Plotting out plot

Joe’s Post #168

So, when I find something interesting, I like to share it.

Sometimes that’s like, “hey look at this weird growth on my butt, what do you think that is?”

Sometimes it’s something I find on the internet.

So check this out. A new way of looking at plotting. It comes from Oz and Ends by J.L Bell. 

A cool way to look at plotting

A cool way to look at plotting

Now the cool thing I like about this, is it looks at making the hero’s life hell in a whole different way and can be used for pretty much any part of your book. It’s sort of a rinse and repeat for writers.

heros journeySo why did this speak to me? Well, there are a ton of books and articles on how to plot. I’m sure you’ve seen some of them, the most famous being the Hero’s Journey.

But nowhere have I seen something that gets your mind thinking like this one did. It’s basically character meets conflict to create plot.

Now, sure, it doesn’t tell you how to put in backstory or when to introduce important pieces of information vital to the story, but try running that ‘plotting made simple’ template through your story and see what happens.

Or take a look at this from Jody Sparks.

Plotting by Jody Sparks

Plotting by Jody Sparks

 

Also, if you have some free time, check out Robert J Saywer’s latest post. Here. It’s a great read about the craft of world building and writing.

And that’s it from me. No wise words of wisdom from me about how to write, but please check out these other bloggers/writers. They’re awesome.

Joe

Looting your life

Joe’s Post #134

timmiesSo there I was, sitting at my computer, drinking a Timmies double-double, trying to add a few characteristics to my character (to, you know, flesh him out a bit), when three things occurred to me.

1) Timmies coffee is brain food. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2) Creating amazing fictional characters is hard. It may not seem like it, but avoiding shallow, cliched characters takes time, some thinking and a lot of work.

3) Why create fictional characters at all when you can draw from people in your own life (or even other fictional ones, but that’s another blog entirely.)

It was the #3 that really got me thinking. Since I have lived a life of utter normality, I had to look farther afield. But if you lived an amazing life, use that. I know some of our 5/5/5 have had extraordinary lives that they could easily draw upon. Just not me.

So, I looked back to someone in my life who I really admired, someone who I dearly wish was still alive today. My dad.

battling dragonsI was pretty young when he passed so I never got a chance to really hear about his life from him. Sadly, at 13, you just don’t care that much about what your parents did or didn’t do. They exist only as your parents. They never had sex. They never had their hearts broken. They never went on adventures or committed crimes or battled dragons.

Now my dad never battled dragons, at least that I know about, but he did have a life, and it’s sometimes not the large things that make up a life, but the small. My dad had lost his sense of smell after working in a slaughter house for 2 years. He could only smell a few things and those things he could smell, he loved. Like the smell of hot tar.

Who loves the smell of hot tar?

I looked back at what foods he loved, at what he did as a young man (he played the bass in big bands), at who he hated and why. I looked at the mementos he kept and the pictures that were taken of him.

london burningSure, his experience in WWII shaped a lot of who he became, but there were so many other little things that made up who he was as a person. He took in homeless boarders, lost souls who needed guidance, young men who just needed someone to believe in them. He felt he was repaying a debt to someone who had taken him in when he’d come to Canada, penniless and desperate. He’d write ‘Grandma Ag’ (Agnes) every week like he wrote his mom.

Such things great characters are made of. The debts, the loves, the hates, the small joys, the big laughs, the things he would keep in a cluttered desk drawer.

So, I’ll mine a few things from my dad’s life, as much to honor him as to make a really good character. When you read about Kurt Yager, or any of my male protagonists, know that there is a little bit of my dad in them.

*****

Best show last week – Went and saw a movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world –  Something we haven’t done for a long while. We saw the Kingsmen. Wow. I mean, wow. Imagine if Quentin Jerome Tarantino made a Bond movie. Violent. Funny. Massively engaging.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Shadow’s Edge. Brent Weeks. About half way through. The stakes are rising, but as a writer, the interesting thing is that he’s now spending about 1/2-1/3 of the book on other POV characters. Not a bad move, but interesting. I mean, why get tied down to just one?

