Have you ever written a story where the characters are flat or are just a little bit light? Me too. I was discussing this with a friend this week and I came to a realization about flat characters: it's actually ok to have characters like this because real life people also need to work on their "character". That being said, it doesn't mean you should leave them like that.
It gets pretty discouraging to pour your heart into a story only to realize that your characters aren't engaging and that you have a ton of work to do to fix them. You almost want to give up and just chuck the whole dang story, but you don't because, dang it! You've worked so hard! The thing to remember is that every writer encounters this problem at some point and that it's just part of the process. Nothing is ever perfect from Draft One. Hang in there and remember: Who doesn't need work?
The bonus is that sometimes working on a fake person helps you to work on yourself. (Actually, that could be just crazy writer talk...Anyone else do this?) The only thing that isn't fun is that now you have two people to fix: your character and yourself.
Oops. There goes my encouragment...
4 Things to do to fix your characters:
1. Less day-to-day actions and more insight via thought and feeling.
Sometimes we get caught up in making our characters real through normal, every day actions. This is good, but what makes a character real is not that she drinks coffee every morning, but that she has feelings (good and bad) and thoughts (good and bad) and that the reader gets to see those.
2. Make them believable.
The last time I saw a 90-year-old grandmother who played rugby with her teenage great- grandsons while simultaneously drinking a gallon of beer and flying to the moon was never. That is, as usual, an extreme, but you get the idea. Readers have to believe that what your character is doing is plausible and that they can relate to, or connect with her. If it's fantasy, it still has to feel like it's possible.
3. Give them appropriate language.
A teenager talks differently then a child does. An elderly person also speaks differently then a middle-aged person. A teenager isn't going to translate as a teenageer if she talks like an old woman. If a reader doesn't believe that your main character is really the age she is, is he or she going to believe the rest of the story and keep reading? It's questionable.
And last, but not least:
4. Show don't tell.
It's that old saying we've all heard, but it's the most important one in writing. Readers want to escape into the world they're reading about. Don't just tell them about it, show it to them. Illustrate a picture.
Characters are the reason people keep reading, so while it's dang hard to get it right, it's also extremely important.
There's a social media network out there for screenwriters, directors, actors and more. It's called Stage 32
. How do I know? Well, I was invited to join.
I say this like I'm an important person when it was really just a spam email.
But I checked it out and it's really cool. If you're a screenwriter or anything in the 'moving picture' industry, check it out. It's a networking tool like Twitter only you can post your work online and people can read it and request it too. Very cool!
Life around here is busy, but lately I've been managing to make it busier just so I don't have to do the things I'm supposed to do. There's laundry waiting to be washed, the house needs to be cleaned, an assignment needs to be written, the next chapter in my novel is waiting patiently for me to attack it, and a short story is waiting to be edited, but I'm not doing any of it. I'm procrastinating.
I love procrastinating because I usually end up doing something so much more fun. Like today. And yesterday. And the day before that. Yesterday I made a bed canopy for my daughter's new room and starting painting my monogram letter for our mantel. Today I'm writing this blog, still painting my monogram letter, and shopping for housewares. I'll do anything to get out of writing assignments.
So for a change, I thought I'd share my last few projects. Check them out:
This is kind of what I'm going for with the bed canopy, minus the tassles.
This is how it turned out. (I'm sorry. This is a really bad picture!) I still have to wire it up for hanging, but you get the gist. I added cute damask fabric underneath it to spice it up a little. I bought fabric from Walmart, 2 panels of sheer curtains and and a 10 in diameter embroidery hoop. I strung the hoop through the panels. It took me 25 minutes to do.
The monogram W turned out really well. Imagine it against a dark purple wall on top of a white fireplace mantel and in front of a silver-ish mirror.
Check out Brassy Apple
for a tutorial on how to do aged paint. You just use Dove soap and sand the paint off. So easy!
I also painted another W for a new collection I'm starting. I may add some embellishments.
I've had an excellent few days with my procrastination busy-ness! It's been fun, but unfortunately, that dang paper is still due! If only procrastination meant that it everything else magically disappeared.
Did you know that when I was younger I dropped out of high school to get married? People were stunned. People thought my husband was too old for me, that I was too young, that I was being ridiculous. One of my old high school friends actually told me that nobody thought I'd ever graduate high school. They also thought I'd either never stay married to my husband or that we'd have 7 kids and be on welfare. Essentially, they thought I'd be a big, fat loser. I'm in contact with some of my friends from highschool still and I don't know exactly what they think about me now, but I know what I think.
They were all wrong.
Well, maybe not about the fat part. (Just kidding. Deep breaths!)
I graduated high school. I'm in university. I have 3 kids and am not on welfare. And, I'll be married to my husband coming up 7 years. We have no intentions of leaving, ever. Is that a smug smile on my face? Oh, yes it is.
Whenever someone does something differently than others would do it, people freak out. The message I want my kids to learn from me is to dare to be different. (But maybe not so different that you drop out of high school to get married! Be cool. Stay in school.) Learn what you want and go get it, even if it is different. You're the only one who can get what you want.
Have you ever seen a peacock in real life? No? Me either. But I've seen one in a video, and they are odd birds. They make strange, loud sounds and they carry their huge feathers along behind them. They look weird until they spread their feathers, and then they are stunning. People might think you're strange, or different. They might not understand what you're doing or why you're doing it, but who cares? Dare to be different. Spread those feathers. Be beautiful.
You create who you are.
