Tag Archives: writing characters

Bringing a Story to Life: Draft Finished – Now What?

677240Note:  Article is long.

The time after finishing a first draft is always interesting for me.  What do I do next?

  • Get to work on the next novel?
  • Work on post production tasks (i.e. book trailer, cover)?
  • Write a post?

Always a good way to keep the writing cells warmed up

  • Do housework?

It’s bad if I’m considering housework.

Write or Rehearse?  Since book 10 is with the beta reader, and the cover and trailer are well on their way to completion, I decided to work on Book 13.

The last installment in the Metatron’s Army Series!

There’s just one little problem.  I’m exhausted.

This is what happens when you have a family of coyotes living basically outside your bedroom window who think night time is party time.  There’s also the joy of being woken in the wee hours to the sound of feet scurrying across your roof followed by the flapping of a predator’s wings.  Somehow, I don’t think the little critter escaped. 

This has gone on for several nights in a row, leaving me feeling a bit hollow-eyed.  This isn’t the first-time sleep has eluded me.  I’ve learned to take my mind off how tired I feel, by turning to something fun.

Metatron’s Army!

I’ve come to really enjoy the process of creating the story.  As an added bonus, I got feedback on Bind:  Book 9 in the series, which was released February 1.  It definitely put a smile on this tired face.

  • Well, I must say, you know how to leave a reader hanging. The ending was like WHAT??????????
  • It was a fun read, seeing Christine coming into her own is cool. The play between her and Verix is just fun.  I’m really excited to see where this leads.
  • I can’t wait for Book 10.

Thank you for the awesome feedback!  I’m very pleased you are enjoying the journey!

Book 10 is well on its way to being ready for an April 1, 2019 release.

I’m still getting used to writing 2019 instead of 2018. 

The feedback [about Book 10] from the beta reader has also been positive.

It’s nice to hear what I’m doing right, what someone likes about the story or the characters.  It helps me know if I’m meeting my objectives, especially if the feedback matches what I was trying to accomplish in a scene, with a character, etc.

Ready to write? Not quite.  Fun aside, I’m still dealing with fatigue and yet if I don’t do something, I’ll start to go a bit stir crazy.

I may start doing housework!

Set?  Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma.  REHEARSE!

This is the process where I run scenarios as a mental movie, watching how various scenes might play out.

Rehearsing is very relaxing while being productive at the same time.

Win-win.

In this particular case, I’m enjoying a new twist to it.  One I gained perspective on thanks to the reader’s feedback.

  • I  have to say you are true to your quote: “My characters are strong independent people who steer their own destiny, with a little help from love.”

I love writing character driven fiction.  I love getting inside the heads and hearts (and souls) of characters to see what makes them tick.  This has been especially true of Verix, who is one of the original characters from the story’s inception.  He appeared on the scene as it were thirty-five years ago this month!

Literally.  The image that inspired him was on February of a 1984 calendar of hot guys I got as a Christmas gift.

As I’ve written previously, he was originally an antagonist.

Big time bad guy.

This came from the expression on the model’s face.  He was handsome but his eyes lacked passion or emotion.  No anger, but nothing positive either.  It was easy to think of him (Verix) as a bad guy, albeit a gorgeous one, when the model’s gaze suggested challenge and trouble.

Perhaps the point for the model – “bad boy.”

Not long after mentally writing a scene that appears in Pin: Book 8 of the series – written in the late spring of 1984 – I was “informed” that I misunderstood his stoic demeanor.

“He is not evil.”

I studied the calendar image through the filter of the new information and tried to understand his role given he lacked emotions I would have found familiar.

What helped shape Verix’s role in the story was comparing his personality, such as it was, to those of the other original characters, Christine, Corus, and Ryella.

There was another original character, but he didn’t play a significant enough role to help out with the exercise.

When I sat down to write Bishop Pair, I had to think about why Verix was so stoic.  I had to go back to that original mental screenwriting and replay the movie.  Because I’m visually oriented, and I’ve lived with this story all these years, it was easy to bring to mind the images needed.

