Daily Archives: July 26, 2010

Characters? and a FAT CONTEST that you SHOULD WIN!!!!

First of all. Hi.
Second of all. Bedroom furniture sets.
Third of all. I’ll explain later.

Right now I am having SERIOUS character issues. My WIP is hanging on for dear life and I know KNOW that it’s because my MC is not clear enough in my head.
At all.
I know her. Sort of. On the outside. I know what I need her to do. I know how she functions in terms of PLOT (because this book is plotty by nature and I’m finding out that dangit, I really do hate cha) but I don’t know how she functions in terms of emotion. Who is she?

How do you write a book when you don’t know the character?

Errrr, you don’t.

My problem is in the past, with my other books, my MC has appeared. One day. On the page. And it was their story. Totally and completely. I let them write what happened and it was magical.

Now with this book, writing doesn’t feel so magical. It feels hard. And impossible. And maybe forced? So then I think, this book is bad. Bad. I am not good at this. If it doesn’t happen organically, if the character isn’t telling me the story, then the story shouldn’t be told. Maybe I should trash this plotty novel that is making me want to throw up.

Should I?

Then I see Carol’s post on characters. And the questions are awesome. And I should know the answers to all those questions and what if creating a character takes work, is that so bad? What if I have to rewrite 200 pages? Will it be worth it? Can you start  with the plot and then go back and make the character fit? Can I work backwards?

What do you do? Do you do a character sketch? Do you write down the answers to these types of questions before you start writing? Do you do all that work? Or do you let it happen as you go?

I have more questions and frustrations but I’m going to stop here because I need to focus on more important things like figuring out how to get my hands on one of these or maybe one of these. I think they would solve all my personal and professional problems and maybe yours too.

And now for a little explanation and a contest. Kyra said last week that big things are coming on this bloggity blog. And she was not kidding. We’re starting the love today and things are just going to keep getting better (or maybe not but pretend like they are). First of all we are planning a real live dance (I think our focus should be the prom in a few months but since Carol is the boss I guess we can have a summer splash as a warm up (but no one is going to come)). Second of all there are going to be more writing marathons and writing prompts and writing goals to make you whip yourself and ourselves into shape. Third of all more author interviews (maybe even Videos? Whhhhat?) and fourth of all contests/giveaways. Crazy.

Today’s contest, which will run until Friday, involves the pretty little links I’ve put in this blog. CSN stores has kindly donated 60 dollars to the winner of our writing contest this week. That means you get to just go on a shopping spree (the 60$ kind of shopping spree) at any of their 200+ stores. There are kid bikes, knitted rugs, bombe chests (what’s a bombe chest?) shoes!, fitness equipment, book shelves (oh the book shelves) and on and on and on. The sky really is the limit, guys.

To enter you have to do two things:

1. Pick an item from one of the stores that your MC would want. Think hard about this. Who are they? What types of things would be important to them? What are they dying to get that their parents won’t buy them?  Then, in their voice, and in under 250 words, describe why they have to have this item . . . why they must must must win the contest. Post your entry in the comment section.


2. Tell a friend and make them enter the contest also OR post it on your blog and/or website.

Yes, it does hurt your chances but it will also make you feel cooler when you win, right? And more people will have fun and flesh out their characters a bit more? Right? Right?

I really want that kid bookcase. Don’t you?


A representative from CSN stores will pick the winner.  People other than me and Carol and Kyra will be reading your entry and laughing and crying and telling their friends about your writing. The contest starts now and ends Friday at noon. We’ll announce the winner next week. Make sure your friend tells us you referred them or tell us where you posted it.

I think that’s all. Is that all? Maybe not. But maybe.

Happy Tuesday! And see you tonight at Carol’s fancy book talk and signing at the Provo Library.


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So Ann Dee is Making Me Post Again

because she hated the last post.

She practically said so.

No, really, she said I needed to:

#1–Tell everyone that I’m speaking at the Provo City Library tomorrow night at 7 pm in the Bullock Room. I’ll be talking about GLIMPSE and THE CHOSEN ONE and reading from GLIMPSE. Also, I am supposed to answer questions. About the books. And also, I’m going to have to talk with one hand over Kyra’s mouth. Why? Because I already know what she is going to say over and over. And Over. Again.

