Monday, April 29, 2013

MC/Author Similarities and Differences

So many times, I look at my story and think, “Wow! I hadn’t realized the main character was so much like I am!” However, I noticed last week one way in which we really differ. A lot.

I am a visual/book learner. In elementary school, while I always wanted to do science experiments, I never needed to. I would read the description of the experiment and understand exactly what was going to happen and what I was supposed to learn. I’ve never been very anxious to get involved, and often, I find the physical aspects of learning a chore.

My MC is the opposite. Books make no sense to him, but put him in the field and he’s good to go. He fails in school, but in the real world, life makes sense and he comes out ahead of the rest.

How did that happen?

Friday, April 26, 2013


At my free writers’ group a couple of weeks ago, only two of us showed up. We still quite enjoyed ourselves. One of our prompts was to look at one of the customers where we meet and then take ten minutes to write what she thought about that morning. I could only see the back of her head, but I instantly had an image in mind. As I sat down to write, I heard “lattice, lattice” over and over in my head. I thought, “That’s not a name.” Then, “Oh, Gladys!”

I put pen to paper and wrote about how Gladys spent the morning sipping tea in her comfy kitchen and planning her garden for the year.

At the end of the ten minutes, we always read our free-writes aloud. My writing companion shuffled her papers, straightened in her seat, and offered to go first. She cleared her throat and said, “I’m going to call her Gladys.”


Monday, April 22, 2013

On Target

When I originally started the Epic Novel (and I mean age 15 originally), I had five primary characters and used an (poorly done) omniscient narrator to tell the story. As the drafts went on, I gradually narrowed down to one main character and his POV. Now I still have that main character but I also have an alternating POV. As I switch back and forth, I find myself constantly wondering, what are the other characters thinking?

For example, the second POV character I use in Book Two--what does she think in Book One? What kinds of things does she go through? I find myself really wanting to add a dozen more POV characters because, to me, they are all interesting as well!

Now I have to answer some questions: Do I add another POV character? Do I add a secondary character book (an idea I’ve toyed with)? Do I write these other POVs just because they would be fun and might help me with the main story even if no one else ever reads them? Or do I follow the orders of Gold Leader in Star Wars?

“Stay on target. Stay on target.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

You Can’t Have Five Characters All Be the Same. Sorry.

I have a problem. All my commanding officers seem to be the same. The squad leader and the company commander, I realized, act almost the exact same way. They have this firm but genuine air. They don’t let people get away with things, but they care. They even look the same! Tall, thin, light hair. Hmm. This could be a problem.

Especially in basic training. I know my military isn’t as tough as our real military, but still, I think it needs to be tougher. For a little while, I was daunted. That almost gentle kind of CO seemed to be the only kind I knew how to write. But then, I remembered the drill sergeant from an earlier draft. Ta da! So, I resurrected him, and I’m really pleased. The problem I have now is keeping gruff drill sergeant different from unreasonably harsh disciplinarian commander.

Here’s an idea! Try putting a completely different character into a scene you already and see what happens. What happens if you add a tough drill sergeant in place of an encouraging mentor? What happens if the rowdy class clown is replaced by a mime or the meek accountant vanishes while a rough and tough cowboy appears?

Happy writing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Inbetween Scenes

It’s funny how things go not all the way I intended.

All of my main climatic scenes, I plan out in my head weeks, months, even years before they ever make it to the page. I love writing those scenes. However, some of the most fun I have in writing is when I write the in-between scenes and have no idea what is going to happen next.

Last week, I sent my MC to boot camp. The first night, he paused to talk with a friend. I didn’t realize that would make him late to dinner. I didn’t realize he would get in trouble for being late. I didn’t know the drill sergeant would make him stand in front of the entire mess hall like a bad elementary school kid and watch while everyone else ate.

I didn’t know he would be sent to the CO’s office.

I love it when things work out. :-)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sick and SIC

Inspiration is wonderful. It motivates, it encourages, it deepens plot, story, character.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come when we beckon. A couple weeks ago, I was sick. In a variety of ways. I had planned to spend the day catching up on housework and my to do list while carving out about two hours of writing time. Instead, I found myself on the couch covered in blankets sipping tea with honey. Well, I would put in my two hours of writing, and then I could accomplish at least some of my to do list.

When my two hours was up, I felt compelled to keep writing. Not that I particularly wanted to, but I knew should. I’ve barely written a thing in the past two months. What I’ve written has been mere pages a day and pretty poor stuff at that. One of my mentors called this SIC--Sit In Chair, which means sitting down and making yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it. Well, for me it was LOC--Lie On Couch, but same concept. You know what happened? Eighteen and a half pages, baby, that’s what happened! And not half bad either.

Moral of the story, sometimes, you just have to buckle down and work even if you don’t feel like it. The results may not be perfect or elegant, but they will be satisfying. Hard work usually is.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Don’t Hate My Babies!

I am currently writing in close third person point of view, which means I stick closely to my point of view character, almost as though I were writing in first person. If he doesn’t know it, then the narrator can’t know it, so the reader won’t know it. This poses problems for me in the motivations of others.

I just wrote a scene where my MC’s father said some pretty hurtful things. I caught myself starting to write, “Now, MC knew his father loved him and that he didn’t really mean those things . . . .” Really? If your father had just said some pretty hurtful things, would you really sit there and think, “Now, I know he didn’t mean that . . .” or would you go off and fume? (And remember, you’re a teenager at the time.)

Right. I catch myself doing this all the time, trying to explain why certain secondary characters are acting the ways the are because I don’t want my readers to hate them. Because really, my MC’s father does love him and is just under a lot of stress and is worried sick. But my MC doesn’t understand that, so my narrator can’t know it--so <em>I cannot tell the reader</em>. I just have to repeat that to myself over and over again.

So when eventually I publish something, you can always write me to ask why characters acted a particular way, and I would be happy to explain. Just don’t hate my babies!

Friday, April 5, 2013

One Scene, Three Ways

In switching back and forth between points of view, I sometimes write a scene several different times. One scene in particular kept switching back and forth between point of view characters. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s an exercise many writers do on purpose.

Try writing a scene (any scene, the opening, the finale, the climax) from the point of view of a different character. What changes? What other details do you notice? What do you realize about the different characters’ motivations?

Save this new scene for reference. This exercise can help you to realize you’re writing from the wrong point of view or it can simply give you better understanding of your story.

Here’s another option: Write a memory of your own from the point of view of someone else who was there (a sibling, a bystander, a friend). What kind of insight does that give you?

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Breaking Out

So, I have once again embarked, starting over, with Book One of the Epic Novel. :::sigh:::: The great thing is that I believe I have broken out of the shell of Drafts 9-11, aka, the drafts I wrote in high school. That had been the way the story went for so long that thinking of other ways it could go was difficult. I felt as though I were inside a ball, bouncing around, trying to get out.

Finally, I did (helped along mightily by the brainstorming session). I can’t remember what did it exactly. I’m getting along very slowly. I was frustrated last week as I wrote only five pages, and those on Friday. This week, things are moving along better, but slowly. However, the few pages I have written are good pages. The story feels more authentic to me now. I’m excited to see where it goes!

But I really don’t want to describe the military base again. Maybe I’ll just snag that paragraph from another draft. :-)