Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Character is Destiny." (Heraclitus, 544-483 BCE)

I am participating in NaNoWriMo this month, so I may get erratic with these blog posts. Never fear, if that happens, I’ll be back shortly.

Follow my progress with The Quick and the Dedd at my “Write Away” blog at www.samwriteaway.blogspot.com

I modified a blog post from February, 18, 2010 on on character and characters. Original post at  www.samwriteaway.blogspot.com

Thursday, I am traveling to Iowa for my brother’s wedding, so I will post again in a week.

I took classical Greek in college. I loved it, sort of like doing word puzzles. What letter is this squiggle, what is the meaning of that series of squiggles? One thing I learned was that spacing between words and punctuation were relatively modern conventions meant to make literacy more accessible for larger numbers of people. 

Since few Greeks learned to read, it was assumed they could figure out the meaning of the text. Admittedly, Greek was a highly inflected language (word endings signaled part of speech, verb tense, etc.) so an ancient Greek kid just had to attend to those things to make sense of the sentences.  

I guess. I used to be a first grade teacher and someone who worked with struggling readers, so there had to be some problems with that theory (or why invent spacing and punctuation).

I digress. Heraclitus was a pithy kind of guy, lots of quotes are attributed to him. Like the one above. Tammy Greenwood (Two Rivers), one of my session presenters at a Southern California Writers Conference session used the quote of this blog title as she discussed a topic many conference sessions addressed. 

At heart, a novel is about characters. The plot is just a device for showcasing their human frailties and strengths. The humanity of the characters is what keeps us reading, not that they solved the problem in this book, or didn’t. It is the quest to solve the problem that reveals those aspects of the characters we can relate to, or not.

Tammy said, “Getting to know your characters is your main job as a novelist.” Until you know your characters as well as you know your best friend, you can’t reel in the reader with characters who don’t jar. That got me thinking.

Even when the reader doesn’t know what a character will do, once the action is revealed the reader knows it was an appropriate action. One of the roads the character could have taken on the way to resolution. And, if it is not a consistent action, the author reveals something about the character that justifies an act seemingly out of character (so to speak).

I am thinking about some of my WiPs that are giving me fits. In every one (so far), I am struggling because the characters are the glue holding my great story premise together, not the propelling force that will move the action forward. So, looks like I am going to be spending a lot more time in conversation with Alli, Isabella, Carrie, Lucinda, and oh, so many others. 

Character IS destiny. Who they are, what they need, how they react. That is what makes a novel compelling.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Relationship Quotes and a Writing Tip

Hey, Authors! A few posts ago I gave some relationship quotes to build stories around. Well, here are some more I have collected. Surely one or more of these will resonate so you can create a viable story premise.

To turn one of these into a story premise, try these steps:
1)   Select a quote that speaks to you. (I know, that is so woo-woo! Just do it!)

2)   Identify the characters that first come into your mind for the roles in this relationship.

3)   Describe each character’s perspective on or relationship to the quote in 25 words or fewer. (Do you know that most people misuse “less” and “fewer”?)

4)   Where is this happening and when? What is the relationship of the characters to the where and when?

5)   Write down five “what ifs”: (Using the first one below) What if a woman’s boyfriend doesn’t come home one night? What if he called later to say he was in trouble and couldn’t make it there? What if the reason he didn’t come home was that a love child showed up at work hunting for her father? What if the woman saw her lover and his child, not knowing of the relationship? What if the child is malevolent and wants to hurt her birth father?

6)   See how that worked? If you don’t have a story idea going after 5 what-if’s, maybe you should choose another line of work.

So read, enjoy, and speculate with the relationship quotes below. Can’t wait to read your book!

Having someone wonder where you are when you don't come home at night is a very old human need.  ~Margaret Mead

Man is a knot into which relationships are tied.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from French by Lewis Galantière

If you want to feel rich, just count the things that money can’t buy. ~Proverb

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.  ~Swedish Proverb

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.  That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.  ~Emily Kimbrough

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~Erica Jong

Don't smother each other.  No one can grow in the shade.  ~Leo Buscaglia

For lack of an occasional expression of love, a relationship strong at the seams can wear thin in the middle.  ~Robert Brault

Sometimes it is the person closest to us who must travel the furthest distance to be our friend.  ~Robert Brault

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.  ~Henry Winkler

Life is like a moustache. It can be wonderful or terrible. But it always tickles. ~Nora Roberts

I like her because she smiles at me and means it.  ~Anonymous

Hope is a waking dream. ~Aristotle

Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings.  ~Miles Franklin

In the end, who among us does not choose to be a little less right to be a little less lonely.  ~Robert Brault

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.  ~Frederick Buechner

Present your family and friends with their eulogies now - they won't be able to hear how much you love them and appreciate them from inside the coffin.  ~Anonymous

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  "Pooh!" he whispered.  "Yes, Piglet?"  "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw.  "I just wanted to be sure of you."  ~A.A. Milne

I felt it shelter to speak to you.  ~Emily Dickinson

Are we not like two volumes of one book?  ~Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Trouble is part of your life, and if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you enough chance to love you enough.  ~Dinah Shore

Lust is easy.  Love is hard.  Like is most important.  ~Carl Reiner