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Lazette Gifford,
Margaret McGaffey Fisk,
Assistant Editor

Issue # 55
January/February 2010

Table of Contents

Book Trailer Love

By Lisa Lawler

Copyright © 2010, Lisa Lawler, All Rights Reserved

Browsing the NaNo forums this year, I discovered that a lot of writers had created their own book trailers. I was very impressed with what I saw and it occurred to me that book trailers can be an extremely useful motivational tool if they are put together in the right way.

In this article, I will look at the different aspects of creating a book trailer so that the finished product helps to keep us in love with our story all the way through to "The End".

The difference between this type of book trailer and a promotional book trailer is that the promotional book trailer is designed to sell a finished and published book. We're using book trailers as a motivational tool, not a sales tool, so we don't need to have finished our novel or story to create one.

The Creative Process Ideally, the book trailer will not interfere with the writer's inspiration or creativity. A book trailer can very easily do this if we're not careful, because if we've already told the story, and told it well, through the medium of film (words, images and music), will we still be interested re-telling it using words only?

I've put together a simple demo book trailer for a story called The Music Makers to demonstrate the points I make in the article. It's on YouTube and this is the link:

Character(s) No story is complete without interesting characters that change and develop as they move through the story. Before you begin, think about the following points:

  • Who is/are your main character(s)?
  • What are their strengths/weaknesses/fears? (Include only those elements that
  • affect your characters' progress through the story.)
  • What are your characters' goals?
  • What links your characters together?
I suggest watching the trailer at this point and then we can look at the elements that went into it in more detail.

In the trailer, the main characters are Keenan, Cupid, Dame Tessa, and Penny and Clive.

Keenan's goal in life is to be a celebrity; Cupid wants to rock the world; Dame Tessa wants to make a comeback.

Keenan's flaw is crowd-diving; Cupid suffers from stage-fright; Dame Tessa is "temperamental".

All the characters are members of The Music Makers, a group set up by Penny and Clive as a condition of their Community Service.

  • Where does the story take place?
  • If the story also takes place in the past, when does it take place?
The Music Makers is set in or near ToyCity.

Story Question Put simply, what is the story about? What do the characters want and will they get it? Knowing this means we know when and where to start and end the story.

The Music Makers have to perform at a major cultural event, the ToyCity International Music Festival. The question is: Can they pull it off? And how will their performance affect their individual goals and ambitions?

Inciting Incident What event kick-starts our story? What changed in the characters' daily lives that caused them to step outside their comfort zone and react?

For The Music Makers, that will be when they receive the invitation to participate at the international music festival.

Theme/Premise Either or both of these can be included if we know what they are before we start writing. However, a lot of writers discover what the theme and premise are only as the story unfolds, so leaving them out of the trailer isn't a problem.

Because this is not a book or story I intend to write, I haven't included a theme or premise in the trailer. The theme could be about teamwork, overcoming differences, living your dreams... any number of things. The premise is built on the theme, e.g. "Teamwork leads to positive results" or "Too many cooks spoil the broth" (depending on how The Music Makers' performance goes!).

We're now ready to look at the next stage of creating the book trailer.

Images Look for several interesting images of:
  • our characters;
  • their goals (if possible);
  • any important objects that feature in the story;
  • the setting; and
  • anything that will help to recreate the atmosphere of our story.
The more the images trigger something within us, the better.

Music I have a key-ring which reads: "Where words fail, music speaks." Music is vibration. It crosses language barriers and cultural divides. It speaks directly to the imagination and to the soul. It creates atmosphere and affects mood. The same song will affect different people in different ways.

The same trailer set to different types of music will suggest a slightly different story each time, so it's worth making sure that the music chosen accurately depicts our characters and the story we want to tell.

I went looking for different types of music, including classical and folk, and finally settled on the piece in the trailer because it was upbeat and light-hearted and fitted the atmosphere of the story.

Now that we know the elements to include in the trailer, let's take a look at the things to leave out.

Back Story It's best not to add too many details about our characters to the trailer. Things change. We discover new information as we write. A fascinating plot point might fall apart and we'll have to change something (small, hopefully) in the character's back story to fix it. Or a character might do something and the only way to explain their motivation is to add something to the back story. (Of course, it's not really adding; it's just that we didn't know this about the character until they acted as they did and surprised us .) It's easier to change things on the page than it is to change them in the trailer.

We don't know why the individuals in The Music Makers chose the goals they did, or why they have the flaws they do. We don't know anything about their lives before the story begins, apart from the fact that they're musicians; that Dame Tessa had a career once and is trying to revive it; and that Penny and Clive have a shady past.

Conflict Conflict is an essential ingredient in story telling. Being specific about the conflict in the book trailer while we're still working on the novel is the same as outlining in a lot of respects. Scenes will have to be written to include the conflicts shown in the trailer. Allowing the trailer to shape our path through the story gives us less opportunity to be surprised and inspired while we write.

If the trailer, on the other hand, just shows us who the characters are, what their goals and challenges are, and what the story is about, then we can think about the characters in more depth and discover the layers of conflict as we write and the trailer won't interfere with the creative process.

For example, if we think deeper about the characters in The Music Makers, it is reasonable to assume that Keenan loves groupies and would not be pleased that Dame Tessa has frightened a lot of them away.

Dame Tessa surely wonders how she's going to retain any credibility working with the likes of Keenan. What scenes might erupt between them?

Dame Tessa scares Cupid half to death. Or does she? Maybe he admires her passion? Maybe he'll ask for her help in overcoming his stage fright?

How does everyone feel about Keenan's crowd-diving? What might happen during one of his dives off stage? What if there was a civil action brought against the group by someone in the crowd who got injured? How would that affect the terms of Clive and Penny's Community Service?

And so on.

Climactic scenes and major plot developments As we write, things change. A scene might be dropped altogether; we may discover something about the characters we didn't know (that's always cool!) or a new scene or major plot development might spring to mind that's even better than the original idea we had.

For instance, if we introduce a minor character who does something very important, or realise a main character has to make a tough decision we didn't foresee, several scenes may need to be rewritten and the rest of the conflict revised. Once this happens, our book trailer may no longer be relevant to the story. Once created, we don't what to have to update the trailer as each new plot point unfolds. It's time-consuming and will take our focus away from the main task - writing the story.

To sum up, the book trailer shouldn't be answering any questions it raises - that's what the book is for and the trailer shouldn't make reading (and writing!) the story or novel redundant. The trailer should set up the story and spark interest and excitement, and leave us free to imagine how things turn out for the characters and then get it all down on paper or up on the screen.

Have fun!

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
-- Oscar Wilde