Pages written on new book  Worked on my main character. Hence the blog. From character flows plot, right?

Social media update – Still blogging on my step-dad site about my experience as a chaperone on a grade 7 camping trip.  I have to blog about something terrifying today.

Health  Functionally deaf at the moment due to another ear infection. F*ing hell.

Best thing last week  Date night and movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

Worst thing  My laptop being fixed. Damn you Word. Why won’t you work properly?

Links to other writers and bloggers to check out….

marieMarie Lavander – A very well done site, and only 1 of 3 she has running! http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.ca

 

jodiJodie Llewellynwho really doesn’t need my help with promotion as she has an amazing 75,000 page views, 8,000 comments, and 6,000 followers!!!!! Wow!!! http://www.wordsreadandwritten.com.

 

 

The facts in fiction

Karalee’s Post #97

Research is a necessary part of a writer’s journey. It’s often a major part of developing/designing our characters and it gives depth to our settings and ideas for our plots. As writers we use research to:

  • get facts straight.
  • know our characters’ world enough to be true to the characters’ behaviors and understanding of their world.
  • be authentic to the time era chosen for the story.

This can sound scary and it was for me when I first started writing. What if I got a fact wrong or didn’t describe something the way it really is? My reputation would be ruined before it was even made….

Now I’m more relaxed and don’t panic if I don’t know something when I’m writing. I can make a note of it and even research it later for exactly what I need and not read the entire encyclopedia of information on that subject (like I did before). Like most writers I can easily get lost in research. It’s often  a lot of fun, but it can also be a friend of the procrastinator. See Silk’s post on that subject! Above all else, it can be a huge time eater, consuming oodles and oodles of time.

One of my characters in my murder mystery has family connections to South Africa. I referred to a Kudu horn this week so I did a quick research on the internet to get a good picture of it in my mind. Of course I also read other information regarding Kudu horns and I now know that there is a Kudu poo spitting contest that more than likely I  won’t use in my story, but it still amuses me days later. This is one of the reasons that research eats time. Writers love to read and learn about stuff.

In his last post Joe is researching for his historical fiction novel in order to create an awesome character. Writers need to understand what has made their character the person he/she is in his story and how that character will react in different situations. I can picture Joe frantically writing down all his ‘What if…?” questions while surrounded by a roomful of books depicting the era of the war to end all wars. What if’s are so much fun and dig into the creative part of one’s brain.

At what point can research be enough and the writing begin? This is a question without absolutes for an answer since every writer has their own style AND level of knowledge about their subject. Writing about what you know eliminates much of the research regarding some subjects, but it doesn’t negate the process of developing your characters from birth to where they are presently in their lives. All writers need to build back-story for all major characters as well as most minor ones, although to a lesser extent.

 

For me, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the writing process.

Fiction is fiction and there is huge room for creativity, but for sure facts need to be correct or some expert out there will call you on it.

I laughed when I read a well known tourist guidebook when I was in Vegas last week. It says that only one building in Vegas tops 100 storeys and that is the Stratosphere. The entry then encourages tourists to go on the bungee-style SkyJump that drops your 108 storeys from said building. Of course my mind sees a huge SPLAT when I envision the bungee chord being longer than the building is high! Technically the guidebook wasn’t incorrect, but my mind saw 100 for the height of the building and 108 for the drop from the top. Then I wondered if survivors got a special deal on their next jump?? 🙂

This week:

  • No, I didn’t go to a cheap poker table in Vegas. (too chicken) Instead I played blackjack for money for the first time and went through my $100.00 almost too quickly to catch anyone else’s body language!  The fun factor didn’t last long, but I had my own feelings to reflect on and a lesson learned.
  • I consciously people watched in Vegas whenever out and about and at different gambling tables. Lots of sights to see!
  • Words written: 2,000.
  • Desserts eaten at buffet – your guess is as good as mine! Cheesecake and Crème Brule are favorites.
  • lots of walking to counteract above.

Happy writing! If I can write in Vegas, I can write anywhere!

