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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Time to Improve Our Writing

It certainly is fortuitous for me to be writing the last post of 2013. I love this day, this day when the year ends and the New Year is on the cusp of its beginning. This is the day I think about what I need to do next year. 

"Hold on, there missy," you blurt out with a snarl, stopping me from waxing  poetic about the new year. "Don't you need to look back at what you did and didn't accomplish during the current year of 2013? I mean isn't that what today is about?" 

"Oh ye of the unforgiving nature," I respond, "Shut thy mouth." The reality is that I never like to look back and revisit all of my many (and I do mean many) slip-ups, mistakes, missteps, misspeaks...oh well you catch my drift. Come on ya'll, lets not beat ourselves up for the things we screwed up, it's too late. Time to look forward and once again set our resolutions for a better year. Hope springs eternal and all that.

I always (and I do mean always) start my list with the unachievable. Why set myself up for failure? I don't know, maybe I'm a closet masochist or is sadist? I always get those confused. Anyway, I start with my annual Lose ten pounds (I've lost those same ten pounds so many times, I should weigh in at around fifty pounds-which I do plus...never mind.) After I get that one out of the way, I get down the nitty gritty, and this year the nitty gritty will be all about our (yes, yours and mine) writing. Here we go.

1.Write from our hearts. Make our readers cry, laugh, get angry, whatever. Let's not hold back, lets show our innermost fears, loves, hopes, and dreams in our writing. It's time for us to take be bold.
2. Not take ourselves too seriously. To many of us (including myself) writing is a business and yes paying our bills is serious business. I get all of that, but let's lighten up and quite treating every little comment on our writing as a matter of life or death. It's time to quite whining and moaning and get over ourselves. Let's have some fun.
3. Try writing something different. Let's push ourselves, I bet we'll be surprised with what we can do. (I'm going to try paranormal, but I don't care how growing this exercise is, I will never, ever write about vampires, even in you threaten to stick me with pins.)
4. Write when we don’t feel like it. This is the one I'm currently struggling with. I've got several projects going and do not want to finish any of them. If you're like me, it's time to quite making excuses and get to work.
5. Revise, revise, revise until we can revise no more. None of us are brilliant on the first draft. And the second one kinda sucks, too. That’s okay, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. we won't consider ourselves done until we’ve written at least a few drafts, everything up to that point is merely a prologue.
6. Read widely. Read some masters in our genres as well as books from other genres. It's time for us to absorb as many books as possible from as many different sources. Doing so will enrich us all.
7. Focus on the writing. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend the majority of our writing time actually writing. It will makes us feel better, and the work will improve (promise).
8. Shake things up: write in an unusual voice, or from an strange POV, or something else that is different from what we usually write. It's time for us to mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good.
9. Finish that project that we keep putting back on the shelf. Who knows it could be the next big thing. And even if it isn't, it's time to get it done and move on.
10. Quit stalling and get writing. Stop reading this post, rechecking your email, or posting on Facebook. It's time for all of us to unplug from the world and just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for any of us to do. Not think about writing or talk about writing, but actually writing. Imagine that.*

Enjoy tonight and get ready for a brand new year.

* A nod to Jeff Goins for providing the basis for most of these.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Searching for Irresistible

Have you ever had a fictional character stay with you long after you finished the book? Most of us had, and as a writer I can tell you that writing a character that lingers is beyond rubies as they say, and something writers aspires to create.

The problem is that thing that makes a character stay with you is nebulous and impossible to define. It’s also subjective. For instance, I could not get enough of Lisbeth Salander, the vulnerable, anti-social bi-sexual girl with a permanent bad-hair-day from Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series.
Lisbeth fascinated me, while she repelled my sister. Ignoring my sister’s hateful whining (something I do on a regular basis) I’ve tried to pinpoint just what it is about Lisbeth that makes her such a compelling character. After much thought (most of it fruitless) I decided that it was her toughness and complete lack of moral compass intertwined with a childlike vulnerability that made her compelling.

So, you’re probably thinking, “Eureka, you’ve found it, If you want to create an irresistible character simply make her vulnerable.”

To which I respond, (brilliantly I might add) “Huh. How?” Because that is the problem: planned vulnerability in a story is usually easily spotted, creating a character that comes off as fake or forced and not the irresistible character a writer aims for. It’s the unplanned that is needed and you can’t plan for the unplanned. Hence my dilemma.

Let’s move on to another compelling character: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. For this, I’m talking only about the Katniss in the first book, by the time I got to the third novel, I found her temper tantrums so annoying, I prayed for Suzanne Collins to kill her off. The only reason I kept reading was to see which guy she was going to go for. I was hoping for Gale because I have a weakness for bad boys. Handsome bad boys….

Whoops sorry, time to quit dreaming and get back on track. What was I saying? Oh, yes, how to capture the intangible thing that makes your character someone readers care about. I don’t have an answer and as I create character after character in my novels, I struggle to find it, that quicksilver, that wonderful, terrible, impossible thing that will make at least one of them compelling, intriguing and oh so irresistible.

If you have any suggestions, send me a line. All I know at this point is that creating such a magical character is something worth struggling for because the idea of someone thinking about my characters long after the book is closed is something writers hope to achieve and readers hope to find.

Speaking of irresistible, I thought you might enjoy this link to One Direction’s song Irresistible, so click the link and enjoy. One Direction's Irresistible. They're cute, but  not in the least bad. I do wonder about their hair, it seems a bit much to me.

Forever searching for all things irresistible. Gabriella