Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interviewing Your Characters

I’ve blogged about the importance of knowing your characters before. Non-writers laugh at us sometimes when we speak of our characters like he or she is our friend or enemy. But this is how it should be. We should know our characters well, very well. That’s not to say that a character won’t sometimes do something that will surprise us, but when that happens it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to us, because we know him so well, right?

As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of interviewing my characters. Sometimes it’s very helpful. Ever see a politician or an actor get tripped up on a question? Makes you wonder about them, right? Interviewing your characters is a great way to keep him from getting tripped up within the plot of your story. It will keep him from behaving out of character, which is totally different than doing something surprising. And it will keep you secure in who this guy is that you have created.

I love the television show, Inside The Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. At the end of each interview, he has his guest answer the questionnaire made famous by French television personality, Bernard Pivot. Perhaps these questions aren’t for you. No biggie. Make up your own. I have another set I ask my character that help delve deep enough to really draw out my character’s personality.

The questions below are pretty light, but I think they help firm of the edges of a three dimensional character.

I’ve answered the questions like my mc Sayra from the novel I’m currently querying. Hopefully it will tell you something about her without a long drawn out summary.

1. What is your favorite word? Vrrroooom!
2. What is your least favorite word? Murder
3. What turns you on? Working on my car
4. What turns you off? Undeserved Entitlement
5. What sound or noise do you love? The purring engine of my 67 Mustang.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Girls giggling. Ugh.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shit.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I don’t have a profession, but I’d probably like to be a mechanic.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Anything that would require me to wear makeup and nail polish on a daily basis.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I gave you these psychic dreams so you can make a difference in the world.

Since I write YA, I also add:

11. What do you want to achieve by the time you graduate, turn eighteen, return from summer break…etc.? Whatever the setting is for your novel will help to fill in that question.
I hope to have my father embrace my gift, gain better control over my psychic dreams, and use my visions to help people. Oh and maybe get drag racing legalized in Monterey California.

Take some time out and set up and interview. Use these light-hearted questions or dig deeper and see if it helps round out your characters!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Operation Ignore Inbox...FAIL!

I said I'd be honest with you guys about my attempt to ignore my inbox for one week. It was hard! Harder than I thought it would be, because even if I didn't check my emails it didn't stop me from seeing exactly how many emails I had waiting for me. My mind starting playing tricks on me, saying things like, "What if one of those emails is from that agent who has your full?"

Or, "What if 7 of those emails are from agents who want a full?" Yes, they could wait a week to get my manuscript. No harm no foul, but tell that to all the synapses in my brain firing off all those warnings.

"Check the email, check the email, check the email," they chanted in my brain like a crowd holding picket signs.

I had to do it. So, at exactly 9:13pm on Tuesday June 7th, I check my emails. And wouldn't you know, not one was from an agent. Not even a rejection. * le sigh *

Operation Ignore Inbox has taught me something, though. I can go all day without checking my emails and nothing bad happens. I might be a bit distracted, but come on, I'm always distracted writing in my head while I'm working, so what's the difference?

My biggest problem was, I didn't think this through. I'm waist deep in query hell, and for the month of June I said I'd send out one query a day. Well, I can't really do that if I'm not opening that email account, can I? So I had to weigh the options.

Ignore emails, or send out query? *taps chin while contemplating for a nano second*

Sending out queries won. Duh.

Perhaps in July, I'll revisit Operation Ignore Inbox. It's a worthwhile goal for me to have, ignoring my emails within a reasonable amount of time.

So, we shall see how I manage. Hope you all aren't too disappointed in me. :-(

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Experiment

As many of you know, I’m knee deep—well more like waist deep—in query hell. As much as I love having a completed manuscript ready for agents to see, I am driving myself insane!

I check my phone um-teen times a day. It’s the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing at night. I love to hear that ding, see that little number indicating how many emails I have waiting. When I tap that little mail icon and see that I’ve got mail in my account specifically set up for all things related to writing—where my queries are mailed from—I get an extra beat in my heart.

Then to see it’s a reply from an agent—triple beat. If it’s a rejection, I say to myself, “Oh well, he/she has just made way for my agent to come in and scoop me up. If it’s a request, well then it’s time to do the happy dance!!! Which is remarkably close to the Humpty Dance. *If you don’t know what that looks like, Google it right now!*

I’m saying all this to say, I’m ADDICTED! I’m checking my emails at an unhealthy rate. As we all know, a watched pot never boils…or so my grandmother says. Still, the disappointment of not finding any new emails in my inbox driving me a bit crazy.

So here is my experiment:

Starting today, I will not check my emails for a week. From Tuesday to Tuesday. I know, I know, calm down people. Take a deep breath with me…let it out slowly.

I’m very interested to see if I can stick with this. I’ll be completely honest with you all, so if I break after a day—or an hour—I’ll fess up. I’m making this across the board for all my personal email accounts. The temptation will be too easy to check the query email address if I allow myself to check the others. I will have to check my work email, as I don’t want to lose my job. Other than that, I’m going cold turkey!