I've been MIA recently. Forgive me. We've been working our bums off on a few projects around here, so it's been crazy. Anyway, I'm still working on Great Expectations. This book is seriously killing me. It's so long! I've read 500 page books before, so maybe it's just the language that's doing me in. Nevertheless, I'm determined to get that book off my night table by the end of today, especially since the assignment is due at the end of this week!
Lately, my to-be-read book list is so long that I can't keep track of anything and don't have tons of time to read, so it just gets longer. But I'm adding another one to it: Time and Again by Nora Roberts. I got this one for Mother's Day and it's a romance, of course, but it has a twist of science fiction via time travelling! Perfect.
Check it out sometime.
Writers are typically self-deprecating people. Most writers are so self-conscious of their work and often don't like to share work that isn't fully polished. In my experience at least, writers tend to feel exposed when something they have worked really hard at is out there for people to read. It's like a little glimpse into their heart and its terrifying to let someone see that. This uncertainty, if you will, creates a kind of vulnerability so when someone reads the work, every comment about it either soars them to Cloud Nine or drags them down into the black abyss. This is why reading reviews of their own work can be crippling. So here are a few things that I consider Cloud Nine compliments.
1. "I'm dying to know what happens next."
This doesn't sound like a compliment, but it is for a writer. If people are "dying" to know what happens next, they want to read more of your work. That's a compliment!
2. When an editor says, "Well done. I didn't leave any comments because there was no need."
This happened to me today via my tutor and it was an amazing feeling. This means my piece was very well written and "tight" and she didn't even need to point out grammatical, structural or character (gasp!) errors.
3. "This is a really good idea. Keep going."
When the story is being written, it's rough. Things need to be changed, or taken out, or expanded on. First readings can be primitive, so when someone says keep going it's a good feeling to know that it might turn into something worth reading.
4. "I love the part where..."
They actually read that part? They paid attention to it? They were held captive long enough to make it to that part? Hallelujah!
Every writer (heck, every person) loves compliments, but sometimes some pieces are really not that great. This is where critiques come into play. It is necessary for writers to have thick skin, especially because literature is so much about personal taste and not everyone is going to like everything, but it's also good to be constructive with criticism.
Have you ever written a story? What was your favourite good or bad thing that someone said about it? (You might as well see the bright side of the bad comments because guaranteed someone is going to say something bad about it at some point.)
I've been hearing a lot about Fifty Shades of Grey
by E L James, so this trilogy is next on my list. Some people are saying it's a book about abuse and others are saying it's a modern-day fairytale. I want to read it just so I can see what everyone's talking about. Apparently, there's a lot of S&M happening in it...
Here's the plot, taken from Wikipedia:
The plot traces the relationship between recent college graduate Anastasia Steele and manipulative billionaire Christian Grey. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her life. As she gets to know him she learns that his sexual tastes involve bondage, domination and sadism, and that childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual. In order to be his partner she agrees to experiment with BDSM,
but struggles to reconcile who she is (a virgin who has never previously had a boyfriend) with whom Christian wants her to be: his submissive, to-do-with-as-he-pleases partner in his "Red Room of Pleasure."
Here's a funny video of Ellen reading it. *Warning: It may make you uncomfortable...*
Has anyone read it? What did you think?
Julia Ward Howe, 1861
Did you know that in North America, specifically the United States, Mother's Day was first about peace where a mother's sons could live freely and not wreak carnage on one another? Julia Ward Howe, a social activist, first issued her Mother's Day Proclammation in 1870 asking women to join together in support of peace. This is her proclammation:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and
applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been
able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country,
will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained
to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions, The great and general interests of peace.
--Julia Ward Howe
To the mothers whose sons and daughters have sacrificed their lives for my freedom, thank you. To the mothers whose sons and daughters are still endangering their lives for my freedom, thank you. I hope never feel the pain you have felt, but I thank you deeply for raising brave, loyal children who would sacrifice themselves for freedom and patriotism.
Happy Mother's Day.
To all women who have children, Happy Mother's Day. Let us pray for days of peace that our children may never be sacrificed.
There are times when I'm home alone with 3 kids that I could scream, or cry, or pull my hair out, sometimes even all at the same time. There are other days when I feel so, so blessed to be mom to these 3 munchkins. And there are other days again when I learn something from them. Today was one of those days.
My son has a habit of interrupting us when we're talking and today one of us yelled at him and told him, "I'm talking to someone right now. You don't need to scream at me in the face." He followed up with a soft, swift answer: "Well, you don't need to scream at me either."
Right. Well, there's the mirror. We see what we are. We can't teach him properly if we're doing the same thing to him that he's doing to us. Instant guilt (and perhaps tears). But the question is, why do we do this? Perhaps we feel big or powerful, or that we have to be "tough" to teach them anything. Perhaps we forget that they're just little and that the best way to teach them is through example. Whatever it is, I aspire to learn more patience. (Phew! More things to learn?)
Today I say Thank you for the picture, son.
You've obviously heard of the music show The Voice and it's awesome, right? Well, guess what? There are some people out there doing an internet, non-film version of it for writers called The Writer's Voice. It's a multi-blog, multi-agent competition and it's super cool. I'm wishing my stuff was together enough to get into this competition. Next year!
Basically, you send in your query and first pages. Coaches pick their favourites, help polish it up, and then present it to agents who choose their favourites. I haven't figured out yet if representation is the prize, but critiques and editing help with seasoned authors is an awesome prize regardless.
I seriously hope this contest keeps going on. I will be tuning in.
Learn more about it here