 

 

Surprises heighten emotions

Karalee’s Post #67

My 5Writer friends have been discussing the need to have and the difficulty of creating surprises, conflicts, and suspense in their writing. Even the joy of reading for reading sake seems like a lost pleasure in today’s generation, taken over by social media, video games, movies and TV.

So is all the time and effort worth it to keep writing stories that we fear the new generation has no interest in reading anyway?

Well I must confess that I have spent most of my reading hours in the last couple of months viewing Downton Abbey (now into its fourth season) and House of Cards (in its second season). Before now I hadn’t watched either and I wanted to understand what my friends were talking about.

Beyond a doubt I’m enjoying both series, and although the plot-lines are very different I keep watching them for the same reasons: the characters and the element of surprise and suspense.

downton abbeyI find that Downton Abbey is more predictable in its plot-line, but I’m still entertained due to the  the awesome setting in the abbey as well as the characters and their interactions and changes.

 

 

house of cardsAs for House of Cards, the element of surprise has me intrigued. The protagonist Francis Underwood (an antihero) is devious and malicious yet shows that he cares for his wife enough that he isn’t totally unlikable (although he is becoming more unlikable as the series continues). By the time Francis murdered Peter Russo, a Democrat running for Governor of Pennsylvania, I was expecting it, but when Francis pushed the reporter Zoe Barnes in front of an oncoming commuter train, I was completely blown away.

At first I couldn’t believe it. Why would the scriptwriters kill the person that I related to the most in the series? I LIKED Zoe. She had balls to stand up to Francis (now VP of the Unites States) and I was rooting for her to take him down!

To dissect this turn-of-events, it isn’t the fact that Francis murdered Zoe that bothered me, it’s the fact that Zoe is dead. Out of the series. Gone. Kaput.

zoe in house of cardsNow what? I was depending on Zoe to do great things in the series. She was bright, cute and gutsy. How could the scriptwriters get rid of her?

I found my feelings of disbelief, disappointment- and yes- anger, quite intriguing. Then, before watching the next episode I put my writer’s hat back on and asked myself: What has killing Zoe achieved?

  • total surprise, which caused my above emotional responses.
  • curiosity. Now what? Someone has to take Zoe’s place and go after the antihero Francis Underwood. Francis can’t literally get away with murder and ultimately become the president of the US!
  • Zoe’s replacement will also be in danger, so suspense is still high and I want to keep watching to see what happens.

Now with Zoe being literally killed off, it made me think about the characters I’m developing in my next story. I had NEVER thought about getting rid of one of my main characters that I’m literally telling my story through. It’s like killing the detective in a mystery.

But why not? It is absolutely a way to bring a new main character on stage to keep the story going. It may not be what I choose to do, but on the other hand it has opened my eyes to seeing other possibilities.

And it’s these other possibilities that not only keep writers writing, it also pulls in readers (or even starts people reading) and gets producers excited about turning our books into movies.

No, I don’t believe that readers are a dying breed, but they do expect a good story with unexpected twists and turns in order to devote their time to reading the book or even watching it in movie form.

Have surprises you’ve experienced through someone else’s storytelling enriched your own writing? 

The outline advantage

Joe’s Post #81 – 

Vegas and writingThe good news/bad news about an outline is that you can spot a problem must faster than if you wrote out 500 pages, gave it to a critique group or an agent or your dog. By doing up an outline, sometimes you simply cannot make something work no matter how much you love it.

That was my experience this week.

I had a fantastic story idea, a great character, I had an epic story-line, good action, a great ending, some emotion here and there, and even a villain that I think would stay with everyone. But there was a big flaw. At least one I cannot overcome at this point.

thI may not have the right hero, the right protagonist, for this story. Oh, I love the guy, I really do, but his background, his job, his skills, well… let’s just say it pushes believability a bit far. Maybe too far.

I’ll do some brainstorming over the weekend, probably bug my CBCG (Chief Brainstorming Coffee Guru) and see if we can’t make it work, but it could be that I have to drop him and run with someone else.

