Creating a dedication or acknowledgment page for your novel

In a past post, I wrote about front matter – all the stuff that goes before your story begins. With the passing of my mother recently, my mind has been on dedications.

Dedications

After the grueling process of writing and publishing a book, there may be someone special you want to thank. Now, nothing says you need to say thank you to anyone. In fact, I’ve only done two dedications out of five books.

Your dedication can be to a spouse (as was my first one), parent, sibling, another family member, friend, supervisor, colleague, or even your pet. This is a personal choice and you know what, there is no wrong answer.

Dedications should be short and to the point.

My dedication from my first book Summoned:

To my husband,

Without you, this book would not exist.

A couple simple dedications:

For my wife and children – Janie and Johnny

For Marla who made me include her cat.

I dedicate this book to my parents who raised me to love reading.

You can start it with “I dedicate this book…”, “This book is dedicated to…”, “To….”, “For…” or simply write a few lines without a formal address. Another type of dedication is the “In memory of…”

My dedication from my book The Heir to Alexandria:

In Memory of my friend Trish,

Wife, mother and friend

You are missed beyond words

If you have a lot of people to thank or acknowledge that would be for the acknowledgement section.

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments are to thank all the people who have helped in the creation of your novel – the police officer you interviewed, your editor, your spouse for their support and so on. It is your way to show them your appreciation in a public (and permanent) form.

You can thank family members, friends, agents, editors, publisher, co-workers, contributors, advisors, teachers, and mentors. This section is all about them – not you.

To write your acknowledgements, first write down all the people you need to acknowledge. You can group them by category to ensure you don’t forget anyone. And make your thanks specifc.

Sample acknowledgement:

Thank you to Officer Frank D. Smith of the Littleton Police Department for answering my endless list of questions on how a small town police office runs. A big thank you to doctors Marshall Smith and Mindy Waters for pointing me the right way in my research and also answering all my questions.

I also want to thank my agent Scott Henderson and my editor Claudia Miller for keeping me on task and helping me hone this work. And last to my husband Jerry and my children, little Martha and Johnny, for your endless encouragement and support. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Another example:

Thanks to everyone on the publishing team who helped me so much. Special thanks to Mary, my ever patient editor and Randy, the greatest cover designer I could ever imagine.

And a very special thank you to Mrs. Smith, my fourth grade teacher, for encouraging me to write and for always believing in me. Finally, to all my friends and family who supported me along this journey: my mother Mary, my sister Sarah, my Uncle Bill, my best friends Kathryn and Joanne, thank you. I could never have done this without you.

Don’t worry about length. This is your time to thank everyone. Use as much space as you want but if you have a very long acknowledgement, you may want to include it in the back matter rather than the front matter. But a word of warning, if you go on and on, you risk watering down the gratitude. If you make your acknowledgment short, you risk leaving someone important out.

In the end, many readers will not care about the book dedication or acknowledgment. Many won’t read them or even later remember what was said. But to those that are mentioned, this is a great way to show that you appreciate their support and help.

Creating a character arc

I’ve written numerous times about characters – developing them, naming them and pretty much every aspect about developing what typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc.

Oh, I’ve written about the story arc which is what happens overall to all the characters in your novel. Now don’t confuse this with the plot which is individual events that make up your story. The story arc is the sequence of those events. You can read my post on story arcs here.

The story arc is what happens to all characters while the character arc is an internal journey of just one person. It usually involves a character overcoming an obstacle and changing the way they see the world. Due to developments in the story, they change into a different sort of person. While you only have one story arc, you can have multiple character arcs per book. In fact, every character in your book could have an arc though readers may never see the arc of minor characters.

Here are some of the steps that typically show up in the character arc.

  1. Introduction – This is where your reader first meets the character and finds out about their normal life.
  2. Inciting Incident – This is the event that happens to alter your character’s life. Someone could enter their life and disrupts the status quo. Or perhaps they are forced to flee their home. This incident is the beginning of what will change them.
  3. Challenges – Incidents in the story will test the character. It will show their strengths and weakness. The character may start to change his beliefs and actions. He or she may already be changing but not realize it.
  4. Realization – At some point, your character may realize he has changed and realize he needs to embrace the change. He may have to face the truths he hasn’t been able to face.
  5. Moment of Arrival – This where the character must be honest and embrace that change. This is the final push where they have “arrived”.  
  6. Resolution – The character has transformed. They see the world differently now.

