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Posts tagged ‘characters’

Don’t miss a beat: Get into the heart of your character

In a previous post I wrote about a little technique I learned from author and writing instructor, Rhay Christou, who teaches for the online Lawson Writer’s Academy.

Develop your characters through dance” highlights a short video by actor Kevin Cox demonstrating how to unlock your body and mind in order to delve deeper into your characters.

Another tip I learned from Rhay is called, “Don’t Dance. ACT!” In this exercise, you pick a moment in your scene where your character is having (or is supposed to have) an emotional response to something. Choose one emotional beat. Now get up, stand in the middle of the room, and close your eyes. Picture yourself in your character’s setting. Become the character. What do you feel? Hear? Taste? Open your eyes. What do you see? Does your setting affect how you feel?

How are you holding your body? Tense? Relaxed? What is your body doing? Facial expressions? How do you feel? Angry? Sad? Frustrated? How does it show up in your body? Are you having a visceral reaction? A thought?

Now grab your journal and write as much as you can without stopping. If more feelings come up, write them down. Keep writing. Can you add anything to your scene to make it stronger?

In my chapter one, my protagonist, a veterinarian, struggles to save the life of a dog. Her boss forces her to use her mysterious powers that she has tried to run from ever since her mother died (she blames her powers for her mother’s death). When I close my eyes and become my character, I ask, “How does it make me feel that my boss has forced me to use my powers?”

Here’s what I wrote: “I’m angry. Pissed off. Want to hit something. My body feels tense, rigid, so tense my breathing is labored and tight. My chest feels like it’s in a vise, pressed together like a moth between glass. How dare she! She has no right to call on my powers. Total invasion. And what’s worse is she doesn’t realize the consequences. She doesn’t know that somebody could get injured or die. I never should have trusted her. Should have kept my mouth shut. Granddad was right—don’t trust anybody with my secret. Let this teach me…never again.”

Do I have any of these feeling in the chapter? Noooooo. After she saves the dog, my protagonist and her boss have a nice little chat about their dating life. Right. Revision time.

Ever notice how sometimes when you write, your brain kind of does a little hop-skip-and-a-jump ahead of itself? Mine does. Sometimes, I miss whole reaction beats. My character skips from one thing to the next without really processing what’s happening.

These exercises help me slow down and pay attention to how my character feels. They get me out of writer-brain and into the heart of my character.

I highly recommend any of the Lawson Writer’s Academy online courses. You’ll learn tons and meet some really cool writers. Check out their September classes here: www.margielawson.com or see the list below:

Master The Synopsis!
No. More. Whining.
MASTER THE SYNOPSIS! Starts Monday.
Instructor: RITA Finalist Jennifer Archer.
Sept 1-26;  Fee:  $50
http://bit.ly/MasterSynopsis

Submissions That Sell
Make your query SELL your MS.
Instructor:  RITA Winner Laura Drake.
Sept 1-26;  Fee:  $40
http://bit.ly/SeptSTSell

From Blah to Beats: Giving Your Chapters a Pulse
In 14 short lessons, learn how to make your chapter a lean and mean beating heart.
Instructor: Rhay Christou, MFA
Sept 1-30, Fee:  $50
http://bit.ly/GiveChaptersPulse …

From Homeroom to Last Bell:Hero’s Journey in YA Fiction
YA Writers: Fab class.
Instructors:  Jennifer McAndrews, Linda Gerber
Sept. 1 – 26;  Fee:  $50
http://bit.ly/HeroJourneyinYA 

Story Structure Safari
Instructor feedback, priceless. You’ll find your Story GPS.
Instructor: Lisa Miller
Sept. 1 – 30; Fee:  $50
http://bit.ly/SeptSSS

Getting Serious About Writing a Series
Lectures, plus tips from 18 fab authors.
Instructor: Lisa Wells
Sept. 1 – 26;  Fee: $40
http://bit.ly/WritingSeries 

Virtues, Vices, and Plots
Need a New Approach to Plotting?
Sept. 1 – 26:  Fee: $50
Instructor:  Sarah Hamer, MFA
http://bit.ly/SeptVVP

 

 

 

Deep editing: Make each word count

In July, I took Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class, an intensive three and a half day workshop on deep editing. My brain is still teeming with all the tips we learned to turn our manuscripts into bestsellers.

One day, as we reviewed one of my first-draft chapters in my current project, we came across a short paragraph about a character’s driving skills.

In the scene, my character is driving along a dark, windy road in the mountains at night when he comes across my protagonist walking along the side of the road after she’d just seen her maybe-boyfriend sucking face with another woman. (Every time I hear the words “sucking face,” I think of the 1981 movie “On Golden Pond,” where I first heard the term. The power of fresh writing!)

Anyway, the driver of the car offers my protagonist a ride home (she knows him—he’s the new man in town). She learns more about him and why he’s in town. He ends up giving her relationship advice and flirting heavily with her.