#2–Okay–Ann Dee says no one will come to our dance. Is this true? Will no one come? Does no one like to dance, is that it? Ann Edwards Cannon loves to dance. And probably so does Louise Plummer. Why don’t other people? I was saying to Ann Dee, people will come. They’ll love it. We need a place where we can dance until, like, two in the morning. And she was like, What? No one is coming, Carol. And I was like, Yes they are. We only need ten people to have fun.

Are there ten people? Ten? I feel like Lot. Are there ten dancing people out there?

Is Ann Dee right? Is the reason I NEVER HEAR ANYTHING FROM YOU ALL about the dance is because YOU DON’T WANT TO COME? Is that it?

This is actually a precursor dance.  Because Ann Dee wants us to have a PROM.

And I said, Sure, okay. I didn’t diss her idea of a prom even though I couldn’t see myself squeezed into a shiny dress that shows sweat marks and in a long dress how can anyone see my fancy footwork?


So we need a place for the first dance and then for the 2nd dance. We need room to gyrate and kick up our heels and not get arrested and laugh and sing karaoke (I already have some fun contests for the karaoke). And also I will sing every song we have done at the conferences starting with Picture Book Writer (The Beatles Paperback Writer) and ending with Bad Romance (Lady Gaga, everyone).

So, what do you say?


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“As I Live and Breathe!” More on Characterization

My daughter has a bit of an obsessive compulsive disorder. Or something. When I watch Monk–and laugh–she gets more and more nervous and finally has to leave the room. Just a moment ago she had to make sure that I had two groups of five malted milk balls. (I’m not sure how I poured out the right amount, but I did.) When Cait’s Not-Boyfriend killed the spider, my daughter (who doesn’t want you to know her name–Elise) patted him three times on the back, and completed the patting on my back. Two more pats. Five.

“Okay–you think it’s funny until you realize how messed up it is.” That’s Elise saying that. Of course, I love my daughter–even with her compulsive behaviors. She is unique.

The reason I am saying anything about this at all is that when we write and develop our characters, we want them to be distinct.

I can tell my girls apart by voice (except on the phone), by questions they ask me, by the ways they act, by the choices they make. Even as newborn babies, my daughters were all different. And so danged cute. I’m not kidding. They all have the best lips!

And that’s how our characters should be. They should have lips. Unless you’re writing something weird. Okay–what I mean is our characters should be well-defined. Individual. Real flesh and blood. Beating-heart real.

So how do we get these kinds of characters?

I’m waiting. Waiting.
Answers? Anyone? Anyone?
We’ve talked about this a bit on the blog before.

Listening and watching people be people can show us how to make our characters distinct.

Here are some questions for you to answer about your characters:

Who watches out for your  character?
Who is the most important person in your character’s life? Does this person know?
What is your character’s best memory?
What is your character’s first memory?
Worst memory?
What sets your character apart from other people? What ticks, habits, routines does your character have?
If your character could change one thing about herself, what would it be?
What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to your character?
What things are in the desk drawer of your character’s bedroom?
What is her favorite piece of clothing? Why?
What is the first thing your character wakes up thinking?
What breaks her heart?
No one is all good or all bad. What are some of your character’s flaws?
What are some of the good parts of the ‘bad’ guy in your book?
Why has this particular character come out to tell your story?
What is your character’s biggest fear?
What things would your character never do?
What does your character want most?
What is she afraid to lose?
What will happen if she loses this particular thing?
What supernatural being (ghost, vampire, werewolf etc) would your character be and why?
Does you character have strong moral fiber? Prove it.
Describe, in detail, your character. No clichés please.
What has happened in your character’s past to make her who she is today?
Who, in your character’s family, is she closest to?
Who has harmed her most?
Now, have your character write you a letter telling you her darkest secret and why this secret matters.

We already know you can’t put all of the research that would go into answering these questions in a book. But to have this stuff nestled in your head? That’s a good thing. It means you know who this person is. And that means your reader will know the character, too. She will become real. And guess what? Knowing about your secondary characters–what their motivations are and how they play into the story, that’s good, too. So it probably wouldn’t hurt to play this game with other characters in your novel so you know something about them. I think I’ve said it before, we don’t want flat secondary characters. Or flat main characters. We want somebody to embody as we read.

Here’s a great quote: “What really knocks me out,” says Holden Caulfield in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, “is a book when you’re all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

This is our job–to make a book so wonderful that our readers want to be our friends. We want our characters to be so real that our readers would recognize that character walking down the street. We want to make them all live and breathe. And maybe even be a bit OCD.

I’m just saying.


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