This is Part 3 of “Let’s Discover Your Author Brand” using Emlyn Chand’s and Robb Grindstaff’s book Discover Your Brand: A Do-it-Yourself Branding Workbook for Authors. I’ll refer to the book from now on as “Discover Your Brand”.
Last time I explored the introduction and Chapters 1 and 2. Their focus is on generating eight story ideas to help you define your brand — five of your own and three “borrowed”. Recall that I only came up with four of my own. Nonetheless, onward!
In this post I look at Chapter 3, which is concerned with discovering patterns.
Pattern Discovery Methodology
The chapter begins by asking a series of questions about the eight ideas developed in Chapter 2. The point is to allow you to group your ideas by:
- Excitement — which of the ideas excite you the most
- Ease of Writing — which of the ideas would be easiest to write
- Similarity — Which ideas ideas have similar themes, characters, settings, etc
Here’s how I laid out my ideas in a Word table:
Excitement – I find Lady Merreth and Best Served Cold the most exciting because they involve strong yet flawed/vulnerable women.
Ease of writing – I think Lady Merreth and the Quick and the Dead would be/would have been the easiest to write because there is not as much technical background to research (at least for the kind of book I would be writing). I’ve also grouped Reluctant Emperor here as I envision that story as not being too technically in depth.
While Raptor Recon is an interesting idea I have had for a long time, there would be significant research involved regarding Marine Recon small unit tactics, ranks, and a plethora of other things needed to make it “real” because I would want that story to have sort of a Generation Kill feel to it.
I used a numeric scale for both excitement (1 = the most exciting, 3 = the least) and for ease of writing (1 = the easiest to write, 3 = the most difficult). For similarity I colour-coded the ideas into two groups:
- Green Group – Lady Merreth, Best Served Cold, the Quick and the Dead. These share the following: strong/flawed female protagonist, historical time periods with very little or no magic involved
- Blue Group – Reluctant Emperor, Pitch Black, Spider Nurse, Raptor Recon. These four are all science fiction and based in the future or very near future
The next step is to think about people in your life — parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and make a list of which story ideas they would like which they would not. There’s no set number of people to choose, but I’d suggest at least a dozen would be good.
The chapter says that for those people who would not like an idea, you should make a note of why they would not like it. Here’s my partial list of likes and dislikes:
There’s an additional step for published authors to execute, but I’m not going to cover that.
A simple glance at my ideas reveals two broad themes:
- Speculative/Fantasy/Science Fiction
- Strong Female Protagonists
In addition, this pattern exercise led me to the idea that many of my protagonists undergo some sort of change during the story. Now you may scoff and say this is just another way of saying the characters complete the Hero’s Journey, but It think it’s important to explicitly realize this.
However, there are some outliers here:
- Spider Nurse — the protagonist is not human, which really makes this idea the “odd man out”, if you will. 🙂
- Reluctant Emperor — the protagonist is male
- Raptor Recon — likely will have multiple protagonists
Note that I don’t count Pitch Black as an outlier because while the lead character is played by Vin Diesel, the truly interesting character arc is that of Caroline, the ship’s captain.
The chapter closes with a call for decisions regarding the outliers. Are you really wedded to them? Can they be discarded without too much anguish, or are you determined to make them work? The chapter provides a number of things to consider when answering these questions.
I won’t lose too much sleep if Spider Nurse remained nothing more than an idea. On the other hand, I’m more invested in Reluctant Emperor and Raptor Recon.
I think the latter two can be made two work by providing strong female supporting characters in the case of Reluctant Emperor, and ensuring some of the protagonists in Raptor Recon are female.
We’re now ready to move forward! In the next chapter I’ll meet my readers!
Thank you for reading and I will see you again soon.