made content, the information isn’t new, it just amps up the original world by reflecting the life of the Capitol and allows the fans to be immersed into THG world, like they’re really there living it with these characters.

Now, the official website has changed to reflect the upcoming movie—Mockingjay, Part 2—but there are still pretty cool features. For example, it looks and sounds like a governmental-issued website, but if you hover over a certain part, it changes and you can join the “Revolution.” Seriously, go do the thing, and you’ll be amazed.

From a fan perspective, it’s just freaking cool.

Under the lens of this transmedia class, it’s quite the interesting idea in the storybuilding aspect of THG world. It was an amazing transmedia marketing campaign ,and something that is aspiring to look at. (Also it’s freaking cool.)

So, what do you think? Is this the future of marketing? Is this what authors and publishers should consider doing?

I certainly think so.

Warm regards,
Kellie

Niche Markets

I recently read an article about how it’s better to write a ‘big’ first novel, then to write a little one. I don’t mean big as in 500,000-word wise, I mean one that is destined to do well with all the markets because it’s aimed at the markets. This writer actually says to stay away from writing a book that has a limited readership – meaning religion, gaming, fanfiction, etcetera – and to try to ‘launch big’ – get a high advance, sell hardcover books, and take the current literature tastes into account. If you don’t ‘launch big,’ you might become pigeonholed as a ‘small’ author.

My response?

Ummm… No.

While the article does bring up some good points about how the ‘bigger’ authors will get better slots (think J.K. Rowling back in the Harry Potter days or Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games), it got me thinking about the ‘smaller’ authors in the picture. Honestly, I’ve have to (respectfully) disagree with what the writer is saying.

Now, while I do agree that you should expand your writing styles and try new things, I think it’s equally important to write the story you want to write and not what’s popular right now with the ‘big’ novelists. If you are good at writing fanfiction, stick with fanfiction. You can command that audience. Plus, “restricted audiences” (a term the writer uses) sometimes are the most loyal, too.

Case in Point: My friend, Michelle Magly, wrote for fanfiction.net and fictionpress.com – gaining a hardcore fanbase for her stories. When she decided to co-write a book with another fanfiction/fictionpress writer, the fans supported her every move. All The Pretty Things came out a few months ago and is doing incredibly well. (You can buy it on Amazon.com – All The Pretty Things – by the way.) Now, of course it’s doing well because it’s a good book. But it’s also doing well because of the fanbase generated by the ‘little’ fanfictions, too.

My point? You can make it big by writing for little guys. Don’t rule out the smaller genres or markets.

Write what you want to write, whatever niche it may be.

Warm regards,
Kellie