Moving Beyond the Book: Character Blogs, As We See Them

April 18th, 2007 · 6 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

As you might have noticed, we have been thinking more than a little about how publishers can transition from the old model to the new model without sacrificing the old model. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the old model can be neatly summed up as “good stuff to read”.

In many ways, a good character blog is a story unto itself.

In the past, this meant good stuff to read in book format. Without a doubt, this is the format that readers seem to prefer…and why not? Books remain highly portable — in more than one sense of the word — and easy-to-use. One would almost think they’d been designed purely for human pleasure.

While books remain the primary choice for readers everywhere (tell us we don’t have a future in sloganeering), readers crave that little something extra these days. They want access to their authors, they want access to each other, they want access to worlds beyond the book. This final idea is something we see sometimes, but rarely in-depth and rarely with commitment.

The most committed of these worlds beyond the book are character blogs, and, well, we have yet to see one that truly engages us (yes, we are seeking good examples, got any?). Here is why: rather than truly exploring the character outside the confines of the story — where, frankly, we know what’s happening — the character blogs about what’s happening in the story. Events mirror action, if you will. Generally, very little new information is imparted. In our mind, an effective character blog does not tell about things the reader already knows, a story that has already been resolved. It expands the book’s universe.

In many ways, a good character blog is a story unto itself. It offers new insights, new scenarios, and new setting. There is a different sort of plot line — and the author devises this on the fly sometimes, almost as if writing a full-on character bio. Maybe, continuing with the bio theme, the character blog is the backstory, telling how the character got to the point where the story opens. Maybe the character blog criss-crosses the story in the book (surely, not all character time is devoted to solving a mystery or whatnot. Surely, your character has a life!).

Whatever the character blog is about, it needs to be as fully immersive as the novel itself. Blogging is so often a personal venture and the voice of the narrator (the blogger) are as much a part of the experience as the words on the screen. The line between fiction and reality must be seamless, indistinguishable. The character blog should compel the reader to keep going as much as a good novel keeps one up way past any reasonable sort of bedtime.

A good character blog is, yes, more than a lot of work. Best of all, it is effort that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills (not, we realize, that writing books is the most lucrative profession in the world). The character who blogs may never see the light of print. Then again, the character who blogs may find that print is too confining for the story being told, for the world being built. The blog might become the story in and of itself. The money — yes, one must always be practical — might flow in new and different ways.

But all of this is neither here nor there. We were talking about readers, weren’t we? Readers are seeking information that takes them beyond the book. They want to get interact with the story in new ways. A good character blog — and think long and hard about this — is only one way. It just happens to be the one way that fiction writers, especially, do quite well.

File Under: Marketing For Introverts

6 responses so far ↓

  • Susan Helene Gottfried // Apr 18, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Sounds like you need to visit West of Mars. You’re describing what I’m trying to bring my readers.

  • Brian Hadd // Apr 18, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    True post but milquetoast. Character Blogs are narratives sounds to me and augmenting fiction is different than interacting in new ways, right?

    The Hood Company

  • Kassia Krozser // Apr 18, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Brian — I’ll give you the milquetoast (one cannot be sparkling brilliant every day of the week, heck, twice a week) but I’ll disagree on the second point. If we take as a starting point that the standard novel is the state of the art definition of a fictional work (setting aside short stories) when it comes to print, then elements contained within the novel represent the limits of interaction. A character blog, done right (and I really emphasize this point), creates a whole new type of fiction. The method of storytelling is different.

    The way information is shared between the character and readers is different — suddenly you have the ability to hold two-way conversations between characters and readers. This requires particular skill on the part of the author, sure, but it opens new ways to interact with the story. Okay, maybe not new but certainly not ordinary.

    There also exists the opportunity to do different kinds of world-building. The various pressures and limitations of novels put some restrictions on world-building in the narrative. Done right, a character blog (or something else entirely) can make the fictional world a more vivid place. Remember, that the character blog does not need to come from the perspective of your protagonist — in many ways, other characters might be better suited to this activity.

    In fact, I’d caution that a character blog only works if the character were the type to blog. Mike Hammer? Don’t see him as a blogger. Though, if he were, it would like not be safe for work.

    Augmented fiction is sufficiently different that I think it’s the definition of a new way of interacting. It’s in many ways taking the story to the readers rather than waiting for the readers to come to the story via the bookstore.

  • Kirk // Apr 19, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Mmmmmm, milquetoast.

    I’m not sure I understand Brian’s comment. A character blog can certainly augment fiction, but it can also be a new way of interacting. Unless I somehow missed the old way that characters interacted with readers — was there one?

    A character blog can also be a great tool for writers to discover a character’s voice, provided the character is the sort who would blog in the first place (as Kassia just noted). What better way to learn what your character is really made of than to have him or her engaged in a flame war with angry readers?

    I’ll go further with this and suggest that blogs are just the starting point. Where appropriate characters should be actively participating in other types of social media. Why shouldn’t a character have a flickr account, a list on 43things, and bookmarks on

  • Brian Hadd // Apr 21, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Conversation has charm, and character blogging will take some character up to bestseller status soon: convincing argument. Thanks.

    “I need to listen”–this feeling endures and feeds reading of books and faces I think. Amending this write now!

    Kirk, I wanted a distinction from something actually different, as opposed to something of the same quality but simply added-onto which I may erroneously believe conveys the verb augment. Kassia, always crisp–never milquetoast–answered me right.

    The Hood Company

  • Henri the Ghostest with the Mostest // Nov 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm