The Non-Nerd’s Guide to Comic Con

51cwj7rjrvlWe are thrilled to welcome today’s guest (and previous contributor) Kathryn Purdie and congratulate her on the release of her second book Crystal Blade. 

So you’ve never attended a comic con, but suddenly this year’s event sounds intriguing because the ridiculously attractive star of your favorite CW show will be there. So you crack. You buy yourself tickets to three days of . . . otherness . . . and now you’re getting cold feet. You’ll be entering the unknown Land of the Nerds, but you’re a cool kid. How will you fit in? And what exactly will you do at said comic con other than stand in a long line waiting for a picture and autograph with your too-gorgeous-to-be-living TV idol? Don’t sweat it. With my help, we’ll have you donning fairy wings and superhero tights in no time. (Kidding, not kidding.) So take a deep breath and read up. Here are your basic comic con survival skills:

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  • Accept you’re a nerd. If you define a nerd as a person willing to spend good money on celebrity sightings and dress-up, then guess what? You’ve already done that by buying tickets to this madness. Own your inner nerd! Be the nerd! Embrace the nerd! A secret truth: nerds have more fun. Moving on . . .

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  • Dress up. Comic Con is basically Halloween on steroids. Who doesn’t want to see that? Now you can either spend your time gawking at all the grown-ups walking around in questionably form-fitted pleather and rolling your eyes at them, but secretly wishing you’d also spent the last year bedazzling your own costumes, or you can just swallow your pride and commit to the experience. When in Rome, right? Having said that, don’t feel pressured to have the best costume in Hall A. Chances are you haven’t planned well in advance, so keep it simple. Be another Star War’s Rey, among a sea of Reys, or throw on a Superman t-shirt. In the very least, you’ll get some nods for effort from your better-dressed cosplaying clones. But if you put a little more effort into it, you’ll likely become a celebrity yourself! Everyone will want to chat about your costume and take pictures with you. Case in point: a year ago, my author friend, Ilima Todd, went as the wall from Stranger Things. She wore a 70s patterned blouse with a painted-on alphabet and a string of Christmas lights woven throughout—a simple, but super creative costume! 14225593_661261700716344_6988909043799797441_nThat was the first year she dressed up, and it ended up being her favorite comic con…all because she dared to cosplay!
  • Talk to strangers. Fans work for months on their costumes. They love compliments and being asked to pose for a picture. But please be respectful! Comic cons are filled with signs saying “cosplay is not consent” for a reason.
  • Make a plan. Comic cons are held in HUGE venues sardine-packed with Klingons, vampires, and gorgons, waiting in long lines to meet the same celebrities you are. But there is so much more to do! You can attend panels and hear special guests nerd out over their love of all things Tolkien, Marvel, or Doctor Who. Additionally, celebrities are often interviewed or on panels themselves, where you can listen to them speak for more than the ten seconds you’ll get with them one-on-one in the cattle call of the autograph lines. But if you don’t plan ahead, you might be too distracted by Captain America’s real shield or a fan’s stunning replica of R2-D2 and miss out on some of the best con events. Bonus: attending a panel is a nice escape from the crowds and a chance to rest your aching feet.

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  • Good shoes are a cosplayer’s best friend. Okay, so your Nikes aren’t period accurate to the 1920s mobster getup you’re wearing. Let it go. Your feet will thank you later. Remember those huge venues I mentioned above? That means you’ll be doing a lot of walking and queuing up for autographs and events over these three days. Happy feet make happy con-goers!
  • Bring a friend. Your first comic con will be an unforgettable experience. You’ll be sure to tell people all about it later, but sharing it with someone during the con is even better! So find the Luke to your Leia, the Thing 1 to your Thing 2, and remember two nerds are better than one.IMG_1757.jpg

I hope you’ve gone from tentative to pumped up, all by the workings of this magical article. 😉 If you happen to be at this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con, be sure to come and say hi! You can look me up on the panel schedule at http://saltlakecomiccon.com/. I may be wearing my Imperial Russian ball gown.

Maybe people will think I’m Anastasia.

Works for me!

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dfc83-webedit-11editedKathryn Purdie is the author of the YA fantasy, BURNING GLASS and CRYSTAL BLADE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write her debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother. Find her online at kathrynpurdie.com.

Author Websites 101

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You want to be published? You want to have a career as a writer? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your website. Because you NEED a website. And your website should show you’re a professional–even if you’re a goofy one.

INFORMATION:

YOU – A biography. On my site I have a brief bio on the front page, and a more in-depth one later on. You need an author photo that wasn’t taken by your child or by your phone held at arm’s length. Professionalism counts.

YOUR BOOKS – What they are and where to find them. I like to have one page with everything, and then individual pages for each novel so I can talk about inspiration or share bits of trade reviews – I LOVE it when other authors do this. If you write in different genres, separating by genres is smart. And just like a resume, put the most recent up first – you may argue w/ me if you’re writing a series, but otherwise? Most recent book gets top billing.

EVENTS OR APPEARANCES – Even release dates, or cover release dates… Sometimes it’s more about making yourself LOOK busy and/or important. Yes, I just said that. I’ve seen authors write up things like – attending launch party for XXX, which is promo for the both of you – WIN-WIN)

LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA – You don’t have to take on the whole world in social media. Choose what works for you and keep your audience in mind (Yes, this could be a post on its own. Maybe several).

LINKS TO BLOG – If you blog, if you group blog…

AN OFFER TO SIGN UP FOR A NEWSLETTER – If you have one. The pros and cons of this would be much better discussed by someone other than myself 😉

THE FEEL OF THE SITE:

You’re selling YOU. You need to have a website that reflects both you and what you write. Your website could/should follow the feel of your stories, but as more people branch out into more genres, the more important it is to have a website that encompasses YOU, and second, what you write.

