Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's all about CHARACTER!

As I delve deeper into my new book, I'm plagued by nightmares of revisions - ya know, those horrible rewrites my first novel is still waiting for me to complete.

Granted, I knew NOTHING about writing when I spewed forth that 100,000 word mess, but the premise is still good, the characters are still good, and so I suppose someday I'll open it back up and frighten Shari by saying, "Ready for the revisions on this one?" Then she'll scream and run into the night - which is okay now that winter is over in Wisconsin.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have GMC by Deb Dixon and it really, truly is an amazing craft book. So you take the revisions of my first novel and the insight of GMC, and think: Hmm. If I do this right the FIRST time through, I won't have to face those scary, demonic revisions.

Sounds like a plan, eh?

I thought so too. I whip out GMC and start to go through it with this new book in mind. Kate wants ________ because _______ but ________. There ya go. First blank is her goal. Second is her motivation. Third is her conflict. I wrote that out, just like that, on a piece of notebook paper and proceeded to stare at it for thirty minutes.

It's such a simple little sentence, is it not? And yet at the same time, my brain cramped up and my eyes glazed over and for a short period of time, I lacked the ability to speak coherent sentences. My family worried for a bit, then relished the silence and figured not to mess with a good thing.

Through this painful process, I've discovered I cannot create character worksheets. I have to simply write and let the characters reveal themselves to me in whatever way THEY decide. I'm just the scribe, the slave to the keyboard as THEY tell their tales.

Even my characters are bitches. What's up with that?

18 comments:

Julie said...

I tried to read that book, and had the exact same result. Perhaps we have a neurosis in common?

Kat said...

Remember when your English teacher made you outline your papers before you wrote them? That was my biggest nightmare! Some people have a very structured brain, and other's are more hippie'ish and free thinking. Your brain is a hippie!

So - are we going to get some kind of sneak peak, or something?

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I can't do character worksheets either. It bores me. My characters come alive as I write. It often means I have to go back and tweak the first few chapters because they really reveal themselves after that point, but as far as revisions go, that's a minor thing.

I liked Dixon's book, too. I think it's a lot of stuff we already know, but she put it down in clear concrete examples. However, I hate the Wizard of Oz (damn flying monkeys!) so I had a hard time getting through that craft book. ;)

Elisabeth Naughton said...

BTW...forgot to say I like the new picture. :)

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Kat, I actually didn't have a problem with those because we were forced to do the postcard notes first, then you just wrote out the outline. Since those papers were mostly written from facts, it was easy to see what you'd have at the end and build to there, what to include, what not.

With this, fiction, I have no idea what's going to happen from point A to point Z. So I can't outline it! I have some scenes, but I can't type them out yet because I don't know WHEN the scenes will take place, WHOSE point of view they'll be in, or where the hero and heroine will be at that point and what they'd say to the other, what level of intimacy, etc. Gah!

Elisabeth - thanks! Someone on Evil Editor said something about "fountain of sexiness" about my avatar, and that came after a TEEN (troubled teen) said "Smokin' hot avatar" and growled at me. Eeks. So thus, the change.

Kind of weird though - a smiling picture next to the line of "I shall eviscerate you in fiction." Kill 'em with kindness, eh? (grin)

Julie, from being on the Cherry forums and posting a question about how they all do characterization, we share our neurosis with many! Well, at least many writers. Not really comparative to rest of the world, I guess, being the freaks we are.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Oh dammit! So I'm the reason the "smokin' hot avatar" has given way to "Cutsey McDimples?"

Dammit dammit dammit! I shoulda screencapped it when I had the chance.

(And BTW, "Dwight the Troubled Teen" was a Letterman character for years and years. Can't remember the name of the show writer who played the character. Perhaps the fact that I watched DtTT skits from a college common room couch in the late eighties should reassure you that your photo isn't doing anything to corrupt the youth of America. Be more concerned with middle-aged crushers.)

And besides... You KNOW that avatar was smokin' hot. You absolutely KNEW it when you posted it.

Don't give us that "who me" act now.

:-)

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Actually, Dwight the NOT Teen, I didn't think of it as hot - if you REALLY look at it, I was pissed. LOL

And I never watched Letterman. I couldn't get past the gap in his teeth and he annoys me like Conan the Moron. So I had no idea. I truly thought you were a teenager! Of course, with your "dammit dammit dammit", I can visualize so clearly the stomping of feet and a pout of the bottom lip. (grin)

And I do NOT have dimples! I wish. But alas - no dimple - well, we won't bring up the ones that may linger on my ass, k?

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Admittedly, there is a fine line between "pissed" and "sultry."

You had a kind of runway model enui going in your old avatar.