You’d think that would be an easy fix. Take out Sherlock Holmes, insert Han Solo. But imagine how the story changes. Character is plot and if I have to sub out my lead, then the plot will surely change as well.

So the next question I have to ask myself, is the change for the better?

Either way, I saved myself a whole lot of writing doing up an outline. I suspect it’s not an uber outline like Karalee has done, but it’s good enough to spot the flaws.

I’ll keep you posted, but I want to start on that novel in March. I’ll set another 5 month deadline. In the meantime, more research (which I still suck at), more brainstorming and probably more lying in bed sorting scenes in my head.

*****

Number of Queries Sent: 5

Number of Rejections: 3. All were very nice and professional. Didn’t make me feel any better, but at least I know and man, they were fast rejections.

Number of Queries I’ll send next week: 10

Number of Other Blogs Written: 1 (About Older Brothers)

Number of Blogs Written About My Stupid Braces: 10 (all not posted due to an attack of shyness).

Temperature at Grouse Mt: -14. (-200 with wind chill.)

Number of New Coats Purchased To Combat Windchill: 1

Pictures Taken at Pond Hockey Tournament at Grouse Mt: 423.

The thrill of outlining – part 3

Karalee’s Post #65

outlining courseMy outlining course through Writer’s Digest University finished this week and I am well on the way to having a story I’m excited to spend the next few months writing. I I still want to do more characterization, especially of my antagonist. I also want to up the stakes in a few places for both my antagonist and protagonist and add them into my outline.

The outlining course began with my basic story idea, then moved to a premise sentence that introduced my story situation, the protagonist and antagonist, and the major objective. This process automatically encouraged my brainstorming process, all those ‘what if’s’ that I love (and I think most writers do) that push my creative spirit in any and all directions, some of which are outlandish, crazy, weird, and that might just work if this and that happens….. During this creative time, this course encouraged me to also try to think about my theme as well as character motives and conflicts. Looking back, this was something I hadn’t concentrated on as much before, and it was very helpful in coming up with bigger moments  with more at stake than I may have otherwise done. (Part 1)

Part 2 was exploring one’s characters and settings. All major characters need to be explored in depth. Whether you make a formal outline or not, writers need to know their characters as though they are “real” family, friends, or enemies. We need to know why they do what they do. This means, what has happened in their lives to make them think and act the way they do? This process is extensive and time consuming, but also a great time saver when it comes to writing scenes. For me,knowing my characters also adds to the pleasure of being “in my character’s head” while I am writing.

Settings must also seem real and knowing and feeling a country or a city takes more understanding than an office, kitchen or bedroom. Helga’s last post explores this topic well.

So what is left for Part 3?

outline endThis is where you take all the brainstorming ideas, the characters and settings and story lines, and organize them into possible scenes while still jotting down other ideas that may come to mind as you do this. I think of this like sorting “dots” into the picture that will come to light once they are all connected. This is the Extended Outline and depending on your writing style, it may be quite extensive to include ideas that both work or don’t seem to, or merely simple one-liners as a reminder for when you write the scene later.

At this point all your brainstorming ideas are recorded in whatever detail works for you. Most of us don’t want to trash any ideas as there could be gold to be mined later if we are stuck, but it may be quite onerous to wade through everything during your story writing. To help streamline the process, it is helpful to sort through everything at this point (especially since it is fresh) to make an Abbreviated Outline that is easy to follow as you write your scenes.

For me, this outlining process has been very helpful and definitely worth my time and effort. I am starting out eager to write my story with a much better feel for my story and theme, my characters and settings, and their conflicts and growth.

I don’t feel that my creative forces have been stifled at all since I’m keeping an open mind to the probability that some characters may try and take over and others may come on stage that haven’t shown themselves yet. I will let them do what they feel they need to, but since I have a good idea of where my story needs to go, if characters go too far in an unworkable directions, not too much time and effort will be given to them.

Happy writing!

Revving up to write

Karalee’s Post #63

I’m not writing Part 3 on outlining this week as I’m still in the process of working through the process, so it may be another week or two before I get there.

