Category Archives: Character

Writing a Book Together: What I’m Figuring out about My First Chapter

Working on this opening chapter–yes, that’s all I’ve written since I started this blog of writing together–has been interesting. School started, which has slowed me down considerably. Plus there’s been illness and visitors and trips for others which left me caring for all the farm animals (ha!) and visiting and two other novels to be rewritten. All of that has taken away from the hour a day I wish to give to this newest book.

Also, at the end of the chapter, a character (love interest, I know that) I wasn’t expecting showed up and knocked me over sideways. And that meant I’ve had to start thinking all over again. And I have been since he arrived.

But back to this beginning.

I have several friends who completely rewrite their openings over and over and over. And what I’ve found myself doing in my chapter one is getting to know my main character. Just like my pals, only in a different way. I’ve read and reread these paragraphs adding a sentence here and there. Taking out words. Pondering. Staring off over the top of my computer. Wondering about this girl’s mom and dad, her sisters, her love life, her shyness, her job cleaning doctor’s offices, and some secret that I’m unsure of that’s waiting at home.

Each read-through means shifting sentences, adding sense of place, figuring out this girl’s sense of humor and how she fits in her family. Though I’m not sure what it is she wants (to have her dad trust her more could be one thing, but is it the main thing?), I do know this is a romance so maybe she’s looking for love in all the wrong places.

Probably not.

Anyway.

Each time I look at the words or add to or take away from this opening, I see my main character a little more clearly. And once I more fully understand her, I can follow her for 40,000 + words. I think I’m ready, as far as this start goes. But now that guy? Come on!

At the opening of chapter two I’ve left my girl walking up the long driveway to her home in Florida. After wisdom tooth surgery for one of my daughters today, I might have time to see what’s behind those doors.

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Filed under Character, Voice, writing process

Writing a Book Together: Character Moves Plot

When I started this novel with you (I sorta have ideas for it but I’m not quite sure yet how the story is going to unwind) I thought I had a perfect couple of first lines. They were funny and said a lot about the star of the show.

There was the plastic fern and a girl who’s shy and the fact that she cleans doctor’s offices with her dad’s cleaning company. A girl and a guy and a dad who’s watching over his kid. Almost immediately the story changed itself with the addition of a character. Another fella. (Hello! says Dad.) The tension rose with the addition and I saw huge possibilities with it. My excitement rose. I could already see conflicts for my main character.

Many years ago, someone, I can’t remember who, taught me this: Character moves plot. The decisions your character makes, and her choices when something is presented to her, point the direction to the climax of the novel. Character driven novels that follow this simple idea can have both plot and those ‘real people’ that make this type of book so appealing.

Adding a stumbling block (dad) and an extra character (new fella) can shake things up. Allowing complications within the main character and all around her, give her the opportunity to make choices as to what might happen in her book life.

Perhaps you have an idea where you want your novel to go. Perhaps you have a few incidents already in your head that you’re excited to write. Don’t force them into the story. Let the story come about naturally as your character makes decisions on which way she should go.

 

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Filed under Character, First Line, Plot

Writing a Book Together: Before the Beginning

This year I thought it might be interesting to write a book from scratch with you. From start to finish. Together.

Can we do that? I think we should try.

At this point, I don’t have anything to work on. There are only thoughts. No real facts or characters or ideas. No first lines. No plot points. No anything. I’m starting off fresh with you.

But in this moment I have learned something. Just now. Here it is:

  1. Sometimes, in order to come up with an idea, I have to write. Sit down and write.

Maybe it’s practice or muscle memory or training, but I can feel I am already headed in the right direction. I’m thinking.

Here’s what I’m thinking–I have an editor who’s interested in a romance from me. Could that be the novel I work on?

I’ve wondered for a long time if I might write a sequel to The Chosen One. That wouldn’t be fun, but it would be possible.

I could try my hand at fantasy. Hahahahahah! Okay. We all know that isn’t possible!

Here’s how I will decide: At the beginning of a novel, when I know absolutely nothing about it, I sit at my computer and stare off into the distance. This is when I’m hoping a character will introduce herself to me with a first line. So that’s what I plan on doing today. I’ll open a blank page on the computer and sit there.

Staring off into space is work! Daydreaming is something you can put on your novel writing resume!

Later today, I’ll sit around awhile and see who asks to be let in. See what she has to say. Maybe this book, whatever it’s going to be called, will come to me a little differently. If so, I’ll let you know.

How do you find that seed that grows into a novel? Are you inspired by history? People? Emotions? A first line? Something that happened to you? Something someone said? A creature? A bad dream? A kiss?

Let’s meet again tomorrow and see what we’ve come up with. I know for sure we’ll all do this writing experiment differently. Whatever I do is right for me and that’s mostly what I’ll talk about. But I’ll also see what published people are saying about their books and their writing. I’ll try to learn more about this crazy part of writing I’m calling Before the Beginning.

 

 

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Filed under Character, First Line, Plot

Character is Where It’s At!

I once did an event with an author many years ago. A student asked about plot and I said, “Your character makes decisions and choices. And those choices move the plot forward.”

“Not always,” my co-teacher said. “Not in a plot driven novel.”

I had read this person’s work and while I found it okay, I wasn’t grabbed by the characters. They weren’t interesting. They were flat and, even in exciting moments, I could close the novel because I just didn’t care.

Like in real life, I want to know the people of books so if they fail or lose something or go through a hard event, I am rooting for them. If they get that kiss or lose that boy or find their mother or lose the kingdom, I want to laugh or weep for them.

Knowing your characters helps you be able to write a well-rounded character. Even if all the details don’t show up on the page.

Here are a few things to ponder.

