Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are you Afraid?

It's blog chain time and this time Kat brought us a question perfect for Halloween:

What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens or gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?

Okay, so fear. I think most writers would admit to having some pretty big fears, because it kind of goes hand in hand with that whole overactive imagination thing. It does not, in my case at least, take a lot to get that imagination going either. A horror movie will do it - actually I just can't sit through horror movies anymore - I literally shake and cower during the suspenseful parts, cover my eyes entirely during the gory sections, and for days afterward have trouble walking into dark rooms. Or a news article about a dry drowning can make me even more neurotic than ever about letting my son anywhere near a swimming pool.

Now with my own fears, I use my worrying almost as a neurotic type of shield - like it will keep all the bad things that I imagine away. Or I try to find actual physical ways to make life safer - whether that consists of making sure the doors are locked at night (Actually this is my husband's job, but sometimes if I hear a funny noise outside I'll ask him, "did you make sure you locked the doors?" Sometimes, if I'm feeling especially nervous I'll put in a request for him to double check. For the record, he does not seem to appreciate this.) or putting some padded foam onto a sharp counter corner in the kitchen (I actually just did this today - my son kept banging his head on it, and I didn't want it to get to the point where he banged it so hard he needed stitches or lost an eye. Yes, I know. I really am neurotic.)

However, my characters are not so lucky. There are no locked doors or safe foam corners for them. As soon as I know what my characters fear most, then I know exactly what will happen to them.

Fear of fire? Grab some matches.

Arachnophobia? Bring on the mutant spiders. A

fraid you'll turn into your mother? Then it's time for some Freaky Friday action.

Whether the fears are internal or external I want to be constantly nudging my characters towards the edge of the cliff, until there's nowhere to go but down... and then I found out how they deal with falling.

So, what do you fear? What do your characters fear? And do you push your characters towards their fears too?

And for more blog chain fun you can find Rebecca's post before mine and Amanda's directly after.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WIP Wednesday and Blog Chain

Happy Wednesday... I guess. It's a gray day today here in Knoxville, with steady rain coming down, and no end in sight. And while I like the occasional rainy day - it's always a good excuse to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea - we have had so many of them lately that honestly I am a little sick of it.

Maybe though my anti-rain bad mood is just me being disappointed that I didn't meet my goal of finishing my rewrites this past weekend. The problem is that I kept hitting walls that I hadn't anticipated, so instead of having a plan of how to get over or around them, I ended up just sitting, staring at the computer screen (or sometimes a Bejeweled Blitz game) and wondering what I should do next.

I am slowly figuring things out, and eventually moving past the walls, but it is definitely a process, and one that can be very discouraging at times. I guess it is all part of the journey though... and that is my kind of lame segue into our current blog chain topic brought to us by Sandra.

What kind of journeys do your characters make? What effects do they have on the characters and the plot? Also, if you wish, please tell us about one of your personal journeys and how it changed you.

As several other blog chainers before me have mentioned, the most important journey that a character makes is their internal one. The question of how my main character changes or tranforms by the end of the story is second only to what that character wants. However, it can also be helpful to show rather than just tell about this journey by the character going on an actual physical journey - whether that means having them hop on a transcontinental flight or a simply take a trip to the mailbox at the end of the driveway.

In my first (now trunked) novel, a contemporary romance, the main character, after having her heart broken, decides to bicycle back to her hometown of Buffalo, NY from her current location in Miami. After spending several days on the road, mostly getting lost and frustrated she comes to a realization - that she is lost in more ways than one. Here is a small excerpt of her making that realization:

Now on day five, after ending the previous day having actually lost a mile, Stella tried to once again to remind herself why she was here. Wherever here was… she was once again foggy on that point. The rational that it was something Old Stella wouldn’t have done now seemed preposterous. It had taken Stella five days to realize that there were in fact many things that Old Stella didn’t do, that any sane person wouldn’t - for good reason - ever want to do. Stella was beginning to suspect that bicycling from Miami to Buffalo might be one of those things. With this thought, Stella stopped peddling.

