Writing Sales Copy, and Stereotypes

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Re Cormac McCarthy
* YouTube
* Dean’s Caution About Writing Fiction Sales Copy
* Random Thoughts on Stereotypes
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Government is never populated by saints, angels, or true prophets…. [S]uch people would be suited to run a society from the top down, treating each individual equally and fairly.” The Passive Guy

Re Cormac McCarthy

From My Friend Gary V.: “Whether you love or hate Cormac McCarthy, Harold Bloom’s critique of Blood Meridian (4 yrs. ago) is the best book critique I’ve read.” See the review at https://lithub.com/harold-bloom-on-cormac-mccarthy-true-heir-to-melville-and-faulkner/.


I plan to note here in the Journal each little thing I learn as I move deeper into my YouTube channel experience. So just in case some of you were as lost as I was when I started, maybe these little reports will help with your learning curve and east the transition should you decide to try it as well.

Thanks to several folks who subscribed to my YouTube channel and the notification I received about each of those subscribers, I know now that YouTube itself will notify subscribers when I put up new content. So that’s a load off my mind.

I’ll still notify those who are subscribed to my Stanbrough Writes substack, though.

Dean’s Caution About Writing Fiction Sales Copy

Dean Wesley Smith warns that when writing fiction sales copy, you must avoid writing the plot. Instead, simply write hype to tell the reader what the book is about. Do NOT tell the reader what happens in the book. That’s the difference.

As he says, “Nobody wants to read plot” in sales copy. They don’t want to read “this happened and then that happened and then that happened” etc.

But more to the point, speaking here on my own behalf, you don’t WANT them to read plot in your sales copy. Think about it: If you tell them what happens in the book, you erase their need to buy and read the book.

Case in point—a couple of years ago I went looking for Steven Pressfield’s The Legend of Bagger Vance. I found it but, based solely on the sales copy, I decided not to buy it. Why? Read the sales copy for yourself at https://www.amazon.com/dp/038072751X/. Does it make you want to buy and read the book? And the same holds true for some of his other novels.

If you want to write effective cover blurbs and descriptions for your fiction, I strongly urge you to buy Dean Wesley Smith’s How to Write Fiction Sales Copy. I recommend the paperback (it’s only $10), as you will refer to it again every time you finish a new novel and want to publish it. My copy is dogeared. You can find the paperback new at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1561466476/.

Random Thoughts on Stereotypes

Stereotypes are only a veil. Every one of them. Period.

They are necessary and useful in fiction and in life, but only when applied to individuals. And upon even cursory scrutiny, they quickly fall away, revealing the truth of the individual beneath

You, I, and everyone else—the first time we encounter another human or other creature in fiction or in real life—see a stereotype. You can’t stop yourself from using stereotypes in life or in writing fiction. But in writing fiction, accepting that as fact is useful.

Why? Because the stereotype enables the reader to see, hear, and sometimes even smell your character. Yes, smell. Is your character a bum or a hobo or a homeless person? an oilfield worker? a cowboy?

But as anyone with a brain knows, stereotypical traits that identify the character as a member of a particular group fall apart and-or are overshadowed as individual traits become apparent.

The stereotype is extremely good for misdirection. Imagine the large, elderly gentleman getting out of his beat-up, ancient pick-up truck in front of a bank.

He gets out of the pick-up and he is dressed in a straw hat that’s seen better days, faded blue coveralls over a stained white t-shirt and scuffed black heavy-soled lace-up boots.
Maybe little bits of hay or straw are scattered over his coveralls and a lump of something with straw in it extends from beneath the heel of his left boot. Go ahead. What would you think?

Follow him into the bank. As it happens, you have business there too.

Standing in line behind him, you watch as he nods, smiles and addresses an elderly passing female as “Ma’am” and then a younger one as “Miss.”

Finally he’s at the teller’s window. Again he smiles kindly. “I reckon I need to make a deposit. Last week’s receipts.” And he pulls a roll of cash out of his pocket like you’ve never seen.

As he counts it out and lays it on the counter, hundred dollar bill after hundred dollar bill, you calculate he’s depositing $8300.

A gentleman in a fine suit comes up behind the teller, reaches past her and offers a smile and his hand. “Mr. Smith, our best customer. Always happy to see you, sir.”

They chat for a moment, conclude their business, and Mr. Smith turns away, smiling and nodding at you as he passes.

When you attain the window, you frown and say quietly, “Who was that guy?”

The teller chuckles. “Don’t let appearances deceive you. That was Mortimer Smith. He’s the only multimillionaire I know who still works on his own farm.”

As you can see, the stereotypical traits fade as the reader gets to know the character. Yes, just as the stereotypical traits fade as any actual human gets to know any other actual human, or other creature for that matter.

Well, unless the individual traits shore up the stereotypical traits. Then the sense is “well, of course the character does that or would say that” and the reader doesn’t want to know anything more in-depth about the character. The character is fun to watch, maybe, but you wouldn’t invite him or her to your backyard barbecue.

The writer would do this only for a secondary, cardboard “good” character (a protagonist’s friend or acquaintance) or for any “bad” character, even the antagonist. Because who wants to get to know the bad guy?

Just a thought, but probably a writer will develop a well-rounded antagonist only if there’s a chance that character will be redeemed later in the book or series.

(In my Wes Crowley saga, Otis “Mac” McFadden became an antagonist. He had several endearing, redeeming traits and was a well-rounded character. But if he ever appears in film, who knows what the screen writer will do?)

Protagonists begin as stereotypes and quickly display several “good” traits, but also one “bad” or “flawed” trait for the sake of reality. Any well-developed protagonist in any story MUST be well-rounded.

Antagonists begin as stereotypes and quickly display several “bad” or “evil” traits. Well-rounded antagonists also display at least one “good” or “redeeming” trait for the sake of reality. As you will see below, this is not always the case.

But secondary, cardboard (but still important) characters are different. For them, the writer will introduce the good or bad stereotype, then apply one goood or bad individual trait that shores up the stereotype. Think of Joe Pesci’s silly, erratic “little man” character the the Lethal Weapon films.

Of course, Pesci’s character is an example of a “good” stereotype. (There are dozens of others. That’s just the one that came to mind.)

For a bad stereotype, see Joss Ackland’s performance as Arjen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2. (“Diplomatic immunity” with a smug smile.) Even as a main character (the antagonist) he isn’t well-rounded. I don’t recall him having any good or redeeming traits.

Okay, that’s enough of this for now. And yes, I’m aware I talked about writers “developing” characters. For a great deal more on that, I recommend my book Creating Realistic Characters .

Or you can purchase the audio lecture and PDF handouts (see Course 2) by the same name.

These are things you must learn with your conscious mind. Then, as you write with your creative subconscious, forget everything and Just Write. What you’ve learned will come through as the characters need it. Any questions, fire away.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Accentuate the Positive” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/06/accentuate-the-positive.html. Yes, happy father’s day to all the dads out there.

See “Tone in Writing: 42 Examples of Tone For All Types of Writing” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/tone-in-writing-42-examples-of-tone-for-all-types-of-writing/. Does anyone not know this already?

See “…Technology and the New Leviathan” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/152813-2/.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1420

Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)

Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154

Total fiction words for June……… 12154
Total fiction words for 2023………… 110022
Total nonfiction words for June… 13400
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 122820
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 232842

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

I.M. An angel, my angel, left this earth on April 11, 2023 just before 10 a.m. My life and my world will never be the same.

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.