For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

July 25, 2014
The #YARunsA5K was EPIC and AMAZING and a HUGE success! We donated almost 100 books (WHOA) to the Free Library of Philadelphia, and we raised almost TWICE our monetary goal!!

Plus, the Color Run and Virtual run were a total blast! Just check out all the pictures for proof! Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated and donated and ran--you're amazing. Amazing.

For the Misfits:
Stay Forever Strange!

So book 3 dropped on Tuesday! And I am now the author of a COMPLETE series! How crazy is that?

To celebrate, check out my
 goodbye letter to Eleanor on Epic Reads and my article on ending a series (plus what's up next) on RT Magazine.

And, in case you missed the AMAZING surprise blog party from @hellochelly and @alexalovesbooks, SURE to check it ('cos it's incredible and it made me cry a million tears).

You can, of course, get the book from all the major vendors:

amazon   bam   bn  indiebound

That said, I've heard non-USA/Canada residents are having a hard time getting the book. Apparently Book Depository is crapping out at the moment! SO, if you're international and you want a copy, I can send you a signed book for the cost of the book + shipping (for UK residents, that's ~$20USD). If you're interested, just email me at :)

American readers can ALSO get a signed copies from Schuler Books! Shipping costs $1, and I can personalize any book from the series! Just write in the comments section at check-out to whom you would like the book signed and personalized.

WHILST ON THE SUBJECT OF BOOK 3, I will send a free e-copy of A Dawn Most Wicked (the series e-novella) to anyone who leaves an honest review for Strange & Ever After at one of the major vendors above. YEP, you read that right! Free e-novella for a review (an honest one!).

If you already have the e-novella, then I can send you a free e-copy of Sightwitch, the first installment in my new series from Tor, as soon as it is available this fall! Just email me at if you're interested!

Thanks for all your support, everyone, and I hope you enjoy the final epic installment in the Something Strange & Deadly series!

For the Daydreamers:
Dragging Characters Through the Wringer

This question came in through the forums, and I thought it was an excellent one--not to mention something I've had plenty of experience with:

I have trouble making bad things happen to my protagonists. I think I like them so much that I don’t want them to have to go through stuff like that! ... Does bad stuff just happen to your characters when you’re writing? Do you ever have to go back and make things worse for them in later drafts?

Well, if you've read Something Strange & Deadly, then you know I don't make things easy for Eleanor. If you've read A Darkness Strange & Lovely or Strange & Ever After (especially that last one), then you know I REALLY don't go easy on poor Eleanor.

But I wasn't so rough in early drafts. In fact, it usually takes me a few false starts and maybe even an entire crappy draft before I realize, "EVERYONE IS TOO NICE. EVERYONE GETS ALONG. THEY HAVE NO TROUBLES. I NEED TO DO THIS AGAIN."

I'm not the only person who does this. When I was reading the opening chapters of a WIP for my critique partner, she had done the exact same thing. Everyone got along, everyone helped the heroine just because, and there was no conflict to keep the plot tense and stakes high. (And this is a VERY famous author with lots of awards and accolades to her name.)

So we came up with the slogan: "Everyone needs to hate each other!"

If the scene feels easy, then everyone needs to hate each other! If the secondary characters are helping the protagonist with no solid motivation/reason why, then those secondary characters need to hate the protagonist! If the dialogue is all witty banter with no push for character growth, then make everyone hate each other!

Obviously, this is an exaggeration. Not all the characters should truly hate each other, but when you reframe scenes that way--when you re-imagine the scene as one filled with enemies--you start to look at character motivations differently.

In other words, you start to ask WHY is X character behaving this way and making this choice?

In my opinion, character motivations are THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A STORY. I will literally SCREAM when I see characters doing things that don't feel natural/true to their characters--i.e. when I see characters doing things for the sake of the plot.*

Once you know WHY your characters are doing things, you start to see something else--how the characters would react to new stuff. In other words, once you understand motivation, you can understand consequences.

Consequences are, in my opinion, the second most important part of story. Did your character react correctly? Did he behave true to his character? Was there emotional weight to all the crap that just happened? Was there enough emotional growth because of it? And was all that emotional stuff truly proportionate to the wringer he just went through?

Now, I'm super guilty of forcing characters to act according to the plot (and not according to their character). It happens to all of us while drafting. Or even while revising...

In fact, I went through Truthwitch convinced that my first 150 pages were gold (since I sold the series based on those) and that I shouldn't touch them. It took 3 different CPs telling me they didn't quite understand why Safi did X or why Noelle did Y before I started to wonder if maybe they were on to something...

So, even though I was on deadline and had already revised/rewritten the book to high heaven, I finally admitted to myself that I needed to do it all again. From the beginning. I needed to go through my emotional dominoes and really figure out WHY my characters behaved the way they did. Then, when bad things happened, I needed to actually DEAL with those consequences.

Basically, I needed to rewrite and recast entire scenes so that it all rang true. And I had to get SUPER emotional and dig into dark places I didn't want to dig into.

So I did. It was exhausting and took me 3 weeks of intense work, but I know--deep in my gut, I know--that the book is ten million times stronger because I did that.

Long story short: Bad stuff does happen to my characters when I draft, but often it's not bad enough. And I almost never manage to write the consequences properly (because I almost never understand my characters' true motivations until I've finished a first draft).

I always have to go back through and heighten the stakes, clarify motivations, kick my protagonist even harder while she's down, and then DIG DEEP into my own emotional banks to properly portray the consequences and emotional impact of it all.

And that, my friends, is how you put a character through the wringer. ;) Now, to wrap up the week, here are the best writing-related links I found:
See you next week, dear readers! And don't forget: if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. Thank you so, so, SO much for reading!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.