Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Editing: Character Fears




In this post, I'm going to talk about a bit about character fears. Everyone is scared of something. Characters should be no different. Even someone who looks fearless is probably scared of something. 

I got started thinking about this after I read this post by S. Alex Martin, one of my writing e-friends. To sum up the post, he basically said that everyone has a deep, dark, inner fear of something.

And chances are that this fear will affect their view of the world and how they act. He gave the example of going blind.

After thinking about that for a few days, I went and I opened a brainstorming doc for my MC Gwen, and this is what I got (copied and pasted directly from the doc).

Types of fear that can apply to Gwen:
-          Fear of the unknown (good for a coming of age story)
-          Fear of being a burden.
-          Fear of being rejected (by society) (not really liking this one. Unless it's her family she fears rejection from.)
-          Fear of being betrayed again
-          Afraid that everyone is lying to her (Okay, that’s extreme, but good)
-          Afraid of letting everyone down and losing the manor.
-          Afraid of losing Bev/living without her once she [SPOILER]
-          Afraid that she, Syd, Bev, etc. will never recover from [SPOILER]
-          Afraid of screwing up the manor more than it was before.
-          Afraid of failing to protect those that need protecting (applies more to Syd).
-          Afraid of not being enough for the manor? Nah. I think she’d be more afraid of losing it.
-          Afraid of hurting someone by accident while trying to fix them up.

Lovely, isn't it? I started with a character that had the emotional range of a teaspoon, and I added all these layers to her. Now she has the emotional range of a half-cup measure, so she still needs work, but progress is progress.  Not all of these may make it directly into the story, but they will affect how she acts.

Then I realized I'd given her all these fears, but I didn't know how she dealt with them. One of my side characters, Twyla, is scared of everything and is very timid, but I didn't want Gwen to act like her. Gwen was supposed to be tough. So, Gwen deals differently with fear. I remembered a quote I'd seen somewhere that said something like "It isn't brave if you're not scared." And that clicked with Gwen quite nicely. She goes ahead and does whatever it is, even though it scares her.

Then I ran into a problem. One of the things that bugs me about this current draft is that Gwen spends more time worrying about her lack of money than she does about the fact that someone is trying to scare her away from the manor, and is willing to be destructive. Then I talked to my mom, and she said that was probably part of Gwen's character. And something clicked again. When Gwen can't do anything to face what she's afraid of, she ignores it. (I'm not sure that entirely works, because surely there's something she could do to stop the saboteur, but it's another start.) So when she is in a scary situation that she has control over, she tries to ignore her fear and plows through it. But when she can't do anything about it, she puts the situation out of her head as much as she can. In the case of the saboteur, this could be dangerous, because the longer s/he's out there, the more damage s/he does.

So, in summary, each should character fear something and deal with it in their own way. Something cool that you could do though is have multiple characters with the same fear that deal with it in different ways, OR multiple characters that deal with different fears in similar ways. Lots of fun possibilities.

One more thing before I wrap up this post. I said before that a character's fear(s) will affect their worldview. Someone afraid of going blind may be very protective of their eyes. Someone afraid of their past coming back to haunt them may not like going to museums or antique malls or other places that glorify the past. Again, lots of fun possibilities.

I think that is it.  Hopefully this post was helpful to someone, and not completely boring.

And a lovely evening/day/afternoon/midnight/whatever to you.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tips for Maintaining Motivation and Battling the Internet Blues

Hello, chaps.

Today I'm going to talk about ways to keep yourself motivated. This isn't a guide to getting out of a rut or besting the dreaded Block, just ways I've come up with for getting past "I'm not blocked I just don't want to write" syndrome and internet distractions. My own Pinterest boards are some that get me. 'Cause looking at a storyboard I created for the story I'm writing counts as writing, right?

No. It's just distracting and gets me out of the story. Maybe, maybe I'll find something that helps, but that hardly ever happens.

So, here are my ideas:

  1. Set goals: I've done this a couple of ways. When I participated in 100-for-100, I had to write 100 words a day for 100 days, end of subject. And 100 words is easy. Sometimes I would get in the flow and end up writing more.  Another thing I've done is tell myself that I need to write X many words before a certain time. A way to get around internet distractions is I've told myself that I had to right X many words before I check email or Pinterest or whatever.
  2. Set a time limit: This is similar to the one above, in that I've told myself I couldn't get on the internet until I'd written for a certain amount of time.
  3. Turn off the internet: A good way to avoid the internet is by making it hard to get on it. Close down the browser, email, and disconnect the WiFi.
  4. Make a really scary consequence for failure to reach the word goal: Remember that time at the beginning of this year when I made a vow to read a book a week? Yeah, that failed. A consequence I've been considering is writing a really short story about a zombie romance. That's not going to happen. The reading time lost is consequence enough. Anyway, it would be easy to set up a similar consequence for failing to reach a word goal.
  5. Get competitive: Compete with a writing friend in a word war. Pretend the fate of the world rests on you winning said war. I know of a case where two guys did an extreme word war, the loser of which had to sing and preform a song written by the winner. The result was The Pirate Baron Theme Song. They posted a video of it on YouTube here, and it is hilarious. That was their second extreme word war. In the first one, the loser had to eat a chocolate-covered grasshopper. There's a video of that one too (there should be a link in the other video) and I suggest you watch the first part just to see the excerpt he included of what he wrote for the war (before he actually eats the grasshopper). Hilarious.
  6. Set up a point system: Erin from Laughing at Live Dragons created a point system for herself to motivate her to write, and she posted about it in this post. She gives herself one point for every one hundred words she writes. I think that's a brilliant idea, and I'm working on an editing version.
  7. Check out a motivation website: 750words.com is designed to get to you to write 750 words a day. You post what you've written in their word processor, and then it analyzes your writing and tells you cool stuff about it, like what it's rated, what words you used the most often, emotions you used, etc. There's also Write Or Die, but I've never used it myself. The hardest setting you can put it on is called Kamikaze, and it starts deleting what you've written if you don't write fast enough. I think that's insane, but some people like it. There are other, less severe modes, that just make annoying noises or something if you don't write fast enough.  Another one is Written? Kitten! and it gives you a new picture of a kitten after you write so many words. Too bad there isn't a Written? Dragon! That would be fun.
  8. Hold yourself accountable: I'm participating in NaNoCritMo this month, so I have a critique partner waiting for new chapters of my story (hi, Kendra!).  Having someone waiting to read your story, an alpha reader, crit petc, can be good motivation. Hold yourself accountable for getting it to him/her on time.

So! There you have it. Hopefully one of you lovely readers will find it helpful.

And a good afternoon/morning/evening/whatever to you.