Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Character Creations - Character Relations

When I think about writing a romantic scene a couple of words come to mind: ew, gross, yuck, blah. Now I know what you're thinking, am I 5? No, I'm not 5 years old. Am I 6? No, I'm not and before you keep asking about how immature I am I will explain to you why I feel the way I do. It's because I'm a puritan. That's right, I came over to New England in 1630, I ignored the native's right to the land and their own culture and I ignored the fact that people get freaky. So now, in the year 2009 I'm forced to face that fact as I write "normal" human relationships and I still get a little queasy about it. While I might be an extreme case of a writer who has reservations about writing loves scenes, I'm not the only author that goes at it with some trepedation.

Robert Masello writes, in his amazing book Writer Tells All: "The first time I wrote a truly lubricious sex scene in a novel, I wasn't worried about it when the book was just in typescript, adn I wasn't worried about it when the manuscript came back from the copy editor. But when I saw the book in galleys, when I read those scenes...just as anyone else reading the book would encounter them, I was mortified. What if people didn't understand that it was my naughty character, and not me, that was into this stuff? What if the sex scenes came off as just plain silly, rather than wildly erotic? And now it really dawned on me that, yes, my mother, my father and my brothers would all be reading this stuff."

He goes on to explain: "For weeks, I was embarrassed to talk about the book at all with friends and family, but gradually even that embarrassment faded. For one thing, nobody seemd to care; for another, I'm not sure most of them got that far into the book."

So as an author, don't fear, many authors have been there before with shame written all over the page. As a reader, remember that these scenes are fiction, and that an author spent long hours crafting them expertly. To finish up this post I wanted to emphasis the best kind of love scene I've ever read in a book and which still inspires my own fictional love scenes. It's about what is left out that matters, about what is left to the imaginiation.

Since I know everyone is dying to find out the results from our last poll, I shall post them here:

For those of you who like donuts, here is a donut chart: (and yes I see that textually Cross Examine isn't on this chart but it still is reflected by the light blue section of the donut - you know, the more advanced stage of mold part).

For people like me who don't eat donuts, nor digest infomation via donut charts, here is what excel calls an "area" chart:

Either chart you look at, Jesus on a Cross has won as best title for James Patterson's Next Novel Starring Alex Cross. So get your Catholic robe on Alex, it's going to be a religious ride!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bigger the Dream...

The More Epic the Failure...

Recently, I was given a link to a "funny" blog. http://fuckyoupenguin.blogspot.com/
I perused the site, and noticed that this blog has millions of readers (okay, so maybe that's a tiny stretch). And my site, has 4 readers (consistent enough (if I bother them) readers). I figure, funny wise, FYP blog and my blog are pretty equal. So what does this blog have that mine doesn't (other than t-shirts you can buy and profane language)? I can't find an answer to that question (other than Amanda's suggestion that it just has better press), so I've fallen into a "blue" mood and done some soul searching via the internetz. Here is what I've come up with.
Exhibit A:
The funny people at despair.com have this to say about dreams:
I read this and my first thought was "I love rainbows!" and I realized that's where I first went wrong.
Having a childlike hope in the world has led me down the path towards epic failure. After almost 1 year of working on this blog, I've got nothing to show for it except for 47 posts of blithering garbage.
Exhibit B:
Here is an adorable kitten who, get this, has her own blog.
Mind you, it's all in Japanese, but still, it's more popular than my blog.
So, mulling this over, I realized that if I don't use profanity, and if I'm not a cute kitten, then I'm never going to be internet famous.
But then, I remembered that kittens grow up.
Exhibit C:

Oh, what wicked webs we weave...Honestly, stardom has not treated this kitten kindly (yes, this is a picture of the same kitten all grown up - I know you don't want to believe it, but it's true). I guess there are prices to pay for internet fame, and I'm not sure I'm ready to be so despondent and dead to the world.

