A to Z Challenge: Kinks

Don’t worry. I’m not going all 50 Shades on you today. Honestly, I guess I could have called this something else, but I had a shortage of relevant words starting with K, so deal with it.

It is, however, a very important thing that all writers should know about writing.

Namely:

You can do what you want. You can plan. You can decide on your road to the end of the story. You can decide how fast you write or how a small thing in your story will have a huge impact in the end.

Your characters (if they’re at all well constructed) will invariably screw it up.

No really. To most of us (or at least I think so), our characters are real people. And no matter how good an idea you think you have, if they disagree, your story ain’t going anywhere.

So, no matter how straight a line you’re setting out on when you start to write a story, there will always be some unexpected kinks to it. (See what I did there?)

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Often, those kinks actually make the story much better than what you’d set out to do in the first place. Especially if what you wanted would have negated your character’s motivation, personality etc.

So go with it. See where it goes. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back and wangle things to make them work the way you’d planned. Don’t do that right off though, because characters like to believe they’re really the ones in control.

Failing that, try bribing characters. They like bribes.

Anyone else have characters who like to have their own way? How do you deal with it? 

A to Z Challenge: Zoo

Today’s the last day, kids! Thank for those of you who stuck around. I hope it amused and taught you something new. Also, I want to thank the Veteran Novelists for their thoughtful, useful and encouraging comments. You are all legends in your own rights.

But today, I have one thing a new novelist should know before starting a novel.

The characters.

They live.

They breathe.

They think.

And they make one hell of a racket in your head.

Sometimes to the point where you think you’re insane. Because really… you sort of are. And that’s okay. Because if you were normal, you’d be boring. No one wants that. Except boring normal people. Forget about it.

Talk to your characters like they have minds of their own. If you give them time, they’ll start answering. Often in ways that surprise you, yet makes more sense than anything you could have come up with.

Some characters will take over. Even for your muse. If he’s a badass who stuffs up your inner frenemies for you, even better. Most of all, love the zoo of different characters in your head.

You created them. And they all love you in their own special ways.

And deep down, I can’t really think of anything else quite like it.

Other than that, this is the end of this year’s challenge, so I just feel that I need to re-emphasize something from early on.

KEEP GOING

Nothing is worth the aggravation that comes to a writer who stops writing.

And with that, I bid you good night!

NaNo Day 3: Meet the Characters

So I as promised, today I will introduce you to my characters:

Aleria, the character that starts it all off. She wakes up in a hospital after a plane crash, with no memory and absolutely no idea of exactly how much danger she’s in.

Doctor Blake Ryan. Resident at Aleria’s hospital. Has a past as long as the hospital’s corridors.

Agent Nick Parker. He’s the one who was supposed to go away. He didn’t and that makes me very happy, because he shares Ryan’s past. With even more interesting secrets.

So yeah… I’m VERY happy to have those two guys walking about in my mind. Not surprising, is it? 

Why Your Characters Are Smarter Than You

Hello all! Today I have the honor of hosting Angeline on My First Book. In case you’re staring at the screen with a slightly confused expression, I am still taking part in the Novel Films Blogfest and will be posting tonight.

In the mean time, more on Angeline.

Angeline Trevena is a writer based in rural Devon, UK. She has been writing her entire life and is a published poet, short story writer and journalist. She has completed NaNoWriMo twice and is currently taking part in the summer version; Camp NaNoWriMo.

You can find her at her website or follow her on her blog.

Alrighty then. Take it away, Angeline.

 

Why Your Characters Are Smarter Than You

I admit it, I’m not a planner. I start a novel or a short story with two things in my head; the beginning and the ending. I have a vague idea of how I’ll get from one to the other, but that’s always open to change. And why this haphazard approach? Because I know that my characters are smarter than me.

Everyone will agree that you need to know your characters. Every single thing your character does, whether it’s leaving their husband or having jam on their toast, every decision they make is motivated by what has happened before. This might be what has happened in the book, or pre-scenic action.

Before you even write one word of the story you must know you character as well as you know yourself. Beyond the basics of their age, occupation and physical appearance, you need to know if they ever broke a bone as a child, or if they prefer orange juice with bits in it, or which wrist they wear their watch on. All of these things shape their future and are, in turn, shaped by their past, however insignificant they may seem. If your character broke their ankle as a child, it may still give them pain on cold, damp evenings. They may prefer bits in their orange juice because their Grandfather owned an orangeree and that’s how he made it. They might wear their watch on their right arm because they are trying to cover scars with it. If you aren’t going to plan your novel, it’s even more important to know your characters inside out.