She was on a completely deserted road. Lost is what she was in every way possible. She wasn’t doing this to prove something, this was now clear. What she was doing was running like a chicken with her head cut off. Or like someone uncertain of where she belonged anymore. The truth was she didn’t want to go home. This bicycling thing wasn’t flying solo - it was stalling. It was when she got home, and had to decide what to do next that Stella would have to test her wings for real. Maybe the stationary bicycle in her living room hadn’t been taking her anywhere, but for all intents and purposes, this one wasn’t either. Decision made Stella wheeled her bicycle around and started peddling back in the direction she had come from. For the first time in days she felt like she might be going in the right direction.

As for my own personal journeys, I think that just like in fiction the most memorable ones are those that help us learn or understand something new about ourselves.

On some trips you learn that if you are going in July to stay with a friend who lives in North Carolina you should really make sure they have air conditioning (and in this case, I also found out that you should also be prepared for less than clean living conditions when you already know ahead of time that this person had been on the Jenny Jones show in a segment entitled: "My Roommate Is A Slob.")

On other trips you learn about your own resiliency when you end up in an unknown city having to seek out a ear, nose, and throat specialist for a horrible earache, and your bare minimum health insurance doesn't cover it.

And finally there are simple day trips, like when my husband and I drove from LA up to Santa Barbara and I found out that while it may look cool to be driving in a Jeep with the top down, in reality you mostly are just hot and windblown, while on the next day you end up with some pretty funky sunburn lines.

So what journeys have you made lately - whether it's a character's journey or your own?

And to follow this full chain, check out Rebecca before me and Amanda after.

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Well it is once again WIP Weds. and I am still doing rewrites. So far I have written about 6,000 new words, while I have cut around 4,000 old words. I still have some big cuts coming ahead though, so it will be interesting to see where my final word count ends up.

As you may have noticed that is a fairly large amount of new words, and in helping them find their way to the page I made use of my new SUPER SECRET WEAPON!


Bejeweled Blitz courtesy of Facebook.

Okay, it's actually not terribly secret, nor is it really weapon-like at all. In fact, some might even consider it more of a black pit of procrastination. To those people though I would say... okay, yeah you have a point.

Yes, there have been times when before jumping into the Word document that is the current version of my MS, when I might play one, two, or (gulp) twenty-five "warm-up" games of Bejeweled Blitz. You know, just something to transition me from the checking email and blogs part of my computer time to the getting down to serious work part.

However, once I have gotten through those one, two, or (gulp) twenty-five games of Bejeweled I dive into my MS and start writing... aaannddd then after a solid two or three minutes of writing there is usually a pause of some sort where I consider which words need to come next. Now some might take these time to stare into space, spin in your chair, or consider the state of your cuticles and while in the past I have done all these things - now I have found something even better. During this time I flip back to the ever so conveniently still open Bejeweled Blitz tab and play one more game (really it is just one this time... okay, sometimes two).

But - and this is an important but - while I play my brain is working on that next sentence and flipping through the various possibilities until I come up with the perfect thing. Then I flip back to Word, type that in, and if it doesn't immediately lead to something else I flip back to Bejeweled to ponder my next sentence.

There are two reasons that is the perfect game for this type of "multitasking".

One: Each game is only a minute long. It is long enough to give your brain a chance to work on your story, but not so long that you get sucked into the game and forget about the story altogether.

Two: It's kind of a mindless game, or it is the way I play it, which is to say, with a minimum of strategy. I'm not looking for the big plays or thinking ten moves ahead - I just make the matches as my eyes spot them. And I swear every time in this game that I've gotten a really high score it is when I am on the phone, or not really thinking about the game at all (although I am usually kind of a middle person on the scoreboard and my highest score to date was only around 113,000.).

Okay, that's my WIP Weds. Hopefully next week I will have finished my rewrites - that is the plan at least. How about you? How is your WIP coming along? And do you ever play games or have something else to get your mind going when you get stuck?

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!