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Posts Tagged ‘Characters’

As part of my new year’s resolution, I have a new schedule (as anyone who knows me at all would have already guessed).  I get up at 5:00 AM, do a quick 10-minute workout (sometimes Calisthenics and sometimes stretches as instructed by the chiropractor), get dressed, do hair and makeup, grab the lunch my husband has packed up for me and am out the door by 5:45. I am in DC by 6:00 and at a Starbucks down the street from my building by 6:10, where I get a small coffee and do devotions for half and hour. Then I pack up and am at work by 6:45 AM. This allows me to take a 45 minute lunch break, which I have been using to write. I am trying to do some sort of writing exercise and then work on editing my God’s Masterpiece book.

Today’s writing exercise/sort of lesson was a common theme – making your character suffer. Apparently a lot of authors don’t want bad things to happen to their character. I have never had that issue. I have stopped killing off every one in my books, relegating it to only a few, but those few must go, no matter how much I cry while I write it.

Today I discovered, however, that when it comes to making my characters’ suffer, I am fine with emotional suffering, but I have a hard time with physical suffering. Oh, they can starve to death or be exhausted or things like that but – the book I am going through (Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine) made me write out the scene in which Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf, with instructions to describe exactly how she felt, what she saw, etc. etc., and fairly strict instructions that she was to actually be eaten. I did so, reluctantly – because how horrifying is it to write out a scene in which someone is eaten? Especially since you know that, in non-fairytales – they aren’t actually swallowed in one bite. I wrote it out as much as I could, shuddering inside the whole time, and probably ended it faster than the exercise wanted me to.

But that experiment taught me two things. One, which is what I already mentioned – there is a difference in physical and emotional suffering – and I may have one down, but am terrified of the other. And two, that as terrible as suffering such as that is, it is prime for description and feeling. So, while I doubt I will ever write a book in which someone is eaten, or even physically assaulted outside of perhaps being hit, I am going to work on the physical suffering side, particularly when it comes to descriptions.

And now my 45 minutes are up, so it’s back to work with that awful scene still in my mind. Thanks, Gail. Thanks.

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If you follow my blogger account (you know, that public facing one that technically friends and family can find if they look that I often wonder why I started at all?) then you already know what I am working on. But just in case you don’t, the title of this post will tell you. Because apparently I don’t know how to be mysterious.

I got this book on Writing the Intimate Character in hopes it would help with the issues I’ve been having in Picture of the Past, especially with Elizabeth. And it has really been amazing – the chapters are insightful and the exercises at the end of each chapter really force you to think about it and implement it. I almost feel ready to go back to editing my book itself with some confidence that I can create a better, more relatable character. Almost. Maybe I should finish reading the other book first. Either way, I have been quite pleased with the purchase.

So, I’ve said this before – but I would really like to be finished editing my book before NaNoWriMo. Maybe not publishing worthy done editing, but maybe someone reading it and telling me what they think worthy. It is amazing, isn’t it, how you can lose confidence in a thing you’ve been working on for years? The more I work on it the more useless and unentertaining I fear people will find it. So we’ll see what happens.

Life has been a little crazy, which makes it hard to make time for editing. I thought I learned from my self-imposed challenge that making 15 minutes to work on something isn’t that hard, but apparently I didn’t learn it enough because I am right back to my old habits of assuming I don’t have enough time to work on it at all. I should get one (or more) of my friends to hold me accountable or something.

For you Christians out there, we are going through some difficult personal life stuff, so prayers would be much appreciated at this time – prayers for courage and for health/healing.

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Yes, I did my 15 minutes. I used it (well, really, half an hour) to finish up a couple scenes I stopped in the middle of last week.

I have no profound things to say about my self-imposed 7 day challenge. Certainly nothing that hasn’t been said before by “real” writers and multiples of them. But I have to say, forcing myself to write for 15 minutes a day every day for 7 days has made a difference for me. In two specific ways:

1. I have rediscovered my story. Not only do I, for the first time in months, remember what I was trying to do with my book, but I feel like I am beginning to understand my characters more as well. And, for the first time since I wrote the first draft, I am thinking about my characters throughout the day and what they should be doing in their story. I am actually excited about getting back to editing it and – hopefully – finish soon!

2. This may be simple for you, but it is actually profound for me. It IS possible to write for 15 minutes a day. Because it was a challenge and because I committed to writing about it every day on the blog, I did not allow myself excuses. Even the one evening we didn’t go to bed until past midnight and writing my 15 minutes meant staying up until 1:00 on a weeknight, I still did it and, more importantly, I did not regret doing it. The only thing I regretted most evenings was not having more time to spend on it (and, indeed, there were nights I spent far more than 15 minutes).

This has been a great experience for me and I really hope I don’t let it fall by the wayside now that I no longer have an obligation (self-imposed, granted) to write about what I did every day.

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I’ve been having an issue with my main character in Picture of the Past almost since the beginning. I didn’t like her. I didn’t intend for anyone to like her at first, but to gradually sympathize with her as she changed – but I didn’t like her even when she changed. She seemed so – flat. So single-minded. So one-dimensional. In short, she seemed like a character, not a person. I’ve been reading lots of books and articles about how to improve this because, in my mind, she is multi-dimensional. She has struggles, internal and external, and she is someone who can grow into such an incredible daughter and sister – but I just can’t seem to translate that to the page.

One good thing about implementing these additional scenes, is that they are forcing me to write more about her. More scenes about her, more viewpoints about her – and I think I am slowly beginning to figure her out more. I am still not pleased – but I think I’ll get there. One thing I need to remember is that this is my character – not the character that all the articles tell me I have to write. All the books and articles say your heroine must be sympathetic. But that isn’t true. There are plenty of heroines that are not sympathetic until the last. So if she is selfish and unlikable in the beginning part of the story, that is who she is – trying to add sympathetic elements only makes her seem more fake until she actually begins to change. Besides, she really doesn’t seem to like it when I add in things about her that aren’t true. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Day 5 of the 15 minute challenge involved writing a scene wherein she is angry about doing servants work, the boys don’t pay as much attention to her as she thinks they should, and her mother was just about to give her a lecture on what it actually means to be a lady when the timer went off. I don’t know if it will actually go into the story, but she is doing a good job of reminding me that she is just a spoiled little rich girl at first and I shouldn’t be trying to make her into something else.

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So, what happens when you don’t like your main character? I mean I like her eventually, but she has to change first. Yes, I am writing one of those sorrows-and-trials-change-a-person’s-personality stories. What can I say? Those are my favorite stories! But, I had/have this idea of how I want Elizabeth’s character to be in the beginning of the book so that there can be a stark contrast by the end of the book, and thus I have been conforming her to my idea of who she needs to be. Unfortunately, I don’t think she agrees with me, because so many pieces of writing feel forced. I have been struggling with this for awhile, to the extent that it is stinting my writing. So, I have decided. I am going to just keep writing and let Elizabeth be whoever she wants to be from now on and see what she thinks her character should be like. I mean, worst case scenario, I have to change the plot to suit her stubbornness, right?

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