As you start writing you will hit a point when your character does something that surprises you. Don’t panic, just go with it. In fact, you should celebrate this moment; if your characters are starting to make their own decisions it means you’ve written them well enough for them to be real.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you had to make an instant decision? When you really had to improvise and think on your feet? And did you react in exactly the way you thought you would? Probably not. We can always surprise ourselves, and your characters won’t always do what you expect them to either.

It can be scary to feel like you’re losing control, but sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. As long as you keep your end goal focused in your head, then it’s no bad thing to let your character wander, let them explore the world around them and the world inside them too. Afterall, you have the entire editing process, and that’s your domain, that’s where you can put your foot down and pull your characters into line.

If you have to force your characters to do something, then it’s probably not right. You don’t want to alienate your readers by leaving them thinking “Why did he do that?” or “She would never have said that.”

I have often found that my characters have much better ideas than me. They kiss people I hadn’t thought they would, they say things I didn’t expect, they introduce characters I didn’t outline and sometimes they change the entire story, and more often than not their ideas make for a much more exciting, engaging, full and believable story. They’re living it, they’re breathing it, and they have an insight into their lives that is only settled somewhere in your subconscious. Your characters are just the instrument you use to unlock that.

Never worry about losing control in the first draft: let your characters breathe, let them stretch themselves, let them experiment. You can take back control in the second draft; brandishing your big red editing pen like an unforgiving sword.

 
Thanks so much for this great post! Sounds like I could have written it. My characters also hijack my writing, leading me faaaaaaar away from what I thought was possible.

What about you ladies and gents? Ever have a character take over the run of the story? Do you ever manage to go back to where you thought your story should go, or do you just let the character have full control?  

Twenty Questions With…

Hi all! I had another idea that I wanted to try…


Twenty Questions with


Basically it will be a game involving one of my favorite writing-related exercises: Character interviews.


It’s a really good exercise to do, be you a plotter or pantser, because the answers help you to know your characters on multiple levels…


So how does it work?


My friend, Theresa and I are picking ten (this time eleven) questions, alternating who’s asking. Then we’re letting one of our characters answer then. After that, we have a more specific section where we ask the characters specific questions. 

Her character’s interview will be posted here. My character, James Braden from Doorways, will be on her blog.


So, without further ado: Please welcome Mia to My First Book.


OK, Mia, we’re going into some easy questions first.


1)  How old are you?

I’m not sure.  Nobody ever told me and since I was so young when I was taken from my mother  that I can’t remember.  I am of “indeterminate age”.  I guess I am about 18.  Maybe a bit older.

2)  Where were you born?
In a small house near a river.  My first memories are of bright light shining off the surface of the calmly flowing water.  It is still my favourite place.

3)  Do you like animals?

I guess so.  The only pets I have ever had are the rats that share my room.  They are really kind creatures once you get to know them.  My owner had a dog once but it was vicious and dangerous.  I avoided it at all costs.

4)  What is your favorite pass-time?

I like to think about what it is like out there.  I see people walk about without someone guarding them.  I wonder what it is like to go to the park.  I walk around the city in my imagination.

5)  If you could take a holiday anywhere, where would you go?

Home.  I would go back to where I lived with my mother.  Maybe she is still there.  Then we can go to the beach like we used to.

6)  Who’s your best friend? Be honest.

My best friend is Charlie.  We don’t talk much.  He is actually my guard when I get to go outside the compound.  But he once bought me an ice cream.  I think I like him *blush*.

7)  What really gets on your nerves?

Incessant drinking.  And people who treat you like dirt.  I know I am just a servant, but would a little kindness and consideration really hurt that much?

8)  Have you ever wished anyone dead? Who?

I have wished that Jules was never born.  He is my owner.  He treats me like dirt.  Please refer to previous question.

9)  Have you ever been in love?

Not officially *smile*  Maybe a little bit with Charlie.  Please don’t tell him!  He would hate me forever.

10)  What would you rather have: a house or a car?

I would prefer a house.  Who needs a car when you can walk?  But I would love to one day have a place of my own.  With a bit of garden.  I know it is highly unlikely that that would happen though.  Unless Jules sells me as someone’s wife.  I think he’s up to something…

11)  Describe yourself in three words.

Strong but frail.

That’s an interesting combination. OK then, on to the more personal questions:

12)  How did you end up working for a beast like Jules?

He bought me from my mother when I was three. She had to pay off my father’s drug debts. I was all she had to pay with. He would have killed her.

13)  Three?! Wow. How did you survive growing up like that?

I had to. My mother wouldn’t want me to give up. The important thing is to not draw attention to yourself.

14)  You said earlier that you think Jules is up to something. Does he get up to stuff a lot? What does he do?