Here’s the paragraph in question:

“Hmmm,” he said, tapping his brakes before the next curve, then laying off them during the turn. He handled the vehicle as if he’d had years of experience coaxing the two-ton beast into compliance. “Any news on your grandfather?”

Questions that came up in class: Read more

Develop your characters through dance

Thanks to Rhay Christou, author and writing teacher at www.MargieLawson.com, for introducing me to this short video below showing a fun and creative way to develop your characters.

Actor Kevin Cox offers advice to other actors that can be beneficial for writers, too. He says we should be able to express our character physically. He suggests dancing out your scenes—try different styles of dance like hip hop, ballet, tango, salsa, waltz, etc. Give your dance the attitudes of your character. This will help unlock your body and open up your potential to connect with your character. If you have two characters in a scene dance out one character’s part then dance out the other character’s part. How do they differ? What did you learn?

Once you’ve got the dancing down and you’re still in your character’s skin, close your eyes and ask some questions. What do they feel in the moment? How are they moving? What do they taste and hear and smell? If they opened their eyes right now, what would they see?

Watch this 3-minute video and then read on:

I just tried this (in my side yard where no neighbors could see me) and discovered the following:

* My protagonist feels heavy in her body when she’s with the antagonist she is attracted to (she’s not overweight so this is a reflection of her emotional state);

* She feels lighter in her body and soul when she’s with her ex-boyfriend who she is also attracted to.

* The difference is the antagonist leans in on her energy, he is trying to get something from her and wants to control her. Her ex-boyfriend wants her to be herself and to fulfill her potential but only so that it completes her and not him. Wow. Love it. And this is just the surface stuff…I bet if I dig deeper into the dance, I find more.

Try the exercise and tell us what you experienced in the comments below.

How to delete B.S. (backstory) from your novel

Artists can be creative, quirky, eccentric, motivated, focused, visionary, delusional, imaginative, paranoid….Ah, the highs and lows of living a creative life. The other day, I caught myself practicing a little delusion.

I’ve been taking an online class this month “Creating Compelling Characters,” taught by author and writing mentor Rhay Christou through the Margie Lawson Writer’s Academy. One section is on managing backstory in your novel. Backstory (aka B.S.) is mostly the stuff that never makes it into your novel but that you have to know in order to understand and flesh out your characters.

If you include any backstory at all, one of the best ways to do so is to drip it in only when needed in small bits—a line or two at most. I know this. I thought I was practicing this. But one of our assignments was to read through our chapters and tag any sections of backstory so we could then analyze how we inserted them into the story.

I discovered I had a three-paragraph section of backstory in chapter one! And, after I tagged this B.S., I began making excuses for having it there—it’s necessary information that the reader needs to know, it’s shorter than it looks, etc.—yes, I was deluding myself.

Fortunately, Rhay called me on my B.S. So now, once I finish my first draft, I’ll go back to this area and employ the “shard and slip” exercise described in Margie Lawson’s post, Write Fab Back Story: Not BS!

Read Margie’s post to learn about some of the best ways to include backstory and eliminate any B.S. that will bog your story down. Then, stay tuned for my next post on backstory.

 

 

How to make your characters come alive

In his video “Make Your Characters Come Alive,” author James Scott Bell discusses the wisdom of mixing “plot” and “character.”

He says:

Plot without character bonding = action without engagement

Character without plot = overstaying a welcome

Bells also advises that plot needs to be about death. Physical death, professional death or psychological death. This applies even to comedy. Death is what raises the stakes. It can be death of a career, a job, a reputation, or the death of a way of being.

True character, he says, is revealed only in crisis—where death is on the line.

For more on Bell’s thoughts about creating characters that come alive watch his 8-minute video here:

For more tips on plot, read my earlier post, “Plotting a story is like solving a puzzle.”

How to get readers to care about your characters

In the short video below by screenwriter and director, John Truby, he says one of the biggest mistakes writers make is how they create their characters.

Truby says most writers create characters by making them as detailed as possible. We’ve all heard this advice, right? Make your characters detailed, use all five senses, etc.

But Truby says having detailed characters does NOT make your audience care about your characters.

What makes them care is discovering two things:

1) what is the character’s fundamental weakness — their fundamental flaw?

2) what is the character’s story goal?

Truby says the best stories will show the character going after their goal, which will then make them deal with their greatest internal weakness.

To hear what else Truby has to say about creating great characters, watch his video below and check out some of his other videos:

Lessons in character development: parental influences

Our parents give us our first view of the world. We incorporate their lessons into our lives and, sometimes, we spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn these beliefs and developing our own worldview.

The other day, I was wondering what the characters in my work-in-progress have learned from their parents about love.

Growing up, I learned some very specific things about love:  Read more