If I make it to next Tuesday, I’ll give you guys a detail of how many emails I’ve missed. More importantly, how many—if any—were from agents. This is something I’d only suggest doing if you don’t have an agent and aren’t out on submission. No one wants to make your agent wait a week when there could be good new about a submission.

So there you have it. Operation Ignore Inbox has begun!

Wish me luck!

Edit: At the time of this posting I had 5 emails according to the little mail icon on my iPhone. It’s 8:09 am and I already have the shakes! Phone goes back in the purse to be forgotten. *gulp*

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Aha! Moment

In addition to working on my new WIP, I’ve been rewriting LIGHT BRINGERS, my YA Urban Fantasy. It was the first YA novel I’d written and I queried it about 2 years ago. After several requests for fulls garnered no agent, I realized that I needed to do a complete overhaul.

First I changed it from third person to first person, feeling like I needed to get more into my main character’s—Ryan—head. I was halfway through and realized that wasn’t going to work, because I had a few chapters that needed to be in another pov.

So, back to the drawing board. I worked on it in while the novel I’m currently querying sat or was with readers. Finally, I finished the rewrite. I let that sit for a few months and just started reading it. I felt the problem about 8 chapters in and my heart sank. I love this story. Love the characters and want so desperately to share it with the masses one day. So, when I saw that something wasn’t working, I couldn’t believe it. What’s going on with this story? I thought.

Then, I saw X-Men First Class on Saturday. LIGHT BRINGERS is somewhat like X-Men in the sense that my characters have special abilities due to a genetic defect. Ryan works for an elite group of soldiers known as Venators, but that’s where the similarities end. However, when I saw X-Men First Class this weekend, I realized what I was doing wrong with this novel I love.

Ryan’s age is 18 almost 19 in my novel. That right there will make some agents say no thanks, he’s too old for YA (which completely baffles me, but we can debate that at a later date). With his mere 18 years, I was trying to make him too knowledgeable, too advanced. Yeah, there are some characters in the novel who think he’s a hot shot, some kind of wunderkind. But what it boiled down to was, I didn’t believe he was capable of the responsibilities I’d put on him. So, how could I expect anyone else to say, “Yeah, I believe this 18 year old could have joined this elite group of soldiers at 16 and in almost three years he could be promoted to Under-Sergeant, able to lead his own squad.”

Nope. It wasn’t working. The thing that I got from X-Men First Class was that these new recruits could do awesome things, and save the day, but they had a leader, someone who trained them and watched over them. It was believable that they would go out on this mission and do what they did best, but under the leadership of Professor Xavier.

I don’t have to change my plot, or my characters. I just need to put Ryan in his place. Stop trying to force him to be more than he’s capable of being at the present moment. He’s a rookie, so let him be a rookie. He can still be cocky, still screw up, and yet, he can still save the day, right?

Now, I’m going to do something I’ve never done. I’m going to do an outline. Eep! I’m a fly by the seat of my pants type of writer, but this hasn’t been working for LB. I need to map out all the ways I can change Ryan into a cadet (instead of a corporal), trying to prove himself and keep his best friend alive. * cracks knuckles * Off I go! I’m so PUMPED!

Have you guys ever had an Aha! moment with your work? It could be plot, character, or that fantastic ending. Tell me all about it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Long Overdue

Last month I went on vacation. My family and I went down to Florida to visit Disney and Universal Studios. Personally, I was only interested in Universal and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

All the same, I promised Tere Kirkland that I’d post pictures from my trip. I should’ve done this weeks ago since I’ve been back since May 14th.

So here are some pics from my trip to the Wizarding World:

My sister and I a bit tipsy at Bonefish Grill.

My sister was supposed to look demented like Sirius Black, but she kept smiling.

The handsome men of Drumstrang. They performed like in the movie (without the fire-breathing), but my sister got that on video.

The Lovely ladies of Beauxbaton. These people really were very much like the movie. Universal really went all out with this park. I was very impressed.

The frog chorus was nice, but I could not make heads or tails of the song they were singing. I don't know if they do more than one song, but I didn't know what the heck they were singing and it didn't sound too good-lol.

This was at Sea World at the Seal and Otter Show. It was a funny show, but that seal was huge! Actually, I don't know if it was sea lion or seal...what's the difference?

Here are some of my souvenirs. This is a tumbler set with all the house seals on them. Nice to have a cool glass of pumkin juice from. Btw, Pumkin Juice tastes like Thanksgiving in a bottle! And Butterbeer tastes like a sweeter version of a cream was too sweet for me.

My lovely Marauder's Map coffee mug. It holds a large amount of coffee so I can sip and write an entire chapter if my brain is flowing well.

The Triwizard Cup! I saw this and had to have it. I'm wondering if I can drink wine out of it at Boordy Vineyard this summer.

All of my non-nerd friends (which would be all of them) said they won't go out with me if I wear this. But who cares, I'm wearing this shirt! My sister bought a really cute sweatshirt, but it was a bit too expensive for me.

So there you have it, some of the pictures from my vacation. Have any of you been to the Wizarding World yet? If so, tell me what was your favorite part?