I think my biggest failure is that I think I'm too funny and I want the world to acknowledge this as trooth. The world has declined, but I'll keep writing these posts so at least someday (unless blogger shuts my blog down) I can look back and laugh until I cry (be it because I'm laughing so hard or because I'm abhorrently depressed with my lifetime of failed dreams.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Titles For Some, Excessive Nonsense For Others

Titles are like names but more titillating. So to discuss titles, I thought I'd brainstorm this blog post with my good frenemie and world renowned name expert, Shakespeare. Instead of just helping me, he also insisted on having more a voice in the blog instead of everything being second hand from me, and possible skewed by my own prejudices against him. I agreed to post what he requested that I post, so here are:
Shakespeare's Rules for Writing:

Rule 1: Yellowness of mine own wondered prose will do thine own skimble-skamble speech no kindness.

(Jealousy of my own marvelously gifted prose will do your rambling speech no good).
Rule 2: A true master of the pen is unsisiting, untempering, without stint – even by the Lethe.
(A real author is unresting, unfailing, unstoppable – even by death).
Rule 3: Write not of saucy pirates, unless thine own self is a saucy pirate.(Do not write about lusty pirates unless you are a lusty pirate).

Rule 4: A geck’s nice exion tarres a reader more than a witty man’s unpregnant exion.(A fool’s Folly is more interesting than a smart man’s stupid acts).

Rule 5: To get your work divulged prig from others work.(To get your books published, steal from others work).

Rule 6: To attach purchases: encave, upspring reel, lunes.
(To celebrate success: put one’s self in a cave, dance a boisterous dance and succumb to fits of lunacy)

Rule 7: Candle wasters, cozeners, drabs, jacks, and lags – these are my inwards. They dup my work. If you don’t like it, you can blow it out your kiln-hole.(Persons who sit up all night and drink, cheaters, harlots, mean fellows, and the lowest of the people – these are my intimate friends. They lift up my work. If you don’t like it you can blow it out your ash-hole under your kiln.)

He also says that now you can consider yourself "Schooled - Shakespeare style"...

As enlightening as that was, let's get back to the actual subject at hand. The title for a story or a novel is important. Best title of all time, hands down is: "Of Mice and Men" because it's not only relevant in its shortened version of the entire quote, but the quote it comes from, beautifully describes the overall theme of the story. I enjoy meaningful titles, especially if they can be witty. Some authors prefer to have funny titles and some prefer to have random titles. Shakespeare and I put together a list of possible titles for James Patterson's new Alex Cross novels. If you're not familiar with the Alex Cross series, it's about a detective named Alex Cross. The first two novels became movies: "Kiss the Girls" and "Spider (something or other)" and now Patterson is coming out with Alex Cross books with the word "Cross" in the title, so here are my title offerings. I love to write up titles but don't always have the time to use them, so I'm sharing my wonderful witty wealth. Let me know what you think by selecting one of these amazing titles from the poll in the right column on the blog. Enjoy!
Cross or be Crossed
Cross Bones
Cross Examine
Cross Hair
Cross Reference
Cross Winds
Cross Breed
Cross Index
Cross Eyed
Cross Check
Cross Fertilization
Cross Stitch
Cross Cultural
Pedestrian Crossing
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Cross Dressing
Crossword Puzzle
Cross all of your T's and dot your I's
Cross B, Stills and Nash
Jesus on a Cross

Monday, March 9, 2009

Character Creations - Fears

Fears and nightmares haunt everyone. Wikipedia defines fear as: "an emotional response to threats and danger. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain." They also acompany the article on fear with this photo:
I didn't believe this picture to be quite accurate, so I'm providing a better photo of what fear looks like:
When writing a complex character, along with backstory, you also should examine the character's fears.

Pat Bertram, author of "More Deaths Than One" and "A Spark of Heavenly Fire", says on her blog: "By exploiting your character’s greatest fear, you will be able to draw the most depth from your character because, of course, your hero must confront this fear or else you miss the point of your own story."

As an author it is up to you to determine the fears of your characters. Are they simple? Are they strange? Are they complex? Are they predicatble?

