Category: SCIENCE FICTION

Why should your main character have flaws?

This week: Sneak Preview, news about an Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate promotion and: Why should your main character have flaws?

Why should your main character have flaws?
All of my main character (and thus protagonists) have flaws. In my earlier books I think it was just instinct that led me to this. In fact you could argue that for James Brennan in The Man Who Recreated Himself and King Vaslav in Infinite Blue Heaven the question of whether they are flawed or not is the main theme examined in the novels. James is perhaps naive and Vaslav is perhaps sexually weak, being a willing participant in incest, something not uncommon in the 17th century. In The Ice Boat, which is my first novel completed, it’s very obvious that David Dee is flawed; naive and confused by life. Physically he is in good health however, as are the other two characters mentioned.

The practice of giving the main character (MC) flaws probably began in Greek literature with Odysseus. He is a superb physical specimen, canny and intelligent far beyond the abilities of most around him. He takes on the Gods and wins. He dreams up the Trojan Horse trick which had become legend. But, he has a kind of self-loathing, and considers himself ‘odious’, from which the author – nominally Homer – gave him his name. However, Odysseus is not part of a tragedy; he does regain his Kingdom, his wife and his son – eventually. In Greek tragedies we have perfect beings that suffer terribly as a consequence or despite of this. King Leonidas (whose name incidentally derives from the root ‘lion’) doesn’t seem to have had a fault; incredibly brave, resourceful, physically strong and tough, and loyal to Sparta beyond consideration of his own life. Moreover he was real; he actually lived. Of course he probably wasn’t perfect but his exploits have become legend. With 300 Spartans of his own personal guard, he held the pass at Thermopylae against at least 10,000 Persians long enough for the Greek navy to assemble and defeat the Persian navy. He and all his men were lost. This is the essence of Greek tragedy: great deads and great intentions that end in disaster for the main protagonist.

It is said that we no longer write tragedies: perhaps we no longer can. All modern MCs are flawed. We even have the ‘anti-hero’ now; a character so flawed he would probably be the equivalent of the baddie in Greek Literature. Perhaps it’s because we no longer look to stories for moral guidance. Nobody likes being preached to and even authors of quite ‘high’ moral literature such as J. R. R. Tolkien distance themselves from any suggestion of allegory in their work. Nowadays we prefer to sympathise with characters. We are looking for escapism. All we want to do is imagine that we are the MC in a book or one of the main protagonists and absorb ourselves in the world the writer has created for us.

In Iron I: Too Bright the Sun, Jake Nanden has his flaws: he has mechanical body parts and is terrified of mirrors. He also has the deep lack of confidence that is the realm of replicants. Jake was a fascinating character to create and write about because he saw himself as non-human so he felt he had a perspective on the whole human race. Stone, in Iron II: Unknown Place, Unknown Universe is a self-proclaimed douchebag. They don’t come more anti-hero than Stone. I loved writing his part because I could make him as selfish, self-absorbed and obnoxious as I wanted. Then of course there are the aliens! Chief among them as protagonist is Kek-suîxjh. Super-intelligent, he nevertheless suffers from an innocent awe of the world that slips dangerously over into naivity at critical times.

My most flawed MC is the anonymous hero in Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. He has an eye defect, a kind of spiritual’weakness’ and suffers from extreme bad luck. Incidentally one of the other protagonists in this book, Georgina, is much-loved by fans and readers despite the fact that she is a baddie and out to exploit the MC. Strange how such characters can sometimes gain sympathy.

I am about to start work on a pure Vampire novel. Now the MC will have no flaws other than that he is a vampire. Is this a flaw? I don’t know but certainly some people view vampires as super-beings. Perhaps vampires, werewolves and other shape-changers or mutants and the last domain of the ‘perfect’ being, albeit in disguise. It will be interesting to see if a ‘perfect’ character manages to gain audience sympathy. In fact this leads me to my main question this week: could a perfect character gain acceptance from an audience today? I want your views so please post your comments here.

Sneak Preview
This is from my latest project, December Radio:

December Radio
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved.