On the other hand my story is quite consistently in my thoughts now as I continue developing my characters and more plot points come to mind. To me this is what revving up to write feels like. I start to live and breathe my characters and their world becomes part of my world. My mind buzzes and  ‘what if’s’ are still churning away.

This is my feeling of being a writer.

All I can say is thank goodness the human brain can keep the real and fictitious worlds alive and separate at the same time, otherwise writers would have a class of mental illness all to their own!

Characterization and scene building is well underway for me and the next layer to add is setting. I know the big locations of where my story takes place in general, but all week  I’ve been toying with what my protagonist’s and antagonist’s place should look like, where they sleep, eat, dine, who their neighbors are, the weather, the seasons, etc.

I am also envisioning my final climatic scene and if I want it to take place at my protagonist’s or my antagonist’s workplace. Whichever one, I also need to consider that the setting must challenge my protagonist to rise up and meet one of her fears head on. 

It is becoming clearer to me that outlining is crucial in establishing, or at least making me consider, not only where my characters live, but also what the setting needs to provide in order to show who my characters are as well as challenge them in some way.

Nothing solid has come to mind yet. I often find that sleeping on it a couple of nights helps and keeping my mind open during the day as I research and think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may want to check out this site: Images for weird houses. It’s good for a few laughs and who knows, it may jump start some ideas.

Happy writing!

The thrill of outlining – part 2

Karalee’s Post #62

I haven’t told my fellow 5Writers often enough that they are an inspiration to me, that they help me keep my life in perspective as they share their perspectives, and how important our group’s encouragement and sharing of information is a powerful source of positive energy that helps to keep me on my writing journey.

So, thank-you fellow 5Writers!

This blog came to be because over a year ago our group came to the conclusion that monthly critique meetings weren’t servicing our goals the way we had intended. Submitting 7500 words each was still a significant amount of critiquing for everyone, but was jerky progress at best in completing our individual novels in good time. For that reason we decided to challenge ourselves to work toward larger goals and come together as a group less frequently. Our blog was born as a surrogate meeting place and a way to share with our followers how our group works together.

All I can say is thank goodness for social media. As writers we hear that it is so important to be connected nowadays in order to market ourselves, but I feel it is also a very important medium to allow individual groups to stay connected. Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely occupation.

At present our goal is to come together this month and share our outlines for our next manuscript. To that end, I will continue my blog on that topic.

Outlining Part 2. The Middle.

outlining middlePart 1 addressed the overall story premise and jotting down four or five big moments in the plot line. If you really don’t write anything down you can keep all the information in your head instead, although I still consider this as a form of outlining as well. Actually, it’s a great exercise for the brain too and can possibly deter Alzheimer’s, but my brain doesn’t hold information for me like that.

I need to record things in order to remember details that must be consistent throughout my story. Brainstorming ideas can come from all directions and connect my characters and settings in ways that I hadn’t considered before and I easily forget the paths if I don’t write them down and I’d rather not miss the opportunity to make a good story great.

I also need reminders in front of me regarding key factors in the story that help keep me focused. As my story develops what I will tack to my wall is:

  • my story premise
  • protagonist and antagonist motives and desires (often what a character wants to do but can’t at this moment)
  • goal of the story
  • conflicts – major and minor
  • theme

More than likely when you are thinking about your story premise and big moments you will also  be thinking about what type of characters will play out the action.

This brings us to the next part of outlining.

The Middle

Characterization

This section is also super creative. You get to conjure up your characters using your own life experiences as well as drawing from a plethora of references available. These range from watching movies & documentaries, news stories, books on character development, applying enneagrams or personality or psychological profiles, researching history and cultures, taking relevant courses, visit your settings and experience them, people watching, and talking to strangers, teachers, and colleagues, etc.

At the same time you develop your characters, the settings they grew up in, moved away to, and live in now will also be coming to light as they are part of what makes up your characters too. 

While you start to understand who your characters are and note down your ideas (or log them in your brain), your story line is also burbling away as you envision what your characters are doing or need to do. Scenes start to emerge more clearly, filling in holes between your major big moments.

