Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Avoided Moments

Years ago I heard Richard Peck say, “You learn the most from the experience you would have avoided if you could.” In the same keynote address I also heard him say, “You are only as good as your opening line”. Although the second quote is one of my favorite, that will have to be a discussion for another post.

Think about the experience you would have avoided if you could. We all have things in our lives that fit this description. What emotion is connected to that experience? What would you have done to avoid it if we had known it was coming? Who would you be now, if that experience had not existed in your life?

Your character needs an experience like that. They need to be faced with something so terrible or terrifying that they would have avoided it at all cost. Maybe they are trying to avoid it. Perhaps they know, and understand what is at stake.

How do we help our character find that experience? Is it something we have experienced in our own lives and know about? Not always. Maybe you are experiencing this situation for the first time through your character and are trying to understand the emotions connected to this experience.

I’ve been trying to create a character that is dominating and has an entire community under his thumb. He would have to be so controlling and scary that nobody dared cross him. The problem is, fortunately, I’ve never experienced such dominion. However, as I’ve struggled with this character, I realized that there are moments in my life when I was terrified of a situation or person. Especially as a child. I’ve examined those experiences and the emotions that go with them and tried to transfer them to this fictional character that plays such a critical role in my novel.
Transferring these emotions does not mean transferring the exact experience. But the emotions can help you to create this character and give him real traits. You will better know how the characters around him will react as you pull from these emotions and then interview your characters. All your characters. How are they feeling? What are they thinking? How will that cause them to react to the particular rough spot where you have led them?

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Lots of talk about NaNoWriMo going around. Are you planning to write a novel in November?

What is the best way to prepare for that? Many suggest that you make sure the family is on board and you have all the big things in life taken care of when November arrives. Sounds good. Not a perfect plan with four busy kids, but I think they'll work with me to make it happen.

What about the novel itself though? How do you plan to write 50,000 words in one month?

Last year I found a book that helped me think through the process of writing a novel. Book in a Month gives daily exercises that help with plotting and character development. I've wondered about doing some of the excercises now though so I'm even more ready to dig in and start writing on  November 1.

Book in a Month really encourages you to have some kind of an outline. Many writers say they don't write that way, but I'm realizing that having a basic direction works well for me.

Dan Well's offers suggestions for plotting out your basic ideas as well. His 7-point system leads you through hooks, resolutions, midpoint and pinches. With a basic idea on where your story is headed, you will be ready to jump in with both feet and write, write, write.

I know there are some other great methods for plotting out a story. What method do you use to plot out a novel? What do you do to get ready for NaNo?