Archive for September 2009
On Saturday, I attended the Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA) regular monthly meeting. DARA is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. I happened to check DARA’s website a few weeks ago and made plans to attend based on the featured program: Creating Heroic, Believable Characters. The guest speaker was Victoria Chancellor.
As a previous member of DARA (it’s been over four years since I allowed my membership to expire), I knew the high quality of speakers they have and expected an informative discussion on the subject of characters. I didn’t realize, however, just how informative it would be! I’m so glad I attended!
Although I won’t do her justice, using her invaluable handout, I’ll touch on some of the highlights:
Heroic does not necessarily mean “good” !!!
As a writer, it is your job to make the reader forget they are reading a novel, but that they are reading a story! Because fiction is not real, it is your job to make them suspend their belief and to make them care about the characters, and that the story could really happen, or has happened (as in the case of historical fiction).
What makes a character heroic?
- Goal: Define a goal (not a wish) that they are pursuing at the beginning of your story. (Remember: a goal without a plan is only a wish)
- Set of values: Characters must have guiding principles that are consistent throughout the story.
- Challenge: Characters need/accept the challenge that will change their life.
What makes a character believable? Reminder given: Characters must be more vivid than people. This entire section was packed full of ideas. This is a brief taste of what she gave us:
- Identification – the reader can identify with their situation or role;
- Character Traits – archetypes defined; and,
- Motivation – understandable to the reader when you reveal either up front or incrementally throughout story. What motivates a character will depend on such things as personality type, family history (birth order, happy, dysfunctional, etc.), society, personal history, and others such as religious or medical.
Why does a reader care about a character? Victoria explained four reasons: Empathy – Sympathy – Suspense – Justice
What must all heroic, believable characters possess?
- Goal – character must actively pursue a defined, specific goal
- Motivation – reader must understand the whys
- Resolution – character must change to get what they deserve in the end. Know the difference between what they need versus what they want.
- Victoria also reminded us that interesting characters can also be atypical, especially in comedic situations.
Some books she highly recommended to read/study while developing/creating heroic, believable characters:
*The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon
*Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein
**The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, et al
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
*I’ve order via Amazon & they are on the way!!!
** On my Amazon’s wish list, in case any one wants to surprise me!
She also did a quick Character Study between two heroes with traditionally non-heroic traits comparing the books: Caleb Jones in Amanda Quick’s The Perfect Poison, Putman, 2009 and Shane in Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s Agnes and the Hitman, St. Martin’s, 2007. I don’t even know where to begin to describe the lessons learned from this study!
Concluding the workshop, Victoria gave us some tips and food-for-thoughts on “Naming Your Characters” – another post will follow to share what I learned!!!
I am so thrilled I attended this meeting! Thank you, Victoria, and DARA!
Knowing your audience is a must, to a point. Who else will buy and support your novels? If you write, however, strictly to please others, where is the passion, the purpose of telling your story the way it wants/needs to be told?
Not long ago a wise lady said, “Stay true to your self.” This is exactly what I needed to hear at a writing crossroad. A beta reader (BR), an avid fan and supporter of my two previous novels, basically threatened not to ever read any of my works again if I wrote of or implied a particular storyline in Ella.
This “threat” bothered me a great deal. I highly respect the opinion of this BR, but I also know and understand where she is coming from. It is not, however, the same place I am at now, or ever have been for that matter. And, neither has Ella.
It is the “right” and function of every reader to select novels according to their tastes and avoid those that they find of no interest or would find offensive if read. It is just as imperative for the author, the creator, to hold true to ones self.
Stay true to your own self, the truth will set you free!
Ella is still around, safely tucked away on the back burner. I’ve briefly explained what happened here. She will return, but with a new focus. Her developing love-life, and its potential, will continue as originally planned, that aspect is screaming to be told!
Writing this story, the new story, will be better than the original!
It’s totally done. I’m now officially in my new writing space!
While designing my haven, I held close the five senses:
Sight ~ Hearing ~ Touch ~ Smell ~ Taste
By incorporating these within the physical room, I’ve provided myself with the inspiration to include all five senses in every scene I write. The gentle reminders bring awareness so I can write to ultimately enrich my reader’s experience.
- Sight – I selected a soft pink for the walls with white ceiling and window/door trims. The “slipper” pink is soothing and brings comfort. Each picture I’ve selected to dress the walls hold special meaning. Using Aunt Lee’s original desk, my doll collection finally sees the light of day: Chatty Cathy and American Girls Mia and Nellie. Anne of Green Gables stands on top of the bookcase and my baby doll is nestled against the love seat.
- Hearing – It’s a long awaited quietness except for the ceiling fan spinning or the occasional animal sounds coming from the cows, cats, or birds outside. Whenever they find me, I can immediately hear toenails tapping against the new handscraped hickory floors as my Dobie girls, Beth and Anna, enter the room. Neither a television show nor a YouTube video is heard unless I want to hear! Celtic Harp cd is ready in the player, waiting patiently for me to press play!
- Touch – Different textures fill the room and top my desk. The white lace curtains hanging in the windows blow softly against the breeze as if reaching out to touch me. Each time I pass one window to get to my desk, I do gently, purposely touch the lace before it reaches me. The quilt top covering the daybed has thousands of stitches causing puffs to the all cotton fabric. This provides an interesting texture as I smooth the covering from the latest use by Beth or Anna. The brushed corduroy swivel rocker next to the twill upholstered love seat offers a choice of textures, depending on my mood. Even my spinning wheel is in here!
- Smell – Fortunately the fresh paint smell has dissipated and the lemon oil polish used to give all the wood furniture a nice drink is fading. I never realized how fragrant a soy candle can be when not burning. I love the one I bought when Mother, Linda, Leasa, Leslie and I went on our girls’ day out. It is a scented mixture of eucalyptus and lavender and was purchased specifically with this room in mind.
- Taste – Coffee! I retired my Christmas mug I’ve used for over ten years and now exclusively use the mug I bought in Ireland almost a year ago! How can coffee taste so much better with a special mug? It must be the room!