Some of these big moments might also shift and change, which is the beauty of thinking through your story before wasting huge chunks of time writing something that doesn’t work.

For me, drawing a big bubble map at this point helps me with my timeline and who is where doing what to whom. You may use a notebook split into sections, a writing software or a simple word document. Pictures are helpful as well both for settings and characters.

During all of this exciting and creative thinking and exploring time, you may be asking yourself where to start your opening chapter. I know this is always a huge issue for me when I start a new manuscript. The inciting incident must be established, but it doesn’t have to be at the starting gate. A key event must also happen that pushes your protagonist onto a path of no return. Before this course I wasn’t aware of the two as separate entities as they had worked together for me.

  • The inciting event is something that happens that “changes the world” in your story.
  • the key event brings the protagonist through to the “new world.”
  • the two can be the same event or separate. For example, if they are separate, the inciting event could be a major fire that destroys a neighborhood while the key event could be what brings your protagonist on scene, such as the discovery of an underground bunker full of stolen paintings. And of course, the antagonist will become involved as well through the stolen paintings in some way.

Your mind will keep throwing out ideas from all directions so I recommend to keep noting them down to be sorted at a later time.

Now back to characterization.

Your character’s history is really what has made him/her the person he/she is today. This means you need to know your character’s life over and above the details of DOB, physical characteristics, and where her/she was born and lived.

The rest is what is called backstory and is what makes your characters do interesting things for interesting reasons. It is through backstory that you discover your characters’ motivations, desires, internal conflicts, etc.

Backstory includes:

  • family, friends, colleagues, lovers – and how they have influenced your characters. What major incidents happened in your characters’ lives in childhood and onwards (good to note at milestone times) that shaped their motivations, desires, fears, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
  • time in history – present, past, future (understand the setting)
  • cultural influences. For example, understanding the culture is a good jumping point to go against the norm in a believable way and add conflict.
  • present profession and jobs leading up to what the characters do now
  • hobbies/interests
  • travel experiences
  • life-altering experiences – sickness, traumas, abuses, extreme weather events, but also acts of kindness, etc. too

The overall purpose of backstory is:

  • to weave in connection points in order for your reader to relate to your characters in some way either positively or negatively. It allows readers to understand where your character is coming from (motives, desires, fears, strengths) when he/she takes action, whether the action is as expected or unexpected. Here the cliche “show don’t tell” is helpful and information often can be given through dialogue rather than through narrative dumping. (this has been a hard lesson for me to learn.)
  • a source of inner conflict in your story
  • understand your characters arcs and how they can change in a believable way in your story

outline novel bookIn her book Outlining you Novel Map Your Way to Success, KM Weiland suggests a couple of ways to develop your characters:

  1. Start at the inciting event and work backwards to answer why your protagonist and antagonist would be affected and why will they do what they do in your story?
  2. Interview your character and ask oodles of questions such as those given in her book and her free online book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

Her website is helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/resourses/free-e-book.

Have fun developing interesting and memorable characters.

Happy outlining!

Writer’s epiphany, where does it come from?

Karalee’s Post #56

I’ve been struggling, really struggling (okay, I’ve admitted it) to create a super protagonist that I relate to on a deep visceral level and someone who I can struggle and grow with. That is what I yearn to do in my novel. I’m also convinced that when I get into that groove I will have so much fun and satisfaction that getting published will be the icing on a rich multi-layered chocolate cake. Now that’s a great vision.

But a vision doesn’t get the job done. So what is this epiphany I’m talking about? 

The genre I love writing in is mystery thriller and I’ve gravitated to having a female detective. But in reality, I’m not a cop and don’t live and breathe cop-ese. I’ve done my homework to learn about the trade, such as taking a Police Academy course and going on a ride-along for a 12-hour shift (great experience and I was there after a bank robbery, a stolen car, and stolen property that brought the police dogs out). And, of course, there is always ongoing reading and research, and I have some practice in shooting guns in Las Vegas at one of their many “gun experience” stores.

