Thursday, February 25, 2010

Secondary Shoes (RE-POST)

My daughter only wears her dance shoes for about fifteen hours a week, but boy, they are important to her. She takes good care of them and loves the way they feel on her feet. They could never take the place of her street shoes, though. This is how our readers should feel about our secondary characters. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass spends an entire chapter on secondary characters. The bottom line is, they shouldn't overshadow our main characters, but they should be special. One way to achieve this is to show their impact on our main characters. What about them draws our protagonist to them? What makes our protagonist want to be around them, or not be around them? He suggests thinking about our own lives and who has been special to us. Who do we choose to surround ourselves with? This is where the fire comes in. This is where the passion comes in. Apparently, according to my beta readers, I've succeeded here. Yay, me! No, not really. One of my secondary characters seems to be more appealing than one of my main characters. I can't have that now, can I? I think what Mr. Maass would suggest is to make the secondary characters special to the extent that they are useful to the main characters. In other words, our readers should care (or not care) about our secondary characters as much as our main characters do. No more and no less. What do you think? How do you develop your secondary characters without overshadowing your protagonists?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

These Shoes are Just Creepy! (RE-POST)

Seriously, who would wear them? If the point is to scare, they don't accomplish it. They do nothing for me. Well, they do kind of gross me out. But other than that, nothing. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass discusses the antagonist, the villain, the doer of all evil. He says that in the work submitted to him, most of these mean-spirited characters fall flat. Why is that? Well, because they have no depth. He or she is just bad by default without explanation, and just really aren't that scary. Mr. Maass suggests that one way to fuel fire into our writing is by giving the villain some human characteristics and a reason for acting the way he does. He can't just be bad for the sake of being bad. The reader won't buy into it. Maass even goes so far as to suggest that we make him somewhat endearing to the reader. This adds great depth to a story. My primary antagonist is somewhat ambiguous and needs to stay that way, so this is difficult for me. I'll be thinking about it during my rewrites, though. In the mean time, I'll be applying it to my secondary antagonists. Is your antagonist just bad for the sake of being bad? Or have you given him some motivation for his behavior? Please share.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

These are the Shoes of Heroes (RE-POST)

Yesterday, I mentioned that passion comes from within the author, and not from the plot, setting, characters or voice. That's not to say, though, that it doesn't manifest itself in these elements. In The Fire In Fiction, Donald Maass tells us how to channel our passion and breathe life into these areas of our writing. For the remainder of this week, I'll be talking about putting our passion to work through our characters, starting with our main characters. Mr. Maass discusses the difference between heroes and protagonists. Heroes are larger than life, while protagonists are everyday people. Maass points out that neither is bad, but both should be multi-dimensional. Otherwise, the reader won't care about them. If your main character is a hero, then give him some flaws to make the reader relate to him. On the other hand, if your main character is just an everyday guy, give him some strengths that the reader wishes he had. Mr. Maass goes on to suggest that this should be done in the first five pages. Aye! I really messed up there! My main character was a big, old, everyday wimp. At least until, oh I don't know, like the twenty-first chapter. During my revisions (um, I mean rewrites), this will be a huge focus of mine. So, tell me...who is your main character? Is he a hero or an everyday Joe? Either way, what qualities have you given him to make him endearing to your reader?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where does the fire come from? (RE-POST)

As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend, I read two books on the craft of writing by literary agent Donald Maass: Writing The Breakout Novel and The Fire In Fiction. Both were excellent reads, but I'm going to focus these discussions on The Fire In Fiction. In this book, Mr. Maass points out that there are no truly original ideas. "Every novel has antecedents. Every author has influences. It is impossible to be wholly original; even so, some novels feel fresh and shake us with their insight." So, if this is true, what makes the difference? Look carefully at that quote. Mr. Maass states that 'Every author has influences.' That, my friends, is where the fire comes from. It doesn't come from the plot, the characters, the setting, or the voice. It comes from the author's passions, which have developed over time because of life experiences. How do we find that passion within ourselves and transfer it to our writing? This is exactly what Mr. Maass answers in The Fire In Fiction. He talks about two types of writers: the status seekers and the storytellers. The status seekers start out with all kinds of passion, the main goal being publication. They settle for good enough. This kind of passion fizzles out over time. The storyteller, on the other hand, has one goal at heart: making his novel the best it can be, and each successive one even better than the last. This passion never goes away. I think, it's possible to be a little of both. Don't most of us writers dream of the day we will be published? Of course we do. But this can't be our only motivation. We have to strive to become better, stronger writers, and we have to be passionate about the art of writing, not just about the dream of publication. I'm guilty of being a status seeker at times, but I want nothing more than to be a storyteller. What about you? What kind of writer do you want to be?