Jules is a drug lord. He has gang wars, orgies, you name it. But lately he talked about getting rid of me. At first I thought he would kill me. Now I think he has something much more sinister in mind.

15) Like what?

Strange as it may seem, I have never been … Used. I am very valuable as a wife.

16) You mentioned that Jules might sell you. Would you see that as an escape?

It depends on who he sells me to. I don’t think his usual business partners would treat me well. But maybe a stranger… I don’t know.  This is all I’ve ever known.  I am afraid that a change would be for the worse.

17)  Rather the devil you, know…
Something like that. Still, maybe I could get away one day.
 

18)  Why would you wait to see what happens? Why don’t you escape right now?
Where would I go? Who would help me? I am no one. The police would put me in jail because I don’t have papers. Nobody would give me a job for the same reason. I am on my own.

19) I see… And Charlie? Does he make you want to stay too?

Charlie.  In a way I want to stay with him. But he made his choice. He is here because he wants to be here. If he wants to leave I would definitely go with him.

20) But if you had your chance, you’d leave him to Jules?

I… I would leave him *sniffs*

Aw. I really hope things work out for you, then. Best of luck, Mia!

Thanks for lending me your character, Theresa. It was fun!

So, ladies and gents. What did you think of the characters and the interviews? Anyone else interested in playing? I’ve got plenty of characters who’d love to talk. Let me know if you’re interested. Extra reminder: Tomorrow’s post will have a voucher up for grabs. So don’t miss Guest Post Friday!

A to Z Challenge: Quiet Characters

Wow! Two thirds of the way through the Challenge! How many of you managed to stick to it so far? Congrats to you who did! ^_^








Have you ever written a quiet character into your story?


Doorways has one. And… well… it’s a challenge. It’s just that his best friend is a very angry and loud person. So he sometimes just fades into the scenery. It used to bother me, but now it doesn’t because that’s the way he is. He likes taking a step back so that his best friend in the world can get the shine he so desperately needs. When he does speak, he tends to hint at some profound depths in his soul (to me, in any case).


He used to be more talkative in the rough draft, but somewhere in the start of the rewrite, he became quiet. Almost a shadow behind his friend. It concerned me, because I was starting to worry that he was becoming redundant. But, I was surprised when one of my CPs pointed out that she liked him more than his talkative friend.


I realized then that he needed to be quiet. It’s what his friendship depends on. But from the writer’s perspective, he’s necessary because he’s the one that subtly tones down James’s reactions. He’s also the channel through which James reveals a lot about himself.


So he stays. And you know, I love him.


Even if I wish he would just stand up for himself sometimes.

Doorways and Darrion

The Beast has finally been named. This morning I just felt in a naming kind of mood and turned my attention to my main Work in Progress.  

Quite a few names occurred to me, but they didn’t seem to fit. So… I thought about recurring themes or objects in my story. And there it was. The name makes perfect sense. Doorways.

Except for the fact that doors in a literal sense appear often in my writing (no, I mean differently from going into rooms), doors also have a special significance to me.

These past few years have been all about doors opening on opportunities and closing on my past and wrong directions. There are many doors opening to me and I feel somewhat lost as to which choice to make.

It’s exactly the same with my characters. They are all very different, but they have doorways (making choices) in common.

James has to decide if he will step up. Ward must decide if he will tell the truth. Darrion must choose between loyalty and ambition. Gawain must choose sides. Callan must decide who she wants to become.

Everyone has an important decision. And every decision has an impact on others.

As you might notice from my short summery of the characters, there’s a lot of story to get down – with a lot of voices.

So I decided to take Bish Denham’s advice and hold interviews with each character. And immediately ran into a challenge. 

I started last night at 22:00. Darrion insisted on being first – despite my wanting to start with Ward. What can I say? The fiend is stubborn.

You’d think that he’d be chatty. You’d be wrong. Getting information from him is like pulling teeth.

Think I’m kidding?

Question 1:

Me: Tell me about your childhood.
Him: No
Me: Come on. I need to know.
Him: Did I stutter?

More to and fro arguing and negotiating followed and I gave up without knowing anything. And so it goes on. I’m currently taking a break before I decide to write him a terrible death at the end.

I can’t start an interview with anyone else, because his lordship won’t move his butt out of my mind. So here I am, letting him stew while I entertain myself with other things. Maybe he’ll be more talkative later…

Doubtful. Highly doubtful.

Sigh. I guess it sounds nuts, but I find it quite insightful, since I’m getting to know him outside of the context of the story. Even his reticence gives me insight into who he is, but he’ll never hear it from me…

How do you get to know your characters? Have anyone ever tried to get to know a character, only to have him/her push you back with every effort you make?