To recreate the environment which taps into the emotion and thought process of the moment.

I pictured the February model, the way my bed and dresser were positioned, all the NDE interpretation stuff covering my walls at the time.

To get ready for Verix’s entrance into the story, I spent a day rehearsing and pondering.

  • How had he become so jaded?
  • Does he resent Corus or consider him a friend?
  • How can someone who appears to lack emotion have such a passionate love deep in his soul?

Go!  As I turn my attention to Adjudication, I know how to best start the process.

Start up some music and launch Free Cell.

The repetitive nature of the game lulls the mind into a meditative state ideal for creative thinking/daydreaming.  The music is tailored to match the series and the various characters within it.  I have two separate Verix play lists.

Rehearse!

Let the movie play!

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Bringing a Story to Life – When Character Goes out of Character

notebook-fountain-pen-cup-espresso-elegant-top-view-writer-s-workplace-49123943Character development is conflict  – David Macinnis Grill

Yesterday I pounded out 18K plus words for Adjudication: Book 10 in the Metatron’s Army Series.

This is the final book in the series.

Satisfied with a solid day’s progress, I went to bed at peace.

And then… 

After my routine (prayers of thanks, meditation) I thought about how good it felt to finally get to a point in the series I’d been working on for several months, if not years.

I knew what I wanted to happen – I just had to wait til the other work was down – at least in first draft – before setting to work on it. 

As I went over the scene I realized that a twist I’d added didn’t work.  It pulled the character out of character.  It had to go.

I’ve had this issue before, even in other series.  I generally figure it out fairly soon after the scene is down and rectify the situation by either pulling the scene or doing a serious rewrite.

In this case it’s a bit of both.  Most of the scene will be yanked and what’s left will be tweaked.

In this particular case, the root cause has to do with how the series evolved.  Due to the format, even as I was publishing the first in the series, I was writing a first draft of the entire saga.  I had a general idea of how many books it would take, so I set out with a fair amount of structure.

I figured it would be 8 to 10.

I began working on the series (on computer) the summer of 2016.  By that winter I had a pretty sold framework for the ten books.

I had the folders, the titles, and a fair amount of content, though books 8, 9, and 10 were more or less one long document at that point.

After setting up the framework I went back to work on each separate title.  During the process of final edit, I made appropriate changes. This had consequences for later books.

Perhaps I’d added action scenes that had my characters going in a different direction than originally planned, or they matured more quickly than I’d planned.  Perhaps their viewpoints had changed in book 3, something I needed to continue with in books 4 through10.

In this final book, much is happening relative to the other books and/or the story itself.

Plot elements are coming together (mysteries solved/questions answered), characters are coming into their own( fulfilling their destinies, or perhaps leaving the story), etc. 

pexels-photo-769525There’s a bit of freedom but plenty of challenge.  Pacing becomes critical.  In having things move too slowly or too quickly for any one character, I risk throwing the other characters out of rhythm.  I also end up with a character who has come out of character.

Yes, this guy would do what I had him do.  Just not at that point in the story.

So, with only minor heartburn, I’m going to chuck a couple thousand words and start over.

This isn’t a scene where I can just take it and put it somewhere else in the story.  It just has to go.

There was a time – and not that long ago – that the thought of tossing a scene would have left me cringing.

Worried I’d never be able to redo it…as if that moment when I set the words down was never going to come again.

Experience has taught me that I may not be able to recreate the moment but I can recreate the essence.

The lifeblood of the writing will be there, regardless.

It’s something I think only experience can teach; faith in the process and in yourself as a writer.

Though I’d venture to say that’s the same in any career.

It’s why words written – even those deleted – are never wasted.

black_hole_by_vanishin-d32u47y1The energy lives on.

Bringing a Story to Life – The Life of a Character

snoopy

My books usually end where they began. I try to bring characters back to a point that is familiar but different because of the growth that they have gone through. – Sara Zarr

Foreground.  As a writer and a reader, I prefer strong characters to strong scenery.