Roger Dyce was beside himself with frustration. His eaglet frame paced up and down inside the small anti-chamber within the Cabinet War Room complex while Mr Brown sat, apparently calmly, on one of the wooded chairs placed against the wall.
“Sit down Dyce! You have nothing to worry about!”
“I’m not worried sir! I’m… well, I’m very angry! And frustrated! Yes, that’s what it is. Didn’t I say…?”
“Yes! Yes! We’ve been all through that. But perhaps this is your chance. Don’t blow it!”
That made Roger sit down. “First of all nobody will listen to me! And then it is implied that I’m somehow to blame for sitting on evidence!”
“Yes. Okay. I know, War is never fair.”
“And I’m nervous! But why here?” he continued. Brown didn’t answer. Dyce stared at the flaking cream paint smeared across bricks. During the last fifteen minutes they had heard the sound of muffled shouting from within the Map Room where the British Prime Minister was about to receive them. At that moment the door to the Map Room was flung open and out stumbled a well-built man whose facial features were so pleasingly regular and whose receding hair was so neatly minimal that they both looked as if painted onto an egg. He was wearing a neat blue suit. He nodded curtly to Brown and smiled curtly at Dyce. Roger could see the man was hurt underneath a brave façade of brisk efficiency. Whoever he was, Roger didn’t want such a powerful man as his enemy. They both followed the man though the door and took seats facing Winston Churchill.
For brown, this was only the second time he had met Winnie but he was no less nervous than Roger for it. Winston was in a foul mood:
“Now, you may wonder…hm, why we are meeting here?” The Prime Minister’s face was graven. “The truth is, from what I have learned yesterday, the War is not as over, as I thought it was! Indeed, we are in the most grave danger! Grave! I have no intention of leaving here until this is resolved. Brown, you’ve met J. J Llewellin, MP and currently serving on the board overseeing the American Nuclear Bomb programme. And this, I understand is the young Dyce!” A fleeting smile from the Prime Minister showed Roger that he alone in the room was above blame. This gave him confidence.
He smiled. “Yes, Prime Minister!”

Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate promotion
I have just signed up to a new website promoting covers and first pages of novels. The website is run by internationally selling writer Laurence O’Bryan, a writer much respected and with nearly 200,000 followers I am hoping to get some decent exposure from this promotion. I have chosen Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate for the promotion because it’s my best-selling novel and is most like Laurence’s own work. The promotion will run for one year from the day it starts (in the next week or two) and to mark the occasion I did one last edit on the novel to create the Third Edition. The website is: http://booksgosocial.com
Apart from some small corrections to the text to make it more readable I have taken out the Author’s Notes and the Secret Codes that they referred to. I felt that the book has stood the test of time and no longer necessarily needs the Secret Codes to be enjoyable and furthermore, they may put off some of the more serious adult readers. I am quite sure the book’s contents are mature enough to please such readers.
However the Secret Codes, for anybody who wants to try deciphering them and nobody has successfully done so yet, will still be available in the Second Edition. For some reason, known only to Amazon, even though this is still available, it’s not associated with the Third Edition and is only possibly to find by searching specifically for Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate – Second Edition.

How does Jake Nanden, replicant from Too Bright the Sun, interview?

There is an interview with Jake Nanden from the Iron Series here today:

http://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/character-interview-number-seven-jake-nanden-sci-fi/

If you want to read more about Jake Nanden, read the page for Too Bright the Sun or its sequel, Unknown Place, Unknown Universe.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Newsletter for Chapter One of Too Bright the Sun for FREE!

Blog: Are You Experienced?

if you don’t know the the origins of this week’s blog title, look it up! You won’t be disappointed.

Many times young writers ask me if it’s okay to write about something you have not experienced. I usually say yes, if you absolutely must, but there is no substitute for experience.

Landscape and Location
This is particularly true of places – landscape and location. In my first novel, The Ice Boat, a kind of odyssey of a young musician, I stuck to places I knew: London, Rio de Janeiro, Den Haag (The Hague in Holland), Amsterdam and Stockholm. The second volume is yet to be published because the manuscript was lost for years and I only just found it again. In it the main character visits Siberia and and even the top of the world (I was influenced my Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein here!). Ironically I hadn’t even been to Russia while writing it but later I actually married in Kyrgyzstan, in the far east of the old USSR. There the ethnicity is largely that of Mongols from the far north. Perhaps this was a case of life imitating nature. My second book The Man Who Recreated Himself was largely set in England and in places I knew. By the time I wrote Infinite Blue Heaven I had married in Kyrgyzstan and so it made sense to write about the landscapes and people I had experienced. I hope this comes through in the book.

For the Iron Series, which is Science Fiction, obviously I am unable to visit most of the locations in the books and I make no apologies for that; I would love to go to The Moon and Mars, but its unlikely. Part of the beauty of Science Fiction is that the imagination is not limited to what is possible now. However for the Ordo Lupus series of books, once again I was able to describe places I had seen: Hampstead Heath, Highgate and France. I made use of the genealogical research I had done into my family in and around the French towns of Nevers and Donzy in the Languedoc region of France. I have also been to Paris so I was able to write from first hand about it.

People
Of course I am not saying you have to be old or have experienced everything you write about. Life is a continual learning experience anyway but characters seem more authentic when they are based on real people. This is a trick I often use, particularly with minor characters where you have little time and space to develop them. Landric in Ordo Lupus: The Devil’s Own Dice is a good example of this.

Other News
There are no excerpts this week, mainly because I am very close to finishing Iron III: Worlds Like Dust, and fully focused on this. Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate has also received a very nice review from Amit Bobrov on Amazon and I have had some good feedback on Too Bright the Sun from a reader who downloaded a free copy. They keen-eyed among you will also have noticed that I have published a new comedy erotic short story with Lami Kamikaze called Angela Ate my Dodo! Beautifully illustrated with colour paintings by the artist Saraswati Kiran, it’s very funny and wacky, and reminds me a bit of A Fish Called Wanda or the Austin Powers films. There is also an outline screenplay available on Amazon because I am very interested in working with a producer or director on a film project of this book. My Flick Fiction offering received a very muted response which is a bit disappointing. Perhaps only a few could be bothered to translate the Chinese version back. If you read it in the previous post and like it, please share it among your friends.

