Friday, April 29, 2011

Character Interrogation

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alreich/
Make them shake in their boots! 

That's right, I said it. Interrogate the heck out of your characters. Why? Well, if you don't your story may fall short.

As a writer we have an obligation to our readers to peel back the layers of the characters we create. It's a way in which to further round out and bring our characters to life. 

After read the first three novels in the mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare I came away with a profound sense of awe at her characters. She has not only managed to create an awesome world in which they live and breathe, but made them seem so alive. I thought about it a bit and could only come up with one technique to even attempt at matching her gift of character creation. And that would be to interrogate the heck out of my characters. I wonder if this is what Clare did, or if she is just that amazingly talented. I'd like to say a bit of both.

At the moment I use a character sheet form I found somewhere on the internet a couple of years ago. I had the site saved originally, but lost the bookmark when my computer crashed back in November. So, unfortunately, I cannot give you the link. But, I can tell you a little about it. It goes over the basics, name, birthday, personality, physical descriptions, moral cold, flaws, secrets, possessions, role in story, key traits and a few other basic ideas. This suffices at first, I think, at least. I've been using this form for years and I like it. It's never done wrong by me.

But, I don't have enough room for the major interrogation that needs to take place between author and character. I mean, what makes these characters tick? What motivates them to make the decisions they make? There are so many questions I have for my main character Raynne. I want to ask her a zillion questions, so that when I sit down to do another round of editing on her story I have a better character outline. And she's not the only one I have questions for. I'd like to go crazy interrogating all of the characters in my story.

So what type of questions do I want to ask? Well you'll just have to wait and find out on Monday. I'm currently compiling a list of questions to ask them in an effort to have a basic form ready for Monday's post. Stay tuned to see what I want to ask.

Your turn -> What is the most important question to ask a main character? A supporting character?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Six Sentences

Writer Website Wednesday #2

 
What I like:

Six Sentences is a site dedicated to flash fiction. The idea is to write a quick piece using only six sentences, no more, no less. Submit your story to the site and the site administrator will respond to you in SIX days. I am intrigued by flash fiction these days. I sit around and think about it occasionally, but my problem is I'm too wordy for this type of writing. I have a hard time packing a huge punch into something so small. Either way, it's an interesting site to visit.
You can sign up to receive the blog update, newsletter, in your email and follow the site administrator on Twitter, as well, from the sidebar.

What I don't like:

I don't like that I have no idea who the site administrator is. I need to at least have an idea of who is running the site before I even think of submitting something I wrote. However, the site appears to be well run in the aspect of writer's getting their credit due.
I also don't like that it isn't really organized as far as genre or topic. It appears to be random stories submitted by authors and chosen by the site administrator randomly.

Recommendation:
I recommend this site for anyone who is a flash fiction fanatic or anyone who just wants to have a little fun reading flash fiction.

Your Turn -> What do you like about Six Sentences?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inspiration in a Trip

USS Constellation in Baltimore, Md
 Last weekend I went to Baltimore with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop. I honestly believe that my daughter and her friends only stay Girl Scouts because they enjoy the social aspect and going on the trips each spring. Our troop gave up going camping years ago and opted for the out of town trips. We've been to so many places as a result and had so much fun. This year the destination was Baltimore, Maryland. While there I had almost no time to read or write, even though I brought a book with me I didn't open it at all. You see my 17 month old also tagged along with us, so between exploring and taking care of him I had no time to myself.
The old power plant building in Baltimore, Md.

I did, however, have a sudden burst of "Wow, I can see my character here." Of course that got me thinking more about my follow up novel to Midnight Raynne. Raynne being in Baltimore over the course of a couple days fits perfectly in to my story. And there I had been wondering what I was going to do exactly in this follow up novel. It hit me out of the blue, blindsided. I had never even thought of her being there when I was on my way there. It wasn't until I was actually there wandering around that I saw things happening in the second story. It all started to click into place and I'm ready to start writing again. Only one problem: I have five books at the house to read by the end of the month before the library starts charging me late fees.

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md.
I guess I better get back to reading first. Therefore, if you don't see me on Twitter, I'm curled up somewhere in the house reading.