  • Why is this the right character for this novel?
  • Make your antagonist the lead of the book. What happens to the story?
  • How are your main character and the antagonist the same?
  • What are the most important things (people) to your main character?
  • To the antagonist?
  • Morally, how is your main character different than other people in the novel?
  • How are they the same?
  • Every character should have a truth. What are the truths of your characters?
  • Every character should have a want. What are the wants of the characters in your book?
  • How is your character’s wants pro or con to her moral fiber?
  • Finding out you are more like your mother than you had hoped may be a negative for you. Who is your character similar to? How does this help or hinder who she is?
  • If you have to write a song for your character, using the tune to Imagine Dragon’s THUNDER, what would the words be?
  • Everyone has secrets. I have secrets no one knows unless they were somehow involved in specific incidents in my life. What are your MC’s secrets? How does this motivate her? Change her? Influence her decision making?
  • Your character has to leave, now. What does she take with her?
  • Zombies are coming. Your character cannot get her invalid father out of the house and must run for her life. What does she tell him before she closes the door?
  • What minor details (favorite color, favorite treat, favorite shirt etc) does your character show in your book already?
  • If your character had ten adjectives to describe herself what would she say?
  • What would you say?

Answer these questions–and make up your own and share them–for all the major players in your writing. And if you like these kinds of questions, let me know and I’ll come up with a few more.

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Exercising Your Character

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” Abigail Van Buren

  1. How does your main character treat others?
  2. Choosing three other characters in your book, decide how they really are, by the way they treat people they know.
  3. By the way they treat strangers.
  4. How does your MC feel about animals? Why?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” Albert Einstein

  1. Does your character lie? Why or why not?
  2. What would happen if she did lie? How would the story be more compelling?
  3. What is the worst thing your character could do? Why is this the worst?
  4. Write a scene where your character lies, and is caught, by someone who is important to her.
  5. Do only the *bad* people lie in your book?

 

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus

  1. I think another way of saying this is, Actions speak louder than words. How does your character show her love? Her commitment? Her anger?
  2. Write a scene where your character harms someone by her actions.
  3. Our bad characters cannot be purely evil. How is your antagonist good?

 

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

  1. Your MC ends up with information she shouldn’t have. What does she do with it?
  2. All characters must have weaknesses. What are your character’s weaknesses?
  3. There should be a point, in every character’s growth, when they realize they have all the power, or none of it. What happens to your character when they hit this place in the book?
  4. If you MC realizes she is more like the bad guy than she thought, well, that can be very interesting. Write a scene where your MC comes up against the darker part of herself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Character, Character, Exercises, Uncategorized

Merry Christmas Days . . . Lots

Merry Christmas day #16
With the snow that’s (finally!) showed up, I think now is a good time to focus hard on sense of place.
Is it cold? Is it hot? What’s the weather like? Is the sky grey? Does the field next to your characters house smell like cow poo? Is there a rustle of wind off in the distance? Did someone blare their horn so hard that it broke? (I did this the other week, believe it or not)
I hate sense of place, but it’s needed to make a story great. So when I work on it, I really take a look around me, I try to focus on my character and imagine what I would be feeling if I was where she was. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least it’s SOMETHING. And whatever I can do to get the story moving.
Merry Christmas day #17
Do you remember the first time your heart shattered into a million pieces? Do you remember the second time it did? Maybe it was because a loved one passed on. Maybe the person you loved didn’t love you back? Maybe your first born child got a tattoo? Whatever it was, do you remember that emotion? Do you remember that sinking feeling in your gut that you thought would never go away?
Use that. Put that into your story. Let your character feel it, too. (even if you don’t think she deserves it) Good emotion not only makes you feel, but it also makes your reader feel, too. (they might hate you for it, but at least you made them feel something)
Push that heartbreak out onto the page, and let those emotions run wild!
Merry Christmas day #18
Do you remember your first Christmas? Reach back into your brain and see if you can find that memory. Do you remember the excitement? The butterflies inside your belly? You must have been little, did you know what was happening at the time? Did you know why everyone was being so kind?
Maybe your character remembers her first Christmas? Maybe it was also her first memory with her sibling, or parents, or grandparents?
Write about it. Write about memories. Maybe a good flashback is what you’re missing, and you didn’t even know it!

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo

On Thursday I wrote a long list of things we could do to prepare for NaNoWriMo and for some reason, when I went to post, it wouldn’t.

I pitched a fit and stomped off.

Went to the TH evening party and it was a lot of fun.

Never resent.

You have today and tomorrow to think about a few questions so you can jump into NaNo a little more prepared.

BTW, if you want to play with WIFYR, email Bruce here: wifyrdoesnano@gmail.com and make your goals. Bruce will add you to the list. The goal is 1,000,000 words as a group! Woot woot!

Novel questions:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What does she want?
  3. Have her write a note to you.
  4. Ask her 25 personal questions and write this interview down.
  5. Who are her friends?
  6. Her enemies?
  7. Her family?
  8. What is she afraid of?
  9. Can she sing?
  10. Dance?
  11. Is she funny?
  12. Snarky?
  13. Does he have a crush?
  14. A true love?
  15. What is the scariest thing that can happen to her?
  16. Will it happen to her?
  17. What do you see as the climax of the story? Do you have a general idea?
  18.  Name three things she will lose during the telling of the story.
  19. Are you trying to teach a lesson?
  20. What are you willing to give up to complete your 50,000 words?

Also, every Thursday evening, from 7-10 pm we will meet at Kyra Leigh’s house, eat and write.

Last year this was a lot of fun. This year it will be even more fun because I won’t have to clean every TH in anticipation of people arriving at my home. YAHOO, KYRA LEIGH! Anyway, if you want to bring potluck (which is what gets you into the house) and write for a few hours with fellow NaNoers, let me know. We have room for about 15 people.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Exercises, Kyra, Plot, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process