That said, progress on my manuscript has been lagging behind my enthusiasm. It’s not that I haven’t been busy regarding my writing career. I’ve taken Jami Gold’s ‘Seat of your Pants’ outlining course and have spent productive time learning more about the Scrivener writing software so I can be more efficient in my organisation of my manuscript and have sent off a short story to one of Writers Digest contests.

And all the while, I’ve been trying to visualize and write out who my protagonist really is.

Yes, my days have been full to overflowing, but all told my satisfaction level has been low and my self-inflicted nemesis called Guilt has been swooping down trying to claw at me like Hitchcock’s, The Birds. I was twelve and babysitting when I first saw that movie.

Maybe you remember where you were too?

I can still see it and feel it as though it were yesterday and I was WAY TOO SCARED to go upstairs and check on the children sleeping!

That may have been the start of my writing career now that I think about it. What would I do to be able to instill such a long-lasting emotional response to a story? It is well worth devoting my life to, and NO, I’m not setting my expectations too high.

With my manuscript progressing at a staggering limp I decided to offer my help to a friend that is trying to write a non-fiction book. I can introduce her to Scrivener and help her organize and we can spin our ideas together.

We are meeting on Friday. 

What fun!  And it is still in the writing arena to boot.

Today I was sorting through some Christmas stocking stuffers I have been accumulating throughout the year in the anticipation of making a list for a shopping afternoon with my daughter on Friday. I was opening the bags and looking at this and that, and remembering where I was and what I was doing when I had purchased them. My mind was in neutral and I was simply enjoying the peace of the moment.

Then out of nowhere an epiphany hit.

A 3-D image complete with a life history popped into my head as if it had been dropped from outer-space by an alien. Maybe they are out there throwing down images all the time, mind-melding with us humans, maybe spreading propaganda too … (Yes, I was a Sci-Fi fan way back, even going to conventions!) Most people say it is our subconscious at work, but I think aliens sound better.

But, by whatever means the images and feelings came to me, my protagonist had a sudden life-altering experience. Not a sex change or a lottery windfall, rather a new role in the policing world of forensics and solving murders. (TBA in my first bestselling book!)

So today I’m a happy writer again, and my advice is to go out there and work on a project that has been bugging you and needs to be done, one that doesn’t take Einstein-like concentration, and one that you can let your mind wander around with no place to ‘have to be’.

Then simply enjoy the moment and let the aliens help!

Happy writing.

Interview with the protagonist – take #2

on-the-air

Substitute for Silk’s Post #61 — Follow-up interview conducted in National Public Radio studios, KPLU Seattle-Tacoma.

Interviewer:  Good morning on this partly-sunny Thanksgiving week Monday. Welcome once again to Book Talk: New Voices, a weekly exploration of emerging writers. And speaking of ‘sunny’, regular Book Talk listeners may remember my unusual interview last April with Sunny Laine, who is not an author at all, but a new protagonist in an upcoming mystery-suspense story by emerging writer Silk Questo. The story is set right here in Seattle, and today Sunny is back to update us on her, uh, development … Hello again Sunny.

Sunny:  Hi. Thanks for having me, but … look, I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot here, but could I just make one comment?

Interviewer:  Well, certainly. That’s why you’re here.

Sunny:  Development? That’s what you said – my development. That’s a little impersonal sounding, you know? I mean, I’m not a new mall. I’m a human being. Okay, I know I’m fictional, but I do have feelings, right? Frankly, I’m just a little sensitive on this topic.

Interviewer:  I see. Well, uh, you know I haven’t had the chance to interview many, uh, people like yourself – fictional characters, that is – so I’m curious about your unique perspective. Can you tell me a little more about this sensitivity?

Sunny:  To be honest, I’ve had a difficult time finding myself and I’m even beginning to wonder whether my story is going anywhere. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting around, waiting for Silk, and it’s making me stir crazy. No one likes to be neglected, you know? It’s nerve-wracking.

Interviewer:  Sounds like you’re frustrated.

Sunny:  Frustrated, yes. And a little scared.