Too Bright the Sun

BookCoverPreview

As you will see in the post below, I was very happy to find out today that Too Bright the Sun entered the Top 100 FREE Kindle books list on all three: Amazon USUK and Canada on Monday. Promoting my work takes me away from writing so it’s really nice to get some reward for all the effort I have put in over the last few weeks. I only wish I knew exactly what number it reached. You can rest assured I am watching the progress of Vampire: Beneficence (Short Stories III) very closely. Below I will discuss the results of the Amazon KDP Free Promotion for my books so far.

Vampire: Beneficence (Short Stories III)

So far there have been 131 downloads, 17 of them in Germany. It seems to be taking longer to get people’s attention with this one although it’s doing much better in the US than here. Perhaps the UK market really isn’t so keen on Vampire stories. Then again it’s been my experience that lycanthropy stories do well here in winter and not summer whereas for Science Fiction it’s the other way round,

It’s languishing around the 3000 Ranking on both Amazon US and UK so if you haven’t downloaded a copy, please do.

Unknown Place, Unknown Universe

Interestingly, I did a two-day paid advert for 29-30 June on Facebook for this and I think it made very little difference. There have been 103 downloads (the promotion is now finished) which is about half what Too Bright the Sun achieved. But then Amazon continued billing me for half of the 1st July before I could stop the advert!! Needless to say that I have complained to Facebook about this but have not heard back. Their promotional blurb is misleading if this is how the promotion works: you have to delete or pause a campaign to stop them from billing you after the campaign is due to finish. I am also waiting for reply to my complaint about having the link to Too Bright the Sun declared spam! There was only one option from drop downs for the complaining email: ‘my Human Rights have been violated’! Anyway, in that 2.5 day period 168,500 people were reached and there were 52 clicks giving a ‘conversion’ rate of  0.005%.However it doesn’t mean these 50 people downloaded copies. I am doubtful many of them did because if I look at the access statistics for my Lazlo Ferran page I see that I reached 97,000 people in India in the last month (the highest reach for any country) followed by Germany at 44,000, Uk at 31,000, Canada at 20,000 and US at 15,000. And yet I only had 5 downloads from India. It is however worth noting that the high number reached in Germany might explain why the downloads for Germany were so unexpectedly high. I haven’t paid for an advert for the Vampire book and downloads are soon to exceed those for Unknown Place, Unknown Universe.

Results of Caption Competition for Too Bright the Sun’s Laser Weapons

I decided to do a caption competition half way through Too Bright the Sun’s promotion and had some great suggesions.

The winner for the Alien Laser Rifle is Organic Plasma Rifle by Dominic Kay @DBCK83.

The winner for the laser pistol is Laser Carbine LC5150 ‘Bullpup’ by David Bayne @david_bayne.

The names will be included in Iron III: Worlds Like Dust and of course there will be a credit both winners!

Other News

I have added some more background information and pictures in a section ‘From the Author’ for both Iron Series books; Too Bright the Sun and Unknown Place, Unknown Universe so be sure to take a look by clicking on the menu above. Also if you are a writer and interested in lycanthropy or high tech science fiction please join my discussion group on Facebook.

Don’t forget, the Free Promotion of Vampire: Beneficence: (Short Stories III) is still FREE to download until 8 am Sunday UK time or midnight 6 July in the US.

Too Bright the Sun Sci-fi novel in Amazon top 100 Free list!

BookCoverPreviewI was very happy to find  out today that Too Bright the Sun entered the Top 100 FREE Kindle books list on all three: Amazon US, UK and Canada on Monday. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see it because I simply wasn’t expecting it to do that well! The book  has been in a Free promotion over the last week and so I was expecting high download volumes but what I didn’t realise is that there are not that many eBooks offered for free at any one time. Hence I was looking the wrong way. Thanks to @JessieBTyson (an author in the Facebook Group Authors Tweeting Authors for noticing. Only wish I had taken a screen grab but I will be watching closely during the next Free Book Promotion.

I have no idea what number I reached although I checked Amazon UK, US and Canada today and there were no Science Fiction books  in any of them so that in itself is a victory for Science Fiction.

Looking at the books in the #1 position for Free Kindle books on Amazon UK and Amazon US they generally rank first in their category and somewhere between 20 and 300 for all the Kindles on sale. The ones at the #100 position vary anywhere from 300 to 3000 in the sales ranks. Too Bright the Sun peaked at #17 (UK) and #38 (US) in the sales rank for its category and therefore it could have been anywhere really in the Top 100 Free kindle books.

There may be a very short blog this weekend – I will be sipping a margarita and reflecting on the success of Too Bright the Sun. It’s not just my success though but a team effort. Thanks to everybody who tweeted for me or posted, shared and commented on Facebook. It all helped a lot.