Well miracles happen...the sun is shining this morning in Cornwall. Help yourself to coffee, tea and home made Irish Soda bread and pull up a chair in the sun. The garden is looking glorious.
Now most of you know I was at the RNA Conference in Penrith. This is an event I so look forward to as it feeds my writing soul - being with other writers, talking writing, talking books, wearing outrageous shoes and learning.
I have written up on my blog a few of the sessions so far but there was one given by the fabulous Jodi Thomas in the Sunday afternoon extras sessions that really made all the bells and whistles in my over worked brain go off. It was a session on 'plotting for success in your writing career'. She began by saying that 'it's all about the characters'. This point is also well stated over at the RNA's Blog by Amanda Grange on Thursday's post Character is King.
Now, I have read my share of 'how to' books and have the read 'ask the question what if'. It made sense but I never took the time to do the exercise. Jodi made us do the exercise then and there. So I am going to make you do the same. Pencils and paper ready please.
-Your character has to have a want or a need and we need to know it from the beginning and it has to be a basic down to the ground type of need
-think of the character...their flaw and their need have to go together -even if it is not revealed to the reader until the end (she gave the example of the hero who is search of a home but it doesn't come out that he is an orphan until the end)
-Every character trait has two sides. So if you have a gentle man which is good this could be a problem if he won't fight for anything
So with these key things in mind begin a sentence -
(Character's name) would have been perfect if he/she hadn't wanted/needed so (whatever it is) so bad...
Now for an example (my foolish one).
Archie would have been been perfect if he hadn't wanted to win the most medals in the world in swimming so bad.
Now throw down five 'what ifs' that would stop your character from achieving their goal - do it quick
So for Archie
-he hated water
-he was afraid of water
-he was allergic to chlorine
-he was wedding date was on the day of the world championships
-he breaks both legs in a car crash
If stuck with these then try writing them in 1st person:
-What if I am afraid of water?
-What if all my muscle seize up every time I see a pool?
-What if I'm my skin practically falls off every time I touch chlorine?
-What if the woman I love most in the world will not speak to me again if I change the wedding date?
-How can I cope with the fact that my career is shot because of some stupid drunk driver?
Now list five things your characters would never do?
Archie would never:
-never drink before a meet
-run naked through the village
-let a friend down
Now take on of them and make him do it or nearly do it. What drove him to that point?
Final thought - you've got to make your characters uncomfortable. Have you made yours really squirm? Let me know. I have found this exercise really useful in the revision process but I know it would really help me in the planning process which is an area I really need to focus on (then maybe revision might not be so hard!) If all goes to plan I should be posting my notes on the rest of Jodi's session next week on my blog.
P.S. While Jodi was flying home to Texas after being with us in Penrith she had a call from her editor who went from NY to Washington D.C. and picked up the National Readers Choice Award for two of Jodi's books. It's the first time an author has won in two categories. TWISTED CREEK won for best women’s fiction and TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN won for best Historical Romance. So pleased she was with the RNA in Penrith and not is DC - selfish I know but....