Your Turn -> Have you ever been on vacation when you suddenly saw your character running around?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent - Rachelle Gardner

Writer Website Wednesday #1

This will be the first post in a new series I will be doing on my blog each Wednesday. I will spotlight a website that I have found helpful in my writing life. I thought I would start off my series with one site that I read each and every day:



What I like:
I honestly cannot remember exactly how I came across Rachelle Gardner, but I'm almost positive it was through Twitter. I seem to find a lot of different websites through following agents and other authors on Twitter. Whatever method it was that I found her site, I'm glad I did. She gives no nonsense advice for aspiring authors. She gives straight forward honest advice. She blogs Monday through Friday and you can sign up to receive her blogs via email on her sidebar (that's what I did). Since her blog has started arriving in my inbox I don't think I have missed reading a single one.

What I don't like:
Honestly, I don't think there is anything on this site that I don't like.

Recommendation:
I highly recommend Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent to ANY writer. Even though I'm positive she doesn't represent anything that I write, I still find everything she says to be useful.

Your Turn -> What do you like about Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Beans Have Been Spilled

Yup, it's out. People know what I'm up to. My book is no longer my dirty little secret.

When I first started writing I decided to keep it to myself and a select few family members. That was then, this is now. It seems I slipped first, with a couple of other family members I hadn't intended on telling until I was sure I was going somewhere with this venture. It happened and now it's out of the bag. My slipping up so much allowed my hubby to slip up. Now everyone seems to know what's going on. Only thing is, they all want to read it. That's where the new problem pops up. They are all readers, but they all read different types of work and are strongly opinionated. I'm not sure I really want all that feedback before I go to the agents. I might end up giving up before I even have an agent read my query if I allow everyone to read it first.

So, what am I to do? Nothing. I figure that if I just continue with what I'm doing and keep telling everyone it's not entirely finished they won't have to be upset that I haven't given it to them to read. Eventually, though, I will probably let them read it, once I've had agent responses, or silence from agents.

So why would I not want to let everyone in on my little writing secret? Well, that's an easy one. Times are hard on us right now. We don't have a lot of money and I do have a degree in education. The problem is that there are not many teaching spots available right now in the region of New Jersey where I live. Don't get me wrong there are other areas where there are teaching positions a plenty, but we would have to move, and that is not going to happen. So, while I'm home with my son and driving my daughter to and from softball functions I am writing.

At first I didn't want to deal with the opinions of others, telling me what I should be doing. This isn't their story, it's not their lives, it's not their business. So you can see why I didn't want some of them to know. Now that the cat's out of the bag I'm finding it isn't so bad after all. Although, I'm still bracing for the onslaught that I"m sure will come eventually when they think I should have found an agent and publisher by now. They all think they know what is best for everyone else.

I wanted, and have, surrounded myself with people who support my writing. That's the way I intended to keep it. Now, I'm learning to talk about it with people who are less enthusiastic about my endeavors. I'm looking at it as a learning experience - How to Handle the Nay Sayers!

Your Turn -> Do you have anyone that you are reluctant to tell about your writing or are you okay with everyone knowing what you are doing? Tell me your story.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recharge Station

  • When we need to get somewhere we fill up your car with gas. 

  • When we are hungry we eat. 

  • When we are tired we sleep. 

So what do writers do when they need to fill up again?

The library! At least that's where I go.

If you follow me on Twitter and are wondering where I have been recently, you can find me curled up somewhere around the house, or in the van, reading a book. I am completely drained after editing Midnight Raynne. I need to refill my brain, it's on empty. So rather than start working on the sequel or another book that has me intrigued at the moment, I have decided to keep to reading for a little bit.

It also helps that I just got a ton of books in at the library. I have had several books on order for a while, but had to wait until they were available to me. It seems they all suddenly became available at once. One of which is the first of four books. So, of course I ordered, and received, the next two books in that series immediately as well. I'm guessing I may be out of commission for a little when it comes to writing. As I really want to read these books.

Giving my brain a creative break is not all reading is doing for me at the moment. No, it's helping me to learn. Learn a lot of stuff. I take into consideration when I read what the author's of those books have done. I think about how they describe things, details they add, etc. It helps me to pinpoint flat parts in my own WIP. When I return to my WIP I will be better prepared to tackle it than I was before reading.