I can picture a forest easily enough.

 

Show don’t tell.

 A spy is a different story.

Male or female? Russian or British?  German or American?  Cold war spy or current day hacker? 

 As a writer, I have to remind myself not to lead the reader, to let them fill in the details.

 This is a balance in paranormal fiction where readers often have pre-conceived ideas, though little personal experience. 

 With Metatron’s Army, the characters drive the story.

It’s been this way since its inception 35 years ago.

That they found themselves in a science fiction novel was simply the “clothing they wore.”

Though some of the paranormal elements are tied to real life experience; the NDE.

The characters were born before the plot.

Though not by much.

Background.  Character motivation is important to me.  Why is a character the way they are?  What shaped them?  What continues to shape them?  What is driving them to do what they do?

As a reader, I hate it when I find myself thinking a guy/woman/child/etc wouldn’t act like that, wouldn’t do that.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time “getting to know” my characters, getting comfortable with them before putting them in their places (i.e. antagonist, hero, strong secondary character).  This process isn’t the same from series to series.

In Silicon Valley Hangover, the characters just appeared one day.  I had to spend time observing them, reading their body language, trying to understand why they were feeling awkward with each other.

The plot grew out of the answers to the “why’s?”

I try to learn as much about my characters’ motivation as possible so that writing them is seamless.

I spend time interviewing men or people of other cultures and/or religions to gain insight that helps strengthen the characters.  I talk with professionals, such as pilots, or those in the military, if I need their perspective. 

As a reader, I love it when I find a writer who either has experience or has done some great research.

Victoria Laurie comes to mind.

With Metatron’s Army, I had lived with some of the characters since the story began to take shape but it wasn’t until I started to write that I really got to know them.

 In fact, I’m still learning them as I go along.

Sometimes character roles flip.

In Metatron’s Army, I ended up liking one of the antagonists so much, I turned him into a hero.  A character who had been somewhat of a benevolent despot became a vindictive antagonist.

In the Middle.  To be vibrant and interesting, characters need to grow throughout/as a result of the story.

This is particularly important in a series.

Life experiences change people.  The same should be true of characters.

Remember your English tests?  How did the character change as a result of [the plot]?

In a single title, a writer can start at any point in a character’s life.

They are a child who grows, a teen who is on a journey of self-discovery, an adult who already  has the skills to take on the adversity presented by the plot.

With a series, it can be a bit more difficult.

You can start anywhere but you need to pay attention to character development.  If you drag it out the character stagnates.  If you go too quickly, you run out of options for character growth and the plot goes stale.

Metatron’s Army takes place over decades.

Some of them passed before the reader joins the story.

To deal with the complexity of the characters, the fact they have separate yet parallel goals in some cases, I have worked to keep each book self-contained, even as it is key to the overall series.

A good idea in a series, anyway, I think.

Pacing the writing.  A multi-tasker, I typically think ahead, even as I’m working on a project.

Sometimes, it’s the next book, sometimes, the next project.

Given the complexity of plot and character evolution in Metatron’s Army, to stay organized I have approached my writing differently.

I have several of the books written already, though most are in draft form.  This allows me to go back to an earlier book and adjust if I need to.

If, for instance, I decide to take a character in a different direction down the line – did I set it up to be a believable development/change/evolution?

I also go back and read previous drafts to ensure there is continuity in the series.

And, more importantly, in the characters.

Characters as writers.  This project is unlike any other I’ve done.

Thirty-five years in the making, it evolved through a series of visual shorts, in dreams and daydreams.

After decades of living with this story, I tend to slip into autopilot when writing.

That doesn’t mean the story has become” familiarity breeds contempt.”

My unconscious has introduced some surprises for me.

At the end of Positional Play, Book Four in Metatron’s Army, I found myself led to an unplanned, yet completely logical plot twist.

Through Metatron’s Army, I’ve learned that sometimes, characters know best.