Tag Archives: character

Inciting Your Muse Blog Chain

Where do you write? How long do you write at a time? How many days a week do you write? Do you use a computer or write long hand? Do you take breaks? Any food or drink involved? Is social media off-limits or do you troll Facebook and email? Do you use music or demand quiet? Non-writers are always curious about the process.

Set23_01My boring details would disappoint people. I sit (somewhere) for extended periods of time (hours, days, months) seeking higher inspiration to get my character out of some corner I’ve written him into. Lightning strikes and in a blur of creativity and a flash of fingers, words appear on the page moving the character forward in his universe and fixing the problem.

My fickle muse has stepped in.

I will sit (somewhere) for extended periods of time (hours, days, months) seeking answers as my plot completely unravels on page 189. Just as despair sets in, my muse returns, and the plot coalesces into the complete masterpiece I designed it to be. (cough, cough)

I sit (somewhere) for extended periods of time…I think we get the idea here.

There is no magic to this writing gig. It is full of mental and emotional angst, before, during, and after the creation of the book. It doesn’t matter if you write in a perfect office with a writerly desk or in a mountain cabin or in the basement next to the kid’s bicycles. It doesn’t matter if you are able to write all day during the week and take your weekends off or if you work a day job and squeeze your writing in at 4 a.m.

None of it matters.

Process isn’t really what matters. What matters, what makes a difference at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month, is the words on the page. The only way they get there is through hard work and determination. No rabbit in a hat. No magical elixir. No short cuts.

Although, chocolate never hurts…

Check out Leatrice here and Natasha at her new page. If you want to join in, put your link in the comments so we can enjoy your take on the “process”.

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Facing a Character Uprising: Whip and a Chair, Please.

I told her, "Ain't happening. Not doing that. Not now. Not ever."

I told her, “Ain’t happening. Not doing that. Not now. Not ever.”

We all recognize it. The signs are obvious. Our carefully mapped out story which we worked to meet the three arc story structure is not staying in line. And we all know whose fault it is. It’s not the hard-working writer. No. It is always a cantankerous character determined to forge his own path. How dare he! So we attempt to woo him into line, to no avail of course.

After a bit of head banging – ours not his – we look at our beautifully structured outline and realize the inevitable. This is not truly our story. It may have started in our hands, and we may have molded its beginnings, but the minute the protagonist entered and began relating to other characters we relinquished a degree of control. We still control syntax and diction. We have a say over format and structure. Those chapters and scenes are still somewhat within our purview, but try to tell your character how things will go for the rest of his story and see how quickly he stops talking to you.

Wrestling your character to force him into line with your original vision is a bit like wrangling an alligator. You either wind up an hors d’ oeuvre or you own a pretty but lifeless pair of shoes. It’s always best when a character steps up to the plate and takes over to let them have the wheel. You can step in when you need to and rein in the parts you control but let the character tell his or her story. It is their journey, their path. In the end, we wouldn’t want anyone else telling our story, would we?

How do you handle character rebellions?

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Edge of Truth

EdgeOfTruth.indd

Edge of Truth is a dystopian tale by author Natasha Hanova. Trapped in a world where she can never achieve more than the society has ‘approved’ for her, Rena Moon is a typical teenager. She rebels against everything from the Overlord to the Synbots to her father and aunt. Rena wants more and determines she can get more. The slight wrinkle to things is her ‘secret’. She’s an Other, one of those gifted with a hidden ability.

Like most girls she’s got a bestie, Blaze, and a crush, Nevan, and she has a lot on her plate. There’s the Solstice Celebration, avoiding her problematic little brothers, and her constant search for a way out of ‘Hollowdump’ as she calls her hometown. On one search into Westrock, she stumbles upon a treasure. That might be an understatement since Rena’s ‘Other’ trait is the ability to sense earthquakes. In this case, the quake unearths the cave of riches.

The fortuitous find represents freedom from the oppressive Overlord Andrick and the way of life she’s fought against. A reluctant Blaze agrees to help her market the treasures. Unfortunately, they don’t make it home before curfew and seek refuge from the Synbots at Nevan’s home much to Rena’s horror. Embarrassing moments pile up for her there, and she’s still got to face her father the next day. Rena’s grounding forces Blaze to go to market without her and attempt to sell the goods. This is Blaze’s strength and she does well. Both girls gear up for the Solstice Celebration now that they have outfits fit for who they really are, not who society has made them.

The first sign of a problem is when Rena shows up, but Blaze doesn’t. When it becomes apparent someone has kidnapped Blaze, Nevan joins Rena in the search for her bestie. Balancing her growing attraction to Nevan with her worry for Blaze and her guilt that her desire to leave Hollowdump is what caused her friend to go missing, Rena follows the path of clues. She knows her ‘directions challenged’ best friend is completely unable to lead her kidnapper to the cave and fears what he’ll do when he realizes it. What results is a suspense filled ride across uncharted territory during the ‘burn’, a dangerous sun without the protection of the ozone layer. Problem with her ability is she also causes quakes. She has to worry about and control her emotions as they search. This would be totally easier without Nevan by her side.