A few examples:

I wanted to show Lindsey Leavitt’s site because she writes in several genres. Now, if she wanted to build a site specifically for a series, awesome! She can link to it from the site that is about HER.

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Her tagline, right at the top, tells you what you’re in for. Social media is easy to find, and her tabs help readers of different genres find what they’re looking for. The colors are bright and fun, and match the tone of her book covers. www.lindseyleavitt.com Just under her header – fab white space (I’ll show examples later on).

Maggie Stiefvater’s website is also fab. Her novels/series are all quite different, so her website is neutral. Want more info on a series? She has links for that. The rotating headers all involve MAGGIE and things she likes as a person rather than as an author. Just under the lovely headers is very simple with lots of white space.

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OK. We’re not all Brandon Sanderson, but this is his sidebar:

All of his upcoming events are right on the landing page. No one needs to hunt around on his website to find his fan club or where he’s going to be next.

Simple and brilliant. AND the artwork falls in line with his books without taking over the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How beautiful is KATHRYN PURDIE’S SITE??? I know right away what she writes from the background, but it’s so subtle! I love it.

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And then it gets even better when you press ENTER:

All her links are interesting, and there’s some great info here without this feeling overwhelming.

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And now we’ll talk about – THE WHITESPACE. Cluttered sites are SO hard to navigate. Kathryn Purdie put this subtle background in instead of white space, which I think works SUPER well, but it’s so easy for a website to be so busy that visitors don’t know where to direct their attention.

Veronica Roth’s website does a brilliant job with clean white space:

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Jennifer Weiner’s site is gorgeous, simple, and you can see how effective white space can be – even at the bottom of her landing page (BELOW):

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I will readily admit that I’m a sucker for simplicity, but ANDREW HARWELL’S site? Simple & interesting. He wears a lot of different hats, so simple is going to be better.

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My best advice to you is this:

Go to a TON of websites of authors you admire. Authors who write what you do. Authors who write something completely different from what you write. Take note of what works. What doesn’t work. And then spend some time thinking about how you can tailor what works, to yourself. You may need to hire a designer. You definitely need more eyes than just your own.

My inspiration for today’s post came from the fact that I really want to re-work my own site. Something I’ll be tweaking over the holiday break 🙂

Happy designing!

~ J0

Jolene Perry has written young adult titles for Entangled/Macmillan, Albert Whitman Teen, and Simon Pulse. She is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. You can find her on her BLOG, her WEBSITE, or chillin’ with her family in Alaska (pun intended).

How To Increase Your Story’s Tension With a Crucible

Learning to implement a crucible in your story is one of the greatest tools a writer has in her toolbox, but many writers don’t even know what a crucible is. I’m here to help! A crucible is a container in which different ingredients are melded in white-hot heat, and in writing, a crucible refers to the container that traps characters together as things heat up. It can be a closed environment (think of the arena in THE HUNGER GAMES or the trope of people stuck together in an elevator), but it doesn’t have to be a physical locale. The most interesting crucibles often go deeper than that. Family is a crucible. You can’t escape those you’re tied to by blood. Marriage is a crucible. Till death do us part. Love is a crucible. You can’t just snap your fingers and fall out of love. True love triangles, where each person cares about both other people, are crucibles.

Master editor Sol Stein says, “The key to a crucible is that the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away. Or they can’t run away because they are in a prison cell, a lifeboat, an army, or a family.” Now you can see why Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials in extremely religious Puritan New England was named THE CRUCIBLE.

Think about Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. What force holds them together until the end and makes it impossible for them to declare a truce or quit? There is more than one answer, and that makes the duo an especially powerful crucible. First we have the prophecy: neither can live while the other survives. You can’t outrun fate. Then we have Harry the Horcrux. Harry can’t escape Voldy if he’s the living vessel for 1/7 of the Dark Lord’s soul. And finally Harry identifies with Voldemort. He would have done well in Slytherin, he speaks Parseltongue, and he has deep-rooted anger issues. Harry never gives up on opposing Voldemort and battling his own dark tendencies. He literally dies, then is resurrected in that fight. An awesome example of a crucible!

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Now think of the story you’re writing. Not every situation has a crucible, but could it? How would adding one throw oil on the fire of your tension?

Here are some questions to consider for your scenes and/or your whole book:

  • Is the setting a locale the characters can’t easily escape? (Optional, but this instantly adds stress to the crucible.)
  • Do your characters have different “scripts” (different objectives) in the crucible and does the threat of not achieving their goal feel like death to them? (This is a subject for another day, but all stakes in any story should be “death.”)
  • Why do your characters need each other, whether externally, internally, or both? Even if they hate one another, your characters should be essential to each other in realizing their respective goals. If their need is internal, it could be because the other person offers them validation or power (even if it’s false) or affection (even though it comes after abuse).
  • Will your character’s objective be solved by working within the crucible or ultimately breaking out of it? For example, a son may find peace with his family, or he may eventually cut off all ties, change his name, and venture out on his own.

One last quote from Sol Stein to recap his earlier statement: “Remember that the essence of a crucible is that the characters are drawn more to the crucible than escaping from it.”

I encourage you to give this topic deep thought. Find the right crucible for your story, and you’ll find the path to a page-turning plot!

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dfc83-webedit-11editedKathryn Purdie is the author of the YA fantasy, BURNING GLASS (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins) and its forthcoming sequel, CRYSTAL BLADE. She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write her debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother. Find her online at kathrynpurdie.com.