Reading is also helping me pinpoint an agent. That's right, who knew it could do that. You see, my way of finding an agent is to find agents that look like they might represent a book like mine and then read books they already represent. Reading those books gives me an idea of what they are looking for in a MS. So, when I go back to tackle my WIP one last time I will be prepared to give it my all and make it agent ready. Something that they will hopefully, fingers crossed, decide they have to represent.

Your Turn -> How do you refill after a major stretch of writing and editing?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is it really finished?

Recently when I finished editing my latest WIP, Midnight Raynne, I found myself asking myself this very question. Is it really finished? I was pretty sure the answer was yes. At least I thought it was a yes. Now I'm not so sure.

Yup, my MS is turning back into a WIP. Why? Well that's an easily answer question. It's not yet finished like I want it to be.

As soon as I "finished" editing I started reading again. Not only did I start reading I started refilling my drained brain. In doing so I started noticing that I liked how the other authors described things or explained different things. I immediately started to think of my MS and thought I need to fix this or that, explain better, describe better, etc. The list goes on.

So the answer to the question is: I don't think it will ever truly be finished until it is published. Even then I'm sure I'll find things that I might have been able to elaborate on or explain differently. That's just me. I am thinking of doing one more round of edits before I send it out for review again and then I'll begin the dreaded query stage.

Your Turn -> Have you ever thought you were finished with your WIP only to realize that it was not yet completed and ready?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Balancing Act

Juggling writing, reading, and querying!

I'm not sure that it's even possible.

Everything seemed to be going just fine a couple weeks ago. I was reading and editing with no problems at all. Now I have finished my WIP, it's now a manuscript and being beta read.

So what's my problem now that I have time to read? That's just it. I have too many things I want to read and too many things I want to work on next. Not to mention the fact that I have been researching the heck out of agents. That adds another dimension to the reading issue.

You see I keep hearing that I need to do my research on agents. I need to know what they like. I need to know what they represent. Most of the agents I have chosen to research weren't just willy nilly chosen. I chose them because they represented books I have previously read and loved. I know what the books are like, the writing, the structures. That being said I still have agents on my list that I think will be great bets, but I haven't read any of the works they rep. In those cases I didn't chose the agents on the fly either. The books they rep are ones on my to-read list.

As a result, I have two books on my Kindle awaiting my attention, one library book in my possession, one book at the library on hold, and five more being shipped from various libraries to my library from the area. That's not to mention the talented Linda Cassidy Lewis's Brevity of Roses which is also awaiting my attention on my Kindle.

Maybe I should go on a reading binge?

Wait! I can't get ahead of myself. I'm also researching agents. Reading their blogs, interviews, and looking at anything else related to them that could be of use.

Oh, and then there is the slight issue of writing. I just can't seem to keep myself from writing. Nope, just can't pull myself away from my computer long enough to stop writing. I get up every morning and start typing. I even have TWO (2) WIPs I'm currently working on, the sequel to Midnight Raynne and a completely different idea that has been stewing in my mind for the past couple of weeks. Both main characters are driving me mad and demanding to have their stories written.

Fine! I'll write, but I need to read too, and research agents, and drive my daughter to and from various apointments as well as 2 separate softball team practices and games, and then there's my 16 month old, and finally my hubby.

How do I juggle it all? I'm just glad I'm able to stay home for the time being and not have to go to another job on top of everything else.

Your Turn --> How do you juggle everything?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't annoy the writer!

For Christmas my sister bought me this great t-shirt. It says, "Be careful, you might end up in my novel." Boy was she ever right. I have come to find that writing can be very therapeutic. It helps me deal with people around me sometimes.

Recently a certain person in my life did something that irritated me, in fact this happens quite often with this person. I'm not even sure this person realizes that I'm not stupid and have caught on to this little technique that is used to corner me into that spot between a hard place and a rock. After being completely frustrated and going on a rant about the situation to my hubby I said, "That's it, [insert name] is going into my newest WIP!"

His response? "Oh no, this isn't good."

My response? "I don't care."

The ending result? I am putting this person into a novel, albeit disguised, but in the WIP nonetheless. I can't get the character out of my mind. Now, the question is which one of the newest WIPs I'm working on that the new character should go into. Yes, I'm currently working on two separate WIPs. I seem to find myself going back and forth between the two daily. They are both driving me nuts and requiring lots of attention. I think I may go insane from the writing alone.