Don't begrudge me my sultry, please.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

So I should change it back just for you? Show you special consideration?

I don't know about that, Dwight. Dwight-that-isn't-even-your-name-Person.

What do I get in return? (evil grin)

Now Cheryl's commenting on my photo! I hope EE doesn't get pissed off - his wrath frightens me in a really exciting, quivering way.

Rhonda said...

Ok, admittedly I know nothing about writing fiction. But why can't you just write and let the characters dictate where it all leads? Everything that I've read of yours just shows such natural writing talent. Why make it so complicated? Sure, you might need to make some revisions later, but you'll probably have to do that regardless. Just get writing!!!

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

On the contrary. Before, I was thinking "Well, everybody has one good photo somewhere. She's probably really not ALL THAT."

And then you step up with another avatar that is ALL THAT.

Dang. B is a lucky, lucky man to get the whole package of brains, wit, and ALL THAT.

Yah, it took me a while to catch on to EE. I sent my query letter for review before I figured out that he is NOT the helpful resource that Ms. Snark is. Ms. Snark is actually very gracious and supportive - wrapped up in a personae who suffers no fools.

I have sent her questions and recieved really great advice via e-mail that never made the blog. She is a Princess pretending to be a bitch.

Ed is in it for the joy of the ridicule. He's chasing the laugh. If you notice, his suggested rewrites get less and less... Well... Sincere. More and more he just waves the dreck through after he has milked it for laughs.

Lessons to live by:

If you are "The Other Woman," don't call Dr. Laura for help.

If you are a cheating husband, do not go on Oprah under any circumstances.

If you are pregnant and don't know who the father is, avoid Montel.

And if you are an author with aspirations toward a publishing career, DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR QUERY TO EVIL EDITOR FOR HELP.

Of the 35+ queries that he has tackled, how many of them are more likely to be taken seriously by an agent as a result of his attention?

Three?

Four?

How many of them are likely to be remembered by a potential agent for the evicerating treatment they underwent on the Evil Editor blog?

I politely withdrew my query from consideration.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Rhonda - that's exactly what I found out I have to do! See? You know a lot. You knew that without having to break open GMC and sweat while staring at a blank page. Smart chica!

Dwight, regarding B - let's just say, well, nevermind. Sometimes nothing at all says it better than a billion words.

As for EE, I love him. LOVE LOVE LOVE him. I engaged in a few emails with him, and he was absolutely delightful. Sweet, funny, and I'd love for him to cover women's fiction because his "voice" would complement mine in editting (I think - aren't I the arrogant one to make that kind of call? HA!)

I don't know Miss Snark well at all. I read her site faithfully every day, but somehow, EE feels more "real" to me. Maybe because he interacts with us in comments more than she does. Maybe because he wrote me back three times and made me grin like a moron. Maybe it's just because he's a guy. I'm not sure. I do think that the comedy thing is like a virus. It feeds and he may indeed go for just the laugh, but I have yet to read anything of his that hasn't been on target. (shrug) Then again, my list of publications to show how much I know isn't exactly takin' up small forests, is it? (sigh)

Blast me over your query and I'll read it. (Really, ignore the evil grin)

I won't comment on my photos. LOL

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

I respect your passionate EE loyalty.

Not to be a hypocrite, I never miss a day of EE either.

I will definitely take you up on your query critique offer, Ms. Bradshaw. Thank you! I need all the help I can get! Look for my e-mail in the next couple days.

Lynn Daniels said...

Your characters must love to party with my characters. I absolutely CANNOT do character worksheets, and when I try, they're always wrong. I've gotta just write, and see where they lead me.

Shari said...

See, told you... just write and let them speak to you. But I did help you fill in the blanks the other day!!

And yes, I will be awaiting the Liz and Alex revisions. And yes, it is easier now with no cold and snow to run screaming into the night!!

Christine Keach said...

Usually my characters reveal themselves in story as well, but the book I plotted last week...oh, nevermind. I have an idea about who the characters are and I know some of what's going to happen, but like everybody else I'll learn as I go...

Duke_of_Earle said...

Sounds normal to me. On my current WIP, I wrote a 4-page opening chapter (brief, but ending with a cliffhanger for a hook), then spent several weeks mulling plot twists, character nuances, GMCs and all that. Just thinking about it all.

Now I'm just writing. OH, yeah, there will be LOTS of revision and rearranging and cutting and adding later. But that's my process.

You write well. You'll do fine without all the structure. (Some do, some don't. No stigma either way!) That'll come later.

John

Theresa said...

I love character worksheets, and Dixon's GMC. I just don't do either until after I've finished writing the first draft. lol

It's only then I know enough about them to fill out anything.

Theresa