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Posts Tagged ‘characters’

I joined a writer’s group about six months ago so that I could learn more about the writing process.  What I have discovered is more than any creative writing class could give me.

My writer’s group meets twice a month at the local library.  We go over various things, such as grammar, perspective, voice, creating unique and strong characters and setting as well as the whole publishing process.  We share our stories, our hard work and gain feedback from our peers.

I have discovered that while my work is not perfect, at least I am on the right path.  Joining a group where I have to read my work out loud to a circle of strangers was intimidating; still is intimidating in fact, but it has helped me more than any class could ever do.

Creative writing classes teach you how to properly build a story from beginning to end.  The group teaches how to do the same thing, but you also get the honest opinion of your peers, without having to pay for the class or worry about passing or failing.  If my story is awful – they tell me.  If my story is great – they tell me, and I get the opportunity to do the same for them.

Joining a creative writing group has been a very rewarding experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in writing professionally.

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Writing allows you to create a story in which anything you want to happen can and will happen.  But what if your characters take over the story and begin doing what they want to do?  Seems pretty unbelievable, right?  Or perhaps the word you would use is impossible.  But is it?  Is it impossible for characters to take over a story and write it their way?

I have spoken to different authors about the methods in which they write.  Most will actually sit down, and create an outline from beginning to end, with all the stuff in the middle.  They plan everything out, from the moment the character enters the room, to the moment they save the world.  They create character outlines, summaries and detailed notebooks with everything you ever wanted to know about a character, whether or not that information would be included in the book.  Even the famous J.K. Rowling did this – remember the mania over the “Dumbledore is gay” statement?  A simple fact that only she knew, and yet it impacted the entire reading community when it came out.

The characters created by the “outlining” authors have no room to stray from their set path.  They are told where to go and what to do and there is no room left for discussion.  But what about the other writers.  The writers who sit down without a plan.  The ones who just put pen to paper and write.  Can their characters stray?  Yes, yes they can.  And they do.

I was a firm believer in creating an outline, writing a plot summary, planning out every detail of my characters before I even wrote the first line of my story.  Sure, it would take me months of planning before I was ready to write, but that was what made the writing easier, right?  I could sit down, my outline in front of me and I always knew what was going to happen next.  Everything was going great, until one of my characters decided she didn’t want to go to the dance.  She didn’t want to wear that dress.  I had to ask myself, “She can’t do that, can she?”

The story became a struggle, and I had to force my character into the long lavendar gown.  I had to force her to take those few steps over the threshold and into the gymnasium where the school dance was being held.  Why did I have to do this?  Because somehow, she got it in her head that there was something else, something more important to be done at that moment.

I began doing some research, trying to find out if I had actually lost my mind, or if this sort of thing had happened to other writers as well, and wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t alone.  Even the great author Laurell K. Hamilton as mentioned how her character Anita Blake would refuse her “help” and go about things her own way.  The characters know where they’re going, what they’re going to do, and will do it whether you give them permission to or not.  The characters make up the story as they go, and if ever they get stuck, they rely upon the imagination of their creator – the writer.

Writers using this second method often times turn out stories far different from their original idea.  And, while writing like this can be difficult, looking into a dark pit and not knowing where you’ll end up, it’s adventurous and exciting.  Who knew that writing a book could be as much fun as reading one – especially when, as the writer, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

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I never gave much thought to Point of View, Tense or even Voice until I started editing my own work.  After all, a great writer just has to sit down with a good idea and write, right?  Wrong.

It took me a few edits to fully realize that writing is hard work.  You take for granted all the work that went into the crafting of each and every book on the shelf in the local library.  The hours of painstaking work put into each book in the book store.  Even the bad books (the books we’d disregard without a second’s hesitation) took a lot of time and effort.  Blood, sweat and tears as my father would say.

I never thought a story could/should be written from a first person point of view.  To me, it was arrogant and pushy.  I always wrote in the third person, i.e. “Jane looked down at the pillow she was holding. ”  Third person let me see the world from the shoulder of whomever I needed in order to tell the story to it’s fullest extent.  It allowed me to distance myself from the characters and let them do stupid things without me feeling the need to interfere.  The problem, however, is that it did not allow me to fully “feel” the characters; to give them the emotion they needed.  Readers could not connect with Jane because she had no depth, no soul.

I rewrote Remembering Jane from the first person perspective, though it was painful at first.  I felt strange, as though I were trying to be somebody or something I wasn’t.  It felt as though I was forcing my thoughts and my opinions on the characters in my story, but I made myself continue.  I had to find a way to breathe life into my characters, otherwise they’d remain as flat as paper dolls and be just as easily discarded.

One draft down, and already, Jane was becomming more real.  She has personality, thoughts, feelings, wants and desires.  Reading through it a second, third and even fourth time, I realized that writing in the first person wasn’t arrogant after all.  By using “I,” I was able to put myself into her shoes and give her the feelings and emotions necessary for her to continue on, to make the decisions she needed, and face the problems that arose throughout the story.

Remembering Jane is still far from done.  There are other factors to consider in her story, such as the voice and tone as well as the tense used when telling it.  I once thought writing was easy, that books were written in a matter of weeks.  Who knew that simply jotting the story down would take a few months, and then editing would take several more (and I’m not even talking about the months/years it takes to find a publisher willing to take a risk). 

Writing is hard work.  It is a job, a job I love (though sometimes I desperately feel like quitting).  It takes passion and dedication and more importantly – the support of those around you to keep on going.

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My second book, currently titled Remebering Jane, was written during numerous lunch breaks and in small snatches of time here and there when I found a moment to sit down and write.  Not all the writing was done at a desk, table or even somewhere you’d expect a writer to write.  Much of the story was written while stopped at red lights, or in waiting rooms.

After my first attempt at writing a novel, I decided that this time, I would do it right.  I researched the proper way to create characters, develop plot lines and even draw out a unfailing plot line.  I wrote pages upon pages of notes, filled notebooks with character descriptions, motivations and personality profiles.  I outlined the story from beginning to end.

I wrote Remembering Jane, beginning to end in less than two months.  It was a rough two months and many times I found myself questioning whether or not I had what it took to be a writer.  Was I good enough?  Could I do it?  With two small children at home depending on me, I couldn’t give up.  I pushed through every doubt, every moment that I suspected I had writers block, and I turned out a 60,000 word story.

Proud of myself, I quickly sent copies to my parents, my sister, my friends and eagerly awaited their responses.  I knew they’d be enthusiastic and though I had my doubts, thought for sure they’d like it.  After all, I liked it – didn’t I?

Within a month, they results were in.  I had a hit (with some modifications and a few minor adjustments.  Okay – a lot of edits).  But the point was – they liked the story.  It wasn’t going to be a best seller – not by any stretch of the imagination, but with some work, it could definitely sell. 

I spent a month editing, working out loose, and sagging plot lines and making the characters more real.  Without a second’s hesitation, I started the road to authorship…

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