Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiatus - Putting On a Show

My life has been taken over by my job. I know, cry me a river. I don't have a daily grind (wait, do children count?) because I do consulting work on event planning. Months go by when I work maybe a day a week. And now that it's event week, it's every minute of every day that I'm not asleep or in the bathroom.

There has been NO writing for the last 10 days and I'm getting itchy. Though I know I'd be useless trying to concentrate on writing now when my head is full of 300 people moving through six sessions on Friday, (Don't forget the handheld mics. Who will be our runners during Q&A? Did I order enough vegan box lunches?) I did do something to hopefully keep the whole writing brain from withering.

I loaded up my existing WIP on my Nook and read it through. At the end, I smiled. It's good. It makes me happy. I don't have any doubt that I'm going in the right direction. Now I'm eager to get back into the writing hot seat and having to wait until next week to do it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Call me 'marinating.'

Hope you have a great week! I'll be back next Tuesday.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Voices in My Head - Creating Inner Conflict in your MC

I approached the third exercise in Donald Maass' Breakout Novel Workbook with relief. Inner Conflict? Mother's milk to my MC. She's never meet an inner conflict she couldn't call her own. Or so I thought. But, as usual, Mr. Maass wants you to do more than lip service to your characters. It isn't enough that your MC be angsty - that's only a superficial display of inner conflict (speaking from experience, here.) You need to ask yourself (or rather, your MC) tough questions.

What is the one thing your MC wants more than anything? If you're like me you're answer will resemble an onion. The first layer will seem easy, but you'll soon realize it's not the one thing - there are several things your MC wants. You need to dig down and find out which are red herrings (or really just  different manifestations of the same desire) and which is the real deal. You peel back layers until you get to the heart of the thing. My onion looked like this:

What does Mop want most?
To find out who killed Daisy
To find her father
To be normal
To be accepted for who she is
To find out who she is.

That's what Mop really wants when she decides to use her talent to help Mr. Blank find Daisy's killer. She knows she's not like everyone else and this might be the only chance she has to find out what she is like - and if there's anyone else like her.

OKAY! We're getting somewhere. Oh. Wait. Mr. Maass has some additional work for us.
Write down the opposite of what your MC wants. Why, Donald, why? I thought we were friends!

Here's the deal. The opposite of what your MC wants most can absolutely (and probably should) be something they also want. In Mop's case, the opposite of finding out who she is, is the safest bet - forgetting about who she really is. Keeping the status quo. Not to go looking for answers. It's a powerful desire, especially as she comes to understand that finding out the truth about herself will endanger her mother, her friends and herself (of course) but it will also endanger her fragile sense of self. She might not be strong enough to handle the truth. Who wouldn't have a strong desire to run and hide? Thus, inner conflict.

So, how do you create inner conflict in your characters?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Separating the Art and the Artist

I was pretty straight edge when I was a teen. I didn't smoke or take drugs and I barely drank. I looked down, with the kind of naive disdain only a teen can muster, on those who did. When River Phoenix died of a drug overdose I was shocked. How could he be that? (again, keep in mind - teen naivete, everything is either black or white) How could he have been a burn out when I loved him so? I haven't watched My Own Private Idaho since - though really, what the heck is wrong with me? it's an awesome movie. I digress.

Yesterday on BBC Radio there was a report about an Opera performing Wagner in Tel Aviv. I know bupkiss about classical music, but the report went on to detail how Wagner, while a genius and maker of incredible music, was an a rabid anti-semite and Hitler's favorite composer. Having a state funded institution pay for the performing of Wagner's music was seen as objectionable by some Israelis. Others say that, while Wagner the man was an awful human being, Wager the artist made divine music. You can see more about that particular situation here.

Recently there was some buzz on Twitter about Orson Scott Card and his views on homosexuality. From what I gather, these aren't new views, just ones that have come up again. I'd never heard about this author's views before and I'd only ever read Ender's Game, but I think that's a brilliant book. So now what? Would I read anything else by him? Could I separate a personal viewpoint that is so abhorrent to me from the work? Maybe. I'm not sure. I skim over his books in the bookstore and instead of the amazing characters he created and the originality of Ender's Game, I think about his politics. Is that fair? Should I separate the art from the artist? And are there degrees? Unlike my teen self, I recognize that the world is full of shades of gray (that have nothing to do with racy erotica.) 

I think for me, in the case of Orson Scott Card, I will read other books of his. But in the back of my mind, I'll be thinking about his politics and wondering how it influenced his writing. 

So, what about you? Are you able to separate the Art from the Artist? Have a writer/artist/musician you loved ever been tarnished in your eyes by questionable behavior?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Adding Dimension OR NO Cardboard Characters Allowed

The next exercise in The Breakout Novel Workbook is about adding dimension to your MC. Some books you read, (popular, successful books) the MC is so one dimensional that if you took her out of her setting and tried to figure out what she would do, say, if she got stuck in an elevator, or if she missed a flight and had to sleep in the airport, you couldn't. You just don't know enough about that character to imagine her in any other situation (and maybe you have trouble imagining her in her current situation.) This is a Flat Stanley character and it cannot be allowed to happen in your book.

Flat Stanley in NY
For me the hardest part is excavating those extra dimensions. The only way to dig them out is to ask questions. Would she give up her subway seat for a pregnant lady? Would she apologize first in a fight - would she rather eat dirt than apologize, even if she was in the wrong? These kind of questions (and the many-layered answers you get) give a fuller picture of your MC. So when you're ready to put her in absurd, dangerous, tense situations, you know she'll be active, not passive. You'll know exactly how she'll react.

In this exercise, Maass asks, "What is your protagonist's defining quality? how would anyone describe your  protagonist?" For my MC, Mop, I think this is a little tricky because she hides herself. I don't think anyone but her best friend and her mom would know that her defining quality is tenacity. All the changes that have rocked her young life has made her averse to change and she's shaped herself to be as constant as she can. It's the only thing she thinks she can control.

Now, says Maass, what's the opposite of that quality? Accepting, yielding. Those are two things that Mop would have difficulty doing. There are superficial things that she can be passive about, but when you get to the core of her, there are some things that she cannot let go. Though I knew this about her, putting it into words makes me realize that this quality and it's opposite is going to get her into trouble.

Finally, as a follow up (because, can you really have too many dimensions to your MC?) define a secondary character quality. That's easy for Mop, because she's already displayed it: Curiosity. Not the run of the mill kind, but the kind that doesn't let her go to sleep when there's a question she can't answer. Her tenacity and her curiosity sometimes pull her in different directions.

So, how well do you know your MC? Is he really multi-dimensional or is he a bit, flat?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...