Now your character’s arc may not go exactly like this. It may speed through sections or stay longer in others. They may not have a big revelation of their change. It could all be subtle and internal. But the main thing is that your character must change. They must grow and be different than they were at the beginning of your story.

You can check out some compelling character arcs on this blog.

Using an emotion wheel to improve your writing

Creating strong characters depends on putting feelings and emotions into words on the page. Physical traits and character backstory can help create a vivid character, but it is how they behave to a situation that really makes them come alive.

This emotion wheel can help you determine how a character will act in a given scene.

Is your character embarrassed? Does he feel ridiculed or annoyed? From the outside of the circle toward the center, he is feeling a mixture of sadness, anger, and disgust. How is he going to act? Will he lash out? Will he walk away? Will he swallow his feelings and extend a hand and a smile?

As the writer, you get to choose.

Looking for more help – check out this website for a cheat sheet on body language.

Creating a character list

Creating characters can be fun. You develop their characteristics, physical traits, and their backstories. And you get to name them. Now you don’t always need to spend a lot of time on characters. If they are a minor character, you will spend less time developing them then say your protagonist. But as your protagonist runs into people sometimes those people at least need a name – and perhaps a description.

The pert waitress may come over and announce her name is Sally, interrupting your character’s dark thoughts. Sally won’t probably get even a last name. Heck, you probably could write the scene without giving the waitress a name.

But if your character runs into many of the same characters – perhaps who live in the same apartment building or down at the local bar, those people might be better off with names.

The other day, I was working on my current WIP. It is the first book in a second trilogy about Lina and Val, the main characters from my first trilogy, The Elemental. There was already a large cast of characters in that trilogy and now we are adding to that group. And that means naming more major, minor and bit characters.

I’ve written several posts about how to name characters. But the tricky thing is that after six books, I’ve used a lot of the names I like. Plus, I am writing fantasy so none of my characters have Christian names like John and Michael. I am for more unique names though there are a few common names mixed in.

Since I am working with a large cast of characters in this world, I do have a spreadsheet of the names. Actually, as I write any of my books, I usually have a spreadsheet with the character names, locations, travel times, timeline and chapter lengths.

It was when I was naming two thieves that my latest WIP that I realized that I might need a master list of names I’ve already used and in which book they appeared. It isn’t that I can’t use names again, but I would rather not always use the same names – no matter how much I like them. I mean I know not to use Val, Grayson or Soren as these were main characters, but what about Elias or Darius?

I’m not saying you need to do this, but it has turned out to be very interesting. I did find out that I have a character named Delwin and Elden in every one of my books. And I have 265 named characters over 5 full-length novels, my short story and my current WIP. That feels like a lot, and I expect this list to continue to grow as I write the rest of this trilogy.

Sharing a great writing website

The other day I was writing the scene in my latest Work in Progress, and I noted that I tend to use some words or phrases quite a bit. In a conversation, people nod, shake their head, shrug, and so on. And as this is the first draft, it is quite normal to fall into using these words or phrases. But I was thinking rather than wait until my next round of editing, what words or actions could I use instead?

Well, a quick search on the internet led me to this blog post of 100+ Ways to say Shrug by Kathy Steinemann.

Here are the first lines of her post:

“Perhaps you rely on shrugs as action beats to differentiate between speakers in dialogue; or maybe you’re on an early draft, and you write the first thing that comes to mind.”

Eureka! She hit the nail on the head. This was just my problem. I quickly read her post where she gave easy explanations and plenty of examples.

Looking through the titles of other posts, I saw many that were interesting. Here are some posts I thought could help any writer:

100+ Ways to say Shrug – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/shrug/

200 Ways to say Shake the Head – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/shake-the-head/  (which in some societies is a positive thing rather than a negative)

200+ Alternatives for Wide Eyes – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/wide-eyes/

And it isn’t just phases such of these…here are some posts on verbs or adjectives.

350+ Ways to Replace the verb “Take” – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/take/

500+ Ways to Replace the verb “Make” – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/make/

200+ Ways to say Embarrassed – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/embarrassed/

150+ Ways to say Confused – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/confused/

150+ Ways to say Overwhelmed – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/overwhelmed/

150+ Ways to say Disappointed – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/disappointed/

200+ Ways to say Excited – https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/excited/

And if you peruse her site, you might find even more helpful blog posts. I know I’ll be returning to read some of these…after – or maybe while – I work on finishing my first draft.