But, I am having lots of therapy sessions through my writing.

I have even found myself wondering if this person will even see themself in the character I'm creating. What will he/she say? Will he/she like or dislike the character? Or even better, will this person go, "uh-oh, I do that," and realize that it's not fun being on the other end of being painted into a corner?

Okay, so that's the end of my little rant.

Your turn --> Do you use people you know as characters?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Predictablility

The other day my hubby started watching Harper's Island on Netflix. He's a total Netflix streaming junkie. He'll watch entire seasons of shows straight through on his days off, like I will read entire book series. (Well that was before I started writing seriously, now I'm lucky to read.) Back to the point. He was about half way through the series when he told me he hadn't figured out who the killer was yet. This surprised me. My hubby can always figure out who it is, early on too. I've given up betting on who the killer is with him - he always wins. Always.

This got me thinking about predictability. I know when I read a book or watch a movie I'm always trying to figure out what comes next. One of my favorite things is when I am completely wrong and it's not who I think it's going to be. I love it when something completely unexpected happens. My hubby said that it seems like everyone, at some point, looks like they are the killer in Harper's Island.

This got me thinking. I am working on a completely new idea that I even began writing the other day. I am still working on getting my hands around the plot, but I have the gist of it figured out. So, when he mentioned that he has no idea who the killer is I started thinking, "Everyone is a suspect!"

That's it, in my new WIP everyone will be a suspect. Why not? It'll keep the reader engaged and of course I will make sure that it is the last person anyone thinks of. My hubby keeps finding himself questioning who the killer is. He's completely been sucked into the show. That's what I want with my writing. I want the reader to be completely sucked into the story and characters. I want to keep them guessing and turning the page to see if they are right or wrong. I want them to be wrong, so that they will read more to see why.

I can't wait for my dear hubby to give me more questions or comments to make me wonder. He's a great inspiration!

Your turn --> Have you ever had a great ah-ha moment recently?

Monday, April 4, 2011

My favorite part of writing

Since finishing work on Midnight Raynne yesterday I felt the need to take a short break from writing. A short break, though. I planned on researching agents until I'm blue in the face and going insane. I did that most of yesterday afternoon and then a little last night. I think I'm ready to start the process of querying. I still have a few things to do, like actually write the query letters. But, I'll get that done.

In the mean time, while I had planned on researching agents I have sent my manuscript to my parents. My mom reads like me, like a fool. We often read the same things and talk about them later, after we have both read them. She's always ahead of me, though. I think that's because I write more than I read these days. Either way, I trust what she says about books. She has a good eye at what is good and what isn't. Therefore, she is set to read my manuscript and give me feedback. I refuse to begin sending out query letters until she has read it as I feel the need to have someone say it's good to go or redo it.

So I planned on reading, reading, researching, researching, ... You get the gist.

Instead, I started writing. AGAIN. I just can't seem to keep myself from writing at all. That's fine. But, it's not the story I had originally planned on working on next. I planned on writing the sequel to Midnight Raynne before going on. I planned on writing the sequel to the sequel after that. Midnight Raynne is a trilogy in my head. I just have to write the two final books.

Yet, another story popped into my head about a week ago. It's not entirely new. I have been trying to wrap my head around another character and her plot for some time now. I had a brilliant idea the other day and decided to go with it. Needless to say the character has changed slightly, her family dynamics have changed, and she's ready to tell her story.

So, last night after working on my agent spreadsheet I opened a new document and started typing. Augusta is coming across as a slightly spoiled brat at the moment, but I kind of like that about her. I'm not a hundred percent sure as to where her story will take me, but I like that about writing.

This brings me to my favorite part of the writing process.

Reckless Abandon -> I like the reckless abandon I took with Midnight Raynne. The reckless abandon where I let my character take me where she wanted to take me. Then, of course, I have the task of going behind and cleaning it all up. But, still I like the feeling of letting a story take hold and take me where it wants to go. I'm eager to see where Augusta takes me and what her journey looks like.

I love this part of writing! :-)

Your Turn -> What is your favorite part of writing?