Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I’m going to use examples. My question is what if a very particular and familiar metaphorical expression was literal. I am being vague on purpose as it is the entire premise, the diving board, of the story. I’ll share when it’s more developed, but right now it’s my little secret. Sorry.
I saw in my mind’s eye (I love that phrase!) two people sitting in a classroom. Next step is to ask more questions. The first thing I need to know is who are these people and why are they in this room. Well, let’s ask them. The lady is returning to college. Why? She is now a single mom. Why? Her husband recently passed away. Why?
See how this works. I approach the situation like an inquisitive five year old. Just keep asking why or how until the character throws their hands in the air and says, “I don’t know.” Then, I change course. There was a second person in the room. And so it begins.
Now notice that I said ask the questions like a five year old and not like a mafia henchman. These characters must trust you in order to open up and tell their story. Ask open-ended questions, not yes or no. Don’t lead them. They are in charge. It’s your job to listen.
I’ve also noticed that there’s always the one character that is quick to talk. The chatty Cathy that has much to say. For me, this person tends to be my protagonist. The quiet one, the more reluctant, tends to be a strong support character that helps drive the story and tends to maintain that air of mystery around them throughout the story.
The second person that was sitting in the classroom, he’s not talking. I know he’s male, a key part of the story, and has green eyes, but beyond that—notta. But I have faith that he will talk when he’s ready.
A side note—I like to find the names to my characters early on. Normally just the first name will do until I know more about them. For me, this makes them more real. Let’s them know that I am taking them seriously. And then I can also stop referring to them as character 1 or character 2.
So, when you get that idea, talk to it. Ask it questions, and then listen. If it doesn’t talk, just wait. It may not trust you yet. Show it that you are there and committed to letting the world hear their story.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Two scenarios. 1) You have finished your novel. It is a 100,000 word piece of art. The greatest thing ever written. You pass it off to a critique group and wait to hear the superfluity of praise. 2) You have just written a novel. You are quite sure that is utter crap. It is not going to sell, and you’re not even sure why you bothered. You pass it off to a critique group, and wait for them to tell you to find a new hobby, because you have no talent.
Ok. First of all, both attitudes are horrible, and it will be hard for either one to benefit from the critiquing process. Scenario A will ignore everything they are told, because they know better, and scenario B will listen to everything and create something that lacks their own voice and originality (and more likely just give up).
The critiquing process can be a fun, exhilarating process, but it is not an easy one. You are going to need to put on your Teflon armor before you proceed. Not to mention, be sure you are prepared to give the same honest critiques that you hope to receive.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you get back those highly anticipated (or dreaded) words of wisdom:
1) Say thank you. Specifically list anything you found helpful. Ask questions about things you didn’t understand. But for the love of Twain, do not argue, defend, or discredit the advice. (I apologize immensely if I did this to you in my first round of critiques. Chances are you were right and the revised MS now reflects it.)
2) Make sure that you request critiques from multiple people. Don’t just get one that says, “Yea, you’re great” – and then take a nap. Make sure you get multiple POV about your work.
3) After you’ve collected all of these nuggets of advice, praise, and criticism; take a step back. Let it soak in. Don’t immediately run in and change everything the minute you get it back. Ponder the information that you have received. Then tackle your ms with a plan.
4) Don’t listen to or ignore ALL advice. Once you get all the critiques back, you are going to have to make a judgment call. Some of it will be conflicting. My first critiques were so opposite – I felt like they were playing tug of war with my words.
Nothing improves your work more than getting and utilizing these critiques, but you have to be smart about it. Make sure that the end result is something that you are proud of and still holds your voice.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009