One can fear heights, death, spiders, disease, aliens, ghosts, pumpkins, monsters, unicorns, bees, vampires, papercuts, worms, being buried alive, falling, forks, or even just recieving a letter:
Dear Jennifer,

This CEASE AND DESIST ORDER is to inform you that your intimidating actions against MR. HUEY LEWIS have become intolerable. This letter is to demand that your harassment and intimidation CEASE AND DESIST immediately. Should you continue to pursue these activities in violation of this CEASE AND DESIST ORDER, we will not hesitate to pursue further legal action against you including, but not limited to, civil action and/or criminal complaints.
You are a continuous abuser of the public image of Mr. Huey Lewis. Mr. Lewis has never been a time traveler. He has never been to the future, nor does he claim so. Songs are a work of fiction. Mr. Lewis, himself, is not a fictitious character – he is a real man, with real feelings. He is not a spokesperson for any pharmaceutical company and is not a drug user, abuser or drug pusher.
Note that a copy of this letter and a record of its delivery will be stored. Note too that it is admissible as evidence in a court of law and will be used as such if need be in the future.

This CEASE AND DESIST ORDER demands that you immediately discontinue and do not at any point in the future under any circumstances do any of the following to Huey Lewis: speak to, contact, pursue, harass, attack, strike, bump into, brush up against, push, tap, grab, hold, threaten, telephone (via cellular or landline), instant message, page, fax, email, follow, stalk, shadow, disturb his peace, keep him under surveillance, slander, make up stories about him, gather information about and/or block his movements at home, work, social gatherings, religious functions and/or any other reasonable day-to-day activities.Should you willfully choose to continue your current course of action, I will not hesitate to file a complaint with the Police Department for your ongoing violations of criminal Laws.
We demand your immediate attention and compliance in this matter.

Sincerely,The Legal Force which represents Mr. Huey Lewis

To continue my book reading series:

I've finished a Man of the People by Chinua Achebe. It is a novel about the political struggles in Africa and the common man. This novel reminded me a lot of 1984, but the ending is more hopeful.

I also finished "The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly. A fantasy novel about a boy who seeks out his dead mother in a land of dreams and nightmares. This book was a little predictable, and a little frustrating at times. But overall it was a good novel. I really enjoyed the ending.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Character Creations - Motives

To make a well rounded character you must feed them lots of sweets, and they must be complex. One way to be a complex character is to have motives for your actions. Why does Billy do this? Why does Johnny do that? When given the same plot, similar characters will deal with events differently based on their own motives. Short term goals, long term goals and desires can be motivations for your characters.

When considering motives for your characters you can determine motives prior to writing your story such as in the initial stages of plot outlining and backstory writing; you can watch as your character interacts with other characters and follows the plot to determine their motives, or you can take another path entirely which I haven’t outlined here.

Also, motives can help to connect your characters to your readers. By establishing believable motives, your characters can obtain sympathy from the readers of your work, and this sympathy will keep them reading.

If you have trouble writing up believable motives for your characters, think of your own motivation. Why do you get out of bed each morning? What are you working for? Also, consider if you were in the plot of your own story, what would your own motives be? Would those motives fit the motives of one of your characters? If you were tossed back in time by a crazed scientist would you do the things you do because you want to get home, or would you do different things because you want to screw with the past (although it's possible that everything you do in the past you already did and anything you do won't actually change the future - this depends on whether or not time is linear or circular. Being a teacher in the school of "time is circular", myself, my understanding is that if you were to go back and kill yourself and you would find out that you did not kill yourself because if you kill yourself then there is no you in the future to come back to the past and kill yourself. It's like getting yourself into a pickle you can never defeat. - Good times). Ultimately, the question in this scenario is, are you motivated by good outcomes or bad outcomes. Ultimately, as a writer, are your characters motivated by their own desires or by the well being of others?

As a final example, let us consider the character Huey Lewis. At one point he was motivated by his desire to "find a new drug", another time his motivation came from "the power of love". Now ask yourself, are these motives believable? Do you have sympathy for the character of Huey Lewis? I think we can all learn from this relatively flat character (almost one minded, if you ask me) and we can make our characters stronger. Just remember the mantra: "Better than Huey Lewis". Whenever I feel down, I tell myself that I'm better than Huey Lewis and I feel great! Some days it takes a "I'm so much better than..." or "I'm amazing and that Huey Lewis is a dud," but no matter what it takes, it works. And it can work for making your lives better and the complexity of your characters better too. So next time you're working on a character and they don't have good enough motives, just ask yourself "how cany my character be better than Huey Lewis, just like I am?"*

*With no disrespect to Mr. Lewis or the legal force he has working for him. He's a great guy and I love his music.