Interviewer:  Scared?

Sunny:  Yeah! Wouldn’t you be? My life hangs in the balance here. I mean, will I die on the page before I even get a chance to live?

Interviewer:  Well, you have the microphone here, Sunny. What would you like to say to Silk about your feelings?

Sunny:  How about, “Get the lead out girlfriend!” I mean, I don’t want her to think I’m … difficult. It’s just that, as I said last time, it’s not easy being a protagonist in an unfinished book. Especially one that’s creeping along at the pace of a three-toed sloth. I keep telling her it only takes nine months to gestate a real, living baby – shouldn’t she be able to pop out one little book in a year?

Interviewer:  And what is the ETA for this manuscript you’re starring in?

Sunny:  (Laughs) Silk says end of the year.

Interviewer:  And what do you say?

Sunny:  I say, what year would that be?

Interviewer:  My goodness. Well, let’s move on to other subjects. How have you changed since we last chatted?

Sunny:  Well, that’s the good news. I got a big promotion to ‘first person’ status, so now I’m telling my own story in my own voice. I’m really excited about it.

Interviewer:  Wonderful! So I’m guessing you have a bit more influence on the story now?

Sunny:  You bet. The first thing I did was stop going to my law classes. I’m really not big on sitting on my backside in a lecture hall. Boring, boring, boring.

Interviewer:  But how will you get your law degree, then? I thought that was so important to you! Weren’t you on a mission to get justice for – who was it? – someone in your family.

Sunny:  My brother Wolf. But don’t worry about my academic career. I can do this. Believe me. But I’ll do it my way.

Interviewer:  You sound very determined. I just hope you know what you’re doing.

Sunny:  Me too.

Interviewer:  Now, on another front, how are your relationships with your fellow characters going? Any love interests we can look forward to?

Sunny:  There will be if I have anything to say about it. But the ‘person of interest’ I have in mind will be a real challenge. One of those hard-to-get types. Mystery man, right? Deep. With a bit of a dark side. Those bad boys always turn me on. But he’s really good-hearted inside. Or I hope so …

Interviewer:  Sounds delicious. And dare I ask about the villain? I believe we established that this is a murder mystery when we last spoke, and I assume you’ve been reassured by Silk that you’re not the victim. Do you know who your evil opponent is?

Sunny:  Sore, sore subject. The fact is I still don’t know if I’m a victim or not, and that’s very unnerving, to say the least. I mean, if I get killed, I can’t really be the protagonist, right?  This living in doubt is enough to kill me all by itself. The problem is, in a murder mystery you really can’t assume anything. Otherwise, where’s the suspense?

Interviewer:  Yes, I take your point. And the villain? Have you met him or her yet?

Sunny:  No idea whatsoever. You don’t think Silk’s going to tell me ahead of time, do you? It would ruin the surprise. She doesn’t give a sh— … a hoot whether I can sleep at night or not. In fact, I think she spends most of her time thinking up ways to make me suffer. She won’t be happy until I’m totally paranoid.

Interviewer:  That sounds … distinctly uncomfortable.

Sunny:  Now you’re getting the picture. You think it’s easy to star in this type of story? It’s torture, from start to finish! That’s the point, see? Now maybe you understand why I’m trying so hard to kick Silk into gear so we can get this thing done. I’m sick of living in fear. I’d like to know, once and for all, whether I live or die.

Interviewer:  I had no idea what a tough job you protagonists have in the mystery suspense genre. I must admire your grit. You’ve certainly given me a new appreciation of the drama that goes on behind the scenes.

Sunny:  Yeah. Welcome to my hell.

Interviewer:  Well, we’ll all be on the edges of our seats until your story is finally out, Sunny, and I wish you the very best of luck with all your challenges. Thanks for joining us this morning, but that’s all the time we have today. This is NPR’s Book Talk: New Voices, reminding you to read someone new this week!

Sunny:  Can I say one last thing?

Interviewer:  Yes, quickly please.

Sunny:  Silk, if you’re going to kill me off, at least let me have a hot affair with you-know-who first, okay?