Rena is an independent minded female character, which is a huge plus in YA. Blaze is also a strong character although quite different from Rena. Nevan is the quintessential guy crush who can send a girl over the edge causing her to almost forget everything, even her missing bestie, by simply touching her hand. Power is at the heart of the book. In a dystopian society, it often is. However, independence and hope and loyalty win the day in Edge of Truth. The book is an edge of your seat roller coaster ride through a mine field, at the same time it maintains a sweet tale about friendship and first love. It’s a YA must read.

I received an ARC of Edge of Truth for the purpose of this review.

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Novel Clique-A Star is Born

This week I blogged over on Novel Clique. Check out the story of my character, Sam Dakota, and what it takes to develop characters.

Next week, my review of Edge of Truth.

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Flat Tires, Lost Keys, and Broken Arms

The last couple of years it has felt like my blog has become a Greek tragedy. For someone whose life can sedate background checkers, suddenly Shakespeare could cover it in three acts. This year I failed to get a flu shot for the first time in twelve years. Cautionary tale, this one. I got the flu. I will NOT forego it next year. I was still fighting the effects, when my husband went east and the horse went west. Hubby landed on an iron fence. The railing was quite unforgiving as you can imagine. His helmet left a contusion on his forehead but protected his brain. His arm was not so lucky. Three compound fractures, and I’m not sure shatter does justice to what it did to his wrist. He lost bone and may face a bone graft later on.

The flu had me incredibly far behind, and now I’m practicing my nursing skills. Which I’ll admit are limited. After nursing duties this morning, I realized that this was my blog morning. A week back and forth to the hospital caused me to lose all track of time. Usually, it would already be written and ready to go up this morning. Alas, it wasn’t. However, my Greek tragic life did provide a thought.

When I’m writing, my characters experience big events because CONFLICT is the thing. However, they are also “people” and as such experience the silly everyday pains we all do, lost keys, flat tires, the flu, etc. I guess, I’m putting my characters on warning. I see a flooding dishwasher or speeding ticket or case of the flu in their futures.

What kind of everyday mischief do you bring into your character’s lives?

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Load that Dump Truck

Life has a dump truck, and its beeper is broken because I never hear it backing up to take a great big dump on my carefully ordered life. One minute everything is orderly and going well and then, with not so much as one loudly obnoxious beep, it inundates me with a wealth of crappy chaos. At no point has anyone ever promised us anything less than chaos so those moments of quiet and contentment are more of an anomaly.

It occurred to me that in fiction authors are the great broken beeper dump truck. We must come into our protagonist’s carefully ordered life and wreak havoc without warning. Just as he or she begins to relax, here we come backing up with a load of it. What is it? Just go dumpster diving in your own life and those of other people you know. A broken dishwasher that floods your kitchen floor the week you have the boss and a client coming over for a big dinner. It’s a blowout on a freeway on the way to a big job interview. Did I mention it’s 110 degrees as you change the tire in your $300 suit?

As writers, we know we have to hurt our character so we write it into the intricately woven plot. That’s good. It works because those things are a part of the story worthy problem and provide the complications. Still, what about life? The character propels through the story, but they are also living a life. One you have carefully orchestrated. If you’re going to put that much work into this character’s goals and thematic elements and work on his personal growth, why not also look at what he would face as a guy walking down the street of your home town?

What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever dumped on one of your characters?

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Ripple, Pulse, Flow…

One of my critique buddies, Natasha Hanova, has started a blog chain on the ripple effect. The premise behind the blog chain is for you to write this question at the top of a post, link it back to the person whose blog you read it on, answer the question, and invite others (consider this your formal invitation) to participate. Last, post a link to participant(s) who link back to your blog to complete the chain. For this chain, Natasha asked the following question:

Has your manuscript (WIP or completed) experienced a ripple effect, where one change affected the manuscript from beginning to end? If so, how?

My YA novel is about a girl who discovers she’s genetically engineered. This news sends her on the run from good and bad guys alike with the help of lifelong friends, Toad and Mayo. As I wrote the first draft of the initial scene with Toad, he stunned me by  “rolling into the room” behind Ginny. It wasn’t something I thought about in advance or planned. The character told me he was in a chair. That one small detail caused ripples throughout the rest of the book and has ramifications in the next books as well.

Some were big, leading to ample questions for me like how could genetic engineering be used to help him and how might that impact Ginny’s mixed emotions about her status as a “freak”? Some were smaller, happening within my world building, such as a ramp that her dad built on his back deck for ease of access since Toad was there…a lot. The one simple detail enriched both the character of Toad but also impacted his relationships with Ginny and Mayo, his history (how and when did he end up in a chair?), and complicated his ability to help Mayo rescue their best friend.

Ripples are amazing. They continue to pay dividends long after that initial cause. Check out Writes by Moonlight’s blog on Ripples.

I’m interested in hearing whether you’ve experienced the ripple effect in your work and if so, how? If you decide to participate in this blog chain, please let me know so I can include a link. If you just want to leave your comments below, that works for me, too.

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