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm Going on Vacation

Well, not really, but I am taking a break from blogging. "What?" you may say. "You just had a break from blogging." This is true, but I also had an unwanted break from writing. 2010 has not gotten off to a very productive start for me. We had the sickness and surgeries in January, and the computer issues last week. I'm way behind on where I want to be with my manuscript. That being said, starting next week, I will re-post a series I did back in November on The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. For some of you, this will be new. For others, it will be review. Either way, I think you could benefit from it. I just reread the book this past weekend, and I came away even more inspired than I did the first time. For those of you who read my posts the first time around and have since read the book, I'd love for you to pipe in with your opinions and what you learned from the book. Everyone sees something different. This is why we can learn from each other. For those of you who haven't read the book, GO BUY IT NOW! You won't be sorry. Despite my lack of new posts, I will be around to all of your blogs. Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mom, I'm Going to the Pros

How many times have we heard that come out of the mouth of young boys? Far too many times to mention. Every boy who is involved in any type of organized sport dreams of the day he will make it to the big time. Every girl dreams of being the next big hip-hop diva or star of the silver screen. How many of them actually get there? The sad truth is, not many. But who are we to squelch their dreams? As writers, are we any different? Well, yes, most of us are adults who have long since given up the notion of making millions with our dream. But aren't we still holding onto that dream? Aren't we still writing every day in the hopes that our big break will come along? Of course we are. Why shouldn't we? No matter the odds of success, the journey in itself is priceless. What a person gains from striving toward a goal can't be matched by any form of compensation. So, I say let us dream. Let us think bigger than life. And let us have that chance at success. After all, if no one chased the dream, there would be no pro athletes, no movie stars, no Olympic gold medalists, no Emmy winners, no Oscar winners, and nobody with heart. So, here's to all of you! Don't ever stop chasing the dream. (Yeah, I know it's random, but get used to it. This is what it's going to be like around her for a while.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

I've Been A Bad Blogger

And I apologize. Our second computer is not working, and my kids invaded mine. They were out of school a good part of last week for conferences and are out today for the holiday. What little time I've had on the computer has been spent on my manuscript. I'll be around to visit you all in the next few days, and will be back with a real post on Wednesday. Hope you all are well!

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Characters' Shoes, Part 2

In my last post, I shared with you the shoes my female protagonist would wear. Today, it's my male protagonist's turn. Since Jack spends a lot of time working on his family's farm, he can often be seen in work boots similar to these. But when he isn't working, he most likely will be wearing something like this. After all, he is just your average seventeen-year-old boy. Or is he? Let's just say that he has a lot of secrets and might have to up and run at any minute. (Thus the functional, yet fashionable, tennis shoes.) On occasion, he has to dress up. You know, for something like a funeral every now and again. In these instances, you might find him wearing these shoes. Speaking of sad occasions, I'd love your opinion on something. What do you think about male characters who cry? Is it okay? If so, under what circumstances? On a happier note, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Characters' Shoes

I've seen blogs recently that the author posts pictures of what they think the characters in their manuscript look like. Well, I thought I'd do something similar over the next few days. Only I'm going to show you what shoes my characters would most likely be seen wearing. I thought I should start with my female protagonist. Thus the dance shoes shown here. Laney is sixteen years old and a junior in high school. She's a member of the Hillsboro High dance team, so a good chunk of her time is spent in dance shoes similar to these. She couldn't care less about what others think of her, except Jack, of course. But we'll get to him later. Her appearance has never been a concern for her. After all, I created her, and she is naturally beautiful. Until life began to unravel for her, she could have just as easily been seen wearing flip-flops in the winter as in the summer. But now that things have gotten a little hairy for her, she seeks comfort and security in the small things, so she would be more likely to wear these furry boots when the weather is bad. She'll take any amount of protection she can get. Don't get me wrong; her flip-flops still sit by the back door, waiting for the day she is safe again. So, there you have it. That's what shoes my female protagonist would wear. What about yours?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Doctors Did Their Jobs

First, I'd like to thank you all for your well wishes. I'm feeling much better and am happy to be back in the blogging world. In addition to me being sick last week, my daughter had some major oral surgery done on Friday. This had been postponed and rescheduled numerous times, and I'm glad that it is over now. She's doing well, and things appear to be returning to normal for both of us. There's just one problem: I'm way behind on every aspect of my life, and I'm not sure I'll ever catch up. But, I'm going to do my best. That being said, I'm going back to my M-W-F blogging schedule for a while. After all, one of my goals for the new year is to better balance family life with writing life. This will be a start. So, how do you handle blogging when life gets crazy? Is it the first thing to go, or the last?